Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Chapter 63, 4/2

This is the place to post all your General Roswell fanfiction. Any Canon fics, which pick up directly from any episode of the show and that focus on Max/Liz, Michael/Maria, Isabel/Alex or Isabel/Jesse, Kyle/Tess, or all the couples together! Rule of Thumb: If Max healed Liz in the Crashdown in September 1999, then your fic belongs here. If it picks up from the show in any way, it belongs here.

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
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Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Chapter 60

Postby Kathy W » Sun Feb 05, 2017 3:43 pm

Thank you so much for waiting, everyone! The kids are all moved (although the one who moved back from New Zealand is still waiting for his stuff...the boat just pulled in), and hopefully we can get back to twice monthly chapters.







CHAPTER SIXTY





November 20, 2000, 3:00 p.m.

West Roswell High School








Liz Parker hugged her books to her chest as students rushed past out the front door of the school. The final bell had rung, always eagerly awaited, but especially so on Mondays, even more so than Fridays. You could be a bit more patient on Fridays because you knew that two days of glorious freedom awaited. On Mondays you just tried to get through before sheer exhaustion took over, borne of weekend merriment, homework cramming, and staying up much too late the night before. The Monday bell meant you could stagger home and faceplant before tackling homework and falling into bed, preferably at a more hospitable hour. Which was exactly what she'd been planning to do until her day had been upended in sixth period, dashing more than just her dream of a quick nap. Now she pushed herself into the corner by the door and watched the sea of passing students. The sooner she got this over with, the better.

"Liz?"

It was a concerned-looking Kyle, the second last person she wanted to see. "You okay?" he asked.

"Yeah! Yeah, I'm fine," Liz lied.

Kyle gave her a skeptical look. "Catch up with you later," he told his friends waiting nearby, who shot each other knowing glances before leaving.

"No, really, I'm fine," Liz protested. "You don't have to stay."

"Right, you're fine," Kyle said. "Because people who are fine always try to melt into a handy nearby wall."

"I'm just waiting for...someone," Liz finished. "And there's always a big stampede out of school, so I was just staying out of the way."

"You don't look like you're 'just staying out of the way'," Kyle noted. "You look like you're trying to disappear."

Disappear. Liz's breath caught in her throat at Kyle's inadvertently poor choice of words. "What's wrong?" Kyle pressed. "Did someone say something? You know, about...us?"

"What? No!" Liz said, that being the one bright spot in an otherwise crappy day. "No, I didn't hear a thing."

"Good," Kyle said. "Because I made it really clear to Tess that I wanted her to keep her mouth shut, and she said she would...because talking about it would hurt Max."

"Yeah," Liz agreed quickly, trying to shake the feeling that she'd just been slapped. "Yeah, it would. I'm glad she sees that."

"So why are you hanging here?" Kyle said. "I'd think you'd want to get as far away from Max as you could."

"Love to," Liz said sadly, "but I can't. Something's come up."

"Something...wait," Kyle said warily. "Are you waiting for Max?"

"I kind of have to," Liz said.

"No," Kyle said firmly, "no, you don't have to, 'kind of' or otherwise. What, is this a Q&A? Some kind of 'why did you do this to me'? Because, as I recall, he came to you, and after you told him not to. He saw what he deserved to see."

"No, no, it's…" Liz pulled Kyle further into the corner. "Remember the night of Isabel's party, when Tess was kidnapped and they had to rescue her?"

"Hard to forget," Kyle said. "What about it?"

Liz glanced around, but no one was close enough to hear. "Did your dad tell you about Congresswoman Whitaker?"

"Are you kidding?" Kyle said. "I'm still having nightmares. Not that I didn't already know that politicians weren't human. I just didn't expect one of mine to be a Martian."

"I've been saying she's on vacation these past few weeks because we didn't know what else to do," Liz went on. "But all of a sudden the news is reporting her death. They say she died in a car accident...yesterday."

"But she died weeks ago," Kyle said.

"Right. So someone's lying, and they want to find out who."

"With 'they' being our resident Martians. Who aren't Martians," Kyle added hastily when she gave him a beady stare. "Okay, so, what does this have to do with you?"

"I worked for her," Liz said. "So Isabel came to me today and asked for my help. We're going to meet at Whitaker's office after school."

" 'We'? You mean you and Isabel?"

"I mean all of them," Liz said. "I was hoping to stay away from Max for at least a little while, but I guess not."

"Why not?" Kyle demanded. "I don't see how this is your problem."

"I'm pretty much the only one who knew her, and knows about them," Liz said. "No one else can do this. And you know what they're up against. Look what happened at Isabel's party. Or what happened to Max last spring."

"Okay," Kyle sighed, "so you feel stuck. But if you're gonna do this, do it on your own terms."

"What do you mean?" Liz asked.

"Well, for starters, stop acting like you did something wrong," Kyle said. "Because you didn't. You were straight with Max, even straighter than you were with me, and he didn't listen."

"You didn't either," Liz reminded him.

"Not at first, but I got there," Kyle said. "Max never did. If he'd listened, he would never have shown up with those tickets and would never have seen what he saw. That's on him."

"He's had a rough time," Liz protested.

"So have you," Kyle said firmly. "And having a rough time doesn't mean he owns you. You did nothing wrong."

"Especially because we didn't...I mean, not really," Liz finished awkwardly.

"Doesn't matter," Kyle said. "Even if we had 'really', you still didn't do anything wrong."

"Then why do I feel like I did?" Liz said.

Kyle's expression softened. "Because you're a good person. Because you don't enjoy hurting people. Hell, I thought it would be fun to knock Evans off his high horse, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. But don't read too much into that," he warned. "I still enjoyed it. And when I heard he'd told Tess, I was pissed. You should be too."

I was, Liz admitted silently, although some of that indignation had evaporated over the weekend as she'd mused on how Max must have felt, and how it helped to tell someone else. Isabel would have been sympathetic but largely uninterested, Michael openly hostile. Only Tess would have cared, even if her being the first one he spilled to did rankle. But what about how she felt? What about the rough time she'd been through? Granted, Max didn't know about that, but the fact remained that she hadn't been trying to be mean—she'd done what she'd done to save the world. Didn't that count for something? And what if she really had wanted to end it with Max? Is this how he would react, ignoring her and pushing on even as she was telling him not to? End of the world or no end of the world, he had refused to respect her wishes.

"Look, if you want to get mixed up in this, go ahead, but do it your way," Kyle was saying. "Like, why cower in the corner? Why wait for them at all? You're not their servant. Go to the office, but let them come to you. And don't take any guff when they get there. You're doing them a favor. Don't let them forget that."

The world became brighter as a weight lifted from Liz's shoulders. "You know...you're right," she said slowly. "You're absolutely right."

" 'Course I am!" Kyle said. "Wait—I am?"

"Yeah!" Liz said. "Going to the office is a great idea. I can look around without Max hanging over me, and...it's a great idea. Thanks, Kyle."

"Wow," Kyle said dryly. "I don't get to be right much. Want me to walk you to Whitaker's office?"

"No, that's okay," Liz said. "Whether or not this is my problem, it's definitely not yours."

"Oh, I wasn't coming in," Kyle said. "I'll just dump you outside and let you fend for yourself. What'dya say?"

Liz smiled in spite of herself. "I say I'd love to have you dump me."







*********************************************************






Proctor Residence







"You're certain?" Courtney said "You're absolutely certain he threw his hat in the ring?"

"I heard him," Nathaniel said, "and so did several others. Would you like to talk to them?"

"No, no, I didn't mean it that way," Courtney sighed. "I'm just finding it hard to believe he actually went through with it."

"He spoke directly to Larak and confirmed that he supported the negotiations," Nathaniel said. "I'd call that 'going through with it'."

"Just the negotiations?" Courtney said hopefully. "Not the treaty itself?"

Nathaniel raised an eyebrow. "Grasping at straws, aren't we? At the moment, we really don't have a treaty to support. What we have is a draft, and all the arguments surrounding it, a.k.a. negotiations. He supported the negotiations, ergo he supports the treaty."

"You've really improved your Earth idioms," Courtney said darkly. "And your Latin."

"We've passed our 50th anniversary on this planet," Nathaniel said, "which means I've had plenty of time. And you're still on the hook."

Don't I know it, Courtney thought as the hologram of her faintly exasperated Second hovered over her trithium generator in Dee's guest room. Human telephones were safer, but she'd deemed it worth the risk of using a communicator; she'd wanted to see Nathaniel's expressions and body language as well as hear his voice when she asked if Brivari had truly gone on record as supporting the treaty. They only had a few more minutes before they'd have to hang up, or Nicholas would be able to track them.

"What I don't get is why you agreed to it in the first place," Nathaniel was saying. "If you didn't want to do it, why not just let it go? The negotiations were proceeding without him."

"Believe me, I've asked myself that a hundred times," Courtney said. "He's been the original immovable object on this subject, so the odds I'd have to deliver were small."

"Can't say I blame him," Nathaniel said. "A peace treaty from Vanessa and Jaddo? That sounds like some kind of joke, the bad kind. It's hard to believe no matter where you're coming from. It certainly gave me pause, gave all of us pause."

"But you came around," Courtney said. "Brivari never did. Even then, I didn't think he'd really go through with it."

"I didn't believe he'd really make us a safe house either," Nathaniel admitted. "But he's not only building one, he's building a back-up, and adding all sorts of extra stuff so we don't go stir crazy, and acting as our liaison with the outside. It's like the guy's got religion."

He did, Courtney thought sadly, in the form of a king from the future, something she had no intention of even trying to explain to Nathaniel. That was probably the real reason Brivari was supporting the treaty, because Zan from the future had wanted him to, with the threat she'd dangled just a convenient excuse. Either way, it got the job done, but put her in difficult position. Now she had to pony up.

"I just realized I referred to a Covari as a 'guy'," Nathaniel was saying. "And not just any Covari, but a Royal Warder. We've definitely been here too long. But seriously, he's been...cordial. Efficient. Relatively unobjectionable."

"High praise," Courtney said dryly. "This is the first time you've had to deal with him without me there. Maybe he's on his best behavior, whatever that is."

"If it's any consolation, he didn't sound happy about it," Nathaniel noted. "His support for the negotiations was grudging, and that was very clear, even to Larak."

"Doesn't matter," Courtney said. "An official endorsement from the King's Warder is gold, even if it is grudging. Everyone knows that."

"It immediately changed the tone of the talks," Nathaniel admitted. "It was really bothering some of the delegates that there was no official word from Zan or his Warder." He paused. "Which brings me to the next order of business. Khivar is pushing a summit to discuss the treaty."

"Oh, right," Courtney said scornfully. "He'll propose his own 'treaty', which will be something like 'crown me king, or I'll kill you'."

"Most likely," Nathaniel agreed. "They're proposing to hold the summit on Earth."

Courtney blinked. "What? How? Is everyone seriously going to hop a plane and come here?"

"No. They want to transfer like Larak did," Nathaniel said. "Except Khivar, of course. He has Nicholas there to speak for him."

Courtney's jaw dropped. "You've got to be joking! Do they have any idea how dangerous that is? He'll assassinate all of them!"

"No, he won't," Nathaniel said. "He's already got all of Antar mad at him, even his supporters. If he murders the leaders of our sister planets, he'll have a grand total of five planets mad at him. Those are odds even Khivar can understand."

"I don't believe this," Courtney muttered.

"There's more," Nathaniel said. "Khivar agreed to the summit on the condition that Zan attend."

"You mean his representative," Courtney said. "As in Brivari."

"No, I mean Zan," Nathaniel said. "Zan himself has to attend, or no summit."

"Then there's no summit," Courtney declared.

"Not so fast," Nathaniel said. "If there's no summit, that could scuttle the talks."

"The King's Warder just climbed aboard that train," Courtney said crossly. "Isn't that good enough?"

"It should have been," Nathaniel admitted, "and it might have been except that Khivar also knows how much weight Brivari's endorsement brings to the party. So he raised the stakes by demanding Zan's personal involvement."

"Zan is in no condition to attend a summit!" Courtney exclaimed. "He barely even knows who he is!"

"That's not what it looks like from Antar," Nathaniel said. "It's common knowledge that Zan has emerged and accessed the message left by the Queen Mother. In their minds, that means he's back."

"Back?" Courtney repeated incredulously. "Back? He's a child! I mean, yeah, he just—just—learned he's a king, but he has no memory of being one…" She stopped, raising both hands to her head in a kind of silent scream. "He knows," she said breathlessly. "Khivar knows. That's why he's insisting that Zan attend. One look at Zan now, and the rest of them won't give him the time of day. Shit! Shit, shit, shit! Okay," she said, panic rising as she paced in front of her placid Second's hologram, "we have to get out of this. Can we postpone the summit for, say, another year? Or two, or three?"

"Maybe," Nathaniel said doubtfully, "but it wouldn't look good. Relax," he added soothingly as she made a strangled sound of despair. "Zan just has to put in an appearance, prove his birthright, and look credible. Then he can excuse himself and let Brivari take over. Is he up to that, at least?"

