Crossroads (DA,XO,UC,TEEN) [COMPLETE]

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lyra
Enthusiastic Roswellian
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Joined: Tue Oct 08, 2002 9:12 am
Location: spain

Crossroads (DA,XO,UC,TEEN) [COMPLETE]

Postby lyra » Tue Jun 15, 2004 10:58 am

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Title: Crossroads
Author: Lyra
Shows: Roswell / Dark Angel
Pairing: Alec/Liz, Michael/Maria, Alex/Isabel, others
Rating: Teen
Genre: crossover
Type: Complete
Disclaimer: "Roswell" and its characters belong to Jason Katims, Melinda Metz, WB, and UPN. "Dark Angel" and its characters belong to James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee and Fox. They are not mine and no infringement is intended. I've used some dialogue from the shows which is not mine either.
Summary: After Departure (my version of it, anyway) the gang find themselves in the middle of something they'd never expected...

A/N: I'm making some major changes that I'll explain in the story, just bear with me, but if you have any question please ask. I'll try to answer as best I can. The only thing I'm saying now is this: I always thought it was ridiculous to think that the Granolith is just a spaceship, it doesn't make sense that everyone wants it so bad if that's all it is. And it's not gone after Departure.

I want to thank Itay for being a wonderful beta and for giving me the idea that made me think of this story. And Roon for her beta work.



Prologue


Desert, Pod Chamber, NM
May 21st, 2001, 6:30 AM


Max Evans, his sister Isabel, his ‘brother’ Michael Guerin and Tess Harding were standing inside the Granolith Chamber. Their eyes fixed in the inverted cone filling the centre of the room, some of its mystery revealed at last.

“This is a key,” Max said holding a cylindrical white crystal in his hand. “When we insert it, the Granolith will transport us...home. It will take 48 hours for it to prepare itself. When it's ready, we have to be on board or we don't go. This key is coded for one mission, only one. When we use it, it's gone. It's our only way home.” He made a pause and looked his siblings in the eyes. “Is everyone ready?” He asked them, feeling anything but ready himself. After so long looking for answers and wondering … he couldn’t believe he was about to ‘turn on’ an alien machine that would take them back to their planet.

Isabel shook her head. “This is happening too fast.” Her voice trembled slightly and Max knew she was terrified.

He hugged her. “We have no choice, Iz.”

Michael knew Tess had to leave because of the baby, but they couldn’t forget about their friends. He voiced the thought he knew Max was trying to deny. “What about Leanna? She's still out there, Max, how can we leave? I mean, she's already tried to kill Alex, what's to stop her from killing Liz or Kyle or Valenti or Maria?” He almost chocked on the last name. The thought of something happening to Maria because of him had been one of his most pressing worries the last years.

Max’s eyes hardened. “I'll take care of Leanna,” he finally said.

Right then Tess doubled over, holding her stomach. “Max ...” she moaned, reminding him what he had to do … and why.

Max looked at her worriedly and then walked to the base of the cone and slipped the key into its slot, starting the countdown being shown in a big panel on the wall. “Everyone say your goodbyes,” he told them, but he was dreading his own goodbye like nothing ever before.


Seattle, Washington
May 21st, 2021, 6:30 AM


Alec looked around the room. The last few days TC had been full of activity. Everyone had come together to help in any way they could. HQ had been full to the brim on a daily basis. Max hadn’t slept at all, always planning and worrying. He could see the strain she was under; her face was tense and serious all the time. She had taken upon herself the full responsibility for all of them. And it showed.

At least she had started to delegate soon enough. The same moment they’d all got down from the roof after raising their flag, she’d started asking people about their specialities and giving out duties.

Alec’s eyes followed her around the room to the table he was sitting at. Gathered around were the representatives of the different groups and chores at TC: Max, the leader, with her loyal shadow a step behind her; Mole, in charge of weapons and representative of the ‘freaks’; Dix, in charge of intelligence; Dan, an X6 in representation of his series; and Alec himself who, to his utmost surprise, had been chosen as the X5 representative.

Alec knew they were in dire need of money and supplies and he expected this meeting to be about that. But when Logan made room for himself at the table coming out from the shadows Alec knew there was something else going on. Logan hardly ever talked to them directly. He and Max had realized early on that as an ordinary he wasn’t well-liked around here. But there he was, clearing his throat, getting ready to bore them to death … uhmm … lecture them … whatever.

“I’ll be quick,” Logan started.

And then proved himself a liar by making a pause long enough for Alec to think ‘that’ll be the day,’ and discreetly roll his eyes at Max which earned him a not so discreet glare from her.

“I know you guys have lots of needs right now and that those needs are the most pressing matter.”

‘Oh please, don’t let him even talk about an EO mission or these people will kill him,’ Alec thought, ‘myself included.’

“So I’ve been looking around … and I found this diamond exhibition that will take place in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in two days. I know it looks like too much trouble for a few diamonds, too far away and everything… but I have a buyer for some of the pieces of that exhibition that will pay 2 million dollars for them.”

The jaws of almost everyone at the table dropped, but Logan wasn’t finished yet.

“And he is so desperate to get them that his willing to pay a down-payment of a quarter of a million.” He allowed himself a self-satisfied smirk in face of Alec’s whistled appreciation.

“Who would be that desperate?” Mole asked disbelievingly.

“One Cal Langley. He’s supposed to be an old man who’s spent more than half his life after those rocks, but he can’t afford to have anything traced back to him.”

Max took charge of the rest of the meeting. With that kind of pay there was no doubt they were taking the job, but to sweeten the deal it turned out that Max had been about to pull that same job two years ago; it was an annual exhibition, so she already knew the basics of the security and the layout of the place.

They decided Alec would be the one to go and he’d take a team of two with him. The formal way of saying that his buddies, Biggs and Cece, would be going shopping with him. They were two of the only four members of his old unit to make it to TC for the moment, and Alec had kept them close most of the time. Pulling jobs with them was much more fun than it had been doing it with Max this last year.

They stole a fast car, for they had to be there in time to make some reconnaissance and pull the job fast. TC needed the money.


Roswell, NM
May 22nd, 2001, 11:25 PM


Alex lied on his bed, his hands under his head, staring at the ceiling. The lights off because they hurt his eyes. His lately-ever-present headache starting to get bad. He sighed for the umpteenth time. He couldn’t believe they were leaving the planet. Isabel was leaving. They had wasted so much time.

His mind kept going back to that day trapped with Kyle in the Gandarium’s nest. He’d meant what he said …

“So this is how it ends…” Alex said.

“Somehow this is not how I pictured it,” Kyle commented, bitterness lacing his words.

“It was hell of a ride though,” Alex observed.

“I guess.”

“I mean, think about it. We not only met aliens, but they killed us,” Alex went on. Kyle turned his flashlight on him. “How many people can say that?”

“You’re getting delirious, is that it?”

“Nah, take...take a step away from your life, Kyle. You know, I mean, you’re part of this... this amazing thing. This... amazing knowledge that you have that 6 billion people on this planet don’t. You really want to step out of this cave if it meant that you were gonna be another dumb jock?”

Kyle thought about it. “You know what? I wouldn’t,” he said finally.


Alex didn’t regret his involvement with the aliens. They were worth dying for. They had been great friends. Alex had been there for them even before he knew their secret, just because Liz had asked him to and he trusted Liz with his life. Which until that day had been just a figure of speech, but from that moment had been the literal truth.

He’d given his blood to save Max, and he’d lied through his teeth to the Sheriff. Some teens started their illicit life with illegal drinking; Alex had started with obstruction of justice, lying to the authorities, impairing an investigation and, oh yeah, don’t forget hacking into a federal computer. If you’re gonna tread the criminal path do it with style. That seemed to be his motto.

But the rewards had been just as great as the dangers, which included a variety of things, from FBI persecution to alien enemies. He’d gotten to know a group of amazing people that cared about him just as much as he cared about them. And not just the aliens.

Kyle had turned out to be a great guy. Not even when he was dating Liz had he spent enough time with Kyle to get to know him. And anyway, knowing about the aliens had brought about a drastic change in Kyle. For the better, as far as Alex was concerned. It had given Kyle a depth he lacked before, too busy being your typical high school jock.

Alex was proud of considering Kyle a close friend now.

And the Sheriff. Who would have thought he’d ever consider the Sheriff his friend? But he did. Jim Valenti had become the parent they all needed in times of hardship but couldn’t have because of their secret. And he cared a great deal about every single one of them.

Michael would deny to his dying day that he was anyone’s close friend, but he was just the same. It turned out he had a huge heart, and he felt responsible for the protection of the whole group. And he had been a great influence on Maria. Maybe just as great as she had been on him. They had grown a lot this last year, together.

And what could he say about Isabel? He loved her. He had been hurt and in denial for a long while. It had taken forever to break through her Ice Princess persona to get to the real her. But he did. She loved him completely now, he knew it. And he’d finally accepted the depth of his own love for her. It hurt like hell to think he would never see her again.

Even Max could be considered a great friend, even though he’d behaved like a jerk these last few weeks. Alex knew something had happened between Max and Tess, and that it had made things between him and Liz even worse than they were. He didn’t know the details, his relationship with Isabel and the rest of the aliens had been mostly superfitial at that point. But he knew Max had stopped pursuing Liz a while back and it looked like he finally had started to give into his destiny, letting Tess in more and more.

That was the worst part of their involvement with the aliens. All the heartbreak it had caused to Liz. But still, Max had been trying to keep them all safe throughout the whole journey. He’d gone to hell to save Liz, and he’d saved his own life.

Alex couldn’t remember anything from a few days before his accident, but he’d gotten a really intense flash from Max when he’d connected with Alex a few days later to make sure everything was okay. They’d had to leave the hospital in such a hurry …

“There’s been an accident,” Valenti said with an urgent voice.

“What happened?” Max asked, immediately taking charge of the situation.

“We need to go now, Max. There’s no time. It’s Alex.”

The moment the words left Jim’s mouth it was like a bomb had gone off in the Crashdown. Everyone took their things and started piling into the cars. Max went with Valenti, who would get him through to Alex. Sheriff Hanson had called Jim as soon as he checked the license number of the wrecked car and saw it belonged to one of the Valenti kid’s friends. Jim hadn’t wasted any time, going straight to the Crashdown to get Max, just in case.

Thank God he had. They had just declared him clinically dead when Jim managed to get Max in there and keep everyone busy outside. It was a huge risk, but they had all agreed the risk was worth it. Even if they had to spend the rest of their lives running.

Max went up to the surgical table. Alex was covered in blood, and so still… Max felt ill, but he couldn’t afford to waste any more time. Alex had been clinically dead for too long already. He would had to kick-start his heart and repair any damage the brain had suffered. And then heal the rest of the wounds enough, so that he wouldn’t die again before the doctors could step in and finish the job.

He put his hand on Alex’s scalp, praying that his dark hair would be enough to cover the silver handprint that was bound to appear. Silently, he thanked Tess for helping him develop his powers so that he didn’t need Alex to be conscious to start the connection. He knew Alex’s energy by heart, the whole group’s actually. Max only needed to find the residual energy flux that would cling to Alex’s body for a while longer and infuse some of his own energy.

After a few precious seconds he found it. Max put all his focus and will-power into making this work, and he was greatly surprised when only a few instants later he felt Alex’s energy start to gather round and the real connection flared to life.

Working against time, Max’s hand glowed brightly and only a minute later the heart started to beat. Max concentrated on healing as much as he could without raising too many questions, apart from the obvious one about him being alive at all, of course. When he felt Alex’s energy was strong enough to pull him through, Max connected the heart monitor, that started beeping loudly, and disappeared the same way he came in.

The moment he was out of sight the room filled with astounded doctors and their staff, all ready to work on their miracle case. The rest of that night, until they could take Alex home in the wee hours of the morning and against medical advise - expressed rather loud and energetically, was a blur to Max. He had spent large quantities of his own energy and he needed to rest badly.

Thankfully, a fake authorization courtesy of the aliens and presented by the former sheriff was enough to extract Alex from the hospital before anyone noticed the alien tattoo on his head.


Max’s feelings had come through the connection loud and overwhelming. Max had been terrified for him, for all them.

Alex felt so grateful to know that they all were willing to live the rest of their lives on the run if that meant they could save him.

He couldn’t remember how he’d gotten in the accident that had killed him. Max thought he must have hit his head pretty bad because there had been a lot of damage to his brain, and truth was Alex had suffered from an almost chronic headache since then.

Speaking of which, his head was killing him. Suddenly it felt like it was on overload. Alex reached for the pain killers on his bedside table and swallowed two pills. He lied back down and hugged the pillow to his chest. Eyes closed and face crumpled in a grimace, he waited for the pain to subside, his fingers drumming on the pillow. To his misery, the pain grew instead of receding.

And it had been his accident that had caused the rift that now divided them. Liz hadn’t believed it was an accident. She was convinced it was something alien related. She said things didn’t add up. When his parents went to see if the car was salvageable they had collected any personal items, which included a picture of Leanna with her head cut off. For the life of him, Alex couldn’t remember doing that. And when he told the others, Liz was scared that it might have been a threat from ‘someone’ and insisted on talking to the guy that was delivering his food when Maria and her left him at home, in case he’d seen anything.

The kid had brought more questions than answers. He said his behaviour had been really weird and Liz had decided to investigate more. But she was the only one, none of the others wanted to listen to her. She started asking dangerous questions all around, making the aliens very nervous and angry. Liz tried to jog his memory with continuous questions, but Alex just couldn’t remember. It pained him that he couldn’t help his closest friend.

This feeling and the residual one over Max’s flash kept dancing in his head, getting stronger and stronger, feeding his headache and making it even worse.

In just a few minutes his head felt like it was about to explode. Suddenly, something seemed to give away inside his head. A white light blinding in its intensity burst behind his closed eyelids and the elusive memories he’d been missing hit him like a ton of bricks, knocking the air out of him.

He sat up, gasping for air, his eyes watering from the pain. “Bitch!” he shouted and then run out of his room. He needed Liz and the others. They couldn’t let the aliens leave with her. They had to know.


Las Cruces, NM
May 22nd, 2021, 11:25 PM


The three transgenics were seating in the car parked two streets away from their target. Alec turned to look at his companions and gave last time instructions.

“Remember, our first priority is to get this rock,” Alec pointed to the third most important diamond in the brochure. “This one will be cashing in one million alone,” Alec repeated for what felt like the hundredth time. Which was probably what it was if the way Biggs and Cece were rolling their eyes was any indication.

“You’ve spent too much time with Logan, you know, you’re starting to sound like him. Have you forgotten we don’t forget anything?” Biggs said, laughing with Cece at the horror reflected in Alec’s face at being likened to Logan.

“Right. First, I’ll get you for that comment when this is over. Second, our other priority is to not let any proof that X5s have been here.”

“Relax, Alec. We know the score, everything will be ok?” Cece reassured him. “You worry too much. We know what we’re doing.”

With a small smile to Cece, Alec took a deep breath and closed his eyes, his mind emptying of anything that wasn’t mission-related. Two deep breaths later he opened his eyes and saw the other two doing the same.

“Okay, let’s do this,” Alec said opening his door.

They all got out of the car. Wearing black from head to toe, including a wool hat in Cece’s case, they moved soundlessly towards the shadows of the back alley, their eyes going from the building housing the exhibition to their surroundings and back to their objective. They stepped into the alley and melded into the darkness of the night, effectively disappearing in thin air.


Desert, Pod Chamber, NM
May 23rd, 2001, 6:50 AM


Max advanced on Tess, his eyes colder than she’d ever seen them before. “Did you try to kill Alex?” he spoke with a hushed, menacing voice.

“I didn't want to. I wish I hadn't, but I did,” Tess answered almost pitifully.

The look on Max’s face was a mixture of rage and bewilderment. “Why?” he asked simply, needing to understand this person who had fooled him completely, taken advantage of him, of his trust.

Tess looked at the clock in the wall. “Look Max, th-the clock's ticking, we don't really have time --”

“TELL ME WHY!” Max cut her off, disgusted by her attempts to play him still, with her frail voice and needy eyes.

She gave up pretending. “He would have told you what I did and I couldn't let that happen.”

“So you just, you just killed him?” He felt ill. “Because he did die. I had to bring him back.” Max shook his head, laughing bitterly. “To think that I thanked God for having you when I was there… resurrecting my friend… I thanked God you’d helped me with my powers so that I could actually do it. And you killed him.”

“I didn't mean to. His brain was just too weakened by the mind-warp, and… Look, none of this matters now --”

“Life matters, Tess. My life, your life, his… ” Max interrupted her again.

“What matters is getting home, but you could never understand that, could you?” Her hatred showed now, all pretences over. “I might have been able to teach you but that stupid bitch had you wrapped around her-”

“Don't you ever call her that!”

“See! Look how fast you run to her defense! Why couldn't you ever feel that about me? I'm your wife, Max! I'm carrying your child!” She demanded, stepping into his face to shout in his face.

“This was all some kind of plan to get pregnant and go home, wasn't it? Home to what, Tess? To Khivar? To our enemies?” It didn’t make sense to him. What could she possibly get from --

“They're not my enemies, Max.”

Understanding downed on him. “You made a deal with them, with Khivar.”

“No. Nasedo made a deal, 40 years ago,” she spat, head held high, proud of her guardian.

“To deliver the three of us?” Suddenly Max had a thought and, without giving her time to react, he put his hand on her womb and forced a connection.

Tess realised too late what he was doing and by the time she tried to start the mind-warp he was already taking his hand away. His mind too strong and his anger too intense to accept the lie.

“You lied,” he said, and the acceptance of that truth gave him the strength to keep her at bay. “How did I ever fall in love with someone like you? How could I ever marry you?”

Her only chance gone now, she gave a step back to buy herself some standing ground and then faced him. “You were different -- you were a king! Now you're just a boy.” Her voice turned mocking, but it was still loaded with anger and disdain.

Max raised his hand to her neck.

“You’re gonna kill me, Max?” she taunted him. She knew him too well.

Max considered it for a moment. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t kill in cold blood. “Go,” he said, nodding his head towards the whirling cone and he saw relief cross her face. Tess put her hand on the cone and suddenly she was inside, looking down at him. Max looked up at her, his eyes hard, “I’m sure Khivar will welcome you with open arms now that you’ve failed him.”

The last thing Max saw was the realisation and fear overtaking her features. Then the cone turned black.


Desert, Highway 42, NM
May 23rd, 2021, 6:50 AM


“That was way too easy,” Biggs said laughing.

They were back on the road after pulling one of the easiest jobs any of them could remember. Of course, no security planners ever considered the possibility of having X5s as cat burglars, but the truth be told, they could still have probably made it if they hadn’t been Manticore alumni.

“I wonder what made Max change her mind about this heist. She could have done it easily on her own,” Cece said, her eyes glued to the beautiful diamonds in her hands, the rising sun making them shine from the inside.

“She said she saw something on the news that made her leave for Seattle immediately. And you know any of us could have done that alone. We’re three for security purposes only,” Alec said absently. He was replaying their every move while in the building in his mind.

Alec needed to be sure they hadn’t made any mistake, that there wasn’t any clue left behind. It would raise enough suspicions about the perpetrators without them leaving a signed card. Things were tense enough in Seattle without the military knowing for a fact that they could, and did, leave TC whenever they wanted with little trouble. There were, of course, other transgenics than the ones in TC, but as far as Alec was concerned, the less it was known about this job the better.

Of course, he needn’t have to worry, he realised once he finished the mental replay of the night. The three of them had been on enough missions together to work as a perfect unit. They were good. More than good, they were the perfect team of thieves. Wouldn’t Manticore be proud?

Alec’s eyes went back to the rear-view mirror to check for any sign of a tail the way he’d been doing all night. And just as the previous times he found nothing. He turned his gaze back to the road in front of him. The highway made a turn to the right and before him, on the horizon, a weird rock formation caught his eye.

“Wow, check that rock, man,” he told Biggs, sitting by his side.


Desert, Pod Chamber, NM
May 23rd, 2001, 6:53 AM


Max ran to get out of the cave. The chamber around him had started to disintegrate and he felt the ground beneath him shaking and vibrating. It was obvious there had been more to the Granolith than they ever realised. It felt like the rock around him was changing… becoming something else.

A particularly big rock fell in front of him bringing Max out of his musings. ‘Run now, think later,’ he thought, sprinting again. All of his senses now intent on getting him to safety.

The rest of the group was already running down the hill when he came out, except for Michael and Iz.

“Run!” he shouted at them. The rumbling had become a thundering roar. Too loud now to be just rocks sliding. He grabbed Isabel’s hand and jerked, dragging her with him, Michael watching their backs.

They reached the others and had only time to get a short distance away before the rock behind them exploded and a small ship tore off from it, shooting into the sky as a firework.

Max raised his head on time to catch a small glimpse of it before it disappeared in the distance. A feeling of failure overtook him. He knew there was nothing more he could have done, but still…

Suddenly, he felt like his feet were glued to the ground and he lost his balance, the hard surface of the desert rushing up towards his face. It felt like the expansive wave from the explosion had caught him and sent him hurtling through the air, but at the same time he felt like everything was moving around him while he kept still. He almost expected to feel singed. Wasn’t that what happened with explosions? But all he felt was weird energy travelling through his body, from head to toe, making him want to crawl out of his skin. He could see some of the others falling down too. What was going on?


Desert, Highway 42, NM
May 23rd, 2021, 6:53 AM


The strange rock formation was closer now and they realised that it had a part missing. Now that they were as close to it as the road allowed them they could see that the side they were now facing seemed to have been blown up. Alec opened his mouth to comment about it but before he could utter a word the whole world seemed to freeze before starting to hum.

Alec felt the vibration travelling though his body, from head to toe. It was like the bottom had suddenly fallen from underneath him and he was sinking, dragged by a giant hand around his ankles. His stomach lurched up in his throat, as if he had just missed a step… or more likely like he had reached the top of the highest rollercoaster ever and he had just toppled over in a free fall. His vision blurred, making him dizzy, and his ears rang loudly.

It seemed like it went on forever, and then it was over. As abruptly as it had begun.

Alec looked around, almost expecting to see they were some other place, but everything was the same.

Or almost everything.


Same place
May 23rd, 2019, 6:53 AM


The black motorcycle sped down the deserted highway. The rider wasn’t wearing a helmet, sunglasses the only protection she wore and her curly hair flew wildly behind her.

The heist, the diamonds, the danger, Lydecker… Everything disappeared from her mind except one thing.

‘That was Seth on TV. I know it was.’ That was her last thought before her whole body hummed with a paralysing intensity and she lost control of the Ninja, crashing into the ground.

Max went down and slid on the asphalt with the inertia until a big rock on the side of the road stopped her. But the weird feeling inside her didn’t stop with her and Max kept thinking that someone was trying to suck her somewhere… somehow…


Desert, NM
May 23rd, 2001, 6:54 AM


Alex stood with great difficulty, giving his hand to Isabel to help her up too. To his right, Michael was hugging Maria who had fallen to the ground and had scrapped her hands and knees. Michael was tenderly cleaning and healing the small cuts on her skin.

Liz had fallen too, but she was already on her feet, helping Kyle up.

“What the hell was that? Did you feel it too?” Max asked no one in particular. He was looking at the opening of the Pod Chamber. Or what once stood there. The take off had blown up the upper part of the formation, and rocks of all sizes had cascaded over the side of the hill towards them, blocking the entrance to the chamber in the process.

“I guess Tess gave us a goodbye gift,” Maria spat, her voice dripping sarcasm and contempt.


Same place and time

The car had stopped when the freaky sensation had started and Alec looked at Biggs and Cece to see if they were fine.

“You felt that?” Cece was saying, but Alec’s eye caught movement outside the car and turned to see what was there now that hadn’t been there before. The black shape slid past the car and against a rock.

“Fuck!” he cried out and bolted out the door.

Biggs, that had been about to comment on the sudden appearance of a group of people in the hill down the weird rock, shut his mouth and went after him.

Cece was already out. One look at the Ninja lying on the ground and they all knew who was getting to her feet using the rock behind her as leverage. Though what exactly was she doing here, they had no idea.

Alec reached her first. “Max!” She was almost up now. “Max, are you ok?”

Max’s head snapped up, her eyes quickly scanning her surroundings. She took in the three people approaching her, her Spidey-danger sense on alert. “Who are you people?” Then she frowned. “How do you know my name?” She shook her head to clear it and stretched all her muscles, ready to flee any second.

Alec was startled to hear this. “Max, are you ok?” he repeated. “It’s me, Alec. Did you hit your head or something?”

“Yeah, Max, it’s us,” Biggs added when Max kept looking at them as if they were crazy. “Biggs,” he said pointing at himself, and then at Cece, “Cece. Rings a bell?”

“What are you doing here, Max? I thought we were doing this job alone. You didn’t say anything about another team,” Cece said carefully.

“Yeah, and what’s with the curls?” Alec asked bewildered.

Max seemed to grasp at the only thing that made sense to her. “What’s wrong with my hair?” She glared at Alec. “And I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have no idea who any of you are.” She took a step back, casually redistributing her weight so that she could launch herself in any direction.

Seeing this, Alec relaxed his own stance and held his hands up. The other two retreated a few steps. They all could see how tense Max was and they didn’t want her to run off.

“Hey, take it easy. We don’t want to hurt you. I know your name because you’ve told me. I know you. We’ve known each other for a year now. Did you hit your head, Max?” Alec insisted. “Do you have amnesia or something?” Alec tried to move closer to her, very slowly. But she mirrored his movement, so he stopped again.

Max frowned and she tried to remember her last few hours, then days, and then some of her oldest memories. Everything seemed fine. “No, I didn’t hit my head. I don’t have amnesia. I know my name. I know who and where I am. I just don’t know who you are.”

“Okay, how about when, then?” Alec was sure there was something wrong with her memory. And her hair.

“May 3rd, 2019, smartass. Happy now?” she said with her usual sassy attitude, hand on her hip and cocked head.

“I am so not happy,” Alec said, to her obvious surprise. “It’s May 3rd, all right, Max. But you’re off two years. It’s 2021.”

Max looked at him as if he’d sprouted a second head. When he returned her gaze seriously, she turned to Biggs and Cece who nodded at her.

“But that can’t be!” she spluttered.

Biggs chose that moment to point the ‘out of the blue’ people to Alec who, not knowing what was going on, said, “Okay, we’ll ask them.” And started walking in their direction. His hearing intent on picking up their words from a safe distance, just in case.


Same place and time

Kyle watched Isabel clinging to Alex, and Maria trying to stay on her feet with the help of Michael’s shoulder. He saw Liz observing the ruins of what had once been the Pod Chamber, as if trying to read the explanation to today’s happenings in the rocks and Max making sure everyone was fine. Suddenly he felt out of place.

He turned his back on the group and his gaze rested upon a car and a bike stopped on the road right below them and four people that were walking towards them. “Hey, guys… Tell me I’m seeing things.” Everyone looked at him and followed his eyes. “Because I’m damn sure there was no one there when Evans came out of the cave and that thing went off.”

“Everyone, move!” Michael said, taking charge and he heard Kyle muttering something like ‘Damn, they’re really there’, but before anyone could take a step both Max and Liz spoke.

“No!” they shouted at once.

“We can’t just run, Michael,” Max said.

“Why the hell not? ‘Good’ people don’t appear from thin air,” Michael insisted.

“You don’t know that, Michael,” Liz tried to reason with him. “They don’t look like they’re trying to sneak on us or attack us. Besides,” she added before Michael could retaliate, “we can’t leave, anyway. There’s nowhere to go.” She looked pointedly around. “You felt that thing too. You know something weird just happened, and it might have something to do with them. They weren’t there before.”

Michael looked like he wanted to argue some more but the strangers were already there, so he turned around and took position before the group, Max by his side. The rest were moving closer together.

“Hey,” the guy on the front said. “Excuse me, fellas, we were wondering if you could tell us the date? Because our friend here,” he went on pointing to a short brunette with long dark wavy hair, “hit her head when she fell off her bike and she doesn’t believe us.” He looked at them expectantly.

Michael looked at Max, not knowing what to think. Whatever he’d expected these people to say, ‘Sorry, what’s the date?’ had not been it.

Max looked back at him, bewildered too. This was too weird even for them.

Just then Liz snorted softly behind them and pushed them aside, stepping in front of them. She smiled friendly at the guy and said, “It’s May 3rd.” But the guy kept looking at her, so she added, “2001.”

Alec started at that. He looked back at Max, whose eyes were bulging incredulously, and then at Biggs and Cece, who looked as if someone had pulled the bottom from beneath them… or someone had just told them the year was 2001.

He closed his eyes and thought ‘Oh, man.’

TBC
Last edited by lyra on Sun Sep 02, 2007 10:26 am, edited 36 times in total.

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lyra
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Postby lyra » Tue Jun 22, 2004 12:10 pm

Okay guys here's the first chapter. I want to thank those of you who reviewed, you guys put a huge smile on my face: Elf3748, polar vixen (it's great to see you here, my sis is a polar and she's keeping tabs on my Michael, hope you enjoy it), Sternbetrachter, Roswell Slayer, ladeia3, Elf, lovealien and LittleBit (it's an honor to have you reading and liking this).

I'm thinking the end was a bit confusing in the timelines department for some of you. It is 2001, the transgenics have been taken to the end of Roswell Season 2.

Now on to the story...


Chapter 1

Liz’s POV

The first moments after telling them the date would have been funny if the situation wasn’t so dire. We didn’t know who they were or if they were ‘good’ or ‘bad’ guys. Michael wanted to get away from them as fast as alien-ly possible and I could see that they were having some kind of internal struggle too. They looked like they were expecting one of us to say ‘Fooled ya!’ so Maria got her cell phone from her pocket and showed the date on the screen to them.

The tension was so palpable you could’ve cut it with a knife. The brunette turned around intent on going back to her bike, and the other three went after her. We couldn’t hear what they were talking about but after a few long and awkward minutes they all came back.

“Ok,” said the same guy, “this is what we know. Things are way too weird, because we,” he pointed to himself, the other guy and the blond girl, “were in 2021 just a while ago.” He pulled out his own phone and showed us the date. It said 5/03/2021, 6:53 AM. It had obviously stopped working when the Granolith went off. “And Maxie here, was in 2019. And you were nowhere in sight until ‘that’ moment.” He added pointing to his phone. “So how about telling us what the hell is going on?”

I knew it had to be the Granolith, after all I knew it could affect time from first-hand experience. But the rest, except Maria, didn’t. And I didn’t want to go into that right then. Not with Max and the others, and especially not with all these strangers. But something had to be done.

“Guys, I think we need a moment.” I told the four of them and we walked a short distance away. “Well, I was right. It was the Granolith that brought them here, but why and why them? I mean who are they?”

“How can we be sure of that?” Michael demanded.

“Michael, please, four people from two different timelines just appear at the exact same moment an alien artefact goes off, and what, you think on top of that some other freaky thing was happening that’s the one responsible for them being here?” I said, sarcasm getting the better of me. I took a deep breath. “I don’t know what happened, okay, but it’s our fault they’re here and we’re going to have to work with them to fix this.”

“Work with them how, you want to tell them about us and then what? Say ‘don’t tell anyone pretty please’?” Michael snapped.

“Liz, he’s right, it’s too risky.” Max spoke up.

“Then what do you suggest, because I don’t hear any other ideas.” I said. “Besides I didn’t say anything about telling them. We just … I don’t know! We have to do something. At least we have to talk to them, don’t you think?”

“I don’t know about that, but we should get out of here.” Alex cut in. “We don’t know if anyone’s noticed anything. You guys remember what happened last year with the orbs. Apparently people all over the world noticed something strange. We don’t want to be here if anyone comes to investigate.”

“He’s right.” Isabel said. “But what are we going to do with them?”

“They’ll have to come with us.” I insisted. “At least for now.”

“Yeah? And where do you suggest we take them?” Michael snapped at me. I could see how on edge he was. He looked really mad but I got the feeling he was more worried than anything else.

“We could go to the quarry.” Maria offered, taking Michael’s hand in hers. “You know it’s a safe place and we don’t really use it anymore, we’ve got your place now for our secret meetings.”


Alec’s POV

Everything felt like a weird dream. Although, considering my life, things pretty much feel like that everyday. I mean, engineered killing machine with animal DNA here, hello. Speaking of which, the kids had walked away to a safe distance so they could talk in private … if we were ‘normal’. Since we’re not, we could here what they were saying, but it didn’t really clear anything up. ‘Tell us about them?’ What was that about?

While they were trying to decide what to do next, I realized two things: first, that they were in the know as to what had happened, or at least more than us; and second, they were worried we were going to discover something about them, and didn’t know shit about us. That gave us a slight advantage.

I signalled to Biggs, asking what he thought about it, and he agreed with me. Which meant, we would go with them to this ‘quarry’ and see where that took us.

The only problem was-

“They’re crazy if they think I’m going anywhere with them.” Max hissed.

“Come on, Max. What harm can it do? They know something. Do you want to stay here forever?” I egged her.

“Shut up, Alec.”

“Come on, Max, you know with all four of us here there’s not much they can really do to us.” CeCe tried to reason with her. Yeah, good luck with that, C.

“Actually, I know nothing. I don’t even know you.” Max said carefully. I could see in her eyes that she wanted to turn back and ‘blaze’, but even she knew it wouldn’t do much.

We’d managed to convince her to stay with us the first time she tried to leave by spouting off basically everything we knew about her, things that couldn’t come out of a Manticore file so that she wouldn’t think we were on a ‘Capture and Retrieve’ mission. Max never said much about her past, but we’ve talked a bit lately … my Max and me, that is. Wow, that sounds weird, ‘my’ Max.

Anyway, we needed Max with us, I couldn’t be worrying about our situation and keeping Max close at the same time. Ok, so I could. I just didn’t want to have to bother.

“Look, Max, I know you don’t know us. I know everything is beyond Manticore weird right now, but you have to trust us, ok?” I could see the fire rise in her eyes, she was ready to say to hell with everything and make a run for it. “Max! Listen to me. Do you believe that we are in 2001?” Max hesitated for a moment before reluctantly nodding. “Do you believe that ‘we’ come from 2021?” She was less reluctant this time. “Then believe me when I say that you may not know us but we know you. Besides, right now it wouldn’t matter if we’re not friends. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Remember that? So in this mess we’re in, we’re the only thing you’ve got. We’re your family.” I saw that spark flash in her eyes, the way it always did when she thought of her lost siblings. “The closest thing to, anyway.”

“I guess you’re right.” Max said slowly and then her eyes narrowed slightly. “You know, Alec, you haven’t really proved that you’re Manticore.” She challenged me.

“Oh come on! We know everything there is to know about it, and just look at us,” I winked at her, “there’s no way I’d look this good of I hadn’t been engineered.” Biggs laughed out loud and CeCe tried to hide her chuckle.

Max just scoffed. “Show me your barcodes.” She demanded.

“Lasered off.”


Max Guevara’s POV

That’s convenient. Although, as much as it pains me to admit it, the guy is right. Everything about him screams genetic perfection. I fought the urge to growl at him. Damn.

“OK. I’ll go with you on this one. Even if it’s just for the time being.”

