- “Listen, and listen good,” said Arbitage to Doctor Gillingham and Ms. Habercrombe, “… this situation is entirely under control.”
“But she knows about the emails – I think she has actual copies,” said Gillingham.
“I have to admit, I’m a little surprised at that – especially after she requested that fishing expedition – but it doesn’t matter. Like we said before, what she can’t prove doesn’t count. She can’t have legally obtained those emails or she would have already introduced them into evidence. Even if she had them legally, she doesn’t have a valid chain of custody. We’ve already discussed this. Any subpoena for those emails has to go to the company, and they will fight to keep them confidential under Illinois law. Liz Parker will be dead and buried for decades before there is ANY chance they could get them, the case will be moot with her death, and the whole thing will go away. We just need to get through this hearing, and to do that you two,” Arbitage said, pointing at the doctor and the claim’s manager, “have to get your emotions under control. We expected her to ask for the emails – this is no surprise.”
“Well, it was a surprise that she suckered you into OKing the emails to the judge without a fight,” retorted the doctor. Habercrombe’s head seemed to nod as well.
“Look – I didn’t even want to bring this up, because it’s not going to happen, but if she somehow did get us in a bind – well, this is still just a civil case. I can call the accounting office and tell them to just cut a check for what we owe – hell, I could even have them advance the money it’ll take for the girls hospital bill up until the time that we get the meeting with the ombudsman scheduled in Albuquerque if I have to. I don’t want to do that because it will cost us – all of us – this quarter’s bonus. That’s thousands of dollars for each of us. But if I have to, I CAN do it, and if I do that, the woman has no basis for civil action – the case becomes moot, because her crazy son’s damn near dead girlfriend is getting everything she’s got coming.”
Sanford shook his head. “He’s absolutely right – if you were lawyers you’d understand that. Without a legal chain of custody, those emails are useless to her.”
The doctor and claims manager looked at each other, and the claims manager shrugged her shoulders as if to say, ‘what did she know?’ “These guys are the experts,” she said. “I guess we need to trust them.’
The coffeehouse was two blocks from the hospital.
Maria and Isabel had gone directly from school to the hospital and did their thing, combing out her hair, putting ribbons in it, a few basic understated cosmetics. It wasn’t that Liz was getting bad care, it was just that the care was somewhat institutional. It had been over three months since the girl had seen the sunlight, she’d lost a fair amount of muscle mass despite the best efforts of the Physical Therapists and rehab specialist, and absent their efforts the girl looked – as one of the ‘friends’ who visited once and never went back had said, ‘…like warmed over dead.’
So Isabel had spent an hour with Liz and Maria before Maria had to go off to her shift at the Crashdown. For awhile Isabel had been alone with Liz with no one looking and she’d done her best – trying to make a connection. She wasn’t her brother but if Liz had been even a little bit awake she might have gotten through – maybe fixed a few of the damaged neurons – maybe fixed it so she could actually stay awake. She hoped at least to be able to do enough that Liz’s dream-orb at least would be normal – not just some dark void where she was totally isolated and couldn’t even have the normal sorts of dream fantasies most people had. In the end she’d gotten nowhere. You needed to connect and there was no way to do it. Even Max would have been totally helpless to assist her in any way.
Isabel was amazed at how much she cared for Liz now – it wasn’t just that Max was crazy about her – that’d been the case since third grade. It was that she really knew Liz now – like she never had before – and knowing Liz like she now did, she totally understood how Max could love a human being – as long as it was the right human being. Which is what brought her to the coffee house.
Actually, it was Alex that had brought her to the coffee house. He’d arrived after she’d tried – and failed miserably – to heal Liz, and he too had visited Liz for awhile. But he’d noticed she was depressed, and had offered to buy her a cup of coffee. She had accepted at once. They were now on their second cups.
As a matter of fact, Isabel had never really liked her Ice Princess persona, but it was a useful role when she’d wanted to keep humans at a distance. She really hated it now because she was finding it so inhibiting. It was inhibiting Alex from asking her out. The stupid thing is that she’d been Izzy to him when she’d visit him in his dream-orb for a long time before Liz’s accident when they became friends in the flesh. But he’d bought in to her disguise so completely that even now he really couldn’t make the leap in his mind to understand that she was really far more like his dream-Izzy than she ever had been the Ice Princess. She had gone so far as to encourage him – in her dream-orb Izzy persona, to ask her out on a date. And the damnable thing is that he’d talk with THAT Izzy about his reluctance – his shyness – his fear of rejection – his feelings that ‘the real’ Isabel was ‘out of his league,’ – he’d actually used that expression – out of his league. Damn – if he had half a notion about the arrogant idiots that did ask her out for dates – creeps that undressed her with their eyes and – what they dreamed of doing to her – Gad, the less said the better, she didn’t want to think about it. But Alex? No, he was always the gentleman – one of the things that she loved about him – but that pretty much precluded her making any sort of an effort to seduce him – not that she wanted that this early in their relationship, even in a dream-orb. But she wished her Ice Princess act hadn’t made him so gun-shy that he was afraid to even ask her out on a date.
“So, are the Whits going to be performing at the Battle of the Bands tomorrow night?”
“Yeah, anything special you’d like us to play?”
“It wouldn’t matter. I won’t be there to hear it anyway. I don’t have a date.”
“That’s too bad – I’d really like to play something special that you would like.”
“Well, I’d really like to hear it – but I don’t go to dances without a date. It just isn’t done.”
The words came out of his mouth before he really thought. He was having trouble with that lately. He’d never dreamed that he’d ever call the real Isabel Evans ‘Izzy’ when he’d started dreaming about her – it was just a harmless fantasy – someone to dance with. But lately he’d been having trouble keeping them apart. More and more he found himself forgetting, when he was with Isabel Evans, that she was not really ‘his Izzy.’ That’s how the words got out.
“Well there are four bands, if you don’t mind not having a date when the Whits are playing, I’d be glad to be your date the other three-fourths of the night.”
He realized his mistake as the last word left his lips – wincing internally as he closed his eyes in disbelief at his own stupidity. At least, he told himself, there was almost no one in this part of the coffee house to hear what he’d said – or Isabel Evans upcoming scathing reply. But it was a good deal less scathing than he thought it would be.
“Why, thank you gracious sir – I’d love to be your escort to the dance tomorrow.”
Alex gulped several times and looked at her – almost certain that she was putting him on. But Isabel – she looked so damn much like his own ‘Izzy,’ with that silly half-smile on her face – acted like she was serious.
“Well, OK,” he said, somewhat uncertainly. “It’s hard to believe that the guys in West Roswell High are so stupid they haven’t already invited you, but if you’d like to go with me – well I’m honored.”
The same half-smile was on her lips as she put her hand on his – intertwining their fingers just like his Izzy did in their dreams. “Oh, I got invited – quite a number of times actually – just not by the right guy – until now.”
Finished stories set in an alternate universe to that introduced in the show, or which alter events from the show significantly, but which include the Roswell characters. Aliens play a role in these fics. All complete stories on the main AU with Aliens board will eventually be moved here.
Last edited by greywolf on Mon Feb 02, 2009 12:07 am, edited 2 times in total.
- “All rise” said the bailiff.
Judge Lopez walked through the door from her chambers and seated herself, and the court reconvened with all the principals – and a handful of onlookers including Sheriff Valenti. He had missed most of the day’s legal action – there had been other work to do – but he had heard they were getting near the end and that he wouldn’t miss this for the world. The big-city lawyer had looked so confident – hell, arrogant, really – when he’d first been brought to the courtroom. Now he kind of looked like he’d been wrung out – like he’d be real happy to be anywhere else – and at that he looked less flustered than the other three defendants.
‘OK,’ said Arbitage to himself, ‘…just get through this session, get back in your rental car, and get back to your hotel in El Paso. Tomorrow morning you’ll be on the airplane back to civilization. Let the bitch get her discovery approved and get out of here…’
“Well, Ms. Evans, are you ready to proceed?” asked Judge Lopez.
“I am, your honor.”
“Yes your honor, however there is one point the defense wishes to make before proceeding. The emails that Ms. Evans was requesting the court to subpoena – I trust the court realizes that the computers that those messages are contained on are in Illinois, and not the personal property of any of the defendants. Those used by Mr. Sanford and myself are company owned, and I believe that Doctor Gillingham leases his. To access those will of course require either the permission of the company that owns those computers, or a subpoena of an Illinois court.”
“I’m sure there must be some sort of reciprocal agreement of some sort with Illinois about that, Mr. Arbitage, said the judge. “I must confess, I know very little about computers and the internet and such things.”
