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CHAMELEON (CC / Mature) (Complete)
Posted: Sun Feb 23, 2003 11:44 am
Winner - Round 5
Winner - Round 4
Round 3 Winner
Here we are, my friends, at a new board.
I hope I’m doing this right; somehow, I thought the stories would be in place on each forum, but if I’m reading this correctly, I either need to repost the whole thing here or provide a link to the archives. I’ve chosen the latter, not having a whole day to spend on this. So here is the link to CHAMELEON to date:
Now to continue with . . .
The “I know an alien” club was shifting into overdrive. Had any universally omnipotent being observed the various scenes being played out in and around Roswell, it would have seen a highly diverse band of people—humans and hybrids—learning, exchanging information, experimenting, and most impressive of all, trusting. Each had a personal agenda, but as is the way of the universe, all of those agendas fed into the greater good in some way, and that interdependence was a new weapon in the alien arsenal.
A new future was hovering at the edge of every decision; each new bond between hearts and minds was leading them into the unknown. Their paths, zigzagging crazily across and away from each other, would lead some toward cherished destinations, and others to fates unimagined. But for now, they were working together, and something about that very act felt like a blessing.
“Okay, I think we have a place to start, at least,” Philip stated with satisfaction. “Taylor, you’ll go to Judge Weaver and get the warrant for Gibbs’s office, apartment, car, and uniform from the cleaner’s holding bin. I think the fact that all of the evidence against Nate is circumstantial will give her enough impetus to extend the investigation to another line of circumstantial evidence. General, you’ve agreed to contact Tyler Heiss and get the shoes; we’ll get all the evidence to the lab tomorrow. Even drag them out of church, if we have to. Nate, I want every detail of that night written down in a clear, logical progression, from the time you left the base until you got back to your hotel room. None of that was connected to Max, right?”
“The police are already in possession of your car and clothes, so we should have those reports later tonight or tomorrow. I personally watched Jeff dispose of those tapes you turned over, and you’re sure there are no duplicates?”
“Yes sir, but how did you dispose of them? If you just threw them away . . .”
The grin on Philip’s face stopped Nate cold, and he couldn’t help but smile back. “What did you do with them?”
“Jeff Parker dropped them into the vat of oil they use for the fries at the diner. After they melted into plastic lumps, he added that oil to the big cans in the freezer that get taken to the dump once a week. Believe me, no one will ever find them, let alone restore them.”
Taylor snorted softly and Nate chuckled. “Yeah, I’d say that did the trick.” Even the general’s mouth twitched in amusement. Pretty quick thinking under the circumstances.
The light moment passed quickly, and Philip fell back into business mode. “So then, if what you say is true, Nate, we should be able to get the charges against you dismissed. We’ll be able to prove the blood on your uniform is yours, and produce the tire you changed. Your car should come up clean, too, in terms of Deloris. I know they’ll be looking for evidence of intercourse during the autopsy, but they won’t be able to link you there, either.”
The room was quiet, and Philip squinted at Nate.
“Right,” Nate stated confidently, shooting a quick look at Taylor. Her face was carefully composed, tightly professional. It made Nate’s heart squeeze briefly. Why did it matter to him, he wondered? But Philip nodded, appeased, and continued.
“If we’re lucky, we’ll get the evidence we need against Gibbs, too. If he is our man, all those same tests on his things will yield dramatically different results.”
He perused his list one more time, then sat back in his chair, pursing his lips as his gaze settled on General Christopher.
“That’s what I’m doing for your son, General. What will you be doing for mine?”
The general studied his hands, his brow creased, but he said nothing.
“Dad, you promised Mr. Evans . . .”
“You don’t have to tell me what I said, Nate.” He sat up straight then, and directed his attention to Philip.
“I don’t doubt that your boy . . . your children . . . don’t deserve to be hunted down. But what I can’t shake is, what happens when one day they wake up and realize what they’re capable of, that their power can get them anything they want? Your daughter can sneak into minds and steal state secrets. Valuable secrets. Your son can drive a Porsche off the lot without a key, or blast his irritating boss into next Sunday with a flick of his wrist . . .”
He raised his palm to silence the outrage that had already reached Philip’s reddened face. “Wait! I’m not saying they’ve ever done anything like that, or that they even want to, but one day, they’ll want something, need something so badly, that they’ll do anything to get it. What if someone snatched this Parker girl . . . “
“Evans,” Philip corrected him.
The general nodded dismissively. “Ok, Evans. Exactly my point. He loves her. He risked exposing himself to save her life. What if something were to happen to her? What is he capable of doing to get her that transplant or take revenge on her rapist or settle the score against someone who hurt a child they might have? And what about that? What if they have children? What does a child do at school if another kid takes his lunch money? Does he cut off his oxygen? Cause a tree limb to fall on him? Don’t you see it, Mr. Evans? We’re only addressing the 10% of the iceberg that’s showing. What about the other 90%?”
The battle raged inside Philip’s head. He knew so much more than they did. Nate had only heard the early parts of the journal. It was enough to convince him that Max and Isabel and Michael were not a threat to humanity, but he didn’t know all they had been up against since then. They didn’t know that each of those teens had, indeed, killed. They didn’t know there had been a baby—though even now the question of Zan’s parents was just that: a question. They didn’t know that other aliens lived here, too—some amoral and violent. In spite of his faith in his children, he knew this man’s questions were valid ones. You couldn’t know that faith unless you knew the people.
“If you can arrange to get us out of town without being seen, I’ll take you to them.”
Taylor’s gasp skittered across the tension that electrified the air. Philip looked at her sharply. He could read the fear in her eyes. Even she didn’t trust that the general wouldn’t set a trap for the teens. And that included her cousin. But she couldn’t say that aloud. She didn’t need to. Her expression screamed it.
“Hear me out,” he continued, looking from Taylor to Nate, and finally to the general. “You fear what my children—or their children—might do if pushed, but look at the news, General. Children bring knives and guns to school and kill classmates; adults brutalize and violate each other every single day. They’re human, but they’re dangerous, unpredictable. I trust my children because I know them. Nate trusts them because he heard Liz Parker’s most intimate thoughts as she came to know them. Your concerns are valid, but only because you don’t
know them. I won’t pretend to think one meeting with them will accomplish that, but it’s a start. Maybe it will give you the confidence to at least extend them the benefit of the doubt. But there are conditions. I will let you meet them, but only if the Parkers and Diane and I come, and only if you give your word there will be no surveillance, no listening devices or cameras, and no mention of this, orally or in writing, to another living person.”
No one breathed as General Christopher wrestled with his decision. It was that suspended moment in time when a basketball balances perfectly on the rim in the last seconds of the game until some unseen force of will triumphs, and hopes are fulfilled or shattered at its whim.
Lungs expelled air into the void. Nate saw Taylor’s hand tremble and reached for it without a thought. It jerked slightly when he touched it, and her round eyes swung toward him. “Nate?” she breathed.
Nate turned to his father. “Dad, if you do this, and anything happens to those kids because of it, . . .”
He didn’t get to finish. Eric Christopher rose slowly from the chair, anger barely controlled behind flashing eyes.
“How dare you,” he seethed at his son. “In all the years I raised you, counseled you, taught you, have you ever known me to go back on my word or deceive you in any way? Whether you wanted to hear it or not, have you ever heard anything but truth from me?”
Nate shook his head. “No sir, I haven’t.”
“And do you for one minute believe that I want
to hurt these creatures? Don’t you know that I would rather learn from them, use what they know to make the world safer?”
“Yes sir.” Nate rose to face his father. “But did you just hear yourself? Creatures? Use what they know?
These are kids trying to survive, trying to keep who and what they are a secret because they already know that there are people who want to learn from them—through torture and tests and autopsies. Don’t think I haven’t heard what they say about the time Agent Pierce caught Max.”
His father paled slightly, his eyes giving away his shock.
“Come on, Dad. You know the drill. That stuff gets around when you’re confined to a job like this. So I sat at that console trying to reconcile what I’d heard about the Special Unit and what Liz Parker was writing in her journal. It didn’t take long to figure out that Max and Isabel and Michael are the ones who need to be protected. You are a military man, Dad. You serve the government of this country. And that’s great. But for this, you have to be a father, and serve the people of this planet. Don’t do this unless that’s who you are when you do it. Please, Dad.”
General Christopher turned back to Philip. “I’ve given my word, and I intend to keep it. But there is still a lot to be explained. Like dead agents, like a crashed spaceship that, when opened, left dead scientists in its wake.” He was breathing more heavily now. “Like a base all but destroyed, with more good people killed. If this isn’t the work of your children, or their kind, then tell me, who did that?”
The blood drained from Philip’s face, and his skin tingled with shocky bursts, like little misfires of his pounding heart. He couldn’t quite get a breath. Tess. Dare he tell these people about Tess? Wouldn’t that just lend credence to all the questions and fears the general had just voiced? Even Jesse had been forced to kill once he’d learned the truth. He couldn’t ever tell them about Jesse. Never.
“There was a fourth.” The statement was barely more than a whisper, but it had the full attention of the others. “A fourth hybrid, raised apart from the three you know about. She was raised by an alien who was sent to be their guardian, but Max and Isabel and Michael all emerged from the pods and found their way into a human world before he could get to them. He filled her mind with a contempt for humans and a fantasy about the hybrids’ destiny, and she did everything and anything to make it happen. She is responsible for whatever death has resulted, except for what the Special Unit brought on themselves,” he glared, anger helping to stabilize his body and his mind. “It was her ship, and her path of destruction you described.”
Several moments passed as the implications of what Philip had said began to sink in.
“Then the aliens are evil?” Taylor asked of no one in particular.
“No!” Philip stood and began to pace. “Look at the human race, for god’s sake. You have good people, bad people, people with special gifts, introverts, extroverts, athletes, scholars . . . Don’t you see? They’re like us! Each one is different. Tess was evil—whether brought up to be or by her very nature, I’ll never know—but she is no more representative of a whole race than any one of us is. Please, don’t try to make any decisions about a race of people based on one loathsome example. Besides, she’s dead, killed in the same explosion that destroyed your base, General. Make your decisions about my children and Michael as individuals, just as you would about any human you meet. They deserve your trust and your help. That’s all that matters now.”
The air fairly bristled with the energy of minds spinning. Nate was the first to emerge from it. He was the one who had heard page after page of Liz Parker’s description of a gentle, compassionate being. She wasn’t afraid; she was in love. And the other humans—none of them seemed to doubt or regret the association.
“He’s right,” Nate stated quietly. “Which of us could represent the human race and make another race understand us? We have to take them one at a time, and I want to help these three. Dad?”
Eric Christopher listened to his son, proud of his character and principles, if not completely convinced of his conclusions. Still, he was a practical man. There was little he could do about unseen aliens and their attitudes. There was
something he could do about helping three young people in an impossible situation who had done nothing to hurt anyone. That, he mused, wasn’t really so complicated.
He answered his son by answering Philip. “I would be happy meet your children. I will order personal surveillance suspended under the guise of increasing manpower on the search, which I will send in another direction. I can’t remove all surveillance, though, without raising suspicions, so your homes and phones will remain monitored. Don’t say anything that’s not for public consumption. But at least this way, I can requisition a deuce-and-a-half and collect you from a remote location without anyone seeing you along the road.”
“Deuce-and-a-half? What’s that?” Philip had never served in the armed forces, and looking at the other faces, he was obviously the only one confused by this reference.
“It’s a military personnel truck. You’ve seen them on the highway, no doubt. Canvas stretched over a truck bed with benches inside. You could all fit but wouldn’t be seen by other traffic. Where are we going, anyway?”
Philip eyed the general with a faint smile. “How about I tell you after
we’re in the truck?”
The general suppressed a smile of his own. “Already thinking strategically, Mr. Evans. I don’t suppose I can blame you. Agreed.”
“Oh, and one more thing. I’m adding Amy DeLuca and Jim Valenti to the list. They want to see their children as much as the rest of us.”
“You realize that the more of us there are, the more noticeable we’ll be. I’m thinking about everyone’s safety now.”
“I understand, and I appreciate it, but once we’re in that deuce-and-a-half . . .” He smiled at the use of this strange new word. “. . . no one will see any of us until we get back to Roswell, believe me.”
Taylor looked at her watch. It was getting late. “They’ll be kicking us out of here in a few minutes,” she reminded them. “Let’s work out a timetable.”
“It’ll take me a day or two to ‘review the operation’ and make my recommendations,” General Christopher hypothesized. “And there’s the matter of lab reports and my son’s case. That’s still my top priority. Shall we tentatively say Monday evening? That leaves us Sunday and Monday to handle our respective responsibilities.”
Nods were exchanged, and everyone rose. Nate turned to his father. “Thanks, Dad. You’re doing the right thing.”
“The right thing is to get you the hell out of here,” his father retorted gruffly, surprising Nate with a brief, rough hug. “See you tomorrow.”
He left the room stiffly, and Philip was sure it was because his emotions were getting the upper hand and the general wasn’t about to allow it. Turning back to Nate, he extended his hand. “I don’t know how to thank you,” he said sincerely.
“You’re already doing it,” Nate assured him. Philip smiled and turned to leave. “You need a ride or anything?” he asked Taylor.
“No, I’ve got my car. I’ll call you when I have the warrant.”
Philip took his leave, and Taylor gathered her papers, avoiding eye contact with Nate. They had shared a couple of “moments” during this long day, and she wasn’t sure where they stood just now. A drowning man is very likely to reach out for any life raft floating by.
“Taylor?” She looked up into his searching eyes and felt as if his soul was laid bare before her. He was so open, and she fought the instinct to throw her arms around him, offering him comfort and reassurance. But this was business, and emotions were running high. It was important to keep this relationship professional. Even so, she could see he was struggling with what to say, and she couldn’t stop her hand from touching his arm.
“It’ll be okay, Nate. You’re innocent. It’ll be okay.”
He covered her hand with his and pressed hard. “I know. Thank you.”
She nodded, then tore her eyes away from his and finished packing up her briefcase. “See you tomorrow.”
He watched her leave, only to be replaced by a much less attractive MP, ready to escort him back to his cell. He started to mentally count down the hours until he would see her again.
Having accepted that there could be no further attempt to reach more of the children until they’d had a chance to talk to Brody, the group prepared to get some rest. Isabel planned to dreamwalk her father, but other than that, sleep was top priority.
“Should we sleep in with Maya?” Liz murmured into Max’s shoulder as they relaxed on the front porch, gazing up at the stars. “At least it’s a bed.”
Max didn’t answer and she looked up, wondering if he’d already fallen asleep. Instead, she found him looking back at her, amber eyes reflecting the waning hues of dusk.
“Maya’s great, but I think I want to hold you close to me tonight.” He paused and a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth at her arched eyebrow. “Okay, I want that every night. But we’ve had an amazing day, and it’s made me feel even closer to you, if that’s possible, Liz. I mean, this connection between us, it rose to a whole new level today. To hear your thoughts . . . it makes my mind feel like my body feels when it’s inside of you, like now I can know you more intimately than I ever imagined. It’s . . . overwhelming, and now . . . now that I’ve experienced that, I just can’t bear the thought of anything being between us, at least not tonight, not while it’s so new.”
Liz pushed up and kissed him lightly. “I know exactly what you mean. Do you know who John Denver is?”
“Uh, kind of. A singer, right? Let me guess, another of your dad’s favorites.”
“No, not really. My mom’s. She used to play a CD of his whenever it rained. She’d sort of get melancholy and sit and watch the rain while it played. Anyway, there was a song that I always liked because it made me wonder if I would ever feel what he was singing about. It said, “You fill up my senses like a night in the forest, like the flowers in springtime, like a walk in the rain, like a storm in the desert, like the sleepy blue ocean. You fill up my senses. Come fill me again.”
She looked up him shyly, wondering if she sounded foolish, but he was just watching her, the smile that had threatened before pushing wider.
“That’s what it feels like, Max. Like you fill up my senses, and every part of me is so full, I’m straining against my skin to hold it all in. It scares me a little.”
The smile faded, replaced by a frown. “Why, Liz? You know I’d never hurt you.”
Liz sat up and turned an earnest face to him. “Of course I know that, Max. That’s not what scares me. It’s just that all this time, I’ve tried to be there for you, to show you how much I love you. But when your thoughts are inside of me, and mine are in you, I wonder . . . I don’t know if I can be all that you need me to be.”
He moved to protest, but she laid her fingers gently on his lips. “Please, Max. Let me say this. When we make love, and I feel you explode inside me, I see your face, and I know that I have given you what you need, that the love we share fulfills something in you. I wish you could see your face at the moment . . . it glows with a beauty that just bursts from within you and I know that you are as happy and complete as I am. But joining our bodies is still, in some small way, a sheltered act. I give you my heart and my body willingly, but those two parts of me have nothing to hide; there are no limits. But my mind . . .”
She leaned back into his shoulder again, as if proving her point. He could no longer see her eyes, and he knew that had been her intention. “Your mind, Max, it’s powerful. When I hear your thoughts, I have this sense of you that crashes over me, and it’s warm and strong and so dynamic, but intimidating in a way, because I know that you are capable of so much, always controlling this power within you, and I wonder if I can be what you need. I can’t offer you that safety or power. I can’t be your . . . equal, and I have to wonder if maybe you need an equal to survive. I never felt that way until today. And that’s what scares me.”
She looked up at him again. “You fill up my senses, Max. Every empty space in myself is completely filled with you. And I realize, you need that, too. I just don’t know if I’m enough.”
Max sat quietly, stroking her arm, thinking. He knew what she meant about being overwhelmed with another person’s presence in your mind. She had described the feeling very well, except the part where she feared she wasn’t giving him the same overpowering sensation.
“I’m going to ask you a few questions. Please just answer them without any other comment, okay?’
Liz scrunched her face in confusion, but nodded. “Okay.”
“How old were we when I first fell in love with you.”
“Well, you said eight, but . . .”
