Five Weeks After Departure
Someone Like Her
Michael raised his brow and stared up at Liz, his hands poised over the laces on his shoe. “Think your reputation can handle you getting caught sneaking into the boys’ locker room?”
It was still entirely too early for most of the student body to have arrived at school for her to get caught, but, even if that were not the case, she had her empathic senses thrown open enough to sense if someone were approaching.
“Yeah, uh… I’m really not worried about…” For a brief instant, she caught herself studying his lips, remembering the kiss and the flashes from the night before… and his offer. Her broken bond, so anxious and restless, had settled itself during the night, but its call was ready to flare to life at the slightest hint of encouragement. "…that."
She broke her intent gaze and forced herself to push the memory away.
And Michael, sensing her need to pull away, returned to the business of tying his shoe.
“Oh, I, uh…” She patted at her pants pocket, then stuck her hand in and pulled out a leather ponytail tie. “I got this for you.” She held it out toward him uncertainly. “You’re hair’s growing longer and the tie looked Antarian. I thought maybe…”
He dropped his foot to the floor and took a look at the gift. “I like it,” he said, interrupting her. “You wanna put it on me?”
Liz bit her lip and stepped around behind him. Their roles had been so clearly defined in the last timeline - his Queen, her General, his wife's best friend, her husband's cousin. But what were they to each other in this one, especially when he had offered - was offering, for she could still feel an undercurrent of predatory feelings from him - to change their roles?
"I’ll tell you what, Evans. You don’t need to have been married to miss that…
You need to bond. You know you do…
I'm more than a title. Didn't you see that?…
It is our way…"
His words had haunted her dreams.
She stood one leg on either side of the bench he sat on. She used her fingers to comb through his hair and scoop it back into a ponytail, smoothing some of the areas with a gentle tug of her mind. Then she took the black leather and, pinning one end with her thumb, wrapped it around and around, finally tying it at the bottom.
But, as was so often the case with both Michael and Rath, more important than their words were the things they did not say…
“Ten years ago?” It was impossible. “I couldn’t have.”
“I a-assure you, you did,” Gudorian stated in all seriousness.
“Me?” she asked again. “You’re sure it was me?”
“Madam, y-you are quite unforgettable,” he sighed. “Is that not right, My Lord?” he asked Michael.
Something in Michael had relaxed as Anapo Gudorian spoke. It was almost as if Michael understood the man’s words and that they made sense to him in a manner that eluded Liz. “It is,” he answered Gudorian.
The recollection slipped away as quickly as it had come and she let her hands fall to rest on his shoulders. “So, uh, when were you gonna tell me?”
He took one of her hands and pulled her around until she stood before him. “Tell you what?” he asked, gazing up at her with his milk chocolate-colored eyes. He stroked the back of her hand with his thumb.
“Well, look, I know that maybe I don’t have time pretzeled, but you certainly seem to have a pretty good grasp of it. Why didn’t you just tell me I was going to, like, have to time travel again?” she asked carefully. Michael and his predecessor Rath were guarded men, even with her, and rightly so. But this – this business of time traveling – was important. It was big. And she would like to know what she could so that she could make some attempt at preparing for it. “I mean, what, do you think I can’t handle it or something? After everything I’ve been through?”
“Liz,” he said, still stroking her hand, “I don’t know any more than you do.”
But Michael was a master at masking his thoughts and emotions and she knew he was holding out on her. “Right.” He might not specifically
know more than her, but she was willing to bet that he had some pretty good guesses, especially since he seemed to telepathically close off part of himself.
“Good. Glad we got that settled,” he spoke. He stood, letting her hand go and pulled a clean shirt from his locker.
“Well, I wouldn’t go right to ‘settled’,” she grumbled.
He pulled the shirt over his head, then he reached into his locker and pulled out a newspaper. “Here.” He handed it to her.
“What’s thi…” Her eyes lit on the cover page article. She sighed. “Oh… boy.”
“Thought you’d like that.” There was an undercurrent of sarcasm in his voice.
“I wouldn’t go right to ‘like’ either,” she grumbled.
Liz paused, suddenly alert, and looked up from the paper, her eyes seemingly seeing through the walls of the locker room. “Max is on campus. He’s looking for you. He’s upset.”
“He’s always upset,” Michael commented. “What does he want?”
“How should I know?” she frowned. “I better go.”
Michael placed his hand on her arm. “Wait. Stay.”
“Yeah, I really don’t think so.”
“I’ll buy you breakfast.”
“Bribery?” She folded the newspaper and stuck it under her arm. “No, thanks. I’m not hungry.” She could read it later.
“I don’t want to eat alone.”
She sighed. She knew he was trying to make sure she ate. “Fine. I’ll meet you in fifteen minutes in the cafeteria.”
Liz made her retreat, heading toward the back door as Max entered the front. She could not help but pause at the door out of sight of Max, curious as to what he had to say. She bit her lip, hand poised over the bar. He might not be her husband in this lifetime, but he looked so similar and his voice was the same and his soulful eyes… She knew how responsible he felt for their small group, knew the tremendous weight he carried on his young shoulders, knew his fears and anxieties and moods better than anyone…
I bet he didn't even sleep last night,
she thought. He probably lay in the dark, staring at the ceiling all night wondering how to make things right.
“Look at this,” she heard Max say without a greeting. He must have handed Michael another newspaper because she heard the sound of paper.
“Seen it,” Michael said.
“Michael, the power company is denying responsibility and now they’re looking at possible alien activity because of the power outage. They know.”
“They don’t know anything.”
She could feel the strain between the two men and the heavy sensations of fear and frustration.
The paper scrunched and crinkled and Liz guessed that Michael had shoved it back at his cousin. Then the locker slammed shut.
“Could we just have a serious conversation for a minute?”
“Had one. Now I’m done.”
Footsteps extended in the opposite direction.
“Come on. We both felt it.”
“Give it up, Maxwell. The author’s a quack. He’s got a full six-pack but he doesn’t have the plastic thing to hold it all together. No one’s going to listen to him.”
“But he interviewed Brody…”
Liz could not listen anymore. Worrying over what Max thought was not going to help her or anyone else. It would only prolong the pain and distract her. She shook her head as if to force thoughts of him from her head and exited the building.
“What?” Liz glanced up from the newspaper article.
Michael sat down in front of her with a tray of food. He handed her a bowl of oatmeal and a spoon, then set a small bottle of Tabasco in front of her along with a package of sugar. “Max heard the door when you left. Now he thinks someone overheard our conversation and might know the truth about us.”
Liz fought an embarrassed smile at the news and lost, so she ducked her gaze and busied herself with seasoning her cereal with the sugar and pepper sauce. “His powers of paranoia just keep growing by leaps and bounds.”
“Too bad they didn’t extend to his wife.”
“True,” she sighed. “So, um, did he have anything to say that wasn’t in the paper?”
“So he has no idea that I’m the… Wait…” She found the spot in the paper she was looking for and read it aloud: “The ‘alien visitor’ whose sole duty, apparently, is to ‘awaken mankind to the presence of extraterrestrial activity on our planet’?”
“That would be a ‘no’.”
Liz nodded and refolded the paper. “I can live with that.”
“You want me to toss that?”
“Oh, no,” Liz said, shoving it into her backpack. “It’s not everyday I get to be in the paper. I’m keeping this one.”
“Eat your food,” he said. He waited for her compliance before asking: “Why are you taking this so well?”
She took a breath. Finally. Maybe now she could get him to talk about going back in time. “I got to thinking last night. Apparently, if Monsieur Fournier has all his marbles, I have a spending ac…”
“What does Fournier have to do with this?”
“Oh, I forgot I didn’t tell you that,” she said. “I stopped by his shop the other day and he had all this music sitting in a box, waiting for me. He said I had asked him to start a collection some years ago and that he was to charge it to my account. Music’s nice but it confused me at the time.
“So, anyway, I was thinking about that and the fact that I had also ‘paid’ Gudorian ten years ago, and I realized something; if I’ve got money to spend and time enough to be courting Pierre-Louis into putting a CD collection together for me, then things can’t be too bad. In fact, it kind of sounds like a vacation compared to all the sneaking around and pretending to be a kid that I’ve been doing here and all the war drama I went through in the other timeline.” Liz shrugged and continued eating.
“I thought you didn’t like to be alone.”
She swallowed the bland oatmeal. (Even with the sugar and Tabasco it was like eating sawdust.) “I won’t be. The Monsieur seemed surprised when I showed up by myself this time, so I gather I have at least one friend back… then.” She was not sure how to end that sentence. How did one speak about the past when it was in actuality your future?
Michael stared at her without comment, taking that bit of news in, but she sensed no surprise from him, only a mental acknowledgment.
“So,” Liz continued, “even assuming that there are repercussions to my, uh… my indiscretion yesterday, which there probably won’t be seeing as how they’re looking for some gray alien with large eyes, I won’t be here long enough to have to face them.”
“How do you figure?”
“Well, neither one of the two people who remember me from ten years ago has commented on my age. That means I must not look much different than I do now, which means I’m probably going to make the move soon.”
She quickly shoved the last couple spoonfuls in her mouth and then stood up. “Well, I gotta go. Isabel’s here and now both
she and Max are looking for you, and Maria is looking for me; and since I’m not in the mood for a group meeting…” She shouldered her backpacks and picked up her trash. Without thought, she leaned across the table and gave him a quick peck on his cheek, then straightened up again. “I’ll see you later. Thanks for breakfast.”
“Coward,” he said. There was amusement in his tone, but his mind was already clouding over as his mental walls rose and blocked out her empathic senses in obvious preparation for whatever Max and Isabel had to say.
“Me?” she said innocently. “That’s not cowardice. It’s a strategic retreat.”
But she thought about it later and wondered a little that she had bothered to kiss his cheek at all. She had often kissed Rath that way and Michael, too, an all-purpose greeting and goodbye, but that was in the other timeline. She had been careful not to be so familiar with this Michael and Rath in this timeline.
It must have been the flashes and Rath’s kiss the evening before, she thought; it was the only explanation. It had unsettled her broken bond and thrown off her frame of mind in the process.