“You mean you won’t bail on us the next time we blink?” Alec drawled and I was sure he was trying to rile me up.

“For now.” I smiled sweetly at him. “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to trust them.” I finished and they all sighed tiredly. Hey, I haven’t been running half my life to give up now on the whim of three semi-strangers.

“Max…” I swear he was whining, as if he felt we’d been having this argument forever.

“Alec you’re gonna have to give her some reasons. Remember she’s been on the run for a long time. Her mindset is totally different to ours.” CeCe interjected soothingly.

“Yeah, and you know you’d have the same problem with our Max.” Biggs added smirking at Alec, getting a suffering sigh from him and a glare from CeCe.

“Still here, guys.” I couldn’t help but say. I hate it when people talk about me like I’m not there.

“Right.” Alec said. “OK, I get that you don’t want to trust anyone. That’s understandable. But you have to realise that things are not what you think, Max. I know you’ve been hiding from Manticore since you escaped but look around you. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.” He was talking to me like I was a child. Who the hell does this guy think he is?

“Alec!” CeCe scolded him and I got the feeling she was like the mother of the other two.

“Sorry, C.” Alec said contritely, not. Can this guy be serious for a moment? He went on. “Look, Max, these kids are ordinaries, we don’t really need to hide from ordinaries. There’s not that much they can do to us. The only people we should be wary of are Manticore and, the military.” Alec made a slight pause there, like he’d changed his mind about what he was going to say right then.

“So what you’re trying to say is that since they’re not Manticore it doesn’t matter if they know what we are.” I wanted to be clear on what he’d said.

“Well, yes. Think about it, in 2001 Manticore was starting to collect the first successful fruits of their experiments, they’re not missing any soldiers,” he said making air quotes, “they’re not looking for anyone outside their gates. They’re not looking for you, Max.”

Well, that made sense, but still…

“And we’re back to the trust thing.” Alec said. Hmm? Maybe I’m going soft with the shock, I’m usually harder to read… “You’re right. You don’t know us, but, a) we’re exactly the same as you, and b) we want the same thing,” he smirked at me, “to figure this bitch out so we can blaze, no big dealio.” He could barely hold his laughter, but at least he was more successful than Biggs and CeCe. I was stunned to have my own coinphrases thrown back at me.

I opened my mouth to retort then closed it again. Alec was right. I’ve spent my life searching for my siblings. And they’re the closest I’ve ever been to them. So what if I haven’t confided in anyone before, what if I’ve had only me to trust since I was 9. They are X5s like me, they seem to really know me, some of the things Alec told me were pretty personal. I think I must be closer to him than to Biggs and CeCe wherever they come from.

I looked at them. They were watching me, waiting for me to make up my mind, not crowding me. Maybe I’d see the day I regret it but it felt right to trust them. It must have showed in my face because they all smiled at me, knowing my decision even before I opened my mouth.

Just then the ‘ordinaries’ came back. Ordinaries … where did he get that term from?


Max Evans’s POV

I couldn’t remember a time when things had been so tight. And we have been through some hard stuff. But people from the future! I kept waiting to just wake up and have it all be a nightmare. And not just this … everything.

“Listen…” I faltered, I didn’t even know how to address them. Guys? Totally strange people from the future? Hey, you? I opted for nothing. “We shouldn’t stay here, whatever happened may have caught someone’s attention and that’s the last thing we want.”

“So what do you propose?” The brunette girl asked.

“There’s this deserted quarry not that far away. It’s private and we could … talk there.” It sounded lame even to me. But how was I supposed to get them to come with us? I just knew we had to leave, now. I was trying to come up with a valid reason to convince them but the blonde guy cut my efforts short.

“Ok, lead the way, we’ll follow.” He said and they turned around and walked back to their car.

“Anyone else think that was too easy?” Michael said, he wasn’t overly convinced with the plan and he didn’t need much to be even more suspicious. Even I had this flash of a cartoon with a big bubble over his head: come this way to get yourself killed. Huh? Maybe I’ve spent too much time lately in the Valenti household.


Liz’s POV

On the way here Kyle called his father and we waited for him to arrive. They had gone back to their vehicles and tried to make them work, probably thinking that since they had stopped on their own maybe they wouldn’t but both theirs and ours worked just fine. Once here, the only words exchanged for now had been the reason we were waiting and our names. The dark blonde guy who had been doing the talking until now was Alec, the dark haired one was Biggs - where did he get that name? -, and the girls were CeCe, the blonde, and Maxie, who Alec had mentioned already.

I turned my attention to our group. Things were strained enough between us and throwing the sudden appearance of four strangers in the mix hadn’t helped. Every little decision was like pulling teeth.

I hadn’t felt this kind of tension since the first days of our strained friendship, when Michael and Isabel had been furious with Max for saving me, and wary of our reaction to them; and Maria had been terrified of the aliens, especially Isabel.

We’d had a hard beginning as a group, things getting more complicated every time the group grew, but we’ve gone a long way together.

Maybe too long.

The last year had been hell on all of us, on some more than the others, but no one was exempt. Our lives had stopped being just ours long ago, but since the moment they activated the orbs in the Pod Chamber almost a year ago we’d started fighting amongst ourselves too, and it showed.
I tried so hard to stay on the edge of their lives and problems. I needed to keep my distance then, for my own sanity. If I thought about it, it had always been me creating the schisms that divided us. First by getting shot, then by walking away after their mother’s message, then I had to pretend to sleep with Kyle… but it was nothing compared to the effect of my last strike. The moment I said I thought what happened to Alex hadn’t been an accident, our world spun out of its axis once again.

I guess it’s us versus them. Kyle’s words echoed through my mind.

Yes, we’d gone a long way together. Even when we were apart, we were still together. Max bound us together when he saved me and I knew now that we couldn’t break that bond. Not even when we wanted it most. I couldn’t have walked away from them now because I’d be walking away from me. How can you do that?

Oh, I knew I could try. And I would fail.

But I didn’t want to try anymore. All the hurt and anguish I’d felt this year had made me realise that this is what I am. I’d spent long hours thinking and writing in my journal. Deconstructing myself and what I’d become. And I realised it wasn’t such a bad thing.

I had become a strong person. I had discovered my own beliefs and my opinions, and more important, that I could defend them against anyone. I had gone back to my scientist roots and had a better understanding of them because of my knowledge. All the things that had happened to me, belonging to a sci-fi book better than a scientific journal, gave me a new approach to science. A more realistic one. And I had found a source of self-respect I hadn’t needed before. I could stand alone against a storm; I could face it and win.

In a way, I was almost thankful for the heartache and the rejection and everything else. My heart had bleed in a way I hadn’t thought possible, but here I was. Standing proud. Liz Parker.

I shook my head to chase my introspective mood away. This wasn’t the time. My eyes rounded the group again. It was almost funny. Twelve people thrown together, some sitting down, some standing… all trying to pretend we weren’t studying each other, pretend we didn’t feel out of our depths. Our group on one side, presenting a united front against these strangers despite our own internal struggles. Them on the other side.
But it looked to me like they were doing the same. Maxie seemed to feel even more out of place than the other three, not totally at ease with them but obviously much more than with any of us. But they knew each other, or at least something bound them together, something they all shared, because she’d accepted their word, no questions asked. At least not in front of us.

I searched their faces now, and suddenly I was struck by the thought that they weren’t what they seemed either. I’m sure if you looked into our group from outside we looked like your typical high school kids; that the most important issue we ever had to deal with was which movie we went to see. But I knew different, and I’d learnt how to look for that difference in others.

Alec, CeCe and Biggs were sporting similar faces… too similar? Maxie’s was similar, but hers looked worn around the edges. It wasn’t noticeable if you weren’t looking for it. But I was, and I saw it. I’d spent the last two years learning to read people, looking for danger, trying to spot any small detail out of place. Sometimes I surprised myself with the things I noticed, and when I mentioned them to Maria she’d think I’m paranoid. But still, I look.

They didn’t seem to be all that much older than us. Some, yes, but not much. And yet their eyes were older, like mine when I looked into the mirror. Only so much more. I could feel the strength behind their eyes. It wasn’t apparent in the way they looked, but I felt it just the same.

The minutes ticked away, the Sheriff had arrived while I was lost in thought but it looked like now no one knew how to start. The silence was deafening.

“Maybe someone should say something,” Alec said in a tone that made me think the awkward situation wasn’t really something that bothered him. I fixed my eyes on him. He seemed strangely comfortable with the situation they had found themselves in. For someone who woke up in the year 2021, or so they’d said, to find by breakfast time that he was in 2001, Alec looked way too relaxed.

He was sitting on a big rock, in a higher spot, and the sun was coming up behind him making him look alight from inside. Drop-dead gorgeous didn’t cover it. Alec was the hottest guy I had ever seen and for a moment I wondered how I could be thinking something like that at a time like this. It was like I couldn’t tear my eyes away from him and it took all my willpower to manage to do just that. My gaze rested on Maria, whose eyes were fixed where mine had been an instant ago, upon Alec, her face almost hidden in Michael’s chest. But I wasn’t sure if that was to seek comfort or to hide her appreciative look.

I looked at Max. Usually he was the one in charge of this kind of thing - not that ‘this’ kind of thing had happened before. He seemed torn, ‘don’t trust anyone’ had always been our motto, but we couldn’t let these people just go on their merry way. From what little information we’d exchanged we’d come to the conclusion that it was the Granolith’s fault they were here. That made it our responsibility.

Max looked at Michael as if asking for his opinion, and Michael shook his head. Max turned to Isabel, but I kept looking at Michael. His trust had always been the hardest to earn. I knew he would make things difficult.

I felt the urgent need to figure out what was going on and then go back to looking for my family… and my knee hurt. I rubbed it unconsciously and then caught Maxie doing the same. What-?

“No Maxwell, forget about it. You can’t do that,” Michael was saying, and I knew that if we were going to have any chance of making this work, I had to convince him that we could trust them. The fluttering thought of why I was so sure we could flew through my mind while I approached Michael.

“Can I talk to you for a second? Alone?” I knew Max and Iz were willing to talk to Alec and the others, I just had to convince Michael that it was ok.

“Why?” he asked, eyeing me curiously. But Michael had learnt to trust me these last few weeks and the look in my eyes must have told him I really needed to talk to him, for he just got up and walked away, not waiting for me, just expecting me to follow. His way of telling me he didn’t like it and he was still in charge. It made me smile.

I turned to Kyle and threw him a pleading look before I followed Michael.

“So…” I heard him say, “do cars fly already?” Geez, Kyle.

“Yeah, do you have supercomputers and robots and everything?” Alex asked.

Alec’s “Not exactly…” was the last thing I heard.

Michael was standing, looking at me expectantly. “Well, Parker, what is it?” he said.

“Listen, Michael. I know you don’t want to tell them, but you have to trust me. We have to tell them at least some part of it. They’re good. I know they are.”

Michael walked right up to me. “You know? Liz, that’s not good enough. How do you know?”

“I feel it.” I didn’t understand it, and I knew Michael would never go for it. He didn’t disappoint.

He pointed his finger at me and exploded. “You feel it?! What the hell are you talking about? Do you have any idea what will happen to us if you tell them and they turn us in?” he hissed as loudly as he dared, not wanting to be heard, but the look in his eyes echoed in my mind as if he’d been screaming at the top of his lungs. “It’s easy for you, it’s our asses on the line, and it’s us who’ll suffer the consequences --”

Anger exploded in my chest. “Don’t you dare tell me that, I’ve been suffering the consequences on my own skin,” I blurted out without thinking, but it wasn’t the moment for this, so I went on, “Besides, what do you think would happen to me, or Kyle or Alex, if they caught us? I’d be strapped to a table and cut open as fast as any of you would.”

Michael’s conviction faltered a little, but I saw in his face that he was far from won over.

“Michael, in the last two years have I ever intentionally steered you wrong?” He didn’t even think about it, shaking his head immediately, making my anger fade. “Have I ever had anything but your safety as my first priority?”

He shook his head again. We stayed silent for a while and I knew the moment he decided to trust me, a feeling of acceptance filling my heart.

“Okay, let’s go back there, then. And tell these total strangers every little secret I have,” he grumbled, but I knew it was just his way of keeping face in front of me, his way of hiding that he did trust me with his life. I felt the impulse of giving him a sweet kiss on the cheek, but he would have probably died from the shock.

He started walking, not waiting for me again. I smiled at his back. Michael was the one who’d changed the most. He had had a hard time accepting that we wanted to be his friends. He’d never had any before -- Max and Isabel didn’t count, they were family -- and I knew when we all first came together that he just couldn’t accept that I didn’t only worry about Max; that I cared about him too.

I valued very highly the friendship we’d come to have. I’d been there for him and he’d gone out of his way to protect me, going against Max even. I’d lied to his face and he’d still come for us, because he believed in me. I knew Michael’s strengths and he knew mine, and when it came to them we had faith in the other’s judgement. That meant a lot to me.

I followed him. Everyone looked slightly more relaxed now. Biggs and CeCe had seated themselves on both sides of their Max, and Alec was standing behind them, his hand resting on Biggs’ shoulder, tapping on it, and I thought he must have had a lousy sense of rhythm. Alec was facing our way and his eyes were fixed on me now, and they showed curiosity, which was to be expected, and respect and appreciation, which I didn’t understand. My step faltered momentarily, but Alec was already back joking with Kyle.

Michael had gone straight to Maria, a small nod to Max was the only sign he’d changed his mind.

Some of the tension lessened, we quieted again. Explanation time. But the silence stretched once again. It is one thing to know you have to tell people something. Finding the way to actually say it is a very different matter.

None of the aliens knew how to start, and none of us felt it was our place to say anything. Not that I actually knew how to go about saying it without sounding crazy. I looked at Alec again; my eyes seemed to be drawn to him time and time again. He was looking at Biggs and they seemed to be having a whole conversation with their eyes. Finally Alec looked at me and smiled.

“Okay, I’ll start. I am X5-494. A genetically engineered super-soldier with feline DNA, part of an experiment conducted by an organization called Manticore and sanctioned by the US government,” he said, his eyes fixed on mine all the time. “Who’s next?”

Dropping jaws, sputtering laughter and astonished ‘what’s followed this statement. And it was only the deep down feeling that he wasn’t joking that stopped me from joining. Instead, my eyes widened and I couldn’t help taking a step back before my own words to Michael that I felt they ‘re good came back to the forefront.

When the rest realized Alec wasn’t laughing, nor were any of the others, their faces went from surprised to curious and scared in a second. But before any of us could say anything-

“Alec!” Maxie exclaimed. I didn’t need the wave of surprise and panic that hit me right then to know that’s what she was feeling. It was painted on her face for everyone to see. “What the hell are you doing? Are you crazy?” She looked about to tear him to pieces.

“It’s ok, Maxie,” Alec smirked at her. “They won’t tell anyone, will you?” He looked at Michael then.

“How did you…?”

“Genetically engineered. Enhanced hearing. Sorry for eavesdropping, but given the givens, I’m sure you would’ve done the same.” Then all the teasing left his voice. “It was the ‘strapped to a table and cut open’ part that convinced me. I know there’s something really weird with you but it can’t be weirder than us so …”

“You think so?” Michael asked then. “How’s this? We’re aliens.”

Maxie’s eyes widened. Biggs laughed and CeCe’s jaw dropped. Alec just watched Michael. “Prove it.”

“You didn’t prove you’re…” Michael trailed off because he was now talking to the air, Alec was standing beside him, his arm around his neck and his finger poised as if about to strike.

“If I press right here you’ll be unconscious instantly,” Alec said conversationally. Then went back to his previous seat. “You were proving you’re an alien,” he said with a raised eyebrow and laughter in his hazel eyes.

“Okay. Everything’s fixable,” Michael looked at Max, “right, Maxwell?”

Max didn’t look particularly pleased but he didn’t try to stop Michael. I didn’t think Michael would seriously hurt any of them, although that was what he was pointing at.

Michael raised his hand and sent a small blast of energy to the rock to the left of Alec which exploded in a cloud of dust. Next he pointed at the rock Alec was seated on. A blast to the right of his feet, a blast to the left … and the rock toppled forward, throwing Alec slightly down so that Michael’s last blast missed his head by inches.

Alec looked at the smoking hole where his head had been. “Ok, you win, I could kill you with my hands just as easily but I still have to touch you.” He didn’t look surprised at all. “So… aliens, huh?”

“You didn’t need to tell them about us, Alec!” Maxie said glaring at him. “There was no need. It has nothing to do with our being here.” She seemed to totally disregard our revelation, her mind stuck in her own problems.

“Maxie --” Alec started but she cut him off.

“Don’t call me that,” she said stubbornly.

Alec smiled. “Yeah, I know you don’t like it when I do, and that’s the reason I usually do it, but that’s not the case now. In case you’ve forgotten,” he said smiling as if he found his own words very funny, “his name is Max too,” he pointed at Max, sitting beside Isabel on the counter stools. “I think Maxie suits you better than him.”

Kyle laughed and Valenti gave him a stern look. Alex chose that moment to make his presence known. “We’re getting off-topic. We need to know what happened today and what are we going to do about it.” Everyone sobered instantly.

“Right. As I was saying, I know we didn’t need to tell them, Maxie,” a small smile graced Alec’s lips and I had the impression this time had been to deliberately make her mad, and that he just couldn’t help himself, “but we need their trust because we’re gonna need their help if we ever want to go back home. And giving trust is the only way to earn it.”

“Oh yeah, and where exactly did you learn that, Alec? Manticore had Human Bonding 101 after we left?” Maxie retorted.

Alec ignored her. “Let’s see … Maxie’s right, us being transgenics has nothing to do with this, so I think we can skip our long and detailed story. What about yours?” Alec asked looking at me expectantly.

“Oh, she’s not an alien,” Max said hastily, seeing Alec’s look. “Just Michael, my sister and me.”

“But she said she would be on the table too,” CeCe pointed out attracting all our gazes. “What? I’m X5 too. We all heard their talk.”

Max shook his head softly, bringing himself back to the point. “Right. Er … Well, we were in the crash of ’47 -- wait, do you know about that?”

“What, the weather balloon, Area 51 and all that rubbish?” Maxie asked, her disbelief evident.

“Yeah, that. Except, it’s not rubbish. It was us,” Michael said flatly.

“Exactly, it was us. We came in the ship that crashed in ’47, but we weren’t actually born then. We stayed in pods, we’re not sure if ‘hibernating’ or developing, until 1989 when we came out looking like 6 year-olds. We grew with human families,” Max’s eyes flickered to Michael who was looking away, pretending total disinterest, “and kept our alien heritage a secret until Liz was shot and I saved her life.” He looked at me then, a sad smile on his face. The same way he’d been looking at me ever since he came out of the Granolith. We had a big talk pending, we both knew it. But it felt like just a settling of matters, choices had already been made and now our only option was to deal.

“How?” Biggs interrupted my thoughts.

Max looked lost in his own mind still, and Michael seemed to think his permission for this talk was as far as he had to go, so Isabel spoke. “We all have powers. Michael’s blasts were just an example. That’s his power. Max can heal. And I can go into people’s dreams. But we can all manipulate molecular structures. He dissolved the bullet in her body and then healed her wound.” She seemed to also get lost in thought. “That’s how it all began,” she said almost to herself.

Alex took her hand and squeezed gently. “But that’s another story. Actually, a whole lot of other stories. The important thing is that what caused all this,” he looked at the… transgenics -- the word made a place for itself in my mind, “was the departure of an alien ship.”

Maria, who had been following our conversation with only half her mind, the other half on Michael, looked around now. We hadn’t gotten anywhere and I wasn’t sure there was much we could actually do. “So what happens now?” she asked and I saw Max flinch. But no one said a word.

I closed my eyes and let my mind go blank, a whirlwind of feelings brushed my mind and I just couldn’t take it anymore. All morning I had been feeling what the others felt, just bursts of feeling that came and went. A conversation from some time ago flashed in my mind and suddenly I thought I’d figured it out.

Panic threatened to overwhelm me and I fought to keep it at bay. Whatever this turned out to be, panicking over it would not help me. What I needed to do was figure out what was happening to me and why. The how was pretty important too.

I tried to analyse all the information I had in my mind. I had actually been waiting for it since Ava dropped the bomb. But the reality of actually having some kind of weird ‘power’ was harder to assimilate than I had anticipated. First things first, Liz. When starting a new experiment you need all the data you can gather to work with. But this wasn’t the right moment for this. I made a mental note to explore this as soon as possible once things calmed down a bit.

While I’d been lost in thought again the conversation had kept going. I realised someone was talking to me.

“So Max saved you… and now you’re turning into an alien?” Biggs asked. The question irked me.

“You have feline DNA, are you turning into a cat?” I turned his question back at him.

“Meow!” Alec exclaimed, laughing at Biggs’ expression.

“Actually, she’s not,” Michael answered them. “Our powers are actually human. When they created us, we were just programmed to be several thousand years ahead of mankind.”

After a moment of silence Max cleared his throat and we all turned to him. “Hmm… we still need to figure out what to do now?”

“There’s not much we can do, Max.” Valenti said, the voice of reason in a sea of wandering teens. “Do we even know what happened?”

Michael stood, facing us all. “We know it must have been the Granolith but we don’t know how or why it happened. We’ve never known enough about anything. We have that book but half of it is gibberish even when in English.”

“What do you mean you don’t know anything?” Biggs asked perplexed.

“We were supposed to have a protector to raise us and to teach us about our alien side…” Isabel tried to explain, but her words arose more questions than answers.

“Alien side? You have a side that’s not alien?” CeCe voiced the question that was apparent in their eyes.

“We’re hybrids. Half alien, half human. We’re…” Isabel stopped, looking at Max for guidance. Were we telling them everything?

Max nodded and he took care of the rest of the explanation. “We’re the clones of Antar’s king, his sister and his second in command,” he said pointing at each of them in turn. “We were sent here so we’d have a chance to grow and go back to win the war and take back the throne from the man that killed us. We have enemies besides the US government, and some of them followed us here.”

The transgenics’ jaws were sweeping the floor. Alien royalty was different from just aliens. I knew that. It had been a shock to me too, and I’d known about the alien part for months.

Alec was the first to recover, “So this protector that you should have had… but didn’t, I presume… should have…” He trailed off.

“He should have taught us all this from the start. But we just learnt about it last year. It’s been a freaking rollercoaster ever since,” Michael said.

“So you don’t know much about yourselves… or this thing that happened today,” Maxie said. It sounded harsh but I think she didn’t mean it like that; she was just making sure she got the facts straight.

“We’ve never known anything. We’ve been stumbling upon small bits of information here and there, but we’ve never gotten a clear picture,” Max said almost bitterly.

“Maybe it’s time to do that,” Jim said softly. “Sooner or later you would’ve had to do it. This is the perfect moment. You’re about to finish school, just three more days, and then you have the whole summer.”

“Do exactly what?” Kyle asked his father.

“Gather every small bit we have and look for the way the puzzle fits,” Max said nodding. I had the feeling maybe he and Valenti had talked about this before.

“You want to what, take a car and visit any alien related tourist trap?” Kyle said.

Max was looking at Jim. He nodded imperceptibly and turned to Michael and Isabel. Michael was running what they knew and what this implied through his mind, his eyes staring ahead at nothing, lost in thought. Isabel was looking at Alex, who smiled at her. It was obvious he was thinking the prospect for their relationship had changed favourably since last night, that missing her for a summer was a hell of a lot better than losing her forever.

But I wasn’t the only one who could read Alex like an open book. “Oh no, if they go anywhere, we’re going too,” Maria said in a no-nonsense tone, and I agreed whole-heartedly.

“She’s right. We’re in this together. There’s been enough division and misunderstandings already. If we go, we go together,” I backed her up.

“I’m all for that.” Alex added happily.

“Why not? It’s not like I had anything better to do,” Kyle shrugged.

“I think I should stay. I can’t just disappear, and it would be good to leave someone in the know here, to keep an eye on things,” Jim said meaningfully and Max nodded at him. I would feel better knowing that someone was staying too. It could only help to know what’s going on here.

“Okay. So we go where?” Alex asked. “The whole tourist traps thing was a joke, right?”

“We go back to all the places where we’ve found out anything about ourselves but that we had to leave in a hurry then. We go and search every corner. There’s got to be something somewhere. And we’ll find it,” Max said in that tone he used when he’d decided on a path, his king voice. I’d come to really hate that voice lately. But I knew he was only trying to look out for us. It was after all the role he saw as his.

“And what about us?” Alec asked him.

“I know it might take a while, and I’m sorry you’re stuck here in the meantime, but I promise you I won’t stop until we figure out how the Granolith really works… or what it is… and we know how to send you back.” Max looked at the four of them in turn. Meeting their eyes straight on. It always made me feel like he would never fail me when he looked at me like that.

Alec looked at Biggs, his look a mystery to me, but obviously not to his friend. Biggs looked at CeCe eyebrows raised. She seemed to think about something for a moment and then nodded her head once. Biggs looked back at Alec and smiled his agreement to whatever it was Alec had asked him.

Alec’s gaze briefly rested on Maxie, but didn’t really stay long enough for her to do or say anything before he turned to us again. Alec watched us for a second, his eyes serious. “We’ll help you. We don’t have anything else to do here. But when you guys find your answers and figure out how to send us back, you won’t.” He raised his hand to stop us from interrupting him. “Not until we’ve taken Manticore down.”



TBC.

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lyra
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Postby lyra » Tue Jul 06, 2004 4:22 pm

Hi guys, I know it's been a while, but these chapters take forever to write...

Thank you so much for taking the time to leave me feedback, I love reading what you think.

polar vixen,
Little Bit (where did you get the idea that Liz might be Maxie's mother?! That was a shock for me!),
Roswell Slayer (unfortunately, Liz and Alec will not hook up just yet, gotta wait a bit to make it somewhat believable)
Ladeia3 (the issue about timelines and the transgenics encountering their younger selves will come up later on, I'll explain)
Elf (there will be more Michael/Liz interaction, I love them too),
Zevrillion
Elf3748

Again, thanks a lot to my betas, Itay and Roon. I’ve taken some scenes from DA episodes, and changed them because I hated them, :lol: .

I hope you all like the next chapter...

Chapter 2

“What!?” was the most popular reaction.

From everyone except for Biggs and CeCe, actually.

“What are you talking about?” demanded Max, her face the perfect definition of annoyance and bewilderment, but her eyes couldn’t hide the flicker of excitement and curiosity the idea brought in her.

Alec saw it. “Come on, Maxie. Don’t go acting like that now. You did it first.”

“I did what?” she said, not understanding. She had thought about it, yes, but she hadn't, she would remember … ‘Oh!’ Her expression changed drastically. “I did? Really?” Alec nodded smiling. “Wow! Zack must have had a cow,” she muttered to herself, feeling strangely proud of herself.

Alec didn’t want to burst her bubble just yet. “Yeah, I’m thinking you might have had the right idea, and now is the perfect moment to pull it off.”

Jim was shaking his head. “You’re talking about going against the government. That’s not what these people need, Alec,” he told the transgenic.

“First of all,” Alec replied, “I didn’t say anything about them. WE are going to go against Manticore. And second, I said sanctioned by the government. That doesn’t mean all of the government knows about it. The president sure as hell doesn’t, at least not now. They have support from a very small committee, very high up there, but still a secret committee. It’s the kind of project that whenever it sees the light of day brings down everyone involved. All very hush-hush.”

The Roswell group all thought about the Special Unit.

Jim didn’t look convinced. “And how do you plan to take them down, especially on your own?”

Biggs laughed. “You just can’t imagine what you can do with four X5s.”

“Exactly. And we already know how to NOT do it,” Alec couldn’t help but add.

“But I don’t understand,” Max Evans said, “why do you want to destroy it?”

CeCe turned to her Max and said in a saccharine sweet voice, “Do you want to tell them how Manticore was such a warm and caring home that you and your unit made a run for it when you were 9 years old?”

“What?!”

“Nine?!”

Max glared at CeCe for putting her in the spotlight but Alec was glad for it. Of the four of them, Max was the more reluctant one to trust these people. Biggs and CeCe followed his lead, they always had. Alec had always been good at reading people, at identifying threats and allies. He needed Max to trust him too, and Alec felt like getting her to open up and relax a little around all of them was what she needed.

After a moment of silence, Max started to talk. “Yes, we escaped when I was nine. Some of the others were 10, our CO was 11 … I was the youngest …" She paused, looking for the way to explain herself.

Seeing that she was willing to talk, Alec decided to help her get started. “What you have to understand is that we weren’t children to them. They created us to be soldiers, and that’s what we were. From the moment we could stand on our own feet and hold up a gun. We didn’t have names and we weren’t supposed to have a personality beyond our soldier persona, beyond our training. We were their toys. And branded as such.” Alec looked at Max, silently asking her to show them her barcode.

Max walked to the centre of the room and turned her back on them. She pulled her hair up into a bun, baring her tanned and slender neck. She heard the gasps coming from behind her but she didn’t pay attention. She was looking at Alec. He had promised her a long talk when she’d asked in the desert. She had so many questions and no answers. And spilling her sad story wasn't what she wanted to be doing. But she had decided to trust them for now. She reserved the right to change her mind once they cleared everything up. Alec returned her stare unflinchingly. She didn't get the vibe that he was lying. She wasn't as good reading people as some of the others, but she'd always relied on her gut instincts.

They turned their attention back to the astounded group of people watching them.

“Is that a barcode?” Alex asked.

“Yes. That’s how you label things as your property. That’s what we were, their tools. It's encoded it in our genetic make-up so that we can never get rid of it. We can laser it off,” Biggs said turning around to show them his neck, “See? But it’ll be back in a few days,” he explained.

“That is what I was to them. X5 soldier 332960073452." All eyes were back on her, so she spoke. “Life had always been hard at Manticore, but it was all we’d ever seen, we didn’t know there was anything else. It was just the way our lives were. One day when I was nine, my brother Jack got sick … it wasn’t the first time, but this time it happened in front of the guards. They took him away. I … I wanted to know what was happening to him and so I sneaked outside the barracks and into the labs … And they were dissecting him …” She couldn’t go on. She took a deep breath. “I went back to the barracks and told my siblings what I’d seen. Suddenly, the people we were supposed to obey had turned into the enemy.”

Everyone was riveted, hanging onto her every word. Even Biggs and CeCe. Alec was the only one who had heard this story before.

“A few days later I got sick too … just like Jack. They were dragging me away … Zack didn’t think, he just reacted. He took out the guards and we ran.” Max was staring into space, lost in her memories. “I haven’t seen any of them since then …” Her voice trailed off and no one knew what to say to her.

“Their escape made things worse for the ones left behind,” Alec said, breaking the contemplative mood that had come upon the group. “Torture and experimentation were upped, they became everyday business. The brainwashing was intensified and it included two new things: THE ESCAPEES ARE TRAITORS and NEVER THINK OF ESCAPING.”

His eyes were hooded, dark … It was the most serious they’d seen Alec until now.

Alec shook his head, snapping out of his slip. “To make a long, horrifying story short, it was hell forced upon children who’d never done anything to deserve it. I couldn’t do anything about it then. But I can now. And I am going to,” Alec finished.

Silence followed his words. Jim looked at their Max. It had become their way of dealing with things. Max made his opinion known and then the rest reacted. Michael could throw a fit and lately Iz had been right there with him. But still, Max was always the first to talk.

Max knew it, he’d played the role well the last year, but right now he couldn’t talk to save his life. Alec’s words had brought up memories of torture and experiments of his own. Memories he’d buried as deep down as he could but that were now bombarding his mind. He felt physically ill.

It was Liz’s sudden pained expression and muffled gasp that broke him out of his nightmares.

Liz had felt it, like a sledgehammer to the gut. She recognised the feelings at once this time. She’d felt them before, in a flash. Liz tried to not let it show, she didn’t want Max or the others to notice, but it didn't work. She couldn’t hide it from Max; he had spent all his life watching her. The situation they were in now hadn't changed that.

Max shoved his emotions to the back of his mind again, his worry over Liz a great motivator. But she shook her head imperceptibly. She didn't want him to say anything about it. Max tried to focus on their current situation.

The transgenics had seen the whole interaction. First the deference to Max, even from the only adult in the group, had been evident from the start. They’d realised early on that Max was the ‘CO’ of the group. Even though everyone had a say. It made sense since he was a king. ‘How weird is that?’ Alec thought.

They didn’t miss either the expression on Max’s eyes. They’d been trained from birth to pick up on the smallest details, to swiftly assess a situation and everyone in it, to look for that piece of information that would give them the upper hand. It was second nature to them. There was a story there.

But there was something that Alec needed to clarify.

“Look, we’re not asking you for help, I’ve already said that, but I should have also said that we’re not asking for permission either,” Alec said clearly, his eyes going from Jim, to Max. “This is something we have to do,” he amended.

But it wasn’t Max who spoke.

“Yeah … you have to. And I’m going to help you in any way I can,” Michael said, surprising the hell out of everyone. They all thought Michael would be the one to put up the greatest fight, seeing as he didn’t even want to tell them.

But the Xs saw something in his eyes too. They showed knowledge. Michael knew what it was like being an abused child. Another story. Alec wondered just how many more they couldn’t even imagine.

Michael felt uncomfortable under the scrutiny of everyone. He looked away. He didn’t want anyone’s pity. He didn’t need it.

Maria, sitting beside him, moved closer to him, half expecting to feel him stiffen or pull away. But he didn’t. He let her get closer and she burrowed against his chest. She wanted to kill Hank with her own hands, if only he were still alive for her to do that, and at the same time she never wanted to let go of Michael ever again.

“So we help,” Isabel said. Her temper was never as explosive and unstable as when she thought about Michael in that trailer park with that drunkard. She’d never forgiven herself for not noticing, for not doing something sooner.

“Guys, really --” Alec started, but Max cut him off.

“You help us, we help you. That’s how it works, Alec,” he said simply, his voice rang with authority.

“Welcome to the ‘I-Know-An-Alien-Club’,” Kyle smirked, always ready to lighten the mood.

There were smiles and chuckles all around. “Do we get a badge or something?” Biggs asked him.

“No, but if you’re not lucky you can win a nice glowing tattoo,” Alex said, making fun of themselves.

Soon, they had to cut the reunion short. They all had to go home before their parents missed them. Since it was Sunday that meant they’d had some more time, but they needed to get going now.

“We’ll meet at Michael’s place later today again,” Max said looking around at everyone. “We need to start making plans for the trip and everything.”

“What about us?” CeCe asked.

“I think it would be better if you stayed hidden for the time being,” Jim stated, “at least during the day. This is a small community. New faces get noticed easily --”

“Especially those faces,” Kyle said looking appreciatively at the girls.

“… And people talk,” Jim finished chuckling and trying to glare at his son at the same time.

“Sure,” Alec agreed. “At least during the day,” he remarked.

“They can stay with me,” Michael offered. When he got shocked looks from almost everyone he added: “What? I’m the only one that has his own place. It’s not like you can get them home to meet the parents.”

“They could come home with us,” Jim said, “but the truth is that they’re likely to be less noticeable in Michael’s neighbourhood.”

“Right. That's it then," Michael finished and they all went back to the cars.

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

"So, we're alone now," Max said, her voice slightly hesitant.

