Retribution ~ (Seq to S&M/H&N) ~ {COMPLETE}

Finished Canon/Conventional Couple Fics. These stories pick up from events in the show. All complete stories from the main Canon/CC board will eventually be moved here.

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Diehard
Addicted Roswellian
Posts: 110
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2003 7:25 pm

Post by Diehard » Sat Mar 27, 2004 10:05 pm

roswelluver Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to my story. Maybe I should just email the updates to ya. LOL

Again there have been many hits, I just would really love to hear from any others who might be reading...good or bad or indifferent. Your opinions are important to me.

Here's the next update:



CHAPTER THIRTY


They cringed at hearing the blasts and the automatic weapon fire. Sierra buried her head into Ava’s chest as the two sat crouched in the corner of medbay. But Ava had also heard something else… her grandmother’s voice, calling out to them. All was quiet in the corridor as she strained again, listening. What she did hear was a slight quick buzz from the med bay intercom. Looking around her, she placed her finger to her lips motioning for Sierra to stay as quiet as possible as she again traveled across the room to the speaker on the wall. “Serena?” she responded just above a whisper into the intercom.

“Ava, she’s sealed us in up here. Don’t come here… you can’t get in. And… Angelique… she’s out there somewhere. Have you seen her?”

Ava pushed the button. “No, I thought I heard her calling us, but I haven’t seen her yet. Serena, where the hell is everyone? All the Federalists? Are they all dead?” she asked not understanding why the fifty troops stationed right outside the Horizon had not responded to their need.

“I… I think they may be… Otherwise, I’m sure that one of them would be trying to get in here by now.”

Ava wiped the sweat from her forehead with the back of her arm. “Okay… I’m going after her.” Serena tried to respond, but Ava had turned off the receiver on her end.

Scurrying back to Sierra, she wiped at the little one’s face with her shirt. Moist wide eyes looked up into hers. “Sierra,” Ava explained, grabbing a blanket from an overhead shelf as she spoke. “I want you to stay right here, under this.” She shook out the folds in the blanket, placing it over Sierra’s head. “You have to stay under here… very still and not make a sound. Okay?” She kissed her nodding head, closing her eyes and saying a silent prayer.

“Where are you going, Ava?” the little one whispered out to her.

“First, I’m going to find Grandmother,” she replied with a heavy sigh. “Then I’ll be back. Stay.” Sierra peeked out from under the blanket and within seconds her aunt was out of her sight.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


In the control room, Serena was pacing frantically. She turned and slammed her fists against the door in frustration. “Coby? Coby, can you hear me?” she yelled out through the door, but there was no answer. Again she beat her fists on the door. “You Bitch!” The room grew unnaturally quiet, as a loud crash was heard from below.

“B deck?” Maria asked.

“Sounded farther down,” Jessie said wringing her hands. “She’s in the cargo hull…”

“The Granolith!” Emily cried with alarm.

“Jesus,” Serena prayed, as she walked quickly to the observation window. It was pitch black outside with the exception of a few small blazes still firing up on the ground around the ship. Serena could make out only piles of silhouettes down on the ground, and she thought she was going to be sick.

The lights faltered and blinked out for a second, and then a loud humming noise brought them back up again. “The back-up generators just kicked on. She must be playing with the power grids.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Sierra heard her voice, and peeked out again from under the blanket. “Sierra,” the whisper came once again. “Ava.” Then she saw her face at the door. “Grandmother!” she yelled out to her. She leaped into the old woman’s arms. “Where is Ava, child?”
“Looking for you,” she hugged her tighter. The two were now standing in the hallway. Angelique suspected that Tess was hunting down the granolith, and from sounds earlier she appeared to have made it back down into the cargo bay again.

“Maybe she won’t come back up here,” Sierra exclaimed, catching her grandmother’s thought. Suddenly two explosions blasted through the ship, rocking it sideways. Sierra screamed out over and over, as Angelique pulled her down to the hall floor with her. The ship creaked and pitched slightly to one side, as again the lights flickered.

They both got to their feet and started running to the center of B Deck. As they turned the corner at the angled front of the ship, Tess was standing in the middle of the hall, “Well, look what we have here…”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“Faster, Michel!” Larek ordered impatiently, knowing full well that they were already traveling at top speed. They were flanked on both sides by three other Federalist runners.

“Soon, Larek,” Michel stated, gripping the controls.

Larek peered out ahead in the darkness. “Justice seems normal,” he said trying to reassure himself, as they cruised over the treetops. The faint glow of the small settlement town shone down below. “I’ll never forgive myself if anything happens to them,” he whispered not realizing he had said the words out loud.

Michel looked at him and saw the agony of uncertainty in his eyes. He veered the runner to the right making the descent farther down to the Horizon.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“This is certainly my lucky night… or is it morning?” Tess scowled at the two before her. “Where is Zan and Ava?” her voice boomed off the surrounding walls.

Angelique cautiously placed Sierra behind her. “They are not here,” the old woman quickly added.

“It’s a bit late for the dynamic duo to be out tramping around, isn’t it? Or maybe they went into Justice for very late meal… their last meal,” Tess taunted.

“There are troops coming,” Angelique lied, as her eyes caught sight of Ava coming up behind Tess at the end of the hall. “There is nothing here for you, Tess,” she held her chin high.

“On that matter you are totally wrong. The icon is downstairs and the second key is hiding behind you,” she stated, flatly. As she spoke, the look on her face changed and she spun around quickly to see Ava a good thirty feet now behind her. A blast came rolling up the hall at a great speed from Ava’s right hand, hitting Tess in the leg and flipping her onto the floor. She yelled out and returned fire, just missing Ava who dove frantically smashing into the wall.

“Run child!” Angelique yelled looking down quickly to Sierra. She pushed her back in the direction from where they had just come. The little one took off as fast as her legs could carry her, as Angelique turned her attention back to the enemy before her. Ava threw another blast. This one a blazing shimmer of red as it skimmed Tess’s shoulder with such force it spun her around to face the older woman.

Before Tess could catch her balance, Angelique’s power manifested in short blue lightning like rays, hitting Tess in the opposite shoulder. She fell to her knees, quickly pulling herself back up again and looking back over her shoulder at the blue rays burning into the wall behind her. She looked back now with great surprise at the older woman. Angelique smiled, “I have a few tricks of my own, harlot.”

Ava dove at Tess from behind, knocking her squarely to the floor. The two rolled and struggled as Tess finally reached down to her belt; her hand searching for her dirk. Finding it there, she pulled out the short blade and punched Ava twice in the lower side. Ava screamed out rolling off of her, grabbing at her side as the blood seeped through her khakis.

“Ava!” Angelique cried out, and repeatedly fired back at the raging psychopath in front of her. The power of the intense blue fire, knocked Tess down again; but once again she struggled to her feet, diving back and forth, successfully avoiding the rays. The sweat was rolling down her face and her anger raged at now knowing the power of her assailants.

But using her powers had greatly weakened Angelique. Her knees were shaking now, and her breathing was coming short and hard as a coughing spell returned. She leaned against the wall to balance herself and get control of the hacking coming from deep within her chest.

Tess walked on past her, as the old woman slid down the wall in near exhaustion.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Sierra was running for her life. All the horrible dreams or scary movies didn’t come close to the fear she was feeling at this minute. This was the same sick witch that Emily had told her about. The one who had kidnapped her sister and taken her away from her. Everything in the hall was a blur, as she stopped to catch her breath back outside the med bay. The air was full of a foul smelling smoke and she gagged repeatedly.

Then she saw it. She fell to her knees and crawled over to the bronze grate that covered one of her favorite hiding places. Pulling with all her might, it came lose and she quickly crawled inside. Once inside the tight space she pulled the grate back in place again and waited, pushing herself back farther into the space. Her hand came to rest on something cold and hard. She looked down in the darkness and picked up Emily’s barrette. The barrette she had lost so many days before. The one she thought she had lost forever. She tried very hard not to cry.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Tess came around the corner, breathing hard. “Little girl! Come out, come out, wherever you are. I will find you. Come with me and I will take you to your Mommy. I promise.” She wiped at the burns on her neck and arms with disgust as she spoke.

Sierra began biting her fingernail nervously. “I won’t hurt you,” Tess’s voice was closer now. “I just want to talk to you.” Sierra could now see two boots right outside the grate; she held her breath and squeezed onto her lost treasure. She closed her eyes so very tightly and thought of Emily and how happy she’d be to know that she had found her favorite barrette. The temperature in the small space began to warm and blur as Sierra began to transport herself away.

“Tess!” Angelique screamed from the end of the hallway. As Tess turned in shock to meet the voice, Ava too stood side by side with the old woman. She was bleeding badly and her face was pasty pale, but she was not about to give up yet.

“Look, why don’t you both just go run and play somewhere,” Tess said through clenched teeth. “Where is the brat?” Tess screamed out to them, losing all patience. Ava ignored her and continued narrowing the gap between the two.

As Ava came in reach, Tess reached out grabbing the front of her shirt. Ava grabbed on too, stumbling into med bay and pulling her in after her. They both struggled and fought their way around the room, crashing into and breaking equipment in every direction. Angelique was in the doorway, not knowing what to do. Any defense she could muster up could possibly at this point hit Ava by mistake.

Tess shoved Ava backward and she stumbled against the wall. She straightened up and caught her grandmother’s eyes, and it was as if a great awakening had happened within the young girl. She managed a smile to Angelique as a calmness came over her. She purposely took two steps directly toward her enemy. Within seconds she was hit by a slow but steady forceful white fire from Tess’s outstretched hand.

“NOO!” Angelique screamed out in horror.

Ava looked down at her chest and tried to steady herself, but didn’t falter. The intense pain was more than she could bear. She couldn’t move. As the fire burned deeper into her, her chest concaved and her body trembled. She closed her eyes and with one last effort, she raised her right hand high above her head into the air. A smile spread across her then knowing face; and Angelique gasped at what she saw before her. The defiant pose she remembered all too well. The old woman closed her eyes as the memory of the bronze statue that she had kept in her possession all of these years now again loomed in her mind. Ava, the great heroine of Adia, everything she had ever believed …. In slow motion the statue now shattered in her mind and the pieces seemed to float into the air all around the three.

Ava slowly lowered her fist in Tess’s direction, and a ball of fire sparked around her fingertips. Rolling and spinning there as it turned into a tightened denseness of changing colors that mesmerized all three in the room. Ava released the energy striking Tess directly between the eyes.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Angelique had already begun to react as the blonde before her buckled to the floor. She ran to her granddaughter’s side. Ava’s blank eyes stared back up at her. “Ava,” Angelique cried out, raising her granddaughter's head gently and placing it in her lap. “My sweet Ava,” she rocked as she cried and sobbed. Her hand shook as it slowly passed over the young girl’s blue eyes, closing them forever.

Tess began to move, pulling herself slowly across the floor toward them. Her eyesight gone, she felt the floor and listened to the noises in the room.

Angelique looked to the shelf high above the sink, seeing the two large glass containers. Both had been clearly marked now after one had spilled in an accident weeks before. The old woman pulled herself to her feet, as Tess raised her palm towards the sound. Stretching and climbing with everything she had left in her, Angelique still was inches away from the container. Tess grunted, following the sound, and continued to pull herself across the floor of the infirmary, closer to the old woman.

Frustration had over taken Angelique as she tried with everything she had to reach the volatile liquid on the top shelf. Tess cried out in pain; but then screamed out in anger from behind her.

Angelique’s eyes frantically searched around the room and fell on a long shiny object sitting on a utility tray next to the counter. Sierra’s magic wand… a good two feet long and the perfect reach for the container. She swung several times with it high above her, as a blinded Tess grabbed at her ankle. She kicked with all her might, and then heard a loud noise below her in the cargo hull.

“Serena!,” a loud voice rang out at the stairwell. “NICOLE!” Angelique recognized the voice immediately. It was Larek, and from the sound of things he had many with him. She looked back up, positioning the wand strategically against the heavy container, pushing with all her will.

“For your atrocities, my dear,” her voice was strong now, as she carefully guided the liquid above her. “For Liz…” she took a deep breath. "For Max...." She now winced through her tears..”and ..for my Ava.” The container now teetering on the edge of the shelf, tumbled down ever so slowly.

Angelique ran for cover, at finally releasing Tess’s weakening grip from her foot. The container crashed down cracking onto the sink and then one last fall to the floor, as the liquid poured down onto the exhausted body below. A shrill scream escaped the twitching flesh on the floor, and then the voice was silenced as the browned skin began to bubble and spit. Angelique gagged and covered her mouth and nose, as the smell filled the small room.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Diehard
Addicted Roswellian
Posts: 110
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2003 7:25 pm

Post by Diehard » Sat Mar 27, 2004 10:10 pm

CHAPTER THIRTY ONE


Larek lay on his cot aboard the Horizon in the room that had once been his. There were but only a few hours now until dawn. She stirred slightly beside him, and he tightened his arms around her. “Shh, it’s okay,” he reassured her as her eyes opened startled and searched for his.

His mind wandered back over the last hours. He had been terrified when the runners had set down beside the ship. The badly burned bodies of his men, some still smoldering, were scattered around its perimeter where they had so obviously attempted to stand their ground. At that very second, he had given up hope for anyone still inside, not knowing who or what had caused the death and destruction before him.

Once inside they had found the cargo hull a mess of broken crates and scorched debris. To their amazement the granolith had been stripped of its outer protective casing, but appeared to be very much intact.

Climbing to the second level they had found Angelique in the medical room on the floor with Ava lying in her lap. A charred and unrecognizable corpse lay some twelve feet away.

Larek knelt down to the old woman and she grabbed quickly and tightly to his hand. “She’s gone,” she said in a soft gentle voice. Larek looked down at the young girl before him, her long dark brown hair framing her face. She was indeed the other Ava, he thought. He leaned over and somberly kissed her on the cheek. “Sleep well, my lady.”

He couldn’t begin to explain the joy in his heart when Angelique had hurriedly told them that the others were still sealed in up on the bridge. It had taken the better part of the first hour to cut through the control room door with an acetylene torch from the cargo hull in order to free the seven people trapped inside. It had been such an emotional scene once the hold on the door had finally been released.

Their relief at being set free and of seeing Larek and Michel there had been short lived once the news of the fight between Tess, Ava and Angelique had been surmised. That gratefulness for themselves had turned quickly to disbelief, anger and heartbreak.

To everyone’s surprise, in her worst moment of fear, Sierra had managed to travel back directly to Emily on the bridge, unhurt physically, but emotionally overwhelmed. Coby had been badly hurt and had been taken back to camp under the care of one of the two medics who had arrived with Larek and Michel. One of his legs was badly burned, and the other seriously bruised and possibly fractured. Serena had insisted on going with him, but he had adamantly told her that his only wish was that she stay there with the others. Angelique had been heavily sedated and was now resting as comfortably as possible back in her own room, under the watchful eye of Raymond.