She sighed softly and watched the other students take their seats and get organized. Once they had settled down, Mr. Faulks walked around the room and passed around small containers of Pringles
“Dude! You rock, Mr. Faulks!” Joey Espinoza told him.
“Totally,” Nicole agreed.
“This is tight!” Matt said, turning to high-five Joey. “I totally missed breakfast.”
“Thanks,” Liz said, giving her teacher a smile when he placed her container on the desk.
Mr. Faulks finished passing out the potato crisps and then returned to the front of the classroom. “Morning, class. Feel free to open the chips if you haven’t already done so,” he greeted. “And someone tell me what is unique about Pringles.”
“They’re all the same,” someone called out.
“Exactly. Same ingredients. Same saddle shape. So uniform they can be stacked up in one nice, neat container,” he said.
“And that, my friends, is what people are becoming today: people who don’t think, people who believe what everyone else believes, people who let the media control them. We are living in a society of conformists, where every person is like a Pringle: exactly like the next with very few exceptions.” Mr. Faulks smiled. “Jeff being one of those exceptions. Jeff stand up. Let’s see what you’ve got on today.”
Jeff needed no prompting. He immediately stood up and turned around. Spreading his arms out wide, he made sure that everyone could read the words written on his shirt: “If I compliment your body would you hold it against me?”
The class descended into hysterics.
“Thank you, Jeff. You may sit down now.”
The teacher waited for Jeff to sit and the students to settle down again before continuing. “Now let’s talk about how the media controls and shapes our society…”
As usual Liz only half paid attention, listening with half of her mind and trying to decipher the current timeline with the other half, but she caught enough to gather that the discussion centered around the part of the Bill of Rights granting American citizens freedom of speech. Mr. Faulks was trying to motivate his class to think about what that freedom meant for American citizens in this day and age. Do Americans still have that freedom? Do they exercise that freedom? Or do they, instead, let others think and speak for them, and, if so, who was doing the thinking and speaking?
The media, Liz knew, was a very important feature of, not only American society but of all societies existing on Earth. It was part of the reason humans had lost the war against Khivar; with so many lost lives, there was no one left to manage radio and television stations and no one to write for the newspapers. The Internet was virtually disabled, telephones lay silent and electricity was a thing of the past. Humans were unable to communicate with one another and, without that, they were unable to become a united, single-minded people. Their ability to drive out Khivar and his forces was completely nullified.
At least until Khivar gave her the upoko. Then the words ‘mass communication’ took on a whole new meaning.
“Parker, what do you think?” Mr. Faulks asked, interrupting her thoughts.
“I’m sorry. What was the question?”
“Do we have freedom of speech in this country?”
Liz took a breath to give herself a chance to quickly organize her thoughts. “You know, there’s really no yes or no answer to that question, Mr. Faulks,” she said. “I mean, the Bill of Rights grants us freedom of speech as a basic human right, but do we really have it? Legally we do, but there’s, uh… there’s not that many people who choose to exercise that freedom. And of those who do, they are often publicly ostracized, belittled by the media, and sometimes they just disappear, like, uh…” She paused, searching her mind for a name that would be well recognized by the teens sitting around her. “Well, like Martin Luther King Jr.
“In our society,” she continued, “we don’t like people who are different. We buy products because we’ve seen them on television commercials. We shop at the same stores all our friends shop at. We tend to automatically trust attractive people because movies present beautiful people as trustworthy, as successful, even as heroes. Almost every child in this country attends public school, even when there are other options. We believe that the stronger our military is and the more power our police force has, the safer we are as citizens. And these are all things that are taught to us by the media.
“So, yes, we have freedom of speech, but the vast majority of American citizens do not exercise it because it doesn’t occur to them to do so. They are taught to think and behave in a certain way and that is what they do.”
“Very good points. Now let’s expand on Miss Parker’s analysis,” he said.
Mr. Faulks turned on the overhead projector and place a transparency on the glass. A copy of the news article dealing with the electrical outage the day before appeared at the front of the room.
Liz brought her hand up to cover her mouth and hide her surprise.
“Now here is an interesting article that came to my attention this morning that centers on Miss Parker’s café. Here is an example of someone – one of the very rare someone’s – who is exercising his freedom of speech. The author of this article is a Mister Heaton who claims that the outage was a government conspiracy!
“According to Mr. Heaton, the government is working hand in hand with extraterrestrials to advance Earth’s technology and scientific understanding. The events of yesterday were nothing more than one of those aliens trying to bring attention to that fact and let the common man know about this incredible government cover-up.”
Mr. Faulks paused and waited for the snickers to stop. “Freedom of speech,” he said. “We have the right to say anything we like, but does that make it true?”
He glanced around his classroom. “What do you think really happened?” Pointing to the far corner of the room, he called: “James.”
“I think it was the electric company’s fault,” James shrugged.
“The electric company is denying responsibility,” the teacher said. “Anyone have any other ideas? Yes, Matt.”
“What if they’re telling the truth? Are there any other possibilities? Could this be a government conspiracy and cover-up as the article says?” No one raised their hand. “Could Mr. Heaton be onto something?” he tried again.
When he was still unable to get a response he called on Liz. “Miss Parker, it’s your café. What do you think?”
Liz smiled and said tongue in cheek: “Well, I guess that depends on if you believe in aliens, sir.”
The class laughed.
Mr. Faulks smiled back. “Tell me something, Miss Parker. Do you believe in aliens?”
Her smile grew. It was a loaded question and she knew he was baiting her, but then she was a young woman whose parent’s livelihood was dependent upon the alien spaceship crash of 1947. What did she have to lose by telling the truth? “Yes, I do,” she answered without hesitation.
The class laughed even harder.
“And do you think aliens caused this?” he pushed.
Liz laughed herself then. “Okay, I know when I’m being used to make a point,” she said. “Look, if I say ‘yes, I believe this was caused by aliens’, everyone in here is going to laugh at me and make fun of me. And I know that so, even if that’s what I believe, I’m going to have second thoughts about actually publicly admitting that.
“And, of course, you know that too. You know
this is how the individual human psyche works. You know
this is how human society as a group functions,” she told him. “You can use what the vast majority – in this case, your class – thinks to control the decisions and beliefs of the minority – in this instance, me.
“And, so, naturally, I’m going to tell you what I think you and the rest of the class wants to hear. And because you have now coerced me into saying it, I’m probably going to follow through and begin to believe what all the rest of you believe, even though I know better.”
Her teacher smiled conspiratorially. “So, tell me, Liz. Do you think aliens caused this?”
But as soon as he finished asking the question, the bell rang and the room erupted in chaos. “All right, class,” Mr. Faulks spoke above the noise, “we’ll continue this discussion tomorrow.”
Students filed from the classroom on their way to third period.
Liz stood up and shouldered her bag. “Hey, Parker,” Mr. Faulks said. “You never answered my question.”
Liz laughed. “Mr. Faulks, I attend public high school. I know there are aliens here. I go to school with them.”
Nancy entered the back of the CrashDown with an armload of groceries and was immediately assaulted by yet another argument between Michael and Maria.
"No, I want an explanation," Maria demanded. "Max said that…"
"I'm not interested in what Max had to say," Michael bit out, cutting her off.
Nancy let the door shut behind her. She took a steadying breath.
Liz, Max, Isabel, Kyle, Maria and Michael - the slowly dwindling little clique her daughter was in had so many problems, not the least of which was the suicide of Alex, the infidelity of Max, the drug addiction and pregnancy of Tess, and the unstable on-again off-again relationship of Michael and Maria. What was it that drew these particular kids together when it seemed to Nancy that they were so very different from one another? And why, when they had so many, many problems, did they keep clinging to each other? It made no sense at all.
"Why? 'Cause you're not going to be here in ten years?" came Maria's chastising voice. "By the way, is that just you or is that all of you, because Max didn't seem to know…?"
"I'm not rehashing this," he said. "I have work to do."
"Don't walk away from me," she ordered.
No, Nancy thought, no sense at all.
Liz's voice startled Nancy from behind. She glanced back at her daughter. "Where were y…?"
"Do you want some help with that?" Liz interrupted.
"Oh, no, but thank you." She started quickly, then rethought her words. "Well, maybe you could open our door."
"Sure." Liz tucked her thumb under the strap of her backpack and moved ahead of Nancy and up the stairs to their apartment. She opened the door and held it open for her mother.
As Nancy padded softly across the living room she casually asked: "So what's going on with Michael and Maria this time?" She knew Liz did not like to confide in her - she had not in a long time - but sometimes if Nancy caught her off-guard or asked her something matter-of-factly she got an answer.
Liz did not answer her right away and, when Nancy set her groceries down on the kitchen counter and turned toward her daughter, she saw Liz looking curiously at her. "Liz?"
"Oh, uh…" Her words seemed to pull her daughter out of her reverie and Liz shut the door. "I… I really don't know. Uh, Michael never said anything and Maria's been…"
Suddenly Liz spun toward Nancy. "You don't limp."
"I don't…" What? Nancy wondered. "Honey, why would I limp?"
"You were in an accident, weren't you?" Liz asked intently, a frown creasing her brow.
Nancy shook her head. "I've never…"
"When I was little," Liz insisted. "God, I don't know. I… I think I was about seven." She rubbed her fingers over her forehead as if she were confused. "I can't remember. It's been so long…"
"Honey, I've never been in an accident."
"Never?" Liz asked.
Again Nancy shook her head. "Maybe it was a dream?"
"A dream," she said softly. "Wouldn't that be something?"
"What do you mean?"
But Liz dropped her hand from her head and her eyes from her mother's face. "I need to go take a shower."
She took a few steps toward her bedroom under Nancy's concerned, watchful gaze before Nancy stopped her. "Honey, where were you?"
Liz stopped and once again looked at her mother with a puzzled expression on her face.
"You come home late everyday," she explained. "Where do you go after school?"
"I work out."
"Every day?" Nancy questioned.
Liz nodded. "After school."
"It's seven o'clock," Nancy stated. "You didn't work out for four hours."
"No, I, uh…" She hesitated. "I went to Euphonies after I worked out today."
"The music store?"