Diane smiled at the judge. “My daughter, Isabel, recently met the nicest young man, your honor. I’m sure he would be more than willing to explain all about that to you. He recently talked to me about the internet, and his knowledge is truly breathtaking. Did you know that Al Gore really didn’t invent the internet? That’s merely an urban legend. It was actually first called the Arpanet and was run on only four computers in late 1969. It was a Department of Defense Project then. It was a Department of Defense Project then. It was later expanded to over 200 individual computers before it was civilianized in 1983. These computers used something called packet-switching to carry information so they could transfer information across different types of systems PDP, DEC, and Unix mostly back then. Another sort of urban myth was that it was designed to be a survivable system in the event of nuclear war. What it was really designed to do was to shunt messages around busy or broken computers or even those just down for maintenance. The packets would get switched to whatever computer was able to take them the quickest. Each email user was fed by some local server but between servers – heck, a message from one local server to a server ten miles away might well be routed through one of the original government research centers like the Laurence Livermore Laboratory in California for instance. You see, it really doesn’t matter, because the trunk lines basically move at the speed of light. At 186,000 miles per second, the message can be shot right by a mainframe Interface Message Processor all the way around the world in only a few milliseconds. That’s why the internet can do things so quickly.”
“Your honor, …please, “ interrupted Arbitage. “We really would like to move these proceedings along. I’m delighted that Ms. Evans’ daughter has met a nice young man, but really – what possible relevance does this have to these proceedings.”
“I must say, Ms. Evans, …I have to agree. I’m afraid you have digressed quite a bit off the subject at hand.”
“Oh, not at all, your honor. You see, each server and each IMF – that is, interface message processor keeps a backup of the data for at least three months, most of them for six months. In the case of Ms. Habercrombe, we needn’t go to the company machine in Illinois – we can pull that email off the local server of her internet service provider that she uses here in Roswell. She has emailed me in the past when I worked on cases for other clients complaining about the practices of her company. You see, this header gives all the routing information for the message and – at the bottom – the router IP address of her internet service provider – in this case NewMexico.net. In fact, all facilities in New Mexico would honor your subpoena, without more than a few days delay.”
“Your honor, I fail to see the relevance of this. Since you need to go to Illinois to get the other emails in any event, this all seems like just some computer geeks ramblings. Why not get them all at the same time. That way we could perhaps finish these proceedings sometime today?”
Diane looked at the headers of the emails she had been reading – purposely letting the opposing lawyers, the doctor and Ms. Habercrombe see that it was a copy of one of the messages between Arbitage and the doctor. What was coming was a bluff, of course. The IMP it had gone through had been a commercial one in Peoria Illinois. Even so – what was the chance they would know its routing number? It was the moment she’d been working for since she’d gotten them in to the courtroom.
“Since the counsel is in such a hurry, your Honor, I would ask that you issue a subpoena to …” and she looked down at the header of the message, looked back up and smiled, “ … the Office of Information Technology, the Sandia National Laboratory, Albuquerque New Mexico, and perhaps we can REALLY get this show on the road.”
The color drained from Arbitage’s face. Worse yet, he saw that Gillingham and Habercrombe were visibly shaken. Even Sanford appeared speechless. He gulped several times and finally managed to find his voice.
“Your honor – this case is taking the valuable time of my associates and myself – and it is just getting started. What’s worse, it is causing bad publicity that can only harm the business prospects of my fine employer. Our company wants happy policyholders, and it’s plain that Mr. Parker is unhappy – and yes, I’ll admit that our accounting office has been less than efficient at paying the hospital bill for Miss Parker. In the interest of public relations, I think it’s time that Mr. Sanford and I called up the accounting office – got someone to wire that money directly to the hospital.”
“That won’t cover the bill while we wait for the ombudsman’s meeting,” reminded Diane.
“Well, we can schedule that first – then advance the money that will be required to keep Miss Parker at her current level of care until the meeting – would that be acceptable, Ms. Evans?”
“It’ll be acceptable when we see a completed wire transfer notification, your honor,” said Diane Evans looking up at the judge, “…and not one damn minute before.”
Last edited by greywolf on Tue Feb 03, 2009 5:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
- The Judge was back in her chambers awaiting notice from her clerk that Sanford and Arbitage were done with scheduling the ombudsman meeting, contacting the accounting office, determining how much money would be required to pay off Liz’s hospitalization to that date, then getting someone from disbursing to wire-transfer the money, then having Sanford go over to the hospital and obtain a statement that they had actually received it. It was going to be at least an hour, and everyone else was sort of just milling and bunching out in the lobby, waiting for this to be over. Of all the waiting people, none were more earnestly hoping for it to actually BE over than Gillingham and Habercrombe.
“I thought,” said Habercrombe, “… that I was actually going to pee my pants when she said she wanted the records obtained from the computer in Albuquerque.”
”I know just what you mean. You know what? I’m not even going to go to that ombudsman meeting in Albuquerque – they can get someone else. As far as I’m concerned, this whole thing is over.”
The noise came from in back of them. It sounded like a laugh, but there was no humor in it. There wasn’t any humor in Diane Evans’ voice when she spoke either.
“You think this is over? I mean – you actually think this is – over? You hurt the Parkers – hurt everyone who cares about Liz Parker – hurt MY son – and you think this is OVER?”
“Look, you got what you wanted..” said Habercrombe.
“I haven’t BEGUN to get what I want, Ms. Habercrombe. Don’t you realize that the statute of limitations on fraud is five years? I have PLENTY of time to work this, now that Miss Parke’rs bills are being paid.
You and I have crossed swords before over the policies of your employer – sure, the civil case here may be moot, but the transcript is a public record. By this time tomorrow I can get a copy and go straight to the District Attorney. You’ve seen the beating he’s been taking in the editorial pages and the letters to the editor over signing off on the plea deals that let that drunk keep driving – the man will be lucky to stay in office at the next election. He’ll take this case to a grand jury – you ever hear what lawyers say about a grand jury? A good prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. He’ll indict you – subpoena all your records – and if he refuses, I’ll run against him in the election this Fall beating up on him about this case and when I win, then I’ll go after you. ”
“But Sanford and Arbitage said…”
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry too much about your soon to be indicted co-conspirators – they’re lawyers – like me – they know how the game is played. Frankly I would be astounded if they didn’t have their own protection – notes about meetings – internal documents – Hell, tape recordings probably, they seem like that type. When this comes down they’ll cut deals. This’ll cost them some money and they’ll probably wind up disbarred, but I doubt that either of them will see a day of hard time – probably go to one of those country club prisons if they cut a deal with the feds to rat out the rest of the company. You two, on the other hand….”
“Mrs. Evans, I was only doing my job,” pleaded Ms. Habercombe, “… I don’t want to go to prison.”
“That wasn’t your job, Ms.Habercombe, it was conspiracy to commit fraud. Well, you know what they say – don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”
“Mrs. Evans – I didn’t mean to get in to this,” said Doctor Gillingham. “At first it was just coaching me how to give more effective testimony – then gradually those two were telling me what to say rather than just how to say it. Look, even with Miss Parker, what I said isn’t that far from the truth – that girl has less than a 2% chance of ever waking up – and the odds decrease every day. But I didn’t create this situation. Nothing I did or didn’t do put her in that bed.”
Both the claims manager and the doctor seemed on the edge of tears. Suddenly Diane Evans face softened. “No – no you didn’t – and if I take this case to the District Attorney, he’ll probably keep his job – and he is partly responsible. And if I run against him in the Fall, I’ll wind up having his job – and I’d rather NOT be working full time when my son needs his mother’s help coping with his emotional problems. Perhaps the two of you and I can come to a deal…”
“What kind of a deal?”
Diane took out a small notepad and wrote down a name and telephone number. “This is the US attorney in El Paso. Give him a call and tell him you want to make a deal. Your conspiracy is coming apart, and you two don’t want to be the only ones without a seat when the music stops. Give him copies of your employment contracts showing how your bonuses are structured, all your emails – not just about the Parker case, but every one that the company pushed you on to cut benefits. Doctor, if you get your office to fax you copies of your emails and you attest to the authenticity of them, they’ll be usable even without subpoenas. Both of you can testify about what Sanford and Arbitage told you to do – then neither of them will have any choice but to cooperate. Those two WILL probably wind up serving some hard time, even after they give up their records.”
“But we don’t want to go to jail,” said the doctor.
“It’s a little late to think about that, but – if you cooperate fully with the US attorney, he’ll probably get your sentences down to six months – that’s three months of actual time and three months probation. Chances are it’ll be a white collar prison – like Martha Stewart went to.”
”But we won’t have jobs when we get out,” said Habercrombe, “… how will we live?”
“Why don’t you collaborate on a book while you are in there? Tell just what happened or – who knows, write a book on prison reform – it worked for G. Gordon Liddy. The US public is a sucker for rehabilitated crooks – you’ll probably make millions.”