“Just answer the questions, nothing else.”
“How many other girls did I date?”
“Well, Tess . . .”
“I never dated her! You know that. How many?”
“Whose life did I save, even knowing it endangered me, Michael, and Isabel?”
“Who broke through all my carefully erected walls, even after I told her we were too different to be anything but friends.”
“Whose love kept me alive in the white room when they tortured me?”
“Mine.” She was smiling now; he could hear it in her voice.
“Who had the strength and the love to forgive me for all the mistakes, the bad choices? Even the alleged night with Tess--which, thank God, was a mindwarp, but you didn’t know that at the time.”
“It was me, but Max . . .”
Max grabbed her shoulders and squared her so that he could look into her eyes as he spoke. Then his hands slid up over her shoulders, up her neck, and forward to cup her face. She couldn’t help but lean into his palm.
“Liz, what I need are not alien powers. I have those already. What I need—have always needed—is for you to love me. That’s what overwhelms me, what fills up my
senses. Your beauty and your brains are wonderful gifts, and they’ve helped us out of a hundred jams, but your love is what fills me. That’s what I need to live, to breathe, to face all this. That you can love me is a thousand times more amazing than anything I can do. Please, Liz. Don’t question this. Accept it. Let this bind us as no two people have been bound before. Just let me love you in return.”
Her eyes shone with tears, mirroring the bright moon that had made its way above the treetops. He bent forward and kissed the salty trails, then moved to her lips, moistening them with the same tears.
“I love you,” he whispered, taking her mouth with a gentle urgency. The connection burst open and a flood of love and reassurance swept them away, mindless of the source or direction. They were of one mind, in the truest sense, and as they reluctantly parted, they knew they would spend the night back at the cave, where they would share themselves completely.
Her father was sitting in a small room with people she didn’t know. People in military uniforms. She felt the nausea roil suddenly in her stomach, and she clapped her hand over her mouth. She watched as he took notes on a legal pad, then looked up, horrified to see his children standing off to one side as the oldest officer stood and aimed a gun at them.
She screamed, and the scene disappeared except for her father, now alone in his bedroom, breathing hard and looking at her in shock.
“Isabel? Are you really here?”
“Yes, Dad.” She was trembling now.
“Is this one of those dreamwalks? Or am I just dreaming?”
“It’s me, Dad. Dreamwalking, yes. I’m really here. But what was that? Please tell me it was just a dream.”
The bile rose in her throat at his silence. Then . . .
“I hope you can stay, Iz. I have some things to tell you.”
Posted: Sun Mar 02, 2003 12:09 pm
I am humbled and embarrassed.
Those of you who’ve been reading right along know that I most sincerely wondered if anyone was reading this story beyond the 20 or so who left feedback so faithfully. The new board has reinstated the “views” column, and flabbergasted doesn’t begin to describe my feelings at 40 responses and 940 views!!!!!! I realize some of those were bumps or rereads, but still, I’m so blown away, I can’t tell you.
Since I’m never “speechless,” I won’t pretend (LOL!), but truly, this response has motivated me beyond anything I’ve experienced before. I offer you Part 19 with a grateful heart, and hope you enjoy it.
Three quick notes first:
Klaatu42: Thank you so much for coming out of lurkdom to tell me how much you like the story. I can truly say, it made my day.
rar1942: I consider myself an older Rosfan, but you have me beat! My last part came out on your birthday, you said, so let me wish you a belated Happy Birthday, and thank you for being an older male reader who took the time to write. I’m flattered and excited about your feedback!
Joliedreaming: I have a NON-Dreamer reading my fic?????? This is a miracle, considering how over-the-top Dreamer-oriented it is! This has got to be one of the great compliments of fandom! Thanks!
(Oh! And a big THANK YOU to Gigo and jbehr for the many bumps!)
Now, on with the show! (In two parts for length)
“Can I hug you?”
The fear that had overcome Isabel when she saw the military officers in her father’s dream evaporated into thin air, replaced by the excitement of seeing him again and the peace of knowing that he loved and accepted her as she was.
“I don’t know,” she laughed. “I’ve never tried to touch anyone during a dreamwalk. I’m usually just watching, or maybe talking. I’m game if you are.”
Philip pulled himself up in bed and Isabel leaned forward, soaking in the sight of him. She’d been so afraid she’d never see him again, but only a few weeks had gone by since the graduation ceremony where she’d had to leave her husband and her parents amidst urgent hugs and whispered explanations. Happiness lit his face now, and she felt a flash of bitterness at the time they’d wasted keeping their secret.
Tentatively, Philip opened his arms, and Isabel answered in kind. It felt so real, so good—and then the smiles faded as their bodies intersected like ghosts through a wall. There was no substance between them, only the appearance of substance and a fleeting sense of spiritual contact.
“I . . . I’m sorry, Dad. I wasn’t sure . . .”
“Don’t be silly, Isabel. It was a long shot. After all, I’m in my bed at home and you’re . . . where? The reservation?”
“Oh, honey, it’s so good to see you. I want to hear everything, and I have so much to tell you, too.”
Pleased, Isabel sighed contentedly. How might it have been if they could have had long, honest conversations all these years? But enough of that. There was urgent business to attend to. Wasn’t there always?
“I’d love to stay and talk all night, Dad, but we have some important things to discuss.”
A small line appeared between her father’s eyes, and she knew he fully understood the truth of her words.
“Yes, there are some things I need to tell you, too. You knew that Liz mailed her diary home and that we were reading it, right?”
“Yes. I talked to Jim Valenti the other night. He said you were all having a pretty rough time. I’m sorry.”
“No! Don’t be sorry, Isabel. We’re sorry. We’re the ones who were blind to the fear and trauma you lived with every day. Honey, I wish we could have helped you, I wish . . .” His words disappeared into his throat, regret snatching them from the air and forcing them back into their dark refuge.
“Dad, we could have told you. We didn’t. We were afraid you wouldn’t . . . couldn’t accept us.” She felt the tears threaten as she looked at his stricken face. “But that doesn’t matter now. We have to start fresh, okay?”
Philip watched her tremulous smile and saw one more clue to the bravery she and Max had quietly exhibited their whole lives.
“Dad, your dream, those military people, was that just a crazy nightmare or does it mean something?”
Philip heaved a sigh. “That’s what I have to tell you about. First, I don’t want you to be upset. Everything’ll be fine, but it might sound a little scary.”
Every muscle in Isabel’s body snapped to rigid attention, but she squelched the questions screaming in her head and forced herself to listen.
“We began to read the diary at the Parkers, but a lieutenant from the temporary base outside of town came late one night to warn us that our homes and phones were bugged. We were kicking ourselves for not realizing that that was inevitable, but we were too shook up. We just weren’t thinking.”
He raised his hand to stop her natural inclination to reassure him. “No, Isabel. We were stupid. We moved, of course, right away, and went out to the old silver mine.”
“I know this part, Dad. JimValenti told me.”
“Oh, right. I forgot. Well, what you don’t know is, that lieutenant has now been framed for murder, we think by a major out there who is desperate for promotion and doesn’t trust Nate’s—Lieutenant Nate Christopher’s—belief in the Special Unit’s mission.”
Isabel felt faint. The Special Unit was hot on their trail again. It wasn’t dead after all. And they had the military’s help, obviously.
“He’s asked me to represent him.”
“But Dad, you’re not a criminal attorney. Why you?”
“I guess he figures I’m highly motivated to help him, given what he did for us.”
“You said framed. Who do they say he killed, and why do you believe he’s innocent?”
“They found a woman dead in her resident motel room. A friend of Nate’s had introduced them at a bar earlier in the evening, but he only saw her for a few minutes. He left shortly afterwards. All the evidence is circumstantial, and once we get a warrant on this major’s property, I think we’ll be able to get Nate released and put th major away. We’re arranging for a detective to tail him, too, so maybe we’ll get a break”
“Okay. Well, that’s good. But what does that have to do with us now? And who were those other officers?”
“Well, the young woman is Taylor Holbrook. She’s a JAG attorney, but she can’t take Nate’s case because it’s a civilian charge. Besides, she a little young to go it alone. She’s smart, though, and she’s served as second on several criminal cases. I think she’ll be a big help. Besides, she’s . . . motivated, too. She’s Liz’s cousin.”
“Just a coincidence, really, but it’ll work to our advantage, I think.”
“And what about the other one—older with lots of metal on his chest?”
“Yes, well, that would be Nate’s father, General Christopher.”
“A general? Oh, Dad, that’s not good. Not good at all.” She began to pace. “What if he finds out what Nate’s assignment was? And then your connection to it . . . Dad! This is awful!”
“Yes and no.”
“Well, it will seem awful when I tell you what else he is, but it’ll be alright, Isabel. Honestly. In fact, it may be an amazing help.”
She eyed her father suspiciously. He was doing a fair amount of reassuring for something that was “an amazing help.” “What else is he?”
The convulsive movement of his adam’s apple did not bode well, but it wasn’t nearly a big enough clue to prepare her for his next words.
“He’s the military liaison to the Special Unit.”
There was no air. Both lungs had collapsed, and each oxygen-starved sac seemed to spasm with the hopeless effort to find relief. A squeak, ripped from the last vestiges of breath trapped in her throat, ground out through clenched vocal chords, and as the blood raced to offer up what it could, the skin went pale, giving her an appropriately ghostly appearance.
“He’s what?” she gasped.
“I know this looks bad . . .”
Her eyes flew wide, and had she been able to scream in agreement, she would have, but as it was, breathing was the most challenging function she could handle at the moment.
“Isabel, listen to me. Believe me, I wasn’t going to take the case at first. I didn’t want any connection to these people, and I certainly didn’t want to risk hurting you in any way, but I think this is going to turn out to be a good thing.”
Again, Isabel had to rely on her huge, panicked eyes to relay her questions.
“Isabel, he wants to meet you. All of you.”
That was the shock that forced air back into her lungs, and she breathed it in greedily, expelling it in the next moment with a resounding “Noooooo!”
“Wait, Isabel! Let me explain. Nate heard enough of Liz’s journal to realize that what the Special Unit was doing was wrong. That’s why he came to warn us. Now he has convinced his father to open his mind to that possibility. The general has given his word that there will be no surveillance, no report of the meeting, nothing. He just wants to see for himself, and that seems understandable to me. He hasn’t known you like the rest of us have.”
“Dad, no! You don’t know what they’re like. They’ll do anything, say anything. Didn’t Liz write about what they did to Max . . .?” Her sob cut off her question, and she coughed as words and muscles collided in her throat. “His word? You don’t know this man. How can you trust him with something like this? He’ll have us killed!”
“No, Isabel. He won’t. For one thing, I know what kind of son he raised—a man who risked his career and maybe his life to warn us that we were endangering you with our actions. That man believes his father will abide by his word. That and my own instincts tell me that he will live up to his part of the bargain. He’s already lifted the personal surveillance—or will tomorrow—so that we can move around without being watched. He’s getting us transportation out there—all the parents—Monday night, in a big . . . what did he call it? deuce-and-a-half . . . so that we won’t be seen on the road. Those things have been up and down these highways for years; no one will think twice.”
Isabel realized she was shaking, and she clasped her hands together tightly. “Dad, Max and Michael will flip out. This is exactly what they’ve been trying to avoid since . . . since forever!”
“I know that, Isabel. Max told me once, right before he gave up Xan, that he was a marked man. And that I was now, too. I’m not taking this lightly, honey.”
Her parents just weren’t ready to deal with this. They still had an innate trust of the military. How could they know what they were up against? What these people were capable of?
“Dad,” she pleaded, “the general could have people following him; he could take you and Mom and the others to some abandoned facility and lock you up there, safely out of the way where you can’t interfere! Dad, this could all be a set-up!”
“They can’t afford to have Roswell’s citizens disappearing, Isabel. They’re still trying to explain the mess they made at the high school’s graduation. They couldn’t kidnap us. Too many people would notice. Besides, honey, the man already knows about aliens. He already knows about you. I haven’t told him anything new. Meeting you can only help, not hurt. And if we have the slightest misgivings about his conclusions, we’ll make sure you all have enough money to run again. That’s what you were doing anyway. I honestly believe that this may be the advantage you all need to start a new life safely. This man can misdirect searches, limit surveillance. He can generally minimize the effort being made to apprehend you.”
“And if you’re wrong?”
Philip stared at his daughter, calm and control unable to disguise her raging turmoil, and knew he had better be right.
“I’m not wrong.”
They stared at each other, an impossible chasm between them. Isabel knew her father was trying to help, but she had a very bad feeling about it. Very bad.
“I’ll talk to Max and Michael. We’ll send word back with Eddie. He’s River Dog’s . . . protégé, I guess you’d say, and he’s just taken a job at the Crashdown to help get messages and supplies back and forth. If Max says no, please Dad, don’t do it.”
Philip was suddenly reminded of the leadership role Max held, so obvious during Liz’s diary and the week of talks they’d had when Xan was with them. “Dinner at the Crashdown sounds good,” he smiled, relieved to see her calming down.
“You haven’t told those people where we are, have you?”
“No, Isabel. You’re safe for now. Tomorrow’s Sunday. Mom and I will stop by the diner around 6.”
He started to reach for her, then let his arms fall when he remembered he couldn’t hold her. “We want to come up Monday night. I think it could be a godsend, knowing how he could help you.”
“Maybe.” It was a tight, clipped response, and he knew she was fighting the urge to yell at him some more.
“I love you, Dad.” He looked up, surprised at her unexpected olive branch.
“I love you, too.”
And she was gone.
Posted: Sun Mar 02, 2003 12:11 pm
Part 19 continued
She rode the waves that turned her muscles to liquid like warm rivers of healing oils. This miracle between them—it never subsided into less; instead, it built upon itself, an ever-strengthening bridge between their souls. Forcing herself to open her eyes, she glimpsed the sight that always took her breath away—that magical moment when anticipation and effort became completion, and his face contorted into a vulnerable ecstasy, her name a prayer on his lips. Suspended above her, he trembled with it, then collapsed onto her, his comforting weight holding her body in place as her heart soared.
She smiled against the sheen on his shoulder. “Make up your mind,” she teased, “which one of us do you want to talk to right now?”
His own smile tickled her neck. “Maybe they’re one in the same.”
He lifted his head to look at her, worship lighting up his eyes. “I can never get enough,” he whispered, leaning down to place feathery kisses across her cheeks, eyes, jaw. That quickly, she moved to take his mouth once again, and he responded eagerly. She felt him spring to life and wanted to laugh with the joy of it.
But the flashes came, startling them both, and she felt Max press his kiss harder against her when he felt her begin to pull away. They knew from experience that the more she could see, the better off they were. She fought the urge to flee the images and began to record the impressionistic details that made themselves known. A uniform. In the clearing. A military officer was there! With them at the cabin!
Panic threatened to tear them apart, but they pushed on. This was no longer a kiss of promise and love. This was a fact-finding mission. Images bounced together and apart--a jumble of movement in eerie, silent black and white—so hard to tell what was happening. Fighting. Fear. Maya crying. Kyle hurt! But in the end, the most shocking image of all—Max and the general shaking hands.
The two lovers broke the kiss and stared at each other. Max had seen, too; this seemed to be a permanent new part of their connection—his ability to see her flashes.
“What the hell?” Max rolled off of Liz and quickly gathered her into his arms. “I have no idea what that was. Do you?”
Liz shook her head, breathing heavily. “It looked like the military found us, but they didn’t take us. How can that be?”
“I don’t know. I . . . I wonder when that image is from. The ones about graduation were days ahead. Maybe it’s time for us to move on.”
“We’d better talk to the others about it in the morning,” she agreed. “It may be time to head back to Vegas.”
She turned in his arms, pressing herself against the length of him, hard and real beside her. She had to keep her fear for him pushed down deep. He couldn’t know how terrified she was that something . . . someone . . . could take him from her. And if that ever happened, her life would be over.
Tino Gibbs was a lonely man. Not that he saw it that way. It was simply a way of life. He had never had friends the way other kids did. But he’d made something of himself, goddamn it. And now he’d reached a turning point. He was going to find those aliens and ensure himself one more promotion, retire on a government pension, and live the good life.
The past days had been filled with more tension and intrigue than he’d ever experienced, but now, he felt fear, too—the fear that what was so close he could taste it could be snatched from his grasp at the eleventh hour. Sleep was out of the question, and he had no buddies to play pool and drink with. He was bursting with pent-up energy, anxiety, anticipation. He needed an outlet, and his body immediately reacted to the obvious solution . . . a woman.
Once the idea lodged in his mind, it became his single-minded goal, the isolated focus of all this thoughts. The need began to build, and without conscious thought, he found himself in the parking lot at the roadhouse. His last visit here had led to what he hoped was the solution to his problem; he’d tracked down the slut who’d been with Lt. Christopher, and even though her death was an accident, it had given him the scenario he needed to get the impudent kid out of his way without revealing the alien-hunting operation.
But therein lay the problem. He had been seen here that night, and although his need was building by the second, he was still in enough control to realize he shouldn’t be making a second appearance. In a place like this, regulars were the owner’s bread and butter. Someone was bound to recognize him, and he needed to keep his profile low.
As his mind and body did battle, he breathing became shallow and irregular. Sweat broke out on his brow, and his eyes narrowed. He touched himself, aware of the ache that screamed for release, and he jerked suddenly at the effect of his own tentative touch. He would have to go in. The pressure was intolerable.
At that moment, a swath of light gleamed from the bar’s doorway, and a rounded silhouette descended the steps. Watching with a hunter’s eyes, Tino observed her. She looked vaguely familiar. Buxom, long blonde hair, low-cut blouse—the kind that you were supposed to see through so you could admire the lacy bra beneath—short leather skirt. His groin tightened and he realized he was holding his breath.
His hand on the door handle froze as she lit a cigarette, leaned back against the wall, and propped one foot on the step, pushing her miniskirt another couple of inches up beefy thighs. She blew a plume of smoke into the air and watched it disappear into the night sky, idly tracing a finger along the neckline of her barely-there top.