Again, Liz seemed to hesitate. "I wanted to play the piano."
"Are you taking lessons?"
"No, I…" She swallowed. "I play, Mom."
"I don't understand."
"I'm good." She gave a small smile. "I'll show you someday. You'll be surprised." Liz pointed toward her bedroom. "I'm gonna go…"
Piano? "Yeah, hon, go take a shower," she said absently, trying in vain to pull her thoughts together.
As Liz walked away, she thought over the strange exchange between Liz and Michael that had occurred more than a month earlier:
"Mom, where's grandma's piano?"
"Liz," Michael warned under his breath, but Nancy still caught his tone.
"But wasn't it there…?" Liz asked Michael. She pointed at the wall.
He shook his head no. Of course, how he knew was beyond Nancy. She could not remember Michael having ever crossed their threshold.
Liz stood, looking completely confused. "But I used to play…"
Michael shook his head again, and Nancy saw him press his hand against the small of Liz's back and give her a gentle nudge toward the door.
Liz smiled then at her mother as if nothing were amiss, though Nancy was quick to notice the smile did not quite reach her eyes, and said: "School. Gotta go." She gave a small wave as she exited. "Bye."
But before the door closed all the way, Nancy heard Liz say: "I don't understand. I've played the piano all my life. How could this time…?"
Nancy pulled her groceries out of the bags one by one and set them on the counter. She listened for the sound of the shower, waiting for it to turn on.
Piano? She wondered again. Could Liz really play?
It made about as much sense as anything else: Liz's troubled friends, her frightening computer, the strange symbols in her notebook, her depression and absentmindedness… and now, memories of things that had never happened and claims of talents she should not have… "What is going on?" she whispered. How did all the pieces fit?
There had been a sickening dread in the pit of her stomach ever since she had discovered the computer. She had worried before - typical worries of a mother over a beloved child that was growing up too fast and having to cope with the great losses of those close to her, namely her grandmother Claudia and her dear friend Alex. But the events of the day before - the nauseating holographic computer program and the disappearance of Liz during the earth-shaking electrical outage, which her daughter claimed not to have felt (thank goodness Michael had been able to find her) - well, things just weren't adding up, at least not in any way that made sense.
She rubbed her stomach but the gnawing sensation did not abate. She had the dreadful feeling that all of this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Only that morning she had given Liz's school a call and spoken with a counselor. "I just wanted to know she's okay," she said to herself, recalling the conversation. "But she's not. She's not okay."
Liz had dropped out of all
her extracurricular activities more than a year ago
. She still had all her college prep classes and she was still making straight A's and her teachers had nothing but good things to say about her, but she was no longer treasurer of the Roswell Science Club and was no longer a member of the Environmental Awareness Club or the National Honor Society. Those things were important to her… had been important to her. She had fought to be a part of them and worked so hard to make a difference. Why would she quit them? And the fact that she had done so more than a year prior brought recent events into an entirely new light.
But how was Nancy to find out the truth? There were no easy ear-marks of a typical troubled child in her daughter - drug abuse, cutting, strange piercings, tattoos, poor grades, loss of interest in life… By all appearances Liz was a happy, motivated young lady. But what Nancy was beginning to realize was that Liz was extremely skilled at making people see what she wanted them to see and at hiding want she wanted to keep secret. And since Liz did not confide on her mother,… well, how was Nancy to figure these things out?
"She's too smart," Nancy murmured. "She outthinks all of us." The dread in the pit of her stomach seemed to grow exponentially at the thought. "What am I going to do?"
Liz slipped into a T-shirt and sweat pants.
She ran a comb through her wet hair and pulled it back into a ponytail, then dried it with a thought.
She studied her face in the mirror. "I look so young," she said softly. Absently, she traced her fingers around where her wedding ring used to be.
"I hardly recognize myself." It was spoken in little more than a whisper. With her eyes, hair and skin taking on a slightly darker, more Antarian coloring she did not look quite like the young girl whose face she was used to seeing staring back at her from the mirror. The changes were minor and probably not readily noticeable to the rest of the world - at least, no one had commented on it - but she saw it. Then again, maybe she was just sensitive. Maybe she was looking for the changes. After all, in the last time line she was a 30-year-old woman, and now she was just a child.
And then she gave a soft, whispered laugh at the irony of it all. She was never going to get used to being a kid again.
She bent to tidy up her towel and dirty clothes from the bathroom floor when she suddenly felt a gentle, hesitant tap at her mind. Her hands paused, poised over the mess, surprised that he had come. Then leaving the mess where it lay, she grabbed her bathrobe and, throwing it on over her clothes, she went back to her room.
"Kiaha," she greeted softly aloud at the feline on her bed, even as mentally she opened her mind to him, allowing a shallow telepathic connection to form.
She felt his apprehension, his uncertainty over her willingness to yet again connect with him
, a shapeshifter. But she had no such doubts herself. He was not the terrifying monster that haunted her dreams from the past; instead there was a purposeful greatness that seemed to emanate about him.
His protectiveness of the grieving Gudorian impressed her, as did Gudorian's implicit trust in him. Tu locuiesca urangi,
she telepathed gently. /I trust you./
/You are loyal./ she said simply.
She half expected him to purr, so please was he, but he just sat and stared.
She opened the connection wider.
Pemba sempra ur? Gungari tayu tiwi Anapo Gudorian?
she asked. /Why are you here? Has something happened to Anapo Gudorian?/
Gudorian idada. Tayu cheono poria nui ur.
/Gudorian is fine. He has sent you something./
An impression of the "something" entered her mind. A gift. Small computer pieces, the names and functions of which had not an English equivalent, that were to be installed into the inner workings of her computer. They had been attached to the inside of Kiaha's collar.
She smiled at him. Veda.
She knelt on the floor to bring herself down to his level and sat silently waiting. He was thinking - obscured, deep thoughts that were hidden from her. It was so unusual for a shapeshifter (usually their black and white thoughts were so much on the surface of their mind that she saw them whether she wanted to or not) but it was not the case with Kiaha; it was as if he was intentionally holding back from her. Yet she still felt that she trusted him and she did not want to disturb whatever was going on in his furry head.
Ur ota Gudorian kokua. Urono amkeni napali. Pemba?
he said at last. /You are as sad and lonely as Gudorian. Why?/
Liz sensed that the question was important to him, but the words weren't easy to find so it took her a moment to answer. Finally she told him: Iyotaki socair odogeni ota Ellaminia tu heru sempra. Wai bissau Ellaminia sitam parsa'a ta kilwa. Oai tu munye tiboro. Oai Khivar sucomni. Uri tu wanosope.
/I come from another timeline, another Earth. I am the only survivor. All of my people are dead, everyone I ever loved. Khivar killed them all./
Awaawa tu alitu,
she continued, juha tjananu ta kilwa. Kalitupe ta cortol.
/I was married but my mate is dead, too. My bond is broken./
He regarded her for a moment, again with thoughts so deep that they were hidden from her.
She heard tapping on her door and then her mother entered without waiting with an armful of clean laundry.
She gasped softly when she saw the cat. "Lizzie," she said sternly.
Kiaha turned his head and the two of them stared silently at Nancy.
Nupia parev va?
/Who is this woman?/ Kiaha demanded of Liz.
Ifuono ano ta, Nancy Parker.
/She is my mother, Nancy Parker./
"Why is there a cat in the house?"
Amar indal ifu?
Kiaha asked. /What does she know?/
"Mom, this is Kiaha," she introduced. "He came to bring me something for my computer. He won't be here long."
Okoro ta allergic cats,
she telepathed. /My father is allergic to cats./
he returned. /I see./
Teltel iotia kiesuala macapa tu arha?
/May I take your collar to the light?/
Instead of answering, Kiaha strode across the bed and made a leap across to the dresser. Nancy took a step backward. And Liz rose and followed behind him.
"Honey," Nancy said looking at Kiaha with a frown on her face, "he can't be here at all."
Kiaha grumbled. /Humans./
/I know./ Her mother had seemed as if she had not heard Liz's words at all. It seemed to be a psychological trait of humans, this ignoring of unusual words and sights and sounds. In the human mind it was as if it had never happened. She supposed that telling her mother that a cat had brought something to her was just… well, weird. Still…
"I know that, Mom, but," and she pulled the computer Gudorian had given her from the shelf in her closet and set it on the dresser next to Kiaha, "the things he brought me are embedded into his collar and he can't leave until I get them out."
She opened her empathic ability slightly so that she could get a sense of her mother's state of mind - her mother, who stood with her mouth slightly open and a dumbfounded expression on her face. She felt Kiaha's surprise as she did so and her mother's apprehension, fear, and confusion flooded though.
he exclaimed. /You're an empath!/
"Did you know that cats are smarter than dogs?" Liz asked as she gently removed the collar from around Kiaha's neck. She needed to misdirect the focus of the conversation.
"I heard that but…"
"Calico, California. I don't know if you've ever heard of that," Liz said. She set the collar on her dresser and opened her drawer. "It's a ghost town now, but in the old west days it used to be a bustling silver mining town with stores and a school, a fire brigade, a saloon, a Chinese laundry…" She ruffled through her things until she felt the tweezers. She took them out and shut the drawer.
"I've been there once," Nancy told her. She was still standing with the armful of laundry. "My dad took us on vacation to California when I was small to visit some relatives. Calico was one of the stops we made."
"I didn't know that." Liz paused and looked at her mother. "Why don't you set that down on my bed?"
"Oh." Nancy laid the clean clothes down next to her. "What exactly are you doing?"
"Just removing the pieces." As if her words had reminded her, she turned back to her dresser and removed the shade from her lamp, then set to work to remove the tiny computer pieces from the inside of the collar.
"So, in 1883, a dog - a border collie, I think - appeared in Calico," Liz continued. "He was thin and starving and footsore. He was adopted by Mr. Stacey, who was the mail carrier. Mr. Stacey fell in love with the dog and ended up taking the dog everywhere as he made his deliveries.
