The Re-Awakening (CC/UC - ML/Mature) [WIP]

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ADreamerDestiny
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The Re-Awakening (CC/UC - ML/Mature) [WIP]

Postby ADreamerDestiny » Sun Mar 15, 2009 10:46 pm

Title: The Re-Awakening

Disclaimer: I don't own Roswell or its characters and never will. If I did, season 3 wouldn't exist, sorry lol. This is strictly for entertainment purposes and I am borrowing characters and concepts for fun.

Characters not from the show and the plot belong to me.

Rating: Mature ( * If any adult scenes happen to pop up in future chapters, I will post a warning in the beginning of the chapter to make readers aware. Although, I will let you know now that I'm not one to get too graphic. I prefer to focus more on the romantic angle - rather than the explicit sex act itself).

Genre: LOL - basically a little cocktail blend of almost everything.

Pairings: CC/UC. Max/Liz, Michael/Isabel. Also, there will be some Max/Tess and Sean/Liz innuendo through flashbacks of the past along with other UC mentions in the present (lol, try to stomach it if you can; I'm completely aware that it can be difficult to do when UC's are involved. However, if you're a ML fan, just remember that in the end it's a journey that ultimately brings M/L together).

Also, for all those out there who may be wondering, please allow me to mention that it's not that I don't like Candy (Michael/Maria). I generally support them on the show and most of the time in fanfics - but for the purposes of my story this is how the couples will play out. Maria is going to have someone else in her life for my story - as will Kyle. So my apologies to all the Candies out there. M/M will always be one of the best CC couples out there.

Summary: It has been almost ten years since High School graduation and the Pod Squad's departure from Earth - a departure to fulfill their destiny on Antar.

After the pod squad's departure, Liz Parker vowed to herself that she would put Max and that part of her life completely behind her. However, Liz soon discovers that was easier said than done. With a whole year worth of memory still missing from her life - a number of recurring nightmares continue to plague her. Certain revelations and events have come to light effecting Liz in the present - and those revelations have also brought along with them - strangers in the night. Strangers who seem hell-bent on following her every move.

Do these secrets buried from long ago hold the key to the recent events surrounding her life and do they have anything to do with the reappearance of a "dark-haired mystery man" she held so close to her young heart all those years ago? Hm. Maybe, lol.

This story will pretty much be Liz-centric; she's my favorite character to date even though I adore the others too (with the exception of Tess). Although to be fair, I've come to tolerate Tess to a degree when she's not with Max (much more than I use to when the show first aired some ten years ago). Warning: However, with that said, Tess will be portrayed as a villain/villainess in this story; therefore, if you're a heavy Tess supporter you might want to steer clear from this one. It'll probably piss you off, lol. Sorry, big apologies for that. It just won't be made especially clear right away when she becomes one (or became one, hehe). But the other characters will still have an important role as well (and will appear just as much) - it's just that this is kind of Liz's "story" so to speak. Which - by definition, just basically means that most plot points tie back into her character somehow or someway.

Background information:

I wasn't sure whether to put this in Alternate Universe With Aliens or the Alien Abyss writing section. There is more than one UC but I didn't think UC was the proper place since this fiction will be ML (one of the main CC's). However, because of the UC pairings/innuendos and Liz-centric plot; I just figured Alien Abyss was the more appropriate place.

This story will pretty much follow canon up until the NY episodes of season two. After that, some things from canon will remain the same or be altered to fit the purposes of this story while other things may be very different. You will get most of the background information or explanations of the past during various flashbacks - as this story picks up with the future as the present (2011).

For instance, Sean still came to town. However, Liz began to develop powers during this time period (because the canon season 3 universe didn't happen in my alternate reality here). He and Liz grew closer and Liz ended up pregnant. Max and Tess did follow through with destiny and slept together; however, there was no baby. Yes, *sniffs*, poor Alex still died but the group never discovered how he was murdered and who did it because Liz and the group became more preoccupied with a much more pressing matter.

The pod-squad (Max, Tess, Michael, and Isabel) eventually left for Antar to follow through with their destiny back home; however, their departure did not occur like it was suppose to have happened at the end of original canon (season 2) - The Departure. Other important events played out instead, involving Liz, that led Liz to where she is in her life now and to the reasons why the Royal Four left earth for good - only further on down the road (about a year later right after graduation).

Or did they leave for good? Hehe.

LOL - and before most of you decide to bail after reading all that, I ask all fellow ML fans to have faith in me. Just wanted to give you some of the heads up on the plot points without completely taking you by surprise, lol. What I'll offer is that not everything may be the way it seems while some other things appear to be exactly what they really are (because what's a story without a little angst). So, please be prepared for some angst but there will be a light at the end of the tunnel; I promise. But I can't tell you what those things are or when they'll be revealed otherwise - what would be the point in writing the story? Better yet - what would be the point in you reading it, lol? ;o)

Added Note: All flashbacks, dream sequences, different and alternate time-lines (if I decide to incorporate them) will occur within italics. Journal entries made by Liz will occur periodically throughout the story in the first-person perspective (the rest of the story is in third person - coming from the author) and will also be in italics. So, with that said, I hope someone out there will be interested and will decide to give this a chance. It's my first Roswell fic - and I decided to just get it out there before I move on with my other writing. If there's enough interest, I'll decide to continue. If not, well, I may or may not - it depends on how I feel, lol.

Happy reading and I wish I had some lovely banner art to provide you with for this story but alas - (*sniffs* lol) I don't have any of the software nor do I know how to do that kind of stuff:


__________________________________


Prologue

Roswell, New Mexico (July 1947)

The dark sky lit up like the fourth of July - just like it had days before - only this time the myriad of colorful fireworks were not on display. No, on this night, a strong flash of white lightening - accompanied by a light blue hue - enveloped the small town that sat in complete darkness. However, a sleek, silver object - that glowed against the light coming from a lively full moon - could be seen by the few unfortunate souls who would later be threatened and forced into submission.

Pohlman Ranch.

At the same exact time Jonathon Polhman was blinded by the intense flash that covered his property, the ground rumbled beneath a set of tires and Calvin Burke swerved off of the winding, dirt road. It was the same road that led out from the land belonging to his boss - and his vehicle plowed through the barb-wire fence. His vehicle crushed the wire lining the patch of road, pieces of it falling flat on the hood of his truck, until the truck finally dove straight into a ditch. He had been blinded - at the same time losing his control over the vehicle due to the sudden vibration that had surged underneath the ground. His two sleeping daughters, ten - year old twins named Charlotte and Claudia, were jolted from out of their sleep just before the final impact - their wails and screams of terror heard by their father all the way in the backseat.

After use of his sight was returned to him, Jonathon Polhman sprang up from the porch swing and reached for his rifle stashed in the corner. Almost immediately afterwards, the front door to the home swung open, revealing a dazzled and frazzled older woman somewhere in her early sixties. She pulled the robe tightly across her chest, shielding herself from the slight chill now found in the night air. It was very clear that she had been in the middle of preparing for bed.

"Jonathon, what was that?" her frantic voice carried, as she watched her husband charge down the steps.

"Don't you worry about a thing, Martha. You go on and settle yourself in," he replied in his accented tone, his steady steps taking him down to the pebble walk-way leading to their big white house.

"But Jon, didn't you feel that? Was it an earthquake?" However, she knew an earthquake couldn't be attributed to the strange flash of light that had streamed in through the window, momentarily blinding her vision inside of the bedroom.

"I don't know. I'm going to go and see for myself. But you go on inside before you catch yourself a cold. The temperature dropped out here."

"Oh, Jonathon?! Can't we call the police?" She didn't like the idea of him going off on his own when they didn't know what kind of disturbance they were dealing with here.

"I'll only be gone a bit," he returned over his shoulder.

His figure was seen taking off into the open field but both Mr. and Mrs. Pohlman could make out the sparks of light not too far off in the distance. This time, the chill running through Martha Pohlman had absolutely nothing to do with the significant drop in temperature. The tingling energy suddenly felt in the air surrounding her filled her with a sense of unwanted fear.

"You be careful," she scolded in her wifely way. She immediately headed back into the house to dial the police.

"This is 911. What is your emergency?" the soft feminine voice flowed easily across the line.

"Yes, I would like to report ... " Martha stammered and hesitated before settling on her response.

"Yes?" the voice pushed. "What seems to be the emergency, Ma'am?"

"I would like to report an incident on my property," Martha Pohlman chose as her final answer. "Can you please send someone out here to make sure my husband's alright?"


x

"Daddy!"

The crying and continuous sobbing sounds - accompanied by sniffles - hadn't subsided after Calvin Burke had first maneuvered himself out of the driver's side door. He now stood at the door entrance, pulling one daughter free from the wreckage. Claudia, the older of the two identical twin girls by four minutes, held onto her father tightly as he pulled her out to safety. In truth, her cries had ended shortly after the shock of the impact wore off. It was her sister Charlotte who continued to fuss - being the girlie girl that she always was. Claudia watched as her father reached into the backseat for her sister next.

Claudia was more of a tomboy and she openly admitted to it - despite being made fun of by the other little girls her age. Even some of the boys snubbed her at first - however, most of them eventually came around and accepted her when she had been able to prove that she could do the things they did just as well - sometimes even better. She liked to play in the dirt and get her hands just as dirty as the next little boy. She preferred baseball to dolls - hiking, fishing, and camping being a few of her favorite past-times. Claudia learned early on that she was lucky enough to have a father who supported her "unique" interests in other things besides dolls and tea parties. Two things her sister Charlotte loved and did engage in quite often with her other girlie friends - and not just on occasion. She also preferred slacks to the frilly dresses that Charlotte loved to wear and show off. While Charlotte busied herself with dolls and dress-ups, Claudia did a lot of reading and hoped to go to college one day - a topic she heard mentioned by some of the older boys around town. However, because of the war, alot of them hadn't seen their brothers live to return home. They vowed to live the dream in place of their older brothers and carry on their legacy with honor and duty. Claudia's dream was to write her very own book one day. Her sister, on the other-hand, talked about finding and getting married to her "Prince Charming" when she grew up. A topic that Claudia steered away from and had been forced to suppress an urge to gag against more than a few times.

Their father, Calvin Burke, had been widowed back when the girls were born. Sadly, their mother Anna had experienced a difficult time with the multiple birth and died due to the complications surrounding it back in 1937. Calvin was a middle-aged man with sandy, brown hair. Some subtle signs of graying where evident and a matching mustache accompanied his look. He went on to raise their girls on his own and he had never remarried but often faced pressure from the community to do so. Claudia felt saddened that she never had the opportunity to know her mother like the other boys and girls around town and she fully recognized that she was missing out on something special; however, it also upset her that her interests and hobbies were blamed on not having her mother around. She was a smart little girl and that conclusion was just ridiculous to her. All anyone had to do was look at her sister Charlotte to wash that theory down the drain. Charlotte didn't have their mother either and she was as girlie as they come. It angered her even more that they blamed her father for not getting a new wife to "fix" what the towns-folk considered a huge social blemish. It was all in the looks and in the condescending tone. After all, she had heard it time and time again. Girls aren't suppose to play baseball with other little boys; girls aren't suppose to hike through the big bad woods - it's too scary and dirty; and the more common generalization - girls just aren't suppose to like the same things boys like. When Claudia asked why that was she could never get a straight answer or for that matter, any answer that made sense. Claudia had a vivid memory of overhearing Grandma Burke pushing her father about remarriage - claiming that a new wife would provide her and her sister with, but more importantly her, a more feminine-like role model. But Claudia didn't want nor feel like she needed a new mother - she already had one. Yeah, she was dead but somehow a replacement just wouldn't feel like the real deal for her. Claudia compared accepting a new mother to suddenly accepting dolls and dresses. No, she was happy with the way things were. Just her, Charlotte, and daddy.

Charlotte clung to her father, whining. "No daddy, don't put me down."

"Charlotte, daddy has to put you down," he gently scolded her. "We need to walk back to Mr. Pohlman's. It's not that far, I promise."

"Daddy, what was that?" Claudia asked her father. "That bright light? And the car was shaking too?"

"I don't know, peanut," Calvin answered honestly. "Maybe a meteor or an earthquake of some kind," he reasoned.

"But I thought the only people that have those are from the state where they make all the movies?" Claudia's young mind inquired about the earthquake conclusion. "California, right daddy?"

"Right." He smiled.

"But I'm scared!" Charlotte wailed as she snuggled closely at her father's side. "I want to go home; I don't like the dark!"

Claudia had already begun the walk down the dirt road. "Come on already," she complained, rolling her eyes at her sister's behavior. Her pace was slowing them down. "If Mr. Pohlman goes to sleep, he won't be able to give us a ride back. You're such a slow poke."

"Am not!" Charlotte protested.

"Girls, there's no need to argue. Mr. Pohlman will give us a ride."

Calvin Burke had been a loyal employee to the Pohlmans for over fifteen years. He was a Ranch-hand and took care of the stables - feeding most of the animals and cleaning out the pens. The girls often accompanied their father to the Ranch during after school hours and on the weekends. The Pohlmans had become like a second family to the Burkes and every now and again, Jonathon Pohlman would allow Calvin and both little girls to saddle up the horses so they could ride together. Horse-back riding was something - probably one of the only interests - that both Claudia and Charlotte loved and shared in common.

The walk continued with Claudia at a few good feet ahead of her father and sister while Charlottle clasped onto her father's hand as she walked beside him. No one had been hurt, thank god. While still latching onto her father's hand, Charlotte began skipping - humming to a tune that neither father nor other daughter could identify. Charlotte's long brown hair, currently pulled to the sides of her head in pigtails with the help from her sister, bounced along with the skips.

"Hmhmhm. HmHmHm," the humming sounds continued.

The breeze in the air caused strands of the other ten-year old's shoulder - length brown hair to fly across her face. Claudia used her hand to swipe it away quickly. Glancing to the side of her, she suddenly ceased all walking. Her eyes widened in shock.

"Daddy, look!" she practically shouted, her finger pointing in the direction she was looking down at.

"Claudia, what is it?" her father's eyes narrowed. Claudia didn't wait for him to catch up - instead she climbed over the fencing and went running in the direction she had been pointing towards. "No, Claudia, wait!" Calvin shouted, glimpsing his daughter's retreating form as it disappeared down into the valley. "Claudia, you get back here right now! Do you hear me?!"

Calvin picked up his pace - running as he pulled Charlotte along.

"No, daddy, I'm scared!" Charlotte protested, but she was still pulled along anyway. Her whining given life to once again.

"Claudia!" their father shouted as he stopped exactly where Claudia had been standing seconds ago. Staring down at where his daughter now stood, his reaction was immediate. "Ho - ly - smac - kers!" he stammered at the sight laid out before him.

Claudia could hear her father's protests in the background after she jetted down the small incline leading into the open valley. But she couldn't stop herself. What greeted her down below had completely captivated her. There was debris scattered everywhere and small flames going strong in various places. Claudia was careful not to come into contact with any of them; however, unlike her sister, she liked to explore and she wasn't afraid to take a risk or accept a challenge. But right now, surrounding her in every direction, pieces of discarded metal sparkled like a jewel and she couldn't help but to bend down and pick a piece of it up. Quickly, she discerned that the odd-looking material could very easily scrunch up into a ball in her small hand; however, it just as quickly flattened itself back out again.

"Wow!" her eyes bulged at the sight.

Then something new caught her attention. She dropped the piece of metal debris back onto the ground as she stared at what was hidden in the small spikes of valley grass. Bending back down, she retrieved an object that resembled a necklace - a black string looped through a pendant with a strange-looking symbol inscribed on the front of it. However, just as quickly, a couple shadow figures seemed to breeze by - but it was too quick for Claudia's line of vision to take in. Suddenly, an unsettling feeling of being watched came over the little girl and she began to back up - her eyes surveying the area while she did so. The feeling told her that she wasn't really alone down here.

Since when did meteor crashes carry with them pieces of bending metal and strange necklaces with drawings on them?

"Daddy?!" she called out. She lost her footing; tripping and falling over something she didn't see behind her. While still on the ground, she scooted away using her the palms of her hands and bottoms of her feet - and she realized exactly what it was she had made contact with. A body. She didn't know what kind of a body - for it vaguely resembled any body she was used to seeing but it was a body nonetheless. "Ahhhhhhh! Daddy, help me!" came her scream.

"Charlotte, come on!" Calvin tried to pull his daughter along so he could catch up with his other daughter. He was still trying to coax his other daughter over the fence so he could meet up with Claudia.

"But, daddy, I don't want to go!" her protest was woven together with her whine. She planted her feet solidly against the dirt ground - skidding and dragging her feet when Calvin tried to force her along.

"Charlotte, I need to get to your sister!" he reprimanded the child. "Let's go!" And that's when he heard Claudia's screaming. Both heads shot in the direction of the screams and Calvin reacted instantly - he couldn't wait any longer. "Fine, you wait right here, understand?!" he instructed Charlotte sternly. "Right there, do you hear me?" he reinforced. "I'll be right back."

She nodded her head through sobs.

Calvin took off down the small incline into the valley and it was only seconds later that he heard Charlotte's cries of protest once again.

"No, daddy, don't leave me! Don't leave me alone, daddy!"

However, just as quickly as they had started - the protests stopped. Calvin sprinted down the incline and made it into the open valley just in time to witness Claudia lifting herself off the ground and back onto her feet. Turning around and seeing her father, she ran towards him and launched herself at his mid-section - embracing him tightly. It was a rare occasion when she gave into the feeling of being scared.

"Are you okay?" he asked, rubbing the top of her back in a comforting manner. "What happened?" Calvin looked around at the peculiar debris. He bent down and took her by the shoulders. "Are you okay?" he stressed once again.

"Yes."

"Don't ever run off like that again when I tell you not to, do you understand me?"

Claudia nodded slowly, the necklace still clasped firmly inside her hand. She turned her head back around - back where she had fallen down. "Daddy, what is that?" her voice broke with the fear she was feeling - as he followed her line of sight. She pointed at the peculiar body just a couple of feet in front of them.

Calvin walked in front of her - securing himself in front of her as he took steps in the direction from which she had looked at. Claudia watched her father's movements carefully - noting when he suddenly stopped. Looking down, Calvin's own eyes widened in shock and he swallowed hard at what appeared to be lay sprawled out beneath him. Slowly, he back up towards his daughter, holding out his arm. He didn't want to alarm her anymore than she already was.

"Come on, we need to get back to your sister," he told her.

Claudia caught the figure on the ground twitching. "Daddy, it moved!" she shouted to him, as she grabbed onto his hand and both turned around - heading back quickly in the direction they had come from.

"Let's go!" he pushed her gently from behind. "Don't look back!"

Swiftly, they carried themselves back, Claudia shoving the necklace into the pocket on the side of her pants. Almost immediately, they saw the headlights reflecting and heard the sound of the truck that was fast approaching. It stopped and after the door opened, out stepped Jonathon Pohlman. After some initial investigating, he had decided to walk back for the truck to inspect further out instead of walking the full distance. He caught both Calvin and Claudia just as they lifted their legs back over the fencing.

"Hey there, Cal, what seems to be the problem?" the older man inquired, walking up to meet them. He had a big flashlight in hand.

"Car trouble." Calvin's answer was loud and clear.

"I see. I take it you'll be needing a ride, then? Did you happen to catch that lightening flash not too long ago? Just thought I'd come out here to check it out."

"Jonathon? I don't know if you're going to believe - I don't even know if I believe it!" Calvin was also walking to meet up with the other man. The momentary distraction provided by the brief conversation was thrust aside however, when he suddenly noticed the absence of his other daughter. "Charlotte?" he called out. He began pacing each end of the road - looking back and forth for any sign of her as confusion spread across young Claudia's face. Her sister would never take off on her own - she was too scared to sleep with the light off for crying out loud. "Jon, is Charlotte with you?" Calvin asked, looking the other man square in the face.

"Nope, sorry, just got here," Jonathon Pohlman shook his head - a look of confusion spreading over his face. "She wasn't with you?"

"No, she was but ... " panic began to settle over him as Calvin let the sentence trail off. "She was just here a minute ago. Charlotte?" he cupped his hands around his mouth, shouting again - louder this time. "Charlotte, can you hear me? Where are you - answer me!"

"Well, calm down Cal, I'm sure she's around here somewhere," Jonathon Pohlman tried to offer some reassurance. "Couldn't have gotten that far down the road. Besides, we don't want to scare the other little one, here," he nodded in the direction of Claudia.

However, the two grown gentleman and Claudia were suddenly alerted to the close sounds of approaching vehicles in the distance. They were coming from the opposite direction that Jonathon had arrived from - the entrance taking you outside of Pohlman Ranch. As the headlights and vehicles got closer, Jonathon and Calvin were able to make out what they were and who they belonged to.

The United States Military.



(-X-)


The tossing and turning accompanied the deep and restless sleep that she fell victim to almost every night. It was the one time when all her subconscious fears would resurface - a moment when all her repressed emotions would fight to make their presence known.

Within HER nightmares.

The medication prescribed to her only served to help numb the pain - but it never made her forget. There was so much in her short span of life - thus far - that she had planned for and yet so much more she had never been planning on at all. She decided against telling the doctor the truth, out of fear of being locked up, but the simple truth was that these medications were helping her less and less as time passed by. Yet all the disturbing nightmares were increasing more and more. Her weekly sessions weren't as self-healing or beneficial as they should have been or would be for someone who was normal - for she constantly spoke around her issues, talking in hypotheticals to mask the secrets she had held at one time and ones she had uncovered more recently tying back into herself.

The dream she was now immersed within slowly transformed into the nightmare she knew was waiting just beyond the door in her subconscious. She fought, struggled with her own mind, refusing to open it. But all attempts at resistance were futile.

(Dream/Nightmare Sequence)

The door stood before her - a bright glow streaming through and underneath all the cracks surrounding it. She fought with her feet to turn around and run but found that they were stuck - glued in place. She didn't want to know what was waiting for her on the other side of the door this time. Her heart rate picked up and the uncontrollable shivers ransacked her entire body - her palms becoming sweaty. Despite her blatant unwillingness, the door slowly began to open while she opened her mouth to scream; however, no sound came out. Instead, she found herself twisting her head back over her shoulder, stretching her arm and reaching her hand out - desperately crying out for the help she knew would never come.

A force was pulling on her - sucking her in until she entered, the light completely enveloping her.

Suddenly, the light around her dissipated and she found herself standing in the middle of a hospital room. The big windows were barred off - shielding off most of the outside world to whatever inhabitant resided within its walls. It was soon apparent that this wasn't your average, variety hospital - she was actually standing inside the room of a psychiatric hospital. A dark-haired woman with long, tight, spiral curls - curls that fell way below her shoulders - sat on a chair, with her back facing her. Noting the stray-jacket the woman appeared to be secured inside of - she took slow, cautious steps in her direction.

Then the scene suddenly changed.

She was now walking toward a woman inside of her parents alien-themed restaurant, The Crashdown. Through the blazing flames, she could make out the woman with red hair - a color of red flaming as bright as the fire that was surrounding them everywhere. But as hard as she tried - the fire would change course, blocking each and every path she sought to get to the woman who lay unconscious on the floor.

"Mom?" she mouthed in an effort to scream; however, no sound came out.

She was reaching out for her mother - trying to save her - when suddenly, the scene switched back to the hospital room. The woman sitting in the chair, with the long curly hair, spun around unexpectedly wielding a knife in hand. The woman wasn't secured inside of the jacket after all and she began slashing into her - the other woman's pitch, black, oval eyes baring hard into her soul.

She tried to scream - threw her hands up into the air to defend herself.

"I know who you are - what you are!" the woman's accusatory words pierced the air around them. "It's your fault they're dead - it's your fault they're all dead!"

Then the woman's alien eyes took on a human appearance. She almost appeared sorrowful - remorseful for her actions - until the knife came up once again. Once again, she found herself screaming as the words left the other woman's mouth.

"Let me save you!"

She turned her head over her shoulder again - looking at the door with the bright light behind it. She needed to escape; however, this time, a muscular arm and a hand reached back out - making contact with her own hand - yanking her forward with a strong pull.

She never saw a face.


(Dream/Nightmare Sequence Ends)

She bolted up out of the nightmare with a deep, heavy gasp. It was still dark - the opened window to her apartment creating a slight chill as the breeze blew the curtains around in a slow and gentle pattern. She could hear the city traffic down below - something she hadn't been accustomed to in her home town. Instinctively, she brought her hand to rest against her chest, just above the breast area - the same area where the scars were now embedded forever. After taking some slow and steady breaths to calm her breathing - she reached over, turning on the small lamp. The clock on the night-stand read three in the morning. In just a couple more hours she needed to be up - she had an early flight to catch to her new destination. Flinging the covers off, she got out of her bed - heading for the small hallway that would lead to her bathroom. She flicked the light switch on as she entered, immediately positioning herself in front of the small mirror cabinet.

A pale face along with some dark circles appeared under the eyes of the reflection looking back.

"Great," she groaned, complaining at the atrocious sight before her. "Just the impression I want to make on a new job."

Slowly, she began to unbutton the top to her night shirt - until three, long, pink slash marks that were now faded reflected back from the mirror. Gently, she ran a finger over each one but then swiftly re-fastened the buttons to cover up the ugly sight. Turning the faucet on, she ran her hands under the water - splashing some on her face. She immediately opened the cabinet and reached for one of the prescription bottles sitting on the shelf. After using her hands to twist the cap off, she swung the the cabinet door closed only to be greeted by an entirely different sight - one she hadn't been expecting.

"Ahhhhhhh!"

The scream was accompanied by the bottle dropping into the sink - the small pills falling out while some even fell down the drain. The version of a man she could remember from long ago, but tried to forget, stood staring back - a solemn look carried inside of his eyes. His brown hair fell to his shoulder and the signs of a faded mustache and gotee were evident. His broad, muscular shoulders fit nicely under a cut-off vest.

Future Max.

The name slid through her memory banks with ease - for he came from a future now past, an alternate future which held both alot of promise for them but alot of heartache and doom for the world. Looking back later, she thought it quite silly that the fate of the world - earth - could rest solely on the outcome of one relationship. But in the end he had been right.

Bringing her hands up to cover her face, she closed her eyes tightly - willing his image away. When she pulled her hands away and opened her eyes back up, she found only her tired and sickly image staring back once again.

"Okay, Parker, you're definitely losing it! Pull yourself together!"

She grabbed for the small bottle, securing whatever she could that was left, and then popped two of the pills into her mouth - thrusting her head backwards so they could slide down her throat passage alot easier. She left the bottle to rest on the sink before returning to her bedroom. As she sat on the bed, she reached for the night-stand drawer, pulling it out and revealing a small, leather bound book.

A journal.

She flipped it open to the next empty page.

Journal Entry # 54:

So I dreamt about "her" again.

It's been close to a year now and I haven't even kept a journal since high school; however, Dr. Wallace advised me that keeping journal entries of these dreams could prove to be a positive tool for my recovery. But still, I don't know how many times I've just wished I could go back to not knowing the truth - living in blissful ignorance - back before the deaths of my parents. Because the sad truth is - it would make everything so much simpler. I hate that I ever went looking, it only opened a door I want to close now.

Dr. Wallace says that these "dreams", as she likes to call them, are a good thing. To me, they're nothing more than nightmares into other worlds - worlds that are best left alone and forgotten. But she says it means that my mind is finally willing to break down the walls it constructed for itself - walls that I constructed to protect me. And that only when I'm willing to confront everything head on, will the true healing process really begin.

I hope she's right.


She went to close the journal - but hesitated. Flipping it back open, she brought the pen back to the page.

Okay, so that's not all. I dreamt about "him" tonight or at least I'm pretty sure I did. Then I woke up only to find him staring back at me through my bathroom mirror. Crazy? Yeah, pretty much - this is somebody I haven't seen or talked to in almost ten years, at least one version of him I haven't seen or talked with, and he's reaching out to save me in my nightmares.

Why?

But I really don't want to talk about it anymore so I'm signing out.


This time the journal was flipped and closed.

_________________________________


To Be Continued: Okay, good - not good? Tell me what you think? I have ideas now that I started writing for it but let me know if you're interested.
Last edited by ADreamerDestiny on Fri Nov 13, 2009 4:20 pm, edited 19 times in total.
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Re: The Re-Awakening (CC/UC - ML/Mature) Chapter One 03/21/09

Postby ADreamerDestiny » Sat Mar 21, 2009 2:42 pm

:D Wow, thanks for that awesome feedback guys - dreamon, begonia9508, MP, LilLoucfer, and keepsmiling7. Glad you all decided to give my first Roswell fan-fiction a chance.

dreamon: Happy to hear you're hooked - I hope the story continues to meet your expectations. :P

begonia9508: :wink: Yes, the little girl named Claudia from 1947 - is Liz's grandma Claudia from the show. You'll find out, and this isn't really that big of a secret or anything lol, that Charlotte is actually the aunt from Florida that Liz visited with during that summer after the first season. There's a connection there between Charlotte's story and Liz's story but I can't say anything else, hehe.

You'll find that this story is like having two stories in one - because I'll be giving you clips from the past that somehow effect or tie into the present day. As for Liz being human, alien, or part-alien? Nope, my lips are sealed! LOL. :lol:

I'm glad you like this and thank you very much for the compliment regarding my writing.

MP, LilLoucfer, and keepsmiling7: :) I'm really happy that my story caught your interest. Hopefully, it will continue to interest you and you'll decide to keep reading.

A/N: Okay, here's the next part for Re-Awakening. Hope everyone enjoys it.

___________________________________

Chapter One - Welcome to My Future

Groom Lake Test Site (Area 51) - Nevada

(Present Day 2011)

The long bumpy ride down the deserted, desert road extended for miles into what appeared to be a no man's land. It was a straight, narrow, dirt path that appeared to lead nowhere; however, the passengers in the approaching vehicle knew better. The cacti sprouted up in all different directions while the hovering mountains in the near distance held an eerie, claustrophobic quality that threatened to suffocate the observer - almost making them feel trapped, closed in without any hope of escape or rescue. Those same mountain tops, lying back against the bright and deep blue sky, deceptively offered the illusion of peace, serenity - beckoning to those within their vicinity to move closer so they could offer up their protection - a protection that might be needed. These feelings weren't just visited upon all the traveling passengers - no, these feelings were only alive and kicking inside the mind of one young, twenty-eight year old woman staring out the window. Her eyes quickly skimmed down and over the writing found on one of the warning posts a few mere feet away from where the inconspicuous, white van passed by:

Restricted Area
No Trespassing - Photography is strictly prohibited


She, herself, had heard the rumors relating to Area 51 for most of her life. After all, having grown up in the heart of Roswell, the incident referred to as the alleged 1947 crash had created a thriving network of crash-related stories; stories about government cover-ups, first-hand eye-witnesses to the scene being bumped off to protect the secrecy surrounding the event, and last but not least - secret bases that were created and hidden away in the night. These same bases were also allegedly responsible for stashing away recovered alien bodies and advanced, life-form technology.

Another sign quickly passed by her line of sight:

While on this Installation, all personnel and personal property under their person is subject to search and/or seizure.

In the beginning, Elizabeth Parker had chalked it all up - like a good majority of the public did - to the over-active imagination of a curious public seeking confirmation that they weren't alone in the universe. The rest of the credit went straight to all the UFO nuts and conspiracy theorists out there. She was more than aware of their place in this universe for they had often frequented her home town during a time of year when those yearly, intrusive, Crash-Festival events took place. Liz always considered those festivals a homing beacon - an invitation for all the loonies found everywhere in the world to swarm in and invade her hometown. However, it was not just the town - the annual invasion included her parents' family owned and alien-themed restaurant, The Crashdown Cafe.

A third sign came into view and caught her attention as they passed by:

This Is Military Property - Anyone without proper authorization or permission to be in this area will be detained and held for interrogation.

Sure, the tourism brought in the extra cash - bringing profits to a town that would virtually be dead or stagnant without the frenzy stirred up by a faulty weather balloon that had the misfortune of taking a detour late one night in July of 1947. At least, that had been the explanation Liz had been comfortable accepting during most of her early years of life. After all, there were military bases nearby who - in all likelihood - had been running late-night tests.

Liz Parker sought to be one of the world's best renowned scientists one day. It was her childhood dream to become a molecular biologist when she grew up, of course, after attending and graduating magna cum laude from one of the country's top, Ivy League schools. Which meant that any good scientist applied logic and practicality to any given situation - because they needed valid proof to back up claims and theories. They didn't allow the subjectivity born out of personal opinions and feelings to cloud their judgment. Or at least, those were all the things she had told herself and was comfortable allowing herself to accept until one fateful day in September of 1999.

Looking back, she now concluded that specific day to be the start of her re-awakening, something she didn't fully understand then and something she was still coming to terms with now. All logic and practical ways of analyzing events had gone straight out the window for her the day the gun went off inside the Crashdown. It was the day he had saved her life. A day that had changed the course of her own life forever, almost placing practical science measures along-side primitive practices from so long ago, the moment the powerful energy emanating from his healing hand dissolved the bullet and repaired all of her internal damage. The healing had marked her soul, not only bringing her DNA back to life, but reviving a dormant part of her soul as well. It was a part of her life she preferred to forget about at this point - and desperately so. The simple fact was that it only hurt to think about the past - a past that at one time had held the promise of so much - a young first love that was full of so much innocence and naivete. There were many days and nights she had wept for that lost love - a love that was never really hers to begin with. But more importantly, it was this part of her past that opened up an unexpected door to secrets; some secrets in which she had discovered the answers to; however, at the same time - other secrets she wished to never unmask.

Yes, Liz reaffirmed. There was only pain in going back. It was better to leave well enough alone even if the logic behind her words didn't necessarily match up with the feelings pulsating outwardly from her heart and soul. And then there were the dreams. Dreams she couldn't always understand but dreams that filled her with fear. Fear of the unknown - things she couldn't quite understand, didn't want to, but felt as if some force in the known universe had been biding its time and was now pushing for her to acknowledge it anyway - forcing her to remember. And she struggled and fought so hard against it.

Finally, the last sign appeared before her and went by in slow motion for her:

Use of Deadly Force is Authorized by law.

A chill passed through her and Liz involuntarily pulled her sweater even tighter over her chest. Her small, slender, and very petite frame was hidden underneath the hand-knitted material; however, nobody else seated on the van even bothered to inquire as to how such an article of clothing could be needed under the hot, Nevada sun - with a smoldering temperature of a toasty 100 degrees outside.

There were no barbed-wire fences, no guard posts; therefore, the clear cut notion regarding Area 51 quickly entered and left Liz's mind after reading that last warning post. Clearly, they were within the confines of some property owned and secured by the military and Liz concluded without a doubt - they were most likely under some type of heavy surveillance as well, even if they couldn't see it. Why else for those warnings found on the signs? Every person who was currently making this journey into the non-disclosed and hidden location, located inside the vast expanse of military landscape being sealed off and denied to the public - made the trip in silent anticipation. Only the best of the best in their chosen career fields made it beyond these invisible walls. The carefully selected crew consisted of a team of scientists, engineers, and other intellectuals considered mostly ahead of their time.

All of the recruits were flown into the McCarran Air-force Base in Las Vegas from LAX in California - the chosen destination point designated within the contractual stipulation that all recruits were bound under upon signature and agreement. Liz, however, first made a flight out of JFK in NY - connecting in California. A transport vehicle awaited their arrival at McCarran; however, only a select few were chosen and led towards the white van that was parked conspicuously off to the side of the same building they exited leading into the parking terminal. The rest of the flight passengers were left behind - awaiting a private flight connection into the same destination. Liz was a little baffled by that revelation but refused to question it. In the end, she reasonably concluded everyone was divided up and transported based upon their individual assignments:

(Flashback - 6 months ago)

Infinite Diagnostics; Special Projects Inc. - Upper Manhattan, N.Y.

Liz squinted one eye against the telescopic lens while the other observed, anticipating a reaction - praying for the right reaction. She watched in hopeful expectation as her heart pounded wildly against the inside of her chest as she hoped beyond reason that this time would be the successful trial run. That this time it would be different.

A white blood cell was now infused with a carefully concocted antibody cocktail serum that had been crafted and born out of Liz's spare time. It moved towards the dangerously invasive and often deadly cancerous cell. She watched as the white blood cell aggressively engulfed the diseased cell - and waited. And then ... it was happening. The adrenaline rush was picking up, flowing throughout her body. The cancer was shrinking, disappearing into oblivion when suddenly - it failed. The serum died off inside of the white blood cell and the cancer grew to life once again.

"Dammit!" Liz cursed, grabbing the goggles that rested against the top of her head. She stood up from the stool and whipped them across the lab's counter top - her frustration getting the better of her.

A year - she had been at this for almost a year. What good was all her talent, her excellent grades - the elite internships, a diploma from Harvard, and later a degree from their medical school - if she couldn't even use any of it to help save her best friend. She was failing Maria and she refused to lose another best friend.

Liz wouldn't survive losing another best friend - couldn't survive it.

Maria had been diagnosed with cancer almost a year and a half ago - shortly after the birth of her second child, a son name Christopher. Beth, Maria's four-year old daughter, had been named for Liz - Maria opting to use another nick-name form of Elizabeth. However, much to the dismay of both Maria and her students, Maria had complained of swollen lymph nods - stymieing the use of her vocal cords in one of the most prestigious schools - Julliard. Maria had acquired a teaching position there through a lucky break - a networking opportunity presented to her while she had been on the road auditioning. In the end, she hadn't been able to achieve a famous singing career; however, she had been successful in publishing her own work. Remaining true to the music that inspired her, writing it had always been the most important thing for her so it was this work that she used in her own teaching - works that allowed other gifted students to hone their abilities. However, instead of discovering a mere case of tonsillitis - like Liz had been expecting, the shocking discovery attributed to Maria's illness had thrown them all for a loop. Liz's most vivid memory was watching Tyler's tearful collapse, bringing his face into his hands as the emotional onslaught released itself.

"It's okay, baby" Maria had muttered, as she tenderly grabbed onto the side of his head - kissing him. She was curled up tightly beside him on the living room couch found in their New York City apartment - pouring out all the comfort he needed while her tear-filled eyes met Liz's shocked ones head on.

Tyler Pentington was Maria's husband of five years. They had met on the road early on when Maria had given her singing gig a chance; it had also been a couple years after she had been forced to say good-bye to Michael. Tyler and Maria had started out as friends - sharing a similar interest in music. The relationship grew and then after dating for about two years - they tied the knot when Maria was twenty-three, settling themselves down in New York. As for Liz, after spending the entire duration of her undergraduate and graduate work in Cambridge, Massachusetts - she followed Maria to New York after her graduation from medical school. She had accepted the position with Infinite Diagnostics just to be closer to the only child-hood friend she had left from her old life in Roswell - despite the fact that she had passed the boards with flying colors and could have worked anywhere.

Unlike the confusion and emotional turmoil left behind in the wake of Max's departure back to Antar, Michael and Maria had parted on good terms. Earlier on, she had come to accept their relationship for what it had been. Which was something that both of them wanted and had needed during the "here and now" - however, something that wasn't necessarily meant to last forever. Maria had made her peace with that long before Michael ever even told her he was going to leave to go back home. Their relationship had been intense even a bit volatile at times; however, there had been genuine love shared between the two. A big part of Maria's heart would always belong with Michael but she had also learned that it was okay to move on, that it was possible to find love with another. It had been something she had desperately tried to get Liz to see and accept for years now; however, failing at it miserably. After all, Maria had known that Michael had wanted her to move on - to be happy - and he had even made her promise him that she would do just that. Therefore, Maria had to believe on some level, no matter how convoluted things had gotten between Max and Liz all the way up until the very end - that Max would want the same happiness for Liz.

"Liz, babe, it's okay to open your heart up to someone else, you know? To love someone new and to live your life here, on earth, with the rest of us. It doesn't diminish anything you may have felt for Max."

Maria meant well, Liz had known that, but she couldn't take Maria's words to heart no matter how hard she tried. And it wasn't because she hadn't let Max go - she resolved herself to that years ago. No, it was rather more of who she was - who she had become. There were things Maria didn't fully understand, things she hadn't made her best friend aware of - including the sudden boosts of alien power that would sprout up out of the blue. It scared her, because in these moments, Liz felt detached from herself. She was out of control - a state of being she did not like experiencing or feeling stuck in. Maria believed Liz's powers to have vanished for good after the final departure of Max - since everyone attributed her powers being directly tied to his healing of her along with his close proximity to her. Liz had believed it too, it had been the most plausible theory at the time - until six months down the road when they resurfaced again. There had been that and the fact that Kyle had never developed powers at all. Liz virtually had no control over when the power surges would suddenly resurface and she certainly couldn't pretend to go on and live a happy, normal existence with another human man who could quite possibly be put at risk being with her.

Would he think her to be a freak? How would she explain it?

Liz walked over to the window facing out of the fifteen-story high-rise of Infinite Diagnostics Inc. She worked on the tenth floor and now stood with her arms folded, looking down over the busy traffic below. It was a simple distraction - the honking of horns, the sounds of voices mingling and mixing in together. But the question still slipped in, making its way deep inside her conscious thought.

Of all the powers, why couldn't she have been given the one that would allow her to save Maria's life? He would have been able to do it!

"Miss Parker?"

After the call of her name startled and broke her trance, the sudden inquiry that came from behind caused her to jump and spin around to face the source. She hadn't been expecting anyone today and found herself scrambling for an explanation as to what she was doing here on her day off. Guiltily, her eyes darted to the contents found on the table - contents that could wind her in some pretty big trouble for their unauthorized use. However, before her stood a man and woman, both clad in military attire. They didn't appear to be two employees working under Infinite Diagnostics, Inc.

"Or should I say, Dr. Parker? Sorry, we didn't mean to startle you," the stranger quickly amended, glimpsing her nervous reaction to their sudden arrival. The woman standing beside him remained silent - simply observing.

"Uh, how did you get in here?" Liz questioned, walking over to the table. "I thought that door was locked."

All personnel were required to carry security clearance cards that granted them access to various rooms found within the company building. Not everyone had access to the same areas. After walking back to her work station, she began collecting the various items scattered across the laboratory table - petri dishes, vials full of experimental, chemical compounds, and also an array of other equipment. Each item was carefully placed back into a small, brown box.

"It was," he smiled almost eerily.

As Liz looked back up, she felt an impending sense of unease pass through her that she didn't like. As she glanced sideways, she noted how uncomfortable she also felt under the scrutinious glare of the female officer still standing beside him. Rather suddenly, almost as if she had prompted his actions with her thoughts, he produced a clearance card - lifting it into the air for verification purposes. She released a tight breath of air she didn't even realize she had been holding.

"We were looking for you," he clarified. "We were told we might be able to find you here. Although, the assistant down at the front desk seemed to have somewhat of a hard time locating you. It might be that perhaps you forgot to sign yourself in today?"

"No, I don't think so," Liz denied - lying with ease and also gathering her courage to look him straight in the eyes while doing so. "It must be a technical glitch." The last thing she needed was suspicion cast her way or her job put on the line because of some fluke, off-site visit. Liz quickly changed the subject and shifted the conversation back into their direction so they would be the ones doing the explaining. "But you said you were looking for me. Why?"

The man stepped forward, the woman taking the exact same steps in stride.

"I'm Colonel Krammer," he introduced, extending his hand. "And this is Officer Delgado. We're actually here to discuss an opportunity with you that you might find worth your while," he explained.

Liz reached out, accepting the handshake. She observed his demeanor and every ounce of body language carefully and if she hadn't known any better - his words seemed to disguise a hidden message that went much deeper than what he was actually saying. Although, what that hidden message could be, was totally lost on Liz. After briefly contemplating it, she decided it was just paranoia on her part.

"You were actually referred to us," he continued on. "Based off of your working credentials, the company has agreed to contract you out for the next year onto a top secret military facility."

Liz's eyes widened. "Contract me out?" she questioned, shaking her head slowly. "I'm not sure I understand. None of my superiors here have mentioned anything about this to me at all so I'm afraid ..."

The Colonel held up his hand to interject. "This is a very recent development, Dr. Parker," he quickly amended. "Plus, with the sensitive nature and security measures that are involved with this, we asked for permission to speak with you directly," he added. "I'm sure you understand," he flashed her a smile.

Liz didn't know how to really respond. "Sure, I guess."

"Very good." He reached and pulled out a long, manila-colored envelope from inside his jacket. "You'll find all the details in here. Please read it carefully before signing your name and agreeing to the conditions that are set forth for this ... project," he finally settled on.