No one aboard could yet fully believe or accept what had taken place. Everything seemed to have happened so fast and yet their time to rescue seemed to have taken so long. The unbelievable fact that one of them now was gone, that sweet Ava had died, was heart-wrenching to them all. Jessie was torn between devastation and being furious that, being the only other one on board with powers, she had been unable to help Ava and Angelique fend off one of the two enemies they had been preparing themselves all along to face.

Both Maria and Jessie had taken Emily and Sierra back into Nicole’s room to do their best at settling the two little ones, which was a chore all in itself. Emily had come to understand the concept of death over the last years of her life. Sierra was not so certain. Maria had let her cry and then explained to her that her Aunt Ava would always be around and watching over her all the days of her life.

Serena had seen to it that each and everyone aboard was given a very mild sedative that had been offered by the remaining medic on board. The mild Adian drug would allow them a few hours of calm and possibly a bit of uninterrupted sleep; although, Larek doubted if anyone was actually getting any serious sleep at this moment.

Michel and the six other runners had returned to camp as well, taking Ava’s body back with them. Tess’s remains were taken temporarily to Justice. Larek had ordered a few other soldiers to stay behind, cleaning the medical bay and doing their best to get the ship back into some kind of order from the chaos that had ensued. Most were now waiting for their Commander to appear again, before returning with him back to base. The Horizon was now running only on its back up generator, until a team could be sent in the morning to go over any engine problems and inspect the computer room.

Nicole had drifted in and out with the help of the drug, but jolted herself awake to find herself still safely in his arms. “I want to go back with you,” her soft words broke through his thoughts. He kissed her head as it lay nestled on his shoulder.

“I am not going back to camp, love,” he explained softly. “I will go directly to Rochell, to let them know what has happened here. I was to go there anyway to pick up the rest of the team and go onto Milinga.” His fingers ran through her hair as he again pulled her close to him. He wanted nothing more than to stay here, right here and never need to leave her side again. Leaving her again would be so very difficult, but he knew he had no choice in the matter.

Milinga,” she whispered the word that seemed now to define their total existence.

He nodded slowly. “Now more than ever,” he agreed, the concern clear in his voice. He carefully guided her face up towards his, as he felt her tremble. For a few seconds his eyes could only stare back into hers; and when he was finally able to speak, his words were shaky but straight from his heart. “I love you, Nicole,” he cupped her cheek with his own trembling hand. “I so never believed that I could ever feel this way again; but you have taken my heart and I..” his eyes teared. “I want this to be a beginning for us and not…” he stopped. Instead of finishing his fears, his lips found hers eagerly with a passion that tore at her heart. She promised herself she would not cry. Not here. Not now.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“Larek should have been here by now,” Katain exclaimed in a low voice. “Something’s not right.”

“Don’t go panicking on us,” Marshal answered his sister. “He’ll be here. We’ve got plenty of time. John says they’re not even going down to Leoch until a few hours before midday. Apparently in the past the Order arrives down there in group, right before the bells of Leoch ring out at noon signaling the exact hour that this Saint Myriad gave up his life eons ago.”

“Besides,” Jonathan spoke up. “It’s better that he takes his time to be sure that all of his troops know where they’re to be today and when. He’s a perfectionist, Katain. He’ll not leave camp until everything is in place.” Katain nodded in agreement, reaching deep inside the pocket on the leg of her camouflage khakis. She pulled out the tracker.

“So let me get this straight,” Marshall began at seeing the object again. “Once we’ve deactivated the Guardian, we’re to signal the other tracker?”

“Yes. Listen, to hold this down twice is the all clear signal,” her finger lightly touched the center. “It will vibrate on either end. Three times is abort.” She passed the octagonal device to him, and he in turn handed it to Jonathan. “It’s already set. We don’t have to do anything else. It will be here in this pocket, until Larek says otherwise. Should anything happen to me, one of you must retrieve this from me, before anyone else should get a hold of it.” She stared out at the still darkened sky and took a deep breath. “I don’t know about you two, but I am soo ready.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Liz was awake, but didn’t dare move as she heard Max’s steady breathing. The first light still had not dawned, but she knew she was now up for the duration. She thought about getting up and lighting the small candle on the bureau, but then thought against it. She rolled slowly onto her back as his arm now came to rest across her middle. Carefully she moved his hand down onto her stomach.

“This is your Daddy,” she whispered quietly, but proudly. She had no sooner said the words then she felt a strong movement inside of her. Surprised and smiling, she looked over quickly into his face. He smiled in his sleep rubbing his hand softly on her taunt skin. “Max?” she whispered again, hoping he was awake now. He didn’t answer, and his breathing regained a constant rhythm again.

She pressed firmly again feeling the warmth of his hand and again felt the small and subtle nudging just under her skin. Her face glowed with smiles as a tear spilled onto her cheek. She whispered looking down at the small curve of her stomach, “And whatever should happen today… whatever is destined to happen to us, we will all be together… always.” She bit down on her lower lip. “Don’t be scared, little one. Your Mommy and Daddy love you very much.” She gently squeezed his hand with hers. “We have just a few more things to do, and then we will… all live happily ever after.” A quiet sob escaped her as she realized the depth and distance of those few simple words.

She glanced over at Max only to see him now looking dreamily back into her eyes. “I have never felt anything so incredibly beautiful in all my life,” his voice cracked with emotion as he gathered her into his arms.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


They met the runner as it landed behind the monastery. First light had just dawned. “You’re late,” Jonathan kidded as Larek jumped down onto the ground beside them.

“There’s been an attack on the Horizon. Tess,” he said, trying to keep his voice strong and steady.

“What?! My god!,” Marshall exclaimed, as Katain stood with her mouth open and fear in her eyes.

“The ship? They attacked the ship?” she still couldn’t quite grasp the idea. The ship was on Trinity, very close to the Federalist camp. Why would Jared’s armies do something so foolish?

“She was looking for Zan and Ava… and of course the granolith, which she found.” Larek answered her thought, looking sideways at Jonathan.

“The granolith? Is it still in our possession?” Jonathan asked anxiously. Larek could only nod his head.

“Is everyone alright? Please tell me everyone’s alright,” Katain’s anger and concern was rising, as she saw the look in his eyes. Instantly her mind connected with his thoughts. “OH MY GOD! NO!” she cried as he grabbed her arms. He pulled her close and again looked at Jonathan who at first stood puzzled before the color drained from his face. Ava. His sister! His little sister, the one he had just finally gotten to know again. He bent over with his hands on his knees, as Larek pulled him aside.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The four entered the hall just outside the prayer room, as had been requested by Brother Jasper. At first sight of Larek, both Liz and Max approached them. Larek didn’t have to say a word. Liz’s hands covered her face as she fell against the wall. “No.”

“What happened?” Kal demanded.

“Tess found the Horizon,” Larek’s voice cracked. In those first seconds Max caught every emotion inside Larek. “It’s Ava,” he continued. “She and Angelique battled Tess.. to the end. Angelique is okay.” A terrified look crossed both Michael and John’s faces. “Serena and Maria are fine. They weren’t hurt,” Larek was quick to assure them, but again his face filled with pain.

“My sister is dead,” Jonathan whispered as the horror hit everyone in the room.

“Noo, please, noo,” Liz gasped. “Not Ava,” she sobbed, shaking her head in disbelief. She turned to Larek. “How... how did this happen?”

“I do not know, Ava. Every man there was incinerated once she located the ship. She was looking for the granolith,” he half lied by omission, not wanting to finish his thought. But he didn’t have to.

“… and us,” Liz murmured looking away. John and Kal exchanged looks of shock. “And Jared?”

“No sign of Jared. I believe she did this on her own.”

“Where’s Tess now?” Michael demanded. “Where’s the bitch now?”

“She’s dead,” Larek exclaimed, then seeing the questioning look on all their faces, “No, really she’s very dead.” As good as the words made him feel, it didn’t help to shield the pain everyone was feeling. Larek wandered to the side motioning to Max and to Kal who was standing by Michael.

Taking a small vial from his pocket, he handed it over to Max. “Here’s a bit of a souvenir,” he said as Max now stared down into his hand. “One of my men found it laying near her body in medbay. I tasted it, it is an unusual, yet as I now understand, not an uncommon drug of Eos, Tricloridan. The same or similar drug we suspected she had used during her time in your world. It is an anti-psychotic laced with an Eosian mineral. One of my medics recognized it immediately. It has hallucinogenic properties. According to my man, it will render its victim to the whims and fancies of suggestion.”

“The bitch’s drug of choice,” Michael snorted.

Kal glanced at Max. “Well, I’d say that answers more than a few of your questions.” Max thought months back to that night in John’s living room. The night when Zan’s thoughts and suspicions had first made themselves clear to Max. All the memory retrieval techniques suggested by Tess, all the confused, emotional feelings he had experienced had been the sole result of this drug and of a conniving, lying pawn of Harding and Kivar. Of this he now had now doubt whatsoever.

John cleared his throat as Brother Jasper joined them. “My children, will you join me in the room of prayer.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“I call on the mercy of the Gods in this early hour of reckoning. May their wisdom and sheltering hands guide you all through to your predetermined destinies. The fate of the worlds lie heavy in each and every heart here. Today will be determined only by your faith and your honor in the divine. You are all gathered here in the name of goodness and light. The dark shall not prevail, if faith and hope are carried in your hearts.”

Brother Jasper walked before each and every one, placing his hand to each forehead in blessing. “May the gods walk with you, my child.” He repeated his prayer nine times.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Diehard
Addicted Roswellian
Posts: 110
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2003 7:25 pm

Post by Diehard » Sat Mar 27, 2004 10:11 pm

CHAPTER THIRTY TWO

"Serena?" Emily entered the medical bay, cautiously and timidly looking around her, as Serena stood placing the new Adian drugs inside the locked cabinet for safekeeping.

"Yes, Sweetie," she answered, surprised to see the young one there. "What's up?"

"Mommy says that Grandmother needs to see you," Emily answered her, hesitantly.

"Okay, tell her I will be there as soon as I can." The young girl was quickly out the door before Serena could say more. She reached up pulling her journal down off the shelf. Flipping through the pages at all her written notes from over the better part of six months, she tried to make sense of the current situation of the keys. Her mind was spinning.

From her first suspicions of Liz's pregnancy the thought had been there for her constantly, and then once Coby's information was calculated into the equation.. What better choice could there have been but for the gods to give the key to Ava. Suppose the gods in their wisdom, she mused, knowing of the dangers of the granolith falling into the wrong hands, just as they all now realized, suppose they had put a failsafe in place. She couldn't keep the thought from her head of the possibility that this third key was not yet amongst them.

Zan’s Ava had been chosen, of that there was now no doubt. Maybe she was chosen in more ways than any of them had let themselves think. She shook her head hoping to joggle the pieces more completely into place. But Sean, she thought… he was the unanswerable question remaining. Would that have been too neat and dangerous a package for the Gods to have considered? Three children so closely related? If they foresaw the coming events, as she knew they had, could they have left a puzzle piece out… deliberately? The icon's all important puzzle piece?

Zan and Ava's child might not survive if they were not completely successful today. That thought loomed so clearly in her troubled mind. Would the god's play that card with such cruelty? Her thoughts faded quickly as the intercom buzzed.

"Serena, we need you here with Angelique," Jessie's voice was frantic.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Katain, Jonathan and Marshall had already boarded the runner that would take them to the temporary camp set up just two miles west of Milinga. Larek and Kal now stood just outside, saying difficult goodbyes to the four staying behind.

“Keep these three under control,” Kal said to him with a half serious smile. He pulled John into an embrace, “JB,” his tone was more serious now. “Thanks for being my better half.”

John hugged him tightly. “This is not goodbye,” he answered his long time friend. “No dismal talk,” he insisted, while trying hard to swallow the lump in his own throat. “We’ll all be together again long before night fall.”

Up on her toes, Liz held tightly with her arms around Larek’s neck. “Be safe, Larek,” she said just above a whisper. She kissed his cheek, and closed her eyes saying a silent prayer for the man she had known all of her life.

“And both of you, as well,” he whispered sincerely in her ear. Then straightening up he shook Max’s hand, and then Michael’s. “It’s still hard for me to believe that this day has finally arrived,” he said.

Max patted him on the shoulder. “Well it has, my friend, and it’s been far too long in getting here,” Max smiled at the moment, but with guarded anticipation of the hours yet to come.

“Marcel and a few troops will be bringing the icon here to Rochell. It should be arriving any time now,” Larek confessed. “I am afraid I took the liberty of making the decision not to leave it aboard the Horizon.” He looked sheepishly to Max.

Max immediately shook his head unwaveringly. “Oh no, Larek, it’s exactly what should be done. You were absolutely right in ordering it.”

“I’ll talk to Jasper,” Liz stated. “It belongs in Ambrose’s room down in the catacombs,” Liz stated frankly, looking to Max for his approval.

"Should things not go well today, it should be sealed… permanently sealed there," Max agreed. “If this day ends and Jared remains in control, we have to be sure that the granolith will never be discovered. Jasper needs to know this."

Larek continued. “Marcel will then be moving down to head up the hundred men who will be descending into Frasate,” Larek explained again to Max. They had already gone over all the intricacies of the battle strategies countless times.

The only difference now was that Larek had received word that another seventy men and women would be joining the others in Leoch's market place for the holiday festivities. They were farmers and mill workers who lived in the surrounding small hamlets just outside the two larger cities. They too had waited for this day for a long time, and now that it had arrived, they were officially joining the Federation to win back their freedom and their homeland.

Frasate itself was currently back under Jared’s control. The second largest city of Adia had changed hands so often that one never quite knew whose rule it was under at any given time. Of course, the inhabitants of that entire area had suffered great consequences due to the constant battles there. Most had lost their ancestral homesteads and had moved on to Milinga which was basically now a segregated city; the northern boundaries still belonging to the resistance while the southern sectors were heavily laden with Eosian troops.

Larek turned from the group to climb up aboard the craft, but then suddenly turned back looking upset with himself. “I have forgotten to tell you,” he looked at Liz. “… I have messages. One, from Maria… something resembling a hearty scream of joy for your news,” he grinned at Liz as she laughed out loud.

“And from Serena. First, she sends her congratulations,” he formally bowed his head at them both and smiled. “But second, and very important, they have apparently confirmed that the icon’s time powers are accessible only with the use of three keys, not two as we have believed all of this time.”

There was silence as they looked at each other in confusion. “Three?” Liz asked. Max’s face dropped at the news.

“Are they sure?” John asked, a discouraging tone in his voice.

“Yes. They are sure of it. It seems the mystery of time travel remains unsolved and unclear at this point. She has tested the group aboard the ship, and there were no matches. The six of you here will in time need to be tested.”