They were sitting in Michael's living room. Michael had left a while ago giving them some pretence, but they all knew it was because he knew they needed to talk. So now the four of them were alone and it was time for their talk.

"Okay. Where do you want to start?" Alec asked her.

"I don't know... How come I took down Manticore? Did I know you guys then?"

"Just me," Alec said, "you and three of your siblings decided to --"

"What? Who?" Max cut him off, the idea of meeting up with her siblings overriding anything else.

"Hmm, Zack led the attack and he took Krit and Syl with you." Alec saw the dreamy eyes and decided to move it along, now wasn't the moment to get lost in family reunions. There were so many things that needed to be addressed. "As I was saying, you decided to take a shot at Manticore. You thought that by taking the DNA lab out you'd give a hard blow to Manticore and it would make things easier on yourselves. But it didn't work. Two of you were taken in." He saw Max about to interrupt again, "You and Zack," he pre-empted her. "And the director decided to start a breeding program to keep producing new soldiers."

"What!?" Max sounded disgusted, making Alec laugh.

"Yeah, that was pretty much your reaction then." He wriggled his eyebrows at her and her eyes widened.

"You!?"

"Yep. I'm your breeding partner."

"No way!" Her face couldn't show any more revulsion if she tried.

Biggs laughed. "Was that her reaction too?"

Alec grimaced. "Yes, that plus a kick to the gut. Can't understand why." He sulked.

CeCe was the one laughing now at the relief on Max's face. "That must have been a blow to your ego, Alec."

"Yes, yes ... we're getting off-track. That's not important history-wise. The point is that you had been in contact with someone Manticore wanted killed so they let you escape, with a tail of course…" He failed to tell her who right then. 'Not the moment', he thought, "…to get to him. But instead of doing what they wanted you to, you went public on them. They couldn't let that happen so they closed the cell doors and blew the buildings. A lot of us died that night."

Max didn't know what to say. This wasn't what she'd imagined. She felt the urge to apologise to these people she'd apparently caused so much pain to. She'd heard Alec's comment of what happened after the escape and now this.

"And the rest?" she asked after a pause.

"Well, the facility was in the woods in the outskirts of Seattle, so lots of them went to ground, others went to the city. You lived in Seattle, and you've spent the last year helping out every transgenic and transhuman that popped in your radar."

Max's eyes widened a bit when she heard the word transhuman; Ben's nomalies flashing in her mind. But she didn't have time to ponder about it as Alec was already talking again.

"Things were kinda calm for a while, but in the last month everything went to hell. The NSA had been assigned to covertly erase any proof that Manticore ever existed, which of course included killing off everyone who had escaped from the fire. And to make things even worse, the agent in charge of the op, Ames White, has his own agenda and has made panic spread with the population. He's sold this terrifying image of us and then, when paranoia was running at its highest, he told everyone how to identify us."

"The barcodes," Max filled in, Alec's comment about theirs being lasered off making sense now.

"Yes, the barcodes. People are scared shitless, Max. And you have no idea how bad things are back home. There's been lynchings, Max, masses of people turning into mindless killers. The exact same thing they're so afraid of ... " Alec's voice trailed off.

CeCe scooted closer to Biggs and grabbed his hand. The memory of his near-death experience still made her tremble.

Max noticed and looked inquiringly at Biggs.

"Shortly after the barcode tips, the NSA got a hold of a way to single us out from crowds. I was their first success. I managed to escape their first attempt, but they snapped a shot and showed it on TV. Next thing I know I'm fighting for my life] against a mob of ordinaries..."

"Hang on a sec, Alec." I turned to the black man in behind me. "Yeah?"

"You wanna help keep the neighbourhood trannie-safe?"

Yeah, sure. "Some other time." I said just as I caught the TV showing my face. The distraction cost me.

I fell down with the first blow, but didn't stay down for long. I swept the feet from under the guy with the pipe from the floor and he fell onto the guy next to him. Fighting the dizziness, I kicked a third man, still from the floor, which opened a small hole in the circle of people surrounding me. Grabbing the phone I'd dropped going down with one hand, I lifted myself upside down using the other hand as axis and let my body weight drop onto another man.

Clutching the phone, my only means of getting out alive now since I couldn't outrun or defeat the mob gathering around me, I flexed my knees and leaped over the head of yet another bastard. I felt a hand grabbing onto my left foot and heard the yells of 'he's escaping', 'hold the freak',and 'kill the mutant'.

But my hands were securely latched to the ledge of the first floor window and I used my right foot to kick at the hand pulling at me at the same time that I flexed my arms, pulling myself onto the thin ledge. I grabbed the window frame and used the bricks in the wall to get to the roof, right above the first floor.

I felt rocks hitting my back and legs while I climbed; my progress slower because of my head injury. Once safely on the roof I lifted the phone back to my ear, praying to a god I didn't believe in that Alec would still be on the other end.

"Alec?" I breathed out, and smiled hearing a relieved 'Yes!' in the other side.


Biggs looked at Alec, whose face was hard, and knew he was remembering his own experience.

Alec could still feel the tension of the moment. He'd been riding his bike with only one hand most of the time, the phone clutched to his ear allowing him to hear the whole thing. The excited yells from the mob that almost made his heart stop and the grunts and cries of pain which he was fervently hoping weren't from Biggs.

Biggs spoke again, finishing his story.

"I'm here, Biggs. Where are you?" Alec said urgently.

"I can see your building from here. Right two blocks south of your place. Follow the lynching yells. You can't miss it," I tried to joke.

"Can you hold? I'm four blocks away."

"I think so. I'm on the roof, but they're starting to climb. Hurry."

"I'll see you in a sec. I have your back."

I heard the click of the phone going dead just one second before I heard the roar of the engines reach the street and gunshots going off. I half expected to feel the impact, thinking someone in the crowd had finally put two and two together and come up with a gun. But instead the crowd got even louder and spread out, fleeing from the two bikes that had launched themselves into the melee firing indiscriminately. 'Panic can be such a sweet thing,' I thought, perfectly aware that Alec's rifle was shooting upwards.

Max's Ninja stopped right below my position and I jumped down, landing somewhat less gracefully than usual. I saw Alec, who had been circling us and keeping the few perseverant rats away, suddenly rev up his engine loudly and I held onto Max as fast as I could.

In an instant we left the street behind and the nightmare was almost over. I still had to get medical care, my vision was getting blurry now that the adrenalin rush was passing and my injuries caught up with me. I sagged against Max's back.

"Hold on, Biggs, we're almost there," I heard her say.

I stayed conscious long enough to get to TC...


Biggs leaned forward and grabbed Max's hand. "I owe you my life, Max. You and Alec saved me that day."

"I'm glad we got there on time," Max said, thinking how strange it sounded to talk about something she hadn't done as if she had. It was so confusing. But the feeling was there, no matter who'd done it.

Max smiled at him and Biggs thought how different this Max was from the one he'd met at Jam Pony.

"So things are really tense now, huh?" Max sighed.

"They can't get any tenser. Less than a week ago, we got involved in a hostage situation. We were about to make it out when White decided to go all out and prove everyone we were monsters by opening fire. There was no going back after that, we managed to get out but ... "

CeCe had seen how Biggs's story had made Max reach out to him and thought that maybe her own story could make things even easier between them all. Anything that helped Max to get to trust them was a good thing.

"White's snipers opened fire to force us to shoot back and then ... "

The bullet pierced my shoulder and I fell against the person behind me. The group fell back, seeking shelter inside Jam Pony and locking it again.

"CeCe!" I heard Alec yell.

"I'm hit," I managed to get out through gritted teeth. "Fuck! What were they shooting? Cannonballs?"

Biggs ran up to me and started checking my wound. "Oh shit! What a hole! Alec, a little help here."

"Coming," he said, coming towards us. Alec kneeled beside me, cursing under his breath, "What, my bullet hole wasn't enough for you? You had to go and get your own?" he tried to joke.

They managed to stop the bleeding pretty quickly, thanks to Manticore healing abilities, and dressed the wound. By the time the fight against White's lackeys went down I'd recovered enough to watch Alec's back.

Alec and I hid behind one of the pillars, twin wounds in our shoulders, holding our breaths so as to not make a noise.

The seconds stretched forever until we heard the noise of breaking glass behind us. Max signed us instructions and we jumped to the ceiling, tensing arms and legs against the beams and waiting for the enemy team to reach our position. My wound was throbbing, the whole arm shaking with the effort. Alec's seemed to hold better, but then his had had hours longer than mine to heal. Still, I knew it must hurt him almost as bad as mine did.

Right when I thought my arm would give I saw the shadow of the figure approaching our position.

Three, two, one... now!

We dropped on her, me first, knocking her to the floor, then Alec a moment later, landing on her back an instant after I rolled away getting to my feet.

The woman executed a kip, jumping to her feet, her blue lips tight and ice-cold eyes locked on me, she didn't see Alec's kick to her firearm sending the gun she'd managed to hold onto skidding away until it disappeared under an upturned desk.

She angled herself then, to keep us both in her sight. We circled slowly, Alec making his way to stand beside me. The bitch smiled, obviously thinking that would make it easier for her, but in reality she'd just landed herself in a lot of trouble.

The moment Alec got into position we mentally counted to three and launched ourselves into a highly complicated series of kicks and punches specifically designed for two transgenics fighting side by side. It had been a long time since we'd used this attack, but even though our respective wounds took some strength from the hits and made our movement less gracefull than usual, we managed to force her into a corner. Hit after hit, though apparently useless on the outside, made its job inside, until she was a bruised and bloodied mass of limbs slumped in the floor, unconscious.

"It's been a while since we've fought together, huh?" Alec said breathlessly, wiping his sweaty brow and pressing a hand to his shoulder, the fight having reopened both our wounds.

"Yeah, lucky we know each other's moves down to the T, huh? Otherwise that bitch would've had our asses, Xs or not," I said, leaning on him to catch my breath.

"Max! Clear!" Alec shouted when he could breathe again, and relieved we heard the rest of our team echoing his call.


Max was speechless again. It had been ten years since she had been in danger of losing a fight. But from what they were saying things were so bad in their time that they were threatened on a daily basis, and that was with Manticore gone. That thought still gave her a thrill.

"We holed up in Terminal City. It's a part of the city that was closed off after the pulse because there had been chemical leaks. Ordinaries can't stay in there so it was where transhumans had sought refuge. Some Xs too. That's where we've made our stand," Alec finished.

"Wow!" Max's brain couldn't get past that. "Just, wow!"

Alec thought it wasn't the moment to tell her about her role or the personal parts of the tale. She had had enough as it was. It was time to lighten the mood again.

"So, all in all, we're pretty happy we met you, Max. You saved Biggs, you gave CeCe the chance to be free ... and you named me." He winked at her.

"I did?" She paused. "Alec ... " Max frowned, thinking, "as in smart aleck?" she asked.

"Yep. Wanna know what your second choice was?"

"Don't know," she said chuckling, "Dick?" Max teased him and she saw the shock on his face. She burst out laughing then. "It was Dick!?"

Biggs and CeCe laughed too. "Some things don't change," CeCe said.

Suddenly Max remembered something. When he mentioned it she'd been so shocked it hadn't really sunk in then. "Hey, you said in your grand opening that your designation's 494. One of my sibling's is 493," she said smiling wistfully. "What a coincidence, huh?"

The other three stopped smiling and Max looked at them confused.

"No, Max. It's not a coincidence. I'm 493's twin. It was the director's twisted sense of humor, you know, pairing you with one of your sibling's twin," Alec said softly.

Max was shocked by the news and Alec had to remind himself that the niners didn't know about the twins, or that they all had clones in the X7 series ... She knew so little. He felt the impulse of telling her everything right then, but she'd received so many shocks already ... He'd tell her another day. It wasn't as if he were planning to never tell her. Just not today.

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

Max walked into the Crashdown and looked around for Liz. She was supposed to finish her shift in a few minutes and he wanted to catch her before she went upstairs. They needed to talk and if they were going to go on this trip all together Max thought they should do it before.

She was behind the counter, cleaning it up. Max walked up to her.

"Hi, Liz," he said.

Liz gave him a tiny smile. "Hey, Max."

"Are you almost done?"

Liz looked around herself, everything looked in order and her replacement had checked in 2 minutes ago. "Yes. I just have to change." She made a small pause. "We could take a walk ... and talk," she said, knowing that's why he was there.

"Yeah, I'd like that. I'll wait for you out back." And he turned around not wanting to give her the chance to tell him to wait in the back room, and not wanting to give her the chance to not do it. It was better to just leave.

Liz saw him go out the doors and sighed. Everything had turned to hell.
She finished what she was doing and went to change and tell her father she was going out.

Liz found Max leaning on the wall beside the back door, his face grave until he saw her and a small, sad smile curved his lip. They walked in silence for a long while, both lost in their thoughts, strangely at ease with each other.

After all they'd been through together Liz had thought it would take them a long time to get to such a level of comfort with each other. She was pleased to find she'd been wrong.

Maybe I oughta mention
It was never my intention
To harm you or your kin
Are you so scared to look within
The ghosts are crawling on our skin
We may race and we may run
We'll not undo what has been done
Or change the moment when it's gone


They reached the park, still in silence. They were very close, and Liz felt Max's heat in her arm. It gave her comfort. How long had it been since Max's presence had last comforted her?

"I'm not going to try and win you back," Max said simply.

Liz stopped walking and looked at him. All of a sudden she felt overwhelmed by her feelings, and his. It had been such a hard year ...

She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. She couldn't find the words to express what she was feeling. Max hugged her back. After all the heartache and the loneliness and betrayals; after months of hurting each other intentionally or not, out of good intentions, or to give back pain ... Liz was afraid to hope it was over. But it did feel like they could put it behind them. It was as if Max had had the same revelation as her on his own, and now all that was left was to say it aloud.

When she felt strong enough to talk again she pulled back from him, a sudden gust of air in her cheeks made her realise she had shed a few tears. She wiped them away with her hand, smiling at Max.

"Thank you," she said softly at last.

They resumed walking; bumping shoulders and hips occasionally, feeling a lot lighter. The humming that had been mulling in her head cleared enough for her to recognise it now that her thoughts had slowed down. Liz smiled at the way her mind work.

I know it would be outrageous
To come on all courageous
And offer you my hand
To pull you up on to dry land
When all I got is sinking sand
The trick ain't worth the time it buys
I'm sick of hearing my own lies
And love's a raven when it flies


Liz looked up at Max. "Do you know David Gray?"

Max looked at her, somewhere between surprised and pleased. "The Other Side?" He asked her and she nodded. "I've had that song in my mind all morning," he commented, "it popped when I was telling them about saving your life." Max looked at Liz who was nodding her head again.

She remembered that moment. Max had looked at her and it was when she'd felt for the first time that everything was going to be all right.

Meet me on the other side
Meet me on the other side


Seeing that Liz knew exactly what he meant made Max smile, that shy smile he used to give only her the months after the shooting, when everything was new and untainted. When it looked like all Max cared about was her.

It used to make her stomach do back-flips and somersaults, her knees would go weak and everything around them would disappear.

Now though, it only made her feel relieved. Because they could go back to being the friends they were then.

After a few more moments of silence Max felt like they still should say the things they were thinking, like that would effectively chase the darkness away. "I knew it the moment I saw you after leaving the Pod Chamber," he started. "I saw the change in you."

Liz nodded. It had been a shock to her, too, to see the girl looking back at her when she'd stood in front of her mirror a few days ago. It was as if all that she had been through had left in her a physical mark.

"I never want to go through that again, Max. I've been to hell and back in a way I didn't know it was possible. Even when I told myself it was the right thing to do and that things were as hard on you as they were on me ... I just couldn't make myself care. You hurt me so bad ... "

"I know," Max agreed sadly.

"And it was like something gave inside of me and there was no going back. I've been living my life as 'the third' in a triangle I never wanted to be a part of. I tried to make a clean break last year and you wouldn't let me. You dragged me back kicking and screaming ..." It pained Liz to talk about it and she saw how her words hurt Max, but it needed to be said. "It was a mistake. I made a mistake, Max. I know it now. But it's a mistake I had to make. Because I needed to cut myself from your heart. And to do that I had to stay out of your lives. And it didn't work because I can't detach myself from the group. I don't want to. Not then and not now."

"I don't want that either," Max said, feeling relieved. "I want you in my life."

"And I want to be there. I want us to be friends. I know it hasn't worked before, but we weren't ready then. Not to give on our love, nor to see ourselves as friends out of a relationship. But we can be. We're a great team, Max. And I want to be a part of all your lives. It's my life too. It's what I am."

"But we'll never be together again," Max said finally.

"I felt so old, Max," Liz said in a low voice. "So old. Some days I didn't have the strength or the will to get out of bed. And I couldn't look at myself in the mirror. I went through the motions because my body knew how to." She made a pause, looking at her feet for a moment. "I need to feel alive again. I need to be the Liz I used to be ... optimistic, full of life and plans, and illusion ... I need to have fun."

"You will," Max said confidently. "I know you'll find your way." He put his arm around her shoulders hugging her to him and Liz laughed.

It wasn't perfect. Things would be weird for a while, probably. Max would always keep that part of his love for her that would hurt for not being with Liz, but he could accept the way things were. And really, what else was there to do? They'd made the decisions and this is where they'd taken them. So they'd move on from here. As friends.

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

They'd met at Michael's last night as they planned.

Max had explained the disappearance of the Jeep to his parents and that had kept him busy the rest of the day. Liz, Maria and Michael had to work their shifts. Kyle had been at Michael's for a few hours, making sure the transgenics didn't need anything.

Alex and Isabel had spent the day together, first at the Crashdown and then his house. She didn't want to be apart from him even for an instant. Which was how they found themselves today in charge of planning their trip.

Max, Michael and Jim were now going through all of Tess's things. They'd never even seen what she'd kept in her room, and having been raised by Nasedo it was highly possible they could find some things of interest in her belongings.

Liz and Maria were supposed to ask their parents for permission to go on their 'quest'. The rest of them had already mentioned it at their respective homes and the idea had been received quite well. But Amy Deluca and the Parkers didn't know about it yet.

Alex got up from the table to get another road map. The library was almost empty since finals were over. They had made a list yesterday of all the places they needed to visit so he took four different volumes and went back to Isabel who was surfing the net looking for the appropriate vehicle to accommodate eleven people.

Maxie had been adamant about taking her bike. Isabel smiled. The moment they've breached the subject of transport Alec had discreetly looked around and counted down with his fingers, timing her outburst perfectly. Maxie said, very energetically, "You can do whatever you want but I'm taking my Ninja."

They'd discussed it a bit, and the latest was that it could be useful to have a fast transport with them. Isabel was thinking they should rent an RV, because they'd have to spend a lot of time on the road and that would be more comfortable. But 11 people in one RV, 'Or 10, without Maxie', Isabel amended mentally, rolling her eyes; they'd probably end up killing each other. Maybe it would be better to get one with space to stash the Ninja, because Maxie wouldn't be able to follow if they took turns to drive and sleep.

And it would probably help to take another car too, to use in the cities. They'd have to talk more about it.

"Look," Alex interrupted her musings, "This road here takes us almost there." He pointed to the map.

Isabel followed his finger, shaking her head. "You know, we're going to need to make up a fake itinerary for the parents. The real one makes no sense, and it's sure to raise questions."

Alex checked the map again. "You're right." He sighed. "Maybe we could just take one of these recommended routes here." He took a travel guide from the table, passing it to Iz.

They spent the whole morning in the library. Isabel made lists to her heart's content: food, clothes, bath stuff, documents, things like cell phones, batteries and other necessities, aliens devices they had and which ones they needed or intended to look for, places to visit, sleeping schedules, the number of socks in each person's luggage...

By lunch time they were starving, both ready to clean up and call it a day. "I think we'll need another car just to take your lists, Izzy," he teased her.

"Oh don't worry, we can just leave the condoms behind, that'll make more room for my lists," she tossed off-handedly over her shoulder.
Alex froze. "Th-the what?" he stuttered.

Iz turned and gave him a wicked look. "The condoms, Alex," she repeated slowly and then licked her lips.

He heard her laugh on her way out. Well, this was an interesting development...

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

"Come on, mom. You haven't even let me finish," Liz whined, her eyes going to her father asking for help.

"Ok, talk. But make it good," he conceded.

"I know it sounds like too much, but it's not, really," Liz emphasized. "This is our last chance to do something like this, dad. You know senior year is going to be really hard for everyone. We won't have time for ourselves. And once we graduate, we'll all go our separate ways, getting ready to start the rest of our lives. This is probably the last summer we have together."

"I know, sweetie, but it's too long and too far away... it's too dangerous," Nancy said.

"Mom, last month Alex had a car accident in his back yard. That's no excuse. If anything has to happen it can happen anywhere."

"Well, yes," Nancy said reluctantly, surprised at her daughter's light use of an experience that had marked them all so strongly, "but if you're all over the other end of the country we can't help you if something happens."

"Mom, we're not little kids anymore. We're all practically adults who can use a phone to call home and ask for help," Liz said, going from exasperation at her mom to desperation at her lack of success. She needed them to agree. She was not missing this for anything.

"But almost all summer, Lizzie," her dad started.

"I was gone all last summer too. You didn't mind then."

"Liz, you were at your aunt's. That was different," Nancy said.

"Exactly. This is different. I'm going with my friends, people that you know and love and trust --"

"I wouldn't say I love Max and Michael," Jeff cut her off.

Liz laughed at that. "Okay, you don't love them all-"

"And I wouldn't say I trust the guys either."

"Dad! Stop it. You know them, they're good people. We'll be careful," she said. "Come on, Jim lets Kyle go. If he, who really knows how bad the world is, can trust Kyle, why can't you trust me?" she was almost whining now.

And then she saw her father's jaw twitch.

"I can't believe you!" she screeched. "How can you be so bad? You're torturing me here." Her parents laughed. "You're so bad," she sulked.

"Sorry, sweetie," Nancy said, smiling at Liz a moment longer before turning serious again. "But keep in mind, that torture aside, you still need to be really careful and call everyday."

"I can go?" Liz launched herself at her parents. "Thank you. You're the best."

"You know, I'd love to be a fly in the Deluca's house now," Jeff said chuckling.

"Oh I don't know," Nancy commented, "Amy has some experience with Maria and these trips..."

TBC

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lyra
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Location: spain

Postby lyra » Wed Jul 21, 2004 4:23 am

The next part is here!

Sorry for the wait, I hope the chapter makes up for it, at least a bit. Thanks for the feedback, it helps a lot to know that people like the story:

Elf3748.- it'll take some time to get them together, but they're not blind (especially Liz), they'll start noticing the other soon enough. It's gonna be slow, but it'll happen. Be patient.

LittleBit.- I guessed that line was what you were talking about, I was trying to give some glimpses of Liz's new power, maybe it didn't work as well as I hoped. And I love Biggs, CeCe and Alex, I couldn't let them die, that's just wrong. Oh! and congratulations on your pregnancy! I've been meaning to stop by your thread to tell you but...

Roswell Slayer.- I'm hoping to make Liz and Alec's relationship believable, so I'll need time, glad you understand. And I know Max Evans has a horrible record, and I enjoy an ass kicking for him as well (loved Calinia's :) ), but I thought I'd give the guy a chance to redeem himself, as long as he stays away from Liz, that girl's taken :wink:

AdemaChic284.- new reader! yay me! thanks for letting me know you like this, I hope you like the next chapter.

Ladeia3.- So you wanna know who am I pariring the Max's with, huh? Well, you see... like I'm gonna tel you that! :twisted: you'll have to wait to see if they're paired and with who...

vampiricheart.- I'm really sorry for the wait, I try to post every two weeks, but it really takes a lot of time and work to write these chapters. And about Max Evan's reaction to Liz/Alec... well he's gonna be good, but no one's THAT good :wink:

manderly.- hey babe! you're the best sister ever, thanks for the surprise. Love you! We'll talk about studying another time, huh? :wink:

Calinia.- hey I got another legend reading my story! I'm so glad you're enjoying it! I'm working on the 'get-to-know-each-other' part, but *you* know these things take time, don't you? :wink: And, yes, it certainly would suck to have Alec disappear, I'll do my best to not let that happen :lol:

Adian.- I can't take credit for the plot, I wanted to write a crossover but the idea came from my beta, Itay. He's great! I'm glad you like my Michael, he'll be important in this chapter too.

Again, I'm really sory for the wait, here's the next chapter:


Chapter 3

Liz paced back and forth in front of Michael's apartment. She'd been debating whether she should talk to him all day. With everything that had happened the last few days, first the whole Tess thing with the baby and then her betrayal, then the transgenics' arrival and the plans for the trip... It had taken her some time to realize the importance of Tess's departure.

It had hit her this morning, as sudden and powerfully as a punch in the gut. Everything she'd done and suffered to keep Tess in Roswell with the others had been for nothing, they would've been better off if she'd left.

She'd cried for hours in the shower. Obviously Future Max hadn't known about her alliances since she'd left before they could discover. Before they'd had a reason to discover, Liz realized with an aching pang of guilt. But that didn't mean he'd been wrong about the rest. They could still be facing a war in 2014. Even if the transgenics hadn't mentioned any alien war, meaning that it hadn't happened this time, the Granolith was still playing with time, and as far as Liz was concerned nothing was determined. And they were back to being only three. Their Four Square was incomplete after all.

Liz knew she had to talk to the aliens. They needed to know. But she wasn't ready to tell Max. They'd finally put their past to rest and bringing the whole thing out again might stir some trouble. What had happened, then and now, didn't change the way Liz felt, she still wanted to be just friends, everything she'd told Max yesterday was still true. She didn't want to risk that Max might not agree with her if he knew about this.

No, Michael was definitely a better choice. Even though the idea seemed laughable in itself, it made sense to her.

But then, Michael really wasn't the quiet type. What if he insisted on spilling the whole thing to the others.

"Grrr..." Liz's frustration was bordering new a new high, and that was saying a lot if you took a look at her life the past two years.

Meanwhile inside, Michael was sleeping in his bedroom while the transgenics crashed in his living room. Maxie was laying on the couch, not really asleep due to her shark DNA, but trying to get some rest. And the other three were lying on the floor in makeshift beds, some blankets and pillows that the group had dropped off the first day because Michael didn't have enough for everyone.

The transgenics knew there was someone outside. Biggs and CeCe had already been asleep, but the noise of someone coming to the door and then pacing and mumbling to themselves for almost fifteen minutes had finally awakened them. They weren't all that worried, whoever it was that was outside didn't seemed to be all that threatening, mostly they were now curious. Then they heard the growl.

"Was that Liz?" Biggs asked in a low voice, he didn't want to wake Michael.

Alec chuckled. "Yeah, I think so." He went to the door and looked outside. "Never would have pegged her for the growling type," he commented before opening the door.

"Are you planning on coming in anytime soon?"

Liz turned around startled. She hadn't heard the door opening. She opened her mouth to answer him but then she took in his appearance.

Alec was wearing only boxers and a sexy smirk. Liz's mouth went dry. His hair was unruly from having been laid down. His eyes shone in the moonlight, taking a supernatural tinge, and were laughing at her. Liz could see the tan of his skin even in the dim light coming from behind him. She'd seen Max and Kyle without their shirts but she wasn't used to having men in just boxers in front of her. Especially not men this gorgeous. Her eyes roamed his figure of their own volition, from his bare feet, up his toned legs and firm abs, to his knowing eyes.

Someone cleared their throat inside and Liz felt the burn in her cheeks, her face blushing furiously. She looked past Alec into the room.

"I... I was..." her voice trailed off, realizing then that the choice had been taken out of her hands. "I came to see Michael."

Alec stepped slightly aside to let her in, her bare shoulder brushing his chest, sending a shiver down her spine.

Liz looked around trying to push the image of Alec out of her mind and to force the blush away. The living room looked like a refugees' camp. Maxie looked at her and then closed her eyes again. CeCe smiled at Liz and Biggs hoisted himself up a bit, leaning on his elbows and gave her a sly smile.

Seeing it, Liz spoke before he could say anything. "Those blankets don't look very comfortable."

"It's okay. We're used to sleeping pretty much anywhere. Don't worry," Alec said from behind her, reminding her of his presence.

Liz looked at him briefly before turning hurriedly back to the others.

He went on. "Of course, Maxie here insisted so politely on taking the couch we couldn't bring ourselves to say no," Alec remarked in a sarcastic voice, sending a mocking glare at her.

"Suck it up, pretty boy," Max said from the couch, not bothering to open her eyes, making Alec smile kinda fondly at her and Biggs laugh.

"It's as if we were back home, eh Alec?"

Alec was about to answer when the door to the bedroom opened. "What's all the noise about?" Michael grumbled and then he noticed Liz. "Liz, what are you doing here? Did something happen?" he let out in a rush.

Liz shook her head. "No, no, Michael, everything's fine. I just needed to talk to you about something..." she trailed off, suddenly thinking she shouldn't have come. "I'm sorry, it's late, I should have waited until tomorrow, I just--"

"Liz, breathe," Michael cut her off.

"It's just that we leave tomorrow and then we'll be on top of each other most of the time, and what I have to say is kinda private..."

"Okay," Michael said simply, "Let's go in here." He turned back to his room.

Liz started to follow him but then stopped and turned to the transgenics. "Could you please not listen in?" she asked, not wanting to offend them but also needing to know that her talk with Michael would be private.

Maxie gave her a quick glare but said nothing.

"Don't worry, Liz," CeCe spoke up, "we don't go around eavesdropping into people's private conversations for fun. The other day was different, I'm sure you see that?"

"Yeah, I know," Liz said quickly, "I just..."

"It's okay. Go ahead, we'll turn on the TV if it makes you feel better. Trust me, they won't have ears for anything else."

Liz gave CeCe a grateful smile and went into the bedroom, closing the door behind her. Michael had straightened out the sheets so she wouldn't feel uncomfortable sitting on the bed. Liz sat down beside him, turning so they were facing each other. They looked at each other, Michael with curiosity and Liz with something close to apprehension.

"Well?" Michael said at last, when it became obvious that Liz would need some help getting started.

Liz had been trying to find the right approach to the story, some way to make him believe her. Finally she nodded to herself, took a deep breath and plunged ahead.

"First of all, I need you to just listen for a while, okay? Because what I'm going to tell you is really hard for me and if you start interrupting me every two seconds I won't be able to do this. I know you're going to have questions, and I'll answer them when I'm done, just let me get it out first."

Michael just nodded.

"Do you remember last October when Max and I had that big fight over..." Liz trailed off, the thought that she didn't know exactly what Max had told the others just then occurring to her.

"About Kyle?" Michael tried to sound as neutral and not judging as possible.

"Yeah, that," Liz confirmed it, biting her lower lip nervously.

"Sure," he said.

"Right, I don't know what he told you, but I'm going to explain exactly what happened and why. And before you say anything," she hurried on, holding her hand up to stop him from talking, "it is your business and you need to know. At least now you do."

Liz told him everything, from the moment Future Max had appeared in her balcony, the reason for his trip, how and why he'd come, the trick they'd played on Max to make him believe she'd slept with Kyle, how he'd disappeared... everything.

When she'd told Maria it had been a necessary relief for her, Liz had been on the brink of having a mental breakdown and she needed someone to talk to. But this time, the feelings she kept receiving from Michael made it harder for her. She'd tried to save herself from the additional stress of telling him by asking him to not interrupt but his feelings were pretty much doing. God, she needed to explore this new empathy thing soon and learn how to control it. At least she hoped she could control it.

His initial disbelief, though understandable, had been fleeting, disappearing early on. Now a mixture of anger and immense gratitude kept washing over her.

It took longer that she'd anticipated because once she started talking she just let it all out, not sticking to the facts as she'd intended to, but letting him know how the whole thing had weighed on her, how she felt. She'd been on the verge of tears a couple of times, surprising herself. Liz was so sure that she'd dealt with this particular aspect of her past. Maybe it was the addition of Michael's feelings that made it more raw than it usually felt.

When she finished they both stayed silent for a moment.

"So let me get this straight: Max came back from the future, the year 2014, to ask you to make this Max fall out of love with you so that Tess wouldn't leave town because we need her to complete the Four Square so we can defeat our enemies on the war he'd just lost. Thus avoiding the end of the world not to mention the death of some of us."

Liz just nodded.

"You know," Michael said conversationally, "if I didn't have four people that had just travelled in time with the Granolith in my living room, there's no way in hell I'd believe all that." Michael sighed. "Is that the reason you seemed to believe in them so easily?"

"Not exactly, there's something more but I think this is enough for tonight, don't you? We'll deal with that when we're all together."

Michael scratched his eyebrow, thinking. "Are you positive that it was him?" Michael asked, needing to make sure.

"It was, Michael. I didn't want to believe it at first, but it was him."

"I can't believe he didn't come to me!" Michael's voice rose a bit, startling Liz.

'And there's the anger again', Liz thought, relieved to confirm her intuition that it wasn't her he was mad at.

"How could he do that? Burden you with that knowledge, that choice. He should've come to me, damn it, I'm his second. He's supposed to trust me," he muttered.

"He does, Michael. I know you've had differences this last year but you have to know that Max trusts you," Liz affirmed forcefully, sensing that he knew it deep down but he was too upset right now. "But you're right. He should've gone to you, since he couldn't go to himself... and I probably should have too. We just weren't thinking clearly then. You should have seen him, Michael, he was desperate, and so broken. And I wasn't all that much better. I'd been a breath away from breaking down and going back to him and suddenly I have to help Tess to get with him, I just..."

"It's okay, Liz. I understand."

They fell silent again. Liz felt exhausted, recalling that particular incident was like getting on an emotional rollercoaster, and then inviting Michael for the ride.

"So we need a fourth to defeat Khivar," he commented thoughtfully.

"I think we'll need Ava," Liz offered, "I've been thinking about it and it looks like the most logic solution. We'll have to look for her... maybe when we get back."

"Or while we're gone," Michael proposed, "but at least we have a bit of time for that, right? He said 2014?"

"Yes. We should concentrate on the current situation first," Liz agreed.

"Wait a moment, you said this Future Max and our Max couldn't come into contact or they would both be destroyed?" Liz nodded. "Then we have to tell the transgenics. they need to know if they're going to Manticore. They'll probably be there, right? Their present shelves?" he guessed.

"I suppose. They didn't say how old they are," Liz said.

Michael made to get up and then changed his mind. "Who knows about this, Liz?"

"Just you and Maria," she explained, "I never told Kyle why I needed his help, and... I've never talked about it with Max."

"But are you going to?"

"I don't know... I don't want to. Not now. Maybe someday..." she trailed off.

Michael wasn't so sure about that but he felt that he owed it to her to let her decide. Liz had told him how she'd know they needed to know as soon as she'd realized the Four Square was incomplete again. And that was all that mattered to Michael. He still couldn't believe how much she'd sacrificed for them, for him.

Liz stood, intent on going back out and explain what she knew of time travel to the transgenics when Michael's hand in her arm stopped her.

"Liz, hmmm... I want you to know how much it means to me what you did," Michael got out, feeling pretty uncomfortable opening up but still the urge to thank her too strong to ignore, "I just wanted to say thank you for saving my life."