Liz hesitated before slowly reaching out to take it. However, it didn't take long for her mind to drift right back to Maria. How could she even think about leaving at such a crucial time like this? "Uh, actually, Colonel Krammer?" she held the envelope back out so he could retrieve it. "This just isn't really a good time for me. I'm sorry," she apologized. There was no way she could go anywhere when Maria needed her help and all of her support.

"The pay for this particular position will be double the salary you would make here in a year," he stressed. "With such a prestigious education like Harvard under your belt, I can only imagine the financial burdens and obligations you must be bombarded with. I really must advise that you take a look at this," he pushed.

Liz smirked. "Wow, um, yeah as tempting as that definitely sounds, I'm still going to have to decline," she stressed back. "Like I said, it's just not a good time."

The Colonel smiled, his gaze meeting the floor. He sighed. "I see. That's a shame," he sighed once again. Then there was a brief pause and the civilized exchange of words shared only moments ago was gone.

"However, allow me to stress that, alot of the advancements our own facilities have made in the areas of curing cancer far outweigh any advancements you think you may have come to here." His hardened eyes met her shocked ones head on. "Now, I'm not sure what your superiors know or don't know in regards to your little, vigilante experiments on the side here, but I can assure you that your friend may benefit more from our little arrangement than the secret one you have going on right here," he stressed, the cockiness full of life.

"Excuse me?" was all Liz could question through her disbelief. How could he possibly know all that?

The smug smile returned. He thrust the envelope back out in front of her. "Are you sure you wouldn't like to reconsider? Take some time to think it over?"

"What I want is for you to leave," she declared, no longer feeling safe in his presence. "Now! Before I call security!" she threatened.

Liz's thoughts immediately jumped to conclusions. So she had decided to call his bluff on how far he might take the information he claimed to have on her by threatening to have him removed. Had someone really admitted them into the building and given them clearance? Or had they somehow managed it themselves - in the same manner they were apparently able to know so much about what she was doing when even her superiors didn't? He had said so himself - she wasn't signed in today, which meant that no one would have been able to direct them to this particular room. After all, she accessed many of the rooms found on this floor during the days she was scheduled to work.

The smile only deepened. "Now, now, Ms. Parker. Threats aren't necessary," he laughed it off like she had attempted to scold a small child for being naughty. "I wasn't threatening you; I was merely letting you know that I know," he sugar-coated it for her. "We simply do our homework. Thoroughly. And I also understand how you could be so desperate for Maria DeLuca's sake," this time he referenced her friend by using her name. "Or is it Pentington now? Hm," there was a contemplative pause. "Anyway, if I were you, I'd just take a look at this. No harm - no foul." This time he placed the envelope down onto the table. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small card. "And here's how you can get into contact with me if you do happen to change your mind."

After placing the card down on top of the envelope, he turned around to leave - the female officer following him out. She gave Liz the glance-over one last time before exiting for good.

Liz's eyes shifted down to the manila-colored envelope left clearly in view.


(End of Flashback)

The sound of the voice carried through the entire van as the driver using the intercom system informed his passengers that they were about to arrive at their appointed destination.

"Ladies and gentleman, we are about to enter the area know as Sector 44. When we arrive, you will be I.D tagged and assigned to your bunker on base where you will be housed for the duration of your stay. All baggage and personal effects will be checked in and returned after careful inspection. Thank you for your cooperation."

A few minutes later, the van pulled to a complete stop.

x

After freeing herself from the cramped space inside the van, Liz had checked in, got tagged, and was now heading in the direction of her assigned bunker - map in hand. The closely approaching footsteps from behind went ignored; however, they had alerted Liz that somebody was probably about to seek her out. After a few more moments of anticipation, nobody did so she had almost expected the other person, whom she assumed to be in some kind of hurry, to by-pass her until the young woman trailing finally caught up and slowed beside her to keep the same pace.

"Uh, Elizabeth Parker, right?" the young woman's friendly sounding voice called out, penetrating straight through Liz's reflective state of mind.

She really wasn't in the mood to be making nice with anybody just yet; however, she quickly concluded she didn't want to come across rude or worse, risk isolating herself. Turning her head to the side, she met the bright and vibrant eyes of an attractive, raven-haired beauty with dark chocolate eyes. If Liz had pegged her right, the young woman appeared to come from Native American descent.

"Um, yeah. That's right," Liz answered a little distantly. "How did you know?"

The other woman just smiled in response - pointing to the name tag found pinned to the white-knitted sweater that Liz wore.

"Oh?! Right!" Liz couldn't help but smile a little, slapping herself against the head in a mocking gesture to demonstrate her stupidity. "Sorry, don't mind me. It's been one of those days," she cracked. Her mind had been drifting in and out during the entire trip here. She quickly glanced at the name tag found on the young woman walking beside her. "And you would be - Serri Du'Bois?" she read aloud, sounding out the last name slowly.

"Yep, you got it! It's French."

"Yeah, well, language arts was never my thing," Liz joked.

"Well, you're safe. I'm not French," Serri clarified for her, returning a smile. "So, I don't speak it or anything like that. I'm actually adopted - my parents carry the French heritage in the blood. And," she released a deep breath, " if I want to be completely honest, I was standing pretty close behind you in line and over-heard that overly obnoxious woman assigning you."

A smile flashed across Liz's face - her natural defenses were breaking down. "She was pretty bad," Liz admitted. "I don't think she likes me very much."

"I don't think that woman likes planet earth very much," Serri cracked. "I wouldn't take it too personally though, if I were you. And while we're on the topic of honesty, Serri's actually my nickname. My full-name is Serena but it's up to you. Call me whichever one you want."

And then those defenses shot right back up again - a barrier intact. Startled, Liz tried to hide the sudden reaction she was having after hearing that particular revelation. Serena? No way. What were the odds of that? It was the last name she had ever expected to hear - let alone, meeting the face behind it. First, she experiences a hallucination of a man that no longer exists and now she was encountering someone else who supposedly existed in that time-line as well? Liz quickly evaluated the possibility that this could just be coincidence - that there was no connection between this girl and a future that no longer existed - a future that had been completely erased, much like the man who had disappeared right along with it. After all, there were people in this world who shared the same name in common. Besides, she hadn't even known if the "Serena" from that world had been human or alien? Although, this girl seemed pretty normal. Still, she would err on the side of caution, she concluded.

"I think we're sharing the same bunker," Serena pointed to the number on her own I.D. badge, the same one that matched the number found on Liz's.

Liz nodded. "Ah."

"And since we're going to be room-mates, I figured that it's best never to put off the inevitable - so here I am," she passed on the playful banter. "What you see is what you get."

Liz wanted to remain guarded; however, her boisterous personality was contagious and Liz couldn't help but be instantly drawn in by the other young woman. "Oh, well, in that case - let's try this again," she stopped, extending her hand - her smile still in place. "Hi, my name's Elizabeth but you can call me Liz. It's very nice to meet you."

Serena repeated the other womans' actions - completely amused. "Well, hi Liz, it's nice to meet you too. I'm Serena but you can just call me Serri," she joked, both of them sharing a light laugh at the playful exchange. "We are headed in the right direction, aren't we?"

Liz pulled out her map. "I think so."

A small silence elapsed as the women followed their maps and continued on their journey.

"So, Liz?" Serena inquired, breaking that silence - after the two women had settled into a quiet and steady pace. "Where are you from and how did you end up somewhere that exists - but, yet, doesn't really exist?" she arched her brows, laughing at the paradox.

Liz smirked. "Well, I guess in answer to the first part of your question, my apartment is back in New York along with my regular, nine-to-five job," she shared. "As for the rest - I'm not really sure something can exist and not exist at the same time."

"Hm," Serena nodded. Her smile widened. "True, but then again, that was before you and I happened upon the infamous Area 51," she cracked. "For those that don't know, it's called - plausible denial." Serena laughed again. She glanced over at Liz, reading for a reaction. The questionable expression that crossed over the other woman's face prompted Serena to prod. "Hey, you do know that's what this place is?"

Liz just shrugged her shoulders. "Maybe."

"I mean, come on," Serena stressed. "Why the hell else for the ten-page diatribe pledging our unwavering silence and those over-the-top consequences for letting the information slip on the outside? Seriously. We were practically one step away from signing an oath in blood and promising them our first-born," she laughed again.

Liz couldn't help but flinch in response to her reference of - first born.

Serena caught it. "You okay?" the concern saturating her tone for the first time.

"Fine," Liz shrugged it off. "I guess in the end it doesn't really matter," she covered up her reaction. "A contract is a contract, you break it - you pay for it."

"Okay, now you sound like their lawyer," Serena laughed.

"No," Liz smirked. "Law school definitely wasn't for me. An old friend of mine went that route though. His name was Kyle."

"Sounds cute."

"I wouldn't know - I haven't seen him in years."

"Oh." Serena didn't want to press. It sounded personal and she knew that she didn't know Liz well enough yet to pry.

"Anyway," Liz sighed, "I earned my medical degree a little over a year ago. And just before that, it took me about three years to finish my undergrad work."

"Three years?" Serena was impressed. It took most students four years - possibly more if they transferred, lost credits, or just happened to switch majors.

Liz smiled. "Yeah. Alot of hard work; all my summers were spent taking courses I needed to ful-fill for graduation requirements. I got into med school that same year."

"Where?"

"Um, Harvard."

"Wow, impressive record. High school?" Without meaning to, Serena touched on a sore subject. She noticed the shift in Liz's body language almost immediately. "Sorry. It's okay if you don't want to talk about it - sometimes I just get carried away playing twenty questions, that's all."

"Oh, uh, no, it's okay," Liz denied. "I, uh ... I actually didn't get the chance to finish high school," she admitted, without going into too much more detail. "I was home-schooled for my last year and then I earned a GED. I never got a diploma - at least not the normal way." Liz shot her a side-ways glance, reading for the other girl's reaction. Would she want more or be satisfied with the short version of the story? Serena turned and met Liz's stare with her own. "Long story," Liz added.

"Sure."

Liz was relieved when Serena didn't push it any further. Serena reached up and pulled the shades down from the top of her head to shield her eyes against the blinding light currently impairing her vision.

"The sun, you know?" Serena shared. "I'm not use to it like this - I actually lived most of my life up in Washington State. Alot of rain there. Then my parents divorced and I had the pleasure of spending most of my summers in Alaska. Don't ask me what possessed my dad to go there." She rolled her eyes playfully. "So, without getting into any long stories," she made it a point to smirk and stress the last part to Liz, "going back and forth between the rain and the snow didn't leave much room for improving my tan line," she joked.

"I'm pretty use to it," Liz volunteered. "I grew up in New Mexico."

"Which part?" Serena continued with the small talk.

"Roswell."

"Ooh - Alien City, U.S.A.!" Serena teased her. "So, let me get this straight. Before the Big Apple, you came from like the most famous alien town known to the world. Yet, Area 51 has never even crossed your mind?"

"Never said it didn't," Liz denied. "I'm just not completely sold, like you are, that Area 51 is what everyone thinks it is. There can be some very legitimate, top-secret, projects here that have absolutely nothing to do with so-called extraterrestrial life."

Liz cringed - she didn't even really believe that. At least, not completely. After all, almost two years with the pod squad and the circumstances surrounding that particular association made her know better. That and Max Evans' own nightmare regarding the white room had taught her well too.

"Okay, fine Parker, here's the deal. If I happen to cross paths with an alien or two - I'll be the first one to let you know." Serena's laughter filled the air around them.

"Right."

Liz really hoped not.

Their walk out of headquarters and across the base took them past what appeared to resemble a tiny town. During her observations, Liz found herself amazed by the sight - there were small convenient stores, pharmacies, a bank, a movie theater, and even a small playground centered in the small town square with a tower clock shooting straight up from the middle of it. Liz thought about that for a moment, children were actually living here? Eventually, their small journey led them into a miniature compound - with identical houses to be used as bunkers - lining the perimeter of the roadway that created a small square.

Serena pointed down at the small map. "According to this, we should be right here."

The wind blew across their path, sending Liz's hair flying around. Using her hand to brush it away from her face, she leaned over and looked down. Then, placing her hand over her eyes to shield it from the sun, she lifted her head to identify the numbers found on the bunkers. Swarms of people were gathered around - searching for their own.

"I don't think I see ours," Liz remarked. "Did they give us the right number?"

"Maybe they just gave us the wrong map," Serena shrugged.

"Well, that would be my luck," Liz snorted. "Lost on the first day here."

"Aw, it's not that bad. Trust me." Serena glanced over the crowd - another smirk finally breaking free. "Besides, you can always just ask the cute guy over there for directions," she pointed out. "He seems to know what he's doing."

Liz followed where Serena's gaze fell. It rested on the backside of a young man dressed entirely in military ensemble. He appeared to be engaging in a task of patrolling - keeping a careful watch and directing others when necessary. However, one thing stuck out that caught Liz's immediate attention and it was the small insignia found on the navy blue attire. The symbol was unlike anything she had ever seen engraved on the uniform of a United States soldier and the closest thing she could compare it to was an Egyptian hieroglyphic. As the gentleman turned his head around, she completely froze. Liz did a double-take; she was stuck in a state of shock because of the face. It couldn't be, could it?

"Michael?" she muttered.

"Michael?" Serena parroted, overhearing her. "Do you know him?"

Another recruit managed to walk by and block the view as Liz struggled to look past him. When the second man finally moved out of the way, the face of the man staring around was no longer Michael. It belonged to somebody else completely. That's it, she was definitely going nuts, Liz concluded. Thinking about the pills - she was feigning for one of them right about now; however, her medication was still packed away inside her luggage - something that hadn't been returned to them just yet.

"No," Liz quickly recovered from the relapse. "No, he just looks alot like someone I use to know."

"I don't think it matters much anymore because there we are," Serena brought their attention to bunker number they sought. As Serena sprinted towards the two front steps that would take them inside, Liz followed.

"Thank god," Liz mumbled, rolling her eyes.

"We're here," Serena announced jubilee, while using her foot to hold open the swinging, screen door for Liz. "Nice set-up," she commented, surveying the small kitchen-ette area.

Liz squinted her eyes against the sun-light, taking one last glance at the man in uniform before finally stepping inside the new domicile.

(-X-)

The rain coming from the gray sky dropped in heavy pelts through the streams of trees that stretched for miles into the deep woods. Lightening bolts flashed across the expanse of late evening sky - the zigzag patterns showing off the dangerous amount of energy and destruction that could be caused with one powerful strike.

It would be dark soon.

The winds had picked up and somewhere in the distance - the frantic calls of a mother in search of her lost child echoed. In the midst of various animal wildlife, one lone little boy - around the age of ten - had ventured off on his own away from his campsite. Hoping to catch the rabbit that had invaded their camp the other night, the ten-year old had wandered too far into the forest in his quest to make the animal his own pet. Now, he trek-ed through the wet grass and the muddy puddles found beneath the soles of his feet.

Suddenly, the sight before him made him jump. He stopped.

A little girl with sandy, brown hair and golden highlights stood in his path. She stood completely still, her long and wet hair clinging to her sides. Her entire dress ensemble was also soaked, she didn't budge - yet it was like she had come from out of nowhere.

"Hi," he waved nervously.

She didn't answer back. Instead, she continued to stare - blinking her eyelashes, the raindrops flicking off the long length of them. The intensity of the stare made the little boy feel uncomfortable.

"Are you lost too?" He tried again to make conversation.

Again, the little girl did not respond. However, she lifted her arm and pointed - apparently communicating this way as she indicated something behind him.

"Peter?" The mother's voice traveled from the distance.

What was she pointing at - a tree? The little boy didn't understand at all. Then the familiar voice had suddenly sounded from the distance and as the little boy turned to look over his shoulder, he called back out. "Mom? Mom, I'm over here."

"Mom. Mom, I'm over here."

The little boy named Peter turned back around when the little girl had repeated his exact phrase - word for word. The voice sounded strained - as if the little girl was attempting the English language for the very first time. Who was she, he wondered. Whoever she was - one thing was clear. She was acting very weird and it was freaking him out.

"Peter? Peter, honey, is that you?"

Suddenly, the little boy's mother came into view as she rushed forward to embrace him. Peter bolted towards his mother and they hugged.

"Don't ever take off on your own like that again, do you hear me?" the mother scolded her young son. "What were you thinking?"

"I followed Chester into the woods and got lost," he explained.

"Chester?"

"Yeah, Chester. My bunny rabbit."

"Aah!" the mother groaned - still upset - but happy to have recovered her son unharmed. "Let's go, right now, before your father sends out the national guard," she cracked, trying to push him along. "And look at you, you're not even wearing a jacket, do you want to catch a cold?" The young mother thrust open the checkered umbrella she held in her possession - shielding both herself and her son with it.

Little Peter hesitated. "But wait, mom, we can't go. What about the little girl?"

"What little girl?" the mother's brows contorted in confusion.

"That little girl!" After he turned to point, he noticed that she was now gone. She had suddenly vanished - gone as quickly as she had appeared. He turned back to look his mother square in the face. "Mom, she was there, I swear! I'm not making it up."

"Peter, there's nobody out there, now let's go."

"But mom ... "

"No buts, do you hear me?" She grabbed for his hand with her free one.

However, rather suddenly and without warning, a strong burst of chain lightening erupted from the sky - sending it flying towards one direction and straight for one of the trees in the drenched forest. As it struck the trunk rooted firmly inside the ground, it cracked - sending the entire tree falling forward. Unfortunately, its intended course of impact met with the two unfortunate victims that had no time to escape it. The last thing that could be heard were the piercing screams.

The loud thunder that followed blocked all sound completely out of earshot under the vast mountains found in Washington state.

(-X-)

It was dark outside now, about a quarter past ten, and Liz had just managed to retrieve the last of her luggage. All the luggage had undergone inspection and had been delivered to the appropriate bunkers. Clearly, she had been more than a bit agitated because of how late this had transpired.

Slowly, Liz unpacked what was left of her first suitcase, folding and placing articles of clothing into the proper drawers. However, she was absolutely exhausted after her long trip out here and decided to leave the rest for tomorrow. She was pretty positive that Serena had settled in for the night - after all, she had made it her business to pop her head in Liz's bedroom almost an hour ago to offer her good-night and sweet dream sentiments.

If she only knew.

The two-bedroom unit came with one full bathroom that both room-mates would share, a small kitchen, and a comfortable-sized living room that was attached off from the kitchen area. Then finally, last but not least, the two identical bedrooms - each room accommodated the occupant with a twin bed, night-stand, dresser, and small walk-in closet.

After Liz changed into some nightwear, a pair of comfortable shorts and old white t-shirt, she practically threw herself on top of the pre-made bed - releasing a tired and weary sigh. Reaching for the journal she placed on the night-stand beside her prescription bottles, there were just so many jumbled thoughts running amuck inside her head right now and she just wanted to get it all down on paper. However, before opening it up, she glanced to her cell phone also on the night-stand - noticing the flashing light for the first time and alerting her to a text message. Flipping it open, she pressed read.

Inside appeared a picture text - one that brought a big, genuine smile to Liz's face. In the picture, Maria was posed with her two children. Both looked to be sitting on her lap, clad in their pajamas - with little Beth in the middle of blowing a kiss while little Christopher scrunched up his eyes, his big goofy grin caught on camera. It was clear that Maria had probably just taken the picture before settling the children down for bed. Little Beth was all her mother, the blonde hair and bright eyes matching her friend. The only difference between them - the natural curls that fell in long, tight spirals past the little girl's shoulders. Christopher, on the other-hand, was the spitting image of his father with his thick waves of brown hair and sparkling blue eyes. Or at least, Liz thought so. The caption that accompanied the picture read:

Sweet Dreams. Good luck with the new job and we love you: Maria, Tyler, Beth, and Christopher.

"Too cute. I love you guys too."

She would have to call Maria tomorrow - if just to reassure her that everything was fine, that she had made a safe trip. Before flipping the phone closed, Liz quickly took note that there were also a few missed calls. After checking, she discovered they were from Dr. Wallace. She would have to get back to her as well. However, she finally decided that the journal logging could hold off for the night - she realized she was just way too tired to think or analyze properly. Turning to the side and switching off the small, night lamp - Liz then threw her head back down against the pillow.

Her body craved the rest; hopefully her mind would get it too.

_________________________________

To Be Continued: Hope that was okay - tell me what you thought. I love hearing your feedback.
Last edited by ADreamerDestiny on Thu Mar 26, 2009 7:59 pm, edited 8 times in total.
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Re: The Re-Awakening (CC/UC - ML/Mature) Chapter Two - 04/04/09

Postby ADreamerDestiny » Sat Apr 04, 2009 8:25 pm

A/N: Hey guys. Sorry for the delay - things were hectic last weekend so I didn't even get a chance to work on this. But here's the next part, sealed and delivered for you, lol. Hope you enjoy.

Once again, thanks a bunch to you guys who read and comment. Feedback is a useful tool for a writer. Thanks: keepsmiling7, Ava, begonia9508, and MP. Your reviews have been great. :mrgreen: :D

A small disclaimer: I've borrowed the last scene from Max in the City (S2) with ML and put my own twist on it.


______________________________


Chapter Two: Crazy Old Beginnings

The incessant beeping noise coming from the alarm clock found on the nightstand beside the bed finally broke into Liz's very deep sleep. While still immersed within a groggy state of consciousness, she managed to barely force her eyes open just enough to swing her right arm out into the open space next to her - desperately seeking to put an end to the highly irritating sound. After flinging her arm around in the air in search, she finally found the button and slammed down on to it really hard. She took a final moment to relax - laying flat on her stomach, limbs stretched, and enjoying the warm feel of the morning rays streaming in through the window shades falling against her face. With a slit of the eye, she read the clock.

The time was 8:00 a.m.

Liz groaned before forcing herself up and out of bed. She needed to shower, get dressed, and grab something to eat so she wouldn't starve on the job - a working assignment she wasn't completely knowledgeable about. After taking a moment to stretch and yawn, she wasn't prepared for the cold sensation that stung the bottoms of her bare feet after they hit the floor. Why was the floor so cold? The temperature building up in the air around her definitely gave it away that they were in for another one of those hot, Nevada days that Liz had experienced during her arrival here the day before. It took a moment to adjust but she was soon up and brushing the thought away as she made it to the closet for something to wear today. However, as she went to pass by the dresser, she immediately noticed a garment laid out across the top of it, a clothing garment that was also sealed inside of a protective, plastic wrap. Stopping to examine it carefully, she noticed the yellow sticky note latched onto it and pulled it off. Reading the neat inscription, it simply read back:

Elizabeth "A" Parker. Code/Rank: *Q7789*.

Liz made a strange face. What was this?

If Liz was left to assume right, the outfit appeared to be some kind of uniform that she was required to wear for the day. Looking through the plastic material, her name and rank were also stitched to the silver-colored material of what seemed to be some type of two-piece jumpsuit. Although, for the life of her, she had no idea what the code and rank could possibly mean. Was this for real - a dress code? Did this mean she couldn't wear any of her own clothing, clothing that she had packed and lugged all they way out here? There had been nothing in the contract she signed that required her to be in uniform. Grabbing the jumpsuit off the dresser, she marched out of her bedroom and into the small hallway leading to the kitchen. Her quick steps brought her to Serena who was already wide awake and dressed in her own uniform - seated at the small, round kitchen table. She was in the middle of eating some breakfast. Without even looking up, Serena knew she was there.

"I left some for you in the frying pan," she pointed over her shoulder - indicating to Liz that there was some more food waiting for her on the stove.

Liz looked over and nodded. "Oh. Thanks."

"Sure, no problem."

A couple more seconds of silence ensued.

"Serena, is this what I think it is?" Liz held out the uniform still hidden underneath the plastic and attached to the hanger inside.

Serena smirked at Liz when she caught her look of distaste.

"Yup, sure is."

Serena's concentration returned to the contents found inside the coffee cup found in front of her. Liz arched her brows. That was it? She didn't find it just a tad bit weird in the least or uncomfortable like she did? Serena, still oblivious to the mental ramblings of Liz, grabbed for the folded newspaper found on top of the table she sat at. Unfolding and opening it up, she scanned the headlines while Liz simply observed.

"Okay," Liz smiled. "Um, didn't grade school end for us like - oh - I don't know, say about fifteen years ago or so?" she verbally made light of the situation. "I mean, if they were going to tell us what to wear, they should have let us know. Why even bother with all those invasive inspections on our luggage when it was basically pointless to bring it along?"

In a calm and collected manner, Serena lifted her gaze back up to meet Liz's. Gently, she folded the newspaper back up.

"Liz," she sighed. "It's not a big deal. Really," she stressed. "It's just while we're working on the base - it identifies us and probably gives us the proper security clearance we need to go wherever it is we're suppose to go, that's all," she pointed back and forth between the numbering found on both of their jumper wear.

"Yeah but it's so ... formal."

"True, but we can still wear what we want on our own time. Besides," a big smile broke out across Serena's face. "I think silver goes alot better with your complexion and coloring. Now, look at me?!" she stood up from her chair and modeled her own jumpsuit before Liz. "I got stuck with tacky yellow!"

"Right," Liz couldn't help but smile as a small laugh escaped. "I guess I could consider myself lucky there," she joked, cringing at the thought of wearing such a loud color. She almost expected to find giant smiley faces jumping off of the bright, sunshiny material. Pausing briefly, she tried to cover up her next laugh. "That is pretty awful looking."

Serena narrowed her eyes playfully. "Yeah, well, don't rub it in or anything!"

"Sorry," the laugh died down, a smirk replacing it. The look coming from Liz's face grew serious again. "Actually, come to think of it, I don't remember having to wear uniforms when I was in school. Ever!" another smirk falling back into place. "Where did they come from anyway? I don't remember them being here when we got here."

"Hand delivered this morning," Serena volunteered readily. Grabbing for both her plate and cup, she walked over to the sink, depositing the remains of her unfinished breakfast down the garbage disposal - the dish and cup left in the sink afterwards. "By that hottie from yesterday," she lifted her eyebrows suggestively. "I don't think he was too into me but you never know - maybe the two of you have a shot," she teased a bashful Liz.

"Oh, please." Liz rolled her eyes.

"No, I'm serious," Serena insisted. "He actually asked me about you when he dropped our uniforms off this morning."

"Forget it. I'm not interested."

"Doesn't mean that he isn't," Serena pushed, her laughter flowing with her words.

Liz shook her head. "No, I don't think so."

"Well, I do!"

"Serena, would you stop?!" Liz's eyes bulged. "God, you're worse than Maria!"

"Maria? Who's Maria?!" Serena interrogated in a playful manner. "Sounds like Maria and I would get along really well."

"Uh-huh, right!" Liz retorted in an amused fashion. "FYI? Maria happens to be a very close friend of mine and we go all the way back to kindergarten. And if I refuse to allow her to set me up on strange dates, what makes you think I'd let you after we've known each other not even a sum total of twenty-four hours?"

"He said he caught you staring at him yesterday." Serena simply smiled, deliberately flashing her pearly whites.

"I wasn't staring at anybody," a slightly embarrassed Liz blushed.

Serena broke into a fit of laughter, she couldn't help it as she witnessed the other young woman in front of her turning a noticeable shade of pink.

"Okay, first of all, it wasn't like that," Liz automatically came to her own defense. "If it's that guy in the uniform who was manning the bunkers when we got here - I only pointed out that he happened to look like someone I use to know. But when I got a closer look, another look," she stressed purposefully, "I realized that I was completely wrong."

Serena shot up her hands. "Hey, don't kill the messenger," she cracked.

"There is no message to send," Liz's agitation began to creep in.

"Hey, there's no law that says we can't have fun when we're not working."

"I'm here to do my job, Serena, plain and simple - nothing more. And that currently doesn't include, nor will it ever, escorting services for the most eligible soldiers on base! I don't need to date - I'm perfectly fine on my own. I'm a strong, perfectly capable, independent woman who doesn't need a man in her life to validate or complete who she is."

Serena just stared. "Sure that you aren't just gay?" a playful whisper finally escaped from her mouth.

"NO!" Liz's voice hitched into a sound resembling a loud screech - her mouth practically hanging open. She couldn't believe Serena had even suggested it.

"Whoa, Liz, relax!" Serena put up her hands and couldn't help but laugh some more at how serious the conversation had turned. "I'm just kidding around, honest. I think it's great that you consider yourself to be strong and independent, really." She sighed, her mind in deep contemplation before completing her thought on the matter. Squinting her eyes back at Liz, she finally gave in and asked the question. "But why don't I believe you?"

An incredulous laugh departed from Liz. "What - you don't believe that I can be strong and independent?"

"No, I mean - why is it that I don't believe you when you say that's the reason why you don't accept dates because you don't need a man to validate who you are?" Serena clarified for her. "Liz, that notions really great and all but there are alot of strong, independent women out there who accept a date every now and again."

Liz took a deep breath - forcing herself to calm back down. "I'm just not looking for anything serious like that," she tried to explain. "I really like to keep my personal life and my work life separate from each other."

And I like to keep both of those lives separate from being with anyone. I need to keep myself from letting anyone get too close. I can never let anyone in - not like that - not ever again. Because, the truth is, I'll never be able to love anyone like I loved him. I had told HIM that, the future version of him that insisted our separation was for the best. Sadly, the real truth is that HIS love was never mine to have. And for that - I hate him. Cursed, that's what I am. Doomed to never have the one my heart will always bleed for but left behind all alone - tainted just enough by him to prevent me from ever experiencing second best. Left alone on this god-forsaken planet to be miserable, lonely, confused, and god only knew what else in time. Non-human?

Liz thought it but she didn't finish with it.

"H'm. So, who was he?" Serena blurted out.

"What?"

Shock flowed inside of Liz in response to Serena's canny sixth sense perception on the situation. For a moment, a slight tingling sensation - one born out of fear, pulsed through her as she considered the notion of this other woman possibly being able to read her mind or hear her thoughts. She had to consciously pull herself back from that silly idea that had invaded her mind; it was nothing more than simple paranoia. After all, she was no longer living her life inside of the alien abyss - in fact, she hadn't been for a long time now.

"Who was he?" she repeated. "The guy that broke your heart and left you closed off to finding love with someone else who deserves to have it with you?"

"Nobody," Liz denied.

This conversation was quickly turning into uncharted territory - something Liz wasn't comfortable discussing with anyone, not even Dr. Wallace. She was starting to feel things again that she didn't want to feel - emotions she had worked hard to fight over the years. And all because of what - some discussion over a soldier on a base who may or may not have shown some interest in her? First of all, it was just plain crazy to overreact to such a silly thing, she knew that, but it took some real effort to push the feelings away. Therefore, once again, she found herself re-living old wounds and wanting to blame "him" for her current predicament but she knew it wasn't that simple.

"Right. Does this nobody have a name?"

Yeah, Max. Or maybe he goes by Zan now? Who knows and who really cares. I certainly don't!

Liz thought it but didn't answer with it because the little voice found in the back of Liz's mind reminded her pointedly that if she didn't really care, why on earth had she let him, let the situation, effect her life to the degree that it had? On some level, she fully acknowledged that she owed him her life and knew that any rational thinking person would be eternally grateful to him for it. After all, she had practically been a stranger yet he had risked exposing himself to the world by doing so - while putting his own relationship on the line with Michael and Isabel. The only other two people he had known most of his life on earth and had completely trusted because they were exactly like him.

Something she would never be.

Liz sighed. "We were just ... different," she answered - giving in. There was really no point in trying to deny it anymore. "It was no big deal."

Serena smirked. "Hey, it must have been big enough for you if you were trying that hard to keep it a secret from me."

"We were in high school," Liz stressed, as if that should explain it all. "Just two young and inexperienced kids. It was puppy love," she lied.

No, it had been intense. Something that definitely went beyond the normal realm of young, teenage love. She never admitted it to anyone but sometimes the intensity use to scare her to both an exciting and fearful degree because the connection went very deep - so deep that she knew it was irreversible. It was like two old souls finding their way back to each other - a marital union between souls shared on the highest level.

"Puppy love?" Serena questioned.

Why was this feeling more and more like a subtle interrogation?

"An infatuation," Liz settled on. "Without going into any details, he saved my life, okay? And I mean literally, not figuratively. I was in high school and I fell in love with the idea of being in love with him because he had saved my life. That's all it was."

The literal nightmare Max had experienced with Agent Pierce and the rest of the Special Unit only intensified alot of the lingering guilt she felt later on when she analyzed what their brief "encounter" had caused for the both of them. She accepted that most normal thinking people would probably discredit the love Liz had experienced at such a young age if she had ever taken the initiative to try and put the feelings into words. It wasn't like she ever did but it definitely would have been brushed off as a mere case of puppy love. A high school romance - first love, nothing more and nothing less. It was why she had expected Serena to buy the explanation - hook, line, and sinker.

"Hm? Just an infatuation?" Serena pondered the transparent lie. "I can understand how that might happen if the guy saved your life. You do know that your body language is saying something completely different though?" she pointed out. "Seems to me it might have been more than just your average, run-of-the-mill, high school relationship."

No, unbeknowest to Serena, she was right, it wasn't just your typical high school relationship. The love couldn't be reasoned away as some form of puppy love and it certainly wasn't some naive love - a bunch of feelings coming from an inexperienced teenage girl who placed unrealistic, romantic expectations on a young naive boy with raging hormones. Or vice versa. People would never get it - simply because this attraction wasn't born out of a carnal nature. It was never about a simple case of teenage hormones gone wild. But something inside Liz was forcing her to acknowledge that Serena, whomever she might be, quite possibly understood that. How? That was a mystery to Liz.

"Okay, so I loved him!" Liz blurted, admitting to the inevitable. At this point, she would agree to anything if it would just put an end to this whole discussion on Max Evans - aka. King Zan of a distant planet far far away. A planet named Antar. "Short version of the story. I loved him, he loved me, and then we drifted apart. It happens all the time - we met and then he met someone new. A someone who also happens to be his wife now. We ended and they ended up together; therefore, please consider this a closed subject."

"Wow. You really did love him didn't you?" Serena's tone was sincere - free from any joking around or judgements after Liz's emotional rant.

"Yes." Liz shifted her gaze in the direction of the tiled flooring. "I did."

"And I bet he was good-looking?" Serena teased. "Right?"

It had been a pure love in Liz's eyes because their relationship had in fact lacked that carnal aspect - an aura she now often picked up around in a lot of the current men that tried to hit on her or pick her up. Their motivations were normally filled with their own self-fulfilling agendas, smiling, throwing out a few lines hoping to bait the hook - with the exception of the occasional few who would show a sincere interest in who she actually was as a person. It was during those times that she regretted not being able to open up like she wished she could - like Maria had pushed her to do so often. Liz knew that Maria was lucky to have found such a good man in Tyler and she couldn't help but feel a little jealous on occasion. Jealous - that Maria could open up so easily after Michael left whereas she was left so closed off after Max's departure. Given to how closed off she truly was, it was eerie how she could read alot of these men so clearly. And quite frankly, there was nothing selfless behind what most of them were trying to obtain from her - which was typically a one-night stand. A mere carnal copulation - wham bam and thank you ma'am. Didn't they realize that it went far beyond all that for her? Yes, physical attraction had never been a question between her and Max; however, it started out somewhere else long before that blossomed - it started with soul recognition.

"Of course," Liz reflected back with an appreciative smile and a small gleam in her eye. "But think more along the lines of soul-mate. That's what it felt like for me."

Later, Liz often bemused herself with the mere realization that they could have been considered the most physically, unattractive people on the face of the earth, yet, both she and Max would still have found that "bond" - that connection with the other. Their souls would have been drawn together - like a magnet pulled to its source - and they would have been two of the most beautiful people to each other. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder? Don't judge a book by its cover? Liz would have to agree with those common allegories. Both of them being attributed to truth because the true source of their love and recognition was born from within - not from the outside. Liz always believed that Max's energy had felt familiar to her after the healing - she had long suspected the same feelings from his end. Heck, she knew, the flashes were all they needed to communicate anything they needed while experiencing heightened states of emotion. The love was so romantic and deep because it was a timeless love that stood the test of time. It was a love rooted from within the soul - a love that had thrived and matured because it had fought for its right to exist. How she had obtained all that knowledge, she never knew; however, it was there. There had been no denying it for her. Even at their lowest points, the connection hadn't burnt out - it had never been truly severed.

Until now. Now she felt nothing coming from him.

"Wow, it sounds pretty intense," Serena surmised.

"It was," Liz nodded. She moved to pull out another chair at the table and sat down across from Serena. "But - he wasn't the only one who moved on. I did too," she admitted. "And it turned out to be a big mistake but I don't want to go into that. The fact of the matter is that things just got too complicated and it went over our heads." She folded her hands on the table and began fiddling with her fingers - a nervous gesture. "Or maybe we just gave up, I don't know. I really didn't know what the right answer was anymore ..."

(Memory Flashback)

Roswell - December 2000

Liz stood inside her bedroom - directly in front of the full length mirror nailed on the front of her closet door. However, she did not stand alone this time. A couple days ago, Max had returned from New York and back home to Roswell safely - with Tess in tow. The Alien Summit was now over and going there had been a close call; it had almost cost Max his life.

"I keep looking for some kind of change," she carefully observed the identical reflection staring back at her. Almost immediately, two fingers popped up above her head, causing her to break free with some lively laughter.

"You mean - like this?" the voice of the dark-haired young man standing behind her teased. The warm smile staring back at her melted her heart.

"Yeah, exactly," she nodded and laughed some more.

It had been a long time since she witnessed one of those grins grace the handsome face of a young man she held so close to her heart. His bright smile was sincere when he had flashed it at her - full of life and so much promise for the first time in a long time and she felt a quick pang of sadness move through her because of it. She had been forced to cause the distance that had sprung up between them during the past couple months. He had been so hurt - so angry with her that he had shunned her. Michael and Isabel had distanced themselves too and she had even forced herself to endure the snickering in school that had arisen out of the "rumors" that had quickly spread as a direct result from her "arrangement" with Kyle. Of course, she understood why that was and why it had to be done; however, she hadn't been truly prepared for the reality of it all until the reality finally hit. And she couldn't help it - she found herself resenting Future Max for what he had asked of her. How was she suppose to endure this secret alone? This was the closest place they had come to since that dreadful night - reconnecting on some small level - even if it was just from a shared smile or some simple care-free laughter.

Max moved to sit down on her bed and Liz moved to join him.

"I ... " Max began, his hands folded while his arms relaxed over his lap. "I just wanted to come here and thank you in person, Liz."

"For what?"

His eyes moved up to meet hers. Liz could feel the butterflies flutter around in her stomach the same way they would every time he looked at her like that. His gaze was always so intense - it burrowed into her and the deep amber color of his eyes seemed to hold the wisdom of someone much older than his seven-teen years.

"For saving my life."

His tone was warm and welcoming - music to Liz's ears. She quickly had to pull her feelings back inwardly. She couldn't allow herself to get carried away. Max would pick up on it and too much was at stake here. The future depended on it - the future of her planet, of his planet, of all of their futures. Graciously accepting his gratitude, Liz offered a few humble nods of the head before she spoke.

"Well, I guess that kind of makes us even now, right?" she teased, a light laugh following the sentiment. She looked down at the floor.

"Right," he smiled back.

Max cast his gaze towards the floor following Liz. An uncomfortable length of silence erupted and continued until both of them turned to face the other, each one calling out the other's name simultaneously.

"Max?"

"Liz?"

Max broke with a grin. "You go first."

"No, it's okay, you can go first," Liz's smile spread across her face.

"Well, actually, I was just going to ask - how you did it?" he settled on quickly. A little too quickly in Liz's opinion. "How you were able to tap into Isabel's power the way you did? Isabel told me a little bit of what she could - something about how you're different now because I healed you? I was just curious about it, you know."

Liz examined him carefully. She didn't know why but she almost received the impression that he had really wanted to ask her something else. I mean, why re-hash something with her that Isabel most likely filled him in on - with all the details she possibly could? However, she went along with him in spite of her feelings. He waited patiently for her response.

"Well, I was kind of hoping you could explain it to me," she teased lightly. "You know, since you're the one with the big bad alien powers." In a mocking fashion, she demonstrated blowing something up with her hands. "Pssh!"

Max's lips quirked and both shared a small laugh. Liz averted her eyes as he contemplated the entire situation. "Yeah, I'm suppose to be this leader yet it seems like everyone else knows more than I do these days," he quickly thought back to New York and the events surrounding the Summit meeting.

Liz knew about the Granilith, she knew to warn him about it, and he had no idea how. He sat at the head of a table set up in the basement of a warehouse - privy to a consultation on foreign alien affairs, where leaders from other planets sought out his guidance as a King; yet, he had no idea how to handle any of it. He couldn't even remember any of it, any of them, as Larek had tried to subtly chide him on mistakes from the past.

"I'm sure you did the best you could while you were there," Liz offered. She didn't know how she knew, but she suspected that his thoughts were running back to New York and what had transpired back there. "Nobody should expect anything more."

Max threw her an appreciative smile. "Thanks, it actually means alot to hear that coming from you," he offered back. Wow, she could confuse him. He didn't understand how they could come to a place where he felt so disconnected from her, so lost and separated; yet, just a few simple words could reel him right back into her. He still couldn't understand how they had gotten to the where they were. "But even so, we're still going to need to be careful," he continued. "Lonnie and Rath certainly didn't make it easy for us there and they just disappeared afterwards. Probably working with Nikolas so we should continue to keep a look out. And that includes you too. Maria, Alex, and Kyle," he his voiced trailed off. "What did you pick up about the other dupe, Ava?" he inquired, changing the subject away from Kyle. "You don't think we'll be running into any problems with her anytime soon?"

Liz smiled. "Right, um, Ava. Isabel and Michael told you about her?"

"Kind of," he admitted.

"Yeah, they didn't really get along with her too well in the beginning."

Amused, Max smiled. "What and you did?"

It was no secret that Liz and Tess didn't get along. Liz kept her distance for the most part, trying to remain as civil as possible and Tess preferred to avoid the topic of Liz altogether in the presence of Max; however, the idea that Liz could have so easily befriended her dupe was kind of an irony to Max. But on a second thought, Max concluded that it wouldn't be so hard to believe after he remembered Rath and Lonnie - Michael and Isabel's dupes. They were as different as night and day; therefore, it was completely in the realm of possibilities that Ava was nothing like Tess. With that said; however, Max was beginning to grow comfortable in Tess's presence. He admired, respected, and appreciated her steadfast support of him - even though he didn't always deserve it. The past spoke for itself; he had kept his distance from her - often viewing her as an open threat to his fragile relationship with Liz. He even went so far as to blame her this past summer when Liz walked away from him, disappearing to Florida for the whole duration of their break from school. Slowly, he had come to rely on her instead.

Liz smiled, knowing where his mind was going. "Actually, yes, I did. Cloned DNA or not, Ava is completely her own person, Max, just like the rest of us. She was a little distant at first but pretty helpful in the end. She's not like Rath or Lonnie."

"What was she helpful with?"

"She just said something about you bringing me back had made me different somehow. She never really elaborated," Liz shared on that front. "She just suspected what Lonnie and Rath were probably up to because of what they had already done to Zan. Eventually, she just gave in and warned us about them. When Isabel couldn't connect to you, Ava told us that I could do it. Isabel was really the one that guided me along - I can't really take the credit there."

A gentle smirk fell across Max's lips. "Still, if you hadn't been willing to do it, I might not be sitting here next to you right now." A small frown slowly replaced the gentle upward tug of his lips as he began to reflect on something a bit darker for him. He broke eye contact with her again and looked back towards the floor. "I know things haven't exactly been at their best between us lately and you did make a decision to be with Kyle again."

"Max?!" Liz suddenly broke in - pleadingly. She shut her eyes.

"No, wait, Liz - please?!" he begged her, shooting up from the bed quickly. "Let me finish - I need to get this out," he began pacing in front of her as she watched him. Then he stopped, summoning up the courage to hold eye contact again. "If I want to be honest with you, that wasn't really what I wanted to ask you. I mean, I am curious about you tapping into our powers and what the healing might mean for you but ... " he trailed off.

Liz nervously bit down on her lips. "But what?" she pushed.

"I wanted to apologize to you," he offered sincerely. "Apologize for not listening back when you told me it was over between us."

Liz froze - she could feel her heart freeze too.

"It hurt me when you walked away because I still loved you but you were honest with me about everything," he continued on. "I shouldn't have pushed it like I did - my expectations ruined the friendship we still could have had. Before I left, you asked me a couple weeks ago if we could still be friends, I told you I couldn't because I was still hanging on to what we had before."

