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Red Shift - Part 4 Chapter 6

Post by WR » Fri Sep 07, 2007 4:11 pm

Please accept my apologies for the lack of updates in recent weeks, but as you are aware, I was without an internet connection foa all this time. So, I'm going to leap straight in with the story tonight, and restart my personal comments next week. Okay?

Thanks. :)


Red Shift

Part 4

Chapter 6

The Royal Carriage - a term of endearment only as the ship was as un-carriage like as you could get - sped along the roadway that lead into the town of Wier, floating on the pocket of air that it's engines produced. Light tanks escorted her, not out of fear of attack, but because of protocol. Technically, she was still the ruling Monarch, albeit in name only, and she believed that showing up in force might make her son view her differently. She needed to take control of the situation, until Zan was ready. Because clearly, he was not thinking straight.

"A roadblock?" Dalena frowned when the pilot informed her that they were being made to stop. "Don't they know who I am? Have the Bloodguard been away from Antar so long that they have forgotten who I am?"

"Perhaps," Count Heldin nodded. "But those soldiers do not look like Bloodguard to me."

"Can we not drive through them? Or around?"

"Probably not a wise idea," Heldin shook his head. "If these soldiers are asking us to stop, who knows what they might do if we don't."

"Then stop," Dalena nodded. "And I will deal with them."

The ship stopped at the block. Dalena puffed herself up to reprimand the guards for not recognizing her. As the door opened, however, it became clear to her that the guards had indeed recognized her. As one, they had knelt down on one knee, before rising and saluting. With a knitting of her eyebrows, she looked for the one in charge.

"You," she nodded at the man. "Where is my son? Where are Zan's quarters?"

"King Zan and the others have taken residence in an abandoned house on the west side of town, My Lady," the officer saluted. "By the river."

If Dalena needed an indication of where the soldiers' loyalty lay, it was clear to her now. She might be a Queen in name, but the King had returned.

"House?" she gasped. "Surely, you mean a palace. Or a mansion at the very least."

"No, My Lady," he shook his head. "A house. A rather modest house. Rath has taken one close by and..."

"Was the palace damaged then?" she frowned. "Uninhabitable, perhaps? As I recall, Count Barala and his family lived here. They had a fine palace to the east. Surely it must have been repaired by now."

"Count Barala lives there still," the officer nodded. "And the palace is indeed in fine repair."

"And why is Zan living in a house when there is a palace available to him? Surely Barala offered his palace to the King. I shall have words with Count Barala."

"He did, My Lady," he nodded. "Max... I mean, King Zan declined his hospitality."

"Did he," Dalena voice turned frosty. "Take me to my son at once."

The officer motioned toward a small squad of soldiers, not in dress uniform, but in battle dress.

"Is this my escort?" she turned on the officer.

"Yes, My Lady," he nodded. "We are in the middle of enemy territory so we have had to dispense with the ceremonial uniforms, I'm afraid. I am sure that King Zan's safety is the most paramount of importance."

"Right," Dalena nodded. "Lead on, then."

The guards moved in a skirmish formation, that is, they did not march in rows or files, but spread out, their eyes constantly moving, looking for danger. The town had certainly welcomed Zan with open arms, but they were trained soldiers, and it only took one slip up in security.

They came to a halt again. Dalena looked through the window to see what the hold up was. It was another barricade. Once again, she climbed from the ship and turned to face the barrier.

"Let me through!" she called out. "I am Lady Dalena. I am your King's mother!"

"My Lady," someone stepped from behind the barricade and bowed.

Crimson! Lady Dalena recognized at once, the uniform of the King's bodyguard. The Bloodguard were here. At last, she would be treated with the respect she was due.

"Ah," she smiled. "Someone who understands. Let me through, at once."

"I am sorry, My Lady," he shook his head. "No one is to enter the temporary Royal enclosure."

"But, I am royalty!" she spluttered. "You know who I am! Surely, my son is aware of my presence."

"He is, My Lady," he bowed once more. "And it is my duty to escort you to your quarters."

"I will go to my son," she shook her head.

"I beg your pardon, My Lady, but..."

"You are the Royal Body Guard," she stated. "As such, you are answerable to me. Take me to my son, this instant."

"I am the King's bodyguard, My Lady," the Bloodguard stated. "I am answerable only to the King... well, and one other... but never the less... my orders are to take you to your quarters. The King is tied up in a rather taxing negotiation, at the moment."

* * *

"Yet?" Liz rained kisses down on Max's lips as the young couple made out on the large sofa in the room that has become their private chamber.

As Max tried to capture her lips, she darted away.

"No," he chuckled, pulling her closer to him, reveling in the warmth of her body against his. "But soon. I'm sure of it."

"God, I hate that word," Liz shook her head.

"What word?" Max frowned.

"Soon," Liz stated, nuzzling her lips up under Max's jaw-line before leaving a few wet kisses up towards his ear. "Hey!" she sat up straight as an idea came to her. She started to grin. "What if I was to tie you up? You couldn't stop me then."

"Yeah," Max laughed. "You and who's army?"

"Your army," she smirked. "I think they're starting to like me, now. Maybe they'll help me."

"Starting to like you, Liz?" Max turned serious. "The Bloodguard have liked you almost from the start. You are just so easy to like. Easier still, to love."

"So, you think I'm easy, huh?" she raised her eyebrows.

"If the shoe fits," Max shrugged. "I mean, you're the one throwing herself at me."

"True," Liz nodded. "But remember this, mighty King Zan. Payback's a bitch. When we do start making love, maybe I will put you on short rations."

"Uh huh," Max snorted. "'Cause that wouldn't bother you at all."

Three well spaced knocks at the door attracted their attention.

"You know," their playful manner dissipated. "I really think I'm supposed to answer them in some ceremonial manner or something."

"Well," Liz sighed. "Ceremonial or not. We better answer."

"Come in," Max shouted as Liz moved off of him and straightened her clothing.

"Sire," a crimson clad soldier entered. "Lady Dalena has arrived."

"She didn't waste any time, huh?" Max raised an eyebrow at Liz.

"What?" Liz gasped, running her hands through her hair. "Your Mom is here?"

"Well," Max shrugged. "Zan's Mom is here. My Mom... my other moms are back on Earth."

"I guess she got here faster than you thought, huh?"

"I figured tomorrow morning at least," Max nodded. "Guess she really wants to get me on board before my meeting. Any news from Dray?" Max turned to the guard.

"Apparently, he had a fit," the guard smiled.

"No surprises there, then," Max smirked. "Maria said that would give him conniptions when she suggested how I phrase that reply. I really doubt I could have pulled off that kind of arrogance by myself."

"And I never really figured Maria as a royal speech writer," Liz laughed.

* * *

Dressed in a rather stiffly formal attire, Max stood by the door to the modest bedroom that he and Liz were sharing. He was staring at the door handle, as though willing the door to open.

"I know what you're doing, Max," Liz sighed with a shake of her head.

"What am I doing?" Max turned to ask her.

"You're trying to put off the moment," Liz shrugged. "Trying to delay the inevitable."

"What am I going to say, Liz?" Max frowned. "I mean, this is my... this is Zan's mother. She's been waiting for me to return for more than fifty years and I don't even know her."

"She doesn't know you, either, Max," Liz rose from her seat and crossed the room to his side. "She's probably having the same worries that you are."

"But how much is it going to hurt her when I can't return the same love that she is going to have for me?"

"Max," Liz reached out her hand and placed her palm on his cheek. "All I can tell you is what a very important person in my life once said to me. Follow your heart."

"But what does that mean, Liz?" Max groaned. "What is my..."

"Be yourself, Max," Liz gave a gentle smile. "I think that's what Grandma was trying to tell me. To be true to myself. Just follow what you feel. She's your mother. Your ultimate mother, I mean. She knows you for who you were. She knows that you are a hybrid alien with human DNA and mixed with your alien essence. You don't have to hide anything from her."

"I know. It's just..." Max waved his hand in frustration. "I think the thing that really bothers me is this thing about me and..."

"And Ava," Liz nodded.

"Yeah," Max dropped his shoulders.

"Well?" Liz raised her eyebrows. "What are you planning to do about it?"

"About what?" Max blinked."

"About her plans to get you back with Ava?"

"Not going to happen, Liz," Max shook his head. "That boat has sailed, only it's been renamed the S.S. Max-and-Liz. She's going to have to learn to love you."

"As much as I love spending time with you, Max," Liz smirked. "she is never going to love me if I keep hogging her time with you. Go. Get this over with."

Taking a deep breath, Max kissed Liz on her lips and left their room. Liz stared at the closed door for a moment before she turned and returned to her seat.

"Hey," Michael nodded at Liz as he entered their room. "He finally left, huh?"

The strangeness to Michael's voice caused her to look up sharply.

"Okay," Liz's eyes widened. "Tell me that Mr. Stonewall Guerin is not really nervous."

"I am not really nervous," Michael shook his head, turning to look at the door."

"Okay, Michael," Liz suppressed her chuckle. "I know you're lying. What's up?"

"It's Max's mom. I mean, Zan's mom." Michael turned to look at Liz with real concern on his face. "What if she doesn't like Maria? What if she gets mad?"

"What is it with you two?" Liz snapped. "Aliens invade Roswell and want to kill you? No problem. Stand up to them and kick their butts. FBI want to find you and vivisect you? Simple, get rid of them. Planet needs liberating? Fly across the Universe and liberate it. That stuff is easy. Meet a woman you haven't seen in over fifty years and you quiver like a bunch of first graders caught playing doctors and nurses."

"Not just any woman, Liz," Michael shook his head. Zan and Vilandra's real mom. The Queen. And in case you had forgotten, your future Mother-In-Law."

"Thank you, Michael," Liz growled as her own show of bravado fell away. "I was fine until you mentioned that part."

* * *

"What if they have forgotten me completely?" Dalena asked her Lady in Waiting over the breakfast table. "What if they have no feelings for me at all?"

"You know what?" Valda gave a sympathetic smile. "I'll bet that they are just as worried about how this meeting will go as you are."

"I have waited so long for this day," Dalena mused. "And not once did I imagine that I would not see them until only hours before his first meeting with one of his enemies. Or rather, potential ally."

"Are you sure this is a wise idea?" Valda sat across from her mistress.

"Zan is not strong enough to fight both Dray and Kivar at once. While it's true that he does seem to command a rather large body of men, it's nothing compared to the combined might of the other two. He must ally himself to one or forever be the underdog. Better to be in league with the lesser of the two evils and strike at him after Kivar has been dealt with."

"I hope Zan agrees with you," Valda nodded.

"He will," Dalena nodded. "And if he does not, I am sure he will listen to Ava. She will be able to persuade him, I'm sure."

Valda rose from the table at the knock of the door. She opened it to admit access to the crimson clad officer.

"My Lady," he gave a very formal bow. "His Majesty will see you now."

"At last," Dalena muttered and she steeled herself for her meeting with her son.

* * *

Max was the first to arrive. Protocol dictated that. Max was the King, he 'went' to no one. His heart pounded in his chest as he rubbed the palms of his hand over the regal robes. His mind went back over the conversation he and Liz had had with Larek.

" What do I call her? I mean, Mom is someone back on Earth. Calling this woman who I haven't known for fifty years and not at all in this life-time, Mom just seems strange."

Whatever your feelings, Sire, Dalena is your mother. And regardless of her feelings toward Liz, she has worked tirelessly in your name. Whatever you do, do not insult her."

"Why don't you call her 'Mother', Max. I mean, in all the nursery stories I read as a little girl, the prince always called his mom 'Mother'."

"I can live with that. What would I do without you, Liz?"

"Yeah. I sometimes wonder that, myself."

"I am sure that Dalena will come to appreciate Liz as much as those of us who have already met her have. She is most definitely... unique."

"You can say that again."

"Max Evans. You can wipe that silly grin off your face right now."

"Oh? How? Like this?"

"Uh, I think I will leave the two of you now. Such open Earthly affections take a little getting used to."

Max started to smile at the memory of the kiss that he and Liz had shared. How was it that she knew not only 'how' to distract him, but 'when'?

Perhaps this meeting would not be so bad after all.

* * *

Dalena stood at the door to Max's 'Royal' audience chamber, which apparently had once been someone's dining room. This was it. After more than half a century, she was going to see her children at last. Whilst it was true that only two of the Royal Four were hers by birth, she felt like a mother to all of them.

She had elected to dress simply, today. Regally, for sure, but she in no way wished to upstage Zan. He was, after all, the true ruling Monarch. The last thing Dalena wanted to do was to give her son the impression that she believed he was somehow usurping her position. No, she needed Zan to be comfortable with her. She needed him to be able to confide in her, and to trust her counsel. His rash decision to reject Dray could very well cost him his throne if she did not manage to salvage some sort of deal with the general. To do that, she had to get through to Zan. He could not take both men on at once.

Judging from the way she had been received by the Bloodguard, perhaps this meeting would not be so bad after all.

* * *
Last edited by WR on Fri Sep 14, 2007 5:13 pm, edited 7 times in total.

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Red Shift - Part 4 Chapter 7

Post by WR » Fri Sep 14, 2007 5:18 pm

Hi everyone!

It's Friday! And that means it's update time! :) And yes, I am updating! Thank you for your patiance and your support. And thank you for your excellent feedback.

youre my dreamgirl
cwm_ - Thank you :)

Alien_Friend - The trouble with going over Max's head (apart from his height :wink: ) is that Max is the King, and going over his head... or rather, behind his back, would be treason.

roswell3053 - Ah, but remember that she is a member of the Royal family, and as such is used to doing certain things...

Cocogurl - Well, if she doesn;t accept it, she won;t be seeing much if her son.

Araxie_HRH - I only hid to try to coax you out again :wink: I see far too little of you on my thread these days :) And then I get THREE responses! Whoa! :lol: Nah, Max is going to buckle. He's going to say, ok ma. Liz is out, Tess is in. :wink:

sylus27 - That would be only fair because I am sure that he thinks he has a surprise in store for Max! :lol:

paper - Heck, every one loves Liz! :wink:

kay_b - Why wouldn't she? lol Yes. I think it's fair to say that the only thing that worries Max is how Liz will be accepted. Probably because it's the only thing he feels he can't control. :wink:

Emz80m - But, I always do! :wink:

frenchkiss70 - I have read many stories where the two meet, and it's always as though they had only parted the other day. Max is different to Zan and he has never met his Mother. Of course he would be nervous. :)

Ellie - Sad, but understandable. Perhaps it would have been better if they had been able to keep in touch - so to speak. I wonder if Antar has Skype?

mareli - Max isn;t mean. Even the Granolith said there was a good reason. I'm sure Dalena will greet Liz just fine. :) Max's mother IS helping with the war, but she has different ideas to Max. Because they have not communicated and she has underestimated Max. She thinks he is just a young teenager with no worldly experience...

VeronicaB - Yes. She needed reminding. She needed to know that when dealing with Zan(Max) HE is the one in charge. But she does understand this. Even if it irks her.

BehrObsession - Yes. She is in for a surprise indeed. Two surprises in fact. But she is nothing if not resourceful...

katydid - How do you know A) it will be a throw down and B) it will be the final one? :wink:

smokie - well, maybe if you were in that search part with a bottle of JD, I'd have been back sooner. :wink: (One day, we WILL have that drink!)

Red Shift

Part 4

Chapter 7

Max approached the large, plush chair that was supposed to double as his throne. The fact that it was the most uncomfortable seat he had ever sat on prevented Max from actually using it so. He preferred to stand.

"Are you ready, sire?" his aide looked from the main door at him.

"Yeah," Max nodded, reaching out to hold the arm of his 'throne".

This is it, he said to himself, taking a deep breath to help regain control of his feelings. All those years of hiding behind that tree, all of his practice controlling his feelings for Liz before she knew his secret, all of the control he ever exercised over his emotions, they all came to his assistance now. Outwardly, at least, he appeared very calm. He knew this because he kept checking his reflection in the mirror.

The light knock at the door seemed louder that it was in reality. Max even gave a little jump. The aide opened the door.

"My Lady," he bowed. Protocol had dictated that Dalena actually ask for an audience with the King, even though he was her son, but Max had already told them to waive that particular notion. Friends and family do not need to formally request to see me, he had explained. "Please, come in. Your son awaits."

The aide saw that Dalena had been surprised by the omission of standard protocol. She nevertheless entered the room, sweeping past the aide who stepped from the room and closed the door behind him.

The woman before him appeared to be a very attractive, older woman, no more than her fifties. Of course, Max knew that she must at least be in her mid to late eighties. He made another mental note to inquire about Antarian aging. Her face was filled with emotion. It seemed that momentarily, she knew neither what to say, or how to act. Neither did Max.

Dalena's eyes widened at the sight of her son, standing tall and proud before her at last. He appeared to be still a boy, and not the young man who had left Antar all those years ago. A boy, yes, but his soul seemed so... mature. As his mother, Dalena wanted nothing more than to forget her position and rush to him, gather him in her arms and smother him with affection. While he looked nothing like Zan and even looking a little alien, he was still her son.

"Zan," she whispered in a deep, emotion filled voice.

Even with the strangeness to his looks, and obvious human caste, they had nonetheless chosen a very handsome young man as the donor for his DNA source. And then a strange notion came to her. Were these good looks the root of the problems between he and Ava? Had his good looks attracted the young ladies of Earth, and given Zan every opportunity to sow his royal oats, so to speak? She shook the thought of her serious son being rather promiscuous away. Even as a young man on Antar, he had seldom shown any interest in the young ladies at court. With the exception of Ava. However, with their return, those problems had clearly been resolved. Dalena could scarcely wait to see what the others looked like, now.

"Mother," her son spoke in such a warm, friendly timbre.

It surprised her to see him cross the room to her. This was never done at court. But then, Larek had warned her that this incarnation of Zan did things his own way. And she had seen evidence of that already.

"It's been such a long time," he continued, pulling her into a warm hug.

"Zan," she repeated, tears stinging her eyes. "You do not know how long I have wished for this moment. It is so good to see you again, my son."

"It's good to see you, too, Mother," Max nodded. "And it's good to be here, at last. I want to finish this and return peace to Antar.

"Yes," she nodded. "Peace. And a return to the good days, with a King and his Queen on the throne. The sooner we are rid of Kivar, the better."

"And not just Kivar," Max shook his head.

"We can talk of that later," Dalena pressed her finger to his lips and smiled. "First, I wish to meet the others. I have been waiting to meet them, also. Where are they?"

She glanced over Zan's shoulder to the door behind him.

"Okay, Michael," Max sent telepathically. "You're up."

Max was glad that Michael had not yet remembered how to answer him. He really did not want to hear his thoughts just now.

Dalena was surprised when the door behind Zan opened and a tall young man walked in. He was not escorted by the Bloodguard as all visitors in her husbands day had been. This man entered as though he were entering the room of a friend rather then the King.

"Rath?" it came to her. "Is that you?"

"Hello, Dalena," Rath smiled at her, copying Max and pulling her into a hug.

Like Max, he had been unsure what to call her. Maria had suggested he call her by her name. After all, Larek said she considered him family, now. That did not stop the look of sheer astonishment appearing on her face.

"We, uh, went through so much together, down on Earth..." Max explained. "Things aren't like they were before. Mi... Rath is more like a real brother to me, now. My brother, my friend... I owe a lot to him."

"Just like I owe a lot to Ma... Zan," Michael released Dalena, nodding.

"Well," Dalena's head bobbed up and down as she looked at the pair of tall, handsome young men. "They certainly chose the samples with good looks for the two of you. What of the others? What of Ava and Vilandra?"

Michael looked across to Zan.

"Mother," Max cleared his throat. "There's something we need to tell you. Vilandra isn't with us."

"Excuse me?" Dalena's eyes widened in confusion. "Where is she? Why is she not here? Is she with more of your forces elsewhere?"

"She's still on Earth," Max looked down at his feet. "We... We learned some things. About our past... and what we did. Is... Vilandra chose to remain behind until Kivar was defeated so that he could not use her past mistakes against us. Plus, she is performing one or two rather important tasks for us."

"But," Dalena frowned. "I was told that the Royal Four had returned. How can that be if there are only three of you?"

"It's all yours," Max spoke in Michael's mind.

Michael cast a glare at Max that said, gee, thanks.

"I'll explain Maria if you explain Liz."

Michael's eyes widened and he gave a slow shake of the head. He then gave a soft smirk. He turned to face Dalena and swallowed hard.

"Like Zan said," Michael took a deep breath. "We are like brother's now, he and I. More than brothers, perhaps. In the same way, the shared closeness and secrecy forced Vilandra and I to share that same relationship. We came to look upon each other as brother and sister. Uh... there was no way that she would ever see me as anything else. The same for me. She's my sister, and I love her. Like a sister. The fourth person we came back with is Maria. She's uh... she's my wife."

Dalena felt her blood freeze. Rath had rejected Vilandra in favor of a human girl, and Zan did nothing to intervene? She stared hard at Rath for a painfully long moment.

"I see," Dalena finally found her voice. "And how does my daughter see your rather cruel betrayal of your betrothal?"

She missed Max wincing.

"Actually," Michael gave a brief smile. "She's engaged to another man, herself. Someone who had helped us a great deal on Earth. His whole family did. And she is deleriously happy. As am I."