“You know, Oprah is one of my neighbors,” said the doctor, “ …If we had the book done in time, I bet she’d have us on her show to promote it. It’s just the kind of thing she likes.”
Liz was alone in the abyss. She couldn’t tell how long she’d been awake – without any meaningful references every moment of loneliness seemed to last an eternity. No, she decided, that wasn’t quite fair. The strange dreams she sometimes had – about a Max and Isabel who believed themselves to be alien – part alien – even the dreams themselves seemed uncertain about that – somehow they were more than a distraction – more even than just figments of her imagination to keep her company. She remembered her life before the car accident – it wasn’t like she couldn’t dredge up the memories of the years she had existed before the abyss, but there was an unreality about those times – almost as if her mind was accepting the fact that the abyss was all she would ever have – and the abyss was shrinking.
She hadn’t noticed it when she’d actually been dreaming about them – somehow the dreams of those two made the abyss seem larger – more alive – when they shared it with her. But when they weren’t there, it became obvious – the abyss was contracting. Perhaps not the abyss herself – but the part of it she could see. At first it seemed likes she could see for hundreds of feet – of course there was nothing to see BUT the abyss – the inky blackness of it – but it seemed like at first she’d been in a circle that had been hundreds of feet wide – a black featureless floor with a black featureless sky and inky black fog hovering a soccer field’s length away in all directions. The abyss was smaller now – the inky blackness now approaching to within several dozen feet and even the inky sky appearing somehow lower. Perhaps it was that she was still a scientist at heart that she’d notice. The abyss would expand when she was dreaming about them – as if her mind were expanding it to fill the abyss with their – vitality. They seemed alive in a way she no longer was. But between their visits, her world was shrinking. She wondered how soon the darkness would consume her. She wondered – in fact – about a lot of things – but especially she wondered about her dreams of Isabel and – especially – Max.
There were times she thought that her dreams about them were an indication she was going insane, but more often she thought the two of them were her subconscious minds attempt to keep her from insanity. She knew they weren’t really Max and Isabel Evans, of course. She figured they were Max and Isabel as her subconscious had decided that the real Max and Isabel SHOULD have been, in an ideal world.
Izzy was like Isabel Evans, but unlike her in so many ways. She was not just kind but alive in a very human way that Isabel herself had never been. She was – real – and Liz realized after watching Izzy that somehow in the whole decade since she’d met Isabel, the girl had never really seemed real. Izzy was Isabel after her subconscious had gotten through the coldness to what the girl could have had underneath – if she’d ever made the effort. Liz found herself regretting the opportunities missed in those years – for underneath Isabel’s icy demeanor was someone who was likeable and – a good person, if somehow anyone had ever gotten through to her.
And dream Max…how many years had she wished that the real Max could have the sense of purpose that dream-Max had? Max was a brilliant guy and she’d had a crush on him for years – no, that wasn’t fair – when you are trapped in an abyss that may soon swallow you up completely you at least had the luxury of being honest with yourself. She HAD loved the real Max Evans for years and she’d waited – waited for him to make the first move – and he never had. But it had been a Max like this dream-Max she had really wanted, she supposed her subconscious was telling her that now – stupid thing, where was it when it might have done her some good? Her dream-Max radiated caring for her while the real Max – yeah, they had been friends after a fashion – but it had been clear that Max hadn’t wanted – no, that wasn’t true either – maybe it was just that neither of them believed it could ever happen. Maybe if she’d made the effort – he’d made the effort – maybe then they truly would have had something. Would she ever have another chance? Would she somehow find some way back to reality … before the abyss closed in around her completely? And if she did, would she have the nerve to learn from this – to be like the dream-Max here in the abyss – to care enough to try to make her dreams come true?
She felt it first, then saw it – the abyss expanding. She felt the excitement and happiness flow from the two people striding out of the inky darkness. They were smiling – obviously excited, and her imagination or not – her world had suddenly become a much nicer place.
Max came up to her and took her hands, smiling as he twirled around her.
“Well, you certainly are in a good mood,” she said, “… what’s the occasion?”
“Uh –he and Mom won a court case,” said a smiling Isabel. “He’s just all excited about that….”
“And she’s excited about getting asked out for a date with a guy she’s got the hots for,” said Max, looking back at his sister.
“I do not have ‘the hots’ for anyone,” said an Izzy that seemed so much more alive to Liz than the real Isabel Evans ever had. Izzy was blushing – was fighting unsuccessfully to keep from smiling – things Isabel Evans would never have really done. From all appearances, this dream-Isabel did indeed have the hots for someone.
“Yes you do,” said Max, “he asks you out for a date, and it’s all you can talk about – all you can think about. Izzy’s got a boyfriend…”
Liz chuckled despite herself. She'd never really thought of what relationship the real Ice Princess Isabel and Max might have, but they were brother and sister – it was easy to imagine the two of them being something like this in the privacy of their home.
“So who is this guy that Izzy has the hots for?” Liz asked, getting into the spirit of the exchange. It felt good – even if it was all imaginary.
“I don’t have the HOTS for him,” said Izzy, blushing even more deeply, “…I don’t even have a date with him – just three-quarters of a date.”
“Methinks the lady doth protest to much,” said Liz.
“You’ve got that right,” sad Max, nodding in agreement.
“But what do you mean by three-fourths a date?” asked Liz.
Izzy explained about it being the battle of the bands dance and the boy being Alex. Despite the fact that it was totally ridiculous that the real Ice Princess would have EVER wanted to be seen with Alex, Liz found she wasn’t surprised. Somehow she knew that Alex actually would be the perfect guy for this Izzy – if she were real – and she realized as he held her hand, as his eyes smiled at her, that if he were real , THIS Max really would be the perfect guy for her.
For the rest of her dream it was like magic. She and dream-Max helped Izzy pick the song for Alex to play for her – she knew the ones he’d practiced and dream-Izzy picked her brain to find just the right one – one she liked, but one Alex and the Whit’s knew and could play. It was, she told herself, a harmless diversion. But she danced with Max as Izzy sang the song she’d chosen for the Whits to play for her at the dance. As he twirled her around she knew that she was falling back into the coma – that she’d sustained the dream as long as she could – but as she felt sleep start to take her she snuggled closer to his chest – gazed up into his eyes and brought her lips to his….
“This,” said Sanford, “… is police harassment, and we ought to sue the county.”
“Look, I just want to get out of Mayberry and back to civilization. If I have to do it at 64 miles per hour, that’s OK,” said Arbitage. The reality was, he was pissed too. If there was anything that New Mexico had in abundance it was wide open spaces. Nobody paid the least attention to the 65mph speed limit on the long drive to El Paso where their flight to Chicago was due to leave in only three hours. Except, of course, two lawyers from Chicago, when they had a county Sheriff following directly behind them – no doubt waiting to pull them over for doing 66 in a 65 zone.
So car after car had gone streaming by them at 70 … even 80 mph, while they had plodded along at just under the speed limit. The Chaves county line had come and gone, but still the Sheriff hung in there behind them. Arbitage wasn’t sure – actually – if the Sheriff even had jurisdiction outside of his own county – state laws varied on that one. But he was smarter than to test it. The Sheriff had gotten way too much joy out of marching them down to Lopez’s courtroom yesterday and his joy when they’d brought back the documentation from the hospital that the funds had been transferred had been obvious. No, the state line was just ahead, and Arbitage was going to keep it at 64 mph all the way until they were in Texas. If the Sheriff wanted to follow them all the way to El Paso, he was going to have no excuse to pull them over – even if they had to take a later plane.
As they came to the state line the Sheriff’s car slowed – but so did Arbitage as he saw the roadblock. He thought it was a Border Patrol check point when he saw the federal plates – until the man appeared at the window.
“Are you Arbitage and Sanford?” the man asked.
“Why yes….,” said Arbitage, totally confused. How did they know and who were they? The question was answered quickly.
“Out of the car – now!” said the men.
Within seconds both lawyers found themselves being handcuffed
“What’s going on? Who are you guys?”
“Federal Marshal’s office – you are under arrest for conspiracy and fraud, you have a right to remain silent….”
The rest of the Miranda warning was lost on Arbitage. His eyes were on the car behind him where Sheriff Jim Valenti was leaning against the hood of his patrol car – laughing out loud.
The problem, Max knew, was that they were often out of synch. He’d looked over the notes his mother had been given of the testimony of Liz’s doctors and he’d also reviewed the copies he’d made of the records they had provided to the insurance company. Technically speaking, that was illegal, of course, but he’d been trying to spot a circadian pattern in the REM sleep timing. Unfortunately, there wasn’t one. Liz seemed to have what few dreams she actually had spread randomly around the twenty-four hour clock, generally lasting for little more than an hour – although the duration of the REM period seemed longer – almost twice as long on those days he remembered that he and Izzy had successfully dreamwalked her.