“We’ll follow through with that, once we finish successfully with the day,” Max added quickly, but positively.

Larek’s eyes lingered an extra beat on Ava, then back over to Rath and finally rested on Zan. “My King, ... God speed.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The four now gathered in the prayer room, as John explained his earlier brief conversation with Brother Jasper. “He’s preparing us with seven robes from the order, four for us and two extra to be used by a few Federalists who will be going in with us. There will be many Federalist troops in position outside of the castle walls. Once the celebration is ordained, by Jared himself, the gates will be opened and the grounds will be accessible to all the citizens. His honor guard… his security, outside the gates, number close to a hundred. Inside the High Hall, closer to ten or twelve always in his immediate proximity.”

“Katain has one of the two trackers,” Michael picked up the conversation. “Max, we need you to decide who should carry this one.” He flipped the device in the air and Max caught it. He looked pensively at the small shape in his hands, as Michael again explained. “It will vibrate twice for the all clear once the Guardian is dismantled safely… and three times if we need to abort and get the hell out of there fast.”

“I’ll keep it with me,” Max stated, sliding it into his side pocket, as Liz hugged at his arm.

“How are you feeling?” John asked nodding to Liz and doing his best to change the somber feeling in the room.

“I’m feeling surprisingly good,” Liz noted with a smile. “She moved again this morning,” she made a cute face as Max’s grin spread across his. “It was the most incredible feeling...ever,” he added, his pride bubbling.

“No shit?” Michael laughed at the thought. “That’s just too weird.”

“Yeah, it was,” Max giggled like a five year old.

“Well, Shane did say that things stood a good chance of progressing differently,” John added with a smile. “Just how differently we don’t know. You wouldn’t normally feel movement until somewhere in your third month. So it would seem you are three months ahead, which does coincide with an Adian birth. How’s the fever?”

Liz shook her head, “I haven’t felt sick the last few mornings and the fever doesn’t seem to be as spiking as it was. I guess those meds really did help.”

“Well one of the first things on the agenda, post new royalty... is for you to have an attending physician check things out on a regular basis at Leoch,” Max said giving her a protective look and a gentle squeeze.

A small robed figure glanced around the corner at them, and Michael nodded to him. “I think our breakfast is ready to be served. Oh good... porridge. Wonderful,” Michael smirked.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Liz sat outside on the steps of the monastery, Max close by her side. The sun was now fully up and the sky was lit brightly with a clear pink hue. It appeared to be a beautiful Adian morning, but only time would tell.

Marcel and his small team had arrived to safely deliver the granolith down into the catacombs. The icon was at last at home. They all felt a great sense of relief that, if nothing else, they had succeeded in returning it from where it had once begun.

John came walking up the path, after seeing Marcel’s team on to Frasate. Liz noticed his face first, and Max caught her thought of concern. There was something in his eyes as he approached the two. “What is it?” Liz asked hesitantly. Max rose to his feet. “Is it Milinga?” he asked cautiously.

He shook his head. “No, it’s not Milinga. It’s Malow, Max,” John murmured with regret. “She’s gone... escaped from camp. Apparently things got a little crazy when the troops left there for the Horizon during the night. She knocked the guard unconscious and... took off. To where, no one seems to know at this moment.”

Liz’s stomach flipped. “Why didn’t Larek tell us this?” John stared at Max who was standing frozen with a blank expressionless stare.

“They had no way of contacting Larek after he left camp. He isn’t aware of it yet,” John replied.

Liz watched Max intently. “Max?” she whispered low.

He heard her, but it seemed her voice was far away. Snapping alert suddenly, he responded. “She’s gone back to Leoch... to Jared.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Diehard
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Post by Diehard » Sat Mar 27, 2004 10:13 pm

CHAPTER THIRTY THREE


To Kal’s calculations, Milinga lay a good sixty miles, as the crow flies, to the west of Leoch. A small central control camp was set up just above the city itself in one of the three mountain ranges that bordered it. If nothing else, the mountains tended to pen everything into a neat little package on three sides.

Larek had taken Katain and Marshal and a handful of his men and stationed them close to the same area where they had been just a few nights before on their recon trip. One of the differences, of course being that it was now broad daylight. They were at the best visual vantage point to the cavern. The boulders, clumps bush and groves of trees were the only cover they had from the camp of the enemy soldiers below. Katain now counted twenty-two soldiers in plain sight below them; but she also knew that the city itself, less than two miles away, was crawling with Eosian militia.

“Hang here until Kal or I send word,” Larek ordered. “When we descend it will be from this spot, much as we did the other night. I am going to see if there is word from the other squads in Milinga. I’ll return.” He placed his hand on her shoulder. “Don’t get too restless. We only have until the sun is at its highest, and that won’t be much longer now.” He turned and disappeared before she could respond.

Six men approached quickly from the opposite side of the camp as Larek returned to Kal and Jonathan. “Rendel! Right on time!” Larek greeted him. “Good to see you.” He turned to the others. “Kal… Jonathan, this is Jonah Rendel, he heads up the squads within Frasate.” The three nodded to each other.

"We are ready, Commander,” he said seriously. “We will not be more ready.”

“That’s good news. And Frasate is…,” Kal questioned, “...the main assault?”

“The troops have already begun slowly moving in there. Once the bells ring out we should be fully positioned and well on our way to defeat the enemy there and reclaim the city…one last time,” he added with a smile.

“At high noon the bells of Leoch ring out in honor of St Myriad,” Larek explained to Jonathan, who had not witnessed the tradition before. “Once that happens all the church bells across the land ‘pass on the bells’, or so they call it. “This will be our signal, to keep us all in time with one another, at Leoch… Milinga and here at the cavern. Rendel’s troops are merging with others from the north to hit Frasate with the bulk of our power before noon. It is the more Eosian saturated of the two cities.”

“Half as many are in Milinga,” Kal continued explaining. “Frasate will be the first leg of the journey. Then we dismantle the bomb at the same time that Larek’s Federalist troops, under the guidance of Chavez, hit Milinga with everything they’ve got,” Kal smiled and winked at Jonathan. “Timing. It’s all about the timing.”

“I was wondering how we were going to be sure, other than the tracker. It’s not like we can synchronize our watches,” Jonathan replied dryly.

“The tracker will only be for signaling between us and the royals at Leoch while in the cavern. Two for clear... three should we need to abort,” Kal reaffirmed looking at him to be sure he understood. Jonathan shook his head.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


After giving Max a few minutes alone, she had then found him sitting by the waters edge tossing stones out lightly across the pond behind the monastery. Leaning down she touched him gently on the arm. “Max, don’t do this.” He didn’t say a word as he clasped his arms around his knees. “You are not to blame for who Malow is inside. You never have been. No more than you were responsible for Vilondra’s choices.” She knelt beside him. He looked over into her face and she saw Zan’s confusion and disillusion. “Max, you have your father’s heart and his humanity; you always have and everyone has always known that.”

“Somewhere inside I know all that too. But if history repeats itself and we fail at this… once again… because of my mother…”

“Max, look at me,” she said in a low voice. He turned to her and placed his hands on her shoulders with a huge sigh, “I know, I know.”

“She has always been a vicious woman from the first day that I met her. She was self centered and insanely jealous of anyone who got close or interacted with her family. She still refuses to see it. She has always been the inherent evil within that Ambrose tried to warn us about in the message he sent. Siding with Jared now just as she did with Kivar… the two people who want to kill you...” She stopped and then she too sighed. “I know how difficult this is for you, Max, but it is not your fault in anyway. We will handle Malow at Leoch when the time comes. You can’t allow this to get to you.”

He touched his lips to her forehead, tightly wrapping his arms around her. “All those haunting memories just came rushing back to me… of my childhood. The one thing that meant the most to me, and she kept me from you. Her hatred of anyone I ever brought into my life…”

He gazed into her eyes. “You’re right. I am not my mother’s son. And that, that is only because of you. All the love you’ve given me... so unselfishly. As Max Evans, it was you who taught me how to be human; but you taught Zan so much too. You taught him about life. You taught me about myself, you showed me who I was inside.”

She laid her head against his chest. “From the first time my eyes saw into yours, I could do nothing less. I have these feelings inside. Ava’s… mine. I know how difficult it is having all these emotions to deal with… and I know how difficult it is for you right now.” She touched his cheek softly. He hadn’t been too successful in hiding his thoughts from her about his fears for her and their unborn baby.

They were in an impossible situation. That much was obvious. They were being given a chance to finish what had been started long ago. And if the prophecy held any truth, they were indeed fulfilling their destinies. A memory of her wedding to Zan flashed through her mind, and for a few seconds she wondered how she could ever bring herself to stand again in the High Hall… in the home she had loved so very much. And yet, she knew she had to. In a few hours, she would have no choice. They were both being forced to face their past head-on today. She smiled as their future moved ever so gently inside of her once again, giving her hope.

He closed his arms around her. “Liz?” He murmured hesitantly into the softness at the side of her neck, as his hands rubbed tenderly at her back. He buried his face into her hair and smelled the fresh sweetness there that he had loved… it seemed… forever. “I need you to promise me something.” He held her in place, as she tried to look up at him. He couldn’t bear to look her in the eye. Her own eyes rolled slightly and then squeezed closed tightly, connecting with his thought.

“Please don’t ask me to do this,” she pleaded with him. “Max, please,” she whispered. She pushed him back, needing to see his face now. “Look me in the eye and tell me to leave you.”

His face so full of emotion looked away.

“It’s not going to come to that,” she insisted. “We will not need a backup plan. Everything’s going to be fine. We’re going to defeat Jared today.” She shook her head repeatedly insisting to him.

His eyes painfully looked back into hers, and he wiped a tear away as it dropped. He started out slowly, “My heart believes that nothing…nothing can defeat us as long as we’re together.” He took her by the shoulders now, “I know that when we started this journey, we were facing whatever was coming… together. That nothing would ever keep us apart again… not even death.” He took a deep breath and his emotions choked his words in his throat. “But… but... things are different now, Liz,” he said softly. “I have to at least consider the alternative now. At the first sign that we’re in serious trouble, John knows that he is to take you to the ship. That’s all there is to it.”

Her head was shaking vehemently from side to side, as her lips pressed together tightly in resistance. Her eyes widened, “But you promised me… together… always.”

Oh, Liz,” he cried in a whisper, grabbing her tearstained face in his shaking hands. “Everything that we are now, and everything we have ever been, is part of this child now. Our baby, Liz… she’s innocent in all this.” His heart was aching at the fact that he was breaking his earlier promise to her; but he had to do this. He was frantic to make her understand, but his heart was ripping from his chest. He kissed her hard on the mouth and his lips lingered there.

“If it should turn out that his forces are stronger than ours, I want you two off of this god forsaken planet. Because that’s exactly what it will be then, Liz. I won’t have my love and my child thrown into an Eosian prison or...worse. Jared would see you hung in the courtyard just to prove his point, Liz. I won’t let that happen.”

“Max, if Jared wins then it doesn’t matter where I am. This galaxy is doomed for destruction. Even Earth wouldn’t be safe.”

“You would have a better chance there than here. Please listen to me. If there was the smalliest… the tiniest chance that you could get our baby to safety somewhere... anywhere; it would be worth it,” he tried to get through to her.

Liz listened and hung on every word. She was silent for a few haunting moments and then nodded her head. “I know,” she sniffed and exhaled in defeat. “But I don’t want to leave you…,” she was sobbing now. “I know you’re right,” she said the words slowly, but her heart fought every one. She looked up trying to see him clearly through the tears in her eyes.

He looked back, taking in every line and curve of her face. “Just promise me,” he pleaded. “You have to swear to me that if that time comes, you will go with John without hesitating. For my daughter… or my son,” tears now filled Max’s eyes as well.

“I promise you,” she whispered as they clung to each other in their final moments at Rochell.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


John was passing out handfuls of prayer beads as they gathered at the runner that would take them to Leoch. “This is what the Order gives out to the townspeople on the holiday. We will mingle, wander and virtually kill time until the bells sound and the gates are opened. The Order would then normally go inside to get the blessing of the king.”

Liz looked down at the shiny bead strands in her hands. “I remember having many of these.”

“Yeah, me too,” Michael replied, smiling from the memory.

“Really?” Max said with a slight shocked laugh. “Well that’s amazing. ’Things you never would have guessed about Rath.’” The three laughed, a nervous laugh trying beyond reason to break the insurmountable tension.

They were then each handed a long hooded brown robe. “You can put these on in the runner, once we get close. Jasper will lead us in. I tried to talk him out of it; but he’s insisting that it will buy us time and be less suspicious, since Jared knows him on sight and might question his not being there,” John explained. “Are we ready?”

The four looked at each other. “Oh, I think I speak for all of us; we’re more than ready for this,” Michael stated with a cocky smile.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Five figures stepped down from the runner upon landing a short distance from the castle. They fumbled doing their best to hide their small weapons inconspicuously under their robes. Jasper nodded to the four with him and wandered off first.

“You look fetching in that robe, Sparrow,” Michael quipped at her with a wink and a smile. “But pull the hair up and out of sight.” They followed in the direction Brother Jasper had taken, as Liz tucked her hair farther from sight.

“Don’t wander too far from each other,” John said placing each hand inside the ends of the wide sleeves of his robe. “Try not to speak to anyone, remember it’s not expected from you, only from the head of the Order.”

The closer they came to the walls of Leoch, the more crowded the marketplace became. Most of the citizens huddled in small groups. Max looked around him as they all joined in with the festivities. He reached for Liz’s hand.

Michael winced in their direction, “Monks don’t hold hands.”

They slowly and reluctantly left go, as their eyes met. Max gave her a comforting smile.

Being sure to stay close together in one area, they passed out their religious souvenirs of the day. Tables were set up everywhere, along with outside fires cooking an array of Adian foods. The memories of better times here filled all of their minds.

Liz wandered to a table strewn with fabrics and clothing, as two women approached the same table carrying large baskets. “It is a beautiful day for St. Myriad, is it not?” the women closest said to her in a kind voice. Liz hid her face the best she could inside the hood of her robe and nodded her head in response as she started to walk away. “The bells will toll soon now, Ava,” the girl whispered to her. Liz looked up trying to hide her alarm and immediately looked around for Max or Michael.

“It’s alright. I’m Siobhan and this is my sister, Chalone.” The pretty young girl took a strand of beads from Liz’s hand as she spoke under her breath.

“I’m surprised to see you out here,” Liz whispered back to her, as she checked to make sure no one else was near enough to hear.

“Most of us who were inside are now outside,” Chalone answered, raising the cloth that covered the top of her basket, revealing three weapons under cover. Liz nodded.

“How is the little one?” Siobhan asked, keeping a close eye on several Eosian guards nearby.

