A Dupe's Responsibilty (UC,Z/L/M,MATURE) Ch 21 - 02/18 {WIP}

This is the place where fics that have not been updated in the past three months will be moved until the author asks a mod to move them back to an active board.

Moderators: Anniepoo98, ISLANDGIRL5, truelovepooh, Forum Moderators

User avatar
AweInspired
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun Nov 04, 2001 3:52 pm

A Dupe's Responsibilty (UC,Z/L/M,MATURE) Ch 21 - 02/18 {WIP}

Post by AweInspired » Sun Apr 27, 2003 12:05 am

<b>A Dupe's Responsibility</b>

<b>Rating: </b> MATURE
<b>Category: </b> UC Z/M/L
<b>Summary: </b> Zan has a role to play in the future of the pod squad.
<b>Author's note: </b> I've been inspired by so many other authors' works on this board that I wanted to give it a try. It's fun to bring to life a story of your own with such rich characters. Plus, there could never be enough Zan fics to suit my taste.
<b>Disclaimer: </b> I am borrowing the characters from UPN/Jason Katims but the plotline is my own.

<b>CHAPTER 1</b>

Zan watched her as she stepped onto the bus and hesitate when her foot hit the first step. He saw her take a longing look over her shoulder and from his vantage point, she seemed to sigh softly, almost resignedly. She then shifted the duffel bag higher on her shoulder and turned quickly into the bus taking the steps quickly. Through the multiple dirty windows, he could dimly see her form walking down the isle and slide into a seat.

As the bus' engine started roughly, Zan saw her look out the window but her expression was unreadable from this distance. The bus slowly pulled away and slid into traffic with a roar. He sighed and then turned away. There were a few things left that he needed to do. A little more information that he had to gather before he stepped into a role that he was reluctant to take on. Being a teenager was one thing. Being an alien was another. Being the dupe of an alien king on top of that made life just a bit rockin'. However, his responsibilities to his king were his current worries. He felt that his future actions were somehow important in the outcome over the following weeks. He wasn't quite sure what influence he would have on the future, but he knew that whatever happened, he had a part in it. Isn't that why he was manufactured, essentially duped from a dupe?

He shoved his hands in his ratty black jeans' pockets, stepped over the curb and across the street to a black VW van. He unlocked it quickly by waving his hand over the handle and jumped into the seat. His next priority was to see to Max. The stereo blared to life with Metallica's "Whiskey in a Bottle" and he slammed on the accelerator, screeching out into the street.

**********

As Max read Liz's letter, he felt his stomach drop lower and lower until when he finished, there was just a lead ball pretending to sit where his stomach usually resided. He slowly dropped his hand with the letter still in it and stared mutely into Michael's apartment. The afternoon light filtered slowly in but he didn't really register it. His thoughts were on Liz and memories shimmered across his field of view. They were great memories of Liz laughing or shyly smiling while hiding behind her curtain of hair. The lead ball turned into a hard pit of ice as realization slowly seeped into his body. She left. She left Roswell. She left him.

He slowly entered the apartment and sat roughly on the sofa. At that moment, he felt two strong emotions. Sadness and fear. The sadness was that she was gone. She was able to leave him in the middle of all of this mess with her developing alien powers. She left him to be alone and to face this crisis by herself. Didn't she know that he would do anything to help her?

He sighed. Of course, she knew. That was why she left. She didn't want his help. She preferred to do this one alone and his gut wrenched at the thought that she didn't just want to do it alone – she wanted to do it away from him. This was a conscious decision on her part to remove herself from his life. This reminded him of the previous time she left him after the orbs revealed their reasons for being on Earth. She had been so strong during that time, even leaving to go to Florida in order to make the split more final. It had taken him almost a full year to win her back.

The fear was that Liz's developing powers were such an unknown. What would they do to her human body? Was her body physically transforming so that she would be like him or was it something different? Would she be able to control them? He had failed in trying to suppress them. The only obvious thing was that the process couldn't be halted and his very presence caused her physical pain. Why? If she were "changing" into something like him, wouldn't he be able to aid it? He thought of the old "oil and water" simile and it seemed to fit. But why? He groaned in frustration. There were always so many questions with so very few answers. He felt so adrift and so inadequate.

Max leaned forward and put his head in his hands. This last year was not one that he wanted to repeat. It had been too grueling and too heart wrenching. Scenes of Liz and Kyle in bed together, fighting alien enemies, Alex's death and Tess' treachery flitted through his mind. Then also his own treachery and moments of weakeness. He squeezed his eyes shut as his past mistakes replayed over and over. He ground the heels of his hands into his eyes and curled up in a ball on the couch and just rocked.

**********

Zan watched his dupe sink into the couch. He was crouched down in some bushes near the entrance of the apartment. The sun was almost down and the desert air was becoming chilly. It didn't compare, though, to the images rushing through his head. Max's life spread out before him as his king rehashed his life. It didn't take a lot of energy to read Max's thoughts. It was really quite simple and quite useful. However, the pain that radiated through his body almost made him growl. Flashes of Max and Liz in the highlights of their relationship, their quiet and seductive courtship, the joy of being together openly. These images changed to darker memories of Liz leaving Max to his destiny, of Liz's supposed betrayal, of Max's stressful relationship between Isabel and his parents. Then suddenly a vision of Max and Ava flashed before his eyes, a night of reluctant passion and the horror of waking up the next day. Zan's intake of breath was involuntary and he grimaced as searing guilt shot through his veins. Then an image of Max with Ava in a small cave as he threatened her life and then her departure from Earth. Zan immediately severed his connection with Max and rocked back on his heels.

"That bitch," he muttered. He knocked his head against the cement wall and looked up to the stars. "Baby, revenge'll neva be so sweet." He sneered at the sky and unconsciously flexed his fingers. A noise to his left made him snap his head in its direction. Rath was walking up and Zan quickly put up a shield to hide himself. Rath, or Michael as they called him, came to sudden halt and warily looked around. Zan held his breath, not wishing to force an encounter so soon. Michael's gaze pierced the growing dark passing over him without slowing. Slowly shaking his head, Michael continued on to the open door of his apartment.

Instantly on alert, Michael cautiously looked in and discovered Max inside. Rushing forward, Zan heard Michael exclaim, "Max! What's wrong?" Zan watched as Max swung his legs around to a sitting position and faced Michael.

"Liz left," he said simply.

Michael closed the door behind him.

Zan slowly rose to his feet maintaining his shield. He walked down the path and out into the street. Max was in good hands, he thought. That Michael was a wary one with fighting instincts. His king would be fine with a warrior like him at his side.

As he walked quickly down the street staying under the deepening shade of the trees, he dropped his shield. Down the next block he found his van and hopped in. The engine sputtered and then fired. He cranked the wheel and made a U-turn on the quiet residential street.

It was time to catch a bus.

User avatar
AweInspired
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun Nov 04, 2001 3:52 pm

Post by AweInspired » Sun Apr 27, 2003 12:07 am

<b>CHAPTER 2</b>

He caught up with the bus as it pulled into a rest stop just outside of Indianapolis. He had been tailing it for a good three hours not worrying about staying hidden. The bus parked in one of the oversized spots and opened its doors. Zan pulled in about four spaces to the right and turned off his engine. He peered through his dusty windshield looking for her. She was one of the last people to exit the bus and he watched as she wearily brushed her hair back from her face. She wrapped her arms around her body in an attempt to stay warm and quickly walked into the entrance of the rest stop's diner.

Zan opened his door and followed her a good twenty paces behind. He watched as she entered the swinging doors to the women's restroom so he leaned against one of the beeping arcade machines. His muscles were tense as he folded his arms against his chest. From the corner of his eye, he caught a blur of movement and he snapped his head around. A guy in his twenties with long hair and punked out clothes approached him and said, "Dude. You got a cigarette I can burn?"

Zan looked him up and down, finally leveling his gaze on the guy's face. "Na, I don't smoke."

The guy looked surprised, taking in the tattoos, piercings, and ratty clothes. He noticed the purple spiked hair and unkept stubble on Zan's face and responded, "Sorry, man. I saw the zippo and just assumed." He pointedly looked down at the lighter hanging from a chain attached to Zan's pocket.

Zan looked at him warily but didn't say anything. The guy persisted. "You sure you don't got a smoke 'cause I'm really dyin' here."

Zan glared at him and leaned forward slightly. "Yo, I said no the first time." He turned his back to the moocher and said, "Get outta my face."

"Man, you ain't gotta be so up and bitchy about it." Zan's shoulders tensed and his fists clenched. The street instinct in him flared to life and his temper soared. Knowing that a confrontation right now would do more harm than good, he slowly rotated and took a step towards the guy. When he was but a few inches from his face, he curled his lips into a sneer and in a low, raspy voice, snarled, "I said, get…outta…my…face."

The man looked at the controlled fury burning from Zan's dark eyes and instinctively took a step back. He mumbled an apology before turning and quickly leaving the building. Zan swung back around, the incident already forgotten, and leaned back against the arcade game as he looked for her. His eyes found the restroom door again and then scanned the eating area. He found her in line ordering food.

Pushing himself off the machine, he sauntered slowly in her direction. He got in line about four people behind her and listened as she ordered a hamburger and a coke. She paid the clerk, grabbed the food and turned around. Zan quickly put his back to her as she walked by him, her swinging coat brushing against the back of his legs. After a few seconds, he swiveled around and his eyes followed as she sat at a table in the corner of the restaurant. He noticed that she sat as far away from other people as possible and faced the window so that she could keep an eye on the bus.

He had to admit that some of his tenseness was the upcoming confrontation. He had to approach her in a way that wouldn't scare her off. Although he knew a lot about her from his surveillance over the last couple of weeks in Roswell and also from Max's images, he wasn't sure how she would handle seeing him, Max's dupe. He knew that she was a strong woman and very analytical but he also understood her current situation. He interpreted this move to Vermont as a way for her to escape the inevitable so bringing it back up in her face would probably trigger some hostility. Hell, he couldn't blame her. He had tried to put the alien shit behind him for most of his life.

Well, nothing like getting the inevitable over with.

He moved to her table and approached from behind. He hesitated a moment and then rushed onward. He sidestepped around her, grabbing a chair and sitting backward, faced her direct on.

He watched as her eyes grew round with recognition and her mouth hung open in the middle of chewing a bite of her hamburger. She slid her chair unconsciously back an inch as her hand went quickly to her face in an obvious gesture of surprise. She blinked once and then inhaled quickly which was a poor choice. Suddenly, she began choking on her food and both hands came up to her mouth as she started coughing violently.

Zan began to worry that he would have to do something to help. Tears were beginning to stream from her eyes as she tried to get her breath. He had just started to rise to assist her when she finally got herself under control. She reached for a napkin, coughed a couple of more times, and then took a quick sip of her coke. Then she looked at him again.

"Zan?", she whispered.

"Da one and only." He couldn't help but smirk with amusement at her obvious surprise. Hell, at least she hadn't bolted yet. "And you gotta be Liz."

She continued to stare at him, unwilling or unable to initiate the next step. He watched as she tried to compose herself by sitting straighter in the chair and pushing a wisp of hair behind her ear. Zan mused that the view up close was better than from his usual place from behind bushes, cars, or building corners. She wasn't his type but she was definitely easy on the eyes. He could tell that she was checking him out and he guessed that she was making comparisons between himself and Max. He knew it must be weird to be faced with an alter-identity of your boyfriend - especially when the dupe looked as rough as him.

Her intense gaze began to make him uncomfortable so he decided to take the next step. "Yo, I know this is a surprise and all, but ya gotta sit tight and listen." He watched as one of her eyebrows shot skyward and then her eyes narrowed perceptibly. She still didn't say anything. He had to give her credit that she had enough composure to be quiet and not throw a fit.

"I gotta lot to say. There's a lot goin' on that you ain't aware of so you just hafta listen, 'kay?" He paused trying to think of how to continue. One of his hands nervously began stroking his chin. He noticed her eyes watching his movements and he self-consciously brought his hand down. "As you know, I'm Max's dupe and-"

"Obviously."

"Yeah, well, what I'm tryin' to get at here is… well, the reason you is seeing me sittin' here has to do wit… Na, na, let me back up." He wasn't presenting himself well. Now that he was faced with this moment, the words weren't coming as he planned. He never was one for conversation but he never acted like a fool. "Yeah, well, what I'm gettin' at is this…" He faltered again and looked quickly to the table and sighed heavily.

"Why are you here?" Liz asked suddenly. "That might be a good place to start. Like, how are you alive and why are you following me?"

"Hey, I ain't following you," Zan defensively spit out.

"Yeah, OK. So you always visit this particular rest stop on a Sunday afternoon? C'mon, be real."

"Yo, I got my reasons."

"I'm sure," she said quietly, looking at him intently. Her forgotten food was growing colder by the minute.

He watched her face as several emotions slid over it. She blinked rapidly and then pursed her lips. Then she suddenly reached for her jacket and rose from the seat.

"You know, I'm sure that you have a good reason to be here, but I don't want to get mixed up in whatever…well, whatever it is. I'm trying to move on and this…situation doesn't have to involve me." She took one last look and then turned away.

Zan's hand snatched out and grabbed her bare arm. She flinched away but his grip was firm. He applied more pressure and forced her around to look at him. He could see a tinge of fear in her face, which suited him fine. He had to get her to listen to him and he would resort to intimidation if that were what it took. So he curled his lip in a sneer and said menacingly, "Yo, sit back down. I ain't finished. Hell, I ain't even started."

She tried to yank her arm away but he wouldn't let go. She slowly sank back down to her seat with a mixed look of fear and disappointment. She clutched at her jacket and bent over slightly.

"I'm going to miss my bus," she said quietly.

"Nah, you got plenty of time. See, it hasn't gone nowhere." He pointed out the window and the bus sat quietly, still empty of passengers.

He slowly released her arm and leaned back in his chair. He slouched down, getting comfortable. They would probably be here for a while. He eyed a comfy booth longingly but then shifted his gaze back to Liz. She sat hunched over her bunched coat and looked rather pathetic.

"Yo, ya don't gotta look like I'm Death comin' to visit."

Liz looked up and said, "Yeah, well. I kinda feel like that's the right metaphor."

He cocked his head. "Whattya mean?"

Her eyes shifted left and then right before settling on him. "I mean that I don't want this to happen. I was on that bus to go to Vermont so that I could leave this kind of thing behind." She looked around again before softly adding, "You know, the alien thing."

He smirked and kicked back a bit further in the chair. He crossed his arms in front of him and spread his legs wide. It was amusing how covert she acted. "Baby, you ain't never gettin' away from this 'alien thing'. It's in your blood now and we both know I ain't talkin' metaphors this time." He dipped his head forward and looked in her eyes knowingly.

Her sharp intake of breath and widening of eyes gave him some satisfaction. He had one-upped her, catching her off guard. He leaned back again, satisfied.

"What do you know?"

"I know enough to have found ya here. I know enough to tell ya that ya can't run from this one. It will follow ya like yer damn shadow…tho it won't leave when the lights go out." He gave a sexy, sly smile that made her squirm uncomfortably in her seat. "Anyway, ya need help - that's obvious."

"What's your role in this, then? Why are you here?"

"The reason be my own, sweets. However, I got answers you need right now." He looked away from her and scanned the diner. There were only a few people left munching on their food before hitting the expressway again.

She sighed and leaned back in her chair. She shook her head in disbelief and muttered, "Another conspiracy of fact hiding." She looked at him and saw him raise his eyebrows questioningly. He watched her as she openly regarded his pierced eyebrow. He made his eyebrow dance teasingly until she turned away. She continued, "What I mean is since this whole thing started, we've run into people who have had answers. But they rarely passed them on and always kept us in the dark. It seems that we are always one step behind everyone else."

"Ya talkin' 'bout Nascedo and Ava?"

"Well, yeah, but we called her Tess, not Ava." Her eyes snapped to his and quickly asked, "Speaking of Ava, how's she doing?"

"Don't know," Zan answered cryptically. "I ain't seen her."

"Well, what about Lonnie and Rath?"

His eyes shifted again warily scanning the diner. "I ain't seen Lonnie neither."

He could tell she noted that he purposely left out Rath. Well, that would come later. He watched as she looked out the window, searching out the bus.

She sighed again and said, "Look, I'm still in the dark here. You obviously know something but you're not sharing it with me. Do you have answers about Max, Michael, and Isabel? What do you know of Khivar? What about Tess? Did she make it back to Antar or did her little spaceship miss the left turn at Albuquerque?"

He shifted nervously in his seat and couldn't help but spit out tersely, "Would ya like to say that louder so da whole human race can hear? Jesus, yer talkin' like yer relatin' yer Sunday visit to mass!"

"Well what do you expect? I tell you about how everyone withholds information from us and you sit there smug obviously not too anxious to part with your library of knowledge!" Her voice continued to rise until at the end she was nearly shouting.

Zan raised his arm and motioned for her to quiet down. "Ya don't think I'm gonna lay it all out on the table here in this little podunk excuse for a coffee shop, do ya? I got more sense than that and you should too. Ya gotta learn to pick yer battlefield."

"What? Is this lesson number one in 'How to be a proper alien'? You can't barge in on me like this and expect me to roll over with gratification. I don't want this." Liz stood up for a second time and repeated firmly, "I don't want this."

He looked up at her as she tried to unsuccessfully tower over him. He slowly stood up and took a step until he was looking down in her face. He noticed that she stood her ground though her lip trembled. He cocked his head and said, "So what? Yer gonna run?"

She met his eyes and said, "I have to catch my bus. I'm sure that it's going leave any minute now." She went to turn around but he caught her arm again, more gently than the last time.

With his back to the window, he said quietly, "What bus?"

Liz opened her mouth to shoot a snide reply but then she looked around the restaurant. There were only two other tables with patrons. She sidestepped around him and peered out the window.

The bus was gone.

User avatar
AweInspired
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun Nov 04, 2001 3:52 pm

Post by AweInspired » Sun Apr 27, 2003 12:09 am

<b>CHAPTER 3</b>

Max paced the floor. He rubbed the back of his neck roughly and winced at the tight muscles his fingers found. Continuing to rub them, he shuffled over to the fridge and opened the door wide. He stared at the contents numbly, not really seeing.

Michael watched Max from the couch. He shook his head and sighed heavily. "Maxwell, get your nose out of the fridge. You're not going to eat anything anyways and you're just running up my electric bill."

Max leaned heavily on the refrigerator door and peered closer, mainly for the benefit of Michael. He knew that he wouldn't eat anything, not when his stomach was a nest of knots but he didn't want to give Michael the satisfaction.

"Hey, Max! C'mon, man. You're not fooling anyone."

Max sighed and closed the door. He distractedly ran his fingers over the front of the door where the group prom picture was hanging precariously by a Spiderman magnet. He righted it and stuck the magnet over Michael's face. He felt some fleeting satisfaction as though he had just won a small battle.

"Damn it, Max. This is getting old."

Max raised his arm and pinched the bridge of his nose. "You know, Michael. You nag like an old woman."