"I'm not sure," Courtney said in dismay. "Maybe. Maybe not."

"It's that bad?" Nathaniel said.

"He's a kid!" Courtney exclaimed. "A human kid! He doesn't remember who he was, he knows nothing of the politics of our world or any other, and doing a handoff with Brivari means Brivari will have to reveal himself. Which he hasn't done because Zan has the power to compel him, and with Zan's current lack of maturity, that's a very, very bad idea."

"He could compel Jaddo too, but he revealed himself," Nathaniel said.

"And that was the plan," Courtney said, "that one would step out and the other remain hidden so one would be free."

"Which is why there's a new plan," Nathaniel said. "And a good thing, too, because if Zan declines or postpones for too long, he risks destroying the talks altogether."

"We're screwed," Courtney groaned.

"Of course we're not," Nathaniel said. His image leaned in closer. "You can get Zan ready."

"Holy shit," Courtney whispered.

"You promised," Nathaniel said firmly. "Jaddo was their guide, but now he's gone. Someone must take his place, and you promised Brivari that would be you. That was the deal you made, that Brivari support the treaty in exchange for you becoming his liaison with the Royal Four. He's upheld his end; now it's your turn. Get Zan ready for the summit. It's coming whether you like it or not."







**********************************************************






Parker Residence






Liz Parker stared at her nearly empty suitcase in consternation, her mind a blank. She was supposed to be packing, but she couldn't concentrate. Every time she tried to make a list, either in her head or on paper, her mind kept returning to the afternoon at Whitaker's office, which had started so well and ended so badly. She'd actually been okay by the time Kyle had dropped her off, in a much better mood than the one he'd found her in because she'd decided he was right—she'd done nothing wrong, and she'd help them, but on her own terms. It had taken a good hour for them to arrive, but she'd been glad for the time alone to get her head together and deal with the flood of calls pouring in in the wake of the media coverage. Whitaker's assistant, Rose, who had long since returned to Washington during her boss's "personal leave", had left a message which sounded like she was in a state of shock, which she probably was. One had to wonder how much more shocked she would have been had she known her employer wasn't human, assuming she didn't already—for all they knew, Rose was also a Skin. Rose had told Liz to forward all calls and correspondence, which she'd been been doing anyway, albeit on a part-time basis, and that someone would be by to empty the office within days. If they wanted access to Whitaker's papers, they needed to move fast.

And then Max and company had arrived, puzzled that she hadn't waited for them. Isabel, Michael, and Tess quickly got over that when she'd pointed out that she'd never been asked or agreed to wait for them, but Max's frown said otherwise. They'd rifled through the office in relative silence, everyone missing the looks Max was throwing her way. By the time the shit had hit the fan, she'd been thoroughly annoyed.



Well, somehow the Skins know that she's dead. None of us has said anything...unless it came from here.

You mean from me
.



Even now, standing in her bedroom, the sting of that accusation made her want to throw something. How dare he? How dare Max insinuate that she'd put all of them in danger just because she'd refused to get back together? Whatever he thought of her refusal, however angry he was about Kyle, he had no business accusing her of leaking Whitaker's death to the press. Why would she even do that? What purpose would it serve? Did he really think her capable of something like that? The only saving grace was that Tess had rescued her by pointing out the letter from the "Universal Friendship League". She'd avoided eye contact with Tess, but Tess hadn't batted an eyelash; she'd been all business, ignoring Max's smoldering looks and accusations, and acting like she had no idea Max had caught her and Kyle in bed together. An interesting and aborted phone call with the League had followed, along with Max's subsequent decision to go to Arizona, which she had silently cheered because that meant a few more days when she wouldn't have to contemplate strangling him...and then he'd insisted she go with them. Great. Just great.

"Knock, knock?" a voice called. "Liz, you in there?"

Liz opened her bedroom door. "I thought you'd be checking out Courtney's place," Liz said.

"Tonight," Maria said, surveying the meager contents of her suitcase, "under cover of darkness. So it's true. You're really going with them?"

"What choice do I have?" Liz said sourly. "I'm the only one with a 'legitimate connection' to Whitaker. How about I 'legitimately' sneak a little booze into Max's lunch? I didn't mean that," she added quickly when Maria's eyebrows rose. "I…I didn't."

"Yeah, I think you did," Maria said. "What brought this on?"

"Didn't Michael tell you?" Liz said bitterly. "Max accused me of leaking the news of Whitaker's death to the press."

Maria's eyes grew round. "He said that?"

"In so many words," Liz said. "Everyone heard it. Everyone looked at me like I'd just blown them in. Didn't Michael mention it?"

Maria shook her head. "Nope. But he did say Max had asked you to come with them, and that you didn't look too happy about it."

"Why should I be?" Liz said crossly. "I've been trying to make Max understand that we can't be together, that we don't work together, and now we'll be stuck together. It's bad timing."

"Very bad," Maria agreed, taking her hands. "Don't go."

"I have to," Liz said. "He's right—I'm the only connection."

"Then send a sympathy card with them," Maria said, "or flowers, or cookies, or something. They can deliver it. You stay here."

"You have no idea how tempting that is," Liz said.

"So give in to temptation!" Maria said. "Stay home, and stay sane."

"I can't," Liz sighed. "I mean, I'm pissed at Max, but this isn't just about Max, it's about Michael and Isabel and Tess too. It's not fair to put them in danger just because I'm mad at Max. That's exactly what he accused me of. No sense proving him right."

"If he really thinks you blew them in, why would he want you to come in the first place?" Maria said.

"He doesn't," Liz said. "He's just...angry. He's lashing out because he's angry."

"Because you turned him down," Maria said.

Because I was trying to save the world, Liz amended sadly. Which Max didn't know about, couldn't know about, but still… It didn't make the sacrifices she had to make any easier. She just hoped they really had managed to avert disaster in the future, that this was all worth it. It would be a real kick in the pants if everything turned to crap anyway.

"Help me out here," she said to Maria. "I need to pack, and I can't think."

"Well...for starters, I don't think you'll be needing a bathing suit," Maria said, plucking her bikini out of her suitcase. "I'm guessing this isn't a 'lounge-by-the-pool' type of trip."

"Good Lord, what made me grab that?" Liz groaned.

"Your last trip was to Florida," Maria reminded her. "Big difference. Where's your hairdryer? Toothbrush? Make-up?"

"I told you, I can't think!" Liz exclaimed. "Every time I try to be logical and pull stuff together, my mind just goes blank."

"Okay, walk-through," Maria said briskly, pulling her off the bed and into the bathroom. "What's the first thing you do in here when you go to bed at night?"

"Brush my teeth," Liz answered.

"So grab your toothbrush and toothpaste. Second thing?"

Twenty minutes later, they had methodically gathered a workable suitcase. "You need one more thing," Maria said, plopping down beside her on the bed. "An excuse. How are you going to explain a trip to Arizona to your parents?"

"Tess said she'd take care of that," Liz said, "and I'm happy to make it her problem. I've got enough of my own."






********************************************************






Valenti Residence






There, Tess thought with satisfaction, zipping her duffle bag closed. Packing was second nature to her, packing quickly even more so. She and Nasedo had moved a lot, and almost every time had been sudden, a mad dash away from whoever had discovered them or whoever was about to. The last time she'd packed was to come here on the night her house had been broken into, and the time before that, it was to come to Roswell…

Tess brushed a wistful hand across her bag. Every other time they'd run, they'd been running from something and toward God only knew what, their landing place a mystery. Their move to Roswell had been the first time she'd not only known exactly where she was going, but had actually looked forward to it. It seemed so far away now, like it had happened years ago instead of just a few months. Now Nasedo was dead, and she was a refugee in a house which didn't want her, among others like herself for the first time in her life who also didn't want her. She'd found the Others, but it hadn't been the joyous homecoming she'd dreamed of, and it had come at a price. Maybe now that Liz had officially stepped aside, she and Max could find their way back to where they'd been in that other life. If he could get over the fact that Liz had stepped aside, that is, which he clearly wasn't, judging by his behavior at Whitaker's office this afternoon.

Her phone rang. "Can you be ready in a hour?" Max's clipped voice asked without preamble.

"I'm ready now," Tess answered.

There came a pause. "You are?"

"Yeah. We moved a lot, remember? And not just moved, but ran, for our lives most of the time. I learned to pack fast."

"Right," Max said. "I'm...used to Isabel. She takes forever to pack."

"She's never had to run," Tess said. "Lucky her. Come over whenever you're ready. I'm good to go." She paused. "Max, are you...are you okay? Because you know you can talk to me if—"

"I'm fine," Max broke in. "Be over shortly."

Tess rung off with a sigh. Liz may have stepped aside, but that didn't mean Max was automatically hers. She'd thought of Liz as an obstacle which, once removed, would put everything right again, but it wasn't that simple. She would still have to win him, and it was much too soon to even begin trying. She would have to be patient and supportive so that when Max was ready to move on, she was the one he moved on to.

Her phone battery was low. Patience wouldn't do for this as there was no time to charge it the old-fashioned way. Holding the phone in her hand, she concentrated, watching the bars light up one after another on the battery symbol…

"What the hell?"

It was Kyle, standing in her—his?—bedroom doorway and eyeing her bag with alarm. "Are you leaving?" he demanded. "Just because we had an argument? You're just packing up and leaving?'

Tess smiled faintly. "No, Kyle, I'm not that fragile. Sorry if you had your hopes up."

"Oh," Kyle said, taken aback. "Okay. The only hopes I had were that we could fight some more. I, uh...kind of like fighting with you."

"Gee, thanks," Tess said dryly. "You're not so bad yourself. We're just going to Arizona to check something out."

"Whitaker's fake funeral?" Kyle said.

"How did you know about that?" Tess asked sharply. "Did Liz tell you?"

"Whoa! Paranoia alert," Kyle chuckled. "It's all over the news."

Of course, Tess thought, chagrined. She shouldn't be so quick to jump on Liz; Max had that angle more than covered. "Right. I...didn't realize you watched the news."

"You neither," Kyle said. "There's so much we don't know about each other."

"Maybe it's best we keep it that way," Tess said.

"Maybe," Kyle shrugged. "So how are you pulling this off in the middle of the week? My dad will be pissed if you skip school."

"Your dad is the one helping us do it," Tess said.

"No shit!" Kyle exclaimed.

"Yes, really," Tess translated. "He's not happy about it, but he realizes we have to go. We're officially attending some kind of youth panel on law enforcement in Santa Fe. He was really nervous about lying to Max's dad, but I guess Mr. Evans liked the idea, being a lawyer and all."

"Huh," Kyle said. "My dad, the liar. Guess I'm not surprised he'd be good at it. He got you all squared with the school, and everything. So many perks to being a Martian."

"Yeah, tons!" Tess agreed. "You get to be abducted, and have people try to kill you, and everything. It's great!"

"Nah, those aren't perks," Kyle said. "That happened to Liz and me, and we're not Martians."

"What a coincidence," Tess said tartly. "Neither are we."

The doorbell rang. "I'll get it," Kyle said, scooting away before she could stop him.

"No, wait...Kyle?" Tess called. "Kyle! I'll get it! It's probably for me anyway—"

She pulled up short behind him as he threw the front door open. Max stood on the other side, his face a thundercloud.

"Max!" Kyle exclaimed. "Buddy! Haven't seen you for...well, not for at least a couple of days. How's the peeking in girls' windows going for you?"

Ouch. Tess bit her lip as Max's expression darkened, if that was possible. "I wasn't 'peeking'," Max said stiffly. "I was bringing over concert tickets."

"For a concert Liz had already told you she wasn't going to," Kyle nodded. "How thoughtful of you to ignore her completely."

"I'm not having this discussion with you," Max said stonily.

"No, you're not," Kyle agreed. "You're having it with Tess. Took you, what, all of five minutes to blather what you'd seen to her?"

Shit. Tess squirmed inwardly as Max's eyes fastened on hers. There would be a reckoning for this, she was certain. "Are you ready?" he asked her coldly.

"Completely," Tess said, pushing past Kyle. "Let's go."






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




I'll post Chapter 61 on Sunday, February 26. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
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Chapter 61

Postby Kathy W » Sun Feb 26, 2017 4:48 pm

Hello and thank you to everyone reading!






CHAPTER SIXTY-ONE




November 20, 2000, 7:15 p.m.

Roswell Sheriff's Station









"You heading out, sir?" Hanson called. "It's about time."

"It sure is," Valenti agreed. "Hold down the fort, will you?"

"Sure thing, sir. Get some rest. You've earned it."

And how, Valenti thought,. Hanson only knew the half of it; on top of a difficult day with John Q. Public, there was the little matter of the latest alien debacle, which had led to the larger matter of whether or not he should intervene, followed by the telling of a whopper to Philip Evans. The tale of Vanessa Whitaker had taken a turn for the bizarre what with news reports of her death which had supposedly occurred only yesterday when, in fact, she had died at Isabel's hands weeks ago. He'd heard the first report on the way to work and correctly assumed he'd soon be hearing from the kids. What he hadn't counted on was their decision to go foraging in Arizona without back-up. Offers to accompany them had been politely refused, and reminders of how much they'd needed him when Max had been abducted had fallen on deaf ears; that abduction had been by humans, they had argued, not aliens, and he'd only get himself killed.