“Oh Emily, she’s fine. Thank you so much for everything you’ve both done to help us.”

“The day is not over yet,” Siobhan answered with a smile as she too just slightly uncovered her own basket over her arm. Inside Liz saw a hint of brown and recognized it as one of Jasper’s robes. “We will be ready.” The two sisters then started a conversation between them and nonchalantly walked away.

She felt a slight brush behind her and turned to see Max. “The twins,” Liz said motioning ever so carefully in the direction to where they now stood. Max looked over at them then back to the table before him.

“I’m all out of favors,” Michael said with a low chuckle taking a few strands of beads from Liz. “They’re all over the place,” he stated, referring to the group of five soldiers standing together not fifteen feet from where they now stood. Directly to their left stood two more groups. “I’ve counted at least fifty just in this general vicinity, and I haven’t wandered that far off. God knows how many are out here.”

“I get the feeling that a lot of our countrymen are waiting as well..” Liz added seeing familiar looks of guarded anticipation on many faces around them.

Max shook his head. “Yeah, they are waiting. I’ve had quite a few knowing nods from many of the men around us.” He stood close to Liz almost feeling the warmth of her arm through his robe.

The bells of Leoch began to toll.. The four looked at each other and took their places in a line forming before the gates. Max put his head down as did the others. He sent his thought to her, Can you feel it? Can you feel my hand in yours?

Always, she answered.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Diehard
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Post by Diehard » Mon Mar 29, 2004 10:58 pm

CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR

Three teams converged on Frasate right before high noon. The air strikes were already well under way there as well. Jonah Rendel was in command . The Federalist armies had fought long and hard for the last two generations, many had died, many wished they had. But nothing compared to what was being stirred up today.

Blasts from the Federalist aircraft annihilated key buildings and strongholds, as the Federalist brigade caught the Eosian enemy by surprise. Fire raged in the streets and the noise was unbearable. Screams of agony and fighting broke out all around them.

Smoke hung heavy in the air, as Rendel walked with his band of men through the main thoroughfare, searching house by house, building by building. Together with his second in command they separated some fifty troops from the others to go deeper into the heart of the city. They now were faced with combating the enemy face to face, hand to hand; making their way to the Eosian headquarters set up in the Town Hall located near to the center of town. This was the heart of the Frasate Eosian Contingent.

Six blocks never seemed so long. They were drawing fire from every direction; from every alleyway, every window in each of the surrounding buildings. One third of his men were lost before reaching their destination just a short six blocks away.

The Federalists had always had a saying, Four for One. For every one of their own lost, four Eosians would die. And that they had managed to do in just about every battle fought. And today was to be no exception. It quickly became a blood bath in the streets of Frasate, as the minutes to high noon ticked by.

The profile of an Eosian soldier was in itself, revolting and terrifying. When they killed and murdered it was always in the most vulgar of ways. No soldier would ever be the same. No one would come out of any of this without wounds of traumatic proportions… be it physical or psychological…if in fact, they were fortunate enough to come out of it at all.

Rendel and ten of his very finest separated from the group. They bobbed and weaved under the best cover the Federalists could give them, and finally made it to the Town Hall. They took cover just outside the white brick building housing Jared’s central intelligence officers and their major communication hub. Flanking either side of the front doors, they could hear the shouts of those inside just now beginning to rationally react to the confusion and bedlam taking place throughout the city. The team looked to each other, as Rendel nodded his head. Within seconds the small team was swarming up the stairs, separating and spreading out over the four floors of the building. Automatic gunfire and explosions rocked the air, and it was hard to tell if it was coming from inside or outside the building.

Through the smoke now hanging thick, Jonah made his way up to the top floor alone. He coughed and choked his way to the top landing, barely being able to see three feet in front of him. Finally reaching the roof, he dropped to the ground, as a blast fired over from a rooftop across the way. The fiery ball went straight over his head just missing him by a matter of inches. A shot rang out from street level, and a body tumbled out a six-story window from where the shot had come.

Jonah now listened as the sounds on the street began to fade, the automatic fire slowing down. Crawling to the sidewall for cover, he peered over just in time to see five Federalists soldiers raising the royal flag in the courtyard down below him.

He wiped the sweat and blood from his eyes and searched the sky trying to get his bearings. Raising both hands high over his head he pointed the flare gun straight up into the air and then slightly to the eastern horizon. Pulling the trigger he fired it off twice, as the building below him shook from the last barrage of blasts from the inside.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


It was hard for Marcel to see clearly into the west, the pink sky of just moments before now glowed shades of orange and yellow over the horizon.

“There! A Flare!” Larek yelled out signaling to his troops. Twenty Federalist scout ships simultaneously rose into the skies high above the mountain, heading for Milinga.

Marcel patted him on the back before jumping up into the commanding aircraft. “Take care, my cousin.”

“I will see you on the other side,” Larek hugged him close. “Go… go,” he now yelled at the pilot. “Set them up well for us, Marcel,” Larek finished with a grin. He watched as the aircraft disappeared down over the side of the precipice. Turning quickly, he ran to his ground troops already packed up and ready to go.

Michel stood there at the ready, never prouder that this day had finally arrived. “Good luck down there,” he said. “Steady hands, my friend,” he commented referring to the task of dismantling the Guardian.

“Luck will have nothing to do with it, Michel. You be sure to keep your eyes open.” Larek grabbed both his hands in his. “Tonight we celebrate.”

“Oh, and I shall, Commander,” he smirked at him. “But right now, I am going to hunt me a few Eosian bastards!”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Kal, Katain and Jonathan had started slowly down the side of the hill above the cavern, as Larek caught up with them. Below them was pandemonium in the enemy camp. First question and then confusion, as the enemy watched the Federalist runners overhead heading toward Milinga. Loud voices screaming out orders as people ran in different directions at once. The bulk of the men in the camp below raced for their own ships.

“Yep that’s right, run like good little animals, and help your pals in Milinga. Or…go back to Eos. I really don’t care which, just get the hell out of here,” Kal murmured, now standing to his feet. “Well, people,” he looked at the three others with him, “Showtime.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The throngs of people began filing through the castle gates, in a calmly and orderly fashion. Brother Jasper stood in front, with Max and Liz behind him, and Michael and John behind them.

They did their best to keep their heads down, but the curiosity and intensity of the moment and of their surroundings made it near to impossible. The castle gleamed now before them as it once had in all its pageantry. The once white and gold Adian flags flying high above the turrets of Leoch were now replaced with a dark brown and black snakelike designed flag representing the world of Eos.

Liz bit her lip at the now unobstructed view before her. She choked down the twinges of pain in her heart at the memories of this very courtyard where the four of them now stood.

You could almost think nothing had changed here by the looks of things, Max thought out to her.

A lot is the same. Liz nodded her head. She glanced sideways at the huge marble fountain and thought of the days that a much younger Ava had played here.

A bright red carpet meandered its way from the courtyard right up to the two large intricately carved castle doors that now stood wide open. All in the name of the holiday, Max thought to himself. On Jared’s part it was a big show… a big empty show.

The orderly line came to an abrupt halt, and Jasper turned to face them. Liz pulled her hood farther down over her face and looked behind her at the fifty or so people waiting patiently to pay their respects to the statue of St. Myriad that stood far inside the High Hall. She also realized that there were many who had been outside that did not enter through the gates and into the courtyard. Her eyes fell on two robed monks standing some ten people to the back of them. She assumed them to be either the twins, or two other Federalists in monk’s clothing.

“The Order will move to the front of the line,” Jasper explained. “Jared grants our presence first, then the citizens of Adia are welcomed in.”

Max remembered the protocol well. He had watched his father over the years perform the same ceremony, except of course for one main difference. Jared did not have any religious philosophy whatsoever; unlike his father who highly believed in the prophets and in the wisdom of the gods themselves.

“Probably better that way,” Michael said. “Less people inside the hall when we get in there.” John looked at him and agreed.

Max slid his hand into the side pocket of his robe and felt the cold hard surface of the tracker there. “I would think by now that the armies are moving into Milinga. That is, if all went well in Frasate.” So much depended on what was happening elsewhere and Max hated not being in complete control.

“Things hopefully are progressing as planned,” John whispered, checking the crowd around him. Again several men in his sight nodded their heads at his glance. “I think we may have some help here already,” he smiled looking down at the ground.

An Eosian guard slowly walked by and scrutinized the five monks. Michael did his best to control his anger as the guard slowly walked on, watching and checking everyone in line. “What’s the holdup here,” Michael asked looking impatiently to the front of the line and to the guards by the doors.

“Steady, Michael,” Max warned as his own stomach twisted. The guard that had just walked past them now joined six others standing on either side of the main entrance.

“We should be called up soon now,” Jasper replied sensing their uneasiness. He looked at Max offering his last minute wisdom. “Believe in your instincts. Trust them. Do not act hastily.” Max swallowed hard. That was easier said than done, he thought. The only thing he wanted to do right now was blast his way inside and rip the almighty king into several not so neat pieces.

It was hot in the Adian midday sun, and the robes did not help the scorching heat. Liz wiped her face with her sleeve. She could feel the sweat dripping down the back of her neck. Her stomach started to turn and she took a deep breath.

“What?” Max said quickly with concern at seeing her pale face. “Is everything okay?”

She nodded without looking up. “Once we get out of this sun I’ll be much happier,” she managed a forced smile.

“You and me too,” Michael murmured as he fidgeted where he stood.

“BROTHER JASPER,” a deep gruff voice rung out from the front of the line. One of the seven guards at the door was motioning down to them. “Bring your people up here.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Only a handful of soldiers were left in the camp directly outside of the cavern housing the Guardian. Most had left to join in and defend their positions in Milinga. Kal, Katain and Larek had scooted their way down the dusty rocky side of the mountain. With Marshal and Jonathan close behind, they now positioned themselves out of sight just outside the entrance. Kal raised his hand up, listening to the voices from the interior of the cave. He raised his eyebrows in question to Larek, who nodded back in response. “It is now or never, Lan.”

“You two stay on the outside, no matter what happens inside. Cover us the best you can from here,” he stated to Marshal and nodded at Jonathan.

The air around Kal became suddenly electrically charged and a quick white glow surrounded him. Once the shimmering apparition cleared a very tall, quite ugly Eosian guard stood before them. Katain scowled and shook her head, “Grotesque.” He touched two fingers to his head in a farewell motion and disappeared around the corner and into the cave. Katain drew in a breath. This was it, she thought. Her lifetime for this.

“Stay behind me,” Larek ordered looking deliberately into her face. She bit her tongue and kept her immediate thoughts to herself. “As I’ve said, you are the boss,” she answered. A loud blast then came from inside, and Larek took off toward the entrance.

Inside the cave the light was filtered; and it was at first difficult to see clearly. A smoky haze hung low as the green incandescent light of the Guardian loomed ominously in the center of the cave. At first Katain couldn’t tell which one of the four guards inside was the one on her side, until two grabbed at Kal spinning him around. “WHAT’S THIS?” the one yelled out to the others.

Your biggest nightmare,” Kal said calmly as he placed his hand on his enemies chest. The guard screamed out falling slowly to the ground as a scorched handprint blazed and smoldered through his clothing.

Larek raised his weapon and shots rang out striking another and blowing him against the cavern wall. Quickly the other two guards charged, as Katain round kicked one of them and ran for cover, blasting another. The fourth grabbed her by the neck and started choking her as Larek fought ferociously with the last guard ten feet away.

Kal knelt beside the Guardian, doing his best to locate the sensing device that would couple with the remote that he was certain Jared had on his person at this very minute.

She couldn’t breath, and her ears were ringing now. The room blurred as his hands tightened harder around her neck. As hard as she struggled, the Eosian was three times her size. In the blur of her vision now she saw them. Two more soldiers running in from the outside. She raised her hand and blasted the one with his hands at her neck, throwing him off balance to the floor. Just as quickly another had her on the ground now, his foot at her throat. He sliced out at her with a blade that seemed to come out of nowhere. She screamed out as she felt the coolness slice her skin and felt the warm trickle of blood run down her shoulder. She spun around and with a few high kicks, sent him into the cavern wall.

Again the interior of the cave spun in her vision and her legs began to give way. No sooner had she gained control, then she was hit hard from behind knocking her to her knees. Her new assailant now pointed his weapon point blank at her face. She had the distinct feeling that time stood still and in that split second her life flashed quickly before her eyes. Suddenly two blasts rang out. She looked up startled to see Larek lowering his weapon... then quickly she looked back into the Eosian’s now expressionless face before her. Two seconds later he fell in slow motion to the floor.

“Larek!” Kal yelled out warning him, but could do nothing to help, as he himself fought off one of the last two of the enemy still moving within the cavern. Larek spun around in time to see the guard coming at him. Jumping out of the direct line of fire, a red hot fireball skimmed and whistled past Larek's left ear, hitting the beast dead in the face. He crumpled and smoldered to the cavern floor. Larek turned quickly to the direction of the blast only to see Katain’s blood stained face smiling at him. “Behind…you? Like...hell,” she said, trying very hard to catch her breath between each word.

“Let’s do this before we get more unexpected visitors,” Kal yelled out, quite out of breath himself.

Larek helped Katain to her feet, as she ripped at her shirt, tearing off a strip of fabric. He took it from her and wrapped it tightly around her neck, applying pressure to stop the bleeding. The look in his eyes told her what was on his mind. She shook her head, “No. It’s just a little blood. It’s not that deep,” she lied, and he knew it. She left him then and ran over to Kal who was back again kneeling down beside the Guardian as it towered above them. “Jesus...,” she whispered, still not believing the enormity of what she saw before her.

Kal had already removed one large section serving as a cap or lock at the top of the canister holding the fuel rod. One more covering and the rod would be exposed. It was time for some protective gear. “Put the suits on,” he ordered.

"There's only two," Katain reaffirmed with concern.

"I know, that's why you're leaving. Head back up to base and get your wounds taken care of," Kal stated clearly. "And don't argue with either of us." She looked from one to the other, touching them both on the arm. She knew there was no time left for debating the point.

"We will see you both soon," she exclaimed.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Post by Diehard » Mon Mar 29, 2004 10:59 pm

CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE


Once outside and back into the bright sunlight, Katain began feeling dizzy as she stumbled up the hill leading back to the Federalist’s temporary camp above the cavern. Things around her were beginning to blur as someone grabbed out at her sleeve and pulled her down hard to the ground. She screamed out as a hand clasped over her mouth. The vision before her cleared enough for her to now make out the face before her. It was her brother. “Jesus, Marshal!” she whispered loudly.

“Stay down. There’s a sniper hiding in the bushes on the far end of their camp. They can’t seem to find him. Everyone else seems to have gone on to Milinga,” he exclaimed in a low voice.

“Where’s Jonathan?” she asked pushing his hand away that was now closely examining her neck.