Seconds later, he stood before her, trying to disguise his raw nerves under a thin façade of civility.
He watched her take in his major’s insignia, gratified to see the spark of approval in her eye. Down went the foot, out went the chest, up went the corners of her mouth.
“Gettin’ better all the time, Major. Lookin’ for a little company?”
“Sounds good,” he said too quickly.
“How ‘bout you buy a girl a drink?” She sidled up next to him. Lots of lipstick, lots of perfume.
“I got some stuff in my car. How about a drive?”
Her eyes narrowed, but locked onto the insignia again. She seemed to make her decision and her smile widened. “Sure. A nice drink under the stars sounds real romantic.”
He offered his arm. She looked pleased and took it. As he helped her into the car, her breast rubbed against his arm, and he gasped as his cock leapt. Not much longer.
With no conversation, he headed out into the desert, willing his breath to even out and his eyes to watch the road. As soon as the first side road presented itself, he turned off.
“Got a special place you like to go, honey?”
“What? Oh yeah. Beautiful spot.”
She reached across and laid her hand on his thigh. A small sound erupted involuntarily from his throat.
“Whadja say, honey?”
She looked askance at the gravelly tone of his voice, but let her hand rest where it was. Minutes later, they stopped.
“This is it?” The blond looked around. There was no view, no vegetation. Just a lot of nothing.
“This is your beautiful spot?”
“No. This is.”
He plunged his hand into the dark spaces between her legs, barely concealed by the faux leather fabric. The woman, startled by the sudden, rough treatment, slapped him hard across the face.
“Stop that! I thought you were offering me a drink and a romantic drive. What happened to getting to know each other?”
He looked at her offended expression and felt the anger well up inside him.
“Your advertising was pretty self-explanatory. I figure I know all I need to know.”
He got out of the car, stormed to the passenger side and flung the door open. Grabbing her hand, he yanked hard to pull her from the car.
“Hey! Who do you think you are?”
“A payin’ customer, blondie. Time to do a little business.”
“Why you bastard! I’m no prostitute! Let me go!”
She struggled furiously, but his body held her pinned against the car, as one arm pulled viciously at her skimpy panties and the other tore at her blouse. She screamed, but he heard nothing except the roar in his ear as his throbbing animalistic instincts narrowed every action to one ultimate goal.
Her screams turned to sobbing moans when he began to bite hard on her tender nipples, and his cock thrust into her in an awkward, feral rhythm. It only took seconds before she felt him cum, and she gagged violently. His own moan of desperate satisfaction pierced the air, and as his body relaxed, so did his hold on her. She slid down the side of the car until she was lying, sobbing, on the harsh, unforgiving ground.
Zipping himself up, Tino seemed to come back to some sense of reality. He observed the woman dispassionately for a moment, and then began to do some damage control.
“That was great, baby. I hope I wasn’t too hard on you. How about that drink, huh?”
She flinched when he reached for her, but when her own attempts to rise failed, she reluctantly allowed him to help her to a standing position. He brushed her off, studiously ignoring the torn blouse and nasty marks on her still-exposed breast. He chuckled mirthlessly.
“Damn, baby, you always bring out the beast in a guy like that?”
Clearly, he was not making any headway. She watched him coldly, as if she had pulled herself into a cocoon, waiting until it was safe to come out. He guided her back into the car and rushed to the other side to slide into the driver’s seat. Stilted attempts at small talk died in mid-air, so when they arrived back at the roadhouse, Tino reached into his pocket, producing a wad of bills. Handing her a fifty, he apologized.
“This isn’t for . . . you know, for payment or anything. But I feel bad I tore your blouse, so I hope this’ll cover a new one.”
She glared at the money, obviously wanting to shove it in his face, but eventually, she snatched it from his hand, spit squarely in his face, and fumbled her way out of the car. She was still standing there, visibly shaking, as he pulled out onto the highway.
Dawn had barely stretched the first tendrils of light across the sky when Liz and Max emerged from the trees and into the clearing. It had been a restless night, and waiting for the sun in the dark cave was not an option. They stopped short, though, when they saw Isabel pacing intently on the porch. She seemed deep in thought, eyebrows almost touching across the deep crease between them.
“Isabel? Is something wrong?”
She jerked to a stop, searching the dim expanse for her brother. “Max?”
“Yeah, Liz and I couldn’t sleep.” They approached her quickly, and she raced down the steps to greet them.
“Thank God you’re here!”
“What is it? Isabel, you’re shaking!” Liz put an arm around her sister-in-law and guided her back to the porch steps where they collapsed in a neat row.
“Max, Dad is bringing a general here tomorrow night. A general who is the military liaison to the Special Unit!”
Failing to hear the expected reaction, she looked from one to the other, catching the meaningful look that crossed between them.
“You know something! What do you know about this? Did you see a flash or something? Is that why you couldn’t sleep?”
By this time, the other adults inhabiting the cabin began to rouse, trickling out the door in various stages of dress and alertness. Michael’s scowl was particularly threatening as his bare feet met the cool planks.
“Wass goin’ on?”
River Dog, the last to emerge, closed the door behind him. “The child is still sleeping.”
Maria and Kyle slumped into the two rickety chairs, peering sleepily through semi-curious slits.
“Something wrong?” Maria mumbled.
“Yes. Our father has lost his mind!”
This revelation was met with open mouths and even more curious squints.
“Isabel, calm down, and tell us what happened.”
Max’s calm voice, an air of command on its edges, had the desired effect. Isabel rose and began to describe her dreamwalk with Philip Evans. As she spoke, Liz scooted down toward Max and he took her hand. As Isabel spoke, they held a wordless conversation relating her story to the images they had seen the night before. Within minutes, Michael was six feet of coiled panic, and he burst into her monologue.
“We’re out of here. Now. This morning. We’re not going to sit around here and wait for them to come get us. What the hell is wrong with your father, Maxwell? I thought he understood why this had to be kept a secret!”
“He does understand!” Isabel defended him. “He thinks this is a good thing.” And she proceeded to describe his rationale, finishing with uncertain conviction about his expectations.
“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” shouted Michael, beginning his own pacing. “We have to leave. They’ll just surround us here; we’ll be sitting ducks.”
“Yes,” Max said quietly. “You should leave.”
A startled silence descended as each person absorbed the unspoken part of Max’s statement.
“What do you mean you should leave,” Maria asked for everyone, finally roused to sitting up in her chair.
“I mean that Liz had a flash last night.”
“Don’t tell me,” Kyle drawled. “You two were ‘touching people.’”
Max ignored the sarcastic jab and continued. “We don’t exactly understand what we saw . . .”
“We? I thought only Liz saw the flashes.” Michael was homing in on details of their developing bond that they didn’t feel ready to talk about yet, but then when were they ever really ready for what came next?
“I’ve started seeing them when she does,” Max explained dismissively. “Anyway, they were confusing. There did seem to be some danger or arguing or something, and we think maybe Kyle was hurt, but in the end, it seemed to be okay.”
“Good to know my getting hurt is okay with you, Evans,” Kyle growled, fully awake.
Max threw him an exasperated look. “Of course not. That’s why you all have to leave. Now that Iz has explained the potential this general has to help us, I can’t turn my back on it. But I want all of you safely out of here. That way, if it goes badly, I’ll be the only one taking a risk.”
“You know I won’t leave you, Max.” Liz held his hand tightly and he looked down at her, her huge brown eyes fearful and determined. He did know it, and he also knew that as desperately as he wanted her to be safe, there was nothing he could do to make her leave. He knew it because he wouldn’t have left her for anything, if their situation were reversed.
“I won’t either,” Isabel insisted.
“I’m your back-up, Max. I always have been. You know I’m not leaving you to those monsters again. You have to come, too.” Michael’s eyes sparked with anger and loyalty, mixed generously with fear for the man he called brother.
“We all go or we all leave,” Kyle piped up unexpectedly. He jumped over the two narrow steps, shrugging in the face of their surprised expressions. “You guys are my family now. You’re all I’ve got. Whether we go or stay, it’s all of us. Period.”
Max couldn’t help the smile that broke out across his face. Who could have imagined the friend that Kyle Valenti—one-time rival, nemesis, threat—would turn out to be. He scanned the faces, stopping to rest his gaze on River Dog who was quietly observing the debate.
“What do you think, River Dog?”
The grizzled face remained quiet and thoughtful. Then his mouth twitched and the clear eyes lifted. “Who here likes cowboy and Indian movies?”
Two hours later, Eddie arrived to gather messages and instructions before heading into the Crashdown. As he walked away, he turned with a chuckle, reflecting on the surprising fact that there was more to River Dog than mystical shaman. He had a devious mind to go with it.
“I get off at 7:00,” he reminded them. “I should be back with Brody by 8:30, if I can convince him to come with me.” He waved the note from Max in one hand. “If this doesn’t do it, I’ll lace his dinner sandwich with sleeping potion.”
Max grinned at him, feeling pretty confident. He felt sure the note would do it. A tug at his pants caught his attention, and he scooped Maya up with a smile. “So, little one, think you can hang with us for a couple more days?”
She nodded slowly. “Then I can go home?” she asked hopefully.
“I sure hope so, sweetheart,” he sighed, wrapping his spare arm around Liz. “I hope someday we all can.”
Posted: Sun Mar 23, 2003 4:30 pm
for being so patient! I hope someone out there is still interested in this story, but I took time out for a Dreamer Holiday story, and many of you mentioned waiting for more of this, so I'm hopeful.
When a story hasn't posted for a couple of weeks, I often wish someone would post a "Previously on ????" reminder, so I'm doing that here:
Previously on CHAMELEON:
When we last checked in, Max and Liz
had discovered that their connection had strengthened to include hearing each other's thoughts, at least when they were close. Eddie
was hired on at the Crashdown. Tino
(named for a sleazy college acquaintance of mine!) Gibbs
(named for an objectionable colleague) had raped Star in his heightened agitation over his future. He hopes framing Nate Christopher
for murder will remove a roadblock on his quest to capture or kill an alien and secure one last promotion before retirement. Nate, who warned the parents that the military/Special Unit had their homes and phones bugged, languishes in jail, hoping that his father, General Eric Christopher
(also military coordinator on the Special Unit's project), along with his attorney, Philip Evans
and his JAG consultant Taylor Holbrook
will be able to get him off. Taylor and Nate seem to have found more than a professional relationship. Brody
is being invited to meet with them at the cabin in hopes that he can serve as eyes and ears for the group regarding the children Max healed in the hospital and also to determine why Sidney is not reacting as the others did on the dream plane.
It's a lot, I know, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. If you have any questions, email me at email@example.com
A big thanks to Breathless
who beta'd this chapter and made some helpful suggestion!
“That’ll be $5.63.”
Brody looked up from his work, surprised to see an unfamiliar face handing him a familiar white sandwich bag.
“Oh, thanks. You new?” he asked the slender young man. He was fine-boned with almost delicate features, yet his coloring was Native American.
“Yeah. I’m Eddie. I just started at the Crashdown.”
“Well, Eddie, it’s nice to meet you. I don’t normally pay each day, though. I run a tab at the diner, and pay once a week. Didn’t Jeff Parker tell you?”
“No. Maybe you’d better check and sign the receipt then,” he suggested, looking as if this turn of events hadn’t surprised him in the least. Brody frowned slightly, becoming aware of the tension with which Eddie held himself. He rummaged in the bag, pulling out the only piece of paper he could see, other than the one surrounding his sandwich. It didn’t look like a receipt, though.
His frown deepened as he unfolded it and read:
It seems a long time since I’ve seen you, my friend. I’ve been missing those interesting discussions about our mutual travel experiences. In fact, I have some great new stories to tell you, and I hope you’ll consider coming for a visit. I’m afraid I won’t be in the area long, so I’d really appreciate it if you’d let Eddie drive you out to see me this evening. I promise you, you’d never find it on your own.
It would be great to see Sydney, too. I’m told she lives with you full-time now. Why not bring her along? I’m anxious to know if her health has remained good since her amazing recovery. I would imagine some anxiety and sleeplessness remain a problem, but I may have just the thing to relieve that.
By the way, our friend Larek sends his regards.
See you soon.
The note was unsigned.
Brody’s eyes met Eddie’s. They shared the tension now, but Eddie’s steady gaze and slight nod answered the question Brody was afraid to voice out loud. It was Max. It had to be. Max had become a friend of sorts in the last year. Once Brody had realized that they shared the abduction experience, the two men had pieced together a fuzzy hypothesis about what happened during those missing periods of time in Brody’s memory. No one knew the name Larek except Max and his sister.
What was spooky was how Max seemed to know about Sydney’s recent problems. She wasn’t sleeping well at all, waking with terrible nightmares and an increasing fear of going to sleep. She kept talking about how she was going to die if she slept, and so she stayed awake until her little body shut down in self-defense, only to wake again screaming and crying a short time later. It was taking a toll on both of them, but Sydney was becoming perpetually anxious, and Brody was afraid for her. He had been on the verge of taking her to a doctor about it when his worst nightmare came to life before his eyes. Just two days ago, he’d gone to her when the screaming began, and he saw it—a greenish, almost electrical glow in her hands. And he knew then that they were taking his daughter, too.
Max had disappeared with his sister and girlfriend and a couple of others when the military burst in on graduation. He hadn’t believed their bogus press release about a terrorist threat against the ceremony. Why would Max and the others have fled because of that? They weren’t terrorists, of that he was sure. More likely, it had something to do with the military somehow learning that they might have information about the aliens. That possibility had driven Brody even deeper into his own research and away from the public eye.
But what would Max be doing back near Roswell again? He should have been long gone by now. Clearly, there was something he needed to tell Brody, and somehow he knew Sydney was a part of it now, too. The whole thing sounded mysterious and risky, but if there was a chance he could help his daughter by hearing it, he had to try.
All this raced through his head in the 15 or 20 seconds he and Eddie stared at each other. The young man must have seen the moment of decision reflected in his face, because his own expression relaxed then, too.
“Behind the Crashdown at 7.”
A nod from Brody, and Eddie was gone.
“Another hour should do it,” the general said to Taylor, breaking a long silence that had become a wall of military protocol between them since they’d left Roswell. The close quarters of his rental car made it all the more uncomfortable.
He turned to glance at her, practically sitting at attention, face forward, body tensed. “Lt. Holbrook, we’re in highly unusual circumstances, and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Our military relationship may be of more hindrance than help in this situation. I suggest we suspend the formalities when we’re alone. I’m Eric. May I call you Taylor?”
He glanced at her with a wry smile. “Eric.”
Taylor looked back uncomfortably. “Sir, I really don’t think I can do that, sir. Please feel free to call me Taylor, but I’d be much more comfortable just calling you General, if I may, sir.”
He nodded thoughtfully. “Of course. I can appreciate how awkward that might be. Very well.”
The plan was risky, but not having one was riskier. Taylor wound up being the go-between, since they knew the phones were still tapped. Personal surveillance had been suspended at the General’s order, but they were still very conscious of conducting themselves as normally as possible. Taylor had both the family ties to hide behind, and her status as Nate’s consulting attorney, which gave her access to everyone involved without any hint of suspicion.
Knowing he needed a deuce-and-a-half to transport the parents to the reservation, General Christopher had come up with a plan to make sure all the jeeps and a large contingent of personnel were otherwise occupied when he went to check out a vehicle. There was no legitimate reason for him to need something that size, so it had to be the only thing left. To that end, he and Taylor were headed down 285S toward Marathon, Texas.
Diane had actually been the one to think of it. Reading Liz’s diary had given them a wealth of background on the kids’ activities, and when the General had presented his idea and asked for suggestions for a location that would serve to distract the current investigation, she had remembered the geodesic dome that had led to so many clues. Atherton’s place. It seemed a likely hideout—at least it would as far as the FBI was concerned.
There was no further break in their silence, and a quick glance confirmed there was no lessening of her tension either, so he worked to steer the conversation in a more familiar direction.
“Tell me about your cousin, Liz.”
Finally, a smile. “Liz is great. She’s incredibly smart and lots of fun. She’s several years younger than I am, and we didn’t live very close to each other, but we always had a great time when we did get together.”
Her expression darkened. “I hope she’s okay.”
“Do you know this boy Max?”
Shaking her head, she finally relaxed against her seat. “No, not really. I’ve heard a lot about him. They were dating for a while, and I think Aunt Nancy and Uncle Jeff liked him, but after that fiasco in Utah . . .”
Her frown deepened. “I wish I knew what that was all about. I can’t imagine Liz holding up a convenience store, and I can't imagine her falling for a guy who would. Even if he tried to talk her into it, she would have sent him packing. It was so out of character. After that, her parents wouldn’t even let her see him anymore. Now they’ve disappeared together. So Bonnie and Clyde. Do you think what they did was related to this alien thing?”
General Christopher pressed his lips together, eyes squinted in thought. What the hell. She knew most of it already anyway. His son had made sure of that. Something seemed to be growing between those two.
“They didn’t hold up that store to rob it. Max had tracked down the location of the reassembled ship from the ’47 crash. He wanted a look at it, I guess. He may have even wanted to see if it would fly.”
Taylor’s eyes were wide with amazement. “The ship was at a convenience store?
Why in the world would it be there?”
The general chuckled. “Because that’s the last place anyone would look.”
“There’s actually a ship,” she muttered under her breath.
Left to their own thoughts, the miles flew past. Philip Evans’s comment to the general about how little he had really known his son all these years had hit home—a chilling truth that applied to his relationship with Nate. Raising Nate had been his wife’s job until she was struck with esophageal cancer when he was just 12. It took only weeks for her to go from a vital, attractive woman to a fragile shadow in a hospital bed. Nate had taken it hard, but his father had taken it harder. He loved his son, but he felt ill-equipped to deal with him. Every time he looked into Nate’s startling blue eyes, he saw Jean, and it only emphasized how he had always related to his son through her. So it had been military schools and sterile visits and a bond forged of letters and e-mail.