But they had needed his help in another way, and the assistance requested had left him with a racing heart and flop sweat. He'd lied successfully to a man who was almost as good as sniffing out lies as he was, and now he was grateful to step out of the crosshairs, for a night, at least. Tess would be gone tonight, affording him and Kyle some time alone, something they hadn't had since she'd moved in. Although he'd rate her addition to the family a success, he still sometimes longed for the simpler, if messier, existence he and his son had shared before. After a couple of days eating junk and throwing his clothes around, he'd probably be glad to have her back. Assuming they made it back, of course, which was precisely what he was still fretting over when he reached his cruiser.

"Jim!" a voice called.

It was Dee Evans, in a parked car only a few down from his. "Evenin'," Valenti said. "Is there a reason you're lurking in the parking lot?"

"You tell me," Dee said. "Diane says the kids are gone, to some youth conference in Santa Fe that you arranged for them to attend at the last minute. Anything you want to tell me?"

"Funny, I was about to ask you the same thing," Valenti said. "For example, were you ever going to tell me that a waitress at the Crashdown was an alien?"

Dee sighed heavily, and he could have sworn he heard an only barely stifled expletive. "Get in."

"What for?" Valenti said. "So you can point out all the other things you haven't told me, even though you promised to be straight with me the last time we had this conversation?"

"Get in," Dee said firmly. "We're not having this conversation in the parking lot."

"That's right, we're not," Valenti agreed. " 'Night, Dee."

"Wait! Jim...shit!" she exclaimed, not the least bit stifled this time, starting her engine and pulling around to his cruiser just as he was unlocking the door. "Jim, wait. I can—"

"Explain?" Valenti finished. "Because I'm really not interested in your—"

"That is not what I was going to say," Dee interrupted. "Don't put words in my mouth. There are plenty there to start with."

"Not enough, if you ask me," Valenti retorted. "Seems you could use some guidance on what to say, as in say more to your allies, or they won't be allies any more."

"All right, I'm sorry," Dee said, sounding not terribly contrite. "It's just that—"

"Is there an echo in here?" Valenti said sharply. "Because it seems we keep doing this, you withholding information, me finding it anyway, you apologizing, lather, rinse, repeat. I'm done with it. Either tell me everything, or tell me nothing."

Dee gave him a measured stare before nodding. "All right, then. Nothing it is. This information channel will go silent as you request. Just to be clear, that means if anything happens, you're on your own. Thank you for everything you've done for us, sheriff, and have a good night."

Valenti's mouth fell open as she drove off, leaving him gawping in the parking lot. What the hell? Had she just taken him at his word? You gave her a choice, he thought furiously, and she picked one. Idiot! What was he going to do now? Wait, he decided. She'd be back. This was only a test. She was calling his bluff. Pulling his leg. She'd be back.

She wasn't. The minutes ticked by as Valenti paced in front of his cruiser, mentally working through what he would do if she really meant what she said. He had an alien living in his house—was she now the main source of information? Tess was certainly stalwart and capable, but the fact remained that she was a kid, and a blinkered one at that, so focused on going back to wherever she'd come from that she missed what was going on right in front of her. But really, did it matter if Dee wasn't talking any more? Obviously she hadn't told him everything, so perhaps her silence wouldn't be the handicap he feared. Then again, she was the only conduit to their one remaining guardian, the one the kids didn't know about. And what exactly would that guardian have to say when he learned his closest ally had rejected him? Would he now view Valenti as an enemy? Would he hurt Kyle? Would he…

"Sir?"

It was Hanson peering curiously out the back door. "You okay?" Hanson said. "I looked out the window and saw you were still here."

"Yeah, I'm just...thinking things over," Valenti finished truthfully.

"Go home, sir," Hanson said sympathetically. "You need some space. It was a rough day."

He's right, Valenti thought after he'd thanked Hanson and shooed him back inside. He needed some time to process everything he'd learned today. Dee wasn't going anywhere, so he could work on that later. Thoroughly rattled, he climbed into his cruiser.

"Finally. I thought you were going to pace all night."

Valenti jumped a foot; in the dark, he'd completely missed the woman in the passenger seat. "What the...how the...how the hell did you get in here?" he demanded.

"Through the door," Dee said calmly. "Climbing through windows is the kids' thing. You unlocked your car before you had your tantrum, remember?"

"It wasn't a 'tantrum', it was justifiable anger!" Valenti retorted. "You never told me that the girl who's been pouring my coffee for the last several months was an alien. And Max told me they didn't know Vanessa Whitaker was an alien until she kidnapped Tess, so I assumed you didn't either, but now I'm starting to wonder."

"It's not safe for you to know everything," Dee said. "If—"

"Don't," Valenti said firmly. "Don't even think of trying to make this about my 'safety'. This is about you holding back. Don't change the subject."

"I can't promise to tell you everything," Dee said in exasperation. "Do you tell me everything?"

"Yes!" Valenti exclaimed.

"No," Dee corrected. "You arranged this 'conference' this afternoon, but you haven't uttered a peep to me."

"I was busy," Valenti said.

"More like pissed," Dee said.

"That too. Look, you can't compare my not having contacted you less than 24 hours after something happened to you keeping mum for months. Those are totally different things."

"Are they?" Dee said. "I have no idea what the kids are up to. If they're up to something dangerous, and the odds are good they are, their Warder is off in another state tending to another matter. We're on our own. Now explain to me how this compares to Courtney pouring your coffee?"

Shit, Valenti thought, having counted on the guardian's proximity when he'd reluctantly accepted the kids' refusal to have him accompany them. "So you know about the waitress?" he asked her. "How long have you known?"

"Since 1959," Dee said. "That's when I met her. She was Courtney Harris back then. Didn't know she was an alien right away, but it didn't take me long to figure it out."

"1959?" Valenti said. "That's back when my father was sheriff."

"Ah, your dad," Dee said fondly. "He was on her tail something fierce."

"My dad knew her?" Valenti said in astonishment. "Jesus, did everyone know about her but me?"

"The kids didn't know about her," Dee said.

"Great, so now I'm being lumped in with the ones always kept in the dark," Valenti said crossly. "Is that supposed to make me feel better?"

"What exactly does Courtney have to do with this, Jim? Does wherever they really went have something to do with her? And before you tell me not to call you 'Jim'," Dee added when his eyes flashed, "I should remind you that the last time you pulled that, you told me to slap you if you ever did it again. I'm still good to go on that."

"I'll bet," Valenti said darkly. "Where is Courtney now?"

"Why?"

"Let's just say I'm hoping you know where she is," Valenti answered, "because if you want to know where they went, I'll only tell her."

Dee's eyebrows rose. "I just told you we're on our own, that their guardian isn't close by—"

"And he wasn't close by earlier today when this went down," Valenti said. "We couldn't have stopped them, Deanna. They were going one way or another. They refused my offer to accompany them, and just wanted me to find a cover for them. Calling you wouldn't have changed a thing."

"But we can change things now," Dee argued, "if you tell me what they're up to. Why would you hold that information hostage? Because you're having a snit fit? That's childish."

"Maybe so," Valenti allowed, "but I know you know where she is. So if you're in a hurry, maybe you'd better send her over real quick like."

"You can't be serious!" Dee protested.

"I sure as hell can." Valenti started the engine. "Can I give you a ride back to your car?"

"No, thanks," Dee said sourly. "I'll walk."

"Goodnight, then," Valenti said pleasantly as she climbed out of the car in a huff, slamming the door for good measure and stalking off much faster than most women in their 60's would have. Valenti waited until she was out of sight before pulling out, but he wasn't heading home. It was pretty clear he needed to develop alternate sources of information, and he had a good idea where to start.

"Jim!" Jeff Parker exclaimed when he entered the Crashdown. "Always good to see you here."

"You're waiting tables?" Valenti said.

"Lost a waitress," Jeff sighed. "A damned good one, too."

"Was that Courtney?"

"Yeah, Courtney Banks," Jeff answered. "She had history here, too. Would you believe her grandmother used to work here way back in 1959?"

"I might," Valenti allowed. "Sounds like a good story. I'd love to hear it."

"Have a seat at the counter," Jeff said cheerfully, "and I'll bring out the pictures."






*********************************************************






Banks Residence






Her key rattled in the lock more than she would have liked as Courtney opened the back door to her house and slipped inside. Dee would have a fit if she knew she was here, but it was dark out, and she knew the place well enough that she needed no light to navigate. Even the little she could see told her that no one had been here yet, which was odd—why hadn't the hybrids sacked the place? The only plausible explanation was that they had more pressing problems, which was worrisome in the extreme, especially since she was no longer in a position to gather even a little bit of intel. Still, their tardiness would allow her to gather a few things to bring with her into exile, things she wanted to take with her on what could be a long, boring wait. The decades she'd spent hunkered down with the Resistance had been stultifying enough, but at least she'd been able to go outside, to move within the world. Without a husk she'd be confined to whatever sanctuary Brivari was building, and grateful as she was that he was actually building it, the fact remained that their sanctuary would also be their prison.

Slipping her keys into her pocket, Courtney dug under the sink for the plastic grocery bags she'd stashed there and opened the fridge. There was quite a bit of perishable food in there, and it made no sense to waste it. She also wanted her clothes, that exceptionally fuzzy blanket on her bed, and her favorite pillow, which was sorely missed. Also missed were her own toothbrush, her shampoo, her hairdryer…hell, she missed this house, her job, her independence, the whole shebang. She'd finally found a place here, and now she had to leave. Just like Malik, she thought sadly, a Covari and her friend, two words no self-respecting Antarian would ever use in the same sentence. Malik had built a life here too, even started his own business repairing things like televisions and radios, blessedly simple devices by Antarian standards. But when the time had come to go to ground, he'd had to give it up, to melt into the shadows the way only Covari could, and he'd done so with great sadness, only to be killed shortly after. Hopefully her own retreat would not be so final.

Quit reminiscing, Courtney scolded herself, pulling open drawers. She wanted her favorite potato peeler in captivity also, and her favorite wooden spoon to mix cookie dough, and her favorite coffee mug. She was trying to decide if all the kitchen stuff would be okay in one bag when she heard scuffling outside, followed by giggling.

"I feel like we're Scully and Mulder, or something!"

Leaving the bags on the counter, Courtney scooted out of the kitchen just as the back door opened and Rath and Maria crept inside. "Shhh!" Rath commanded as Maria giggled again. "Would you shut up?"

"Okay," Maria agreed contritely.

Don't bet on it, Courtney thought sourly. Shutting up wasn't Maria's style. Having her visit intersect with the hybrids' first foray into her house had its advantages as she might be able to pick up some useful information by listening, but the disadvantage was seeing that tiresome child here. Staying out of sight would be simple; she knew this place like the back of her hand even in the dark. The hard part would be not strangling Maria.

"Culture Club?" Maria's voice said. "Wham? The Backstreet Boys? God!" she exclaimed in disgust. "She really is an alien, this one."

"A little help here?" Rath said impatiently.

"Fine," Maria sighed. "What are we looking for?"

"Clues?" Rath said, with just enough of an edge to his voice to make it clear that he knew on some level, he was speaking to the clueless. "You know, an address book, or a calendar somewhere?"

"Of course!" Maria exclaimed sarcastically. "Like she's gonna write her hideout in an address book!"

"Hey, are you just gonna rag on me, or are you gonna help?" Rath demanded.

Good luck, Courtney thought darkly. Ragging on Rath was Maria's main hobby, one she had clearly not abandoned even after discovering her arch nemesis was an alien. Rath needed an actual adult at his side, someone with experience, and judgment, and self-control. Someone like her.

"Michael," Maria's wary voice said. "What is this?"

Courtney peeked around the corner. Maria had located an especially thick piece of skin which had come off in the aftermath of her flight through Rath's window. "That's why them call'em 'skins'," Rath explained. "They're shedding."

"Oh, that's so gross!" Maria exclaimed, dropping the piece of skin with satisfying disgust. "How did you figure out she was a skin anyway?"

There was a brief hesitation from Rath. "I saw part of her skin come off."

Maria's flashlight swung around to nail Rath in the face. "Which part?" she asked suspiciously.

Rath pushed the flashlight away. "When are you gonna get off this?" he demanded, retreating to the other side of the kitchen.

"Not for a very, very long time, Mikey G.," Maria muttered.

"There is nothing going on between me and Courtney," Rath declared.

Invisible to both of them, Courtney smiled. Of course he couldn't tell Maria how their eyes had met, how that spark had flared between them, how they were kissing passionately when that piece of skin had come off. Too bad, because she'd love to see the look on Maria's face, even in the dark. Heck, she'd settle for just listening to the fallout…

A scream pierced the kitchen, and for a moment, Courtney was confused—what did she have in her kitchen that would cause anyone to scream like that, even a drama queen? Peering around the doorway, her heart sank. Maria had discovered her cupboard with Rath's pictures and other mementos she'd collected. "That's the shirt I lost at work!" Rath exclaimed. "What the hell is this?"