Liz smiled and, acting on an impulse, hugged him. She felt Michael tensed, surprised, and his discomfort reached her. She let him go and stood back up.

"You're welcome, Michael."

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

The TV was on a music videos channel, Alec and Biggs were glued to the screen, watching a group of scantily dressed girls shake their bums suggestively to the rhythm of the music.

CeCe had gotten up from her 'bed' and had gone to sit on the couch with Max, who had sat up, her arms around her legs, her head resting on her knees, and they were talking amicably. The girls looked up when Michael and Liz came out, but the guys kept watching the TV.

"You done already?" CeCe asked Liz.

"Not exactly. I've talked with Michael about something that happened to me this last year and we've realized we need to tell you guys about it."

"I thought it was private?" Alec said without looking up, obviously listening even though it didn't show.

"It is private, and I don't want to go into any personal details but it concerns you."

That caught all their attentions. Biggs turned off the TV and they all sat down around the couch. CeCe moved away, making room for Liz if she wanted to sit. She did so and then let Michael speak.

"Turns out you're not the first ones to travel in time with the Granolith," he started.

The four transgenics looked at Liz surprised, but she didn't say anything, just nodding. Seeing as she hadn't been able to keep the emotional part of the tale to herself when telling Michael, Liz had decided it was safer to let him do the talking.

"Last October," Michael went on, bringing everyone's attention back to himself, "a future version of our Max came from the year 2014 to ask Liz for help changing what had happened in his past... our future." Michael frowned, the whole thing too weird for him.

"So that's why you had less trouble adjusting to us than the rest of them," Biggs guessed, addressing Liz who nodded.

"The why and what she did is not important... for you," Michael clarified, "but this Future Max told Liz that he couldn't come into contact with his 'present version'", he said, making air quotes.

"He said it was something about quantum physics," Liz explained, "He wasn't sure how it worked exactly. A friend had explained to him that if they came into contact they'd both be destroyed. Future Max was very careful that Max wouldn't see him."

"But this Future Max saw Max?" Alec asked, they needed to be very clear on this, there was too much at stake.

Liz searched her memory. Not that it took her too much effort. Those few days were etched in her memory. "Yes, Future Max saw Max."

"All right, tell us exactly what happened," Alec saw Liz panic and he hastily clarified, "I'm sorry, we don't want the personal stuff. But this is too important. You know, just tell us the physical part." Michael scowled and Liz blushed. Alec chuckled. "That didn't come out right. I mean, where was Future Max when Max was with you, or when he saw Max, that kind of thing. I don't need to know what he told you or asked you to do."

"Yeah, okay, I can do that," Liz said relieved. "Well, Future Max appeared in my balcony. He came inside my room and told me that Max was on his way to... talk to me, and we both went back out when we heard Max calling me. I want to the railing and Future Max stayed a few steps behind so that Max couldn't see him."

"But Future Max heard Max talking?" CeCe interrupted her.

"Yes, they were both talking to me, Future Max heard Max," Liz confirmed. "Then the next day Future Max and I were in the office where I worked while Max was across the street sitting at a table outside the Crashdown. We were... spying on him. We could see Max but we didn't hear him. But then, something must have tipped him off because he looked toward us and came to the office. Future Max hid in the inner office while Max was in the reception talking to me."

"So they were really close to each other but didn't see the other one," Biggs stated.

"Actually, I think Future Max could see Max from where he was hiding," Liz elaborated.

"Then physical proximity doesn't have any effect. And I don't really see any scientific difference between auditory contact and visual contact," CeCe opined.

"Maybe he was misinformed and nothing would happen," Biggs ventured.

"Now that we're analyzing it with a clear head, it doesn't make much sense that they needed to see each other at the same time to provoke a reaction," Liz said thoughtfully, "I mean, they did come into contact."

"Still, there's a big risk, I mean, are you guys born already?" Michael asked.

"Yes, I'm about two and a half, Biggs is around two, CeCe is almost two also and Maxie is just one," Alec couldn't help his smile at the thought of kick ass Maxie as a small baby.

"So, are you willing to risk the chance that it will destroy you?" Michael insisted.

The transgenics didn't have to think too much about it.

"Yes. It's worth it," Alec said seriously.

"Yeah," CeCe agreed.

"It would really be worth it if the rest of my family got to be safe and together," Maxie added wishfully.

"Exactly. I'd rather die than let myself, and the rest, go through the hell that awaits them. If it kills me, it still saves a lot of them. I say we risk it," Alec said.

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

They stopped the cars on the plain at the feet of the hill. They were supposed to be on their way to Las Cruces where the RV they'd rented was waiting for them. But they had two stops to make before setting out on this road trip of theirs.Jim had offered to take some of them in his SUV since they didn't all fit in Tess's. The first option had been the car Alec and the others had been driving when they ‘landed’ in this time, but the model of the car was one that didn’t exist yet in 2001 so they had parked it in the garage of the Valenti’s and had taken Tess’s instead. They had decided it was the more appropriate out of all of their cars to take on this trip because none of the parents would miss it and they were supposed to be only seven people, not eleven; but it had taken some serious exorcizing first.

Both cars and Max's Ninja were loaded with their bags and a little extra 'package'.

The group walked up the hill slowly, the path was covered with small rocks and gravel which made the trek difficult. The transgenics were the only ones who didn't constantly stumble on the sliding ground, finding their footing with the natural security of their animal relatives. A short time later the twelve of them got to the top to find...

...nothing but a pile of rocks and debris where the Pod Chamber used to be.

The three aliens stood there, staring at the ruins of the only place that connected them with their alien past. This was where they'd heard the message from their mother, where Isabel had retreated to when she'd hit the bottom after killing Congresswoman Whitaker... they'd felt a connection to this place ever since Tess had showed it to them, and this was where their pods had resided all these years.

Looking at the destruction left in Tess' wake they felt as if she were having a last laugh at them, as if they'd just lost their real home. In Michael's case, the first home he'd ever had.

"Well?" Maxie broke the contemplative silence, "I thought you were going to 'look' for the answers," she urged them on.

The spell broken, and with a careful look around making sure there was no one watching, Michael started to clear the rocks blocking their immediate path with blasts. The sheriff had been keeping an eye on this place the last few days to see if anyone came looking for something, but if the departure of Tess had raised any alarms, no one had been curious enough to come all the way here to check it out. Still, Michael wanted to be sure.

"That's handy," Biggs chuckled.

"Yeah, I thought they were gonna ask us to lift those for them," Alec commented. "It's hard to get used to this alien powers thing..."

Maxie and CeCe were watching closely the small explosions, still not used to seeing alien blasts. Michael kept sending small bursts of energy to rock after rock, making them explode into dust. When he came to a really big boulder, Michael sent a more powerful blast, intent on pulverizing it too, but the blast wasn't enough to turn all that rock to dust, instead, blowing it into small projectiles that shot off in every direction.

Everyone covered their faces, throwing themselves to the ground, shrieking in surprise and fright...except Liz. She froze, seeing a particularly big rock flying straight to her, her mind went blank and her eyes grew huge, time slowing down.

Suddenly something slammed into her from behind, the ground rushed up to her but just before she smashed her face she was turned around, landing on a hard body.

A moment later, the scare already past, everyone got to their feet. CeCe offered her hand to Liz, to help her up, and once standing , Liz looked down to see Alec lying on the ground, leaning on his elbows and smiling at her.

"Thanks," Liz said embarrassed.

"No problem," he replied, getting up.

Michael glared at what was left of the boulder, some gravel and a lot of dust, and then turned to the group, "Sorry."

Kyle looked at Liz and frowned. "You really need to learn to duck," he jokingly scolded her, causing everyone to laugh and Liz to blush.

Maxie, who had been looking around, spotted a strange looking shape in the distance and using her enhanced vision focused on it. She could see it clearly now, but that didn't help her identify it.

"What's that?" she pointed in its direction.

The whole group followed her finger but only the transgenics could make out what she was talking about.

"These things you're looking for, er...pods? What do they look like?" Alec asked.

"Er... big, disgusting-looking, greenish, things?" Maria offered.

"Very helpful, Maria," Michael smirked.

"Well, according to that astonishingly accurate description, I think Maxie's found one," Alec said stepping over a big rock, following Maxie who was already on her way to the 'thing' she'd seen. The rest followed them.

It was indeed a pod, and the rest were close to it. They were half-buried in the middle of the wreckage and they'd sustained quite a bit of damage, especially Isabel's, which had already been broken to make the passage to the Granolith Chamber. But all in all they were still there.

They all worked on digging them up, putting great care into cleaning them as much as they could. Clearing the space around them, they laid the pods on the ground and stood forming a circle around them.

"What are we going to do with them?" Michael asked.

"I'm not sure," Max replied, "It's not like we can take them with us. They're a lot bigger than the orbs or the stones. We can't just put them in a box and stash them in a closet," he voiced what they were all thinking. He turned to Isabel to ask her what she thought and noticed she was rubbing distractedly her arms as if she were cold. "Iz, you ok?"

"What?" she seemed to snap out of her thoughts, "hmm, yeah, I'm fine. It's nothing."

"So, any thoughts on what we should do now?" Michael reminded them both.

Isabel looked around. "It's too bad the cave's gone. They've always been safe there." She sighed before looking back to the pods. She clenched her hands into fists and then opened them a few times, almost like when they fall asleep and you're trying to get the blood circulating again.

Alex pulled her close, "Are you sure you're okay?"

Isabel blushed slightly, nodding her head. "It's nothing, really..." she trailed off.

Max didn't believe his sister, he knew her too well, "What is it, Iz?"

"It's just..." Isabel doubted herself for a moment before shaking her head, "It's silly, really, but it feels like... my skin is tingling."

Michael's face showed relief, "Thank God, I thought I was losing it," he exclaimed.

"You too?" Maria asked him.

"Yeah, I just felt stupid and didn't want to say it," he said.

Max smiled at his brother's bluntness, "But we've never felt anything like this before," he added, admitting he too had felt it.

"Like what exactly?" Alec asked.

"Like static electricity," Michael ventured.

"Yeah, like the air is charged or something," Isabel added.

"I don't feel anything," Biggs said.

"Maybe it's an alien thing," Jim offered.

"But it can't be the pods, you've never reacted to them before," Liz reasoned.

"I thought there was nothing else here but the pods and the Granolith," Alec said.

"So did we." Max looked around, looking for anything he might have missed before.

"Well, if it's not the pods and Tess took the Granolith..." Alex left the sentence hanging.

They all looked around this time, scanning their surroundings.

Finally, Liz broke the silence.

"Maybe she didn't."

"What?"

"What do you mean?"

"What are you talking about?"

Max shook his head, "Liz, the Granolith is gone, Tess got inside the cone and left in it." He had been the only one left inside when Tess had somehow transferred to the inverted cone.

"Yes, she took the cone... but think about it for a moment, Max. It doesn't make any sense for the Granolith - something so important that the skins spent 50 years looking for it, and Khivar refused to negotiate anymore when you wouldn't give it up - to be just a spaceship. Why would Khivar want it that badly if that's all it is?" Liz argued.

"You know, Maxwell, she has a point," Michael agreed.

"So you think the Granolith is still here?" Max asked Liz.

"Yeah, I do."

The group looked at each other and then around themselves, again, as if expecting one of them to pull the mysterious granolith from behind their backs.

"So we're back to square one," Max realised, his voice defeated, "How can we protect something we don't have or even know what it is?"

"Well, I don't know about that, but we can't leave the pods like that," Maria reminded them.

"No, you're right. We should at least cover them with rocks or something," Max looked at Michael and Isabel and they both nodded.

They all started piling rocks around the pods, the transgenics lifting the heavier ones, making a kind of fence around them. Once done, they hesitated, not wanting to put rocks directly over the pods for fear to damage them.

"Wait a moment," Jim said suddenly and went back to his SUV and took a blanket from the trunk, then running back up again.

He spread the big cloth over the pods. It was big enough so that the edges got to the fence of rocks around them, and since it was higher than the pods it formed something like an artificial cave for them. Jim stepped back to admire his handiwork.

"If only it were solid..." he suggested.

"That's easy to fix." Max put his hand on the blanket and the material turned into some kind of metal, spreading from under his hand and through the whole blanket.

"Geez," CeCe exclaimed, "somehow that's freakier than the blasts."

Maria laughed, "You should see what Izzy does with her 'look'".

They went back to pile rocks over the new metallic surface until the whole thing was covered, the final result looking like a low stage or platform.

They stared at it. It was a bank of rocks on top of a hill completely covered but them. It was more regular looking than the rest, but it didn't stand out all that much, especially not from afar.

Michael cocked his head to the side, thinking, and then he approached the new 'Pod Chamber' and got on top of it. He started rearranging the rocks, adding some more here and there. Finally, he stepped back down and went back to stare.

The others had been watching him, not knowing what to make of his actions at first, but soon his goal became apparent.

Biggs looked at Michael, smiling, "It's close," he said appreciatively.

Maxie, who didn't know what he'd done, asked, "Close to what?"

"To the way it looked before," Max answered her simply.

Michael watched the new rock formation, happy with the result, "Yeah, it's close enough."

Kyle looked to the cars and back to the group. "It's too bad we have no way of making sure no one digs them up once we leave."

Isabel thought about that for a moment before shrugging, "We could try to... 'seal' it, or something."

The three aliens walked up to the formation and put their hands on it. They concentrated on sealing the rocks together, not sure how they wanted it to work, more like letting their instinct guide them. Their hands glowed and their faces scrunched in concentration, but then something 'clicked' and they knew it had worked.

They withdrew their hands, and were about to step back, when Max suddenly put his hand back on it and closed his eyes, letting out a burst of energy.

When he took it away, there was a silver handprint glowing on the rock surface.

"What did you do?" Michael asked him.

"Not sure," Max breathed out. He waved his hand over it and the handprint disappeared. Max looked at Michael and nodded to the hidden mark.

Michael waved his hand over the spot and the handprint reappeared. "Cool."

"I think we can seal it and unseal it again with this," Max said, somewhat perplexed.

"This kind of thing happens a lot?" Alec asked from behind, "You know, the 'I-don't-know-how-I-know-but-I-know-I-have-to-do-this' thing?"

"Sometimes," Michael shrugged.

"Well, at least we know now that they're safe again, and I can keep watching the place while you're gone," Jim offered.

Max, Michael and Isabel nodded at him, feeling better about leaving now. The group made their way to the cars. It was time for the next stop.

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

Alec saw Max speed by the SUV, Kyle riding behind her, and smiled. It had been a while since she'd last taken him in her Ninja back home but he always loved to ride with Max. It felt like flying.

He tuned back into the conversation going on in the car. Max was driving Tess's SUV, with Michael at his side, and Liz and Maria were sitting in the back with him, Liz in the middle.

"...I'm just glad we didn't keep the rest of our alien stuff in the Pod Chamber," Michael was saying, "We used to say it would be safer since no one but us could get in."

"Did you guys bring all of it?" Maria asked.

"Yeah, everything we've gathered these two years and a few items we found in Tess's things," Max said.

"So, what are these alien orbs and stones you mentioned earlier?" Alec asked Max, eager to hear anything alien related.

But it was Michael who answered. "We don't have much." He took a wooden box from under his seat and passed it to Liz. "That's pretty much everything."

Liz took the box and placed it on her lap. It was heavy and dark, made from ebony, and it had a carving on the top. Liz traced the symbol softly, looking at Michael curiously. It was one of the symbols from the cave in the reservation where they were headed now. Two flattened semi-circles around an oval shape.

"I made it," Michael shrugged self-consciously.

Liz opened the lid. Inside were a few cloth covered bulges. Liz took one of the two bigger shapes and unwrapped it revealing one of the orbs and handing it to Alec.

Alec took the strange object with one hand, weighing it carefully. It was made of some kind of metal, really smooth and silver coloured, and it had a blue symbol on it. "What is this?"

Michael pointed to the other one still covered inside the box, "They're some kind of communicators. We call them orbs because, well because they look like orbs. They stored a message from our planet but that's all we know."

"And the drawing?"

"That's the symbol of our home, the Whirlwind Galaxy," Max told Alec, looking at him in the rear-view mirror.

Liz took the orb back and carefully wrapped it again, placing it inside the box with the other. Next she took a black pouch. It was made of leather and it looked smooth and worn, the same as the strip that kept it closed. Liz unfastened the knot and took a round pebble of something looking like amber from inside.

"This is a healing stone, well, at least that's what we call them. They're used to restore the energy balance of their bodies. There are five of them."

Alec nodded at her and Liz put it away. Then she pointed to a key sitting in a corner, "That key belonged to a man who met their so-called protector and wrote a book about aliens. It opens a secret room in his house."

"That brings some memories, right Spaceboy?" Maria beamed and Michael winked at her.

"What's this?" Liz asked then, bringing Max and Michael's eyes to her. She was holding a small black flattened pentagon with more symbols on it.

"That was Brody's, he said he bought it from a guy that dealt with alien stuff, but he thought it was junk. Turns out it's not. It neutralizes our powers when it's on," Max explained.

"Knocks us out on our asses too," Michael grumbled.

Liz recognised it now. She hadn't actually seen it before, but she'd been told about it. "And how is it that you have it then?"

"After he held us hostages," Max started, and seeing Alec's surprised face he added, "He's been possessed by a friend of ours a few times and he freaked out, long story," he turned back to Liz, "Tess mindwarped him to forget the whole thing, remember? Well we took advantage of that and took it with us."

Liz let it back in the box, and took a small piece of metal and gave it to Alec.

"Close your fist," Michael instructed.

Alec looked bemused at the piece in his hand but did as he was told, feeling the metal bend and squeeze in his fist, like a piece of paper would.

"Now open it," Michael said.

Alec opened his fist and saw with no little shock how the metal expanded, going back to its original form, no trace of having been touched on its sleek surface. "What the--?"

"Cool, isn't it?" Michael smirked, "That's from the crash. Part of the ship. One of the soldiers who was assigned to the site in '47 gave it to me a while back. Ironic, huh?"

"Wow!" Alec exclaimed, placing it back in its place.

Liz took something from her pocket then. "I brought this to give it back to you," she said softly, "it belongs here." Her eyes went to the rear-view mirror and found Max's. He nodded at her.

"What's that?" Alec nudged her, wanting to see it.

"A pendant. It's the first thing we found." She showed it to him and Alec recognised the symbol on it.

"The only thing left in there is the book and its translation," Michael added, "it's at the bottom, under a cloth."

Liz took the other objects out again, now noticing the uneven surface under them. She pulled the cloth off and took the book, leaving the translation inside. She handed the book to Alec, who was checking the drawing in the cover. It was the same as the one on the lid of the box.

"Okay, I'm starting to sound repetitive even to me but, what is this?"

"The Destiny Book," Maria spat.

Alec looked over at her surprised. Maria seemed like the bubbly, always happy one. "Destiny?" he asked, the word reminding of about Max's runes. 'Later,' he told himself.

Max interrupted his thoughts. "It's like a manual. It says how we were created and from whom, on the alien part. It had the instructions for the ship Tess took... and it said how we were supposed to pair up: me and Tess, Michael and Isabel," he explained. "Tess used to go on and on about how it was our destiny and shit like that. That's were it got its name. You can imagine why Maria might disagree?" he ended teasingly and Maria snorted, making the rest laugh.

"Very funny, girlfriend."

"I also brought my diary," Liz said, bringing them back to topic.

"Diary?" Alec smirked, obviously amused by the girly behaviour.

"Journal," Liz amended quickly, blushing slightly, "My scientific journal." She ignored Maria's chuckle. "I've recorded everything alien related that's happened the last two years. I thought it might be useful."

"I'm sure it will," Michael offered innocently.

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

The Ninja was parked in the shadow of a tree beside the road when the two cars stopped, and Max and Kyle were sitting beside it, leaning on the trunk.

Alec took one look at Kyle and couldn't help but laugh, "Enjoy the ride, Kyle?"

Kyle stood up. "She's a danger to the public. I had never seen anything like it. I swear a few times we almost didn't make it... I loved it!" he exclaimed happily. "I want one of those, dad."

Maxie laughed with the rest of them. That edge of awareness, of being always on guard, had been dimming the last few days. She was starting to relax around there people... and it felt kinda good.

The group started the trek up the mountain to the cave where they'd healed Michael. They had argued about talking to River Dog again first, but in the end they decided they'd rather not alert anyone to their presence and, anyway, River Dog seemed to have told them all he wanted to say, be that all he knew or not.

They found the cave with relative ease. Those who hadn't been there before where struck speechless to see the painting on the wall.

"Wow!" Kyle exclaimed, whistling his appreciation, "why hadn't we seen this before?" he asked, gesturing to him and his father, including him in his question.

"We've only been here twice ouselves," Michael replied, his mind going back to the only time he had been here and why, his eyes fixed not on the wall but on the circular drawing on the ground, in the middle of the cave.

Maria grasped his hand and squeezed, also remembering the terrifying incident. It had probably been the first time she'd realized how much Michael meant to her.

The transgenics were staring at the symbols in the drawing that adorned one of the walls. The cave was dark, and the others had lit some torches so they could see, but of course the Xs had no such problem.

"Zane loved the Encoding and Cryptography lessons..." Max said suddenly in a soft voice, "he excelled at them."

Alec, standing beside her, put his arm around her shoulders, pulling her slightly closer to him and was surprised when she accepted his comforting gesture.

Biggs noticed Evans pulling out a piece of paper and a pencil from his pack and sitting down in front of the drawing. He went to stand right behind him, watching Max reproduce the symbold on the paper. "What does it say?" he asked.

"We don't know. We have no knowledge of this language, and until now, no way of reading it. But now we have the translation of the Book, maybe we can figure out what Nasedo wanted to tell us with this," Max explained.

"Any why do we care?" Michael spat, "he was a traitor. We're not trusting anything he says, are we?" he demanded.

"Relax, Michael," Isabel soothed. "Of course we're not gonna trust him, but it won't hurt to know what he wanted."

"Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer," Alec parroted the old lesson. Off their stares he shrugged nonchalantly.

CeCe turned to Isabel, since she was the closest, "Can I..." she made a gesture as if to touch the wall.

"Sure," Isabel said.

Everyone watched as CeCe ran her fingers over the first symbol, tracing the outline, her touch barely there. They all looked at the map as if waiting for it to turn into English, or to start talking. "What are they made of?" she breathed out.

"I don't know, he probably made them waving his hand... or with a glowing finger, you know a la E.T.," Isabel guessed, "it looks like dry mud but it's permanent." She turned to her brother. "Why are you drawing it again?"

"Yeah, Max. Didn't you have it already?" Liz added.

Max raised his head, "Yes, it's in my pack. But I drew that one from memory, I thought maybe I'd get a more accurate drawing if we're gonna try to translate it, and..." he seemed to doubt for a second before going ahead, "seeing how things are going, I thought maybe it would stir something...you know, in me, or something." Max put the finishing touches to the drawing, using a different color for the slots where the healing stones fit. Then he stood.

"Now what?" Jim asked, his eyes still studying every corner of the alien-y cave.

"Now we try to get some answers from this place," Max anounced. "Michael, did you bring the box?" When Michael nodded, "Take the stones."

Michael did as Max said and passed the leather pouch to him. max took out the heling stones, placing each one in its place on the wall. Like the first time, the stones lit from insede, glowing bright and forming the V constellation.

The group held their breaths. Some because it was a beautiful sight, others because it was like nothing they'd ever seen before... the aliens expecting something, anything else to happen.

When it became obvious that nothing else was happening, they sighed disappointedly.

"We can try to connect with them?" Isabel half asked, half said.

"It's worth a try," Max shrugged.

"There's only three of us and five stones," Michael pointed out, "who gets which?"

Max went straight to the lowest stone, his hand covering the vertex of the V, and Isabel and Michael each turned towards one of the highest.

They closed their eyes and let their minds go blank, opening themselves to a possible connection to the glowing stones.

The seconds turned into minutes and still nothing happened. Finally, Michael sighed and stepped back, the other two following behind.

"Nothing?" Liz asked.

"Nope, not even a residual impression of the last time they were used or even just held," Max sounded somewhat defeated.

"I don't care," Isabel surprised everyone, "it still feels good to be actively looking for some answers. We've never done that before. It doesn't matter if this didn't work, something else will. I'm sure of it."

"That's the spirit," Alec said jovially.

"What's next?" Kyle asked.

Max looked around the cave, "Just because we don't see anything else it doesn't mean something isn't there. We should try waving our hands over the walls," he suggested.

The rest of the group gathered in the middle of the cave, over the circle on the ground, and Max, Michael and Isabel spread around the chamber and started waving their hands over the wall, top to bottom, walking to their right in a clockwise motion.

Their movements were slow, not wanting to miss anything making sure to cover every inch of the cave walls. They'd almost finished going around the whole cave when Isabel gasped.

They all looked at her. She was staring at the wall in front of her where a silver handprint had appeared, exactly opposite to Nasedo's map. Everyone assembled behind her.

"Go ahead, Izzy," Max urged her.

Isabel pressed her hand to the glowing mark. At first nothing happened. Then, more symbols started to appear, in the same colour as the handprint. Barely there traces that turned bit by bit into four oval shapes forming the four square, joined by two crossing lines going over the handprint. The figures became clearer and clearer, until the glowing stopped, the resulting picture perfectly recognisable.

Max made to pull out the other drawing from his pack, intent on copying this one too, but stopped again when more lights started to appear.

A line of symbols appeared around the four square, one after the other, until they formed a perfect circle around it.

After a pause to make sure nothing else appeared, they all moved closer to the wall. Some of these symbols were familiar to them, forming part of the map behind them. Others were new to them. But the group from Roswell weren't looking at them now. All their eyes were fixed on the Four Square.

"Maxwell?" Michael's voice sounded hesitant.

"I know," Max uttered in disbelief.

Biggs, CeCe and Max looked from one face to the next, aware that they were missing something. But Alec was studying the symbols. "Hey, er... aren't those things like that orb you showed me in the car?" he asked frowning, trying to decide if they were indeed what he thought.

Alec's question seemed to snap everyone out of their thoughts.

"But there's four there," Isabel exclaimed.

"And they're not all the same," Alex pointed at the two orbs in the bottom, "the top ones are just delineated and have the Whirlwind Galaxy symbol on them. The bottom ones are wholly silver except for the central drawing, the V constellation."

"So we have to find two more orbs," Max finished.

"Really?" Maria asked sardonically, "And how exactly are you planning to do that?"

Before Max could answer, Biggs interrupted, "How did you get the ones you have already?"

Max mumbled something they couldn't catch even with their transgenic hearing and they saw Liz blush, the rest snickered and chuckled.

"OK," Michael spoke up, way too happily for the situation they found themselves in, "Guys, you know what this means. Boys, form a line. Liz, start kissing us all."

"Oh God, Michael!" Liz whined, her face hidden behind her hands.

"Michael Guerin!" Maria smacked him, "How dare you?"

TBC
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lyra
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Postby lyra » Fri Aug 06, 2004 3:39 am

Well, people, chapter 4 got lost with the downtime so I'm posting it again.

Thank you for the feedback, it's greatly appreciated. This is even longer than usual so I'm splitting it in two posts. And the italics in this first half are flashbacks.


Chapter 4



Alec's POV

Michael had taken over Evans driving the SUV and Biggs had gotten in the back with me, so it had been the four of us alone for the drive from Las Cruces, where we'd said goodbye to Jim after collecting the RV, to a military base called Eagle Rock.

I had felt the tension in the car increasing considerably as the miles went, but I didn't understand the reason. The only thing that had changed outwardly was an, apparently out of character, concern showing in Michael's face. So I had turned to Evans.

There hadn't seemed to be anything different in him. As little as I know of these guys, I had already realized Max was the silent, stoic type. He never said much and he kept to himself a lot. But all that shyness and quietness had a different air to it than the one that had been surrounding him then. Of course, we hadn't been told everything about the base. When we saw the name in the route Biggs had asked about it and we'd been told that the Special Unit from the FBI had used it as HQ when the crash happened in '47 and they had held two of the aliens from their ship in there, but it was abandoned now.

I don't think they wanted to keep us in the dark about their own experience in Eagle Rock, I guess it was more like they just didn't talk about it. Ever. Which I can understand, but I know it's wrong.

Evans had retreated into himself more and more until he'd seemed to become a pale statue. By the time we'd gotten there he'd been so tense I feared he was about to break.

We stopped the cars some distance away from the base. It was supposed to be abandoned, but it never hurt to be cautious. Still, it was funny to realize how little they knew about the workings of a military base. I had to make Michael stop the car way before they'd planned to. Apparently, they hadn't count with the ever present surveillance of the perimeter. If I hadn't stopped us and, by any chance, the base was still active, by the time we stepped inside there would have been a welcoming party waiting for us.

We all pilled out of the vehicles. Maxie wasn't there yet. I'd lost sight of her a couple of times during the drive. Probably double backing and checking that we were clear. I guess it's too soon for her to let go of all the years of watching her back. But I had no doubt she'd turn up in no time. In the few days we've been here I've felt her loosen up a bit more each day. And I know her enough to see that she's decided to trust us, so, unless something unexpected happens, Maxie is one of the team.

Sure enough, before I'd completed the last thought I could hear the Ninja's engine roaring in the distance.

"Hey," she said when she stopped beside me, "we're clear."

That's my Maxie.

Biggs and CeCe were already sneaking into the perimeter to check if there were indeed surveillance cameras or any other security measures active and the rest was waiting for their word.

The silence was deafening. Maxie took one look at the group and came to stand beside me, asking what was up with her eyes. I signed to her that I didn't know and to just wait. None of the others was paying attention to us; they were too busy, some openly staring at Evans, others trying to pretend they weren't following his every move. Not that he moved a lot, or at all. Evans was leaning on the passenger door of the SUV, that was as far as he'd gotten. His eyes were staring straight ahead, but looking at nothing. Obviously lost somewhere in his own mind. His fists were clenched so tight his knuckles were white.

Isabel was looking vaguely green and was clutching at Alex's arm around her waist. They were a weird couple. If anyone had asked me I wouldn't have been able to tell them of two people more wrong for each other... Well, except Max and Logan, of course... But once you got to know them, Alex and Isabel made perfect sense. They seemed to balance each other perfectly. And Alex was just a great guy behind the 'nerdy' look. Great sense of humour.

Michael couldn't seem to take his eyes off Evans, and Maria seemed to be soothing him as much as taking comfort from him.

Liz had taken a few steps back and she looked almost physically ill. I would've asked her if everything was okay if they weren't all behaving so out of character. As it was, I just made a mental note to keep an eye on her. 'A team is only as strong as its weakest member.'

The familiar lesson came to mind. I've been out more than a year now but they'll probably be there forever, a part of me. As much as 494 as I'll ever be Alec. Which it's not a bad thing, being who I am has many advantages. It's the Hell that made me what I am that I could do without.

Kyle looked uncomfortable too, but he was looking with the same curiosity at Max as he was at everyone else. I guess he knew what had everyone so on edge but maybe he hadn't been a part of it?

Five dragged out minutes into the silent way, Isabel finally moved. She approached her brother and laid a careful hand on his shoulder. I think she was scared it might make him lose it. "You don't have to go in, Max. Some of us could stay here with you?" she offered hesitantly.

Evans' eyes slowly focused on his sister, and I got the feeling he hadn't even been aware she was there, he was so lost. "What?"

"You can stay out here. You don't have to go in, Max," Isabel repeated softly.

In that moment everything fell into place. I remembered Michael's words: 'The FBI held some aliens captive there. There might be useful information.'

Geez, how dense can I be? Everything in Evans shouted torture and post-traumatic stress. It's not like I haven't seen it before. Hell, I've been there myself.


Even Isabel's behaviour had been familiar. She acted much in the same manner Max had when she'd seen me so weird when Berrisfords came back into my life.

Don't go there.

The point is that the people that cares about you, or at least that's what I hope Max was, wants to help you in cases like that. But I've been Evans. Talking about it is the last thing you want to do.

I'm glad he had his catharsis, the same way I had mine...

Biggs and CeCe came back and informed us that everything looked fine, so we all started for the base. Evans had insisted in going in with everyone else and the tension had eased somehow, though not completely, for almost everyone; except Liz, who still seemed a bit out of it, so I kept close to here. Just in case.

It wasn't all that big. Only one building, and I could see from a good distance that it had been well guarded in the past, cameras, motion detectors, vigilance turrets on the top... I guess it makes sense when you're keeping so important and highly 'dangerous' inside. Kinda like back 'home'.

But none of the security was functioning. And we had no trouble getting inside the base. You know, these alien powers are far faster than any lock-pick kit. Those come in handy. I'll have to talk to Michael about that to see what exactly they can do and how they can help once we start planning the assault.

The place looked in order but empty. We'd been told that this Nasedo guy, who could shape-shift -talk about good covers, what Manticore wouldn't give to have their soldiers do that- had posed as the head of the Special Unit and had taken it down from the inside. So it was expected that there wouldn't be much left. Still, it said a lot about the thoroughness they wanted to conduct this search of theirs with, that they didn't want to leave anything unchecked, no loose ends.

The long grey corridors were dusty and our steps echoed in the emptiness. We checked every room we came across: interrogation rooms, morgue, mess hall, offices, control room... and an empty white room that made my skin tingle. I didn't even need to look at Evans to know he 'knew' this room.

"This place is empty," Kyle said dejectedly. I think that after our first two stops they'd gotten used to get lucky every time.

These small details make me think every time just how different they are from us.

They might have been through a lot in the last two years, but they're still kids, eager and innocent. With no real experience on this kind of investigation... or the mission they've all offered to take part in so simply, so innocently. I know they have alien powers, but that won't be enough to protect themselves from Manticore, and the humans... I'm hoping we'll be able to change their minds before it comes to that. My eyes fell on Liz, one step ahead of me, still looking a second away from ready to faint.

I got her attention laying a hand on her lower back, and asked her if she was okay very quietly. Liz gave me a faint smile, but said nothing. I don't like this. This girl is hiding something.

"Let's split here, there are four offices in this corridor," Michael said, "It'll be faster that way."

I made the signal to scatter and we got into one office each. We were basically covering them. It was their search, their lives. We just made sure nothing happened to them in this trip down memory lane they'd started. There was always one of us in the other vehicle, and whenever they split up we made it so there was at least one of us in each group. It was safer that way.

Michael and Maria went into the first office on the left and Biggs followed them. Isabel and Alex went into the next with CeCe. Evans and Kyle got the first on the right with Max following them.

I had placed myself between Liz and the rest. I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to find out what was wrong with her. I opened the door for her and she rolled her eyes at me. Good, she seems to feel better already.

The office was as dusty and empty as the rest of the base. The desk was neatly arranged, as if ready for its owner to sit and start working. Liz sat on the chair behind it and started to check the drawers while I opened the file cabinet and made sure nothing was on it.

"So..." I started, trying to make it look casual, "I've been thinking." I chanced a look at Liz who was systematically opening and closing drawers. "What is it that you don't want the rest to know?"

Liz looked up sharply at me, a 'deer-caught-in-the-headlights' look in her face before she managed to act surprised. "I don't know what you're talking about," Liz tried. But her voice quivered and it came out more as a question than a statement.