"Well, one day, after months of taking the dog with him, Mr. Stacey fell ill, so he rigged up a harness with small saddlebags for the dog and stuffed the mail into the bags, and he sent the dog on his way." Liz pried one of the small computer pieces off the collar and set it to the side. She could feel her mother relaxing, despite the fact that her confusion was growing. Liz knew she must be wondering where the conversation was headed. "The dog actually went out and delivered the mail. They say, when he got back, he strutted around like nobody's business, he was so proud."***
Liz pried off another piece and set it near the first one. "Now if a dog can do that and a cat is said to be smarter than a dog, maybe you can understand why Kiaha is here." Liz plucked the last piece carefully from the collar and set it down.
Gently, Liz took the collar and refitted it about Kiaha's throat. Es amar xoyan dopa'a paren? Amar?
/What do I do with these pieces?/
Black and white images entered her mind through her connection to Kiaha, instructions as to how to install the small computer bits into the computer.
"So, this cat…" Nancy began.
"Kiaha," Liz corrected softly.
"Kiaha," Nancy repeated. "It brought you these?"
"He. And yes." Liz could feel her mother mentally struggling to suspend disbelief.
Liz pulled the computer closer to her and turned it over. She felt Nancy's anxiety spiked momentarily at her action. Beside her, Kiaha's ears twitched at the sensation. "Don't worry," she said without a glance a her mother. "I won't turn on the holographic matrix with you here. I just need to install the new pieces into the machine."
Surprise, guilt, and shock rippled through the empathic connection. (Kiaha continued to twitch.) "Honey, I…" Nancy began.
"No. Mom…" Liz shook her head. "Look, I mean no disrespect." She blew out a soft breath and then glanced up at her mother. "This computer is one of most advanced computers in the world and it is written in a language you could not possibly hope to understand…"
"Tsekuatl, but that's not the point," she said. "You know, you can't just go pushing buttons or dropping it on the floor…"
Beside her Kiaha laid his ears back and hissed, the first truly cat-like thing she had seen him do.
"It's okay," she was quick to reassure him. "It's not damaged."
"Liz, it made me sick!" Nancy complained.
Liz scrubbed her fingers through her hair. "Yeah, I'm really not surprised," she mumbled.
She turned around and started to pace, then changed her mind and sat down on her bed instead. She patted the bed next to her. "Sit down," she invited.
Nancy, her concern growing by the minute, took the invitation and sat next to Liz. "Honey, what is going on?"
Liz stared at the floor for a moment, trying to decide what to say. Whatever her mother thought she knew, she didn't. She was in the dark and Liz would keep her that way. To protect Michael and the Granolith and the identity of the Ambassador, it was necessary.
"Lizzie?" Nancy prompted.
She sighed and reached for her mother's hand. She took it in hers and clung to it. Meeting her eyes, she asked: "What do you think it going on, Mom? What terrible thing do you think is happening that you have to go snooping through my things?"
"Snooping?" Nancy said in exasperation. "Honey, you are not yourself. You quit all your after school activities. You're depressed. You have secrets. You're absentminded. And it's not just you; your friends are falling apart too. Something is going on. I'd have to be blind not to see that."
"I see." Liz gave a slight nod. "So, you think that something beyond normal teenage drama and the grief over the death of our friend, Alex, is the problem."
"I know it is," she said. The emotional tension emanating from her was palpable.
Across from her, on the dresser, Kiaha was twitching again. The high-running emotions must have been overloading his senses since he was used to the sensory deprivation programmed into him by his genetics, and yet she could also sense that there was a part of him that was enjoying the forbidden sensations.
Again, Liz gave a small nod. "And you know this because…?"
"Why did you quit the after school programs?" Nancy asked instead.
"We all have to grow up sooner or later. The dreams I had as a child… they're gone. They don't interest me anymore," she answered simply.
"Why? What interests you now?"
"What is that?"
"Shapes. It's what the computer is for."
"Explain that to me."
"There's nothing to explain," Liz said. "I'm studying specialized types of polytopes. It's a mathematically complicated science that requires a very complicated, advanced computer. I managed to acquire what I needed from a pawnshop on the other side of town. It's foreign but it does what I want."
"How did you learn to read that language and why are you learning about those shapes?" Nancy pushed.
"I speak a lot of languages…"
"Lizzie," her mother interrupted in disbelief.
Kiaha made a small noise that sounded sort of like a meow, attracting Liz's attention. Lo aundi ifu nkosi kayam hatli kolo hualqui nui su esdla. Watoto utem cona nolog su?
he asked. /If she does not plan on listening then you should not waste your time talking to her. You do not plan to tell her the truth, do you?/
/No./ There was a part of Liz that wanted
to tell her mother the truth - all of it - just to get her approval, just to make things right between them, But there was another part of her that knew better, that knew that her mother would never accept the truth as truth or feel okay with it.
Napai hatli undrea aua cona conseveda tlama.
/Let us better use our time by working on the computer./
"All I want is the truth," Nancy said, pulling Liz's attention back to her.
Liz gave a gentle shake of her head. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Try me," her mother encouraged.
"I just did," she answered very softly.
Liz slipped her hand away from her mother's and patted the other woman's knee. "It's all right. I need to get this done so Kiaha can go home."
She rose from the bed.
"No." Nancy rose with her and grabbed hold of her arm. "Don't shut me out. Don't keep secrets from me."
"Mom, don't you remember what it was like to be sixteen? Trying to figure out who you are? Who you want to be? What the future holds?" Liz asked. "I mean, remember when Matthew Winters asked you to the dance and you said yes and then you were scared because you'd never kissed a boy before?"
A funny expression crossed her mother's face.
"What would it feel like? Would you like it? What if your Dad found out that you had failed Economics and grounded you and you never got to find out because you didn't get to go to the dance?" Liz continued. The story was so clear in her head. All of her mother's stories were. She knew them all by heart, having heard them time and time again as she sat on her mother's bed, the two of them snuggled together while her mother recalled memories of her childhood to pass the time and Liz listened so that her mother would forget the pain she was in.
"And then you never got the chance to find out because you cancelled yourself… because your dad didn't get out of the field quick enough when the lightening storm rolled in. After he died it was like your whole world collapsed…" Nancy's grip on Liz tightened slightly and Liz could a strange sense of wonder and confusion growing again. She paused not understanding why.
"I remember but…" And Nancy trailed off, as if, in her uncertainty, she could not find the right words to say.
So Liz attempted to fill in the empty space. "Well, multiply the sorrows and disappointments and excitement and uncertainty of your childhood by a thousand and you have my life," she said. "Life is so much harder for kids now than it ever was before. Economic instability, terrorism, drugs, high divorce rates… Things just aren't like they used to be and you can't expect them to be. I swear, Mom, science is what keeps me stable, you know? Because with science all you have are the facts. You don't have to deal with ifs or maybes or whys. You have
the answers. You have
the truth. And you are in total control."
"I know that but…"
"And that," she explained, gesturing toward her computer with her free hand, "is what this is all about. It doesn't matter that the lives of the people around me are falling apart or that, you know, maybe my life isn't what I would like it to be, because I have science and it makes me feel good.
"You know," Liz continued, "you can question this all you want and you can imagine that there is some terrible thing going on and I can't stop you from believing all that. All I can tell you is that whatever you think
is going on, Mom… it isn't." She shook her head. "It isn't."
It all sounded so normal that Nancy felt an insatiable need to buy into the fantasy Liz was painting for her, but then she looked at the twitching delivery cat sitting on the dresser and the frightening computer it sat next to and she knew - knew beyond a shadow of a doubt - that there was something very not-normal
She also knew that she was never going to get her daughter to admit to it. Liz was too smart to be cornered into admitting the truth by words alone. She was going to have to find some other way into coercing her to give up her secrets.
She dropped her hand from Liz's arm. "All right," she said. It was not a concession, only an acknowledgment that she was not going to get any further that night. "Go fix your computer."
"And about the cat…"
"Kiaha. He'll leave when I'm done," her daughter assured her, correcting her mother's reference to him.
"Okay." Nancy turned around to leave Liz's room, then had a second thought and turned back around in the doorway. "By the way, I never told you about Matthew Winters."
Liz looked utterly confused. "You must have."
"No," Nancy denied. "I didn't."
“I don’t understand, Iz,” he said as his sister read the notes Liz and he had written to each other a week prior. For days he had debated on whether or not to show his sister or keep it private, but, after the strange feel of alien power that had caused the electrical outage and Michael’s total unconcern, he had finally decided that he needed her opinion and her help. “I mean, she’s right about us not asking questions when we have the opportunity but I feel like she’s holding something back. She knows too much.”
“She knows more about us than we know about ourselves,” Isabel agreed. She had noticed that for some time – in fact, ever since the dupes had come into town.
“A lot more.”
Isabel handed the paper back to Max. “Maybe she can’t tell you.” Max looked like he was going to disagree, but Isabel kept talking. “Maybe it’s because of Tess. Maybe she’s afraid that Tess can read your mind because of the bond.”
“No,” Max denied quickly. “I don’t let her. I can feel Tess all the time. I have an awareness of her, but I can’t read her thoughts and I don’t let her get close enough to me to take a chance on her reading mine.”
“What if she did it and then mind warped you into not remembering? I mean if she used that upoko…”
“I don’t know,” he said. He really did not want to think about Tess right then. In fact he would rather not think about her for the rest of his life. It was Liz that he loved, Liz that he continued to be concerned about. “I just think Liz knows more than she should.”
“Agreed, but that’s not exactly a crime and there’s not a whole lot we can do about it. We can’t force her to talk.”
“But what if she made friends with… I don’t know… a Michael worshipper or something? Someone who has their own agenda?” Max asked. “What if she’s in danger and doesn’t realize it or what if she’s telling them things that could put us in danger? I mean, whoever caused the power outage was obviously near the Crashdown, possibly even inside the Crashdown from what I saw.”
Isabel wasn’t pleased with the turn of his thoughts but she was reasonable enough to understand Max’s concern. And she had no problem with his request that she dream walk Liz.
Only the dream she finally managed to stumble on not only did not answer their questions, but it managed to increase their concerns.
”Well?” Dream Max asked. He was different than how Isabel was used to seeing her brother; his hair was longer and he wore black leather and he looked older. And tired. He was hovering protectively over Liz, who was sitting on a stool and staring into a large microscope.