But after each REM period she would sleep for at least a couple of hours and sometimes as much as twelve. He and Izzy slept about six hours so even under ideal conditions, they had to be missing three-quarters of the opportunities to dreamwalk Liz, and that bothered him a lot – remembering how often they would go to sleep to find her already alone and crying in the rudimentary dream-orb which was apparently all her damaged reticular activating system would allow.
He intended to talk to Izzy – see if perhaps they couldn’t try sleeping at least eight hours a day. If they could, well maybe at least Izzy and he could be there for her one-third of the time she was – well, conscious wasn’t the right word for it – perhaps self-aware would have to do.
Max was also worried about the general trend. The doctors didn’t track her REM periods very often but when they had – well, the slope of occurrences was a negative one. With each passing week, the periods Liz was self-aware were becoming fewer, the periods of deep coma more frequent. The slope was a gentle one – only a few percent per week – but the trend was ominous. If it continued another seven or eight months, Liz wouldn’t even be able to produce the rudimentary dream-orb she could now. Max wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, but he had his suspicions – that she would lapse into coma for good and never really be self-aware again. That’s why he wanted to talk to Izzy – needed to talk with Izzy. It seemed like every minute they could be with Liz was buying her time, and maybe if – somehow – they could increase their dream time with her, maybe the process could be stabilized or even reversed.
Izzy, unfortunately, hadn’t come home from school yet. She was no doubt meeting Alex for a cherry Coke at the Crash, just like she’d said she was going to and Max knew that maybe he shouldn’t interrupt that – it wasn’t like his sister had had that great a social life up until this point either – but the graph he’d made from the data scared him, and Izzy was the only one he could talk to about the matter. Besides, it would only take a moment, and she’d be dancing with the guy three-quarters of the night anyway.
It was safe to say that Jeff Parker’s conscience was bothering him – it had been all day. He’d gone up and thanked Diane Evans for what she’d done – offered to pay her for her time – and she’d refused to take his money. The way she’d refused – said that she’d done it because her son had asked her to do it, and that was reason enough – hadn’t really been delivered frostily but the implication had been clear. She supported her son – and had not really forgiven one Jeff Parker for that restraining order against him.
Jeff had thought about arguing with her – telling her the deposition from her son’s psychologist proved he was unstable – actually considered throwing back in her face the statement she’d made to the doctor and claims manager that she herself thought her child was fouled up she couldn’t work full time. He hadn’t done any of those things – first because it would have been ungracious – but even more, because it was clear that the woman really did love her son. The Parker family owed Diane Evans, and he didn’t want to fight with her – not publicly – not at all.
She’d asked if he would consider supervised visits by her son – she’d personally supervise them – and he said he’d ‘consider’ them. He’d been considering them half of last night, and most of today. She was, without question, a good woman and a devoted mother. That, however, didn’t guarantee her son was going to get over his mental problems. If the boy was only more like his sister – she’d been sitting out there in the booth with Alex Whitman for more than twenty minutes – and a friendlier and more delightful young lady would be hard to find – a certain 16 year old in a coma at the hospital excepted. But the young man wasn’t like that – he’d been at most a casual friend of his daughters for all these years and now – only after Liz was comatose – only now the kid seemed to be obsessed by her. That frightened him – there was something just – not normal about that.
‘Or was there?’ he thought to himself as he looked at the couple in the booth. He’d known Alex forever and had actually thought that some day Liz might end up with the boy. Sure, Alex had gone through an awkward gawky period – but he was a diamond in the rough, and so many of the girls just ignored him because he’d been so klutzy in Middle School – not Liz or Maria, but they were about the only ones – until Isabel Evans had come around. She seemed genuinely delighted to be in his company and despite Jeff’s affection for Alex, he was a little surprised at that – given the reputation of the crowd the girl ran with. But seeing the two of them together – he really had no doubt it was genuine. Sometimes things DID just change that much with teenagers – he’d seen it before – the teenager crowd was a mainstay of his Friday night business at the Crashdown. Of course, Alex WASN’T comatose, and was going to be taking her to the dance tonight. Hardly the situation with Liz and Max Evans.
In fact, Jeff had been vacillating all day – he’d reached for the phone to call Diane Evans a dozen times – pretty much evenly split between intending to tell her it was alright for her to take her son to visit his daughter and intending to tell her that he just couldn’t agree to it. And a dozen times he just couldn't bring himself to make that call.
Jeff took a deep sigh and looked at the two in the booth. If the daughter could be that nice – could the son be all that bad? He was on his way to the phone – again – this time to finally tell Diane Evans he was OK with her request, when he saw Max Evans come through the door and walk over to where his sister and Alex were sitting.
The boy looked even more upset than usual.
- Alex finished his cherry Coke and gazed once again into Isabel Evans’ eyes. No – that wasn’t right – he gazed into Izzy’s eyes. This afternoon when he’d met her at her locker it had been difficult to escape the feeling that this was some cruel practical joke, that Isabel Evans – THE girl every unattached guy at West Roswell High really dreamed of getting attached to – was going to be going to the dance with him tonight. The fact is, he probably wouldn’t have believed it a few months ago. But the dreams of his Izzy that he’d had for all this time had lowered his defenses enough to take a second look at Isabel Evans, and the kindnesses she had shown to his unconscious friend in her visits to the hospital – well there had been nothing feigned about those. Even so, he periodically thought that he ought to be pinching himself to wake up.
“Well, have you chosen your song,” he asked at last, “…assuming that the Whits know it, that is…?”
“How are you with Aerosmith – ‘I don’t want to miss a thing,’ …?”she asked.
“One of my personal favorites, actually,” replied Alex.
“Mine too,” said Izzy, looking deeply in to her eyes. She lowered her eyes as she felt the connection start to form unbidden. What she did NOT need was for Alex to start getting flashes of her true feelings toward him – not here in the Crashdown – not now – not ever. But as the smile came to her face – as unbidden as the attempt at connection – she realized that her last thought – that he could never know – was just a habit left over from a previous age – an age that had forever changed with Liz’s accident.
All but two years of Isabel’s childhood – what little there had been of it – had been tormented by her own fears – fears that had worried her every single day of that time. She had envisioned her love-smitten brother telling Liz. Oh, she had made him promise – promise a thousand times – that he wouldn’t do it. But it hadn’t mattered – Isabel had always feared that the day would come when Liz would look up with those brown eyes her brother dreamed of constantly and just ASK him why his sister didn’t want him around her, and the boy would just blurt it out – ‘Oh, she’s just afraid you’ll find out we’re part alien.’ At that point, Isabel’s imagination would usually run wild – as screaming frightened Liz calling the Sheriff – the FBI – the National Guard…. So, after all these years, not only did Max tell her, but his sister had to take him into her dream-orb to tell her. Standing there – the only people she’d seen in months, Liz still didn’t believe them.
Granted, the situation wasn’t exactly analogous – Liz was trapped in the dream-orb when she was self-aware at all – but even so. Somehow she just couldn’t believe that Alex would freak out either if he knew – but she wasn’t sure. She looked back in to his eyes briefly before blushing and looking back down at the empty cherry Coke. OK, she WAS sure, but would that be fair to him? Would any of this be fair to him – to lead him on when she wasn’t sure that she could have a normal relationship with him?
She looked down to where their fingers entwined, realizing that for teenage humans this was a normal relationship. She knew what she really meant – What if Alex REALLY wanted to have a normal relationship that would last all their lives. More bluntly, what if he someday wanted kids? That MIGHT be a problem – she just didn’t know. But as she felt him squeeze gently on her fingers – she looked back up.
“How long have you and Liz been friends, Alex?”
“Forever – just about.”
“Well, I wished I’d been a better friend to her sooner.”
“Well – your family has done more for her than just about anyone – What your mom did was great.”
“And possible only because you got those emails for her.”
“Maybe, but all I’d have done if I’d tried to use them was to get myself busted for hacking. Even if they don’t help Liz, they’ll help other people now. But I’d probably better get going – I need to go make sure our instruments are ready and our equipment set up for tonight – then go back and pick up my date.”
“So am I really going to get a complete date? I mean, this is only three-quarters of a date. It would seem like a girl ought to get a whole date …. Meaning you owe me some sort of a date after tonight.”
“Are you kidding? I’m still not sure that this one isn’t a dream.”
“Maybe I like being the girl of your dreams,” said Izzy. ‘Maybe I’d like to be even more than that,’ she thought to herself. ‘But would it be fair?’ The only one she could think to ask who might have the answer was – Liz. She’d have to ask her the question, the first time she got the girl in the dream-orb alone. Alex wasn't going to turn her in for being part alien -- but would it be fair to him to have a real relationship with him? She knew where it would end up if she did -- knew it from the dreams she'd shared with him. He'd want to marry her and when he did he'd never back out of the relationship - no matter how biologically incompatible they might be. The only one she could ask WAS Liz.