"Yeah, well. You brood with the best of 'em." Michael smiled at his quick comeback. It had been a depressing sixteen hours since he had come home and found Max curled up on his couch. His nerves were getting frayed watching Max wander aimlessly around the apartment. It normally wouldn't bother him so much except that it reminded him of the way he acted after Maria left him. He frowned at the thought and unconsciously began to rub the back of his neck.

"How did we get like this, Maxwell?" Michael asked quietly.

Max huffed but didn't reply. He began pacing again.

"I mean, first I don't want anything to do with the humans. Then I get all caught up in this thunderstorm of a relationship. The next thing I know I'm leaving you and Isabel at the altar to face God knows what back on Antar. Then I get dumped. I mean, what's the sense in this? Where did it get us?" Michael snorted and then shot up off the couch. He began to pace in the opposite direction of Max.

Max didn't answer but continued his wandering.

"It just blows, I tell you. It blows righteous."

Without looking up, Max said, "We've lost control. That's what happened. Before I saved Liz in the Crashdown, we dictated our every move. We got to make our choices without them affecting anyone else. Now, every time we turn around, something new pops up. It's like juggling a thousand things and trying not to let one of them hit the floor."

"Tell me, Max. What do you want right now?"

Max paused and looked down at the floor. His eyebrows scrunched together as he thought hard. "I want to be a good leader. I want to quit screwing up all of the time. I want to be able to balance this whole alien thing with my life here. I don't want to turn my back on my ancestry any more but yet I don't want to give up my human life."

Michael swung around to face him with an incredulous look on his face. Max looked at him and asked, "What?"

"You just surprised me, that's all. I expected you to spout off something about Liz."

"Well, Liz is a big part of the juggling act. I won't lie - she is the most important thing to me here on Earth. But I have also come to realize that I want to know this other side of me. I need to know."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. I mean, I've experienced the same thing, just in reverse." Michael ran his fingers through his hair in exasperation.

"How about you?" Max asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, what do you want right now?"

Michael hesitated and then said quietly, "I want Maria." Max gawked a bit and then a smile crept slowly over his face.

"I feel like were in the Twilight Zone right now."

Michael huffed in agreement. "Then how do we get ourselves out of Wonderland?"

"I don't know but being cooped up here isn't doing it."

"Yeah, let's get out of here."

**********

Walking down the street, Michael kicked a pinecone into the gutter. "So, why did she leave?"

"To deal with this on her own. Every time I came near her, her powers went haywire and caused her pain."

"But why would you affect her like that? I mean, we don't short-circuit each other. If she is becoming like us, why would having one of us near screw her up?"

"I don't know."

"It must be because we were engineered and she wasn't. Maybe she's missing a few parts. It's not like she was built with a schematic like us."

Max smiled at the comparison of their rebirth to a machine engine. He had never thought of if that way but on some level, it made sense. Their bodies were the engines and their souls were the gasoline. It was sort of sad to break it down into parts like that.

"Max, why did you sleep with Tess?" Michael asked suddenly.

"I don't know," Max answered lamely. After a few moments, he continued. "I'd like to say that it was because I wanted to or even because our alien biological drive forced me to. But in the end, neither of those answers would be the truth. After I thought Liz slept with Kyle, things just became…"

"What! Liz slept with Kyle? What the hell are you talking about?"

"Well, Liz made me think that Kyle and her…well, you know."

"What do you mean 'Made you think'? She tricked you?"

"Yeah, sort of. But you know, I've never understood why. I mean, I know it was to push me to Tess but…" Max trailed off slowly.

Michael stopped in his tracks and faced Max. "Why would she do that? To what purpose? Liz loves you." Michael ran his fingers through his hair again obviously frustrated.

"I don't know, Michael. I just told you."

"Didn't you even ask her why?"

Max frowned and answered, "No, I haven't." His eyebrows formed a severe vee and his frown deepened.

Michael gestured wildly. "Are you crazy, man? That would have been the first words out of my mouth." He spun in a half circle showing his back to Max. "Liz wouldn't have done it unless it was for a reason. She's too methodical."

Max watched Michael's back and noticed how he took deep, measured breaths in order to control himself. He knew Michael was thinking hard but Max couldn't follow where he leading.

"Maxwell, answer yes or no to the following questions." After a few moments, Michael took Max's silence for acquiescence.

"Do you love Liz?"

"What? Of course."

"Do you love or have you ever loved Tess?"

"No."

"Would Liz ever knowingly hurt you unless there was a solid reason?"

Max frowned again. "No."

"Are you the type to spontaneously sleep with someone, like a one night stand?"

"Of course not."

Michael turned to face him and swept his arm in a big circle. "Well, Maxwell, I wasn't a genius in school but do the damn math! These incidents, these situations just don't add up. Don't you see it? They have to be connected somehow. You and Liz are the two most rational people I know and here you are acting like you're in an episode of Dallas or something!"

Max shook his head in frustration and then brushed his temple with his fingertips. He squeezed his eyes shut trying to follow the logic. He felt like the answer was there but it continued to elude him.

"Max, you idiot. Don't you see it?"

"Yeah, well, when you spell it out like that, it does seem a bit…"

Suddenly, a man stepped out from behind the hedge lining the sidewalk. Max still stood with his eyes shut tight fighting with his thoughts. Michael took a startled step toward the person and instinctively raised his hand. Without warning, the man swung his arm up and revealed a small gun in his hand.

Michael let out a startled cry. "Max!"

Max turned around quickly so that both he and Michael were facing the assailant. Somehow, they both felt this wasn't a typical mugging.

The man waved his gun and said, "Step out of the way. I just want the king." Both Michael and Max stiffened at the royal reference. Michael took a protective step in front of Max and raised his arm again. Sensing the move, Max immediately summoned his energy. Suddenly, without another warning the man fired. Michael let out a blast while Max instantly put up his shield. As the green field surrounded Michael and himself, the bullet harmlessly deflected off the surface. The man dodged Michael's shot and fired several more times, each of the shots falling uselessly against the impenetrable wall.

The look of surprise on the man's face was almost laughable if Max's heart wasn't in his throat. His body trembled from the effort and from the sheer adrenalin rush coursing through his veins. Sensing Michael's next move, he quickly lowered the shield as Michael got off another shot. This time the man wasn't fast enough and the energy blast hit him in the lower gut forcing him backward through the air. He landed with a loud grunt half on the street and half on the sidewalk.

Michael circled warily around Max looking for other threats. Sensing none, he moved to the downed man and kneeled next to him. Max stood behind Michael and leaned over his shoulder. The man was muttering and looking to the sky. "They told me your powers weren't fully developed."

"Who told you?" Michael demanded.

The man, obviously hurt badly, grimaced but kept quiet. He continued to look upwards at the sky.

"Tell me! Who sent you after us?"

The man turned his head and looked at Michael for the first time. "I'm not going to tell…" and then he choked up a small bit of blood. He coughed violently.

"You better talk," Michael threatened. He held his hand over the man's body in a bold gesture that meant only one thing.

The light was slowing fading from the man's eyes. "I won't tell you," he managed to whisper. Both Michael and Max leaned closer so that they could hear his words. "But know that your woman is going to die." He sputtered up blood again. Michael looked over his shoulder at Max with a worried look.

Max spoke with dread. "Whose woman?"

The man grimaced again. His eyes closed. "She will never develop. She will never become…" Then he coughed up more blood and his head slowly tilted to the side.

Max straightened and scanned the area around them. Without looking at him, Max whispered, "Michael, turn him over."

"What?"

"Just do it." This time the tone was venomous.

Michael did as he asked and then gawked as Max stepped around him and savagely stomped on the man's back. The body quickly evaporated to dust. Michael had never seen Max act so violently. But then again, he understood.

Their enemies were after Liz.

User avatar
AweInspired
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun Nov 04, 2001 3:52 pm

Post by AweInspired » Sun Apr 27, 2003 12:10 am

<b>CHAPTER 4</b>

Liz stomped her foot and then threw her coat to the ground. "I can't believe this!" she shouted. She threw her hands up at the sky beseechingly. "Why? Why does this always happen?"

After looking through the window and noticing that her bus was missing, she had run full tilt out of the diner hoping to catch it as it was pulling out of the parking lot. When she reached the outside sidewalk, however, it was obvious that it was long gone.

Zan had followed slowly behind and was currently leaning against the pole supporting the awning to the restaurant entrance. He had one leg crossed over the other and was obviously smug about the present situation. He had both of his hands jammed into the pockets of his ragged, baggy black jeans and was chewing on a toothpick that hung lazily out of the corner of his mouth.

"Why?" she demanded again at the sky. Obviously, she wasn't going to get an answer but it just felt good to scream out her frustrations. She let her hands drop to her sides and whirled on Zan.

"That was a lousy trick! All of my bags were on that bus. And Vermont…" She put the heel of her hand to her head just realizing the full extent of her ordeal. "And Vermont. My God, what am I going to do now?" She slowly sank to her knees. "I had it all planned," she whispered.

Zan pushed away from the pole and sauntered over to her. She looked up at him and winced a bit as the similarities between him and Max hit her full on again. When she had first seen Zan, she knew it wasn't Max but it startled her tremendously. As Zan had talked, she had watched him closely and to see Max's eyes have a hard tint and to see Max's lips sneer was unsettling. It was almost as if someone had pasted Max's features on another's body and then distorted them. It was uncanny, though, to see some of the same mannerisms interlaced with steel. It was like meeting up with a distant relative that looked and moved the same but obviously exhibited a completely different personality.

"Ya gotta get up."

"Why?" She knew she was repeating herself but she didn't care.

"'Cause it's freezin' and we gotta get movin'."

"Where are we 'movin'' to, may I ask?" She slurred out the word, mimicking his accent sarcastically. "I'm assuming that you aren't offering me a lift to catch my bus."

He ignored the barb. "Nah, we got more important things goin' on."

"What if I say no?" She was almost beyond caring now. She had once again lost control of her life.

He towered over her and said, "I'm not givin' you that option."

"Of course not," Liz responded sarcastically. She looked up at him, sighed and then reached her arm up searching for assistance. Zan smirked and then bluntly turned away. He strolled over to a VW van parked a few spaces over and opened the driver's side door. He turned back to face her and said, "Ya comin' or what?"

**********

When she slid into the passenger seat, she glanced around the interior of the van. It was obvious that Zan used it as a house on wheels. In the back, there were stacks of cheap storage boxes with drawers. There was a thin full size mattress with rumpled bedding tossed haphazardly on it. Next to it, there was a shallow metal box welded to the side of the van with what looked to be an alarm clock and various items of jewelry sitting neatly inside. She leaned further between the two seats and noticed two large Igloo coolers behind each. There were no obvious signs of decoration - it was sparse but functional.

"Gettin' a good peep?"

Liz jumped a bit at hearing Zan's voice so close to her ear. She swiveled in her seat and faced forward. She heard him chuckle and watched as he waved his hand over the ignition. The van rumbled to life. He turned toward her and said, "Ya ready for a road trip?"

"No," she replied bluntly.

He chuckled again and mashed the stick-shift into gear. "Glad to see ya still got spunk, Sweets." He backed out of the space and they were off.

**********

Max entered the Crashdown with deliberate strides and Michael was right on his heels. The winter sun was a couple of hours past its peak and was beginning to slowly filter through the alien themed restaurant's windows. Max walked with purpose directly to the back and pushed the swinging door open. As he stepped through, Maria almost crashed into him with a tray on one arm.

"Hey, Max. Watch where you're going, Ok? Jeez, I almost lost an entire tray of food here." Maria went to step around him but Max grabbed her arm. Maria rocked back on her heels and said, "Max! Watch it! What's wrong with you?"

"Maria, go deliver the food and then come right back here." The sternness in his voice caused her to frown but she bit back a reply and said only, "OK. I'll be right back."

He moved out of her way and she went to step forward and ran smack into Michael. The tray tilted dangerously and she gasped trying to reach for it with her free hand. Michael grabbed it and steadied it for her.

"Thanks," she said softly.

"Yeah, well, no problem." Michael answered gruffly. He quickly sidestepped and let her pass. Max stood with a frown on his face. His thoughts were whirling in his head and the awkwardness of his friends' meeting was lost on him.

Michael stepped all of the way through the door and stood next to Max.

"So, what now?"

"We talk to Maria and see if she has heard from Liz. We need to get to her as quick as possible."

"Yeah, Ok. But what then? We don't even know what or who the threat is."

"It doesn't matter at this point. Liz is in danger."

"But Max, we need to have a plan."

Max said gruffly, "Michael. When have we ever had a plan? How can we EVER formulate a plan when we're always in the dark? All I know is that we have to take action. That also means protecting Maria. We're assuming that the Skin was referring to Liz but it's possible that they're targeting Maria. We have to get everyone together - now."

Michael paled considerably. He had assumed that the Skins were after Liz because she was foremost on his mind when the attack happened. Also, she was vulnerable with her newfound powers. When the Skin had said 'your woman', he had naturally believed he was referring to Max. However, now that Max brought the possibility of Maria being a target, he almost trembled at the thought of her in danger. He stepped to the swinging door and peered over it looking for her. He held his breath until he saw her removing the last plate of food from the tray and placing it front of a customer. He couldn't hear her words but he could tell she was playfully bantering with the family at the table. Then she turned on her heels and came toward him. He quickly ducked and then moved to Max's side.

Maria swung into the back and set her tray down. She put her hands on her hips and faced Max. "OK, what now." Her tone was serious but both Max and Michael caught a tinge of weariness in her words.

"You and Liz could be in danger."

"Yeah, well, that's what seems to be on the menu everyday. Tell me something new." She looked closer at Max's eyes and noticed the steel behind them. It seemed that Max was in battle mode and she stiffened a bit.

"Maria, we don't have time for smart comments. We need to get you to a safe place and I have to get to Liz as soon as possible."

His serious tone again cut off her intended smart remark. "Max, what happened?" To this point, she had intentionally ignored Michael. Things were just too strained at this point for her to face him. However, he surprised her when he answered her question.

"We were attacked by a Skin."

"Jesus. I thought they were long gone by now."

"Yeah, well, they're not, OK? Just listen to Max for once."

"No! You listen to me, Michael. I'm leaving tomorrow for New York. I have sworn off this whole drama scene - I can't take anymore of it. You guys just do your thing and let me live my life!" She stamped her foot impatiently while pounding her small fist in her other hand.

Max stepped between them, facing Maria. A shiver ran up her spine as she looked in Max's eyes. There was fury lurking right beneath the surface but most frightening of all was the overt menace. Where was the pouting, indecisive Max that she knew? This was someone different. His next string of words confirmed it.

Max's voice was low and full of authority. "You don't have a choice, Maria."

**********

The road slipped beneath the wheels of the van. The afternoon sun was sinking rapidly to their left. It definitely got darker earlier this far north. It was only 5:30 yet Zan already had to turn on the headlights. They had passed through Chicago and a couple of hours later, they were just north of Milwaukee. Liz had watched Lake Michigan pass by on her side and despite the current circumstances, she was fascinated. Coming from a desert, the expanse of water was overwhelming. 'This is what the ocean must look like', she thought.

To her left, she heard the flick of a lighter as Zan lit up another cigarette. He had been chain-smoking ever since they got on the road. She sighed and said, "Do you really have to smoke while we're in the car?"

Keeping his eyes on the road, Zan said, "Deal."

They hadn't talked much to this point. She had even slept a little. She was worn out from the emotional lunchtime experience. She felt better now though she began coughing from the smoke pooling around her head.

Zan looked over at her derisively and then rolled his window down an inch. She smiled to herself in satisfaction. Throw one on the chalkboard for Liz Parker.

He had surprised her by being a careful driver. Though he drove aggressively, he maintained the speed limit and was even considerate to other drivers. She mentally noted this anomaly in his behavior but didn't even know where to begin in figuring him out.

Zan flicked his butt out the window and rolled it up. The seeping cold air was instantly cut off and the hum of the heater could be heard as it slowly tried to circulate warmth through the interior.

The silence was getting to her so she finally decided to break the ice.

"Are you going to tell me where we're going?"

"Not yet."

"You said in the restaurant that we had a lot to talk about." She received silence as a reply. "Well, are you going to talk to me or is this how you are going to torture me - with silent indifference?"

"I ain't indifferent."

"Prove me wrong."

"I came and gotcha, didn't I? That ain't bein' indifferent."

Liz snorted. "You're right. That's being 'actively interested' or rather 'actively kidnapping' me."

"Ya can view it that way but if you was smart, you'd know different." He glanced at her and saw that she was frowning. He knew she was burning inside so he decided to concede a bit. "Go ahead. I know yer dyin' to play twenty questions."

Liz looked at him and saw that he was smiling. It was the first time that he had actually smiled benignly. She slowly swiveled in her seat to face him.

"Ok. How come you're not dead?"

Zan's smile instantly vanished. He stared straight ahead and frowned slightly. More to himself he said softly, "And she comes right outta da gate with that one."

He shifted in his seat getting a bit more comfortable. He draped his left wrist over the top of the steering wheel and rested his right hand on his thigh. He slouched a bit more, working his jaw from side to side. Liz waited patiently.

"I know what Ava told ya. The truck did run ovah me but I ain't without a bit of my own hocus pocus, if ya know what I mean." His eyes went dark and he began to gnash his teeth. "All I got was a couple a bruises and a skinned knee from hittin' the pavement."

"But Ava said that Lonnie and Rath killed you."

"They didn't wait around long enough. They hightailed it outta there quicker than greyhounds chasin' a rabbit. Rath wasn't da brightest dude on da block." He rubbed his jaw unconsciously and Liz was again reminded of Max. Zan seemed lost in his memory.

After a minute of silence, Liz decided to prod him on. "So what did you do then?"

"I picked my ego and my ass off da street and went huntin'. But they'd split town quick. By the time I figured out where'd they gone it was a few days or so. So I went on a road trip. Only I missed 'em in Roswell by a couple a days." He slammed the flat of his palm against the steering wheel making Liz jump. "I probably passed 'em on the fuckin' road."

"So what then?" Liz asked cautiously.

"I crashed fer the night in Roswell. I found out what was goin' on when I went to dat crazy diner."

"The Crashdown?" Liz asked surprised.

"Yo, that was it. I was prowlin' around lookin' for some eats. Da light was on but da door was closed." He looked at her directly and smirked. "I found out what was goin' down that night."

"Oh, my God. You were watching us through the window? That night with Michael, Isabel, and Ava?" Liz was dumbstruck.

He smirked again but looked back to the road. "Yeah, you were doin' some of yer own hocus pocus if I recall."

"Would you quit calling it 'hocus pocus'? It sounds so…childlike and insignificant."

"Whatever. Anyway, you needed help dat night. I heard dat Max was in trouble so I sorta lent you some hocus pocus," he stressed the word thinly, "of my own."

Liz's jaw dropped. She cupped her head with her hand. "No, you didn't. Isabel helped me. I felt her energy."

"Yo, Lonnie's dupe? She don't got da strength to do that. Her…whadya call her? Isabel? Isabel, Michael, and Max got the abilities of kids." He paused for a beat and then said, "It was me all da way, baby."