"Uh-huh," Liz nodded, the tone of her voice almost numb.

"Well, I miss it! I miss being friends with you, Liz. And even though I might be far from happy about it," Max swallowed hard, "you have the right to be in a relationship with Kyle if that's what you want. We weren't together and you had every right to be with whoever you wanted to be with despite what I thought about it."

He visibly struggled with the whole admission for her benefit and Liz could tell that he did. The direction of the whole conversation was beginning to worry Liz and her anxiousness automatically broke through the sound of her voice, causing her to sound a little more anxious then she intended.

"Max, you don't have to apologize to me, okay?"

"And I just want you to know," he cut in, "that I had nothing to do with those rumors that started spreading around school. I mean, I know that I was mad and everything but I would never try to hurt you or damage you like that."

"Max, what exactly are you trying to ask me?" the strain in Liz's voice carried.

"Does your offer to still be friends still stand?" Max asked her. His eyes met and pleaded with hers and in that brief moment, she thought she was going to be sick.

Liz tensed - she felt herself pale. She had to swallow just as hard as Max had done a few moments ago to keep the bile from rising up into her throat and projecting outward. She was feeling awful right about now - here he was pledging his honor and his duty to the virtue of honesty - all for the sake of saving a friendship he was willing to take in place of "them." Yet, she was the one keeping the biggest secret of them all. Here was her one chance to still have Max in her life on some good terms but her conscious wasn't going to allow it to be if she had to keep him in the dark about Future Max and Kyle. The guilt would consume her and eat her alive every time she looked or spoke with him for the rest of her life. How could the friendship survive? An internal battle waged inside of her as it struggled to come to terms with the right course of action. Tell him the whole truth or keep him in the dark where he'd never have to know a thing?

"Liz?" He sounded a bit worried when he encountered her hesitation. The worry reflected inside of his eyes as well.

"Yes, Max. Absolutely, the offer still stands." Liz closed her eyes, inhaling and exhaling a deep breath. "But are you sure that's something you want?" she stressed, hoping to provide him with an easy out - and selfishly, hoping to give herself a reprieve.

A small smile fell over his face as he took steps back to the bed and sat down beside her a second time. He reached out for her hand - taking it inside of his own and noting quite happily that she didn't resist or pull it away. Reopening her eyes, she turned to meet his heated gaze head on.

"I've never been more sure of anything in my life," he assured her.

"Right," she sighed, quickly shifting her focus away from him.

Just as quickly, Max reached over placing his free hand under her chin and bringing her attention squarely back to him. "No, Liz, I really mean what I'm saying. I need you to believe me. I've been doing alot of thinking over these past few days and as difficult as it was to accept, the truth is - I'd rather have you in my life as a friend instead of not having you in my life at all. And," he took a deep breath before offering the last part, "I may not like it, but as your friend I'll support your decision to be with Kyle."

Yanking her hand away and bringing her hands up to cover her face, Liz released a muffled groan. "I can't do this. I just can not do this!" she mumbled. She suddenly jumped up from her place on the bed, facing Max. "Max?! I can't do this anymore - you and me," pointing back and forth between them.

Alarmed by her reaction, Max slowly stood up from the bed to confront her. "Liz, what are you talking about?" confusion spread over his face, his brows furrowing.

"What I mean Max is that I can't keep this up any longer," she vented. "I'm only seven-teen years old - what do I know about saving the freaking world?!" While pacing, she ran her fingers through her long silky strands of brown hair.

"Okay, Liz," his eyes widened. "I'm not following here."

Liz's eyes began to tear, she now paced with her arms crossed over her chest. Taking another deep breath, she prepared to let everything spill. "Kyle and I are not together. We never were," she confessed.

"What?" he interrogated, his mind struggling to keep up.

The tears couldn't be held back as the emotional onslaught took on a life of its own. "It means that I lied to you, okay?" her voice rose. "Kyle and I never slept together - we set the whole thing up so that you'd find us like that. I knew you'd be showing up that night with the tickets for Gomez. Just like I already knew that you couldn't have spread those rumors about Kyle and I sleeping together. Because we were the ones that allowed that to happen too!"

Before Max even had the chance to form a coherent thought in light of the admission, Liz spun around for the small window leading out onto her balcony. Unlatching the window, she swung herself through it swiftly - like a coward she noted - leaving a bewildered Max behind. She took quick strides over to the balcony edge - looking down and over the streets of the small town below. The stars in the sky didn't hold the same luster they normally did and fresh tears sprang to life and slid down her cheeks. Soft sobs that she could no longer control or hold back escaped. She could feel his approach without even turning back around to look.

"Why would you do something like that?" the tense, strained, and raspy tone passed through some gritted teeth.

She could hear the hurt and anger bubbling just below the surface. "Because," she managed to choke out without looking behind her. "We needed for you to believe it really happened. There was no other way."

"No other way?!" Max's voice hitched into full-blown anger. "Liz, are you kidding me? You've been lying to me these past couple of months?! And I just sat in there pouring my heart out to you and sucking something up that disgusted me from the very moment I laid eyes on it," he referenced the night he found Kyle and Liz in bed together. "So, okay, you didn't want to be with me. You want to be with someone who's like you, you want normal kids, and a normal life, I get it - I really do! But are you really that cruel?" he spat.

"No, Max!" Liz spun around to face him, intent on defending herself. "We didn't do it to be cruel - I didn't do it to be cruel!"

"And do you know what really kills me?" Angry tears shone with such an intense ferocity inside the eyes of Max Evans. "It's that I feel like kicking myself right now for being so damn gullible. I knew something wasn't right about the whole thing - I knew it but because it was you challenging me and pushing for me to believe that what I saw really happened, I did! I believed it! Even though it hurt like hell to accept it, I believed it because you told me it happened. And in the end, even though I wanted to deny it and even though I didn't want to accept it - I at least figured that if I couldn't love you the way I wanted to because you wouldn't let me - that I could always trust you. Even if the truth hurt, because you'd be honest with me. I trusted you."

"Max!" she pleaded with him, closing her eyes as streams of tears fell freely. A sobbing sound escaped from her throat. "I never meant to hurt you!"

"But you did!" he spat.

Opening her eyes, she took in the tense body language that enveloped Max. He stood close by to the window with his fists clenched at his sides, struggling to control his heavy breathing brought on by the sudden revelation.

"I'm sorry."

"You're sorry?!" he parroted, incredulously. "That's all you have to say?"

"You were trying to be honest with me," she tried to reason. "I didn't want to be a hypocrite - I've been holding this in for so long and I just really wanted to let this out. I wanted to be honest with you too."

"Sorry isn't good enough, Liz," Max shook his head vehemently. "You had two months to come clean with me. You know what else I think? I don't believe you would have ever come clean with me if I hadn't come here tonight."

She shook her head. "No, that's not true!" she denied.

"Isn't it?" he challenged. "If I had stayed away from you - you would have come to me with the truth?"

"Just let me explain," Liz pleaded with him. "Please!"

"And you want honesty? Here's some more honesty for you - I really can't stand the sight of you right now. So maybe it would be best if I just leave before I do say something I can't take back and regret it later on."

"Max, I really need to explain what happened first!" Liz begged some more. "And then if you still want to walk away from our friendship for good, I'll completely understand. I won't try and stop you."

"And why should I believe anything you have to say?"

It was Max's parting remark as he turned around and made a hasty departure through the window- the window leading back into Liz's bedroom. A heavy breeze suddenly swept over the top the balcony, disheveling Liz's hair. It flew in all different directions as Liz pushed it to the sides - while taking frantic steps forward.

"Max, no, wait!"

She could make out the sound of her bedroom door slamming very loudly and then she froze. She moved not another inch. He was gone. Max was gone and she hadn't even been given the opportunity to at least try and exonerate herself. This situation wasn't all black and white and she desperately needed for Max to know that. Slowly, she retreated, taking steps backwards until she backed up against the wall. Completely dazed and feeling nothing but despair, she allowed her backside to slide down the hard surface until her face met up with her knee caps. She encircled her legs tightly - hiding her face in her lap as loud sobbing sounds poured out and mixed with the mysterious sounds blending in with the wind. For one brief second, Liz could have sworn she heard a faint whisper from the breeze form a name against her ear.

Aurora.


(Memory Flashback Ends)

Liz disconnected herself from the past as she finally finished eating the breakfast Serena had prepared for them. She couldn't eat anymore - in fact, as soon as she had started reflecting back on the past, she noticed that she had lost most of her appetite altogether. Removing herself from the chair, she repeated Serena's actions from earlier by walking over to the sink and rinsing her plate. Now, she really needed to shower.

Serena watched her go. "Hey?" she called out.

Liz stopped, turning back around. "Yeah?"

"Do you think you could ever love him again?" she inquired.

Liz stared back at her - the time invariably ticking by before she settled on her final, one-worded response.

"No."


X



The room was deathly still - as all the occupants waiting around the big glass dome awaited the arrival of the one that they answered to.

Male and female beings of varying ages who possessed an array of different strengths and weaknesses - a race that was also from another star system - formed a circular, linear line around the dome structure. These beings were also known as Lymparians - one of the only two races of star-people found on Antar.

Inside this foreign structure, the one and only occupant lay sprawled out completely unconscious and oblivious to what was going on around him. It was the body of a dark-haired man, a hybrid man, but still another Antarian nevertheless. This man was suspended in air - several different energy fields forming a pattern of colors that were encircling his entire body. Energy surrounding the man appeared to be attacking the other energy coming from him as some streams of light danced around - trying to break apart other streams of light. A huge cylinder shaped object was located just beneath him and it appeared to be sucking in energy particles that were being pulled from the light streams. To most of the beings standing around witnessing this event inside the small chamber, this man symbolized nothing more than "death." He signified "death" because for them, his race represented everything that was wrong with their planet. He originated from the Symparian race of Antarians - the dominate race found on the planet's surface and the race targeted and blamed for most of the oppression inflicted upon the Lymparians. On earth, these Lymparian beings had easily become known as the Skins.

Symparians were different from Lymparians in one major aspect. Symparians possessed the ability to remain on earth for prolonged periods of time in their natural form. Earth's atmosphere would not affect them - Symparians could easily shape-shift into any form they chose to take on; thus, maintaining a human form indefinitely if need be. Lymparians could also shape-shift; however, on the other-hand - their inner biological make-up made it impossible for their race to survive on Earth within their natural state. Antar was a planet free from certain compounds; therefore, a human who required the use of oxygen to breath would also not thrive in this atmosphere within their own natural state for very long. Carbon-monoxide, produced by trees and other living plant life found on earth in exchange for the oxygen provisions given to humans, created a deadly combination for the Lymparians. Symparians - also known as the grays, could withstand the lethal cocktail due to their unique skin component that served as a protectant. In their natural form, Symparians and Lymparians were similar to humans in body formation - two arms, two legs, two hands, two feet, eyes, mouth, nose, hair etc. - only more slender and carrying a delicate appearance about themselves. However, these beings were anything but "delicate" - their use of full brain capacity provided them with capabilities that far surpassed the point in evolution for human beings. The brain power of humans currently stood at only about ten percent - far less than what they were fully capable of using. After that, similarities between humans and Antarians ended. DNA genetic material and the RNA component of the other were foreign to both species. All Antarians possessed deep, dark, oval- shaped eyes that almost alluded to the soul - a very real representation of windows into the soul. Symparians were gray-skinned; Lymparians skin tone matched that of pure, white, porcelian glass. For this reason, the skin of the Lymparians was more sensitive - lacking the skin protectant the grays carried and making them more vulnerable to the atmosphere of Earth.

Suddenly, the door to the room slid open, and a little boy around the age of ten with dark hair ran in excitedly - followed closely by his mother. He was another hybrid - like her. All beings in the room saluted the arrival of the Antarian Royal family - bending down on one knee, bowing their heads, and crossing the right arm over to the left shoulder. It was a show of respect for the Lymparians. They were still in control of the throne, having successfully over-thrown the Symparians some time ago, most notably King Zan and his family. The Lymparians were battling to keep it this way; however, their security being suddenly threatened by the return of the original Royals almost ten earth years ago. The little boy ran straight up to the dome window, slamming his hands against the impenetrable glass so he could stare inside. He was strangely drawn to the man levitating in the air, curious to know why his father was so overly obsessed with the man. Perhaps his own curiosity merely stemmed from learning that he was another hybrid like himself? And like his mother?

"Jacob?" the woman with the long, blonde, spiral curls that fell in length down to her waste - chided gently. "What have you been taught about Antarian protocol?" she reminded him - running forward to him and reaching for his hand.

"Mom, I was just watching the man!" he defended his actions.

The blonde turned to observe and the slits of her sparkly blue eyes narrowed after landing upon the subject locked inside. A deep-seeded hate filled her - consuming her entire being until her husband entered the chamber area - accepting the right of royal passage. A nod of the head indicated acceptance and the Lymparians returned to their former stature.

"Come on, Jacob. There's nothing here for you to see!" The woman pulled her son away from the glass dome and into the background.

"It's quite alright, Ava," her husband approached the dome to peer inside. "Let him live and learn about the foul Symparian scum that lies before us." He sneered. "Or am I back to deferring to you as Tess while we are here?"

He loved mocking her.

Tess rolled her eyes. "It makes no difference to me," she retorted. However, upon looking down at Jacob, she softened. "Tess will be fine," she relented - flashing him a warm smile. "Jacob is a perfectly human name. So is Tess." He smiled back.

Little Jacob was hybrid; however, most of his physical appearance was human in his natural form. Although, he eventually mastered the ability of tapping into his Antarian DNA - which in essence - allowed him the unique privilege of shape-shifting into full Antarian at will. He did quite frequently while on Antar - for his human appearance was considered a disadvantage, when putting it nicely. However, at the time, Tess hadn't felt it appropriate to saddle the poor little boy with an Antarian name when the child would know he was different.

Jacob's father broke away as he began surveying - inspecting carefully, the carefully selected crew line of Lymparians surrounding the dome's perimeter. He took slow, deliberate steps behind the entire line - no Lymparian below his title of King was allowed to turn around and address him or look him directly in the face.

"You have been assigned a very important task, my loyal subjects," he conversed as he circled the entire line. "As soon as we master harnessing the power and energy from within him, we will also acquire the Seal. No longer will he be of any importance - nor will he interfere with our affairs again. Zan is no more, he is nothing more than a faded memory. He is but like one of them - these humans we speak of and have been forced to converse with. We have returned ourselves to their primitive form of communication - acquiring their language skills while we walk amongst them and their strange customs. Our people have studied them for years - they are nothing more than an inferior race of waste, turmoil and destruction. And this is who Zan and the other Royals had chosen to mingle with upon their death, using them for a second chance at life - living amongst them. He's become a weak hybrid from an inferior race. And once we have the Royal Seal along with his energy field - neither he nor the heir will matter anymore."

Tess cringed - instinctively pulling her son closer to her. Jacob glanced back up at his mother, wondering what had caused her sudden alarm.

"But, unfortunately, loyal subjects - there are those of us who don't share our vision. Lymparians out there who choose to ignore our path. They have sided with loyalist factions loyal to the old ways of King Zan. They have befriended our Symparian enemy and favor mingling amongst the inferior races of the universe - polluting our DNA and way of life through their tainted experiments. They defend the Lymparian traders like Rath. However, luckily, his sister Ava," and he made a mock demonstration of showing off Tess, "our prophesied Queen from the Five-Star Scrolls stands beside us. She has been chosen by The Source of Light itself to carry her own Royal Seal - one seen fit to be given to her before her birth on Antar so long ago so that her people, the Lymparian people, may rise from out of their oppression. The throne is just as rightfully hers - as it was Zan's. Once we finally obtain custody of the Royal Seal from the oppressive Zan, we shall have it to match up with the Queen's. Our struggles have not been for naught and we will truly be in a position to never be challenged again."

A thunderous applause broke out across the room.

Jacob threw up his hands to cover his ears. "That's loud, mommy," he protested.

"I know," Tess acknowledged, looking around. They were paying homage to her and a part of her deeply regretted that Max wasn't awake to witness it. It would have made the perfect revenge - he was crazy if he thought he would ever obtain and promote this kind of loyalty from his people with such a weak and frail human girl by his side. Antar wanted their Queen, not some inferior substitute. She laughed at the absurdity of the whole thing.

"We Hail Khi'var. King of Antar and the Five-Star Alliance.

"We Hail Khi'var. King of Antar and the Five-Star Alliance.

"We Hail Khi'var. King of Antar and the Five-Star Alliance.

"ENOUGH! He lifted his hand to signal the end to the chant. "And one more thing. This shall be the last time that any of you will refer to me as Khi'var while we are here."


X



Liz was showered and dressed within the hour before her cell phone rang. Rushing out the door so she wouldn't be late on her first day, she flung it open in a hurry - placing it to her ear. She didn't even need to check the caller I.D. to know who it would be.

"Maria, don't be mad, I was going to call and let you know how everything went - I swear!" her voice rushed across the phone.

"Huh, yeah? I waited and waited," Maria mocked from the other end, teasing her best friend. "What do they have you doing out there anyway, chica, running a marathon? Your voice sounds like it's on speed dial," she laughed in typical Maria fashion. "You sound a bit out of breath. Oh, and good morning to you too by the way."

"Funny, Maria."

"So, sue me. It's not even twenty-four hours yet and I miss not having you around to talk to. Don't begrudge me a little best friend bantering."

"Yeah, yeah." Maria wouldn't be able to see the smile from her end but she would certainly hear it. "No, I'm running a little late. I'm on my way to some hanger on base but surprise, surprise, I have no idea where I'm even going."

Maria's laughter filled the other end. "Babe, it's about time you invest in a map. And a compass."

"They already beat me to it. I got the map right here."

"Well, like you said, it's your first day. I wouldn't freak out or anything just yet. But let me know how you're doing by the end of next week and then I'll let you know if you have a problem."

Liz stopped walking - a big grin in place. "Maria?! Be nice!"

"What?!" Maria pretended to sound offended. "I am nice. I just dropped Beth off at Pre-K. Tyler's working and Christopher's with me. I just ran to the dry cleaners for Tyler and I'll be dropping off his lunch," she rambled on. "I'm in the middle of finishing a whole bunch of housework that we're behind on and I have an appointment at the hospital for three. And this is all being done on my week off - I might add - which doesn't leave me much time for my social calender. See, so I am nice!"

Liz laughed. "Maria!"

"Okay, okay, I'll let you go so you can get down to doing all that fancy shamansie work you genius folk do!"

Liz laughed again. "Oh, wait, Maria?" The conversation turned to a more serious note. "Did you happen to hear back from Colonel Krammer at all?"

Maria sighed. "No, Liz, I didn't and if I were you - I'd just leave it alone."

"Maria?" Liz gently scolded. "If the guy has access to advanced forms of treatment that may actually work, we can't let this go?"

"We can't let this go?"

"You know what I mean."

"Okay, babe, look. I love you, I love your support - it's why you're my best friend in this big crazy world of ours - but why don't we just leave my treatment to me," Maria jumped in. "Besides, for all you know, the guy was just scamming ya' to get you there for whatever super-smart task they needed your super-smart brain to perform for them."

Liz sighed. "Okay, but promise me that if you do hear back from him, that you'll strongly consider whatever it is he may have to offer?" she relented - letting the issue die down and not willing to push the topic any further than that.

"YES, Mom."

"Alright, subject closed."

"Thank you. So - tell me more about a day in the life of Liz Parker?" Maria teased.

"Well, for starters, the dress code sucks. I have a room-mate," Liz added. "But you're never going to believe what her name turned out to be and who I thought I saw here yesterday. Thought I was going crazy ..."

A loud scuffling sound replaced the sound of Liz's voice over the phone.

"Aah!!! Watch it, please!

"Whoa there!"


"Liz? You there?" Maria heard the background confrontation after it sounded like Liz had dropped the phone, interrupting their conversation. "Liz, you okay?"

Liz had been cut off as she rounded the corner of a building on base - only to collide with the same man from yesterday - the same man she was about to enlighten Maria about in just a few more sentences. He had been coming around the corner at the exact same time, crashing into her full force, and knocking her small frame to the ground. Her cell had fallen onto the cement ground - luckily it hadn't broken from the impact. However, she could make out Maria's pleading tone in the distance. Grabbing for the phone quickly, she rushed to put her friend's fears to immediate rest.

"I'm fine, Maria, I just fell and met the pavement because somebody obviously doesn't know how to watch where they're going!" she insinuated- staring pointedly at the other man just a few feet in front of her. "Let me call you back later."

The soldier dressed up in his uniform, smirked, clearly amused by her frustration. "Hey, but I had the right of way?" he passed his own crack, basing it off of proper driving etiquette. He reached out his hand to help assist her off the ground and back onto her feet.

"Okay. Give him one good kick in the groin area from me too," she cracked.

Liz grinned. "Bye, Maria."

The cell phone was slammed shut as she allowed the gentleman to assist her. She huffed a little, making a bigger show of the incident than she normally would have. Quickly, she retrieved her map from the ground while the stranger watched her every move.

"Okay, you do know that's creepy, right?" Liz interrogated, as she stood back up to meet this man face-to-face. She began to walk away and the man in uniform began to follow along closely behind her.

"What?" He shook his head - pretending to not know what she was talking about. He fell in place beside her, keeping the same pace.

"Oh, I don't know," she mocked. "Standing there like that?" her eyebrows rose. "Dropping hints with my new room-mate," she mumbled underneath her breath before returning her tone to normal. "I don't know you and judging by the silver uniform you're wearing today, I'm assuming you have somewhere to be."

Liz stopped walking, turning to face him. He stopped with her.

"Yes, ma'am," he teased, saluting her. "Sorry," he smiled a broad, handsome smile. "The name is Matthew. No hard feelings, I hope?" He extended his hand to introduce himself.

Liz just stared for a long, hard moment - not returning the gesture.

"So?" he continued, pulling his hand back, and folding both hands behind his back. Both of them began to pick up a slow pace again.

"Liz," she offered him her name.

"Right, Liz. Now that you know me, I hope you don't mind the company. It's not every day that I run into a beautiful woman such as yourself," he passed on the compliment.

Liz couldn't help but roll her eyes. "Somehow I doubt that."

"How come?" he smiled.

Liz took a moment to observe the young man next to her. He was physically attractive - there was no denying that - with the light brown hair and the most unique shade of green eyes she'd ever laid eyes upon before. She was suddenly finding herself pulled and drawn into him. However, she couldn't help but to discern a hidden undertone of cockiness lying underneath the handsome exterior. Something told Liz that this man was use to getting what he wanted - and that he wouldn't give up until it was his in the end.

Or you could totally be reading into this Parker, she thought. You've known the man, what, a total of two or three minutes? Chill out.

Maybe Maria and Serena were both right. She needed to get out more. Not only was she dealing with being angry, sad, resentful, full of fear, and quite possibly being of non-human status because of one ex - "alien friend" or so she thought at one time - but she was one step away from adding paranoia to the growing list of challenges that she was facing and coming to terms with in her daily life. Not everyone was out to get her. Not everyone was going to hurt her or betray her, or worse - leave her. Isn't that what Dr. Wallace had been trying to instill within her during their sessions together?

Take a chance on life - on other people.

"Well, tell you what, Matthew," she looked down, brushing off some noticeable dirt particles from her clothing. "You can make it up to me by showing me where I'm suppose to be. Then we'll call it even. I can't find this place anywhere. These maps are horrible."

The handsome stranger made a show of furrowing his brows and concentrating hard on her map. "Yes, yes, that they are," he played along. "But I find that sometimes it helps to read it like this," he reached out and she suddenly noticed for the first time that the map was now upside down in her hand.

They stopped in their tracks for another time as he made another show of correcting the problem - taking the map and flipping it around - and giving it back to her.

She sent him a hard look. "Thanks, I knew that," she insisted; however, she couldn't really contain the amusement that had arisen from the awkward moment. The smile broke everywhere across her face before she could stop it.

"And the smile matches the beauty of the girl," he remarked.

"Thanks but flattery will get you nowhere," she let him know. "I'm more of a love me for my mind kind of girl," she countered flirtatiously, without intending to.

"I'm confident that your mind is just as beautiful as the rest of you."

"Do you ever stop?!" she chided gently, rolling her eyes around.

"That depends."

"On what?"

"On whether or not you'll let me take you out sometime," he came out and asked Liz very forwardly.

"Huh ... " she hesitated and Matthew jumped right back in.

"Just for coffee or something simple like that," he assured her. "Whatever you're comfortable with. I think there's a coffee shop or two left somewhere on this base." He used his eyes and scanned around the base.

"Oh, so you've been here a long time, then?" Liz attempted to change the subject, even though there was genuine curiosity attached to the question.

"Accept my offer and maybe you'll find out," he teased back.

"Let me think about it," Liz tried to duck out.

Matthew shook his head. He pointed to the small branch of a bank that was in close proximity to them. "I'm very much like that ATM machine you see right over there." Liz glanced over. "See, I only accept yes or no answers."

Liz just smirked, closing her eyes and shaking her head. "Fine," she gave in. "We can meet up for coffee sometime. But when I say so."

"A woman who likes to be in charge," he teased. "Okay, deal," he agreed.

"Good."

The awkwardness that had originally sprang up between them had disappeared and Liz felt a little more comfortable as that invisible, emotional wall started to come down. Liz and Matthew continued to walk until they reached a huge building - the big doors leading into some secured location. A guard post was set-up, with two soldiers manning the huge doors and another one standing beside the small door that provided entrance into the facility - checking security clearance. Three other workers dressed in silver jumpsuits were cleared and then allowed into the door as the solider opened it for them.

"I think we're here," Matthew surmised.

"Here goes nothing," Liz muttered as the two made their way for the door.


X



It had been about an hour since Maria had gotten off the phone with Liz and she was just finishing up the last of the dishes.

After rinsing and placing them inside of the dishwasher, she reached for the small dish towel hanging over the handle to the stove to dry her hands. Sounds of the musical introduction to SpongeBob Squarepants could be heard filtrating in from the living room - located at the other end of the hallway - leading from the kitchen area. Little Christopher was in there; it was his favorite cartoon, one that he would watch everyday.

Maria felt a dizzy spell coming over her as she reached out to grab for the ends of the kitchen table. Quickly, she sat down. She had been doing too much; however, pushing herself was something that Tyler often advised against. Her doctors had advised against it too - and Maria hated to admit it - but these chemo treatments were really taking a toll on her body. She felt tired and sick, struggling to keep up with the menial chores that most people dealt with effortlessly each day of their lives. And if there was one thing that Maria Deluca-Pentington hated - it was feeling helpless.

Maria suddenly felt the bile rising up from the pit of her stomach. Coughing and hacking, she quickly forced herself up from the kitchen table, dashing for the bathroom in a hurry. Barely making it in time, she lurched over and wretched - the contents quickly pouring out from her mouth. When she was sure she was finished, she got up and went to the sink. The light-headed sensation reeked havoc on the rest of her body - her hands shook while turning on the water faucet. Scooping some water into her hand, her dry and parched lips were soothed when the cool liquid met the insides of her mouth - eliminating the foul leftover taste.

Gazing into the mirror, Maria acknowledged her pale complexion. A red bandanna, also designed with a white pattern that was shaped like mini snowflakes - graced her head; however, strands of hair were beginning to fall free. A few blonde hairs were visible in the sink as Maria reached down to touch them. She knew this would start to happen after finally agreeing to the chemotherapy but she hadn't been fully prepared to witness it happening.

"Momma sick?!" the little voice broke into her thoughts.

Maria turned to see her little son standing at the door. After hearing the sounds coming from his mother - the vomiting sounds that had been coming and going recently, Christopher had left the confines of the living room in search of his mother.

A faint smile appeared. "Momma's just fine, baby. Promise, I just got a little sick this time," she attempted to ease his worries. "Come here," she called out. Going over to him, she lifted him up to her to offer comfort - planting a kiss on the side of his head and squeezing him as hard as her body would allow her to.

The kitchen phone rang.

"Let's go see who that is," she suggested in her baby voice.

"Daddy!" the little boy got excited, clapping his hands. He knew his father called and talked to him everyday when he went to work.

"Yup, I bet it's daddy, my little man," she played along with his excitement. All she really wanted to do was fall in bed and sleep forever. "Let's go and see what he's been up to, huh? I'll bet he wants to know what Mr. Crabs did with all those crabby patties today," she teased, making reference to her son's favorite show.

Christopher giggled.

Maria grabbed for the cordless, sitting on the kitchen counter. "He-llo?"

"Hey, hon. How's everything?" Tyler's voice traveled through the phone; however, even though he tried to make it sound light-hearted and casual - he didn't do a very good job with hiding the undertone of concern.

"Um good. Like it was the same time yesterday when you called," she answered in response to the routine phone calls that had only started up since she began the aggressive treatments. "Hey, I'm a big girl, babe. You don't have to worry about me."

"Sorry. You know I can't help but worry. You're just going to have to put up with it," he teased, although he was being completely serious at the same time.

"Poor me," she cracked. "Everything's fine - healthy as a horse."

"And you're a terrible liar." He could hear his son calling for him in the background.

"Ah, well, could be accused of worse," she teased right back. She moved her head around as Christopher tried to grab the phone away from her. "Besides, you know that you love me in spite of it," she smirked. "But, uh, I think someone else here requires your full attention, pronto. Patience doesn't seem to be his strong suit."

"Like someone else I know," he laughed.

"Ha ha!" she rolled her eyes. "You were still planning on that lunch later, weren't you?" she black-mailed, good-naturedly.

"Of course. I look forward to seeing my beautiful wife all the time," he cracked.

"Yeah, I'll bet you do," Maria smirked, moving the phone over to Christopher so he could talk. Holding it against his ear, she assisted him.

"Hi daddy, I luv yous," his toddler voice met his father.

"I love you too, buddy, you being good for mommy?" he asked his son.

Christopher nodded his head but Tyler couldn't see it. "Momma six again," he blurted innocently - spilling the beans and trying to pronounce the word sick.

Maria just rolled her eyes; she knew it would only make her husband worry more.

"Like I said, FINE!" she shouted out from the background.

"Daddy, guess wha'?" the two-year old's mind shifted. "Mis'er cabs put cabby patties in the box," he informed his father of the treasure chest seen in his show earlier. "And nobodys could find them!" the little boy laughed.

Suddenly, a buzzing sound alerted Maria to the fact that somebody from the front desk to the building on the first floor sought her attention. Walking into the living room and to where the entrance to her apartment was located, Maria hit the small buzzer to respond back.

"Yeah?" she called back through it.

"Mrs. Pentington?" the doorman inquired. "There's a Kyle down here at the front desk asking for you. Should I send him up?" he asked.

Kyle?

Maria was shocked. What was Kyle doing all the way out here from Nevada? The last she had known when they had talked on the phone, he was completing his legal studies and preparing for the Bar Exam during the day. At night, he was working security for some of the local casino establishments. Besides, she was sure that both Jim and her mom would have made her aware if they knew he was planning on making a trip to New York.

"Kyle Valenti?" she buzzed back down.

There was a brief pause. "That's what he says," the voice came back through the intercom.

"Yeah, sure, send him up," Maria agreed.

Maria spoke into the phone. "Uh, Ty? Listen, I think my brother's here," she informed him of her step-brother's unexpected visit. "I'll see you around noon when I drop your lunch off, okay."

"Oh, alright. Tell Kyle hi for me."

"I will."

Just as she ended the phone conversation, the loud knocking sounded from the door. Walking forward a few more steps with her son still hoisted in her arms, she unlatched the lock and opened the door, fully prepared to give her step-brother all the hell she could for not letting her know sooner that he was planning to make it out here for a visit. Not even waiting for a response from him, she flung the door open.

"Kyle? Man, I swear you're sleeping on the cold floor tonight ... " her voice stopped cold.

Maria froze - receiving the shock of her life. Kyle wasn't standing at her front like she fully expected. Instead, it was a face she never imagined to see. It took a few moments for her to adjust, gather her rambling thoughts, and break free from the surprise that enveloped her the moment she made the eye contact. Then she mouthed the word.

"Michael?!"


X



Liz followed the rest of the group in and out of the rooms that they would be using for the remainder of their stay on base.

Everybody dressed in silver jumpsuits had meet together inside of a big empty hanger with alot of empty space. After all personnel had been accounted for, Liz was surprised to discover that most of the first day was just dedicated to one big tour of the buildings - an information session much like a student orientation, a getting to know your co-workers and place of employment kind of thing. However, with the exception of Matthew - who had been placed inside group two with all of the guys, she found that most of her fellow colleagues - if that's what they could be called - were not very open or friendly. For the most part, they ignored her when she tried to open up conversation or if she tried to enquire about something she wanted to know. They would respond with a simple one or two-worded response or with just a nod of the head to indicate an affirmative answer or shaking it to negate one. It was just - weird.

Did all people with genius IQ act this way?

The men and the women had been divided up into two groups - each assigned a group leader who was responsible for their tour and any questions they might have. For the most part, they were very thorough in their explanations; however, so far - Liz hadn't seen or witnessed anything that unusual that she, herself, would consider to be that top-secret.

The two groups entered a much more modernized room - it's splendor actually surprised Liz as she took in their new surroundings. Everything was white - the ceiling, the walls, the flooring. This room shone with a pure white glow but without windows. The room was also filled with an abundance of scientific equipment that she had never laid eyes on before. There were long silver tables with big lights hanging over-head, individual work stations set up in rows - a thin sheet of glass in between - separating one side from the other. Modern telescopes that looked different from the ones she was accustomed to using, along with other working equipment, were already located on the work stations. Liz's mouth almost dropped - she was in awe.

"Please take a seat at a station," the guides informed both groups at the same time. "You will find that your name - along with rank and code number - have been marked at a work station already picked out and assigned to you," they announced.

All the recruits broke away from their assigned groups in search of where they belonged. Liz followed down the long aisle, her eyes scanning the small computerized flat-screens individually attached inside each work station. The screens were flashing with the names and numbers of the people in search of them. Finally, Liz happened upon hers and she pulled out her chair to sit. Someone to the left of her sat and she glanced over - offering a timid smile.

After sitting, Liz was alarmed to discover that the the screen was voice-activated and her actions prompted the screen to go blank.

"Please reaffirm rank and code number," the animated voice requested. A little box appeared for her to fill and she was also surprised to discover that a small, computerized keyboard appeared onto the screen. Looking to her jumpsuit, she touched the screen - filling in the required numbers and letters.

"It looks like you and I are just destined to be?!" a voice suddenly rang out from across the small sheet of glass separating her work station from the one across. She shuddered at the choice of words spoken but relaxed when she noticed who it was.

"Oh, hey, Matthew," Liz acknowledged his presence with a smile. Any friendly face would do at this point. She actually found herself missing Serena and wishing she had been assigned to the same place with her.

"Boring way to start the day," he cracked, quickly filling in the information that was required at his own station. "Brought me back to my days as a college freshman - a sad reminder of just who the little man on campus was," he nodded in the direction of the guides, walking up and down the aisles supervising. They quite obviously held a much higher rank.

Liz couldn't help but laugh. "Yeah, well, at least this time we actually get paid for being the little fish around here," she offered light-heartedly. "Something we couldn't say for our days as a college freshman."

"True," Matthew smirked. "I'm going to need it one day soon to take you on our big date to one of the fanciest restaurants here. McDonalds."

Liz laughed hard. "You're so bad."

"I've been accused of much worse."

Suddenly, the conversation was cut short as the lights dimmed and the computer screens came to life with instructions.

"Just a little experiment people," one of the guides announced to the entire group. "To get you started on your way and so you'll know what to expect when you return here on your own. Follow the instructions the voice gives to you."

Liz shook her head. "Well, looks like I'm going to be needing some water."

"All equipment, slides, test-tubes and other material can be found on the silver tables lining the sides of this room," the guide continued. "These items will be made available to you each and every day that you report here."

Liz noticed the water station located in that area too. "Be right back," she announced to Matthew from across her station.

Others had also gone in search of what they needed; however, as Liz approached - she suddenly felt herself grow light-headed. She stopped, taking in a few deep breaths. Approaching once again, her vision began to blur. She watched as the big lights overhead - began to flicker, buzzing with a sound of electrical charge. As her sight came back into focus, she looked around conspicuously, seeking to find out if anybody else was experiencing the same thing. To her dismay, everyone appeared to be going about their normal business, not noticing what she was seeing. What the the hell was going on?

As she approached the silver tables - a sudden and overwhelming feeling of fear began surging through her entire body. Involuntarily, her body started to erupt with the shivers and she couldn't identify the source of where these feelings were coming from. Without warning, the light-headed feeling turned into a full-blown dizzy spell as the room began spinning all around her. The flickering of the lights above her intensified and now she could hear the sounds of faded voices in the background.

"Help!" she called out as she struggled to see where she was going.

Her rash behavior caught the attention of the guides and others in the room. Some did nothing but watch the unfolding scene while others moved to assist. Matthew shot up from his chair and made moves to approach as quickly as he could - shoving through others to get there.

"Move!" he ordered.

Liz crashed into the silver tables, sending the contents flying everywhere - vials crashed to the floor and broke along with other items. She was being pulled somewhere - somewhere familiar but some place she didn't remember being. A faded memory made its way to the surface and she was pulled into the experience completely. The vocal assault was closer now, the voices she now identified as human voices - both male and female voices:

(Memory Flashback - Time Period Unknown)

Her vision brought her to a room much like this one. She was stretched out on a table - much like the silver one she had just crashed into. The big swinging lights located on the ceiling still flickered above but were much more dated - from the 40s or 50s maybe? When she tried to move, she found that she was restrained.

She felt different - but the fear felt very much the same.

Men and women swarmed around her - people she identified as doctors and nurses - and they were poking and prodding her in different places. It felt like the most humiliating experience she had ever encountered. But even more than that - she was in pure agony. Her entire body was covered by an intense burning sensation that was so strong - it felt like she had either been dipped in acid or thrown into a fire.

"Doctor, I think its awake?" the voice coming from one of the nurses informed the man now leering over her. Liz found herself questioning that.

ITS awake?

These people were not going to let her go. That was the clearest thought that over-took Liz's senses as she experienced this horrible encounter - someone else's encounter.

"The scalpel?" she heard the doctor order. "Hurry," he instructed. "We don't have much time before they come and remove it."

It was pure torture - she could feel the tip of the sharp instrument makes its way inside of her and the burning only intensified. It grew stronger and stronger and stronger - as it penetrated deeper and finally further down the exterior of the body. Liz couldn't hold it in any longer - these people were killing her slowly - in fact she questioned why they just didn't? At the very least, it would put her out of her misery. She felt her mouth open wide as she released a loud blood curdling and ear-piercing scream.

Finally, she felt the blackness creep over her.

"Doctor, we're losing it?" the nurse's frantic pleas were drowning out.

"Wake up!" someone shouted.


(Memory Flashback Ends)

"Wake up!"

There was no response as Liz continued to frail about - the torturous scream alarming everyone just seconds ago.

"Liz, I said to wake up!"

A strong slap to the face brought Liz completely out of it as she bolted upright, desperately gasping for air. Slowly, her surroundings began to come back into focus and she was embarrassed to find all the attention on her. Another recruit arrived back on the scene and brought a cup of water back to Matthew as he tried assisting Liz in her current state, Mathew grabbed for it - bringing it to her mouth.

"Here, take some of this," he instructed. "Give her some breathing room, everybody," he ordered. "Try and take it easy," he told Liz.

"Let's get her to the infirmary," another voice commanded.

The last thing Liz's memory shot to as she welcomed the liquid into her mouth was that she had stupidly forgotten to take her medication this morning.

__________________________________

To Be Continued - Feedback everyone? Pretty please with a cherry on top. LOL. It lets me know that people are actually interested in reading this story.
Last edited by ADreamerDestiny on Wed Jul 08, 2009 6:01 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: The Re-Awakening (CC/UC - ML/Mature) Chapter Three - 4/26/09

Postby ADreamerDestiny » Sun Apr 26, 2009 4:05 am

A/N: Okay, big apologies. I've got a good excuse - I planned to have this part posted sooner but I fell sick. Sorry, I am an asthmatic and that combined with my allergies - is just a horrible combination. The sudden shift in weather has been having an effect on me. Needless to say, while I wasn't feeling well, I wasn't feeling very inspired to finish what I had already started.

Anyway, without further delay, here is the next part. Thanks once again to my reviewers from last chapter: begonia9508 , dreamon, MP, Ava, extingman, Smac, uw51, and welcome to AnnViolet. So glad to have a new reader that likes my story. :D

Small Disclaimer: I've borrowed a line from the season one episode, Missing. The dialogue belongs to Michael and it may not be exact but you'll recognize it, nevertheless, once you come upon it.

________________________


Chapter Three: You and Me Makes - We?


Roswell, New Mexico - County Sheriff's Office (September, 1947)

Two months.

The hours slowly trickled over into days - days that turned into endless nights without sleep, days and nights where no words out there could offer the comfort sought. These same days and nights provided no amount of acceptable closure, until finally, those same days and nights had culminated into weeks. The weeks became months.

Two months.

Calvin Burke stalked into the Sheriff's station in the early morning hours, the local newspaper - The Roswell Gazette - gripped firmly within his hand. His young daughter Claudia accompanied him on this day; her father was on his way to drop her off at school. Summer vacation had come to a close and this would be the first time Claudia would make a first day of school without her sister by her side. Pointing towards the small bench, Cal instructed his daughter to sit there and wait for him. There was already another gentleman occupying the bench; however, Claudia did as she was told and sat in the empty spot next to the man. Then, after marching straight up to the front desk, Cal slammed the newspaper down on the counter-top for the local deputy to see.

"Where's the Sheriff?" he demanded to know, pointing down at the front page headlines. "What in the hell is this all about, Jimmy?"

The deputy manning the desk merely sighed. "Cal, this is the county Sheriff's office, not the local newspaper. You got issue with that story," he pointed down at it, "I suggest you run along right now and take it up with their editor or something," Deputy James Valenti informed him. "The Sheriff's busy. He's got more important stuff to being doing in searching for your daughter than to be worrying about a few rumors being stirred up by some hot-headed reporter looking to make a name and land a story for himself."

Cal narrowed his eyes. "Sure they're just rumors, Jimmy?"

"Yes, they're just rumors, Cal," the Deputy rolled his eyes; however, in a non-callous manner. "No-one's looking at you, that's a promise. We know you'd never do anything to bring harm to your little girl."

Cal didn't believe that.

The overwhelming sense of intense fear, anger, and stress had been suffocating these past weeks - it was suffocating both of them, Calvin and Claudia. All the stares that both father and daughter received from the townsfolk when they came and went in the town, the whisperings they encountered while going about their daily business - left an unsettling feeling in the pit of the father's stomach. Everyone in the town was wondering about the fate of the little local girl, Charlotte Burke. Since she went missing at the same time as the undisclosed incident on Polhman Ranch, the story helped to take some of the attention off of those alleged alien crash stories that arose back in July.

What had happened to her?

"Come on, Jimmy," Cal pleaded with Deputy Valenti. "You and I were both there," his voice lowered several notches. "I know you were placed on duty there that following morning - you saw what I saw, didn't ya?! Tell me."

Deputy James Valenti sighed heavily, casting his glance downwards. "Cal?!"

"Tell me you believe my story?" Calvin pushed.

"It don't matter what I believe, Cal," Deputy Valenti settled on. "Look ... "

"Tell me I didn't see what I know I saw," Cal continued, cutting the deputy off. "Tell me I'm losing my mind, that none of this has anything to do with my little girl being gone, and I'll walk right out that door right now."


x

Claudia could overhear bits and pieces of her father's conversation from the background. She took a quick glance over at the peculiar man sitting beside her, a man who was hiding his face behind the morning newspaper. He hadn't spoken a word of greeting nor acknowledged her presence near him in any way, shape, or form. The only thing she could make out about him was the top hat he sported, sitting on top of his head, and the sunglasses over his eyes - covering the top portion of his face. Claudia found it odd that the man would even need them in the early morning hours, let alone, need them while sitting inside of a building that shielded everyone from the bright rays of the sun.

Nervously, she brought her fingers up and began fiddling with the necklace that rested around her neck. It was the same necklace she had found that night her twin sister, Charlotte, had gone missing.

Her sudden movement caught the attention of the stranger. Although she could not see it, his focus went straight to the pendant twirling around between her fingers. Claudia tensed, a strong feeling coming over her, very much like an eerie sixth sense feeling that told her she was being watched - closely observed by something or someone. Turning, she discovered that the stranger had in fact turned his head in her direction. She could not see his eyes behind the glasses and his face remained stoic in appearance. Not a smile nor a frown was to be found.