"It's Graceland," Maria declared, "and you're Elvis!"

Shit, Courtney groaned. She knew what this looked like. Here she'd just accused Maria of childish behavior, and now they were both looking at a display any adolescent girl would be proud of. This was profoundly embarrassing.

"Wow," Rath said.

"Wow?" Maria repeated incredulously. "Is that all you can say right now, is 'wow'? She's obsessed with you! She's, like, an alien stalker! She's been spying on you for weeks! She's been dreaming about you, fantasizing about you—"

"Hey, shut up for a second," Rath interrupted with that trademark bluntness Courtney loved. "Take a look at the pictures. They were all shot from the apartment across the street from my building."

"So?" Maria said.

Smitten, Courtney leaned against the doorway, heedless of the fact that, if either turned around right now, they might see her. He gets it, she thought triumphantly. Rath possessed the ability to zero in on what was most important, to ignore emotion, including the emotional thorn in his side standing next to him, and pick out the most salient piece of information. Compare that to Zan endlessly mooning over his human girlfriend, and you had a stark contrast between two would-be leaders.

"Oh!" Maria exclaimed, late to the party as usual. "That's where she goes to spy on you!"

"C'mon," Rath said. "We need to check the rest of the house."

For the next excruciating half hour, Courtney watched Rath and Maria rifle through her living room, her bathroom, and her bedroom. Nothing was left untouched, not even her medicine cabinet, her closet, or her dresser drawer. "What a boring alien," Maria declared when they regrouped in the kitchen. "Nothing but cheap bras and scratchy bed sheets. Wait...what are you doing?"

Rath had the fridge open. "There's a lot of food in here. It'll go to waste."

"Are you crazy?" Maria demanded. "You don't even know where that came from!"

" 'Wonder Bread'," Rath read, holding a loaf of bread aloft. " 'Baked in North Carolina'. Sounds like it came from North Carolina."

"I'm not touching any of this," Maria declared, "and you shouldn't either. Besides, who puts their bread in the fridge? That's worse than Culture Club."

For a moment, Rath looked ready to argue. But then he shrugged and returned the bread to the fridge. "I want my shirt," he said, pulling his Metallica shirt out of her cupboard, "and then we can go."

"Yeah, the sooner the better," Maria muttered.

No argument there, Courtney thought. They were almost at the door when Rath saw the plastic bags she'd left on the counter.

"What?" Maria said.

Rath spun around, his flashlight slicing across the kitchen, his eyes peering intently into the darkness. Courtney pulled back, holding her breath. "It just looked like…"

"Like what?" Maria demanded.

"Like we interrupted someone in the process of packing up all this food that will go to waste," Rath finished.

"Yeah, right," Maria said. "Like she's going to come back for her Wonder Bread. Let's go."

Got it again, Mikey G. Courtney thought approvingly as Maria pulled him out of the house. Here she'd thought those bags would go unnoticed in the gloom, and he'd not only noticed, he'd correctly deduced exactly what she was doing. Had they chosen the right leader, or what?

Her phone rang, harsh and loud in the darkness as she fumbled for it. Jesus, but she'd forgotten to turn off the ringer! What if it had gone off while the Ghostbusters were here? She should have been more careful.

"Where are you?" Dee's voice said.

"In love," Courtney sighed.

"I'm serious," Dee said crossly.

"And I'm not?"

"Anthony said you left the house, but he didn't know where you were going," Dee said.

"Yes, well, that would be because I'm a big girl and the leader of an interplanetary rebellion, and all that. I don't need a permission slip to go out."

"That's not what I meant," Dee said impatiently. "We have a problem. The kids have left town."

"Not all of them," Courtney said. "Rath and Maria were just here at my house."

"You went to your house?" Dee demanded.

"Yes, I went to my house," Courtney said tartly. "I wanted my stuff. So shoot me."

"And Michael and Maria were there? Are you sure?"

"After watching Maria go through my underwear drawer? Yes, I'm sure. Why?"

"Did they say anything? Did you hear anything useful?"

"Enough to know the Resistance picked the right leader," Courtney said. "What's this all about?"

"They must have split up," Dee said worriedly. "Max, Isabel, and Tess have left town. I just assumed Michael was with them."

"Left town for where?" Courtney asked warily.

"That's why I wanted to know where you were," Dee said. "The only one who knows wants to talk to you."






*********************************************************






Benson, Arizona







"What'll it be, sweetheart?"

"A coffee, please," Liz answered. "Black."

The woman behind the counter was wearing the typical fast food polyester uniform and cheerful name tag, but she was old enough to be her mother, and the skeptical look she gave Liz only reinforced that. "You sure, honey? You look like you could use a good meal."

"Not sure my stomach could handle it," Liz said. "And I need to stay awake, so I can't afford to be sick."

"Ah," the woman said knowingly. "One extra-large coffee, coming up."

"Thanks," Liz said gratefully.

Liz moved aside to make way for the next customer and wait for her coffee. It was evening, and this packed McDonald's was apparently the "it" place in the little town of Benson, Arizona, where they'd stopped for some food before they started the long night drive in shifts. Everyone else stood a chance at some rest, but she'd sleep poorly, if at all. Who could sleep after what Max had said?


Liz, I know you, and I don't believe that you would do that to me. It doesn't make sense.


Someone's order appeared, and the smell of greasy sausage made Liz's stomach turn as she reflected that she had overstepped. She'd gone too far. She'd done something so completely out of character that Max wasn't buying it, and with good reason—it wasn't like her, and it didn't make sense. She'd been trying to copy Maria's experience, replacing Courtney's infamous towel with a sheet, but honestly, that wasn't the whole story. Maybe Max would have believed her if he'd caught her making out with Kyle, but that would have required a great deal more effort on her part. Odd as it seemed, it had been less work to strip down to her skivvies and climb between the sheets then to engage in tonsil hockey. And then there was the question of whether anything less than truly outrageous would have sufficiently caught his attention or been judged believable. Maybe nothing she did would have been believable. Maybe he would just never believe her.

"Here you go," the counter woman said, producing an impressively large, steaming cup. "Milk and sugar is to your left."

Liz was emptying the sixth packet of sugar into her cup when Isabel appeared beside her, photo shoot ready as usual despite having napped against the side of the jeep. "So," she said without preamble, "what's up with you and my brother?"

"Nothing," Liz answered.

"Something," Isabel declared. "Something's going on."

"No, it isn't," Liz said.

"You're not listening," Isabel insisted. "He's really upset."

"No, you're not listening," Liz countered. "Max is upset because there's nothing going on."

"It's more than that," Isabel said. "Did you see Tess sleeping on his shoulder?"

"Yes," Liz said dully. "What about it?"

"It's weird, that's what," Isabel said. "I mean, I get that Max is still trying to win you back, but since when are those two together?"

"Why don't you ask Max?" Liz suggested.

"I would if I thought he'd give me a straight answer," Isabel said. "Does this have something to do with you setting up that meeting between him and Tess?"

Crap, Liz thought wearily. That one was going to haunt her for a long, long time. "Yes," Liz said, deciding that, at the moment, it provided a plausible excuse which did no further damage. "It probably does."

Isabel pondered that in silence while Liz sipped her coffee and began adding more sugars. "No," Isabel said finally. "That's not it. This is something more. What happened?" She waited while Liz placidly stirred her coffee. "Fine. I'll just have to dig deeper."

"For what?" Liz said. "You've already figured it out."

Isabel shook her head. "No, I haven't. You won't talk, I know he won't talk. Maybe Tess will talk."

Great, Liz thought sourly. Tess knew exactly what was up and might very well spill, despite her promise to Kyle to keep her mouth shut. "Well," Liz said, "he might—might—have heard that I'm...seeing someone."

Isabel blinked. "Oh," she said faintly, the presence of another boyfriend once again commanding attention. "Anyone I know?"

"Yeah," Liz nodded. "Kyle."

"Kyle...Valenti?" Isabel said in disbelief. "That Kyle?"

"Yes, that Kyle," Liz answered. "The same Kyle I was dating before Max and I got together."

Isabel's eyebrows rose. "You mean the same Kyle you were dating before you got shot and Max saved your life?"

Liz's hand tightened on her cup. "Yes, Isabel, before that. And before Max nearly died, and I helped save him. And before you all learned who you were and what you were destined for, and I stepped aside to let that happen. Before all of that. Are we done with the calendar now?"

Isabel looked away. "I...I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."

"No, you shouldn't have," Liz agreed. "Excuse me."

Liz crossed the restaurant and slid into an empty booth, grateful to find a table far way from the one Max and Tess were occupying, where she could be alone with her thoughts. Her solitude was short-lived, however, as Isabel slid into the booth across from her.

"I'd like to be alone," Liz said bluntly.

"In a minute. Look, I'm sorry," Isabel said. "Kyle...he's a good guy. He's got a lot going for him."

"Yeah," Liz agreed. "For starters, he's human."

Isabel stiffened. "Okay," she said, talking more to herself than anyone else. "I guess I deserved that. It's just that sometimes I feel like I'm playing Whack-A-Mole, like just when we've conquered one problem, another shoots up, and it's...it's exhausting."

"And you think you're the only one who feels that way?" Liz said. "Because I'm pretty sure every single one of us feels that way. I know I do."

Isabel's eyes dropped. "Yeah. Yeah, I know, I...look, this isn't your problem. You shouldn't have to be here. I can get you a bus ticket, and you can go back to Roswell."

"And why would you do that?"

"Because you've done a lot for us," Isabel said. "You don't need to do this. We'll just tell Whitaker's family that her office sent us. We'll namedrop. That should be good enough."

Surprised, Liz studied her carefully, but Isabel appeared completely in earnest. "Maria said that," she admitted. "She said to send flowers, or a card, or something with Whitaker's stuff, and have you deliver it."

"Then I'd have to agree with Maria," Isabel said. "It'll work. You don't have to stay here."

Liz was quiet for a moment. "But I do," she said finally. "Max is right—I'm the connection to Whitaker. And I can't just leave all of you, just walk away. I just...can't."

Isabel stared at her for a moment. "You still love him," she whispered as Liz looked away. "You do! You still love him! But then why did you...why are you…"

Liz grabbed Isabel's hand to stop her from finishing that sentence. "Because I have to," she said fiercely. "Because it's best for both of us."

"Are you sure?" Isabel said skeptically. "Because from where I'm sitting, it doesn't look good for either of you."

"I'm sure. Now, if you don't mind…."

Liz remained miserably silent as Isabel slid out of the booth. "It's best for all of us," she murmured, "because it damn well better be."






*********************************************************






Valenti Residence






"Kyle?" Valenti called as he threw his keys on the little table which was pockmarked from years of Valenti's doing just exactly that. "Kyle! You here?"

Apparently not. Total silence greeted him, that and a note taped to the table.


Tess left with Max. Home later.

Kyle.



"Great," Valenti muttered. So much for a night alone with his son. He was still awash in nostalgia from Jeff Parker's walk down memory lane, which included photos of him and Kyle at the Crashdown when Kyle was knee high to a grasshopper. There was no stopping Jeff when he got on a roll with his pictures, so leaving after those very interesting photos of one Courtney Harris from 1959 had not been an option. He was hanging up his coat when he heard noises in the kitchen.

"Kyle?" he called sharply. "Is that you?"

There was a pause before a voice that was definitely not Kyle's answered, "No."

Valenti pulled his gun, crept to the kitchen doorway, and snapped on the light. The missing waitress from the Crashdown was seated at his kitchen table, eating a sandwich.

"What the hell are you doing?" Valenti demanded.

She swallowed, eyes on his gun. "Uh…..you gonna shoot me with that?"






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




I'll post Chapter 62 on Sunday, March 12. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

keepsmiling7
Roswell Fanatic
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Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2007 9:34 pm

Re: Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Chapter 61, 2/26

Postby keepsmiling7 » Mon Feb 27, 2017 12:53 pm

Good to have you back!
The history with Courtney's grandmother at the Crashdown earlier was quite interesting.
Loved the Mulder and Scully reference........X-Files is still one of my all time favorites.
Isabel didn't much more information from Liz than she did from Max. She's really confused over that situation with Tess, but then aren't we all?
And now you leave us hanging, with Courtney sitting at the Valente's kitchen table.
Thanks,
Carolyn

emerald123
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Re: Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Chapter 61, 2/26

Postby emerald123 » Sun Mar 05, 2017 2:35 am

Kathy: I've been away from this story and RF for awhile. Busy with my life. In the past week, I've read ch 33-47. WOW! This is really good. I
couldn't believe the conversation between Tess & Dee. I thought boy, Isabel is going to explode. I was really surprised that Isabel questioned her grandmother regarding the Roswell crash. I didn't think that she would talk to her grandmother about this. I loved the interaction with Capt Carver and Michael, Max, Isabel & Tess, and Brivari. Debbi

emerald123
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Re: Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Chapter 61, 2/26

Postby emerald123 » Mon Mar 06, 2017 1:57 am

I couldn't believe you ended the chapter here! I always found the futureMax storyline interesting; but hated the result of that storyline and the rest of season 2. I found your backstory to FutureMax very interesting. Waiting for the next chapter.