Liz sat stunned, unable to really comprehend what Zan said. 'He was there, that night?' she wondered. She shook her head side to side trying to clear away some of the confusion. Then a thought came to her.

"How long were you outside? Why didn't you show yourself?"

He didn't answer for a minute. "I didn't trust Ava. She was one of 'them'. There was no way I was gonna step into that viper's nest until I knew fer sure what the stakes were."

"You didn't answer my question. How long were you outside? Did you overhear our conversation earlier that night?"

He chuckled softly. "Yeah, I heard dat cornball stuff Ava was spoutin'. Dat's when I heard about yer rise from the dead. I knew then, just as Ava did, that you was beginnin' to change."

Liz blushed as she realized what he must have overheard. She had laid her heart out on the table that night to Ava. At least it seemed he was being polite enough not to tease her about it.

"Oh, and if I 'member right, you was spoutin' off some cornball stuff too." There it was. She misjudged again and blushed a bit deeper. It was time to erase that chalk mark right off the board.

A few moments passed when Zan said, "Nah, ya leave it right on up there. Ya need the esteem."

It took a second for his comment to sink in. Horrified, she turned to him with her mouth open.

"Like I was sayin'. Max, Michael and Isabel are playin' kids' games," Zan grinned widely.

User avatar
AweInspired
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun Nov 04, 2001 3:52 pm

Post by AweInspired » Sun Apr 27, 2003 12:11 am

<b>CHAPTER 5</b>

In the back of the Crashdown, Max slammed down the phone. He had been trying to reach Isabel for about two hours. She was out of town for a couple of days because Jesse had to meet a client in Santa Fe and Isabel had decided to join him. Max had her hotel phone number but he just kept getting the hotel's voicemail service.

Maria walked in then and he turned quickly towards her. "Any luck?"

"No. Mr. Parker is being sparse with his information. He won't give me any details about the bus route or when she is expected to arrive." Maria slumped down onto the couch.

"Fine. Michael will be back soon from the station. They'll have all of the route information."

Maria sat sullenly, staring at her feet.

"Maria, I won't change my mind on this," Max stated. "It's just too risky."

"Don't give me that line, your majesty." Max winced a bit. "You're pulling a king card on me and let me tell you, after what you did with Tess, I'm no longer one of your loyal subjects."

Max turned his back on her and faced the wall. He absently studied the First Aid poster hanging in front of him. He replied quietly, "I won't respond to that."

"You know why, Max? Because you don't have the spine. After everything Liz did for you, after sacrificing her happiness AND oh, don't forget sacrificing Alex, you still turned on her. I don't blame her for running away."

Max still stood silently. His shoulders were tense and he was bunching his fists.

"You don't get it, do you Max? Liz and I can take the alien stuff. That's not the issue. What we can't take is the human stuff. The lying and cheating. The inability for you and Michael to fully commit to us. You and Liz were good that first year because you gave your heart to her. You stood by her every minute. She never doubted for a second that you loved her. But then Tess and Nascedo came along and wham! Suddenly, there's an extended alien family and Liz and I became distant cousins."

"Liz did some lying too, you know. It wasn't all me."

"Max, you ignorant fool. She was lying for you. She was lying because she was doing what you wanted."

He abruptly faced her. "I never asked her to push me towards Tess. She did that on her own!" Max's voice was rose until he was almost shouting.

Just then, Michael walked in. He had heard the raised voices and come rushing to the back room to tell them to be quiet. All they needed was for Mr. Parker to come back and catch them in the middle of an alien convention. The scene of Max standing in a seething rage while Maria shot daggers at him sent off alarm bells.

"Whoah. What the hell is going on here?" he demanded.

"Maria, here, was lecturing me on the finer points of being human!" Max threw his hands up in the air.

"Well, you need it! Since you were hatched, I'm sure that you missed the day when they were handing out the 'How to be a Good Human' handbook!" Maria stood up and squared off with Max.

"Hang on a second! What is wrong with you two? Our enemies are targeting us and you two are having a pissing match about human sensibilities? Give me a friggin' break!"

Both Max and Maria backed off a foot though they continued to glare at each other. Michael finally huffed and sat down on the couch. "If you're interested, I got the schedule right here." He dangled the paper in front of them.

Max snatched it out of his hand and started to scan down the page. Michael said, "Don't bother. She should be hitting Pennsylvania just about now."

"Maria, try her cell phone again." Max had calmed down a bit but was still overly irritated. It wasn't a request - it was an order.

"Fine, but I'm sure I'll get another 'Out of Service' message again. And just so you know, I'm leaving to go home after this." She added with emphasis, "<i>Alone. </i>" That earned her glares from both Max and Michael but she shrugged them off. She dialed the number. "It's ringing," she squeaked.

**********

"What the hell is going on? You can read my mind? Max said that you guys couldn't do that!" Liz was beginning to really freak out. She felt so vulnerable. Everything about her had been violated that day. First she was smacked in the face with a dupe of Max. Then she was snatched from her bus and her plans. Now, even her most private possessions were laid out in the open like an All You Can Eat buffet.

"I didn't say Max could."

"Then why the hell can you? This is getting insane." Liz cringed away from him, leaning as far away as possible against the door. She was feeling threatened now and she looked at Zan with new eyes. For the first time, she really began to fear for her life.

"Ah, c'mon. Don't get all rabbity on me. It's not dat big a deal."

"Not a big deal? You just read my mind!"

He sighed heavily. "Like I said, ya got a lot to learn. And I didn't really…" Just then, a shrill ringing pierced the van.

Zan started and said, "What da hell is that?"

"It's my phone. It's ringing." When he gave her dumbfounded look, she said, "You know - a cell phone?" She reached down and picked it up. Zan looked at her sternly. "I have to answer. People will be worried about me and then come looking."

"Yo. Be careful of what ya say. Say whatever but don't be givin' away where we are."

Liz nodded and looked at the phone. The call was coming from the Crashdown. She answered it quietly. "Dad?"

"Chica! It's Maria. Where the hell are you? We've been trying to call but you haven't had service."

"Um, yeah, I know." She looked at Zan and said, "Hang on a sec…" She put her hand over the phone cutting off Maria's "Wait-".

"It's Maria. My best friend. I need to let her know what's going on."

"Whatever. Like I said, anything but where we are." Zan looked at her sternly. "I mean it. Nothing 'bout our location."

"Fine, fine." Liz returned to the phone in time to hear "…going on?"

"Maria, hold up a minute. You need to listen, OK?"

"But Liz, I'm here with Max and Michael and we have to…"

"No, listen Maria. Just listen. I'm not on my way to Vermont. I was kidnapped by Zan." When Zan heard that, he frowned but didn't interrupt.

"Zan?" Liz heard some deep male voices in the background and Maria telling them to be quiet. "Liz, are you Ok? Where are you? Listen, you're in trouble. Max and Michael were attacked today. They think that you're in danger."

Liz looked fearfully at Zan. She held the phone closer to her ear. "Maria, I would have to agree with you."

"Oh, my God. Can you get away? I hear traffic noise. Are you in a car?" Again, Liz heard Max and Michael in the background, their voices tumbling over each other.

"Well, yeah I am." Again she looked at Zan and he pointed to his wrist telling her to cut it short.

"Listen, Maria. Tell Max I was right about where I thought he was from the first time."

"What? Liz, you're talking crazy."

"Just do it, Maria."

"But Liz, can you give us a hint of where you're at?"

Liz looked fearfully again at Zan. He was staring at her intently.

In a rush, Liz decided to take a chance. "I'm sorry, Maria, but my phone doesn't get good reception in Milwau-" Instantly, Zan's hand came up and her cell phone went dead.

Liz hit the talk button but the screen wouldn't light up. The phone was toast.

She looked at Zan. He was scowling at the road. She watched as he lit up another cigarette. He purposely left the window up and blew smoke out of the right side of his mouth. She coughed violently in the fog that enveloped her. No matter how hard she tried to swat it away, it hung around her like a cloud. It seemed he was using his "hocus pocus" to punish her.

"Get used to it, sweets, 'cause you may be gasping for breath again sooner dan ya think."

For the first time since she met Zan, she cried.

**********

Max muscles were bunched tightly. He so full of fury that his body simply trembled. Zan had Liz. He had kidnapped her. She was somewhere on the road in Wisconsin. She was scared. Maria had passed on that much. The fact that the phone was disconnected at the very second she was telling Maria her location meant she had related too much information. Was Zan going to punish her? Why did he have her? Was he hurting her right now?

Max's blood fairly boiled at the thought. Here he was in New Mexico pacing the back of the Crashdown feeling completely helpless. Meanwhile, Liz was with his dupe potentially hurt, definitely scared, and absolutely fearful for her life. Her life!

Both Michael and Maria jumped when they heard a loud crash. They looked over to the corner of the room and saw Max extracting his hand from a very large hole in the wall. They gawked. They had never seen Max in such a state. Even when Liz was taken by Nascedo that one spring, he was terrified and acted with purpose but he had never shown the fury and violence that he was now.

Michael heard Mr. Parker yelling from the front of the restaurant. "Hey, what's going on back there?" In quick desperation, Michael waved his hand toward the hole in the wall. Max ignored the scene and resumed his pacing. Mr. Parker rushed through the back door just as Michael lowered his hand. The wall looked the same as it did before.

"What are you kids doing back here?" When none of them responded, he turned to Maria. "What happened?"

Maria scrambled for an excuse while Max tucked his hand in his armpit and continued to pace. He didn't even acknowledge that Mr. Parker had spoken.

While Maria's lips twitched in her desperation to lie, Michael quickly stepped in. "Sorry, Mr. Parker. We were goofing around back here and knocked off a couple of the industrial sized tomato cans from the rack."

Mr. Parker looked at him for a second and then his gaze arrested on the fidgeting Max. "Max, you know that Liz left. There's no reason why you should be in the backroom, disturbing my customers."

Max looked up and said without hesitation, "You're right. I'm sorry. I was just leaving." Giving a pointed look to Michael and Maria, he left out the backdoor.

Mr. Parker sighed and then looked at the two remaining teenagers. "Maria, your shift is almost over. It's dead so go on home." He turned to Michael, "And you. Don't you get enough of this place when you work your shifts? Get out of here." Mr. Parker grinned and then returned to the front of the restaurant.

Michael and Maria stared at each other for a second. Maria was the first to speak.

"Yeah, well. I should get going."

"You're not going anywhere unless Max and I are with you."

Maria let out an exasperated sigh. "Listen, Liz is in trouble. I know. I want to be part of the gang to help. Just let me go home and change out of this uniform."

"Fine but we are going with you."

Maria threw up her hands and started for the back door. "Jesus. Whatever. I can't stop you but you guys are acting overly protective." She threw open the door with Michael right on her heels. Maria let out a startled cry when a body crashed into her forcing her stumbling into the alley.

Michael rushed out in time to see Max struggling with a man on the ground. Maria was on her knees where she landed watching with wide eyes. Max was on top trying to pin the man's shoulders to the pavement. Unable to get a good position to help without destroying Max's advantage, Michael had to circle warily. Max grunted as the man beneath kicked a leg up and struck him sharply on the thigh. Suddenly, the man's hand began to glow and Max let out a sharp wail of pain. He fell to side, favoring his arm. Quick as a cat, the man was on his feet and lunged for Maria. His fingers bruised her arm as she twisted out of his grasp at the last second. She let out a startled squeak.

Michael, adrenaline pumping, tackled the man and they crashed into a couple of large metal trashcans. Michael had the advantage of weight and pushed the man down to the ground. He grabbed his shoulder and there was a muffled burst of sound. The man stopped struggling and groaned in pain.

Wheezing, Michael put his knee on the man's chest and fairly screamed, "Talk!"

The man opened his eyes but didn't acknowledge Michael. As the other Skin did, he simply stared up in the sky while holding onto his mangled shoulder.

Max got up and came over to the two men. He roughly shoved Michael off and grabbed the man by his shirt collar. He lifted him six inches off of the ground and snarled in his face. "He said TALK!"

The Skin chuckled menacingly. "I'm not telling anything. Just know that your women are going to die." He chuckled again. Taking Max by surprise, the man threw his head forward crashing it into Max's skull. Max faltered and stepped back releasing his tight grip.

The Skin bounded to his feet still favoring his shoulder. In his direct field of vision was a shaking Maria. He threw himself at her. She tried to dodge to the side but the man managed to lock onto her arm. Her twisting threw him momentarily off balance. Michael, taking a step forward, said, "My turn" and threw a hearty kick at the Skin's back. As he turned to dust, the backdoor to the Crashdown flew open and Mr. Parker rushed out.

"What the hell is going on out here?" Looking, he saw Michael and Maria heaving for breath. Maria was rubbing her arm tenderly. Max was on his knees and had the heel of his hand to his forehead.

This time it was Maria who saved the day. "Um, sorry Mr. Parker. Michael here is taking some Tae Kwan Do classes and was showing us a couple of moves. Unfortunately, he hasn't quite learned control yet." Michael glared at her and Max slowly got to his feet.

"Yeah. It was my fault really. Michael was in the process of showing me a round kick when I accidentally put my head in his path." Michael glared at Max next.

"You kids. I swear. Can you stay out of trouble for one minute? Now get out of my alley and go home to your parents." Jeff was beyond exasperated. They had just disturbed his patrons twice within a matter of minutes. He left slamming the door behind him. Max, Michael, and Maria all heard the deadbolt being engaged from the inside.

"Well, that was close," Michael commented.

Max looked at the dust on the ground slowly filtering away on the slight puffs of air.

"Yeah, too close. He almost caught us that time."

"No! I'm talking about the Skin. He almost had you there, " he said pointedly to Maria.

She stared at the ground still rubbing her arm.

Max said quietly, "I suppose you both noticed what he said."

Michael answered, "Yeah, he said women as in plural."

Maria, still rubbing her arm, motioned at Max. "Can you come over and do a bit of your alien mojo? My arm is killing me."

Max slowly shook his head and said, "Sorry, Maria. But after what's happening with Liz, I don't think that's such a good idea. Maybe we should take you to a doctor…"

Maria waved her hand dismissively. "No, no. It's fine. It's just bruised."

Just then Max's cell phone rang. He looked at the caller ID hoping for Liz's name to appear. Seeing an Out of Area message, he answered carefully. "Hello?"

Max swung away from Michael and Maria with his hand covering his other ear. Both Michael and Maria noticed why he had tucked that hand under his armpit when Mr. Parker had come to the backroom. It was streaming blood from a couple of bad gashes.

Max's voice rose. "What?…Jesus! Are you Ok?…Right…Well, the same thing is happening here…No, no. Everyone's OK so far…Yeah, OK. Sit tight. We'll send help your way." Max clicked off the cell phone and faced Michael and Maria who were waiting expectantly.

"Isabel was just attacked in Santa Fe by a Skin. She's OK and Jesse wasn't with her." Maria's jaw fell open. "But she's scared and needs help."

Maria gasped. Michael turned to her with a look that said 'I told you so'.

Max continued with a hard edge to his voice. "We're under a full fledged attack."

Maria said in a small voice, "OK, OK. <i>Now</i> I'm convinced."

**********

After sneaking out of the back alleyway, Max, Michael and Maria slipped into Max's car. Fearing that it wasn't safe to go anywhere they usually visited such as Michael's apartment, they headed for the open road. Max was driving and Maria sat in the backseat still in her Crashdown uniform. She was trembling slightly, still overwhelmed with the violence she had just witnessed. Max, however, was calm though the car speeding down the road at 100 mph belied his desperateness.

Max questioned Maria again. "So Liz said that I was right about the first time she guessed where I was from?"

Maria nodded from the backseat even though Max couldn't see her. Max screwed up his eyebrows in concentration. "I told her that I wasn't from around here and then she asked from where." He thought harder trying to remember the exact details of that emotionally charged encounter, one of the most significant in his life. "I then pointed to the sky. When she looked up, she whispered…" Max slammed his palm on the steering wheel. "That's it!" he exclaimed. "She asked if I was from 'up north'! They're heading north from Milwaukee."

Both Michael and Maria nodded at the logic.

"OK, so we go to Isabel and get her to safety. Then, once we're a group, we go to Wisconsin," Michael stated as he looked at a road map in his hands.

"No."

"What do you mean, Maxwell. That's a good plan." Michael felt some of his previous feelings of being dismissed rise up. Though Max was king, his king, he was still his close friend. It sometimes irked when Max overrode him because it reminded him of the time when Max <i>never</i> listened to his impulsive decisions.

"Michael's right. That's the best plan. They're attacking us when we are separated from each other."

Michael turned his head to look at her with surprise while Max glanced at her in the rearview mirror.

"Have you forgotten about Liz?" Max asked. "She's out there with some alien maniac that looks like me. Her life is in danger. I have to go to her."

"What about Isabel? We can't leave her unprotected," Michael pointed out.

"That's why you and Maria will go to Isabel and I will find Liz."

"Ohhh no, Max. Didn't you hear Maria? They're attacking because we're separated. We have to stay together."

"And how do we protect both Liz and Isabel by staying together? It will take us at least three hours to drive to Santa Fe. Trying to take a plane would even be longer with the new security measures." Max turned back to the road. "Think about it. You can get to Isabel. I will get on a plane and fly to Milwaukee. I'll pick up their trail from there. Once you two are with Isabel, catch a plane to Milwaukee. Believe me, it's not that I don't want the help. I just have to get to Liz because every minute counts."

Michael looked at Max and said, "I don't know about this. I don't like letting you go off alone."

Max looked at Michael gently and said, "I know. Don't you think I noticed the way you protected me when that first Skin attacked? You were saving your king from harm. You went into action without thinking. It was an awesome sight." Max paused before continuing. "And I appreciate it, Michael. But right now we are only three. If we could pair up in time, I'd choose that. But we don't have any choice right now."

Michael stared through the windshield as the small airport came into view. "You're wrong, Maxwell."

"Michael-"

"No listen. You're right about the plan. It's the only way. But you were wrong about me protecting my king."

He looked at Max. "I was protecting my friend."

**********

Liz looked at her watch. It was about midnight and she was exhausted. It was dark and all she saw as they drove down the two lane road was snow laden trees. Occasionally, they would pass through small towns with strange names like Paradise or Misery. She had never been in Michigan before but it seemed like God's country to her. She had hardly seen any store names that she recognized - things like Best Buy or even Target seemed like a foreign commodity here. A few miles back, she had seen a mile sign that read,

End of the Earth: 8
Houghton: 10

She had chuckled to herself quietly thinking that the humor seemed fitting.

They were coming around a corner and suddenly, there were buildings on each side of the road. She read a sign that said "Welcome to Michigan Technological University". She looked around her and though things were quiet and dark, she could see that they were driving through the middle of a campus. It seemed so out of place from the country she had just passed through.

They continued slowly and seemed to pass through the campus after a couple of blocks. They were entering the downtown area and it seemed dismal. They were forced to one lane since there were large snowplows and dump trucks cleaning up the road.

Her stomach rumbled and she realized that she was starving. She looked over at Zan. Since the phone incident, they hadn't said a word to each other. They had only stopped for gas. Zan had allowed her to use the restroom but every time she exited, he was standing casually next to the door apparently ready for her to bolt. Each time, he always had a pack of cigarettes clutched in one hand.