"I see," Dalena repeated. "And so, this... Maria. You have brought her to Antar?"

"Yeah," Michael nodded. "I couldn't leave her behind. No more than ... Zan could leave..." He paused.

"Ava," Dalena finished for him.

Max winced again.

"And is she here?" Dalena continued. "Is your... wife... here? I would like to meet the young woman who has replaced my daughter in your affections."

This time, it was Michael who winced.

"Liz," Max spoke softly. "Can you send Maria in now? And tell her... tell her she needs to be... well..."

"How are things going?"

"Not good, Liz."

One thing that Max had learned early on, you cannot really lie with telepathy. You can sense the truth because you cannot prevent your mind from thinking it. So he didn't even try.

The door opened again, and Dalena watched a lovely, blonde woman entered the room. She showed even less decorum that Rath had shown.

"Hi," she grinned at her. "I'm Maria. " The strange young woman was talking to her as though she were some commoner on the street and not the King's mother. "I'm the one who was dumb enough to marry Spaceboy, here. You must be Dalena. Duh, of course you are. It's really cool to meet you at last. I mean, we've all been dying to meet you for years now. Ever since we heard..."

"This is Maria," Michael interrupted.

"I am pleased to meet you," she gave Maria a nod.

"So, what do I call you?" Maria continued. "I mean, I understand if you want me to call you some royal type name but it's going to be hard when I call the King, Max. Or moondoggie, depending what mood I'm in."

"Max?" Dalena blinked. "Moondoggie?"

"And of course, I even call the Queen by her first name. I mean, no way am I letting her get all regal on me. Not when we've been best friends since we were... So anyway, do we shake hands or hug, or what?"

"Well..." Dalena blinked some more.

"Aw, heck," Maria grinned. "Hugs are always best, huh?"

And with that, Maria pulled the one time Queen of Antar, the King's mother, into a friendly hug. Max couldn't help giving Michael a wink. It was only fair that someone else got to experience the full force of Hurricane DeLuca. Guerin. Whatever.

"Well," Dalena straightened herself after Maria released her. "She certainly seems to be quite a handful, Rath."

"Answer that at your peril, Guerin," Maria flashed him a deadly smile.

"And she certainly is very beautiful," Dalena continued.

"Oh," Maria grinned. "I like her."

Michael cringed while Max rolled his eyes, suppressing the laughter that threatened to burst out. Michael's glance, however, told Max exactly what he was thinking.

Yuk it up. Liz is next.

"So," Dalena took a deep breath to calm herself. "Where is she? Where is my daughter in law? Where is the Queen of Antar?"

"This is it, Liz," Max sent. "Remember that no matter how bad this turns out, it changes nothing. You will always be my Queen. I will always love you."

"That's a good thing, Max," Liz replied. "'Cause you know I will always love you. Do you mind if I fake a headache? I could really develop one, if it helps. I don't think I can do this. She is so going to hate me."

"And I really don't care if she does. She gets no say in this. It's time, Liz."

Liz walked into the room more ladylike than Maria had. She walked in slowly, calmly. In spite of her inner turmoil, she looked calm and confident. She seemed... regal. Dalena was looking at her with a huge smile of pride.

There she was, Dalena smiled to herself. And just look at her. Every inch, a queen. And hadn't they chosen a beautiful donor for her, too? And not only was she beautiful, she appeared to have other qualities to her. Such as that hint of steel in her eyes that spoke of loyalty and devotion to Zan. Steel that suggested she would fight tooth and nail for her husband. How on Earth had he been able to dally with some human girl with a beauty like this around? She was... exquisite.

"Ava," Dalena opened her arms, inviting the hug.

"Uh, Mother, " Max coughed. "This is Liz. Although she's not yet my wife, not yet my Queen, I hope that one day..."

"Not Ava?" Dalena blinked, dropping her arms and taking a step back. "I see. And what of Ava? Where is she? Where is your wife?"

"She's not my wife," Max shook his head, sadly looking down at the floor. "We don't know where Ava is. Probably back on Earth, though I suspect she;s on her way here. She uh, she betrayed us. Betrayed me."

Dalena looked at Max, first and then at Liz.

"But she's your wife."

This is it, Max took a deep breath.

"No, Mother, she's not. Yes, Zan married Ava. But since that time, I have died, twice. So has Rath and Vilandra too. Because of Ava. Maria, Liz and Kyle, Vilandra's fiancée, have also been killed, murdered by Ava."

"But, Zan..."

"Murdered, Mother. Ava helped Kivar murder us here on Antar..."

"But she was executed, too. I saw that with my own eyes."

"She was executed so that she could take her place at my side on Earth and betray us there, too. And she did, Mother. When she failed to deliver us to Kivar, she tried to capture us on his behalf. After she had murdered our friends."

"You have no proof, no evidence..."

"I don't need proof," Max barked. "This isn't a court. Te... Ava is not on trial. I was there. I know what was going on. If we ever get our hands on her..." Max took a deep breath and held out his hand, which Liz clasped immediately. "All that is beside the point. I fell in love with Liz the very first time I saw her. And we were only eight."

Dalena remained silent, processing everything she had just heard.

"Welcome to Antar," she gave both young ladies a nod. "I am pleased to see that my... sons... managed to find such loyal young ladies. I cannot say that I am happy with the way things have turned out and I hope that I can come to love the two of you as these two have. We must make time to get to know one another better. But, for now..." she looked at Zan. "My son and I have much to discuss. Matters of the court."

"Sure," Max nodded. "Go ahead."

Dalena turned, expecting to say goodbye to the other three.

"Uh, no," Max gave her a smile. "This is my court, Mother. These three people here are three of the people I trust most in this universe. As my Second in Command, Michael..."

"Michael?" Dalena looked up. "Maria said that she called him Michael, too."

"It's the uh, name that was given to me. On Earth." Michael shrugged. "I got used to it."

"Did you not refer to one another by your given names?" she turned to look at Max.

"We never knew our given names," Max shook his head. "Not until we were... seventeen. By then, he was Michael, I was Max. Vilandra is Isabel."

"And Ava?"

"Home wrecking space ho," Maria spat. "Or, if we're feeling generous, Tess."

"We're kind of used to those names, now," Max rolled his eyes at Maria's outburst. "We like them. But you can call me Zan, if it makes you feel more comfortable.

"Thank you," she gave Max a bow of her head. "Very well, then. Michael will stay. But surely, there is no need for the ladies..."

"I'll tell Liz anything we discuss. Just like Michael will tell Maria. We have no secrets. So they might as well stay. Besides, we've kind of come to rely on their advice, too."

Dalena looked at each member of the quartette.

"Very well," she nodded, taking a deep breath. "I have been told that you have just undermined all of the hard work that I have been executing in your behalf to negotiate an alliance with General Dray."

Max thought for a moment before replying. He had to balance Lareks advice with his own needs.

"If I undermined your efforts, then I apologize," he started. "That was not my intention. My intention was to make sure that I am taken seriously. I requested a meeting with General Dray and his reply demanded that 'I' go to him. Either I am the King, or I am not. If I'm not, then there is little point to my being here. I might just as well have stayed at home."

"Zan!" Dalena gasped. She calmed herself, gathering her thoughts. "It was my intention that you work with him, that you ally yourself to Dray while looking for a way to undermine him. To overthrow him from within."

"I can't do that," Max shook his head. "That's not me. That's not who I am. I didn't come back here to keep things going in a perpetual round of double crossing and underhanded dealing. This ends now."

"But you cannot take on both armies at once, either."

"And I have no intention of doing that," Max shook his head. "Dray and Kivar cannot take on two armies at once, either. And that puts me in a rather good position. Neither can afford to turn their back on the other while trying to deal with me. So in a way, we're evenly matched."

"But Dray... and Kivar... Zan, these are dangerous men."

"Seems to me," Michael gave a gruff grunt, "that it's time those two found out that we are dangerous, too."

"Dray will offer you an ultimatum," Dalena looked from Michael to Zan. Neither looked dangerous. They both appeared to be in their teens. "He will demand that you hand over the command of your soldiers to him."

"And I will give him the same ultimatum, Mother," Max smiled. "Dray will surrender to me or he will be charged with treason against the throne of Antar."

"I think you are in for a shock, young man," Dalena turned all maternal on him. "You are too young. Too inexperienced. You have no idea what you are up against. You are too ingenuous."

Max remained silent for a moment.

"Mother," he sighed. "You know nothing about us. Nothing about what we have been through. You have no idea what we can do. Six months ago, we were teenagers, looking forward to a summer of partying with our friends on the beach. Since then, we have defeated Nikolas... General Nikolas and Kivar's forces that had invaded Earth. We raised an army. A large army, willing to fight for me. For us. I have learned how to control the Granolith and we have returned to Antar on a space ship I ordered to be built thousands of years ago. You are right. Our army is not as big as Dray's. Or Kivar's. But we have one thing in our favor."

"And what is that?"

"I do not 'want' to rule Antar. And according to everything I have ever read, that makes me the best suited to do just that. Six months ago, we were only eight in number. Eight teenagers whose only concern was hoping to make out with their partner of choice over the summer. Now, I have an army of sixty thousand. Including the Bloodguard. My army has grown in size at the rate of ten thousand a month. Time, it seems, is on my side."

"The King has returned," Michael grinned. "Long Live the King!"

"Amen," Liz whispered, looking up at Max with new eyes and a sense of awe.

* * *
Last edited by WR on Fri Sep 21, 2007 3:05 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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Red Shift - Part 4 Chapter 8

Post by WR » Fri Sep 21, 2007 3:50 pm

Red Shift

Part 4

Chapter 8

The Hacienda was old, even by U.S. standards. It had been built by the Spanish who had colonized this part of the Americas as far back as 1598. It was rumored that it had once been the home of Juan de Onate, who had established the first Spanish capital of San Juan de los Caballeros at the Tewa village of Ohke, north of present-day Espanola. In its past, it had been a ranch - in the days when this land was more fertile, a hospital and more recently, during the Mexican - U.S.A. War, it had been the command post of General Santa Anna himself. It had been from this Hacienda that Mexican Pablo Montoya, and a Taos Indian, Tomás Romero, known as Tomasito, had led the ill fated Taos Revolt which ended at the one sided Battle of Embudo Pass on January 29, 1847. A building so steeped in local history, it was perhaps inevitable that it became the official home of the aliens who had crashed nearby all those years ago, albeit in stasis.

Because the land was deserted, as well as rather isolated, Isabel and the others all agreed that this would make an excellent Embassy for the representatives of the Antarian Government, that being Max. The Bloodguard who had remained behind to act as guards had accepted this choice as the land was easily defensible. On one side, was the Mescalero Reservation. The Native Americans had openly allied themselves with the 'visitors' and treated them with ancestral awe. After all, they had said:

"We owe them our very existence."

In fact, many of them had volunteered for the Antarian Armed Forces, and now served as guards for the compound.

The compound itself had been surrounded by a high chain link fence, and the rather barren landscape now proliferated with motion sensors, rescued from all around the borders of New Mexico and were now linked in to the security of the Antarian Royal Consulate. It had been joked that not even the rattlesnakes could move undetected. And considering that the population of these venomous guardians seemed to multiply tenfold, almost overnight, that was no laughing matter. All in all, it was not wise to try to sneak up on the embassy. Already, two journalists had been rushed to the hospital and one 'UFOlogist had been reached too late, bitten by a dozen snakes.

The largest and most airy room of the Embassy had been designated as the 'inner office. This was the room in which the day to day political dealing were held, where the Ambassador would meet and greet the dignitaries from all over the world. Isabel Evans sat at the antique desk, speaking into a microphone while she studied a letter.

"And as General Secretary of the UN," a disembodied voice spoke from some speakers, "I have been asked to point out how remote and inaccessible your embassy is."

"What's your point?" Isabel looked up with a raised eyebrow.

"Do you not feel that perhaps that moving your base to New York would save you time travelling to and from the UN building every time you wished to address us?" the speaker sounded genuinely concerned.

"General Secretary," Isabel looked up from the letter with a faint trace of an amused smile. "Let me make one thing clear. Although I will talk to any one who wishes to do so, I am at the beck and call of no one. If you need to talk to me, you fly out to New Mexico and see me. Not the other way around."

"But, your Excellency..."

"Was there anything else?" Isabel raised an eyebrow.

The General Secretary didn't need a webcam to see that Isabel's face had frosted over. He heard it in her voice.

"No," he sighed. "Thank you for you time, Excellency."

"No problem," Isabel smiled, sweetly. "Anytime."

She reached forward and pressed the button to disconnect the call.

"Come in," she called at the knock at the door.

"What's that?" Anders entered the room, nodding at the letter in her hand. "Max write at last?"

"Sort of," Isabel looked up with a smile. "It's from Larek, but it has Max all over it. He probably asked Larek to have this sent. Hi, Anders. How are you?"

She rose and gave him a welcoming kiss on his cheek.

"So, what's he say? He whipped Kivar's ass yet?"

"Give him time," Isabel smirked. "The impossible he can do at once. Miracles take a little longer. He's only been there a week."

"Uh huh," Anders nodded. "I remember his miracle working. So, how are they getting on?"

"It seems that our Mother has been trying to negotiate some kind of alliance with this General Dray. Dray wants to use Max as a puppet."

"Yeah," Anders nodded with a sarcastic smile. "I can so see Max going for that. Mr. Control Freak, himself."

"You're right," Isabel chuckled. "They're meeting with Dray in a few hours. Max will give him his answer, then."

"Meeting? Doesn't Dray have more soldiers than Max?"

"Sure," Isabel nodded. "And so does Kivar. Dray can't afford to turn his back on Kivar who can't afford to turn his back on Dray. Max, however, can pretty much afford to move about at will."

"So it's a New Mexican standoff, then," Anders chuckled. "So what else does he say? Anything for me to take back to Raul?"

"Yes, actually," Isabel nodded. "Max says that because of the fighting, there's a food shortage. He requested that we look into buying up stocks of grain, and other foodstuffs. And seeds. Wheat, oats, barley, corn... whatever you can get."

"Uh huh?" Anders nodded. "And how do we pay for it?"

"Technology," Isabel grinned.

"Doesn't Max think that might be kind of dangerous?"

"Yeah," Isabel nodded. "He's pretty much left it up to us to decide what we give, but he has stipulated that nothing that can be used to wage war, and nothing to do with cold fusion. Earth isn't ready for it, yet. Oh, and it has to be distributed fairly, okay? No one is to gain any kind of advantage."

"Well, that raises an interesting point. I've brought a... a 'request' from President Clayton."

"From Holly?" Isabel raised a single eyebrow. "Or that advisor of hers?"

"Does it matter?" Anders shrugged, handing over the sealed letter.

Isabel opened it and read it, quickly. One of the alien abilities, speed reading, had always held her in good stead. Now, it was invaluable.

"You know what it says?" she looked up at him.

"A fair idea," Anders sighed. "Reparations, right?"

"Right," Isabel nodded. "I suppose I should speak to my advisors first..."

"Speaking of which, how are they all?"

"You already met your parents, right?"

"Sure," Anders nodded. "Did you know that Raul's folks are in DC right now?"

"Of course," Isabel smiled. "Anyway, The Skyes and the Cartiers are fine. Still a bit bewildered about all of this, especially the Cartiers. The Parkers miss Liz as much as the Cartiers, and everyone's missing Max... Amy and Jim miss everyone... you know. Same ol' same ol'."

"The alien abyss," Anders smirked. "So what are their demands?"

"That Antar deal with the U.S. and the U.S. alone," Isabel looked over the letter again. "They are also demanding that the Antarian Government compensate the U.S. for any and all damage sustained to its economy and infrastructure during the alien occupation, as well as the costs to rebuild New Mexico."

"No surprise there, then," Anders shrugged.

"The thing is," Isabel looked out of the window while she rolled the demand into a tube. "Land prices in New Mexico are rising. Every major company in the world wants to have an office here, no doubt hoping to be well placed to receive any technological gifts. All those extra tax dollars they are earning... And the land prices in Roswell have skyrocketed. Those locals who haven't sold out are reaping in the benefits by opening even more alien themed tourist traps. Roswell is now the world's number one tourist destination; the world and his wife all coming here, hoping to see a real live 'alien'. Roswell has become a boom town."

"So... what do you think your response will be?"

"You know?" she tapped the rolled tube of paper to her chin. "I think I might tell them that Antar would be only too happy to see to their demands. But, naturally, having little in the way of funds, we would expect the payment of royalties for the use of any technology that Max might sanction the release of. And we might also put the licenses out to tender for the highest bidder. After all, we would not wish to bankrupt ourselves. The thought that people hostile to the west might gain some advantage over them might do them some good. And maybe I should point out that as it was Max and his Antarian forces that had effectively freed New Mexico, some form of financial reward might be appropriate."

"I don't think they know how to take you, Isabel," Anders laughed. "Having grown up in the U.S.A., you know how to play hard ball, too."

"Yeah," Isabel smirked. "Except I have a better curveball than they do."

"What technology should I start bartering with?"

"Energy," Isabel considered. "We'll give them data to improve things like wind turbines, solar panels, tidal generators, cheap Hydrogen production. And for the more arid countries, technology that will help them with irrigation, soil erosion control... that sort of thing. But don't sell it cheap, Anders. Remember that while Antar goes hungry, Max and Liz will go hungry with them. Don't let my family go hungry."

"How are you planning to get the stuff there?" Anders frowned.

"Max is sending the Elizabeth back."

"Hey, babe," Kyle breezed into the room. "Hey Anders. How's things?"

"Pretty good, Kyle," Anders shook Kyle's outstretched hand. "Well, something tells me it's time to leave."

"Big family dinner tonight, Anders," Isabel reminded him. "Like every other time you or Raul come into town."

"Catch you later."

The couple watched him leave before Isabel turned to look at Kyle.

"You're supposed to knock."

"I am?" Kyle widened his eyes. "Who came up with 'that one?"

"No idea," she smiled as Kyle leaned over to kiss her. "So, did you miss me?"

"Who are you, again?" Kyle narrowed his eyes.

"Not sure," Isabel laughed. "Vilandra, Isabel or Leia. Take your pick."

"Does this mean I get to go to bed with three women?" he widened his eyes.

"Only if you have a death wish."

"Ah, no," Kyle shook his head. "Did I hear you right? Max is sending Liz back?"

"Yeah," she rolled her eyes. "Like he would do that. No, he's sending the ship back." She paused, and straightened herself, looking more businesslike. "Well?"

"No sign of her, Kyle shook his head. "We found the place that Cal had said the ship had been moved to, but maybe she moved it again."

"No," Isabel shook her head. "Cal said he had been ordered to invite her to return home. No way is Tess going to stay where she has no friends. Not if Zan's mother had invited her. I think we can safely say that she's on her way to Antar. If she's not already there. Best guess, she left way before Max did."

"We should let Max know," Kyle stood upright. "I mean, if Tess is on Antar..."

"I agree," Isabel nodded. "Send the message."

* * *

General Dray and his entourage made their way up the main road that led to the town of Wier. In the large field, in front of the town, Max had erected a large, white tent. Michael stood outside of the tent, watching Dray's approach. He saw at once that the General's retinue did not so much consist of advisors and guards, but enforcers. Dray had come not to negotiate but to intimidate. Michael shrugged, knowing that he had little chance of succeeding.

"General Dray," Michael gave a salute when Dray's vehicle stopped.

"And you are?" Dray gave him a look of disdain through the open window.

"Depends on your point of view," Michael shrugged. "To many here, I am Marshall Guerin. To a few, I am Michael. But to you, I am your worst nightmare."

"General Rath," Dray allowed his contempt to show. "You were never much use as a General. And now Zan thinks you will make a Marshall? Join me. I can complete your education."

"Join you, Dray?" Michael smirked. "Uh, no. No. I just came out to tell you that your, uh... guards are to remain outside. The King's guards are remaining outside as well."

"You'll forgive me if I fail to believe you," Dray sneered.

"Yeah," Michael nodded. "Figured you'd say that. Feel free to check it out." Michael indicated the tent flap.

Dray nodded to one of the soldiers who had already climbed from the lead vehicle. The soldier approached the tent and peered inside, looking all around.

"There's only two males in here," he called over his shoulder. "And three females. There's Larek, and someone I assume is Zan. Dalena is there and two... advisors?" he looked at Michael for confirmation.

Michael simply nodded.

"Female advisors?" Dray smirked. "Does Zan already sport some female's thumbprint on his head?"

"Did you want to talk?" Michael gave him a cold stare. "Or did you want to trade insults? 'Cause I gotta say, I have a couple of real good insults I'd really like to try out."

"All right then," Dray gave a nod. "Let's talk. How many may enter with me?"

"How threatened do you feel by the people inside that tent?" Michael shrugged.

"Will you be there?" Dray's eyes narrowed.

"Of course," Michael nodded.

"Then, I will take... four men. Five to your six."

"Five it is then," he nodded. "Let's get this over with."

"You're not going to demand we leave our weapons behind?" Dray seemed surprised.

"Would it do any good?" Michael gave another smirk.

"No," Dray shook his head, narrowing his eyes.

"Then I ain't wasting my breath. Besides," Michael grinned. "They'll be pretty useless in any case. You coming, or what?"

Dray had a look of worry as Michael stepped through the opened flap.