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Kathy W
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Mother Nature is a b*tch!

Postby Kathy W » Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:23 pm

I'm writing from a house with no power after a massive windstorm sent my whole area into a state of emergency. I have internet on my phone, but all my files are on my desktop, which is dark along with everything else. They say it could be next Monday before we get power back, and temps have plunged into the single digits this weekend. Plus there's a winter storm warning for next Monday through Wednesday with up to 15 inches of snow. :shock:

So...let's try again next Sunday, March 19, and hope that everything has settled down, powered up, and dug out of the snow. I so much appreciate all the readers who have stuck with this very long story, and I'm sorry to have another interruption. March is proving to be quite the lion this year. Image


Kathy
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
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Chapter 62

Postby Kathy W » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:10 pm

We have power! We have lights and heat! (Some of my students reported temps in the 30's inside their houses. :shock: ) We've dug out of the 2 feet of snow that fell. Hopefully, we're done. For the moment. (!)



keepsmiling7 wrote:Loved the Mulder and Scully reference........X-Files is still one of my all time favorites.


Mine too! And that was straight from the show, so kudos to the Roswell writers.


emerald123: Welcome back! I'm so glad you're enjoying the story. Future Max was great fun to play with because he was going away, and taking his timeline with him. And I guess I've always imagined that the kids talked to the adults in their lives about the crash and any experiences they had with it. They knew so little about themselves...that would have been one way to try to find out more without arousing suspicion because everyone in Roswell talks about the crash.








CHAPTER SIXTY-TWO






November 20, 2000, 10:30 p.m.

Valenti Residence








Valenti and the Crashdown's missing waitress eyed one another over the barrel of his gun, which was pointed squarely at her. "I asked you a question," Valenti said sharply. "I expect an answer. What the hell are you doing?"

"Eating," the waitress answered. "What's it look like?"

"I know you're eating," Valenti retorted. "I meant what are you doing in my house?"

The waitress blinked. "Wow. Dee said you wanted to see me. That was just a couple of hours ago. Does this mean you changed your mind? Or suffer from memory lapses?"

"Don't get fresh with me," Valenti snapped. "And wanting to see you doesn't mean you can break into my house and help yourself to the contents of my fridge!"

The waitress set her sandwich down as Valenti's grip on his weapon tightened. "Jesus, calm down," she admonished. "I can't attack you with a turkey sandwich. And I didn't 'break into your house'—Kyle left the door unlocked. I've been here about an hour, waiting for you to come back, and I...I got hungry." She paused. "It's been a bitch of a weekend."

The weariness in her voice was palpable...and real. Valenti's weapon dipped, seemingly of its own accord as he studied her. He knew this girl—she'd cheerfully and efficiently poured his coffee and served him lunch for months now. She had a mouth on her, which irritated Maria and Agnes no end, but seemed to amuse Michael. Jeff Parker had nothing but praise for her. Dee Evans had known her for decades, and although she hadn't divulged the nature of their relationship, the fact that she'd promptly sent her to him as requested spoke volumes, as did the fact that the girl had actually shown up. Perhaps he was being a bit churlish.

"Heard about that," Valenti said, lowering his weapon the rest of the way. "It's Courtney, right?"

"Right. What did you hear?"

"Michael mentioned something about a busted window," Valenti said.

"Bet it was quite the story," Courtney said ruefully. "I gotta hand it to me—when I screw up, I'm memorable."

"So you didn't mean for him to know you're an alien?"

"Nope," she replied, not batting an eyelash at the "A" word. "At least not that way."

There followed a long, awkward pause where neither of them said anything. "So are you gonna stand there all night?" Courtney said finally. "Have a sandwich with me. I'll make you one."

Valenti smiled faintly. "You'll make me a sandwich. In my own kitchen."

"Why not?" Courtney said. "It's the least I can do. God knows I've slapped enough sandwiches in front of you already."

"What is it about aliens and food?" Valenti said. "I'm always eating or drinking with them."

"Aliens are people too," Courtney said dryly, digging into a bag of bread. "Who else have you met?"

"One of the guardians," Valenti answered. "Not sure which one."

"Ah. And he brought a picnic?"

"Bottle of wine," Valenti corrected. "Expensive wine."

"Brivari," Courtney nodded. "You'd be lucky to get a can of Coke out of Jaddo. Mustard? Mayo?"

Valenti stared at her, having never heard those names before. "Mayo. So...are you a shapeshifter?"

Courtney twisted around. "Me? No! God, no, I'm a…" She stopped, the knife she'd been using to spread mayonnaise on his sandwich stopping with her. "I was about to say, 'I'm a real person', but that doesn't sound right anymore."

Valenti took a seat in one of the kitchen chairs. "Does that mean shapeshifters aren't real people?"

"Not where I come from," Courtney said. "They're guard dogs. The big, mean kind that'll chew your arm off."

"Sounds accurate," Valenti allowed, "although that expensive wine doesn't fit. And I get the impression you've formed a different opinion on the 'real people' bit."

"Yeah, well, war and exile have a way of making you rethink things." She added a slice of bread and set his sandwich in front of him. "Sorry it's kind of bare. I couldn't find any lettuce or onions."

"I don't think Tess has gone grocery shopping this week," Valenti said.

Courtney shook her head. "The Queen of Antar buys your groceries? Now I really have heard everything."

The sandwich was a good one, piled high with turkey and a pickle on the side, and they ate in silence, hers easy, his wary. He'd heard the part about Max having been a king, which meant that Tess, as his wife, had been a queen, but he didn't dwell on it. He usually went about his days in blissful ignorance of the fact that he had stepped into a conflict involving alien royalty. Maybe it was better that way.

"So where do you fit in all of this?" Valenti asked. "Michael told me you were like Vanessa Whitaker, something he called a 'Skin'. That would make you an enemy, but if you're friends with Dee, that doesn't make sense."

"No, it doesn't, does it?" Courtney sighed, balling up her napkin and tossing it on her plate. "But then so much of this doesn't make sense." She paused. "Vanessa and I are both Argilians, which is a different race than the king's. But I'm not an enemy, so don't shoot me," she added when Valenti's eyebrows rose. "I belong to a rebel faction which doesn't agree with Vanessa and her cronies."

"Doesn't agree on what?" Valenti asked.

"My people wanted a different king," Courtney said. "The guy they picked was a disaster. Khivar murdered the king and his family, wrecked our planet, and made everyone hate him, and by extension, us."

"So this 'rebel faction' supported Max?"

"No," Courtney allowed. "We wanted a different king too. We wanted Michael."

"Michael?" Valenti said in surprise. "You sure about that?"

"More sure than ever after tonight," Courtney said. "Why?"

"Wasn't he a general, or something?" Valenti said. "That would give you a police state, with the military in control."

"No, it wouldn't," Courtney said. "Your president is commander in chief of your military, but the military isn't in control."

"Our president isn't a king," Valenti noted. "He's an elected official."

"You have a democracy, we have a monarchy," Courtney shrugged. "We're in the weeds. The point is that we opposed Khivar taking the throne. When he sent a contingent after the king, the Resistance had infiltrated far enough into the upper echelons that we were able to come along too. Since then, we've been on the side of the crown, if only because we're not on Khivar's side."

"So you're in Roswell to look after the kids?"

Courtney smiled faintly. " 'Kids'. I'll never get used to hearing our royal family referred to as 'kids'. Yes, I'm here to help them. How do you think I afford that house on a waitress's salary? I'm on the crown's payroll. The 'guardians' pay the bill."

"I sense a 'but' coming," Valenti noted.

"But I'm running out of time," Courtney said. "This husk I'm wearing that makes me look human? It's at the end of its lifespan. Pretty soon I'll have to hunker down in an artificial environment I won't be able to leave." She paused. "I hear the 'kids' took off on a little vacation, with you as their travel agent."

"Not so fast," Valenti advised. "How many more of there are you?"

"How many more what? Waitresses?"

"Don't get cute with me, Ms. Banks," Valenti said sternly. "I don't appreciate not knowing that the waitress pouring my coffee is an alien, or that my congresswoman is an alien, and an enemy alien to boot. I don't appreciate being infantilized by being told my ignorance is for my own 'safety'. I don't appreciate being kept in the dark, and it stops now, you hear? You either trust me, or you don't."

"Hmm," Courtney murmured. " 'Trust' you. Do you trust us?"

"I'm not the one asking for favors," Valenti retorted. "What's the problem? You trusted me enough to pull me in when Max was abducted."

"Yes," Courtney said soberly. "And look what happened. Your son died."

The room grew very quiet as Valenti fumed in a web of his own making. "Good thing Max was there to fix that," Courtney went on. "If he hadn't been, there might not be anyone to call for when you come in late from work." She paused. "That 'safety' we're talking about isn't just for you, or even primarily for you—it affects everyone you know, everyone you love. When you know, you become a target, and everyone close to you also becomes a target. Dee knows this. She knows Kyle almost died because he got pulled in after we pulled you in. I know this because my father was murdered by our enemies, and I was forced to watch. A little knowledge is dangerous stuff, sheriff. You know that."

"Not knowing can also be dangerous," Valenti argued.

"Sometimes," Courtney agreed. "But in my experience, it's usually the other way around."

"Your 'experience'?" Valenti said. "How old are you? Twenty? Twenty-five?"

"In your years? About two hundred. Ish. Now," Courtney went on as his eyes widened, "the only aliens in Roswell are the Royal Four and myself. And their guardian, but he comes and goes."

"That can't be right. What about the rest of you?" Valenti demanded. "Where's the rest of your 'Resistance'? Copper Summit?"

Now it was her turn for wide eyes. "How do you know about Copper Summit?"






*********************************************************






Copper Summit, Arizona








"How is it coming along?" Greer asked.

"I'm pleased with the result," Harold answered. "See for yourself."

He gave the sheet a tug, and it slid off the prone form of a nude human female. "A remarkable likeness," Greer said approvingly, circling the slab on which it rested. "This is excellent work,"

"Thank you," Harold answered. "It should certainly forestall any questions from attendees at the funeral."

"It should," Greer agreed. "Nicholas will be pleased."

"I doubt that very much," Harold said.

Lurking in the hallway, Nicholas impulsively pushed the door open before Greer had time to reply. "And why is that?" he demanded.

Greer and Harold spun around with predictable speed and that delicious brand of terror which his presence always inspired in others. Normally he found that very satisfying, but not today. These days, nothing was satisfying.

"I asked you a question," Nicholas said severely. "Why would you doubt I'd be pleased?"

But Harold was an old scientist whose actual vintage matched that of the older-human husk he currently wore, meaning little knocked him off balance for long. "I doubt you will be pleased because this means we lost a soldier," Harold replied calmly. "My work is necessary, but hardly pleasurable."

"Is that all you meant?" Nicholas asked suspiciously.

"Of course, sir," Harold replied. "What else could I have meant?"

Harold held his ground as Nicholas strode toward him. "I know what everyone's saying, but I wasn't in love with her! I would never let such a weakness compromise our mission!"

"Of course you wouldn't, sir," Harold said placidly.

"We lost a valuable asset in human government," Nicholas went on, deliberately avoiding so much as a glance at the simulacrum Harold had constructed. "That's the only reason this is regrettable."

"Deeply regrettable, sir," Harold agreed.

"My personal feelings have nothing to do with this!" Nicholas exclaimed, the scientist's calm making him angrier by the minute. "I don't even have any personal feelings!"

"Of course not, sir," Harold said.

"Stop agreeing with me!" Nicholas shouted.

"As you wish, sir. Would you like to see the doppelganger?"

Nicholas felt a vein in his husk pulsing as the barb hit home. Harold was obviously skilled in more than just the construction of fake bodies, having managed to simultaneously agree with him and highlight his biggest weakness. If he weren't so furious—and heartbroken—he'd be impressed.

"May we speak in private, sir?" Greer interjected, as he always did in situations like these. "We need to settle last minute security procedures for the funeral. If you'll excuse us," he added to Harold, who nodded deferentially as Greer grabbed Nicholas's arm and steered him into the hallway.

"What the hell are you doing?" Nicholas sputtered.

"Salvaging your reputation," Greer said grimly, dropping the honorific as he propelled him down the hall. "Someone has to."

"Don't you talk to me like that!" Nicholas exclaimed, wrenching his arm free. "I'm Khivar's Second! I'm your commander!"

"You'll be neither if you keep this up," Greer retorted. "You're acting irrationally, more so than usual, that is, and don't think I'm the only one who's noticed."

"This is treason," Nicholas fumed.

"This is reality," Greer corrected. "You can't lead if there's no one willing to follow."