“Hi Max,” said Alex, “…helluva job you and your mom did on that insurance company.”
“That was mom, mostly,” said Max, “… mostly I just carried her briefcase. But Alex, I sort of need to talk to Izzy for a minute – family business, if you don’t mind.”
“I have to go anyway. Izzy,” he said, squeezing her hand softly, “…I’ll see you at 6:30.”
“See you then,” she said, smiling up at him. Then she turned to her brother – he was almost trembling with nervousness. “Max – what’s the matter?”
- Max pulled out a sheaf of papers – his hands almost trembling with excitement – or perhaps it was fear.
“I graphed the sleep testing that they did on Liz. Remember how the doctors said that it was unusual for someone in a coma like that to keep up their REM sleep this long – that this pattern just faded out for most people and they just ent sort of flat-line? That this was the reason they were fighting so hard to keep her in rehab rather than just giving up on her?”
”Max, I remember you saying something about that, but I’m not sure I understood much of it.”
”REM sleep meant that she was dreaming – not entirely comatose – and the reason – I think probably the only reason – that they testified that Liz ought to be kept in rehab rather than just warehoused in a nursing home – the only reason they believed there was any chance that she might someday recover was what they called ‘the persistence of REM sleep,’ – the fact that she was still able to dream.”
“I’m not sure I understand still, but – what’s the point, Max?”
“It was US, Izzy. I graphed out the duration and frequency of her REM sleep patterns. When we weren’t dream-walking Liz, the curve decreased – the total number of minutes that she dreamed decreased each and every day at a certain rate. On the three days they tested her when we DID dreamwalk her – well, the number of minutes decreased – but the slope is barely downward and each dream period is much longer than the ones when we aren’t there. It’s like the loneliness when she’d in the dream-orb by herself is so bad her brain just doesn’t want to be conscious or – I don’t know – maybe without the stimulation of real dreams her brain just doesn’t care if it dreams itself. Maybe that black abyss is just not enough – if that’s all she has, maybe part of Liz feels that life just isn’t worth living.”
Isabel looked at Max’s hand – it was shaking visibly as he held the graph. “So what are you saying? That you think there is really a chance for us to cure Liz? Or that we are merely prolonging the inevitable?”
“I’m saying I don’t know – but I think we are buying her time by dreamwalking her now – but maybe if we could dreamwalk her more – catch the times she has REM sleep when we aren’t there…”
“Max, nobody can dreamwalk much more than their normal sleep period. I mean, we can probably sleep eight hours a day rather than seven – catch all the times that Liz is in her dream-orb during that time – but if we try for any more than that we-ll just lay there awake. Then it’ll disrupt our own sleep patterns and we won’t be able to dream the next night. We are doing almost all we can do right now.”
“What if we split shifts? If I could sneak in to the hospital – find an unoccupied room a floor above Liz or below her – I could dreamwalk her during the day, you could dreamwalk her at night – we could cover twice the dream periods.”
“MAX, YOU WILL GO NOWHERE NEAR THAT HOSPITAL. First of all, it wouldn’t work. No way could you get within six or eight feet of Liz and not be seen, but even if you could – do you really think they wouldn’t use those rooms? You’d have to be asleep, which means anyone could just walk in and find you there – even if they were close enough – which they wouldn’t be.”
“There must be some way…”
“I don’t see how. Even if the hospital was willing to buy off on you sleeping in the recliner chair next to Liz, I somehow doubt that Mr. and Mrs. Parker would buy off on you sleeping with their daughter, even if it was just in the same room.”
“But we’ve got to do something.”
“We are doing something, Max. As long as we keep dreamwalking her, it looks like the rate of deterioration is slow. We have time to think about this – Do NOT do anything stupid and get yourself in trouble, Max.”
“I guess you are right,” he said, looking thoughtful. “I might go up to the pod chamber – look at the pods. They kept us in stasis for decades before they started incubating us – maybe if somehow they could be recharged we could put Liz in stasis – like sleeping beauty. Science is so close to being able to do so much. Maybe if we could just sort of stop time for ten years, they’d be able to bring her back.”
“OK, but don’t let anyone follow you , and …Max, don’t do anything … anything at all … without talking it over with me first, OK?”
Max sighed deeply, then quietly said, “OK.”
Lizzy gave his hand a quick squeeze. “Max, we’ll think of something, OK? We’ve got time to work this. Maybe we can talk it over with Liz tonight – see what she thinks. She’s got a pretty good mind …”
”She doesn’t even think we are real…”
“It doesn’t matter. We need to keep her occupied … keep her from being bored. I realize that might not be the WAY you’d prefer she be kept occupied, and it’s obvious that there are times I think the two of you would be just as happy if you didn’t have your ‘older’ sister there as a third wheel slash chaperone, but I think I love Liz too, Max. Let’s talk to her about this – it doesn’t matter if she believes it or not – maybe she’ll come up with an idea that will help.”
“Alright – only – we need to back off if she starts to get scared. It breaks my heart already to go into the orb and see her crying from loneliness. I don’t want to frighten her any more than she already is frighten ed.”
“OK, Max. Go up to the pod-chamber and see what you can figure out – we’ll talk later.”
Max watched Izzy leave, sitting at the table, remembering the times he’d seen her come back from the ledge by the short order cook balancing plates of food. That would have been bad enough – just that memory – but that’s when the juke box started up a song.
Every night in my dreams
I see you, I feel you,
That is how I know you go on
Far across the distance
And spaces between us
You have come to show you go on
Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you’re here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on
Love can touch us one time
And last for a lifetime
And never let go till were gone
Love was when I loved you
One true time I hold to
In my life well always go on
Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you’re here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on
That was the final straw for Max – the last vestige of control he had over his sadness vanished and the realization of what he might have had – and what he might now lose forever – finally struck him completely. There is no greater regret than opportunities not taken. The tears came freely as he sat there – eventually the song finished and he stumbled to his feet and left the Crashdown. He was still blinking tears away as he got in the Jeep and drove off toward the north and the pod-chamber.
Jeff Parker watched the boy get in his Jeep and drive off, convinced more than ever that the boy needed to be kept away from his daughter. He hadn’t heard the conversation – just the one time Isabel had raised her voice and told her brother to NOT go to the hospital – but both the tone of it and the boy’s obvious emotional instability were alarming – and that had been even before he’d found the crude graph Max had left behind. He didn’t understand it, but it had her name and one axis was the time gone by since the accident. Clearly, the boy was obsessed with his daughter.
But as he started to phone Diane Evans, he thought of her face – all she’d done for Liz. He couldn’t bear to argue with her over this. He dialed instead the office number – got the answering machine – and spoke quickly, before he could change his mind.
“Mrs. Evans – I do appreciate what you’ve done for my family, but I’m still not comfortable yet with Max getting close to Liz. I think he should keep working with his therapist and I hope sometime in the future he’s better, and then maybe my wife and I will reconsider.”
He hung up quickly, and turned around – only to find himself staring in to the very disapproving eyes of Maria DeLuca.
- “What?” asked Jeff Parker. He knew that had been sort of a chickenshit way to respond to Diane Evans and he DID feel guilty about it – but he just couldn’t bring himself to talk to the woman – to hear the pain in her voice as he disappointed her.
Maria shook her head sadly. It wasn’t that Mr. P. was a bad guy – she had always envied her best friend actually having a father – but he was fouling up on this one.
“Look – Diane Evans is a good person and so is her husband – and Isabel – and Max. They are all good people.”
“Maybe Max was – before this happened – but since then he has gone off the rails.”
“Mr. P, have you stopped and looked at yourself since this happened? You’ve gone off the rails too, we all have. Before the accident you wouldn’t have called up and left a message like that on an answering machine – but right now – right now we are all hurting real bad – hanging by a thread. Don’t you realize that what’s tearing Max up is the same thing that’s tearing you up? Since he heard about the accident, everything he’s done has been about Liz. We all care for Liz, and that’s what’s changed him – the caring.”
“If this is about caring and nothing more than that – why is it only now? Why is it only since the accident? I’ve cared for her all her life – even before that. Where was he? Where was he all the years before this happened – if all this is about is caring?”
Maria looked at him, shaking her head. “God – do you even realize how much alike you two are – you and Max? Mr. Responsibility, Liz always used to call him – even in middle school. No wonder she liked him so much – even if she could never get up the nerve to tell him. My father dumped me and my mom when I was four – and you wouldn’t believe how much I envied my best friend having a father that really took responsibility – but I guess that’s a two-edged sword. Nothing you did caused this to happen – nothing Max did caused this to happen – but you and Max are both going around like it was your own personal failures that caused that accident to happen. Well it wasn’t, it wasn’t your fault.”