General Dray entered the tent with his four guards standing in a square around him. As he entered the interior, his eyes immediately scrutinized the other five people in the tent. Michael, he recognized as someone to be wary of. He looked like he might be useful in a fight. That was not necessarily a good trait in a leader, but in a small room like this... Larek and Dalena, of course, would be next to useless. Neither were trained warriors, and neither would put up much of a fight. The two foreign looking girls, too, looked next to useless. And that left the boy who would be king.

"Zan," he nodded.

To his surprise, the man he had assumed to be the king did not acknowledge him.

"Uh, Dray," Michael gave a wry grin. "Remember who you're speaking to."

"What?" Dray turned to face Michael who was making his way to join the others.

He thought he noticed Dalena wince.

"Jeez," Michael shook his head. "Do I have to spell it out for you?"

"Michael," Dalena admonished him.

"Hey," Michael shrugged. "It's not me acting like an asshole."

"Forgive them, General Dray," Dalena spoke in a conciliatory voice. "They have much to learn about etiquette."

"It seems to me, My Lady," Larek spoke up, "that it is General Dray who has forgotten his manners. Lord Ra... I mean, Michael is quite correct when he points out that Dray is in fact, addressing the King."

Dray looked from one to another before he released a heavy breath of frustration.

"Your Majesty," he gave a little bow and turned to face Michael. "Satisfied? Can we get on with this charade?"

"Charade?" Max looked at Dray with a raised eyebrow. "Is that what you came for? You did not come to talk?"

Dray blinked for a moment.

"Talk?" he barked. "No. I did not come to 'talk'. I came to put my demands to you."

Max leaned back in his chair and waved at a man standing near the rear entrance of the tent. At once, five more chairs were passed inside and handed to Dray and his men. Max indicated that they be seated.

"Very well," Max did his best to sound bored. "Let us hear your demands."

Dray leaned back in his seat and puffed his chest out.

"You will, immediately, transfer the command of all men who currently serve you or anyone allied or associated with you, to me."

"Uh huh," Max nodded. "Is that all?"

"No, it is not," Dray shook his head. "You will then make a public proclamation in which you announce that you are placing me in charge of your army, that you support me wholeheartedly and that anyone loyal to the crown should also support me. You will announce your confidence that I will restore peace to Antar. You will turn over all vestiges of power, to me. I will rule this planet, and the alliance of the five planets through you. You will, in effect, become my puppet."

"Right," Max gave a slow nod. "And what do I get, in return?"

"I will allow you to sit on the throne with your Queen by your side," Dray shrugged. "You will be allowed to live a full and peaceful life, as long as you support my rule. In short, Zan. You get your life."

"That doesn't sound terribly convincing, Dray," Max shook his head. "I mean, I still have my life. And I really don't think you are in a position to end it, just yet. And besides that, your proposals would only sow the seeds of years of unrest."

"Unrest?" Dray narrowed his eyes. "The fact that you have returned suggests that you are ready to retake your throne. That means you have the same end result as me. The return of the King and Queen to the throne. The return of peace and stability. Who cares if it's really I who rule? The only difference between your vision and mine is that behind me will be a strong military which will guarantee future peace."

"No," Max shook his head. "You vision would place a strong military sneering at the King, behaving like they own the place. Corruption will spread because there will be no one to stop them."

"And how does that differ to what your father did?"

"I am not my Father, Dray," Max stared the man in the eyes. "Do not make that mistake."

"Zan," Dalena spoke softly. "The deal is a good one. I really advise..."

"Mother," Max spoke softly, although there was a hint of iron. "Perhaps we should discuss this further, "Max turned to Dray. "I suggest that we take a break."

Max started to rise, as did the rest of his group.

"Wait," Dray called. "There's one more thing."

"There's a surprise," Maria rolled her eyes. "There always is, Columbo."

"And what's that?" Max cast Maria a grin.

"You have forgotten someone."

"No," Max shook his head, looking around. "I have forgotten no one."

"You have forgotten your Queen," Dray grinned. "The one who will rule at your side."

Max's eyes went to Liz who was looking back at him in confusion.

From the tent opening that Dray had entered, a small, blonde haired woman entered. She was dressed regally and wore a golden tiara on her head.

"Hi, Max," she smirked. "Seems like you just can't get rid of me, huh?"

* * *

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Red Part 4 Chapter 9

Post by WR » Sat Sep 29, 2007 2:10 pm

Red Shift

Part 4

Chapter 9

The tent fell into a stunned silence.

"Tess," Max's eyes went cold. He started to shake his head. "No, I didn't miss you. You're like a freaking common cold. And just as welcome. No one wants you and no one can get rid of you."

"Hi, Liz," Tess smiled sweetly, ignoring Max's put down. "Driven any cars lately?"

"No," Liz shook her head. "Surely you know that I'm not old enough to drive, yet, Tess. Uh, how old are you, now? Is that gray I see in your hair?"

Tess glared at her.

"So, the Royal Family is complete," Dray held his arms open wide and smiled expansively.

"No," Max shook his head. "Tess is not a part of the Royal Family. In fact, she stands charged with treason."

"Well, Tess," Maria looked at the unwelcome visitor. "Seems like we've just found a cure for the common cold. It's called beheading. Do you behead people for treason, Max?"

"It can be arranged," Max's voice was as cold as ice.

"Zan!" Dalena snapped. "Listen to what he says! Think of the people of Antar who have yearned for the return of you and Ava. We have a chance for peace, here." She turned to the small blonde and smiled brightly. "Hello, Ava, dear."

Ava returned her smile and gave Dalena a demure curtsey. Both Liz and Maria rolled their eyes.

"Listen to your Mother, Zan," Dray spoke as though he were speaking to a young child. "These are not negotiations. This is an ultimatum. And Ava sitting on the throne next to you is not the only one."

"Oh, you have more," Michael raised his eyes skyward. "Didn't see that one coming."

"What's that," Max gave a sardonic smile.

"She stays with me," Dray pointed at Liz. "To guarantee your compliance."

Max looked from Dray to Liz and back to Dray again. To the side, Tess started to smirk.

"Come on, guys," Max spoke in a hushed tone, reaching out for Liz's hand. "This meeting's over."

"So, what's your answer?" Dray looked confused. This wasn't how it was supposed to happen.

Maria started to laugh.

"Dray," she looked at him. "You should have quit while Max was only mildly pissed at you. Now, he's really mad at you. Not something you wanted to do. Just ask Nikolas. Isn't that right, Tess?" Her eyes narrowed. "Or was this last demand your idea?"

"Zan!" Dalena called as Max was heading for the exit with Liz at his side. "Get back here, this instant! This is important. All Antar hangs in the balance. And you are willing to throw it away for..." She looked at Liz. "For what?"

It was at the moment, as Max was giving his mother a look of sheer disappointment that Dray acted. He snapped his fingers. The tent panel behind him vanished. His retinue of guards moved forward, their guns trained on Max and his group.

Almost simultaneously, the tent panels behind Max and a shield of crimson clad guards moved in front of Max. The look of shock on Dray's soldiers was almost as priceless as the look of sheer disbelief on Dray's face.

"The Bloodguard?" he managed to choke out. "But... I thought... they were..."

"Sorry, Dray," Max smirked. "Didn't I tell you? It seems that you are not the only General who thought of pulling the old disappearing army trick."

"Yeah," Maria grinned. "But Max? You win on style. I mean, you had the Bloodguard disappear, fly all the way to Earth and wait there for you to grow into the King you are, now. Flair, Max. Real flair."

"And as you can see," Michael's face showed the cold emotion of a man ready to unleash death. "They are every bit as loyal to the crown as they were the last time you saw them. Just as fearsome, and probably more deadly."

"I have you surrounded, Zan, you moron," Dray started to grin. "I have a ring of ten thousand battle hardened soldiers surrounding this town and everyone in it. All waiting for me to give the command. Bloodguard or not, they can still die. So, seeing as you seem to be rejecting my offer of an alliance, it seems I will just have to take you and your friends into custody. Surrender now while you still live."

"Unlike you, Dray," Max's eyes hardened. "I will honor the flag of truce. You and your... bodyguard are free to leave. Your ten thousand men, however, may not. They will remain my prisoners of war."

"Oh, really," Dray started to laugh.

"Really," Michael nodded. "Your ten thousand battle hardened men are at this moment, surrendering. Every last one of them. So far, no one has even considered fighting back. I think it's called the 'the element of surprise.'"

"You're bluffing," Dray's eyes narrowed.

"You think so?" Max's eyebrows raised. "Then you are in for a major disappointment. One more thing, before you go. Thank you for your supplies. I will see that they get distributed to the people of Antar."

"What are you talking about?"

"Your supply lines," Max shrugged. "I've cut them. I have confiscated every warehouse you had stuffed with food. And every farm you once had working for you is now working for Antar again."

Dray remained silent.

"You wanted to make me your puppet?" Max's voice went cold. Even Liz with her immunity to Max's wrath, shivered. "Not going to happen. Too many people have tried that. And failed. Go back to your forces, Dray. And take 'my' ultimatum with you. Let your forces know that Zan has returned. The King has returned, and the Bloodguard with him. I never started this war, Dray, but I sure as hell intend to finish it. Any man who surrenders to me will be treated honorably, with respect. If he swears loyalty to me, he may join my army and help restore peace to Antar. Or he may simply remain a prisoner until the war is over. As for you, Dray. Surrender, and you may live the rest of your life in exile on the planet of your choosing, with the exception of Antar or Earth. Any man who does not surrender will be shown no mercy."

"Surrender?" Dray sneered. "To you, a handful of Bloodguard and a couple of squads of untrained volunteers? When I have at my command, battalions of trained men?"

The muffled sound of distant explosions started up. A battle was taking place somewhere to the North.

"Ah," Dray smiled. "Sounds to me like my men are putting up a fight after all."

"Not with us, they aren't," Michael tilted his head, listening. "Those explosions are too far to the North."

A runner appeared from the back of the King's men. He whispered in Michael's ear. Max's Second in Command broke into a huge grin.

"Those explosions," Michael nodded northwards with his chin. "It seems that Kivar has launched an assault on your lines. He's attacking you to the North of the city, as well as to the South. He seems to have caught you with your pants down." He looked at Liz. "Is that a metaphor?"

"Sorry, Michael," Liz shook her head. "It's an idiom."

"More appropriate," Maria smirked at Dray. "Seeing as he's an idiot."

Dray cast a final glare at Max before he spun away and stormed from the tent. Remaining watchful, his retinue moved backwards. One of the guards grabbed Tess by her arm and pulled her with them.

"Zan!" Dalena exclaimed, pointing at Tess's forced departure.

"She's his problem," Max refused to look. "Not mine."

"But, Zan! Ava...!

Max's steady glare silenced her.

* * *

"Why do you need me?" Tess demanded as she was thrown into the vehicle with Dray. "I'm no use to you, now."

"You would rather stay with them?" he nodded back to the tent as the vehicle started to move. "You heard them. Zan's all set to execute you."

"Dalena will protect me," Tess shrugged. "You saw how pleased she was to see me. You heard her snap at Zan."

"And I heard him rebuke her. Face it, Ava. Your usefulness is at an end. If I can't use you to bargain with Zan, maybe that lover boy of yours will be willing to betray Kivar."

"You mean Nikolas?" Tess spat with contempt. "He abandoned me on that godforsaken planet to get back to Kivar. He's not likely to double-cross him."

"Then I have no further use for you." He reached for his blaster.

"Wait," Tess's mind went into overdrive. "While I am no use to you, I am certainly no threat to you."

"Go on," he paused.

"While I am no threat to you. I am to Zan. I am Zan's worst nightmare. I can come between Zan and his mother. And that means I will isolate Zan from the forces that Dalena has been training. The ones you want. I can still get them for you."


"Dalena wants me with Zan. You could sense it as well as I. All I have to do is get rid of the human girl and Zan will be alone. And ripe for plucking."

"You think the Bloodguard will let you anywhere near Zan or his girl? You know as well as I do that they will have ways of detecting your warps."

"They have a saying on Earth," Tess gave an oily smirk. "There's more than one way to skin a cat. Look, drop me off here. Leave the rest to me."

"Fine," Dray nodded, signaling for the vehicle to stop. "But if you fail, Ava. You had best run back to that godforsaken planet you mentioned and hide, because if I ever see your miserable hide again, I will kill you."

* * *

The last of Dray's vehicles disappeared around the bend in the road, behind the trees before Michael allowed the Bloodguard to stand easy.

"That went well," Max exhaled.

"Zan," Dalena turned. "How could you treat Ava like that?"

"Easily?" Maria shrugged. "You have no idea what a pain that woman had been to us."

"She is Zan's wife," Dalena shook her head at Maria. She turned to Zan. "Your Queen."

"No, Mother," Max shook his head. "She surrendered that privilege the day she betrayed me. Mother, how can I make this any more clear to you? She betrayed us. Betrayed us all. All of this," he waved his hand in the air. "Is because of her."

"So what's all the fireworks?" Maria pointed to the north where there was a smear of dark smoke rising from the horizon.

"It seems Kivar has been making plans to lift the siege," Michael smirked as he looked at the smoke. "A large army attacked Drays forces guarding the gates to the north of the city. When Drays forces were sucked in to repel them, Kivar attacked from the city to hit the remaining forces to the south. From what I was told, Dray's forces are being routed."

"So..." Max's eyes narrowed. "Kivar and his men have left the city?"

Michael turned to face Max, his eyes studying him carefully. Then he lit up.

"Dalena," his voice held a sense of urgency. "How many men do you have inside the city walls?"

"Perhaps as many as twenty five thousand," she considered. "All small cells. Why?"

"If I wanted to send them some orders, how would I go about doing that? How do I contact them?"

"I'm not sure I would wish for you to do that," Dalena's eyes narrowed. "You come back here and fail to uphold everything my dead husband stood for, what my children died for."

"I came back to do what I set out to do, Mother," Max barked. "To free Antar of Kivar's tyranny. You might want to see me and Tess... I mean, Ava on the throne together, but it's not going to happen. Ever. So you have two choices, Mother. Either you prove your loyalty to the King, to your son, the son of your dead husband. Or you declare yourself here and now, an enemy of the crown. A traitor."

"How dare you!" Dalena snapped. "How dare you question me! How dare you speak to me like that after everything I have sacrificed for you."

"I have died, twice, Mother. I have lived lives of loneliness and fear. I have been held captive and tortured. I have watched my family and friends suffer. All because of who I am. So I have come home to end this nightmare so that I can finally start to live 'my' life. The time had come, Mother. There is no fence sitting in this war. You have to choose which side you are on."

Dalena stared at Max, her eyes void of any emotion, as she had been trained to do. In all honesty, that alone caused Max to worry. How could you read a person who showed no emotion? Even Tess showed 'some' emotion, even if it was disturbing.

"Very well," Dalena nodded, taking a small book from inside her robes. She handed it to Michael. "But this isn't over, Zan." She shook her head. "We shall speak of this, later."

Dalena turned away from the small group with a swirl of her cloak and left them to it.

"Max," Liz tried to pull her hand free from Max's. Her voice sounded lost, far away.

"I won't give you up, Liz," Max shook his head, holding her hand tightly. "Not for her, not for Antar. Not for anything. So don't you even think it! You are not running down that hill a second time."

Liz looked up with tears in her eyes and nodded.

"Besides," Max shrugged with a grin. "It's not like you have somewhere to run to, huh?"

He reached down and gave Liz a soft kiss on her lips, one to say that he loved her, regardless.

"What have you two got planned?" Maria looked over Michael's shoulder at the small book he was leafing through.

"Kivar has come out to play," Michael looked up and grinned. "What do you think might happen if when he decides to go back indoors, he finds he locked himself out of his house?"

"I don't know," Maria shook her head.

"Then Kivar and Dray will have to play some more," Max smirked.

"I like it," Maria started to laugh.

"Thought you might," Michael wrapped his arm around her shoulder and led her toward the town.

Max watched them leave. After a while he looked down at Liz.

"You promised," he reminded her. "By my side."

"I know," she nodded. "It's just... your mother... she doesn't like me, does she?"

"Then, I would have to say, Liz, that's her problem, isn't it?" Max copied Michael and wrapped an arm over her shoulder and led her toward the town. "Come on. Let's go home."

"We seem to have a lot of homes, Max," Liz sighed.

"Welcome to my world," Max gave a dry smirk.

* * *

Liz stood at the window of their first floor bedroom and stared out of the window. She was glad that their room faced south, away from the fighting. That would have been too much of a reminder that there were two armies out there, both of whom wanted Max dead. She did not want to think about that right now. She had other concerns. Max came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, allowing his broad chest to pillow her head. He pulled her tightly to his abdomen.

"You okay?" he asked in a soft voice filled with concern that was Max through and through.

"It's not over, is it," Liz shook her head.

"Not by a long shot," Max sighed. "Even though Kivar and Dray will take huge chunks out of each other, I think..."

"Not the war, Max," Liz let her frustration out with a shake of her head.." That's not what worries me. You and Michael... You have that covered."

"I know," Max nodded. "I know what's bothering you."

"Do you?" Liz turned. "Max, if your mother doesn't like me, then I am always going to be swimming against the current. I'm always going to feel..."

"Loved? Cherished? Liz, I love you. The people who get to know you, love you. So what if Zan's mother doesn't? Max's mother loves you. Both of them."

"They're not here, Max," Liz sighed.

"Did you want them here?" Max sounded genuine. "They can come back with the ship if you want them. Your parents, too."

"Does... does Tess have any friends? Any allies? In court, I mean. Max, am I going to have to take on your whole court just because I'm in love with their King?"

"Then, we'll take them on together, Liz. You and me. 'Cause you know what?"

Max started singing an old song in a high pitched voice. Badly.

"I'm sticking with you,
'Cause I'm made out of glue..."

(I'm Sticking With You,
(Velvet Underground)

"Max?" Liz asked in a very soft voice, reaching a hand back over her shoulder to caress Max's face.

"Yeah?" Max nuzzled his chin against her hand, kissing her palm.

"Shut up."

* * *

Picking her way back to the town of Weir was not as easy as she had supposed. Max had guards everywhere. Fortunately for her, they were not the Bloodguard. At least, they were not the Bloodguard until she reached the town itself and encountered what had to be the Royal Enclosure. Trust Max to choose simple homes rather than the mansion further over. The Bloodguard had the Royal Enclosure sealed tight. No one could get in, even with the aid of her mindwarp ability. But she needed to speak to Dalena. So Tess did what she had become good at, lately. She waited.

It wasn't too long when she discovered that Dalena was not, in fact staying in the enclosure. This was good news, because it meant that Dalena was isolated. With the older woman's obvious desire to see Zan and Ava reunited, all she needed to do was to present herself to Zan's mother and wait for the right opportunity.

Tess easily crept past the guards that Dalena had posted. Tess could almost imagine her sending Max's guards away. She slipped through the door and into the large entrance hall. There was a very pretty, young girl sitting in a chair next to a doorway.

"Good evening, Ava," the young girl curtsied. "This way, please."

Tess decided to push her luck. After all, if Dalena was expecting Queen Ava, then let her receive Queen Ava.

"Do you normally address your Queen in such a familiar manner?"

The girl's eyes widened.

"No, my Lady... I mean, your highness... I mean..."

"What is your name, girl?" Tess demanded.

"Valda, my Lady," Valda gave an imitation of a curtsy. "I am Lady in Waiting to Lady Dalena."

"Well, Valda," Tess smirked. "Why don't you announce me?"

"At once, your highness," Valda's curtsey was better this time.

Valda turned to the door and opened it.

"Her Royal Highness, Queen Ava, my Lady," she announced.

After a wave of her hand had fixed her appearance, a very regal Tess breezed into the room.

"Ava," Dalena, standing, held her arms open. "How are you, my child?"

Ava moved swiftly into her embrace.

"I am as well as can be expected, ma'am," Tess frowned. "Seeing as my husband has forsaken me for the arms of a younger woman, and a human one at that."

"Then we must rectify the situation," Dalena nodded. "And at the same time, we must see to it that my son, Zan, your husband, returns. The return of the 'real' King and not this half human pretender. This 'Max' person.

"Yes," Tess nodded, moving back from the King's mother. She hid her malicious grin behind her hand. "And I think that the best way to do that will be to ensure the public humiliation of the woman who would replace me in my lord's bed."

"Public?" Dalena frowned. "Not here, among his small army, surely."

"No," Tess shook her head. "Not here. Not now. But soon. Soon, Zan will be somewhere that will work to our advantage."

"Perhaps we could return to the Ice Kingdom, where I have been based for these long decades. News will spread quickly from there for it has become the hub of our resistance."

"Yes," Tess nodded. "That sounds perfect. Humiliate her in front of those who support Zan and he will have no alternative other than to cast her aside."

"And that 'Maria' girl with her."

"'That' goes without saying," Tess smirked.

* * *
Last edited by WR on Mon Oct 08, 2007 2:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Red Shift Part 4 Chapter 10

Post by WR » Mon Oct 08, 2007 2:18 pm

Sorry everyone!

I have been really ill this week


to cap it all, I have the worst block ever. I know where I need to get to, I know what has to happen, but can I think of a way to manouver everyine into position? Dang!

This weekend's post might be late, too. :(

ANyway, here is Part 10.