"They'll follow me, or I'll—"

"What?" Greer interrupted. "Execute them? They're dying already. We lost one yesterday, another two today. You can't threaten a dying man with death. Even you ought to know that."

"Is this about Vanessa?" Nicholas demanded. "Because everyone hated her. Even you should know that."

"It's about much more than Vanessa," Greer said, "and you do know that."

Nicholas stalked off in frustration, winding his way through the warren of basement rooms to the upper level. This was his favorite place, where the maturation chambers were housed, each husk in its own climate-controlled cell. They had been on this ugly rock for so long, with two sets of new husks destroyed by those damned Warders. This was the third set, and these just had to work because they were out of time. Not a day went by when they didn't learn of new failures, another soldier gone, exploding in a shower of skin flakes that sent shivers down the spines of everyone near. It happened often enough that he'd recalled all of their operatives in the field as each sudden demise attracted more of the apes' attention. The Argilian contingent on this planet was dying one by one as their new husks hovered near maturation, close, but not close enough. They needed another month at least to make certain they were fully mature, but it was anyone's guess how many of their soldiers would be left to use them. As the weeks and months had passed with more dying every day, he'd come here to salve his wounds, to lift his flagging spirits, to remember all those he'd lost since they'd touched down on this wretched planet. Everyone thought him crazy for ordering the husks to be clothed, but it was comforting to see them that way, to remember the days when he was in command of something more than an increasingly rag-tag little band on their last legs. This had been his driving force, to see his troops through to the maturation of their new husks, when they would once again be strong enough to pursue those blasted Royals and earn—or find—a way home.

Then Vanessa had disappeared.

Nicholas came to a halt in front of one of the maturation chambers, the tall, handsome female husk inside producing a lump in his throat. Everyone said she'd defected, that she'd abandoned her post, gone over to the dark side, but he had steadfastly refused to believe that, even after that disastrous phone call where she'd threatened to go over his head to Khivar about that stupid treaty. She'd fallen for that useless Pierce who had obviously been drafted into the service of the enemy, morphing from an alien hunter into the Crown's errand boy, delivering news of a laughable treaty which Vanessa inexplicably seemed to have bought into. She was tired, he'd argued, weary, as all of them were. That made her suggestible, easier to sway. She was a woman, after all.

But as the days went by with no word, then turned into weeks with no word, he'd grown uneasy. His spies had caught wind of her movements in various places, but none of it made sense—the Vanessa he knew would have found a way to taunt him, even from hiding. When the box had arrived bearing her return address in Washington, he'd kept it for a full day, refusing to open it, postponing the moment when he'd have to face what he'd known was coming. Those bastard Warders had killed her, making his already personal hatred for them even more personal.

"She was quite the soldier."

Nicholas threw an annoyed glance at Greer, who had sidled up beside him. "Don't patronize me. I know you hated her. Everyone did."

"Everyone hates strong soldiers," Greer remarked. "The powerful always make enemies precisely because they're powerful."

"Is that why everyone said she had it coming?" Nicholas demanded bitterly. "That she should have known better?"

"Those who play with fire are bound to get burned, to use a virtually prehistoric analogy beloved by the apes," Greer allowed. "But that's not the real problem, and you know it."

"I don't want to talk about it," Nicholas said sullenly.

"What you want is irrelevant," Greer said firmly. "This marks the second time a traitor has managed to reach your inner circle."

"She was no traitor!" Nicholas exclaimed. "Courtney's father was the leader of the Resistance even before we left Antar. Vanessa was..."

"In love with Pierce?" Greer suggested.

Nicholas felt his husk flush, his hands ball into fists. "So what if she was? I wasn't in love with her. She was great in bed, but since when does sex mean I was in love with her?"

"Then why this ridiculous funeral?" Greer said. "They're holding a memorial service for her in Washington. Her colleagues in government will attend that, not a family funeral in a dusty little town in the Midwest."

"Vanessa was a member of the ruling class," Nicholas said. "Yes, I know this patch of rock doesn't have a king, but they still have a ruling class—they just dress it up differently. Everyone will expect her family to hold services for her, and we're going to do what everyone expects."

"Then why isn't it private?" Greer said. "Just announce a private service and be done with it. We don't actually have to have one. Why the dog and pony show?"

"We will show her proper respect," Nicholas said firmly. "I don't like what I'm hearing everyone say about her. She was one of our very top operatives, and every single one of us will remember that if I have to rub their noses in her fake body."

"You can't expect them to mourn the loss of a traitor," Greer said. "Her last conversation with you—"

"Made it clear she was under duress," Nicholas broke in. "She wasn't herself."

"Something of an understatement given that she threatened you," Greer remarked.

"None of us knows for sure what happened out there, and none of us ever will," Nicholas declared. "What we do know for sure is that she's dead, and a Royal Warder has taken credit for her death. She was executed by the enemy. Isn't that enough to warrant a proper funeral?"

"So you intend to make everyone bow before the queen?" Greer said skeptically.

"I intend to make everyone remember their place," Nicholas retorted. "Do the rest of them think they're better than her? Do they think they can't be seduced by prattle about treaties, and peace, and going home? Think again."

"Indeed," Greer murmured, studying the replacement husk Vanessa would never wear. "Those that live to wear these may very well have cause to do that."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Nicholas demanded.

"Only that I agree," Greer said. "Everyone is now preoccupied with the notion that their husk could fail at any moment, but once that threat is gone...well, let's just say I wouldn't be surprised if some of them embraced the notion of a treaty, if only because they want to go home."

"Forget it," Nicholas scoffed. "Khivar will never allow it."

"He may not have a choice," Greer noted. "If our sister worlds agree to a summit, he can hardly refuse to attend. And if Khivar provides a presence there for any reason, that will encourage those among us who feel that way."

"If Khivar provides a presence, it's because he's found a way to use this treaty nonsense in our favor," Nicholas argued. "And anyone who can't see that is tired and not thinking clearly, just like Vanessa. Decaying husks make us weaker, physically and mentally. After the harvest, they'll see things differently."

"Let's hope so," Greer said. "Because after the harvest, we'll have a reinvigorated army of soldiers who will be free to turn their attention to other matters besides mere survival."

Nicholas stepped closer. "Is that a threat?"

"No...sir," Greer answered. "An observation. One you would be wise to heed."








**********************************************************







Banks Residence







For the second time that night, Courtney slipped inside her back door. She couldn't risk turning on any lights, but she didn't need to—the bags she'd left on the kitchen counter before Rath and Maria had interrupted her were still there, as was the food in her fridge, Maria having talked Rath out of helping himself to any. But retrieving the contents of her fridge, or her closet, or anything else wasn't the top priority on the agenda at the moment. She knew what was coming, and she'd already made her decision. This wasn't going to be easy.

Dee was sitting in the disheveled living room. "What a mess," she said in disgust. "Place looks tossed."

"Yeah, well, they weren't exactly being careful," Courtney noted, sinking into a chair. "You should see the bedroom. Maria did that one."

"Did they take anything?"

"Michael took his shirt back, and one of the photos I took of him," Courtney said. "Maria made it pretty clear she didn't want my music, or my food, or my bras, or pretty much anything. I'm the enemy. Anything I've touched is contaminated."

Dee's expression softened. "I'm so sorry. And after everything you've done for them, for Antar…I know they don't know that, but still...it's galling to see this, and it's not even my home."

Don't, Courtney thought. Don't be nice to me. That would only make what was coming all the more painful. "So what did Valenti tell you?" Dee asked, having taken an admirable amount of time to come to the point. "Does he know where they went?"

"Yeah," Courtney said, looking at the floor. "Yeah, he does." She paused. "They went to Copper Summit."

Dee's eyes grew round. "Oh, no," she whispered.

"Oh, yes," Courtney sighed. "Max told Valenti they had intercepted a letter to Vanessa from Copper Summit. Liz," she explained when Dee looked blank. "Liz has been holding down the fort at Vanessa's 'pop-up office' since she died. The public announcement of Vanessa's death spooked all of them because they know it's fake. They went digging, found the letter, and decided to investigate."

"But they left Michael here?" Dee said.

The corners of Courtney's mouth twitched. "They have another problem, remember? Rath was to investigate me while the rest of them went to Vanessa's funeral under the pretense of Liz returning some of Vanessa's stuff from the office."

"So the 'youth conference' was the cover," Dee said.

"They had to have an excuse for disappearing during a school week," Courtney said. "Valenti wanted to go with them, but they said no, of course. There was no stopping them, so he covered for them."

"And without a word to me," Dee said grimly.

"What would you have done?" Courtney said. "You couldn't have stopped them either. You could have called Brivari, but he can't go there any more than I can; the whole town is rigged to reveal Covari. He'd glow like nuclear waste if he got anywhere near the place."

"They're probably halfway there by now," Dee fretted. "We'll never catch them in time."

"No, we won't," Courtney agreed. "I'm afraid we're going to just have to let the chips fall where they may on this one."

"So what happens?" Dee demanded. "What will Nicholas do to them?"

"Maybe nothing," Courtney said. "I don't know how much Nicholas knows—that depends on how much Vanessa told him before she effectively committed treason by working on the treaty. It's possible they'll just see it as Vanessa's intern returning her stuff with friends along for the ride."

"But there are four of them," Dee said. "Do you mean to tell me they won't think of the Royal Four?"

"Wrong genders," Courtney said. "One male, three females. The Royal Four are two males and two females."

"I could call Isabel," Dee said desperately. "Come clean, admit I know about them, tell them they're heading into danger."

"You sure you want to do that?" Courtney said. "Think carefully because you can't put that toothpaste back in the tube, and it's unlikely to stop them anyway. You might wind up outed for no reason."

Silence. Dee paced in the dark living room, lost in thought, while Courtney held out hope that this would be the end of it. This was a very unfortunate turn of events, but there was nothing for it—the damage was done, and any effort to correct it would likely make things worse. "I'm really sorry," Courtney said gently. "This really stinks. But keep in mind that the hybrids are incredibly powerful, more powerful than they know, more powerful than Warders. They've gotten themselves out of plenty of scrapes—"

"Sure, against humans, and by the hairs of their collective chinny-chin-chins," Dee interrupted, using one of those human metaphors which made absolutely no sense even after decades on this planet. "But these are your people. This is different."

"They're not 'my' people," Courtney said. "You should have figured that out by now."

"You know what I mean," Dee said impatiently. "Isn't there anyone there you can contact, a mole, a sympathizer, someone?"

"Years ago, maybe," Courtney said wistfully. "But not any more. There aren't many of us left, Dee. Hundreds of husks have failed, and more fail every day. Word is Nicholas pulled his operatives back because so many of their husks were exploding that it was starting to show up on the news. I'm afraid the hybrids are on their own." She paused. "Why don't we call Brivari? The King's Warder should be informed even if there's nothing he can do about it directly. Maybe—"

"Wait," Dee suddenly. "There is a way! Michael could go after them!"

"Rath?" Courtney said. "He knows where they are, and he elected not to go. According to Valenti, it was one of those rare moments of agreement between Zan and Rath."

"That's just because he doesn't know how dangerous it is," Dee argued. "Michael already knows you're an alien. You can go to him and tell him he has to go after them, and why."

Shit, Courtney sighed. As expected, Dee had arrived at the one way to affect this situation, the one thing she wouldn't do. How long had that taken? Two minutes? Five? But had she any good reason to expect otherwise? When had Dee ever been a let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may type?

"You made a promise to Brivari," Dee continued, "that you would go to Michael and offer your assistance. Now that he knows you're an alien, there's no reason not to, and now that we don't have Jaddo, we need a liaison."

"We've been over this," Courtney said. "I will go to Rath; I'm just letting the initial shock wear off—"

"We don't have time for that," Dee interrupted. "Go to him now, tell him you're an ally, and tell him he has to go after them!"

Courtney closed her eyes briefly. "No."

Dee blinked. "What?"

"I said 'no'," Courtney repeated. "Three of the Royal Four are heading into danger. I won't put the fourth one in danger too."

Dee stared at her in astonishment. "Two of those three are my grandchildren!"

"They were our royalty long before they were your grandchildren," Courtney reminded her. "I'm afraid that takes precedence."

Dee sank onto the couch across from her and fixed her with a hard stare. "Oh, it does, does it?"

"Yes, it does," Courtney said, struggling to keep her voice steady. "If the worst happens in Copper Summit, the King's Second won't be there."

"Oh, of course," Dee said softly. "Your preferred ruler will be safe and sound."

"This isn't about who's ruling," Courtney said, having anticipated that reaction. "It's about not putting all your eggs in one basket. Just like Britain doesn't allow the monarch and the Prince of Wales to travel on the same aircraft because if one plane goes down, odds are the other one won't."

"I don't believe this!" Dee said furiously. "You think you can take back your planet with just one of them?"

"It wouldn't be ideal, but it would be a damn sight better than none of them," Courtney said in exasperation. "C'mon, Dee, I know you're smarter than this. You're worried about what Nicholas will do to them, but you don't mind if he does that to all of them? What if they all go down at once?"