Next to her were several slides, each containing a drop of some dark substance.
Off to the right hovered a small Gandarium queen. It bobbled slightly in place and its little tentacles flowed loosely like a jellyfish.
“I’d say it’s conclusive,” Liz replied without looking up from the eyepiece. “The Gandarium was the catalyst.”
“Is there any danger this could hurt you?”
Liz straightened and Isabel could see Liz’s profile for the first time. Her hair was shorter and layered – not an attractive look for her, Isabel decided. It aged her. “The chemical changes in my cells seem to be progressing normally, you know, as far as chemical changes go, and my new hybrid cells don’t appear to be much different from yours. I’m guessing I’m fine.”
Isabel blinked in surprise. Was Liz dreaming about being like them? Was that what she subconsciously wanted or was it just some random thought pattern?
A quirky smile appeared on Max’s face. He reached out and tenderly touched her cheek. “You’re just like me.”
“Yeah.” Liz gazed lovingly into his eyes, in such a manner that made Isabel feel uncomfortable. “I’m just like you.”
The scurry of a small, dark creature racing into the room broke the dreamy couple apart. Following closely behind were Maria and Michael. “Buddy, heel!” Michael called.
“You named it Buddy?” Liz asked, turning on her stool to greet her friends.
“I know. I know,” Maria sighed and rolled her eyes. She, too, looked different. Sporting a hairstyle like Liz’s and a black blouse and pants set covered in strange black webbing, she looked out of place. “It’s right up there with Fluffy.”
“Hey, I’ll have you know he likes the name,” Michael said. His hair was long and pulled back into a ponytail, which was tied with a leather cord. Like Max, he was clad in black leather and appeared to have aged.
Why were they all in black?
Isabel took a closer look at the creature as it did a 180 and went and planted itself at Michael’s feet. It was small, like a chicken, but definitely reptilian. A small dinosaur? Isabel wondered. Where had it come from? And why did it seem so familiar?
“Of course he does,” Maria said tongue in cheek as Michael bent down and scratched the small creature along its neck ridges.
Michael then rose and crossed the room purposefully to stand next to Liz and Max. “So, what’s the verdict?”
“Human/Antarian hybrid, courtesy of the Gandarium,” Liz said seriously as if saying such a thing concerning herself were perfectly normal. She turned the microscope slightly so that Michael could view the results for himself.
Michael glanced only briefly into the eyepiece. “Good,” he relied, not at all upset by what he saw. He rested his hand companionably on her shoulder. “Then you will serve as our fourth.”
Fourth what? Isabel wondered.
Liz shook her head. She crossed her hand over to set it atop of Michael’s and looked up into his eyes. “We’ve been over this. You need Tess. She’s part of your four square.”
What on earth? Isabel thought in exclamation points. Liz hated Tess. How could she feel anything different in her dreams?
“She’s not here. You are,” he told her. “You’ll have to take her place.”
“We probably don’t stand much of a chance either way,” Max said. He was addressing Michael. He looked strained and his eyes were sad.
They all looked sad – all of them – even though their words seemed light and casual.
“That’s why I’m going to start training her right away,” Michael told him.
“Agreed,” Max said.
Suddenly Isabel felt a strange sensation. The dream seemed to expand like balloon and then condense. The room and people disappeared until only blackness remained between Liz and her. Prickles rippled across her mind, flowing currents of outrage. She saw Liz looking right at her.
“Get out of my head!” Liz growled. “I didn’t invite you. You have no business here.”
Liz extended her hand and Isabel felt herself shoved forcefully from Liz’s dream.
Isabel gasped and sat up abruptly in bed.
“What is it?” Max asked. “What did you see?”
“She knew I was there,” Isabel said, feeling herself in a state of shock. “She shouldn’t have but somehow she did, and she pushed me out of her dream.” She looked at her brother. “And Max? I think she has powers.”
Liz looked at her phone’s caller ID for the sixth time since her dream had been invaded, then tossed it onto her bed next to her backpack. “Four in the morning, Max. Four. Grab a clue. If I wanted to talk to you I would have answered by now,” she grumbled to herself.
Liz was smudging lipstick on with her ring finger when her cell phone rang yet again. “Smart, smart girl, Liz,” she told her reflection in the locker room mirror with a sigh. “Just use your powers in front of Isabel. Nothing like making a grand announcement.”
She dropped her hand and stared at herself. “I’m not gonna get any peace today, am I?”
“Okay,” Nancy said to herself. “Let’s see what that does.” She hit enter and waited for the search engine results.
Sixteen pawnshops immediately showed up. Twelve were outside of Roswell, so they were immediately discarded as possibilities, but four were within the Roswell city limits. And, of those four, two were downtown which, again, made them easily discarded.
Two. That left two possibilities: Discount City USA Army Navy Supply and Dragon Pawn. This was going to be easier than she thought.
She knew she had found the right shop as soon as she spotted the cat, Kiaha, eyeing her warily from the counter, his ears laid flat against his head and his tail whipping irritably.
From the back of the store came a man, whom looked to be in his fifties. He looked Native in his coloring and in the way he had pulled his long black hair back into a ponytail, tied with a leather cord. “Yes. Yes, I’m coming.”
The man noticed Nancy as he approached. “Hello, Ma’am. Is there anything…” he said, pausing half-way through his standard greeting. He stopped and looked at his cat. “Oh, she is, is she?” he asked Kiaha. Then turning back to Nancy he asked: “You’re Liz’s mother, hm?”
“Yes, I am,” Nancy replied dryly. “You talk to your cat?”
“His name is Kiaha,” the man said.
“So I heard,” she replied, again wondering what the importance of the name was. “He was at my house last night.”
“Yes, I sent him.”
Nancy frowned, more than a little disturbed at the thought of a fifty-year-old man dropping off his cat at her home for a visit with her teenage daughter.
The man reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a small bag. He handed it to Kiaha, whom took hold of it in his mouth. “Please take that to Mrs. Windermere on 234 Lancaster Street, would you, Kiaha?”
Kiaha made a small sound and then jumped from the counter. He darted passed Nancy, out the open door and down the sidewalk.
Nancy watched Kiaha scuttle away. “He understands?” she asked.
“He’s no ordinary cat,” the man said with a shrug.
“I see that,” she said, returning her attention to the man in front of her, whom hopefully held more clues to the puzzle that was Liz. “May I ask your name?”
“Anapo Gudorian, Mrs. Parker,” he said. “How may I help you?”
She raised her brow at the use of her name, unnerved that he knew it without being properly introduced, but decided to remain focused on her purpose for going to see him. “I came to ask about Liz’s computer.”
“Ah, marvelous piece of work, isn’t it?”
“She said it’s one of the most advanced technology on earth.”
Gudorian smiled. “Yes, well, someone like her deserves the very best,” he said. “I suppose she told you I made it myself?”
“Indeed. It’s a funny thing.” He turned to look across the store, but at what Nancy was unable to ascertain. All she saw was a painting of a dragon in flight on the wall. “If she had never died, I might never have known.”
“That I was a technopath.”
The word sounded slightly obscene. Was that anything like a sociopath? “A what?”
“Ah,” he said, looking at Nancy again, “that’s what Liz calls me. Apparently, it’s a term that won’t be coined by Disney
for another few years.” He reached for a box that lay on the counter near the spot Kiaha had sat on, lifted the lid and held it out to Nancy. “Chocolate covered peanuts?”
She looked at the box askew, noting that the nuts had not even been shelled. “Uh, no, thank you,” she said. “So, how exactly did you meet my daughter?”
Gudorian set the box of peanuts back on the counter. “Now, that is a long story, but suffice it to say that I met her for the first time in December and she met me for the first time about two weeks ago.”
“Well, like I said, it’s a long story. So, what did you want to know about the computer?”
Nancy breathed out a soft sigh. Did anyone give straightforward answers anymore? “What’s it for?” she asked.
“Calculus?” Liz had told her she was using it for the study of polytopes. Nancy narrowed her eyes as she tried to decide if she believed him or not. “And why is my daughter studying calculus?”
“Why are you asking me?” he countered. "Haven't you asked the A.." He cleared his throat. "Shouldn't you be asking your daughter that?"
“I did, but she's a teenager and doesn't like to confide in her parents anymore,” she complained softly to the stranger before her.
"Yes, such is the sad commentary on the disrespect of your Western culture," Gudorian said.
Nancy was not quite certain what he meant, but she was not about to pursue that line conversation, choosing instead to focus on learning what she could about her daughter. “Uh, look, the other day I turned her computer on…”
“Don’t touch her computer,” Gudorian interrupted.
Nancy put her hands on her hips. “Well, why not?”
“It wasn’t designed for someone like you.” He narrowed his eyes slightly and studied her closely. “Your brain isn’t capable of processing the information stored in it. And, even if it was, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
“I’m aware of that and that’s not really the point,” she said irritably. “I saw this… this… shape, I guess, with no form.”
“Did you get sick?”
“Yes, I did. How did you…?”
“Excellent. Excellent,” he interrupted again.
“What’s excellent about it?” The man was becoming more irritating by the second.
He looked at her piercingly. “You really don’t know, do you?”
“You poor thing. What must it be like to be the mother of someone like her and to not know what you have?”
“I don’t understand.”
The revolving form spun on its axis in front of her, jewel-like faceted colors moving sinuously over it – colors of beryls and rubies and topaz and emeralds. But the higher and lower spectrums that should have been there were noticeably absent.
“Where’d you go?” the voice on the other end of the line asked.
“Yeah, uh…” Liz laughed softly. “I ditched school. I’m at your apartment.”
“You are?” Michael asked. His voice was deceptively soft, betraying none of the amusement and pleased feelings that Liz could sense from him.
“Yeah, I didn’t have anywhere else to go and I’m sort of avoiding Max and Isabel today,” she admitted.
She tapped in more directions to the computer with one hand, then crossed her hand over to the other keypad to complete the instructions. She was determined to get the coloration of the form right that day, or at least get as close as she could, to match that of the figure the Granolith had shown her.