"Hi," she uttered, smiling nervously and waving her hand.

The stranger did not respond, instead, he turned his attention back to the newspaper that was now shielding his face once again.

Claudia shivered involuntarily - this man definitely felt weird to her.


x

Deputy Valenti took a quick glance around - lowering himself down so he couldn't be overheard by anyone. "Cal?!" he pleaded with the other man earnestly. "Listen, you need to drop this. I mean it! Believe me when I say this to you and I'm saying it as a friend right now - not as the local Deputy to the Sheriff. I really wouldn't be going around with those stories anymore about dead alien bodies and spaceship crashes and the military covering it all up."

Calvin narrowed his eyes, ignoring the warning. He pieced it together right away. "You've been receiving the phone calls too?"

Deputy Valenti avoided the question. "Look, buddy, if Charlotte's out there somewhere, we'll find her, that I can promise ya. Go home, spend time with Claudia, if we hear anything - I'll personally let you know first thing."

"Answer the question, Jimmy!" Cal demanded. "Have you been receiving the same goddamn phone calls?"

Silence ensued as the two men engaged in a staring match.

"To be honest, Cal, I'm not sure what it was I really saw," the Deputy sighed, electing to avoid the question and instead - opting to answer the earlier one. "I was called there that morning to keep things in line, to keep the peace so things didn't get out of hand. I saw some wreckage lying around, being piled up, and then being carried away and loaded into a truck - but that's it! That wreckage could have been anything."

"Jimmy," Calvin Burke hissed. "It's been two months. Two months!" his voice hitched again. "Charlotte went missing from that ranch. You know it, I know it, and the goddamn U.S. Military knows it! Now, I'm not going to just roll over and play dead on this and pretend like it never went down that way! Instead of getting the help I should have been getting from the start of all this, I wake up that next morning and find the paper reporting that my daughter disappeared because she wandered somewhere down 285 South after my truck broke down on it?!"

"It's where we found the truck, Cal!" Deputy Valenti's voice rose too. "On the roadside of 285. Are you calling us liars?!"

"I crashed my truck on Jonathon's ranch!" Cal refuted loudly. "Not on that stretch of damn highway!"

Frustration had taken a big toll on him and so Calvin's voice had risen another notch higher over that of Deputy Valenti's. They were now drawing alot of attention from the other locals who were coming and going about their business. When she heard her father's loud hitch in tone, Claudia immediately shot her head up and looked at him from where she was sitting on the bench.

"Now, you listen here," Deputy Valenti warned the agitated father. "I hate to go and get firm with you, Cal, because I know you're going through a whole lot - but I highly suggest you calm yourself down! Go home!"

Sadly, there really wasn't much else for Calvin Burke to do these days.

Calvin was now in desperate need of a job - the property belonging to his long time family friend and boss - had been seized immediately by the U.S. military. Almost a month later, the federal government acquired the land - paying Jonathon Polhman and his wife twice the fair market value for all their troubles. Now, during the past couple months, the father of two was struggling on the wages coming from temp jobs - jobs that easily came and went. Even more disturbing, Jonathon and his wife refused to take his calls. He knew that Jon had been witness to the same strange things that both he and young Claudia had seen that night; however, he did not expect to be snubbed by him.

That night, after a quick story relating to a top secret military project gone wrong from the nearby base, he and Jonathon had been debriefed by the General in charge. Or as Cal liked to reflect back on and say - subtly threatened to remain quiet about the incident and anything they may have seen. However, Calvin had been so distraught that night over the situation relating to his missing daughter, all curiosity or interest in the military's sudden appearance on Pohlman's ranch took a backseat.

Alot of rumors had sprung up since that night on Polhman Ranch. There were stories that spanned across the spectrum: stories alleging crashed weather balloons, fears of another secret attack made by the Japanese, tales of a recovered spaceship that had crashed followed by a government cover-up; all the way to more extraordinary claims hinting at an impending alien invasion. Finally, there was what others deemed the more logical conclusion of a possible, faulty, military aircraft.

Then, at just the next precise moment, the door leading into the local Sheriff's office opened and out stepped the Sheriff and a military officer dressed in his full military attire. They were smiling and laughing with each other and Cal's anger exploded when he watched them shake hands. Whatever the hell they were shaking on or about at the moment - didn't even matter to Cal in those seconds. He just wanted answers and he wanted them now.

"Hey! Hey - you!" he shouted and pointed at the military officer. He forced himself through the small, wooden gate as Deputy Valenti tried to immediately intervene. "Listen, you son of a bitch ..."

"CAL!" Deputy Valenti kept pace and reached out to block his path.

"I want you to stop harassing my family!" Cal shouted. He pointed toward the military officer's chest, a death glare in place. "You tell whoever's in charge, to stop making those calls to my house, do you hear me?"

"Whoa there, fella!" the military officer shot up his hands in submission. "I don't know what you're talking about or what the problem here seems to be ... "

Calvin attempted to lunge at the officer.

"Cal, Cal!" Deputy Valenti shouted. "Back up!" he warned, thrusting his arm out in front of Calvin, preventing the attack.

Cal's heated and accusatory glare turned towards the Sheriff next. "You in on this too, Charlie? Huh? You in on covering up what happened to my little girl?!"

"Cal?" the Sheriff warned, in a threatening tone. "You best calm down right now before I give you some time to cool off on my own dime. I'll have you thrown into county lock-up jail for the night, do you understand me?!"

"You're a liar!" Cal seethed, directing his accusation back at the military officer.

Deputy Valenti tried to keep Calvin back. He only eased away very slowly from the other man when Cal's heavy breathing ceased and it appeared like the distraught father was calming down.

"Uh, I best be going now, Sheriff," the military officer turned and addressed the law officer in charge. "Once again, thanks for your time and your cooperation." He nodded his head and then tipped his hat.

The Sheriff nodded his acceptance and the two men shook hands again; however, this time when Calvin lunged forward - he was successful in his attempt. He grabbed for and got a hold of him, clutching onto the military officer's jacket - holding it with a death grip inside his balled fists. The Sheriff and Deputy Valenti reacted as quickly as possible - jumping in and using their hands to forcefully pry Calvin Burke away from the military officer. Claudia, witnessing the entire assault from the background, jumped up off the bench.

"Daddy!" her concerned voice called out, sounding scared for her father. "Daddy, don't!"

"You're all lying about everything," Cal shouted. "About that night, about what you really found, about my daughter - you bastards!"

"Peterson! Kendrick!" the Sheriff shouted out for two of his other officers working behind their desks. "Get your asses over here and help us now!"

The two men bolted up from their desks, running over when they caught sight of the physical confrontation. Claudia watched in horror as the two additional officers descended upon her father - each man grabbing for one of his arms, forcefully pulling him apart and away from the military officer. Deputy Valenti assisted them, all three men dragging him and then pushing Calvin out of the Sheriff's station by force. He protested the entire time. Instantly, Claudia ran for the door - following them outside. The military officer averted his eyes, straightening out his jacket. He swallowed, releasing a coughing sound, to clear his throat in the background.

"Just count yourself lucky that I'm not having you arrested, Cal!" the Sheriff shouted out, just before the final door slam resounded, leaving a weeping Cal outside on the sidewalk with his daughter.


x

The strange man hiding underneath the sunglasses peered out over the newspaper he hadn't been reading, the same paper which was currently being used to obscure his face. He overheard the confrontation and was now carefully observing the young man dressed in military attire walk away from the strange encounter. Apparently, it was an encounter that had gone down between him and with the father of the little girl who had been sitting beside him just moments ago. This man in uniform was the same man he had been following for days and he had trailed him into this place not that long ago.

This was a strange place - a strange place with strange customs.

Hopefully, this man would lead him exactly to where he needed to be. His curiosity still lied with the little girl and the question still plagued him - how had she gotten the necklace? More than likely, she had discovered it - if the father's claims about being out on that ranch that night were true. However, his concern about the necklace would have to wait. These men in strange uniform had to come first. After all, they had what belonged to THEM - precious cargo that couldn't be replaced if lost, damaged, or destroyed. They were already at a huge disadvantage, the survivors, and their Guardians were no where to be found. He knew what the Guardians first priority would be in such an emergency situation but the unwanted thought still prevailed in his mind during this time of need.

Had they deserted them here? Had the Guardians deserted this mission for good because they deemed it to be a lost cause?

He had been hiding in plain sight. But soon, and he knew it would be much sooner rather than later, the others would stumble upon those of them that had survived this catastrophe. These "others", their enemies, were others who were hell bent on destroying the mission - "others" whose sworn allegiance was to the Source of Darkness, even if some of them weren't consciously aware of it or the part they were helping to play in everything. However, many others were fully aware of it. They had been trailing behind them; however, he acknowledged that their time of departure from home had landed them several light years behind. It would be at least a few more years before the survivors would have to worry about encountering them.

And then his thoughts drifted to HER! His beloved Aurora. There had been no sign of her afterwards, it was more likely than not too late for her - which meant that she had met her final end not that long ago. He had resolved himself of this immediately and sadly, he knew he would have to go on without her because there was no other choice. This mission was way too important to just cast off to the wind.

May her soul become one with the divine Source of Light. May we come together and meet again if it is the will of The One.

That was his final thought on her - offering peace to Aurora's transformation from one life into the next through the process that many here would call "life" and "death." He lifted himself from off of the bench, leaving the newspaper behind, as he conspicuously made his move to follow the young man out the door. The ringing bell from the door signaled his departure and he made his way out underneath the bright sun.

As he followed the gentleman down the sidewalk, he watched the military officer get into his vehicle parked on the side of the road, another officer awaiting him in the driver's side. He quickly accepted that he would need a new name to identify himself in this new and strange place. After overhearing the confrontation between the little girl's father and then glancing briefly at the Sheriff's badge and last name, he had settled on what that new identity would be. From this day forward, and for as long as he was living here, he would simply be known as Cal.

Cal Langley.


X


Mesaliko Indian Reservation (September 1947)

The young, Native American boy dipped the cloth back inside the bowl and then brought it to the forehead of the visitor stretched out before him. This healing process had been going on for the past couple days. They were both currently residing inside of a cave dwelling found on the Indian reservation.

The boy had found the stranger about two months ago, roaming the Mesaliko Tribal Lands, in the midst of enduring the dry, humid air of New Mexico while underneath the hot sun. It had been immediately obvious to the boy, and to others, that the stranger had clearly been in alot of physical distress. The stranger had been dragging his feet along, barely able to walk, while holding onto what the boy had perceived at the time to be an injured or broken limb.

This same stranger had spent the past couple months on the tribal lands, recuperating, which in turn after healing - he had been invited to stay, learn, and to engage in the local customs shared between all the Mesaliko tribe people. On the outside, the man had appeared to physically resemble one of their own kind, another man of Native American descent; however, in time, the boy soon came to learn something entirely different about the stranger who was now lying beneath him.

The secret was something he had never expected to encounter himself, not in his own life; however, at the same time, it was not completely surprising to him either. The truth might have scared others but it didn't frighten him. After all, the stories passed down by the Elders in their tribe told about ancient tales of visitors who came from the night skies. Within the reservation walls there existed paintings - paintings very similar to the many Egyptian pictographs found within ancient Egyptian culture. These Mesaliko cave paintings told stories all of their own. Visitors were shown communicating directly with the tribal people, sharing and spreading a deep, spiritual knowledge among them; there were also pictures depicting strange objects that were used at one time to enhance buried, sixth-sense abilities. These same strange objects, objects that resembled giant crystals, were being shared with the people on the earth who were deemed ready by a higher power to harness all their suppressed energy in order to serve the Source of Light. The Native American people of the land already had a name for this same source of light - for they called it, Great White Spirit. Later on, others within different denominations of faith covering the the would label this source of light - God.

The visitors in the paintings had explained to the tribal people that it didn't matter what name was given to this Creative Source. In the end, it was all the same, the same source of divine, powerful energy responsible for all of creation found within the known and unknown universe; it was the creator of all that was good and pure. However, others turned away from this light or they deceived others in their quest to do so, and these strange objects came to be abused by some of the people. For amongst both the humans and visitors alike - there existed those who chose to serve the Source of Darkness, walking like "wolves in sheep's clothing" among those who served the Source of Light. They remained hidden within the shadows and just waited patiently for the right time to make themselves and their agenda known. In the end, human kind helped to destroy themselves, with help from the dark ones, while using these strange objects in a manner that went against everything that was good. Greed, envy, jealousy, anger, lust, and hatred all became an explosive combination when mixed with the powerful energy emanating from these objects. Gone was the desire, in the majority of people, to advance spiritually for the sake of good. Many had been corrupted. Finally, this abuse of power led to a great flood - mass destruction visited upon a land once believed to be Atlantis. In the end, the remaining objects were retained and the visitors of light swore that no human would ever again regain access to such a powerful object that they weren't ready to handle.

Unknown to the people of earth, these visitors had met with a similar fate - not with the flooding of water but with the culmination of war and destruction to their own world. For the dark ones amongst the visitors had even corrupted their own kind after helping to deceive human kind.

However, the biggest question on the young boy's mind right now was:

Which side did this visitor serve, the one lying stretched out below him? The young native boy was responsible for helping to save his life days ago; however, would it be to his own detriment?

The body of the visitor soon began to stir - he was waking up.

"You are the one known as, Riverdog?" the voice of the visitor came out sounding slow and very strained. He did not open his eyes right away to look over at the boy.

"Yes, it's still me!" the boy verified for him. It was clear to him that use of the English language was foreign to this strange visitor. He glanced over at the strange stones that were used to help restore what the visitor called - the Balance. They were no longer glowing. "They're not working anymore!"

"This is because the healing is now complete, young one," the visitor explained. "The Balance has been restored." He sat up straight in one swift motion, momentarily startling young Riverdog, as he involuntarily jumped backwards inside the cave. The visitor observed him without blinking an eye. "For this I owe you. My life has been spared because of your quick intervention."

"My people are suspicious of you, Nascedo" young Riverdog admitted to him, labeling the visitor with a description found in the Native American dialect. "You became sick after we invited you into The Sweat. Our ritual is suppose to cleanse and purify that which yearns to be good and pure," he shared with this visitor the purpose behind this native custom. "Do you not wish, or at least have the desire within you, to serve what is good?"

Riverdog's eyes narrowed as he waited for the visitor to answer. There was still no emotional response coming from this visitor - no way to read him.

"I understand the intent behind this earthly custom, young one," the visitor now being deferred to as Nascedo, finally answered the boy. "However, this reaction was not spiritual in nature - it was merely a physical manifestation. The energy that comprises my own biological make-up has clashed directly with the energy that particular ritual gave life to. Your own energy merely activated these healing stones - restoring my own life energy back to me."

"Oh!" young Riverdog simply replied. He didn't completely understand the mechanics behind what it was he had participated in days ago.

"Do I have your solemn oath - that the truth behind my real identity - isn't to be put in jeopardy?"

A bewildered expression covered Riverdog's face when he regarded the visitor's choice of words. Noticing it, Nascedo attempted to simplify it in more human terms for the young boy.

"Do I have your word, young one - a promise that you will not reveal the truth about me to anyone?" he asked this second time around.

Riverdog slowly nodded his head.

"Good."


x

Evening was fast approaching and the signs of the setting sun, with it's red and orangish hue covering the sky, were beginning to make their presence known. A small sand-storm was picking up in the distance of the vast expanse of desert land. Visibility was difficult but not completely impossible.

The small whimpering sounds of a child traveled in sync with the strong winds that were now picking up and being carried everywhere throughout the desert air. The young girl had been walking for miles through the dry desert heat without any water to drink and she was currently bare-foot; however, as tired and as parched as she felt, this little girl kept on walking at the same pace, one foot in front of the other. Her arms swayed in a lazy manner at her sides. The long strands of dark, brown hair flew freely and they blew in every possible direction - the loose hair automatically blinding her when the heavy gusts of scattered sand would not. Her walk almost appeared staggered, her stance and movements robotic.

The little girl was in a hypnotic daze.

Her path had taken her straight through a rocky, desert area that was isolated from most clear signs of civilization. This secluded area was known as, Buckley Point, to the closest nearby residents.

In her hand, the child carried a silver, oval shaped object - an object that was completely foreign to her. She didn't know why she had it with her and couldn't remember how she had gotten it in the first place; however, when she had stumbled upon a radio tower in the area, her movements suddenly ceased altogether. Bending down, she began using her hands to dig into the ground beneath her - taking her time to make the deepest hole possible. There was something or someone guiding her steps, an energy that she couldn't put words to. A flash of knowledge passed throughout her entire being during the exact moment she placed the silver object inside the ground. It told her that the object being buried so close to the radio tower would make it virtually undetectable by human means - and others alike. She didn't understand the reasoning behind any of this; she just listened to the little voice found in her head and knew it to be so. Shoving the remains of piled up dirt back where it belonged, the hole was now filled back up.

After finishing the task, the little girl continued on along her journey, completely forgetting about the silver orb or that it ever existed. It was as if the knowledge had been completely erased from her awareness - taken from her memory banks. The child had served her purpose and her steps eventually led her through the back lands belonging to a Native American reservation, the Mesaliko Tribe.

Children on the reservation, who were running around in circles with a small barking dog while they played with each other - turned to stop and look. Their smiles dropped as their curiosity suddenly sprang to life.

"Mom-ma!" one yelled back over her shoulder, pointing in the direction of the small approaching child.

Two of the little boys took small cautious steps towards her and then stopped.

The young mother, tired from the day's work and in the process of hanging the remainder of her wash on a suspended clothes line, turned when her daughter sought her attention. She caught sight of the approaching child in the distance, a child who was a stranger on the Mesaliko lands. She stopped to carefully observe. Then, she called over to a small group of young men working on parts belonging to a dis-assembled car.

"Aye!"

The men turned at the call from the woman and then they too looked over in the direction she was now pointing in. Not very far in the distance, they made out a young Caucasian girl with long brown hair, who appeared to be crying. Her whimpering sounds became easier to make out the closer she came to them. The length of her entire legs and her bare feet were covered with the sticky sand particles left from the desert storm, and the dress, once a vivid creme color - was now dirty, torn, and tattered.

Who was she?

The barking little terrier mix ran up to the child.

It was at this time that young Riverdog, accompanied by the visitor, Nascedo, came upon the scene that was now drawing so much attention. After appearing from the small hidden path that led into the woods located on the reservation, they had left the confines of the cave only to catch sight of the new presence - that of a strange, little girl wandering onto the reservation.

"Help! I want to go home," the little girl mumbled over and over in a trance-like state, tear tracks left in the wake of their departure. No one could hear her from that distance and she couldn't remember anything pertaining to this journey at all - not where she had started from, not where she had been, and not how she had found her way to this strange place.

The Mesalikos watched as the little girl faltered and then passed out. However, as soon as she had fallen to the ground, the young Mesaliko men and one mother ran over to assist her. The children immediately followed after the adults. Luckily, the adults had found that the child hadn't lost complete consciousness. The young mother bent down, reaching out for her.

"Daddy?" the little girl's weak voice called out to them. "I want my daddy!"

"What is your name, little one?" the young mother asked, while cradling her head in her lap.

The little girl's eyes blinked against the bright sun beginning to set overhead above her. She could make out the shadow figures hovering everywhere around her - the woman, the men, and various children were all forming a circle above her and staring down at her. Then two new figures joined the group. The tall one with the young boy reached out to touch her and she instinctively flinched against him.

"Charlotte?" her soft sounding voice managed to slip out before she slipped into a deep sleep.



(-X-)



Her eyes fluttered open.

Liz struggled to bring her sight back into focus; however, her eyes squinted against the bright light that hovered somewhere above her. Her vision was momentarily blurred but as her sight returned to her, she could feel something cold pressed against the top of her forehead.

A cold-compress?

"Liz?" the voice called out. "Liz, can you hear me?"

Turning her head just a little bit to the side, she made out the form of a male silhouette. Quickly, her mind fought back to the last thing she could remember. Lights, bright lights, and then falling. A scary vision that felt so real? Yup, that was it. She had fainted, passed out in front of a room full of working colleagues. She felt those feelings of embarrassment creep back in.

Where was she now?

Bringing her hand up to her forehead, she called back out. "Matthew?"

"No, Liz. My name is Dr. Connor," the voice corrected her mistaken assumption. "Matthew brought you in here to the sick bay, with some help from your fellow colleagues. He really wanted to stay with you - insisted even, but unfortunately he was called away on duty."

"Duty?" Liz questioned, while struggling to lift herself into an upright position.

The doctor moved to assist her. "Try and take it easy," he instructed. "I was told you hit your head right after you fell," he reported back to her. "Yes, Matthew is a part of your research team but he also serves here on the base. Double duty so to speak," he chuckled.

"Oh. Did I pass out again before getting here?" she inquired, taking in her surroundings. She didn't remember getting here.

"You were unconscious when they brought you into me, yes," he answered her. Bringing a small flashlight back up to her face, he shone it directly into one eye and then into the other one. "Feeling any discomfort - lightheadedness, headaches?" he questioned her.

"No."

"Good. Follow my finger," he instructed, as he continued with his examination on her. Her eyes followed his movements from right to left and then finally back to the right again. "Dilation looks normal," he informed her.

After pulling a pen out from the front pocket that was found on his white overcoat, Liz watched as the doctor scribbled something down in his notes. Then, reaching underneath his folder, a second folder was revealed - a manila colored one. Opening it up, Liz observed carefully while he quickly scanned the contents inside.

"Hm," Dr. Connor hummed. "I see that according to your medical records, you're on a pretty steady dose of Klonopin."

"Uh, yeah, that's right." Liz began rubbing her arms - she was beginning to feel chilly inside of the small, examining room.

"When was your last dose?"

"Well, it was actually suppose to be this morning and I forgot," she openly admitted. "I normally take one dose before bedtime and another one after I wake up in the morning."

"So, last night then," Dr. Connor concluded. "And your doctor prescribed the doses to be taken at those intervals?" he pushed. He brought down the pair of reading glasses that were sitting at the top of his head, in order to read the smaller inscription found in her file. "You've been an out-patient to a Dr. Wallace?"

He brought his eyes up to meet hers. Liz sighed. Things were beginning to get personal - it was making her a bit uncomfortable. How far would he attempt to pry inside of her past? She didn't want to reveal anymore than what was necessary. This job opportunity was suppose to be another fresh start in her life - it would figure that her past would step in and invade everything somehow.

"Yes, that's right. Dr. Wallace prescribed the medication in those two doses," she verified for him. "We, uh, would usually meet on a weekly basis for an hourly session of therapy. The medicine just helps me to manage some of the stress better."

She tried to make light of it as best as she could.

"Right," the doctor nodded his head. He sighed. "Well, Dr. Parker, I'm sure arrangements can be made to bring Dr. Wallace here to the base if you still feel that type of theraputic recovery is necessary," he offered. "We could have her flown in and out as required. Of course, as a doctor myself, I would advise that it's wise to keep you monitored under such medication."

"Right," she agreed.

A loud knock came from the entrance to the small room, interrupting them. Looking over, Liz immediately took notice that it was Serena - her roommate. She flashed Liz a smile and suddenly Liz felt the uneasiness that had been building up inside of her leaving during that moment. Liz issued a quick wave back to her and smiled. Reflecting on her sudden change in mood, she realized that she was actually pretty relieved to see the other young woman.

"Oh? Ms. Dubois?!" the doctor greeted her cheerily upon noticing her there. "There you are." He turned back to Liz. "We had someone send for your roommate," he explained. "Hope you don't mind, I just thought it might be better if you had someone to accompany you when making the trip back to the bunker. Just to play it safe," he reassured her.

"Sure, it's not a problem," Liz brushed it off in a hurry, while jumping down from the examination table. She immediately grabbed for her sweater that was swung over a chair - and she thrust her arms into it. Looking back over at her roommate, she noticed for the first time that her purse and cell phone were awaiting her in Serena's possession.

Dr. Connor slipped his pen back into his coat pocket. "So, unless there's anything else about the episode you need to tell me, I really don't think there's much more to worry about here."

"No, nothing else," Liz lied with ease.

"You know where to come if you have any further problems."

Liz simply nodded in response. Serena glanced between Liz and Dr. Connor - observing their interaction with careful scrutiny.

"Ready?" Serena interjected, reaching out to hand Liz her purse and cell phone.

"Yeah, I'm ready. Thanks."

"Just be more careful about taking that medication," he volunteered to her. "Once your body becomes dependent upon it after so long - there's bound to be some minor side effects if you miss taking it here or there. But it's nothing to get too shaken up about."

A faint smile passed over Liz's lips. "Thanks, Dr. Connor."

"Bye, now."

Liz and Serena exited the room and entered a long slender hallway. Without paying much attention to which direction they were going in, Liz just opted to follow Serena's lead. Sticking both hands into the pockets found on the sides of her jeans, Serena kept a steady pace and waited until they were a little further down the hallway to break the silence. Liz took notice, for the first time, that Serena was in fact out of uniform - instead sporting a pair of faded blue, flare jeans and a cute v-necked shirt. The shirt had short sleeves and matched both her coloring and complexion at the same time - an intense fiery red.

"You okay?" Serena's concerned voice broke the silence.

"Yeah, fine," Liz sighed, releasing some inner tension in the process. "I just forgot to take my medication this morning, that's all. Made me a little light-headed."

"Really?" Serena pushed, not buying that explanation. "Because I heard you literally crashed," she made reference to the incident where Liz stumbled over some big, silver tables that resembled stretchers. "And then you fell. And all of that apparently happened some time in between you crying out for some help and you thrashing about," she called Liz out on the complete version of the story.

Feeling put off with all the hype being placed upon her one incident, Liz came to a sudden halt, refusing to walk any further with her. "Wait a minute here. People were discussing this behind my back for the rest of the entire day?"

"Sure were."

Liz huffed in disgust. "What is this? I thought I signed on here so that I could participate in some very important and valuable research!" she spat back. "Never, at any time, did I think I was signing on to become the latest subsciber for the Area 51 Enquirer!"

"Oh!" Serena drawled out, a big smile in place. "So now you're willing to admit that we're stuck somewhere deep inside the Area 51 Abyss?!"

Liz groaned in agitation. "Seriously, Serena, you're telling me that there's nothing more interesting happening on this entire base besides some stupid dizzy spell that I encountered during orientation?!"

"Hey, what do you want me to say?" Serena shrugged her shoulders, trying to still joke around. "Good news travels fast around here."

Liz rolled her eyes. "Serena? I'm being serious right now."

"I know," Serena laughed. "That's why I'm laughing right now."

Liz wasn't amused this time. "Forget it!"

This time Liz moved to leave, taking quick strides down the long stretch of hallway and leaving Serena behind.

Serena just sighed - a smirk in place. "Liz," she huffed. "Don't you think you're being just a tad bit too sensitive about this?" she accused. She watched the backside of her departing roommate from behind as she, herself, resumed her own walking in the same direction.

"Is everything a joke with you?" Liz accused over her shoulder, while keeping her pace.

"No, but seriously, you're being over-dramatic."

"I'm not being over-dramatic," Liz denied, shaking her head to refute it. "If you're not going to take things that I say seriously, ever," she stressed, "then I'm not going to talk to you about anything at all anymore."

"Liz, chill out. It's not the end of the world just because you happened to have a freaking-out episode and then managed to pass out in front of a room full of people," Serena retorted. "I'm sure there's a perfectly good explanation for it."

"Well, when you say it like that?!" Liz retorted back, heavy sarcasm laced together with her words. Then her mind back-tracked, thinking hard about what managed to slip out of Serena's mouth.

The End of the World?

No, that happened in a different time and in a different place. A place were things may have been different for her, for them, and somewhere she could have possibly had some semblance of a normal life - a happy life with someone she fell in love with and with somebody who would have loved her in return during that time. It would have been a life that lasted for a short while anyway. Liz acknowledged that it was a purely selfish reflection based off of her own regrets. She cursed the way things had turned out for her instead. And worst of all, she couldn't help but wish for her own happiness that came from that lost period of time. And no matter how short a span of time it would have been, she was willing to sacrifice her conscience in exchange for the lives of every other human being on this planet. It was a horrible reality to even conceive of - let alone wish upon anybody else, and she quickly found herself feeling guilty and wondering how disgusted Max would feel in this moment if he knew that the thought had even crossed her mind.

Remembering back to the time when a mask of sorrow and despair literally jumped off the unshaven face of a future love from long ago, Liz internally kicked herself. Liz recalled how broken and defeated Future Max had appeared when he delivered the tragic news of Michael and Isabel's deaths. How could she have ever let the thought cross her mind that it somehow would have been better for Max without them? Just so they could be together? That reality still would have crushed him in this time and she knew it.

"Are you mocking me?" Liz countered incredulously, her eyebrows arched, where Serena couldn't see them. "Serena, listen, I refuse to discuss this anymore." Her tone was firm, unyielding.

"Fine, but if you really overreact to everything like this," Serena baited her some more, "then it looks like I'm in for a long year."

Stopping, Liz finally spun back around to confront her. "Hey, if you've got a problem, then go ahead and ask for a new roommate. There's nobody stopping you."

Serena caught up with her and now stood face-to-face with her. "Liz, calm down. That's all I'm saying. You're too emotional. Seriously, this isn't college or high school. We're adults here - I'm not looking to go tattle to a room mod or some other type of resident advisor. I'm really trying to be your friend here but you're going to have to let me."

"Friends are over-rated," Liz countered.

Serena flinched, mockingly. "Gee, well, I'm sure Maria would be really glad to hear it!" she challenged.

Liz folded her arms in a defensive manner. "Maria, excluded! Look, could you please leave Maria out of this, you don't even know her!" she countered back.

"True," Serena relented, "but I have a pretty strong gut feeling that she's not afraid to tell you like it is either."

"No, she doesn't," Liz denied.

"I'll bet she does," Serena chuckled.

"Maria knows when to quit and when to mind her own business unlike someone else I know," Liz threw back.

"Guilty!" Serena admitted, nodding her head emphatically.

Liz threw her arms up into the air signaling defeat. "This is stupid! Can we please just drop all this?"

"I agree, it's stupid." A smirk made it's way across Serena's face. "Consider it dropped."

"Good," Liz nodded her own head in a dramatic fashion.

"Good," Serena repeated and mimicked the action, bobbing her own head up and down.

"I'm going now," Liz narrowed her eyes, pointing behind herself.

"Okay."

"Okay," Liz repeated, turning back around and resuming her walk; however, she stopped when it became apparent that she was confused on where to exit the building. There was no door leading to a staircase, no entrance that was leading outside - if they were in fact located on a ground floor somewhere. "And how the hell do we get out of here?" she vented.

After reaching the end of the hallway and already knowing where to go, Serena turned her head to look to the right side of her and kept her gaze focused down at the small enclosure. At just that precise moment - a buzzing sound alarmed, alerting both of them to a door being opened. A few individuals, dressed in silver uniform attire, exited and walked past them.

Serena pointed. "The elevator?" she answered Liz's question.

Closing her eyes, a smirk appeared on Liz. "Right, I knew that." She walked over to rejoin Serena and both made their way onto the elevator.

"Sure ya did!" Serena mocked playfully. Serena reached over to the number panel and pressed a button. She and Liz shared an amused look with each other as the elevator door closed.

X


"Michael?"

The word had finally left Maria's mouth but the feelings of utter disbelief were still firmly rooted in the core of her being. It wasn't until her former Spaceboy opened his mouth to speak that reality finally started to settle in for her.

"Hey, Maria."

It was such a simple greeting - so simple and so familiar. She reflected on how only Michael Guerin could manage to make it come off sounding like he had merely taken a quick stroll, fifteen minutes ago, to a local corner store to buy a gallon of milk rather than him disappearing off the face of the earth for nine years. In that moment, she felt it all rushing back. The endless days and nights spent wading through the unknown found only within the alien abyss - all the unknowns that were a part of their past relationship. The love, the heat, the passion, the tension, and the conflict all flashed before her eyes.

"Hey there, yourself, spaceboy," Maria found herself back-tracking to a time and place that was suppose to be long gone. "Don't you have a planet you should be off saving somewhere in the known universe?"

She couldn't resist passing the crack.

Michael smirked. "Yeah, funny. It's good to see you too, by the way. Can I come in?" He moved to step inside, not even waiting for her answer.

Maria rolled her eyes. "Sure, come right in." Typical Michael, she thought. Some things never change - not even in nine years.

Michael made a quick inspection of the living domicile. "Uh, nice place you got here," he offered back to her. "I think it's you. It's really you," he nodded his approval.

"Thanks, so do I. Glad you approve."

For the first time, Michael finally paid attention to the little boy who was also with Maria. Little Christopher became shy - he just stared at the new stranger who was now sharing the living room space with them inside their apartment.

Michael pointed at Christopher. "Uh, cute kid!" he offered, with a quick shrug of his shoulders. "What - did you take up brat-sitting or something while I was away?"

Maria snorted. "Uh, yes," she retorted. "Now there's the Michael we all love and loathe!" she added, narrowing her eyes for a moment. "Most people would think you're actually joking around with an insensitive remark like that but since I know better."

His face contorted in confusion. "What the hell did I say?"

Maria shot him a look. "Uh, hello! Language please!" she scolded him, bringing her focus to little Christopher who was listening beside her.

"Whatever," Michael brushed off, throwing a quick glance down towards Christopher. "What's the problem?"

Maria reached for the little boy, hoisting him up against her hip. "Christopher is my son, Michael," Maria enlightened him with the truth. She gently kissed the top of the the toddler's head. "I don't, uh, what was it you said again? Oh, right, that's it. I don't brat-sit for anyone."

Genuine surprise masked Michael's face. "Oh," came his one worded response. "Yeah, okay," he continued, nodding his head in the process. "Sure, I can see the resemblance now," he tried to cover up his mishap. He crossed his arms over the front of his chest.

Maria smirked, her defenses slipping away again. "Actually, we think Christopher looks more like his father," she shared.

"Oh." There was a brief moment of silence as Michael contemplated what to say next. "Well, he does have your ... " he stammered for a moment before finally settling on something. "Chin?"

Maria laughed. "Beth takes more after me."

"Beth?" Michael questioned.

Maria pointed to the mantel found just above the fireplace and behind Michael. He turned around to catch a glimpse at picture frames that lined the entire stretch of mahogany wood. There were scattered baby photographs, another one with two children posed together in a professional shot, and an additional picture of a little girl standing solo at some school function. She was holding some type of certificate and she did look like a smaller version of Maria - only with natural curly hair. Michael's eyes scanned over them quickly; however, the ones he tried to avoid looking at for too long were the ones that were clearly wedding photos. Photographs that let the world know Maria was finally spoken for. Finally, his eyes rested on a picture that showcased Liz. She was posing with the two children, Maria's children. She gave off the appearance of smiling but behind it - Michael could read into something that went much deeper. He didn't doubt that Liz cared about Maria or her children. However, the smile appeared to be a front for something that just wasn't really there.

Happiness. Peace. Love.

"Beth is my daughter," Maria volunteered. "We named her for Liz."

"Cool," he offered, turning back around. "You're right, she does look alot like you," he swallowed over the growing lump in his throat. He wanted to kick himself for it because he promised himself he wouldn't do this.

He promised Isabel.

"Thanks," Maria smiled back at him.

He released a heavy breath. "So?" he started. "I take it your," he held up his hand to signal to Maria what he meant, "then?" he finished.

"Married?" her brows rose. "Yes, Michael, I am," she confirmed for him. "Tyler's my husband," she shared the inevitable truth with him, pointing towards one of the wedding photos on the mantel. "We both met on the road - back when I was really giving my music gig a serious try. We became friends and then dated for awhile. Then we married and settled here."

A niche of jealousy was forming in the pit of his stomach. He didn't mean for it to; however, he found that it was very much like looking into that stupid crystal ball, the same one belonging to that crazy Madame Vivian back in the day, and seeing everything he wouldn't have missed out on if he had ultimately chosen a life on earth. A life with Maria.

Michael sucked it up. "I'm really happy for you, Maria," he offered. "You deserve it - you've always deserved it. I couldn't be the one to give it to you, I'm sorry about that, but I am glad you did find someone who could."

Maria observed his body language carefully and then her eyes narrowed a bit. She couldn't prevent the smirk that broke out across her face. "And you are such a terrible liar, spaceboy, do you know that?" she threw back at him.

Maria soon realized the irony lying underneath the old nick-name. Because the guy standing before her was no longer a boy, he was in fact a man.

Their eyes locked and the smiles and smirks faded. After all these years, it was amazing to Maria that she could still read him like an open book. Which was rather ironic - almost a contradiction in terms - because Michael was more like a closed book to the outside world. It went back to all those abusive years he endured at the hands of Hank Guerin, his foster father, and those experiences had scarred him deeply - leading him to be completely shut off to people. Michael Guerin, back in the day, had become the nut that most people wanted to avoid cracking. However, Maria had cracked his heart wide open. She had taken the challenge with pride - he had been a tough cookie to break but she had made it inside. She had loved him, refused to give up and in the end - refused to let him give up. They had grown because of each other and Maria was comfortable with that. She knew she would always have a piece of Michael that no one would ever be able to claim.

"But thanks anyway," her voice softened. "You get points for trying. You deserve to be happy and if you haven't found it yet - I hope you do."

"Right."

His one word answer came out and a certain sadness was reflecting back out of his eyes. He fought hard to hide it and she could tell. A weary sigh escaped between her lips because it was time to get down to the purpose behind this so-called visit. She had a feeling she wasn't going to like it either. It was going to pull her, pull her family, back into a world she wanted to avoid. A world she wanted to keep locked up in the past - especially if this could bring danger to her children. It wasn't just about her anymore.

"I take it this isn't just some social call," Maria got straight to the point.

"Unfortunately, no," he answered honestly.

"Right," she sighed, bending and releasing her son. "Christopher, buddy, why don't you go into your bedroom for a little while and play with those Tonka trucks that Santa brought for you last Christmas, okay? Mommy needs to spend some grown up time with an old friend."

He nodded his head.

"Good boy," she praised him.

Michael and Maria watched as he charged off in the direction of his bedroom, leaving the adults to discuss more dire matters.

"Okay, spill it!" she instructed. "How bad is it and am I going to live to regret it?!"

X


Serena sat on the couch, the TV remote control in hand, as she effortlessly surfed the channels one by one. She couldn't decide on anything interesting to watch; therefore, in the end - she settled with leaving the channel on World News Tonight. The headlines for one of the feature stories blared across the TV screen, as the broadcaster dove into the report:

"And in a disturbing report out of Kettle Falls, Washington this evening - we have a story about a freak lightening strike that has left a mother and her young son dead yesterday. The family was camping at the nearby Kettle Falls Campground site, not too far away from the Colville Reservation, when Lisa and Peter Donovan met their tragic end in the woods. Around the same time they were treking the woods, an electrical storm broke out in the area. After careful investigation, law enforcement has concluded that the lightening struck a tree - where the woman and her son ended up directly in it's path. We're told funeral services will be held later on this week for the mother and her son and our thoughts and prayers go out to the husband and family in this difficult time."

"And in other news ..."


"Oh my god, that is so horrible," Liz's voice sounded from the background as she entered the living room area to join Serena. She had overheard the details of the news report while she had been in the kitchen.

Liz sat down on the armchair, located to the right side of Serena on the couch, with her glass of water in hand. Simply sighing in response, Serena aimed the remote control back at the television set to turn it off. Then, after throwing herself backwards, she stretched and sprawled her body out, using up the entire length of the couch. She didn't utter one word.

Taking the hint, Liz offered an apology.

"Look, Serena, I'm sorry - okay? I didn't mean to snap at you or anything it's just that - " she stammered. Liz looked down and shook her heard - searching for the right words to express what she wanted to get across.

Serena listened - pulling herself back up into a sitting position. "It's just what?" she pushed for Liz to complete her thought.

"I don't know, it's just that ever since high school," Liz continued, "I feel like my life has become one big, fat, roller coaster ride - and I just can't get off of it."

"Why?"

"Alot of reasons," Liz sighed. "I have nightmares," she opened up to her.

Serena's curiosity was piqued. "What kind of nightmares?"

Liz hesitated for a brief moment. Should she be getting this comfortable with someone she barely even knew? However, on much closer reflection, Liz acknowledged that in some strange way, she actually already felt comfortable with Serena. True enough, there was already evidence of certain personality quirks, or traits, that had the potential to really annoy Liz at times; however, there was definitely some type of connection that she wasn't quite sure how to explain to anyone - including herself.

"Mostly from the past, really," Liz finally answered her. "I'm dealing with alot of - unresolved issues - I guess is the best way to put it. Before I got here, I was seeing a shrink," she rolled her eyes; however, it was directed at herself and her own embarrassment for revealing that detail, "and I do take medication to help me sleep and manage my anxiety levels. There, okay?" A smirk, born from the embarrassment, flashed across her face. "Promise, I'm not crazy or anything."

Serena smiled - it was a sincere smile. "Hey, if a little anxiety medicine here and there made people crazy, then this whole planet would be this one big walking, talking, psyche ward," she teased back.

Liz's smirk brightened into a smile. "Well, thanks, when you put it like that - it does make me feel alot better. I missed a dose this morning though - it might be connected to my brief episode earlier."

"When did you start seeing a shrink?" Serena pushed a little further. "Was it back in high school or just very recently?"

"While I was being home-schooled," Liz volunteered. "Um - I was actually hospitalized for a brief time while I was finishing school."

"How come?" Serena's brows furrowed.

"Because I went missing from home for about a year," Liz admitted to her. "And by the time I was found, all my friends were already graduating high school so I fell a year behind," she continued on with the story, intentionally leaving out certain pertinent details. "The thing is - I don't remember what happened during the year I was gone. I still don't - aside from a few, occasional nightmares here and there that don't make a whole lot of sense. But when I was found, they say I was practically catatonic. I wouldn't speak and at first - I didn't even recognize who my friends and family were."

Serena's stare intensified. "Wow. So - you were kidnapped or something like that?"

"Something like that."

"Did they catch who did it?"

"No," Liz shook her head. "I couldn't remember who it was anyway," she lied.

"Oh. Well that sucks," Serena expressed, her eyes widening. "But I guess the most important thing was that you were able to come back home. You were alive and unharmed - alot of people can't say that."

"Alive, yes," Liz agreed. "Unharmed? Maybe not physically - but not entirely true. I wasn't the only thing that had changed after I got back."

"Why - what else happened?"

Liz moved to take a sip from her glass of water and then used her other hand to place some freely, flowing hair behind one ear. "My parents use to own a restaurant where I grew up. It was called the Crashdown," she shared.

Serena nodded for her to continue.

"Well," Liz sighed. "Let's just say it wasn't there anymore when I got back."

"Did your parents sell it or something?"

"Not exactly," Liz refuted. "It was burnt to the ground. Arson - that's what the local sheriff's department concluded. But," Liz stopped because this was the hardest part to deliver. She took in and then released the same deep breath. "It wasn't just arson. My, uh - " she choked out. "My mom died in the fire too."

Serena's eyes immediately shifted to the floor. "Liz, I'm sorry," she offered her condolences. "That's really awful."

Liz's eyes teared up. "Yeah, I know," her voice became raspy, accepting the other young woman's words of sympathy. "But - do you know what the thing is that really sucks? It's that we were never really that close to begin with. I keep looking back - and all I see is all that wasted time while I was growing up," her regrets were spilling out. "Once high school hit, we were lucky if we said anything to each other at all."

"That bad, huh?!"

"Well, we talked - it's just that I always felt like there was this emotional wall that existed between us," Liz explained in more detail. "I was never really sure if she put it there, or if I put it there, but there was just this invisible wall that I could never get past. I felt like she kept herself at a distance from me and I never understood why."

Until recently.

Liz thought about it but she opted not to expand on that or reflect on it for the time being.

"What about your Dad?" Serena changed the subject. "Were the two of you close?"

"For a little while," Liz reflected with a sad smile. "He died a few years back - alcohol poisoning to the liver and pancreas."

"Ouch!" Serena closed her eyes against the newest onslaught of bad news.

"Yup," Liz pursed her lips. "I always knew my father to drink on occasion but never to the degree that had eventually killed him. I think it got bad back when I disappeared and then when my mom died and he lost the Crashdown," the guilt flowed through her voice and appeared within her expression.

"Liz, you can't blame yourself," Serena reprimanded in a gentle fashion.

"It's kind of hard not to," Liz countered back. "There are just other things - you don't know," she settled on. "Things that do make it my fault."

"Like what?"