Now he was cursing himself. His son was a fine man, and not unlike himself in many ways. They were men of principal and duty, capable of deep conviction and deeper love. Now his son needed him, and this time, he wouldn’t fail him. Maybe it wasn’t too late to find something of what they’d lost.
“You and Nate just met on this case, is that right?”
“He seems to trust you. He’s told you things that frankly I’m not sure he should have. That seems rather odd given your new acquaintance.”
Watching her closely out of the corner of his eye, he was charmed by the faint blush that rose in her cheeks. Her voice remained professionally detached, though.
“I think he can tell I believe him. He knows I want to help, and I’m confident we’ll get this charge dropped.”
“And is that all?”
“Is your interest purely professional?”
She was shocked by his bluntness. “I . . . I don’t know. I guess that’s up to Nate . . . Lt. Christopher,” she corrected quickly.
Her blush deepened, and he smiled to himself. Definitely something there.
They spotted the dome against a line of trees that interrupted the dry, untouched prairie. Stopping on the road to avoid leaving tire tracks in the thick dust, he handed Taylor a pair of disposable shoe covers, just like the ones used in hospitals. They slipped them on, grabbed a shopping bag from the back seat, and began a slow jog toward the dome.
The wooden door was ajar, though there were no signs of visitors. That was what they were there to change. They had reviewed their tasks beforehand, and bent to them purposefully. They wanted to be in and out within 30 minutes.
“Start with the wood stove,” the general instructed. “I’ll take care of the rest.”
Soon, the careless remains of a cold meal and a small fire littered the room. Soiled dishes, pop cans, and Max’s old stocking cap were strewn about the floor, and the sticks of wood they’d brought crackled in the stove. An old road atlas with the page showing southern Texas and northern Mexico torn out was shoved into the stove where it would singe, rather than burn, to make it look like they’d taken out what they needed and tried to use the rest to keep the fire going. With a quick nod of satisfaction, the general ushered Taylor back outside, and they headed for the car. Safely inside, they exchanged a grim look.
“I hope it works,” Taylor said, looking back toward the dome with its light plume of smoke rising from the chimney. And they began the trek home.
Posted: Sun Mar 23, 2003 4:32 pm
Part 20 continued
Tyler jumped as if someone had poked him with a cattle prod.
Gibbs was looking bad. He had bags under his bloodshot eyes, and his uniform was wrinkled, almost as if he’d slept in it. He thrust his face into Tyler’s, reeking of stale smoke, alcohol, and . . . no, it couldn’t be . . . sex? The idea of a woman with Major Tino Gibbs both flabbergasted and disgusted him. And the major’s current condition didn’t enhance the image in the slightest.
“I want the latest tapes on the Parker surveillance,” he growled. His breath matched his foul demeanor.
“Sir! Yes sir!”
Tyler bolted from the room, relieved to be putting distance between them. The guy was bad enough on a good day, but now that Tyler was hiding things from him—like turning over Gibbs’s uniform to a crime lab—and knowing that somehow Gibbs was implicated in the crime for which his friend Nate was charged, well, he couldn’t be far enough away.
Jimmy Namoki had drawn eavesdropping duty again today, Tyler observed, and he didn’t look any too happy about it.
“Got anything for Major Gibbs, sir?”
“No, Sergeant. It’s like listening to an episode of “My Big Fat Boring Life,” only without the laugh track.”
Tyler grinned. “I gotta take him something, Jimmy,” he said very softly. “He’s pissed as hell today, and looks worse.”
Jimmy shrugged, and popped the tape out. “Knock yourself out.”
Tyler gave a quick salute with the tape and returned to his office.
“Anything on it?” Gibbs barked.
“I don’t know, sir. Lt. Namoki didn’t say.”
Gibbs grabbed the tape and all but pushed Tyler out the door. “Dismissed.”
Tyler looked at the clock. Shift over. He was exhausted. After spending his time off yesterday running around doing things for Nate’s case and then tossing and turning all night, he knew he needed rest, but he was still keyed up. Maybe a quick drink would relax him.
He stepped into the familiar world of the roadhouse, all neon lights and cheap booze. Still, it had a settling effect on him. At least here, he knew what to expect. He grabbed the first empty stool and ordered a beer. Peering absently through the smoke, he was surprised to spot Star in a back booth, staring blankly into an empty glass. Grabbing his beer, he stood and walked toward her.
“What are you doin’ here this time o’ day?” Tyler asked, sliding into the booth across from her.
She raised her eyes in subdued recognition, making an effort to match his smile. She looked awful.
He and Star had formed an odd but mutually satisfying friendship. When they’d first met, it was just about a few drinks, a few laughs, and some very enthused sex. After a few weeks, though, they began to talk. They got along, understood each other. They both came from less than ideal backgrounds—poor homes with dysfunctional families. No abuse, no tragic stories, but no real foundations, either. Tyler had found a home in the army. Star was still looking. They didn’t love each other, but they did care about each other, and Tyler could see she was in a bad way.
“God, Star! You look like you haven’t slept in days! Tell me what’s wrong?”
She sighed, eyes so full of pain. “Nothin’ so bad, really,” she said, without meaning it. “I guess I shoulda seen it comin’.”
“Seen what coming?”
“You know what I like about you, Ty?”
Her abrupt change in subject and tone startled him. “What?”
“You never tried to pay me. We were just havin’ fun, and you knew it. We got along, you and me. We’d dance and drink and fuck, and it was just nice, ya know? Good times.”
“Star, did somebody . . . take advantage of you?” He could feel the anger starting to grow, so her laughter brought him up short.
“Take advantage? Oh, Ty!” She snorted ruefully. “That’s what you do to teenagers and virgins, right? Not old whores who call the roadhouse home.”
“Star, what happened?”
“Remember that major came in here a while back? He was lookin’ for your friend.”
Tyler felt something go cold inside him, and his expression fell away to a studied blank.
“He was here last night. Offered me a drink and a nice ride under the stars. Romantic, don’t you think?”
The cold was spreading into his limbs, and he held his beer so tightly, his knuckles were white.
“He’s not like you, Ty. He didn’t want to have fun. No conversation, no games. I coulda been anybody. He just wanted to get off. I told him I didn’t wanna fuck him, but he said he was payin’ and he’d say what happened. I said I wasn’t no prostitute, but he yanked me outta the car, ripped my clothes, and dumped his load in about 10 seconds. Then the motherfucker drove me back here, shoved a $50 at me and took off.”
Her eyes filled with tears until they spilled down her cheeks. Tyler slid out of his side of the booth and into hers, trying to treat her gently while his insides shook with rage.
“He raped you?”
Star shook her head. “Naw, I took the money.” She buried her head against his shoulder. “Don’t you see, Ty? Now I am a prostitute.” Her sobs shook her, and Tyler seethed as he stroked her hair.
“No, baby, you’re not. You still got that bill?”
She just nodded into his shirt. “You willing to prosecute?”
She sat bolt upright. “No! I ain’t gonna testify in no court o’ law about what happened! No, Tyler!”
She was panicked and he soothed her with meaningless sounds and shushes until she calmed, but his mind was spinning. Was there a way to make this work against Gibbs? Could he ultimately convince Star to come forward? If she knew what else Gibbs had done—had probably done—maybe it would make a difference. For now, though, he had to get her home and go see Nate.
Kyle walked restlessly through the trees. He was always the one alone. Even Isabel was busy, telling River Dog about dreamwalking; he seemed to think he’d heard similar stories in the legends of his ancestors. Michael and Maria had taken off for who knows where, and Max and Liz had fallen asleep in the cabin, drained from a night of “touching people” and unsettling flashes.
No one had brought it up since Isabel’s startling announcement that the parents were coming to see them tomorrow night, but he’d thought of little else. This might be his one opportunity to return to Roswell with his dad, and leave this lonely, nomadic existence behind. But would that be any better? How would he explain his sudden return after an unexplained disappearance? Everyone would want to know where he’d been. What had happened to the others? The military would probably question him or worse.
And if he did somehow manage to renew his life in Roswell? What then? He’d still be alone, because if there was one thing he’d learned through all this, it was that once you knew “the secret,” you couldn’t really relate to the rest of the world in any natural sort of way. You had to watch your step, your words, and most definitely your emotions. And that was, in a nutshell, the one thing he hadn’t shared with anyone.
Watching the others seemed to make his loneliness a living thing, pulling him down into a quagmire of depression and self-pity. Yes, Isabel might be alone, like he was, but she still carried Jesse in her heart, along with the hope that they would be together again someday. She wasn’t right for him anyway; that had been blatantly obvious once he’d snapped out of that panic-induced delusion that he wanted her. He realized now that what he’d really wanted was a place to belong instead of this limbo between human and alien. Michael and Maria’s relationship was deceiving, in a way--they bickered constantly and challenged each other’s patience on a regular basis, but it was only the outsider’s eye who saw anything but their growing devotion to each other. And then there was Max and Liz. He’d lost that battle the minute Max Evans saved Liz’s life. Who could compete with that kind of love? Well, he knew what it was to be burned—to open your heart and have it trampled on—and now he didn’t know if he would ever be able to find what these people had. One thing was for sure, he wasn’t going to find it here, in a remote corner of a reservation with people who were already committed to someone else. And the truth was, he knew he wasn’t going to find it in Roswell, either.
But what if he found it elsewhere? Would it matter? Would he be allowed to bring someone else in? Could he, in all good conscience, do it even if the others approved? What would happen when he started to change? Liz, at least, had Max, an alien who obviously understood and accepted it. But what would a woman think who woke up next to a guy who was giving off sparks or reading her mind or standing still while his head spun around on his neck?
It was overwhelming and hopeless. He was trapped in an impossible situation, without family or someone to love. Probably forever. How did he wind up here?
The tears took him completely by surprise. He hadn’t cried since . . . well, since Alex’s funeral, and before then, he couldn’t even say. This time, though, great racking sobs shook his body, and his throat opened to a low wail, the helpless cry of a wounded animal.
Not far away, Max and Liz were enjoying a relaxing walk, biding their time between a short nap and Eddie’s arrival, hopefully with Brody and Sydney in tow. When the stillness of the woods was broken by an anguished wail, they stopped dead in their tracks. Max pushed Liz behind him, crouching low as his eyes and ears searched for the source.
“Over there,” he whispered to Liz, advancing a few paces with his hand clamped securely around her wrist. They heard the sound again, from just on the other side of some scrubby underbrush. Straightening to see better, Max stiffened.
“It’s Kyle!” he mouthed to her.
Stepping in front of Max to see for herself, Liz saw Kyle’s shoulders shaking, his head bent.
“I have to go to him,” she whispered back at Max. “Alone.”
Max could feel her concern for Kyle, and understood the longstanding friendship that still existed between them. Maybe she was the best one for the job after all. He nodded, and signaled with his thumb that he would return to the cabin. She blew him a kiss, and stepped around the shrubs.
Kyle had no idea she was there, so lost in his own dark thoughts. Max watched for a moment as Liz tapped her friend on the shoulder, and spoke his name softly. Kyle whirled around, took one look at her, and pulled her to him, hanging on for all he was worth. She wrapped her arms around him and stroked the back of his head, encouraging him to let the tears fall so they could talk. Max felt his heart squeeze to see Kyle’s pain and looked away. Kyle wouldn’t appreciate being observed in this state . . . at least not by him. Kyle worked hard at being the casual smartass, but Max knew things had been rough for him—the trauma of being healed by an alien when he didn’t even know aliens existed, Tess’s betrayal, leaving his father; rough was putting it mildly. And traveling with Isabel as his closest companion? That couldn’t be helping, he thought wryly. He looked back toward them one last time, and saw Liz smiling at him over Kyle’s shoulder. She could hear him. He smiled sheepishly; he had to start practicing keeping some thoughts to himself. Confident that Kyle was in good hands, he turned and walked quietly back toward the cabin.
Calmer now, Kyle detached himself, hiding his face from her. “Sorry.”
“Kyle, talk to me. You’ve been through some real trauma lately. You have every right to be upset.”
“Yeah, I do,” he said bitterly, then softened. “I’m sorry, Liz. I’m not sure you’re the person I should be talking to about this.”
Liz pushed away the twinge of hurt at his words. “Okay, who is? You need to talk to someone.”
He sighed. “I don’t know. I have to think about it, okay?”
She nodded, uncertain. She had expected him to open up to her. They’d done a lot of that over the last year. But if he was unwilling, she wouldn’t force it. She knew what that felt like.
“Walk with me?” He held out a hand to her, and when she reached for it, he clasped it gratefully and turned down the path.
Maya was awake when Max returned to the cabin, and she scampered down the porch steps toward him, smiling broadly, arms open wide. She shrieked happily as he swooped her up onto his shoulders and began to run in crazy circles around the clearing, intentionally passing under low branches so she could reach up and touch them. He was growing very fond of Maya, and he was proud of her, too. She’d had a lot to handle for a little girl. He knew, because his big girl had struggled with the same adjustment, and she was much more mature and informed than this child on his shoulders.
As if he had summoned her with his thoughts, Liz emerged from the woods grinning at the sight that met her eyes. He clamped down on his instinctive twinge of jealousy when he realized she was holding hands with Kyle, but by the time he noticed, Kyle had already dropped her hand and headed up to the porch where Isabel and River Dog sat enjoying the antics, too.
Maya greeted Liz with the same enthusiasm she had bestowed on Max, and the three began to play like any parents and child in the park. Hide and Seek was her favorite, apparently, although they noted with interest her uncanny ability to come right to them. That might warrant further discussion.
When Maria and Michael had also returned, River Dog assembled them to discuss his plans for the meeting Monday night.
“Cowboys and Indians?” Maria snickered. “Not exactly PC, is it?”
River Dog’s eyes twinkled and his mouth twitched. “Call it what you like. But here’s what I have in mind. The first law of my ancestors, when readying for an enemy, was stealth. Michael and Isabel, you two and I will take positions just inside the woods at different points around the clearing. Of course, you have the ability to defend yourselves and Liz and Max, should anything happen, but we’ll all be keeping our eyes out for uninvited guests who may try to approach through the cover of the forest.
“Max and Liz, you’ll be outside, waiting to greet the visitors. I know you’re very anxious to see your parents, but remember that the first priority is to establish the intent of this general. Keep a close eye on him, and don’t let your emotions at seeing your families override your caution.”
They nodded, knowing his warning was well-founded.
“What about Kyle?” Liz frowned, worried. “In my vision, he was hurt.”
Kyle gave her a little smile of thanks for worrying about him.
“Don’t worry. He’ll be well away from this. Kyle? You will go with Eddie to the cave, where they will first arrive. While Eddie guides them to the cabin, you’ll be taking care of the second law of tribal warfare—disabling the transportation. My ancestors always made sure the horses were let loose before descending on the enemy. You’re going to disable the vehicle that brings them here, so if this man does harm to anyone, or if we feel he is not going to keep his pledge of secrecy, we can keep him here.”
“What about me?” Maria asked. “Don’t I get to do anything?”
“Indeed,” River Dog told her. “You will keep Maya in the cabin. Don’t allow her outside until we give the sign that it’s okay. When that time comes, she can come out with you to greet your mother.”
Babysitting wasn’t Maria’s first choice, but she recognized it as a logical one, so she swallowed her protest, nodding her assent instead.
“Okay,” Max agreed. “It sounds good. What . . .?”
He sat straight up, seeing River Dog’s face just as he heard the rustling behind him. Before he could even focus on the source, the familiar accent reached his ears.
“Max? What in bloody hell is going on?”
Coming across the clearing were Eddie, Sydney, and Brody, the latter looking irritated and intrigued all at once. Max took Liz’s hand and reached for Maya, but missed her as she ran down the stairs to a familiar face.
The little girls jumped in excitement as a confused Brody looked on.
“Brody. It’s good to see you,” Max smiled, surprised by just how good it did feel to see his former, wild-haired boss. “Please sit down. We have a lot to talk about.”
Posted: Sun Mar 30, 2003 5:12 pm
Hey you feedbackers and bumpers--you are AWESOME!
I have to thank you guys from the bottom of my heart. You've stuck with me even after the journal entries were done and after my little hiatus to write Dreamer Holidays. Thanks so much! And apparently, we've picked up some new (and renewed) readers, too. That is SO cool.
I'm glad you're all feeling sorry for Kyle. So do I. Can you imagine having Isabel for a constant companion? LOL! But I have plans for our sweet boy, so keep reading. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this chapter.
Posted in two posts (yes, again).
“Maria!” Brody’s face lit up as Maria stepped forward from a corner of the porch where the growing shadows of deep dusk had already risen up, as if the old planks had released them from the day’s captivity.
“Hello, Brody,” she smiled. “They feedin’ you okay since I left?”
“I get by.” He folded his arms around her, and they relaxed into a hug. “I’ve missed you.”
At the prickly feeling on his neck, he glanced up to see Michael glaring at him, and he quickly stepped back. “Michael,” he said with a formal nod. It wasn’t returned.
Moving to safer ground, or so he thought, Brody turned to Max, whose strangely worded note had gotten him here.
“Max, what are you doing out here in the middle of nowhere? Where did you disappear to after that mess at graduation?”
He looked askance at Eddie and River Dog, still unsure about who knew what. “Does this have anything to do with your . . . travels?”
Max chuckled and indicated the steps, offering Brody a seat. “In a way. How’s Sidney?”
“If you mean the cancer, it’s gone. Bloody miracle, that. Just like mine.” Again, his glance flickered over the two men he didn’t know, and then over to Kyle, who was familiar, but still a question mark.
“No secrets here, Brody. You can speak freely.”
Eyebrows arched in surprise, Brody finally nodded. “At first I thought she had just beaten it, or it was some kind of mass miracle or something. But lately . . .”
“Lately?” Max prompted. Brody’s face had gone quite pale and tense.