“Isabel dream walked me last night and stumbled on an old memory of when we discovered I had powers.”
“Oh, don’t get all protective on me. She was just doing her job. Besides, I was mad enough for both of us and I, uh… I kind of threw her out of my dream.”
Michael made no reply to that, his silence proof enough of his irritation.
“Yeah, so since I’m not in the mood to give a full confession,” she continued, “I decided to just work on something else today.”
She entered a few more calculations only to have the form abruptly cease its rotation and collapse. “Ah, geez. I have to go, Michael. I can’t concentrate when I’m talking to you and I just lost two hours worth of work.”
Nancy had learned little else from Gudorian, as the man was nearly as evasive in his answers as was Liz, and she was left with more confusion at the conversation’s conclusion than when she had arrived.
Confusion and fear. The cat was too intelligent. The computer was too advanced. The man, Gudorian, was too strange. Liz had too many secrets. And it seemed like the more Nancy learned – or, at least, tried to learn – the more what little she did know made sense. And it scared her. What had Liz gotten herself involved in?
Nancy set the parking brake and turn off her car, then sat for a minute studying the house she had parked in front of – this Mrs. Windermere’s house that Gudorian had sent his cat to. She was hesitant to approach a perfect stranger’s home, but she was feeling rather desperate. This Mrs. Windermere must be familiar with the cat, Kiaha, since he had been sent to her, which meant she was probably familiar with the man Gudorian. And if she was familiar with Gudorian, maybe – maybe – she might be able to answer some of Nancy’s questions.
Nancy bit her lip.
She pulled the keys from the ignition and tucked them into her hand. She got out of her car, shutting the door and locking it behind her.
She was not sure if she dared to do what she came to do, but she made herself walk to the door. She had to think about Liz. She had to know what was going on. She had to get to the bottom of this.
Hesitantly, she raised her hand to knock, but before her knuckles even touched the door, the door swung open and she was confronted by an elderly woman, dark of skin like Gudorian but gray of hair. “Won’t you come in, Mrs. Parker?” she asked.
Nancy, whose hand still hung suspended in mid-air, said: “Um, I didn’t knock.”
But the elderly woman merely opened the door wider and stepped to the side, gesturing for Nancy to come into her home.
Nancy lowered her hand and anxiously stepped inside the threshold, and the woman closed the door behind her.
Nancy turned to look at the woman. “How do you know who I am?”
“I’ve seen your picture,” the old woman replied.
“My pic… Where?”
“At the Aporo’s.”
The old woman smiled. “Forgive me. I forget sometimes. I suspect it’s my age, although Liz seems to think otherwise.”
“You know Liz?” Nancy asked hopefully. If this woman knew not just Gudorian but Liz as well, she might actually get some of her questions answered.
“My dear, we all
A young girl of about ten years of age appeared form around the corner. “I know her too.”
“Hello,” Nancy greeted. “Who are you?”
“My name is Serena. This is my grandma. People call her Ada Windermere here, but her real name is Kohakure Dahicru. That means ‘tears’ because she was born during the time of tears for our people.”
“Serena, that is enough,” Ada scolded.
“The time of tears?” Nancy asked.
“Yes,” Serena agreed, ignoring her grandmother. “But I am different though. I only have an Earth name. Liz gave it to me. She says I was an important person before.”
“Serena,” Dahicru spoke, the tone of her voice an indication of her irritation with the child, “go make us some tea so that I may speak with Mrs. Parker.”
Serena’s face and shoulders fell slightly, but she obeyed and left the room to do as she was told.
Dahicru addressed Nancy. “Would you care to sit?” She gestured toward the living room.
“Please forgive the outspokenness of my granddaughter,” Dahicru said to Nancy as they sat down on the couch. “She is very influenced by this… this ‘Westernized’ culture of yours.”
Nancy was not sure how to respond to that comment, but the elderly woman did not seem to notice. Instead she continued on and asked: “How may I help you, Mrs. Parker?”
She swallowed nervously. “Oh, well, I came to ask about Gudorian Anapo.” Or Liz. But Nancy figured she would start with her daughter’s strange acquaintance and move from there.
“No, no, my dear,” Dahicru tells her. “That’s Anapo
“Anapo is his first name?”
“No,” Dahicru said, “it’s his last.”
Serena returned with remarkable speed with a tray, upon which was a steaming teapot and teacups and containers of honey and cream, and set it on the table. (Perhaps the tea had already been ready before Nancy arrived for it seemed to have been brought too quickly considering the time it should have taken to prepare it.) Then she opened another container and offered it to Nancy. “Would you like some chocolate covered peanuts?”
Nancy looked inside to find that, much like the ones in Gudorian’s shop, the peanuts were unshelled. “Uh, no, thank you, Serena.” Nancy nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Serena…” Dahicru began, an unspoken order in her tone.
“I know,” Serena said, taking the peanuts back and straightening. “I’ll get it.”
Nancy frowned as Serena headed toward the front door and opened it. (There had been no knock.) Her frown deepened when she saw that the cat… the Kiaha… was standing there with the small package in his mouth that Gudorian had given him.
Nancy glanced from Kiaha to Serena to Dahicru. My god, she thought, they’re like Liz. Nancy had not knocked, but Dahicru had known she was there and known who she was. Kiaha had, obviously, no ability to knock or ring, yet both Dahicru and Serena had known he was waiting with the package. How did they know? For that matter, how did Liz, for her daughter always seemed to know who was at the door before it was opened and who was on the phone before she picked it up. Was there a connection?
“Hello,” Serena greeted the cat.
Serena stared at Kiaha and then spoke: “Oh, dear. Really?” she asked Kiaha. “A whole pack? Thank goodness you’re all right.”
She peeked outside the door and glanced about. “Well, they seem to be gone now, but here. You’d better come in and rest a while, you poor dear.”
Serena spoke to the cat as if he understood, just like Liz and Gudorian, Nancy noted.
“Really, Serena,” Dahicru scolded. “The way you go on about the creature.”
Serena turned and frowned at her grandmother and crossed her arms, and Kiaha flattened his ears. “You’re going to get in trouble with Liz and then she won’t let you go back,” Serena grumbled defiantly.
“Now, I have quite enough, young lady. You go up to your room and study, and take the creature with you if he is in need of rest.” Dahicru spoke sharply, although her words belied her true feelings, Nancy noted.
“Come on, Kiaha,” Serena said. She picked up Kiaha in her arms and cradled him against her. She took the package from his mouth and brought it to her grandmother and then left the room, lugging the large feline with her.
Dahicru watched Serena leave and then turned her attention back to Nancy. “Where were we?” she asked.
“Anapo Gudorian,” Nancy prompted.
“Ah, yes, the dragon rider,” she said. “What did you want to know?”
“What’s a dragon rider?” Nancy asked curiously.
“Why, one who rides dragons, of course.”
“Of course,” Nancy said. She noted that Dahicru, although she had made Serena bring her tea, had made no move to pour herself any, and Nancy felt in no mood for any either. It was taking enough out of her to simply try to carry on a conversation with these strange people. “Uh, and, what is my daughter’s relationship with him?”
“He’s her friend. They’ve known each other for many years. Nearly a century, I think.”
It dawned on Nancy that these people were not entirely sane and that perhaps she had no business there. “A century?”
And Liz. What was her relationship with these people?
“Yes, he was at their wedding.”
The conversation had become truly dizzying. It made even less sense than when she talked to her daughter, but Nancy was not going to give up until she got her answers. She put out her hand to stop the older woman’s words. “Wait,” Nancy said. “Let me get this straight. You’re saying Liz met Gudorian nearly a century ago at a wedding.”
“No, Mrs. Parker,” Dahicru disagreed. “I’m saying Anapo Gudorian met your daughter a century ago at the wedding.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Nancy murmured.
“Of course it does. You just have to stop thinking linearly.”
“What do you mean?”
Dahicru smiled patiently. She leaned forward and poured herself a cup of tea as she spoke. “You think time runs only in one direction – forward – when actually it is not quite as straightforward as all that. Time is simply the way you organize your thoughts. It is like taking a group of words and placing them in alphabetical order. But the truth is, you could take those same words and change their pattern and place them in a new order. And that, my dear, is why time cannot be defined as running only in one direction for the truth is, it can run in many directions at once.”
Nancy decided the exchange was beginning to sound like a bad science fiction plot. “And what does Mr. Gudorian…?”
“Mr. Anapo,” Dahicru interrupted to correct.
Nancy blew out a breath to steady her nerves. “Mr. Anapo,” she repeated. “What does time have to do with…?”
“Anapo Gudorian, madam, was privileged to be a witness to the marriage of your daughter to…”
“Liz isn’t married. She’s just 16.”
Dahicru stared at Nancy for a moment. “Mrs. Parker,” she finally said, “I must wonder what you are doing here asking me all these questions when it is clear that you have not discussed these matters with your own daughter. How can you not know who she is?”
“Who she is?” Nancy repeated blankly.
The old woman sat silently with her cup of tea in hand and contemplated Nancy’s face intently.
Finally she asked: “Do you dream, Mrs. Parker?”
Nancy nodded. “Of course.”
“Do you remember your dreams?”
“Not usually, no.”
“Yet, I would guess that you have been feeling particularly troubled lately, haven’t you, especially upon waking.”
“Dreams, Mrs. Parker,” Dahicru interrupted, “like time, should not be defined in so linear a way. Among our people dreams are shared, especially among family members.”
“In what way are they shared?”
“We call it the ‘kermes benguel’. If you cannot find the strength to talk to your daughter, then I would suggest you learn how to lucid dream.”
But Dahicru had apparently done explaining matters to Nancy for she only said, “Have a cup of tea before you leave, Mrs. Parker.” She nodded toward the tea set out on the table.
Nancy shook her head and clutched the keys in her hand a bit more tightly. “No, I, uh… I’ve taken enough of your time. I should be going.”
“Yes,” Dahicru agreed.
Nancy rose and walked toward the front door, but she turned around part way through the living room as a thought occurred to her. “By any chance, Mrs. Windermere, are you Czechoslovakian?”
But Dahicru only smiled passively. “Goodbye, Mrs. Parker,” was all she said.