She was getting used to the smoke. She figured her lungs were thoroughly coated with enough tar and that it helped prevent the violent coughing fits.

Zan whipped the steering wheel suddenly to the right and they slid around the corner on the thick layer of snow. Liz's breath caught in her throat. She didn't feel comfortable driving in this weather. Sure, it was only snowing a bit, but she'd never been around so much snow in her life. There wasn't one thing outside that was at least dusted under a white layer.

"We'll stop to get some eats," Zan said gruffly. His voice was a bit raspy from not using it for so long.

Liz looked accusingly at him. He grimaced and said, "I heard yer stomach growl. I wasn't readin' no minds."

He pulled into a parking space in front of a Mexican restaurant called "Los Dos Amigos". Liz couldn't help but snicker. Zan looked at her and said, "What's up wit you?"

She only nodded and said, "I just came hundreds of miles from New Mexico to land here and eat Mexican."

"Whatever," Zan mumbled. They both stepped out of the van and instantly their breaths vaporized in front of their faces. The crisp air stung her smoke damaged lungs. It felt like she was inhaling particles of insulation and each piece left a burning trail down her throat.

They minced and slipped over the hard packed snow. Liz went to step onto the sidewalk next to a light post when her back foot slipped out from underneath her. Both her arms went up in the air as she struggled to maintain her balance but she fell hard. Her right hip smacked the corner of the sidewalk and her wrist twisted beneath her. Crying out in pain, she rolled over onto her back.

She looked up and saw Zan standing over her with his head haloed by the lamplight. Even in her pain, she blushed at the thought that she had taken a fall in front of him. Ready for a smart comment, she wasn't disappointed.

"Walk much?" he quipped. She just groaned. He squatted on his heels next to her. She went to get up but he pushed her back against the ground. "Just stay down 'til I can get a good look. Be my luck, ya broke somethin'." Liz began to protest but he put two cold fingers to her lips. It was the first time he had touched her since he had roughly grabbed her arm in the diner. It was out of character, enough so that it shocked her into silence. He slowly removed his fingers and she looked at his eyes. They were dark pools that absorbed the light that flickered around them. For the first time, she noticed the fine wrinkles in each corner. She also noticed the weariness in his brows and in the firm set of his lips. He had never seemed more Max-like.

His hands gently gripped her ankle and worked their way methodically up her leg as he probed for any injuries. Her breath caught in her throat as they traveled to her upper thigh. He didn't seem to notice but moved to the other leg before his touch became indecent. After repeating his actions, he skipped up to her hips. He gently pushed on each hip and when she grimaced in pain, his probing stilled. Concentrating, his hand glowed slightly and Liz felt familiar warmth spread in her midsection. It was over in a matter of a couple of seconds and she wondered at his speed. It would have taken Max at least 10-15 seconds to do what Zan just did.

His probing continued up to her stomach. His hands slid underneath the bottom of her heavy coat to get better access to her body. Her hand automatically went to brush him away. His movements stilled and he looked at her face. He could see the fear in her eyes and he sighed.

"Don't worry. If I wanted to feel ya up, I wouldn't be doin' it here on the street when it's God fuckin' cold." When her hands didn't move off of the top of his, he became impatient and threw up his hands in a gesture of defeat. "Do ya want help or not?"

Liz, suddenly furious, said "No! I'm fine. Leave me be."

Zan pinched the bridge of his nose in a weary gesture. "Man, whatever." He stood up quickly, stepped over her prone form and walked to the entrance of the restaurant. Turning around he said, "And?"

She rolled over to her stomach and rested her weight on her hands in order to push herself off of the ground. A fiery pain shot up from her right wrist but she swallowed the groan that threatened to escape. There was no way that she was going to give him the satisfaction. Using her good arm, she stood wobbly and then glared at him as she moved past to enter the restaurant. Zan just shook his head and swore.

User avatar
AweInspired
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun Nov 04, 2001 3:52 pm

Post by AweInspired » Sun Apr 27, 2003 12:13 am

<b>CHAPTER 6</b>

Max's plane arrived twenty minutes late. He was swearing to himself as he raced down the concourse. Taking the escalator steps three at a time, he hit the baggage claim area at a full run. Dashing around other travelers he rushed up to the Avis Rental Car counter and said between big gulps of air, "I need…a…car."

After altering one driver's license and one credit card with the wave of his hand, fifteen minutes later, he pulled onto the interstate going north.

The chase was on.

**********

Zan settled more comfortably in his chair. He and Liz were sitting in a corny Mexican themed restaurant that was doing very slow business. Of course, it <i>was</i> midnight on a Sunday. He was even surprised that it was open. He figured it had to do with that the restaurant catered to a lot of college students - college students that kept all hours in their scramble for studying and hell-raising.

He lit up a cigarette using his Zippo dangling from the chain on his hip. He inhaled the sweet smoke, held it in for a few seconds and then slowly blew it back out. He threw his army clad boots up on the empty chair next to him and relaxed. It felt good be off of the road. He'd been up for close to thirty-five hours, driving about thirty of them.

Liz sat across from him, reading the menu slowly. He watched her as her eyes traveled up and down the page. She was spitfire, for sure. No, she wasn't bubbly and gossipy but she had a spine of steel. He noticed how she favored her wrist and smiled grimly. She unconsciously swept her hair behind her ear as she tried to decide on her order. He shook his head and turned his attention to the approaching waitress.

"Hey, guys. Can I get you something to drink?"

Liz looked and smiled warmly. "Yes, please. I would love to have a Coke." The waitress nodded and then turned to Zan. Her eyebrows shot up as she took in his appearance.

"I'll have a Molson," he replied.

The waitress hesitated and then said, "Can I see your ID?"

Zan lazily reached in his back pocket, pulled out his wallet and handed over his driver's license. The waitress peered at it in the dim light, looked at him and then looked back at the picture. "OK, one beer coming up." With the same lazy movements, he returned the card to his wallet and slipped it back to his pocket. "From New York, eh? What are you doing all of way here in God's country? You don't look like the college type." She tipped her head to the side.

"Just visiting a friend, that's all." Zan smiled flirtatiously. The waitress looked briefly at Liz and then turned back to him.

"Well, you have courage to come here from a city like that. There's not much here but the university, snowmobiles and hockey." Zan looked at her in appreciation. She was about twenty-four or so and had it going on in a small town sort of way.

He winked at her and said, "Yeah, I noticed. So what do you do to keep warm in these parts?" The waitress blushed and fidgeted nervously.

He heard Liz clear her throat and shot a glare at her. The waitress felt the tension at the table and said, "Oh, nothing much. I'll grab those drinks for you." She turned around and went to the backroom.

Zan tilted his head and raised his eyebrows at Liz. Liz just rolled her eyes and looked back to the menu. He chuckled suddenly and said, "Look at ya, yer actin' all naïve 'n shit." He watched as color hit Liz's cheeks but she didn't reply. He admired how she wasn't rising to the bait.

The waitress returned with the drinks and a basket of chips and salsa. Writing down their orders, she smiled gamely at Zan but simply turned back to continue her work.

Zan decided to persist. "Ya just ruined a good thing, ya know."

Liz huffed and said, "What good thing? What are you going to do? Invite her back to your van and impress her with your décor? No, I don't think so." She shook her head in emphasis.

"Ya nevah know. She probably got some good digs. Hell, dancin' ain't just for the bedroom. That's part of da thrill. Humpin' in someone's car or on a side street. It don't matter as long as the lovin's good." He knew he was pushing her into a verbal bantering that didn't make her comfortable. He was just testing the waters to see how she would react.

"I suppose you are a master in this domain, huh?" she asked uncomfortably.

"Seems so. Least, compared to you." He waited intently for her reply. He was enjoying himself.

Liz looked up at him and then just shook her head. She looked out of the restaurant windows to the snowy street beyond. She wasn't going to play the game. He liked that. He put his butt out in the ashtray and rubbed his face roughly.

She suddenly faced him and said, "That's how you knew what was going on in the Crashdown that night."

"What?"

"I wondered how you knew everything that was going on. You said you were outside. If you were outside, how could you hear us talking? You were mind reading, weren't you?"

"Yeah." When he wouldn't elaborate further, she continued.

"And me missing my bus? Did you mind warp me?"

Again, he repeated, "Yeah."

Liz's voice rose just a tad. "Do you know how dangerous that is? It can hurt my mind!"

Zan looked at her quizzically. "What are ya talkin' 'bout?"

"Tess' mind warps affected everyone she did them on." She paused. "It was what killed Alex."

Zan looked at her thoughtfully a moment while tugging on his chin. "Mind warpin' don't hurt noone when it's done right. Ava or this Tess could've controlled it if she wanted. Sounds like she was just bein' sloppy."

Liz looked horrified. He wasn't quite sure what he said that had affected her so much. He knew that this Alex kid had been important to her but…

"Then she purposely killed Alex. It was something she could have avoided," Liz whispered quietly. Zan had to lean forward to catch the end of the sentence. He watched as a tear rolled down her cheek. He leaned back and looked away to give her privacy. He knew what loss felt like and he wasn't going to step on any memories right now.

To pass the time, he lit up another cigarette. His stomach was beginning to growl as the aromas from the kitchen wafted across his nose. He took a sip of his beer and let it wash down the dryness from the trip. He savored the taste a moment and then smacked his lips.

"I thought alcohol affected you badly," Liz said.

"It does," he stated simply. When she raised her eyebrows, he continued. "I altered da make-up so dat the alcohol properties go…poof!" His hand holding the cigarette rose and made a gesture of something vanishing in thin air. "But I can still rock wit da taste."

"You know, your New York accent seems to fluctuate. When you were talking to that girl, you lost it almost completely. When you're trying to impress me, it gets heavier."

He fidgeted. "Dat's not true."

"Yes, it is."

"Yo, it's not." He said uncomfortably. He turned in his seat so that he didn't have to face her.

Suddenly, Zan received an image of a second chalk line being drawn on a chalkboard. He grimaced and he saw her smile. She knew that he'd seen it and she was beaming with satisfaction.

But he decided that he wasn't going to be beaten by this girl. He sent another image her way of her violently choking on smoke as she dropped the chalk from her hands to cover her mouth.

Her jaw dropped open and he smirked.

**********

Max stopped at every rest stop along Lake Michigan, hoping to get some sort of sign of where they could have gone. He assumed that they had stuck to the expressway, as that was the fastest method to get wherever they were headed. Each time he stopped, he interviewed each of the workers and showed them a picture of Liz. He was having no luck. After a couple of hours with no leads, he began to despair. They could be anywhere at this point. Canada, Minnesota. Hell, they could have even turned south to put him off their trail.

He tried to reason it thinking that if he were Zan, what would he do. It was pretty messed up thinking because technically, he <i>was</i> Zan. But as hard as he tried, he couldn't even begin to guess. Though he was an alien king, he was no sleuth. But what he lacked in experience, he would make up in persistence.

**********

Zan and Liz were once again on the road. They quickly passed through the remaining two blocks of downtown and turned a corner to the right. Looming ahead of her was a good-sized lift bridge. They rumbled over it and she peered down at the water below. It looked like a river though she couldn't tell for sure.

On the other side, they passed through another sleepy town and then they were once again in the darkness of the country.

After her meal, she was so tired she could barely keep her eyes open.

"Zan, can we pull over and rest for the night? I am so beat. How much further do we have to go?"

"Only 'bout 'nother 45 minutes."

She yawned and asked sleepily, "Where are we?" Zan looked over at her and noticed her drooping features. She almost sounded like a small child. He decided to give in for once and give her a break.

"Why don't ya crawl into da back and crash out. I'll keep drivin' and wake ya when we get there." She simply nodded and slipped between the two seats. She lay down on the mattress and pulled up the covers. In her sleep fogged mind, she noted that the sheets smelled clean and fresh and that the pain in her wrist had diminished to a dull ache. Then she was out.

Zan turned up the heat so that it would reach to the rear end of the van better. He looked back and noticed that she was already asleep. He sighed and looked back to the road. He was looking forward to some sleep himself.

After an hour or so, he pulled into the parking lot of a small motel in a town called Copper Harbor. Using his powers, he permanently locked all of the doors including the two in the back. He rubbed his eyes furiously as the lack of sleep made them burn. He stumbled to the back of the van and noticed that Liz never stirred. Hesitating only for a moment, he slipped off his shirt and shoes and crawled in bed next to her. Turning his back to her, he soaked up the warmth radiating from her body. Content that he was safe, he was asleep in a matter of minutes.

**********

Max, unsuccessful in his search to even find one clue, sat in a rest stop exasperated. He picked up his cell phone and called Isabel. She answered on the first ring.

"Isabel. Hey. Are you guys OK? Did Michael and Maria find you?"

"Yeah, Max. We're fine. I told Jesse that one of our distant uncles died and that I had to get back to Roswell. I then told him that I had to fly to Sarasota for the funeral so not to expect to see me for a few days. He seemed to buy it."

"Any sign of any Skins? And did Liz call?" he asked hopefully.

"No, no signs of the monsters. And no again to Liz. We're holed up in an out of the way motel. We made sure that we weren't followed. What about you? Any problems?"

"None. I haven't seen a thing and that includes any signs of Liz and Zan. I'm not sure what to do." The defeat sounded plainly in his voice.

"Listen, Max. We'll fly in the first thing tomorrow and then we'll help you out. Where are you right now?"

"Near the Michigan border, I think. I'm not sure really. It's really cold here, Izzy, so tell the others to bring warm clothes."

"Don't worry. We'll bring the needed supplies and what we don't, we'll buy." Isabel added softly, "Max, we'll find her."

Max clicked the phone shut and whispered, "But will we be in time?"

It was snowing outside and he watched as the flakes fell softly and hit the hood of his rental. They instantly melted only to be replaced by new ones that quickly sizzled out of existence.

Where was Liz right now and what was she doing?

**********

Liz's eyes came open as the light showed through the dirty windows in the rear of the van. Her mind, still a bit fuzzy, puzzled a bit as to where she was. As it always does, reality crashed in around her. She stiffened and slowly looked around. She was pushed up with her back almost to the side of the van. Looking upwards, she saw the small metal shelf that she had noticed before. Taped underneath it, was a black and white photo of Zan, Lonnie, Rath, and Ava, sitting on the stone steps in front of some run down apartment building.

Liz noticed that Rath and Lonnie sat next to each other, almost intimately. Lonnie's legs were spread indecently wide to the camera and even though she wore green cargo pants, she oozed sex. Rath was turned towards Lonnie with a hungry look plastered on his face while Lonnie looked at something behind the camera. Ava sat alone, one step higher with an unhappy look on her face.

Zan was the only one who faced the camera and though he wasn't smiling, she could tell that he was acknowledging the picture taker. He was sprawled out, lounging comfortably, with his back to the metal railing. His eyes were brooding and they seemed to look directly at her. She puzzled over the picture. They were not a tight knit group. That much was obvious. Only Lonnie and Zan had a cunning intelligence that radiated from their faces.

The other thing she puzzled over was the markings on the picture. With a thick felt tipped pen, there were two Xs slashed across two of the people: Ava and Rath. She shivered at the significance of this.

She noticed the corner of a piece of paper sticking out from behind the photo. Reaching up and wiggling it out, she discovered another smaller photo. This one was in color and it was snapshot of Zan and an unknown woman sitting on a railing with what looked like to be the Empire State building. New York city spread out below them creating the feel that they were almost hovering in the air. Though they weren't touching, they were facing each other and looked like they were in the middle of an animated conversation. The woman wore long dark hair that was not quite not black. It hung free around her face and she was in the middle of pushing away an errant strand. Her skin was olive toned and her body was very curvaceous. She wore black pants and a short black top that showed a tan stomach with a silver navel ring. The clothes were revealing but seemed to accent her body nicely as opposed to flaunting her round curves. She appeared to be the same height as Zan though it was difficult to tell since they were perched up on the railing. She seemed to be in the middle of laughing at something that Zan said.

Liz thought that she was beautiful. Who was this woman? What was she to Zan? A girlfriend?

It was then that she heard the soft snores coming from her right. She quickly tucked the photo beneath the other one and cautiously looked only to discover Zan's naked back to her. The covers had fallen down to his waistline. He laid on his right side with his head lying on the mattress without a pillow. She could see the pulse in his neck beat rhythmically and noticed the small moles that peppered his shoulders and neck. He moved slightly in his sleep and the muscles rippled across his back and shoulders.

Her gaze followed down his body from the loop dangling in his ear, the strong curve of his neck. Her eyes traced the prominent backbone as it gracefully dipped beneath the covers. She saw two long scars that cut across his side and disappeared over the edge. They were dark and rough and didn't have that shiny look that matured scars did. His abs tightened slightly with each deep breath he took.

She held her breath when he jostled suddenly and he rolled over onto his left side. The covers had fallen even more and were now wrapped around his thighs. Thankfully, she noted, he had worn his jeans to bed. But they were baggy and had slipped some in his sleep. A good inch of a pair of white boxers peeked out of the top of them. She blushed a bit as she saw the beginning of the opening that was typical of male boxers. Her breath lodged in her throat when she followed the trail of coarse hair that peeked out from under the waistband of the boxers to where it slowly tapered off at his navel. His stomach muscles were well defined and stepped gracefully up to his rib cage. Now that he had turned, she could see where the two ragged scars ended just above his shallow belly button. Liz noticed the tattoo on his stomach that rested just above the top of his shorts. It was the symbol that was on the pendant and on the orbs. As she watched, the black ink tinted with a bit of silver seemed to flicker in the sunlight.

His right arm rested loosely along his side while his left was curled up under his head to support it. On his right arm was a tattoo of the four-square along with some other strange symbols.

Liz caught her breath when she noticed the two small, silver rings that hung from his nipples. It was hard to imagine that they had always been there, as she had never known. It was like a secret revealed, something for her to tuck away in her Zan library of knowledge. She felt the urge to touch one to see whether they were cold against his skin. Firmly keeping her hands to herself, she forced her way the rest of the way up his body. A dark patch of hair peeked out from the junction of his arm and torso.

His face actually looked serene in sleep. It was tucked in the crook of his arm. His strong jaw line was covered in dark stubble that looked like a rough charcoal streak on his other than perfect skin. Two other earrings dangled from his right ear and a rod stuck from his eyebrow. This was the one that he had taunted her with in the diner. His long dark eyelashes laid gently against his skin and she watched as his eyes moved slightly beneath their lids. His lips were slightly open and from there, his soft snores could be heard. A small puckered indent right above his lip was a sign of a previous piercing removed. His dark hair still stood straight up in rigid spikes. The tips were tinged with magenta.

She consciously compared him with Max. When she had seen Max sleep, his face almost turned boyish. Though Zan's structure and features where exactly the same as Max, she concluded that this was no boy lying next to her. His body radiated warmth and seemed to almost glow. His face, though serene, wore harder lines than Max.

Her mind wandered to thoughts of what and how many hands and run themselves over this body. Who had taken pleasure from nibbling at his pierced nipples? Who had paused to lay kisses behind his earlobes? Who had nipped roughly on his prominent shoulders? And who had delicately licked the silvery tattoo that rested so close to the unknown?