“He’s undercover, covering the entrance. What the hell happened to you?” he replied with surprise, moving the blood stained cloth at her throat.

“Shit!” she exclaimed remembering and reaching down into the pocket on the leg of her khakis. She pulled out the tracker. “Get this back down to Larek!”

“I’ve got to get you up to camp,” Marshal insisted, seeing the amount of blood now dripping from her bandaged throat.

“No! Don’t be stupid,” she insisted. “He’ll need this or everything is fucked. I’ll get to camp on my own. You have to take this… you have to take this right now, Marshal… and be careful.”

“Will you be alright?” the older Duncan worried for his sister.

“Only if I go right now... my head’s starting to spin like a top,” she groaned. “I think I seriously need a medic.” He watched as she began crawling and scrambling higher on the rocky ground.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


At the Horizon, Angelique was now resting comfortably again. Her bout at present seemed to be with a mild case of pneumonia, to the best of Serena’s guesses. A medic from the main camp was being dispatched to the ship to check her over and administer any possible medication. Serena was silently wishing that they would transport her back to camp, since she knew they were better able to deal with her sickness there, now that it had progressed to it’s present state.

Maria sat alone in her room wringing her hands in her lap. She had lost count of the times she had walked back up to the bridge in hopes of hearing some news. Raymond had done his best to assure them that no news was good news, and that if things were not going well, they would have heard some scuttlebutt from the soldiers on guard just outside the ship. But it didn’t help to calm her aching heart.

A big part of her didn’t want to be here, she wanted to be by Michael’s side. She had started this road together with him and now… there he was out there without her. She should have insisted, she fought back the tears of the anxiety that was just about becoming more than she could bear.

The intercom crackled and Serena’s voice came through. “We’ve just heard from Marcel. Can I get everyone onto the bridge, please?”

Maria took a deep breath, then another. “Please, Lord. Let this be good news. Please keep them safe.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Brother Jasper motioned to the four behind him, and then farther down the line to the two other members of the Order. Michael looked over at Max without a word and led the others up to Jasper’s side.

“How many Navirs are here with you today, Brother?” the guard asked as they approached the entrance. They were so close now that Liz could feel the cool air coming from inside the castle walls and her stomach flipped.

Brother Jasper announced in a loud voice, “Seven are here to receive the blessing,”

“And what is it that you bring with you?” the second guard asked, his disenchantment at the religious figures before him was evident as he asked the ritual question.

“We bring only our allegiance to the King, Sir,” Jasper bowed his head presenting the ritual answer, as Max gritted his teeth.

“You may enter then.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The older monk led the way into the small vestibule inside the front entrance. Once inside, a familiar and strong presence came over Liz, Max and Michael. A strength, a reaffirmation of their former selves.

Rath and Kolt entered after Jasper, then Zan and Ava. Two other robbed figures from the line beyond the walls also joined them. The seven waited there for one of the guards to escort them through the halls and down to the huge ballroom known as the High Hall.

The sound of their footsteps on the heavy tile floor seemed to echo a strange and ominous welcome home. Ava stood close to Zan, both keeping their heads bowed low. The familiar hall now turned to the left and opened up to the entrance of the hauntingly familiar room. Ava swallowed hard, fighting off the memories of her last time here at this very spot. Zan glanced sideways at her and she saw the side of his mouth turn upward to her in reassurance.

“You may enter. Jared will be present shortly,” the guard announced before turning on his heel and leaving the seven alone where they stood. Rath nodded over to the opposite wall where a painting of Jared now hung in the place of the royal family portrait. Ava’s eyes lingered there, and then quickly looked away as Zan brushed close against her arm. “Stay next to me. Don’t leave my side,” he whispered. She barely nodded.

Stepping through the doorway, the expanse of the room was just as overwhelming as it had always been. So familiar, yet so foreign in it’s present state. Ava had noticed on the way in that the statues that had once graced the long and formal hallway were missing, and that the walls themselves were void of all other paintings that had been in Ava’s family for centuries.

However, the High Hall itself still held its majesty and she couldn’t help but muster a smile at the statue of St Myriad still standing in the small alcove far to the right inside the room. Zan walked without hesitation toward the statue and the others followed. Jasper knelt down before the Adian saint’s image. A prayer at this point seemed to beckon them all.

“When he arrives, just do as I do,” Jasper whispered last minute instructions to the figures now kneeling to either side of him.

Kolt turned his attention to the two robed persons kneeling to his right. He nodded in question.

“Siobhan and Eliza, Federalist army,” she answered his unasked question, while motioning to the man beside her.

“Pleasure to make your acquaintance,” Kolt answered with a not so surprised smile. “I take it we have more outside?”

“Much more,” she said with a wink. “They will keep the Eosians who remain outside of the walls at bay.”

One of Jared’s honor guards approached, walking quickly across the room toward the group. To their left at the front of the room stood the royal throne, flanked on either side by two richly decorated cloth covered benches. At the back of the throne, red and gold material draped from the high ceilings billowing down softly onto the floor, just as they always had. The golden Adian symbol which had once blazed the center of the display, however, was now conspicuously missing.

Brother Jasper greeted the guard. “We wish the honor of a presence with the King.”

“He has sent word that he is on his way down.” The guard bowed to the monk, as loud voices were heard coming from just outside in the hall. Suddenly Jared’s figure stood looming in the doorway, an honor guard to either side of him.

“Brother Jasper,” his voice seemed unnaturally loud even for the size of the room. He swung his robe dramatically as he nodded at the head of the Order yet never met his eyes. Instead, he walked from one side of the room to the throne at the opposite end. He turned then to face his audience and motioned to the seven to cross the room and join him.

“We have a wonderful crowd gathered outside. St. Myriad must be so proud,” he exclaimed, ridicule laced in his tone. “You have come… wishing my blessing. Come. Come closer,” he crooked his index finger in their direction.

Moving closer, they came to a stop lining up before him. Jasper stood alone at the front. To his rear, Zan and Ava and Rath stood side by side. Kolt, Siobhan and Eliza, some six feet behind them. Each one positioned themselves in full view of the Eosian king and the throne of Adia.

From the corner of Zan’s eye he saw two figures entering the Hall from the side anteroom. A young woman was escorting Malow into the room. Jesus, Zan murmured, as Ava felt the pain in his heart.

The old woman took her seat next to Jared, as the young woman walked around and stood behind her. It was then that Ava realized that the young girl was Chalone. Zan tried desperately not to look where his mother was sitting and swore everyone in the room could hear his heart pounding at that moment, as a strange mixture of disgust and nagging disbelief flooded his mind.

Shake it off , Rath ordered as he clasped his hands firmly behind his back.

Malow kept her head down, as Jared nodded at her arrival and then began to speak. “It pleases me so…. that the Order of the Navirs has blessed our kingdom with… their prayers and their loyalty.” Jared wiped at his brow as he remained standing before the group. Kolt noticed that he seemed to be a bit preoccupied, having several times paused in the middle of his sentences. A guard entered from a side door, approached him and whispered something into his ear. Zan’s eyes moved to Rath’s in question, as a frown came over Jared’s face.

Jared sat down slowly onto the throne in deep thought. Moments passed before he finally spoke. “I have just received distressing news. It would seem that the Lady Tess has been killed by the Federalist troops.” His statement was directed at Malow, but said loud enough for all to hear.

Zan raised his head only slightly peering to catch a glimpse of his face as he said the words. He felt his own body tense up as the word Tess seemed to roll so familiarly off Jared’s tongue. He slowly placed his hand into the pocket of his robe. The tracker laid there in silence.

“We will see that prayers are said for your deceased one when we return to Rochell,” Brother Jasper offered quickly. Jared stood to his feet again then, and Liz caught sight of the weapon at his side under the royal robe.

Rath slowly scanned the room. Two guards by Jared….three behind him and two more in sight, standing just off to the side in the small room adjoining the Hall. Jared and seven, his thought went out to Zan.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Larek spun around weapon in hand as Marshal came running through the cavern door. “Is she alright?” Larek asked with reservation in his voice at seeing him there.

“I don’t know, she wouldn’t let me take her to camp… she forgot to give you this,” Marshal exclaimed, tossing the tracker over to Kal.

“Oh… good move,” Kal shook his head. “That would have been real cute.” He turned his attention back to Marshal Duncan. “Get out of here,” he ordered.

“Isn’t there someway I can help?” Marshal insisted as he couldn’t take his eyes off the towering bomb before him.

“Yeah, you can go make sure that Katain gets immediate medical attention,” Kal said, handing the tracker over to Larek.

“We have things under control here, Marshal. See to your sister for me,” Larek nodded, as the young man turned to leave, he then again turned back to the two men. The three stared at each other but Marshal could find no words.

“We will,” Kal finished for him. “Now let us get back to the job at hand.”

Marshal ran his hand through his hair nervously, then turned and left.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“You may come forward to receive your blessing now. One at a time,” Jared stated, now suddenly in a most uninterested manner.

Jasper immediately motioned to Eliza first. He walked to the front of the room with him. Jared stepped down from the rise, as Jasper let his hood fall back. Jared touched his head with his hands. “Go in Peace,” he granted the blessing. Jasper again raised his hood and turned to the others behind him, as Eliza took his turn for the king’s blessing.

As Jasper walked back to the others, he discreetly placed his hand to his own chest, marking a small X there. Zan looked quickly to Jared’s chest in time to spot the small box hanging around his neck just under his robe.

He looked quickly to Ava, The remote is around his neck. They were running out of time now, they couldn’t wait much longer as Jared was far too familiar with the other five faces who would be approaching him next for the blessing.

Zan looked back to get Kolt’s attention. Things were moving too quickly and still the tracker laid quiet in the pocket at his thigh. They had to play their cards, they would soon have no choice anyway.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Post by Diehard » Mon Mar 29, 2004 11:01 pm

CHAPTER THIRTY SIX


The protective suits did much for covering their bodies; but once on, it was obvious that their heads were still to be exposed. Kal shrugged as the two exchanged thoughts. “I guess we better be fast about this,” Larek said aloud with a sigh of resignation.

They both were kneeling with the fuel canister between them. Kal carefully loosened the fittings connecting the shell that housed the glowing rod. His hands were steady as Larek held his breath paying close attention to the exposed rod in conjunction to the sides of the canister. “It has to be pulled straight up and out. Any tap on the side could be…” Larek chose not to finish the statement.

“There are two wires connecting the canister to the power source,” Kal explained at closer examination. Larek pulled his dirk from its sheath at his side handing it over to him. “One goes to the power source, the other…It must be connected to the communication terminal below it,” Kal thought out loud.

“You snip, I’ll stabilize the rod,” Larek suggested placing his gloved hands over the glowing rod. The humming from the Guardian loomed in their ears, as Kal nodded back to him.

“Communication terminal first,” he stated clearly. “Don’t move the rod until it’s dismantled.”

“Not a problem, my friend,” Larek forced a half smile.

Kal placed the dirk on the chosen wire. “Maybe I should do the other one first,” Kal questioned looking back at Larek, who took the opportunity to breathe a few more times while his partner made the decision.

“I am not at all sure that it matters as long as the rod remains stable until the connection is completely broken,” Larek offered as the sweat began to bead up on his forehead.

“Noth’n like flying by the seat of your pants,” Kal muttered. Without any further hesitation, he cut the first wire, and the sound of the device seemed to waiver as Larek winced. “Quickly now.” The dirk came down with a twist on the second wire. The Guardian continued to hum for several seconds as Kal leaned back on his heals. “It’s all yours, Larek. Carefully... ever so carefully,” he reminded him.

With steady hands Larek began to pull the green pulsating object from its canister, following Kal’s every order and suggestion. As the rod finally reached clearance, Larek allowed himself to blink twice. Kal helped to guide his hands as the two men made their way over to the crate a few feet away. The two then gently laid the tube of bubbling liquid into its previous bed, placing the wooden top back and securing it onto the crate.

Larek frantically fished under the suit and took the tracker from his back pocket.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The sound of distant voices began to echo down the hall, as the crowd was waiting to be allowed passage into the castle. It had to be now, Max thought as he stepped forward brushing past Jasper. Seeing him moving forward, the others followed suit until they all stood directly and not more than six feet in front of Jared.

“Yes,” Jared said stepping forward at hearing the crowd in the hall. “We must complete the blessing. It seems the natives outside are getting restless.”

“Yes, as we all are,” Max raised his voice. It echoed through the hall. He removed his hood, as Malow gasped at the sight of her son. One by one now the five remaining uncovered their heads.

“ZAN!” Malow screamed out in alarm. Jared took several steps backward onto the rise behind him and stared down at the royal family now before him. His eyes widened and darted quickly around the room. “GUARD!” he yelled out placing his hand to the weapon at his side.

“We are home,” Max’s voice was factual if not loud.

Jared waved his hand to the approaching guards who stopped in place, weapons aimed. “COVER THEM!”

The six drew their weapons as each one now stood facing two Eosian guards. Jared began to feel a bit more in control of the situation. His voice was determined as he stepped down onto the main floor in the smug belief that his honor guard now had things under control. “So the boy king feels confidant enough to approach Leoch?” he said wryly, as he now walked in a large circle around the small group. “You will drop your weapons now.”

His face deepened in anger and his voice raised a pitch, as he looked into the face of the familiar handmaiden now standing before him. He smirked, “Traitors in our mist. This much I certainly should have guessed,” he exclaimed. Then looking back behind him to Chalone still standing on the rise with Malow, “And are you a trader too, my dear, or merely the smarter philosophy within the same family?” He beckoned a guard who moved in at the other twin’s side.

It was then that Jared realized that his intruders had not yet dropped their weapons as he had ordered. He was also well aware that Zan and Ava, Rath and Kolt were formidable enemies even without the use of the Adian steel presently in their grasps.

Max’s gaze followed his until Jared as he completed the circle and stood again before him. “You have the audacity to come into my home and openly confront me?” The sickening warmth of his breath hit Max in the face, but he didn’t flinched. “I WANT YOUR WEAPONS DOWN ON THE FLOOR. NOW!” No one moved or conceded the moment.

Jared came to an abrupt stop now before Liz. Reaching out with his hand, he ran a dirty elongated fingernail down the side of her face, as she stared coldly back into his eyes.

“Lady Ava. Have I mentioned what a great thrill it is for me to see you again? I was always so disappointed that we did not get more time together the day we first met.” He smiled while he twirled her hair slowly around his hand. “Take this one out of here!” he ordered loudly to an honor guard.

A simultaneous clicking resonated from the five surrounding Adian weapons. “I really wouldn’t do that,” Michael said with a nonchalant air. Jared now stared down the barrels of five semi automatic weapons pointed directly at him. “Where I’ve just come from… they call this a Mexican stand off,” Michael replied with a grin.