“I’m her father – if I’d been driving rather than letting her drive…”
“Then you’d be in the coma, and I guess maybe you’d be happier. But what about me? I’m the REASON she was out there – she was coming back from taking me home because a lousy transmission broke. If it wasn’t for me, she wouldn’t be in that coma…”
“I’d never blame you, Maria, …”
“No, but you are blaming yourself … which is just as stupid. We all feel guilty, Mr. P. We all wish we’d done something different – anything different – changed anything that might have kept this from happening. Hell, you know what? Izzy feels guilty. She told me once when we were shampooing Liz’s hair that she’d never forgive herself for keeping Max and Liz apart – like somehow if Max had been there wnen that car crossed the centerline it might have made some sort of difference – like he would have somehow stopped the crash just by waving his hand or something - how crazy is that? But somehow your stress and your guilt – mine too I guess – somehow that’s making us do stupid things that hurt other people – and Liz wouldn’t want that.”
“No Maria – no, she wouldn’t,” Jeff said, the tears running down his cheeks, “..but it’s all I can do to hold it together myself right now – and to help Nancy get through this. Maybe I’m being unfair to the boy – I don’t know – but I’ve just got all on my plate I can handle right now. I don’t need to be worrying about Max right now too.”
Maria nodded her head sadly. “You know, when we were just in middle school there was a dust storm and we couldn’t go outside for sixth period PE. Mrs. Marquardt herded us all in to the cafeteria for a dance. She started the music and told us to grab a partner and dance – of course, nobody moved. I was sitting with Liz and Max and a friend of his were sitting across from us and she said we should go ask them. I – I guess I was like most sixth grade girls, still kind of uncertain about the boy-girl stuff, and certainly not going to invite one of THEM to dance with me, that was their job. So we didn’t invite them - neither of us - and nothing happened. You know, I can’t help but think that if I’d gone along with Liz, Max would have wound up being her boyfriend – rather than just a lab partner – and I can’t help but wonder if that had been the case if – well, if you and your wife wouldn’t be comforting him now, and him comforting you, rather than fighting over someone – someone who cared for you both.”
“Maybe you’re right, Maria, but we can’t change the past. Nancy and I need to get through the present right now. I’m sorry about doing this to Diane – I owe her a lot. I guess I’m even sorry if I MIGHT be misjudging her son – I hope he gets over his mental health issues and if he does – I don’t know. But I can’t do more right now than I’m already doing.”
Maria nodded sadly. It was hard to be too judgmental – they were all stressed out over Liz. As Jeff walked back toward the family quarters and Nancy Parker, the door opened and another customer came in. Maria looked at him and nodded to herself, then picked up her order book and went to the booth.
“Just a blood of alien smoothie.”
“Your two friends left just a little bit ago, you just missed them.”
“I know, I saw Max drive off,” he said, “… we actually haven’t been hanging out much – he’s pretty strung out over what happened.”
“Yeah, we all are. You know it seems like all my life I’ve been crying about how bad I had it – coming from a broken home – living in Roswell New Mexico – do you know I used to just shake my head and tell myself, there has to be something better than Roswell, New Mexico.”
“I think I’ve had the experience,” said Michael, nodding his head slowly.
“God, we’ve got it so damn lucky. I look at Liz laying in that bed and all my petty problems seem like such trivia. I mean, God she can’t even open her eyes, and I gripe about having to share my mom’s Jetta. It’s like I never realized all the things I’ve got – all the things I could do – until I saw my best friend unable to do any of them. When I think of all the stupid missed opportunities because I just didn’t take them – because I just DIDN’T, and I look at Liz and know she’d give anything for those opportunities…”
“I know. I think Max has been going through a lot of that. I was never that close to Liz, but when someone your own age has something like that happen to her – it certainly makes you think.”
“Well I, for one, am through wasting opportunities. What are you doing tonight, Michael?”
“My plans were a TV dinner, a rerun of American Idol, and watching my foster father drink until he barfs, actually.”
“My shift is over at seven. I get free food at the end of the shift. What say you come back her then, we’ll share a Will Smith with extra fries and onion rings, and then we go to the battle of the bands. We’ll be a little late, but not much.”
“Are you always this forward?”
“No – this is the new me. So you interested or not.”
Michael knew that Isabel would see him breaking that damn ‘sacred vow’ of hers – but what the Hell – she was only going to be there because she was going to be with Alex - breaking the same vow by getting 'too close' to humans.
He almost said ‘why not?’ but caught himself at the last minute.
“Damn right, Maria. I’d love to take you to the battle of the bands….”
Last edited by greywolf on Wed Feb 11, 2009 11:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Max’s first memories had been of this pod chamber. The membrane had been split and the fluid drained and the cold had awakened him. The chamber had been dimly lit – the electroluminescent panels failing as the power in the storage unit was exhausted. Isabel was already almost dry when he saw her and Michaels membrane had split only moments later. They’d crawled on hands and knees through the open door into the cold desert morning as the last flickers of light had come from the panels on the ceiling above.
It had been almost five years later that he and Michael had rediscovered the pod chamber and it had changed noticeably in that time. The door had closed – it had been only the most improbable luck that Michael had put his hand on the spot that triggered its opening – and the overhead electroluminescent panels shone brightly as they entered. The temperature had been comfortable and the place had been clean – even the fragments of membranes gone from the floor – thanks to a small robotic device that would periodically scurry around the chamber in a virtual orgy of dust collection.
They had explored it four times – twice with Izzy along – and finally decided it was just too dangerous to attempt to disassemble machinery whose function they didn’t completely understand and whose power sources might be hazardous. They would wait for that – until they were older and knew more. But time was running out for Liz, slowly but inexorably, and if anything in the pod chamber could help her, Max was willing to take the risk. For the first two hours all of his looking and experimenting was to no avail. Finally he touched the right part of one of the pods and the viewscreen brightened in to life. He checked with the other two pods and found that they too had viewscreens in the same place – with the same message.
The good news was that the message was written in three different languages – the one you wanted could be selected by touching a place on the screen. The bad news was that Max recognized none of the symbols of any of those languages – he doubted any were from Earth. If it had been longer, it might have served as a Rosetta stone, he even found a volume control that let him hear the languages – one he was pretty sure had frequency components beyond his hearing – but it was relatively brief – a few dozen pages – littered with illustrations. The illustrations, at least, he thought he understood. It reminded him of the safety pamphlets in the pocket in front of you on airplanes.
The outside pods seemed to be something pretty standardized, the icons representing people routinely using them when the craft they were on passed through some transition – kind of like he imagined a stylized wormhole would be. The message seemed pretty imperative that you did not want to not be in a pod when the ship went through the wormhole. If you were, you apparently became a stylized person with a diagonal line drawn through him. The message left the distinct impression that was bad.
Max was pretty sure that he and Isabel and Michael had been tiny stylized humans with a circle around them. Those were apparently to be left in the pods for the whole trip and then to be transferred – along with a stylized crystal that was part of a ship engine – to wherever that cargo was destined.
As near as he could tell, both from the message and from what he found in the pod-chamber, what had happened was this. He and Isabel and Michael had been transported in stasis – protected by the pod from the wormhole – and from time itself. Some large stylized person had obviously survived the crash of the ship – at least long enough to create the pod-chamber and put their pods in it. Apparently the idea was to keep them safe until rescue. But the rescue hadn’t come and the crystal had become depleted of whatever power it had. Once the stasis field failed the default on the incubators was to bring them to adulthood. The incubators within the pods ran off regular electricity – there were apparently solar panels camouflaged into the cliff wall, but the number of panels that the survivor or survivors could salvage from the wreckage hadn’t been enough to handle the power needs of the incubators as the fetuses had become children – and the failing incubators had defaulted to birthing them – giving them what little chance they could have walking free in the desert. It had only been luck that he and Isabel had been found quickly – Michael’s bad luck that he had fled the approaching car and wasn’t found until far later almost dead in the desert.
Without the electrical load of the three incubators, the pod-chamber had quickly recharged and had lights – power to operate the door, and was kept a comfortable temperature by some sort of environmental unit. Even the little cleaning device worked. But the crystal was stone-cold dead, according to what appeared to be its power indicator. Max’s hopes of putting Liz into stasis until human science could cure her died with that discovery.