She tried to picture the kind of woman that Zan would allow to enjoy his body. For some reason, she had the feeling that he had high standards. She had no doubt that many women had played him like an instrument but she felt that Zan wouldn't open his body to just anyone who would spread their legs. He would only pick women that he thought were worthy to experience the joy he could give them. She felt her body heat at the thought.

Feeling herself on dangerous ground, she slowly extricated herself from the covers and tried to ease herself over the top of him. As her legs and arms straddled him, he shifted again so that he laid on his back. She came face to face with the silver tattoo and the mysterious trail of hair that disappeared to nowhere. As she took a deep breath, she inhaled the thick, musky scent that only sleep produced on one's body. She closed her eyes and willed her body to keep moving.

Once she was completely over him, she straightened her clothes and turned to the back. She carefully tried the handles but they wouldn't budge. She tiptoed to the front of the bus and slipped into the driver's seat. She tried the handle there not expecting it work and was right. She looked in the various small compartments for the keys but didn't have any luck. In a last ditch effort, she looked up in the visor but she sighed in frustration. Frowning slightly, she thought about the previous day. She had never actually seen keys. He always used his powers to either unlock or lock the doors and to start and stop the engine.

She knitted her eyebrows together and looked at the door handle. She raised her left hand and slowly waved it over it. She was torn when nothing happened. On one hand, she would have been thrilled at being able escape but she would have been terrified if her powers had actually come to life.

Leaning her forehead against the steering wheel, she sighed in frustration.

"Mornin'," a voice called from next to the window. She started and swung around. Zan was staring at her from outside with his arms draped lazily across his chest. She looked behind to the rear of the van. The bed was empty and the two doors were closed. How had he gotten outside without her hearing him or feeling the cold air from the open door?

He wiped his hand across the outside of the driver's side door and then opened it with a protesting wrench. A blast of cold air hit her in the face. She noticed that though he had thrown on his boots that was all that he had bothered with. His jeans still hung low on his hips and the white boxers still peeked out above them. His bare chest gleamed with sunlight.

Hanging one arm seductively on top of the van door and placing the other against the door jam, he leaned in towards her. The thick muscles in his shoulders and forearms turned hard as he put strain on them. His nipple rings lay tight against his chest as the cold had contracted them to hard peaks. He wore a lopsided grin as he leaned even further in. He had definitely noticed that she was looking him over and was acting smug.

His face was mere inches from his. She held her breath.

He cocked his head to the side and whispered, "I got a question for ya."

After a few seconds, she realized he was waiting for her to respond. She swallowed and with as strong a voice as she could muster, she said, "And?"

Without taking his eyes from hers, he said "Do ya like it strong?"

What did he just ask? She couldn't think and gulped nervously. Didn't he notice that it was cold?

"I asked ya a question, sweets."

She gulped again but didn't reply.

"Guess I gotta assume ya like it strong." He reached up to the roof of the van, his hands disappearing from view. Liz got a good look at his washboard stomach as his skin stretched tight against his ribs. Oh, God. Did his pants just fall another half inch?

His arms came down with two steaming cups of coffee. He handed one to her, which she reached for automatically. She wrapped her fingers around it and went to pull it near but he held on tight.

She looked up at his eyes. He winked and said, "Did ya enjoy the show?"

She blushed and turned away. He let go of the cup and firmly grasped her chin to force her to look at him. Suddenly, his eyes were like flint. "I asked ya if ya enjoyed the show?" After a short moment, he flicked his fingers off her chin forcing her head to snap back a bit. "Take a good peep." He flexed his chest muscles in front of her making the nipple rings dance. "'Cause this is all ya get. Understand, sweets? This…" and he ran his hand up and down his body for demonstration. "…is off limits."

With that, he slammed the door shut in her face, forcing her to spill the hot coffee in her lap. Liz sat there shaking and trembling wondering what the hell had just happened

User avatar
AweInspired
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun Nov 04, 2001 3:52 pm

Post by AweInspired » Sun Apr 27, 2003 12:14 am

<b>CHAPTER 7</b>

Max woke with a start. Around 5:00 in the morning, he had visited another gas station just inside the Michigan border that sat near the expressway directly off one of the northbound exits. He hadn't had any luck so when he went back to his car, he had leaned the seat back to catch twenty minutes of rest. He looked at his watch. It said 9:06 and he swore.

Leaping out of the car, he went inside and grabbed a hot cup of coffee and a small pack of powdered donuts. He waited patiently in line while the other customers were rung up and sent on their way. When he reached the clerk, he set his items on the counter and reached for his wallet.

"So where's your girl this morning?" the teller asked him with a smile on her face.

"I'm sorry?"

"Well, last night you came in here with a girl. I was just finishing up my mid-shift," as if that explained it all.

Realization hit him. He yanked Liz's picture out of his wallet and showed it to the woman. "Was it this girl?"

"Well, yeah. Don't you even remember? What? Were you guys like going to a party or something 'cause you were all punked out. That's why I remember you 'cause we don't get many people in here looking like that."

Max's hand was shaking as he held the picture in front of him. "You're positive, right? This was her?"

"Well, yeah. Of course."

"Do you know where they were going?"

The woman looked at him puzzled.

Max realized her confusion and said, "That wasn't me. It was…my twin brother. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated."

The woman looked at him doubtfully. "Well, why are you looking for him then? If he's your brother, why don't you know where he is?" She began to frown.

Max scrambled for a story. "Well, the thing is, he's got my girl. You know, we have this sort of sibling rivalry thing going on." When she looked at him doubtfully again he leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially. "It's sort of this little love triangle and I just have to find her and win her back."

Hesitating for a moment, the woman finally seemed to make a decision. "Well, I have no idea where they were going but I do know that he bought a road map of the Upper Peninsula."

Max's heart leapt. He had a clue! He was beginning to narrow down the search.

"If they were going to this Upper Peninsula, where would be a likely place for them to end up at? You know, like a big city or something?"

The woman snorted. "Honey, you're <i>in</i> the Upper Peninsula. As for where they would go, there isn't anything here that anybody would term <i>big</i> except for the long stretches of road of nothing." Max looked down at the counter in disappointment. "So, you gonna buy that junk or what?"

**********

Zan and Liz walked around in a Goodwill store. She had complained that she didn't have a change of clothes and needed some supplies. Looking her up and down, taking in the large coffee stain that spread across her shirt and jeans, he had just nodded.

Liz was flipping through a rack of jeans and decided on a pair of baggy Lee's. She then picked up a couple of pairs of army green cargo pants and a various assortment of dark shirts, sweaters, and turtlenecks.

She peered briefly at Zan over the top of the clothes rack. He had been sullen since the coffee incident, spitting out terse answers to her infrequent questions. He was leaning against one of the makeshift changing booths, scanning the store. He wore the same clothes as he did the day before.

Gathering up her clothes in pile, she set them on the floor. She lowered herself to the ground and began crawling down the isle. This was an opportunity that she couldn't let slip by. Hopefully, he wouldn't be able to find her among all of the clothes racks.

As she crawled, she checked her cell phone again. It was still dead. When she had entered the store, she had quickly pinpointed a set of pay phones in the far corner. If she could get to them without Zan seeing her, she would be shielded by a rack of heavy coats and he wouldn't be able to spot her.

Trying to crawl as quickly and quietly as possible, she dodge clothes stands and advertisement kiosks. Slinking around a corner, she saw a pair of heavy boots in front of her. Holding her breath, she looked up. A heavy-set bearded man was looking down at her with a bemused expression. Her heart began beating again and she just smiled and whispered, "Looking for an earring." The man just smiled and continued down the isle.

Rounding one last corner, she reached the phones. Standing quickly, she grabbed a headset and shakily punched 0 for the operator. Once she placed the collect call to Max's cell phone, she waited for long moments while it rang.

On the third ring, he answered.

"Max! Oh, my God. Where are you?"

"Liz!" She could hear the relief in his voice and her heart warmed at the concern. Though she knew that Max would do everything in his power to find her, it was like coming home to hear his familiar voice.

"I'm in some town called Ontonagon in the Upper Peninsula. Are you OK? Where are you?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. We're in a town called Copper Harbor. Max, I don't know why Zan has me. I'm OK, he hasn't hurt me, but Max…" Her voice faltered. "He is so strong - stronger than you. I don't know where we're going or what his plan is. I don't think that he is going to hurt me. But I need you. I don't know what's going on…" Her voice trailed off and she fought off tears. It was so good to hear his voice - Max's voice.

"OK, Liz. This is what we'll do. I'll get there as soon as possible." She heard some rustling in the background. "Looking at the map, it shouldn't take me more than a couple of hours." Liz sighed in relief. Suddenly, she felt a tap on her shoulder. With dread, she slowly turned around and gasped. Zan stood right behind her wearing a cocky smirk on his lips. He snatched the phone from her hand. She could hear Max desperately calling her name over the phone.

Zan put his hand to her shoulder, backed her against the wall and pinned her there. He then put the phone to his ear.

Cutting Max's cries off, he said simply, "Yo, Max."

Max went silent. The tight wad of fear burned in his stomach. Liz was caught. Anger also burst through him as he cringed at the thought of Zan doing something to Liz.

"Zan."

"We need to make some new rules."

Max wasn't sure how to reply.

"Since ya know where we are, that puts yer girl in danger."

His head whirling, Max asked "How?"

"Yo, I'm sure ya know by now that being around ya ain't too safe. Currently, yer da number one target."

"I think I always have been. But what do you want with Liz?"

"She plays couple a parts in dis drama," Zan answered cryptically.

"Just tell me something. Are you my enemy or my friend?"

"Right now, neither."

Max said sternly, "Are you going to hurt her?"

Zan's face stilled. His right eyebrow twitched, making the silver rod jump. He answered slowly, "Nah, yer majesty. But she ain't ready fer ya yet."

"How can I trust you?"

Zan looked at Liz and removed his hand that held her shoulder to the wall. He scratched the top of his head.

"Listen, I won't hurt yer woman. But, you two can't be together. 'Member those sparks flyin' the last time ya touched her? All I'll tell ya is dat yer presence is wicked to her system right now." Zan's eyes roved around the store. He seemed to come to a decision. "I'll score a deal wit ya. You leave us alone and we'll stay in contact wit ya. Every night, Liz'll 'E.T.' ya giving ya the low down. In return, ya stay close but ya don't interfere, got it?"

Max felt like he was backed against the corner. "What if I don't agree?"

"I kin make us disappear and ya'll never find us."

"We just found each other. No matter where you take her, I'll find her."

"Maybe, but ya'll lose precious time and ya'll never know what's goin' on."

Max hesitated. "Let me talk to Liz."

Zan handed the phone to Liz with a serious expression. "Ya know da situation. Ya can either have 'im close or we can continue da chase and drag it out."

Liz looked at his eyes and saw the flint in them again. She carefully took the phone and put it to her ear. "Max?"

"Liz. Listen, you heard what he wants. What do you want to do?"

"I don't think that we have much of a choice. Will you stay nearby?"

Max's heart leapt to his throat and he croaked, "Oh God, Liz. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry about all of this. Of course I'll be close. I won't lose you. Michael, Isabel and Maria are coming. We've been attacked again by the Skins - three times in the last day. They seemed to have declared war. I think it might be good to stay away from you until we get it under control. I don't want to lead them to you. If Zan can…" Here, his voice faltered. "If Zan can keep you safe and we can continue to communicate, this might be the best way."

Liz saw the logic but her heart melted anyway. "OK, then that's what we'll do. Listen, Max." Her eyes found Zan's. "I love you."

Zan's eyes went dark. She heard Max's voice carry over a long distance. "I love you, too, Liz." A few charged moments went by and he said, "You should let me talk to Zan again."

"Alright." She passed the phone back to Zan. He put it to his ear.

Max said, "You have a deal. But it's off the minute one night goes by that I don't speak to Liz. I don't care what your intentions are - if I lose contact with her, I'll kill you."

"Chill. We'll stay in dis general area but we'll never give away our exact location. Ya'll hear from her." Zan slammed the phone down in the cradle.

He grabbed Liz's arm and said, "Let's move."

**********

After he paid for the clothes and other assortments of things, Zan led Liz out into the chilly air.

"We need to escalate our plans. King Max said that he would play by da rules, but I can't take da chance. We need to move quickly."

Liz rubbed her arms through her new heavy coat. She jumped up and down to stay warm. "Where are we going to go?"

Zan looked down at her and hesitated. "Ya made a promise, 'member?" She nodded her head. "OK, I'll be holdin' ya to it. We're goin' to Isle Royale."

He turned on his heels and strode down the sidewalk. Liz ran to catch up. "Where?"

"It's an island about fifty miles off da coast from here. It's rustic - it only has one lodge with a few cabins scattered across the width of it. I got one on da north side."

"You?" Liz asked incredulous. She didn't think of Zan as the woodsy type.

"It's my safe house."

They arrived back at the van. Zan began packing up his things. He had also made some purchases at Goodwill so his possessions took up two large duffel bags. Liz stood idly by. She noticed that he grabbed the alarm clock and the jewelry and also stealthily swiped the photos from underneath the shelf.

She made a mental note to ask him later about it. The message on it was clear but she felt she needed the details. The thought that Ava was dead left her sad. Why would Zan have killed Ava? She hadn't played a part in the attempt on his life and seemed sincerely mournful at his supposed death.

When Zan finished, the van didn't look much different. The mattress still laid there with the bedding draped carelessly over it. He had removed one of the Igloo coolers but left the other one behind. The drawers remained. One thing that she did notice was that he had packed away six cartons of cigarettes. How long were they going to stay on this island anyway?

He left the van in the parking lot and without another look, began walking down the street with the two duffels draped over one shoulder and the cooler in the grip of his other hand.

Since he had gotten their word on the 'new' plan, he seemed to be a bit more relaxed. He didn't look back but just expected that she would follow. She heaved her new duffel on her shoulder and plodded after him.

They caught the ferry going to the island. It was a five hour trip that was cold and miserable. The wind whipped across the deck of the ship and cold spray occasionally splashed up. Though the view around her was breathtaking, she found herself inside for most of the trip. There were only a few other people riding and they seemed like the rugged outdoors type. Overhearing snippets of their conversations, Liz understood that the island was a conservation park where a lot of scientists would visit to record data on the wildlife and faunae.

Zan had chosen a bench in the corner and stretched out. He was currently asleep. Apparently, the severe rocking of the boat on Lake Superior's wind driven waves didn't seem to bother him. She, on the other-hand, was experiencing a slight case of nausea that prevented her from taking a catnap.

They arrived with no fanfare and tied up next to a rickety dock. Liz stepped down with her bag slung over her shoulder and peered down the long plank. She couldn't see any signs of civilization. Despite the reason she was here, the idea of traversing this island was a bit exciting. It was so different than New Mexico that the scientist in her couldn't help but appreciate this new experience.

Zan pushed her from behind and she walked down the dock. She simply followed the other travelers as they wound up a snow covered path. Wearing new winter boots, she easily kept up with them though she was careful not to repeat her previous fall. In remembrance, she gently stroked her sore wrist and sighed. What would be around the next corner for her?

**********

Standing in a warm lodge, Liz looked around her. It was made of rough-hewn logs and furniture made from similar material. She thought it was very pleasant and wondered what the cabin they were destined for would look like.

Zan had disappeared into a small grocery store that was attached to the side of the lodge. He returned holding his cooler with two hands and motioned her to follow him. On the other side of the store were some rough storage buildings. Zan walked purposely to the one on the far left and waved his hand over the lock. He stepped into it leaving Liz peering inside. A light came on and she noticed a snowmobile and various winter articles such as snowshoes and shovels. She stepped into the dim light.

"I assume that this is how we are getting to the cabin?"

"Yo," Zan grunted as he lifted the cooler into a small trailer on ski runners. "It's da only way to get there unless ya wanna walk eight miles in thigh deep snow."

He motioned for her duffel, which he heaved into the sled and his two soon followed. He covered them expertly with a tarp and lashed down the sides securely. He threw her a helmet, which she bobbled and then proceeded to drop.

"You don't seem like a safety type of guy," she mused out loud.

"I ain't. But it cuts down on da wind and saves yer face from getting the skin ripped off from tree branches."

"Oh," Liz murmured, feeling uncomfortable about her lack of knowledge.

Zan stepped onto the snowmobile and primed it. He yanked on the pull cord and it roared to life. He inched it out of the shed making Liz jump to the side. The noise from the engine roared in her ears. Leaving it running, he grabbed the trailer and dragged it outside where he promptly hooked it up to the back.

Stepping inside one last time, he returned with a ten-gallon plastic gas tank that he strapped to the back of the snowmobile.

He shut the doors and again locked them with a wave of his hand.

He put on his helmet, turned to her and said in a muffled voice, "Let's roll."

The landscape was beautiful. They had quickly left any semblance of a road behind them and were riding cross-country. When they were in an open field, Zan would open up the throttle and Liz would cling to his waist from behind as the ground sped rapidly beneath them. The terrain would always vary so that at times, he was picking his way carefully through heavily wooded areas. At times, they had to get off of the sled and literally move it in a 90-degree angle in order to bypass an unavoidable tree. It was exciting yet sometimes painstaking. Quite often, they would startle some wildlife. More than once, Liz saw the biggest deer she'd ever seen lift up their heads in fear and bound away with their white tails raised high like a flag.

She found herself wishing that Max were with her to enjoy it.

**********

Despite the deal he had made with Zan, Max had jumped in his car and sped to Copper Harbor. He had hoped that he would be able to find them and rescue Liz. Though he knew that his proximity hurt Liz, he thought he would get her into Michael's and Isabel's hands and safely secreted away. He had confidence in his family - he had none when it came to Zan.

He was too late, it seemed. Copper Harbor was a tiny town so it wasn't difficult to extract information from the locals about a man that looked like a thug that was traveling with a girl with long brown hair. He traced them to the motel and discovered the van. The motel attendant didn't have anyone that matched their description on the register which completely puzzled him. They probably had arrived in the early morning hours so why hadn't they gotten a room? Unless Zan had just dumped the van in the parking lot after their phone conversation in order to throw him off.

Hoping against hope, he staked out the van on a long shot that he might catch them when they returned. After five hours passed, he had to face the fact that Zan had already fled, dragging Liz with him.

It was then that Isabel had phoned to let him know they had arrived. He left his stakeout and met her, Michael, and Maria at a cheap hotel on the outskirts of the town. He hugged Isabel tightly, glad that she was safe. He then walked stiffly to stand in front of Maria. She had crossed her arms tightly to her chest and just glared at him. Ignoring the obvious tension, he pulled her roughly into his embrace. Though she didn't return the hug, she didn't slug him either. He felt that was a small step towards repairing their strained friendship.

They had agreed that they would stay the night there in the motel. However, after Max brought them up to speed on the current situation, they decided as a group that their stay looked like an extended one. The following day, they planned to rent a cabin from one of the many lodges that advertised along the roadside. It was time to dig in and be prepared for whatever happened next. They had no doubt that they would see the Skins again - it was just a matter of time.