I sighed, wrong approach. I walked back to the desk and sat on it, facing Liz. "Hey, it's okay. I didn't mean to put you on the spotlight like that."

I saw her swallow anxiously, still a bit scared. I don't like to have people scared of me.

"Liz," I tried again, reaching for her hand that was resting on the desk, "you've been looking sick since the moment you stepped out of the RV. I didn't say anything at first because you all seemed to be feeling pretty out of it, especially Evans." Liz's hand tensed in mine and I squeezed it gently. "It doesn't take a genius to guess what happened. And I'm far from being dumb. But the rest of them seem to be fine now. Except you. And Evans."

Liz lowered her head. "Don't say anything to Max, he's... He never talks about it," Liz said.

"Yeah, I get that too. He should, though, you know. Talking helps," I offered as neutrally as possible, but still Liz gave an inquiring look. "What about you?" I reminded her, changing the subject.

"It's nothing, Alec. I... There's something I have to talk about with the group but I haven't found the moment yet," Liz looked down again and this time her gaze fell upon her hand still in mine. She stood and I let go. "Don't worry, there's nothing wrong. I think," she added under her breath.

"Enhanced hearing, Liz. What you don't want heard don't say, no matter how softly." I smiled at her sudden indignant face.

"I think I'm developing alien powers, but-"

"SIR!" Biggs's voice rang out interrupting Liz.

"Sorry," I apologized already on my way out.

CeCe, Alex and Isabel were already outside their office, and Maxie came out at the same time I did. We all gathered in the first office where Michael and Maria were standing in front of a safebox. Maria had a fat folder in her hands and Michael was holding a key, his eyes closed.

"What is it, Michael?" Evans asked, "It's a flash?"

I had no idea what they were talking about but right then didn't care, Biggs wouldn't have called me if there wasn't something else.

"Biggs?"

"Failsafe," he said grimly. "Listen."

I strained my ears and found what Biggs was talking about. There was an electronic beep coming from under the safe. "CeCe! Control room," I pushed my way to the wall, "Pack that and start for the exit," I ordered Michael.

Biggs went with CeCe and Maxie moved next to me.

"What's going on?" Evans asked.

"There was a security system still running on this safe. You've tripped an alarm. Get going!"

I ran my fingers across the edge of the safe, looking for the catch that would lead me to the device under it. I found it and pulled, revealing an electronic panel with a countdown flashing in red. Less than five minutes.

"Fuck, it's not an alarm! That's a bomb. Everyone out!" Maxie yelled, herding the frozen group towards the group.

The damage already done, I made sure there was nothing left in the safe before closing it and running out.

Less than a minute later I heard CeCe yell out. "Got it, Alec!"

I entered the control room and saw that everyone was there, instead of getting out. Arrgh, commanding soldiers is so much easier, civilians never do as they're told.

CeCe was sitting at the control desk, her fingers still typing swiftly.

"It was on when I got here. I hacked into the system and bypassed the firewalls and the rest of security," she reported. "I stopped the countdown and now I'm making sure there's nothing more of use in here."

Alex had moved behind her chair and was following her movements, as close as he could, but he seemed to get what she was doing. They have their own hacker?

"So we're okay?" Maria asked and then turned to Michael, "What did you see, Michael? What-"

A high-pitched sound cut her off. CeCe cursed and a blaring alarm could be heard all over the base now.

"CeCe?"

"It had another failsafe. It's programmed to blow no matter what command we insert," she said getting to her feet. "We've got to run, NOW!"

There was another countdown on the screen, but this time it was flying down from 0:59. There was no time. Not even blurring would save us now.

"Everyone here," Evans yelled, grabbing for his sister with one hand and putting the other high in the air. They all piled close and pulled the four of us with them.

When the countdown reached 0:03 a weird green glow spread from Max's hand and fell down over us, enclosing us in a bubble the same instant the explosions started.

I expected to feel the heat scorching my skin and when I didn't I opened my eyes.

There were fires all over, torching everything, glowing a bright emerald green through Max's... protection? I looked at him then. His eyes were closed in concentration and he was sweating profusely, the effort of keeping that thing up taking its toll on him. I saw him shaking and start to wobble and then Michael and Isabel put one hand each on Evans's shoulder and closed their eyes too. The effect was immediate, Evans's brow eased some and his stance became firm again.

Everything had been so fast, but it felt like we were moving in slow motion, the whole thing a mute flash to me. Suddenly sound and speed seemed to catch up and I realised Maria was screaming her head off, and Liz had her head buried in my chest, it had been her that dragged me to them. Actually, everyone's eyes were closed.

A moment later, the explosions ceased and everyone looked around. Evans seemed to be able to cope with the fire by himself. Apparently, it had been the blasts of the explosions that were straining him, so Michael and Isabel waved their hands and I saw the fires start to disappear around us. Once the immediate space was clear, Evans lowered his hand and stumbled back against what was left of the wall.

"Max, are you okay?" Isabel was by his side in an instant.

"Fine, just need a sec..." he rasped out.

"Here," Biggs walked up to him and put Evans's arm around his shoulder, helping him stand, taking almost all of his weight. "Let's get outta here, okay?"

Everyone followed them, Maxie taking Evans's other arm when they passed her and with her arm around his waist they walked outside.

"That was some show," I couldn't help but say to the now empty 'room'. Maybe they can defend themselves after all.

Once outside, we stood there looking at the remnants of the base. Everyone seemed to be lost in thought. I saw Evans staring fixedly upon the only wall that stood more or less intact. The rest all showed the signs of the distraction the base had just suffered. But there was a wall made up of white tiles from top to bottom, not even scorched. Evans couldn't pry his eyes off of it.

Michael approached him and, saying nothing, he took Evans's hand and put it on his own wrist, and then raised his arm and let out a powerful blast. I felt the energy move all around me, and saw the white glowing ray shoot off from Michael's hand and make the white wall crumble to the ground. Once there was nothing left of it, Michael lowered his hand and patted Evans on the back, then turned and walked back toward the cars.

Isabel took her brother's hand in hers and they followed Michael. Alex, Kyle and Maria close behind. I looked at Liz who was still staring at the burnt base with hatred in her eyes. But then she looked at me and I noticed the look of illness that had been there all that time was fading.


The mood had been subdued since we got back to the cars. Maxie -and I couldn't believe it- asked Biggs to take her baby until we stopped for lunch saying she'd been riding for almost 24 hours straight now and could use the chance to rest. I'm not sure I'm buying it...

Evans had gotten into the back of the SUV, letting Michael and Maria up front, and CeCe had sidestepped Isabel to sit in the back with him.

Kyle had been sitting in the back of the Ninja before Biggs could hop in. That guy had really liked the ride!

Alex had taken over driving the RV and Isabel had sat beside him, to keep him company.

That left me in the back with Maxie and Liz. I could have worse company, except for the fact that none of them was paying any attention to me. Liz was writing in a leather bound book, her 'journal' I assume. I'm gonna have to talk to her again about that thing she says she can't find the time for. She's gonna make the time, soon. The group needs to know what's going on for everyone else. And Max seems to be lost in thought.

I spread the road map in the table, checking our itinerary and timetables again, and taking the chance to study Manticore's location. I haven't been in Gillette in a long time. Since 2011 when they moved us out to Seattle.

A shadow fell over the map and I raised my eyes to see Maxie sitting in front of me, a hesitant look on her face.

"Can we talk for a moment?" she said, and suddenly I'm thinking this is the 'rest' she was talking about.

"Sure, what's up?"

"Hmm... I've been wondering, you know, what were things like, for me, in 2021?"

I've been expecting this conversation. Max likes to be on top of things, to know what's what and to be the one in charge. She's spent too long on her own and this Max hasn't settled on her Seattle life, hasn't made connections with a place, with people, yet. The glimpse of her life we gave her that first day must have been going in circles on her mind, never far from her thoughts.

"You want me to tell you about a life you won't have? Whatever happens when we finish this, whether we disappear she said..." I nodded my head in Liz's direction. We were talking in low tones, and there was some distance between us and the cabin, but I wouldn't risk betraying Liz's confidence. She didn't want the group to know about this Future Max so I won't even mention him. "...Or we don't, we still won't have my future any more. Not if we stay here, and not if we go back to our respective years with this Granolith thing." I let my words sink in, for both of us.

It's not that I had just realized this, in some level I've known from the moment I said we were taking down Manticore, but it only seemed to hit home now.

"There's no going back," I finished.

Max kept her gaze on the map, her fingers sliding over Gillette, Wyoming. Does that name give her chills like it does me? I had my first run-in with Psy-Ops in that base and that's something that won't ever stop affecting me.

"I know. And I've thought about that. And I think I still want to know," she said, breaking me out of my thoughts. "Will you tell me?"

"Of course. It's your life, you can know about it if you want to. I'll tell you what I know. But keep in mind we've been reluctant acquaintances for a long time," I tried to explain. "We've gotten closer the last...two months, maybe? But I don't know everything there's to know about you."

"Why's that?" she asked curiously. "If we've known each other for almost a year as you said, why didn't we get along from the start?"

"Well, we did meet inside Manticore, Max. Think about it, would 'you' want to be friends with a Manticore soldier?"

Max made a disgusted face and I laughed.

"Okay, so I wouldn't," she said defensively. "Can you blame me?" she demanded indignantly.

"Not at all," I appeased her.

"But a year is a long time to hang onto that, I'm sure you charmed your way into my good book-"

"It wasn't only that, Maxie," I cut her off. "The main issue between us has always been Ben."

Maxie's eyes widened in surprise. "I knew Ben?" her voice reflected the awe that idea inspired her.

This is the part I was dreading. "Can I give you my version of your life? I'll get to Ben, I promise," I reassured her. "And Brin, and Tinga, Jace..." I tried to lure her with the mention of her siblings.

"And Seth?" she asked.

I frowned. "I don't remember any Seth, sorry. Why do you ask about him in particular?"

"I was going to Seattle because of him. I saw him on TV. I thought he'd be the first one I met up with."

I shrugged. "Sorry. Wouldn't know what happened to him."

Max's face fell for a moment, then she shook her head. "Go ahead, Alec."

I thought about what I wanted to tell her and how. "Well, I never knew what brought you to Seattle, until now. I don't know if you found him." I grabbed a pen from the table and started playing with it, using the movement to focus my train of thought. "I guess you just got tired of running. Always hiding, looking over your shoulder... Once you mentioned how living on the run wasn't really living," I remembered.

The look on Max's face told me that that struck a chord. Understandable, I guess, this Max was about to go to Seattle and settle down so whatever made my Max say that is already there.

"The thing is, whatever the reason, you decided to make a life for yourself in Seattle. You got a place, and a job, and friends... You got yourself a good life."

"Really? I had friends?" Max asked, the thought probably more alien than aliens to her.

"Yeah, good friends. I know some of them, others I just got stories about."

Max looked totally blown away by that bit of information.

"You worked as a bike messenger, delivering packages." Max's look of horror made me laugh.

"Why? Why would I do that?!"

I laughed, I couldn't help it. It was just really funny. Max has always been so passionate about her 'normal' life in Seattle. Seeing what she thinks about it now is really funny.

"Come on, Maxie. I'm sure if you think about it you'll know why."

Max frowned, thinking. Then a mischievous smile lit her face. "Sector pass and the perfect chance to scout places to rob?" she asked, eyebrow raised.

"That's my little cat burglar." Max laughed throatily, startling me. I've heard that sound so few times. If ever. And a comment like that would have earned me a smack at the very least. It's so strange. She's so different. She seems to like me for starters. Suddenly, it occurred to me to wonder if things would have been different between us if I had met this Max instead of mine.

"So, what else?" her voice interrupted my musings.

"Well, our boss hated you... but it didn't matter what you did: disappear for days, or weeks, get in so late it was almost closing time, bite the head off the customers... he never fired you. I suppose that helped to keep you there even when you gave up your second, and more lucrative, job." I paused. In all the times I'd thought about this conversation, trying to decide what to say, I never made up my mind about Logan. Should I tell her about him? Should I omit the fact that they were 'not like that'? I didn't know if it would be fair to tell her she found love when I've always thought she would've been better off not meeting Logan. And, even worse, when she won't get to meet him now. Okay so that's not so bad, in my opinion.

"What is it?"

"It's just that not everything was good, Maxie. There were some really good things about living in Seattle, like the Needle. You loved sitting on the top of the Space Needle and just watch over the city, thinking. We've spent quite a few nights up there, just talking."

Max smiled, "Sounds nice."

"It was," I smiled back at her sadly.

"So how did it all go wrong?" she pressed.

"Well, if you asked my Max, that would be because of me. She... You used to say that I was the source of all your problems," I joked, not wanting the mood to get too somber. "Actually, she wouldn't agree with me, but your life changed when you met Eyes Only. Have you heard of him?" Max shook her head. "He's a self-appointed hero who wants to fix the world." The bitterness in my voice was evident even to me. She looked at me questioningly and I forced myself to smile. "OC said you tried to rob his place, that's how you two met."

I hesitated again.

"Are you sure you want me to be totally honest?"

"Yeah."

"I mean, I could tell you what you would probably tell yourself. But it'd be very different from what I think. And it's not because I want to be mean or anything. It's just my opinion, as a friend, because I care about you."

"Alec," Max cut my stalling.

"Right. Well you know how you've been looking for your family forever. Logan, Eyes Only, proposed you a deal. You helped him in his crusades and he helped you find your siblings. I'm not very clear on how that worked out. His part, I mean. I'm crystal clear on yours. But I know you hooked up with Zack, and through him, with a few of the others. But doing Logan's leg work brought Lydecker onto you. After ten years of being as safe as you could get, you had run-ins with Lydecker almost on a weekly basis."

The mention of Lydecker put Max on edge. Her knuckles turned white from the grip she had on the table, and her face told me how much she hated the man and how much she feared him at the same time.

"If I had hooked up with Zack already and it was so dangerous for me to keep doing this guy's jobs why didn't I just quit?"

Last chance. "I think at first it was because you felt guilty. You weren't exactly thrilled with his offer in the beginning. Actually, you flat out said no. And then Logan got shot in the job you had refused to help with and ended up in a wheelchair. You would've never said it, but you felt responsible, so you accepted the quid pro quo."

"Well, that sucks," Max said. If it weren't because I'm about to dive into such an unpleasant topic, I'd laugh.

"Later on, you two started this dance of 'we're-not-like-that-but-we-really-are' kinda thing."

"You mean I dated this Logan guy?"

"Not exactly. You took too long dancing around each other and by the time you actually wanted to be together you got captured by Manticore."

"Oh!" was all Max said. I thought she sounded vaguely disappointed. Geez, she doesn't even know Logan and she's still trapped! Of course, it probably was more the idea of dating 'someone' than Logan. I don't think Max has ever had a relationship before, a serious one with someone who knows her.

"I'll get back to that later. Let's back up a bit. Zack wanted you to leave Seattle, and when you said no, he left. Later on, your sister Brin was captured and Zack went to you for help. I'm not sure how that went down, I only know that Brin was sick. Progeria." Max's eyes widened with horror. "Her only chance was to go back to Manticore, and that's what happened."

"No," Max whimpered.

"Yeah... Manticore cured her and put her through re-indoctrination." I took one of her hands in mine and squeezed gently. "None of that will happen now, Maxie. We're doing this for them, all of them."

Max swallowed her sobs before they could come out and wiped the tears that threatened to spill over with her hand, the other one squeezing mine back.

"I know you met up with Jace. She didn't make it back in '09, and stayed in Manticore. She was sent on a mission in Seattle and never came back. I asked you about her one night and you said you two had run into each other during her mission and you helped her escape. Turns out she was pregnant and that was a big no-no at Manticore. She went down to Mexico with the promise of naming her baby after you."

Max smiled happily at that for a moment and then frowned. "That won't happen either."

"Believe me, Max. The good we're stopping is really small compared to the bad. And anyway, I'm sure she would rather have her baby freely and be able to stay with its father."

"I know," she agreed hastily, nodding at me to go on.

"Somehow, Lydecker got a look at you and Zack turned himself in to save you... We heard 599 had been brought in, but we never saw him. He spent all his time there in re-indoctrination, possibly Psy-Ops... They let him out hoping Zack would lead them to the rest of you but that didn't work out. I'm not clear on that part of the story either. Like I told you, we've had an antagonistic friendship for the longest time and you're not big on the sharing even with the people you like."

Max gave an indulgent smile and rolled her eyes.

"What?

"Nothing, you just make it sound like we were always fighting or something."

"We were," I said.

"Whatever, what else?"

"Yeah... er... Tinga's next, I think. She'd gotten married and had a son. Lydecker did something to the kid and she turned herself in, in exchange for the cure. I guess that was the last straw for Zack and he started planning on hitting back. But meanwhile he was busy with that, you found Ben."

"It doesn't sound good," Max said in a small voice.

"It wasn't. Ben had lost it. Somewhere along the line he lost his grip on the world around him, I guess. He started killing innocent people. Lydecker had been covering up for him and getting closer to catch him for a while by the time he got to Seattle. I don't know all the details, but you told me that you guys fought and you broke his leg. Lydecker was almost on top of you, too close for you to get Ben out. And he didn't want to go back."

Max was shaking her head. "No, no, please, tell me I didn't..."

I leaned in over the table looking her in the eyes, willing her to believe me. "Maxie, listen to me. You did the ONLY thing that you could've done for him. You have no idea what they would've done to Ben if they'd gotten him alive. You saved him, the only way he could be saved. Ben begged you to free him, and you did."

"By killing him?" her voice quivered, barely there.

"Yes."

Tears were falling freely down her cheeks now. I got up from my seat and went to sit beside her, hugging her to me. Max tensed in my arms before she allowed herself to be comforted.

I saw Liz looking at us, concerned about Max. I shook my head at her and she nodded to me, going back to writing.

When Max seemed to have calmed down I continued. "That's why you couldn't stand to have me close all that time. Of course, I didn't know that. You didn't tell anyone, not for months. Not until Ben's past came to haunt me. That was the turning point for us. That was the first time that I can say we were friends."

"I'm not so sure about that," Max said sniffling.

"Why's that?"

"Look at you. It's obvious you're a good person, Alec. A bit too cocky and smart-ass for your own good sometimes, but you have a good heart. I can see that now. I'm sure I could see then too, even if I couldn't show it. I'm sure it wasn't that bad," she said finally.

"I'm serious. You never had a good word for me, everything I did rubbed you the wrong way, and I'm sure I can still find some bruises left in my body!," I smirked at her, relieved that she was at least pretending she was okay for now. "Of course, I loved to irk you. It's so much fun to make you mad."

Max chuckled. "See, it's not that I hated you, I'm sure. You just asked for it, didn't you?"

"Sometimes," I agreed. "But not always. We had a bad start."

We stayed silent for a while.

"You know, usually I just wanted to cheer you up," I said, deciding to just tell her. "The last year had very little going for you. Logan and you couldn't be together because Manticore gave you a virus genetically tailored to his DNA, so you couldn't touch. And that made you hang onto him all that much. It made you miserable. I told you the other day how it was you that let us all out, and I've told you now that you have a guilty vein a mile high. You do the math." It was easier to tell her these things sitting beside her so I didn't have to look at her. "You always looked like the weight of the world was on you shoulders, feeling guilty because of all of us, because of Ben, because of the virus, because of Logan's legs... I tried to make you see that you wouldn't work out with Logan, but you never listened."

Maxie leaned into me and kissed me on the cheek. "Thanks," she said softly and I smiled. "Alec, what will happen now with Ben?"

"I've thought about it. Don't worry, Maxie. We'll keep an eye on him. I don't know if it was an illness or because of the way he grew up, but one way or another it'll all be different now. He won't grow up at Manticore nor live on his own all those years. And if he suffers from any kind of psychosis we'll get him on meds. He'll be fine."

"Okay," Max nodded to herself. "Thanks for telling me all that, Alec. And I'm glad we don't have all that baggage between us now, this way we can be friends, right?"

I hugged her again, kissing her hair. "I'd really like that, Maxie."

"Don't call me that," she said, just to be difficult, I'm sure, and I chuckled. "I'm gonna go think or something now, okay?"

"Sure," I said, getting up and going back to my previous seat. I saw her enter the bathroom.

That had been easier than I thought. It felt good to be on friendly terms with Max, to have her listen to me and value my opinion.

"So... Sir, huh?" Liz's voice startled me.

"Hey, Liz. I didn't hear you."

"So much for all that enhancement," she sassed, sitting down in the seat Max had just vacated. "Is Max okay?"

"Yeah, don't worry about her. We were just talking about our own times... it' not a good topic," I shrugged.

She must have picked up on my dismissal, I didn't really want to talk about that anymore, so she repeated. "So... Sir?"

"Oh, that." I chuckled. I didn't think anyone had noticed that, what with the explosion and everything... "Yeah, I was the CO of my unit for a while. Biggs and CeCe are used to me being in charge. It's comfortable for them to fall into those roles."

"Ah, I guess I can understand that. We have our roles assigned too. It's not something we consciously acknowledge, you know, but when things get tough, as they always seem to do, it's easier for us to know what our place in the group is."

"So what's your place?"

Liz thought about it for a moment. "To be honest, I'm not sure anymore." She bit her lower lip thoughtfully, one of her many mannerisms that made her look so fragile when I'm thinking she's anything but. "I've had an active role in the past," she went on, unaware of my unwavering gaze, "you know, being Max's girlfriend and the most level-headed one of the group gave me some 'decision-making' power."

I raised my eyebrow at that, I didn't think she realized what she had said. Liz stopped talking and, after a bit, she blushed faintly, the olive tone of her skin hiding it somewhat. Yep, slip all right.

"Evans, huh? Girlfriend of an alien king... Those are some bragging rights," I teased her. Actually, I had noticed their special interaction, a few looks, some comments from the others... but it hadn't look like they were together to me.

"Ex-girlfriend," she rushed to clarify. "We're not together anymore."

"Uh uh..."

"That's one of the reasons I don't know my place anymore," she went on, ignoring me. "Well, that and that I've been butting head with the aliens for a while now."

"They still seem to listen to you." I offered.

"Yeah, I guess. It's just that I've always been the science geek of the group so they often turn to me... like I'm all-knowing or something."

"You like science? I'm not buying the geek part," I added before she could say anything, "You don't look the part."

Liz blushed a bit more and I found myself loving it. It was as much fun as making Max mad. She rolled her eyes at me.

"Yeah, I like science. I've always dreamed of going to Harvard and studying molecular biology." She had a wishful look in her eyes.

"Wow, big words," I said impressed.

"Yeah, they must think so too. Sometimes I think they forget that I haven't done it yet. I want to be a scientist, I'm not one yet." She made a pause and seemed to deliberate on her next words. Then she leaned forward and lowered her voice, like she was going to share some secret. "Do you know much about how you were created?"

The question caught me off guard. It must have shown in my face, and Liz thought she'd said something wrong, I could see the regret in her eyes.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry or upset you. I was just curious and I thought-"

"Liz, it's fine," I interrupted her nervous apology, "You just surprised me. You're the first person to ask about that. Usually they want to know about my 'superpowers'," I say sarcastically, making air-quotes.

"Oh, that," Liz seemed to be back on firm ground again, "I'm used to those," she dismissed the thought with a wave of her hand. "I'm more interested in the progress of creation. Theirs is fascinating too," she went on, meaning the aliens I gather. Her eyes lit up and shined like a kid's on Christmas morning. "We found Michael's human donor a while back. It was so weird... just think, you take a part of Charles Dupree, another part of the warrior Rath, Commander of the Antarian Army, tinker with them a bit, mix it up and you get the ever-mystery also known as Michael Guerin." I could hear the affection in her voice, she seemed to like Michael a lot. She obviously trusted him.

"Yeah well, you take a part of a big wild black panther, lots of parts of people with real big brains, the eyes of the late wife of her old nemesis, shake a bit and you get our dear Maxie... just as scary." I winked at her.

"I heard that!" Max's voice came out of the bathroom. Weird place to be thinking, but the only private space, I guess. Liz and I laughed.

"So what about you?" Liz asked after a moment of silence.

"What about me?"

"What do you like?" she clarified.

"Oh, that...well-"

"Let me guess: alcohol, money and women?" Max's voice came again. No doubt as a revenge for the scary comment.

"Maxie, weren't you thinking? Stick to that," I yelled at her. "Don't listen to her. She knows nothing about me," I told an amused Liz.

"You tell me then."

"Well, to be honest, I do like women... and alcohol... and money. I like getting money... especially if it's not mine." I smiled remembering some of my favorite heist, including the last one. But Liz was looking at me wearily.

"You mean stealing?" her voice sounded small again.

"It's not like that, Liz. Things are so different here... you have no idea how bad everything went after the Pulse."

"What pulse?" she asked confused.

"Right, you were talking to Michael when I mentioned it that first day in the quarry. In 2009 there was a terrorist attack. They let out an EMP over the country. I guess you know what that is, Miss Scientist?"

"Yeah, smart ass, I know what it is."

Good, she was back to insulting me. "Well, it was a big one. The country went crazy. From the most powerful potency to a third world country in a second. You can't imagine it. Corruption, lootering, mafias... The rich who'd managed to keep their money because it wasn't just ones and zeros in an account somewhere became even richer taking advantage of those who lost it all. The people of the street became just that, homeless people. There was hunger, poverty, disease... So yes, I stole. Truth is everyone had deals on the side."

"Sounds like a hard life," Liz said.

I couldn't help it, I laughed. "Sweetheart, compared to where we came from, it was Heaven." Liz looked uncomfortable again so I tried to lighten the mood. "You should have seen Maxie's face when she realized Michael had running hot water in his apartment."

It worked, she chuckled. "So you like stealing then?" this time her voice wasn't accusing.

"To tell you the truth, what I really like is the rush of a good heist. I like the feeling I get whenever a pull a fast one on someone. I like being smarter, stronger, faster. It feels really good."

"Geez, nice ego you got there, Alec," Liz joked.

"Yep," I agreed chuckling. "Charming isn't it?" I winked at her again. And there it was, that cute blush again.



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



They had stopped for lunch. They were in a rest stop area, an empty one at the moment. They had food in the RV, but it was easier to stop and get something when they could. That way they could all sit down together and talk.

They had chosen this place because it had outdoor tables and benches, just a short distance from the road, and they didn't have to worry about anyone overhearing their conversation.

Maria pulled out the folder she'd taken from Eagle Rock from her bag while the rest put away the empty containers and leftovers making room for her.

Michael also put the key on the table, having pulled it from his pocket.

"So did you get a flash from it?" Maria asked him.

"Yeah," Michael said absently while scowling at the key.

"What's with you and keys, anyway?" Isabel asked.

Michael ignored her and Kyle poked him in the ribs. "What, it's a mean key or something?"

Michael turned his glare on Kyle. "It's Pierce's," Michael said by way of explanation. "It was his office. I don't know how the hell Nasedo missed that safebox."

"Okay, let's back up a bit, shall we? What's a flash?" Alec asked. He'd heard them all mention them before but he wasn't sure what 'flash' meant.

"Sometimes we get flashes from people or things," Isabel explained. "We see an image or a scene, like in a movie. A memory, a dream, a fantasy... We also get feelings with them. It's like, for a moment, we're that person... we know what they heard, smelled, felt... It all comes through with the flash.

"Nice," Biggs said.

"Not always," Liz mumbled, thinking of the flash she'd gotten from Max after his torture at Eagle Rock, or the ones she got from Nasedo when he was impersonating Max.

Alec looked at her, probably the only one who heard her since she was sitting next to him. Well, not really the only one. But they were used to being discreet.

"So what did you see?" Maria asked Michael again.

"I saw Pierce putting the key and the folder in the safe, and some kind of building with a logo on top, I'm not sure what it is... maybe a bank or something like that where the key belongs," he ventured.

"And who is this Pierce?" Biggs asked. As Alec's lieutenant, he and CeCe were used to being in charge of collecting info. Not that this was a mission, but still... it kind of was.

"Was," was the only thing Michael said.

Seeing that no-one wanted to say anything, Maria spoke. "He was a scumbag obsessed with aliens and, unfortunately for us, in a position to screw us." Her voice was laced with hatred.

That didn't help much the transgenics. Max was the one to explain. "He was the head of the Special Unit of the FBI. He posed undercover as a deputy in the Sheriff's Office. He was the one in charge of my... captivity."

"Torture's most like it," Isabel muttered darkly. And unnecessarily, they all knew that by now.

"He was obsessed," Max went on, ignoring Isabel. "He was convinced we were some kind of first wave or exploration team for an all out invasion from our planet. He kept asking stupid questions about how many were coming and when and where..." Max's tone had bee going down with each word, in the end, almost like he was talking to himself and everyone was looking at him concerned. That was the most he'd ever said about it.

"Yeah, well. I fried him. End of story," Michael said decisively, breaking no argument. He wasn't very comfortable with the topic, as much for Max's sake as his own.

"Lucky you," Alec said suddenly, surprising everyone. He noticed and elaborated. "Pierce might have been a bastard and a pain in your asses. But you fought him, beat him and killed him. That's it, you can move on."

Biggs nodded knowingly, getting Alec's point immediately. But Alec could see that the others didn't get it.

"I mean, take our bad guy. Agent White was in charge of 'erasing any proof that Manticore ever existed', his words. That meant 'killing us all'. But we couldn't just kill him. And that's the fun part. We fought him, won -or we wouldn't be here now- and then had to let him go to start all over again the next day."

"But they're kids, Alec," Maxie argued, missing the general offended looks all around, "They shouldn't have to kill anyone."

"Yeah, well, we're not that much older, Maxie. But sometimes you forget that we are soldiers and trained as such. When someone is trying to kill you, the right defence is take him out first," Alec said sternly at Max. "You didn't want to kill White either."

"The right thing to do is let the authorities take care of it," Max insisted.

"Come on Maxie, he 'is' the authorities. And 'we'," Alec motioned to the whole group, "are not the kind of people that can go to the authorities for help," Alec said bitterly. "To them, we're the threat." He saw Michael nodding openly and the knowledge and acceptance in the eyes of some of the others, and he felt better. For some reason, what these people thought had been important to him.

CeCe felt like a change of subject was in order. "What's in the folder?" she asked Maria.

Michael reached for the documents and started looking through them. "Some reports on the Crash, testimonies of the people involved... the research done on Nasedo and the other one, medical tests and other stuff like that..." Michael stopped when he got to one particular paper. "Um... no idea, Liz?" He handed it to her.

Liz took it and gave it a once-over, then rolled her eyes at Alec. "It's some kind of chemical formula," she said tiredly, "I wouldn't know what exactly with just a look."

Alec chuckled beside her, remembering her earlier words.

"Anyway, this could be useful," Michael said.

Alec took a corner of the page and tugged, "Can I?"

"Sure, Liz said letting him take it. "You know much about science?"

"Not really. Biggs'll probably be more help," Alec leaned into Liz's ear and whispered, "He's the geek out of the both of us."

"Hey!" Biggs exclaimed, having hear Alec perfectly. He took a wrapper and made a tight ball, then threw it swift and hard at Alec who avoided it laughing.

Alec studied the page carefully, but he didn't know what it was better than Liz did. He passed it to Biggs who said he'd take a look at it later. A comfortable silence had fallen upon the group.

"You know what, it looks like we're having a nice, relaxed moment, in the sharing mood. Anyone else has anything they want to share?" Alec said exaggeratedly, giving Liz a pointed look and a poke in the ribs.

"Subtlety, Alec, try it some time," Maxie laughed seeing the exasperated look on Liz's face.

"I was going to tell them already, Alec. I don't need a neon sign, thank you very much," Liz said testily, but Alec saw that she wasn't really mad at him. It was the truth, she had been trying to find the right way to tell the others, it just wasn't easy. Her words were going to change three lives forever.

"What's wrong, Liz?" Max asked worried.

Liz opened her mouth but the ringing of a phone interrupted her.

Max took out his cell and answered the call. "Hello?"

"What part of keeping a low profile did you not understand?" Jim Valenti's angry voice came from the other end.

"Er..."

"Blowing up a military base is NOT KEEPING A LOW PROFILE!!" Max flinched, moving the phone away from his ear.

Apparently, news travelled fast.

"It was an accident, we tried to stop it but the whole thing went up in flames on us so fast-"

"On you? You were still inside? Is everyone okay?" The anger gone, now Jim was a concerned parent.

"We're fine, Jim. You know we can take care of ourselves. I used my shield," Max reassured him. "How did you hear?"

"Hanson came over, all worried. He didn't know if he was supposed to do something about it," Jim chuckled.

But Max felt the familiar pang of guilt that assaulted him whenever he thought about why Jim had lost his job. "Yeah, well, we'll try not to blow anything else," Max said. "Everything all right there?"

"Yeah, don't worry. You be careful out there. I'll call if anything happens," Jim said and then hung up.

"It looks like someone noticed the demise of Eagle Rock," Max commented. "Valenti's not happy about that. What were you going to say, Liz?"

Liz took a deep breath. "Remember what Ava told me?" she started.

Some of them were nodding their heads, others looked confused.

"About the changes?" Maria asked.

Liz nodded. "I think it's happening. I've been experiencing bouts of empathy, I think. I feel what other people are feeling at certain moments," Liz explained, keeping eye contact with Kyle all the time. Liz knew Kyle would be the most freaked out about this. After all, he was the next in line. Max had saved him next. And Kyle had taken finding out about the aliens the worst, making him rethink his whole view of life.

Kyle was getting paler for moments. HE was going to get alien powers. Max Evans had saved his life and changed him forever. He didn't know if it was hypocritical to be mad at Evans but that's what he felt right then.

For his part, Max wasn't thinking of Kyle at all. He was on a one way ticket to guilt-land and he didn't see a way out. Now Liz would be forever tied down to them. It didn't matter that he had resigned himself to never be with her again, because she was going to be hiding from everyone just like him. Forever.

"Okay, stop it, Max," Liz spoke loudly. Max looked at her, surprised. "I can read your face. You're killing yourself with guilt over this. Well, don't. It's nothing bad. I'm fine, I just have to learn to control this thing. Maybe Isabel could help me?" Liz asked the other girl. "Your powers are the most mental."

"Sure," Isabel agreed. "We'll see what we can do."

"And Kyle, and Alex, just don't flip out over this, okay? We're alive thanks to these same powers, and now we have this gift... Everything is all right." Liz told them, determined to not let them make a big deal out of this. She knew Alex would need to think about it for a while, but he'd be okay. She would just have to talk to Kyle privately.

For the next half hour Liz explained to the group every weird thing she'd noticed the past week.



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

(continued in next post]
Last edited by lyra on Mon Aug 09, 2004 12:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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lyra
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Postby lyra » Fri Aug 06, 2004 3:40 am

(chapter 4 cont.)


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



They had crossed the state line a while ago. Their next stop was Atherton's, in Marathon, Texas.

"I wouldn't mind stopping at the porno version of Aladdin this time," Maria whispered in Michael's ear.

They were in the RV, alone at the moment. Michael looked surprised at Maria, then laughed. "Who would've thought we'd work out so well back then, huh?" Michael said smiling. He leaned into her and gave her a sweet kiss.