"Just other things!" Liz stressed, avoiding the details. "Besides, it doesn't really matter because at the time, my father was saying alot of crazy things near the end. When I visited with him in the hospital, most of the things coming out of his mouth were barely even coherent. He was doped up on alot of pain meds and he was in and out of consciousness alot just before he went."

Serena was tempted to push for more information but decided against it. The more she could get out of her - the better it would be. She accepted that she would gain Liz's full trust within time; however, the more time she spent with her, she realized that's exactly what it would take.

Time.

But was there enough time?

"I grew up in Kettle Falls," Serena opted to share with her out of the blue. "Kettle Falls, Washington - the same place where the mom and kid got killed."

The eyebrows on Liz rose up. "What?"

"Freaky coincidence, huh?" Serena pointed out. "Besides, since you shared more than enough with me about your past - I figured I'd give you the chance to learn a little more about me."

Liz smiled. She took another sip of water. "Okay. But I think you can do better than the name of the city you grew up in."

The look on Serena's face grew serious. "You're right," she released a deep breath. "Which is why I've been thinking that after this discussion - the last thing you really need in your life are anymore secrets. So I think I'm just going to come out and say this. I was going to wait but I'm not sure that's such a good idea anymore. Don't hate me," she pleaded.

The smile on Liz's face slowly began to fade away. The charge of energy surrounding them had also changed - shifted, and it was growing thicker. Liz hadn't felt this type of intensity since back in the days when both the humans and the pod squad members found themselves in the middle of a new crisis. Going back even further - Liz could pin this feeling back to the day at school when she had confronted Max for the truth, the truth about his origins. He had healed her, brought her back to life, and she had needed to find out the reason behind it. Her soul had craved for the confirmation - confirmation that he was different. It turned out that he was in fact different and his soul had sought out hers, bringing her into a secret - a secret that would change her life forever. Her life had changed dramatically; however, sometimes she still pondered whether that was for the better or for the worse. Suddenly, that's exactly what she was feeling in this moment with Serena.

Was she going to say something that would change things forever?

"Okay, Serena," Liz laughed with a nervous edge. "With the way you're looking at me, I don't know whether to stay and listen or run and hide?"

"I lied to you," Serena blurted out.

Confusion washed over Liz's face. "About what?" the two words came out slow and drawn apart.

"I'm not really who you think I am. I lied to you about ... "

Serena stammered the sentence as their stares firmly locked into place on each other. A long and uncomfortable silence elapsed in between them; however, just when Serena was about to continue, a loud banging against the bunker door caused both girls to jump in a fright at the unexpected intrusion. Both women let out a nervous laugh after their minds quickly assessed that it was just someone at the door.

Liz stood up. "Coming!" she shouted, hoping it was loud enough to hear - for whoever was waiting at the door. "Uh ..." she turned back to Serena, not sure how things should be left.

"It's nothing!" Serena shook her head vehemently. "Nothing that important," she quickly moved to ease Liz's fears. "I lied to you about being adopted, that's all."

"Oh." Liz felt the tension leave her body, as her own deep breath was released with Serena's simple response.

"I grew up on the Colville Reservation near Kettle Falls, Washington. That's where I still live, it's where I've always lived."

Thoughts were racing through Liz's mind. How come she felt the need to lie about something like that, she wondered. Did she possibly think Liz wouldn't have accepted her if she had known that her new roommate came from an actual Native American Reservation instead of somewhere else in the continental U.S.? Granted, there were people who were prejudiced in the world; however, Liz reasoned it was an awfully presumptuous assumption for Serena to make on her part - to automatically conclude that Liz had to be one of those types of people? For the moment, she pushed the new revelation to the background as she moved to answer the door.

Serena just remained silent and watched her go.

X


Maria waited - she waited for the bombshell to drop.

What could possibly be so urgent that Michael needed to seek her out and then prepare her for it? As she continued to think about the situation some more, she logically reached the conclusion that if Michael was back on earth - this most likely meant that Max, Tess, and Isabel were back with him too. Which caused her thoughts to quickly race over to Liz. Max and Tess together again? That was definitely the last thing Liz needed to see a second time around.

"Maybe you want to sit down," Michael advised. "I don't think I can just summarize all of this in a nutshell for you."

Maria, standing with her arms crossed over her chest, rolled her eyes once and then moved to unfold her arms. She took the few steps needed in the direction of her Victorian couch and both of them sat down at the same time.

"What's up?" Maria pushed.

Michael sighed. "Where to begin," he directed more to himself than Maria. "Well, maybe I should just get the worst of the news out of the way."

"Which would be?" she cocked an eyebrow at him.

"Khi'var's on earth," Michael blurted out. "There were other Antarians who stayed behind here, even after we left to go back home. And if we don't stop him, or worse - can't stop him," he referenced Khi'var again, "earth's done!"

Maria's face dropped. "Done?!" she parroted, putting emphasis on the description. "Okay," a nervous laugh followed her feeling of disbelief. "What exactly to you mean by - done?"

"Done!" Michael stressed again. "As in it's over, gone, finito, holy toast. You name it - any which way you can define "screwed" - and that's what we're looking at here."

"We're looking at?" Maria cracked. "Don't you mean ... we earth people? Because last time I checked, Czechoslovakians get a free pass to another solar system."

"Maria, come on," Michael rebutted. "I'm being serious here."

"So am I."

After thinking about all these revelations some more, Maria stood back onto her feet.

"Wait a second here," she laughed incredulously. Her eyes widening in realization. "Are you telling me that we're actually looking at an End of the World scenario?" her mind instantly shot back to the past and Liz's reported encounter with Future Max. "That Max and Liz basically went their separate ways all those years back for nothing? Because - how messed up is that," she shook her head. "And I thought that according to Liz's little future visitor, Max returning back home with Tess was suppose to eliminate that threat!"

Michael sighed. "Well, that's another problem right there. Max and Tess aren't together," he shared. "At least, not anymore."

Maria snorted. Michael stared - a solemn expression in place.

"What?" a big smile broke across Maria's face. "I hope you're not seriously waiting for me to tell you how broken up I am about that!"

"Tess is with Khi'var," he revealed next. "And they have Max."

The smile on Maria faded. "What?" the concern came to life. Concern for Max, even if things got weird before he left. "How the hell did that happen? Oh wait, don't answer that," her tone turned sarcastic. "He married the blonde, bimbo, tramp," she flashed her teeth back at him.

"Maria?" Michael retorted, almost with a touch of anger. "I get that you may not give a damn about what happens to Tess, and that's fine, but I do - okay? You really don't have any idea about what's going on here."

Maria flinched a bit. Since when did Michael become so defensive over the topic of Tess, or better yet, so protective over Tess Harding period? Wow, she thought about changing her initial stance when it came to Michael. As much as she perceived that things hadn't changed with him, she had to acknowledge that alot appeared to have changed too.

"Yeah, I guess I don't," Maria answered back - a touch of hurt evident in her tone at the unexpected rebuke in regards to the former Tess Harding. "But, do you know what the good thing about that is? I don't have to get it. I'm not with you - I'm not married to the god awful alien abyss anymore and you came to me, remember?"

Maria moved to turn around and leave him standing there alone; however, Michael immediately reached out, grabbing a hold of her arm to try and stop her.

"Maria, wait!" he tried to intervene. "Please? I really did come here because I could use your help and support.

Slowly, Maria turned back around to face him.

For the first time, Michael noticed that she appeared extremely pale. He couldn't believe that he had missed it but she looked - sick?

"What am I suppose to do?" she shrugged.

"Are you okay?" his eyes narrowed in a contemplative manner - ignoring her own inquiry that was directed back at him.

"You mean - apart from having to deal with the news regarding The End of the World?" she countered back. "Yeah, I'm feeling just peachy."

"Maria, that's not what I meant," he retorted. "Are you feeling okay, you look ... " Michael wasn't sure how to word it without it coming across sounding insensitive.

"What?" Maria pushed. "Sick? Pale? Like I haven't slept in days? Well, I haven't," she came off a bit more defensive than she intended to. "I'm a wife now. And a mother. And when I'm not busy being those - I'm puking my guts out in the bathroom for hours on end every time I come back home from one of my chemos. And if I'm not puking - than I'm standing in front of a bathroom mirror watching my hair fall out from the top of my head instead of teaching," her voice started to crack with the emotion she was no doubt feeling.

Michael was taken aback. "Chemos?" he repeated. "What - you mean like chemotherapy?" His mind slowed as he pieced together her admission.

"Yeah!" Her eyes bulged to emphasize the truth. "I mean like what they use to treat someone suffering with cancer."

"What?!" he exclaimed.

"Is that what you wanted to hear?" her voice broke - the tears came.

Without uttering any other words, Michael walked over as Maria covered her face with her hands. Gently, he reached out and pulled her into a heart-felt embrace.

X


"Oh, hey, Matthew," Liz greeted their guest, who was waiting at the door, with a smile.

"Hey." He smiled back at her.

Liz stepped back for him. "Come on in," she offered.

"Thanks," he reciprocated. He was dressed inside his military attire - the same attire she had seen him wearing on her first day here.

As soon as Matthew moved to step inside the bunker, both he and Liz were greeted by Serena who walked in from the small hallway leading into the kitchen. She stopped to observe - her arms folded over her chest. While Matthew passed by her, Liz caught sight of the interesting insignia imprinted on his uniform. She pulled at the screen door to make sure it had closed and at the same time, Serena's eyes locked with those of Matthew. After turning back around, Liz caught the grilling glare she was sending him. Thinking quickly, she jumped right in with the introductions to avoid any unpleasantries.

"Uh, Serena, this is Matthew," she began. "Matthew, my roommate - Serena."

He extended his hand. "Yes, I do believe we met this morning."

With a half-hearted attempt, Serena barely extended her own arm out from where she had them folded across her chest. "I remember."

After a quick shake, Matthew stepped back - waiting for the uneasy and awkward moment to come to an end.

"So?" Serena broke the uncomfortable feeling that was surrounding them. "I think I'm going to turn in early," she addressed Liz, pointing over her shoulder. "But if you need me, you know where to find me."

"Alright," Liz nodded as she watched Serena retreat. "Night," she offered. Then she turned to Matthew. "Sorry, I don't know what that was all about," she attempted an apology over the awkward moment. It almost bordered on rude and Liz was quite baffled by her roommate's sudden change in behavior. All her joking aside, hadn't Serena been the one to subtly push her in the direction of giving guys, like Matthew, a chance?

"Hm," Matthew pondered it, trying to turn it into a light-hearted moment. "Maybe she's just doing her job as a roommate and looking out for you? You know, sizing up the merchandise," he teased, narrowing his eyes playfully. "I really wouldn't hold it against her if I were you," he smiled, which was followed by a light laugh.

It was contagious - Liz laughed too.

"Well, it's nice to see that I haven't lost my touch," he referenced his recent ability to still make her smile and laugh. "Only in what," he looked down at his watch, "four hours? Not too bad if I do say so myself."

"How about I do one better and offer you that coffee date right now?" she proposed. "Kitchen table for two, coffee pot sitting over there on the counter," she nodded and pointed over at both of the items. "It's not morning just yet, and it certainly isn't Starbucks , but I think I can manage pushing a button on the coffee maker."

"Absolutely," he nodded his head, accepting her offer with that air of masculine charm he alluded. He moved for one of the chairs at the kitchen table while Liz headed for one of the cabinets. Inside, she pulled out a small box - which housed the grounded up coffee beans.

"So - you work and serve on the base?" she opened up what she considered some pretty casual conversation.

"Yeah. I actually came here to the base about two years ago," he began to answer the question. "They offered me a military position here on the base back while I was serving in the Marine Reserves," he finished.

Liz moved to the sink to fill the coffee pot with water. "Okay. And how did that lead to you working on a scientific research team?" she inquired.

"I asked," his simple answer followed. "I graduated from Colombia with a double major in criminal forensics and microbiology - I wanted to do more."

"Wow," Liz was impressed. The water was poured into the coffee maker, the top closed, and the small, red button pushed. "So you've been contracted here for more than a year." She reached back up into the cabinets, grabbing for two mugs. Each one was placed side-by-side on the counter. She went over to the refrigerator and grabbed for the creamer from a fully stocked fridge.

"Basically," he answered her.

"Do you take any cream or sugar?" she asked him.

"Oh, no thank you," Matthew declined. "I take mine black."

Liz made a face. "Wow, you sure are brave," she commented. "I need the sugar and the caffeine to keep me going," she cracked.

Matthew smiled along with her.

"I'm only signed on to do one year here on the base," she shared, while grabbing for the small container holding the sugar. Using a spoon, she scooped some into her own mug while she continued to engage in some conversation.

"When your one year is almost up, they usually do an evaluation and decide who they consider to still be of use around here," he explained. "If you're not, you get booted."

"Spoken like a true commodity," she teased him. However, something in the way he implied booted, almost made a chill run up her spine.

"Takes one to know one," he winked back - teasing her.

"Ah, I don't know if I would stay or come back," she confessed. "Even if I got asked."

"Why not?" he asked.

Liz moved to the table to take a seat. She had instantly picked up on the disturbing edge to his voice after that particular admission. "Well, for starters," she sighed, "it's just too isolated for my liking. I mean, I am a private person and everything - but I do like my freedom," she shared her true take on the whole arrangement with him. "I also have people that I care about back on the outside and I much rather come and go as I please."

"Oh, but Miss Parker, you haven't even given it a chance?" he tried to joke.

When the instant coffee was ready, Liz got back up to pour the coffee and then brought the steaming hot cups back to the table. She placed one in front of Matthew and placed the other one down for her. He thanked her, immediately bringing the steaming liquid up to his lips. In a state of astonishment, she watched while he slurped it down.

"It's really hot, you know," she brought that obvious fact to his attention.

"Nah, it was just right," Matthew denied, shaking his head, while placing the almost empty mug back down in front of him.

Liz shook her own head - trying to free it from her state of surprise.

Okay, if you say so. That sentiment passed through her mind; however, she did not verbally express it. "Right, um, yeah."

"Actually, I just stopped by to make sure you were feeling alright," Matthew quickly changed the subject over to the earlier events that had transpired during the day. "You passed out again before we got you over to the infirmary and I wasn't able to stick around to make sure you were going to be okay. Sorry about that," he offered with what sounded like sincerity.

"No, it's fine," she blew his apology off. "But thanks for your help."

"Thanks isn't even needed by you," he gently declined. "But Dr. Connor is good. If there's ever a problem or something of concern you need to discuss, he's your go to guy."

Liz smiled. "Good to know," she acknowledged, sipping on her coffee.

"And I really hate to cut this short," Matthew stood up, "but I do need to be going. Early call of duty in the wee morning hours before sunrise," he explained, pointing to his uniform so Liz would get the drift.

"Oh? Okay," Liz reached out to grab his cup. She stood up and brought it over to the sink before rejoining Matthew so she could show him out. "Maybe we can do this again sometime?" the sound of her voice trailed back to the small hallway, were someone else was listening, as she went to the door.

In the shadows, Serena stood with her eyes narrowed, eavesdropping and listening to a good portion of the entire conversation that had gone down at the table between Liz and Matthew. Nothing very earth-shattering had come to light; however, that didn't mean very much as this stage in the game. She didn't like it, she didn't like this at all but how was she suppose to pull it off with Liz when Liz didn't even know the whole truth? Serena began to internally berate herself for not just coming clean earlier. Doing so now - would most likely backfire and really isolate Liz from her.

The last thing that could be heard was the door slamming - both Liz and Matthew exiting the bunker.

She needed help.

X


Maria pulled back out of the hug.

Michael reluctantly did so too but how could he have not taken notice of her physical appearance right away, he berated himself. Simple, he was so preoccupied with his own agenda that he hadn't even bothered to stop and consider her circumstances. Nine years was a long time - life for any one of the humans, left on earth, could have changed dramatically in any amount of considerable ways. How ignorant of him to assume he would come back to the same old Maria. He had been trying so hard during the strenuous years on Antar to overcome the negative experiences arising from his life with Hank Guerin. Isabel, one of the closet bonds he had left on Antar, tried to be that positive influence amidst all the chaos. She had been one for him during their years on earth too; however, he had been blinded to it. It wasn't until his time on Antar that he appreciated what was really right there in front of him all along. His maturity had reached a newer plateau - one in which he was still Michael, but also a Michael who strived to maintain a certain level of sensitivity to others and to what was going on around him.

Maria wiped at her eyes. "I usually don't get this emotional," she apologized to him. "I can keep it all together pretty well most of the time. Sorry for the waterworks."

"No, Maria, hey - if anyone's sorry here, it's me," he negated. "I wasn't thinking about how things might be different for you, in your life now, before I came barging in here."

Feeling the surprise, Maria flinched. "Whoa!" she exclaimed. "Uh, who are you - and what have you done with my spaceboy?" she teased him back. "Michael Guerin, taking other people's feelings into consideration before his own?"

"On Antar - it became Rath - but come on, I wasn't that bad here."

Maria snorted. "Michael, I don't think I can recall one time where you took blame willingly without me pushing you to do so."

"No, I was strong-willed ... and right most of the time."

"Temperamental!" she countered. "And wrong most of the time."

"You were annoying, clinging to me like a leech, and nagging about almost everything," he heatedly countered back in a higher pitch - his tone becoming more on the defensive end.

"Keep your voice down," Maria reprimanded in a whisper, glancing back in the direction of her son's bedroom. "I have a two-year old with a vocabulary and IQ belonging to Albert Einstein. He picks up everything Liz says," she cracked. "And I mean everything."

Michael eyes suddenly widened. Maria had just provided him with another opening to the purpose behind this whole visit. "Speaking of Liz, where is she?" he quickly changed the subject.

"Why?" Maria countered. "Listen, I really think you should consider leaving Liz out of this whole mess. The last thing she really needs on her plate right now is to know that the world may be ending because she failed."

"She didn't fail!" Michael shook his head, not grasping that conclusion. "This is happening because Khi'var is a sadistic alien being from another world - who just happens to have a permanent god-complex shoved up his ass."

"Yeah," Maria sighed wearily, "I know that and you know that, but we also both know Liz. She takes the whole weight of the world and puts it on her freaking shoulders and when something goes wrong - it's somehow her fault," she thought back to her own diagnosis with the cancer. "That much about her in nine years hasn't changed." Maria knew that Liz had been trying out experimental drugs during her spare time at the lab and how frustrated and discouraged her friend became when another trial would fail.

"Yeah, well, I really need to know where she is."

"She's away right now," Maria answered the question with an acute vagueness. "The company she works for had her contracted out somewhere. It's like this really top-secret stuff for the government - which means I don't know where it is and she wasn't allowed to say."

Michael shook his head.

"Yeah, great," he sighed, throwing out his arms to the sides. "Of course, why should I have expected things to go that easy?" Quickly, his mind raced to the next probability. So - you mean, you don't hear from her at all?"

"I have her cell phone number - that's about it," Maria supplied for him. "I can talk to her that way and she can call me if she wants to. Something about the signals being blocked and you can't trace the cells to her location."

"Okay - it's something to start with," Michael grabbed onto what little useful information there was at the moment. "When she calls again - tell her she needs to get back here as soon as she can."

"What - why?" the shock in Maria's tone was evident.

"Because we need to get you someplace safe - all of you," Michael stressed. "That's actually the reason why I'm here."

"Michael - she's contracted out for a year," Maria delivered the last piece of news she could regarding Liz's situation. "She's not going to be able to just drop what she's doing and run straight back into the waiting arms of the alien abyss. And what do you mean by - all of you?" she reflected back on his words. "I have a life here, Michael, I can't just drop everything either to go play hide-and-seek because some maniacal alien from another galaxy wants to finally stir up some trouble?! I have a son and a daughter to think about now! Not to mention, what would I even tell Tyler? He doesn't know anything about my past with you in Roswell and I'd like to keep in that way."

"Maria?!" Michael's voice rose - feeling the anger boil to life. "If you don't come with me now, there might not be a life back here to protect. Do you not get what I'm saying to you?"

"Then I'll just deal with that when and if it happens," Maria retorted, wanting to remain in ignorant bliss for as long as possible.

"Maria? If we don't get you, Liz, and Kyle to a safe spot, there's nothing to stop Khi'var's followers from coming after you," Michael elaborated. "Hear me now - okay - they know about every single last one of you. They're not leaving until they get what they came for. And if they have to use any of you to get to me, Isabel, or Max - then they will. You want to protect your kids - I highly suggest you take my offer and get the hell out of here!"

"And go where?!" Maria threw her arms out, show-casing her agitation.

"There's a place," Michael wouldn't go into details. "I don't want to say too much in the open - because I don't know who's been around or if they might be listening."

"What?" Maria laughed out incredulously. "Wait - like you seriously think my apartment might be bugged or something like that?" she looked around the entire layout of her living room.

"Don't laugh - not in the way you think," Michael answered. "But there's a place we can take you to. There's a group of Antarians that live pretty secluded and they're far out somewhere. We've already made contact with them and their willing to let you stick around there for as long as necessary. Or at least until this crisis with Khi'var blows over."

"What Antarians?" Maria wanted to know. "Why are they even still here?"

"They're a group of rebel skins," he enlightened her. "Old supporters of mine who backed me taking over the throne."

"Whoa -oh!" Maria huffed out, her arms crossing together. "Hold up. Rebel skins as in - that former alien skank, Courtney's people?"

"Maria," he scolded, closing his eyes and shaking his head. "Give it rest, Courtney's gone and all of that is over and done with!" He felt annoyed - she was blocking him each and every way he was trying to get through to her. "They're not like that."

"Well, I would hope not. One alien tramp ogling all over my man is enough for any human girl to endure in one life-time."

"Would you be serious?" Michael found himself blurting out. "Look, if you want the Antarian history, they stayed behind and didn't return home with everyone else. Not with the war still going on. Somehow, they were able to find a new method to sustain their husks for longer periods of time here. Especially after being cut off from Nikolas and the others and after ... "

"We destroyed their harvest," Maria finished, remembering that one trip made to Copper Summitt, Arizona - with Courtney in tow. The Skins had been hiding amongst the human race since their arrival on the planet, carving out a little portion of town all to themselves, shielding themselves behind what was their perpetual hunt to track down their own Royal Four.

"Right," Michael agreed. "But they've rejoined forces with the Loyalists. Or, actually, what they really have going is a pact - a kind of treaty with the Loyalists."

"The Loyalists?"

"Yeah, the Loyalists!" Michael stressed again to make her understand the quickest way he could. "Basically, the Loyalists are a group of Symparians and Lymparians who have remained loyal and support the original reign on the planet of Antar. Meaning, Max as King."

"And Tess as Queen," Maria mocked, finishing with the next logical conclusion.

"Yeah, that's right," Michael answered, that defensive edge returning once again. "If you really want to know, Antar has two races of people. Symparians, that's like - aliens like Nascedo who didn't need the husks. And then there are the Lymparians - Nikolas's people along with the rest of the rebel skins."

"And what does all that have to do with you?" Maria pushed.

"Well, Max and Isabel came from the Symparians," he revealed. "But I didn't. Rath came from the other race - the race of Lymparians."

"Uh, right, I get it now," understanding dawned on Maria. "That would explain why the rebel skins supported and backed you up from the beginning of this whole freaking, nightmare of a mess," she nodded her head. "So, then that means you're technically one of them, huh?"

"Yeah, I guess. Technically."

"So," she paused. "Dare I ask where that leaves Tess?"

"With me," Michael asserted strongly. "Ava was Lymparian in our past lives. But she wasn't just that," he paused for a minute before blurting the next part out.

Maria pushed for him to finish what came next. "And?"

"She's my sister, Maria."

X


(Las Vegas, Nevada)

The intense night life found in the city hadn't changed very much. The car rolled down the strip at a steady and slow pace, the flashing lights that were advertising the casinos practically screaming at the tourists to acknowledge their presence - while throngs of people crossed in front of the passing car without giving it a second thought. Blaring horns sounded up and down the streets surrounding the casino strip, as the impatience levels - of those seeking their destination - grew in spades.

Yup, not much had changed since her last visit here, she thought.

Isabel Evans, the present incarnation of Princess Vilandra from Antar, sat in the back of a borrowed black car, lost in deep and quiet contemplation - while staring out past the tinted windows. There was so much going on, finding and retrieving her brother being at the top of the list. Her driver continued to maneuver around the big crowds at a safe speed and distance and she thought about the current task at hand.

Kyle Valenti.

How would he even react to their sudden and unexpected arrival back on earth? Would he take her warning seriously? Guilt washed over her when her thoughts momentarily reflected back on Alex - poor Alex - whose only crime had been to open himself up to her and to admit that he loved her. Alex had become the one human causality, from their years on earth, that she would never be able to forgive herself for. And after their sudden departure almost ten years ago, she really wouldn't blame Kyle - or any of the other humans for that matter - if their first impulse was to slam the door in their faces.

"How much further - your highness?" the driver broke into her reflective state.

Isabel turned to face him. A small smile broke across her face. "I've told you, Warren," she addressed the other alien by his earthly identity - not his Antarian one. "There's no need for any of the pretenses while we are alone. Or while we're here," she made reference to their return. "You're like a mentor to me, a second father," she bestowed the honor on him. They had become close on Antar. "Isabel will be fine."

Warren was another Symparian, much like Nascedo, who could shape-shift and make his appearance suit whatever purpose their was on earth for him, to serve his Royal family.

"Alright then," he nodded his head - looking through the rearview mirror. "Isabel it is. Where would you like me to drop you off?" he inquired.

"Just up there," she pointed. "Right at the corner," she informed him.

He moved the car over to the curb and stalled the engine. "I really wish you would reconsider having me come along with you," he turned, leaning over the seat to face her. "It's too dangerous - we could have been followed out here."

"I appreciate the concern, Warren, but I think I have a better chance of convincing Kyle to come along if I do this alone," she reasoned with him. "Just stay here, if anything looks suspicious out here, you know how to alert me."

"Very well."

Isabel flung the door open and exited the car. After shutting the door, she gave Warren one last reassuring head nod before disappearing into the vast lines of tourists lining the sidewalk. Warren quickly scanned each of the people in the closest vicinity - inspecting and trying to sense for any other Antarians who might be trying to hide in plain sight. Isabel quickly maneuvered herself through the crowds of people.

"Excuse me," she burst out when she tried squeezing through a few individuals blocking the entrance into the casino she sought to enter.

"Sure, baby, I got ya!" one of the men backed up. He glanced her over - checking out the attractive blonde and all her shapely curves.

There were a few more whistles that erupted from another small group of men, men who happened to be waiting around just beyond the entrance. The tall blonde made smooth, swift and confident strides in one direction, clearly making her presence known to these men and others that were around. Her hips swayed comfortably inside of the tight, fitting, black jeans - in fact, her whole ensemble was black - all the way from the short-sleeved, V-necked shirt to the black leather boots that perfectly matched the rest of her attire. The black leather jacket, that she sported over her shirt, fell just above the waist-line and the vibrant, blonde hair, once so long and flowing, was now cropped to her shoulders.

The sounds of gambling resounded everywhere - slot machines clicking change back at ecstatic gamblers in every direction her head spun around in. Isabel quickly assessed, to her dismay, that the inside was just as populated and overcrowded as the outside. Stopping, she tried to locate the area she was looking for; however, it did her little good. These damn casinos all looked the same and she quickly wondered if she in fact had the right one. He worked these late evening hours, she was sure of it. Kyle had been the easiest one of them to track down after they had gotten back to earth. A little digging around at the Sheriff's station, back in Roswell, uncovered Kyle's relocation to Nevada - his current venture to obtain a law degree from the William S. Boyd School of Law being revealed.

Fishing for Maria's whereabouts came directly from Maria's own mother. Isabel volunteered her services for that particular mission - sharing with Amy Deluca that her sudden arrival back into town was inspired by the recent anniversary of Alex's passing. After all, the story was believable enough - they were both close to Alex at one point or another in their lives. Somehow, she didn't think Ms. Deluca - now Amy Valenti - would have taken too kindly to Michael showing up on her doorstep after it appeared like he had left her daughter in the dust all those years back. In turn, they figured after locating Maria, Liz would easily follow. Liz and Maria were always close and Isabel just assumed she would have the answer. Liz Parker had been the most difficult to catch a lead on - there was no living family left, her father had died, but definitely no living family with the exception of an incoherent aunt who was now hospitalized. The only thing that Amy was able to vouch for was that Maria and Liz were still in contact. She, herself, hadn't seen Liz in years because Liz had never returned to Roswell.

"Come on, Kyle, I know you're here," Isabel mumbled.

Her quick pace brought her into contact with other casino patrons, who she brushed against, until finally she happened upon a commotion taking place near one of the bars located on sight. The bar was located on the gambling floor and there with a drunken man - there also appeared two security guards who were in the middle of a heated debate. Instantly, Isabel identified the one security guard standing on the left - leaning against the bar stool.

Kyle.

"Listen, we asked you nicely, and we're not going to ask you again," the sound of Kyle's voice traveled back to Isabel's ears, while he reprimanded the heavily intoxicated fellow. "You either pay the nice bartender man here the money for the drink you owe him, or my buddy and I," he nodded towards his partner, "are going to haul your ass out of here."

"I .. I told you that I paid the drink for my drink," the drunken man slurred his speech, swinging an almost full shot glass, of liquor, around in his hand. Some of the contents fell over the side of the small glass with his movements.

"Alright - the hard way then," Kyle went to grab for the man as the other security officer mimicked the same action. The man's cries of protest became louder. People turned to look and Kyle quickly put their curiosity to rest. "Nothing to concern yourselves with folks - he's drunk, broke, and lucky to be thrown out of here instead of arrested."

"Kyle?!" Isabel immediately called out - choosing not to waste anymore precious time.

At the sound of the unexpected call, Kyle began scanning around the crowd for the source of the interruption. Finally, his eyes landed on someone he never believed he would see again in this lifetime. However, his recognition of her was not followed with a happy reception by any means. Isabel could tell by the look in his eyes that he wasn't too thrilled by her arrival.

"Do I know you?" he mocked - carrying on with his duty.

Isabel rolled her eyes and moved to follow the two security guards as they forced their way through the big crowds of people found in every direction. Kyle picked up his pace, hoping to avoid whatever trouble she was here to bring to him. Why else would she be back?

"Quit it, Kyle!" she shot back. "I know that you know who I am. I need to talk to you - it's important."

"Oh yeah?" he cracked. "How important is that? Important like - Oh, I'm here and in person to deliver a memo from a galaxy far far away. Just to throw it in your faces, how peachy keen our lives have become since we abandoned you, the little people." He paused for a very brief second. "Or is it more along the lines of something like this - greetings, earthlings," he deliberately changed his tone of voice to mock her some more. "We come, with bad news, to tell you how virtually screwed you are."

The other security guard snorted - clearly he took Kyle's bantering as nothing more than joking around and him having a talent for being brutally sarcastic.

"Kyle?!" Isabel's eyes widened, glancing over at the other security guard. She had always known for him to make wise-cracks; however, Kyle wasn't even making a pretense at being careful with what he let slip out of his mouth.

"Hey! Do you mind? I have a job to do here," Kyle retorted.

They were close to one of the exits and Isabel watched as Kyle and the other security guard thrust the drunken ex-patron right out the door. Isabel merely rolled her eyes - Kyle was beginning to grate on her nerves.

I hope Michael's having much better luck with Maria than I'm having with Kyle right now, she thought.

"And don't come back - we catch you on camera, it'll be a night behind a jail cell," Kyle threatened the drunken man who was now stumbling around outside.

Isabel?

Instantly, the telepathic connection was opened and she could hear Warren's pleading voice in the back of her mind, as clear as if he were standing in front of her and talking with her directly. She moved a few of her fingers up against the side of her temple - in order to open up the connection more clearly from her end. She needed to respond back to him. It sounded urgent.

What's wrong?

Have you found your friend yet? I've identified two - on the move now. One male, one female. They entered about five minutes after you through the same entrance. Although, I'm not sure if they're Khi'var's - they might be Rogues. I couldn't identify their markers.

Isabel began to investigate her surroundings.

Great, like that's a whole lot better. Warren, I'm with Kyle right now but I think this is going to be a bit more difficult than I originally anticipated. Did you happen to get a good look at them?

Kyle and the other security guard turned back around - talking and snickering amongst each other. Then Kyle's eyes locked with Isabel's when he realized she hadn't moved a muscle; his rebuke had been ineffective.

"You're still here?" his snide remark followed. "Can't you take a hint?"

The man is tall, with balding dark hair. He's wearing a red jacket with a baseball logo on the back. The woman's shorter - red, curly hair past her shoulders and a white, button down blouse. Both were wearing sunglasses.

Just at that precise moment, Isabel spotted the very same woman scanning the crowd, her eyes shielded underneath the protection the sunglasses offered to her. Then not a second too soon, Isabel's eyes shifted and she identified the man with the red jacket. The pair had obviously split up at first in search of her but were now meeting back up.

Got 'em!

Get out of there, Isabel. Don't try and confront them, not when you're all alone. There may be others.

Warren, believe me, the thought never even crossed my mind. And if there are others, they're doing a pretty damn good job of shielding themselves from us.

Kyle turned to the security officer with him. "Man, look, I'll meet you back there in a few," he told him. "Just give me a minute to deal with this and get her off my back," he nodded in Isabel's direction, rolling his eyes for effect.

The other security officer smirked in response, nodding his head at the request and he moved to leave. When he was a few feet behind Isabel, he turned to check her out. While walking backwards, he mouthed a silent "wow" back to Kyle - creating a gesture of approval by way of his fingers. Isabel rolled her eyes, she could sense the scrutiny coming from the other young man behind her. He wasn't watching where he was going and he suddenly crashed into another casino patron.

"Hey, watch where you're going, young man!" an elderly woman scolded. "If god had intended for us to walk backwards, he would have placed eyes in the back of our heads! Don't you think?!"

"Sorry about that ma'am."

Isabel found it amusing and a big smirk broke out across her face. However, the smirk died just as quickly as it had appeared when her attention shot back to the two strangers who were now approaching them in their direction. They were only a few feet away.

"Kyle, I need you to come with me," her anxious tone met his startled ears. She glanced back over in the direction of the strangers again. "Right now!"

"Are you serious?" he laughed. "Forget it - I'm not going anywhere with you. Besides, I'm on the clock - I couldn't even walk out of here if I wanted to. Because unlike some people I use to know," he threw the dig in at her. "I actually have a rent that needs to get paid. So, now, if you'll please excuse me, the night is young and I have some ladies on the floor to be checking out," he rubbed his hands together.

"Kyle, stop being such an ass and just do what I say!" Isabel had finally had enough of the cold shoulder coming from him.

She had come here, out of her way, to try and help - to save his life out of a sense of honor, duty, and respect connecting back to the days when the humans stood by them. It was the least she could do in return - what they could do, which was to warn and try to help keep them safe if their enemies targeted them - but Kyle was making it very hard to appreciate the past right now. She didn't have time for his shenanigans - her brother's life was at stake. She needed to get back to tracking down Khi'var on that front.

Kyle crossed his arms. "Or what?" he challenged, a smirk in place. "You going to throw some of that alien vodoo at me?! Right here, in front of everyone?"

The strangers identified Isabel in that very moment and shock covered her face as she caught their sudden movements. Without warning, an energy blast was now released and on a direct path with their heads.

"Get down!" Isabel shouted, instantly pushing Kyle out of the way, and taking him to the floor with her. Isabel immediately shot her hands out - aiming blasts of her own green energy back in the direction of the other aliens.

Isabel? Isabel, is everything alright?

Bolts of high speeding energy shot through the throngs of now screaming people. Chaos erupted as the masses of people panicked - in fear for their lives, after witnessing the foreign exchange taking place inside of Las Vegas' biggest establishments. Isabel didn't have time to answer the call coming back to her through the connection. If Isabel was surprised by this sudden and unexpected attack in the public eye - then Kyle was just frozen in shock. He couldn't believe it, there were cameras all over this joint. Isabel quickly helped pull Kyle back to his feet just so they could avoid being trampled over.

"Holy, sh ... crap," he changed his initial impulse to something a little less offensive. "In the name of all that is Buddha - what in the hell is going on here?"

"There - that way!" Isabel pushed him in the direction of the emergency exit. Too many people were trampling over each other in attempts to exit through the main door.

Isabel and Kyle made it to the door and they thrust it open as fast as they could. The emergency alarm immediately set off - creating even more noise that helped to drown out some of the screams that were increasing in numbers throughout the casino. After exiting, they ran down the small alleyway that led them back out onto the casino strip.

Warren? They attacked! They attacked in front of everyone!

I assumed as much. The people are running out in herds. But the most important thing right now, are you okay? His concern went straight to her safety.

I'm fine but I had to defend - and they probably have me on camera!

Don't worry about that for now, he stressed to her. Just get back to the car as quick as you can so we can get out of here without drawing anymore unwanted attention to ourselves. Do you have who you came for?

Kyle's with me - we're coming around the corner now.

I see you.

"Where are we going?" Kyle sounded a bit shaken up. He still couldn't believe that the aliens attacked so openly in such a public place.

"Just follow me right over to that car," she pointed. "And get in," her instruction left no room for argument. However, it wasn't like Kyle wanted to argue at this point anyway.

A few steps later - they were there.

"We'll explain everything later," she added while opening the door. "Come on," she let him get into the backseat first.

Kyle got in and Isabel followed. Warren already had the engine purring and ready to go. As soon as they were secured inside the vehicle - he stepped on the gas pedal, leaving both Las Vegas and it's bright city lights back in the dust.

X


Liz yawned as she stepped out of the shower and onto the cold, tiled floor. Her muscles had been craving a nice, long, hot bath ever since her arrival here the other day and she finally managed to squeeze the time in before hitting her head against the pillow. The medication usually made her drowsy - since part of it's effect was directed at helping her to sleep better. And now it was hitting her - she was extremely tired.

She wrapped the towel firmly around her body, flicked the light switch off and then headed back into her bedroom. After getting dressed, there was once quick thing she wanted to do before calling it a night:

Her journal.

Matthew had earned one quick mention inside of it.

Besides - it had been a long time coming since one of those white, blank pages retained anything positive happening in her life - something good apart from all that mundane, dreary, and depressing flow of free thought that kept her mind in a place of darkness. Matthew had helped to show her that it didn't have to be that way forever. Granted, they certainly wouldn't be walking down the aisle together anytime soon; however, he had opened her up to the possibility. The possibility of opening her heart again to the right person. She would just worry about the rest of the drama later.

However, after entering the bedroom, Liz felt like something was amiss. Quickly, she dressed herself in her undergarments and a comfortable night shirt that she had left out. It was while she was dressing that she felt the breeze and heard it shuffle the window shade back and forth. Because it was then that it suddenly dawned on her that she didn't remember ever opening the window. Walking over, she closed it when an eerie feeling began coarsing through her - causing her to race back for the drawer she kept her journal secured inside of.

Thrusting it open - she discovered that it wasn't there.

"No!" she panicked. With frantic movements, she began shoving other things aside in her haste to retrieve the item. "I know you're in here; I left you in here!"

Why did this feel like deja vu?

A voice came to mind: You might want to get better locks - you know, so that when your criminals are of the human kind.

Liz quickly recalled the last time when her other journal had gone missing back in high school. No, correction, Michael Guerin had gone in and stolen it right out of her bedroom. Those words made her remember because they had been Michael's words upon returning it back to her. What were the odds that the very same thing had happened again?

Liz shook the thought away.

"Liz, think. You're just being paranoid - nobody came in here and stole your journal," she tried to reason with herself. She stood stationary for a moment - hands hoisted against her sides. "It's ridiculous - there's no reason for someone to take it." But then her thoughts shot somewhere else, or rather, at someone else.

Serena.

She had been acting a bit odd today, first while they had been sitting in the living room together and she claimed to have lied about something that didn't make much sense to begin with and then shortly after - during their encounter with Matthew inside the kitchen. And the more Liz put it into perspective - Serena had been subtly pumping her for information since she had gotten here. That thought had already crossed her mind before. However, a second later, Liz felt guilty about allowing her mind to go there. What did Serena really have to gain by stealing her journal anyway - insight into her crazy mind? Liz had been more than willing to answer most of her questions and isn't that what most normal people did when they got to know someone new - they asked questions.

Liz settled on just getting to the bottom of it. She marched out of her bedroom and headed over to the bedroom entrance belonging to her roommate. As she approached, she didn't mean to but she could overhear bits and pieces of what sounded like an intense conversation. However, a closer look - revealed Serena on her own cell phone, standing over by her own bedroom window with her backside facing towards the bedroom door.

"Look, I'm winging it out here," her voice complained. "If you're not going to back me up, then forget it. Pull me out and someone else can take over."

Liz's brows furrowed. What was all that suppose to mean?

"I'm not sure!" Serena blurted. It was obvious to Liz that Serena was answering somebody's question from the other end of the phone conversation. "But I'm pretty sure it was him!" she insisted to the person. Serena had been trying to keep her voice almost to a whisper during most of the discussion.

Suddenly feeling uncomfortable with the eavesdropping, Liz moved to make her presence known. She knocked on the door. "Serena?"

Serena turned at the call of her name. "Liz?" her voice rose in surprise. "Hey, listen, let me call you back - that's my roommate," her attention went back to the other person waiting over the phone. "Hm, yeah, got it," she quickly ended the discussion. "Bye." Flipping the cell phone shut, she brought her focus back to Liz. "What's up?" she inquired.

"Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt," Liz apologized.

"Oh, not a problem," Serena reassured her. "You actually freed me from another long and boring argument over the choices I've made with my long and boring life," she laughed, reverting back into typical Serena mode. She placed the phone back onto the small night stand as she plopped down on her bed. "Come sit?" she invited, patting the empty spot next to her on the bed.

Liz took a few tentative steps inside but then stopped. "Uh, I was actually just wondering if you saw my journal anywhere?" she came out and asked what was bothering her.

"Oh?" Serena's eyes shot up. "No, sorry," she answered. "Can't say that I have."

Liz noted she seemed sincere enough. "Great," she sighed. "Looks like I misplaced it then - I could have sworn I left it where I usually keep it."

"I'm sure it'll turn up - this place isn't that big," Serena laughed.

"Right." Liz was baffled - she was positive the journal couldn't have moved unless someone else moved it. "But I'm actually beat - so I think I'm just going to go get some sleep," she declined Serena's offer to talk some more. She felt a little bad about blowing her off. "Maybe we can do some more of the girl chat later," she added.

"Yeah, that's alright, I'm pretty worn out too - I'll be getting to bed myself very soon." Serena got up from the bed and turned to pull the covers back. Then she reached for a book that was also sitting on her nightstand. "After a little reading," she smiled, holding up the book.

Liz smiled and then turned to leave.

"But if I happen to come across the journal - I'll definitely let you know."

Liz paused just around the door. "Thanks," she smiled back in response one last time before taking off - back to her own room.

After watching Liz go, Serena's smile faded and she bit down on her lips.

x

Soon after Liz let her head hit the pillow, she was out like a light. For a short while, she entered a dream state that started out pretty normal - at least, as normal as it got for her. This time, she felt relieved that some of the subconscious thoughts manifesting in her dreams were a far cry from the nightmares she had been encountering over and over again. Perhaps, she owed the recent changes in her life some due credit for the influence it was playing in her dream state these past couple nights? This was certainly a welcome change but then - it happened:

(Dream State)

"Liz?"

She heard her name being called; however, only after she had suddenly felt herself pulled from more colorful surroundings. Now, she stood inside of a big vast space of black emptiness. There was nothing to be seen for miles around her. For a moment, the experience frightened her. Her last dream started out similar - the blackness everywhere; however, then a door appeared before her, leading her into her nightmares. Slowly, she turned around and a shadowy figure appeared from out of nowhere. Her eyes widened.

It was HIM.

Max.

A version that looked very similar to Future Max.

Why was she dreaming about him again?

He took steps forward - he almost appeared just as shocked and unbelieving as she did but then she quickly remembered that all this was a figment of "her" imagination - HER subconscious mind, not HIS.

There he appeared before her - that tired and worn look masking his face, the unshaven shadow of a beard that connected itself into the slight mustache, now forming a goatee. His whisps of hair fell to his shoulders and then Liz reflected that he actually looked a little bit different from the version that visited her all those years back. It was the addition of a little more facial hair. However, the white scrubs he wore - she had no idea why that type of dress attire had manifested inside her mind.

Was it perhaps connected to Max and the White Room incident?!