"And what about you?" Dee retorted. "You're telling me Nicholas might not know anything about them, but you're unwilling to send Michael? Obviously you're more worried than you're letting on."

"Of course I'm worried," Courtney said impatiently. "We should both be worried. I'm just pointing out that it may not be as bad as you think it is."

"Or it might be worse," Dee said hotly.

"It might be either," Courtney argued. "The point is we don't know, and since the King and his Second are already separated, I vote we keep them that way."

"Oh, no," Dee said, shaking her head vigorously. "This isn't about voting. We'll just see what Brivari has to say about this. He won't leave his Ward in danger if there's a way to fix that."

"Don't you get it?" Courtney demanded. "His Ward will be in danger either way! And then if Rath goes, they'll all be in danger. There is no way they're not in danger unless they turn around and come back, and what are the odds of that happening? None, that's what! Those hybrids are better at getting themselves into trouble than anyone I've ever met!"

"Because everyone 'votes' to keep them in the dark!" Dee shouted. "What do you expect when you don't tell them anything?"

"Says the woman who decided to keep her 'grandson' in the dark!" Courtney retorted. "Don't go all holier-than-thou on me. You had the chance to face that one head-on, and you decided to keep it that way."

"I'm calling Brivari," Dee said grimly.

"You do that," Courtney said angrily. "Let him tell you that this is about the bigger picture. Maybe you'll actually listen to him."

"I'm done here," Dee said flatly. "Don't bother coming back to my house. You're not welcome there."






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



I'll post Chapter 63 (weather permitting :wink: ) on Sunday, April 2.
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
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Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Chapter 63

Postby Kathy W » Sun Apr 02, 2017 4:09 pm

Hello and thank you to everyone reading!








CHAPTER SIXTY-THREE






November 21, 2000, 5:02 a.m.

Motel 6, Wittmann, Arizona








Liz Parker's eyes opened as the blast from a truck's horn pierced the early morning stillness. Wow, she thought dully. I was asleep. That was something of a miracle, having lain awake for what seemed like forever even after collapsing into this hard-as-a-rock bed in a state of total exhaustion. As they'd neared Copper Summit last night, it had dawned on them that arriving tired and wired wasn't the best of ideas. This roadside Motel 6 was cheap, and looked it. And smells it, she added, wrinkling her nose at the odor of disinfectant on the scratchy sheets. The clock on the table beside the bed read 5:02 a.m., kind of; the display was partially obscured by a smudged fingerprint. Why would anyone touch the display, and what had been on their finger? Probably best not to ponder that one.

Something stirred on the floor, and Liz pushed herself up on one elbow. When they'd walked in last night to find two double beds, Max had immediately offered to sleep on the floor, which still left three girls and two beds. Terrified she'd be stuck sleeping with Tess, she'd almost blurted out that she'd sleep in the jeep, or the bathtub, or on the ceiling, if necessary, when Isabel had come to her rescue. "Liz, you take this bed; Tess and I will take the other," she'd said crisply. "After all, Tess and I are family."

This declaration of familial solidarity had produced a smile from Tess, a curious look from Max, and a sigh of relief from Liz. Now Isabel and Tess lay sound asleep in their bed as she slipped out of hers, and Max was curled on the floor with the extra pillow from her bed and no blanket. She looked away, keeping her eyes on the door as she stepped carefully around him, ignoring the part of her that wanted to pull the blanket off her bed and cover him with it.

It was warm outside even at this hour, the nearby highway surprisingly busy as she climbed into the jeep. There was no one around, but it really wouldn't do to have this conversation where anyone else could hear it.

"Mmm?" groaned a voice on the other end of the phone.

"Maria? It's Liz. Look, I know it's early—"

Another sound came over the phone, one more closely resembling profanity. "Kind of an understatement, don't you think?" Maria said, her voice thick with sleep and annoyance. "It's five freakin' o'clock!"

"Yeah, I know, and I'm sorry," Liz said, "but I might not get a chance to call you again, and I—"

"Wait," Maria interrupted, suddenly sounding very awake. "Are you there? What happened? Are you in trouble?"

"Not yet," Liz answered. "And we're not in trouble."

"Yet," Maria amended. "So where are you?"

"In a Motel 6," Liz answered. "More like 10 or 11, I guess. You should see the bathroom."

"Don't," Maria ordered firmly. "The last thing I need is to barf before breakfast. So who had enough money for a motel? Did they abracadabra some money out of paper napkins?"

"Of course not," Liz said, annoyed. "That's harder than it seems. They'd have to make up serial numbers, or replicate them, and if it's too much money, that could attract attention—"

"Liz?"

"Valenti gave Tess a couple hundred bucks," Liz summarized.

"A couple hundred?" Maria exclaimed. "Remind me to come up with a financial crisis right away."

"It's her money," Liz explained. "Nasedo left it for her."

"Sure he did," Maria said darkly. "So where is this Ritz Carlton?"

"In a little town called Wittmann," Liz answered. "It's north of Phoenix."

"Whitman like Alex?" Maria chuckled.

"Don't I wish," Liz said. "Copper Summit is a spot in the road between Wittmann and Wickenburg, which are bigger spots in the road. We crashed here because we were all really tired, and we figured we should walk into the lion's den well rested."

"Good thinking," Maria agreed. "Interesting names. 'Wickenburg' sounds Civil War-ish."

"We passed 'Surprise' on the way here," Liz said wanly "Surprise!"

"And you sound miserable," Maria noted. "No surprise. Is this where I remind you that I told you you shouldn't go?"

"Well, I'm here now, so that's that," Liz said. "And I want to get my mind off aliens. What happened with Courtney?"

"Way to get your mind off aliens," Maria said dryly.

"At least she's a different alien," Liz said. "Did you find her?"

"Her? No. But we did find a creepy Michael shrine when we ransacked her house. She had a shirt he thought he'd lost, and lots of pictures she'd taken of him."

"Wow," Liz said faintly.

"Weird," Maria corrected. "I knew she was psycho, but even I didn't know how bad. I mean, why would she do something like that? And how did we have an enemy so close to us, and not know?"

There was a pause while Liz stared into space for a moment. "She's not," she said suddenly.

"Not what?" Maria said.

"An enemy. Courtney's not an enemy. She just...she just doesn't feel like an enemy," Liz went on as Maria made a strangled sound of disbelief. "There were too many times she was helpful, or seemed concerned about them, like at Isabel's birthday party, or...I don't know," she finished, unable to put her feelings into words this early in the morning. "Just don't count her out completely because she likes Michael. You may not like her, but that doesn't make her their enemy."

"Sorry, did you miss the part where she jumped out a window because Michael—somehow—figured out she was an alien?"

"See, that doesn't make sense," Liz said. "If she was an enemy, why run? Why not just blast him?"

"How should I know?" Maria said crossly. "Maybe her enemy orders said not to. What difference does it make?"

"It makes a difference because if she's on their side, they should know," Liz argued.

"She's an alien!" Maria exclaimed.

"Nasedo was an alien," Liz reminded her.

"Bad example," Maria declared.

"My point is, he was an alien who was on their side," Liz said, "or at least thought he was. They haven't found many people from their world who are on their side. We should find out."

"And how, exactly, are we supposed to do that?" Maria demanded.

"Ask her," Liz shrugged. "Yes, I know she ran away. But she may still be around there somewhere, and if she is, I bet she'd find a note left at her house, or somewhere she usually goes. Just ask her to explain herself. See what she says. It's worth a shot."

"Says you," Maria muttered.

"I'd do it myself, but I've got other things on my plate," Liz said. "Wanna trade?"

"No," Maria allowed, "but I'm not buying it. If she's not an enemy, why was she hiding who she was?"

"Maybe because she was afraid we'd all react exactly like we just did?" Liz suggested. "Look, I've gotta go. Wish me luck."

Maria's voice softened. "Good luck, babe. Even if you are bonkers."

"Gee, thanks," Liz said dryly. "Say hi to everyone for me."

"You're not missing much," Maria said. "Only thing that happened here is that Alex is planning one of those 'study abroad' things. You know, the 'expand your mind', and 'learn a new language', and—"

"Wait—Alex?" Liz said. "Our Alex? Since when is he into travel?"

"Since yesterday," Maria said. "He's going to Sweden!"






*********************************************************





10:00 a.m.

Crashdown Cafe, Roswell








"Order up!" Michael bellowed, shoving plates of food aside to make room for new ones. "C'mon, people, get'em while they're hot! I'm not cooking for my health, you know."

Agnes appeared, ever-present scowl firmly in place. "Stop hollering at me," she said crossly. "I don't wait tables for my health, you know. And I'm not Courtney."

"No shit, Sherlock," Michael muttered.

"What was that?" Agnes demanded.

"I said 'no kidding'," Michael translated. "At least she could walk a plate from the kitchen to a table. It's not rocket science."

Agnes's face reddened. "Why, you little—"

"Sorry," Mr. Parker called breathlessly, coming at them at mach ten. "I'm trying to help out, but between the back and the front, I'm getting a little behind, and...and it looks like I'm not the only one," he added, surveying the pile-up. "Is there a problem, Agnes?"

"Of course there's a problem," Agnes retorted. "We're short a waitress."

"Which doesn't explain why your orders are still sitting here," Michael pointed out.

Agnes's scowl deepened, if that was possible, as she loaded up four plates and marched into the diner. "Well, whatd'ya know," Michael said dryly. "She can work. When she wants to. Which is pretty much never."

"We're all missing Courtney," Mr. Parker said. "We can talk about this later. Gotta run."

Michael shook his head as Mr. Parker headed off with the rest of the orders, his plates balanced so precariously that Michael was certain he'd have to replace them not because they were cold, but because they'd been dropped. We're all missing Courtney. Truer words had never been spoken. Mr. Parker was missing his efficient waitress, Agnes was missing the way Courtney had covered for her by delivering Agnes's orders so Agnes didn't have to, and he...well...he was missing pretty much everything about her. Courtney, it turned out, had been one of the linchpins holding the Crashdown together, a crackerjack waitress with a sense of humor which had endeared her to the regulars, and just the right amount of snark which had endeared her to…me, Michael finished ruefully, tossing more sausages on the grill. He hadn't realized how much he'd depended on her sass and wit to get him through the day, how much he'd enjoyed watching her and Maria go at it, how much he'd learned from their enigmatic little conversations where she'd sounded like she knew more than she should. Because she did, numbskull, he chided himself. Courtney was an alien, and had no doubt known all along that he was one too. The signs had been there—he just hadn't been listening. Like when he'd been caught up in his fight with Max over the whole Brody thing, and she'd taken him to task about dragging his feet baking Isabel's birthday cake.



"I have better things to do than stand around while you pout. Read my lips—no talking, no cake. I don't have time for this."

"Why? What's on your to-do list today? Saving the world?"

"Actually, yes. And your ass, his ass, and all our collective asses. So excuse me if I'm too busy to put up with the latest dust-up over girlfriends or glucose."




Or when she'd deftly deflected Max's power play over the cake, ending with a well-placed verbal smack.



"He said it's all good. The cake, I mean. Everything's set. All systems go."

"Oh, is that what he said? Because I heard something different."

"Then you heard wrong. Either that, or you're just looking for trouble."




Slam! Michael smiled faintly at the memory, noting that he hadn't been the only one who'd missed the signs. Although one could argue he should have known better because he'd talked to her more than any of them, and heard her say things which should have given him pause.



"There are basically two types of people in the world—people who get all the breaks, and people who can't seem to catch one. And when one of those golden boys who gets everything handed to him on a silver platter is right about something, it sucks. It's unfair. It makes you think that, maybe, just maybe, if we got even a few of those breaks, we could have made better decisions too."




"Michael?"

It was Mr. Parker. "Break time. Go sit for a few minutes."

"No need," Michael said. "I know we're busy."

"So busy that I don't want to lose another crucial employee," Mr. Parker said. "I can take the grill for twenty minutes. Agnes will just have to skedaddle."

"I'd settle for merely walking," Michael said, plucking the sausages off the grill and loading them on plates which were collected promptly by a still scowling Agnes, actually working now because the boss was watching. Mr. Parker gave him a knowing smile as he left the kitchen and stripped off his apron, hanging it on the door of his locker before his eyes drifted to Courtney's. Maria had reportedly searched her locker, probably jimmying the lock. He wouldn't need to.

A moment later, he was rifling through the locker, sifting through sweaters, sneakers, Kleenex, and other assorted paraphernalia. While there was nothing to suggest she was an alien save for a bottle of skin lotion, there was also little to suggest she was a typical girl; no hairbrush, no mirror, and no make-up, not even lip gloss. "So what were your bad decisions?" he murmured, digging in the sweater's pockets. "Do they have anything to do with how we all landed here?"

His phone rang. "You will not believe what Liz said this morning," Maria announced.

"Where are they?" Michael asked sharply. "Are they okay?"

"Yeah, they're fine," Maria said. "At the moment, anyway. They spent the night in some fleabag motel because they needed some sleep before they walk into the lion's den. But Liz asked me what we'd found out about Courtney, and when I told her, she said she didn't think Courtney was an enemy!"