She had kept empathic tabs on him all day. Well, actually she had left herself empathically aware of all
of them all day long, watching over her friends while she worked. But mostly – mostly – it was Michael whom she watched.
She had never thought of taking anyone else as a mate before. Her bond to Max had always prevented that but even if it had not, she only had eyes for her husband. Losing him – losing him twice, really – had left her bereft and fearsomely lonely, but she had given no though to anyone but him, her husband, the love of her life. Even when Michael insisted she needed to bond again, she had given it no serious consideration.
Until he offered himself.
Until he had given her flashes.
Impossible, ridiculous man. What was he thinking?
But both carnations of him – Michael and Rath – had made clear that he wanted her
They were idiots.
Couldn’t see the forest for the trees, as her grandmother would say.
If she bonded to him it would ruin both their lives – hers when he left and his when he returned to Antar and was unable to bond and produce an heir. He would lose the throne… again… and this time not from political intrigue; he would lose it for failing to follow the law of the land. He would be left unwanted, ostracized and alone, completely cut off from any way to help his people.
The offer was more tempting than she cared to admit, but she would never allow the mistake to happen. Not ever. No matter what he said. No matter what he allowed her to see from his mind.
She bit her lip as she sensed him approaching his apartment door, willing herself to stay focused on the twirling triacontahedra. The actual ‘shape’ still was not right and, at some point (hopefully soon) she would have to form a more coherent structure, but at that moment she was more interested in getting the coloration corrected.
He shut the door behind him and went to stand next to her, dropping his keys on the counter. He fingered the cover of the CD case lying next to her. Apocalyptica
**, a band famous for playing Metallica with four cellos. “Interesting selection,” he said, his voice carrying over the volume of the music at her ears.
“Hm,” she acknowledged without looking at him, her fingers still flying over the keys. Antarian symbols forming complex equations were rapidly appearing across the screen pad as she attempted to correct the color schematism. And the fifth-dimensional form was spinning and undulating with ever-greater clarity, reminding her of the beautiful image of the Granolith she had seen in one of the flashes from Rath.
She tapped down the volume of the music and lowered the headphones to her shoulders with a touch of her mind. “What did Max say to you?” she asked without looking up. She had felt the minor confrontation between the two earlier.
“He wants to have a meeting tomorrow afternoon. He said something came up,” Michael said. He moved to the kitchen and took two peach flavored Snapple
s from his fridge.
“I bet,” she said. “Too bad I won’t be there.”
“Yeah.” He opened one of the fruity drinks that her Rath had once told her reminded him of something his mother had given him as a small child and set it in front of Liz. “So, how much did Isabel see?”
Liz paused, her hands still poised over the symbol-encoded keypads, and worried her lip. She gazed up at Michael, the expression on her face telling him everything he needed to know. “They’re not ready for this.”
“What are we going to do?”
“Let me handle it.”
”You okay?” she asked him. He had been out in the yard for so long that dinner had grown cold.
“I’m losing her, Liz,” he said softly. “There’s a war going on inside of her and Vilandra is winning.”
“Isabel’s still there,” she spoke from behind him.
“Where?” He reached back and felt for her hand, pulling her toward him. She knelt on the ground next to his chair. “I can’t… She’s my sister and I can’t even see her in there anymore.”
“Vilandra’s your sister too.”
“I don’t know her.”
“Do you want to?”
It had not bothered him so much when Michael regained his memories, even with the implications the greater knowledge brought. But when Vilandra had appeared, Max had been afraid. It was like he was afraid he would be next; he was afraid his predecessor, Sahal, would emerge and he would disappear.
“I can’t lose you,” he said, the pain he felt shimmering in his eyes.
“For better or for worse. That’s what we promised each other,” she reminded him. “And I always keep my promises. Always.”
“You’re not going to lose me.”
Liz did not know if it was sheer will power that kept Sahal locked away or if there was another reason that Max never remembered his life on Antar. Either way, Max had stayed Max until the end. And she was glad – glad because she had been afraid too.
But despite their misgivings and fears surrounding the appearance of Vilandra, they soon discovered how necessary she was in their fight against Khivar. Bound empathically to the dictator in a bond Rath referred to as “kaliquape”, she had an insight into Khivar’s thinking and actions that few others had. Vilandra was the man’s Achilles heel, and Rath? Rath had no problems taking advantage of that.
“Handle it, how?” Liz asked. “I don’t know what to think about the others, but we’re going to need Vilandra eventually. Maybe it’s just as well that Isabel…”
“Vilandra is not necessary to this timeline.”
“Maybe you should let me be the judge of that,” she said softly.
Michael raised his brow.
“I’m just saying that, uh… you know, you may have me trumped with the cousin card, but as far as this timeline goes, this is my
world and my
people and ultimately it’s going to be my
decision on how to best protect it,” she said.
“I could trump you with a lot more that a cousin card.”
She gave a small laugh. “It might almost be fun to have you try,” she said.
“News flash, Liz. I never ‘try’. If I want something, I do it,” he told her.
Her smile grew. “Well now, that’s got to be the understatement of the year.”
She glanced down at the holographic image hovering over her computer. “Well, I can finish this up later,” she said, tapping at the symbol pad. The image wavered and then disappeared and the computer began to fold itself back together. “You ready to work out?”
“If you’re ready.”
Liz rose, clipped her CD player onto her belt loop and grabbed her Snapple. “I’m ready. What’s on the agenda for today?”
“How’d you like to play with fire?”
Fire was more on the chemistry side of science, but Liz still had a pretty good grasp of the fundamentals. Burning something meant allowing a substance to combine with oxygen (usually) whereupon energy in the form of heat and light were produced.
At least, that was the scientific side of the coin.
Michael and Liz walked down a couple of blocks to the back lot of a group of stores that had seen better days and now sat empty. It was there that Michael had her practice producing and controlling fire, a use of her Antarian abilities she had never tried before.
“How’d I like to play with fire,” she murmured to herself. She poured water from the dispenser into her teacup and brought it over to the counter. “God,” she breathed. Fire was not the only potentially combustible reaction she had played with that afternoon. Connecting to Michael and allowing him free access to her mind to help her “see” what he wanted from her, feeling his unspoken desire to bond with her through that connection… now that was fire. Never before had connecting with Michael seemed so… dangerous.
She opened the tea box and took out a small pouch of green tea leaves. Nourishment in a bag. She unwrapped it and dropped it in the cup, heating the water molecules with her mind as she did so.
“I hope that’s not your dinner,” her mother greeted her.
Liz glanced up. “Hey, Mom.”
“I, uh… I stopped by Gudorian’s shop this morning to see if the, uh… the Kiaha made it back okay,” Nancy said.
Liz wondered. Wait a minute!
“You did what?” she asked.
“I stopped by…”
“Mom,” Liz interrupted, “I’m sure Kiaha was fine. There was no need… I mean, for Pete’s sake, Mom, you didn’t have to go all the way to the shop to go check up on him.” And me.
“Kiaha’s not exactly an ordinary cat.”
“Yes, I saw that,” her mother replied coyly. “Neither is his owner. Interesting man, that Gudorian.”
“Oh, you thought so, huh?”
“Um hm.” Nancy approached the other side of the counter.
Liz stared at her in a stalemate that lasted mere seconds. She had hoped that her words the night before had misdirected her mother away from snooping into her life, but that was clearly not the case. “Why’d you really go see Gudorian, Mom?”
She picked up the teacup with both hands and leaned forward, bring her elbows to rest on the countertop. She brought the cup up to her lips and sipped the hot drink carefully.
“Don’t you want to heat that up?” Nancy asked.
Liz tilted the cup slightly forward so her mother could see the dark liquid. “Why’d you go see Gudorian, Mom?”
She felt her mom steel herself. “I wanted to know about your computer.”
So, it was going to be the twenty questions game again. “And?”
“He said he made your computer for you.”
“And that you are studying calculus.”
“I thought you were studying poly… uh, the shape thing.”
“And calculus too?”
“Calculus, yes. Or more specifically mathematical physics, and this in addition to quantum physics, particle physics, lattice quantum chromodynamics…” She gave a half-hearted smile, knowing there was not any chance at all that her confused mother would be able to understand anything she had said. “Well, you get the picture. You can’t study the kind of polytopes I’m working with unless you have a good background in multiple areas of math and science.”
Nancy Parker took in that information, sorting it and adding it to what she had already learned, trying valiantly to make sense of it. And Liz withdrew from any telepathic touch of her mother, her mind retreating…
Her head hurt from the force of the impact and smoke was seeping into the compartment in which she sat. She coughed and blinked her eyes. She shoved the smoke away with a push from her mind, clearing the air and giving herself a chance to breath.
Liz! Max cried out to her through their bond. Liz, listen to me! You have to leave! Get Vilandra and leave! Hurry!
Max? She tried to dispel the haze that had settled upon her mind. Yes, she needed to leave.
Liz tugged at her safety restraints but they wouldn’t budge, locked into place as they were from the crash landing. But with one fierce tug from her mind, the restraints dissolved with a fizzle.
Released from her confinement, she kneeled at Vilandra’s prone form.
“Vilandra! Oh god, please. Not Isabel. Please not her,” Max cried both aloud and through the connection that held him to his wife. “Liz, please!”
I can’t, she said, feeling Max’s shock and horror. I can’t. I don’t…
She reached out telepathically searching for any sign of life, but could sense nothing. Nothing. Not the faintest glimmer of mental activity. Not a heart beat. Not a breath.
Through their bond, she could feel her husband’s outrage and grief. His utter devastation.
A third voice entered her mind. Steadying. Calm. A sense of reason in a world gone mad.
He seemed to assess her and then judging her well, he spoke telepathically. Khivar is following you, he said. Get out of there. Don’t let their sacrifices be for nothing.
‘Their’ sacrifices? She licked her lips and was surprised to taste blood. She touched them with her fingers and then drew them away, unsurprised to see red glazing the tips.
“The others,” she murmured. The pilot and the soldier – had they died in the crash too?
There’s no time for that, Rath said.
Go, Liz! Go! I can’t lose you too! her husband called.