Red Shift

Part 4

Chapter 10

As darkness fell across the war torn lands that surrounded the capital city of Antarantia, the two warring factions finally managed to break off from their hostilities and withdraw to more defensible positions. From there, they could plan the next phase in what had suddenly become a different war to what either protagonist had envisaged.

Kivar had managed to withdraw to the North, to the positions that General Traydn had established prior to the assault on the besieging forces. Dray, however, had a tougher choice for his retreat. The route North was clearly out as that was where Kivar had gone. To his south, as far as he knew, were Zan's armies and although he did not know how big they were, he did know they had been large enough to overwhelm his ten thousand men. That particular maneuver of his had proved to be a bad mistake, an error on his part. He had miscalculated the boy, and had allowed his anger to dictate his actions. Something he would not do again.

With his choices restricted to East or West, Dray chose the latter. Westward gave him more land to maneuver, as well as more places to obtain desperately needed supplies. He had little doubt that Kivar had been locked out of the city by forces loyal to Zan, or at least Dalena, and he knew that Zan would enter the Capital city like a triumphant hero. Dray was quite happy to let the citizens of Antarantia drain Zan's supplies. Perhaps Dray could then put a strangle hold on the city, trapping the boy king, while he hunted down Kivar.

"Give me your report," he nodded at his adjutant.

The young man looked terrified. Dray had been known to shoot messengers before.

"At two hours past mid day," he started, "while many men were still eating the midday meal, a large force attacked Colonel Abarga, who was guarding the gates to the North of the city. My Lord, it was a very large force, bigger than anything we thought Kivar possessed."

"Traydn?" Dray raised an eyebrow.

"Yes, my Lord," the adjutant nodded. "Kivar had somehow managed to land the forces he recalled from Earth without our knowledge. As you are aware, we had all assumed he would land them inside the city when they arrived. And we believed that this was an attempt to break the siege. Anyway, after the initial surprise which unfortunately claimed more of Arbaga's men than he would have liked, he managed to call for reinforcements from Colonel Mella to the west and Colonel Peeve to the east. Both of them sent their reserves. To help cover them, the reserves from the south were then sent to bolster lines to the east and wet in case Traydn tried to move either direction in a flanking maneuver. Just as we had everything stabilized, Kivar charged from the city, hitting the weakened line to the South. The men fought valiantly but we were stretched, sir. That was when you arrived. Your call to pull the forces guarding the eastern and western gates to assist the southern armies put Kivar in a pincer and he was very nearly cut off from the city. At that point, he gave the order for his forces to withdraw back to the city. However, he found the gates closed and his own defensive canons started to fire upon him. It was..." The adjutant gave a wry smile. "It was carnage, sire."

"I would have enjoyed seeing the look on the viper's face when he found his gates locked," Dray gave a smile. "Go on."

"Kivar rallied his forces and under constant fire from the city, he swung east around the city, fighting through our own lines to meet up with Traydn. Fearing being trapped between the two armies, Arbaga ordered his own army to wheel westward, allowing Kivar and Traydn to join, whereupon they withdrew northwards."

"Are you telling me Arbaga 'allowed' Kivar to join up with Traydn? He didn't put up 'any' resistance?"

"It was either that, or allow the annihilation of more than half his army."

"I see," Dray's eyes narrowed. "And where were our forces that had Kivar penned against the city? Did they simply wave him off?"

"Not as such," the adjutant shook his head. "At first, we gave chase. However, the canon on the city walls did not differentiate between the two armies. We were being pounded as heavily as Kivar. Mella and Peeve withdrew the armies out of reach of the canon and denied Kivar any retreat to the east."

"So Kivar fled northwards with his army. Do we have any idea as to the size of his forces now?"

"Those who came from the city with him were badly mauled by both ourselves and the canon, sir. Traydn's forces were well protected and although we fought back well, they were largely intact. Estimates put Kivar's forces anywhere between three and five hundred thousand."

"And ours?"

"We are still evaluating, sir," the adjutant looked down at his figures. "But it looks like we have only three hundred and fifty thousand men."

Dray remained quiet while his thoughts raced.

"I should never have listened to that godammed whore!" he spat. "I should not have angered Zan. I should have pretended to give in to him, to give him the illusion that he was the king, and that I was following his orders. With our combined armies, I could have defeated Kivar, then slit Zan's throat and ruled Antar. Why did I listen to Ava and try to force him to take her back? And why in gods name did I demand that he hand over that girl to me?"

"I seriously doubt that Zan has much of an army with him, sire," the adjutant spoke hesitantly. "Even if a few people have deserted to join him."

"What?" Dray looked up with widened eyes. "What did you say?"

"Uhm..." he swallowed. "Only that some... only one or two, my lord... but some men have deserted their posts and have accepted Zan's offer of leniency."

"How..." Dray was struggling to contain his rage. "How did they know about that?"

"I have no idea, sir," the adjutant backed away, shaking his head. "But the rumor is spreading like wildfire, that anyone who surrenders can either become a prisoner of war, or can join him to help bring peace to Antar.""

"I want..." he was shaking with anger now. "I want every soldier who came with me to Zan rounded up. Every one of them. NOW!"

"At once," the adjutant ran from the tent as though the devil was after him.

He didn't stop running until he was a safe distance from his own lines. Becoming a prisoner of Zan was infinitely better than becoming a victim of Dray.

* * *

Kivar stood on a rocky promontory and stared across the darkened valley to the distant city of Antarantia. There were few lights lit, but he could still see where it was, a dark smudge against a dark backdrop.

"Damn him!" Kivar spat.

"Who, sir?" one of his guards looked up at him. "Dray or Zan?"

"Both of them!" Kivar spat. "Dray, for making me fight my way around the city walls to join with Traydn while we were shelled by the defenders of Antarantia. But especially Zan. How in the seven caverns of hell did he manage that? How did he manage to get an army into the city?" He looked down at the last of his army making its way through the pass below. "Did any of those we left in the city escape?"

"No, sir," the answer was almost a whisper. "At least, none that we are aware of. As you can imagine, everything is in chaos right now."

"My own canons!" Kivar looked across the valley again. "He used my own canons against me!"

"Reports suggest that he was using them against Dray, too," his guard told him. "Which means that at least they haven't formed an alliance."

"True," Kivar nodded. "We must be thankful for small mercies. I wonder if Nikolas could retake the city?"

"We have no idea of their numbers, sir," the guard shook his head. "Until we gain more intel, I don't think..."

"Did anyone find out why Dray didn't appear until a few hours after we attacked?"

"Negative, sir," another guard shook his head. "Although information we have managed to glean from some of the prisoners suggest that Dray had been at a meeting with Zan at the town of Wier."

"A meeting which, judging from the casualties the canons inflicted upon Dray, suggest was not ended satisfactorily. Wier?" his eyebrows raised. "I wonder if I were to drop Nikolas into Wier..."

"But if Zan has already entered the city, then we would have wasted an element of surprise."

"True," Kivar narrowed his eyes. "But contact him in any case. Let him know that he's likely to be dropped onto Zan now, and not Dray. We know that he will be in the palace at some point. See about getting some spies into Antarantia."

"Sir!" a runner was scrambling up the rocky path that led to the promontory. "Sir! We have news."

"Of?" Kivar raised is eyebrows.

"The meeting between Zan and Dray," the runner panted. "Sir, it seems that they did indeed meet in Wier earlier today, but Dray tried to take Zan and his followers by force. He had ordered ten thousand of his men to surround Wier. But he found his men surrounded by forces loyal to Zan... and his scheme failed."

"Zan surrounded ten thousand of Dray's men?" Kivar widened his eyes. "Where did Zan find an army big enough to surround and capture a force of that size, as well as take my city from me?"

"We have no information of Zan, sir," the runner shook his head.

"So," Kivar exhaled and stared out across the plain, again. "It seems we have three armies on Antar, each one of us vying for it's control. I want a meeting with all of my senior officers. We need to ready our forces. We have to neutralize Dray before we can turn our attention to Zan."

"Would it nor be easier to take out Zan first?" a guard asked. "He will be the smaller of the two."

"Because Dray will be having the same thoughts as me. He will seek to neutralize me, first. Neither of us can turn our back on the other. Do we have any idea of the size of his army?"

"Yes, sir," the runner nodded. "Initial estimates suggest that Dray numbers between three and five hundred thousand."

"And our numbers?"

"Approximately three hundred and fifty thousand. But sir. There's... there's something you should be aware of."

"And that is?" Kivar raised a single eyebrow.

"There's a rumor sweeping the camp. Started by some prisoners."

"And what is this rumor?"

"Zan is offering amnesty. Amnesty to any man who surrenders. And he will even accept anyone who swears loyalty to him. Sir. People have already started to desert their posts."

"Damn him!" Kivar cursed.

* * *

"God," Max rubbed his temples. He leaned back into the chair, in his 'living room' in the house that he and Liz had taken as their 'palace' in the town of Wier. "This day seems to be going on forever."

"Yeah," Michael nodded. He had just entered the room to bring Max some more reports from the day's activities. "I know what you mean."

"So," Max nodded at the reports. "Give me the highlights. What's going on out there?"

Kivar and Traydn have withdrawn north, into the mountains. Dray has withdrawn west, toward the open plains. And the farmlands."

"Not where we wanted him," Max sighed. "We need to get crops growing as fast as we can."

"We can deal with that later," Michael shrugged. "Now that they've both pulled back to lick their wounds, we should think of finding somewhere safer for us to go. Wier isn't that defensible."

"The island?" Max raised an eyebrow.

"No," Michael shook his head. "Max, I think..." he hesitated. "Max, we need the people to know you are back. We need to send a message all across Antar. I think it's time you took Antrantia in the name of the Crown."

"We don't want to become besieged ourselves, Michael," Max frowned. "Once we are in the city, then either one of those armies could return and lay siege."

"They could," Michael smirked. "But they won't. If either one tries to lay siege to us, they will expose themselves to attack from the other. They won't risk that because they know that they have to eliminate each other first, before they can move against us."

"Okay," Max nodded, his eyes narrowing. "But I don't want our army trapped in their. Hide them, Michael. Take enough forces into the city to defend it, and we can use Dalena's army to help with that, but I want our main army to standby. I want them ready to go where we need them to be. And the other cells that Dalena created... Use them, Michael. They can be our flies."

"Uh," Michael blinked. "Flies?"

"Yeah," Max chuckled. "You know. The ones who drove the big moose away. Oh, and I want a camp established nearby. Some place that we can defend, but where we can train any soldier who defects to our side... once he's been scanned."

"What about those who surrender but won't join us?" Michael nodded his acceptance of the first order.

"They will become a workforce," Max shrugged. "They can help with the clearing up of the mess. Rebuilding, farming, that sort of thing. One way or another, they 'will' help bring peace to Antar."

"Right," Micael grinned. "Okay, Max. Go to bed. Go join Liz. Tomorrow morning, you will be entering Antarantia as the newly returned King."

"What about you, Michael?" Max frowned. "Are you joining Maria in bed?"

"With everything I have to do?" Michael smirked. "Someone has to make sure the security is in place for your triumphant return."

"Michael," Max's voice fell away. "I don't want any forced to welcome me, okay? If anyone wants to cheer my return, fine. But if they don't. let them be. And when you send in the guards, remember that they are citizens of Antar."

"Gotcha," Michael nodded. "But, Max? We are not going to sneak into the city like we've been away for a weekends camping trip. You are going to return to Antarantia as a conquering hero. As their King."

* * *

Under the universally recognized symbol of a white flag, Marshall Guerin, General Barynt, a detachment of Bloodguard and a company of the regular Royal Antarian Army approached the southern city gates of Antarantia. Even in the dark, figures were visible on the battlements. The canons were still manned. The gates were also still closed.

"What do you want?" someone called out.

"You to open the gate," Michael growled in return.

General Barynt gave a wry chuckle and rolled his eyes.

"Not going to happen," the voice called back. "We just kicked Kivar's lot out. We're not letting another inside."

"Let me," Barynt placed an arm on Michael's, stopping his reply. He flashed a grin and turned to the city wall. "We are not another army. We are the King's army. King Zan's army."

They could almost hear the buzz behind the wall.

"Prove it!"

Barynt shook his head and approached the gate.

"My name is General Barynt. I was once Colonel Barynt. Of the Bloodguard."

There was another buzz.

"Yeah," another voice called out. "I remember you, General Barynt. But you disappeared, just like Dray did. Defeated, they said, Broke."

"The rumors of our demise were exaggerated," Barynt smirked.

"So, how do we know you aren't part of Dray's army? How do we know you never defected to him?"

"The Bloodguard?" Barynt gasped. "Defect?"

"Never thought of this," Michael grumbled from Barynt's side. "God, I wish I'd brought Liz with us."

"Liz?" Barynt's eyes raised. "What good would she do us? These people do not know Liz any more than they know you."

"Because Liz can talk to Max telepathically. And we could ask her to ask Max to ask Dalena to tell these monkeys to open the gate."

Barynt looked at Michael for a moment before he started to chuckle.

"What?" Michael demanded. "You have a better idea?"

"Sure," he continued to smile. "We simply ask Dalena."

"Uh huh," Michael nodded. "Did you think to bring her?"

"No," Barynt shook his head. He turned to the wall again. "Can you contact your commander? Can you ask them to get confirmation from Lady Dalena that we are, in fact, the King's army?"

"You mean Queen Dalena?"

"No," Barynt shook his head. "I mean, Lady Dalena. The King is back. King Zan is back on Antar. And the Bloodguard with him."

* * *

"Wow," Liz smirked while Max was overseeing the packing up of their camp. "Good to see that a King is useful for something."

Max flashed her a grin.

"Know what else Kings are good for?" he asked her.

"What's that," Liz asked.

"Trumping Queens. Now don't you have somewhere to be?"

"Not yet. It's way to early to get changed." Her smile faded. "Max? Are you sure about this? Are you sure you want me to be with you when we enter the city?"

"Where you belong, Liz," Max nodded. "At my side."

"Zan," he heard someone call. "Liz."

The royal couple turned to see Zan's mother, working her way among the hustle that was taking place around them.

"What's going on?" she asked. "Are we moving?"

"Hello, Mother," Max gave her a polite kiss on her cheek. "Yes, we are."

"And where are we going?" she wondered.

"Where else?" he flashed a smile as he shrugged his shoulders. "I'm the king, aren't I? I'm going home."

Dalena looked northward, toward Antarantia.

"Is this wise?" she frowned. "Both Dray and Kivar are out there. And Dray..."

"Is too busy hiding from Kivar, who is busy hiding from Dray. Mother, neither army can afford to be caught in the open by the other. While I am free to do as I please. With caution, of course. It's time I made a statement. It's time Antar had hope again. The Royal Court is returning to the capital, Mother. Antarantia is getting its Royal Family back."

Dalena narrowed her eyes as she considered Max's words. She started to smile.

"Excellent, Zan," she nodded. "That sounds like a very good idea."

* * *
Last edited by WR on Tue Oct 16, 2007 4:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Red Shift Part 4 Chapter 11

Post by WR » Tue Oct 16, 2007 4:13 pm

Hi everyone!

Sorry for the dealy; a combination of many things, this block I had not the least of them. Bloxk has been sorted, and here is the new chapter.

Thank you all so much for your feedback, but I'm going to jump straight in and post this or it will be another night I will have missed.

Thanks for your understanding,

Red Shift

Part 4

Chapter 11

In all the years that Max had thought about his return home, especially since he had heard the message that had revealed the truth as to their origins, as well as causing problems that Max would rather not dwell upon, not once had he considered the details. He had never considered 'how' he would return to Antar. He had never wondered 'how' he would drive Kivar from the Capital City and he had never wondered 'how' his people might receive him. Neither had he really thought much about 'how' things would be once he had accomplished his task.

For Max, it had always been a case of 'go back, beat Kivar, thereby restoring peace to Antar and then return home in time for dinner and spend the rest of his life with Liz.'

The reality, however, was nothing like the dream. Yes, he had returned to Antar, in a spaceship the origins of which still tied his mind in knots. Yes, he had returned to find an army waiting for him, a rather well trained and highly disciplined army, ready to fight for him, a relative stranger, and more importantly, ready to die for him. Not that Max wanted any part of that last statement although he knew that there was little he could do to avoid it. With the help of this army, and some fortuitous timing, he and his '2 I C' had managed to close the doors of the city to Kivar, denying him a stronghold. But that had not been the end to it. Kivar was still out there. A little less strong, sure, but still a threat none-the-less. So too was a new player in the arena, someone else who wanted the throne. He too had an army, every bit as strong as Kivar. But Max had no doubt that victory would be his. He had to believe because that would be the only way to get his life with Liz.

And once he had secured his victory, what then? It was all too apparent to Max that he would be needed here, on Antar, to help with the rebuilding. Kivar's rule had been more with the aim of conquest rather than the local population's comfort. Max doubted that he would be seeing Roswell again, any time soon.

So it was rather bewildering to Max to find himself riding in an open topped hovercraft, flanked by members of a bodyguard, resplendent in their crimson uniforms, totally committed to giving up their lives for him if necessary, as he entered the capital city of Antarantia like a conquering hero. It was even more bewildering, given that Max had conquered no one; he had not even won a battle. Only a quick bit of thinking had forced the two great armies to retreat from the city and seek shelter from one another. Nothing had been won. Nothing had been resolved. And yet the citizens of Antarantia had not cared. They had appeared in their tens of thousands to line the streets and cheer the return of their King. It was like Michael had said. The King is back. Long live the King!

And while the citizens cheered and waved flags that displayed the new royal symbol, five white dots in the shape of a 'V' on a lilac background, Max sat and waved to the people, 'his' people, inwardly cringing. For a young man used to hiding behind trees, this was as tough as it got.

Right beside him, with a huge smile - not because of where she was, or what she was to become but because of the fact that people were seeing her Max the same way she saw him - sat Liz. Dressed as splendidly as her boyfriend, she maintained a firm grip on his hand and leaned against him, even as she gave small waves and big smiles at the crowds. It had been a welcome relief to hear that no one called out the name of Ava. Max was slightly suspicious that someone had spread that particular news, deliberately, to avoid Liz any embarrassment, but Max did not care. He was actually glad. In fact he was rather sorry that he had not thought of that, himself.

"It's not quite what you expected, huh?" Liz smiled at him as they drove through a small tunnel, giving them a moment's respite from the crowds.

One thing that still amazed Max was Liz's uncanny ability to know just what he was thinking, and just when to interrupt his thoughts.

"I don't really know what I was expecting," Max shook his head. "But all these people... And they don't even know me."

"They don't need to know you, Max," Liz leaned her body against him. "You are their king. But they will. They will get to know you. And love you all the more."

"As long as you're with me," Max nodded.

"I'm here, Max," she looked up at Max with her heart in her eyes. "And I'm not going anywhere."

He leaned down and kissed her on her lips, just as they emerged back into the sunlight. Max didn't know if the cheer he got was because the people were just taking up from where the others left off or because they had caught him kissing Liz. Blushing, he waved at his people again.

The royal progression wound it's way through the streets of Antarantia, a route that Max suspected was longer than absolutely necessary. He was sure that Michael wanted to give him maximum exposure. Not that Max was worried for his safety or anything - not when he had his shield at the ready as well as a loyal army spread throughout the crowds watching for any sign of trouble. No, Max's concern was only the one of a young man not used to such high profile exposure.

"Suck it up," Michael had grinned at him. "Get used to it."

Max 'had' drawn the line at walking to the Palace.

As his 'carriage' drove through the gates and pulled up in front of the rather ornate doorway, Max and Liz's eyes were on the rather opulent building. It looked more fantastic than any fairy castle either of them had imagined. It almost appeared to be made from crystal and although there were no reaching spires, it did have that ethereal quality to it.

Michael appeared with a detachment of guards. It was his friend who opened the door.

"Welcome home, Max," he smiled.

Max drew his eyes from the building and nodded at his oldest and best friend. Max was sure he saw tears in his eyes, although they could have been his own. Stepping from the carriage, Max waited for Liz to join him.

"Thank you, Michael," Max placed his free hand on Michael's shoulder. "For this... for everything."

"It's been a long time," Michael nodded, turning to look at the building. "If I concentrate hard enough, I can almost remember you, me, Isabel and... leaving through the back doors because Nikolas was approaching the front."

"We can't let that happen again, Michael," Max shook his head. "When I step through those doors, I am not running away again. This ends here."

"It will, Max," Michael gave a slow nod. He looked at Liz, then. "You have my promise."

The trio stood motionless for a moment.

"Now, come on," he flashed a grin. "Maria's been sorting out the rooms. They've been checked out and cleaned by an army of cleaners almost as big as our regular army. Uh... for decency's sake, Liz, you have your own room."

She was about to complain, but Michael cut her off.

"It has a connecting door to Max's room, and although no one will give me the key... I don't think that will stop either of you."

It was Liz's turn to flash Michael a grin.

"Come on," Max squeezed Liz's hand. "Let's go and take a look at what I think will be home for quite a long time."

* * *

"Another big day, huh?" Liz was laying in Max's arms.

Although they had gone to bed over two hours ago, neither one could sleep. Their minds were both still racing after the long day, as well as the new environment they found themselves in. Max had never found drifting off to sleep hard, even when his environment had changed on a daily basis. Perhaps it was because of the fact that it was all real, now. There could be no more denying, Max 'was' the King.