Max sat there, looking at the pod-technology, tears dripping down his cheeks. But he couldn’t give up. He wished that he could talk to Liz – see if she had any ideas. The girl always had great ideas. She had done a paper in their AP Biology class that was just inspired – theorizing how immune systems developed – how as organisms competed and diseases took their toll on more advanced organisms, the more advanced organisms developed immune systems to insure their own survival. She theorized that mind-reading and telekinesis might be future abilities that humans were in the process of acquiring because they gave an evolutionary advantage. It had made Max think – what kind of world had his DNA evolved in that he had the ability to powerblast, to heal people, and to manipulate matter? That Izzy had the ability to pull people’s thoughts out of their dreams? It sounded like a pretty tough neighborhood.
No, if only he had Liz to discuss this with – if she only believed it – maybe somehow she’d understand what to do to fix this. Probably not though. Liz was more into biology than faster-than-light engines that went through wormholes. Somehow, though, the pods were the key to FTL travel – at least if you didn’t want to become one of those stylized people with a diagonal slash through you.
But he dried his tears and set off for home in the darkness. He’d found nothing useful – although there was a nagging thought in the back of his mind that he had missed something.
Last edited by greywolf on Thu Feb 12, 2009 3:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Chaves County shared a problem with many rural areas – that of a declining and aging population. It was hard to keep youngsters in these counties. After high school they would tend to go away to college or in to the military – or just off to the bright lights of the nearest major city. Some came back, but most did not. The fact of the matter was that kids liked excitement, and that was a commodity generally in short supply in rural areas. Local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce had recognized that. That’s why they sponsored things like this Battle of the Bands in the gymnasium at the National Guard armory.
Generally speaking the high school kids were well behaved at such events – but there was always a certain element who were not. In Chaves county that was usually high school dropouts who had taken advantage of the drug distribution business across the border or – more frequently – gotten hold of some liquor which was also pretty unregulated in the little Mexican towns that crowded the US southern border.
All of which explains why Jim Valenti was at the Battle of the Bands – in civvies. The Sheriff’s department supported the Chamber of Commerce’s program. The Chamber had wanted to hire off-duty officers to work security at the dances – and most of the department had signed up to work there – almost all of them donating the salary earned to the Boy and Girls club sponsored by the Sheriff’s department. Jim Valenti was – in fact – the exception, not exactly volunteering himself but offering to cover tonight for one of the two officers actually scheduled whose seven year old son was in the hospital getting surgery on an appendix. Jim didn’t have anything against these dances but he did have a vivid memory of being the Sheriff’s son and the effect that had on his own social life as a teenager. He did his level best not to inflict that burden on Kyle who had brought one of the JV cheerleaders to this soiree. He was hoping to keep a low profile. When he saw who was running the show tonight for the Chamber, he thought it might be a good idea to make that profile particularly low. It had been almost thirteen years, but he wasn’t sure the young lady had yet forgiven him.
While Amy DeLuca was now a hard-working if not terribly prosperous small business woman who ran a custom bakery and a small business that manufactured alien-themed souvenirs for the tourist trade, she’d been somewhat of a shock to the conservative townspeople of Roswell New Mexico thirteen years ago. She couldn’t have been much more than twenty when she had been passing through Roswell with her husband and three year old daughter. The old VW microbus with the peace symbols and flowery paint job had died – it looked like it had been held together for decades by George McGovern stickers. The man – and Jim used that term advisedly – had told his young wife and daughter that he’d send for them when he got work as a musician in New York City. That was the last that Amy or Marie had heard from the man – except for the divorce paperwork four years later. Rumor had it the man was now a hedge fund manager on his second trophy wife – still not responding to requests from the state of New Mexico to provide child support to his daughter.
But thirteen years ago, Amy – in her tie-died t-shirts and cutoff Levis, had been quite the little renegade with her San Francisco notions – at least in the eyes of the Chaves county establishment. Jim Valenti had actually been a junior rodeo rider himself in his younger days, and Roswell Roundup Days – a three day celebration of Roswell’s own frontier days had seemed normal enough to him. There was apparently a lot about the rodeo that Amy didn’t like, but eventually what she leveled her sights on was the goat-roping. Event, where a bevy of kids were released with lariats against a few dozen goats – the object being to rope it, throw it, and tie it in the least amount of time. ‘Teaching animal cruelty to children,’ was how she’d described it in letters to the editor. In fact, Jim had done goat-roping and could say from experience that not only were the goats not hurt – but they tended to more than hold their own – he’d had his butt butted more than once in such events. But Amy neither knew nor cared to listen, and she had staged a sit-in in front of the gate to the goat pen – in the middle of the rodeo – and a very junior deputy by the name of Jim Valenti had been required to remove her from the rodeo grounds. She hadn’t gone quietly but eventually she’d gone – in handcuffs. That hadn’t been easy – Amy’s passive resistance had not been all that passive. As Jim looked at her now not too much had changed – she still looked quite young – still wore a tie-died t-shirt – although he was pretty sure she had a bra on under it this time.
“Ms Deluca,” he said, politely doffing his Stetson in her direction.
“Sheriff Valenti – what are you doing here? Looking for some poor unfortunates to oppress?” she said with a smile.
Jim started to say something – thought better of it – then replied.
“I’m half your security tonight. Manny Rodriquez is at the hospital.”
“Nothing serious I hope?” said Amy, looking instantly worried. Jim knew the woman had a good heart, even if she did hate him personally.
“No, his seven year old boy was sick to his stomach – turns out it’s appendicitis, but they got to it in time. I just wanted him to be able to be there with his wife when the boy came out of anesthesia.”
As quickly as that, her smile was back. “Thank goodness. You know – I never did apologize to you for our first run-in.”
”Yeah – four years later Maria talked me into letting her be a participant in the goat-roping. It was hilarious watching those kids running around falling all over themselves – I think even the goats enjoyed it.”
“They always seemed to when I was a participant.”
“Well, I’m sorry I was such a nuisance, making you wrestle me to the ground and put handcuffs on me like that.”
“Well, it was a little different than the practice at the police academy – we didn’t have any female cadets in my class and I was a little uncertain where to put my hands – otherwise it might not have taken so long.”
“Well, just for old times sake, would you be interested in one dance later on – when the appropriate music is playing? No groping this time, of course.”
“I did not ‘grope’ you, I used the minimum force necessary. It was quite a wrestling match though.”
“I didn’t say you groped ME…,” said Amy, her eyes seeming to laugh at him. “… and I can’t say I didn’t kind of enjoy it – but Roswell doesn’t have a whole lot of eligible bachelors, and a girl my age can’t afford to scare them away for decades at a time.”
“Amy, I would be delighted to have a dance with you tonight.”
“Well good – want to help me mix the punch?”
Last edited by greywolf on Fri Feb 13, 2009 7:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
- Don’t want to close my eyes
I don’t want to fall asleep
Cause I’d miss you baby
And I don’t want to miss a thing
Cause even when I dream of you
The sweetest dream will never do
Id still miss you baby
And I don’t want to miss a thing
Don’t want to close my eyes
I don’t want to fall asleep
I don’t want to miss a thing
Jim’s eyes were on the girl right at the foot of the stage – and so were a lot of other eyes as the Whit’s belted out the Aerosmith tune. Her eyes, of course, were on the guitarist singing at the microphone and in the whole crowd at the dance Jim was pretty certain that Alex Whitman’s eyes were seeing no one but that girl.
Jim at least had noticed them having coffee together in the small coffeehouse near the hospital – for many of her classmates the idea of Isabel actually caring about Alex had taken them by surprise. There had been real doubts expressed by some people as the two had danced together while the first band had performed – doubts that she was doing anything more than playing him as a fool – people expressing a belief that surely she must have lost a bet or was simply doing this as a dare. Those doubts and beliefs had faded somewhat as the two danced together – danced like they’d been partners for years – every move of one seemingly anticipated by the other. But whatever doubts remained when the Whits had started playing, this had eliminated them. Isabel had stood at the foot of the stage, politely refusing offers to dance – when she appeared to notice them at all – her eyes never leaving Alex Whitman. And now this.
The song must have been special to her somehow – the big grin on her face in contrast to the tears that trickled down her cheeks – they could only be tears of joy – and her eyes never left him for a second. No, even the most doubting in the crowd had pretty much come to believe that Isabel Evans and Alex Whitman were indeed a couple – impossible as that would have seemed not too long ago.
Jim looked at Amy – she was looking at yet another couple – and she seemed, if not worried, at least mildly concerned. As the Whits changed to a slow dance and Maria nestled her head into Michael’s shoulder, Amy looked up to Jim Valenti.
“Before we really have our dance, Jim, could I impose upon you – ask you to dance me over to my daughter there and then switch partners so I could have a word or two with the young man whose ear lobe she seems about to nibble on?”
“As a single parent myself, I guess I can understand your concern – but they seem to be behaving themselves pretty well, actually.”
“It’s nothing they’ve done – it’s just that – well, she’s been telling me about that boy with the stupid hairdo and asking me what sort of a weirdo would do something like that since middle school. That’s always been worrisome to me.”