Malow rose suddenly to her feet as the tension in the room became unbearable. “This is insane!” she screamed out. “You will all die. You must not do this, my son!”

“She is right you know,” the tip of Jared’s gold tooth showed as he reluctantly smiled at the truth of her statement.

Max ignored him and instead looked up at Malow with a wide grin, “Mother, you couldn’t be more wrong about that. Some of us will die, but not all.”

Jared stepped back two steps as a puzzled expression came over his face. He looked back again at Max, catching only part of his thought. Many of his senses had been affected by his still undetermined and nagging malady. He had reconciled with himself the occasional lessening of his powers in the most irrational of ways. Contact with the Guardian may have diminished his thought transference abilities, but it still allowed him the greatest reward of all… right in the palm of his hand. His hand reached for the small box around his neck. He fumbled with the chain, and then held it out in front of him for all to see.

“There are more than fifteen hundred of your countrymen who are so counting on the proper choice from their boy prince at this very moment.” His smile turned to a cocky grin. “You will give yourselves up to my guards immediately or your ancestral city of Milinga and all its inhabitants will vanish from the face of this planet.” His voice rang out in a fevered pitch again as his eyes connected with each and every pair before him.

“It will kill us all, Jared,” Liz replied, her voice strong. “It will destroy the planet, including you and all of your armies.”

Jared looked at her, at first raising an eyebrow, then with a sickening thoughtful acceptance, “Should it be so... then so be it.”

One… One clear but silent ‘buzzing’ hit Zan’s leg. He waited. The tracker vibrated again. Two… He held his breath now... waiting. Nothing. Nothing, there was nothing. It was a go…Two was a go, his thoughts mixed with the building tension in the room.

Max closed his eyes briefly and deeply inhaled in relief. The Federalist troops had managed to reclaim Frasate and gain control once again in Milinga. But the all clear meant even more than the sanctity of the two great Adian cities; it meant simply that Kal and Larek had been successful in diffusing the Guardian. Whatever was to happen now, Max found himself to be strangely content in the knowledge that if nothing else, the majority of Adia was now back in safe hands.

Max took a step forward and shook his head. “It is over,” he stated clearly. “The Guardian is no longer a threat to anyone in this world, Jared. Your forces and your plans have been defeated.”

Jared’s head snapped down, only to see that the box in his hands was indeed inactive. The two lights that had signaled green just minutes before were both now darkened. His fury raged as he threw the box far across the room. He cursed out at the top of his lungs and fired off the first blast, just missing Max as he quickly pushed Liz out of harm's way.

Michael was quick to blast the weapon from Jared’s hands as the Eosian emperor ran for cover, but not before firing a jolt of light at those scattering before him. The room clouded with smoke. The enormity of the open space left little opportunities for shelter of any kind. Other than the rise itself, that housed the royal throne and benches for his subjects and the Council, there was literally no place to hide.

Chalone spun and fired through the stomach of the guard standing close at her shoulder, as her sister fought off two guards down on the floor of the High Hall. Grabbing Malow around the neck she struggled with difficulty with the old woman; succeeding in dragging her into the side room with her weapon pointed squarely at her temple. “Do not think for a moment that I have anything to lose by pulling this trigger, my disillusioned queen,” the young girl with the sweet face gritted through her teeth. Malow dropped to the floor now fearing for her son’s life as much as her own while the battle continued before her.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Liz found herself in the midst of chaos. She watched in slow motion as one of the honor guards sought clear aim and fired off two blasts of fire straight towards her. She returned fire hitting him solidly in the lower half of his body, just managing to move out of the way of the oncoming barrage of flame herself. Just as quickly from another direction, her weapon was knocked from her hands, as yet another guard jumped her knocking her to the floor. The smoky haze hung low making it difficult to see the enemy or anything else in the room. She pushed with both hands now, trying her best to free herself from the weight of the beast forcing himself on top of her. His massive hand pushed at the sides of her throat trying to get a good hold there as she fought back in vain. Pulling her feet up with all her energy, she kneed him in the groin. He rolled to the side screaming out in pain as she raised her hand sending a blast blowing through his right shoulder.

Jumping to her feet, she turned quickly to see a second guard approaching Michael from behind, as he fought valiantly with another. Liz felt the tingling at her fingertips and watched as the familiar green charges danced on her hands and arms. Without much thought, a pure blue shield tinged with yellow flew from her fingers hitting him in a blaze of light. He crumpled to the ground, his body in flames. Shots rang out overhead in every direction and it was all she could do to stay on her feet.

The more they fought, the more it seemed the Eosian guards continued coming at them, from every direction. “Liz!” She heard Max’s voice above the noise screaming out to her.

She frantically turned in circles trying to get her bearings. Their eyes finally met as he threw one of the downed guard’s weapons to her and it was then that she saw the blood smeared on his face.

Suddenly three more guards ran through the door entering the hall. She spun and raised the weapon firing twice, hitting her target both times.

Her vision began to blur now as a cramp in her lower stomach hit her hard, making her double over. She backed herself up against the wall. Doing her best to recover, her eyes took in the room around her as she gasped for normal breathing.

She watched as John was hit severely in the right arm, but switched his weapon to his left hand and continued battling next to Michael and Siobhan. Max had one enemy on the floor a few feet away as Eliza yelled out to him, pointing to the side room. “Jared!

Max’s eyes followed his direction in time to see Jared quickly making his way from the High Hall. Max was on his feet running. He reached the room shortly after Jared and stopped short. He vaguely heard the noise of his countrymen as they converged into the High Hall ready for battle. Instead, his attention was captured by the scene now in front of him. Chalone lay knocked unconscious on the floor and Jared stood with a knife at Malow’s throat.

“Call your people to stand down!” Jared ordered as he groaned between his teeth. Blood seeped a deep maroon from a large wound at his side. “Or the lady who gave you birth will die!”



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Post by Diehard » Wed Mar 31, 2004 10:14 pm

CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN


“Max!” Michael excitedly came bursting into the room, stopping abruptly at seeing the scene before him. Max grabbed at his arm to stop him, as he quickly raised his weapon to Jared in defense.

“It seems that Jared believes that he’s thrown a cog in the spoke,” Max’s voice was shaky at the possibility that lay ahead of him.

“I have no intention of being defeated by a handful of dead royal insurgents!” Jared pushed the knife closer to Malow’s throat. “Retreat with your pitiful army or your mother will die.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, you have already been defeated,” Max stated clearly, trying his best not to look at Malow. “Your armies outside of Leoch have surrendered, and Frasate is no longer under your control.”

Michael felt Max’s every apprehension and worried nervously about their next move. “Put the knife down, Jared,” Michael ordered as he again pointed his weapon at the two across from him. “I think you greatly misjudge Zan’s allegiance to his mother,” he stated dryly. His words were directed at Jared, but meant just as much as a solemn important reminder to Max.

“She’s not my mother,” Max exclaimed without hesitation. “She has no idea what the word means. Never has.”

Malow’s eyes grew wide with fear. “Zan, how can you say that to me? Of course I am your mother!” she said with great dignity.

My mother is a very long way from here,” Max answered, a strong regret came through in his voice. “What you were to me… and to our world, was an opportunist who was responsible for the slaughter of thousands of our own people… to the destruction of the planet!”

Malow angrily tried to step forward as Jared held her back, nicking her neck with the tip of his blade. He was losing his patience, as well as a lot of his own blood from the wound at his side. “Enough of this!” he bellowed loudly. “I am leaving, and you will do well not to interfere.”

Max stood with his weapon down, and Michael could feel the emotional doubts confusing his friend’s mind. Chalone stirred on the floor and Michael made a move to help her. “Stay where you are!” Jared ordered. The four stood staring at each other as silence filled the room.

“Zan, please. Give him what he wants,” Malow pleaded for her life.

“Just as you have all this time, Mother? And Kivar too? Countless lives were snuffed out in an instant because of you. People with hopes and dreams of a better Antar. A free Antar.” Max raised his voice and then closed his mouth as his jaw tightened. He heard someone coming up behind him; turning quickly he saw Liz running into the room.

“Max! It’s over! Are you alright…” Her excited words stuck in her throat now as her eyes went from Jared and Malow’s, and back to Max again.

Jared started edging his way slowly backward toward an exit leading outside the castle, pulling Malow after him a few steps at a time.

“Stop where you are Jared,” Max ordered as he and Michael both took two steps toward them.

Jared grinned out one side of his mouth. “Over here,” he motioned to Liz. “Over here now!” his voice boomed at her.

Liz saw the knife pushing into the skin at Malow’s neck and took a step forward. Max quickly grabbed at her as his eyes widened. “NO!” he ordered frantically.

Max looked back into his mother’s face. But, it was Zan who then raised his weapon. “I have promises to keep. For the people of Antar...”

A mirror image of fright now doubled on the two faces of the enemy before him. Jared’s eyes met with his for only an instant, as Zan fired a blast at close range that traveled through the two before him.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



It is over. Some might say all good things come to those who wait. To those who believe. Well the people of these worlds have suffered long… and waited long enough. I’ve proudly spent the better part of my life as a rational person, but there is no rationality to anything that has happened to me… to all of us, since this journey began. And I can’t help but feel that I am completing someone else’s dream now. It’s a strange feeling when you feel so completely home again, and yet have such a big part of you somewhere else.

Many were lost today in the battles that raged both inside and outside Leoch. The Eosians that laid down their weapons by surrendering voluntarily or by force are being escorted back to Trinity where the Federalist armies are setting up prisoner of war camps, until we can arrange something else. There’s little in life that measures fairly to war, she thought solemnly with a sigh. It is both the taker and the giver of life.

Here, hours later, the surrealness and immensity of what has taken place is still difficult to comprehend. The Federalist armies are in complete control of Adia for the first time in over a half a century, but it has come at a high price.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Max sat with Liz outside of Leoch, drenching themselves in the cool Adian waters of the fountain. She patted a wet cloth at the cuts and gashes on his cheek as her thoughts continued to wander. Max couldn’t take his eyes from her face, still not believing everything they had been through, everything they had accomplished.

“Sit still,” she insisted as he fidgeted at his stinging wounds.

“It’s funny, I never even felt them. I have no idea when they happened,” he marveled. “There was just so much intensity…so much adrenaline.”

His voice faded off as flashes of the earlier scene in the High Hall came to Liz’s mind again. Cautiously she placed her fingertips over the largest bloody cut on his cheek. Touching at it lightly, the skin under her ever so faintly charged fingers transformed to a few light and barely visible scars. “My Ava,” Max sighed with a boyish grin as he felt the heat of her healing.

She sat down beside him looking with amazement down at her own fingertips. He lifted her hand to his lips, the physical and emotional exhaustion still written on both their faces. He took the cloth from her and she closed her eyes as she raised her face to him and smiled, wiping away the soot and dirt. “Now what happened? Where exactly was the pain?”

“It’s gone now,” she exclaimed. “Really. Just a few cramps; but they’ve stopped now.” Every muscle and bone in her body ached at this very minute, but the sharp cramps had now subsided. “I just overdid it a bit,” she said and then laughed at the complete absurdity of her words.

He hugged her close and for a few moments all he wanted was to feel her softness and revel in the pure and simple fact that she was now safe again in his arms. Too much had happened for their minds to completely sort out in their exhaustion. It was still so hard to believe that it was all over. “First thing, we have a physician check you over… two physicians,” he added, placing his hand protectively over her small protruding stomach.

“One will do fine,” she rolled her eyes and kissed him softly on the good cheek.

“Hey,” Michael yelled out to them as he walked over to join them. “John says that a few runners will be arriving soon from the Horizon,” his face beamed.

“How’s John’s arm,” Liz asked looking quickly to Max, knowing that the injury had not been a slight one.

“Maxwell healed him up fine,” Michael answered. “Chalone’s gonna be alright too. Nasty bump on her head though. The troops are cleaning everything up… getting things… together,” he stammered, looking back inside the open castle doors.

The Eosian flags had long since been ripped down and the true banners of Adia were again flying high above them. The truth of the last two hours and their confrontation with Jared and Malow still hung heavy in the air. “You did the only thing you could have done, Maxwell,” Michael exclaimed.

Max nodded reluctantly. “Yeah..” he paused, “I know. I’m not so sure that I could have done it alone though. It was Zan… it was his strength more than mine… if that makes any sense at all.” He laughed slightly and scratched at his head. Liz leaned on his shoulder. “It makes all the sense in the world… especially in this one.”

“We’ve had word from Larek, too,” Michael added, sitting down on the edge of the fountain beside Liz. “He and Michel are finishing up some things at Trinity, and then they’ll join us here. There’s a whole hoard of Eosian prisoners that need to be secured at camp. Last count we lost close to a hundred and ten troops in the battles at Frasate and Milinga.” The three sat in the quiet of their thoughts.

Liz sighed looking up at the stone majesty of Leoch as it towered above her. “So what’s next?”

Max sat for the longest while without answering. His face then slowly broke into a smile and Liz laughed. “Wha-t?”

“If you could have one thing right now, what would it be?” Max asked mischievously. “Come on now, after all… I am King. And right now your wish is my command.”

Michael grinned out of the side of his mouth.

“A hot bath,” Liz answered without much decisive thought.

They all nodded. “Good one,” Michael replied. “How ‘bout you, Maxwell?”

“…To have a hot bath with Liz,” Max grinned, pulling her to her feet.

“You’re on! Hot soapy water… new fresh clothes… let’s go. Besides it’s time to check out the homestead,” she said with a wink.

“And what do you want, Michael?” she yelled back over her shoulder as the two started to cross the courtyard. Waiting for a response about Maria that she was sure was coming she raised her eyebrows.

He smiled, “My pie.” Liz looked back at him with a weird look, as Max led her back inside.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Emily sat alone on her bed at the Horizon, with the book that her Aunt Liz had sent to her. Lost Treasures by Claudia Parker sat in her lap. They would be leaving soon, leaving the ship to live at Leoch. But this time she smiled at the thought of the huge castle where she had been held captive only a week before. They would all be there and she couldn't wait to see them. Larek had sent word that there would be a huge celebration later that night, and even if there wasn't a big party, she thought, she would be with her whole family again.

She sat quietly now looking closer at the book in her hands. Fingering lightly each and every drawing on the pages before her, she repeated a strange word that came to her mind several times, “Cohokian.” She flipped quickly now as if something or someone was drawing her to a certain page and stopped at a relief drawing of a cave painting about halfway through the book. Again she fingered the small crudely drawn diagram and two small symbols within the painting. “Bolivia, South America,” she read the caption under the picture out loud. She snapped the book closed and held it close to her with eyes wide.