"All those people," Max shook his head. "Did you remember 'any' of their names?"

"Not as many as you," Liz giggled. "Although I like the way some of them seem to think that just because you aren't with Ava, their daughters have a chance of becoming Queen."

"Is that what they thought?" Max frowned.

"Oh, come on, Max," Liz rolled her eyes. "Your Majesty," she mocked. "May I have the honor of introducing my daughter? She is your age and is as yet, unbetrothed."

"They said that?" Max's eyes widened. "I need to start paying more attention. But, hey. What about you? No one actually disliked you."

"Not to my face, no," Liz shook her head. "But what are they saying about me now?"

"It's a package deal, Liz," he hugged her more tightly. "They want me, they get you. And what about all those invitations that you received from those young men, wanting to show you around the gardens, huh?"

"You heard that?" Liz blushed.

"When strange guys hit on my girl," Max growled. "I hear everything."

"Through our connection?" Liz widened her eyes. "Is that something I can do?"

"I think," Max smirked, "it might be called jealousy."

"You have nothing to be jealous of, Max," she reached out and stroked his cheek. "I have the young man I want, and I can see the gardens with him any time I want to."

"Well, you have always been the one I wanted. And now I have you, no power on this planet or any other will take you away. At least, not without a fight."

"Have you really been in love with me since you were eighth?" Liz yawned.

"Absolutely," Max nodded. He stared up at the ceiling. "That first day at school... I was terrified. And we got off the bus and Isabel was all excited because she really wanted to mix. But me, I just wanted to hide. And then I saw you. Playing with Maria. And some other girls. And you were laughing. Your big bright eyes, and your smile... Your chocolate brown hair blowing in the breeze... And all I could think was... it was you. It's almost like, I was supposed to meet you. Maybe it's because when I sent my thoughts back in time, I somehow planted the 'memory' of you in my own mind, but I just knew that you were the one... the only one I could ever be with. Michael said how he sometimes remembers things... from before. I remember only one thing, Liz. The fact that I felt so alone. That I had no one I could talk to when things were at their worst. That's you, Liz. I love how you don't give me a free ride. I love how you listen to me and then tell me what you think, not what you think I want to hear. I love how you give me the room to be me but don't let me get full of myself. Liz, if it hadn't been for you, if you weren't in my life... I really don't think I would be here right now. I think... I think I would still be someone called Luke, hiding behind a tree somewhere in North Carolina, pining after a girl called Julia in Siesta Key. Liz, without you, I am no King. With you... I think I can achieve anything. Do you understand just how much you mean to me?"

There was no answer. Max looked down at her face to see Liz asleep. There was a smile on her face and he hoped she was dreaming of them.

"Max," she whispered silently.

Max grinned, leaned down and kissed the top of her head. He closed his eyes and soon fell asleep himself.

* * *

The view from the top of the battlements of the great wall surrounding Antarania was ordinarily, breathtaking. As Max stared out across the fields that once housed Dray's besieging armies, just beyond the battle scarred fields, Max was not impressed. There would be much work to be done before everything was anything near normal. Already, there were teams of prisoners of war toiling in those very fields, trying to level them so that planting might soon take place. There were many deserters from both armies who, although fed up with war, were only too happy to supply manual labor to help rebuild their planet. But there were also enough volunteers to join up with Max's army, ready to face their one time masters and help return rule of the whole planet to the crown. For now, however, the only battles being waged by any part of Max's army was upon the fields below.

The great shadow caused everyone to stop and stare skyward. The huge starship eased slowly and quietly into view and started to settle above the ruins of Dray's camp. Max watched as the ship he had ordered to be built thousands of years ago hovered above the barren land and floated majestically in the sky.

"Even amid all that ruin," Liz stared at the ship in awe, "I don't think I have seen such an impressive sight."

"I know," Max nodded. "That's just... wow."

The cargo bay doors opened, and through the very same gap that Max first stepped back onto his home planet, a number of shuttles started to scurry out, each one carrying food and seeds to the starving masses of Antar. The people who had lined the walls along with their king started to cheer. His promises were being fulfilled.

Food was at a premium right now. And this ship, he had told his people, would bring enough supplies to keep them going for another few weeks, long enough for the ship to make another return trip. Along with the food, it had also brought seeds. Seeds for planting their own food so that they could once again become self sufficient. Crops called 'wheat', oats', 'barley' and 'corn'. Quick growing, Max had told the farmers. He had even insisted that they be 'treated' to ensure that they arrived clean and healthy and not carrying unwanted diseases and parasites from Earth. While the crowds watched with growing anticipation, the first of the shuttles was heading for the city walls themselves.

It flew high over the citizens' heads, heading for the highest point, for the king. Max watched as the shuttle settled in an open cordon, made by a ring of crimson Bloodguard. As the shuttle's engines fell silent, the door opened and two familiar faces stepped out onto Antarian soil.

"Anders!" Liz squealed. "Raul!"

She rushed to the two men and threw herself into two very fierce hugs. Behind her, Max held out his hand for simple handshakes.

"Wow." Anders eyes were everywhere at once. Both young men had the look of wide eyed children. ""Who would have thought that we would be the first humans to step on another planet?"

"So what are we?" Maria arrived, crashing into another set of fierce hugs.

"Nah," Raul shook his head. "You and Liz don't count as humans anymore."

"Thanks," Maria rolled her eyes.

"So this is Antar, huh?" Anders kept looking around at the people. It was as if he was expecting them to turn green on him.

"Yes it is," Max chuckled. "So I suppose you're going to want the grand tour, huh?"

"Nah," Raul shook his head. "Just the ten cent version for now. We want to pass on all the news and catch up on yours."

* * *

"So what's been going on since then?" Anders leaned back in his chair. Max and Michael had been telling them about the battle to free Antarantia. "I mean, you've been inside the city for what? Two weeks? Haven't you gone out and chased theses two upstarts down? Come on, Max. You're slipping."

"I've been kind of busy doing non-important things," Max shrugged. "Like making sure my people get fed."

The group of six friends shared a meal together, the same fare that was being shared by most of the citizens lucky enough to have received their rations from the supply ship. Aware of the situation, however, Raul and Anders had taken their own initiative and in a small, portable freezer, had brought enough items so that they could share a typical American repast. Hot dogs, suitably laced with Tabasco for the more non-earthly palates among them. After washing them down with Cherry Cokes, the six of them retired to a small room that Max called the 'living' room and brought one another up to date with their news.

"Isabel's been receiving gifts from governments round the world," Anders told them. "Art, for the most part, local art, but every now and then, an animal or something turns up."

"Is she still having trouble with the U.N.?" Max asked. "And what about Clayton? Is she still giving Iz a hard time?"

"No," Raul shook his head. "We pretty much have Clayton and her lot in line. Sure, every now and then someone puts pressure on her to make demands for some better tech, but Hilary will just tell that person to speak directly with with Isabel and put his demands to her, personally. That usually shuts them up. Max, I think they are more afraid of Isabel than they are of you."

"Seems fair," Max snorted. "I was always afraid of Isabel, too. What about the U.N., though. And the other governments."

"The U.N. are still being a pain," Anders nodded. "They keep on trying to force Isabel to move to New York. And Isabel keeps asking them why she would do that. The security council held a meeting the other week and 'someone' proposed the threat of force if she did not accede to their demands."

"Force?" Max raised an eyebrow. "Tell me the U.S. representative vetoed that."

"So did the British," Raul gave a soft smile. "The other three permanent member were livid. But then , they haven't seen what you are capable of."

"How did they take that?"

"Not too good," Anders shook his head. "It seems that at least three members of the security council tried to smuggle in some... uh, espionage devices in the artwork they sent as gifts. Not to mention the attempts to bribe members of the guards."

"How did Isabel handle that?" Michael raised an eyebrow.

"Simple," they both snorted.

"Isabel turned up in New York, unannounced, during the middle of a security council meeting. She then proceeded to tell them the contents of their last 'closed' meeting, as well as spilling the beans on some rather secret information the trio involved would much rather have kept to themselves. Isabel then told them that any further attempts to spy upon the Antarian Embassy would not be tolerated, and she would publish the day to day top secret discussions and policies of the offending state. In state, they would have no secrets left."

"Did she tell them how she did it?" Liz's eyes were dancing with mirth.

"You kidding?" Anders chuckled. "I expect that for the last three weeks, every government in the world is tearing their offices apart looking for bugs, and going through the files of every employee trying to find a mole."

"So, Isabel has a good grip on the situation," Maria nodded. "So how about every one else. How are they doing?"

"Missing you guys, of course," Raul shrugged. "But they're coping. They're all helping one another as well as getting involved in the day to day running of the embassy. Oh, and did you know that Craig and Pam got married?"

"They did?" Max's eyes widened. "We should send them something."

"No need, Max," Anders shook his head. Isabel took care of it. But send them your blessings, huh?"

"Of course," Liz smiled.

"The Skyes' and the Cartiers' have moved to Roswell," Anders continued. "They want to be closer to the Evans' and the Parkers', to learn more about their 'kids'. Jeez, Max. Did you ever stop to consider that when you marry Liz, you're gonna have two mothers-in-law?"

"When you're lucky enough to have Liz as a wife," Max smirked, "then you have to expect something to balance out the good luck you've got."

"Oooo," Liz rolled her eyes. "You know just the right things to say to a gal."

"How about Mom and Jim," Maria asked. "Please don't tell me they're expecting a brother or sister for me?"

"No," Anders laughed. "There was a rumor that Jim was going to be tried for un-American activities, but Isabel interceded on his behalf. He's doing a great job as Sheriff again. Oh, the trials for the Capos have begun. Those that survived the lynch mobs, at least."

"My cousin?" Maria's face grew dark.

"He was found hiding in the old U.F.O. Center. He's awaiting trial. There are quite a few witnesses lined up against him, Pam not the least of them. No one is sure what they'll do with them once they're sentenced, but there's no way they'll ever be safe. I don't suppose you need a slave labor workforce, do you, Max?"

"Not them, no," Max shook his head.

"Besides," Maria smirked. "One rodent on Antar is one too many."

After being brought up to date with the current situation on Earth, it was the turn of Max and Michael to discuss the current state of Antar. They began with the way the siege of Antarantia was lifted.

"So basically," Anders narrowed his eyes. "You have a huge army sitting to your North, and a huge army sitting to your West. You are slap bang in the middle of two armies who could overwhelm you in a heartbeat."

"That's right," Michael grinned. "But they're both acting as our own guards, too. Dray can't move out into the open without Kivar attacking his flanks, and the same for Kivar. They have neatly bottled the other up for us."

"And day by day, their armies shrink," Maria grinned. "Max has promised amnesty to anyone who joins him, or who surrenders to him. It seems there are lots of soldiers on both sides who are fed up with this war."

"What about the little guy?"

"We haven't seen him," Max shook his head.

"But we've seen the Troll," Maria added.

"Troll?" Anders asked.

"Tess," Liz whispered.

"Wicked witch of the North... South... East and West.

"What did she want?" Raul wondered.

"To cause trouble," Max got in before anyone could say anything. "There is no chance in hell that I would even 'consider' taking her back. If Antar won't accept Liz as my Queen, then Antar doesn't get it's King back. Like I keep saying. Liz and I come as a package."

"Speaking of packages," Anders reached into his pocket and took out a small, black box. "Isabel said you wanted this. She also said I had better bring back the news. Whatever that means."

"Thanks," Max took the box and opened it so that only he could see inside. "Then if Isabel wants you to bring back the news, then I had better get it prepared for you."

"What news?" Maria frowned.

"Liz," Max turned to face her, slipping from the chair and getting down on one knee. "Through two lifetimes, I have loved you. I have played with the rules of physics, and stretched the rules of biology to be where I am today. Kneeling at your feet. I might be considered to be the most powerful man in the known universe, but without you, I am a weakling. I am only strong because of you. I love you, Liz. Whether or not my people do or don't doesn't matter in the slightest to me. Because if they can't accept you, then I can't accept them. If, however, you can't accept me, then I will understand. Would you consent to becoming my wife, Liz? My Queen? Liz Parker? Will you marry me?"

Liz stared at Max through tear stained eyes. Her heart had lodged in her throat, blocking the words she was trying to get out. She gave up trying to speak and threw herself into Max's arms, raining kisses upon his face.

"We'll take that as a yes, then," Maria smirked. "As if she was ever going to say no."

* * *

"You summoned me, Zan?" Dalena entered the throne room and gave him a formal curtsey.

She looked at the large, empty throne and then at her son, sitting with Rath, the two human girls and the two human men who were visiting them. She held back the look of disdain to see them sitting as equals, in simple chairs of equal quality. He never sat on his throne, even when he was greeting emissaries from the different regions of Antar. She hoped that when the emissaries from the other planets started to arrive, he would act more like a King and less like a... like their friend.

"Hello, Mother," Max rose and crossed to her. He gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Yes. I did."

Where Max tried to cut through all the unnecessary red tape. Dalena worked just as hard to keep it in place.

"We have something we need to discuss," Max waved at a nearby guard who picked up another chair and brought it to the small group. Dalena nodded her thanks and sat as her son indicated. Waiting for her to settle, Max took a deep breath. "I have asked Liz to marry me," Max finished.

Dalena remained silent.

"She said yes," Max smiled, reaching out to take Liz's hand.

"Congratulations," Dalena gave a nod, although her reply lacked any warmth. "So you wish to ask me how you go about divorcing Ava?"

A flash of anger swept across Max's face. He held it in, however, and took a couple of deep breathes.

"Mother," he spoke in a low, quiet tone. His friends recognized this as a bad sign. "How many times do I have to do this? I am not Zan anymore. You could almost say that I am Zan's son, created in a test tube, so to speak. Zan died. He was murdered by Kivar, after he was betrayed by Ava. Do you understand that, Mother? Ava sold Zan out to Kivar. I am Max Evans, now, and as such am not married to Ava... Tess... or any other name that she decides to go by."

"Bitch?" Maria offered. "What?" she returned Michael's glare.

"Zan married Ava before they surrendered themselves. Before they were executed. The marriage was never consummated, Mother. Zan was never in love with Ava. He married her only out of some misguided sense of duty. So you see, I don't have to divorce Ava."

"Have you thought this through, Zan?" Dalena persisted. "How do you think the people will react..."

"If the people want me for their King, mother, they will have Liz as their Queen. It's a done deal. I will not be the King to any planet who does not accept my choice who I will spend the rest of my life with."

Again, Dalena remained silent, her face unreadable.

"Then I assume you will want to know the protocol for a Royal Engagement?"

"I guess," Max nods.

"Very well," Dalena nodded. "First, you must send for the High Priestess of Antar. You must ask her for her blessing. She will test your love and if you pass, she will give you her blessing."

"Test?" Liz frowned. "Like a written test? Like, how well do we know each other?"

"Answer her questions truthfully," Dalena shrugged. "If you are truly in love then you have nothing to fear." She took a deep breath. "While I do not wholeheartedly approve of the way things are, even I am not blind to the love the two of you share."

"Thank you, Mother," Max sighed.

"Will that be all?" she turned to her son.

"Yeah," Max nodded, rubbing his temples.

Dalena swept from the room, her head held high.

"She really doesn't like me, does she?" Liz shook her head. "And if you even think of lying, I am going to..."

"No," Max sighed. "No, she doesn't." He pulled Liz into his arms and nuzzled his cheek to hers. "But I do."

"And so does everyone else, Liz," Maria added. "The soldiers, especially. The people of Antar, the ones who have seen you. Especially you and Max together... They all think you are wonderful. None of them are too thrilled with Ava, it seems."

"You're not just saying that?" Liz looked at her best friend.

"Liz," Michael spoke in a soft voice. "I never wanted to tell you this, but do you know that when it comes to assigned duties, the guards all try bribery to get your bodyguard detail? They all want to be the ones to protect you, Liz. They love you enough to 'want' to be the ones to lay down their lives to protect you."

"You don't have to worry about no test from no High Priestess, Liz," Maria smirked. "How can her test be any harder than the ones the two of you have already been though? Pah! No problemo, babe!"

* * *

"They wish to announce their engagement," Dalena burst into her quarters,

"So he plans to divorce me?" Tess raised an eyebrow. "I'm sure that's going to go down well."

"He claims that as he is technically, no longer Zan, then he is not married to you."

"Interesting," Tess nodded. "Perhaps we should claim he is no longer the King, too."

"Have a care, Ava," Dalena's eyes narrowed. "Whether he considers himself Zan or not is immaterial. He 'is' the king. And he is still my son."

"I meant no disrespect," Tess retreated. "I was merely... Never mind. So what must he do now? If he sees no need for the divorce, what's the next step?"

"I have already summoned the High Priestess. She will be here tomorrow to perform the test."

"Tomorrow," Tess nodded. "Then I will be there. Not only do I wish to contest my demotion, I also wish to see Liz Parker totally humiliated. Because it doesn't matter how much Max loves her, Liz will fail. Oh, I so cannot wait to see the look on her face when she's confronted with the truth. She will finally come up against a force that she cannot charm into submission. I can't wait for her to meet the Priestess. She's going to eat Liz Parker alive."

"Are you so sure?" Dalena frowned. "It's obvious even to me that they are in love with one another. She has even won over the Ladies of the court, and that in itself is no mean feat."

"Yes, I'm sure. Let's just say that this test will be the death of Liz Parker."

* * *
Last edited by WR on Sat Oct 27, 2007 2:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Red Shift Part 4 Chapter 12

Post by WR » Sat Oct 27, 2007 2:24 pm

Hi Everyone!

Sorry for the missing post this week, but I have been having problems with both of my stories, and I have not been able to move either forward, in spite of the fact that I have a very good set of notes for both. Anyway, I have solved the problem, with Red Shift, at least, and here is Chapter 12.

I hope you enjoy this chapter :)

Red Shift

Part 4

Chapter 12

"Ah," Kivar's eyes lit up when he read the note. "Excellent news at last."

"What is that, sir?" one of his commanders looked up with interest. "Good intelligence on the whereabouts of Dray's army?"

"Better than that," Kivar smirked. "Good intelligence on where Zan will be at a precise time and date."

"Really?" the commander's eyebrows raised. "We managed to get someone that close?"

"The note 'is' anonymous," Kivar turned it over as though trying to find some hint of whom it had come from. "But it seems genuine. Perhaps Zan is not as universally loved as he supposes. Perhaps it's from someone disappointed at not seeing Ava sitting beside him."

"Perhaps it's from Ava, herself," the commander shrugged. "Perhaps she has found a way home."

"She was always resourceful," Kivar nodded. His eyes narrowed. "But why has she not let us know her whereabouts?"

"Do you believe the report?"

"I do," Kivar nodded. "It ties in with other reports I have received. We know, for instance, that Zan has proposed to the human girl. And we know that the priestess has been summoned to perform the test. So the news that Zan will be in his throne room, with the leading members of his court, at two hours past noon... Yes. I believe the report to be genuine."

"And your plan is?"

"My plan is for Nikolas to 'drop' in on the festivities. I think that maybe he should show support for our beloved Queen Ava. Don't you?"

"I'll contact him at once, sir," the commander nodded. "How many men should he drop in with?"

"All of them," Kivar grinned. "Why should any of them be left out of the fun? This promises to be one heck of a party. And once Zan is in my hands... the Granolith will soon follow. And then... let's just say that Dray would be well advised to leave the planet."

* * *

Michael hurried into the throne room, still trying to dress himself. He had the look of a man who had just run a race.

"Sorry I'm late," Michael was breathing hard.

"Where have you been?" Max was looking worried.

For once, he was sitting on the throne.

"Taking bites of Moose," Michael shrugged with a grin, tucking himself in.

"You really like these hit and run tactics, don't you?" Max chuckled.

"Safer," Michael nodded. "In the last ten attacks, we have lost only three men while we have killed or captured hundreds. Soldiers like odds like that, Max. And it also helps to demoralize Dray and Kivar's armies. When news leaks about another big loss, soldiers start to think about their own mortality. They start to look for opportunities to run."

"And we know where most of them run to," Max grinned.

"Straight to us," Michael nodded. "For protection. And of course, they all bring invaluable intel which helps us to plan the next attacks. And all the while, we grow in size. I would say that we are at least half the size of either one of the other armies, right now. You said it before, time is definitely on our side."

"I know, Michael," Max nodded. "But it's not enough. I want... no. I need this to be over with. I want to get Antar back on it's feet as fast as possible. So I want you to take control. I want you to defeat both armies."

"Uh, Max?" Michael blinked. "Individually, they outnumber us. Remember?"

"Michael," Max drew two glowing circles in the air. "Suppose we managed to persuade these two big armies to position themselves here and here. You know, a bit of misinformation and misdirection."

"Yeah," Michael nodded, staring at the circles. "They'll be facing each other, but neither will make the first move. You know that, right?"

"Right," Max agreed. "But what if another army... oh, say, ours... slipped into this gap," he drew a line between the two circles, "right along here."

"Not a good place to be, Max," Michael shook his head. "Not good at all."

"Yeah," Max nodded. "But what if this line opened fire with long range salvos and short range bombardments... and then got the hell out of there?"

"Leaving Dray and Kivar each believing the other made the first move and unleash their whole might on one another."

"And then, when they're done fighting, Michael, when they're tired and bloody, and totally exhausted..."