"Liz?" his brows furrowed. He appeared just as confused as she did. "Liz, what are you doing here?" His own voice was a little strained. "You remember me?" he tentatively asked her - sounding worried that she would answer "no"; however, still feeling anxious if she answered with a resounding "yes."

What was she doing here, he asked? This was HER dream - so, what was he doing here?

He hadn't seen her in so long but her beauty had only increased with time. But one thing bothered him, she looked - troubled. After everything that had happened, leaving her should have been for the best; it should have offered her all of the things in life she deserved - a normal life.

"You're suppose to be dead," her voice came out hoarse, sounding strained as the emotion built up into her throat. "You don't exist anymore, so what are you still doing here? Why won't you just leave me alone?" she pleaded with what she thought was her own subconscious mind still playing around with her. "I did what I was suppose to do. I helped you save the world, I let you go - so just get out of my head," she made her demand through some gritted teeth.

He wanted to reach out and touch her; it had been so long. However, he restrained himself from making any move that might frighten her away. Just being able to be this close again - to see her and to watch her soft lips move so graciously was more than enough. He thought long and hard about her presence appearing in this state of consciousness with him.

Had he manifested her in his mind?

"It must have worked," he breathed out. "The connection must still be there," he said to himself, reaching another conclusion instead. "Dammit!" an unexpected flow of anger left him. He balled up his fists, bringing one up to cover his mouth as he thought about the implications.

"What?" she asked with an incredulous edge mixed in. She had overheard him. "A connection?" she repeated. "Are you crazy? Uh, wait a minute," she rethought it - taking the question back. "Don't answer that, of course you're crazy, you're alive and running around inside of my head, inside of my crazy dreams."

However, Max didn't pay much mind to her ramblings. "Liz? You need to listen to me," the urgency in his voice put Liz's senses on alert. However, the few unconscious steps he took towards her was the fatal move.

"Whoa! Stop right there!" she held out her hand. "Now that's where I'm drawing the line with myself. Liz, wake up right now!"

"Liz, it's me. You must be close by if the connection is sparking to life like this."

Liz shut her eyes. "No, no, you're not really here," she cried out, bringing her hands up to cover her ears - shaking her head emphatically.

"Liz, I am here!" he tried to stress. "But you need to start blocking these dreams, it's important, do you understand me? I know you can do it even if you don't know that you can yet!"

"Nope, you're not here!" she stubbornly persisted - she felt the unshed tears building behind her unopened eyelids. "Don't do this to me - I just want to wake up. Go back to wherever it is you come from!"

Her eyes remained closed; however, instead of waking up - she felt a warm hand rest itself against her cheek. Slowly, and of their own volition, the tears glided down and his thumb moved to wipe one side free. Then on the other side - she felt the same motion. Her mind did battle with her heart because she knew this wasn't real, it couldn't be real. Her mind, her logical mind, told her that she was merely manifesting bits and pieces of information from the information that Future Max had provided her with from during their time together in the alternate future. A bond, a cementing - isn't that how Future Max had described it? That could easily explain away a look-alike Max dropping lines to her about some "connection."

And then there was her heart.

She could deny it but she knew what her subconscious was telling her in no uncertain terms. And it was one simple thing: she longed for the "one" she would never have - the "one" she couldn't have.

Slowly, her eyes opened to meet with his.

A sad smile was in place. "You're right - this is just a dream. I'm not really here."

And with that simple admission - Liz was released from the dream.


(Exit Dream State)

Liz shot up in bed - gasping for breath.

The only thing she could reflect on was how real this dream had felt. She forced herself to take slow, deep breaths in order to calm herself and bring things into perspective. Everything had felt like it was really happening - the sound of his voice reaching her ears, a masculine voice that was so foreign now yet so familiar at the same time. The feel of his hand against her burning skin - in that moment it felt like she had been set on fire and she couldn't be sure if the intense heat had been generating from him or her.

Moving her hand up to her face, Liz discovered that she was in fact - still crying.

X


Khi'var waited until the door before him slid open. In his hand, he held onto his communication device. It alerted him that someone sought his attention.

"What?" he demanded in a harsh tone, stepping into the chamber.

Behind the glass dome chamber, the reincarnated King still lie - unconscious and still in the same state as the Lymparians had left him. To his utter dismay, Khi'var quickly noted that there was still no change. He needed that Seal dammit - it was the only thing really standing in their way. He was expecting all the rest to fall easily into place.

"Sire?" the voice inquired. "We lost subject number three," he reported.

Khi'var seethed internally. Why was he surrounded by such incompetent idiots? However, he did not allow that frustration to show.

"How?" he demanded to know.

"Vilandra. She got to him first."

Khi'var shook his head. "Of course. At least tell me you're close to unveiling where they've been hiding out? Their disloyal co-conspirators couldn't have been that ingenious to have literally vanished on the face of the earth somewhere, now could they?!"

"No, sire," his subject agreed. "We've actually narrowed their underground source to somewhere in the Washington State region."

"Good, good. That's what I like to hear," Khi'var praised. At least he knew they were making some additional progress on one front.

A sudden movement coming from inside the chamber caught Khi'var's attention. He brought his focus directly to the Symparian King. There was no movement of limbs; however, he could have sworn he caught something out of the corner of his eye. Coming a little closer to the outside perimeter of the glass dome, Khi'var peered inside, carefully observing every inch of the form belonging to his rival - his sworn enemy.

"What about subject number two?" Khi'var inquired in a distracted manner.

"We've got our people watching," he was informed.

It was then that Khi'var caught it. The King's body hadn't moved - his lips had. They were moving again.

"And Nikolas?" Khi'var finally addressed his subject by name.

"Yes, sire?"

"Don't screw this one up."

Those were the last words spoken as Khi'var cut off all communication from the device. His focus completely went into deciphering what was being mouthed by the imprisoned King. Inside the glass dome chamber - the words escaped through the lips as freely as the breath came into his body and then promptly left it.

"Liz? I'm here. I'm here."

The muffled sounds were enough for Khi'var to make out and he narrowed his eyes at Max.


_________________________

To Be Continued: Thanks for waiting and reading everyone. My apologies if this wasn't my best work (creatively or gramatically). I really did feel like crap and pushed myself to finish this, lol. Feeback people? :mrgreen:
Last edited by ADreamerDestiny on Wed Apr 29, 2009 1:08 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: The Re-Awakening (CC/UC - ML/Mature) Ch. 4 pg. 5 07/07/09

Postby ADreamerDestiny » Tue Jul 07, 2009 6:49 pm

A/N: Okay, guys - I know I said I'd have this part out before June ended but you know those "small computer" issues I mentioned before? Well, they turned into big computer issues because there's definitely something wrong with it. I don't know if I have a loose connection inside or what but I was so pissed - I thought I had lost all my work for this next part that I had saved on my computer. So I consider this a miracle that I even got on.

Here's the deal. I'm going to try and have someone take a look at my computer - don't know when that will be; however, if I run into any more problems and can't post - I'll find time to get to a library computer and let you know that I have to put the story on hiatus until further notice. *Crosses fingers* that it doesn't come to that but I wanted to give you guys the heads up in case I suddenly "disappear" again. But here is the next part as promised. Forgive me if you come across any grammatical errors. I edited the best I could.

Disclaimer: Just to add - my next title has been borrowed/inspired by Steven Spielberg's movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. No infringement is intended.

________________________________

Chapter Four: Close Encounters of the Bad Kind

Kettle Falls, Washington

The sound of fast approaching steps made it's way over an expanse of cobblestone pavement - a walkway that was built narrowly in size, as three strangers approached the small path leading to a set of stairs that were attached to the large log cabin looming in front of them. The dwelling was located in a secluded area within a buried part of the forest and it sat on the outskirts of a nearby reservation that was home to the Colville Indian tribe.

The hovering trees found in every direction offered the anonymity that the current occupants desired and continuously craved. And up above, misty puffs of clouds were visible on the horizon as they tumbled around in circular patterns over the darkening skies. Thunder suddenly roared to life across the expanse of gray sky as pelts of rain began hitting the ground.

An attractive raven-haired woman of about average height, possessing a beauty on a scale that was completely capable of rivaling others by any human standards, moved with a comfortable ease up those steps where she was eventually greeted by another man standing guard at the entrance. Two taller men flanked both of her sides and all three newcomers stopped just before the door, the woman removing the black sunglasses from her face. They were formerly being used to shield her sensitive eyes against the bright rays of the sun, a sun that had already disappeared behind a sheet of pitch gray. Taking a quick glance back over the porch, she could make out others patrolling in and around the surrounding wooded areas that came into close proximity with the closed off perimeters of the cabin.

"Kierra," the man guarding the door greeted her with a slight bow. The greeting was a simple one, his tone was neutral - devoid of any real emotion.

Her full attention shot back to the guard - the raven colored hair standing out against the porcelain tone of skin. The other two men accompanying her remained stoic, their appearance stiff and unwavering - there was not a smile nor a frown to be found as their own set of sunglasses remained in place. All three visitors wore identical matching suits that bordered on a color scheme falling somewhere between a silver or gray. A small insignia was embroidered into the outfit and found just under the left shoulder, an insignia made from a pattern of connecting dots that created a "V" formation. The dot at the center, the apex, stood apart from the rest as it sparkled on its own. The rest of the foreign material carried with it an unearthly shine - almost a twinkling glow most noticeable under the glare brought on by the sunlight - an oddity that could very easily stir outside curiosity and bring unwanted attention upon themselves. Yet, their behavior appeared to indicate that they did not seem fazed by the prospect or to care very much if some did query about it.

"Shikusch," Kierra immediately acknowledged the guard's show of respect with a quick nod of her head. "Is he here?" she demanded to know in no uncertain terms. "It's urgent that we speak with him."

"I believe Damien will be able to assist you in that regard," the guard turned to open the door. Stepping to the side, he allowed them entrance and after Kierra and the two men entered through the screen door, he shut it and immediately returned to his post.

Kierra moved with confidence; however, she barely made it a total of a few steps when she was confronted by one of the residents who moved to block her path.

"He's busy, Kierra," the taller, aging gentleman intervened immediately - his hands shooting up in front of him. "You'll have to come back."

Kierra made no attempts to hide her irritation. "Gulsto," she moved to challenge him. "Move out of the way, it's urgent that he hold an audience with us. Make no mistakes about our arrangement here. If we have to do this alone, we will, understand that. Then the rest of you can continue to rot away on this god-forsaken planet for as long as you see fit. And that's only if you get lucky because we're able to stop Khi'var from destroying it first."

Both sets of stares were hard - determined and unwavering, as they were thrown across at each other. The tension in the air was thick.

"He's in the middle of something important right now," the man referred to as Gulsto gritted down against his teeth, his voice also rising a notch in the process. "So, like I said, it will have to wait! Understand that?!" he mocked. "And how many times do I have to correct you," he interjected heatedly. "It's Damien here. Damien, not Gulsto."

The flames coming from the fire flickered to life with an abrupt intensity as a crackling sound escaped from the fireplace located not too far off in the distance.

"Let's get something straight here," Kierra's threatening tone met his mockery head on. "We don't happen to like this anymore than you do, Damien - Gulsto, whatever. That part is completely irrelevant to me now. But it was your people who agreed to work with us and when we come here to report back to you with a message that something is urgent - then that means we expect your full cooperation. Or we don't work together at all, is that clear?! So," she paused, signs of a small hint of a satisfied smile hiding on her lips. "You can just go right on back there and deliver him that message for me," she nodded in the direction of the small office used by the Rebel Skin leader.

"It's because of your people that we ever had to come here at all!" Gulsto/Damien practically roared, his tone of voice saturated with a bitter taste of disgust, as the confrontation continued to heat up. "You, Symparians, are all the same!" he accused. "It's the reason why Khi'var was able to secure such a strong following from our people like he did! He may be a perverse tyrant of the worst kind and those of us here may have broken free from his deceptive reign but that doesn't mean he was wrong about everything."

"Hm. Do you really find it necessary for us to stand here and engage in a verbal combat over the finer points relating to Antarian political history or are you going to stay bound to your promise which is to help us recover our King alive?" she retorted.

"Our King?!" he repeated incredulously. Suddenly, Gulsto narrowed his eyes in at her in an accusatory manner. "Are you sure that's all he is, Kierra?!"

Outwardly, Kierra didn't even show any visible signs of flinching at the not so subtle insinuation. Internally was a different story; however, she didn't let that deter her from delivering her next witty rebuttal. "Yes, our King. The same King that now lies in the clutches of an Antarian lunatic guilty of treason on the highest level. An Antarian, I might add, that all of you chose to follow at an earlier point in time. Just consider yourselves lucky that the alliance of the governing five planets took some pity on you and showed some mercy so that now your people aren't going to be facing charges of treason alongside him."

"He's your King, not ours. There's no place for us under Symparian rule."

"Then if you still feel this sense of hostility - why bother in assisting with our efforts at all?" Kierra challenged back.

"Because it was at Rath's bequest, that's the only reason why!" he spat back, some heavy labored breathing following his declaration. "Please let there be no misunderstandings in where our loyalties lie!" his eyes shone with an intense ferocity.

More silence blanketed the surrounding atmosphere as an intense staring match ensued between Kierra and Gulsto until finally an integral blow was hit against the Rebel Skins. Kierra was the one to break the long stretch of silence.

"I see," she arched her brows, a smirk set in place. "Well, please allow me to stress for you, Gulsto, to make no mistake whatsoever in understanding that our loyalties will always lie with our King. And never with the likes of some, how is it best to phrase this in human terms?!" she asked rhetorically, pausing, and thinking about how she would best deliver the point. "Ah, yes. Never will our kind accept the likes of some traitorous, Lymparian, whore," she emphasized, " who will never be worthy in the eyes of any Symparians to carry any Antarian title of royalty - let alone Queen. Regardless of how misguided she may have been at the time."

Smirks broke across the faces of the other two Symparians standing beside Kierra.

Gulsto tensed. "And just who would be suited for that title, Kierra? You?!" he made a threatening move towards her.

The two men accompanying Keirra immediately reverted into a combative stance - both raising their hands and preparing to blast if necessary. A few scattered Lymparians - rebel skins, who were lingering around in the background of the cabin, overhearing bits and pieces of the heated exchange, were placed on alert when they witnessed the confrontation about to take place and immediately jumped in to assist Gulsto.

"No, wait!" Kierra threw up her arms to halt her men beside her.

The scene of the confrontation was met by the presence of another newcomer. "What the hell is going on in here?!" the loud voice interrupted the exchange taking place in the living room section of the cabin.

Gulsto and the other Lymparians froze as did Kierra and her men.

"Any god damn louder and I'd never even know there was a thunderstorm taking place outside of my office window right now," came the retort from the voice of the new Lymparian who Gulsto now clearly identified as the Rebel Skin leader.

The attention of everyone shot to the bald man who was now approaching the scene from behind Gulsto. Kierra and her men had a clear view of the leader as his long, flowing robe of navy blue clung to his body and swayed as he walked. He pulled the cigar from out of his mouth while passing by some of his people who were still standing in their combative position. They were the same Lymparians who reacted - coming to Gulsto's aide.

"Stand down!" the Rebel leader barked as he stopped beside them. "Get your asses back to work!" he pointed back over his shoulder.

"Yes, sir!" they all bowed, immediately following the orders of the Rebel leader.

The Rebel Skin leader came closer, stopping just beside Gulsto. "What seems to be the problem here?" he inquired; however, sounding very much as if he really didn't want the answer to that question.

"Daktori," Kierra greeted him by his official name.

A dark shadow momentarily crossed over the Rebel leader's face. "Kierra," he simply acknowledged her right back.

"Sir?!" Gulsto nodded, acknowledging the leader's presence - sounding apologetic for the disruption caused to him. "My apologies for the rude and unnecessary interruption. I was trying to explain that you were busy."

"It's fine, Damien," the Rebel leader brushed it off, addressing Gulsto by the chosen identity he had acquired for himself on Earth. "Take five," he instructed, giving the other Lymparian the opportunity to break from his duties and calm down.

"But, sir?!" Gulsto began to protest, glancing in Kierra's direction. He was always present as the Rebel leader's second whenever he conversed with the Loyalists, the Symparian followers and the minority Lymparian ones of King Zan and his rule.

"I said to take five!" the leader cut him off in a stern manner, shoving his free hand into the side pocket found on his robe.

"Yes, sir," he relented. Slowly, Gulsto reluctantly moved to exit the room. He threw Kierra and her men one last scornful look.

The Rebel Skin leader turned to address the Symparians next. He nodded, indicating for her to follow him as he turned back around in the direction of his office. "So, Kierra?! To what do I owe this honor," he plastered on a smile for the sake of proper protocol, as he shot a quick glance back over his shoulder in her direction. "Shouldn't you and the rest of these yokels," his head nod indicating the others with her, "be up in the mountains digging out your spaceship and preparing for the great escape?! You know, just in the slim chance that we don't make it in time and Khi'var blows us all to kingdom come!"

"Very amusing, Daktori," Kierra sneered in response. "But I have always been under the assumption that you've always been on top of things while down here. Don't tell me you're slipping up now. Do you know something we don't?" she used her ridicule to counter back against his mock sense of humor.

"Oh, for christ's sake, Kierra," the Rebel leader scolded as playfully as possible, even though he was clearly irritated. He hated the use of his Antarian name and he knew she knew it. "You know damn well it's Cal now," he swung the door to his office open allowing Kierra entry before himself. "Don't go out of your way to mock me; you'll find out pretty damn fast that I'm not in the best of moods today. So just cut the crap and get to the point of this entire visit!" His irritation then shot to the other two gentleman accompanying Kierra. "Sorry fellas," he mocked them, "the ride stops here."

Cal shut the door before they had a chance to enter the room. The other two Symparians were not allowed to accompany them inside.

"Well," Kierra sighed, rolling her eyes in the process, "at least the social etiquette is a step up from the last time," she snidely remarked in regards to Cal's brusque response to her comrades, who also happened to be stepping in and serving as her guards for the time being. It was the proper protocol when Kierra was left behind in charge. "We've made it all the way from power blasting against walls to slamming doors in faces."

"It's still early," he narrowed his eyes in her direction. "Don't push me."

The smoke from Cal's cigar permeated through the air and met with Kierra's face as he moved to walk past her. Using her hand to wave the intrusive odor away from her flaring nostrils - Kierra started breaking into coughing spasms.

"Cal, that's a habit that really needs to kick the bucket," she criticized. "Some of these horrible earthly customs are best left in the hands of those humans who aren't fazed by suffering a slow and steady death because of them."

The spacious office offered a clear view of an old-fashioned, mahogany-style desk located just in front of an average sized window. A number of shelves filled with collections of books lined the perimeters of the walls found on all sides of the room. Suddenly, a burst of thunder sounded from outside and then a flash of chain lightening struck somewhere close by to the cabin, causing the lights within the room to flicker. Kierra's focus shot to the small child kneeling in front of a small table in front of a sofa and her confident smirk was soon replaced with a look of distaste.

"I take it you haven't heard back from either Rath or Vilandra yet?" Cal referenced both Michael and Isabel by their Antarian identities. He shoved the cigar back into his mouth while heading back for the desk.

Kierra watched as the Rebel Skin leader sat down and then she moved to take the chair positioned in front of his desk. "No," she finally answered with a weary sigh. "They'll get in touch with us if they need to. Besides, it's not like they went out alone. But, then again, they're not the reason I'm here," she went on to clarify for him, pushing herself to the point.

Cal's head shot up. He pulled the cigar back out. "Oh?! If it's about our supply - we're not due for another one in about two weeks?!"

"It's not about the Livarium!" she refuted just as quickly as Cal had suggested it. "Your labs are still safe and secure on the premise - the order should be shipped out as scheduled. Khi'var and his followers may have infiltrated the zone but our sources still confirm that the identity of your people has not been compromised as of yet."

"Then what the hell is this all about?"

Kierra's gaze intentionally made it's way back to the child and Cal Langley followed it.

"Don't go there!" he instructed in a tone full of warning.

"She's been found by our people wandering off the designated grounds, Cal! Again!" Kierra's eyes bulged for effect, mainly to stress the seriousness of the point she intended to get across. "This isn't the first time she's left a trail for the others to find and our secret intel is also reporting that Nikolas has been able to track us here."

"Here?" he pushed for more details.

"Yes, here. In Washington."

"Kierra, she was found playing around in the goddamn woods!" Cal shouted back in defense of the child that had become his responsibility for a good part of her life. A responsibility he completely took to heart. Amazingly, his careful watch over her turned out to be last thing he truly had to live for - a last connection to something he had lost forever. "She's been doing it for as long as she could walk and it hardly qualifies as leaving a trail for that little shit Nikky to track."

"No, her energy field just happened to be found in the same exact area where there was an active investigation taking place by the humans. Bothered to check out the 5 o'clock news lately, Cal?!" Kierra mocked him. "The human woman and child who were both killed during a freak lightening strike? She was there. We sensed the energy field left behind - she's been using her powers on the outside of this premise. It hardly constitutes some normal or innocent wandering around being done inside of the woods. And trust me, Mikkos is hardly little anymore. All he needs is one hit on our location and we're done."

"He'll always be a little pack rat to me," Cal retorted in distaste. "I could give a flying shit what that little bastard looks like now. And end of discussion about her," he finalized, making no room for any further argument when it came to the child. "She's my problem to worry about, anyway. Look, if Nikolas tracked us here - he did it some other way," he refuted her logic. "They don't even know about her and even if by some slim possibility they had tracked her back to us - Nikolas and his men would already have been on us like bees to a hive by now. I highly suggest you get on the band wagon and find out how we've suddenly slipped up. Just be prepared and put everyone on immediate alert - they know the drill in case of an emergency."

"Maybe. But that's not the point. Nikolas may not know anything about her yet but how do we know whether or not she made contact with the humans in the woods that day? If she did, we got lucky - they're not around anymore if they did happen to see her doing anything. But what if next time - it's one of our enemies? She can lead them straight to us if she's not careful and that possibility is dangerous enough. And, worse, what if they sense who she is?!"

"They won't! I already said: they don't even know about her!" Cal challenged. "I'll keep closer tabs on her just to play it safe!"

"She's a liability, Cal! The Council of Alliance may have a thing or two to say about this situation."

He slammed his fist onto the desk. "Now, look, you hold it right there!"

The little girl finally shot her head up to see what had aggravated her papis so much to cause him to react in such a manner. Dropping her crayon to the table - she watched intently; however, said nothing. There were only a few exceptions in which she willingly engaged in any type of verbal conversation and that was with those she felt most comfortable with. From a young age, she had learned to rely on her Antarian senses - mainly, telepathic forms of communication. Her papis and the others around her had stressed how important it would be for her to be able to tap into that very important part of herself. There were no secrets between them, he had confided in her that one day he might have no choice but to leave her. He tried to make her understand that he would never let it happen willingly if it was in his power to stop; however, he wanted her to be prepared nonetheless. The child was taught she would need her "special" senses, those abilities, to protect herself from other people out there like her because there were others like them who wouldn't be nice in the same way that papis had been to her. However, now, from what she could make of the conversation - it sounded like these same abilities were the cause of the tense energy filtering everywhere around her. The woman, Kierra, a stranger who had appeared recently, the same one visiting now - she didn't like the little girl very much and the child could sense that the woman was put off with her for some reason.

"It's the truth!" Kierra's temper flared to life. "You're just too close to the situation to see it for what it really is. It's a big mistake, Cal - I know it and deep down you know it too."

The child's eyes shot back and forth between the two of them.

"I don't give a rat's ass about what you think you know. Your truth is irrelevant to me, Kierra!" Cal retorted. "Besides, you're overstepping your boundaries here. It's not your place to be challenging me on this issue. I don't answer to Antar or to it's alliance."

"It most certainly is my place when the two remaining members of the Royal Four are away and engaged in other important matters," Kierra countered him back, standing up from her seated position in the chair. "That puts me in charge until they're back."

"In charge over the Loyalists," Cal stressed, countering her in a testy fashion. "That means over your people, Kierra, not over me or mine. Don't forget that."

"You were one of us, Cal!" she reminded him. "When you were first sent here, you fully supported our cause and restoring the proper balance back to our world. The Guardians even chose you for the mission to earth. What changed?"

"I'm not against restoring the balance to Antar!" Cal refuted. "I'm just sick of the pissing contest between your people and mine. In the end, we both became the very thing we claimed to despise regardless of which side was at fault first or not. Which is why I intend to live out the rest of my pitiful existence right here on a planet about just as half pathetic as ours - only minus the threat of global warming. That, my dear friend, may be the only thing to beat Khi'var to the punch line," he cracked, a laugh escaping his throat. "He wants to destroy the earth - he may just have to take a number behind the human race. But, hey, what the hell, right?!" he sneered, puffing on the cigar. "I'll get to go in peace - knowing that my people were at least not responsible for one bad thing in the universe."

"If you don't stand by our Guardians of light and the prophecies they have bestowed upon us and our world," Kierra negated, "then no, Cal, you do not stand for restoring the balance back to our people."

"Uh- huh. And which prophecy would that be, Kierra?" he snidely interjected, taking his time to needle her some more, while enjoying the very uncomfortable reaction he was receiving from her at the same time. "Yours or ours?" He took another puff from his cigar - allowing the fumes to infiltrate the space between them.

Her death glare shot straight to him. Using her hand, she waved the abominable stench away from the proximity of her face for a second time.

"What?!" he smirked, making a show of it by throwing his hands right up in front of him - palms facing the ceiling.

"You know those prophecies are one in the same," her clever maneuver around the answer prevailed.

"The prophecy won't ever be honored. There's no Lymparian Queen to fulfill it."

"You still haven't answered my question," Kierra maneuvered around Cal's comeback. "There are still other Lymparians who stand with the Symparians and support the Loyalist cause. So what changed for you?" she interrogated.

"Things just change! Period." Cal's vague reply followed, a response completely void of emotion.

"Because of her?!" the accusation was clear - Kierra's eyes narrowing as she awaited the confirmation on what she believed to be the truth.

"No!" he yelled. Cal's anger was getting the better of him with each passing second. He did not like the path this was headed down and he knew she was doing it to rattle him. He wouldn't let her get to him like this, damn it! "She has nothing to do with any of this. She's gone now - all of that is behind us so it doesn't matter."

Kierra's brows arched in surprise. "She's gone?! Are you sure about that?"

"I said she's gone!" Cal's heated response escaped through clenched teeth. "At least, in all the ways that matter," he settled on, more for himself than for Kierra, while trying to regain his composure. "One thing has absolutely nothing to do with the other."

"I don't believe you."

"And I don't care!" he countered back. "She's completely irrelevant to what's going on right now. So don't contradict me again - this will be the last time she gets brought up in conversation between you and I, do you understand me?!"

"Hm," Kierra feigned contemplation. "See, the problem I have, is that I'm not so sure the King necessary sees it the way you do," she needled him some more.

"The King," Cal spat the term out of his mouth as if it had burnt his tongue "has much more pressing matters to be concerned with at this very moment, wouldn't you agree?! Like, saving his own ass and finding a way to escape Khi'var's clutches?!" This encounter had become increasingly counter-productive and wasn't getting either side anywhere.

"That's what we're here for!" Kierra took offense.

"Yes - and we agreed to help you out with this because stopping Khi'var benefits us just like it benefits you," Cal pointed out. "Our people are in his ranks right along with yours. So why don't we keep the focus where it belongs?!"

"Raising the hybrid child is not going to make up for her!" Kierra spat back, refusing to relent on a topic that was a sore subject for the Rebel leader sitting across from her. An obvious show of resentment had slipped through her tone of voice as she watched the dark look cross over his face for a second time. "I just hope you get that."

Trying to pull his temper back into check for the little girl's sake, Cal finally addressed her. "Kylie," he stood up from his chair, calling for the child by name. His voice sounded firm and full of authority. "Listen, Papis needs for you to leave the room right now. Go out and find Damien, please. Ask him to play one of your games with you," he instructed.

Without uttering a word of consent or protest, Kylie did exactly as Cal instructed. Standing to her feet, she swiftly collected all of her belongings from off of the table and while holding them tightly to her chest, she glanced over at the woman. Her long, sandy, brown hair fell in thick, silky strands down her backside - the golden blond highlights standing out even under the dimness that the stormy weather cast upon the room. The even length of her bangs parted to one side against her forehead and strands of them flew in wisps as a small breath of warm air escaped Kylie's mouth when she sighed. With her arms still folded across her chest, she walked in the direction of Cal, cradling her belongings within her tight grasp. Kylie's solemn expression never left her face as her stare met and locked with Kierra's. Cal was now guiding her in the impending departure, his hand placed gently against her backside; however, she never broke eye contact with Kierra until she was finally out the door.

"Your daughter was a traitor on Antar, Daktori," Kierra continued to jab the needle into Cal's heart just a little deeper each time. "Even if she was misguided into thinking that what she was doing was justified. Nothing will ever change that fact!"

Goddamn her! Couldn't she just leave well enough alone?

His anger boiled - a purely human emotion he had acquired during the many years spent among a planet filled with an emotionally designed race of people. Why the hell did Kierra insist on dredging up a past that was no longer relevant to him or to this period of time? They were on Earth for crying out loud, trying to avert a world wide catastrophe - not back on Antar feuding over which Antarians carried with them the noblest of intentions in their political views when it came to the welfare of their now beyond screwed planet. He knew the answer to his own question - the topic of his daughter was still a sore spot and Kierra knew that so she was holding no bars back about taking complete advantage of it.

"Back off!" he seethed. "You're not fooling me one goddamn bit, Kierra, because I'm pretty sure I know what's really going on here," his accusation hit her square. "And you know what? I don't even give a damn anymore. But, look, whatever the hell your agenda is or whatever the arrangement is with him, you just make damn sure to keep Kylie the fuck out of it all. She's not your concern, she never will be - she's mine, got it?! Otherwise, you answer to me!"

Kierra's gaze reflected something akin to guilt and she had shifted it to the floor. There was no response given back to his bold declaration. No denials - not even an attempt to hide what Cal considered to be the real underlying issue at hand.

"Uh-huh, right. That's what I thought," Cal accepted her lack of response as an indicator that what he had just inferred was the truth. "This meeting's over."

Cal reopened the door, slamming it upon his exit.

Swallowing over the growing lump forming inside her throat, Kierra slowly arose from her chair. With her arms folded, she walked over to the window and stopped. Staring out into the blurry wilderness, a scenery caused by the vicious down pour taking place outside, she could make out images of trees swaying back and forth in the distance. The gray shadows dancing across the sky matched how Kierra was feeling on the inside; however, she didn't want to give into the rising feeling from within her. She couldn't give into - she accepted that, more important things were at stake, like saving the King from meeting another gruesome end at the hands of Khi'var - an end similar to the first time around.

-X-


It was another hot day under the Nevada sun and the intense heat hit against the sand particles scattered everywhere within the vicinity of the small playground. Liz had opted to take a walk, just to clear her head, in light of all the major frustration coarsing through her.

She still hadn't recovered her missing journal.

Liz now found herself seated on a bench overlooking the east side of the park located on the base. For the third time, she tried to get in touch with Maria from her cell phone. Not even bothering to locate the dial connection from her contact list, Liz's finger pressed down on each of the numbers in a rough manner - a number put to memory like the numbers found inside her own birth-date. Bringing the phone back against her ear, the familiar ringing sound began all over again. She waited and waited but still no answer.

The sounds of giggling and chatter came from a set of swings a few feet away that were being occupied by a couple of school-aged little girls. Glancing over briefly, a small smile made it's way across Liz's lips - completely of its own volition. Liz couldn't help it, she found it somewhat amusing to even have children in a place such as this; however, it also served as another sad reminder as to what it was she was lacking in her own life: a family of her own. With both her mother and her father now gone, and an ailing Aunt barely holding onto what was left of her own sanity, Liz had begun to feel out of place in the world. Sure, she still had Maria and Liz had complete confidence that Maria would always be there if she needed her; however, a part of Maria had moved on as well - and rightfully so. She was entitled to her own life, her own career, her own family and her own happiness. Not to mention, Maria had her own personal battles to overcome and Liz reluctantly pushed herself to accept the clear realization that she couldn't continue leeching onto her friend like some wilting vine forever.

Voice mail picked up - Hi, if you have my number then you already know who this is and, uh, have great taste in friends, by the way. Anyway, sorry, I'm not able to talk right now but if you've known me long enough then you definitely know the drill - just drop me a line and I'll get back to ya' eventually. I swear.

One of the children on the swing flashed Liz her best smile.

Liz smiled back, clicking the cell phone shut without leaving a voice mail. There was no need to burden Maria about her stupid misplaced journal. She was clearly over-reacting and she could already hear Maria's voice in her head - clear as day:

Liz, relax. Just retrace your steps - remember the time you thought somebody stole your purse out of your dorm room? You just forgot and left it in the school library.

Or so she thought. And so Maria thought. She didn't want to go back to those days when she was clearly living on the edge of paranoia - before Dr. Wallace had stepped in and upped the dosage of her prescribed medication. Liz had been so scared back then - terrified by the thought that if she admitted the truth to Dr. Wallace, which was that she carried this intense and most frightening feeling around with her that told her she was being watched and followed - that Dr. Wallace would immediately recommend having Liz committed for observation. She hadn't wanted to give up her hard earned Harvard education; however, she could never shake the disturbing sense that she was being played with, deliberately toyed around with - almost as if someone or something out there wanted her to be driven crazy during most of her days spent in Cambridge. Looking back, the purse incident was just one of many incidents that Liz remembered enduring; however, she eventually just forced herself to reason it away - placing the blame back on her own fragile state of mind. To Liz's relief, Dr. Wallace hadn't threatened to have her placed into a hospital - instead she counseled Liz that it was perfectly normal for someone who had gone through what she had to experience those types of extreme flashbacks.

But this is different, Liz told herself. I'll find the journal. I'll find it.

"Ahhhh!"

Startled by the screeching sound coming from a child, Liz was broken out from her daydreaming; however, when her eyes came to rest upon the sight of a child being playfully grabbed and then tousled over in the air by someone who appeared to be her father - Liz took immediate relief in the fact that they both were just engaging in some harmless fun. The child was laughing excitedly now and running for the slide, the dotting dad making a big pretense at trying to keep up. Nobody was in any kind of trouble, thank god. Clearly, recruitment onto this facility allowed for the relocation of intact families if that need should arise and on first glance, it was amazing to see how many parts of the base actually resembled a small town going about its daily business. In front of Liz, a narrow side-walk separated the bench from the asphalt foundation that began the journey into the playground.

Liz moved to get up and ...

"Look out!"

A little boy out of control on a pair of roller skates slammed straight into Liz knocking her off balance and sending her flying to the pavement - the little boy sprawled on top of her. The verbal warning had come too late.

"Jacob!" a stern voice flowed from somewhere up above - coming from somewhere in the background.

The little boy struggled to free himself from his entangled position - the heavy feel of his skates weighing down his feet where they were tied around Liz's legs.

"Get off me!" he shot at Liz.

Liz moved to get him off her.

"Hey, don't push me!" the little boy reprimanded.

The initial shock wore off and Liz shot an incredulous look at the boy above her. "Uh - listen, kid," the incredulous sentiment passed over into a slight laugh. "Or, Jacob, is it?" she suddenly questioned him with a slight edge of annoyance laced inside her tone of voice as she remembered that name mentioned from the background. "I think you've got this backwards. Why don't we try it the other way around. You try getting off me first - and then I'll do my best to get off the ground."

"I don't have to do what you tell me to do," he shot back in a bold and defiant manner. "You're not my mother!"

Wow, what a little brat! Maybe I should rethink the whole ... it sucks to be single and alone prospect?!

The thought came and went. "Uh-huh," Liz nodded ever so slightly from the position flat on her back. "Thank god," she retorted matter-of-factly.

Visible hands were suddenly hoisting the boy up off of her before he could respond again. However, it was in this one fleeting moment with his face hovering so close to hers that she caught something she never expected to in a million years. The irritation she felt suddenly evaporated and the beats of her heart picked up in a rapid pattern as deep brown eyes, the matching color of dark chocolate, met with familiar amber-colored ones. The brown hair cropped on top of his small head combined with the contemplative expression covering his face mentally catapulted Liz back to a time and place where only one other person in the world had ever looked at her so intensely. In a flash, the little boy was off her and hands were now moving to assist her off the ground. She found that she was shaking, involuntarily, and the realization had hit so fast that it was altogether possible that she had imagined the whole encounter; however, shortly after straightening her clothes out and regaining what was left of her composure, she stared back over at the little boy and discovered that ...

She had been imagining it.

What the hell?!

The little boy standing across from her now looked nothing like what she had thought she had seen just a split second ago. His bright blue eyes, along with the crop of curling, blond hair that rivaled the brightness of the sun - stood out in contrast to the much darker features she had envisioned when he had been a mere inch or so from her face.

Was she going crazy?

"Jacob, apologize to the woman," the stern voice brought Liz's rambling thoughts to a stand still. Liz's attention shot to the woman hovering beside the child. She was looking down at Jacob, her expression stoic and unreadable; however, her eyes told a story all of their own. "Now."

Jacob crossed his arms over his chest in a defensive manner.

Liz looked between the two. "No, it's okay, really," she shook her head, trying to offer the little boy a reprieve - even if he had been acting obnoxiously rude a moment ago.

The reprieve went completely ignored.

"Jacob!" the warning came again. "I'm not going to ask you again."

It was as if the woman hadn't even acknowledged Liz saying anything at all. She finally gave into her urge to scrutinize the woman - really taking a good hard look at the other woman for the first time since she had helped her off the ground. The woman appeared to be in her mid to late fifties with very graying hair - hair that was pulled up in a neatly tailored chignon-style representation; therefore, she would be shocked to find out if this was indeed Jacob's mother. A young grandmother perhaps? Something about the woman felt really off though, odd, and it managed to give Liz the chills, the tingling sensation traveling up her arms and legs - never mind the impression she might be leaving on a little boy around the age of eight or nine. At least, that's the age Liz would assume if she were asked to take an educated guess. There was something very cold and foreign about the older woman's presence.

Strangely familiar?

"Really, it's okay," Liz tried once again. "This wouldn't be the first time I've met with the ground - in fact, I actually think I'm acquiring a knack for being in the wrong places at exactly the wrong time in this place," she attempted to throw a little humor into the mix, remembering her very first encounter with Matthew not that long ago.

"Sorry," Jacob finally relented; however, the apology came out stiff and his eyes told a completely different story. "You were just standing there. I should have been the one to watch where I was going." He sounded a bit resentful. He didn't sound like he was really sorry - he just sounded sorry that he had to apologize.

"Sure," a faint smile appeared; however, Liz shifted uncomfortably. "Apology accepted," she gave in, just hoping that the weird moment would just pass with the two strangers walking away and going about their business. But no such luck.

"Good." The corners of the older woman's mouth lifted into what Liz could only describe as a Cheshire-like grin, completely charming on the surface but deceptively cunning underneath it all. Her beady eyes suddenly turned in on Liz. "Now, how do we introduce ourselves appropriately?" she inquired of the child.

With a heavy sigh - Jacob took a few slides forward on his blades, extending his hand out to Liz. "Hello." The greeting almost sounded rehearsed, Liz noted. "My name is Prince Jacob Qzezuelyon^ret the 1st and it is an honor to meet your acquaintance."

Prince Jacob Qzez ... the what?

He sounded just like a miniature adult. And yup, definitely rehearsed.

Liz's eyes widened a bit as she tried to digest the peculiar introduction; however, she extended her own hand and accepted the handshake anyway - not wanting to offend either one of them. The older woman, who must have immediately picked up on Liz's hesitant demeanor, was prepared to jump in with a myriad of explanations the moment all the introductions were completed.

"And my name is Regina," the woman offered her hand next.

"Liz," she reciprocated the introduction with a head nod. Another uneasy smile graced her lips as the two shook hands.

"I'm Jacob's conduit," the woman revealed, "or a more commonly used term of reference that you may be more familiar with is either a "nanny" or a "governess." The name, well, an old title that the family keeps as a name sake. Nothing more," she quickly provided an explanation on the little boy's behalf.

Smooth, Liz thought. But there's still something about her that just rubs me the wrong way.

"Right," Liz nodded her head, trying to sound as cheerful as she could muster. "Wow, that's really interesting. Well, it was nice to meet you both and, uh," her eyes averted to Jacob once again as she continued, "sorry, for bumping into you like that, Jacob," her voice softened for his benefit. His unfriendly stare was as unwelcoming as ever but Liz decided not to let it faze her. "I do need to be going," her eyes met back up with Nanny Regina's.

There was no verbal reciprocation - just two blank expressions and two pairs of eyes boring into her.

Why do I suddenly feel like I'm the one being dissected here?

Bending down quickly, Liz looked to retrieve her cell phone from the ground where she had fallen; however, found she was unsuccessful in locating it. Her eyes darted all around the sidewalk, up to the bench, and then back to the ground again.

"Looking for this?"

Glancing up, Liz found the governess extending her hand with the phone in it.

"Uh, yeah, thanks," Liz took it back. However, what she failed to catch was the slight shimmer that flashed around the phone as the exchange took place.

The governess flashed Liz a small grin - Liz thought it resembled something between a smile and a mocking sneer. Shoving her phone in her back pocket, Liz proceeded to take a few steps backward. She issued one final, quick wave in an awkward manner before she was soon sprinting off - her legs carrying her as fast as they could away from the strange encounter she sought to escape.

Jacob stared after Liz and as soon as she was out of sight, he sank to the ground and started to unloop the laces in his skates. Stupid things, why did he even try them on in the first place? He hated them. Now he was just desperate to get them off and walk the rest of the way in nothing but his bare socks if he had to. Reaching into the purse strapped over her right shoulder, the governess turned her back to Jacob and produced a foreign device. With it grasped firmly in her hand, she swiftly moved her thumb across the surface igniting a light blue shimmer.

"It's me." She brought the device closer to her mouth as she spoke into it. "I've just had an unexpected run in with the Parker woman," she relayed to someone from her end. "I've also picked up a little something extra that might prove to be useful."

Communication ceased and the pupils in her eyes expanded until all the white making up the irises had vanished and both eyes were two deep pits of black.

-X-


Michael stormed out of Maria's building and onto the sidewalk - walking the couple blocks it would take him to make it back to the car. Glancing around, the high-rises that towered everywhere around and above him in the highly populated city made him feel like a rat lost inside of a gigantic maze. But that was a good thing - it offered him what little anonymity there was, allowing him to come and go freely with little fear of being recognized. On the minus side, it was alot more difficult for him, as Second-in-Command, to pick out his enemies in such a large crowd and even harder to identify whether they had been followed.

Damn Maria - she was still as stubborn as ever. He was doing her a favor coming all the way out here like this!

He reached the black Mercedes with the tinted windows parked between a wide alleyway and in an highly agitated manner, yanked the back door open. It was his second attempt to try and talk some sense into Maria and she refused to even see him this time around. He thought letting her sleep on it for one night would help knock some sense into her. Shoving himself roughly inside, he slammed the door shut and was greeted by one of the last people he was in the mood to deal with right now. A tall slender woman of about 5''11 sat with her legs crossed - the sleek black glasses matching the exterior of the car, completely shielding her eyes. Her flowing waves of blond hair fell in silky strands behind her back and over the fronts of her shoulders.

"So?" her wide grin was merely all for show. "I take it your witting charm and star-like personality didn't win her over, eh?"

Her mockery only fueled Michael some more.

"Dru, shut the hell up, okay?" he threw back at her. "Or you can get out and hike it the rest of the way back to JFK."

The driver snorted, peering through the rear-view mirror - she engaged in a shared look of amusement with Dru.

"I'm serious."

The driver started the ignition. "Oh, I don't doubt that, boss," she teased, pulling the car out of the secluded alleyway and onto the street. "But, you got to admit - Dru kind of has a point," she jabbed him a little more.

"Which would be what, exactly?" Michael retorted in a testy fashion. "That some witting charm and a star-like personality can get the both of you back to that damn airport faster than riding in this rented get-up will. Be my guest - if you want to prove me right."

"No," she laughed back, "that you kind of been a drag this entire trip."

"Yeah, well it's not suppose to be a vacation."

"I think Clara means that coming back to see the human woman has had an effect on those appalling mood swings of yours as of late - especially since you decided you'd be the one coming out here to retrieve her," Dru spelt it out for him. "And not in a good way either."

"Yeah, well, Maria just has that effect on everybody, okay?" he cracked back. "Hey, she doesn't want my help, that's not my problem," he brushed it off, trying to sound nonchalant about it - while glancing out the window. "It's not like I care anyway."