“Serena!” she called out.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“Cohokian? I know Cahokian. It’s actually spelled C-a-h, not C-o-h,” Jessie exclaimed looking down at the page. She sat the dining room table now with Serena and Emily. “Of course we were taught about the tribes in school. It’s our heritage. They were a sister tribe to the earlier Aztecs in South America. There are many in that area who consider themselves direct blood descendants. There aren’t many left there now, just the few scattered tribes up higher in the Andes. At some point later the main bulk of Cahokians moved on up to the northern continent of the Americas.”

Serena shook her head. “Yes, months back, before we met your family, Pete and Coby discovered all of this information about the Aztecs and the Cahokia tribes. They tried at the time to convince me that there was a connection of some kind. Coby wanted to believe there was a connection. Truthfully, it was interesting, but we were on the hunt for something I felt was more important. We dismissed it, mainly because we had no reason to tie it into anything we were working on right then. The French manuscript that they discovered gave references to not just an Adian symbol next to the Landau name, but to the fact that there were crystal keys… keys that fit the granolith. One of them was discovered in South America. We had it on loan from the antiquities department at Stanford for a while back in Roswell. It fit the granolith. While it was at the pod chamber, we were able to start this whole process using that crystal, but not ever calculate it correctly,” she frowned.

Jessie took the book from Emily. “Soo, the tribes of South America, Bolivia in particular… were once owners of this crystal… or one of them? So they knew of the icon. How strange that our ancestors ended up there?”

Serena nodded her head. “Exactly.” She pointed to the cave painting in the book. “Emily found it in this drawing. This is the crystal. Except that according to Claudia Parker’s research here, this particular cave painting from Bolivia is identical to those found in the Midwest in the dwellings that once housed the Cahokia tribes. Years back she apparently linked the two tribes together.” She sipped at her coffee and then looked at Emily. “Emily here picked up on it when she was looking at the pictures in the book earlier today. I wish Coby were here, he knows so much more about the tribes than I do. It was his forte at the university.”

“Here’s the thing… there are two symbols in Claudia’s diagram here that are on the outside of this ship, along with the Adian and Antarian markings. They were unrecognizable to John; he didn’t recognize them because he was thinking Antarian… or an alien dialect that he didn’t know. He wasn’t thinking of them as earthly or Native Indian. None of us were. We had no idea what they meant or who it was that put them there, but they’re in this drawing,” Serena stated. “My tribe in the Southwest are the Mesalika, and I can’t help but think that it’s all connected… or some kind of really unbelievable coincidence that John found them when he did. They protected and hid him when he arrived.”

“So you're thinking that when this ship was sent forward in time… it could very well have had something to do with the earlier tribes in South America?” Jessie asked a little less confused now.

Emily stared up at the two women. “If it has these same tribal symbols, it must be, right?”

“It would seem so, although the Gemini Project didn't find this ship in Bolivia. So that brings up the question of how did the ship get to Russia? I wish I knew, but it's origin I’m afraid will always be a mystery. We’ll never be able to prove that one of these tribes were of Adian descent. We’ll also never know if our granolith was the only icon, short of going back into time,” she chuckled. “But at least we have a general idea of the players involved now. The Landaus came back in time.. back to the mid 1800’s in Europe. Raymond confirms early dates of the first documented Duncans in South America were around that same time. We’re talking within a decade, which is in itself amazing. It doesn’t mean that your family or the Landaus weren’t around earlier. It just means that there was no written record of them...no paper trail.”

Serena fanned through the pages of the book before her. “What we do know is this… the South American tribes of the past held a crystal key that was intended to unlock the powers of the icon. And the Landau’s genealogy from the future held two of the keys to the DNA that would unlock the time dimensions of the icon. Future meets past. Two parts of the puzzle.”

“Interesting. And then there’s the third key. Ava… or Liz? If her DNA or the baby’s DNA is the third…” Jessie began to surmise.

Serena continued before she could go on. “If we follow this theory as truth, and right now it’s still only a theory,” Serena reminded her, “the third key represents the present. The third key was a fail safe. That DNA would only be discovered if the third key survived; meaning that the prophecy would have had to first be fulfilled. Otherwise, Ava would not have lived to produce the child holding the final piece. The ‘gods’ didn’t want the final truths to be told until… well, if and when the battle of good over evil had finally been won.”

“Most early Central and South American Indians were avid believers in their religious philosophies. Philosophies that warned of a great catastrophic event that would end the world… one that could only be curtailed by the gods themselves descending down from the skies to save them. The Aztecs were big on that. They lived in constant fear of a disastrous end.” Serena was deep in thought now, wishing there was a way to prove it all.

“Aunt Serena, if we had landed this ship back in the days of the Aztecs or Cahokians, they would have thought we were gods,” Emily stated in all innocence.

Jessie looked at the little one and smiled. “If being a god is defined as one who comes from the heavens, yes, Em you’re right. Reverence is in the eye of the beholder, it’s all in the interpretation. So these tribes were hanging onto their own version of possibly the same prophecy we’ve come to know.”

Serena sighed. “I suppose the truth of the matter is that it no longer matters. An ancient prophecy has been fulfilled. It’s over. Good has defeated evil in the Whirlwind Galaxy.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Diehard
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Post by Diehard » Wed Mar 31, 2004 10:18 pm

CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT


~All my stars are right here in your eyes~


Once those from the Horizon had finally arrived at Leoch on that first night, a fine feast was had by all. Larek and Michel had attended the festivities for a short time until they had to return to organize the transporting of prisoners temporarily to a small secluded area of Trinity.

Maria was like a charmed schoolgirl as Liz gave her, Nicole and Serena the interior grand tour. “My god you could get lost in here!” Maria exclaimed peeking through every doorway they came to.

“We used to do our best to do just that,” Liz chuckled as they climbed the stairs to the third floor. “There are a total of eight floors, for obvious reasons we’re not going to climb all eight flights tonight,” she laughed. “The upper floors are mainly bedrooms and sitting rooms for the staff and for the families of subjects that used to call Leoch their home. Of course, most of the upstairs wasn’t in use once Kivar ran everyone out. Just a few hours before you arrived, Michael and Max began organizing with some of the families down in the hamlets about moving their things back in.”

“That’s wonderful, Liz,” Nicole said. “What a wonderful thing to do.”

“There’s just too much room here for just the monarchy… especially now that we number so much less than...well, then when we all were here before.” Liz stopped in front of several tall doors on the third floor. “Maria, this is the room that Michael has set up for the two of you. There’s a bedroom, bath and sitting area in each of the suites.”

Maria’s eye flew open as Liz opened the doors all the way. “Dear Lord! It’s… oh Lizzie… it’s phenomenal,” her face flushed with excitement, as she looked around the adjoining rooms before her.

“Serena, you and John have the next suite down, followed by Katain and Jessie’s, then one for Nicole, Em and Sierra, then Marshal and Jonathan on the other side at the end of the hall, and then Kal and Coby once he arrives. We thought it would be more comfortable at first if you guys were all on the same floor. Max and I are down one floor.” Liz grinned at being the perfect hostess.

“Thank you, Ava,” Serena smiled as she emphasized her name. “This entire structure is fascinating. I can only imagine how grand it must have been to grow up here.”

Liz nodded. “There were very special times here... with special people. Of course, most are gone now; but, there are memories around every corner.”

Serena looked back for Maria and Nicole, but they were nowhere to be seen.

“I’m sure Maria's checking out every little nook and cranny in their suite,” Liz laughed, motioning to Serena to follow her back downstairs.

“Liz, I know that John has told you about the third key. We tested everyone on board and there’s only you, Michael, Katain, Marshal and Max that we need to test now. Not tonight of course, but it might be wise to do this first thing in the morning, before everyone gets caught up in other things.” They stopped on the landing.

“You think it’s the baby, don’t you?” Liz asked quietly and with obvious disappointment.

Serena sighed. “I’m not sure, Liz. Logically, it could be either of you. But yes, something tells me that this child you carry is the third key. Ambrose mentioned your baby sixty odd years ago. He said this baby would be special. I’m thinking he meant it literally.”

“First thing in the morning then,” Liz agreed. “I have two physicians coming in to examine me… thanks to Max, so we’ll do it then.”

Serena nodded as the two descended the last flight of stairs together. “And the granolith?” Serena asked curiously.

“The Council will be fully formed in the next few days. The decision will then be made by the majority. I think you should know, Serena, that Max and I will vote to have the icon sealed in the catacombs at Rochell.” Liz looked at Serena sensing that she wouldn’t be happy about this news. “It doesn’t mean that’s what will become of it, it will be up to a fair vote. I just wanted you to know what the two of us feel.”

Serena managed a smile and nodded in response to something she already had surmised. Nowhere in her mind could she now come up with the energy to attempt to change their minds.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Coby arrived a few days after those from the Horizon. The grandeur of the place made his head swim. He had been accompanied by Jillian, the physician from camp. It was soon obvious to everyone who knew him that he had been pampered back to health by the good doctor. Their exchanges of loving looks did not go unnoticed by the group, and no one was happier for him than Serena. He still walked with a cane for support, but his wounds seemed to be well on their way to healing.

“Coby, it’s so good to see you,” Serena smiled at their first chance of being alone together.

“I know, I was pretty worried there for a while, but Jillian has been my own personal angel. In a really morbid way, it’s the best thing that could have happened to me,” he laughed and rolled his eyes.

“Ahh, I see,” she mused.

“I’ve been kept pretty up to date from day to day about most things here. So what else is happening?” he asked, all too ready to have the gaps filled in and get back to work.

“Well, I’ve taken a few samples of Liz’s blood. As soon as you’re settled in, Kal and I have already set up the equipment in the suite that you’ll be sharing with him.” She looked at him for a moment. “Unless, of course, you and Jillian…”

“No, she has to return to camp for now. That’s fine. I’ll get on it as soon as possible,” he told her as the young doctor joined them.

“Good. I have a few others things to discuss with you, but it can wait,” she added at seeing the impatient look in the young woman’s eye.

“What about the baby’s DNA?” Jillian asked. “How will we check that?” Coby blushed slightly. “I’ve explained a few things to her,” he admitted to Serena.

“That’s okay,” she nodded. “We could probably use the medical help with it all. I don’t have the foggiest idea,” Serena answered her question honestly.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get enough data from Liz’s sample to come to some conclusion,” he reached, taking Jillian’s hand. “Where am I sleeping?” he asked Serena with a smile.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

****

Liz’s reflection looking back through the glass brought a smile to her face. The gown was different, not quite fashioned the same as before, but just as beautiful and detailed. Serena stood behind her, fussing with the eyelet trim on the still pinned dress that in four days would hold one of the longest bridal trains she had ever seen in her life.

She felt exactly like the fairy princess, much as she had on a morning long ago. Ava had lived a fairy tale, with castles and prince charmings and… yes the ogres had been there too; but that was behind them all now. Destiny had been satisfied... and prophecy, in four very short days, was about to be fulfilled.

The decision, a few days before, to renew their wedding vows had been an easy one. It was something that Zan and Ava owed to all those that loved them dearly here in their world.

Max had decided that there would be no Coronation of King without the official consecration of the wedding vows. They had both already pledged their souls to each other four months back in Lovell. The coming pomp and circumstance was only a formality for the people of this world. But a fine formality, she thought with a grin to her reflection in the mirror. She knew in her heart that it was so much more. They were simply finishing something that had been left undone years before.

Once learning of Larek’s intentions, Max had insisted on the idea of the double ceremony. Liz was so very excited for her dearly loved friend, and so happy that Nicole had decided to stay with him here in a world so far from everything she had ever known before.

And so it had been decided. The celebration would be a huge one and not one that Adia would soon forget, not for a very long time.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Angelique was improving in leaps and bounds, and Raymond was taking very good care of her. The Duncan family had spent the last week on Trinity restructuring the small town of Justice. The seasons had finally changed there, and the harsh winter had finally bowed its head to a warm and beautiful spring.

The Federalist men and women who had so courageously fought for their freedom now had ample time on their hands, and the rebuilding and expanding had begun. There were many soldiers who had never lived anywhere except within a Federalist camp somewhere. Camp had been the only home they had known for years upon years. Homesteads to accommodate all those returning to society were now being built and crops had been planted in a renewed hope for the future.

In that first week, Max had not yet taken the official oath as King; but was just the same served in full capacity in both worlds. As such he had taken the liberty of appointing both Katain and Marshall Duncan as Stewards of the new and thriving world of Trinity. A home world returned to them. Jonathan and Jessie together had taken up the colossal agricultural task of teaching Trinity’s homesteaders to be more self-sufficient. Quite a few new earthly crops were introduced to the curious farmers; new fruits and vegetables that had traveled with them from another world far away.

The royals themselves spent much of their time at Leoch, removing all traces of the Eosian dictator from the castle and its surroundings. The royal paintings once again hung in their rightful places throughout the long elaborately decorated halls. Together Max and Liz, along with Michael and Maria, had visited many of the smaller hamlets on both Adian worlds. There hadn’t been much time for relaxing, just about everything they did now reflected the monarchy. Everywhere they went people looked upon them as two supernatural presences. Doing their best to dispel that uncomfortable notion, they spent much of their time trying to be as normal as possible… normal in an Adian sense, of course.

“I think that the royal wedding portrait should wait,” Liz suggested referring to the old Antarian portrait of Zan and Ava that was to have hung outside the High Hall, but never had.

She sat on the oversized fluffy bed in the large suite they had chosen as their own. Neither had any intention of sleeping in the royal bedroom, which had seemed haunted by the memories of Jared and his muses. That particular bedroom was instead turned into a storage room, which remained locked at all times.

“I was thinking the same thing,” Max answered as he buttoned up a white linen shirt over his normal faded jeans. “We should wait until after the weddings.”

“I think you may be starting a new look for the Adians,” she laughed nodding her head with a smile and liking what she saw before her. “I hear a few of the tailors have been inquiring of Michael as to the pattern of our jeans.” Again she laughed.

“Good,” he looked at his reflection in the mirror. “A little less formal can be a good thing,” he winked over at her, as he looked enticingly at the gold gown draped so delicately on her small figure.

“Oh what?? This ole thing!” she giggled.

“Yes, that ole thing,” he mimicked laughing back at her and raising an eyebrow. “You look so incredibly perfect in that... but then,” he added quickly. “I'd love you without it too,” his eyes held fast to hers.

Liz became a bit more serious. “We really shouldn’t change them you know,” she had given this some thought. “That just wouldn’t be right somehow. This is so not earth and never will be. We can’t make them into pseudo earthlings.”

He walked to her side. "I agree. We shouldn’t try to change much at all, and I guess this formality does have its sexy little place, and I do like this look on you,” he replied eyeing her again from head to toe. She sat in the middle of the bed in the long beaded dress with the simple V neckline. He pulled her to her feet and his arms went around her shoulders holding her tightly to him.

“You look like a princess,” he added…“Oh…wait…you are!” he nuzzled the side of her neck jokingly. At the feel of his moist lips on her skin, things became increasingly more serious.