"I come along with fresh troops and threaten them with total annihilation."

"Arresting the leaders, especially Dray and Kivar... and the war is over."

"It's a long shot, Max," Michael shook his head. "But I think it might just work."

"Make it work, Michael," Max wrapped his arm around his long term best friend's shoulder. "Make it work."

"Speaking of working," Michael checked his watch, altered to work with Antarian time. "Have you checked the time?"

"Nearly two," Max nodded.

"You all set?"

"Yeah," Max smiled. "I have been looking forward to this for so long now. All those 'nearlys'."

"You're right," Michael smirked. "This has been hanging over our heads for too long, now. Let's hope this really is the end of it, this time."

* * *

Of all the tactical maneuvers available to the armies of the five planets, an orbital insertion, or 'drop' as it was colloquially known, was one of the most unpleasant methods of getting soldiers into an area onto the surface of a planet. The very matter that made up a man was disassembled, transmitted to a given point, and reassembled. Mishaps were not uncommon and it was possible to be reassembled in the middle of something solid, like a wall, or even another person. Either was, of course, fatal. So it was a great risk to even think of 'dropping' such a large force into such a small area.

Nikolas stood in the middle of his men, looking at them all as he turned in a slow circle. With such an army, no one in Zan's court would be safe.

"This is it," he gave them a slow smile. "This ends now. When you re-materialize, shoot anything that moves. If it's not one of us, blast it. Remember only that we need Zan to tell us where the Granolith is, and we need the girl to make sure Zan will tell us where the Granolith is. Everyone else, though, is fair game. Set your weapons to stun and take your time doing the killing... or anything else, afterwards. Everyone set?"

Men nodded, readied their weapons and grimaced, fully expecting to be one of the unlucky ones who would see a solid wall for the split second they lived after re-materialization.

"Let's do this!"

Nikolas looked up at the control panel and pointed himself in the direction that he knew Zan would be, upon his throne. He aimed his gun, ready. He nodded at the controller. Everything around him grew white and although his body now consisted of billions upon billions of particles of electronic matter, his mind was still one. He felt the rush of space, making him feel nauseous. That would pass, but it was better to fight it now or he would lose valuable seconds when he was whole once more. 'This' was the secret to a successful insertion.

He felt his particles coming together. He could sense the room. He saw the shapes, Zan sitting on his throne. Rath, standing at his side.

"Won't they be surprised to see me," Nikolas grinned in his moment of triumph and prepared to start blasting, just as soon as he was solid again.

"Hello, Nikolas," Max gave him a cheery wave. "So nice of you to drop in."

Nikolas pulled the trigger of his blaster. Rather, he 'tried' to pull the trigger of his blaster.

"You're in a stasis lock," Max shook his head. "You won't be able to shoot us, I'm afraid."

Nikolas noticed that he could see no one else in front of him. He should have been surrounded by his soldiers. What had happened to them? And how had Zan known he was coming?

"As you have guessed," Max stood up and approached him, "we have been expecting you." He took away the gun and Nikolas felt the force that locked him into place, vanish.

His first reaction was to look around the room.

"Where is everyone?" he blinked. "My men? The court? Your mother... Where is everyone?"

"My mother, and the rest of the court, including our ladies," Max smirked, "are waiting for us in the chapel where Liz will be tested by the High Priestess. You don't think we would risk anyone by having them present for when you dropped in, did you?"

"How did you know?" Nikolas narrowed his eyes. "Who told you I would be coming."

"No one," Michael gave an evil grin. "We knew when we sent that note to Kivar that he would be very... eager to send in his monkey. And here you are."

"And my men?"

"Are on your ship, wondering what the heck went wrong, and where you are," Max informed him. "I'll send my ship to pick them up. They'll be quite safe, unless, of course, they choose not to surrender in which case they will probably drift into the sun."

"What?" Nikolas gasped.

"If they won't surrender, Nikolas" Max shook his head, "then I am not going to risk the lives of my men on something that is not worth dealing with."

"They are in a geo-stationary orbit," Nikolas shook his head. "And as soon as they figure out what happened, they'll land on Antar and join up with Kivar on the planet's surface. Adding to his numbers."

"Your engines don't work anymore," Max shook his head. "Your ship has already been caught by the gravitational pull of the sun. And you know what happens to ships who cannot escape the pull of the sun?"

"You can help things, you know," Michael offered.

"How?" Nikolas demanded.

"Call them," Michael held out a radio handset. "Tell them to surrender."

"You leave me little choice," Nikolas narrowed his eyes.

"Wrong," Michael shook his head. "I leave you no choice. Either way, it's all over for you."

"And what's to become of me?"

"Prison," Max shrugged. "Trial. I am not a judge, Nikolas, but I am sure you know Antarian Law."

"So I will be executed," he snorted. "Hardly an incentive to offer you my surrender?"

"Nikolas," Max sighed. "I am not asking you to surrender. You are already my prisoner. Your fate is sealed. I am asking you to save the lives of your men. Tell 'them' to surrender. But it doesn't matter to me, either way, because your army up there will never cause any trouble for me, again."

Nikolas narrowed his eyes and stared at Max.

"When did you become so cruel?" he snarled.

"Around the time you had me and those I love, murdered."

* * *

If the palace was sumptuous, then the chapel would best be described as opulent. The chapel itself was octagonal in shape, with a raised dais in the middle. Passageways ran from the center of each external wall, ending at the base of the dais. Pews ran in straight lines from aisle to aisle. From above, the room resembled a spider's web. The walls were made of a crystal that glowed like a rainbow. Gold and silver ornaments glinted in the refracted light. Dressed in an ornate robe encrusted with gems, a tall woman stood motionless next to a small altar.

"Religion," Max shook his head. "I bet it's the same throughout the universe."

"Profitable business," Michael smirked. "God Limited."

"God and Son," Max chuckled. "Come on. I think we're supposed to be over there."

The pews were packed. Almost all of the nobility of Antar, and quite a few of the common citizens had turned out to witness this event. To one side, two chairs, both high backed and ornate, sat empty. As the duo made their way along the aisle, everyone started to stand.

"It is going to take such a long time for me to get used to that," Max sighed.

"Max," Larek was standing in front of a seat in the row behind the King's. "Michael."

He extended his hand, as he had learned from previous meetings with the two.

"Larek," Max grinned as he shook Larek's hand. "How are things going at home? I hope everything is stable?"

"It is," Larek nodded. "Your return, and subsequent... victories have helped weaken Kivar's influence pretty much everywhere. Though some of the other leaders are a little suspicious of you, I don't think you have much to fear."

"Good," Max nodded, "Good."

"Although," Larek continued. His face dropped. "I wish I could have advised caution before you summoned the priestess."

"Caution?" Max frowned. "Why?"

"Max," Larek sighed. "Are you aware of what is to happen here?"

"Yeah," Max nodded. "What?" he frowned.

"Liz will be tested," Larek told him, solemnly.

"We knew that," Michael growled.

"Max, she will be asked questions. Lots of them. To determine if she really loves you. If Liz tells the priestess three lies... she will be executed."

Max remained silent for a moment.

"You wanna run that by me again?" Max blinked.

"To lie before the high priestess...even a white lie... that is considered worse than treason, Max. Three times, and it's over."

"Over," Michael narrowed is eyes, "as in..."

"Yes," Larek nodded.

"Why would Liz lie?" Max shook his head. "She has no need to lie about us. About our feelings. We know each other too well. We have no secrets."

"You have no secrets," Larek shook his head. "But are there things that Liz might wish to keep between the two of you? Are there perhaps things that Liz has done, that seen from a different angle..."

He remembered that whole scene with Kyle.

"Oh, god!" Max groaned. "I have to speak to her."

"Max," Larek pulled him back. "You are not allowed to speak to her. Or to the priestess. And whatever you do, Max, do not step into that circle."

Max was suddenly aware of a red line that ran around the base of the dais.

"Inside the circle, you must speak the truth, just as any inside may ask a question. You joining her might complicate matters."

Across the chapel from him, at the end of the aisle, a doorway opened. Dressed in a rather plain, lilac colored gown, Liz walked down the aisle with Maria at her side.

"Why did she dress so... drab?" Michael murmured.

"Because she didn't want to seem... presumptuous," Max smiled. "She's playing it demure. She's wearing my... our colors, though."

"She's supposed to be proving herself worthy of being your Queen," Michael shook his head. "I think..."

"Give Liz a little credit, Michael," Max smiled at him. "Maria too. Between them, I think they could be a handful even for Isabel."

"Maria," Michael groaned. "She better not step inside that circle or we are screwed, Maxwell."

"We?" Max raised a single eyebrow.

Maria, however, did not enter the circle. After a sedate walk to the end of the aisle, the two girls stopped and exchanged a tight hug of friendship. Maria said something, but Liz shook her head. Maria nodded, but she did not look happy.

"You know I've got your back," Max saw Maria's lips form. Liz smiled in response and turned. Before she stepped inside the ring, her eyes found Max and they momentarily locked. He was about to speak to her with his mind when she gave a slow shake of her head, as though she knew what he was about to do. With a confident step, Liz stepped over the line, in much the same way as Julius Caesar once stepped over the Rubicon. Maria sat down as Liz walked up to the High Priestess, standing to the side of the small altar.

"My Lady," Liz curtsied low. "I am Elizabeth Parker, a citizen of the planet Earth. I have come before you to take your test. I have come to test my worth with regards to marrying your King."

"I see," the High Priestess looked down on Liz as though there was a foul smell under her nose. "And has the King already asked you to marry him?"

"He has, Ma'am," Liz nodded from her low curtsy. "And I have accepted, subject to passing this test."

"Very well," she sniffed. "Then you may be seated, Elizabeth Parker. And then we will begin."

Liz rose and walked over to a small chair that had been placed to one side of her. As she sat down, she flashed Max a smile of confidence.

"She's been coached," Max grinned at Michael.

"Who by?" Michael narrowed his eyes. "Who would know how to deal with a woman like her?" Michael nodded at the High Priestess.

"Who would know better how to deal with an Ice Queen," Max nodded at the priestess with a chuckle "than an Ice Princess?"

"You mean Liz... and Isabel..."

"You bet," Max nodded. "I wouldn't mind betting that Liz has somehow accessed the Granolith and is in direct communication with Isabel."

"She can do that?" Michael frowned. "Access the Granolith, I mean?"

"Yeah," Max nodded. "She talked to it one night. They get along, fine."

"You talk like it's a person," he shook his head. "And is what she's doing even allowed?"

"Larek," Max leaned back. "You know I'm not allowed to talk to Liz, right?"

"That is correct," Larek nodded.

"Is anyone else forbidden from talking to her?"

"Only you, sire," Larek narrowed his eyes. "But I somehow doubt that anyone can get a message to her, now."

"Thanks, Larek," Max smiled, leaning forward. "I guess we're in the clear," Max smiled at Michael.

"Until they ask Liz questions," he shook his head. "Because Liz has to answer those, herself."

"Tell me, Elizabeth..."


"Excuse me?" the High Priestess blinked.

"Call me Liz. Everyone calls me Liz. My friends, Max, everyone."

The High Priestess thought for a moment.

"Very well," she huffed. "Liz. Tell me. Have you communicated with King Zan in any way since sunrise?"

"Uh," she thought for a moment. "We uh, we can usually tell what the other is thinking by looking into one another's eyes. Does that count?"

"No," the older woman shook her head.

"Then, no, I haven't."

"And has King Zan communicated with you in any way since sunrise?"

"Only with his eyes," Liz turned to look at Max and allowed her love to shine. "And with his smile."

Max was glad that he had not spoken to her with his mind, after all.

"Tell me, Liz," she turned away and scanned the crowd. Max thought how like his father she seemed at that moment. Like a lawyer at a big trial. Showboating, he had called it. "Do you love Zan?"

"Uh," Liz hesitated. "If you mean, do I love Max, then yes. Yes, I do."

"Excuse me?" the High Priestess turned and glared at the young woman. "You are claiming that you love another man?"

"What?" Liz blinked. "No. The man you call Zan, I know him, I have always known him as Max. We all have. I mean, we being his friends and family... The ones who came with him from Earth. Even those close to him here on Antar have taken to calling him Max."

"But not his mother."

"No," Liz shook her head with a look of sadness. "Not his mother. I guess that's because to her, he will always be Zan. I mean, he's her son, right? And she named him, Zan. Just like to me, I always knew him as Max, and so to me, he will always be Max."

"Then let us be clear," the High Priestess stood tall. "The man we know as Zan, the King, the one you know as Max... Do you love him?"

"With all my heart," Liz nodded, looking directly at Max.

"Yes or no will suffice."

There were a few chuckles in the crowd.

"Yes," Liz nodded emphatically. "Yes, I do."

"And would you say that you are 'in love' with him?"

"Definitely," Liz nodded again. "Yes."

"Would you be willing to die for him?" the Priestess leaned forward and asked the question in a quick voice.

"If it was necessary," Liz nodded without hesitation.

She looked over at Max and remembered the time that she had risked her life to rescue him from the white room. They had leapt from a bridge. Into the darkness together.

"Although," she continued, "I would prefer to 'live' with him."

"And do you think you are worthy of him?"

"Excuse me?" Liz blinked.

The question had surprised her.

"I said, do you think..."

"Yeah, I heard," Liz could not help her annoyance to show. Her face grew a little red with unguarded anger. "Am I worthy of him? No. No, I don't think I am. I mean, I'm Liz Parker, small town girl, right? And he's Max Evans. All around gorgeous hunk and an alien King to boot. But he thinks I am and so that's all that matters, isn't it? I know he loves me... I know that he's always loved me, and that's good enough for me."

"And how do you know that he loves you?" the priestess demanded. "How can you prove that?"

Liz took a few breaths to regain her composure.

"You know," she looked at Max again. "Maybe that's a question you should put to Max. He'll probably tell you it's because he tells me every day. But I think the best proof is the fact that I am standing here, today."

"As a young, handsome man, I am sure that Max could have invited any number of young, attractive females to attend to him. I doubt that few would turn down the opportunity to become a Queen. All he had to do was ask."

"What?" Liz gaped. "Max isn't even like that! God, you so do not know your King. And that's not what I meant. How many 'young attractive females' do you think your King has brought back to life, before? How many of them have been saved not once, but twice?"

"What do you mean?" the High Priestess frowned. "Explain yourself."

"I mean that Max has gone out of his way to save my life. Twice, in fact, if you include the time he cloned me."

"Excuse me?" things were spinning out of control for the priestess. "He 'cloned' you?"

"Yeah," Liz nodded. "It's really complicated, okay? But he arranged for me to be cloned so that when I was murdered, my soul would find my clone and then when he was reborn, I would be, too, and he would find me and... You're not understanding a single word I'm saying, are you?"

"It 'is' a little far fetched," the priestess rolled her eyes. "You must agree."

"Oh, yeah," Liz nodded. "I absolutely agree. Totally far fetched. But welcome to my life. Or should I say, lives."

"The girl is clearly delusional," Dalena called from her seat at the front.

The High Priestess turned to face her.

"Yet, she has not uttered one single untrue statement, My Lady," she gave a little curtsey. "Everything she has said has been the truth. And she is clearly in love with Zan."

"And what of Ava?" a voice demanded from the back of the chapel.

Everyone turned to face the voice. Max could see a blonde head bouncing up and down as it made it's way to the front.

"Tess," he groaned, watching his greatest nemesis approach the circle and stop just in front of it. "God, I hate her."

In her seat, Liz seemed to be concentrating hard on something. She gave a little shake of her head, followed by an even smaller nod. She seemed to mouth the word 'okay'.

"I am still wife to Zan," Tess stated.

"A fact I deny," Max rose. "Any past commitments died when you had us executed."

There was a murmur at this accusation.

"And 'that' is a fact that 'I' deny," Tess turned on Max. "That is something you keep on using to try to escape your obligation to me. To Antar." She turned to look at Liz. "And I further state that this... this girl is not worthy to claim the love of Zan. She has tricked him and betrayed him on any number of occasions."

"No, Tess," Liz shook her head. "You must have me confused with someone else. Oh, wait. That would be you. You're the one who has tricked him, betrayed him... cheated on him. You're the one who's not worthy of him. Face it, Tess. You're just cheap trash."

"Really?" Tess marched up to Liz, placing her face level with the brunette's.

"Really," Liz grinned. "And you're, uh, in the circle now, Tess."

Tess stood up and looked down at the ground. Her eyes closed for a moment.

"It doesn't matter," she shook her head. "Because I'm not the one on trial, here. I'm not the one who has to prove anything. I'm not the one who has to explain certain... indiscretions from her past. Like, for instance, why was Zan... Max so upset one night in October, 2000?"

Liz's mind whirled as she tried to remember October of that year. Halloween. Witches, pumpkins... skeletons. In closets. People not who they claim to be. Future Max. Oh shit! Again, she gave her head a minute shake. Her shoulders slumped as she appeared to agree with whatever had been said to her.

"I broke his heart," Liz's face dropped as low as her voice. It came out as a mere whisper.

A collective gasp echoed throughout the room.

"For which I have forgiven her!" Max called out.

"Ah," Tess grinned malevolently. "But that's not the point here, is it your eminence?"

"No, it is not, Your Majesty," the priestess shook her head. She seemed disappointed. "We are testing her love for you, not yours for her."

"Tell the room, Liz," Tess could sense her triumph. "Tell them what you did to him. Tell them what you did to this man you claim you 'love'!"

Liz looked at Max. He smiled at her, hoping that she might gain some strength from the knowledge that he understood why she had done it. Her eyes went momentarily distant. Although she gave a slight nod, she did not look happy about it.

"Things between Max and I... I was so in love with him, but I had let him go, because I thought he was supposed to have this whole destiny, you know? We had just heard the message from his mother. About coming home, and freeing everyone. And I thought... I thought I was in his way. So I... I broke up with him so that he would be free to do what he was supposed to do. Only Max... he didn't want to do that without me. And I was on the verge of giving in to him. Only... only someone came to visit me. An older version of Max. He told me that he had come from the future. He told me that I had to make his younger self fall out of love with me."

"Why would he do that?" the priestess asked in a gentle voice.

"Actually," Liz shook her head. "He didn't. It was a trick, played on me by Nikolas. I, uh... I fell for it. But anyway..." Liz wiped away the tears that were flowing freely. "He told me that because of our love, we drove Tess away. That without the four square, they were not strong enough to defeat Nikolas and his army. He told me that Isabel... Vilondra had died a few weeks before and that only hours ago, Michael, Rath, had died. Only moments before he and the future version of me had sent him back in time in the Granolith."

There was a buzz at the mention of that.

"But nothing I did could make Max fall out of love with me. He loved me too much."

"Go on, Liz," Tess smirked. "Tell them what you did."

"But then Maria said something about catching Michael with Courtney... an, uhm... another girl... and how she would never have him back after that... and I knew what I had to do."

"So you slept with your ex-boyfriend and set it up so that Max would catch you. You set it up so that Max would catch you fucking another man."

"No!" Liz yelled with a solid conviction. "No. That wasn't what happened. I set it up so that Max would catch Kyle in bed with me, yes. But that's all it was. A set up. Both Kyle and myself were wearing underclothes. And we didn't even touch each other."

"What?" Tess looked a little taken aback.

"Nothing happened," Liz stated. "I could never betray Max. Especially not like that."

She turned to the High Priestess, expecting to see her confirmation that Liz had just lied. But the priestess said nothing.

"Okay," Tess's mind was falling back on plan 'B'. "I expect that after that, you and Max made up, huh?"

"You know we didn't, Tess," Liz shook her head. "You tricked Max into believing you returned to Antar with his fictitious son. And I'm sure that when you came back, you found out how Max went into this quest to find, and rescue the son he believed you carried off to his enemy. And that during this time, we drifted apart. Not because we no longer loved one another, because that was never going to happen. We were both hurt, and both foolish. We let our love drift apart. But I never stopped loving him."

"Right," Tess smirked. "You loved Max so much, you jumped right into bed with your boss's son."

"No," Liz shook her head. "I entered into a relationship with him. But there was no jumping into bed. In fact, when you murdered me, Tess, I was still a virgin."

"Oh, come on," Tess rolled her eyes. "You expect us to believe that?"

"No," Liz shook her head again. "I don't 'expect' you to believe anything. I am merely telling you the truth, which the High Priestess can confirm."

Tess didn't need to look to know that the priestess was in agreement. The Parker girl was 'really' getting on her nerves, now.

"So why did you start this relationship then?" Tess tried another angle. "If you loved Max so much?"

"Because I missed him," Liz whispered. "The old Max. We all did. So Maria came up with this plan where I was going to pretend to be involved with this other guy... and Maria would let it slip how controlling he was, how he wouldn't let me see my friends... Max wouldn't like me being treated that way. We were kind of playing on Max's noble nature."

"So you were trying to trick him into loving you?" Tess smirked. "Sounds like real love to me."

"Perhaps," Liz nodded. "But the desired result was to wake Max from the self-imposed funk he was in. We wanted Max back, whether he was with me or not."

Tess turned to look at the High Priestess. But her passive face spoke volumes. So far, she had made Liz pour her heart out and not once had she lied. In fact, that damned girl was winning over the neutrals in the chapel.