"Okay. Now say it like you mean it," Clara smirked.

Michael glared and Clara made a pretense at clearing her throat in an obvious manner. "So? Is it really back to the airport? Or back to another long and drawn out night at the hotel? We can always try to come up with a plan B," she suggested out of the blue.

"Which would be what?" Dru pushed her glasses down slightly over the bridge of her nose, peering back at Clara over them. "Operation: Wait around and then abduct the human woman in broad day-light? I don't think so. Besides, it's not like we even have our spaceship at our disposal to make it more discreet for us," the playful pout set on her lips was being used solely to stress her point.

Clara rolled her eyes from the driver's seat.

"I saw that, Clara," Dru's sultry voice scolded in a teasing manner.

"Well, we can always go more traditional and wait until nightfall," Clara delivered her own playful retort straight back.

"Funny."

Michael's mind had drifted away from the annoying banter playing out around him some time ago and his focus immediately shot to the sudden figure waltzing out the swinging door of a very familiar building - just as their car was about to pass by. The adrenaline sped up at what he caught sight of.

"Hey, shut-up, the two of you!" he jumped forward in his seat. "Follow her!" he ordered, pointing, as Clara turned to look where Michael's attention had landed.

"Which one?" Clara's brows furrowed.

"Her, the one in the black overcoat, it's her - it's Maria," he delivered the news.

"The one with the frilly pink scarf wrapped around her neck like a noose?" Dru leaned over, her expression full of distaste. "Ew - she's like this loud walking, talking, Hallmark, calling card all dressed up like that."

Michael pushed her back. "Dru - you're blocking my view, alright? Besides - what the hell would you even know about a good fashion sense anyway? Last time I checked, Antar was running a little low on department stores. Oh wait, that's right, that's because we don't have any," he mocked. "One color fits all."

Clara laughed. "See, Dru, I told you scanning through all those fashion magazines during all your free time wasn't going to do you any good. They've tainted your mind."

Dru snorted. "I was bored. And, hey, I've been down here long enough to at least know what passes as wearable," she cracked. "Even by human standards. And trust me, that ain't it." She rolled those hidden eyes of hers one time behind her sunglasses.

"I don't think "wearable" even passes for a word in the English language," Clara shook her head, really thinking about it.

Clara continued to trail Maria's sauntering form on the sidewalk - in and out of throngs of strangers that would suddenly grow larger and then disperse periodically. Finally, Michael took note that her determined strides were taking her in the direction of a set of stairs plunging underground; signs posted right around the area indicated that she had to be making her way for the subway cars. Impatiently, Michael grabbed for the door handle on his passenger side.

"Stop the car!" he ordered.

Clara pulled to the curb - horns impatiently beeping from behind them. "Rath, where are you going? You can't make a scene in front of a whole bunch of people."

He jumped out. "I'm not. I'm just going to follow - make sure everything's alright. Just meet me back at the hotel," he instructed.

"You shouldn't be going alone!" Clara stressed. "We're here to protect you, that's our job! Dru, go with him," she ordered.

"Forget it! The two of you will just slow me down - I can do this faster on my own and I need to go before I lose her!"

"Dru, come on," Clara ignored his protests, preparing to place the car in park and accompany both of them.

"I said no! That's an order! Besides, you can't leave the car here!" Without another word, Michael could be seen dashing in the direction of the stairs.

Clara halted her own movements. "Dru?! Go."

"But he said not to?!" Dru huffed back.

"Just go!"

Dru forced herself out of the car, slamming the door closed. "I knew there was a reason I voted for staying behind," she voiced out of earshot.

The car sped out of sight and Dru bolted after Michael.

x

Michael pushed his way through the crowds of hustling people who all appeared to be in just as much of a hurry to get to their own designated locations and destinations. However, fortunate enough for him, his presence down in these smelly, over-populated, underground tunnels would just feel like nothing more than a mere breeze passing through and around the various bystanders who were scurrying everywhere around him. Michael had faded out of sight almost immediately upon entering the underground maze, his sole purpose being to remain undetected just in case others were nearby, or if by some slim chance, Maria was able to pick up that she was being followed by him. He didn't want to blow his cover.

His heightened Antarian senses gave him access to stronger methods that enabled him to elude other humans or ways that could assist him in detecting when all hell was about to break loose. Here, on Earth, these skills were a luxury to have - on Antar, his abilities proved to be absolutely essential in the Royal Four's struggle to survive. Max, or rather King Zan as it was now known to all, could attest to those struggles for all of them. Khi'var and his forces had been clever enough to out-maneuver them back home. Manipulating the human dimensions that made up a part of their hybrid nature in this lifetime, Khi'var had used those elements cunningly. He viewed these foreign elements to be nothing more than innate flaws, weaknesses found within an inferior race of people that could now be used against the reincarnated Royal Four. And as strong as their dormant abilities were because of who they had been in their past lives, many of those strengths took a long time to manifest - in the end - leading to Max's capture. Shedding the human traits in favor of these Antarian characteristics became vital.

His thoughts jumbled together.

Had he lost her?

No. There she was - the pink scarf stuck out like a sore thumb but it was definitely Maria. He smirked, feeling bemused. Thank god for her quirky sense of style. Her black, velvety overcoat flapped at the hems near the bottom of her legs as she walked at quick, comfortable pace. To the average onlooker, she would appear like nothing more than a blurb in the distance; however, Michael could still make her out clearly. His vision was magnified while in this state. Michael continued to trail, robotically, as his thoughts shifted back to Max's final concern back on Antar. Just before he had been taken.

"Michael, listen to me, there's something not right here. You've known it and I've known it before the Council even agreed to meet with us. Think of everything we've uncovered so far about The Reformation?! Khi'var hasn't been doing this alone."

The words whirled around in his mind - repeating themselves over and over again like a theme from an old Metallica CD that just wouldn't get out of his head. The mere idea that somebody else, someone who could possibly hold more power and influence than Khi'var did as far as the Alliance Council was concerned - a council making up representatives from the five star planets found in their galaxy, was a terrifying reality even if it could be proven true. However, the Council refused to even acknowledge the possibility of any other authority behind the wide-spread rebellion that had swept across Antar, taking the lives of the former Royal Four in the process. The war had also managed to taint the remaining intact planets of the Alliance, bringing with it many far-reaching consequences even for them. Many just wanted justice - an end to the turbulence, and mainly someone to blame which meant that Khi'var and his followers do just fine. It no longer mattered if Khi'var emerged as nothing more than a figure-head. Now, Michael wished he had taken it more seriously. Perhaps, Max wouldn't have fallen prey to Khi'var and his goons and the fate of earth might have been a non-issue.

Maria made it to the subway platform. He was still close on her heels - he could hear the next train making it's way along the rails up through the tunnel.

Michael's thoughts jumped again. Because then there was the issue of Liz. What if it was already too late?

The side doors on the car slid open and Michael watched as a host of people, including Maria, hustled their way on board. In a discreet manner, Michael did the same through one of the doors further down the stretch. He was visible now, in plain sight - and instead, used the long rows of standing passengers to shield himself. Maria had made it to an available seat, she took it - not once glancing back in Michael's direction. He watched her intently for a few precious moments, he couldn't help it. She looked so much older then her twenty-eight years, not in physical appearance - she was still as beautiful as ever in his eyes; however, it was in the manner in which she carried herself. That young and energetic spark of life - the same one responsible for Maria taking all those risks back in the day, like in the decision she had made when she invited him into her life so long ago - along with that notable and sometimes irritating rebellious streak of independence seemed long gone. In it's place, sprung up a wall of cautiousness - with it a new found maturity born only out of life and it's experiences. For the first time he really saw how it was - she was still his Maria yet she wasn't.

Her head shifted and suddenly she was peering back in his direction. He shifted his gaze and turned his head the instant he saw her movement. Luckily, this time he managed to escape recognition. However, his relief was short-lived but not because he thought he had been suddenly identified by the girl he once knew so long ago, the same one who had now blossomed into a woman.

He wasn't on this ride alone.

They weren't alone.

That familiar feeling of heat scorching his back suddenly intensified, making it's way slowly from the core of his spine - all the way up to the nape of his neck. The sensation was unpleasant, but it was his internal warning system - one of his more acute Antarian senses kicking in to let him know that danger was close by. Too close. His own body heat soared - the feel was comparable to a thousand prickly hot fingers digging into his back and neck.

At what point did he screw up and let himself get tracked?!

Keeping his cool was essential - he knew that, her safety depended on it as well as his and he struggled against the energy field he was giving off - not wanting to alert the other Antarians, whoever they were right now, that he was aware of their presence and how close in proximity they actually were to each other. Michael's eyes carefully scanned the crowd closest to him, a look of suspicion masking his face. At the moment, the scariest realization to cross his mind. Had Khi'var's people, in fact, been following him - or had they already known to come here because they had been tracking Maria before he arrived in New York?

A couple of stops later - the train car began to clear out. Michael took a vacant seat, keeping vigilant for any suspicious signs that would move him to react. It was easier to make out Maria now with fewer passengers and seeing the discarded newspaper lying on the seat beside him, he grabbed for it - using it as a temporary shield to hide his face. However, the next stop finally signaled Maria's departure. She exited through the opened doors and Michael immediately moved to follow after her.

x

The bright mid-day sun was hitting down on the city just as Maria made her way through the gates that would take her into the schoolyard behind Beth's school. Beth attended AM morning Pre-K classes, her schedule limited to a half-day and the children had already dismissed at just about quarter past twelve.

She was running late.

There wasn't another soul left on the lot - no more children waiting around for their parents. Maria headed for the double doors leading inside of the school and after entering the small corridor, discovered it was deathly silent. It was a bit unusual, she thought, after all - school was still suppose to be in session for everyone other grade, including the afternoon Pre-K classes. She turned and walked into the vacant office.

"Hello?" she called out in vain. "Anybody in here?"

She walked back out. "Great," she mumbled to herself. Opting to try something else, Maria continued in the direction of the hallway that would take her the rest of the way to to her daughter's classroom. The PM afternoon students should definitely be in session by now. Knocking on the door, she was soon greeted by the teacher.

"Hi, can I help you?"

"Yeah, hi, I'm Maria Pentington - my daughter Beth is in your AM class."

"Oh, yes, that's right," the teacher acknowledged with a bright smile. "Was there something you needed?"

Maria eyed the other woman strangely. "Uh, yeah, I'm here to pick up my daughter," she confirmed. "I didn't mean to but I was running a little bit late."

"Didn't you already pick her up?" the teacher had a puzzled expression covering her face.

"No, I just got here," concern crept into Maria's tone. "Do you mean my husband?" Had Tyler left work today? Reaching for her coat pocket, she went in search of her cell phone but discovered she had left it behind at home. Damn her luck!

"No, I mean you. I thought I saw you pick her up in the parking lot outside."

"No! Are you telling me my daughter isn't here?" Maria began to panic.

The teacher, sensing this could quickly erupt into a serious situation, moved to ease Maria's fears so that neither of them started jumping to conclusions. "Listen, I could have been completely wrong. From where I was standing, maybe I saw one of the teacher's aides and she just brought her downstairs to wait until you got here. Most of the school is in the basement auditorium for a special guest speaker. You can try checking ... "

However, she never even got the chance to finish because Maria was dashing off in the direction of the doors that would lead her to the basement.

x

"Mommy, you're hurting me!"

The little girl, her blond curls bouncing against her shoulders, tried to keep pace beside the woman walking next to her - her Dora themed backpack secured tightly over her shoulders. She twisted her wrist around inside of the tight grip coming from her mother - hoping to free herself just a little bit from the intense pressure. Instead, her reward was to be yanked harder - the tugging pulling her further along the long school corridor.

"Ow!" she pouted, dragging her feet.

Mommy wasn't acting like herself today. Suddenly, a sound was coming from close behind them and before the little girl even knew what was happening - a hand, presumably her mother's, came up over her mouth as she was hoisted up and carried into the restroom located close by. Her cries of protest were muffled and out of earshot.

x

Maria made it down the first flight of stairs in record time. The hallways were silent - there was no sign of any other presence except her own; however, an eerie feeling made her consider that maybe that wasn't true. Pushing it to the back of her mind, she remained steadfast in her strides to locate the school auditorium.

Just as Maria turned the corner, she could have sworn that she made out a slight scuffing noise. With a quick catch of the eye, she also caught the brief glimpse of a child entering through a bathroom door. Swaying blond curls or was it just imagined?!

"Beth?" the adrenaline picked up for Maria. Perhaps she needed to use the bathroom and the nice teacher's aide was accompanying her?

As she moved to take more forward steps - Maria was suddenly met with an unexpected hand smothering her mouth as she was lifted and swung back around the otherside of the wall so that they were out of sight.

"Shut-up," the voice hissed against her ear. "It's a trap."

Maria responded back with a deep bite - her assailant shouting out and releasing his hold on her. "Damn it," he cursed, while waving his hand and - hopefully, the pain away. She was shocked to discover who it actually was.

Michael.

"What the hell did you do that for?"

"Oh my god, did you like follow me here?" Maria cried out. She stepped forward and began swatting him on the chest with her fists.

"Hey, knock it off, I'm just here to help - so what the hell's your problem?"

"What's my problem?" she parotted incredulously. "I don't know, let's see, maybe because I specifically told you to leave me alone, that's my problem!"

"Well, I would have been more than happy to leave you alone if you weren't stupid enough to let yourself get tailed!" Michael retorted. "This school is crawling with all their energy, Maria. So how about showing a little more gratitude."

"Gratitude? You want gratitude? You find my daughter or else I'll show you some gratitude, you pompous ass," she threatened through clenched teeth. "Someone got to her before I got here and god help me, Michael, if she gets hurt because of your chaos you call a life."

"They're just using her to get to you. To lure you in. She's bait for the hook," Michael equated in his eloquent dialect.

"Well, get her off the hook. Now."

Michael peered around the corner. "What did you see?"

Maria came up behind him. "I thought I saw someone going into the bathroom."

"Stay here," he instructed.

"No way, forget it. You don't get to pop back up into my life after nine years and start barking orders at me Mr. Spaceman," she cracked. "I'm coming."

Michael rolled his eyes. "Then shut-up, will you, and stay behind me."

"Fine, let's just go."

Michael and Maria turned back around the corner; however, their silent moves were suddenly put to waste when a disruption sounded from inside the bathroom. Maria took off at full speed ahead, panicking for her daughter's sake if that really was Beth who had entered inside.

"Oh my god, Beth?! Beth!"

"Maria, stop!" Michael protested.

Michael caught up but the next thing they knew, a bathroom door was flying off it's hinges as a powerful blast sent it colliding with the white pastel wall located in the hallway just across from it.

"Duck!" Michael had shouted as he pushed himself and Maria down to the floor at the same exact time.

A fury of dust particles permeated everywhere around them - Maria coughing against those nasty toxic fumes. Looking up, both of them could make out the form of a woman and child exiting the destruction that now made up the bathroom. However, what shocked Maria next was who she saw staring back at her. It was HER! A clone of her, like an identical twin. Worst of all, she had Beth trapped in her arms as she turned her aim at them.

"Beth!" Maria screamed as she struggled to get to her feet.

"No, stay down!" Michael pulled on her.

At the same time the identical woman rose her arm to issue a blast, Michael intercepted hers with one of his own. The blasts clashed together - each one cancelling the other one out.

"Mommy! Help!" Beth screamed after she recognized her real mother still on the floor.

The stranger suddenly whisked both of them away, Beth still held firmly in her arms as both Michael and Maria moved to catch her. However, the last thing Michael expected to encounter was the person coming out from the school bathroom now in shambles - in the midst of a coughing frenzy very similar to one Maria had experienced just moments ago. She was waving her hand through the air around her at the same time.

"Dru?" Michael questioned. "What the hell are you doing here - I told you and Clara to get your asses back to the hotel and wait for me there."

"Sorry, boss, but it was either listening to you bite my head off or making sure you had backup when you needed it. And you needed it. I was trying to cut her off from this end - I was waiting in the bathroom for her to pass by. But now, she's heading for the back, Clara identified one of their cars. She's waiting for us there," Dru referenced their other comrade. She pulled out a peculiar looking communicator that Maria stared at. "I just talked to her - told her where to meet us. So, come on, there's no time left for chit chat."

All three of them ran in hot pursuit of the alien using Maria's form. It didn't take any of them very long to locate the auditorium and the one place they had tracked this alien and Beth to. It was big, crowded, but more importantly - there was a back door conveniently located in the far rear of the room. Michael, Maria, and Dru tried to be discreet - making their movements with tact and careful not to alert anyone to what was happening.

"There!" Dru pointed.

Knowing that she had been spotted, the Maria look-a-like bounced from one of the seats, a frantic Beth still in her arms as she raced for the exit.

"We can't let her get away!" Maria cried out.

The alien impersonater was out the door in a flash; however, what she hadn't anticipated was the person waiting on the other side. Clara, in all her glory, confronted her head on with a huge metal pipe she had liberated from the railing belonging to the school walk-way. Lifting it up, she swung hard and fast against the seal protecting the alien from exposure to the atmosphere. The alien quickly exploded into a heap of dust that went flying everywhere, sending little Beth to the ground. Dru was the first to exit the school and hit the scene.

"Nice!" she complimented.

Meanwhile, Maria dove for a weeping Beth who was still on the ground. She pulled her close, hugging her tightly as she rocked her from side to side. Soothing kisses were placed against her head, while words of reassurance were intended to calm her down as the little girl wept. This had been a close call - too close.

"You two okay?" Clara asked, looking between the distraught mother and child.

"No."

"Honest answer," Clara nodded. "Sorry about that. We would have tried to be here first if we had known they would target you here."

"And I still sense them around so I suggest we take this little pow-wow to the car and then we can finish bandaging up all the boo-boos there," Dru snidely remarked.

"We just want to go home," Maria volunteered, still feeling shaken up.

"I know. Come on," Michael gently guided her in the direction of the parked car.

-X-


The lab had cleared out and Liz was one of the last remaining workers left at her desk - working on an undisclosed project where most of the intricate details pertaining to the purpose behind the research and experimentation was being kept in the dark.

Matthew had been absent today and Liz had taken notice of that fact right away. In truth, she found that it surprisingly saddened her quite a bit. She had been looking forward to his company in light of the weird reception she was now feeling from Serena, stemming from the fact that she had just about subtly insinuated that it was possible her roommate could have been the one to lift her journal - just by asking the other woman if she had seen it. Maybe she was just being paranoid about it; however, combine that with the strange encounter earlier with that odd woman and kid along with Maria's unreturned calls - Liz was feeling a little out of the loop. Isolation was something she still had a hard time dealing with.

"You'll get the lights on the way out?" a voice met her ears from behind.

Liz looked up and around, offering just a touch of a smile after being pulled out from her self-loathing, pity party. "Sure," she answered the other young woman who was the last person about to leave for the day. "I got it, no problem."

"Great," the woman smiled back, her bright blue eyes glistening underneath the bright lights coming from off the ceiling. "See you tomorrow, Liz."

"Yeah, bye."

Her attention soon shot back to the task at hand - she still couldn't understand what this type of vaccination would be used for. It was a strange and peculiar-looking substance under the lens, unlike anything she had even studied during her classes at Harvard - a school that provided its students with some of the most well-renowned, if not the most well-renowned, opportunities present within the fields of microbiology and other scientific disciplines. The clear fluid being injected inside of the odd blue substance created a strange effect on the micro-organism. Liz watched in amazement as the mass would expand and rejuvenate - almost as if the organism itself was being brought back to the earliest stages of it's life cycle.

Suddenly, Liz jolted - moving back away from the lens after it hit her in the blink of an eye.

"Maria," her lips quirked upward until they erupted into a full-blown smile.

Liz felt the adrenaline race.

This serum, or whatever substance found in the vials being locked away in the glass cabinets found against the walls, could very well work as a viable and final remaining component to be added in conjunction with her own concoction to help cure Maria. Glancing over towards the cabinet shelves, all she had to do was get her hands on one. Was it worth the risk? Of course, when talking about Maria's life it most certainly was, if she got caught - hell, that Colonel Krammer could just chalk it up to his due recompense for his subtle promise on advances in medicine relating to Maria's condition. But she knew it was just wishful thinking - Colonel Krammer could just deny he ever hinted at any such thing. If she was going to try and do this, it would definitely be at her own risk. The question was how to get it out of this facility and back to the bunker without getting caught - after all, she was well aware of the high volume of security present in and around this place, a level of security that probably didn't compare to anywhere else in the world. Liz quickly amended she wouldn't even be surprised if every move she made in this lab, down to the last detail, was under constant vigilant scrutiny. Heck, she wouldn't even be shocked if they could count the number of breaths she inhaled during one minute. Backing away from the desk, she quickly inspected the exit and took purposeful steps towards the cabinets. She would make this appear simple and sweet to any observer - like she merely needed some more of the substance to test for her work.

The lights overhead suddenly flickered out.

Liz stopped in her tracks, paranoia creeping in for a split second. Glancing back over her shoulder, the door leading out of the lab showed no signs of life. Resuming her steps, she swiftly made her way to the cabinet. Liz went into her pocket and pulled out her identification card which would grant her the access she needed to the contents sealed on the shelves. After swiping down the slot with her key card, a hissing sound let loose - unlocking the glass door that instantaneously slid open. However, after moving to grab for a vial, the door behind her resounded with a loud bang - completely startling Liz and sending her hand flying into other vials. They crashed straight to the floor, smashing, and sending the crystal clear fluid pooling everywhere.

"Shit," Liz cursed, something she rarely did unless provoked. "Hello?" she called out nervously, looking back over at the door that was now closed.

First the lights and now the freaking door?! Coincidence?

"Is somebody out there?" she ventured again. "Because this really isn't funny." Now she was going to have to clean up.

Perhaps there was a draft coming from somewhere? One big draft!

Pushing fear to the background, Liz stepped around the mess on the floor - careful to avoid making contact with any shards of glass lying in different places. Reaching the door, she twisted the knob and discovered that she was locked inside.

"Hey, hello?!" she shouted, banging on the door. "Hello? Somebody out there?" There was a pause; however, no reponse back. "Somebody please open the door. I'm still inside and I can't get out," she pleaded.

Nothing but silence met Liz's ears.

Liz could detect the familiar stirrings of panic beginning to arise within her. She fought internally with herself - trying to talk herself down into believing that being locked inside of this dark and abandoned room was nothing more than chance - a coincidence. The power had to come back on eventually, some electrical shortage somewhere probably just triggered the door to lock on it's own. Turning around and letting her back rest against the door, Liz closed her eyes and took slow deep breaths - trying desperately to squash that sixth sense which was telling her that something was wrong.

This isn't like Cambridge! This isn't like Cambridge!

But all the memories of Cambridge came flooding back to her despite herself. And then it happened. She let go, giving into the fear and freaking out.

"Help!" Liz shouted, her voice trembling and fully alive with the panic that had invaded her entire being. She flung herself around and began beating on the door frantically. "Somebody help me, please!" she cried. "Open the door! I swear, I didn't mean to take it," her scrambled thoughts were all over the place. "I'm sorry!" her body shook, the hot tears escaping down the sides of her face. "I'll pay for it. Please, I'll do anything just let me out of here!"

Giving up, Liz allowed herself to drop down to the floor - balling up against the door, her back using it for support. The frantic sobs were muffled now but still detectable.

"Leave me alone," she began rocking herself back and forth. "Just leave me alone." She repeated it over and over.

The sound of ringing suddenly startled her and she let out a scream.

It was her cell phone.

Picking herself up off the floor, she practically darted back to her lab station and grabbed for it. Not even bothering to check the caller ID, she answered it. "Maria?"

"Liz?" The voice on the other end sounded concerned. "Is everything okay?"

"Oh, Dr. Wallace?" Liz was a little surprised to find her doctor on the other end of the line although she had been meaning to get back in touch with her. For a minute, she thought about covering her predicament up but then thought better of it.

"We were overdue to talk. I just thought I'd check in."

"Yeah, yeah, I know - I've been meaning to get back to you," she admitted, looking around the lab, still completely engrossed in a frantic state. "And actually, everything's not alright. I lost my journal the other day - I can't find it, I thought my roommate could have stolen it, I just can't seem to get along with anybody out here and now I'm in the middle of a full blown panic attack! I think I'm losing my mind again! What if this is just like before?" Liz listed off in one quick breath.

"Okay, Liz?" Dr. Wallace instructed in a soothing manner. "This is not like before!" she stressed with a touch of firmness. "We've talked about this many times, you and I. When you start to sense these feelings, these attacks coming on - clear your head, take some deep breaths and relax."

"I already tried that. It didn't work. I'm locked inside of a dark room. The power went out," Liz explained in a hurry. It wasn't nightfall yet; however, the shadows that she swore she could see creeping across the walls petrified her.

"You're fine. Now first, clear your thoughts and then engage in the breathing exercises we've gone over together during our earliest sessions."

Liz closed her eyes, doing her best to follow the instructions. "Mind clear."

"Good. Now focus and place all your energy into taking deep breaths and then releasing them back out slowly. You can do it, Liz."

"Got it, deep breaths," Liz repeated - taking her time with the breathing exercises.

"Are you taking the medicine as I prescribed it to you?"

"Yes."

Liz deliberately chose to omit the one time she had actually forgotten to take it and how the incident had inadvertently led to the other "episode" she experienced in this very room just a very short time ago. Maybe that wasn't such a good idea though - not telling her the whole truth. However, as Dr. Wallace guided her through the exercise, she was relieved to discover that the technique was actually working this time around.

"Good, that's good, Liz."

"Maybe I never should have come out here."

"No, taking charge of your life is a positive step, Liz. There may be some set-backs along the way but I'm really proud of you. You've come a long way since we first met."

Liz still doubted her decision in spite of the support she was receiving from her psychiatrist. Maybe she would take up Dr. Connor's suggestion after all and have Dr. Wallace brought to the base for some in-person, one-on-one sessions. Suddenly, without warning, the power sprang back to life and Liz could feel the tension fade.

"Dr. Wallace? The power just came back on. I think I'm going to be okay now." However, after several seconds with no response back, Liz soon discovered that it was because she had lost reception. "Dr. Wallace, are you still there?" she tried one more time.

Nothing.

"Great," she mumbled, after checking her phone. Signal faded, it read back at her. Clicking it shut, she instinctively took another look in the direction of the door; she found it ajar and her eyes narrowed when she shifted her gaze and caught sight of something small, square, and leather-bound lying on top of one of the silver stretchers near the sinks.

Her journal?

Liz took quick strides towards the stretchers and was shocked to find that it was indeed her misplaced journal sprawled on top of the silver stretcher, the one located closest to the open door, as if it had been waiting there for her this whole time. But she knew that it hadn't been sitting there before.

Or had it?

Picking it up to examine it, Liz skimmed through the contents inside. Nope, nothing appears to be missing, she quickly concluded - everything seemed to be in order with all the pages still intact. So, then, what the hell was going on? Her mind raced with all the possibilities. Was it remotely possible that she really had left it here in the lab and had forgotten? Was somebody playing games with her? After all, high security positions such as these must have done their homework. Therefore, it wouldn't be totally off-base to assume that someone here knew about her troubled past. Or had she really just forgotten to take it back with her because she experienced another "episode" she couldn't recollect? Or, maybe, did one of her fellow colleagues accidentally lift it from the lab and take it back with them by mistake - only to return it back today once they realized they had it in their possession?

Liz was starting to become less and less sure about everything these days but that didn't stop the chills that were forming once again and she just wanted to get out of here for the day. With the journal secured firmly in hand, Liz ran back to gather her stuff. She bolted for the partially opened door, turning and running down the corridor. Her wandering state of mind brought her crashing into the only other warm body now sharing the same space with her.

"Liz?"

Looking up, she was relieved to find that it was only Matthew. She grasped onto him, embracing him as tightly as she could. "Matthew! Thank god it's you."

X

The walk back to the bunker had been a long and silent one; however, Matthew sensed that Liz wanted space - needed it, so he was merely offering her his company tonight. It was dark outside by this time and Liz hadn't wanted to take the walk back alone. After they had literally collided into each other back at the research facility, Liz appeared to be in somewhat of a state of panic. She had wanted to know if he had seen anybody loitering in the halls in which he responded to her with a confused sounding "no." However, she seemed to calm down a little after he had confirmed for her that he, too, had gotten stuck in the power blackout.

Those occur from time to time, he had told her. It's nothing to worry about - you'll get use to them after awhile.

They had completed the walk to the bunker on base.

"Look, sorry for just throwing myself at you like that," Liz opened up. They had stopped walking and she sounded somewhat embarrassed by her behavior now that the freak-out moment had passed and she had time to reflect back on it. "I really don't know what came over me, that's usually not like me at all."

Matthew smirked. "Apologies are completely unnecessary. This is definitely a ... " he paused, trying to think of the right word to use, "a unique place to find yourself working in," he settled on. "I would say that some early morning - or in your case," he amended, "late afternoon working jitters isn't that out of the ordinary," he made light out of it.

Liz smiled in return. She appreciated his attempts at some mild humor.

"Seriously though," he continued. "Being here takes a little getting use to. I mean, it can begin to feel a little claustrophobic to an outsider who's use to coming and going as they please. Believe it or not, it is a way of life here - just like any place else. Living and working on this base long term does require an adjustment period."

"Well, thanks for saying," her voice was full of gratitude, "but I'm sure the last thing you probably need is some female basket-case crying all over your shoulder."

Matthew turned the key inside the door. His door.

"My shoulder is free for the night," he smiled.

"Maybe this isn't such a good idea?" Liz's doubts resurfaced again.

At first, Liz had dreaded the idea of being alone or even worse, heading back to her own bunker only to encounter Serena. Liz was already picking up the extremely weird vibrations coming from that end and her roommate definitely possessed some uncanny sixth sense to know when something was amiss. Quite frankly, she just wasn't in the mood to go another round of Serena's twenty questions; therefore, Matthew had graciously offered to loan out use of the couch at his place if she really felt like it was needed. Liz hadn't gone into details with him, just to tell a little white lie in saying that her roommate would be otherwise engaged for the rest of the evening.

Matthew paused. "Well," he sighed. "I suppose I could always use your couch," he teased. "Of course, that's another twenty minutes across base."

"No, I mean, maybe me being alone isn't such a bad idea after all." Liz averted her eyes away in a guilty fashion.

"Hey, no funny stuff - I promise," he put up his hands, his eyes twinkling underneath the faint glow being cast off by the full moon, as he sensed where her concerns were probably lying with the prospect of the two of them being confined all alone together inside his house.

The sky was also a hovering mass of stars tonight and Liz's attention had momentarily fallen there.

"No, no ... " Liz began to protest in an embarrassed fashion - "I didn't mean to imply that you, that we - " she stumbled over her words. "Okay, god, I sound like an idiot!"

"Liz?!" Matthew began to protest against her protests; however, he got cut off.

"Matthew, look," she sighed, closing her eyes for the briefest of seconds. "You seem like a really nice guy and all but this just isn't going to work out."

He looked stumped. "Okay. Consider me officially confused."

"I'm just not looking for anything serious and I don't know if I've made that clear or not."

He laughed. "Okay, whoa, slow down. Did I miss something here because I thought things were going pretty well between us."

"Getting close to me just isn't a good idea," she finally blurted out. "Trust me."

He took a moment to digest her choice of words. His features tightened just a smidget, as if he were really considering her words carefully - considering for the first time that maybe getting to know her wasn't really the best idea after all. Liz thought she could almost sense the pull - him pulling away from her, closing himself off from her. She couldn't explain how she could detect it; there was something surrounding him - an energy field or an aura of some sort. But worst of all, she didn't want to lose someone who could potentially turn out to be a good friend in the end, especially not when she already felt completely alone in this place as it was.

"Liz, relax. This wasn't an invitation to do anything you didn't want to do. Really, I'm just here to listen because I thought that's what you needed. A friend. But if you're that uncomfortable, I have no problems with walking you the rest of the way back to your own place."

The logical part of her did battle with her feelings.

"Right." Liz glanced once in the direction that would lead her back to her own living quarters and then looked back at Matthew hovering just before the door. God, if he didn't think she was loopy before he sure must now - she thought to herself. Hesitating for another moment, she finally gave in and made her decision. "So, then, no funny stuff, right?" she tried to take out the seriousness from the discussion that had arisen within the last couple minutes.

Matthew's guarded demeanor lifted away and he was back to his easygoing self. "Just my poor taste in really bad jokes."

"Definitely manageable," she smiled back.

Liz followed Matthew inside, intending on leaving all feelings of doubt and insecurity on the front steps for the night.

X

Flashback - (Roswell, New Mexico) January, 2001

The bell could be heard overhead - the familiar jingling sound reaching Liz's ears as she waltzed through the swinging door with expertise, the same door connecting the back room to the restaurant floor of the Crashdown Cafe.

Her stomach lurched, her heart skipped a beat - she couldn't help it. But a migraine suddenly hit her hard - they had been coming and going these past couple weeks; however, they were returning with more frequency and with much more intensity. Even though the chances were slim to none and it had been weeks since she last saw his face, a nervous anticipation still arose in the pit of her stomach each and every time the doorbell chimed. But the disappointment always quickly followed suit. And it was no different this time - as she looked up, the hope disintegrated like it had a thousand times in the past month, sending her heart plummeting and crashing into millions of pieces. When she had finally broken down with the truth, she had at least anticipated breaking down with the whole truth. It was so pointless to walk around feeling this lousy without having confessed everything. The holidays had lingered on - Max purposefully avoiding her, and with the exception of her parents, Christmas and New Year's had been lonely and unbearable.

In through the door, walked a young man Liz had never laid eyes on before. She quickly skirted over behind the far end of the counter, reaching down on the shelf - she grabbed for the small bottle of aspirin she kept there now in case of an emergency. This was definitely one of those times - she couldn't work without it. Not that they did much good; however, at least it helped to take off the edge. Twisting the cap off, she poured one out and popped it into her mouth - tilting her head backwards as she swallowed it down. Her attention returned to the handsome stranger.

"Yo'," he walked up to the counter and flashed the waitress standing behind it his best, most confident smile.

Liz couldn't help but roll her eyes at the obvious display of flirtation. The grin came across with such expertise - emanating from it was a slight touch of arrogance, an arrogance perfected over time so that it shined with just the right amount of sex appeal to lure its victim in - in this case, the unfortunate waitress named Becky who was washing down the counter top in this very moment. Bait for the hook, Liz thought with some disgust. Okay, so maybe that wasn't completely fair of her, she quickly relented. After all, she was feeling very bitter regarding the whole prospect of love and dating relationships in general right now. But there definitely was a fine-line between the sexy, bad boy persona that drew alot of women in shamelessly with their ability to say just the right things at the right times and the downright rude and cocky pig version of a guy that was sickeningly appalling. But this guy knew exactly how to carry himself as the former - a bad boy type who carried himself with such a sense of ease, Liz noted.

And just the opposite of Max. Which could be a good thing right about now.

"Could you tell me if a Maria Deluca works here?"

Maria? This guy knew Maria? Her Maria? After overhearing Maria's name brought up in the small verbal exchange, Liz quickly located a washcloth and headed for one of the empty booths. In a discreet manner, she did her very best to appear totally immersed in the task at hand while trying to eavesdrop on the conversation at the same time.

"Um, yeah, actually there is," the bashful smile coming from the waitress clashed with the guy's confident grin. "But she's not working tonight. I don't even think she's on the schedule again 'til Friday. Sorry," she shrugged. The look on her face fell somewhere in between - feeling disappointed for her own sake because she couldn't help and apologetic on his behalf.

"Oh, well," the handsome stranger's smiled widened. "That sucks," he laughed just enough to put the waitress at ease and allow her to still feel included.

Her small nervous laugh accompanied his.

"Like I said - sorry," her voice hitched and went like nine octaves beyond valley-girl. She was now nervously toying with the ends of her hair.

Yup, these two were totally flirting. Gross, Liz thought, and she resisted the immediate urge to stick out her tongue on reflex to this encounter.

"Let's see," then he reached for his wallet located in the back pocket of his pants. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to help a guy out here and tell me where it is that I might be able to find her?"

He flashed a twenty-dollar bill between his fingers in front of her face.

Liz may have managed to resist sticking out her tongue before; however - right now, she couldn't stop herself from peering back over her shoulder and catching the bribe in action. She huffed under her breath. Wow, this guy really was a piece of work.

"Um ..." the waitress hesitated.

The stranger went for broke - pulling out the irresistible puppy dog eyes. "Please," he leaned down, resting one arm down against the counter top as he brought himself closer to her. "An address - a phone number, just something to point me in the right direction."

"Uh - sorry, but I'm really not suppose to give out any personal information on the employees even if I did know it."

"Okay, uh - " his eyes darted to her name tag, "Rebecca, is it?"

That's it, no more standing by because this guy just didn't know when to quit. It was time to get involved in the drama so Liz threw the dirty rag against the table and turned in the direction of the encounter that was still actively taking place.

"Yeah, but everybody usually calls me Becky," the waitress nervously pushed a strand of her red hair back behind one ear.

"Right, Becky. Maybe we're just not speaking the same language yet," he reached back into his wallet - producing a hundred dollar bill the second time around. "If you can't point me in the right direction, perhaps you know somebody who can?"

Liz caught the last remarks.

"Actually, that direction will now be me. I'm Elizabeth Parker but everyone around here calls me Liz," she pushed her way straight into the conversation. "Um, my parents own this restaurant so, lucky for me, I get to have you kicked out of here at anytime I feel like it. Maria happens to be a very good friend of mine and Becky's shift just officially ended, oh - about two minutes ago," Liz glanced down at the time displayed on her wrist watch. Her attention then fell to the other waitress. "It's alright, Becky, I can actually take it from here," she smiled back over at her.

The stranger turned to stare at Liz. "Whoa - what the hell just crawled up your attitude and died?" he cracked.

"You!" Liz shot right back. "For your information, this is a restaurant - a place of actual business, not some illegal gambling ring where you get to place bets on which waitress you think will be the first one to give you the information you need." Her eyes shot down to the money he still held in his hand.

The stranger snorted - he was clearly not bothered by her snarky retorts. He crumpled up the money inside his hand.

Liz looked back at Becky. "See you tomorrow, Rebecca."

Becky issued Liz an uncertain smile and then gave a weak wave to signal her departure as she finally excused herself from the discussion. While walking away, she removed her apron and the alien-themed head band decorative that was a part of the uniform ensemble at the Crashdown. Liz watched her go, as did the stranger standing right beside her.

"Actually, on second thought," the stranger moved to sit himself down on one of the stools, "what rock did you even crawl out from under?" he immediately shot his attention straight back to Liz. "I didn't even see you around here a second ago." He made a deliberate show of looking around the restaurant.

Liz was trying to keep her cool but it was becoming increasingly difficult. "Look, the kitchen's closing in like another half an hour - if you're not going to order anything you can leave. The sign posted out front says no loitering, no soliciting."

Another cocky grin fell into place. Liz narrowed her eyes - she felt like slapping it right off, she could read these guys like an open book. A tingling spurt of energy sparked to life inside of her; however, she didn't pay too much mind to it. She just wanted to get rid of this guy out of her family's restaurant as fast as she could. But, nope, no such luck.

"Menu, please?" he held out his hand.

Feeling even more irritated now than she was before, Liz marched behind the counter, grabbed for one of the menus, and then just about slammed it down in front of him. All the while, most of her reactions were just proving to egg him on more rather than annoying or discouraging him in any real sense. Liz threw herself into work mode - reaching for her pen and order pad.

"Anything to drink?" her voice was cold and distant.

"Uh," he laughed, the smirk never leaving his face. He grabbed for the menu, opening and scanning the contents at snail pace. "Sure, let's see."

Liz started to tap her foot impatiently behind the counter. He was enjoying this - she could just feel it, he got off on making other people squirm.

"What do you recommend?"

Liz huffed, loud enough so he could hear. "Are you serious?"

"Hey, look, babe - your customer service skills? A little rocky there, okay?" His face contorted as he rethought about it. "Actually, no, lets be frank about it - they outright suck!" he laughed at her. "And you might want to actually try smiling once and awhile when taking someone's order. After all, you uniform types," he nodded his head in the direction of hers, "do fall back on all those hard earned tips."

"Okay, then," Liz gritted between some teeth. "How about some cherry cola?! With arsenic!" she quickly added on, recollecting Maria's inventive rebuff back in the day when she and Michael were the ones see-sawing back and forth in their rocky relationship. It was funny how things could change. "Maria tells me that one's really popular with the guys. Or," she mocked him some more, before he could cut back in with a response, while flashing him a big fake smile, "I hear shaving cream soda is like the new root beer?!"

He nodded his head - mocking her by acting like he was actually taking into consideration what she was suggesting. "Ah, there we go, Maria -" he responded. "Now that sounds like something I'd be interested in."

"Who the hell are you?" Liz demanded to know.

He leaned closer. "Aw," he played with her some more. "But things were going so well between us. Why go and ruin such a good thing with names?" Then there was a deliberate pause as he searched her face. "Oh, wait, that's right," he snapped his fingers, "you already gave yours up. Liz."

"Is everything seriously just a joke with you?"

For the first time, the smirk faded and a serious look took root. "Not everything."

The sudden shift of his tone when he uttered those two words, combined with the serious way in which he was now staring at her, momentarily gave her the chills. The creepy kind of chills. The intensity hidden behind his stare was just a little bit too much for two people who had just met for the first time. However, the look coming from behind his eyes seemed to want to tell her a completely different story, or at least, believed it. It was then that Liz shifted on her feet - turned around to move out from behind the counter, and when the stranger assumed that she was leaving him there to rot, he quickly jumped in with the introductions.

"The name's Sean," he relented. "Sean Deluca. Maria's my cousin, well - " he amended, "distant cousin. We weren't really that close growing up." To his apparent relief, Liz wasn't leaving - she had only made her way back around to the other side of the counter and was now standing just a few feet away from him.

"Cousin?" Liz repeated - not quite believing it. "Seriously - you're not screwing around with me or anything?" she pushed. A devilish grin set back into place and before Sean had the chance to throw in a wise crack retort, Liz quickly intervened. "Don't answer that," she briefly closed her eyes - kicking herself for her own choice of words.

"Why? Screwing around with you might actually prove to be fun. Don't knock it until you've tried it," he delivered.

Liz felt her face flush as the heat rushed to her face. However, the sensation hadn't arisen because of any embarrassment she was feeling from her end but rather from the growing anger that was pulsing everywhere inside of her due to him. And she couldn't stop it, the tingling sensations were coming at quicker intervals and in more intense forms. Bursts of hot energy were just begging to be released; and for a moment, she feared she might spontaneously combust. The migraine suddenly returned in full force - she brought one hand to her forehead while the other squeezed onto the order pad held tightly at her side. She was so distracted by her sudden plight that she hadn't even paid any attention to the bell chiming over the door as another new customer walked inside.

And then she recognized the voice.

"Is there a problem here?"

Max. The tone he carried was different - void of any of the anger, hurt, or resentment that had spilt forth weeks ago upstairs inside her bedroom and on her balcony. He actually sounded, was it concerned? Maybe even a little bit - alarmed?! The next thing she knew, she felt Max leaning in next to her - the movement was so subtle and swift, and he was resting a comforting hand against her lower back. She couldn't explain why but all of a sudden she felt those tingling explosions, the same ones that were coarsing everywhere throughout her body - slow down, lose energy, and subside altogether until she was finally replaced with a very gentle and relaxing sensation. It was actually pretty soothing - until the next wise ass remark passed from Sean's lips.

"No problem here, man," Sean smirked, clearly taking his time to enjoy sizing up the competition. "Little Lizzie and I were actually just engaging in a little, healthy foreplay. No harm done. But, hey, you know - " he shrugged casually, "if you feel like joining in next time, give me a call ahead of time. I'll be sure to put you on my MySpace account."

Max shot him a death glare.

Sean's wide grin resurfaced. "Who are you anyway, like her big brother or something?"

Max ignored the obvious attempts being made by the newcomer at getting under his skin. "Liz, can I talk to you in the back for a second?"

Before she had a chance to respond, he was forcefully pushing her to to back, and during the process managed to grab a hold of her arm so he could continue pulling her there. The anger was suddenly returning in spades - just who the hell did he think he was ushering her off like that, like a piece of property? Right after they had glided through the swinging doors leading to the kitchen - Liz yanked her arm free.

"Don't ever do that again, Max!" her voice rose. "I can find my own way to the kitchen; I'm not a child. Don't ever treat me like one."