“Max…” she whimpered as every one of her senses connected with his.

“Have I told you in the last twenty four hours how much I love you?” he whispered as he felt his blood running so much warmer throughout his body. She sighed, “Yes you have, but maybe you could... ya know…show me again …and then again..”

His hands slid down over her hips, and he felt the softness of the silk like fabric that clung to her body. “Umm,” he murmured. Her hands then were in his hair, and he lost all control, kissing the coolness of her shoulders that tasted so sweet. “Liz…” He gently lifted her small frame and took a few short steps placing her back onto the oversized bed. She lay there as his eyes held steadfast to hers. Their breathing seemed to come in rhythmic parallels as he slowly crawled up and over her.

“Why do I never get tired of this?” she asked softly into his ear. “Every time you love me it’s like that very first time.”

“Because there is nothing else that was ever meant to be, the way you and I are meant to be.” His mouth pressed hard onto hers, as her lips parted in agreement to his every word.

His fingers gently traced her temple and then her cheek. “I love your eyes that know me so well...” he paused. “And your nose...” he touched gently, “and your … lips.” He felt desire becoming uncontrollable at just saying the words and brushing the sweet taste there on her mouth. “And… I love your body.” He scattered small gentle kisses on her as he spoke the words straight from his heart. “All things are what you are to me. My love… my life. Ambrose was right about so many truths back then, Liz.”

Liz remembered the one particular truth that Ambrose had told her. Know this for it is the only thing that will ever be true. The words had always held so much meaning in representing Ava and Zan’s feelings for each other over the past years, over the light years. Through space and time it had been a reminder of what they would always be to one another.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“We don’t have to do it this way, if it’s not what you really want,” Larek exclaimed. “All I want is for this to be the most special day of your life, and maybe sharing it with Ava and Zan would make it less special for you.”

Nicole replied, “This is what I want, Larek. Being married at Leoch, the place where you grew up, this is special to me.”

“It is just the whole double thing,” he fussed. “I just do not want you to do this only because Zan suggested it. We could wait and have our own celebration in a few months, after things settle down.”

She touched his cheek, “First of all, I’m not agreeing to this because Zan asked. I’m doing this because it feels right. I thought you agreed that it would be wonderful? Why are you worrying?”

He stood up and began to pace. “I do not know.”

“Well, let me help you out here.” He looked at her with question as she continued. “Larek, the most special day of my life has already happened. It was the day I met you. It doesn’t matter if we are sharing our vows with Zan and Ava in grand style, or… rolling in the mud to say our vows. This is about the future, not the past.” She guided his chin to look into her face, and quietly said, “I want this… I don’t want to wait. But I need to know that this is what you want and that you want it now.”

He gathered her into his arms, resting his chin on the top of her head. “You are what I want and… I wanted that for many yesterdays. For today, tomorrow and always,” he kissed her lovingly, and grinned. “You are in for such a treat, My Lady. No one throws a celebration like Leoch.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Diehard
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Post by Diehard » Wed Mar 31, 2004 10:20 pm

Author’s note: No, I have not plagiarized myself :lol At the end of this chapter I have quoted a scene that took place in Smoke and Mirrors.


CHAPTER THIRTY NINE


“So what’s new up there?” Evan Prost rolled his eyes towards the bright blue sky as he stood in the desert just outside the Yucca Flats installation.

Major General Fannel began spreading graphs and celestial maps out on the hood of his Ford sedan. “Well for the last few weeks, as you’ve known, Evan, we’ve been closely monitoring the northeast quadrant of the Galaxy. There had been consistent discrepancies showing up one day after another. Unnatural movement due to the anomaly affecting everything around it.” Fannel stepped back and wiped the desert sweat from his face.

“Yeah, that much I know. I was hoping you had some different news for me. Something more positive. Something to shed some light on the whole doomsday scenario. It’s been what? eight, ten weeks since they left.”

Fannel frowned, understanding and feeling his friend’s frustration. “I think that the fact that the galaxy was still there an hour ago is grand news for us all.” He paused, removing his sunglasses. “Alright the only good news I have, be it promising or not, is that the black abyss is steadily stabilizing; which is exactly what we’d prayed for, barring any new and additional destruction up there now, of course.”

General Prost rubbed at his chin. “You’re right. Sorry for the cynicism. It’s just so daunting sitting down here with our fucking heads in the sand not knowing a piss’n thing. I wake up every morning and wonder whether the day stands a chance of finishing into night.”

“You’re not the only one,” Fannel replied. “We played the only cards we had, Evan. We knew back in October that it was all out of our hands.” He folded the graphs back up and stuck them into his brief case.

“So how is the reformed Project Gemini holding up? Any unidentified or undetermined signals coming in?” Prost asked hopefully.

The General sighed. “You can be sure our ears are wide open on that count. So far, nothing. Ever since the event at Stanford, Gemini’s been running a pretty elaborate surveillance. No doorways have opened; trust me we’re on top of it now.” He took the keys from his pocket and opened the car door. “Evan, you’ll be the first call I make.”

Evan nodded at him still feeling out of the loop since being stuck at the Yucca Flats Facility. Fannel had been brought back into the fold at Kirtland after the fire in California. Evan Prost was now trying his best to keep his foot in the door with Gemini after his request to join his friend had been denied due to his retirement coming up soon. He sighed.

“Say your prayers,” Evan added as an afterthought before pounding twice lightly on the car roof in farewell.

“Morning, noon and night,” was his friend’s last minute reply before the dust flew and the car pulled away leaving General Evan Prost standing on his own.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The preparations at Leoch were in full swing. Around every corner someone was buzzing about the grand event just a few short days away. The residents of the castle were tripping over each other in an attempt to be involved in some way or other. Color schemes were being changed and updated wherever one looked. There were gown fittings, uniform fittings, food preparation for hundreds of people, choosing and acquiring music and then there were the flowers. Oh Lord were there ever flowers!

For days ahead of time, Nicole had insisted on helping Maria and the kitchen staff to arrange and prepare the wedding feast, explaining that she had so much nervous energy that she needed to burn off. Wedding jitters seemed to be affecting everyone in the castle, even those who were not about to tie the proverbial knot.

The war camps, as they were being called, were finally set up on Trinity; and at present, guarding and manning the camps were the only responsibility of the now greatly reduced troops of the Federalist armies.

Larek was able to spend more time now with the others, as Michel had taken up most of his duties in honor of his coming matrimonial status.

Several things happened in those two days before the wedding. First of all .. the entire question as to whether Nicole was free to, in fact, wed again. She herself had been the one to bring up the all important question. After a multitude of discussions on the subject, it was agreed by those who were important to the matter that her marital status was not of concern to anyone here on Adia. That no one was going to oppose her vows to the love of her life, simply because she had five years before entered into a contract with a man who turned out to be a rogue, was very clear. (Actually the words used to describe Lucas Landau had been much more colorful.) It was not of concern to the royal family, legally or otherwise.

But still Nicole needed to put her own mind at rest, and so the day before the wedding she had been taken to Rochell where she spent a few hours in solitude with Brother Jasper; finally to return back to Adia with a cleansed soul on the subject.

The second thing that had happened was that Maria had tripped over the hem of her long skirt and fallen down six steps, badly twisting her ankle. “I’ll never get used to wearing floor length dresses everyday,” she exclaimed loudly. Max gently healed her ankle as she sat on the floor at the bottom of the staircase.

“Maria, you can wear jeans. You don’t have to wear the Adian things,” Liz had explained to her, feeling so bad about her tumble.

She looked up from the floor at her old friend. “And what fun would that be? I like the stagecoach look,” she grinned. “I just have to remember to lift the front up when I step forward.” She examined her now heeled ankle and kissed Max on the cheek. “You’re super, Mr. King.”

Liz rolled her eyes. “Just be careful then, okay?” Maria purposely grinned at Liz.

Sierra went running by her, leaping over her legs now stretched out on the floor in front of her. “Hey slow down,” Maria warned loudly, “don’t ya know somebody could get hurt???”

Since the double wedding had first been informally announced to those in the group, Emily and Sierra had been beside themselves with excitement. They literally could not sit still. And now with merely days to go, it seemed every few minutes the two little ones were dashing somewhere to help someone with something of extreme importance. And no one could doubt that they both were, as always, absolutely and completely smitten with their new handsome Daddy to be.


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Coby had run three consecutive computer tests on Liz’s blood sample and each one had proved exactly the same. The DNA was a 78% match. He finally found Serena in with the seamstresses.

“You don’t even have to say it,” she exclaimed, excitedly. “It’s written all over your face.”

Coby was beaming from ear to ear. “Well she’s as close as we’re going to get. 78%..so I’d bet my ..well I’d bet my salary if I was getting one, that this little cherub she’s carrying fills in the other 22%.” He saw the look on slight frown on Serena’s face. “It’s good to know though isn’t it?”

“Definitely,” she answered knowing that he was referring to the fact of whether the third key had now finally become a moot point. The Council had unanimously voted just that morning that the icon be sealed within the catacombs at Rochell. Serena herself had spoke before the group of distinguished men and women representing both worlds, explaining the importance of the third key, and also of the possible powers held by deciphering the code. She could hardly fault the panel of twenty who had just come out of sixty years of turmoil at not being comfortable at present with the possibilities. “I suppose the only decision now is whether or not to tell Liz and Max the truth.”

Coby looked deep into her eyes, knowing how very difficult it was for both of them, and also realizing the heavy burden that would be carried by this exceptional child’s parents.

“They deserve to know the truth, Serena. What they decide to do with that truth would come at a much later date,” he said in all honesty. “But I will leave that decision up to you.”

Serena looked at Ava’s wedding dress so hauntingly hanging now on the form at her side. “I’ll have to think about this a bit.”


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On the night before the wedding, Liz had finally managed to catch Max’s eye from across a very crowded kitchen quarters, where he was addressing the staff about the supply of liquid refreshment for the next day. She winked and motioned with her head to him to meet her out behind the pantry.

“Love you,” he murmured as he grabbed her tightly just barely taking time to close the door behind him. “You know, even though we’ve already done this once, I’m still so excited about this wedding.” He nibbled at her ear, then whispered, “Zan is getting to marry the woman of his dreams.” He kissed her tenderly on the forehead.

“Me too. I feel like I’m twelve again,” she said with a smile. “Come with me. I need to show you something,” she said playfully, pulling him by the hand.

As they arrived at one of the back exits, a runner sat about thirty feet away silhouetted as the bright moon began to rise in the Adian night sky. “Where are we going?” Max asked with a suspicious tone. She handed him a scarf. “Here, tie this around your eyes,” she grinned.

“Oh baby…” he joked. “Blindfolded by a beautiful woman on the night before her wedding vows...hmmm.” She laughed as she led him carefully outside to the runner. “Now don’t peek and don’t say a word.” He nodded and sighed. “I guess this means I’m not driving.”

“Nope, move over.”


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“Now where the hell did Liz get to?” Maria asked in a huff.

Nicole at just returning from Rochell heard her. “I just watched both her and Max taking off with a runner,” she answered as her eyes searched for any signs of Larek.

“Oh Wonderful!!” Maria’s face contorted in agony. “She’s been here all day and NOW she takes off! Well don’t you go take off anywhere with your man,” she exclaimed loudly. “We have plans tonight.”

Nicole looked at her confused. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, me and a few of the girls have planned a little…wedding shower for you and Liz,” she went on to explain as only Maria can. “I wanted to do the bachelorette party thing, but Michael said that it wasn’t appropriate, and besides that.. he’d kill me… and so instead we’ve commandeered a few bottles of Trinian’s very best stock..we’ve combined liquor with… presents.” She grinned at the tall redhead.

“I was wondering where everyone was,” she suddenly smiled. “Oh Maria, that’s so sweet of you. You shouldn’t have,” Nicole hugged her. “You are such a good friend.”

“I know. Well, since I get the feeling Liz won’t be back anytime soon, we’ll just continue on as planned without her. It’s in Katain’s suite…and..whatever you do, act surprised.”

“Well I really should go get changed first,” Nicole insisted, fussing and brushing at the wrinkles in the long skirt of her dress.

Maria picked up the front of her own skirt with one hand so as not to trip over it once again, as she pulled Nicole with the other hand toward the staircase. “No. You look fine. ..Now let’s go. I need a drink.”


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He stood awkwardly with his hand in Liz’s, blindfold still tied. She led him forward.

He felt the sudden coolness of their surroundings, and knew immediately where they were. He slowly pulled the scarf from his eyes and smiled. Liz lit a lantern and hung it high from a notch on the cave wall, as the memories of a night long ago returned to them both.

. . . She was laughing, laughing so hard she was holding her stomach. The cause of her laughter came into view. A handsome young man with the most loving eyes was laughing right along with her. He grabbed hold of her hands and placed them up around his neck, as he snuggled his face into that place in her hair that he loved so much.. "Please tell me," his laughing had changed to a warmer tone, "why do I love you so? Oh..wait, I think it's the way the smell of your hair makes me feel," he laughed softly. She flipped her hair around playfully teasing him.

He lifted her with ease, setting her onto the ledge of a grotto. Their joking mood was changing. Taking her face in his hands, he looked into her eyes and whispered softly, "Or maybe it's the taste of your lips on mine that has addicted me to every inch of you, body and soul." He leaned in and softly placed his lips over hers, and she felt that familiar rush of the passion of hundreds of years run through her. She lost herself in his every move and returned his kiss with every ounce of her being.

A voice boomed, echoing across the distance, calling to her. "I must go now. Father is getting impatient." She hated being apart from him, but they would be apart for only one more night. Tomorrow was to be the day she had dreamed of since her childhood.

Softly she spoke. "Tomorrow, my love, tomorrow we will finally be one. Can it be, can it really be?" She was interrupted by his lips brushing over her's again and again.

"Tomorrow," he repeated to her, against the softness of her cheek. He took both her hands into his, and held them to his chest. He pressed his lips to hers; he wanted to remember the taste of her lips and the feel of her skin on his. With that memory he would sleep well, until he again could touch her. She felt herself slipping, slipping inside of his very soul, the same way she had so many times before.

"You are the biggest part of me, and I am nothing but for you. We have waited a lifetime, and I will promise you again tonight what you already know. . . that I will love you forever, Ava. You are my life and my heart. When tomorrow comes, we will have forever." She wrapped her arms down around his waist, as he placed his forehead to hers. "Know this, for it is the only thing that will ever be true."



It was as if they both had stepped back to relive those few moments spent together in another time on the night before Ava and Zan’s wedding. Every part of the vision was so strong and clear as the memories of their former selves began again. Max pulled her to him almost frantically holding her close. It would be different this time, he smiled down at her and lifted her carefully, setting her down on the very same grotto ledge. “Liz, I love you now just as I loved Ava then.”


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