User avatar
AweInspired
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun Nov 04, 2001 3:52 pm

Post by AweInspired » Sun Apr 27, 2003 12:15 am

<b>CHAPTER 7</b>

Max woke with a start. Around 5:00 in the morning, he had visited another gas station just inside the Michigan border that sat near the expressway directly off one of the northbound exits. He hadn't had any luck so when he went back to his car, he had leaned the seat back to catch twenty minutes of rest. He looked at his watch. It said 9:06 and he swore.

Leaping out of the car, he went inside and grabbed a hot cup of coffee and a small pack of powdered donuts. He waited patiently in line while the other customers were rung up and sent on their way. When he reached the clerk, he set his items on the counter and reached for his wallet.

"So where's your girl this morning?" the teller asked him with a smile on her face.

"I'm sorry?"

"Well, last night you came in here with a girl. I was just finishing up my mid-shift," as if that explained it all.

Realization hit him. He yanked Liz's picture out of his wallet and showed it to the woman. "Was it this girl?"

"Well, yeah. Don't you even remember? What? Were you guys like going to a party or something 'cause you were all punked out. That's why I remember you 'cause we don't get many people in here looking like that."

Max's hand was shaking as he held the picture in front of him. "You're positive, right? This was her?"

"Well, yeah. Of course."

"Do you know where they were going?"

The woman looked at him puzzled.

Max realized her confusion and said, "That wasn't me. It was…my twin brother. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated."

The woman looked at him doubtfully. "Well, why are you looking for him then? If he's your brother, why don't you know where he is?" She began to frown.

Max scrambled for a story. "Well, the thing is, he's got my girl. You know, we have this sort of sibling rivalry thing going on." When she looked at him doubtfully again he leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially. "It's sort of this little love triangle and I just have to find her and win her back."

Hesitating for a moment, the woman finally seemed to make a decision. "Well, I have no idea where they were going but I do know that he bought a road map of the Upper Peninsula."

Max's heart leapt. He had a clue! He was beginning to narrow down the search.

"If they were going to this Upper Peninsula, where would be a likely place for them to end up at? You know, like a big city or something?"

The woman snorted. "Honey, you're <i>in</i> the Upper Peninsula. As for where they would go, there isn't anything here that anybody would term <i>big</i> except for the long stretches of road of nothing." Max looked down at the counter in disappointment. "So, you gonna buy that junk or what?"

**********

Zan and Liz walked around in a Goodwill store. She had complained that she didn't have a change of clothes and needed some supplies. Looking her up and down, taking in the large coffee stain that spread across her shirt and jeans, he had just nodded.

Liz was flipping through a rack of jeans and decided on a pair of baggy Lee's. She then picked up a couple of pairs of army green cargo pants and a various assortment of dark shirts, sweaters, and turtlenecks.

She peered briefly at Zan over the top of the clothes rack. He had been sullen since the coffee incident, spitting out terse answers to her infrequent questions. He was leaning against one of the makeshift changing booths, scanning the store. He wore the same clothes as he did the day before.

Gathering up her clothes in pile, she set them on the floor. She lowered herself to the ground and began crawling down the isle. This was an opportunity that she couldn't let slip by. Hopefully, he wouldn't be able to find her among all of the clothes racks.

As she crawled, she checked her cell phone again. It was still dead. When she had entered the store, she had quickly pinpointed a set of pay phones in the far corner. If she could get to them without Zan seeing her, she would be shielded by a rack of heavy coats and he wouldn't be able to spot her.

Trying to crawl as quickly and quietly as possible, she dodge clothes stands and advertisement kiosks. Slinking around a corner, she saw a pair of heavy boots in front of her. Holding her breath, she looked up. A heavy-set bearded man was looking down at her with a bemused expression. Her heart began beating again and she just smiled and whispered, "Looking for an earring." The man just smiled and continued down the isle.

Rounding one last corner, she reached the phones. Standing quickly, she grabbed a headset and shakily punched 0 for the operator. Once she placed the collect call to Max's cell phone, she waited for long moments while it rang.

On the third ring, he answered.

"Max! Oh, my God. Where are you?"

"Liz!" She could hear the relief in his voice and her heart warmed at the concern. Though she knew that Max would do everything in his power to find her, it was like coming home to hear his familiar voice.

"I'm in some town called Ontonagon in the Upper Peninsula. Are you OK? Where are you?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. We're in a town called Copper Harbor. Max, I don't know why Zan has me. I'm OK, he hasn't hurt me, but Max…" Her voice faltered. "He is so strong - stronger than you. I don't know where we're going or what his plan is. I don't think that he is going to hurt me. But I need you. I don't know what's going on…" Her voice trailed off and she fought off tears. It was so good to hear his voice - Max's voice.

"OK, Liz. This is what we'll do. I'll get there as soon as possible." She heard some rustling in the background. "Looking at the map, it shouldn't take me more than a couple of hours." Liz sighed in relief. Suddenly, she felt a tap on her shoulder. With dread, she slowly turned around and gasped. Zan stood right behind her wearing a cocky smirk on his lips. He snatched the phone from her hand. She could hear Max desperately calling her name over the phone.

Zan put his hand to her shoulder, backed her against the wall and pinned her there. He then put the phone to his ear.

Cutting Max's cries off, he said simply, "Yo, Max."

Max went silent. The tight wad of fear burned in his stomach. Liz was caught. Anger also burst through him as he cringed at the thought of Zan doing something to Liz.

"Zan."

"We need to make some new rules."

Max wasn't sure how to reply.

"Since ya know where we are, that puts yer girl in danger."

His head whirling, Max asked "How?"

"Yo, I'm sure ya know by now that being around ya ain't too safe. Currently, yer da number one target."

"I think I always have been. But what do you want with Liz?"

"She plays couple a parts in dis drama," Zan answered cryptically.

"Just tell me something. Are you my enemy or my friend?"

"Right now, neither."

Max said sternly, "Are you going to hurt her?"

Zan's face stilled. His right eyebrow twitched, making the silver rod jump. He answered slowly, "Nah, yer majesty. But she ain't ready fer ya yet."

"How can I trust you?"

Zan looked at Liz and removed his hand that held her shoulder to the wall. He scratched the top of his head.

"Listen, I won't hurt yer woman. But, you two can't be together. 'Member those sparks flyin' the last time ya touched her? All I'll tell ya is dat yer presence is wicked to her system right now." Zan's eyes roved around the store. He seemed to come to a decision. "I'll score a deal wit ya. You leave us alone and we'll stay in contact wit ya. Every night, Liz'll 'E.T.' ya giving ya the low down. In return, ya stay close but ya don't interfere, got it?"

Max felt like he was backed against the corner. "What if I don't agree?"

"I kin make us disappear and ya'll never find us."

"We just found each other. No matter where you take her, I'll find her."

"Maybe, but ya'll lose precious time and ya'll never know what's goin' on."

Max hesitated. "Let me talk to Liz."

Zan handed the phone to Liz with a serious expression. "Ya know da situation. Ya can either have 'im close or we can continue da chase and drag it out."

Liz looked at his eyes and saw the flint in them again. She carefully took the phone and put it to her ear. "Max?"

"Liz. Listen, you heard what he wants. What do you want to do?"

"I don't think that we have much of a choice. Will you stay nearby?"

Max's heart leapt to his throat and he croaked, "Oh God, Liz. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry about all of this. Of course I'll be close. I won't lose you. Michael, Isabel and Maria are coming. We've been attacked again by the Skins - three times in the last day. They seemed to have declared war. I think it might be good to stay away from you until we get it under control. I don't want to lead them to you. If Zan can…" Here, his voice faltered. "If Zan can keep you safe and we can continue to communicate, this might be the best way."

Liz saw the logic but her heart melted anyway. "OK, then that's what we'll do. Listen, Max." Her eyes found Zan's. "I love you."

Zan's eyes went dark. She heard Max's voice carry over a long distance. "I love you, too, Liz." A few charged moments went by and he said, "You should let me talk to Zan again."

"Alright." She passed the phone back to Zan. He put it to his ear.

Max said, "You have a deal. But it's off the minute one night goes by that I don't speak to Liz. I don't care what your intentions are - if I lose contact with her, I'll kill you."

"Chill. We'll stay in dis general area but we'll never give away our exact location. Ya'll hear from her." Zan slammed the phone down in the cradle.

He grabbed Liz's arm and said, "Let's move."

**********

After he paid for the clothes and other assortments of things, Zan led Liz out into the chilly air.

"We need to escalate our plans. King Max said that he would play by da rules, but I can't take da chance. We need to move quickly."

Liz rubbed her arms through her new heavy coat. She jumped up and down to stay warm. "Where are we going to go?"

Zan looked down at her and hesitated. "Ya made a promise, 'member?" She nodded her head. "OK, I'll be holdin' ya to it. We're goin' to Isle Royale."

He turned on his heels and strode down the sidewalk. Liz ran to catch up. "Where?"

"It's an island about fifty miles off da coast from here. It's rustic - it only has one lodge with a few cabins scattered across the width of it. I got one on da north side."

"You?" Liz asked incredulous. She didn't think of Zan as the woodsy type.

"It's my safe house."

They arrived back at the van. Zan began packing up his things. He had also made some purchases at Goodwill so his possessions took up two large duffel bags. Liz stood idly by. She noticed that he grabbed the alarm clock and the jewelry and also stealthily swiped the photos from underneath the shelf.

She made a mental note to ask him later about it. The message on it was clear but she felt she needed the details. The thought that Ava was dead left her sad. Why would Zan have killed Ava? She hadn't played a part in the attempt on his life and seemed sincerely mournful at his supposed death.

When Zan finished, the van didn't look much different. The mattress still laid there with the bedding draped carelessly over it. He had removed one of the Igloo coolers but left the other one behind. The drawers remained. One thing that she did notice was that he had packed away six cartons of cigarettes. How long were they going to stay on this island anyway?

He left the van in the parking lot and without another look, began walking down the street with the two duffels draped over one shoulder and the cooler in the grip of his other hand.

Since he had gotten their word on the 'new' plan, he seemed to be a bit more relaxed. He didn't look back but just expected that she would follow. She heaved her new duffel on her shoulder and plodded after him.

They caught the ferry going to the island. It was a five hour trip that was cold and miserable. The wind whipped across the deck of the ship and cold spray occasionally splashed up. Though the view around her was breathtaking, she found herself inside for most of the trip. There were only a few other people riding and they seemed like the rugged outdoors type. Overhearing snippets of their conversations, Liz understood that the island was a conservation park where a lot of scientists would visit to record data on the wildlife and faunae.

Zan had chosen a bench in the corner and stretched out. He was currently asleep. Apparently, the severe rocking of the boat on Lake Superior's wind driven waves didn't seem to bother him. She, on the other-hand, was experiencing a slight case of nausea that prevented her from taking a catnap.

They arrived with no fanfare and tied up next to a rickety dock. Liz stepped down with her bag slung over her shoulder and peered down the long plank. She couldn't see any signs of civilization. Despite the reason she was here, the idea of traversing this island was a bit exciting. It was so different than New Mexico that the scientist in her couldn't help but appreciate this new experience.

Zan pushed her from behind and she walked down the dock. She simply followed the other travelers as they wound up a snow covered path. Wearing new winter boots, she easily kept up with them though she was careful not to repeat her previous fall. In remembrance, she gently stroked her sore wrist and sighed. What would be around the next corner for her?

**********

Standing in a warm lodge, Liz looked around her. It was made of rough-hewn logs and furniture made from similar material. She thought it was very pleasant and wondered what the cabin they were destined for would look like.

Zan had disappeared into a small grocery store that was attached to the side of the lodge. He returned holding his cooler with two hands and motioned her to follow him. On the other side of the store were some rough storage buildings. Zan walked purposely to the one on the far left and waved his hand over the lock. He stepped into it leaving Liz peering inside. A light came on and she noticed a snowmobile and various winter articles such as snowshoes and shovels. She stepped into the dim light.

"I assume that this is how we are getting to the cabin?"

"Yo," Zan grunted as he lifted the cooler into a small trailer on ski runners. "It's da only way to get there unless ya wanna walk eight miles in thigh deep snow."

He motioned for her duffel, which he heaved into the sled and his two soon followed. He covered them expertly with a tarp and lashed down the sides securely. He threw her a helmet, which she bobbled and then proceeded to drop.

"You don't seem like a safety type of guy," she mused out loud.

"I ain't. But it cuts down on da wind and saves yer face from getting the skin ripped off from tree branches."

"Oh," Liz murmured, feeling uncomfortable about her lack of knowledge.

Zan stepped onto the snowmobile and primed it. He yanked on the pull cord and it roared to life. He inched it out of the shed making Liz jump to the side. The noise from the engine roared in her ears. Leaving it running, he grabbed the trailer and dragged it outside where he promptly hooked it up to the back.

Stepping inside one last time, he returned with a ten-gallon plastic gas tank that he strapped to the back of the snowmobile.

He shut the doors and again locked them with a wave of his hand.

He put on his helmet, turned to her and said in a muffled voice, "Let's roll."

The landscape was beautiful. They had quickly left any semblance of a road behind them and were riding cross-country. When they were in an open field, Zan would open up the throttle and Liz would cling to his waist from behind as the ground sped rapidly beneath them. The terrain would always vary so that at times, he was picking his way carefully through heavily wooded areas. At times, they had to get off of the sled and literally move it in a 90-degree angle in order to bypass an unavoidable tree. It was exciting yet sometimes painstaking. Quite often, they would startle some wildlife. More than once, Liz saw the biggest deer she'd ever seen lift up their heads in fear and bound away with their white tails raised high like a flag.

She found herself wishing that Max were with her to enjoy it.

**********

Despite the deal he had made with Zan, Max had jumped in his car and sped to Copper Harbor. He had hoped that he would be able to find them and rescue Liz. Though he knew that his proximity hurt Liz, he thought he would get her into Michael's and Isabel's hands and safely secreted away. He had confidence in his family - he had none when it came to Zan.

He was too late, it seemed. Copper Harbor was a tiny town so it wasn't difficult to extract information from the locals about a man that looked like a thug that was traveling with a girl with long brown hair. He traced them to the motel and discovered the van. The motel attendant didn't have anyone that matched their description on the register which completely puzzled him. They probably had arrived in the early morning hours so why hadn't they gotten a room? Unless Zan had just dumped the van in the parking lot after their phone conversation in order to throw him off.

Hoping against hope, he staked out the van on a long shot that he might catch them when they returned. After five hours passed, he had to face the fact that Zan had already fled, dragging Liz with him.

It was then that Isabel had phoned to let him know they had arrived. He left his stakeout and met her, Michael, and Maria at a cheap hotel on the outskirts of the town. He hugged Isabel tightly, glad that she was safe. He then walked stiffly to stand in front of Maria. She had crossed her arms tightly to her chest and just glared at him. Ignoring the obvious tension, he pulled her roughly into his embrace. Though she didn't return the hug, she didn't slug him either. He felt that was a small step towards repairing their strained friendship.

They had agreed that they would stay the night there in the motel. However, after Max brought them up to speed on the current situation, they decided as a group that their stay looked like an extended one. The following day, they planned to rent a cabin from one of the many lodges that advertised along the roadside. It was time to dig in and be prepared for whatever happened next. They had no doubt that they would see the Skins again - it was just a matter of time.

User avatar
AweInspired
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun Nov 04, 2001 3:52 pm

Post by AweInspired » Sun Apr 27, 2003 12:16 am

<b>CHAPTER 8</b>

They arrived with a roar in front of a small square cabin. The windows were boarded up and the slightly arched roof was heavy with snow. They had to dig their way through a six foot snow bank in order to reach the door. Zan pushed heavily on it and it gave way with a protesting groan. Stepping inside, she looked around. It was dark. Zan walked over to something hanging on the wall and passed his hand over it. It flared to life and Liz's nose caught a faint whiff of kerosene. Zan then passed his hand in a sweeping motion around the rest of the room and several wall-mounted lamps lit. The light flickered slowly and she got her first good look.

It was only one room. To her immediate left was a ragged overstuffed couch and chair that faced an unlit fireplace. The fireplace was surrounded by heavy stonework and a rough log mantle perched on top. In the farthest corner, a queen sized iron rail bed sat nestled against two walls. There was an old fashioned quilt neatly tucked over the top. At the foot of the bed, sat a large claw foot tub that stood forlornly by itself. Directly in front of her was a small kitchen that seemed sparsely equipped. Several large wood cabinets hung on the walls over the formica counter tops and a rickety metal table with four chairs sat next to one of only two windows in the cabin.

She instantly felt good about the place.

Zan faced her and said, "I gotta do some work on it to make it livable. We got runnin' water 'cause we're tapped into a well. There's an outhouse out back 'long wit a small sauna. Got no electricity so everthin' runs on kerosene. Also got a small generator case we need it." He raised his hands and swung around in a circle. "Dat's it. Was it da hell ya was expectin'?"

Liz only shook her head.

"A'right."

He moved past her and walked outside. He carried everything indoors while she walked around examining the place in closer detail. On his way out again, he shut the door. She heard the snowmobile roar to life as he moved it to behind the cabin.

Liz suddenly felt exhausted. She crawled onto the top of the bed and pulling her heavy coat up around her ears, she sank into oblivion.

She awoke to the sound of heavy scraping on top of the roof. When she looked, she noticed that the boards on the two windows had been removed and that it was dusk outside. There was a fire lit in the fireplace and the flames crackled and popped. She stood up and walked to the kitchen. There was a pot on the gas stove that seemed to be simmering. She took a deep breath and her stomach rumbled violently. Clutching her hand to her midsection, she heard the scraping on the roof again.

Reaching for the door, she stepped outside and into the cold twilight. Suddenly, a heavy weight came crushing down on her and she was forced to her knees. Sputtering, she realized that she was surrounded in a mound of snow. Looking up, she saw Zan crouched on the edge of the roof looking down at her. He was laughing.

"Just cleanin' off da roof so it don't buckle."

"Yeah, I see that," Liz muttered as she got to her feet and brushed the snow off of her arms and legs. Some snow had drifted underneath her collar and it was beginning to melt, sending long cold shivers uncomfortably down her back. She heard his laughter again and couldn't help but smile back in return. Zan stood up and disappeared from view. She decided that the safest place was inside so she scurried quickly through the door. She quickly shed her heavy coat and boots.

While she was waiting for him to come inside, she decided to unpack some of her things. As she was finishing, Zan stepped in and a blast of cold air shot into the room. He shook himself off and took off his coat and boots and set them next to the door.

He looked at her briefly and then walked into the kitchen area. He stirred the pot and then grabbed a couple of bowls.

Setting them carelessly on the table, he began scooping out two helpings of a thick beef stew. He sat down and began wolfing down the meal.

Annoyed that he didn't wait for her, Liz sat down at the table across from him and began eating with the same earnest. He was done way before her and he went for a second helping. The stew was simple but tasted good. She finished her bowl as he finished his second.

Grunting with satisfaction, Zan leaned back in his chair and lit up a cigarette. He tilted his head back and slowly released the smoke up to the ceiling.