“I think they’ve been taking her,” he finally mumbled.
“They? Aliens, you mean?”
He nodded. “She hardly sleeps anymore. Wakes up screaming once she does fall asleep. And the other day . . . I can’t exactly explain it, but her hands, they were giving off sparks or something.” His frown deepened, giving him a confused and angry appearance. “It wasn’t human, Max. But the thing is—she hasn’t gone missing! Not as far as I can tell, anyway. I’ve kept very close tabs on her since I convinced her mother to let her stay with me. I would swear she hasn’t gone anywhere.”
The group had decided that Max would be the one to talk to Brody. They didn’t want to overwhelm him with too many people telling him impossible things at once. And Max’s calm and reassuring manner was bound to help contain Brody’s rather high-strung nature. So they simply listened as Max took his time tiptoeing toward the truth.
The two men looked out into the clearing where Sidney and Maya stood renewing their acquaintance. The only two girls in the hospital ward, they had bonded in their mutual fear, and a year and a half hadn’t changed that. Talking quietly as they wove chains of clover gleaned from the wild growth at the edge of the woods, they exchanged the secrets of their lives like old friends.
“They’re not taking her.” Max had opened the door. There was no going back.
“Aliens have not been abducting your daughter, Brody. There’s another explanation.”
“And what makes you so sure?”
A long silence stretched heavily in the air, and the group listening on the porch behind them exchanged uneasy glances.
“Because I’m the explanation.”
Brody’s furrowed brow was the only reaction; the implications of Max’s statement were still far from his grasp.
“What do you mean you’re the explanation, Max? Do you know something?”
A harsh sound, something between a chuckle and a snort, escaped Max’s throat. “Not enough, my friend. Not nearly enough. But I can explain Sidney’s sparks. Her sleeplessness still puzzles me, though.”
Brody’s eyes were trained on Max, half-closed with both skepticism and expectation. “What do you know about the sparks?”
Max finally turned to face Brody. “Remember when you fired me that time, and I came to you after hours and asked you if you were one of us? You thought I was asking if you were an abductee. But until you used that word, I had something else in mind all together. I was asking you if you were an alien.”
He watched as Brody replayed that night in his mind. “You thought I was an alien?” He laughed without humor. “Why on earth . . .? Then why say ‘one of us’? How would that have made any sense?”
Max gave no answer; he just fixed Brody with a long, intense gaze, watching as the question spun behind his eyes like a roulette wheel, waiting for the answer to settle into its inevitable slot.
“One of us? Are you saying . . .?” His eyes grew wider and wider until his pupils appeared oddly small against the huge white orbs.
“You’re . . . you’re an . . . an alien?”
Max remained calm, sensing that Brody was coiled to run, in spite of his professed goal of reestablishing contact. But Brody had been through a lot since then—more abductions (at least as he thought of them), more confusion (like that fiasco in the UFO Center when he accessed Larek’s memories, took hostages, and then forgot it all again with the help of Tess’s mindwarp, finally coming back to himself with another piece of time lost and a roomful of people watching him guardedly), and more concern about the effect of all this on his health (like when he fainted and awoke with bruises he couldn’t explain after Isabel’s attempt to help him remember details of the abductions). And now he also knew—or thought he did—that his daughter had been affected. Contact was much less appealing now.
With nothing less than a hundred percent of Brody’s attention, Max reached down and plucked a weed from the parched ground beneath the step. Fingers closed and hand cupped, he released the energy that, inexplicably—even to him—changed the scraggly weed into a fresh daisy.
After a few seconds of blatant gaping at the flower, Brody looked back up at Max. His mouth began to work, but no sound emerged, as if the ability to form actual words had been startled out of him. Eventually, he retrieved his voice.
“You are!” he breathed. “You’re an alien.”
“Yes. Well, a human-alien hybrid, actually.”
“And you have been abducting me?”
He shot straight up, eyes piercing the near-dark for his daughter.
“No.” The single word was firm, irrefutable. It’s confident simplicity succeeded in regaining Brody’s attention.
“I haven’t abducted anyone. And Sidney’s hands are not a result of abduction. But it is because of me, and we’ve only just realized it. Please, Brody, believe me. I have never intentionally hurt anyone that wasn’t trying to hurt me or someone I loved. I have so much to tell you. Please. Sit.”
Brody sat tentatively, as if on springs that could catapult him off the step and out of the clearing at the slightest provocation.
“Brody, I am one of . . . three . . .” He glanced at Liz, accepting her slight nod as endorsement of his decision to streamline the truth for the sake of brevity and good will. “. . . human/alien hybrids. My sister, Isabel, and my friend, Michael, are the other two.”
Brody eyed them suspiciously, but remained quiet.
“We have always lived here, at least as far back as we can remember. We’ve grown up in Roswell knowing only that we were different, but having no clue where we came from or how we got here. We kept our special abilities secret, even from our parents. Three years ago, I was in the Crashdown when Liz got shot. I raced over to her, and without even thinking, I dissolved the bullet and healed her wound.”
Liz quietly stepped off the porch and sat next to Max, taking his hand between both of hers. “He saved my life that day, Brody. I would never have made it to the hospital.”
Their joined hands drew Brody’s attention, and he noticed the plain band Liz wore. “You’re married?” he asked incredulously.
Liz nodded, a contented glow on her face, as Max answered with his first smile since they began their talk. “Yes, we are,” he said, raising her hand to kiss it. Then, more seriously, “But not before we learned a lot about ourselves—good and bad.”
“Tell me about Sidney. What’s wrong with my daughter? Did you do something to her?”
“That Christmas, when Sidney was so sick, I witnessed a terrible accident that killed a man who sacrificed himself to save his daughter. I could have saved him, but I didn’t. I was afraid to expose myself.” Liz and Brody both watched Max’s face contort in painful recollection, and Liz tried to soothe him with her touch and her reassuring thoughts. “That man’s ghost haunted me. I felt guilty and ashamed. Then Maria told Liz about Sidney, and Liz told me. I came to your house, wanting to make something right. I guess I thought I could make up for letting that man die. But Sidney was already gone.”
“To the hospital,” Brody added, intrigued now.
“So I went to the hospital, too. Only it wasn’t just Sidney. There were five of them there, all dying, all random victims of a vicious disease. I healed Sidney first, but then I saw Maya and those boys and I just couldn’t stop.” His voice had become desperate, brittle with emotion, and Liz slipped an arm around him, shushing quietly.
“You were the angel. The Christmas miracle.” There was awe in Brody’s voice, fear and skepticism forgotten.
Max hung his head, as if convinced that this act had still not removed the guilty weight of the father he didn’t save.
“But . . .” Unasked questions flew through Brody’s mind, and it was hard to pluck just one from the whirlwind.
“It was only a few months ago that Liz noticed changes, starting with a flickering in her hands.”
The laughter of the two girls seemed a bit distant, and Eddie left the group to round them up. It was almost fully dark now. Max watched him walk off and heaved a sigh.
“Brody, I didn’t know it at the time, but my healing changes humans somehow. Our best theory now is that it opens up a part of their brains that is normally unused, and until that new energy creates a path—forming new synapses and connections within the brain—it just . . . drains off, and comes out through the hands.”
Brody’s eyes were now locked on Liz’s hands, holding Max’s tightly.
“She’s becoming an alien?” His hushed tones did nothing to disguise the horror in his voice. Then, as the idea penetrated, he looked blindly into the night, eyes caught between gratitude and paralyzing fear. The visions of his daughter evolving into an unrecognizable creature couldn’t have been clearer if they had been projected onto a screen.
“No,” Liz reassured him. “One of the things Max and the others have learned is that their powers aren’t alien at all; they’re actually just expanded use of the human brain—sort of advanced evolution. It’s just that now anyone Max heals begins to have access to the unused portions of the brain.”
She reached across Max to grasp Brody’s hand, cold and clammy. Shock. She pressed on, determined to help him understand the positive side.
“Brody, aside from some discomfort at first, the energy doesn’t hurt, and soon, it begins to reroute itself into productive use. It seems to be different for everyone, but she’ll soon learn what her special gifts are. It’s a good thing. Believe me. I know exactly what she’s going through.”
“Then why does she wake up screaming?” There was a challenge to his voice now as he played devil’s advocate, hoping to hear reassuring answers to the questions born of fear.
“That’s what we don’t know. Maya—the little girl Sidney is playing with—just began to show the same symptoms.”
“She was in the ward with Sydney?”
“Yeah. That’s why they recognized each other.”
Eddie emerged from the darkness, one little girl holding each hand.
“Anyway, one of Liz’s new gifts is to see visions, and she saw Maya was in trouble. That’s why we came back. We were able to help Maya, and we want to help Sidney, but Maya didn’t have this level of trouble sleeping.”
Sidney climbed into her father’s lap as Maya laid claim to Max, who presented his delighted charge with the flower he’d been holding. Thus displaced, Liz smiled at the calming effect the little girl seemed to have on him, and their shared vision of future children drifted across her mind. Max looked at her quickly, a faint smile on his face.
“Sweetheart,” Brody began, still wary, but hopeful in spite of his reservations, “this is Max.”
A flicker of recognition lit her face.
“I was just telling him about how much trouble you’ve been having getting to sleep at night.”
Her expression darkened considerably, and she hid her face in her father’s chest.
“Sidney, I think we can help you, if you let us,” Max began softly. “But first you have to tell us what’s frightening you.”
“She already told me,” Maya stated matter-of-factly.
Brody sat up straighter as Liz and Max exchanged surprised looks.
“She did?” Max coaxed. “What did she say?”
Maya leaned toward her friend and whispered loudly, “Can I tell them?”
After giving this some consideration, Sidney nodded, face still buried in the safety of her father’s shoulder.
Maya turned to Max importantly. “She says the angels of death are after her.”
This bold statement left everyone rather speechless. How should one respond to that?
“Sidney?” Brody leaned back, hoping to catch a glimpse of his daughter’s face. “What does that mean, sweetheart? I don’t understand.”
Sidney turned her face, though her head pivoted solidly against her father, and with a nod from Maya, she offered a skeleton of explanation.
“When I was sick, you said I shouldn’t worry because the angels would come for me. I’m not sick now, though, Daddy, and they’ve still come! Every time I sleep I see them, and I have to wake up to get away.” She began to cry and her father rocked her gently while he tried to sort it all out.
Liz and Max didn’t even realize they were discussing it subliminally until Liz’s exclamation burst into the silence. “That must be it!”
“What must be it?” Michael asked impatiently. “Nobody said anything.”
Cringing slightly at the faux pas, Max redirected attention to the matter at hand. “Sidney? Are the angels like lights in the night sky?”
She nodded, happy to have someone finally understand. “And when they come toward you, you wake up?” She nodded again.
“Sidney! Those aren’t angels. Those are me! And those other kids from the hospital. Oh, and Samuel.”
Maya had a way of getting right to the heart of the matter.
“That’s us dreaming. We just want to play.”
Brody was completely lost. “What is everyone talking about?”
As Maya, Liz, and Max described the dream plane that had opened to the children who Max had healed, Sidney began to look visibly relieved. With Maya’s excited descriptions of their games and abilities on that plane, she became downright enthused, finally asking her father if she could go to sleep now. Since Brody had a lot more questions, and his daughter was in extreme need of sleep, he agreed to let Isabel and Maria put the girls to bed in the cabin for a while. He couldn’t help but smile as Maya tugged at Sidney’s hand saying, “Come on! We’ll find the boys. With both of us, I know we can beat them!”
“Quidditch, of course. ‘Cause when we dream, our imaginations make all the stuff we need, and we can actually play! We can go so fast, you won’t believe it.”
Eyes shining with excitement, Sidney followed Maya toward her first game of “Dream Quidditch.”
Two hours later, the group had dispersed, leaving only Max and Liz to answer Brody’s endless questions. Max had been right; having accepted the existence of aliens long ago, Brody was a perfect test subject. It had taken a surprisingly short time for him to warm to the idea, and gradually his questions had moved from fearful to curious. Here were the answers to years of research and speculation. He even became frustrated when Max didn’t have all the answers he wanted, indignant that an alien could know so little about himself. Ultimately, though, it was awe and gratitude for his daughter’s life that won the day.
“You saved Sidney’s life, Max. I don’t think there’s any way I can repay you for that.” He bit back the tears that threatened behind damp lashes. “She’s my world,” he finished in a choked whisper.
Max just smiled modestly, then broached the final subject of the evening—using Brody to contact the other boys from the cancer ward. “Well, there is one thing we could use your help with . . .”
continued in next post
Posted: Sun Mar 30, 2003 5:14 pm
Part 21 continued
Dark had just descended over Roswell as General Christopher, Philip Evans, and Taylor Holbrook entered the jail’s conference room. Nate studied each face as they came through the door; they were discussing what they had accomplished over the course of the day, but Nate’s heart gave a little jolt when he noticed how Taylor made eye contact with him immediately, followed by a spontaneous smile that she hid abruptly when Philip Evans started speaking.
“I’ve got the lab reports back on both Nate, from the police, and Tino, from the private lab. I don’t think anyone will be surprised to learn that none of the circumstantial evidence against Nate will hold up. The blood on his uniform is his own; the police have found no witnesses that saw him with Deloris after he left the roadhouse; there is a flat tire is his trunk, and one tire on the car that is virtually new; and none of his tires have picked up any of the gravel that’s used in the parking area in front of the resident motel where Deloris lived. That all jibes with the story as Nate told it. Add the facts that the perfume on his uniform can be explained by the incident he’s already described and that he has no history of violence, and there’s no case at all.”
Nate sagged with relief, hazarding a look at Taylor, who was beaming at him. His father clapped him on the back with a mumbled, “Never a doubt,” and Philip took time to nod a brief congratulations before continuing.
“Our friend Tino is another matter all together. According to this report, he had traces of blood on his shoes and fragments of wood—stained wood, like from a door or woodwork—in the tread of his shoe. Since the private lab doesn’t have access to police records, they couldn’t verify whose blood it was . . . just the blood type, O negative . . . and they can’t place the source of the wood.
“Here are the problems: all of this will have to be re-documented by the police lab, which they won’t do unless he’s been accused of a crime. I’m willing to bet that it’s Deloris’s blood on that shoe, and that he’s the one who kicked in her door. Unfortunately, any other physical evidence, like fingerprints, is long gone. We can take a look at his car, and see about that gravel, but that alone doesn’t prove a thing.”
“Are you saying we can’t do anything to stop him?” the General exploded. “I won’t accept that, Mr. Evans! We need to find out why he would have hurt this woman, and why he would purposely frame my son.”
“A history of violence would give some credence to it,” Taylor suggested. “Could we check his record? See if he’s been in any trouble? Although I guess you don’t get promoted to Major if you can’t control your temper.”
“Then this piece of news might be of help,” Nate piped up. “Tyler came to see me today. It seems the Major raped a woman last night.”
A stunned silence filled the room before Philip sliced through it with a loud, “What?”
“Ty sometimes parties with a woman from the roadhouse named Star . . . I don’t know her last name. Anyway, I met her briefly the same night he introduced me to Deloris. He saw her today, and she was upset. Turns out, the Major showed up in the parking lot of the roadhouse last night, invited her for a drink and a drive, then raped her out in the desert. Unfortunately, she took the $50 he threw at her when he left.”
“That son of a bitch,” the General whispered under his breath.
Philip was in full lawyer mode. “We need to find this woman and have her press charges,” he said, rifling through his briefcase for a notepad.
“Ty said she won’t do it.”
Philip looked up sharply. “She has to.”
“And if she won’t?” Taylor asked, knowing the answer already.
“Look, if we can get Gibbs arrested, we can get the police to verify all these lab results. I’m not sure it’s enough to convict him of murder, but if that’s Deloris’s blood, they’ll pull out all the stops to find more evidence. Hell, maybe he’ll even break down and confess under pressure, I don’t know. In the meantime, he’ll be locked up for a while so we can build a stronger case. Once we get what we need, Star can drop the charges, if she wants to, and she won’t have to go to court. But none of that makes any difference unless she presses charges.”
“Tyler’s the one she’ll listen to. I’ll call him tonight, assuming they let me out of here.” He ended his statement more like a question, unsure of how this would work now. Philip kept his head bent and pursed his lips. Then, without moving his head, the eyes flickered upwards, and Nate winced at what had to be bad news.
“Here’s the thing,” Philip began soothingly, knowing his client would be unhappy. “Tomorrow’s Monday. The police will process all this, take it to a judge, and get the charges dropped. Eventually. I could press the issue, and have you out by lunch tomorrow, but left to their own devices, the police could take all day. Maybe even spill into Tuesday. If you get out of here before Gibbs is arrested, it’ll be a red flag. He’ll know the police are looking for someone else, and he’ll get spooked. He might try to flee, or he could gut it out here, but either way, it could trigger another act of violence. I think we’d all agree his behavior has become more and more unstable.”
“Are you saying . . .?” The General’s frown was exceeded only by Taylor’s. Nate was already accepting his temporary fate.
“It’s okay, Dad. It’ll be worth it. It’s just one more day.”
Taylor reached for Nate’s hand, relieved to know her faith in him had been justified and proud that he was willing to endure another night in jail . . . maybe more . . . because it was the right thing to do. This, she realized with some surprise, was what she had already come to expect from him.
The General cleared his throat pointedly, and Taylor pulled her hand back with a start, but not before she’d seen Nate’s smile of thanks and . . . something more? She glanced at the General, embarrassed. It was getting harder to maintain her military distance with Nate. She knew when he got out of here, she wanted to spend some off-hours time getting to know him better.
“I’ll call Tyler,” Taylor offered.
With that, the meeting adjourned. Nate gave his dad a quick hug, shook Philip’s hand, and turned to Taylor.
“Assuming things go well over the next couple of days, would you like to . . . I mean, would you consider . . . uh . . . having dinner with me?”