Sometimes Maria still wondered at how much they had both changed. The difference was easier seen in Michael, but she had changed too. Having Michael stand by her, and even staying on the planet for her, had quelled her abandonment issues.

Maria snuggled against Michael's chest, his arm around her waist, his fingers tracing circles on her belly.

"I'm worried about Liz," she said suddenly.

"What about her?"

"She told me she'd talked to you about her 'visitor' and what she did," Maria said looking at his face for confirmation. Michael nodded. "I know she's had a while to deal with it, and it seems she has, she looks fine, but I'm not sure that's how she really feels. I'm afraid she's just blocked it all inside and it's been eating at her slowly."

Michael remembered the night Liz told him. "She seemed really upset while she told me. But given what she told us earlier maybe that was my fault..."

"Yeah, and that's the other thing. It must be really freaking her out. I mean, alien powers! She must be-"

"They're not alien, Maria. They're human," Michael corrected her softly.

"Whatever, I can't do it, she shouldn't either." Maria made a face, thinking about her words. "That didn't come out right. It's not that I'm jealous... Do you think she'll do the 'changing things into other things' too?"

"I don't know. Maybe. That's one of the basic things we all can do, so I guess it stands to reason that she will too."

"You could help her to control it if she can. I'm not sure Max should. They seem to be getting along better now, Liz told me they agreed to be friends. Better give them some space," Maria said.

"Yeah, Max has been obsessed with Liz way too long to just stop suddenly. Some time and space will do him good," Michael said thoughtfully. "And hopefully, telling me helped Liz with some of her inner turmoil about 'him'. We can talk to her some more, you know, help her get it all out," Michael mused.

Maria smiled at him. "When did you get so deep and wise?"

Michael chuckled. "When I decided I was keeping you around. One of us had to be the grown up, right? Ouch!" Michael yelped when Maria pinched his thigh.

Before Maria could say anything else the RV stopped and Michael stood forcing Maria to do the same. "Let's go, blondie."

They all gathered in front of the strange looking house.

"What's that?" Biggs asked.

"A geodesic dome," Michael said, and when Biggs kept looking confused he elaborated. " It's a house."

"That's a house?!"

"Yeah, it surprised Michael too," Max chuckled.

"I saw it on a flash but I had no idea what it was. My art teacher had to tell me," Michael said.

"When you told me about this place I didn't expect it to look like this," Alex told Isabel. He and Kyle hadn't been in their previous visit to the dome.

"Who would want to live there?" Alec asked looking around. "I mean, look at this place. There's nothing at all in miles. I'll never understand country people," he said shaking his head.

"Yeah, well, it's a good place to live when you're an alien nutcase who probably had met and pissed off a real alien," Michael said shrugging. "Nasedo killed the owner of this place in 1959."

"So what are we looking for?" Maxie asked.

"It'll probably be empty now," Max said starting for the house. "We had a run-in with the FBI here." He placed his hand over the lock and they all heard it click open. "There's a hidden room under the dome."

Max went directly to the wall with the hidden lock, ignoring the rest of the house. It had been empty the first time already, they wouldn't find anything there.

Michael had taken the key from the box and went to open the hidden door on the floor.

"This place looks like a hurricane passed through it," CeCe said, taking in the interior of the dome.

"The government isn't known for its tidiness," Maria said shrugging.

"This part was probably Nasedo's doing. I bet he was looking for the pendant and couldn't find it," Isabel said.

"You coming?" Biggs's head popped up from the stairs. "Down here is even worse."

The girls followed him down.

"This room was full of papers, books, photos and stuff. We only had a few minutes before we had to run but we took all we could," Max said.

"And where is all that now?" Alec asked.

"The FBI orchestrated a robbery at our house that same morning, before we even got the chance to look at anything," Max explained.

"Figures," Alec said.

"What? Gotta trust the government to find creative ways of getting what they want," Biggs shrugged. "Just look at us."

Alec chuckled and CeCe shook her head, but the rest didn't get their peculiar sense of humor.

They separated, spreading all over the room, looking for anything. There was upturned furniture and broken shelves on the floor. The tunnel they had used to escape the last time had been sealed off with wooden panels.

"Did you get away this way?" Alec asked chuckling.

"Yeah, someone must have been ticked off about that," Michael said smiling smugly at the amount of taints keeping them in place.

After a thorough search they all came up empty handed.

"Well, it was a long shot. We knew that," Max said resignedly.

"Don't you want to try the waving hands thing?" Maxie asked, waving her own hand in demonstration.

"I don't know... This is a human's house. Why would there be an alien hiding place in here?" Michael asked dubiously

"We don't know that Nasedo was never here. I mean, River Dog said Nasedo trusted Atherton. Maybe he was here at some point," Max said.

"They might have been friends, but Nasedo still killed him. Besides, I'm sure Nasedo was never down here. Look at state of things up there. He obviously wanted something. But this place looked okay the first time. He wasn't here. So it's a waste of time to look for something only he could have done," Michael argued.

"I don't care," Isabel said suddenly, stopping the argument. "I'm not leaving yet."

"Iz?"

"Don't you feel it, Max?" she asked.

"Feel what?" Michael asked her.

"The... pull," she said finally.

Michael and Max closed their eyes and tried to feel whatever Isabel was talking about. After a few seconds they opened their eyes.

"There is something, but I wouldn't have felt it if I hadn't been looking for it," Michael said.

"Yeah, me neither. It's really faint."

"No, it's not. Not to me," Isabel said shaking her head. "I felt it the moment I stepped in here. But I can't pinpoint where it's coming from. I've been walking around to see if the pull was stronger anywhere, but nothing," she said defeated.

"Okay, let's look again then," Alec said, seeing that they didn't know what to do. "Just because it's not on sight it doesn't mean it's not here. Guys check the walls and the floor, maybe there's a hidden safe or something."

The transgenics spread out again and started knocking softly on the walls and the floor, looking for a difference in sound.

Ten minutes later they had gone around the room and were back to the middle, having found nothing.

"Now what?" Isabel asked, a hint of desperation in her voice.

"Easy, girl. Transgenics aren't known for giving up. Just let me think," Alec said, reassuring Isabel.

"Sorry," she said softly, a bit embarrassed. "It's just that I feel like I need to find this thing, like it's calling to me."

Alex hugged her from behind, trying to offer her some kind of comfort. She leaned back into him grateful for his presence.

"Oh! I've got it!" Maria exclaimed out of the blue, startling everyone. "You can try to send waves out and hear them rebound on the 'thing'!" When everyone looked at her like she was crazy she went on, "You know, like the dolphins with their eco-whatever." She turned to Liz and Alex, "Remember we saw that Flipper film ages ago?"

Liz, used to Maria's way of thinking, just nodded at her, smiling encouragingly. But the rest was looking at her half amused, half in shock, as if they thought she'd finally lost it.

"Hey! Give me a break, will you?" she said defensively. "I'm just a lousy human. The only one left, if Liz's new power is any indicator. And I have nothing to contribute except babbling and dumb TV ideas," she was mumbling by now.

Michael had gone from shock to looking at Maria fondly. She was a really special girl. He walked up to her and hugged her tenderly. Maria hid her face in his chest, embarrassed now that everyone was laughing. Michael pulled back slightly and leaned down too kiss her. "You are anything but a lousy human, Maria," he told her softly. "And your babbling is out of this world."

Maria rolled her eyes at him. "I was just trying to help," she said, chuckling herself.

"It's not a bad idea," Alec said. "And don't go knocking TV. It taught me everything I know," he joked.

"I'm sure Manticore would be proud to hear that," CeCe laughed.

"Okay, we'll try the dolphin thing," Michael said.

"Right, then you want to be really quiet so maybe we can hear the waves hitting the 'thing'," Alec said. "Let's try it in the open. See if it works."

Everyone went silent, unconsciously holding their breaths. Michael let out a wave of energy towards the broken desk and they waited expectantly. The four transgenics had been straining their sense of hearing to its fullest and they all nodded that they heard it.

"It works," Maxie said simply, somewhat amazed at their own genetics.

"Okay, since there's nothing out here you should try sending the waves into the walls and the floor," Alec said.

Michael went to the closest wall and put his hand on it. For a moment, his hand glowed brightly and he felt the vibration move from his hand and into the wall. The transgenics, spread out through the wall, put their ears on the wall.

"Damn, I hadn't counted on those," Alec muttered. "Guys did you feel the vibration hit the structure?"

"Yeah, I wasn't sure if it was what were looking for, but there're too many and too precisely placed," CeCe said and the other two nodded.

"Michael, do it again, so we can be certain how that sounds, that way we can distinguish anything different," Alec ordered.

Michael did as he was told and when the transgenics were satisfied they all moved to the next wall.

It was in the third wall that Maxie called out. "I think I've got it."

She pointed right in front of her and Michael sent another wave to make sure.

"Yep, it's there. Pretty deep, too."

"My turn," Michael said. He stood with his hand raised and pointing at the exact spot Maxie had indicated. He let out a blast this time, intending to blow the wall. There was a small explosion and dust and bricks flew everywhere. When it settled down, there was a gaping hole in the wall. Michael took a step forward but right then the whole dome trembled and a low rumble could be heard.

It was over in a few seconds.

"Geez, Michael! Bury us, why don't you?" Kyle said only half joking. Everyone looked a bit shaken.

"We better hurry," Max said.

Michael put his arm inside the hole and felt around. When he found the 'thing' he gasped. "Damn! No wonder Nasedo trashed the place!" Michael pulled his hand out and showed it to the group. "He wasn't looking for the pendant."

In his hand was one of the two missing orbs. Dark and smooth, in a blueish tone with the V constellation in silver on top.

Isabel took it from his hands and studied it. She felt a pleasant tingling throughout her entire body. She smiled. "I think it knows me." Her voice was awed.

Right then another tremor ran through the structure.

"Okay, I say now is a good time to leave," Alex said.

Everyone ran towards the stairs, bits of roof falling on them.

"Did you have to tear it down, Michael?" Liz yelled out.

"Yeah, yeah, sorry. Now run," Michael yelled back.

By the time they were all in the ground floor the whole thing was falling over their heads. They all ran outside, dodging flying objects and hurrying to safety.

The group stared at what was left of the dome, trying to catch their breaths, some of them. Alec shook his head. "You guys are hell on buildings," he said.

"Hey, Kyle, he stole your line," Alex laughed looking for Kyle in the group. But he wasn't there. "Kyle?·

Everyone looked back to the ruins. "Fuck!" Michael shouted and ran back. The rest following.

The Xs got there first and were lifting rafters when the rest got there.

"Kyle!"

"Kyle, can you hear us?"

CeCe heard a muffled whimper and yelled, "Here!" She was already moving out debris. "Oh my God"

"Kyle!" Liz screamed when she finally saw him.

He was laying under a heavy beam and there was a metal shaft protruding from his stomach, blood flowing freely and pooling under him. He had a big cut on his forehead and it looked like his left leg was broken.

"No!" Maria sobbed. "Kyle!"

His eyes remained closed.

TBC
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lyra
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Postby lyra » Wed Aug 25, 2004 10:53 am

Hi people, chapter 5 is done, finally. Tsk, tsk, you should have more faith in me guys... (Posted in two because it's too long)


Chapter 5

The last day had been hell.

First Eagle Rock and then Kyle's accident at Atherton's. Actually, accident sounded too light. He almost died.

If Max hadn't been right there to heal him Kyle would've been gone.

Seeing Max in action had been a shock to the transgenics. It was one thing to see Max open a lock with a wave of his hand or Michael blast a hole in a wall; putting back together a person's flesh, mending the damage to the organs, seeing Kyle's body stop its journey to death and come back to life... that was different.

And the silver handprint that had appeared in Kyle's stomach... It was cool in a weird kinda way.

Biggs and Alec carried Kyle to the RV and laid him down. Isabel took out the first aid kit and cursed when she realized it didn't include a transfusion kit. Kyle had lost a lot of blood and Max couldn't make some from thin air.

Isabel said she could 'make' one if she only knew exactly how they were built, so CeCe drew one for her, a perfect reproduction with the names of all the parts and how they worked. A real fast drawing considering all the details she provided. Isabel took some sterilized materials from the med kit and transformed them into a transfusion line.

They chose Alec's blood to transfuse Kyle because the transgenics were universal donors and, even though there was no real damage left in his body, having transgenic blood with all its stem cells and everything couldn't hurt.

'At least Jim hasn't heard about this one,' Max thought, glad that Atherton had lived in such an isolated place. Twice in one day was just two much. But Max was especially glad that Jim didn't know about Kyle. He would only worry, and there was nothing he could do about it without them going back. And Max was too deep in now to go back.

Besides, there was nothing to be done anyway. Kyle was as good as new. Once he'd healed the damage and they'd put some blood back into him his colour had returned quickly and just a few hours later he was joking around as if nothing had happened. Max thought it was just a façade and Kyle would need a little time to deal but for the time being there was nothing he could do.

Max saw the Ninja pass him by fast as lightning and then make a sharp U-turn, heading straight to them.

"I'll kill him!" Maxie threatened from the passenger seat. "Just keep going, he'll pull away," she assured Max, who looked more than a little apprehensive.

Max kept his eyes on Alec. "Are you sure?" His voice shook a little.

"He knows there's no place on this Earth he can hide if he wreaks my bike," Max said, her eyes never leaving Alec's. "He's just playing," Maxie explained at the same time that Alec manoeuvred to avoid a collision, winking at Maxie before disappearing into the dark. "I'm never letting him take it again," Maxie huffed.

Max felt the lump in his throat dissolve and turned to stare at Maxie. "Why did you let him in the first place?"

Maxie rolled her eyes. "He has the most... endearing... convincing... saddest puppy dog face I've ever seen," Maxie said, struggling with the words, "I couldn't say no." She shrugged and, noticing Max was still looking at her, she added, "Eyes on the road, Evans." Maxie looked at him, "You don't mind if I call you Evans, right?"

Max smiled a little. For a moment he wondered at the fact that it had taken Maxie almost a week to mention it, but then he realized that she hadn't really spoken to him until now. They all had talked in the group meetings, sure. But this was the first time he'd talked to her alone. "Too weird to use your own name on a guy?" he asked knowingly.

"Yeah," Maxie agreed. "I wouldn't be the only one, anyway. I've heard Kyle call you Evans. Alex too, sometimes."

"It's fine," Max said, getting the feeling she really wanted his approval.

"What about you? Is it weird to call me Max?"

"Yeah, a bit."

"Well, you can call me Guevara if you want," Maxie offered.

Max thought about it before saying, "I think I'll go with Alec on this one."

"Maxie, huh?" she said rolling her eyes.

"Yep," Max said smiling. "You don't like it?!

"It's not that, it's just... My family called me Maxie," she said softly.

They were silent for a while then. Max looked into the rearview mirror to see Alex and Isabel asleep in the back seat, cuddling close. He rolled his eyes. He was happy for his sister, really, and Alex was good for her. But he didn't want to see them getting cozy and be left imagining just how cozy they'd really gotten. Max shuddered.

The sight of Alex brought Kyle back to the front of his mind. They both had had close calls in the last few weeks, because of them.

"I shouldn't have let them come," he muttered to himself, lost in his thoughts.

Maxie looked at his profile and could see the guilt reflected in his features. "That was really impressive, what you did for Kyle," she said into the silence.

Max looked at her surprised. "Yeah, well, I've had practice," he almost spat, his voice self-deprecating.

"I don't think you could have told them to stay. They knew the risks, and they decided to come. Is it really your call?"

"But I'm responsible for them," Max started, but Maxie was shaking her head.

"Why, because you're supposed to be this alien king?"

"No... Well, yes, I mean, no," Max stuttered. "No, I've always been responsible for them. Long before we found out about that stuff. I've always looked out for Michael and Isabel. And when Liz, Maria and Alex learned about us, that just made me responsible for them as well."

"You mean you 'felt' responsible for them," Maxie corrected him.

Max faltered a bit. "I guess. They were being spied on, chased, kidnapped... all because of me. It was my duty to keep them all safe."

"You're only one person. And no matter how many 'cool' gifts you have, you're not all-powerful. They're a capable group of people who draw strength from each other. Maybe you should try that too." Maxie paused, having doubts about speaking her mind, but in the end she decided to be honest. "I've felt the friction, and I've heard some comments... You seem to have gone through a rough time lately," she started, trying not to sound like she was intruding. 'When has that ever mattered to me before?' she wondered. "Maybe you lost sight of the rest of the group, too busy trying to lord over them to keep them safe?"

Max looked sharply at her, an angry retort ready to spill, but he bit his tongue at the last moment. Maxie wasn't even looking at him; instead she was staring out the window. Max wasn't sure at what exactly, he couldn't see beyond the headlights, but maybe she could.

He turned back to the road. 'It's not as if she's wrong,' he admitted to himself. He had already come to terms with all the bad decisions and mistakes he'd made the last year.

"I never really dealt with what happened to me when the Special Unit took me," Max said into the silence.

Maxie didn't give any indication that she'd heard him but he knew she was listening. Maybe she felt how difficult it was for him to talk about it and how much easier it was to do it if she wasn't looking at him.

"I didn't want to think about it, and I didn't want to talk about it. And I guess I thought if I kept my distance they wouldn't have a chance to ask," he said in a hushed voice. He didn't want to wake the sleeping couple. "What I managed to do instead was to drive a wedge between Michael and me. I avoided Tess as much as I could... and my parents knew there was something wrong with me, but of course I couldn't tell them anything about the real reason... Not that I wanted to," Max shook his head. It had been a long year.

Maxie let him talk. Sometimes it was enough to be able to let it all out.

"And things with Liz got so complicated... and painful... and don't forget Kyle. When his father got fired because of us, he was so mad at me."

The deserted road and the monotone noise of the motor helped Max to focus his train of thought. The memories of the last months played on like a movie, gaining perspective with time and hindsight.

"I guess everything got so tense that it was easier to hold onto that wall I'd built. And when I wanted to change that, the rest had their all defences in place. Suddenly I had no way to go back. The group fell apart..."

"You're family," Maxie said softly then. "Family should stick together."

"Yeah..."

They both went back to their own thoughts, mulling over her words: Maxie, thinking of her siblings and what Alec had told her the day before. Max, adjusting his previous views on their dysfunctional group to fit it into the new term.

They were family. As much as his parents back in Roswell, or the distant feeling of a mother back in Antar... This group of people, who had gone through so much with him, were his family.

"I only want all of them to be safe."

Maxie looked at him with a small smile. "I know."



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



Alec drove towards the RV, much as he'd done with the SUV, but this time he signaled to Biggs, who was driving, to pull over and pick him up.

They secured the Ninja in the back and went around to get in.

"Hey, Kyle, do you mind taking over for a while?" Biggs asked.

Kyle's face lit up and he gave Biggs a grateful look.

"Sure, no problem, Biggs," he said before Liz or Maria could get a word in. They had been mother-henning him all night. And he could do with the rest.

"Are you sure?" Liz asked.

"You shouldn't go around making any efforts-" Maria started, but Kyle cut her off.

"Girls, I'm perfectly okay. Alien-healed and transgenic-transfused. That's as good as it gets. Besides it's only driving." Kyle was already making his way to the driver's seat.

"Yeah, well, I'm going with him," Maria said stubbornly, following Kyle.

Michael chuckled, following Maria with his eyes, inwardly pitying Kyle. Maria could be... Well, he loved her, and he wouldn't change a thing about her, but there were times when the urge to strangle her was really powerful. He turned back to the conversation going on in the 'living-room'.

Alec was spreading a map and some blank A3 on the table and Biggs and CeCe were sitting down around. Alec was speaking.

"I took a look yesterday at Manticore's location. Gillette is a good location, it has a city close by to get provisions, but the place is basically deserted. No-one to witness the child abuse or scientific experiments gone wrong."

"Are we sure there's no other facility yet?" CeCe asked.

"Yes, I checked," Alec said confidently.

"What the-? What exactly did you check?" Biggs asked confused.

"After we were moved to Seattle, remember there were some members of our units missing?"

"Yes, the trainers said they didn't make it through re-indoc," CeCe said.

"Yeah, well, I didn't buy it. 751 not making it through re-indoc?" his disbelief was evident in his voice. "That kid was the strongest in the Unit, and more stubborn than me."

"And that's saying, isn't it?" Biggs smirked.

"Don't know what you're talking about," Alec said, his eyes wide and his face a mask of innocence, making CeCe snort. "Anyway," Alec went on, "I sneaked into the control room and hacked into their records. They'd decided it was safer to split the Units in two facilities, but until then Gillette had been the only base."

"But there weren't all that many missing. I mean, some of them did die in Psy-Ops and re-indoctrination. There weren't enough missing to be half the total," CeCe argued.

"No, no. They didn't take many. Just a small contingent for special training. The point is that right now we only have to worry about Gillette and the Committee," Alec said looking around. "Er... you have a pen?" he asked the other two.

"Here," Liz said from behind him, holding her pen to him.

Alec took it from her. "Aren't you using it?" he asked Liz.

"No, it's okay. I was done anyway," she told him.

"Thanks." Alec smiled at her before looking back to the table.

Liz melted at the sight of his smile. Damn, he was gorgeous. She shook her head, mentally chastising herself. She got closer to the table to see what they were doing and saw Michael doing the same.

"Okay, so this was the barracks building," Alec was saying, drawing a rectangular figure in one the blank pages. "Gym and classrooms in this building here." He added a new one.

"Mess hall and Rec Room," Biggs said at a spot some distance to the left.

"Rec Room?" Michael interrupted. "Didn't sound like you had a lot of recreational time from what you guys said."

"For the guards," CeCe said simply.

"Labs and medical wing," Alec went on as if he hadn't heard a word. "This is the only one with a basement, if I'm not mistaken."

"Maybe the barracks won't be there yet," Biggs observed.

"Right," Alec said thoughtfully. "It's possible we're still all together in a nursery."

"How many of you are there?" Liz asked in a small voice. She didn't want to intrude but she'd been wondering about that since the beginning.

Alec was lost in thought and Biggs seemed too focused on remembering the exact disposition of the buildings from as early in his life as possible so it was CeCe who answered her.

"For now, the X5 series has an experimental number of subjects. Only four units of 25 soldiers each. In a few years, when they decide we're a success they'll make more."

"One hundred babies!" Michael exclaimed. "What are you going to do with one hundred babies?!"

"We'll get to that later," Alec said, his voice not exactly harsh, but not encouraging either. He didn't want to think about that yet.

"It probably won't be one hundred either, they've already lost some by now. Hopefully not many, but some," CeCe said before going back to the plans. "I think I remember the construction work for that building," she pointed to the barracks, "so it probably isn't there yet."

"What, you don't remember your tender youth, Ce?" Biggs smirked.

"Somehow the only thing I remember from my first years is this annoying X5 pain in my ass... Don't know who that might be," CeCe said sweetly.

"See, Alec, she remembers you," Biggs said and Alec chuckled.

Alec drew a question mark on the barracks CeCe pointed to. "If ours isn't there, Maxie's probably won't either, but just in case, it's here." He drew another building with a question mark in the opposite side of the base, with all the buildings in between.

"How do you know that? They kept us apart ALL the time. We didn't even know there were other Units before '09?" Biggs asked, not really surprised that Alec had known nonetheless.

"Yeah, well, we didn't know before, but we sure as hell knew after. I was curious. When they let us out in late '10 we were supposedly the most loyal and docile of the bunch. I had more freedom to do as I wanted as long as I hid it well," Alec said not looking up from the table. He didn't want to see the expressions on the faces of his friends. It had been a long time ago, and it wasn't as if that had been the worse Manticore did to him.

Biggs and CeCe went on with their plans: guards, rotations, security, surveillance, scientists, how often the big brass was on site...

Michael listened carefully. He had never seen anything like it. They were used to land head on into trouble, no preparation, no escape routes, no alternate plans... the closest thing he'd ever done was Max's rescue from Eagle Rock and Nasedo had taken charge of that. He and Isabel had just done as they were told.

The way the Xs interacted and planned everything, their military instruction appealed to Michael. He knew nothing about all of this, but a part of him recognised the situation. He felt as if he'd been in their place before. Rath's past inside of him came closer to the surface when he was with the transgenics. Michael would've thought that'd be weird or worrying, but, truth was, it felt kind of like coming home.

Michael paid special attention to Biggs and his place in the group.

Liz had been watching them too. She'd been getting some empathic bursts now and then. Liz had noticed how her empathy was more prominent when the group was gathered and tension was running high. She had made a chart in her diary of the feelings she'd gotten, from who, and when. That was what she'd been doing when Alec asked for the pen. Kyle's incident had caused quite a stir inside her; she'd gotten emotions from almost everyone. Until now, Alec and Michael were the ones she'd gotten more feelings from. At first that had surprised her. The little she knew of Alec made her think he was used to hide his feelings behind a smirk. And Michael was best known for 'Stonewall Guerin'. It hadn't made any sense that Liz could read them the best.

Then she'd theorized about that being the exact reason she could read them more easily. They were so used to keep a protective shield in place that their feelings had no way of being expressed. Those feelings were more intense because not a part of them had been shared or released, and that made them more powerful. If that was the case, wasn't it logic than an empath could pick up on them easier than on the milder feelings the rest had?

It did make sense to her.

It could also be that she had taken a liking for both of them. Different in kind, but equally intense. Her friendship with Michael had been really important to her the last months; ever since Future Max had told her how he'd died in his time. She had been surprised by the rush of protectiveness she felt for both Michael and Isabel then. And having distanced herself from Max after that incident, she'd watched the rest of the group more closely during her time in the periphery.

Liz felt Michael's sense of belonging at the moment. It surprised her at first, but the second time she felt the wave of identification with Biggs coming from Michael, Liz realised it had more to do with having found another second who could tell him what his place should be than the soldier in him shining through as he thought. Not that Michael didn't feel closer to Rath, he did. She felt that from him too. But Michael had felt lost since the moment they'd discovered he was Max's second. He'd tried to adapt to his role, but not knowing exactly what that role entitled and Max's reluctance to let him play it out hadn't helped Michael at all.

And Alec... Well, Alec was even more complicated. First of all, she wasn't clear on how to relate to him. They weren't exactly friends. They didn't know each other well enough for that. But she knew she wanted to be his friend. Maybe. She thought she did. She wasn't really sure what she wanted. Alec was just so... irresistible. And not only because of his looks.

She had noticed him the moment she saw him. And she hadn't been able to erase from her mind the vision of Alec in only boxers, smiling knowingly at her at Michael's. She had found herself fantasizing about that night quite often since then. About the way his skin would feel at her touch, about the apartment being empty when she brushed past him inside... Liz shook her head, feeling the heat in her cheeks when she noticed Alec looking at her.

"You okay, Liz?" Alec asked her.

Liz could only nod and watch him smile at her before he went back to their discussion. 'What I said, irresistible,' Liz thought. It was as if he knew Liz was thinking about him and he loved teasing her and making her blush, and he always managed to make her smile.

Okay, so Liz wasn't blind. There was no denying he was hot as hell. And he knew it. But it felt like it was more than that.

If he were a total stranger she'd run into in the street, or a guy from school, Liz would sit down with Maria and a tub of ice cream and gush about his gorgeous smile, the way his eyes would twinkle with mischief, and that ass and the way t-shirts clung to him in all the right places. Liz swallowed hard. Right, moving on.

But this empathy thing was complicating matters. It was Max all over again. Maria had asked her in the beginning how she could have fallen so hard so fast for Max. It wasn't normal. And Liz had explained to her how the connection Max opened between them that night after the shooting to calm her fears had been like looking into his soul. She knew all she needed to know about Max then. All that process of getting to know each other, of finding out what you meant for each other, what was important for him, what he felt, what he wanted... all gone in a minute.

And feeling Alec's feelings made him more than just a crush, a case of 'wow, what a hunk, well what's next?'

Liz felt torn because she wasn't sure she was ready for even liking someone new. Her relationship with Max had been totally draining, and she really only wanted to have some fun for a while. If the situation were different, Alec would be the perfect choice for that, she was sure of it. Alec could be her crazy adventure and Liz would get her shallow, exciting, daring, all out fun experience.

According to CeCe that was Alec's speciality... Well, actually he was the one-night-stand King back in Seattle. But with Liz's empathy that possibility was out the window now. It would never be just that for her.

Which got her back to square one. Liz didn't know where she stood or what she wanted.

"We're here," Kyle yelled, interrupting Liz's musings



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



Copper Summit was a ghost town. Deserted streets, empty buildings, silent hallways... The only thing they found was shredded skin everywhere they looked.

"So these things are like space suits for those skin-aliens you mentioned?" Maxie asked, her disgust evident in her voice and face while she help a piece of something like snake skin between two fingers.

"Husks," Max corrected her. "It was more like a body suit, but yeah, that's it."

They all watched it disintegrate in Maxie's hand.

"Eww," she said, rubbing her hand on her pants.

"This place is rather big," Alec observed. "Maybe we should split."

"East, west, north, south," Biggs said pointing in turn. "If you find anything call the others."

Practically all of them had their own cell phones. The Xs had discovered they could call each other's cells and they could call other phones but the phones from this time couldn't reach them. Weird, but there was nothing they could do about it.

They split in four groups.

"Michael go to the place where you found the husks," Max called to him from the other end of the street before going into the building that housed the Universal Friendship League.

Michael lowered the hand he'd raised to let Max know he'd heard him and pointed a building down the street to Biggs.

"Tell me, what do I need to know about these skins?" Biggs asked walking down the street.

Michael went through all they knew about them in his mind, including Courtney and what she'd told him about the few skins that supported him instead of Max, but he didn't really need to get into that part of the story with Biggs. Actually, she had been part of the problem Michael had faced for a while now. His place in the group.

Biggs was waiting for Michael to talk. He'd had the impression Michael wanted to talk to him a couple of times the past few days, but something always came up.

"They're the followers of the guy who killed us and took Max's throne. They can't survive in Earth without the husks. We destroyed the new husks right before the old ones were about to die."

"Die?"

"Yeah, those things are alive. But they only last about fifty years. They came following us after the Crash in '47 so..." Michael trailed off, remembering how Courtney's hush had deteriorated right before his eyes because it hadn't been ready for harvesting. He shook his head to clear the images. "You kill them by hitting them in the lower back, right here," he said, turning around and pointing to the spot in his back. "That breaks the seal in the husk and they disintegrate, like the skin patch earlier."

"Right," Biggs said. "Less messy that way," he said off-handedly.

Michael's head snapped in his direction. That was the perfect opening he'd been waiting for. Had Biggs know?

"So, I guess you've killed, right?" Michael asked the older man.

"Yes. In combat mostly. But not only. Life since we got out of Manticore hasn't been a walk in the park. We've had to fight for our lives," Biggs said carefully. He suspected that was what he wanted to talk about when he saw Michael's behaviour when the group had been discussing Pierce. Michael had said he'd killed the guy. For a seventeen year old 'boy' who had never killed before that must have been a tough experience.

"In self-defence?" Michael pressed Biggs.

They were in the basement under the barn already, taking in and searching in the destruction left after the explosion.

"We were made and bred to kill, Michael. Told it was the right thing to do, the only thing to do, since we were old enough to comprehend the words. And that was very early on. We were trained in the use of fire weapons since the moment we could hold their weight," Biggs said, one eye in what he was doing, the other one in Michael. "I was thirteen the first time I was deployed into a war-field. Five minutes into the battle and I'd already had my first kill. I was a soldier at war, and I killed an enemy soldier."

"But that's different," Michael said.

"Not really. It's kill or be killed. Just like it was the first time after Manticore. I wasn't at war then, I wasn't on a mission, I wasn't following orders. I was chased and corner by an NSA team whose orders were to kill me." Biggs stopped searching around and turned to look at Michael directly. "The day before we left on the mission that ended us here, I was with CeCe in a supply run. A group of Familiars got a read on us and we had a big fight. One of them had CeCe in his sights, and was about to shoot. I didn't even think. I just killed him. And I would do it again. My family comes first. I protect mine," Biggs said simply.

Michael nodded, he hadn't doubted when Pierce had been about to kill Max either. He didn't think he'd ever have to think about it. If any of them were in danger Michael would do anything to protect them.

"It doesn't mean you're a bad person, Michael. It doesn't make you a killer," Biggs said confidently but he could see in Michael's eyes that he wasn't convinced. "You don't have to like it, Michael. I don't like it. I don't enjoy killing people. That's just the way it is."



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



Isabel closed the drawer she was going through in the sheriff's office.

"Anything?" Alex's voice came from down the corridor where the cells were.

"No," Isabel yelled back at him. "They must have cleared out before coming to Roswell for revenge."

Alex came into the office. "That was one weird experience," he said.

Isabel looked up at him. "What was it like? We've never talked about it."

"Yeah, well, that's because you weren't into the whole Whitman loving back then, Miss Evans," Alex said playfully.

Isabel smiled coyly at him, rising from the desk and walking towards him, hips swaying, her long ponytail bouncing with each step. "I am so sorry about that. How can I ever make it up to you?" she whispered in his ear.

Alex swallowed hard. She got to him every time. It didn't matter that they were officially together and he knew how much Isabel cared about him. She would still make his stomach do back flips every time she looked at him like that. And Alex loved it.

Isabel watched his eyes darken and leaned into him, her lips brushing over his, teasing him. Alex hugged her to him, one hand splayed over her lower back, the other one caressing the back of her neck. His kiss made her dizzy and Isabel wondered how the touch of this guy could make her melt.

She was breathless when she pulled away, and she cursed her need for air. She wanted to keep kissing Alex forever.

Alex chuckled at the look in her face. "You know, Izzy, it feels pretty good to be the one who put that expression on you," he teased her, expecting her to blush but she surprised him.

"Yes, I know. I love doing it to you too." Isabel laughed at his face. He was just so cute. "You were telling me what it felt like to disappear?" she reminded him.

"You want me to think, and even talk, now?" he asked.

"Yes, tell me on our way out," Isabel said, grabbing his hand and pulling him out the door, going to meet Maxie in the building next door.



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



"So, how exactly does that work?"

Biggs looked up towards Michael; not knowing what he meant, Biggs raised an eyebrow asking Michael to clarify.

"You're Alec's second, right?" Michael asked. They hadn't come out and said so, but the way they all interacted had seemed to point that way.

"Not officially. Alec was CO of our Unit until '09. Then, he was pulled from the Unit and we didn't see him again until '12. By then we had another CO, of course, and I was SIC. But Alec always acted like a CO for us, and we consider him to be so. He went away for more than a year again around '17. When he came back he had stopped acting like our CO. He'd had a rough time as a solo operative. But we still consider him our CO. We always have."

Michael was fascinated by all of it. He couldn't imagine how their lives had been. But the way Biggs talked about Alec was telling. How good a CO Alec must have been when only ten to ensure the loyalty of his Unit so absolutely, unwaveringly.

"And what exactly is your role as his second?" Michael asked.

Biggs thought about that before answering. "Well, we're out of Manticore now. We're not exactly a Unit. If you ask Max, she'd tell you we're not soldiers anymore," Biggs started. They had searched almost their whole side of town and, having found anything at all so far, they were more relaxed now, walking side by side. "But we are. It's second nature to us to adopt military roles. But Alec's first and foremost my friend," Biggs stressed the last word and Michael nodded. "We're a team. He needs me and I need him. The fact that he's CO and I'm Second in Command doesn't make me inferior in any way. He can't do everything. He needs me to do my part. To get his back, you understand?" Michael was taking in every word. "And he knows I'm gonna be there, the same way I know and trust that he's gonna be there for me. You can't doubt your team when you're in danger, Michael."