"We got water now and plenty of wood is stacked right outside. The ice box is lit and by tomorrow mornin' should be cold 'nough to put stuff inside."

She looked at him in amazement. He had done all of this while she was sleeping?

He didn't seem to notice. For the first time since she had met him, he seemed completely content. The wariness in his face was gone and his body was sprawled comfortably in the chair. His head swung slowly down and met her gaze directly. He smiled a crooked smile and said, "I'm game for 'nother round of twenty questions."

"Yeah, OK." Liz sat up straighter in her chair. "What happened to Ava and Rath?"

Zan looked thoughtfully at her as if trying to decide what to say. "Well, Ava got killed by Lonnie. After da summit incident, Lonnie tracked her down and…" He made a slicing cut across his throat.

Liz gazed at him mournfully. Ava wasn't an angel but Liz had made a strange connection with her. Ava had seemed strangely out of place with the dupes and the last time Liz saw her, hopeful for the first time in her future. That her life was snuffed out in that new phase of her life made Liz sad.

"What about Rath?"

Zan's eyes bored into hers. "I killed him."

Liz just nodded. She had expected as much.

"What about Lonnie? Where is she?"

"On da run hangin' wit a bad crowd."

"Are you going to kill her too?"

"Damn straight. She was da brains behind everythin'. Rath wouldn't pick his nose without her."

"Don't get me wrong here, I'm not on the cheering side for Lonnie but isn't she your sister?" Liz asked questioningly.

Zan looked at her darkly without flinching. His direct gaze made her hiccup.

"She no longer my sister."

"Oh, OK."

Liz stood up and began clearing off the table. Over her shoulder, she asked "What about your powers? How come you're so much stronger than the rest of them?"

"I'm da king's dupe. I got everything."

"But how come Max doesn't then?" She ran a bit of cold water into the sink and began to scrub the bowls.

Zan swiveled his chair so that he could face her. He took another long puff on his cigarette.

"Dat'll come later." Liz sighed.

"Fine. What can you tell me then?"

Zan stood up and walked over to her. He leaned back on the countertop and crossed one leg over the other one casually. "I can tell ya about what's happen' to ya."

Liz paused and looked up at him.

"You can?"

"Yeah. Dat's one reason I got ya out here so dat ya can start learning how to control yer powers."

"Why can you and Max can't?"

Zan put his chin down and peered at her from under his eyebrows expectantly.

"Jeez, OK. So you can't tell me that either." Liz finished the last of the dishes and wiped her hands on a towel.

Zan walked back to the table and lit another cigarette from his dying one. He put out the smoking butt and then grabbed the ashtray and walked over to the couch. He put the ashtray down on the ground and flung himself onto the cushions.

Liz walked over and settled in the chair.

"What do you know about my powers?

"When King Max healed ya, he transferred his abilities through the connection he made."

"So then, everyone who is healed by Max will go through the same process."

"Nah, not necessarily. Depends on the connection he made wit da person. Ya can heal without…" He waved his hand airily. "Without passing 'em on."

"What's happening to me then?"

"Yer body is tryin' to cope with the awakening of yer mind. Usually, the change progresses naturally but yer connection with Max has escalated 'em. Therefore, ya need help to catch up with yer…" and he tapped his head.

"Am I in danger?" Liz asked.

"Well, you ain't dying but your body is strainin' hard right now. 'Cause of the load it's taking, you might spout off a blood clot and stroke out or possibly some sort of organ failure. Depends on a lot of factors."

Liz paled. She nervously played with her shirt cuff. She had images of a clot rushing through her veins on its way to her brain. She began to tremble.

"Ya ain't got no blood clot, baby."

"How do you…Wait a minute. You just did it again. You read my thoughts." She looked hard at him and said, "I really wish you'd quit doing that."

"I ain't doing it. You are."

**********

Liz stood up quickly. "What do you mean?"

"I <i>mean</i>…" he answered, dragging out the word, "…that you're doin' it. You're projectin' yer thoughts at me. I just happen to be on the receivin' end."

Liz looked perplexed. "You mean that I am sending out my thoughts and you just happen to be able to comprehend them?"

Zan simply nodded. "I don't get everythin'. Only what you send my way."

"I don't get it. Can you do this with everyone?"

"Nope, only with little green dudes or in yer case, babes."

Liz ignored the reference. "So you can't read a normal human's thoughts?"

"Nope. Their brains ain't like ours. They don't have the power to project. If they don't got the power to project, then we can't receive."

"We…" Liz repeated thoughtfully. She still hadn't come to terms with what was happening to her. She still felt that she was an outsider to the pod squad. A human.

"Can you send to a normal human?"

"Same deal. They got to have the stuff to receive."

"So can all aliens do this or is it a specific gift?"

Zan sunk lower into the couch and curled his arm around the top of his head. His other hand rested on his lower abdomen.

"It's the one <i>gift</i> that we all got."

Liz settled back into the chair beginning to think it through like a scientist. "Do you know how it works? I mean, do you know the physical properties of it?"

Zan scoffed. "Nah, I just know how to do it."

Liz contemplated some more for a minute. "Then I can control what you see."

"Yeah and I'd really like it if ya did. I'm gettin' sick of seein' da many ways ya want to torture me."

Liz let a small smile slip out. "OK, then. Teach me."

"What? Now? No way. I'm beat. Plus we gotta get 'on da line' with King Max."

"You have a phone all the way out here?"

"Yeah, nimwit. Right here," and he tapped his head for emphasis.

"Oh." The 'nimwit' comment stung. She was used to being the one who figured things out first.

"Da first few times, I'll have to help ya out. You'll gradually get control and then ya can do it on yer own."

"Is it dream walking?"

"It's along the same lines but Max don't have to be asleep. It's like when you rang him in New York."

"Oh." Again, she felt very small.

"C'mon over here."

Zan sat up on the couch and sat Indian style. Liz walked over and sat across from him keeping her distance.

"Hell, I ain't gonna hurt you. I hafta touch ya to do this."

She scooted closer until her knees were touching his. She felt uncomfortable being this close to him especially face to face. He reached out and grabbed her hands.

"OK. This is what is goin' down. I'll assist you in contacting him. All I'm gonna do is lend ya the energy just like at the Crashdown. All the work will still be done by you - I'm just acting as an amplifier, so to speak."

"Will you be there with us?"

"Yeah, I gotta be. If I'm helpin', then there's no way 'round it."

"Yeah, OK." Her voice trembled a bit. This scared her.

"Don't worry. I ain't gonna let go."

She looked into his eyes for confirmation. "OK."

They closed their eyes and Liz concentrated on Max. She pictured him in her mind smiling and looking down at her. He wore his new black leather jacket and he had a five-o'clock shadow. She concentrated on his eyes and the way that they made her feel. She was dimly aware of a tingling in her hands that spread up through her arms and into her stomach. It traveled upwards, setting her face on fire and then in her mind, she felt an explosion of tiny sparks. Then she felt a push and she was standing in front of Max.

<i>He was pacing a motel room. It had cheap décor and smelled faintly of must. When he swung on his heel to make a return trip, he saw her. "Liz?"

'Hello Max,' she mouthed. She couldn't project any sound. It was just like when she helped in New York. Frustrated, she looked over Max's shoulder and saw Zan sitting on one of the cheap chairs, smoking a cigarette. Following her gaze, Max noticed Zan for the first time. His fists clenched but he didn't make a move. Zan swept his hand toward Liz and said, "Like I promised."

Liz walked over to him and mouthed some words. She pointed to her lips and made gestures of sound coming out of her lips. Zan smiled and held the palm of his hand towards her. She felt another tingling in her throat.

Satisfied, she turned back to Max. "Hello, Max."

"Liz." Her name escaped his lips softly. He walked over to her and wrapped her in his arms. She smelled the leather from his coat and melted in his embrace.

He slowly released her and held her out at arm's length. "Are you OK?"

"Yes, I'm fine." She smiled brightly at him. "It is so good to feel you."

He beamed and gave her a wide smile. "Same here. So where are you? What have you been doing?"

They heard a noise behind them and they both turned. Zan raised a finger warningly and said, "We had a deal."

Max looked at the floor and turned back to Liz. "Sorry. I'm just worried. Why is he here?" Max tilted his head in Zan's direction.

"He's helping me make this connection. I couldn't be here unless he did." Her entire focus was on Max. He looked worn like he hadn't gotten enough sleep. But his eyes still mesmerized her. She forgot completely about Zan.

"You look good."

"Where are Michael, Maria and Isabel?"

"They just got here and went to grab something to eat. I didn't want to go, just in case."

"Max, you have to eat." She reached up and stroked his face. His eyes closed as she cupped his cheek gently. He reached his hand up and covered hers with his. He kissed the palm lovingly.

She leaned into him and placed her cheek against his chest. She could feel his heartbeat as it pounded rapidly. It was so familiar and felt so safe. She simply sighed with contentment.

She began to feel the tingling again in the tips of her fingers. Startled, she pulled back. Zan's voice wafted over to her. "You losin' it. We gotta split."

Liz looked up at Max and mouthed 'I love you' and pressed her forehead against his. He kissed the top of her head and then nestled his forehead against hers again. The tingling in her fingertips had reached her stomach. He whispered, "I love you too."</i>

Then she felt the push again. Coming back was harder. It felt like her arms were lead and she gasped for air. Opening her eyes, she realized that Zan still had her hands in his. At some point during the connection, their bodies had leaned forward until their foreheads had rested against the other. Startled, she jumped back in time to see Zan's eyes snap open.

She couldn't define the look that he gave her. He slowly released her hands and leaned backward. His lips were slightly parted and he looked spooked. Then his eyes focused as he seemed to come back to reality. He leaped off of the couch like she had burned him. He stood looking down at her with a wide-eyed expression and then fairly ran to the door. Throwing on just his boots, he burst out into the dark.

Puzzled but still warm with the feeling of Max, Liz fell back on the couch with a smile.

**********

Zan pushed his way through snow that sometimes reached his waist. The physical exertion caused him to gasp for breath and sweat heavily but he wouldn't stop. It felt good to punish his body.

After fifteen minutes of plowing through the snow, he reached a small frozen pond. He stopped at the edge, leaning down to hug his knees as his lungs screamed for air. Slowly, he regained his breath and straightened to full upright position. Looking up, clouds filtered the full moon's rays, which created a muted lighted effect. The ice on the pond couldn't be seen under the several inches of snow but he knew it was there.

The experience with Liz had freaked him. By lending his power to her, he had had to make a connection. Because of this connection, he had felt everything she felt. The joy and love for Max had washed through his body making him light headed. He had never experienced feelings like that because he'd never let anyone close enough. But the love had washed over him and now he stood at the foot of the pond with an ache in his stomach that he couldn't rid.

"Fuck."

It felt good to curse aloud. The scene around him seemed almost pristine and defiling it with a filthy word made him feel like he regained some semblance of control that he had recently just lost.

"Fuck!" he screamed at the top of his lungs. The snow only muffled the outburst taking away some of its edge. Defeated, he stomped his feet to keep warm. While he was running, he hadn't noticed that he'd forgotten his coat. The need for escape had driven him mindlessly out of the cabin and away from one who had caused these feelings.

Feeling calmer, he stared out over the lake beginning to appreciate the scene around him. In New York City, there wasn't much nature to experience excluding the human kind. And he just didn't trust the human kind. He trusted the alien kind even less.

Rath had killed a storeowner one night when he was caught stealing pharmaceutical products from a drug store. Leaving the man in a pool of blood, he'd fled back to the sewers where he'd bragged about it. Disgusted, Zan had pretty much ignored him until Rath spouted off about how he'd used his powers to burn a hole in the man's chest. Furious that Rath would risk exposing them like that, he faced off with him. Rath snarled and called him a "weak-ass pussy" but in the end, he backed down just like he always did.

Zan had stalked off and returned to the drug store in order to clean up Rath's mess. After 'altering' the wound on the dead man so that there wouldn't be any traces of alien activity, Zan had gone to the cash register to empty it. They needed the money and he had no morality issues when it came to stealing from a dead man. Underneath the cash drawer, he had discovered the deed to the cabin. Intrigued, he had looked it up on a map.

After returning to the sewers and finding himself in the middle of another confrontation with Rath, he split. He used the money from the cash register and hunted down the cabin. Thinking that he'd simply hide out for a couple of days, ransack the place and go back, he had surprisingly found the woods comforting. After a few days, he realized why.

The natural world held a wonder that he found attractive. There were rules here that couldn't be altered. Also, nature didn't backstab, scheme or threaten. He'd found a peace away from the honking horns, smell of the sewer and Lonnie and Rath's infidelities. He knew they were making alliances behind his back. Each day with them became more and more a game of intrigue. The stress of staying on top wore him out.

So, for the two years prior to the truck incident, he'd sneak up here for a few days at a time to just chill and get a grip. Lonnie, Rath, and Ava were used to him disappearing though usually it was because he had shacked up with a woman. They had just assumed that he was continuing to do so.

Sighing heavily and taking one last look at the pond illuminated by moonlight, he stomped back into the trees. No matter what, his responsibilities had to be fulfilled.

User avatar
AweInspired
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 21
Joined: Sun Nov 04, 2001 3:52 pm

Post by AweInspired » Sun Apr 27, 2003 12:19 am

<b>CHAPTER 9</b>

Arriving back at the cabin, he found Liz sitting on the couch with a smile on her face. Irritated, he huffed and made a beeline for his cigarettes. As the smoke invaded his lungs, his nerves began to calm.

Liz watched him expectantly. She felt his mood and knew that if she questioned him about what happened earlier, he would only lash out. There were so many things that she didn't understand about him. His personality seemed so layered that she couldn't even distinguish where one ended and the other began. There wasn't a pattern to his behavior and almost every hour, he surprised her by doing something unexpected. After spending almost a day and a half in his presence, she felt no closer to discovering who he was.

Brushing her hair back from her face, she was horrified to discover that her hair hung in damp, oily strands. Rubbing her fingers on her cheeks, she envisioned layers of dirt balling under the gentle strokes. It had been two days since she'd taken a shower.

Longingly, she glanced at the claw foot tub. Wanting more than anything to wash away the dirt, she pondered at the indiscreetness of the tub's placement within the cabin. Wavering in her decision, she finally decided to confront Zan about it.

He stood in front of the window by the kitchen table staring off into the night. His cigarette dangled from his fingertips and she watched as a long chunk of ash fell from the tip without his knowledge. He seemed deep in thought and she wondered if it had anything to do with his strange behavior from earlier. She shook her head knowing that she wouldn't find any answers by pondering the situation. There were just too many unknowns.

"Zan?" she asked hesitatingly.

"Yeah," he answered without turning from the window.

"I really need to clean up. Is the tub functional?"

"Yeah."

"Well, um, can I use it?"

"Whatever. Ya don't gotta ask my permission."

"But…" She hesitated.

Zan cranked his head and looked over his shoulder. His face held a blank expression.

"What about… Well, how can…" Liz faltered again. He watched her stoically. As it didn't appear that he would to offer any help out of the awkward situation, she decided to concede defeat. He didn't seem to be the type of person who was concerned with discretion when it came to nudity. She still felt the after effects of her 'visit' with Max and didn't want to spoil it. "Forget it."

She stood up and went to the kitchen. Zan turned around and continued to stare out of the window. She grabbed a large stewing pot, filled it with water and set it on the stove with the burner on high.

She then walked over to the tub, turned on the faucet and ran the ice-cold water. It slowly began to fill. Scrounging through her belongings, she found the soap, washcloth and cheap shampoo she had picked up earlier that day. Setting them near the tub so that they were within reach, she walked back over to the stove and stood patiently while it slowly heated.

Zan finished his cigarette and dumped it in the ashtray. Seemingly suddenly aware of his surroundings, he looked in her direction. His eyebrows narrowed as he took in the slowly heating pot and the running water in the tub. Rolling his eyes, he walked over to the stove and turned the burner off.

"Ya don't gotta do that. Yer just wastin' gas."

She looked at him expectantly but kept quiet. He looked at her for a moment and then strode over to the tub. Sitting on the edge, he stuck his hand under the running water. Liz walked over and looked over his shoulder. His hand glowed slightly as the rushing water cascaded around it. After a minute or so, she began to feel warmth radiating from the water in the tub. As it neared the top, he turned off the faucet and then swirled his glowing hand through the standing water. Soon, steam rose from the surface.

She watched with some amazement as she again realized that this was probably beyond Max's capabilities. It had taken extraordinary strength and control to keep the energy flowing for the length of time Zan needed to warm the water.

When Zan was satisfied, he stood up and faced her. She nervously crossed her arms in front of her and said quietly, "Thanks."

He didn't answer but stepped around her and returned to the window. She heard the flick of a lighter and the glow from the end of his cigarette was illuminated in the glass. Turning back to the tub, she looked longingly at it. Looking back at Zan again, he was still facing the window.

Turning her back to him, she quickly began to undress. She wanted to get into the tub as soon as possible in order to avoid an embarrassing situation to herself. Catching a movement out of the corner of her eye, she instinctively put her recently removed shirt to her chest and held her breath. Suddenly, the room grew noticeably darker and she looked over her shoulder. Zan still stood in front of the window but his arm was raised at his side. She realized that he was extinguishing each of the kerosene lamps one by one. Thankful for the privacy of the dim light, she stepped into the tub and submerged herself in the water.

Lathering quickly, she enjoyed the feeling of the dirt falling away from her body. The soap soon created a thin film over the top of the water and Liz was again thankful for the layer of protection however meager that it was.

Wetting her hair, she flipped it over her head and began to massage the shampoo into the roots. She went through the motions quickly, half expecting Zan to appear at the side of the tub and heckle her just for the embarrassment factor. Submersing herself, she rinsed as much soap and shampoo out as possible. She glanced again but Zan but didn't seem to have moved a muscle during her ministrations.

Wishing she could just soak and allow the hot water to seep into her pores, she felt too uncomfortable to truly enjoy the experience. Taking one more look in his way, she deemed it was safe and quickly exited the tub. Drying off behind a large towel in record time, she slipped on a clean t-shirt and a pair of sweat pants. Feeling comfortable once again, she slowed to a normal pace and wrapped her head in the towel.

She noticed that the fire had died down considerably and debated what to do. Seemingly on cue, Zan turned around, strode to fireplace and began to stoke it. The mood in the cabin was eerie. No words had been spoken in the last ten minutes. She reached into the deep water and grabbed the stopper at the bottom.

"Nah, don't do that. I gotta wash." Surprised, Liz let go.

She removed the towel from her head and hung it on a rack sitting next to the tub. A bit uncertain about what to do next, she looked from the bed to the couch. The bed was large and the couch was lumpy. Where would Zan choose to sleep? Torn, she opted for the bed, leaving the decision to him. Guilt nagged at the corner of her subconscious. It was a feeling of infidelity to Max. She could choose the couch and solve the dilemma. A part of her, however, wanted to see what Zan would decide. Her path chosen, she crawled under the heavy blankets and quilt.

She watched as Zan fiddled with a log one last time. Satisfied, he closed the screen. Turning in her direction, he seemed to hesitate only for a second before walking over to the tub. Repeating his performance from before, the water was soon steaming. Liz continued to watch him.