Taylor’s face lit up, and Nate grinned at her honest reaction.
“I’d be honored,” she answered softly.
As Nate turned to his guard, even the bitterness of confinement couldn’t wipe the smile from his face.
The base hummed with Monday morning routine. Tyler watched the clock, antsy to finish his duty shift and go talk to Star. Meanwhile, Gibbs was furious when Tyler told him the cleaners had damaged his uniform during cleaning.
“Goddamn incompetent bastards! How do they run a damn business? Go get me some fatigues, soldier. And shoes. On the double!”
“Yes sir! What size, sir?”
“No, wait. Eight-and-a-half. Hell, I don’t know, the last ones were too tight. I’ll go do it. Dismissed!”
Tyler wasted no time in dismissing himself right out of there, and invented an errand to take him to the other end of the building. As he rounded the corner, he saw General Christopher step from his office in a hurry. Tyler saluted, and the General returned it quickly, doing a doubletake when he saw the name.
“Sgt. Heiss? Tyler Heiss?”
They stood, mutually assessing, each aware of the other’s role in the upcoming day’s events.
“Sergeant, my aide has abandoned me for the moment. I’ve just received a tip regarding the aliens’ whereabouts. Find my officers and have them report to my office immediately.”
“Yes, sir,” Tyler answered quietly. He could tell the General knew that Taylor had filled him in. Nancy Parker, out doing errands, was going to place the call to the General from a pay phone. That way, should anyone question it, there would be a record of a call to him at that hour, and even phone company records would only be able to identify it as coming from a public phone.
Having a legitimate errand now, Tyler found the senior officers and delivered the message. He knew that in a couple of hours, a large percentage of their troops, accompanied by members of the Special Unit, would be participating in a wild goose chase, effectively depleting the local supply of jeeps and equipment. That part of the plan was working perfectly. Now if only he could keep his part of the bargain.
“I’ll need a jeep this afternoon, Corporal. I’ll have it back in the morning.”
The supply officer blanched. He never dealt with the brass personally; they always sent their flunkies. So the one time a General comes down himself, in person, in the goddamn flesh, he didn’t have what the guy wanted.
“Yes, sir. Uh, well, about that, sir. You see, sir, the thing is, we don’t have any jeeps just now.”
General Christopher managed an impressive frown. “How’s that, Corporal?”
“Well, sir, they were all checked out. They’re on their way to . . .” He checked his log sheet. “. . . to Marathon, Texas, sir.” He swallowed hard at the menacing look on the General’s face.”
“All of them, Corporal?”
“Yes, sir,” he squeaked, cursing himself.
“I need wheels, Corporal. What’ve you got?”
The Corporal flipped through a spiral notebook, perspiration shining on his forehead. “Two supply trucks and a deuce-and-a-half, sir.”
Looking displeased, the General let out a frustrated sigh. “Fine, give me the deuce-and-a-half.”
Scrambling to obey, the Corporal handed him keys and a pen to sign the log sheet. With one last glare, the General pocketed the key and left.
Cursing the cleaners for the hundredth time, Tino made his way to supply. He wanted clean fatigues, shoes that fit, and a fucking drink. The first two would have to do for the moment, of course, but nobody better get in his way.
He had one foot in the doorway when he recognized the General’s profile glaring at the hapless corporal behind the desk. Retreating a step, he waited, looking down at his wrinkled and dirty uniform. His appearance was totally unacceptable, he knew, and he didn’t need any unscheduled face time with the father of the man he’d framed for murder, either. What was a General doing down here anyway? Glancing down the empty hall, he leaned in to listen.
“Well, sir, they were all checked out. They’re on their way to . . . to Marathon, Texas, sir.”
“All of them, Corporal?”
“I need wheels, Corporal. What’ve you got?”
“Two supply trucks and a deuce-and-a-half, sir.”
A sigh. “Fine, give me the deuce-and-a-half.”
Footsteps. Tino ducked into a doorway until the steps had faded. The General had been meeting at the jail with his kids’ lawyers ever since he got here. Now he needed a car. What about that rental he’d seen him driving? Why wasn’t that good enough?
His heart was racing, as if it knew something Tino hadn’t yet figured out. All he knew was, he had a bad feeling about this. A real bad feeling.
He turned and walked into the supply room. “I need fatigues, shoes, and a tracking devise.”
The Corporal began to wonder if the base was out of flunkies. “Yes, sir. Size on the clothes and shoes, and range on the tracker.”
“40 jacket, 38 waist, 8 ½ shoes, and 50 miles.”
“Comin’ right up, sir” the Corporal said, disappearing into the cavern of supply shelves.
Star had agreed to let Tyler come to her home—a first, since, unlike Deloris, Star felt her little trailer was the only thing she could call her own, her refuge, her safe place. She didn’t entertain men there; that would have been letting someone into her personal life, and she didn’t do that for anyone. But Tyler had become the exception. He was a good guy and a friend. He wasn’t going to marry her, this she knew. But he was going to stand by her, and that had earned him special consideration.
As Tyler pulled up in front of Star’s trailer east of town, General Christopher was reviewing the roads headed west. He’d been listening to the buzz sweeping through the ranks that they’d found evidence of the aliens in Marathon. They even knew which direction they were headed, since the atlas that was found was missing the pages for Texas and Mexico.
He was expecting Philip’s call around 6, when Eddie would report for work at the Crashdown and give the go-ahead from Max. The plan was for the General to pull in behind the Crashdown—a logical move since the street parking wouldn’t have been able to accommodate the huge vehicle—then walk around front to go in and order food while the gathered parents slipped out the back door and into the truck.
That was still three hours away, though. In the meantime, he wanted to be completely familiar with the roads leading in and out of the reservation, and he wanted to be sure the troops down in Marathon were well occupied for the next few hours. Taylor was awaiting Tyler’s call, hoping for good news about Star’s willingness to bring Gibbs up on charges. If that happened, they’d be ready. The General had guaranteed they’d know where to find him by assigning the little prick a tedious report that would take him hours to complete.
Folding the roadmap, the General unlocked his bottom drawer and pulled out his handgun. Frowning in thought, he rubbed his thumb over the worn handle, balancing the familiar weight in his palms. His mouth tightened into a grim line, and he straightened with decision. Reaching this time for his box of ammunition, he filled each chamber, clicked on the safety, and tucked it into the back of his pants.
Posted: Sun Apr 06, 2003 10:52 am
And here it is, my friends! The part you've all been waiting for--the reunion! (Well, preceded by a short, but important scene.) I hope you enjoy it!
Part 22 (posted in 2 posts)
Star could tell from the look on Ty’s face that he was on a mission—nervous but determined. She indicated a seat in what served as a living room, and then took a seat herself, perched stiffly on the worn loveseat.
“Ty, if you came to talk me into pressing charges, I . . .”
“I came to see if you’re okay,” he said kindly, and she saw the concern in his eyes. He meant it, she could tell, even if it wasn’t his only reason for visiting.
She lifted her chin a notch higher. “I’m fine. It’s not the first time somebody’s gotten a little rough with me.”
She could see him wince at her words. Bless him, somewhere along the line he’d become protective of her, and she could feel the part of her heart that wasn’t hardened against life’s injustices squeeze in response.
“He wasn’t ‘a little rough,’ Star. He raped you. It’s a violent crime, and you didn’t deserve it. Doesn’t it make you just a little angry? Don’t you think he deserves to be punished?”
“People like me don’t get to punish people like him, Tyler. Don’t you know that by now? He’d accuse me of offering it; I’d accuse him of taking it. His word against mine—an Army officer against a roadhouse whore. Who do you think would win?”
She watched as his mouth tightened into a grim line, his head dropping forward as if the weight of her words was too heavy against his own argument. She knew that he understood about justice—and who could afford it.
“I’m not stupid, Star, or naïve. You’re right. Your dead-on right, and I know it. But there’s something here you don’t know, and I hope it’ll make the difference.”
There was an urgency flowing just beneath his words, and she felt her body tense. She didn’t know what he was about to say, but she knew it was important, and she knew she wouldn’t like it.
“You remember Nate, don’t you? Lt. Nate Christopher? He’s the one I introduced Deloris to the night she was killed.”
“You know he’s been accused of her murder?”
“Well, he didn’t do it. I mean, I knew he didn’t do it from the start—it’s just not in him. But now there’s proof. The thing is, there’s evidence now that Gibbs did it.”
She felt sick. Was it possible that she willingly went out to party with, and was then raped by, the man who killed her best friend? Had he taken Deloris against her will before he killed her? Could she, Star, have been his next victim that night? And if so, why didn’t he kill her, too?
Her hand was trembling, and she clamped down on it with her other trembling hand.
“He killed Deloris?” She didn’t even recognize her own voice—soft, controlled, seething.
“It looks that way. The thing is, so far the evidence is either circumstantial or from a private lab, and the police won’t run any official tests unless the guy has been arrested. It’s a catch-22. But if he were to be arrested, even on another charge . . .”
She watched him watching her. She heard the unspoken question in his voice. She had a choice to make: either do nothing, saving herself aggravation and public humiliation; or press charges and open herself to ridicule, contempt, and potential retaliation. It should have been an easy decision, except for one thing: the easy way meant letting a rapist and possible murderer go free.
Her eyes moved to the small picture frame on the end table—she and Deloris at the county fair last August. That night there had been no heavy makeup, no drinking, no men, no baggage. There had only been two friends, laughing and riding silly rides and feeling carefree for a few stolen hours.
“Are you sure he did it?” she whispered, her throat tight with anger and fear.
Tyler hesitated, and her fear sharpened. “Ty, if I do this, I have to know I’m doing it for a good reason. No one’s gonna believe me. I took his money, for god’s sake. And they can produce half a dozen guys I’ve fucked, you included, did ya think of that? I’m no virgin princess, Ty. I haven’t exactly been stingy with the favors, if ya know what I mean. I like a good party, and everyone knows it. But it’s always been my choice. This creep didn’t give me a choice.”
She swiped angrily at the tears that threatened to spill. She didn’t want pity, but she also didn’t want to open herself up to cruel publicity unless it was for something important, something noble, like avenging her friend’s murder.
“Ty? Did he do it?”
“I won’t lie to you, Star. I can’t say that I’m a hundred percent sure, but all my instincts and a lot of evidence say he did. There was blood on his shoe, and wood splinters. They know somebody broke through her door; if he kicked it in, there’d be bits of wood in his shoe, right? And we told him where she lived right before that, remember? He was obviously there; he’s the one who called it in. What better way to throw off suspicion than to become the accuser? And we know . . . you know he’s capable of violence.”
“Did he . . . do you think he . . . raped her, too?” She’d lost the battle against the tears, and they slid silently down her ashen face.
“No, I don’t think so. The autopsy showed no evidence of intercourse that night.”
“So not even that Nate fellow?” she asked, surprised.
“No, Nate left alone that night. He didn’t even see her come out the door after him.”
They sat in silence. This was not a decision to be made lightly; there was very little in it for Star except the feeling that for once, she could have some say over the justice that had eluded her her whole life.
Deloris’s smiling face challenged her from its silver frame. She straightened.
“What do I have to do?”
Between the engine’s roar and the rhythmic thwack of air against the canvas stretched tautly over the truck, there was no conversation on the way to the reservation. Philip sat forward on the hard wooden bench, elbows on his knees, head bent—an apt posture for someone praying he had trusted the right man, made the right decision. The others just let their intermittent eye contact convey their excitement and fear, their hope and nervousness.
The landscape, visible in a retreating rush from the truck’s rear opening, changed from prairie to desert to sparse woods. The engine’s whine lowered in pitch as the vehicle slowed, coming to rest on a dirt road just short of the reservation’s modest tourist development. Seconds later, the General’s face appeared at the rear of the truck.
“We’re turning off here. I don’t want to be seen in the populated area up ahead. I’ve studied the maps, and this road will take us around to our meeting point; it’ll just take an extra few minutes.”
Philip frowned. He didn’t want to deviate from the plan. He was already tortured with self-doubt about trusting this man, and now they were completely at his mercy.
“Didn’t Eddie give you specific instructions?”
“Yeah, but he was counting on the fact that army trucks are relatively common out this way, since the road through the reservation is the quickest one to the training areas west of here. But the fact is, we haven’t sent anyone through here in months, and I’m not so sure it won’t cause too much attention.”
It made sense, but still . . .
Not waiting for a response, the General returned to the front, and the engine roared to life again. The truck made a sharp turn into the woods, and the passengers held on tight as it bounced wildly over the rarely used trail. Philip’s tension began to seep into the general atmosphere as the interior sank into darkness, the effect of waning daylight and denser woods.
Finally, they came to a halt, and voices could be heard talking quietly.
“Eddie!” Jeff smiled with recognition, relieved that this, at least, was according to the plan. He jumped out the back of the truck and turned to help the others. Once assembled, the group unloaded the boxes of supplies, then turned in confusion as the General began to thrash a narrow path into the woods. Eddie watched from the far side of the clearing, a bemused expression on his face. A cave entrance gaped behind him.
“Is he going the right way?” Nancy asked the young man. “Shouldn’t you be leading the way?”
“He says he wants to make it look as though we went that way, just in case anyone follows us,” Eddie replied. “Must be the military training.”
After several minutes, the General emerged from the woods, red-faced and sweating. “That should do it. If anyone finds the truck, they’ll think we headed off in that direction.”
Even with Jim’s nod of approval, Amy couldn’t suppress a doubtful smirk. “How James Bondish of you, General. And who, might I ask, would be out here to find the truck?”
He turned humorless eyes to her. “Perhaps the same people who tapped your phones, put you under surveillance, and tried to capture your children, Mrs. DeLuca. They’re very good. I should know. Or maybe alien enemies; I understand there have been some. Or even just curious campers. I don’t suppose any of them would be welcome.”
A collective chill ran through the group, and the heightened sense of adventure and excitement gave way to an elevated awareness of the danger they’d been trying to ignore. They each picked up a box and followed Eddie in silence.
Max strained to hear footsteps, voices, anything that would signal their parents’ approach. His nerves were on high alert. He wasn’t sure which part of this whole thing made him more nervous: facing a General who had been instrumental in a program to capture and possibly torture him, or facing Liz’s father, who had barely accepted their relationship again when he hauled Liz off from graduation and into hiding. Oh yeah, and married her. And did he mention that Liz’s dad now knew he was an alien? Yeah, this was gonna be good.
Warm, soft lips grazed his cheek, and he turned instinctively to take them fully with his own.
“It’ll be fine, Max,” she mumbled against his mouth between kisses. “I love you, and so will they.”
Max snickered. “Yeah, well, you loved me when your dad forbid us to see each other, too. I wasn’t really feeling the love from his end then.”
She grinned at him. “True. But now we’re married. If he wants to see me, then he has to accept you.”
The small frown telegraphed his next words, and she rushed to head them off. “And no, I’m not sorry and I don’t regret any of it and I choose to be here with you and . . .”
He kissed her again as they laughed against each other’s lips, knowing the old worries were habit with them, nothing more. Forgetting for a few joyous seconds that the others were well hidden in anticipation of trouble, they deepened their kiss, leaning back against the rough risers of the porch steps. This—the welcoming warmth of each other’s arms—was the only place they could lose themselves and leave their dangerous reality behind.
The group was almost to the clearing before Max and Liz were aware of them. Leaping to their feet, Max cursed his momentary lapse and faced the visitors, noting immediately the stranger among them. Holding tightly to Liz’s hand, they came down the steps, reining in their urge to rush to greet their families. As they scanned the row of eager faces, mirrors of their own excitement, nervousness, and need for reassuring contact, he could feel Liz fighting an overwhelming desire to throw herself into her parents’ arms in their first totally honest moment in years. That was a feeling he knew all too well.
But there was the matter of General Eric Christopher to deal with first.
As planned, Eddie had held all but Philip and the General back at the clearing’s edge. In this case, business had to precede pleasure, and they couldn’t let their guard down until some relationship had been established between these natural enemies—the hunter and the hunted.
As the two men stepped forward from the anxious cluster of parents, Max made eye contact with his father. He knew that expression—his father’s game face. It was a carefully constructed façade of calm and confidence that Max understood was only skin deep. His father wasn’t relaxed or confident; he was nervous. But their brief exchange told him something else, too. Philip Evans was overjoyed to see his son. The feeling was entirely mutual.
Exuding confidence he didn’t feel, Max forced his attention back to the stranger—obviously the General, though out of uniform. He approached the older man formally, assessing his expression, his posture, trying to divine his intent. He watched as the General did the same, poised for action, yet outwardly calm.
“I’m Max Evans. This is my wife, Liz.”
He saw his father start at the reference to Liz, and their eyes met. There was no recrimination there, only a small smile—awkwardness and happiness tugging with equal force. Obviously, it would take a while until their marriage felt real to parents who’d been cheated out of their children’s wedding.
“I’m told your son did our families . . . and us . . . a great favor. We’re grateful.”
The General nodded in mute acknowledgment.
“General, I’m sure my son would be willing to answer any questions you might have.”
Max stiffened, and Liz squeezed his hand. “I’d be happy to, as long as I get some answers in return.”
The set of his jaw and the unblinking directness of his gaze had their effect. His father was once again staring in surprise at his son, a man now in every way. And the General was taking it all in, a shadow of respect in his eyes.
“Fair enough, Mr. Evans. What would you like to know?”
“If you are the military liaison to the Special Unit, you know everything about their capabilities, their plans, and their motives. You know what they’ve done to me, and would most likely do again, given the chance. And yet here you are. I have to wonder why.”
“I’m sure you do.” He pondered his answer for long, uncomfortable seconds.
“I’ve been a soldier all my life, Mr. Evans, since long before you were . . . before you arrived here. I’ve learned a lot, but the one lesson that has been driven home to me over and over is that an enemy is usually just someone as scared as you are trying to stay alive. When my son described to me what he had heard in your girlfriend’s . . . pardon me, wife’s journal,” he continued with a nod to Liz, “I heard your fear through her words. I listened to the story about your saving her life in spite of the danger to your own; I heard how you bore your secret alone, even keeping it from your parents, to keep them safe. And I tried to put myself in your shoes—a soldier behind enemy lines just trying to stay alive.”