Liz ignored both of them. She crawled through the wreckage of their vehicle to the front compartment only to find them dead as well.
Get out of there! Max cried out to her through their bond.
She did not know how she had survived when the others had not, but Rath was right; she could not have much time. Khivar’s ship had shot them out of the sky and he would have tracked the location of their landing by now. He would not be far behind.
Images of the direction Max wanted her to travel filtered into her mind. Even in his grief-stricken state he was looking out for her welfare.
“Imabuli xoyan, ceiba tsuwen waun urangi,” / May you find peace in the Granolith./ she whispered to her fallen rescuers, then turned back and repeated the same blessing to Vilandra.
There’s no time for that, Liz! Go! Now! Max cried out again.
I am coming, she sent to him. She gathered no supplies from the wreckage, but simply turned, manually opened the door and fled, heading in the direction he had instructed her to go.
Her mother’s voice startled her, pulling out of the memory so suddenly that she was momentarily disorientated and she dropped her cup with a clatter to the counter, spilling the hot liquid inside.
Quickly she grabbed the dishtowel hanging from the over handle and wiped up the mess, pulling in all residual moisture with her power so that the counter was completely dry when she was done.
“Lizzy, are you okay?” Nancy asked.
“I’m fine,” Liz answered. She returned the towel to its place and then picked up her cup. “I was just startled.”
“Oh, I, uh…” She tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. “I just get caught up in memories sometimes and I forget where I am.” She took the teacup back to the dispenser and began refilling it. “What were we talking about?”
“Right, my computer,” Liz said. She brought the cup back to the counter, heating it with her mind as she moved. “You visited Anapo Gudorian to ask about my computer.”
Somehow, any niggling concerns she had possibly had related to that had reduced to insignificance. Her mother was worried about a computer. She was worried about the end of the world.
“Yes. Honey, where’d you get the money for a computer like that?” her mother asked.
“I didn’t. He didn’t charge me anything,” she said emotionlessly. She took another teabag from the container and unwrapped it.
“He didn’t charge you?”
“No.” She dropped the bag in and, holding the string, spun it in circles, but she did not see the darkening liquid. Instead she saw the empty eyes of Vilandra, the woman whom had saved her life only to lose her own.
Liz swallowed and sighed softly, refocusing her thoughts on the discussion at hand, to a topic that her mother seemed so concerned over.
How should she answer her mother’s question? She was not quite sure of the man’s motivation herself. Had he asked for money and, if so, how much? Had he asked for something else? He ran a pawnshop. He was clearly hoping to stay under the radar of human governments and Skin forces in place on Earth, yet he would have had to risk all that to get the parts he needed to build the computer. Why had he done that? “I suspect he thinks I’m somebody I’m not,” she finally said.
Liz paused for another moment, again unsure of how to answer that honestly. She removed the teabag and dumped it in the trash. After some thought, she shook her head and shrugged her shoulders and said: “I’m not even sure myself. Next question.”
“Liz,” Nancy chastised softly.
“I’m sorry. I just don’t know what to tell you.” She studied her mother. "Why won't you just believe me when I say there is nothing terrible going on?"
She reached out for the Granolith, whom was never far away. Imabuli, why did I survive when they did not? I should have died. I wasn’t even injured. Even the blood on me wasn’t mine. Why did I survive?
“Because it's not true. Something is going on, something big, and whether you care to admit it or not…" Nancy sighed and then plunged right back into her questioning. "Why are you studying all those… sciences?”
You were protected at Zan’s request,
the Entity answered.
So you might live.
Even though the connection between the Granolith and herself was nearly imperceptible, just enough to communicate, something of Its great mind still filtered over to her, and as she spoke, she studied the swirling colors surrounding her mother, the visual representation of the woman’s nervous concern.
“I told you. Science gives me stability. It makes me feel like I'm in control,” she said.
She felt off-kilter and out-of-balance or else she would not have repeated the excuse she had given the night before. Darn Michael. Darn her memories. She couldn't concentrate on so many things at once.
she asked again. Why was it so important that I live? It should have been Vilandra he saved. Not me. I was a liability.
Nancy stared at Liz. “You're hiding things, Liz. Why won't you just tell me?”
The Entity considered her words.
“Just try me.”
Liz shook her head. “No, I’m not ready to do that.”
You are an asset.
“When will you be ready?”
“I don’t know.”
A human woman who knew too much was hardly an asset,
she telepathed. Why did I really live, Imabuli?
“Liz, honey, how did you meet Gudorian?”
Liz frowned. She had met Gudorian in another lifetime, and the truth of that meeting was something she could never share to someone as sheltered as her mother. “Yeah, uh, I really don’t think I want to tell you that.”
But Liz procrastinated, her mind pulling even closer to the gentle Entity. Please, Imabuli.
“Liz, what happened?”
He knew you were to come forward to continue on.
In this timeline? He knew I would come to this timeline?
He asked for You to protect me so that I could come forward?
Wings of madness. What had the man been thinking? Why had he fixated on her for that task? It would have been so much better if he had chosen Vilandra.
Liz shook her head.
“Look. Mom, there are things about my, uh, my life that I… I just cannot tell you right now. I have to fix things here. I have to make things right… safe. And until I do that I can’t talk to you about certain things.”
Unconsciously she reached out for Rath – her Rath – wishing she could ask him why he had done that, but she found Michael instead.
“What do you mean that you have to make things safe? What things are you talking about?”
Wrong man. Never mind,
she replied irritably and abruptly pulled away from him.
, Mom. I don’t want to do this right now. Can we please talk about something else?”
“I’m worried about you.”
“I know you are. I feel it. And if our roles were reversed I would feel the same way.” Of course she would because her life would be narrowly focused on two people – her husband and her only child – and a small family run business.
“Then help me to understand,” her mother pleaded.
“Because. It’s not time.”
Liz was growing increasingly irritated. So much was at stake and there she was playing a game of twenty questions with her mother. “Okay, let me rephrase that. You’re
“I’m not ready?” Nancy asked, somewhat taken back.
“Emotionally. Not by a long shot,” Liz told her. She hoped her mother never was.
“Liz, you are sixteen-years-old. I’m the adult. I’m the one…”
“Who is supposed to take care of me? Help me?” interrupted Liz. “Not this time, Mom. And just an FYI: I’m not as young as you seem to think I am.”
She pushed her tea away from her and stalked from the kitchen.
“Liz,” her mother called after her, but Liz ignored the call and left through the front door.
The entire conversation had gone badly. Unlike the night before when Liz had seemed calm and in control, she was irritable and defensive and her answers were confusing, on top of which Liz seemed as if she were only half paying attention, as if Nancy’s concerns were unimportant, as if… as if her mind were somewhere else. And she seemed to become really sad halfway through the conversation for no reason readily apparent to Nancy. What on earth was going on with her?
Nancy moved around the counter to Liz’s tea. She frowned and dipped her finger inside, only to gasp aloud when the liquid burned her finger. It really was hot. But Liz had never bothered to heat the water.
Nancy bit her lip and looked over at the dispenser. It was not electric. There should be no possible way the water in it had been heated. And Liz had certainly never used the microwave or the teakettle.
All of this was making less and less sense to the poor woman. What had originally seemed to her to be a depressed and distracted teenage daughter was now so much more than that. Her depressed and distracted teenage daughter was now hanging out with fifty-year-old men whom ran pawnshops and owned intelligent cats and provided computer technology to adolescent girls – technology so advanced it could make you sick, although the aforementioned depressed and distracted teenage daughter was fine and, not just fine, but was able to produce hot tea without actually heating it. This daughter knew people like Dahicru and Gudorian, people with foreign sounding names, who spoke English but made no sense whatsoever.
“This is a nightmare,” she said to herself. “This is an absolute nightmare.”
And Dahicru was wrong. It was not strength she needed to talk to and understand Liz. She needed a miracle.
**Apocalyptica official website: http://www.apocalyptica.com/
*** Booklet: "Calico Ghost Town ©1959 by Knott's Berry Farm p 21-23: "The Story of "Dorsey," famous U.S. Mail Carrier as reported in 1914 in the Keene Courier
"This story is of a collie dog who lived not far from here - in Calico, San Bernardino County, California.
"It was along about 1883 when our hero put in his appearance. He seemingly was lost by his owner, for when he arrived at Calico he was footsore, thin and almost famished for both food and water. His first contact was with the postmaster, Stacey, at Calico, who also delivered the rural mail on foot over a long trail. The trail led over to what was known as East Calico, a distance of seven miles. Stacey made three trips a week, as I remember it.
"After feeding and watering the dog he tried to run him off, but with no success. Dorsey (as he was now named) would whine and crawl on his paws, and plead so hard in dog language that Stacey decided to adopt him, as it were, so they soon became great pals. The dog showed great intelligence, and seemed to soon learn the importance of delivering the rural mail, never missing the trips out. Should his master, by any chance, drop a piece of mail, Dorsey would retrieve it at once, and trot up to his pal with it in his mouth.
"It ran along like this for some months, when one day Mr. Stacey was taken quite ill, and it being delivery day, some one suggested letting Dorsey deliver it. No sooner said then they constructed a crude sort of harness with a small saddlebag on each side, and put in the daily papers for his trial trip. Then Stacey talked to him like a human, saying "Now, Dorsey, I'm sick, so you have to deliver the mail." He rubbed a paper across the dog's nose and pointed over toward East Calico.
"Well sir, that dog made a record delivery to the boys. They found the note tied on his collar explaining why this experiment had been made and asking that, should he make the trip safely, they return some mail in Dorsey's saddlebags. Now if you think that dog wasn't proud when he got home! He strutted around like nobody's business.
"There were more and more tests made until they were sure that he knew just what to do. Finally they had a special harness made, so the mail could be placed in the saddlebags with no chance of losing out.
"Dorsey became, so far as ever heard of in these parts, the one and only mail carrying dog in the whole world. It attracted such widespread attention that he was photographed with his load of mail, and hundreds of people bought a picture. People were skeptical about believing he did this stunt, so many times miners would try to meet him on the trail, but the dog would invariably see or smell them, make a big detour around them, then circle onto the trail again."