"Yeah," Michael said, remembering his own words to Max in Vegas: 'Whoever sent us down here was smart, you know, because they sent us together. And as long as we stick together, we're gonna make it.'

"Aren't you supposed to be a Four Square?" Michael nodded and Biggs went on. "Well, a square has four equal sides, and angles. There's no head in a square. You're a team and each one of you has a role in it. You just have to find yours. When you do, and when you feel comfortable in that role, the rest of them we'll know it and trust you and your judgement to do it. When you get over your insecurities, the rest will too."

They walked in silence for a while, each lost in thought. Michael was mulling over Biggs's words, and Biggs was thinking over Michael's question and his own answer. Biggs had told him the things he thought Michael needed to know, the real question behind his words. But maybe he hadn't answered the actual question Michael had posed.

"My role, as Alec's second, is to make sure I do everything in my power to help Alec lead me and keep me safe," Biggs said into the silence, startling Michael. "What is your role as Max's second?"



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



CeCe jumped down from the tree house, landing on her feet. She and Liz were searching the Whitaker home, and she had spotted the tree house in the back yard so, being her usual thorough soldier, she'd decided to check it out. It had been empty, obviously, given that the only child in the house was really a psycho alien killer.

Liz walked out of the house in time to see CeCe standing up, an amused smile on her face.

"What's so funny?" Liz asked her, walking down the steps towards the blonde girl.

"Nothing, I just heard Alec taunting Maxie to do something," CeCe replied, brushing her hands on her pants to wash the dirt away. "He's impossible. He's really enjoying this different Max a lot," she said.

Liz felt a weird pang somewhere in her chest but shook her head to chase it away.

"Were they... Back there, I mean?" Liz couldn't actually say the words, not believing she was even asking.

"No!" CeCe laughed out loud. "Maxie was involved with someone, and Alec wouldn't have known what to do with a girlfriend. They were just friends. Him and Biggs made it their job to make her laugh at least once everyday." Off Liz's confused face, CeCe felt compelled to explain. "She was the leader, and she felt responsible for all of us so she was always worried and tense and miserable."

Liz nodded encouraging CeCe to go on.

"So Alec had been trying to cheer her up for months. And when me and Biggs finally showed up, Alec drafted Biggs for the 'Put a Smile on Max's Face' mission," CeCe said, smiling herself remembering some of their antics.

"You know them really well, don't you?" Liz asked.

"Yeah," CeCe smiled fondly. "They're like my brothers. We've been together on and off over the years, but we know each other perfectly. We're a team. I was so happy when we found him again."

They'd finished their search, having found nothing, and were on their way to the meet place.

"And they would be lost without me," CeCe said smugly, making Liz chuckle. "I mean, don't get me wrong, Biggs and Alec are two of the best soldiers in the world. They're perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, and me -not that I need it, but, you know- but they have this tendency to get distracted so easily. I swear their attention span is worse that that of a fish." CeCe rolled her eyes. "I'm the one that has to bring them back to the mission. I'm the perfect balance. I'm their focus."

Liz loved hearing about their lives, and not only about Alec's. She was curious about all of them.

"And I love their sense of humour. It doesn't matter that it's outrageous, womanizing, and all around gross at times. I can't help it. I love them. I love that they consider me one of the guys. Usually it's like they forget I'm a woman, I'm just another soldier of the Unit. They never treat me like I'm less than them. I feel completely at ease with them. Not only safe, but free to be myself. And I know they will always, always have my back. Just like I have theirs."

They got to the cars before any of the others and sat on the front of the SUV, waiting for them. After a few moments CeCe tensed, feeling the hairs on the back of her neck stand on edge. She jumped down from the car and stretched her arms, releasing the kinks from her back.

Suddenly she leaped over Liz's head and crushed into the guy that was about to make a grab for Liz, the force of the impact sending them both to the ground, CeCe on top.

Not even stopping to breathe CeCe rolled the guy face down and smashed her boot on his lower back.

The skin disintegrated before their eyes.

"What-?!" Liz exclaimed. She had barely seen the guy before he'd disappeared. She was struck speechless. Her mouth opening and closing but no sound coming out.

That was how Biggs and Michael found them, when they stepped into that street a moment later.

"What's up?" Michael asked, watching Liz's impression of a fish out of water. "That's something you don't see every day," he told Biggs. "Parker speechless."

That seemed to get Liz out of her mental block. "I didn't even see him. How did you know he was a skin?" she asked CeCe.

"What?" Michael looked around worried.

Liz ignored him. "He could have been just some guy that was passing through. Or maybe we could have talked to him or something. What if-?"

"Wo-oh, hold your horses," CeCe cut her off. "I kicked his back, if he was a skin he died, if not... Well, I kicked his back," CeCe finished shrugging.

"Ce?" Biggs asked.

"This guy came out of nowhere. He tried to grab Liz. I killed him."

"Where'd he come from?" Biggs asked.

"That way." She pointed to the building at her back.

The four of them went to check it out.



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

(continued in next post)
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Postby lyra » Wed Aug 25, 2004 10:55 am

(chapter 5 cont.)

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


Kyle heard Alec's laughter somewhere in the house. He had snippets of whatever Alec had been teasing Maxie with and Kyle couldn't help his smile. He liked Alec, they had similar sense of humour, and Alec's relationship with Maxie was much like his with Liz. They both loved to tease the girls. But Maxie was a bit more aggressive, or maybe just more guy-like than Liz. They were both strong girls, but you wouldn't catch Liz roughing up a guy in a million years. Maxie on the other hand... And Alec seemed to enjoy it, talk about masochism.

Of course, even Kyle could see Max didn't want to hurt Alec and, lately, she hit Alec as much as she put him in his place with a sassy remark or, like just now, tickling Alec when he was expecting a slap. They were so childish that sometimes Kyle wondered who the teenagers of the group were.

"Everything okay, Kyle?" Maria's voice came from the ground floor and Kyle rolled his eyes. She could be so exhausting.

Kyle muttered a pray for Buddha to give him patience and yelled back, "Yes, Maria."

"Obsessive much?" Alec told him, walking by the door on his way out.

"Yeah," Kyle sighed.

He decided the house was as empty as everything else in this god forsaken town and turned to leave the room when something caught his eye.

He walked back to the closet, which he hadn't closed all the way before, and opened both doors wide. There was a tiny ray of light coming in through the back. It reflected off a shiny button in one of the jackets hanging inside, that's what had caught his eye.

There was no window in that wall, and Kyle had thought the room wasn't facing the street, but he made a mental drawing of the house now and realized it should.

Pushing all the clothes to one side, he came face to face with what only could be a hidden door. He saw the lock and looked around for anything that could help him. Kyle was about to call out to Alec, remembering something about them being clepto-happy, when he saw the same light coming from the ground. Kyle kneeled down on the floor and saw that the door didn't go all the way down to the ground, there was a big enough gap that Kyle could see the room. It was bathed in light, the sun shinning through the window that could be seen from the street. And it was empty.

Kyle cursed under his breath and then he saw a sheet of paper in the corner of the room, as if it had fallen to the ground and been left behind when they cleared the room.

"That could have something useful," Kyle said, thinking aloud, and wishing he could reach it from where he was.

Suddenly, the paper trembled for a second before flying directly to Kyle's hand, next to his face lying on the ground.

Kyle jerked back with a yelp. "What the f-?!"

The paper stayed in the ground, exactly where it had stopped.

"Must have been the wind," Kyle said, his voice unconvinced. He kneeled down again to look at the window. "Closed."

Kyle stood back up. Maybe he was hallucinating.

"What happened?" Maria was by his side in an instant.

Kyle turned to look at the paper, ignoring Maria and Alec, who had stopped in the doorframe. He picked it up and turned the page over. It was blank.

Kyle put his hand out, the paper clutched in it, and then he opened his hand and wished that Alec had 'it' instead.

Eyes bulging from their sockets, Kyle saw it fly towards Alec who caught it on reflex.

"Wow!" Alec exclaimed, his voice drowned out by Maria's scream.

"OH MY GOD!"



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



"Hey, Alec," CeCe called out.

"Yeah?"

"Look what I scored," she said throwing a bottle at him.

Alec caught it mid-air and read the label, his eyes widening in surprise. He looked up at CeCe with a wide smile.

"Just for you," CeCe said, winking at him.

"I love you! Be my mate?" Alec exclaimed and was surprised to hear a growling sound next to him.

"What's that?" came Liz's voice from behind him, making him forget about it.

They had stopped in the dessert and lit a fire; they'd had dinner and discussed what they found so far.

"Scotch," Alec said. "It's been forever since I had any."

Liz wiggled her nose disgustedly, making Alec laugh. They didn't carry any alcohol with them for two reasons: they were underage and the aliens had funny reactions to it. But Alec and the others were used to drinking beer often, and Alec also missed the strongest flavour of the scotch.

Liz sat beside him. "Did you just ask CeCe to be your 'mate'?" she asked.

Alec chocked on the sip of scotch he'd just taken. "Er... no, it was just a joke," he said when he stopped coughing, ignoring CeCe's knowing smirk.

"Oh, I thought maybe it had something to do with your animal DNA," Liz said in a tone that conveyed her scientific interest.

Alec smiled. "We're not really animals, Liz," he said, his smile still in place to let her know he wasn't offended or anything. He paused momentarily, "It does have some influence on the way we relate, but nothing so drastic." He didn't want to think too much about why he wanted to tell her that.

One after another they all gathered around the fire again. They'd talked about the skin that CeCe had killed, and about not having found anything when they went to check out where he came from. And Kyle, Alec and Maria told everyone about Kyle's new found abilities. After the shock had faded, and Kyle had showed them what he could do, they'd discussed why it seemed that Kyle's powers had developed so much sooner than Liz's. They reached the conclusion that it must have been because Kyle had been healed twice, thus accelerating the process.

Then, they decided that Liz and Kyle should see what else they could do. Isabel explained how she changed molecular structures and Liz and Kyle tried it.

Surprisingly, Kyle had been better at it. Liz could do small changes but she found it difficult to make the ones she wanted. It was more like she used her energy and something changed, but it was difficult for her to get to do specific things.

Kyle on the other hand had applied his 'wishing' technique to this task too, and it was quite effective. Only small things for the moment, but Max assured him their own powers had started like that. It was like the mind needed to get used to being able to do these things, as if it needed training, but with practice he would improve.

"Maybe you're trying too hard," Isabel told Liz after her third failed attempt to change the color of Maria's nail polish.

"I don't understand, what am I doing wrong?" Liz asked dejectedly.

Alec had been watching Liz, her intense look of concentration. Something none of the others had when using their powers. At least not for something so small.

"Liz, what exactly do you think of when you're trying?" he asked.

Liz looked surprised. "Well, I... I kind of imagine the molecules changing, you know, at the basic level," she said self-consciously.

The look on Isabel's face told Alec that wasn't something she did. "Maybe you're relying too much on your scientific mind for this, Liz."

"Yeah, I just want it to change," Isabel said nodding.

Liz closed her eyes and forced her mind to go blank and do just that. She willed the nail polish to go from blue to white. When she opened her eyes Maria was smiling at her and Liz saw she'd finally changed it. "I did it!" she exclaimed.

"Well done, Liz," Isabel congratulated her.

Liz turned to Alec and took his hand to thank him for his help, but now words left her mouth. The moment her flesh touched his, a strange vision filled her mind.

Liz pulled her hand back immediately, her face pale and her eyes wide.

"What is it?" Alec asked alarmed.

"I saw something," she mumbled.

"You had a flash?" Michael asked her.

Liz shook her head. "I don't think so, it didn't feel like it," she said, still dazed. "It didn't feel like anything, I just saw it."

"What did you see?" Alec asked softly, somewhere between apprehensive because she might have seen inside him and concerned about her, she just looked so small to him right then. He had a bad feeling.

"It was a kid. Really young. You, I think?" she said.

"Tell me," Alec said.

It was late and it was already dark. The only light they had was coming from the fire. Liz could barely see the people on the other side of the fire, and the look on Alec's eyes was making everyone on this side of it fade away. She felt as if they were the only ones there. Liz closed her eyes and her vision popped back into her mind.

"He's strapped to a chair and they're hurting him... there's so much blood, and... this thing in his eye... it's so painful... he's trying to scream but there's something in his mouth... He's so young, his legs barely get to the restraints, and..."

"The right leg is broken. And the blood comes from a wound on the stomach. Shorn head, a cut above the left eye..." Alec said slowly, waiting for Liz's confirmation.

"Yeah," she said.

"Yeah, it's me. I was 10." Alec stood and walked into the night, feeling all eyes on him.

Silence fell upon the group. They didn't feel like practising their new powers anymore.

"Ten... that was after we left?" Max asked Biggs, sitting next to her.

"That was because you left," Biggs corrected her, his voice slightly bitter and accusing. Max's face fell, guilt plain in her eyes, and Biggs took her hand, squeezing softly, apologizing without words.

It hadn't been his intention to take it out on her but the escape had been a sore point with all of them for so long and, later on, Alec had gotten so much worse than everyone else because of his psycho twin...

Liz got to her feet and started walking in the direction of Alec had disappeared to, but before she could take two steps Biggs's hand on her wrist stopped her. She looked at him.

"Hey, Liz, why don't you try and fix this tear," he pointed to his sleeve where a small hole could be seen.

"I was-" she started to say, pointing after Alec.

"I know," Biggs cut her, "But you shouldn't. Give him some time. He'll be fine," Biggs reassured her.

Liz sat down beside Biggs and closed her eyes, trying to clear her head, pushing her vision away, so she could focus into fixing Biggs's T-shirt. She waved her hand over it and a big smile lit her face when she saw the hole vanish.

"Great job, Liz. You're getting it real fast, now you just need practice," Isabel said.

"Yeah," Liz agreed happily. She glanced back into the night for a moment, her smile faltering, before she shook her head and looked back to the group, ready to practise a bit more.

Almost an hour later, Alec still wasn't back. The group had turned in for the night already, not asleep yet, but talking quietly with the person lying next to them.

Liz had gone to the RV to brush her teeth before turning in herself but, when she realised there was still one missing, she took a flashlight and walked in the direction Alec had gone.

He hadn't gone far. Liz found him quickly, sitting on a rock, his back to her.

"Alec?" she called out to him softly, sure that he had already heard her coming. But he didn't give any indication of having heard Liz. She approached him and put one hand on his shoulder to get his attention.

The flash was so sudden it took her breath away. It was the same from her vision, but this time it came with all the feelings of the moment. This time Liz felt all the hurt Alec was feeling that day.

She gasped, the pain so huge it knocked her down. Her leg felt like it'd fallen off and her stomach was on fire. And her head seemed about to explode.

"Liz!"

She heard Alec calling her name but it sounded so far away.

Alec didn't know what to do. He'd been lost in his memories, wondering why would Liz see that when he hadn't even thought about that moment in a long time, and suddenly Liz was on the ground at his feet and in pain, if her sounds were anything to go by.

"Liz, talk to me," he said shaking her shoulders, but Liz only tried to shy away from his touch.

Alec stepped back. "I'm getting Evans."

"No!" Liz gasped. "Flash," she managed to get out.

And Alec understood. She had gotten a flash from him and with what had been on his mind it was no wonder she was about to faint with the pain.

Alec forced his mind to go blank, pushing the memory to the back of his mind with all the other painful moments of his life. He had a lot of practice making the pain go away, not gone, but hidden. A moment later he was kneeling beside Liz again, taking her in his arms. She tried to get away again but Alec didn't let her this time.

He scooped her up and sat back down on the rock where he'd been before, cuddling Liz on his lap.

"Shh, it's okay, Liz. It's gone," he murmured into her hair, cradling her against his chest. "It's all right."

"Hurts," Liz whimpered.

"I know, I'm sorry. It's gone now, I promise."

Alec kept running his fingers through her hair and making circles on her back, murmuring reassurances in her ear, soothing her pain.

What felt like hours later to Alec, Liz stopped trembling in his arms and he felt her relax in his embrace. He raised his head that had been resting on her hair, and he saw that she'd fallen asleep. Alec studied her face intently. She looked peaceful now but her eyes were swollen and she had tear tracks in her cheeks. And she'd bitten her lower lip too hard and a drop of blood made its way to the surface.

Alec felt his heart constrict in his chest at the sight. He felt horrible for causing so much pain to Liz. And strangely at peace holding her in his arms now.

Carefully, Alec stood with Liz safely tuck in his arms and he made his way back to the group.

They were all asleep by now, 'At least all those who normally slept,' Alec thought seeing Maxie's figure walking in the distance.

"Alec?"

Or not. Alec looked at Biggs who, he could see now, had been waiting for him. Probably for Liz too.

"It's fine, Biggs," Alec said in a really low voice that only Biggs could hear, not wanting to wake anyone, especially not the girl in his arms.

"Liz?" Biggs questioned him, his voice as low as Alec's had been.

"Asleep."

Biggs nodded and lied back down. Alec kneeled next to Liz's bedroll, which was next to his own, and put Liz carefully on top of her blankets. It was too hot and everyone was sleeping over the blankets rather than inside the bedrolls. He pulled his arm from under Liz's legs and was about to take the other one from under her body but Liz had other ideas.

Liz was asleep, her conscious mind lost in dreamland, but some part of her mind was vaguely aware that she felt safe, and comfortable, and just plain good. She felt herself being lowered to the ground and her bubble of comfort about to be broken so she tried to hold onto it a bit longer.

Alec felt Liz grab onto him, one hand clutching at his shirt, on his chest, the other one that had been around his neck holding him down. He looked around, trying to decide what to do and then just shrugged. Whatever the lady wanted.

Alec lied down beside her, on his back, and pulled Liz close to him. She snuggled against his chest, laying her head on him and then fell back into slumber.

Alec kept caressing her back, his eyes staring at the stars, his mind going black again. He wouldn't let the memories come, not while Liz was close. He stayed awake most of the night. After all, given their recent activities, it didn't hurt to keep someone on watch.


TBC

Do you really think I'm going to let Kyle die? Please, I love Kyle!
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lyra
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Postby lyra » Tue Oct 19, 2004 5:49 pm

I know it's been way longer than what I said but... RL? Anyway, here's the next chapter in case anyone's still interested.

This chapter takes place a week after the last, and the scenes in italics are flashbacks of things that have happened in that week (my beta says is not totally clear but I'm sure you can make sense out of it :wink: ) That's the way it came out and I just don't know how to change it.

Thank you so much to everyone that reviewed the last part and asked for the new part when I took so long. It means a lot.

In two posts due to length.


Chapter 6

"Why exactly are we stuck with housekeeping?" Maria whined, watching Isabel check the labels of every single product in the aisle rejecting one after another for God knew what reason. "Nevermind," she sighed. "Being human sucks," Maria muttered. Why couldn't she have some cool powers, or even a useful good ol' human skill they could use?

"Maria, quit complaining or I'll be forced to issue an invitation to the 'former-human, currently-alien-in-the-making' club. And I won't wait for Max to ratify your invitation, if you know what I mean," Isabel said sweetly.

"Remind me why I decided we could spend a whole afternoon by ourselves without killing each other," Maria asked.

"Because you didn't have a choice. Michael couldn't take you with him, there was no room in Alec's bike for you to go with Liz, Alex says you're allergic to computers," Isabel snorted at that. "More like he can't concentrate with your constant chatter," she said, avoiding Maria's attempt at slapping her arm. "And, because you can't resist shopping, even if it's with me."

Maria seemed to think about that for a minute. "We're hitting the clothes section later, right?"

"Absolutely," Isabel assured her.

"Okay, I can work with that. So, what's next on the list?" Maria rubbed her hands in a 'let's-get-to-work' fashion, the promise of shopping giving her new energies.

Isabel checked her list. "Let's see, we have the bath stuff already, and we're almost done with the food," she crossed from her list the last item she'd dumped in the trolley. "Who thought it would take this much food to feed all of us? I thought what I bought three days ago would hold for a whole week!" Isabel exclaimed. "My God, those people can eat!" She looked at Maria for support.

"And I thought Michael was a glutton," Maria readily agreed.

"Yeah... okay, the next thing is... pork rinds and beer?" Isabel rolled her eyes. "Who let Alec anywhere near the list?"

"The man likes his junk food," Maria laughed, looking over the list. "But that's Liz's handwriting," Maria said in a sing-song tone.

They looked at each other in silence, not sure what to say. Finally, Isabel spoke hesitantly.

"Are you okay with that?" she asked.

"That Liz likes him?" Maria said, "You?"

"Yeah," Isabel said, too quickly. "It's just... it's weird, you know," Isabel elaborated when Maria kept looking at her, eyebrow raised, obviously not believing her. "This whole thing started with her..." she trailed off.

"And Max," Maria finished for her. "I know. It's weird to see Liz not pining for your brother. But I'm not sorry for it," Maria said, almost challenging Isabel to disagree.

"Me neither," Isabel said sincerely. "I love my brother... It just didn't work out for them. I'm happy she's been able to let go."

"Yeah," Maria said, stopping in front of the beer shelf, looking at the rack full of the bottles that represented everything Max was not. "But it's hard for Max, I'm sorry for him," Maria said sympathetically, her mind going back almost a week to that morning when they'd awakened to find Liz sleeping in Alec's arms, and Max looking on with an infinite sadness in his eyes...



***********



The morning sun bathed the sleeping figures... and the waking ones. A dark haired girl sat atop the big white vehicle, watching the horizon, glancing to the rest of the group from time to time. Never for too long, though. She didn't want the boy to see her watching him, certain that he wouldn't like to be caught staring at the sweet looking sleeping couple.

I didn't think it'd feel like this, Max thought, his eyes sad. Like there's this hole where she used to be and I can barely breathe. He knew Maxie had seen him but he couldn't make himself look away for the world. They had decided to forget and move on. He knew it was the best thing to do for her but, God, it hurt.

Liz snuggled into her pillow and sighed contentedly. She'd been having the best dream. She couldn't remember what it was about, only that it had felt good. Then her pillow hugged her back and Liz's eyes opened in surprise. She let go of Alec and scooted backwards ungracefully.

Alec stirred when he felt Liz moving and opened one eye slightly, trying to avoid direct sunlight. "Morning, Liz," he said with sleepy voice and endearing smile, he looked like a little kid, and suddenly Liz regretted having moved so hastily.

"Hi," she managed to get out past her dry lips and blank mind, transfixed by the man lying beside her. She couldn't tear her eyes from his, his lips, his face.

A muffled laugh snapped her out of it and she turned to see Maria, hands on Michael's mouth, glaring at her boyfriend.

Liz blushed and got to her feet, her eyes trained on her own hands. She didn't want to see anyone else's reaction. Especially not Alec's.




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



Liz shook her head imperceptibly against Alec's back, trying to rid herself of the memory of that morning. It had been almost a week since that day and her mind had done wonders mixing this new favorite memory with her old one of Alec in only boxers which left her with a permanent blush and being the target of an especially-inspired Kyle.

And being pressed to Alec's back, her arms wrapping his waist, her thighs pressed against his, her cheek resting on his back, wasn't helping her to banish that memory-slash-fantasy from her mind.

The first thing Alec had done, once they'd settled in the appartment they were staying in while in the city, had been 'getting' himself a bike. He didn't say how and the others didn't ask. But after he got Max and Isabel's look of disapproval a few times, basically everytime they saw the bike, Alec had regaled all of them with the tale of his adventures in a clandestine poker game. He described all the players and their bodyguards, and their 'lucky charms', complete with ticks, funny accents and air-head comments. He'd said Liz and Maria were looking bored and that's why he'd told them, but Liz knew he'd done it so they all knew he hadn't stolen the bike. He'd won the money. Yes, it had been gambling, and cheating probably, but still 'legal'.

The bike was a dark blue 2001 Honda CBR600F4 -Alec had said the name all proud, and Biggs, Maxie, Michael and Kyle had looked dutifully awed; the rest of them had smiled and thought 'pretty'- and Liz loved riding on it with Alec. He and Maxie had gone racing last night and they'd taken her and Maria saying they needed to loosen up. "Come on, little girls, live a little!" Alec had said.

Lost in thought, Liz was surprised to find they'd stopped in front of a big building complex. Night had fallen already and there were no lights in the area except for a lonely street lamp some distance away.

"Where are we?" Liz asked, stepping down from the bike and removing her helmet.

Alec pointed to the dark building. "I thought you could use that," he said shrugging.

Liz looked up; it was too dark for her to read the sign over the front door. The whole place seemed abandoned.

"Jensen's Bio Research Labs," Alec told her, knowing she couldn't see for herself. "It's closed at the moment. They're reforming the south wing and the staff from the north complained the noises didn't let them work. If you ask me, I'd say they just wanted off-time. The important thing is that it's completely equipped and empty. After you," he finished with a flourish.

Liz looked at Alec and then the lab, back to Alec and the folder he was holding in one hand having just gotten it out from under the seat of the bike. Understanding dawning, she took the folder from his hand and started for the door.

When they reached the gate Alec kneeled down and picked the lock. Liz looked around worried; they were doing this in plain sight.

"Relax, Liz, I've got it covered. It's not as if this is the first time I do this. There's no one in at least two blocks. I'd hear it."

The lock open clicked open and they went inside. The hall was dark and dusty, the entry to the left hallway was messy and littered with construction tools; the one to the right wing was still clear. "That way, I hope," Liz said, pointing to the clear doorway.

Alec took her hand, rolling his eyes. "Yes, Liz, this way. I told you the labs were in the clear. No trust these girls," he sighed dramatically.

Liz smiled. "This happen a lot to you, Alec?" she teased. Alec ignored her. "You know, girls not believing one word out of your mouth? Because I can't say I blame them."

"I liked the shy, quiet girl routine better," Alec mock grumbled, the laughing eyes denying his words.

"Your bad, then," Liz said smugly. "You've spent the last week pushing me around, to loosen my tongue, your words. Now deal with it."

Alec chuckled. "Yes, ma'am."

"How did you find this place anyway?"

"What, you think that I just like to look pretty riding my bike?" Alec teased her.

"Yes," Liz said bluntly and laughed at Alec's glare.

"I'll have you know I'm much more than a devilishly handsome guy; it hurts me that you don't see how intelligent I am. Really, I am," Alec said, a hand over his heart and a puppy face in place.

Liz rolled her eyes. "So you've been looking for a lab all these nights?" she asked, knowing Alec could keep the play acting all night if she let him.

"Not really. We talked about this yesterday and I thought I'd check it out last night after we dropped you girls off. The rest of nights I just looked pretty riding my bike," Alec said shrugging. “I found it last night and I checked it was empty today.”

"You talked about this yesterday?"

"Yeah, after the 'key' thing... I think you went with Maria somewhere before we got to this folder."

Liz nodded. Maria had insisted she needed to talk to her and they'd gone on an ice cream run. The group had been discussing some of their plans before, but she'd thought they were already done with that. Apparently she'd been wrong.



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



Liz saw Alec pass by her door on his way to the kitchen. Max and Michael were sitting at the counter, all the stuff they'd found in Tess's bedroom spread in front of them.

"...So we have no way of knowing what this is?" Alec heard the end of Michael's question with his head in the fridge looking for a drink. He looked over Evans's shoulder at the objects laid on the counter: a few hand-written papers; something that looked like a rock, but it obviously wasn't, a black triangle with a whole in the middle; another pentagon like the one in Michael's box with the colors inverted; some kind of jewel in a glass box, it looked like a diamond but the color was indefinable, somewhere between pure white light, shiny silver and the grey of a stormish sky, Alec thought it looked like a raging star trapped in a glass box.

Evans caught him staring at it and took it in his palm. He raised it to his eyes to see it better and both Michael and Alec inched closer to get a better look, Alec's thirst forgotten. It seemed to be floating in the middle of the box.

"This is the Queen's crown," Evans said softly, his eyes lost in the wonder before him.

"How do you know that?" Michael asked at the same time Alec observed, "It doesn't have any mark or cut where it'd go in a frame," his voice sounded skeptical. "This piece has never been mounted on a crown."

"And I repeat, how do you know that?" Michael asked again, this time to Alec, who shrugged in response.

"Enhanced eyesight, I have very sharp eyes."

Michael nodded; the daily proof of the transgenics' peculiarities still seemed to surprise him. He then looked back to Max who hadn't looked away from the Antarian jewel.

"I saw it on a vision," Max explained, feeling the others' eyes on him. "And, Alec, this IS the crown. When the King marries the Queen this gem becomes a part of her, taking place in her forehead as a symbol of her royalty. I have the seal, she has the crown."

Silence met his words. Alec was trying to picture a girl with a rock embedded in her forehead and all he could come up with was 'gore'. Michael was debating if he should voice his concern about the reliability of those visions Max had had when working with Tess, but then his eyes glazed over and he saw a flash of light shining on his eyes and when it faded the image of a beautiful face with the royal crown on her forehead floated in his mind. The crown looked like it belonged there, like it has always been there. Michael
felt it belonged there. And with that feeling came the certainty that the woman wasn't Ava, she was Zan's mother.

"Michael!"

"You okay, man?"

Michael blinked and looked at the counter where the crown rested. Max's hands were on his shoulders now.

"Where'd you go?" Max asked him.

"Antar..." Michael said, his voice awed. "It was just a second but... I saw your mother," he told Max.

"Yeah, I saw the crown on her too. I never saw Ava wearing it."

"Michael, is everything alright?" Maria asked. Most of the group was present now, having heard Max's raised voice while trying to snap Michael out of it.

"Yes, Maria, don't worry," Michael reassured her, his eyes drawn back to the crown again. This had been the first time Michael had experienced a memory flash from Rath.

Alec let his gaze all the things on the counter again and his eyes stopped on one of the papers. One with a drawing on it. "What's that?" he asked pointing at it. "Another 'crown'?"

Michael and Max turned to see what he was talking about "Oh, that," Max said taking the letter and skimming it for the umpteenth time. "It's a letter from Nasedo to Tess. He gives her instructions on how to operate the ship we came in if she ever needed to. This," he pointed to the drawing of the diamond, "is the key that starts the ship."

Alec looked at Biggs, who had come into the room with Maria and the rest and was looking at him, eyebrow raised, 'your call' it said. Obviously he'd recognised the diamond too.

Max was still talking. "...But it doesn't matter much since we have none. The ship is probably somewhere hidden by the government and the key... Well, Tess didn't have it so..." he trailed off.

"Well, then, congratulations," Alec said, nodding to Biggs who then left the room. "I'm not sure how much use will it be to you but better in your hands that with your enemies, right?" Alec went on.

"What are you talking about, Alec?" Isabel voiced what they were all thinking.

Biggs re-entered the room, a black pouch in his hand, all eyes on him. "Here you go, Alec," he said handing him the bag. Alec took it and upturned it, the diamonds falling on the counter and spreading over the papers. Over a dozen middle sized diamonds, seven rubies and a dozen of various gems. And in the middle of them all, the huge rock, the main attraction of the show. The aliens's 'key'.

"Where did you get that?!" Michael exclaimed, all their eyes fixed on the counter...

...but not all of them fixed on the key.

"Hm... Biggs?" Alec asked with an amused eyebrow raised.

"Yeah... that... I had some extra time," he shrugged unapologetic, "TC needed the money."

"Right," Alec agreed and then turned to Max. "This is the reason we're here actually. In 2021 a man called Cal Langley contacted the transgenics and offered an insane amount of money if we could get that diamond for him," he said.

"Cal Langley," Max repeated. "I don't know him."

"He was adamant. Rumour had it he'd been trying to get that diamond for over twenty years but he didn't want it traced back to him."

"We'll have to look into it," Max decided.

"What did you mean it's the reason you're here?" Liz asked.

"We came here to steal it. The diamond belonged to a Delores Browning and it's on a permanent loan at the Tate Museum in London, but for a week every year it hits an exhibition in Las Cruces. We were on our way back to Seattle after stealing the rocks when the Granolith brought us here."

"So that's the key from 'your' time," Liz observed, her mind reeling. "Does that mean there's another one in London right now?"

"I guess," Alec said. "I mean, I don't know what happened to the key of this time, if anything, but if it's still there it should be back in London by now, yeah," Alec said.

"We'll deal with that later. Right now we should concentrate on that bank safe box," Michael said with finality.

They all seemed to agree, some were nodding and others were going back to what they'd been doing before. Michael saw Maria whisper something in Liz's ear and she nodded at her. Both girls took their phones and keys from the table by the door and left the apartment after saying goodbye to the group. Michael pushed his curiosity out of his mind and turned his attention back to the conversation going on in the kitchen: how to infiltrate a bank.




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



"Michael, you with me?" Biggs snapped his fingers in Michael's face.

Michael blinked, the dying sunlight had blinded him for a moment reminding him of the flash he'd had yesterday.

"Yeah, sorry, my mind wandered for a second there." Michael shook his head and went back to watching the bank.

Biggs was watching Michael. He and Alec had talked about Michael last night. They'd agreed on having a chat with the boy, and this recon stint looked like the perfect opportunity. His gaze followed Michael's across the street to the bank.

"So, I've noticed you're the 'shoot first, ask later' kinda guy," Biggs said suddenly.

Michael looked at him bewildered, both for the comment and the wording.

"It's just a figure of speech, Michael," Biggs chuckled. "I meant you're on the impulsive side, or am I wrong?"

Michael scratched his eyebrow, "Guess not," he said reluctantly.

"Well, we can work on changing that, what do you say?" Biggs offered, knowing it would work better if Michael showed an interest.

"Sure, that's what I came with you for," Michael agreed.

"Good. The first thing you have to remember when preparing a heist, be it stealing diamonds or faking your way into a safe box," Biggs started, his attention never leaving his mark, "Is that reconnaissance is your Bible. You depend on it from the beginning to the end. Your plan is only as good as your recon is. The bigger the job, the more important the recon. You need to watch your mark." Biggs gestured between them and the building opposite them. "You gear yourself with a pair of binoculars and a notebook and find a good stake out point."

Biggs paused to focus his gaze on one of the guards of the bank leaving his post at the entrance to escort a client to the door that lead to the offices. Interesting. When he glanced back to Michael he saw the curious look he was giving his own binoculars and the obvious lack of them in Biggs's own hands.

"Cat's eyes and photographic memory. I don't need any of those, I meant for you," Biggs explained.

"Right," Michael nodded. "So, I'm supposed to sit here and write down... what exactly?"

"Everything. Opening/closing time; when there's a guard shift; when they get deliveries; when the clerks have their breaks; how many people form the staff: security, maintenance, admins, messengers; how many entrances, exits, including emergency ones; anything out of the ordinary; anything that happens twice; what brands they use for paper, coffee, toilet paper..." he trailed off. Michael was nodding his head but had an amused expression on his face. "What is the most important thing you need to know about that bank?" Biggs pointed at it.

Michael looked down. "The brand of underwear the doorman's wearing?" he said sarcastically, watching said man open the door for a client.