“Yeah,” she said, looking up into his face and seeing the puzzlement there. She smiled and continued,”… it’s just kind of the way a girl’s mind works sometime. When you focus for years on some facet of a guy that you really don’t like, and that’s all you ever talk about, two things are certain. The first is that you’re paying a lot of attention to him meaning that you see a lot you really do like about him and are probably just using the one thing that irritates you to protect yourself from your attraction to him – the second is that – if you ever do get by that one thing that’s keeping you away from him – there’s not really much to stop you from falling head over heels for the guy. I think it would be a good idea to have a talk with the young man involved – make sure the guidelines are understood if he’s going to date my daughter. If we could dance toward them – switch partners – I could have that talk with him. Then we could get back to OUR dance.”
“Well, that sounds reasonable enough,” said Jim. He took Amy into his arms and began a slow dance toward Michael and Maria.
During the first two dances, Maria had almost convinced herself Michael was not really human. No human being could have two left feet and a complete absence of rhythm. But she had nonetheless persevered – in part because she knew that Liz Parker would have vastly preferred to be here – getting her toes stepped on by Max – rather than wherever she was – and gradually Michael had improved. Now, by there seventh dance – and second slow dance – he was certainly getting the hang of it. They were no Alex and Izzy certainly – how on Earth did two people who had never danced before carry THAT performance off? – but they had become nicely comfortable – yes, that was the word, comfortable with each other. At least, that was, until Maria looked out from nestling against Michael’s shoulder and saw her mother dancing with Jim Valenti.
“Michael,” she said, “… this is really nice, but could I impose upon you – ask you to dance me over to my mother there and then switch partners so I could have a word or two with the Sheriff?”
“The Sheriff?” asked Michael, wondering what he had done that had given him away. Things had been going so well and he was really starting to get – comfortable.
"I’m a little concerned. It’s just that – well, she’s been telling me about the Sheriff with his stupid uniform and asking me what sort of a person would willingly serve to enforce the whims of the establishment since – well, grade school really. That’s always been worrisome to me.”
“Yeah,” she said, looking up into his face and seeing the puzzlement there. She smiled and continued,”… it’s just kind of the way a girl’s mind works sometime. When you focus for years on some facet of a guy that you really don’t like, and that’s all you ever talk about, two things are certain. The first is that you’re paying a lot of attention to him meaning that you see a lot you really do like about him and are probably just using the one thing that irritates you to protect yourself from your attraction to him – the second is that – if you ever do get by that one thing that’s keeping you away from him – there’s not really much to stop you from falling head over heels for the guy.
I think it would be a good idea to have a talk with the guy involved – make sure the guidelines are understood if he’s going to date my mom. If we could dance toward them – switch partners – I could have that talk with him. Then we could get back to OUR dance.”
“You really think this is necessary, Maria? Your mom’s reputation as anti-establishment is pretty long-standing. Do you think she could REALLY be interested in the Sheriff?”
“Anti-establishment? Are you kidding Michael? That was years ago. She’s in the Chamber of Commerce, for crying out loud. It doesn’t get much more establishment than that. I’ve always been afraid that once she got him out of the uniform….,” She winced slightly – that wasn’t exactly the word picture she’d meant to bring to mind, “… well, she’s been alone for a long, long time. I don’t want him to take things too fast – she was hurt pretty badly when my dad dumped her. I want her to be sure this time.”
Michael seemed to look at her for a long time. “You’re right, Maria. Good things are worth waiting for.” The fact was that he hadn’t ever had a night he enjoyed so much – felt so alive. It wasn’t that Roswell hadn’t been a nice place – just that he’d closed his eyes to the possibilities that were here. Like Maria. He needed to talk to Izzy. Ask her if she had told Alex about the ‘not of this Earth.’ stuff and if she had, just how she’d done it. A guy could be real happy making a life here in Roswell if he had someone like Maria. It could be very – comfortable – if she could ever really accept what he was. But she was right – take it slow. Besides, he felt a little guilty. Neither of the two people who really should have been here together were. Max had loved that girl all of his life. How could either he or Izzy let their relationships get really serious until Max and Liz were somehow back together. But as he felt Maria in his arms, he wasn’t altogether sure he could wait either. Slowly, he glided her toward her mother and the Sheriff.
Izzy’s eyes were only on him – waiting for the Whits to complete this last slow dance so Alex could join her on the dance floor again. She was pretty oblivious to the actions of the two couples behind her.
As the couples passed each other, Michael and Jim turned to tap one another’s back in what would– had anyone been watching – have seemed like a perfectly choreographed move.
“May I cut in….,” each asked simultaneously, while both DeLuca girls covered their mouths with their hands to stifle a giggle. Within seconds each had danced toward a different empty corner of the large gymnasium.
Maria actually had a nodding acquaintance of Jim Valenti. Most of the Sheriff’s Department hit the Crashdown Saturday mornings if they were coming on or going off shift. She’d probably served him coffee and breakfast a half dozen times before she’d learned that this was the infamous guy who as a young deputy had ‘brutalized’ her mother. Her mom had always spoken just a little too fondly about that man wrestling her to the ground for Maria’s taste, sort of a ‘methinks the lady doth protest too much,’ situation, and a few months ago she’d seen her mother smiling while talking to a tourist about once being handcuffed and dragged away by the Sheriff.
It wasn’t really that Maria minded her mother having a man in her life – she’d actually been trying to encourage her to find someone for years – ever since she realized how important that could be to a woman. But her mom had taken the abandonment hard – devoted herself completely to making as good a life as she could for her daughter – and that had taken away the time she might have had for romance. To Maria’s knowledge, she had NEVER been out on a date. The woman was ripe for a fall – and Maria wanted to make sure the rules were plainly understood.
“You know, Sheriff, mom has had kind of a hard life. She cares very deeply about people she loves, and when dad dumped us – I’m not even sure she was sane for those first four or five years. It was like she was numb – just didn’t care about anything other than to help me get through it, you know?”
“Yeah – I uh, had a similar experience when Kyle’s mom decided her future plans didn’t include either of us. I understand what she went through.”
“Well then you can understand when I tell you – If you are going to be going with my mom, I want you two to take it slow and easy – not rush in to anything, OK?”
The Sheriff smiled. “I assure you, Miss DeLuca, I will not be anything less than a gentleman with your mother, and if I do someday become – well romantically inclined – we’ll take things very slow and be very sure of our feelings before we do anything you might not approve of.”
“It’s not – Sheriff, it’s not even that I would disapprove of it necessarily, I just don’t want my mom hurt, OK?”
“Miss Deluca, I guarantee I will never hurt your mom – I promise.”
“OK, then,” Maria said with a smile. “…then maybe we better go find Michael and mom, I’m sure you’d rather be dancing with her.”
Amy actually had a nodding acquaintance with Michael Guerin. She’d seen the boy hanging out with the Evans twins at the Crashdown when she was delivering pies and alien-themes souvenir trinkets there. She actually thought his hair was cute in a sort of anti-establishment way. Her daughter had always spoken just a little too harshly about that boy’s hairdo, sort of a ‘methinks the lady doth protest too much,’ situation, and a few months ago she’d seen her daughter smiling as Michael had been combing his hair in the mirror of a car outside the high school.
It wasn’t really that Amy minded her mother having a boy in her life – she was well past the age when she had expected her daughter to start paying attention to boys But her daughter had taken the abandonment hard and while Amy had done the best she could for the two of them – it hardly replaced having a good male role model around. To Amy’s knowledge, Maria had NEVER been out on a date, and she was afraid that her own poor choice of a mate when she was a child was going to undermine Maria’s chances of having any kind of a normal human relationship with a guy. The girl was ripe for a fall – and Amy wanted to make sure the rules were plainly understood.
“You know, Michael, my daughter has had kind of a hard life. She cares very deeply about people she loves, and when her dad dumped us – I’m not even sure she was sane for those first four or five years. It was like she was numb – just didn’t care about anything other than to help me get through it, you know?”
“Yeah – I uh, had a similar experience. I was an orphan – abandoned – raised by the foster care system. I understand what she went through.”
“Well then you can understand when I tell you – If you are going to be going with my daughter, I want you two to take it slow and easy – not rush in to anything, OK?”
Michael smiled. “I assure you, Mrs. DeLuca, I will not be anything less than a gentleman with your mother, and if I do someday become – well romantically inclined – we’ll take things very slow and be very sure of our feelings before we do anything you might not approve of.”
“It’s not – Michael, it’s not even that I would disapprove of it necessarily, I just don’t want my daughter hurt, OK?”
“Mrs. Deluca, I guarantee I will never hurt your daughter – I promise.”
“OK, then,” Amy said with a smile. “… then I suppose you can dance me back toward my original partner.”