"I would have to say," the Priestess seemed to read Tess's mind, "that if I were to ask her again if she was worthy of Zan's love, then she would be lying if she said no."

Tess frowned. Things were not going well. It was time to pull out her biggest gun. This by itself would not humiliate her, like she hoped, but it would ruin her. It would give Tess 'some' victory.

"Very well, then," Tess pulled herself to her full height. She turned back to face Liz. "It might be an ancient Antarain Law, but it is still in existence. And one which I invoke now in the name of Antar. No woman may speak her wedding vows with the King unless she is a virgin." Tess started to smirk. "Even if that woman surrendered her maidenhead to the King."

Liz started to blink. A memory, perhaps fed by her link through the Granolith floated across her mind.

"Do you know what the reason is that Max won't make love to me?"

"Yes. I do."

"Can you tell me what that reason is? Can you tell me when we'll be able to become one like that?"

"I could. But you know what? I think you might find that 'not' knowing that answer gives you great strength, and even greater pleasure. You'll understand when the time comes."

And Liz did understand. And in spite of herself, she started to grin. She had just been given the power. Liz knew how to end this nightmare.

"Then, I'm perfectly safe, Tess," her smile grew wider by the second. "Because you know what? I'm 'still' a virgin."

"Oh, come on!" Tess could hardly believe it. "No way does a hormonal teenaged boy sleep in the same bed with his girlfriend, with no parental supervision and 'not' fuck her senseless!"

"Oh, Tess!" Liz shook her head. "If only you knew how hard I tried. I tried really hard to break his resolve, but he said that it would be better if we waited. And you know what? It was. Of course, neither of us knew about this law though I suspect Max had an inkling. But we haven't Tess. We didn't. I'm still a virgin and I am totally in love with Max Evans. Your King Zan." She turned to the Priestess. "Are we done here?"

"I think we are, my child," she gave Liz a curtsy. "And you have passed. I grant my blessing upon your union."

"No!" Tess shrieked. "You can't do that! Zan and I are still married, and I will not give my consent to a divorce!"

"My Lady," Liz faced the High Priestess. "Are we still bound by this truth and lies deal?"

"Yes," she nodded. "We are."

"Is it mandatory that any bride of the king submit to this test?"

"It is," she nodded again.

"And did Ava pass her test?"

Liz already suspected the answer.

"Actually," she turned to look at Ava. "Ava did not actually take the test, as they were in hiding from Kivar at the time."

"But he wasn't the king!" Tess defended. "He never had his coronation. So I didn't need to take the test!"

"A coronation is not what makes a prince a king," the Priestess shook her head. "That is merely a ceremony. A prince becomes a king the moment the old king dies. Zan became the king the very same moment that Kivar had his father executed."

"So I guess that kind of makes their marriage null and void, huh?"

"No!" Tess shrieked.

"Tell me, Tess," Liz was enjoying this. She held a power every bit as strong as the mind warp Tess was capable of. "Do you love Zan?"

"Of course I do," Tess spat. "Why else would I wish to prevent this travesty? I am still married to him."

"You have lied, Ava," The priestess warned. "While you believe that you are still married to him, you lied when you claimed to love him.

Tess blinked. Liz smirked.

"And while you were on Earth, you know, when you turned up and tried to warn me away from Max. Were you plotting to have Zan handed over to Kivar's general? To Nikolas?"

Tess's face went stony. She was concentrating hard on her answer. Liz suspected she was either trying to trick the priestess, or mind warp her.

"No, I wasn't," her words were almost robot like.

"You cannot fool me, Ava," the priestess warned. "And that is the second lie you have told me. One more and... I fear you will be tried for treason against the priesthood."

"Why not treason against the priesthood, as well as the crown, eh, Tess?" Liz grinned. "How long have you been having an affair with Nikolas?"

Tess's mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water. She was about to answer but she stopped.

"Okay, so were you sleeping with Nikolas before Zan was executed?"

Tess didn't answer.

"Were you sleeping with Nikolas before you even married Zan?"

Again, Tess remained silent.

"Did you betray Zan to Nikolas and Kivar? Were you responsible for the death of King Zan?"

Tess's eyes grew wide with fear.

"We'll take your silence as a yes, then," Maria smirked. "Way to go, Liz!"

"So," Liz pressed. "Your only intention in preventing my marriage to Max is nothing to do with your non existent love for Zan but more to do with your desire for revenge and payback for the mess you yourself created."

"You fucking bitch!" Tess spat, hurling a blast of energy at Liz.

A green, protective wall sprang up in front of her. Tess turned and ran full tilt for the nearest door.

"Arrest her!" Max called.

She tried to break through the cordon of crimson clad guards who appeared in front of her, but she was held, fast. Her fate had already been sealed. In trying to foil Liz Parker, she had once more run up against something she knew nothing about. The power of love.

"Max," Michael smirked. "Get on that line of yours. Call your folks, Liz's folks and anyone else who might care. Oh, and especially Isabel. Look like we have ourselves a royal wedding to plan."

* * *
Last edited by WR on Sat Nov 10, 2007 2:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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The Last Red Shift :(

Post by WR » Sat Nov 10, 2007 2:45 pm

Hi everyone,

I am so sorry for my absence, but this chapter of Red Shift has caused me more than a few problems. I had to make sure I got it just right to convey the right emotions. I think I got it right. :) (After a quick addition 'demanded' by my beta team. :wink:

Do you realise, that the final version of the Prologue to this story is dated 10th June, 2005! This story has spanned two and a half years of our lives! I am so glad that you have enjoyed it and I would really like to thank you all for tagging along for the ride.

But guess what? Yes, the rumours are true and sadly, this is the final chapter of Red Shift. Fear not, I tie up everything nicely... And I hope you enjoy this chapter as much as you have enjoyed the rest of the story.

A big thank you to anyone who has ever kindly stopped by to leave me some feedback. And a big thank you to all of those who just like to lurk, and read my story. I hope you all got as much enjoyment from reading as I got from writing.

A big thank you too, to BordersInsanity, who started out as my Beta, but unfortuneatly had to give up as her work load increased. Miss you, Jen!

A big Thank you to Smac who stepped in and took over from her, and kept me on my toes as much as Jen did. It was a pleasure, Sherrie.

And a big thank you to BelevnDreamsToo for keeping me going when things got a little tough story wise, and who has given me tons of encouragement to keep me ticking. Your little comments have helped make this story so much more! Thank you Jeanine.

You rock, ladies!

Now, as one story closes, another opens. I will work on "Devil" alone for a while and then will probably put out another fluff Xmas story. After that, I think I have another Canon story line with a hint of crossover... so watch this space...

When I first planned how this last chapter of "Red Shift" was going to go, I was actually quite excited by how I hoped you would react. If my beta team is anything to go by, I nailed it. :)

So, enjoy! :D

Red Shift

Banner courtesy of Borders InSaNiTy


Because of their years together, their trials and their tribulations, the bond between Max Evans and Michael Guerin, best friends through three lifetimes, was almost as strong as the bond between Max and Liz. The two shared a trust in one another, a fierce loyalty that prevented either from letting the other down. So when Max asked Michael to make his plan work, Michael spoke with his commanders and general staff to come up with a plan that would again prove Max's trust in him. Michael trusted Max's plans and Max trusted that Michael would execute them.

And work, the plan did.

To a degree.

Pretty much as Max had laid out, when Michael's army infiltrated the no-man's-land between the two armies they had managed to maneuver into position through 'leaked' intelligence, and then opened fire, the two huge armies fell upon one another. Casualties among the Royalist forces were light and they withdrew to positions to take over when the two armies exhausted one another.

It took two days.

But by the end of the second day, it became apparent that both armies had reached that point where they could fight no more. The reserves had been called in and the battle had turned into a slugging match where neither could deliver the knockout blow. Just as both leaders were eagerly anticipating nightfall, seeking to withdraw under cover of darkness, Michael appeared and after a deadly bombardment, demanded the surrender of both combatants. There was no resistance; everyone had had enough. Both General Dray and Kivar surrendered, along with their general staff.

The fighting, however, did not stop there. Both sides had factions dotted throughout the planet and they refused to surrender. Fortunately, they were quickly driven into fairly remote areas where Max could bottle them up and wait for their supplies to run out. It took six months, but peace was soon restored to Antar at last.

The healing process, initially started around the capital city of Antarantia was soon underway across the whole planet.

The delay also gave Isabel time to plan the Royal Wedding to end all Royal Weddings.

* * *

Among the tasks that had to be undertaken to help facilitate the transition from war torn Antar to the utopia Max fervently wished for, there was one final, odious task that they had to get through.

The trials of Kivar. Nikolas, Dray and especially, Tess.

An earlier Max Evans would have wanted to show clemency, even if it was just to prove that he was not the arrogant dictator his father had become. But he knew that his people would want justice. More importantly, they would want to see justice served. So this Max did not step in and offer any last minute reprieves, nor commuted sentences. This Max wanted this to end as much as every one else did. And as he had learned, time and time again. A leopard does not change its spots. All four of the main antagonists, along with a number of high ranking officials within their respective organizations, were found guilty of treason against the crown and sentenced to death.

Max disappointed many of his citizens when he demanded that their executions be carried out as humanely as possible, and in private. He insisted on letting them go to their deaths with dignity. Even though many had pointed out that Max nor his friends would have been accorded such a final request. He would simply remind everyone,

"I am not like them."

Of the four, only Tess tried to beg for mercy. She tried every way she could to plead for her life, asking Max, Michael and Dalena. She had tried to play on the initial sympathy that Dalena had shown her, she had tried to persuade Michael that this was for the good of Antar. She had even tried to play on Max's honor, reminding him how they had been through so much together.

Dalena had simply replied,

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me," Dalena wept. "I believed in you. I believed that you loved my son, and for you, for what I believed was best, I alienated him from me. What a fool I have been."

Michael just smirked and turned his back on her.

"Yeah, right," he muttered as he left, "Like blowing Maria to kingdom come was for the good of Antar."

And Max... Max had looked at her with clear and calm eyes and simply informed her,

"We have never been through anything 'together', Tess. I seem to recall that I went through everything 'because' of you, rather than 'with' you and until I met Liz, I went through it all, alone."

In her final act of desperation, she turned to Liz, begging that she ask Max for clemency.

"Please, Liz," she begged. "I only did this because I believed that Antar would never accept a human for its Queen. Max loves you. He listens to you. Please, Liz?"

Liz had simply given her a slow shake of her head.

"Did you listen to Alex? What about when you killed me that time? Or Kyle? Or when you blew up Maria? Did you listen to anyone then? You brought this on yourself, Tess. No one forced you to do those things. And I take heart in the fact that Max is being forced to impose Antar's justice on you. Good bye, Tess."

The executions were carried out, in private, a full month before the great wedding.

* * *

In his first few months of his reign, Max made many changes. Almost his first act was to drastically reduce taxes to allow both the private and the public sectors of the economy to grow. As soldiers were released from their duties, they were helped to purchase farms or factories, or given assistance in finding employment, so that they could continue to help with the rebuilding of Antar. Max did not want them dumped on some scrap heap, as he had seen happen on Earth, time and again. Prisoners of war, too, were helped to find jobs. Max wanted no disaffected groups of people causing trouble.

He had also instigated a special forum, whereby ordinary citizens could be elected to hold at least 'some' power. Plans were in hand to slowly grant them more power, as time passed. The overall intention was to prevent another situation arising where a King could simply make and pass ridiculous laws to the detriment of all. And, to prevent a 'Kivar' ever appearing again, Max made sure that henceforth, only the King and his heir would know the location of the Granolith. Everyone knew, however, that both Liz and Isabel knew the location, but they also knew that the chances of either of them betraying Max was a negative number that stretched to infinity.

The first law that he changed, however, and quite quickly, was the archaic law that stated that a potential bride of the King had to remain a virgin. As that law had frustrated young Max beyond endurance, and had hurt Liz, he could never, 'would' never inflict such a trial on any of his descendants. The High Priestess was, at first, furious, but even she had to concede that preventing someone like Max and Liz from ever marrying, simply because they had already consummated their love, was indeed, pointless.

* * *

So, by the time Max and Liz met each other at the small alter in the middle of the octagonal chapel to become husband and wife, King and Queen, peace was truly in place and the seeds for their future prosperity had been set.

Max had fulfilled his 'destiny', or, as he preferred to think of it, he had chosen to fulfill the tasks laid before him and as promised had been rewarded. His prize, the radiant and beautiful Liz Parker, soon to be Evans at his side, about to speak their wedding vows.

And hadn't Isabel done them proud?

To paraphrase a famous, twentieth century human politician, "this was her finest hour."

It was as if all of the events she had ever planned in the past were simply rehearsals for this one event. And considering the number of delegates invited from all six planets, Earth included, the whole thing ran like clockwork. Isabel's army was every bit as well trained and efficient as Michael's.

It seemed strange to the Antarian population that the seats of honor were granted to a large contingent of humans, and even more strange to learn that their king and queen had two sets of human parents, but they understood that their royal family were definitely not normal. But they loved them, just the same.

All of the occupants in the chapel gasped when Liz Parker emerged through the door at the end of one of the aisles, resplendent in a silver gown, trimmed in lilac and studded with gems from each of the six planets. After her 'test', all of Antar had fallen in love with their future Queen, because not only did she truly love their King, he truly loved her back.

After a stunning ceremony in which the High Priestess dared anyone to try to destroy what the power of the heavens had just created, a magnificent banquet was held in the main palace. This featured amazing delicacies from every planet, including such strange dishes from Earth called 'pizza' and an even stranger, but very popular liquid called 'Tabasco Sauce'. Anders had confided in Max that he had, on all of their behalf, been buying stock in the McIlhenny Company. Max smiled, knowing that it was always wise to have another source of income.

The wedding ceremony was finally rounded off by another ornate ceremony, one that Isabel had no say in, and one that the High Priestess had tailored for the new ways of the new King. King Zan of Antar had his official coronation. If they rejoiced at his marriage, all of Antar were positively ecstatic at his crowning. The King was back, and peace had returned. The once and future king... was now their present king.

* * *

"Mrs. Evans," Max stood in their bedchamber and gazed upon his beautiful wife, still dressed in her stunning silver gown. "In all the years that I have... loved you, you have never looked more lovely than you look to me right now. You are so beautiful, Liz, inside and out and I am so very much in love with you."

"My Lord," Liz gave a fluid curtsy. "You have never looked more... amazing to me, either. And it's more so because this is it, Max. It's official. We belong together."

"We've always belonged together, Liz," Max gave a faint smile. "We just never realized it soon enough is all."

"You've never had any doubt?" Liz tilted her head and looked at her husband. Husband. Oh, how she liked that word. "You never gave up hope?"

"Doubts?" Max nodded. "Plenty. Am I good enough for you? Could you really love an alien? Would I end up hurting you? Lots of doubts, Liz. But give up hope? Never in my heart or soul. My mind may have done so, but never my heart." Max paused for a moment, thinking about something. "One thing I have learned, is that while there is life, there is hope."

"I've always loved you, Max," Liz nodded. "Even when at times it seemed that maybe I didn't... I did."

"I know," Max nodded. "Deep inside, I always knew."

"And so, here we are," Liz started to grin. "Let's see. I passed the test," she bent down one finger of her left hand with her right. "I stayed a virgin," she bent down a second finger. "And I married the King, still a virgin. So I think I earned something, don't you?"

"Liz," Max breathed hotly. "You earned that so long ago. It was never about desire, or the lack of it. I have always wanted you. Always."

"And now?"

"I really don't think that there is any force in this universe that's going to stop us, now. Do you?"

"Nope," Liz shook her head. "Not unless it wants to feel what it's like to meet an irresistible force."

"And you are most definitely irresistible," Max grinned.

"Yeah," Liz smirked and she started to step towards her husband. "You say that, now."

"Hey," Max accepted his wife into his embrace. "You were always irresistible. Do you have any idea how many ice cold showers I had to endure?"

"Not enough, Max," she reached up and kissed his cheek. "Not enough."

Max took her chin between his hands and guided her face to his. He kissed her softly on her lips.

"I love you, Liz," he murmured. "I always have, I always will. And when all the suns in all the universe have burned out, then mine will be the brightest light in the heavens, because my love for you will never burn out."

"Max," Liz sighed, melting into him.

Their lips met once more, brushing to start with but then with more and more pressure. Their lips parted allowing their tongues to play as they teased one another. After the slow and gentle start, the kiss grew in magnitude until it was a kiss of all encompassing passion.

"Max," Liz begged, her words vanishing in Max's mouth.

His hand found the fasteners at her back. With a little 'glow' from his hands, the fasteners were soon undone, allowing Liz's dress to slide from her body as if it were a curtain, designed for this very moment. If she was wearing anything special underneath, it was lost on Max. As soon as Liz had pushed his shirt from him, and their bare flesh touched one another, he was lost.

Lost amid a tide of lust, need, desire and most of all, love. Their hands danced everywhere, exploring one another in a way that they had not been able to do so since that day as Julia and Luke, when they came so close to surrendering themselves to one another. Hands found soft, warm parts and stroked them, teased them, driving one another to greater heights.

"Make love to me, Max," Liz breathed her hot breath into his ear as her hands caressed his hair.

She spread her thighs and locked them around Max's back, holding him in place.

"Make me your Queen, Max," she murmured. "Make me yours."

Max entered her, and even though he was not terribly proud of the fact that it was too much for him, and had reached his climax almost instantly, it mattered little to Liz. She was already reaching hers, too.

They would have time. Lots of time. Time to enjoy one another's bodies, to memorize every feature, every bump and dimple. They both knew that their first time was not what mattered. What mattered was that they were together at last. An unbreakable bond formed over an already indestructible love. They were one. They were complete. They were... soul mates.

* * *

In the afterglow of their first night as husband and wife, a night in which he and Liz finally shared their bodies and had become one in the most ultimate of ways - many times - the royal couple lay together, entwined, after their marathon post marital coupling. Both had wide smiles on their faces, both had as much body contact as they could possibly make. The only way to tell where one ended and the other began was the differing shades of their skin. Liz slept deeply, soundly, her mind dreaming of all the times they would repeat their act of love making. Max, however, was still awake. Or, perhaps he 'was' asleep, all of him except that small portion of his mind that allowed him to think things through without his emotions getting in the way. He was trying to work out why this last part was still alert.

"You did good, Max," the dry voice of the Granolith spoke to him from it's hiding place, many light years away. "You did it."

"This was it?" Max blinked. "All of this effort was simply to get me back on the throne again?"

"No," it chuckled. "There's a lot more to it than that. Some of it you would not even begin to comprehend. But hey! Look at what you have achieved."

"I brought peace to Antar," Max nodded. "I'm improving people's lives for the better."

"Not just on Antar, either. There are the other four planets for a start. And of course, Earth."

"Earth?" Max was surprised.

"Sure. You're giving them technology they wouldn't have discovered for centuries. But you're giving it to the people, who will use it wisely, not corporations who will use it to make even more profits. The deserts are blooming again, poverty will become a thing of the past. Not only that, you have brought them into the federation of planets. You will all benefit from each other."

"As long as we make sure they don't use this technology to try to conquer us," Max rolled his eyes.

"Ah," the Granolith smirked. "But that's not in your remit. Your task is done. You get to live your life with Liz, now. Albeit you still have to rule as a King."

"Can't I abdicate?" Max asked in a dry voice.

"Would you want to?"" it asked. "Would you really want to walk away and take the risk it will all fall apart again, now you have sorted it all out"

"I guess not," Max sighed. "As long as I have Liz."

"Actually, that's part of the reason I've dropped by tonight."

"Oh?" Max raised his eyebrows and pulled Liz a little closer to him - if that were at all possible, his arms holding her in a defensive embrace.

"Yes. I've come to offer the two of you the chance of immortality."

"You mean... we would live forever. Together."

"Sort of. When your time is finished, you can join me. Become part of the Granolith. Part of me. Us."

Max remained silent for a moment.

"Think of it Max. You could do whatever you wanted to do. You want to go back in time and witness the birth of the universe? You can. Or if you wanted to go and watch the Battle of Waterloo... you could. Want to study a black hole up close and personal? Everything would be within your power."

"When you say... a 'part' of the Granolith..." Max's eyes narrowed, "do you mean... would we be separate entities?"

"No. No, you would be part of a whole. Closer to Liz than you are, even now."

"But that would be the same with you... and who ever else you have there as part of you."

"Yes," the Granolith admitted. "Yes, it would. But you wouldn't see it like that. And the two of you would be together, eternally, until the universe itself burns out."

Again, Max remained quiet for a moment.

"While the thought of being with Liz like that, always and forever, sounds great... What Liz and I share... it's ours. Ours alone. I'll talk it over with Liz, but I think... no. No, I know that we will always be together, anyway. I think our souls are permanently joined, now."

"Think it over, Max," the Granolith started to fade. "I could use someone like the two of you."

"Hey," Max called out. "Call on us, anytime!"

* * *

As great a King Max was, there was something that even he was unable to achieve. And that was to prevent time passing. And pass, it did.

Relations between the five planets and Earth grew and so too, did trade. This brought wealth and prosperity, especially since Earth had an abundance of a raw material that was rare on Antar and the other planets. Silicon. The poorest countries, those whose countryside consisted mainly of desert, suddenly found themselves as wealthy as the Middle East sheiks. As soon as the need for oil had been replaced, the countries of OPEC tried to use the silicon resources much like they had once used their oil, as a means of blackmail. Max, however, would not give in to any form of blackmail, and found other countries only too willing to accept deals that the OPEC countries would not.