Michael stopped digging. "She did?"

"Yes! Can you believe it? I told her about that creepy shrine and everything, and she still thought we should leave her a note and ask her to explain. Explain what? How she's some psycho stalking alien?"

Michael thought for a moment. "Where did Liz think we should leave the note?"

"What? Don't tell me you actually agree with her!"

"No, of course not," Michael said quickly. "Just curious. It's a pretty crazy thing to say."

"Tell me about it," Maria said darkly. "She was going on about how 'if she was an enemy, she wouldn't have run away'. And I said, if she wasn't an enemy, why didn't she tell us that?"

"Maybe because she was afraid we'd do exactly what we're doing," Michael suggested.

Maria made a strangled noise of disgust. "God, you sound just like Liz!"

"Is that a bad thing?"

"Oh, good grief," Maria groused. "Will you be at school this afternoon?"

"Yeah," Michael answered. "See you then."

Michael rung off and closed the locker door, recalling his last encounter with Courtney when he'd figured out what she was, and the stricken look on her face, the way she'd backed away as though she was afraid of him. Those were not the actions of an enemy. There was also the persistent feeling that she knew not just what they were, but who they were. Had she known them in that other life? What kinds of things could she tell them, and would he have had the sense to ask if she hadn't jumped out that window?

"You're early," Mr. Parker said when he reappeared in the kitchen. "You've still got five minutes."

"Yeah, well, I figured you were needed to wait tables," Michael said.

"Actually, it's calmed down," Mr. Parker said. "And Agnes has been skedaddling. Imagine that."

"Knock, knock!"

Michael, who had been trying to conjure an image of the slow-moving Agnes "skedaddling", was surprised to see Max's grandfather in the kitchen doorway. "Morning!" Mr. Parker called. "It's 'Anthony', right?"

"Right you are," Grandpa Anthony answered. "Hello, Michael."

"You know Michael?" Mr. Parker asked.

"Sure," Grandpa answered. "He's basically part of the family at Max and Isabel's house."

"Wouldn't go that far," Michael allowed.

"I'm sorry to interrupt, but I was looking for one of your waitresses, the one named Courtney," Grandpa said.

"Aren't we all," Mr. Parker sighed as Michael's ears pricked. "But I'm afraid she's left."

"So she hasn't stopped in again?" Grandpa asked.

"If she did, I'd tie her to a chair," Mr. Parker said. "No, I haven't seen her. I don't even have a forwarding address."

"What do you want with Courtney?" Michael asked.

"Grandma Dee was looking for her," Grandpa explained. "It seems they struck up a friendship, and she was wondering where she'd gone."

"So Grandma Dee liked her," Michael said. "She liked Courtney."

"Oh, yes," Grandpa answered, a faint note of amusement in his voice. "Birds of a feather, those two. Couple of firecrackers. Well...sorry to bother you."

"No problem," Jeff said. "Say hi to Dee for me."

Michael spent the rest of his shift in a daze, dredging up every conversation he'd ever had with Courtney. By the time he clocked out and climbed on his bike, he'd made up his mind. His gut was trying to tell him something, and to his surprise, the twin oracles of Liz Parker and Max's grandmother agreed. Time to listen.






*********************************************************






Banks Residence








You're a Skin?


Courtney shrank from the angry face in front of her, full of accusation and betrayal. No, she wanted to shout, I'm not your enemy! I've never been your enemy! But the face in front of her wasn't interested in explanations, nor was the hand which hovered, more dangerous than any gun.

Crash!

She landed on the ground, shards of glass covering her, stinging as she ran for her life, only to find herself in front of that angry face again. And again. And again. Each time, the hand rose, the window crashed, and she ran, right back to where she'd started, each time exactly the same. Until it wasn't. Until she felt a hand on her arm, and she knew something was wrong because Rath hadn't caught her, hadn't…

"Easy!" a voice said as she wrenched herself away. "Take it easy. You're all right."

Flattened against the headboard, Courtney looked around wildly. She was in her bedroom, in her house, where she shouldn't be, where she'd left because Rath had figured out what she was. What was she doing here? And why was that nurse, Dee's friend, hovering worriedly beside her?

"You were thrashing so much, I decided to wake you," Yvonne said. "That must have been some dream."

Dream. Yes, that was it. Closing her eyes, Courtney sank back on the bed, breathing heavily. "More like a nightmare," she said, her voice scratchy from a dry throat. "What are you doing here? Wait...what am I doing here?"

"I think the answer to both questions is the same," Yvonne said gently. "When I woke up this morning, you weren't there. Dee wouldn't say why, but she was clearly angry."

Angry. Oh, yes. That's why she was here, because she'd been banished from Dee's house for not telling Rath to run off to Copper Summit and rescue the king. "Yeah, we...had a disagreement," Courtney said.

"Bit of an understatement if she told you not to come back," Yvonne noted, "but I gathered as much when she called Brivari."

Courtney bit her lip. "What did he say?"

"I'm not sure," Yvonne allowed. "I was only able to eavesdrop on one side of the conversation. Suffice it to say that she wasn't happy with his response."

Holy shit, Courtney thought, embarrassed to find she was shaking. He'd agreed with her. The King's Warder had actually agreed with her, and not just agreed with her, but gone against a long-time ally to side with the leader of the Resistance. Too bad she didn't feel like the leader of the Resistance, or of anything else, for that matter, more like a child who'd just quarreled with one parent only to collapse in relief when the other one backed her up.

"When we realized what had happened, Anthony and I went looking for you," Yvonne went on. "We stopped in at the Crashdown, but no one had seen you. It was Anthony's idea to check here. I gather this has something to do with why Max and the others left?"

"Yes," Courtney sighed. "Max, Isabel, and Tess went to Copper Summit to check out Vanessa."

"Ah," Yvonne nodded. "But not Michael?"

"Michael was left here to check out me," Courtney said. "Which he did last night, along with Maria."

"So the mess here isn't because you and Dee were throwing things at each other," Yvonne said dryly.

"I'm sure she wanted to," Courtney said sadly.

"Of course she did," Yvonne said briskly. "She's always been a miniature tornado, that one, often not so miniature."

"She's never thrown me out," Courtney said dully.

"No, but her mother threw Brivari out," Yvonne reminded her. "He was banished for a good long while."

Courtney thought for a moment. "That's right! I'd forgotten all about that. What melted that ice?"

"I did," Yvonne said, "or rather, the situation I was in. Brivari was needed to heal me, and Emily relented."

"Heal what?" Courtney said. "What happened to you?"

"My commanding officer had used me as a test subject," Yvonne answered. "He'd managed to impregnate me with an alien-human hybrid."

Courtney blinked, both at the answer and the matter-of-fact tone in which it was delivered. "No way!" she exclaimed. "For real? Of course for real," she added quickly. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to imply I didn't believe you, I just...I hadn't heard that part of it."

"It's one of the more sordid chapters in our relations with your people," Yvonne said. "I think Emily was a bit embarrassed that her own people had behaved so badly. She'd been angry with Brivari about the way his people had used humans as test subjects, and now here was a human using humans as test subjects. That make her relent, that and the fact I would have died without his intervention."

"So we need to conjure a near-death experience to get me back in Dee's good graces?" Courtney said.

"What exactly knocked you out of those good graces?" Yvonne asked curiously. "Must be something major."

Courtney pushed herself to a sitting position. "Max and the rest of them took off for Copper Summit based on a letter sent to Vanessa. They have no idea what they're walking into, of course. Dee wants me to send Michael after them."

"And...you didn't want to?" Yvonne ventured.

"I don't want all of them in front of the firing squad," Courtney said. "By the time we found out where they'd gone, he wouldn't have been able to catch up to them anyway. They'd had too much of a head start."

"Could he call them?" Yvonne suggested.

Courtney shook her head. "Wouldn't be safe. They're there by now, and every single communication in and out of Copper Summit is monitored. Calling them would be like painting a giant bullseye on their backs."

"That doesn't explain why you wouldn't talk to Michael last night when they were still en route," Yvonne noted. "You told Brivari you'd explain yourself to the hybrids and offer your assistance. Wouldn't this be as good a time as any?"

"He can't go there," Courtney insisted. "Michael has to stay away. If he finds out what Copper Summit is, he'll go flying out the door to rescue Max, and nothing will stop him. It's what he does."

"Correct me if I'm wrong," Yvonne said, "but as the commander of the king's armies, isn't that his job?"

"He's also the King's Second," Courtney reminded her. "He's the heir to the throne in the absence of a blood heir. If all the Royal Four go down, if every alternative we have to Khivar winds up dead, what happens to Antar? Nothing good, that's what."

"I see," Yvonne sighed. "And I gather Brivari did also."

"I told her he would," Courtney said. "But she's all caught up in her 'grandchildren'. This is about way more than her—"

Courtney stopped short as a soft thunk floated from the kitchen, followed by the door opening. "No," she whispered, catching Yvonne's arm as she started to get up. "Stay here."

"It might be Anthony," Yvonne said.

"That's not Anthony," Courtney said grimly.

They waited, frozen, while footsteps walked around the kitchen, rubber treads on younger feet than Anthony's. Two interminable minutes later, the feet left, closing the door softly behind them.

"I know I locked the door behind me," Yvonne said as they both headed to the now empty kitchen. "I guess I'm not the only one who's learned how to pick a lock."

"They didn't have to," Courtney said, spying the envelope which had been left propped on the kitchen table. "I'd know that handwriting anywhere. It's Michael's."

"Michael?" Yvonne said. "Why would Michael be leaving notes at your empty house?"

Why indeed? Courtney thought heavily, retrieving the envelope and extracting the contents, which they both read in silence.

"Oh my," Yvonne said softly. "This is a bit of a conundrum."

Courtney put both hands to her head, which felt like it was going to explode. "Shit! Shit, shit, shit!"







*********************************************************





Crawford residence,

Copper Summit, Arizona









Nicholas yawned as he pulled back the curtains. He'd slept late again, like he had ever since he'd discovered Vanessa was dead. He dreamed about her a lot, and she was alive in his dreams. Sleeping longer made for fewer hours where he had to face the fact that she was never coming back, or ponder whether Greer and the rest of them might be right—she may very well have betrayed them. His default position of assuming her a victim worked on the surface because there was no clear way to prove otherwise, but that pendulum could swing in either direction. The thought of her turning against him made his head hurt even more than the thought of her being dead. He'd rather have her dead than a traitor. Peering out the window, he found another bright, sunny day which somehow felt gray and cold. Everything was gray and cold these days, including him.

A commotion below caught his eye. A car had pulled up, disgorging four people who were inexplicably welcomed by his mother. Ida was hardly the welcoming sort, so this was odd, to say the least. A few minutes later, his father clumped up the stairs.

"Who are those people?" Nicholas asked suspiciously.

"Kids who worked for Vanessa," Walt answered. "Interns, or some such. They've brought some things from her office."

"Oh," Nicholas said dully. After Greer's misgivings about the public funeral, he should be happy that someone from the outside world had actually shown up, but kids? Big deal.

"Said they drove all night after they got the news," Walt continued. "Imagine that."

"They drove from Washington?" Nicholas said. "How stupid is that."

"Not Washington," Walt said. "Roswell.

Nicholas's ears pricked. "They're from Roswell?"

"Ain't that where her office was?" Walt shrugged. "Makes sense."

Walt went back downstairs. Nicholas waited a moment before following, treading lightly so no one would hear him, his excitement mounting. Vanessa had gone to Roswell because she had a lead on the hybrids. She seemed to think they were young, very young, which had seemed preposterous, and yet...and yet now there were young people sitting in his living room who'd driven all night from Roswell on her behalf. What if she'd been right? What if she'd found them? She must have gotten close, very close, if the Royal Warders had seen fit to execute her. What if she'd actually found them?

Four, Nicholas counted, peering cautiously around the doorway. The number was right, but the proportions were wrong: One male and three females. The male could be either Rath or Zan, but everyone knew it wasn't really Zan Khivar was after. One of the females was a mousy, brown-haired, do-gooder type, one was a blonde who felt more dangerous than she looked, and the other…

"Yes?" Greer's voice said when he picked up his phone.

"You didn't tell me we had visitors," Nicholas said.

"What? Oh. Those kids. I gather one of 'em worked for her. Must have opened her mail because they mentioned the Vilandra Project. Give 'em some cookies, and send 'em on their way."

"Notice anything about them?" Nicholas asked.

Greer paused, sensing a trick question. "No. Why?"

"You idiot," Nicholas said, shaking his head. "Vanessa said she was close, and she was. I'd know her anywhere, no matter what form she takes."

"Sir?" Greer said cautiously, as though afraid he'd lost his marbles. "I'm not following—"

"Then let me spell it out for you," Nicholas retorted. "You thought Vanessa was a traitor, and she just delivered in spades. Get your ass down here, and eat crow."




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




We'll be visiting our youngest at his new digs on the West Coast, so I'll post Chapter 64 on Sunday, April 30. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."


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