Max swallowed, taken aback by this stranger’s grasp of his life with so little to go on.
“But I also knew I’d seen that silver handprint in photos, on the bodies of people who didn’t deserve to die. I knew you weren’t just scared, you were dangerous, too. And that’s another lesson a soldier learns, that a scared man is the most dangerous kind.
“So I had two choices. The safest was to continue in my role directing the military side of the hunt for you and the others. The riskier path was to see for myself what we were up against—an option I never expected to have until your father suggested it.”
“And here you are,” Max said cautiously. “What made up your mind?”
Another long pause. “I have spent a lot of years away from my son. I’ve missed birthdays and soccer games and fishing trips. But in spite of that, I know what kind of man he is. He has more compassion, sharper instincts, and higher principles than any young officer I’ve ever met. He put his career on the line to protect you, and if he felt you were worth that, I felt I had to honor his sacrifice by at least finding out for myself.”
“I know how you feel,” Philip said quietly, drawing Max’s startled attention. His father’s eyes shone with pride and regret for lost time, and Max trembled with the effort of staying where he stood. Liz’s light touch on his arm settled him, and he heard her reassuring murmur direct his attention back to the General.
“Now I believe it’s my turn,” the General said.
Max nodded his assent.
“Give me one good reason why I should trust you.”
It was Max’s turn to take some time with his response. When he finally raised his eyes to the General’s again, there was a hint of a smile on his face. “We aren’t as different as you might think, General. You see your job as protecting the people of this country, or, in the case of alien invasion,” he whispered with exaggerated drama, “the whole world. On the other hand, I’m protecting my people, too. My sister and my friend have been carrying this burden of secrecy and fear just as long as I have. Now my wife and our other friends here carry it, too. But General, you couldn’t name one time when our special abilities have been used to harm anyone—except in self-defense—or commit any sort of crime.”
Both his father’s and the General’s eyebrows flew up, and Max’s cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Well, except Utah. But even that had nothing to do with stealing or harming anyone; I just needed to get at that ship.
“What I’m telling you, General, is that any one of us could kill you now. Or enter your thoughts. Or hold you here. But we won’t. Because we are half human, and we’ve been raised human. Our families are human, and our lives are here. We have nothing to gain by starting a reign of terror on this planet. We have to live here, too. We just want to do that peacefully and without fear.”
The General pursed his lips in thought. “And the victims with the handprints? What of them?”
“General, if the situation were reversed, and you were stranded on another planet, are there any people you know who you wouldn’t want representing the human race to a new species?”
The General finally hazarded a smile. “Several.”
The two men shared a long, intense look until a silent agreement seemed to be reached between them. Max offered his hand, and the General shook it.
“And now, General, we’d like to greet our families. I hope you won’t feel offended if my friend Michael keeps you company while we do that.”
“Of course not.”
On Max’s signal, Michael emerged from the woods, coming to stand next to General Christopher. His menacing look eliminated any potential for conversation, and they stood quietly to one side as Max, Liz, and the others turned to their families.
Chaos. Running toward each other with shouts of greeting and sobs of joy, the two generations merged into a muddle of hugs and kisses and questions and laughter. Jubilant chatter broke the stillness of the newly descended night, and weeks of revelation, worry, and sleeplessness flowed into tears of relief and thanksgiving. Once the initial flurry of reassuring embraces died down, two smaller groups broke off: Isabel, Max, and Liz with their parents; Maria—with Maya in tow—with her mother and Jim Valenti. Michael held himself stoically on the sidelines, conscious of his responsibility to guard the General, even as he watched Maria closely.
continued in next post
Posted: Sun Apr 06, 2003 10:54 am
Part 22 continued
She was cinched in a vice-like hug from her mom, who was alternately berating her for making her worry and kissing her through happy tears.
“Thank God you’re all right. I just knew that someday that boy would drag you off to who knows where. Have you been eating? You look pale. I know you’re sleeping with him. I hope you’re at least taking precautions. Do you need money? We brought some money and supplies and clothes. Couldn’t you have gotten word to me?”
“Mom. Mom!” Maria firmly set her mother away a few inches. “Mom, I’m fine. Michael is taking good care of me, okay? I’m eating, I’m healthy, and I’m not pregnant. I’m okay, okay?”
Her mother, temporarily silenced by the onslaught of reassurances, sighed heavily, and raised her hand to Maria’s cheek. “My baby, I can’t believe what you’ve been through. Why couldn’t you have come to me? Why didn’t you trust me to help you?”
Maria’s skeptical smile was all the answer she could manage before Jim burst into the conversation.
“Where’s Kyle?” he asked, frowning into the deep dusk for a sign of his son.
“He’s okay, Sheriff . . .”
“Deputy,” he corrected.
“Not to me,” she smiled, and he grinned back at her, pleased.
“Liz’s latest thing is visions, and she had a vision that Kyle got hurt tonight. So just to be safe, he’s well out of the way and doing a little security errand at the same time.”
“Like what?” Jim scowled.
“Like disabling the General’s car until we’re sure what his intentions are.”
“He’s back where we left the truck? I wanted to see him!”
“He’ll be there when you get back, Sheriff. He’s just as anxious to see you as you are to see him.”
Maria turned back around to see her mother marching purposefully toward Michael.
“Oh, man,” she groaned, and trotted after her. She saw Michael’s face grow wary, and she didn’t blame him.
Amy’s small frame looked all the frailer against Michael’s bulk, but he still took a step backward when she bore down within a few inches of him.
“You,” she said ferociously, poking a finger in his chest, “you better be taking care of my daughter, or I swear, alien or no alien, you will know a mother’s wrath, and believe me, there’s nothing in your arsenal that can beat it.”
Nothing could have been more absurd. Even the General was fighting a smirk at the David and Goliath scene in front of him. But Michael was still gaping at her, intimidated.
“Mrs. DeLuca, I’m sorry Maria’s in the middle of this, but I promise you, I’ll protect her with my life. I love her.”
Amy and Maria both stopped cold, as if the breath had been knocked clean out of them. Then Maria flung herself at Michael’s chest, and he stumbled back a half step before wrapping his arms around her.
“Michael, I can’t believe you just came out and said that to my mother! I love you, too, Spaceboy!”
Planting a kiss on the top of her head, Michael turned again to face Amy. Suddenly her threatening expression had melted into tears of released tension, relief, and gratitude.
“Michael, I’ve heard what Liz wrote about everything you all have been through,” she choked through her tears, “and I know I’ve been pretty hard on you, but I want you to know that I know you’re a good guy. Not that I approve of the car theft and kidnapping you’re prone to,” she warned sharply, then softened again, “but I know you mean to do right by my girl, and that means the world to me.”
She pushed up on her toes and kissed his cheek, taking him completely by surprise. He relaxed with a half-smile until she continued. “But so help me, if you get my daughter pregnant before you’ve got some kind of stability and a marriage license, I’ll find you and cut it off!”
He was back to intimidated, and could only nod as Maria took mercy on him and led her mother back toward Jim Valenti, answering her rapid-fire questions in as calm a tone as she could manage.
“Looks like you’ll have your hands full with that mother-in-law,” the General observed with a grin.
“Tell me about it,” Michael replied, then caught himself. “You’re here to observe.”
“Mind another question?” the General asked his shaken guard.
“Remember, I’m on a fact-finding mission here, Michael. I need to understand what I’m dealing with. I need to be convinced that you don’t represent any danger to the people of this planet.”
Michael wheeled on him with a threatening air. “And if you’re not convinced? You’ll just turn up the heat and drag us all in to be tortured and studied and killed? You don’t really think we’re going to let that happen, do you?”
“I thought you didn’t do harm to others,” the General challenged him.
“Except in self-defense.”
They glared at each other for several seconds, then the General shrugged. “My question has to do with sex.”
“Sex. Max and Liz are married. You apparently are sleeping with Maria. Isabel is married, too, right? I get the impression that the sexual relationships between species are compatible. But are they identical to human/human relations?”
“None of your damn business.”
“Yes, Michael, it is.”
Michael looked down at the slightly shorter man, then shrugged. “None of us have ever slept with anyone else, so I can’t compare it to human/human or even alien/alien, but I can tell you that it works the same, although I gather the effect is a little . . . heightened.”
“Really?” The General quirked an eyebrow and opened his mouth to speak.
“Subject closed,” Michael snapped.
As Nancy enfolded her daughter—her married, newly-blessed-with-powers daughter—in her arms, she shook with emotion.
“Liz,” she whispered hoarsely. “Thank God you’re all right.”
Liz felt the unexpected flood of tears burst from behind her tightly held control.
The two women held each other, a litany of unasked questions forgotten in the soul-soothing relief of their embrace. Never had they had so much standing between them and yet so much binding them together. They were meeting on a new plane, and for the moment, this contact was all they needed to find each other there.
Jeff blinked back his own tears at their reunion, feeling with sudden force the changes in their relationship. Reflexively, he reached for them, holding them both in his arms, impressing this moment into his store of cherished memories. Opening his eyes, he was struck by a similar scene taking place in the Evans family. He watched as Max kissed his mother and then fell into a bear hug with his father. The Evanses weren’t talking, either; they were just savoring the feel of their two children in their arms. Of course, they’d had a chance to talk about all this with their children before graduation, so the revelations of Liz’s journal had only clarified a story they’d already heard. Jeff, on the other hand, was seeing his daughter and her . . . husband . . . for the first time since the truth had changed his life.
He’d watched from a distance as Max talked to the General, a maturity in his carriage and voice that he’d never noticed before. And he hadn’t missed the intensity of the kiss they’d interrupted; clearly, the marriage was at least a short-term success. But Liz’s journal, combined with these new first impressions, was giving him a whole new perspective on this boy . . . this man. Max held Liz’s future happiness and safety in his hands, and for the first time, Jeff let himself believe that maybe he was up to the task after all.
Max must have felt Jeff’s eyes on him because he looked up from his father’s shoulder and met his gaze. Disentangling himself from the hug, he turned to face his father-in-law, reaching automatically for Liz’s hand. She took it, looking up at him with a happy glow, and Max caught her eye with a slight nod, as if acknowledging something she’d said, although no words were exchanged.
“Mr. Parker, I imagine you have some questions you’d like to ask.”
Jeff nodded. “About a million of them, but only one that needs answering right this minute.”
He saw Max brace himself, involuntarily holding his breath until Jeff turned instead to Liz. “Are you happy, honey? Are you still sure of your choices?”
Liz threw Max a radiant smile and then looked back at her father. “Max is my heart, Dad. I couldn’t be with anyone else. Yes, I’m happy, and completely, ecstatically sure.”
Jeff had no response to the glow of love and happiness in his daughter’s eyes, and he pulled her into a tight embrace, fighting the age-old jealousy a father feels when he knows that he must, indeed, share his daughter’s heart with another man.
Out of the corner of his eye, blurry with tears, he saw his wife approach Max, slowly, guardedly, and he released his daughter, unsure of how this would go.
He needn’t have worried. Nancy stopped in front of Max, lifting a shaky hand to his cheek. “My daughter is alive today because of you.” Her voice quivered with heavy emotion. “There’s nothing I can ever do or say to thank you for that.”
Max relaxed then, venturing a half-smile. “A purely selfish act, I assure you.”
He wrapped an arm around Liz and pulled her close. “She’s saved me in more ways than one, believe me.”
Philip and Diane watched with relief as a tentative new bond was born. Max and Isabel had spent a lifetime afraid that no one could accept them. Now, because of one instinctive act of love—love that had never been spoken of or touched, but only dreamed—new worlds had opened for all of them.
“Liz’s journal,” Nancy said timidly, reaching for Liz’s free hand, “it told us so much about what you’ve all been through, and revealed such amazing things that we never imagined, but . . .” Her fair skin darkened against the red hair, muted in the deep shadows of early evening. “But mostly it told us about you two, the love you share.”
Max and Liz exchanged an embarrassed look, knowing full well that details were recorded in that journal that far exceeded any information parents would normally know about their child’s love life. Still, they were glowing with pleasure that their parents could even begin to understand what they shared.
“I admit,” Nancy continued, pushing sound through a constricted throat, “it’s hard to imagine that two people so young and so different could find something as amazing as Liz described, but I can see, looking at you now, that it wasn’t Liz’s romantic heart or her imagination that wrote those words. It was real . . .”
Her voice gave out, and Diane took advantage of the break by coming forward to face Liz. She smoothed Liz’s hair back from her face in a motherly gesture, and groped for the words.
“Max has carried so much on his shoulders, more than we ever could have known. And I realize now that the only times he was ever truly happy and relaxed were the times things were good with you. I won’t pretend that I don’t wish I could have been there for him and for Isabel, but if not me, I can’t imagine anyone better for him than you.”
She leaned forward, kissing Liz on the cheek. “Welcome to the family.”
Her words hung in the air, a metaphorical arch through which this band of individuals—the victims of necessary secrets and disjointed loyalties—would emerge as one family, bound by understanding and purpose. It was a new day.
“They brought stuff for tacos!” Maria yelled with glee, already rummaging through the boxes. “I’m starved.”
The spell broken, the boxes were carried into the cabin amidst a more relaxed flurry of chatter, questions, and exclamations. Nervous giggles accompanied the alien heating of tacos; awe-filled gasps followed the required demonstration of rock blasting; tremulous smiles greeted the weed-turned-flower presentation to the moms. Even Maya offered a junior demonstration by slamming the cabin door shut with a wave of her hand. There were still plenty of stories to tell and answers to give, but new bonds would ease the way.
On the fringe, and still under Michael’s watchful eye, the General filed away his mental notes.
Kyle watched as his father moved down the overgrown path behind Eddie and the other parents. It was so good to see him, and he bit back the urge to call out. He knew he had a function to perform here, and he also knew the others were trying to protect him from the injury in Liz’s vision, but somehow it just didn’t seem fair that he had to stay behind when everyone else got to visit with their parents. His turn would come—they had promised him time when the parents returned to the truck—but still, he felt like he’d drawn the short end of the stick.
When the others were safely out of sight, he made his way to the deuce-and-a-half, still warm from the drive out. Opening the hood, he perused his options. Unhook the battery cables for sure, but maybe something else, too. The distributor cap? Or spark plugs? It had to be something he could repair quickly, but not so easy that if the General made a run for it, he could fix it himself before the others caught up with him.
Settling for all three, Kyle worked for several minutes before he heard the low hum of an engine. Slamming the hood closed, he grabbed his tools and bolted for the cave, peering out from a narrow ledge that hid his body, but not his view. The hum stopped abruptly, but he still couldn’t see anything. Minutes dragged out, and Kyle wondered if whoever was out there could hear his heart hammering so loudly, it fairly bounced off the cave walls. There was no way to reach the others, and even if there were, it would have made too much noise to go undetected.
Finally, a rustling in the underbrush drew his attention. Someone was walking parallel to the rough trail, obviously hoping to avoid detection. Kyle caught sight of movement in the trees opposite him and held his breath. His eyes strained to see what was out there, but without success. Had it not been for that engine he’d heard, he could have convinced himself that it was only an animal looking for its dinner.
A gasp caught in his throat when a figure emerged into the open, dressed in camouflage and carrying a pistol. The man was on the short side, round and solid, his face contorted into a menacing scowl. He peered inside the truck, then turned 360 degrees, looking for traces of a path. His eyes settled on the cave, and Kyle could have sworn the man looked right at him, but after a moment, he continued his search. There, on the far side, was a newly forged path where only crushed underbrush and freshly snapped branches broke the natural forest growth. He cocked his pistol and headed in.
Kyle lay frozen against the coolness of the ledge, the grit of eroding rock scraping his stomach where his t-shirt had ridden up. If he stayed put, the guy might just get lost out in the woods, but more likely he would return to this spot when the short path the General had created came to an end. Then he might spot the real trail, and it would lead him right to the clearing.
He had to warn them. Vision or no vision, he couldn’t leave them out there like sitting ducks. Assuming all had gone well with the General, they would be visiting now, thinking the danger was past for the moment. But if he didn’t go right now, the other guy would likely catch up with him, and Kyle had no weapons. Maybe that’s how he got hurt in Liz’s vision! Maybe this was just how it had played out the first time, and sending him out here to protect him had only served to make the vision a reality. Sighing in frustration, he slid off the ledge and crouched at the cave entrance. It was now or never.
Muscles tensed to spring forward, he almost launched himself right into the other man. Only the force of raw fear kept his legs in check when the man suddenly stepped into the open again, muttering obscenities under his breath. The original scowl had turned into a blotchy rage, and Kyle pressed himself desperately against the wall. Then, with his heart in his throat, he watched as the figure dove into a new path. The real path, leading right to River Dog’s cabin.
Up on the porch floor, Liz sat sandwiched between her parents, patiently answering questions and exchanging contented looks with Max, who was similarly situated. Isabel sat tucked under her father’s arm, with Max on the other side, cradling his mother, who didn’t quite have her tears under control.
Jim, Amy, and Maria had joined them, huddling against each other in the late evening chill. Slightly separated at one end, Michael continued his vigil over the General, who had been allowed to listen in.
During a brief lull in the conversation, which represented more of a post-adrenalin weariness than it did a lack of subject matter, Liz caught Max’s eye and they immediately focused completely on each other. Their occasional nods and oddly intent expressions soon had the attention of the whole group.
“Max?” Philip looked from one to the other, scanning the rest of the group to see if they thought this as odd as he did. They did.
“Max, what are you doing?”
Jerked from his concentration, Max looked at his father, startled. “Oh, sorry, Dad. Liz and I were just . . . we need your help with something.”
“Of course, son, but what were you just doing?”
Liz bit her lip and shrugged, looking rather guilty.