Turning his back to her, Zan slowly removed his clothes. He grabbed the ends of his shirt and tugged it over his head, throwing it in a heap on the floor. Reaching down, he slid both socks off of his feet and added them to the pile. Then his hands went to the jeans button and Liz held her breath. Expecting him to make some sort of snide comment, she was surprised when he removed his jeans quickly and without compunction. Still with his back to her, he stood in the pair of white boxers she had seen earlier that morning. They hung snugly to his body and hinted at his shape. For the first time, she saw the muscles that bunched at his thighs and calves.

He was either ignoring the fact that she watched him or didn't care that her eyes were glued to his frame. Never understanding the thrills of voyeurism before, the streaks of heat running up and down her body surprised her. In the quietness of the cabin, purposely watching a man slowly undress before her without permission became intensely erotic. Underneath, however, she felt that he allowed her to watch as a form of an apology. Instead of feeling played, she found that she wanted to take advantage of this gift.

He reached over again and tested the water. Before she could react, he reached inside the waistband of his shorts and pulled them down. As he was half turned away from her, she viewed the rippling muscles of his backside. She studied the hard lines of his hip bone and the slight curve of his back as it reached the top of his buttocks - for some reason, the view of that angle of his body was perfect. It seemed the hint of the unknown was more alluringly sexy than if she could view all of him. As he turned to step into the tub, she hid her face in the pillow in order not to spoil the image. Though he had allowed her to watch until that point, she felt that she couldn't violate him by stealing a glance of his remaining intimate vulnerability.

The whole scene seemed to have taken on a surreal quality as she heard his body slide beneath the surface of the water. The only other sound in the cabin was the crackling fire and an occasional wind gust from outside. She removed her face from the pillow and flipped on her back to stare at the ceiling. His form remained etched in her field of vision.

"What's so special 'bout King Max."

His voice carried so softly that she almost didn't catch his words. Her first reaction was to play dumb at his question but she bit back the impulse. Zan seemed like a different person right now and for some reason, she didn't want to spoil the mood. His actions since he'd returned from fleeing so suddenly clearly represented melancholy. Unknowingly, an instinct to shield him from further pain arose.

Pausing for a few seconds, she answered to the ceiling. "I love him."

"Why?"

She considered her answer. "I suppose because he saved my life. Because he risked everything to do so."

Zan just cocked his head in a questioningly manner.

"It's because of who he is. The way he looks at me. The things he changed in his life to be with me." Images of the shy looks Max used to send her way arose in her mind.

"I still don't dig it." His voice remained quiet and surprisingly, lacked the usual challenging tone. He seemed genuinely curious.

"Oh, I don't know. How do you explain something so emotional, something so intertwined with your own soul? I don't have the words to describe it." She turned on her side, propped her head on her hand and looked towards the foot of the bed. He faced her in the tub with his arms resting on either side. His head reclined on the edge and stared up at the ceiling. Most of his upper torso remained above the water line and she could clearly see his pierced nipples. However, the dimness in the room prevented her from seeing through the water's depth.

"It just don't make sense to me."

Curious, she scooted to the foot of the bed and viewed him through the iron rails. "What do you mean?"

"How 'bout now? You still dig 'im after he fucked Ava?"

"Tess," she corrected automatically though his words stung. He'd hit on the sorest spot in her life. Had she really forgiven Max for sleeping with Tess? That Liz loved him was not an issue. But she still didn't know how to ever get over that hurdle.

"I was crushed… well, still am crushed. I mean, I had saved myself to be with him and I thought it was understood that our first time would always be together. After everything that has happened, that <i>one</i> thing is the hardest to overcome."

"So he got some action and yer still hangin' in the breeze. If I was ya, I wouldn't take dat shit."

Liz knew that she should have taken offense to the remark but she couldn't be mad. What Zan said was true. Max was no longer a virgin and she was. She <i>was</i> absolutely humiliated and she had to be honest with herself - in a way, she wanted to hurt him as bad as he had hurt her. After all, hadn't she sacrificed her love for him at his request to an enemy? An enemy that his future version of himself should have been aware of?

Shaking her head at the disconcerting feelings, she gathered up her courage and asked "Haven't you ever loved someone or been loved back?"

"No," he said simply.

"Have you ever wanted to?"

He remained silent and after a bit, she realized that he wasn't going to answer the question.

"Zan, who is the woman in the picture?" Almost expecting him to lash out at her, she was surprised when he answered quickly.

"Shandra."

"What is she to you? Do you love her?"

The silence stretched again. Liz feared he wouldn't answer but he did.

"She was a friend." Noticing his use of the past tense, she felt a bit of dread of what she might discover.

"She was only a friend?"

"Yeah," Zan sighed and settled further into the water. "She was just a friend. One day, I used my powers to score some money from a till - I saw that she'd seen it. She followed me on the subway until I got off. I snuck around a corner and grabbed her as she followed. I had her pinned against the wall, seconds from causing serious damage when she said, 'You're amazing.' Dat's it. Dat's all she said when I was all in her face ready to do some serious mutilation."

"What happened then?"

"I was so surprised I let her go. I mean, what a cornball thing to say. But she didn't run. Jesus, she was beautiful. She just stood there and looked at me with this wonderment, almost reverence. I freaked and ran."

After his last words, he slipped under the surface of the water and than reemerged with water running down his face. He snorted water out of his nose and rubbed his eyes. He then roughed up his hair with his fingers and shook the water from it. "After a few days, I hunted her down. I'd shaken the incident off but I couldn't allow no one to be in on da secret. I found her in her apartment while she was sleeping. There were these charcoal sketches all over her apartment of me. They were…" he hesitated, looking for the right words. "They were of me but weren't, know what I mean? The guy in da pictures looked like me but the power and da purpose that radiated from him wasn't me. It was like I was lookin' at myself but I didn't feel like it was myself. Some other dude was in those sketches wearin' my skin. That guy looked hopeful and looked like he had purpose and a vision."

"She drew your potential."

He sighed. "I don't know what it was but I was intrigued. I let her be that night but confronted her a few days later. I tried to intimidate her but she wouldn't let me. It was like she saw someone else when I was standin' in front of her."

He added simply, "It was refreshing."

"So she knew that you were an alien."

"Nah, I never told her. But she knew I had some abilities - guess she thought I was psychic or somethin'. I'd show off small things to her and she'd just beam." Liz watched as he smiled. It must have lifted a weight off that someone finally knew his secrets. Well, Shandra didn't know all of them but he apparently didn't have to hide from her like he did everyone else.

"So you fell in love with her."

"Nah, that's da thing. I didn't. After hangin' together for a few months, she said that she loved me but I just didn't feel it back. Sure, she was special but dat's all it was."

"What happened then? That must have been hard for her to have expressed herself that way and not have you say it back."

Zan tilted his head forward so that he looked directly at Liz. "Who says I didn't say it back?"

"Oh." Not knowing what to say to his comment, Liz said, "Then how did it end?"

Zan leaned even further towards her and grabbed the sides of the tub. He cocked his head to the side and sneered. Tension coursed through Liz at the sudden change.

With an edge to his voice, he replied, "Whatya think happened? Lonnie killed her…" he paused and then added with quiet menace. "Just like all the others before her."

**********

Max stared at the ceiling but couldn't sleep. Seeing Liz had given him energy and released some of the tension. It was nice that he could be near her without causing her pain. She looked good and seemed unharmed by Zan. He still didn't trust him - how could he? He felt pretty helpless but the fact that he would see her every night smoothed the edges of his frustration.

Punching the pillow further under his head, he willed himself to sleep. They had a lot to do the following day and he knew that sometime in the near future, there would be a battle that would decide the pod squad's fate.

He wondered if Liz had the same trouble sleeping as he did. Where was she? Where did she sleep at night? And specifically, where did Zan sleep?

**********

Startled, Liz sat up straight on the bed. "What do you mean Lonnie killed her? What others are you talking about?"

"Yo, I mean what I mean. She offed 'em. Any bitch that I shacked with that lasted more 'n a week began to show up stiff. Da first was killed by a hit 'n run. I didn't think too much of it. The second, by a late night muggin'. By da third, I got wise. At da time, I didn't finger Lonnie. I figured it was some dude that I pissed off once that decided to get even. Den da summit thing was on da plate. All sudden like, Lonnie's all in my face 'bout it. I got suspicious. I knew her and dat gutter rat Rath were playin' on da side - I just didn't know who was da otha players."

Liz noticed that his accent suddenly became stronger. Over the evening, he'd tempered it either consciously or unconsciously. She began to tie the strength of his accent with how high his emotions were running.

"One night, me and she had words. Things had gotten tense - more'n usual. She let fly how'd she'd hoped I be miserable 'n shit. I told her to can it. But she got in my face and started namin' da girls dat had died. She knew every single one of der fuckin' names and described each of der last moments. She was pumped beyond reason - flyin' off da walls 'n shit. I smacked her down on da couch - I coulda killed her I was so steamin'."

"But you didn't."

"Nah. I got to realizin' dat she was beyond crazy. I had to cool it and decide what ta do. I mean, I just found out dat my sister was offin' my girls just so as I wouldn't be happy."

He leaned back in the tub forcefully. Some of the water sloshed over the side and onto the wood floor beneath. He sighed heavily and some of the furious energy that had raged through him seemed to have dissipated. "At da time, I was hittin' it hard wit Shandra. I threatened Lonnie dat if she evah touched her, I'd kill her. Da followin' night was when they got der revenge. After the truck thing 'n discoverin' that they'd already split, I booked it to Shandra's." He took a lengthy pause before continuing. "She was strung up in da apartment, hacked up pretty good. It was da worse Lonnie'd ever left 'em. Every sketch of me was slashed. By da look of things, she'd done it a good four hours before." Zan ran his hand over his face like he wanted to erase the picture from before his eyes. Liz sat horrified, unable to respond. No wonder Zan was closed off. Every person he'd ever gotten remotely attached to was either a traitor or killed.

"So, baby. Is dat da answer you was lookin' for? Ain't it a sweet story?"

"No. It isn't."

Zan just chuckled. "I betcha dat nevah happened to you, sweets, in dat podunk town ya called home."

Rage flared through her. "I lost a friend, Zan. Someone that was very important to me. I've also been shot and nearly died, chased by the FBI, kidnapped by a look-a-like evil Max, chased by the police, shot at again, locked up in a jail cell twice, found out that the man I loved was promised to another, had his future version of himself tell me that I had to sacrifice everything I held dear, found out that he'd slept with Tess and that she was pregnant, almost lost him on a spaceship, and then to top it off, I find out that I'm changing, that it might kill me, and that I'm going to be an alien hybrid soon if not already." She paused to catch her breath. Then she continued in a softer voice. "So no, I didn't go through what you did living in the sewers. And what you experienced was a terrible thing. But don't ever sit there and assume that you're the only one who's had it hard, you arrogant, self-centered <i>prick</i>."

She gave him a steady look and then turned her back on him. She crawled underneath the covers and curled up against the wall.

After a few minutes, she heard him get out of the tub and dry off. She heard the water draining slowly as he walked quietly over to the fire and banked it for the night.

Then he was crawling into bed next to her and she felt him face the other direction. Their skin, though not touching, prickled as though from static electricity.

His muffled voice floated over to her. "A'right. I kin respect that."

***********

Things changed a bit after that first night, Liz realized. It had been three days since they had arrived. Each morning, she awoke to Zan cooking breakfast in his tight under shorts. Uncomfortable at first, she was forced to come to terms with it by the constant exposure. Zan usually didn't throw on a pair of pants until midmorning when he had to run outside to the outhouse. Even then, he'd just throw his heavy winter jacket over his bare chest. When he returned, he'd just drop his coat and strut around the cabin. He only wore a shirt when he spent extended amounts of time outside, chopping firewood, shoveling snow, or doing odd maintenance jobs on and around the cabin.

Each night she had visited Max. Because of Zan's constant presence, they simply held each other, comforted by the other's nearness. She had learned that Max, Michael, Isabel, and Maria found a set of cabins just outside of Copper Harbor. They had begun fortifying it, knowing that a confrontation with the Skins would probably come. Though Max hid it well, she knew he was scared about the possible coming battle. Whenever she attempted to express concern, he would just wave the subject away and ask about her. She explained how Zan was helping her with her powers and each day would give Max a report of her progress. She couldn't help but notice the looks of fierce jealousy Max shot Zan. To Zan's credit, he mostly left them be and ignored Max's deathly glares.

Every visit with Max comforted on her on many levels. Max was her home and her safety and in their time together, Liz felt herself. However, in the fringes of her mind, the resentment that she'd expressed to Max before she left for Vermont was slowly resurfacing. As each day with Zan passed and she felt a bit more comfortable with him, she didn't feel the need to cling to Max as she had in the beginning of this whole ordeal. When she felt her life was threatened, her first instinct was to run to him. However, now that she was feeling more secure, the nagging doubts began to plague her. How was this issue ever going to be resolved?

She'd noticed that after each visit with Max, Zan made a habit of leaving the cabin though he usually returned in better spirits than he did that the first night.

Liz found the times when he worked outside a relief. Though the cabin was charming, it quickly became wearing to have to share it with Zan 24/7. His moods, though more tempered than before, still flew through the cabin like a black thundercloud. She however, was beginning to callous herself to his biting words or sullen temperaments. She no longer flinched when he made a punishing comment intended to either intimidate or frighten her. After four days with this man, she figured he would have physically harmed her a long time ago if that was part of his plan. And he definitely had a plan. That much was obvious but she remained in the dark to even a hint of what it was.

Being grateful for one thing, Liz thought about Zan's help in regard to her powers. Each day, they would spend three to four hours together so that she could learn to manage the changes occurring in her body. They started small. He tried to teach her how to summon the energy at will but keep it simmering at her fingertips without releasing it. Guessing that you had to be born with the power to have a natural instinct for it, she'd blown up several dishes and charred the sides of the cabin. Zan constantly had to clean up after her, using his own powers to undo her attempts. Once, after she had set the couch on fire, Zan had sworn and called her 'pathetic even fer a damn human'. Liz quickly pointed out that the reason the couch was currently ablaze was because she was just like him. No longer could he lump her solely as part of the human race. He'd only shook his head, doused the fire with a wave of his hand, and forced her to continue.

One thing for sure, she didn't short-circuit when Zan touched her. While Max's nearness had created green energy sparks that would sizzle through her hands and leave searing trails of pain, Zan's presence seemed to do the opposite. Her body calmed at his touch as if he turned down the flame raging inside her. When she asked about it, he told her that it was a conscious effort on his part to dampen the powers that threatened to control her. She wasn't sure what he did, but physically, being with him provided wonderful moments of relief and calm. She hadn't realized just how much the energy boiling inside her had agitated her system until he removed the edge.

Zan remained quiet however on his true purpose and why he, a dupe of the king, was ten times stronger than the original. Liz pondered this but, again, remained in the dark. So many unknowns and so much of Zan. By afternoon of the third day, it came to a head.

She'd finally had some success earlier that morning with harnessing the power within her. Of course, she didn't have any control once it left her body but she could now mostly release or retain it at will. It seemed like so much work for something that came to Zan so naturally. They'd decided to stop while they were ahead and he gave her a break until mid-afternoon. He'd then stepped up the practice exercises. He wanted her to decipher the different threads of the energy. He described it in the following way. Each alien hybrid was born with certain abilities. Each of the abilities was born from different types of power sources. These source types were tightly intertwined forcing the hybrid to distinguish and unravel the strands of power in order to use if for different purposes. He described the thought transference as one example. Dream-walking, changing molecular structure, power blasts, shields, mind warping, and something he called time shifting were all controlled by different threads of power.

Since the rest of the abilities were familiar to her, she'd asked him to explain time shifting. Standing in the kitchen while he fixed himself a cup of coffee, he smirked at her sitting on the couch. The next thing she knew, Zan was sitting next to her. Startled, she leaped to her feet with a squeak. Looking down at him in awe, she noticed that not only had he appeared out of the blue but also his coffee was half finished. Enjoying her speechlessness, Zan just smirked again. Then before her eyes Zan disappeared and reappeared back in the kitchen leaning back against the counter and sipping on a recently filled cup.

Once her heart rate returned to some semblance of normal, she asked him to explain. Apparently, he had the ability to alter the flow of time within a certain distance. By speeding it up considerably in the space around him, he could move normally though the human (or alien) eye couldn't detect it. This was the most difficult exercise of his abilities, he explained. It required significant amounts of energy to control the time shift which limited him in the length he could command it. He considered his little trick to be average on the scale of difficulty. Usually, if he used it for too long or too often, then his body would be wiped out and it would take time to regain his strength. Because of the level of difficulty, it would be the last thing to teach her.

"Zan, do I have the potential for all of those things that you listed? I mean, do I have the correct power source?"

"Definitely. You was healed by Max so he transferred his abilities to ya."

"I still don't understand. Then why can't Max do these things?"

"He can."

"Then why haven't we seen it before?"

Zan gave her a hard look. "I wouldn't tell ya before so I ain't tellin' ya now."

Exasperated by his constant blocks to vital information, she got angry. Here she was, in the middle of nowhere, learning alien powers and Zan fed her bits and pieces of information when he deemed it necessary. Especially information regarding Max.

"Jesus! When are you going to tell me? I'm sitting here against my will doing everything you tell me. Yet you get to pick when and where you want to feed me information?"

"So?" Zan answered darkly.

Seeing that he was turning nasty and that following this conversation track was going nowhere, she spat out, "Fine! You play your little game. I'm going out." She threw on her winter gear and left Zan standing in the kitchen.

Stomping through the snow, she made her way through the trees that surrounded the cabin. Furious, she noticed the by now familiar tingling at the end of her fingertips. Pulling off a mitten, small green sparks traveled up and down her arm. Her anger had flared the energy inside her and she fought to control it. Fearing that she was losing the battle, she turned into a field the butted up against a large rock bluff. Burning with the need to release the power, she put her back to the rock and faced the clearing. Then she let loose.

She didn't aim at anything in particular - anyway, she couldn't hit it if she tried. She just faced the clearing and let the power run through her. Energy blasts roared across the clearing surprising her at their strength. The power continued to surge. She tried to turn them to the ground and succeeded in scorching a track through the snow and about a foot into the frozen ground below.

Beginning to tire, Liz tried to reel the energy in. Slowly, she got command of it and again, felt the tingling in her arms. Slumping against the face of the rock, she put her hand to her head in frustration. Unwittingly, she scorched her forehead in the process. In pain and furious with herself, she lifted her arms to the sky and just roared. The energy flowed from her skyward.

Belatedly, she realized there was a small outcropping at the top of the bluff. Shearing it off with her first blast, small bits and pieces of rock began to rain down around her. Reeling the power back in, she covered her head to the falling debris. Suddenly, she heard a large roar. Risking a peek, she looked upward. Snow began sliding off the top of the bluff and before she knew it, a full fledge avalanche ensued. Unable to dodge it in time, she covered her head again and fell to her knees as the first waves of snow hit her.

Locked