Max bit his tongue and instead held up his hand to halt an argument. He had wanted to tell her to stop acting like one but didn't. That's not why he had come here, the purpose was not to engage in another verbal confrontation before he had the chance to say what he needed to say to her and get the rest of the answers he wanted. Liz stared back; however, his reaction signaled one thing to her. It was suddenly clear to Liz - that at least he wasn't here to fight. It was a good sign.

"Liz?!" the urgency in his tone took her off guard. "Your hand was glowing red out there - how come you didn't see or feel that?!" he confessed to her - glancing down at her right hand, the one that still held the order pad tightly within it's grip. "I saw the heat - the heat coming from your hand was causing the pad to smoke."

Heat? Smoke? Coming from her hand? Liz became lost in a daze - her facial expression the only response she was offering back. She found herself slowly shaking her head in denial.

"Look," his head nod indicated the pad, "if you don't believe me. If I hadn't come in here when I had, I don't know what would have happened but I'm glad we didn't have to find out. I saw it from outside - just after I got here."

Liz's eyes shot down to it. As she turned the order pad over in her hand to observe it more closely, she was shocked to discover scorch marks. "Oh my god," her eyes widened in disbelief - not sure what to make of what she was staring at.

Holy cow! When Ava had said "different," that I was now different, something like this never even crossed my mind. I burnt something completely on my own?!

"Max?" the shock was evident among the pleading tone.

"Is that the first time something like this has happened?" Max questioned. He moved to take the order pad out of her hand and carefully inspected it himself.

"Um, yeah," Liz nodded slowly, thinking and still feeling dazed and confused - completely taken aback. Another shocking revelation hit her head on. "And oh my god - Sean!" she declared, suddenly bringing her hands up to cover her face in the waking realization of something so horrible. "He was sitting right there in front of me! Max, oh my god, what if he saw it - what if he saw me doing that?" she panicked. "What if he tells somebody?"

"I don't think he did," Max tried to sound reassuring but even he couldn't be positive. It had all happened so fast before he gotten inside. "Do you know what triggered it?" In a distracted manner, Max had taken another few steps back towards the swinging doors - peering out the small window and into the restaurant. His eyes shifted over to the counters.

"I don't know, just stupid things. Annoying things, things he was just saying out there to get under my skin. I think I might have felt this spark of energy - when I felt angry at him. Later, it just exploded and took on a life of it's own." She sounded really concerned by the prospect. What if this happened again and she couldn't control it? What if Max wasn't there to help prevent something disastrous from taking place? "I've also been having these really intense migraines over the past few weeks or so," she thought to confess. "Aspirin isn't touching them."

A concerned expression graced Max's face. He turned to look at her. "They've just begun in the last month? You mean since ... " he averted his eyes towards the floor, coming to the conclusion the same time Liz voiced it.

"Since I pushed myself to tap into Isabel's power and help save you?" she directed the conclusion at him. "Yeah, pretty much."

"Doing that is what must have triggered whatever happened out there just now," he reasoned. "Activated a part of your brain that usually stays dormant in most humans."

"Great!" She threw her arms up and then back down at her sides. "So, then, what do I do now?" her voice sounded strained - tired. She brought her hands to her forehead to fight off the beginnings of another starting to take effect.

"We'll figure something out." No direct eye contact was made. "But the good news is that he's gone for now." Max moved to walk away from the door.

"Like I said, great," Liz mumbled, not sounding convinced, as she dropped her arms back at her sides for the second time. She wished she felt as confident as Max sounded. Of course, she sensed that was just an act. His guilt was splashing all over him like waves.

"Max, I don't blame you."

"Who is he?" Max tried his best to force the question out as casually as possible - without any hidden jealous undertones mixing in with it.

He intentionally avoided responding to the declaration made by Liz just seconds before because he couldn't accept it as the truth. Of course, this was his fault. He was the one who had healed her, he was the one who had now sentenced her to a life that would never be normal - she wasn't going to have her normal life with her normal guy and normal kids to boot? This was a big fat mess - for everyone involved. What if things got weirder - how would they handle it? Michael, Isabel, Tess and himself barely knew much about themselves, let alone, how to handle a situation Liz was now finding herself trapped in. And to top it off, this had now completely side-tracked him from what he had originally come here to do.

"Just some jerk that doesn't know his brain from his biceps," she cracked. She ran her hands through her hair, an anxious gesture. "Actually, the biceps aren't even that great either," she laughed a little before a bashful look took root on her face soon after.

Max's face broke into a smirk.

Liz sighed. "He finally got around to introducing himself as Maria's cousin or so he says," she relayed her doubts to him. "He came in here looking for her."

"Maria's cousin?"

"Yeah, Sean."

"But - you've never seen him before?" Max's brows furrowed in contemplation. "Never met him before?" his curiosity was piqued.

"No. But he said they weren't close so, I don't know, maybe he's telling the truth. I'm probably just being paranoid after everything that's happened," she huffed out in one huge breath - surveying the dirty tiled floor just briefly - a floor in desperate need of some mopping. Looking back over at Max, she still managed to catch his body language and he visibly tensed. Liz quickly changed the subject. "But, uh, thanks for whatever it was you did out there. It helped."

"Sure."

An uncomfortable silence arose between them.

"Liz, look, there was actually another reason I came over here," he finally admitted, the distraction relating to Liz's unexpected power boost being put to rest for the time being. They both knew what topic of discussion was coming next - it wasn't like they could just take a magic pencil and erase the events that went down weeks ago.

"Max, if this is about before, I'm sorry - I know I can't stress that enough but if you were planning on coming here and sticking it to me another five rounds," her voice broke a little, "you'll have to take a number," she moved to walk past him, heading straight for the door that would take her to the backstairs leading to her apartment situated just above the restaurant. "Because, honestly, the past month alone has been punishment enough for me and considering my current state of mind, I think I might be capable of doing even more damage that I might not be able to control."

"No, I don't think so," he refuted, shaking his head as he briefly reflected on it. As she went to move past him, he reached out to grab her arm, swinging her back around and preventing her from leaving the room. "Liz? I'm about one of the only people you know in this world who can withstand that kind of damage - so I'll take my chances." His voice was firm, Liz noted, but not angry or condescending at all. It was a place to start. Slowly, he let go of her arm and she remained stationary. "I need some answers," he declared. "Real answers. It's the only way I'll ever be able to truly ... " he struggled with the words, "move on."

Their eyes locked. There was so much unspoken emotion dancing between them.

Liz broke eye contact first. "Fine," she relented.

Flinging her arms up in the air at her sides, Max watched the open display of body language as they also came back down to rest again. She turned and began pacing the length of the square table, her entire backside facing him while she was lost deep in thought. She already knew there was more she needed to tell him - pertinent facts he still did not know about. However, she decided to let him lead the discussion. He could just ask and she would just tell. Hm, would he lose his cool and collected demeanor once he heard everything? The truth about Future Max and the reality he came from? About the necessity really lying behind him and Tess reconnecting - in this life, in order to defeat their enemies? The bile rose in her throat, it came uninvited; however, Liz couldn't prevent it.

Max just continued to observe from a distance.

"Go ahead," she pushed, spotting a huge butcher knife lying on the kitchen table. Picking it up, she examined the sharp tip on close inspection. She thought about how it would feel - the tip of the knife plunging deep into her heart.

Isn't that what had already happened anyway?

"Not here," Max surprised her by inching up on her from behind and gently removing the huge knife from out of her grasp. She let him. Placing it back down, his gaze traveled back over in the direction of the grills - where the cook was busy finishing up the last of the orders for the day. Like Maria, Michael was also off today - they had spent the holidays together and had both received the time off. Jose was stuck manning the grills by himself, desperately needing the money to pay for his rent. Liz followed to exactly where Max's line of sight landed. "I wanted to go somewhere," he paused - his face turning back to meet hers, "a little more private."

"Where? My parents are home so we can't go upstairs ... "

"No, I already have a place in mind," he cut off her protest before she could even finish the thought. "But we'll need to take a drive," he reached into his side pocket and pulled out the keys to his jeep. He headed for the side door exit leading out into the alleyway.

Liz stood still for several seconds before moving to leave.

"Coming?" Max announced back over his shoulder after taking quick notice that Liz hadn't moved to follow behind him.

"Yeah."

x

The drive up to Buckley's point was even more awkward than she had imagined it would be. At least, that was where she found out that Max had intended to go after hopping into the jeep beside him - back to the final destination point that had officially signaled the end to an era. How depressing, Liz thought as the vast desert air had sped up all around her - sending her long brown hair flying in a multitude of directions. Night had fallen; therefore, it was hard to make out much of anything except the dark sky and the thousands of stars hovering high above them everywhere. The entire ride had been nothing but silence - neither one uttering a single word.

Now, forty-five minutes later, the jeep rolled over the hard and rocky surface of road leading to the one place, quite honestly, Liz never wanted to set eyes on again. This was the scene of their official break-up. It was also the place the aliens had come to label and identify as the pod chamber. Liz also knew that this was where the Granolith was stashed away - hidden from enemy aliens who would do just about anything to get their hands on it. This thing - whatever it was suppose to be, was treasured as precious cargo by Max's people. It was something extremely powerful and dangerous if it ever fell into the wrong hands; however, it was also the one instrument responsible for destroying Liz's future - taking away her dreams and the one person she had come to love and care about so deeply that there weren't even any appropriate words to do the feelings justice. This artifact had transported Future Max to a time and place that was no longer his own - to her, to crush her heart and release her into a future unknown.

Liz could still remember just like it was yesterday. She was running down the steep, rocky incline - running away from him, from "her" - Tess. Running away from the confirmation she had dreaded hearing, starting from the day his lips locked with Tess's under the pouring rain. Manipulation on Tess Harding's part or not, those two still had been strangely drawn to each other from the first moment Tess stepped foot in Roswell and Liz now knew why. She had her answer, as unwanted and unwelcoming as the truth was for her. All Future Max had done by visiting all those weeks back was bang the final nail into the coffin, a coffin that was already delivered to them through the message that came from that orb - via Max's Antarian mother. Future Max was just the official seal of approval, Liz concluded.

The car stopped. Max killed the ignition and he stared ahead for a moment.

The sting felt just as fresh as the day he remembered chasing Liz out of the pod chamber and onto the rocky incline. He had done everything in his power to reassure her, at least he thought so at the time, to make her see - to make her understand that it didn't matter what anyone said about them. Not Michael, not Isabel, not Nascedo, not Tess, not even a mother he couldn't remember from another lifetime - no one could make him live a life he wasn't willing to accept on his own. It was a life he refused and scoffed at because he felt like he didn't want it, not unless that life somehow included Liz. However, whether he wanted it or not, the truth was that he had come to discover his true identity, he struggled with it - fought against it; however, it was no use. He was who he was, a King, and not just any King but a King destined to save another world. Destined to return to a home he could no longer recall, to a life that really wasn't his own. Because with his title, came immense responsibilities - duties and obligations, and sometimes that meant letting go and doing what was in the best interest of everyone, what was needed to be done, even if those decisions hurt like hell for him or others involved. Perhaps, it really had been selfish of him to try and hold on to Liz the way he had? Was he really just leading her on all that time - filling her with a sense of false hope when he could very well have to leave here one day to fulfill his moral duty to his home planet? As pissed off as he still was, he loved Liz - even in the wake of everything that had happened between them. He always would love her but that didn't mean that love always conquered in the end. This wasn't a fairytale - it was real life and in real life, happy endings weren't a guarantee and curve balls usually had a way of finding you on the baseball field of life.

"We can go inside," Max finally volunteered. "The pods inside of the chamber will cast off some light - it's dim, but it's more than what we'll get out here."

Liz lifted herself out of the jeep, not even waiting for Max to help her out; she and Max then began the ascent up the incline that would take them to the place where the pod-squad were "born." When they reached the top, Liz observed from the background as Max used his hand to open the entrance. A silver glowing hand print appeared below Max's hand on the surface of rock and a few seconds later - a hissing sound erupted, a sound momentarily startling Liz and causing her to jump. It was just the sound of rock foundation separating itself and creating a way inside.

Max entered first - Liz following closely behind.

He was right. The glow emanating from the pods did give off light - it was very much like a greenish fluorescent shine bouncing off the cave walls. She watched as Max moved further inside to take a seat on a rocky stump. The hissing sound resumed again, Liz turned - witnessing the chamber door closing shut behind them.

"Don't worry - we can get out just like we got in."

Liz walked over to join Max, forcing her nervous jitters to subside. Of course they would be able to get out - how ridiculous of her to think otherwise. Despite everything that went down between them these past months, she still trusted Max with her life. Taking a seat a couple of spaces away from him, she waited for the inevitable to come to pass.

"So - what haven't you told me?" he finally opened up - after a few moments of contemplative thought. She wasn't the only one with the nervous jitters and a part of him might still be angry but another part of him feared what she would say - feared her rejection of him all over again.

"What?" she was a little taken aback by his blunt forwardness. He was looking straight down at the ground when he asked her the question - not directly at her.

"What are you keeping from me?" his voice carried a touch of impatience when rephrasing the question for her. "I know that you're not telling me everything. There has to be a reason why you and Kyle both thought it was okay to set me up. I've been wracking my brain these past weeks for a reason that makes sense and there just isn't one. So what is it?"

Max turned to face her this time and there was no timidness, no sign of the shy, reserved boy from over a year ago. His face was set in clear cut determination - intent on getting to the bottom of the truth.

"Max, don't blame Kyle for this - okay? Please. I asked him to do this as a favor to me - he didn't even know the real reason behind why I was doing it."

"Then I'd say that makes it even worse for him," Max reasoned, challenging her position on Kyle. "There was no other reason for him to go along with it except in getting his chance to stick it to me. He knew what he was doing."

"Max, it's not like that."

Max huffed to himself in disbelief. "I save his life and this is what I get in return."

Liz sighed. "Max?!"

"Liz, don't!" he cut off her protest. He really wasn't in any mood to sit next her while she rattled on in defense of Kyle and his actions. "Kyle was shot - he could have died last year. And I've always known that there's been this part of him that continued to resent me even after the healing - I knew that, I felt it. I get all that but this isn't about me regretting or having second thoughts about what I did for him. I'd do it again. But what he did, he knew he was doing it."

"You knew too."

It came out just barely above a whisper but Max still made it out.

"Excuse me?"

"I said you knew too!" her voice hitched, emotion jumping out from the words. This time, Liz turned to face him head on. "Another version of you did; your future self knew about everything we did. This isn't about Kyle, Max - it's about you and me."

Liz's eyes had watered over - she bit against her lower lip, a nervous gesture. From his end, he was staring back at her, digesting her words, while considering the possibility that she had actually gone mad. After further contemplation, Max thought back to earlier on - perhaps now wasn't a good time to address this because of the changes she was experiencing?

"Say something," she pushed when he didn't answer her back.

"Say what?" he retorted. "What am I suppose to say to that, Liz, except - are you absolutely sure that you're okay?" he was trying extremely hard to contain the anger bubbling just below the surface. "Because none of what you're saying is making a whole lot of sense to me right now."

This was her cop out - the best she could come up with? Inventing a story and placing the blame back on him? Unbelievable!

Liz bolted from her seat. "I am not crazy, Max, okay?" she became defensive.

Max bolted up next - confronting Liz's emotional onslaught.

"Liz, I didn't say you were crazy but what the hell are you talking about? So far, I haven't heard one damn explanation that really makes me understand why you thought faking a night with Kyle was something that you needed to do."

An incredulous but sad smile appeared on her face. "You think I'm making this up. I saw the look on your face, Max, you think I'm lying to you." She ran both hands through her hair and began pacing a safe distance away from him.

"Liz, what am I suppose to think?" her reaction caused him to instantly regret the way he was doubting her. If Max didn't know any better, Liz really believed the story she was trying to engage him in. Max attempted to reach out and grab a hold of her. Maybe if he just got to touch her for the briefest of seconds - he'd be able to ignite a connection and see what she was trying to tell him? But she pushed him away.

"No, don't touch me!"

He flinched against the sudden hostility that had arisen within her. "Maybe you should just start over again from the beginning."

"No, no - take me home," her eyes closed and her head began shaking from side to side. "I want to go home, Max, take me home. I really thought I would be able to handle this right now but I can't." She darted for the entrance.

Max refused to budge. "No! I deserve an answer and I'm not leaving here until I get one from you," he threatened - but instantly felt the guilt coarse through him the moment he glimpsed the fear that passed over her face. His intention was never to make her afraid of him - even if he was feeling absolutely furious with her.

"Max, let me out of here!" she cried, banging her hands against the solid rock. "Right now!" The hand banging increased until it became full-on fist banging.

Max moved to stop her - just to prevent her from bringing any unnecessary physical harm to herself. He grabbed for her wrists - "Liz, stop."

"Let go!" She attempted to use her constricted wrists and beat them against his chest.

"Liz, I said stop, you're going to hurt yourself."

"I did it because of you - because you asked me to!" she lashed out and stopped thrashing about. They were standing perfectly still and Max finally released her. "There, okay?! You wanted your answer, now there, let me out of here!" she demanded.

Precious seconds of silence elapsed in between them while they just stood there staring. Staring at each other.

"Hold on," Max's hurt and anger was shining at full force. "Liz, are you kidding me? If I actually believe that, the defense to your behavior over the course of the last few months - the excuse for why you've been pushing me away this entire time, is going to be to blame me for doing something I didn't do yet - or rather, something that I am not even aware of doing at all? Something I didn't get a say in? Liz, you've been standing here telling me you're not crazy but do you realize how crazy that sounds?"

"It happened, Max."

"That's just it - what happened, Liz? I still don't understand what that was."

"You came to me, Max. You came from the future - through the Granolith!" she threw her arms in the air, desperately trying to get the story out in a cohesive manner - once and for all. "You wanted to know before you left for New York, you asked me how I knew about the Granolith? Well, that's how, Max! You told me about it, your future self did, it's how you traveled back from the future to the past. The Granolith transported you here." The tears were streaming down fast - she looked so vulnerable and lost.

Max was struck speechless as he tried to absorb the information.

"I didn't believe it was really you at first, I really didn't. But you knew things, impossible things - he knew them and these were things that no one could have known. You said - he said," she tried her best to correct the usage of persons - they were technically one in the same; however, the Max standing before her hadn't evolved into that version of himself yet and it was unlikely he ever would either. "He said that Khi'var came down here, Max. He destroyed the Earth because you were here and that without the Royal Four intact - there was very little that could be done to stop it. Tess left Roswell, Max, she left because of us."

Max felt a twinge of guilt - he didn't know why, but he was suddenly moved to breach the distance inspite of his anger and pull her into his embrace. He resisted doing it, he knew it wouldn't be welcomed at this point in time; therefore, instead - he just stood in place with his arms crossed over his chest taking in every word that slipped from her lips.

"Wait," his face contorted, after thinking about the admission some more. "You're telling me that Tess left Roswell because, you and I, we're still together," he pointed between the two of them, "as in together together."

"Yes."

"So then you made a major and final decision on us without consulting me first for my input, based on some big speech given to you by some guy you met only one time," he concluded. He didn't know whether to break into uncontrollable spouts of hysterical laughter or to react with convulsing anger. Did he ever really know her, he began to question himself. Why she wouldn't think he needed to be made aware of all this was beyond him.

"Future Max," she addressed him by name for the first time in this entire exchange with her version of Max. Folding her arms over each other, she took the required amount of steps back to the rocky stump and sat back down. "He said that the four of you made a special unit, your power balanced each other out - made you stronger. The Four Square. But without you and Tess bonded together like the two of you were always meant to be, just like Michael and Isabel are meant to be, and without cementing the relationship to your partners - it made all of you even more vulnerable to your enemies."

"Liz, how do you even know any of it is true?" His frustration did battle with the shocking message she had just finished delivering. "Some guy who shows up at your house, claiming to be me, and you just believe whatever line he has to tell you! You take his word, just like that, without any doubts at all?!" he sounded incredulous.

"I couldn't tell you, Max. He said not to - you said not to."

"And that doesn't strike you as the least bit suspicious? Why didn't you come to me, Liz, and if not to me, then at least to Michael!" he demanded to know. "If any of this is true, you kept us all in the dark about something that effects us all."

"I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be healed by you, I didn't ask for Tess to show up here, I didn't ask for your stupid destiny to get in the way," her voice hitched, the tears escaping once again and breaking free as she vented, "and I certainly didn't ask for some future version of you to show up on my balcony so he could crush me with the news that I had been right. Right to walk away from you that day here in the pod chamber because we were never meant to be. It would never be enough to save the freaking world," she vented though hot, streaming tears. "That I would never be good enough for you."

"Liz, I ... " he didn't know what he was suppose to say.

Sure, he knew what he wanted to say. That every single piece of information spilling from her tongue felt all wrong somehow, like a sick cosmic joke the universe had thought up and spit out down upon them?! That not telling him all of this from the beginning was just plain insanity and made everything alot worse - not by any means better?!

Tess bonded to him for life? Cemented together for the sake of a future that hadn't arrived yet? Deep down buried somewhere inside of himself, he reacted - his senses connected to the information that he felt meant something important; however, Tess was still the last person that came to mind when he imagined a relationship on such a level. Yes, they had grown closer together, but those feelings didn't surmount to anything that deep. And they never would either - not as long as Liz Parker was still living and breathing.

"You know, there are alot of things I didn't ask for here either. I never asked for the Special Unit to come after me. I didn't ask for Pierce, I didn't ask to be thrown into the white room and subjected to hours of his ..."

Liz brought her hands to her ears. "Stop!" she pleaded. She could remember the images from the White Room crystal clear from her connection with Max.

"I didn't ask for Michael to be so damn hard-headed so that he gets us into more trouble than it's worth half the time," his rant continued, intensifying. "And I sure as hell didn't ask for you to leave or disappear for an entire summer when I really needed you the most," he lashed out. "And I don't ever remember asking to be a King in this lifetime," he punched his fist against the rock, his ragged breaths beginning to slow. "Michael, Isabel, and I," he thought about it in deep contemplation, "we've always minded our own business here - kept to ourselves. We've never hurt anyone. But maybe they were right all along and I was wrong. I won't ever regret saving your life, Liz, but maybe it was just for the best not to have ever gotten so close! For any of us to have gotten so close to outsiders. Because now what I feared from the beginning is happening. We're all just getting hurt in the end."

"This is all my fault," Liz mumbled, staring at the ground. She was standing again - folding her arms and swaying on her feet. She felt numb. "I failed. I couldn't even do one thing right - which was to keep all this a secret like I was suppose to. I hurt us both for nothing."

"Liz ... "

"Don't say anything, Max." Her voice was suddenly filled with emotion again and it was visible just about everywhere else on her face. "We just weren't meant to be. Can we just leave it at that and both walk away with what dignity we have left?"

So she was actually still going to take it all at face value?

"Liz," his eyes closed for a brief moment, trying to compose his thoughts as best he could. "I don't know what some other version of me thought he knew but I'm telling you what I know. The idea that the world is going to end, whenever that's suppose to be," he quickly remembered that she hadn't provided him with an exact date and time, "because Tess and I don't marry - is" his mind fought for the right wording, "it doesn't fit. The fate of an entire planet resting solely in the hands of one, maybe two relationships? Sure, I mean Tess and I we're ..." he stumbled over the words, "we're sort of like friends now but that doesn't mean I want to be with her. We count on her - she counts on us, we would never turn her away or make her leave. There's no reason for her to even want to leave. And, trust me, Michael and Isabel aren't hooking up anytime soon. It's ridiculous."

His protests fell on deaf ears. He still didn't get it, Liz thought.

"Max, it doesn't matter," Liz argued. "People's feelings can change with time."

"And some feelings can never be changed."

Liz looked up at him - the words spoken matched the emotion covering his face. He wasn't going to give up, he was going to continue to believe there was another way around this - wasn't he, she reflected sadly. A part of her envied that ability he seemed to carry with him, she wished she could be just as blindly optimistic when it came down to their future.

"Come here," he instructed, reaching out for her. "I want to show you something."

"What?" a puzzled expression crossed her face.

He guided her to the pods. Then, after bending down, he crawled on his hands and knees - leading the way to the other side. Liz followed behind him and when she came up on the other side, she was shocked to discover just where it was that the Granolith was kept hidden. A door stood before them and it automatically slid open - they didn't even have to touch anything to activate or unlock it. After walking inside, Liz was greeted by the most magnificent sight. A slight pull - or tugging sensation beckoned her to come closer.

"The Granolith." She didn't even need to ask him to verify it.

The big inverted crystal structure rested overhead in a cone shaped form - it's meeting point secured on the ground just beneath it. The entire layout of the Granolith chamber was like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. She ran her hands against the walls surrounding them, making up the whole circular compartment. Maria had been in here and seen it once before, back when Michael had showed it to her. She had done her best to describe it to Liz; however, she never imagined it being anything like this. The dark tinted floor appeared very much like a smooth sheet of glass below them - so fragile looking that a person might fear cracking it with even one gentle lift of the foot.

"Go ahead and touch it."

His voice brought her out from the momentary scientific reverie she found herself lost in while observing her surroundings. "What?" the confusion spread over her face.

"Touch the center - the crystal portion. I want to see if I can make a connection coming from it back through to you," he was serious, Liz observed. "You said this other version of me came from the future, right? And that the Granolith made it possible for him, for me, to come here? Well, maybe there's some type of energy field left over from the time travel that can show us the truth. I need to know the truth," he stressed to her. "I need to be able to see it for myself."

Liz's expression appeared skeptical. "Uh, I don't know, Max. Do you even know how this thing works?"

"Do you want me to know the truth or not?" his voice hardened.

"Of course I want you to know, Max, that's why I told you."

"Then I need to try this - we need to try this." His voice was almost pleading, begging for her to give him this final closure.

Liz took a deep breath and then reluctantly stepped forward next to him. Gently, he took her hand and placed it against the crystal chamber. He repeated the action with one of his own hands and then brought his free hand up to rest against the side of her face. Liz involuntarily shivered at his touch - at being this close to him, it had been a long time. A faint glow suddenly sprang to life, forming a pattern around both their hands - almost like an X-ray taking a picture, only instead of their bones, it was their energy. She could feel the energy being extracted like blood into a needle; however, there was no pain.

And then it happened.

Images sprang to life - there was a connection made. Images of their life together, their wedding in Vegas. Dancing happily, barefoot in the desert sand outside of a Nevada dive, to the familiar tune of Sheryl Crow's - I Shall Believe. The others - Michael, Maria, Isabel, Alex, even Kyle, we're all in the background acting goofy as they ran around the parked cars having a good time. There were shouts of laughter at high volume when Alex retrieved some sand from the desert floor, a triumphant grin plastered across his face as he began flinging it in the direction of both Isabel and Maria. Kyle joined in. Michael walked over to the car, he reached in the trunk and popped open something to drink; however, even he was amused by the entertainment the night had to offer - only one person was noticeably absent from the festivities. But their dance never faltered in the midst of all the hyper activity surrounding them - it was like they were the only two people in the world. The images shifted, Max and Liz struggling like any young couple to maintain and upkeep an apartment - there were other memorable times, college graduations, Michael and Maria's unexpected marriage and even Alex and Isabel eventually tied the knot too. It appeared as if the pod-squad had finally succeeded in obtaining their normal existence after all but then the images shifted into ones that were more unpleasant. A volatile confrontation between Liz and Tess - Tess frantic, Max intervening, and Tess finally leaving for good. Neither Kyle nor Sheriff Valenti could stop or convince her to stay behind. Then there were flashes of various news reports warning of foreign invaders who had infiltrated government, private businesses, the news media etc. and while the term "alien" was never used - Liz knew exactly what it meant. Chaos in society had erupted - power plants shut down, gas and oil were no longer sold, and people were forced out of their jobs - martial law was finally enacted. Families were pulled from their homes, forced apart, and placed in work camps. Disease was running rampid - contaminants of the like that had never been seen before. Humans were killed on the streets if out past curfew, many were forced underground just as Max, Liz, and the others had been. The sickening images of war and destruction by an intellectually and technologically advanced race flashed quickly by. There were others from this race who did not support the war; however, training and preparing the remaining Royal Four proved to be a difficult feat if not next to impossible. The training was coming too late, time was not on their side and they lacked the bond - the connection needed to bring them to their full potential. The most troubling prospect of all, they were one man short. Tess's loyalties had shifted to the other camp and without her - the Four Square was incomplete. Max must have begun to fast-forward the images with his mind because suddenly, the pictures were flashing at full speed ahead until he reached what he sought to see. The truth, the knowledge behind everything that had led to those prior events and the purpose behind their existence on this planet they had come to know and accept as home:

The key to defeating Khi'var and his followers lie in the power formation of the Four Square - a power structure dependent upon the physical cementing and soul bonding of each pairing in the group.

Max felt his heart sink. Finally, the next image sprang to life.

Future Max and Future Liz.

They stood in the Granolith chamber - all hope was lost, Michael was gone as was Isabel from two weeks before. The truth was inevitable, to spare earth - to spare all the lives lost both human and non-human; their sacrifice was vital - pivotal in the grand scheme of things. They would only get this one shot to change things.

Max witnessed in sorrow as his future counterpart bid his version of Liz good-bye. It was the last time they would ever see each other.

The images shifted to a more familiar scenery. A balcony, Liz's swaying curtains hanging around her bedroom window. A man, clad in a vest, pair of dark jeans, and leather boots flashed into existence startling a young and surprised Liz. This future version of him made contact with her, he could see and hear the conversation taking place as clearly as if he were experiencing it himself first hand but worst of all - he could feel Liz's heart breaking. Each confirmation that passed from his counterpart's lips was like another knife jabbing into Liz; however, she refused to break. She would do what he asked - she would give in even if it killed her on the inside to do so.

It was the right thing to do.

He relived her numerous attempts to try and push him away, encounters that ate away at his soul with each passing rejection. Then, finally, the dreadful moment. The big set-up, Kyle agreeing to help but not for the reasons he initially believed. He could feel it, he - himself, his future self was also on-board with this plan. He saw himself approach the balcony, climb upwards, and finally encounter the worst sight of his life. He felt his own pain, combined with the devastating pain coarsing through Liz, at the same time. Lastly, he witnessed the final dance taking place on the balcony just before his future counterpart disappeared like a wisp in the breeze. However, it was at this moment that something more shocking occurred. The moment that his future self vanished in the flashes - he felt that consciousness mix with his current one.

He broke contact with the crystal and Liz repeated the action.

Their surprised expressions met with each other.

"I asked you to do this," his voice was full of sorrow.

It was in this moment that both of them truly understood the consequences of destiny being ignored.


(Flashback Ends)

"I asked you to do this. I asked you to do this," she mumbled over and over.

"Liz? Liz?" somebody called her name from somewhere.

"No, I asked you to do this," she repeated once again, answering to the call of her name with the same words from before.

"Liz, wake up?!" the voice gently pleaded. "You're talking in your sleep."

Liz rolled over, still half immersed inside the dream she found herself in. A dream about the past. Slowly, her eyes opened and her current surroundings came into complete focus. Matthew was standing above her.

"What happened?" she sat up, sounding half-awake. She shoved the blanket, that she didn't recall using to cover herself, aside.

"You fell asleep. By the time I got back with the coffee, you were already out like a light," Matthew smirked at her. "I just threw the blanket over you and decided to let you rest. You looked like you needed it."

"Oh?!" she brought her hand to her head - "I'm sorry. Wow, talk about being a rude house guest?" she cracked. Liz shifted her feet over to the floor and lounged back against the couch in a more comfortable sitting position.

"It's fine. But what was all that talk about asking someone to do something?"

"I don't know. Do you know what time it is?"

"Just a little after ten," he answered back.

"Wow, I slept over an hour?" the surprise in her voice was amusing to him.

"Yeah, but no worries. I charge by the minute not the hour." He got a warm smile out of her and then narrowed his eyes at her playfully. "And I'm going to take a guess that you could probably use that coffee right about now."

"Would you?" scrunching up her nose while shrugging back, feeling a little embarrassed with putting him out like this. "Sorry."

He smiled. "Not a problem. That's what coffee makers are for," he patted her knee in a friendly manner before he turned to leave.

Liz smiled as she watched him leave to the kitchen; however, a sudden rush of panic overtook her when she remembered her journal. Quickly, she began a desperate search in trying to locate it when her eyes landed on the armchair just a couple of spaces away. There, laying sprawled out on the cushion, was her journal along with her cell phone. The keys to her place were found just on top of them. With a huge sigh of relief, Liz decided it was time to give her paranoia the rest of the night off.

-X-


Maria was extremely nervous.

She just couldn't help it - her encounter with Michael left her feeling on edge in a way she hadn't felt since finding out about the cancer that was slowly ravaging her entire body, bit by bit. Sitting on the edge of her seat at the kitchen table, her anxiousness revealed itself in the form of rocking - as the legs on her chair found themselves lifted up into the air right before meeting the floor again with a succession of crashing bangs. The assault against her nails was evident too - her nails showing the clear signs of biting inflicted upon them. Her mind went over the entire incident today, what it meant for her life now, and how she was going to break the news to Tyler that he was being pulled into a world he was oblivious to simply because of his association with her. Beth was okay, thank god - and she was relieved to come back home and find that Christopher and the babysitter were in no immediate danger. Her husband would be home soon - it was late, just after one in the morning.

"Hey," Tyler greeted as he walked into the kitchen. He sounded a bit tired, resigned, not unusual for him after a long hard day at work.

And he was home early tonight.

"Hey?!" her voice sounded a bit surprised at the unexpected arrival. "You're early?"

"Yup. Thomas told me to take a break. Said he'd close up shop for tonight," he tried to make light with a tired smile. "He said the back office could do without me for a few hours. The bands we have contracted for the month are set. Jose's working the bar and inventory isn't even scheduled until next week," he listed off, relaying the information to her. "I was just trying to get a head start on it in case you needed me at the hospital."

"Right," she acknowledged distantly.

Tyler owned a small booming nightclub in the heart of downtown Manhattan. His working hours had always varied from the time it had first opened up; however, after Maria fell sick - he did his best to create a rotating schedule to allow him enough consistent access to Maria when she needed to go in for her treatments or for when his presence was needed for their kids because she couldn't there. After his own failed attempts on the road to live out his own dreams through his music, running the club had become the next best thing to actually writing and performing his own. He lived for the music - he'd often stay and watch and listen to the various groups who passed through his own establishment, reliving the moment time and time again. Things may not have panned out exactly how he had pictured for himself but he could never bring himself to regret it either. After all, the path taken had brought him to his wife - to Maria. She and the kids were his world now.

The chair rocking ceased and Maria quickly scrambled to organize her scattered thoughts. She was so lost in those thoughts she hadn't even heard the front door open or close. He sailed over to the fridge - grabbing for a cold beverage. Snapping the lid open, he brought it to his mouth taking a gulp; however, upon catching the forlorn look his wife was throwing his way he immediately picked up that something was wrong. Bringing the soda can back down, he sauntered over towards the table.

"Something wrong?" he ventured, a slight laugh flowed with the words as he tried to spark a little lightness in the serious atmosphere surrounding them. "I mean, other than the ordinary. Because I know you always handle the treatments like a pro." He always tried to boost her morale since it was just as essential, if not more, to the healing process. "So, then I take it, something else is amiss. Wait a minute, don't tell me," he mocked in a teasing fashion, a grin crossing his face - his handsome features coming to life more fully. "Let me guess. They're splitting up Bo and Hope again on Days of Our Lives?! I'm right, aren't I?!"

"I didn't watch TV at all today. So, Bo and Hope are the least of my worries, believe me. In fact, I didn't even make it on time for my treatment." Her response was barely audible and Tyler had to strain to hear.

"Why not?" he sounded concerned. Then, casting his glance downwards as he neared the kitchen table, he caught sight of the packed duffel bags. "Uh, or maybe I should be asking - going somewhere?"

His inquiry was met with nothing but a guilty silence.

"Okay, Maria. What's going on here?" he sighed, placing the soda can on the table.

All light-hearted banter was put to the side. A serious expression now graced his face. A heavy sigh escaped from her next.

"Yeah, actually, we are," she admitted, looking down and playing with her fingers. "Going somewhere that is. And I hope after you listen to everything I need to tell you - you'll be coming with us."

"Where?" he shook his head, confusion plain in his expression. "Does this have anything to do with hearing from your brother?! Is something wrong - did something happen to ..." he attempted to finish his thought but was cut off.

"It has nothing to do with Kyle," she quickly refuted. "Or - it kind of does," she reflected on second thought, "but not in any way you might think."

"Okay." There was a slight pause. "So then I guess that means you must be going back home to see Jim and your mom?" Tyler drew out the sentence slowly. "Right?"

"Not exactly," she breathed out.

"Not exactly," he repeated, the anger beginning to show. "Maria, where the hell do you think you're taking off to this late?" he demanded to know.

"Somewhere safe and before you bite my damn head off I just really need for you to hear me out, okay? No yelling, just listening."

His crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm listening."

"Maybe you want to sit down?!" she advised him.

"No, I don't think so - I'm fine right where I am," he shook his head. "Maria, quit stalling and tell me - what's all this about?" he pushed, not liking how she was acting. It didn't sound like this was good.

"I just need to get away for awhile," she opened up in a vague manner - struggling with how to broach the topic.

He threw his hands up in the air. "Are you leaving me?" he sounded astonished, the disbelief saturating his tone. "Because ..."

"NO!" her voice was loud and firm. Her eyes bulged. "That's not it!"

"Then what the hell is it?!"

Finally, he moved - yanking a chair away from the table and slamming it in front of her. He sat across it, arms stretched over the top.

"Maria, you're in the middle of chemotherapy treatment. You just can't up and leave to god knows - wherever you feel like," his tone rose. "And you sure as hell aren't just up and leaving this late at night with my kids, our kids, Maria," he stressed, "not without giving me a good goddamn reason for it! And so far I haven't heard one!"

He was face-to-face with her now.

The intensity of his stare broke her almost instantly - her eyes were already watering beyond the point of no return. To his surprise, she reached out to him and gently cupped the side of his face with her palm. "I'm so sorry," her voice quivered, breaking with the emotion-filled sobs entangled with the words. "I'm so sorry for bringing you into this," her apology was lost on him as he reached up to grab for her hand, placing a gentle kiss against the back of it. "I never meant to, I need for you to believe that."

Tyler reached over and held the sides of her head. He leaned over and kissed the top of her forehead. "Maria, babe, you're not making very much sense right now."

"No, you don't get it. I never meant to lie to you, to keep things from you but Liz and I swore that we'd put it all behind us. We wanted to leave it there but then Liz ... Liz" Maria stumbled over her own words, "Liz couldn't anymore. She couldn't ... she - she," the stuttering continued as Maria tried to forcefully calm herself down.

Maria was an emotional roller-coaster at this point and Tyler accepted that he really didn't have much choice at this point except to ride through it with her. He just nodded his head as he listened and tried to comprehend the meaning behind the fragments making up her sentences.

"Liz couldn't. Couldn't what, Maria?"

Maria closed her eyes - taking some deep breaths. While she was still visibly emotional, engaging in the breathing exercises helping to at least calm her to a point where she could make herself understandable. "Liz is different."

"Okay. How is Liz different?"

"There was a guy."

"A guy?" Tyler pushed, watching her closely and listening intently.

She reopened her eyes. "A guy," she nodded her head to reaffirm it. "Back home, in high school. His name was Max. Max Evans. He was cute, at least most of the girls thought so," Maria smirked, remembering - "but he was quiet and he pretty much kept to himself," she shared.

Tyler waited for her to continue.

"We worked in her family's restaurant back in Roswell, Liz and I. But there was this one day that a customer brought in a gun and a fight broke out. Liz got shot. It was during our sophomore year of high school."

A look of genuine surprise covered her husband's face.

"Nothing has been the same since," Maria sounded far off.

"Maria, honey," he tried to sound as supportive as possible. "As horrible as it is to hear that that happened to Liz, I'm not following how this has anything to do with what's going on right now. How does Liz play into why you're leaving?"

"It matters because Liz would be dead right now. It's only because of Max that she isn't."

"Okay," Tyler whistled out, trying to remain patient.

"Max was different, Tyler. And when I say Liz is alive because of him - I mean that literally. But he wasn't the only one. There were others like him. He had a sister." There was a small pause. "And there was Michael."

"Michael?" his eyes narrowed just a bit.

"Michael, Max, and Isabel stuck together. I mean, alot of the other kids thought it was pretty weird - they never let anyone get close to them. It was just the three of them for such a long time but after what happened to Liz, Michael and I did get the chance to become close," the last part came out a bit awkwardly as her hands played with the hem at the end of her sleeves.

Tyler threw her a look. "Meaning - the two of you dated?!" he drew out the sentence.

"We did," she nodded, feeling a bit uncomfortable delving into her past relationship with Michael. "For a little while."

"Okay, look," his eyes drifted, breaking eye contact "putting the jealous husband kick aside for the moment - I'm assuming he actually meant something to you," he pushed, forcing himself to handle details from his wife's past with another man. "Don't tell me you're leaving me for him or something?" he tried to make light of the information.

"No, but he did show up today," her tone was dead serious. Seeing the facial reaction, Maria immediately put up her hand to quickly put his fears to rest. "But not because of any relationship we may or may not have had in the past."

Tyler bolted up from the chair. "Then mind telling me why he would suddenly be showing up here out of the blue? My god, Maria, high school was like what - ten years ago."

"He's here because he wants to make sure we're safe. Beth almost got taken today," she dropped the bombshell that sent Tyler over the edge.

"Beth almost got ... What the hell are you talking about, Maria?! And why the hell wasn't I called?!" he demanded to know.

"I mean, somebody came after her - but listen, it had nothing to do with her. It was just them using her to get to me, to get to Michael and the others," her voice took on a defensive edge of it's own. "And there was nothing you could do about it, believe me," she stressed the point, desperate for him to grasp that truth. "She's safe now - Michael was there to help and that's all that matters." She nodded her head in the direction of the bedrooms. "They're both asleep on her bed, I checked on them about fifteen minutes ago."

"Well, did you call the police?"

A sardonic laugh flowed out of Maria. She couldn't help it, her instinctive response wasn't intended to mock her husband in any way but if he had lived through what she had during her earlier years or knew anything of the secrets that the universe kept hidden in the night - Tyler would understand the absurdity lying behind such a suggestion.

"Did I call the police?" she mimicked. "Uh, no, Ty - I didn't because to tell you the truth, this problem was a little bit out of their jurisdiction."

Not in the mood for anymore game playing, Tyler bolted for the cordless phone on the counter without saying another word. Maria, catching onto this movements, instantly lept up from the chair intent on stopping him.

"Tyler, no, what are you doing?" She struggled to reach around him to grab for the phone he now held in his hand. His back was to her.

"What the hell does it look like I'm doing?" he mocked her. "I'm making a report on this. For god sake's, what's wrong with you, Maria? What if this lunatic followed you home or worse - what if he goes back after Beth again?"

"No, you can't report this!" she cried out desperately.

"Why the fuck not? Right now I'd say it's a hell of alot better than your plan which is running away in the middle of the night to god knows where!" his gaze flew straight back to the bags sitting on the floor. "It can happen again - I'm not taking that chance!"

"Not if we leave with Michael!"

"Michael?!" his brows arched incredulously. "Okay, Maria, I don't know what the hell is going on here with you but you're acting crazy. I'm not letting you run off with my kids, let alone with some guy," he spat,"without any clue as to where that place might be. And certainly not with a guy that I don't even know."

"Tyler, look, I'm begging you - please hang up the phone!" her anxious voice pleaded.

He ignored her. His fingers began the dialing. He brought the phone up against his ear. Maria swung herself around, pulling out the counter drawer and quickly produced the communicator that Michael had let her borrow in case of any emergency. It was also to be used to get in touch with him when they were prepared to leave.

"This is why you can't call, okay?!" she revealed in an anxious manner. "Because Michael and the others aren't from around here, Tyler! And neither are the people that came after Beth at school today. They're aliens and this right here," the device sparked, "is a communicator that Michael left with me to get in touch with him."

Tyler's expression was frozen, on it - his eyes widening in shock, his feelings of confusion only deepening.

"911, what's your emergency?!" the voice carried through the receiver.

"No, sorry, my mistake - no emergency."

He hung up the phone.

______________________________

To Be Continued: Feedback - Good, bad, okay? Once again, sorry for the long wait - everything just seems to be happening all at once. :roll:
Last edited by ADreamerDestiny on Sun Oct 11, 2009 12:24 am, edited 8 times in total.
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