“You can communicate telepathically now, can’t you?”
It was Michael, peering knowingly at the two of them. “I thought I caught it a couple of times, but I wasn’t completely sure until just now.”
Max sighed. “Yeah.”
“Why the big mystery, Max?” Isabel asked, frowning. “It’s new, but not that surprising.”
Max looked cornered, and Liz’s smirk wasn’t helping. “Well, it’s not a secret, really. We just . . . it’s new and it came on gradually. At first, it was only . . . I mean, we didn’t mention it because it didn’t happen all the time. We wanted to see if it developed into something consistent—you know, that we could rely on—or if it was just an intermittent thing.”
“How did it start?” Maria asked. “Maybe Michael and I can try it.”
Liz’s eyes were wide with humor and embarrassment. “We didn’t expect it, Maria. It just caught us by surprise one day, and it’s been getting stronger.”
“Well,” Maria pushed, “what were you doing when it started? Maybe we can duplicate the circumstances.”
Deer in headlights. There was no good way to end this conversation. For all Michael’s lack of subtlety, however, he did have a talent for deduction.
“They were doin’ it.”
Every pair of eyes swung in his direction.
“Michael!” Maria swatted him.
“What? It’s the truth, isn’t it?”
He was the only person there who wasn’t avoiding everyone else’s eyes.
“Damn it, Michael!” Max closed his eyes and sighed, as if praying for patience. “The fact is, we did first notice it when we were . . . close, but the point is,” he continued, glaring at Michael, “that it’s been getting stronger, and now we can do it pretty much at will as long as we can see each other.”
“That’s amazing,” Philip breathed, still blown away by the barrage of revelations that never seemed to stop.
“Do you hear each other all the time?” Nancy asked, looking more than a little disconcerted.
“We’re learning to block each other sometimes,” Liz informed them. “It gets a little noisy in there with two minds talking at once. Besides, it’s nice to be able to keep a secret or two.”
Liz sent Max an image of their lovemaking from when she had blocked him a couple of days before, and every erotic move had been a surprise. He jerked with the memory, aroused and abashed simultaneously. Throwing her a warning about what he planned to do to her later, he smiled with satisfaction at her startled reaction, then turned calmly back to his parents.
“What we were talking about, though, was Zan,” he told them, serious again. “You know now that Zan isn’t my child. And we know he’s human, so if he’s Tess’s, she mated with a human. If he’s not Tess’s, she stole him from someone. I know he has a new family in New York somewhere, but we’re afraid that he belongs to a family closer to home, and that they’re out there, desperately searching for their son.”
His hands were curled into fists, and he took in a deep steadying breath. “I know what that’s like, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
Liz rose from between her parents and took the two steps to her husband, kneeling down to look in his eyes. The pain still lived, in spite of knowing the baby was not his. That hadn’t wiped away the memories of desperation and hopelessness, and she knew he was imagining how another young father could be feeling, terrified about the fate of his son. She held his face until he looked into her eyes, and the mesmerized group watched as she soothed him with wordless consolation.
Relaxing visibly, he pulled her to sit between his legs, wrapping his arms around her. “I was hoping that you, Dad, and maybe Jim, could look into any kidnappings of infants in New Mexico over the last few months. If there’s a way to locate his parents, he deserves that much.”
“And the adoptive family?” Diane asked, clearly imagining how she would have felt to have Max and Isabel wrested from her after they’d finally made a home for them.
“I know it would hurt,” Jim put in, “but we have to try, if there’s even a chance the baby’s parents are looking for him.”
“Of course, son. It’ll take some time, but I’ll see what I can find out. Jim, you can help, right?”
“I don’t want to be the one to say it, but we’re going to have to get back,” Jeff said. “It’s almost time for the diner to close, and I’ve gotta close out. I didn’t want to get someone else in off-schedule for fear it would raise too many questions about where we were going.”
“Wait, Dad!” Liz bounded to her feet and grabbed her father’s hand. “I have one more thing to ask you. Privately.”
She could tell Max was curious, probing her mind for an explanation, but she shut him out without a word, and pulled her father down the steps, apart from the others. Max was watching her, but she turned her back to him, bending her head so that her father had to crouch to hear what she was saying. Finally, he straightened, slipped something into his pocket, and smiled at his daughter, pulling her into one last hug.
A sense of relief and peace permeated the gathering as the parents descended the steps and began their round of goodbyes. It was all the more frightening, then, when a panicked shout shattered the serenity, and they turned as one to see Michael’s raised hand send the pistol flying from the General’s hands.
Posted: Sun Apr 13, 2003 10:30 am
I'm blown away!
For the first time (in my fics), a chapter has had over 2000 hits! I realize that may just be lots of people catching up and coming back LOTS of times to finish it, but still---COOL! :multi: And Thanks!
Now to a few comments:
of you are still trusting the General. Hmmmm. I must be telegraphing my punches.
: So what, now you're leaving pity
f/b? Somebody told
you to? Harumph.
: You followed your theory with "How did I do?" Answer: DAMN WELL!!!!
: You're new? WELCOME! So, you came because of Dreamer Holidays, huh? That's great, but as you've no doubt figured out already, this is a much different animal! Glad you're enjoying it.
: So many questions! Most will be answered in this part, but you make a very good point about the stupid Special Unit and wondering why an advanced civilization would send teens as a years-long advance team! LOL!
Okay, lots of you are worried that we're drawing to a close and are asking what's next?
Without giving too much away, I'll just say that yes, the Roswell portion of the story is drawing to a close. However, the kids will be going to Vegas after all, and although that part won't be nearly as long as this one, some important things will happen there before we say goodbye. So . . . a while longer, anyway.
Thanks to Debbi/Breathless
for the betas on the last few chapters.
Max turned immediately to cast his energy field around the huddled collection of bodies, suddenly quiet in their confusion and fear. Grunts and the dull sound of flesh struggling in close quarters drew their attention to Michael and the General, locked in combat, green and quivering through the protective shield. It wasn't until Amy let out a strangled gasp of surprise that Max tore his eyes away long enough to see the bullet plowing sluggishly through the undulating cushion around them.
"Duck!" he shouted, intensifying the shield with everything in him. The bullet slowed to a stop and began to sink to the ground.
Peering through the darkness, all the more difficult for the energy field, which interfered with light of its own, Max saw movement, vague and threatening, coming from the edge of the woods at the far side of the clearing. He couldn’t attack it without letting down his shield, but if he did that, he was endangering all those currently within it.
“You idiot!” The General was apparently less than pleased about Michael’s sudden use of powers against him. “I wasn’t aiming at anyone here! There’s someone in those woods!”
“He’s right, Michael!” Max shouted. “Let him go! There’s somebody else out there.”
Michael turned his attention toward the direction Max was pointing, leaving the General free to scramble after his missing gun. Max stole a glance at his family and the others, noting with some surprise that the men had surrounded the women in a defensive stance. Or tried to. Isabel was trying to explain in a pseudo-patient whisper that she was better equipped to deal with this crisis than the men, and Liz had already grabbed onto Max, attempting—inexpertly—to channel her own power to the shield. Max felt the hum of her energy mingle with his—short inconsistent bursts at first, then a steady flow, an extra current that added momentum and strength to his own, and he shuddered, fighting the sensation that something was crawling all over him.
“There!” Michael pointed, catching the flash as the figure fired another shot. This time, instead of penetrating the shield slowly, the bullet literally glanced off of it. Max looked down at Liz in surprise, and she beamed a proud smile at him.
“Cool.” The word was almost a giggle, and Max couldn’t help but smile back. He had no time for more. Michael and the General were crouched only feet away from the energy field, already moving in two different directions in an effort to corral the intruder. Max saw the General raise his gun when another figure caught his eye. This one was not attempting to be covert or quiet, though; this one was growling fiercely and running at full tilt.
“General, no!” Isabel screamed just as the General’s gun went off, and the second figure sailed through the air, almost parallel to the ground, arms outstretched. The sprawled landing was accompanied by muffled grunts and curses.
“It’s Kyle!” she whispered loudly, fear contorting her voice and face.
“Max, let us out of here!” Valenti was frantic to reach his son, but the energy field was unyielding, despite his efforts to shoulder his way through it.
“No! It’s all that stands between us and those bullets! If I let it down, we’ll all be vulnerable.”
The sounds of desperate struggle halted their conversation, and all eyes were on the shifting mass, as if a giant insect had turned on itself, fighting its own limbs in an outrageous attempt at self-destruction. Max could see Michael and the General circling wide, closing in a stealthy circle.
The mass became elongated, separating itself from the whole, and just that quickly, someone was running for the cover of the woods. Max pulled the shield inward, releasing the group, though only Isabel and Valenti reacted immediately, rushing to Kyle’s side. He was already upright when they reached him.
“I’m fine!” he panted, bending over briefly, hands on his knees trying to catch his breath. “We’ve gotta get him!” He took off running toward the spot where Michael and the General had already disappeared into the woods.
One would have thought a strange nocturnal marathon had been organized. The narrow path, dark and dangerous, if only because of the uneven ground waiting to claim an ankle or a knee, shook with the pounding of two dozen feet driven by fear into a blind stampede. Ahead of them, a man who could bring an end to their secret . . . their lives . . . fled in anonymity.
Dense foliage and a weak slivered moon had made targeting the shooter impossible. Michael cursed under his breath, frustrated by a rare feeling of helplessness that grew geometrically when the sound of an engine roaring to life reached their ears even before they emerged near the cave. Stumbling into one another as the frontrunners came to a halt, they faced the source of the sounds but saw nothing.
“Where’s that coming from?” Michael hissed into the darkness, wishing night vision were one of his gifts.
“It’s down the road. He parked out of sight and snuck up along the side of the path. He’s wearing fatigues and he’s got a gun.”
Michael pinned Kyle with a disgusted glare that made its recipient falter momentarily. “Yeah, . . . uh, I guess you knew that part.”
Then his chin came up, unwilling to be cowed in a time of crisis, even by Michael. “Look, I was coming to warn you when he came back down that faked path and found the real one. All I could do was follow him. Once I saw Max had everybody protected, I tackled him. Who the hell shot at me, anyway?” he asked, suddenly remembering to be annoyed.
“The General saw . . .”
His response was cut short as General Christopher climbed into the deuce-and-a-half, yelling instructions with accustomed authority.
“Aliens with me! The rest of you go back to the cabin until we get back!”
“Wait!” Kyle ran toward the truck and threw up the hood, reaching in to reinstate the many parts he’d disabled. He pushed the battery cables back in place, tightening quickly as the truck swayed under the weight of loading passengers. With a twist, he had the distributor cap in place.
“Get that hood down!” yelled the General. Unaware that the truck had been tampered with, the General turned the ignition, too distracted to register the chorus of warnings that assaulted him. A bloodcurdling scream pierced his narrow focus, and the old truck’s brief attempt to start up died with a harsh thunk.
Scrambling out of the truck, Max fell to his knees next to Kyle, who was white as a sheet except for the blood flowing freely from his partially severed hand. His body jerked in shocked spasms that were echoed in the choked gurgles from his throat. Jim threw himself down beside his son, looking in panicked expectation from Max to Kyle and back again.
General Christopher, uncomprehending horror on his face, blinked at the sight only long enough to push his confusion aside. Then he plunged into the truck, ripping open a compartment in the dashboard from which he pulled a first aid kit. His fingers fumbled with the clasp, and he mumbled obscenities under his breath.
“Max . . .”
Jim’s plea was as much a prayer as a question.
As the General looked up, the first aid box fell from his hands, belatedly spilling its contents across the ground.
“Look at me, Kyle. You have to look at me.”
Kyle was on the verge of passing out. Liz stroked the hair from his face, crooning meaningless comfort. His father shook him violently.
“Kyle! Look at Max! NOW!”
Glassy eyes fought from under heavy eyelids to locate Max. Instantly, Max made the connection, holding Kyle’s limp arm firmly against the shredded edges of his wrist. As the General watched, Max began to tremble and sweat, never taking his eyes from his wounded friend. Gradually, his breathing became labored—short, shallow gasps—and still he concentrated, undistracted by Maya’s terrified cries against Maria’s shoulder.
After a full minute of holding their breaths, a collective sigh escaped into the night as Max removed his hands to reveal the smooth, whole skin of a healthy arm. He fell backwards, panting and spent. Liz cradled him as tremors shook his body, and the tears she’d held in check during the crisis found their release. He lifted a shaky hand to touch her cheek.
“I’m all right,” he whispered, and she cried through her smile, chastising him without anger.
are trying to console me
? Max, you’re weak and exhausted. Let me help you, okay?”
Her smile was returned, shining with love in spite of the circumstances. “Yes ma’am.”
His gaze shifted back to Kyle. Jim, Amy, and Isabel were helping Kyle sit up, gingerly avoiding the site of the invisible wound. The bloody evidence of its existence still chilled them—his red-splattered shirt and pants only a foreshadowing of the pool of blood moving with thick fingers across the rock-hard ground . He’d lost blood. A lot of it.
“Max.” Diane’s single syllable was a sigh of utter disbelief, only she did believe it. She had to.
“That’s how you saved Liz,” Jeff stated, his voice a detached drone, acknowledging an impossible reality that had been just an impossible idea before.
With surprising presence of mind, Nancy left her husband’s side and knelt next to Max. Without a word, she leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek, mindless of the sweat that covered his face. Her eyes spoke volumes, though she remained silent. After a moment, she rose and returned to Jeff.
“I tried so hard to figure out what you were hiding, Max,” Philip said, shaking his head. “If I’d had any idea . . .”
The General had been all but forgotten until he fell against the truck with thud, pale and wide-eyed. Michael came out of his shock and started toward the General, again assuming his role as guard.
The General looked over at Max, and their eyes met. Max’s question was obvious: would the General see things any differently as a result of this, and if so, what would that difference be? This was more amazing than anything he’d seen yet, and although it wasn’t a bad thing, it was certainly fertile ground for intensive study—study best accomplished with the subject in captivity.
In spite of the steady gaze, the General was very aware of the fear behind Max’s unspoken question. Yes, the thought of all that humans could learn about these hybrids was tempting, and would further research in a hundred areas, not to mention his own value professionally. But he kept hearing Nate’s words: “They don’t deserve this, Dad. They just want to live their lives in peace. They’re the good guys, in spite of what others like them may have done. Please, Dad, let them be.”
And so he answered the question, unsure of what it would be until the words left his lips. “I’m so sorry. I’m responsible for your friend’s injury. I don’t know what happened, but that was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, Max. Amazing.” He took a step closer to Kyle and bent toward his healed arm. Michael followed at his elbow, hand tensed at his side. “I hope, someday, there’s a way to study what you can do without endangering you or your family.” He paused, looking back at Max. “But that time isn’t now.”
The subtext of his statement and the look they exchanged afterwards told Max all he needed to know. He rose unsteadily to his feet, Liz supporting him under one arm, and extended his hand to General Eric Christopher, his newest friend.
“Thank you. I appreciate that you were just trying to help. You couldn’t have known that we’d positioned Kyle in the cave to disable the truck, just in case you . . . had a different reaction to us than we’d hoped.”
The General raised his eyebrows in surprise, then smiled.
“I see. Smart move.”
“He was trying to fix it when you started the engine.” He frowned, looking over at the truck, hood up, blood evident on various and sundry parts.
“I still don’t know what sliced him, though. There shouldn’t have been anything exposed that could do that kind of damage.”
General Christopher frowned, too, peering under the hood. “This is an old truck, raped of useful parts that aren’t essential to its use. No doubt they took the fan housing out to replace a cracked one on another truck. Look, the fan’s totally unshielded.”
“What are we going to do about Kyle?” Isabel interrupted. She was relieved, too, but still scared for her closest friend. They had laid him back down when it looked like he was going to pass out.
“He needs blood,” Jim said, tension thick in his voice.
“But what kind?” Maria asked quietly.
What kind, indeed.
Kyle was a human, but an alien-healed human with who-knew-what changes already taking place in his bloodstream. They didn’t even know what, if any, changes were evident in Liz’s blood. Would straight human blood react badly with whatever newer form of blood now ran through his veins? Would it reverse the effects of alien-changed blood? And was that a good thing or a bad thing? Would hybrid blood be better? Or would that be too strong, to premature for Kyle, who had shown no evidence of change yet?
“Mine,” Jim answered.
All eyes swung toward him, waiting and hoping for an explanation that would give them an answer.
“Kyle and I have the same blood type—A positive. And Max has healed us both. Any changes that are headed our way should be having the same effect on both of us. Now Kyle’s a lot younger and was healed earlier, so if your theory is correct, I haven’t changed as much as he has, but at least the process has begun. It seems like the safest bet.”
After a small hesitation, Max looked at Liz. Another silent conversation was taking place, but even Michael refrained from comment this time. Then a quick nod of agreement.
“Agreed. But how? We can’t take him back to town. If there’s anything weird about his blood, the military will be notified and the Special Unit will be on us within hours.”
He glanced at the General, who gave him a grim nod.
“Take him to the cabin.”
Everyone whirled around in time to see River Dog and Eddie step from the trees. They had been watching the proceedings, completely undetected.
“I’ll go to the reservation’s infirmary and get what we need,” River Dog stated, broaching no argument.
He stepped toward the General and held out his hand for the keys. With only a moment’s hesitation, the General complied. There was a general sense of surprise as River Dog bent under the hood, made several adjustments, and shut it. Then, swinging up into the driver’s seat, he started the engine, causing a collective shudder to travel through the group.
River Dog’s action snapped parents and children into action as well. Incredulity would have to wait; Kyle needed help.
“We’ll have to carry him,” Philip began. “At least we don’t have the wound to worry about, but he’s awfully weak.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a white glow. Turning toward it, he watched in amazement, again
, as Michael transformed a fallen tree into a crude backboard. Once done, he carried it to Kyle’s side. Shrugging off the new wave of awe, they bent to their work.