Of the five planets, none were as prosperous as the planet of Torania. As a reward for his loyalty and his support, Larek was given preferential trade tariffs and taxes. This caused 'some' resentment among the other planets but as Max pointed out, what goes around, comes around.

But that is not to say that the other planets did not share in the bounty to some degree. A golden age was once more rapidly approaching, and this time, no one had any doubt that the King would steer them safely into it. While the technology sold to Earth was limited, it was still very profitable, especially as most of it was merely licensed, a trick Max had learned from a certain software magnate.

* * *

The estrangement between Dalena and her son continued until the birth of Max and Liz's firstborn, the Crown Prince Zande, five years after their marriage. She had come soon after their son, her grandson's birth, bearing a branch from a small tree, complete with green leaves.

"What is it?" Max frowned.

"I have heard that when humans wish to make peace," Dalena smiled, "it is customary to bring an Olive branch."

Dalena then begged Max and Liz to forgive her for her stupid and foolish behavior.

Max had suggested to Liz that they make her suffer, make her sweat a little bit. After all, she had made Liz suffer with her plans to reinstate Tess. But Liz rolled her eyes at her husband and being who she was, forgave her mother-in-law in an instant. She had born Zan's mother's coldness with a patient smile, all the while knowing that this day would come, and regardless who the mother was, a grandchild would always be a grandchild. And come this day did. She simply pulled Dalena into her arms for a hug and forgave her. The pair became very good friends for the rest of Dalena's life, and Liz even named their second born, her daughter, after her.

Craig and Pam had been given a substantial grant from the Antarian Treasury. They both worked tirelessly to help build friendships between Max's government and the people of Earth. They both lived into their eighties and apart from Pam's nightmares, which slowly faded, they lead rich and full lives. No one was wholly sure how many children they had. Nor how many grandchildren.

Isabel and Kyle worked tirelessly on Max's behalf, spending most of their lives on Earth, rather than Antar. Anders and Raul, too, spent most of their time on Earth, but everyone always found time, once a year, to get together, all of them, as they had all those years ago when they met in Siesta Key.

For Max and Michael, along with Liz and Maria, it was business as usual; that business being the running of Antar.

All too soon, the older generation started to pass away. Dalena, Larek, Heldin, Barynt, the Evans, the Skyes, the Parkers and the Cartiers, they all passed away, knowing that their kids had achieved remarkable things and had left their mark on the universe. The younger generation were left to guide the new federation through the golden age which seemed to have no end in sight. As trade grew, so too did prosperity.

* * *

Anders and Raul were the first of the octet to pass away, each one within months of the other. Because of their decades of loyal service to Antar, both were accorded the highest honors at their burial and their families were awarded lifelong pensions. Both had met, fallen in love with and married ladies of the Antarian Court. In fact, Anders had married Count Heldin's daughter, Dalena's Lady in waiting, Valda. Between them, they left seven children and twelve grandchildren.

Over the years, Max had often felt guilt over the knowledge he held about Anders and Raul's identity prior to Tess murdering them. As they fell ill, beyond his healing capabilities, Max finally revealed the truth to them. Both forgave him for keeping him in the dark, accepting that he had perhaps done the right thing. After all, they had both said.

"Kings have to sometimes make decisions that might not please everyone."

Kyle passed away a few years later, to be followed by Isabel only three short years ago. The funeral services held both on Earth, and on Antar would only ever be dwarfed by two others. Max was terribly sad when his sister died, but through it all, Liz was at his side, helping him through his pain. He raised a memorial to his sister, in Roswell, the place she always felt was home. Their only child, Princess Leia, took over her mother's mantel, and was grooming her son, Prince Luke, to take over from her, when it was his time.

Michael, the consummate warrior, who worked tirelessly on Max's behalf to keep peace throughout the federation, died peacefully in his sleep only last year. He was buried as a hero of Antar, with full military honors. It was only the second time Max had been seen crying in public. Once over her grief, at least publicly, Maria often joked that she had finally driven him to his grave. But everyone knew that this was as far from the truth as you could get. It was well known that Michael and Maria were as much in love as their King and Queen. They just showed it differently. Like Isabel and Kyle, Maria and Michael had only one child, a daughter whom they named Alexis. Alexis had a daughter of her own, Amy. And Amy was expecting her first child, a great grandchild that Michael would never see.

Even in the times of peace... which was almost his entire life, Michael took his duties seriously. It had been said that he never truly learned how to relax. But he had always been a loving husband to Maria, and would often show that he too knew a little romance. Yes, Max did have to order him to take holidays, but that was not because he didn't enjoy spending time with Maria. There was much more to it than that.

Sadly, though, this now left only the Royal Three.

And through it all, through each triumph and tragedy, through the good times and the bad, happy and sad, Liz was a rock by Max's side. Helping, supporting him, soothing him, and, when it was warranted, chastising him, albeit in private. Having the ability to talk to one another in their minds helped a lot.

Line one is the time
That you, you first stayed over at mine
And we drank our first bottle of wine
And we cried

Line two, were away
And we both, we both had nowhere to stay
Well the bus-shelters always ok
When you're young

Now you're older and I look at your face
Every wrinkle is so easy to place
And I only write them down just in case
That you die

Lets take a look at these crow's feet, just look
Sitting on the prettiest eyes
Sixty 25th of Decembers
Fifty-nine 4th of Julys
Not through the age or the failure, children
Not through the hate or despise
Take a good look at these crow's feet
Sitting on the prettiest eyes

Line three I forget
But I think, I think it was our first ever bet
And the horse we backed was short of a leg
Never mind

Line four in a park
And the things, the things that people do in the dark
I could hear the faintest beat of your heart
Then we did

Now you're older and I look at your face
Every wrinkle is so easy to place
And I only write them down just in case
You should die

Lets take a look at these crow's feet, just look
Sitting on the prettiest eyes
Sixty 25th of Decembers
Fifty-nine 4th of Julys
You can't have too many good times, children
You can't have too many lines
Take a good look at these crow's feet
Sitting on the prettiest eyes

Well my eyes look like a map of the town
And my teeth are either yellow or they're brown
But you'll never hear the crack of a frown
When you are here
You'll never hear the crack
Of a frown

Prettiest Eyes
Beautiful South

Max finished pulling on his socks and stopped for a moment, looking off into space. The years, although kind, were showing now. He was not so athletic anymore, and his eyes, although still amber, were not as clear. Liz emerged from the bathroom, still in her lilac dressing gown. Snapping himself from his daydreaming, he looked over to his wife and smiled.

"You are still so beautiful, you know," Max's eyes softened.

"And you still say the sweetest things," Liz smiled back. "Here I am, all gray hair and wrinkles..."

"I like wrinkles," he chuckled. "I even have a few of my own. And gray hair suits you. You look so... regal."

"Well, seeing as I'm a Queen," she sat next to her husband and pushed her hand through his steel gray locks. "Your queen, I guess that's okay, then."

"You know," Max took her hand in his and studied it. His finger traced the soft, porcelain like skin. There was an almost translucent quality to it. "Even after everything we had to put up with, we've had an amazing life."

"The early days weren't much fun," Liz raised her eyebrows, gray, like her hair. "We almost lost one another."

"No," Max shook his head, looking into her eyes. He reached a finger to trace the lines there. "We were always going to be together. Everything was pushing us. The Granolith may have told us we had a choice, but I don't think we did. I think it wanted us together. I know I did."

"Max," she smiled.

"That first time, Liz, before we died. It's just that the time was wrong."

"And just look at us now, huh?" Liz leaned into his touch. "We have two fine children, a son and a daughter. Zande and Dalena. I'm so glad neither of them took after you," she tweaked his ear. "And Dalena's daughter, Diane, she is very much pregnant with her first, our first great grandchild."

"Why hasn't Zande married yet?" Max frowned.

"I think," Liz sighed. "I think we spoiled it for him."

"How do you mean," Max frowned.

"I think he's been looking too hard," she shrugged. "Trying to find his soul mate. Maybe he let her get away. Maybe he's missed her."

"You just know, when you see her, Liz," Max shook his head. "But maybe it's not his turn to meet his soul mate this time around. I mean, I had to wait."

"I hope, Max Evans, that our son does not have to go through what you had to just to find his soul mate."

"Everything I went through, Liz," he chuckled, "was so worth it. Maybe it's not his destiny to meet one at all."

"Oh, listen to you," Liz rolled her eyes. "All Mr. Destiny."

"Hey," Max smirked. "Don't knock it. It gave me you."

"You do realize that if he has no heir then the line will pass through Dalena," Liz reminded him.

"She's as wise as Zande," Max nodded. "She reminds me of Isabel."

"Less frosty, though," Liz chuckled.

"We had a great life, Liz," Max's eyes seemed to darken.

"We did," she nodded. Tears formed in the corners of her eyes.

"And if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a damned thing, in case it meant that I would miss out on a single moment I have had with you."

"Max!" Liz's voice came out as a thin wail as she realized what he was doing.

He leaned forward and hugged her. He pressed his lips to hers while his hands caressed her gray hair at the nape of her neck. For a brief moment, as a final surge of Max's power went through her, she was 16 again. Her hair was the color of rich chocolate, her eyes were deep brown and clear, her skin was smooth and free of all wrinkles and blemishes.

"I love you, Liz Parker," he sighed, resting his forehead against hers. "I always have and I always will."

Max Evans, King Zan of Antar, died the only way he would have wanted. At peace, in the arms of his soul mate. Loving and being loved by Liz.

There's no one in town I know
You gave us some place to go.
I never said thank you for that.
I thought I might get one more chance.

What would you think of me now,
so lucky, so strong, so proud?
I never said thank you for that,
now I'll never have a chance.

May angels lead you in.
Hear you me my friends.
On sleepless roads the sleepless go.
May angels lead you in.

So what would you think of me now,
so lucky, so strong, so proud?
I never said thank you for that,
now I'll never have a chance.

May angels lead you in.
Hear you me my friends.
On sleepless roads the sleepless go.
May angels lead you in.
May angels lead you in.
May angels lead you in.

And if you were with me tonight,
I'd sing to you just one more time.
A song for a heart so big,
god wouldn't let it live.

May angels lead you in.
Hear you me my friends.
On sleepless roads the sleepless go.
May angels lead you in.
May angels lead you in.
Hear you me my friends.
On sleepless roads the sleepless go.
May angels lead you in.
May angels lead you in.

May Angels Lead you In
Jimmy eat World

* * *

It was a ceremony that dwarfed his wedding and his coronation. People from the four corners of six planets traveled to be there. Everyone wanted to pay their last respects to a respected leader, a great statesman, a wonderful friend, a fantastic father and a loving husband. A great, great man. A soul mate. They could not use the chapel, there simply was not enough room. Instead, the ceremony was held in the fields in front of the gate through which Max and Liz had entered Antarantia all those years ago.

And through the ceremony, the grieving widow bore it all with a calm dignity. While her face looked sad and empty, she shed no tears. Someone had commented earlier in the day that it looked like a part of her was missing.

"He is," came back the reply.

Her black dress and veil contrasted with her gray hair and her luminous white skin as she sat in the Antarian sunshine and listened to the orations of the many guest speakers. The only time she showed any hint of tears was when her oldest and lifelong friend, Maria, read out a lament from one of the old history books from their high school days.

When it was over, she sat and accepted every single message of commiseration passed on to her by the guests as they formed a long line and walked past her and the ornate casket that held her husband. When it was all over, a small and very private group made it's way, with the casket, to a small garden next to the palace. There, in a large tomb, Max Evans was finally laid to rest. Liz was the last to leave, kissing her fingers and holding it to the crystal structure.

"Are you okay, Mom?" Dalena was waiting for her at the park gates, along with Diane.

"Of course I am," Liz smiled at her daughter, reaching out to cup her chin as Max had done, so many times.

"You're allowed to cry, Mom," tears fell from Dalena's eyes.

Diane too, was still crying.

"I mean, we just buried Dad. Your husband, your soul mate. You don't have to be strong all of the time."

"Ah, Dalena," Liz smiled. "We've both died before, you know. And we were reborn to be together again. Max isn't dead. Not really. He's just gone on ahead, because that's what he does. He's waiting for me. We'll be reunited again."

* * *

In the two months since Max's funeral, King Zande was proving to be almost as good a king as his father. He had learned well and was making the right choices for his people. And one of those choices was the recent appointment of his niece, Diane, and her husband, Allyn as emissaries to the USA, to assist Leia who was finding her hands filled with the demands of the U.N.

Diane had given birth to a baby boy only one month ago. Both mother and son were fully fit to travel. They would be returning home with Maria, Alexis, Amy and their husbands. Amy wanted her daughter to be born on Earth. She said it was important to her, but she couldn't explain why. Liz had come to see them both off.

"Oh, look at him," Maria cooed. "He has Max's hair, and Max's eyes. And he has Max's ears. Can't win 'em all, kid."

"Does he look like Grandpa Max when he was a baby?" Diane asked.

"I'm sure he does," Liz nodded.

"So, did you name him, Diane?" Maria asked.

"Oh, yeah," she nodded. "We did. We named him, Maxwell."

Maria and Liz fell silent.

"After his great granddad."

For the first time since his death, Liz allowed a tear to fall.

"Do you realize," Liz held her finger out to baby Maxwell. "No one has ever seen Max as a baby? The first time, he was born as a six year old. And the second time he was fourteen. He missed out on so much."

"But he had you," her granddaughter looked up and smiled. "I would say that more than made up for it."

"That's just the sort of thing he would have said," Liz smiled, wiping her tear away.

Liz leaned down and kissed the baby's cheek and handed Maxwell over. She then hugged her granddaughter and made her promise to look after herself.

"We'll only be gone six months," she rolled her eyes. "See you when we get back."

"Well, Chica," Maria stood in front of Liz. "I guess this is goodbye, huh?"

"Not goodbye," tears blurred her eyes.

"Nah, not goodbye," Maria nodded through tears of her own. "But we have had one hell of a ride, haven't we?"

"We have," Liz nodded in confirmation. "And thank you, Maria. Thank you for everything. For helping me through the whole alien thing when it got messy, for always having my back... for being, well, you. You were my anchor when I was adrift. You helped me get back to Max."

"Ah, no," Maria shook her head. "All I did was hold the chain. You and Max did everything else, yourselves. But you know what? Thank you. Thank you for inviting me along on this ride. Even if I didn't react too well when it started up."

They both fell silent and, holding the other's hands, looked long and hard into one another's eyes.

"Bye," they whispered and pulled one another into a hug.

* * *

From a safe distance away, Liz watched the huge ship with her granddaughter, her great grandson and her best friend leave Antar's atmosphere. She gave a small wave and dabbed her moist eyes with a handkerchief. She turned and stepped into her private carriage.

"Can you take me to the King, please," she asked her driver.

The driver nodded, and he drove them to the parliament building where her son was discussing some matters of state with the senate.

"Mother," Zande smiled as she stepped into the room.

Everyone bowed.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen," she gave them all her sweetest smile. "Can I just borrow my son for a moment?"

"Of course," everyone agreed.

"What's up, Mom?" Zande asked, only a few steps away from where he was originally.

"You'll be a fine king," she smoothed his lapels. "As long as you just be yourself."

"Mom," he rolled his eyes.

"Don't try to be your father," she shook her head. "Don't try to do things that he would have done. Do what you would do. We raised you, and taught you well. Max put his own mark on the crown. You put yours. And I just know that your father is as proud of you as I am."

"Thanks Mom," he smiled. "From you, that's as good as from him."

She reached up and kissed him, pulling him into a tight hug.

Zande watched his mother leave, using those same strides she always used. Apart from her age, she hadn't changed a bit.

"Are you all right?" Gregor, his chamberlain stepped next to him.

"Sure," he nodded as he watched his mother step through the doors.

"What was all that about?"

"Not sure," Zande shrugged. "But I have this really weird feeling that she was saying good bye."

"Nah," Gregor shook his head. "Your mom is a hell of a lot stronger than she looks. And she looks really strong."

"I know, Gregor," Zande sighed. "But she really misses him. And it's not right, her being on her own."

* * *

Sometime during that night, Liz Evans, the Queen of Antar, passed away, peacefully in her sleep. When her maid came to waken her that morning, the Queen had the sweetest smile on her face. When Liz's lady in waiting went to find the King, Max and Liz's son, to give him the sad news, she confessed to him while he was weeping, that she had heard Liz say the most extraordinary thing as she went to bed the previous evening.

"What was that?"

"She sat on the edge of the bed," the woman said, "looked off into the distance and smiled. She said, 'This time, it's me coming for you, Max Evans.'"

The lady in waiting told everyone that the King smiled through his tears when he heard that.

Liz was buried, in a ceremony dwarfed only by her husband's, at the only place conceivable, the place she had spent the most of her life. At her husband's side. A statue of the pair entwined, as they had been seen that day on Earth decades ago when Max came out of the desert as if by magic, and they had finally proclaimed their love for one another - had been commissioned, and stood atop their tomb. In generations to come, their tomb would become the shrine for lovers throughout the known cosmos. It would become 'Good Luck' for lovers to kiss in their shadow.

Who can say where the road goes,
Where the day flows?
Only time...

And who can say if your love grows,
As your heart chose?
Only time...

Who can say why your heart sighs,
As your love flies?
Only time...

And who can say why your heart cries,
When your love dies?
Only time...

Who can say when the roads meet,
That love might be,
In your heart.

And who can say when the day sleeps,
The moon still keeps on moving
If the night keeps all your heart?
Night keeps all your heart...

Who can say if your love grows,
As your heart chose?
Only time...

And who can say where the road goes,
Where the day flows?
Only time...

Who knows?
Only time...

Who knows?
Only time...

Only Time[/b]

Legends would be told about the pair of soul mates, and sometimes, the legend was almost as remarkable as the truth.

* * *

On the ship returning to Earth, Diane, Maria, Alexis and Amy were not informed of Liz's death. The King had decided that they would only wish to return, and as Diane had an important function to attend to, and Amy really wanted her child to be born on Earth, he had not allowed the message to be sent to the ship. It wasn't until they reached Earth's orbit that the radio silence was broken.

The women were heartbroken.

When the ship landed on Earth, everyone went their separate ways. Diane and her family travelled on to Roswell and the Antarian Embassy, where they would mourn the loss of their grandmother with Leia and her family. Maria and her family travelled to Miami, where Amy's husband was even now starting to panic that he would miss the birth of his child.

But he needn't have worried. Too much. It was another week before Amy went into labor. It was a difficult week which kept Maria and Alexis busy, looking after her daughter. Maria had hardly any chance to mourn her lost friend, or to even think about her funeral, taking place that very day. Although she did offer up a prayer, and commented to the others, how she would never have guessed in a million years that she would be the last of them.

But now it was time to usher in a new life. Amy was in labor and Alexis seemed to be in an almost constant state of panic. Maria seemed calm and steady. Nothing fazed Maria anymore; she had seen it all.

"I would have thought you'd be in pieces," one of the nurses commented. "You know, your best friend's funeral."

"Been there," Maria shrugged. "Done that."

Amy gave birth to a baby girl on the very day that Liz Parker was buried. She was a tiny little thing and already had a light dusting of dark hair.

"Like her father," Amy smiled, looking up at her husband.

"She kind of looks like Liz did, when she was born," Maria looked on with tear laden eyes. "Well, pictures I saw of her, anyway."

"Then we'll call her Elizabeth," Amy handed the baby to Maria. "After Queen Liz. After your great friend."

"Thank you," Maria placed a kiss on the baby's forehead as tears rolled down her cheeks.

* * *

Two weeks after Elizabeth was born, Diane brought Maxwell to visit. Everyone cooed over the two babies and traded stories about what had been going on, both on Antar as well as Earth. When it was time to put the babies down for their nap, they were each placed at separate ends of a large crib, and both were settled down to sleep.

An hour later, Alexis popped into the room to check on them

"Oh my god!" she emerged from the room with her hand to her mouth. "You guys, come look at this."

Baby Maxwell had managed to 'move' from his end of the crib, and into baby Elizabeth's half. The two babies appeared to be holding hands.

"You know," Diane frowned. "If I didn't know better, I would say they are both smiling. They say that a baby's first smile doesn't happen till they're six to eight weeks old. So Elizabeth couldn't be smiling. Even Maxwell might be pushing it."

"Hey," Amy shook her head. "I know a real smile when I see one."

"Awwww," everyone shook their heads with a beatific smile.

"What's that matter?" Maria popped into the room and shook her head. "Never seen two soul mates reuniting before?"

Everyone turned to look at Maria with incredulous looks on their faces. They then turned to look at the babies with a look of wonderment.

* * *

Maria passed away that very night, peacefully, in her sleep. Like her friend, Liz, she was found in the morning with a sweet and gentle smile on her face. The last of the famous Roswell 'I know an Alien' Club had gone. It was, many said, the end of an era.

But others, those fortunate enough to have romance in their soul, claimed that the important thing here was, that it was the start of a new one.

Last edited by WR on Thu Nov 15, 2007 1:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Itzstacie » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:46 pm

bump congrats on round 14