"Exactly," Biggs agreed laughing. "I know it sounds like a waste of time, Michael, but the bit of information you least expect can save your life. Improvisation is a great skill, really useful, but only as a plus. If you rely only on it you won't make it to learn the lesson."

"Got it."

"There are, of course, other things you need to know about the fine art of spying, like for example... What are you doing wearing that hideous green hat?" Biggs pointed to Michael's bare head, an incredulous expression on his face.

Michael's face scrunched up in confusion for a second, then a look of sudden understanding and he started talking. "I totally forgot about it," he said, his hand already pointing behind himself. "It was the weirdest thing, two blocks back I ran into this crazy old lady wearing three of these, one on top of the other, and she was trying to get rid of them. She looked so pathetic and desperate I just couldn't say no to her and now I'm stuck with this horrible thing. Just wait till Maria sees it. This'll be a big no-no for her, trust me."

Biggs was laughing out loud by then. "That was really good, Michael. A crazy old lady, I gotta tell Alec that one, he'll love it," he said, the laughing fading out. "Fast thinking," he complimented Michael.

"Yeah, well, I'm an alien hiding in plain sight. I'm used to lying. Teachers, social services, nosy neighbours, concerned parents, police, judges... Lying is second nature to all of us by now."

Biggs nodded in agreement. It made sense. He chuckled again. Michael's face while talking about a demented lady had been hilarious.

Michael laughed too. "Are you always this clown-y?"

Biggs smirked at that. "Always, ask CeCe. Alec and I drive her crazy."

Both guys went back to watching the bank. The big sign over the front door and, to its right, the big logo Michael had seen in his flash from Pierce's key. The reason they'd come to Washington D. C.



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



The night had done well to the group. Everyone looked more relaxed and rested. They'd passed one whole day without blowing anything up, a feat considering their track.

Breakfast was awkward, for different reasons to different people. The revelation of Alec's past, Kyle's new powers... the sleeping arrangements. Not even Alex's attempts to lift the mood did much.

Kyle asked to drive, "I don't mind what," he'd said, looking hopeful at Maxie, who gave a snort and an "I don't think so, kid" and mounted on her bike, revved up and left raising a cloud of dust on her wake.

They all piled into the vehicles and got on the road. The plan for the day was to drive to the nearest town big enough to have a cyber café and make an Internet search for the bank Pierce's key belonged to.

One hour later, Michael, Alex, CeCe, Max and Maria entered the small cafe. Max and Maria sat in one table and the other three in the closest one. The rest of the group had decided it would be better to wait outside. There was no need to crowd the small cafe when only Michael and Alex or CeCe needed to be present.

Maria ordered coffee for everyone and took them to the tables. She put each mug in front of its respective owner and dropped a kiss on Michael's hair. He smiled at her before focusing his attention back on the screen. The last couple of days the logo had been on his dreams and in the back of his mind when he was awake. Apparently, these flashes of his were pretty insistent. They wanted him to know something and they wouldn't leave him alone until he figured out what.

Outside, Liz had taken the chance to call her parents. She called every two days, telling them how much fun she was having and everything they saw and did. Every time she thanked Alex for the detailed info he'd pulled from a travelling site. He'd gone to a discussion board and pulled the personal experiences of people who'd visited the places they were supposed to go to, including detailed anecdotes to tell their parents. Liz felt bad having to lie to her parents. That hadn't changed after the two years she'd spent hiding the truth for them. She knew her relationship with her parents had deteriorated because of it, but there were things worth lying for, and the safety of both the aliens and her parents was one of them. The main one, actually.

"Yes, dad, it was beautiful," Liz said into the phone. "I loved it." Her voice sounded cheery enough but her face was anything but. "Listen, I gotta go. Maria's in one of her whacky moods and she's freaking over Michael's hair again," she said, making sure she sounded half amused, half exasperated. "Yes, I know, I love Maria too," Liz chuckled. "Give my love to mom, I'll call soon, I promise... I love you too... Bye."

Liz lowered the phone and looked sadly at it. She shook her head to push her gloomy mood away.

"Sucks lying to people you care about, doesn't it?" Alec commented, a smile that spoke of experience on his face.

Liz nodded slowly,
It's for their own good, she repeated in her mind.

"You're close to your parents," Alec said more than asked. "Must be nice to have someone you can go to when you need it." Liz looked at him surprised and he elaborated. "Not that I need to now, but it would have been nice when I was a kid. The handlers at Manticore didn't exactly give the 'I'm here if you need me' vibe."

"Come on, you let Alec and Biggs drive it," Kyle's whine reached them.

Alec laughed, he leaned close to Liz and whispered in her ear, "That's the reason she won't let him. I think Maxie won't let anyone else drive it after the last time I took it." He laughed softly, his warm breath caressing her neck, making goose bumps appear all over her tingling skin.

Alex scrolled down the page, bank after bank appearing on the screen: names, logos, locations... who knew there were so many banks in America. They'd been here almost two hours. They started in the state of New Mexico; then New York, where Pierce was from. When that didn't result they went state for state alphabetically.

"That's it! That's the one!" Michael exclaimed.

"Please shoot me now," Alex whined. Then he rounded on CeCe. "Aren't you supposed to have a kick ass IQ? How come none of us thought to check out Washington DC first? Hello, FBI Headquarters?" He hit his head on the table.

"Is it?" CeCe asked surprised. "It's not in 2021," she said in a low voice. "It's in New York City. That's why I didn't say anything. We'd already checked there. Sorry," she said, not really apologetically. After all it wasn't really her fault.




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



CeCe rubbed her eyes tiredly. She hadn't slept much the night before, she'd been feeling restless. She wiped the perspiration off her forehead and went back to work. Once they identified the bank that day in the middle of nowhere they'd been trying to find the way to get what was inside that box.

When they got to Washington DC they went to the bank to get a first feel for the place. It was a heavily guarded building, apparently important pieces of art and jewelry and they had a lot of security for it.

They still could have done it without too much hassle. But having the key and the fact that the aliens wanted to be a part of whatever they did led them to this course of action. She and Alex had hacked into bank's files to see the info on Pierce's account and deposit box. It turned out Pierce had added a restriction to the safe box stating only he was allowed to open it. Big shock there.

"I'm in," she said.

Alex raised his head from the arm he had extended on the table. "Really?"

"Yeah, take a look. All we have to do now is change this restriction. We can add someone to it and then we can go in the main door and demand the damn box."

"That's great! Who are we going to put there?"

"Let's take a look at his personal file," CeCe said, bringing up the window with Pierce's records from the FBI. "Born in 1972 in New York City. Son of James and Celia Pierce... Here's a possibility: he has a younger sister. It says here Daniel Pierce has a close relationship with his sister and he's been known to bend the rules for her..."

"Wow, that's one detailed file," Alex observed.

"Yeah, well it's the FBI; they pride themselves in knowing everything. Still, it's not detailed enough to say that he's dead. According to this, Pierce quit his job after the debacle of the Special Unit and there's no new info him afterwards."

"Nasedo covered his track well," Alex tried to say it neutrally, but his dislike for the shape-shifter was evident.

CeCe nodded, she didn't like what she'd heard of the alien either.

"So, I hear you found the way to read those weird symbols of theirs," she changed the subject, saving all the info they had pulled on the bank and Pierce to discuss it with the others when they got back.

"Yeah, well, I guess you can say I was really motivated," Alex said sarcastically. "You know, the bitch only had to ask. I mean, she didn't do a thing to my brain aside from forcing me to do her bidding. The knowledge to do the stupid program to decode the book was already there. I would've been happy to help." He paused, thinking back to past times when he'd been 'key' to help the aliens, the blood for Max, the camera for spying Tess, discovering how to kill the Gandarium with Kyle... "It feels good to help them," he said.

"Yeah, I always feel worthy when I can help one of my unit," she agreed. Then she chuckled, "And believe me, it happens a lot."

Alex laughed too. He'd gotten to know all of them quite good the past two weeks and he liked CeCe's no-nonsense attitude, and they way she mothered Alec and Biggs. She reminded him of Izzy sometimes.

But Alec and Biggs sure as hell didn't remind him of Max and Michael... Well, maybe Michael?



**********



Alex entered the apartment, Liz and Maria right behind him, and went to the kitchen to get the ice cream for the girls who went directly to their bedroom. Sitting at the kitchen counter Alex saw Alec and Michael engrossed in conversation.

"...And there I was, mind in the gutter, Vicky dancing in my face, looking at me like she wants to eat me up," Alec was saying to Michael who was riveted. "I was like, 'mermaid who?', you know, already planning on a nice evening when I see Maxie, thundering face, murdering look, killing me in a thousand ways in her head, walking towards me. So I dismiss the dancer and pull Max on my lap so we don't stick out, White's guy is there, remember?"

"Sure," Michael said impatiently.

"And I tell her 'Okay, this would be a good moment to look like we belong here', expecting her to give me at least something that resembles a lap dance, I mean, it's not like I'm into Max or anything but you've seen her?" Alec said and Michael rolled his eyes. Alec chuckled. "Exactly," he agreed. "And you know what she did? She ruffled my hair in the most off turning possible way and passed one finger over my chest as if she was dusting me off," Alec said as if he still couldn't believe it and Michael burst out laughing. "I swear, the worst lap dance ever." He shook his head regretfully.

Michael was still laughing when Alec's phone rang. He pulled it from his pocket and looked at the display. He thumbed the okay button and said into the phone: "Yeah." Alec listened for a minute before saying, "I'll see you there." He turned to Michael. "Biggs," he said as an explanation. "I'll be back late," he said wiggling his eyebrows.

Michael chuckled and waved goodbye. He went to the fridge for a Snapple and sat down again, looking at the three orbs that had been on the counter all along, lost in thought.

Isabel had all but claimed the one they found at Atherton's, and Max had told him just yesterday that he felt a light pull to one of the other two. Probably the one he found with Liz.

But he felt nothing. Did that mean his was the missing one? Or was it simply that their senses were more attuned to their alien side?

Michael remembered Biggs' words. He had to stop second guessing himself. He'd come a long way from the guy who couldn't control his powers. Tess, murdering bitch as she was, had helped him master his alien side; and Maria had helped him come to terms with his human half.

There was nothing wrong with him. All Michael had to do was believe it.

"Hey, man, what are you thinking?" Kyle asked, slapping his back.

"Hey, man, it's nothing," Michael said shrugging. "Hay, Kyle, I've been meaning to talk to you."

"Uh oh," Kyle joked.

Michael made a face, "Ha ha. No, listen, I know you and Liz have been practising with your powers, manipulating molecular structures and everything?" He waited for Kyle's nod before going on. "Well, I've been thinking you guys need to practise your own particular powers too. I wouldn't know how to help Liz, I'll leave that to Isabel, it's closer to her thing. But I thought I could give you a hand."

"Sure," Kyle agreed. "I've been thinking about it myself, you know. It was a real shock when I found out. It doesn't matter that I'd been expecting it or whatever, it still scared the crap out of me," Kyle said lowering his voice. "Liz helped a lot-"

"Kyle," Michael tried to interrupt, but Kyle didn't let him talk.

"I know, Michael. I know it's not your fault, and you guys want to help us out." He made a pause, "But it's not the same. Liz is like me, all the way down to having 'died' and been brought back a little more than we were before."

Michael nodded. He understood, really. Sometimes you needed someone like yourself around.

"Anyway," Kyle went on, shaking off the serious mood, "I think the best way to deal with this is to take control and make the most of it," Kyle said in a lecturer voice and he saw Michael rolling his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, laugh all you want, but if I hadn't found Buddha you'd be dealing with a totally different Kyle right now." Kyle shook his finger in front of Michael's face.

Michael slapped Kyle's hand away, laughing. "Okay, Buddha junior, what do you say we try some magic?"

"I'm game," Kyle said, rubbing his hands. "So what do I do?"

"First things first. Using your powers -the heavy stuff, not changing the color of your shirt- takes a lot of concentration, focus and-"

"I don't think that'll be a problem," Kyle interrupted him. "As a plus to all the 'Buddhist shit I've been spouting'," Kyle said making air quotes good-naturedly, "I've done a lot of meditation this past year. I'm good with that."

Michael thought about that. It made sense, and it could be interesting. "So, is that a thing only for Buddhists or can you share some tricks?" he asked.

Kyle laughed, the image of Michael sitting cross legged, hands on his knees, wearing a robe and chanting 'ohmm' that popped in his mind too much to resist. "Sure," he managed to get out, not looking Michael in the eye.

Maria came up behind them and put one arm around both their shoulders, her chin resting on Michael's, she gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"What are my favorite guys doing?" she asked them.

Michael turned to kiss her back and winked at her. "What do you say, blondie, wanna meditate with me sometime?" he asked her with a mischievous smirk.

"Count me in," Maria laughed.

"Right then, count me out," Kyle chimed in.

Maria laughed again and went to put the spoons on the sink before leaving them alone again.

Michael followed her with his eyes, shaking his head. When she closed the door of the bedroom he turned back to Kyle. "So, we could see from how far away you can move things. That's an important thing to know when we're in danger," Michael said. He thought about his own progress since he'd started. "I guess that'll change with time and practice, but we should know what's your starting point. Also, we should see if you need eye-contact to move things, or if you have to know what is it that you're moving."

"What do you mean?" Kyle asked frowning.

"I mean, if I said there's 'something' behind me, could you move it even if you don't know what it is?"

"Right," Kyle nodded. "And how big things can be for me to move them?" he added. "Like could I move you?" he asked smirking.

Michael scowled at him. "And where would you put me if you could?" he challenged.

"Oh, the power!" Kyle laughed.




***********



Kyle chuckled, thinking of all the fun he'd had practicing with Michael; especially when Maria and Liz had joined them, volunteering all their complements for experimentation. Kyle could still Michael's scream of horror when he'd discovered himself wearing a girlie hat and purse.

"Damn, I'm sorry I missed it if you're still laughing at it two days later," Max said from the driver seat.

"Yeah, it was priceless, man," Kyle told him. He had taken his turn at driving before, just in case, but probably it would be Max driving tomorrow.

Max followed Maxie's Ninja. She was the expert at Escape and Evade, and Max and Kyle had spent the day following her around the city. She had insisted it was good to know the place like the back of their hands. Which they did now.

Max's phone rang and he passed it to Kyle. "It's her," he said.

Kyle took the phone. "Hey, Maxie... Sure... Yeah, I see you... Okay." He hung up and gave it back to Max. "Pull over behind her."

Max stopped the SUV and Maxie came to the driver's door. "You sure you don't mind taking it back, Kyle? You can find the apartment, right?"

"Why? Where are we-?" Max started but Kyle cut him off.

"Sure, Maxie, no problem," he said nudging Max to step out of the car. "Get out, Evans, Maxie wants to take you somewhere."

"Come on, Evans, I need something and you just volunteered to help me," she said, opening the door and walking back to her bike, not waiting for him.

"Did she say what she wants?" Max asked Kyle, a bit worried.

"Nope," Kyle shrugged, "Why, you scared? And remember she can probably hear you?" Kyle added in a whisper.

"No! Of course not," Max hurried to answer, looking towards Maxie who was suspiciously smiling.

Max walked to Maxie and the Ninja, the SUV passed by him and Kyle honked in goodbye.

"Hop on," Maxie said over her shoulder, handing him a helmet. The Xs never wore helmets but they insisted all of them did.

Max took the helmet and put it on. He sat behind her and put his hands on both sides of her waist.

Maxie looked down and chuckled. "You better hold tighter than that or you'll fall off."

Max barely had time to wrap his arms around her waist before she peeled off at a breakneck speed.

Max had spent the day driving around and getting to know the city but Maxie still lost him. He had no idea of how long they'd been driving or where they were going. But he certainly understood Kyle's enthusiasm with the bike now.

Maxie stopped outside a park and they both got off the bike. Max looked around curiously. What were they doing there?

"Let's sit down," Maxie said pointing to a nearby bench and Max followed behind her.

"What's going on, Maxie?" Max asked a few minutes later when she still hadn't said a word.

Maxie shifted in her seat, suddenly nervous, then she gave a forced laugh. "What, I can't take you out on a date?" she spluttered.

Max's eyes widened and his jaw dropped open. He wasn't expecting that.

This time Maxie's laugh was more natural. "I'm joking, Evans."

Max chuckled, relieved. Then frowned, not so much disappointed as offended, and she laughed again, the awkwardness broken.

"Listen, actually, there's something I need to talk to you about," she said tentatively.

"Is something wrong?"

"My whole life," Maxie sighed. "Look, Evans, this isn't something I usually tell people... Actually, I've never told anyone," she muttered. Max's eyes widened in surprise and she hurried to explain. "The others know about it, it's not like it's a secret or something, just not the kind of thing you tell new friends..." she trailed off.

Max felt her discomfort and nervousness, something he'd gotten so rarely from the kick-ass, strong-headed transgenic that made him smile affectionately at her. "Maxie," he nudged her.

"Right. See, remember that first day when we told you all about Manticore?" she asked him.

Max was surprised by the change in topic and floundered for a moment before finding his own feet again. "Yes," he said at the same time he thought 'all about' was not the term he'd choose. He knew, all of them knew, they'd only gotten a scratch of the surface.

"I mentioned the seizures we get, that we escaped because of them..." she waited for him to nod he remembered before going on. "I still have them."

"Are you alright? Are you sick now?"

"No, no," Maxie assured him. "I'm fine; believe me you'd know if I wasn't, they're hard to miss. That's not it. Well, not exactly. See, I take these pills to combat the seizures. Tryptophan..." Maxie trailed off, still undecided about asking for help. It was something she'd never done.

Max waited patiently for her to talk, seeing how difficult it was being for her.

Maxie took a deep breath. "I took my last pills this morning," she said finally. "And I was wondering if maybe you could..." she doubted again.

"What, make you more?" Max asked confused. He didn't know much about drugs or pills and he didn't know how much help he could be.

"Mm, no... I... I thought maybe you could take a look at my brain?" Maxie asked finally, resorting to indifference as a defense mechanism, uncomfortable with the whole thing.

"Um..." Max didn't know what to say. "You want me looking into your brain?" He wasn't expecting that. Maxie, all the transgenics really, but especially her, was kinda private. Even Alec, who was the more extrovert and open of the four, would clam up when talking about himself. "You understand that I'd have to form a connection to you and I'd see into your mind, right? Memories, dreams, fantasies... When I'm inside I can't control what I'll see, especially if I'm trying to focus all my energy into healing," he explained.

Maxie was nodding. "I know, I, er, talked to Liz about it. She told me about the connection and how 'intimate' it was," she made air quotes, rolling her eyes at Liz's words, but Max surprised her.

"It is," he said simply, holding her eyes. Max knew he had to make her understand what she was asking for. He needed her to know what she was getting into.

"Right," Maxie said softly, her hesitancy returning. Maybe she didn't need his help after all. Tryptophan had to be easier to get here than in Post-Pulse America, right?

But you don't want to get more Tryptophan. You hate to depend on those pills. You always have, you always will. This could be your chance to get rid of one of Manticore's holds over you. Isn't that worth opening yourself to Evans?

"Okay, I can live with that," she said slowly, softly, looking him in the eyes. "You think you can do it?"

"You haven't told me what is it that I have to do yet. What causes the seizures, do you know?"

"Yes, it's a serotonin imbalance. My brain doesn't produce enough serotonin."

"Yeah... I remember that part," Max said, more to himself than Maxie. She looked at him curiously. "I, er, I read up on the human brain after Alex's... 'accident'," he spat. He still could barely say the word 'death'. "I wanted to be sure I had gotten everything damaged so I read everything I could find. The human brain is a tricky thing," he said.

"Wait till you get a look at mine," Maxie smiled.

"Right," Max said. He'd almost forgotten about the differences in their make-up. "Okay, I can try."

"Good," Maxie said relieved. "You wanna do it now?" she asked, making Max smile sheepishly. She laughed and rolled her eyes.

Max cleared his throat, "No, not here. We should go somewhere private," he said chuckling.

"You want to go back to the apartment?" Maxie asked.

"Sure, we'd be okay there." Max got to his feet but her hand on his wrist stopped him.

"I don't know how the others deal with theirs, or if they were treated at Manticore. I haven't talked to them about it, but I... I don't want people to know... I don't like-"

"It's okay, Maxie," he cut her off. "I understand."

They drove back to the apartment and Maxie went directly into the bedroom while Max stopped to talk to CeCe who was still working on the computer with Alex. They walked to the balcony and Max asked about the seizures. CeCe seemed curious about his sudden interest but she didn't voice her thoughts. She probably didn't have to, it didn't take a genius to know what had brought up his questions seeing as how he'd come in with Maxie and, as it turned out, she was the only one dealing with them.

Max closed the door behind himself. "They got treated at Manticore. They don't suffer from them anymore," he told Maxie, sitting on his bed beside her.

Maxie nodded, not surprised he'd asked CeCe about it. After all, if he was going to heal her, and they had them too, it was only fair.

She sat crossed legged in the middle of the bed and he mirrored her. He took one of her hands and held his other hand open for her to put hers in it. Maxie looked down at her hand in his and she smiled self-consciously at him, giving her other hand. "So what now?" she said nervously.

Max smiled. "Now you have to look into my eyes and let your mind go blank. I'll form a connection and try to find the source of the problem. It might not work, you know that, right? Or I might need a few tries..."

"I get it. Go ahead," she said. Her mind started to shut down, bit by bit, just as Manticore taught her.

Max looked into her eyes, trying to open up the connection, but he kept hitting some kind of wall. He blinked and focused his gaze on her face as a whole. Her eyes had gone dead, her features losing all humanity.

"Maxie?" he said, hesitantly, squeezing her hand.

She blinked a few times and then looked back at him.

"Where'd you go?" Max asked her.

"What do you mean? I let my mind go blank. Like you said," she said defensively.

"Er... no, you didn't," Max hesitated again, not sure what had happened. "You just left. There was nothing there to connect with."

Maxie shrugged one shoulder, "You asked, I delivered, pal. Not my problem if you don't know what you want," she said.

Max just looked at her, waiting. She rolled her eyes. Okay, so maybe that wasn't what he'd asked.

"Sorry," she said softly, smiling at him.

"Usually when I tell someone to clear their mind they just try not to think of anything, not..." he trailed off, not knowing what to call what Maxie had done.

"Yeah, well, I did it the 'Manticore' way."

"Right," Max said, "So... don't?"

Maxie chuckled. "Alright, you need me to not think of anything, right?"

Max nodded and they tried again. Maxie fought the urge to fall back on what she knew, and when she finally got a hold on herself, she found she didn't have anything to hide behind anymore, no armour to protect her feelings, no mask to shield her thoughts. She had never felt so naked. It scared her. The impulse to pull away impossible to ignore.

Max felt her agitation growing by the second. He knew he was about to lose her. He rubbed his thumbs over the back of her hands, slowly.

Maxie felt a jolt run from her hands, up her arms, straight to her center. She glanced down briefly and when her eyes returned to his her nerves were calmer. She had asked him for this, he wouldn't hurt her. Maxie lost herself in his eyes, so calm, so warm, so...

Max saw his chance and ran with it.

A slightly younger Maxie twitching on the floor, her knees drawn to her chest, arms clutching at them, her head hitting the wall behind... A bottle of pills lying on the floor by her side...

Max let the flashes roll over him, he couldn't let himself be distracted. He had a purpose.

Maxie in a closed room, pacing around, sweating profusely, barely dressed... She falls to the floor and starts doing push-ups for a moment before racing to the bath...

Max froze for a second, almost blushing, what was that? A moment later he was mentally shaking his head and moving again. He could see her brain patterns in his mind... Where's the flaw?

Maxie running for her life, dressed in a gown, barefoot, her small feet barely marking the snow... Dogs barking, helicopters hovering... Her sister running just ahead of her... They're almost out... Almost... The ground opens up below her feet and frozen water swallows her...

He found it! Max wasn't sure how he knew that was what needed to be fixed, it looked fine, but he 'knew'. He focused all his energy there.

A group of children in the woods, staring up at a tree... There's something in it... Something they've never seen before... Red, shiny, round... Zack gets it from the tree and gives it to her...

A sheen of perspiration appeared on Max's forehead, his face constricting with the effort.

Maxie lying on a bunk, her whole body aches and she can't sleep but she's smiling... There's a shadow on the wall, just for her... She turns to look at Ben... Her brother smiles at her...

Something 'clicked' in Max's mind and he knew he'd done it. Tension left his body and his faced relaxed. Max let her hands go and wiped his forehead.

Maxie lowered her gaze, not sure she could look at him knowing he'd seen inside her. "Did it work?"

"Yes," Max said softly. "I don't know how I know, but it worked." He made a pause then, "I'll try and make some Tryptophan later, just in case, but I don't think you'll ever need it again."

Maxie looked at him then, the relief and gratitude she felt overcoming her discomfort. "Thank you, Max," she said, a true smile on her lips.

Max smiled shyly, almost embarrassed, not really used to beautiful girls smiling at him. He looked down at his lap.

Maxie leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek, enjoying the startled look he gave her before shaking his head and muttering something along the lines of "You're welcome".

"So," Maxie started, trying to sound indifferent and failing. "What, er, what did you see?"

"You," Max said simply. "I wasn't paying all that much attention. I was trying to heal your brain," he added, trying to put her mind at ease, lowering his head to make eye contact with her. "Although... there was this one flash..." he trailed off.

"Yeah?"

"Well, you remember how flashes aren't only images? That we feel what the person felt and everything?" Maxie nodded. "There was this one flash where you were feeling really... strung out... frustrated?" Max ventured, not wanting to come out and say 'horny as hell'.

"Oh, God, tell me at least I was alone," Maxie said covering her face with her hands.

"Yeah, yeah, you were doing push-ups and-"

"I know," she interrupted. "Fuck, I hate them!" she exclaimed. She got up from the bed and paced around the room. "Manticore used feline DNA to make us faster, stronger, yadda, yadda, you know the drill," she said and Max nodded. "Well, apparently they didn't count with the pesky side effects." Maxie stopped and turned to look at him in the eyes. "Two or three times a year I go into heat, just like a cat would. Great, isn't it?"

"Oh."

"Yeah, 'oh' alright." Maxie went to the door and opened it, but before she went out she turned back. "Manticore was full of neat gifts, and not all of them can be 'fixed'. This is one I'll have to live with the rest of my life."



**************
(continued in next post)
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lyra
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Postby lyra » Tue Oct 19, 2004 5:53 pm

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



Liz opened the door to the lab and walked inside. She'd barely taken one step when the smell assaulted her and she smiled.

"Why do I feel there's a story there?" Alec asked, walking by her.

Liz looked at him, surprised. For a moment she'd forgotten she wasn't alone. "Not a story," she said, "A dream."

"Right, right, you want to be a scientist when you grow up," he teased her.

"Hey!" Liz exclaimed, then rolled her eyes. "Sir, could you help me find a working table where I can play?" she asked with a parody of a little child's voice and face.

Alec leaned into her and whispered in her ear, "Only if we can play doctors."

Liz pushed him away, laughing to cover up her reaction to his words and his closeness. She looked over the room searching for a workable space to start.

Alec chuckled, following her movements with his eyes. It wasn't only that he loved to egg her on, he knew there was something else there but he preferred to ignore it. He saw her put the folder down and open it, reading the document again, gathering the tools she thought she'd need. Her attention focused on the paper in her hands, her lower lip trapped between her teeth, a persistent lock of hair falling over her eyes, forcing her to keep putting it behind her ear. Alec felt a twitch in his hand, he wanted to brush that lock away for her.

He shook his head and walked to the materials cabinet. "So, what do you need?" he asked over his shoulder.

Liz read off a list of names and Alec checked the inventory hanging from the side of the cabinet to see if they were all there. Once he found them all Alec turned to the locked refrigerator and 'opened' it. He took a tray and pulled the bottles, vials and other containers corresponding with the coded in the inventory and brought them to Liz.

"Here you go," he said setting the tray on the work counter. "What now?"

Liz looked around herself and sighed. "This is going to take a while, you know, it's not like making a shake. Some substances have to be prepared before we can mix them and others-"

"So we can be here all night," Alec cut her off, "That what you're saying?"

"Pretty much," Liz said shrugging.

"It's not like I have anything better to do, Liz," he said smiling. "Look at it this way, we can get to know each other better."

Half an hour later Liz had three different mixes in the making. Alec was sitting on the counter behind her, watching her work, and she was telling him about her Grandma Claudia.

"She would've loved to meet you guys," she said. "The others too. She was an amazing woman." Liz turned on the Bunsen burner and put one of the mixes to boil. "I miss her."

"She sounds like a kick-ass lady," Alec agreed. "Like an older version of you, maybe?"

Liz turned to smile at him. "I wish," she admitted.

Alec smiled at her, seeing the emotion in her eyes he felt he'd love to meet that woman too, just because she'd been so important to Liz.

Liz went back to her work. "You know, I've been doing all the talking here. Why don't you tell me something?"

"Oh come on, we already did this, remember? I told you what I liked-"

"Yeah, yeah, money, alcohol and women. I remember," she cut him off. With a look at all the working progress on the counter to check everything was alright she turned to Alec. "That's just about every guy in the world's description," she scoffed.

"Not the gays," he pointed out.

"Especially transgenic guys, apparently," Liz ignored him. "Tell me something about 'you'," she hit his chest with her index finger. "Something that makes you 'you'."

Alec looked down, trying to think of some excuse to get out of this conversation. He liked it better when they were talking about Liz, her life, her friends, her family.

"You said 'get to know each other'," Liz reminded him.

"You're right," Alec agreed resigned. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. It's not like she was asking him to tell her every little detail of his life. "I had a cat once," he said, the memory bringing a smile to his face.

"You did?" Liz asked surprised. That wasn't something she'd expected.

"Yeah, well, it wasn't 'mine' in a conventional sense of the word. He lived in the woods inside Manticore, I have no idea how he got in but he did. It was little more than a kitten when I found him beside a fallen brunch and he was hurt, he must've fallen from the tree and he broke his leg. I loved playing with that cat."

"What was his name?" Liz asked.

"Pig," Alec said. "He was a little white ball of fur, playful and just cute, you know. I had to go away for a while and when I went back there was no trace of him. I don't know what happened to him."

"I've never had a pet," Liz said.

"Are you sure about that?" Alec asked, smirking.

"What are you talking about?"

"I hear things, something about a puppy dog who used to follow you around everywhere," Alec teased her.

Liz's eyes opened in shock, her jaw dropped. "A-Alec!" she sputtered, her brain faltering for a moment. But Alec was looking at her with that charming smile and twinkling eyes and she just couldn't help herself. She laughed. "You are so bad," she scolded him. She couldn't believe she was laughing at this, but she just couldn't be mad at him.

"Sorry," Alec apologized, not sounding sorry at all.

"I'm sure you are," she said, shaking her head. "No, I've never had a pet," Liz repeated vehemently.

"Alright, alright," Alec raised his hands in surrender. "Seriously though, I'd trade in my pat for your passion everyday of the week."

"My... my passion?" Liz squeaked.

Alec shook his head, "Get your mind out of the gutter, Miss Parker, I was talking about your passion for science," he chided her.

Liz blushed. How did he do that? Where was level headed, self-confident Liz Parker whenever Alec was around? Damn him.

"Right," Liz nodded, relieved they were back to safe territory. "Yeah, I do love it. I have ever since I was little. I guess Grandma Claudia had something to do with that, she always encouraged me to ask questions and look for the answers," she explained.

One of the brewing mixes beeped to signal it was done and Liz went back to work. "You know, it's true that I always wanted to be a scientist," she said, looking over her shoulder at him, "But ever since I found out about the aliens I've wanted it even more. There's this inquisitive side of my mind that wonders about how they were made, how they mixed alien DNA with ours, and how their powers work and-"

"I guess we've picked your interest then too," Alec interrupted her.

Liz glanced back at him. "Yeah," she said almost embarrassed.

"It's okay, Liz. It's normal that you want to figure out how we're made, both aliens and transgenics. You don't have to be ashamed of wanting to know," Alec told her sincerely. "Besides, an intelligent woman can be very sexy," he added with a wink.

Liz rolled her eyes. She was convinced he just couldn't help himself. Then a thought occurred to her and she sobered up. "But I don't want to be trapped by the knowledge."

Alec frowned, "What do you mean?"

Liz sighed. She turned to look at him. "Don't think that I regret getting involved with them, Alec, I don't. And not only because I'd be dead if I hadn't. Some times I feel bitter about the things I've lost or missed out on, or I wish I had made other turns along the way. But I'm not sorry I know this huge secret." She went back to work. "It's just that I've always wanted to do so much more... and I don't want the fact that I know about them... or you, to keep me here. I've always wanted to see the world; go places, do things."

She poured the new mix she'd gotten into a vial and turned to Alec.

"Can you put this in the freezer at -350ºC?"

"Sure." Alec got it and went to do as told.

Liz gazed after him, admiring the graceful movements of his body. "Have you travelled a lot?" she asked suddenly, shaking her head.

Alec looked back at her startled. "Me?" he asked surprised. Liz nodded and he turned his back on her again. "Yeah," he said a bit darkly. "But you wouldn't have liked it." He closed the freezer again and went back to sit again on the counter.

"Why not?" Liz asked softly, hearing the change in his voice.

"I'm a soldier, Liz. Why do you think?"

"Oh," Liz didn't know what to say. She knew they were soldiers, but somehow, the thought that they'd actually fought wars hadn't sunk. "Was it bad?" She wanted to kick herself the moment the words felt her lips. What a dumb question.

"War always is," Alec said simply and she nodded.

"Wouldn't you like to see the good side of the world?" she asked, feeling a bit childish and naive.

Alec smiled at her, "Yeah, that would be nice."

Liz concentrated on the next part of the formula for a while then, and Alec took the opportunity to sweep the perimeter and make sure everything was still okay.

When he finished, Alec went back to the lab and leaned into the counter next to Liz, facing her, watching her work.

"So what else would you like to do?" he asked after a while.

Liz looked at him startled. Not that she'd forgotten he was there, she'd been feeling his eyes on her all the time. It was a wonder she still managed to form a coherent thought, let alone conduct an experiment. She pushed aside the manual she'd found under the work table and she'd been using as reference. Apparently, there were students working in this lab, maybe on practice. Which served her good because some of the steps of the process had been a bit too much for her.

Liz looked at Alec curiously, not sure what he was talking about. Hey, she had to focus on what she was doing 'and' on Alec; there wasn't much brain left for anything else.

"Besides travelling," he reminded her.

"Oh, I don't know... Maybe learn some languages, or, do some digging like Grandma used to... Put together a book of photos... Maybe write... Or paint! I'd love to paint..." she exclaimed with a dreamy smile.

"Add music to that and you'll be the embodiment of the Renaissance spirit," Alec teased her.

"Oh, yes, music!" Liz agreed, ignoring the teasing. "I'd love to play an instrument, something like... I don't know, like the cello or the harp."

"Exotic much," Alec chuckled. "I can't help you there, I'm but a lowly pianist," he sighed dramatically.

"You play?"

"Yep. And I'm really good too," Alec bragged and she rolled her eyes. It was a wonder they didn't fall off with all the rolling she did around him.

"I've always found fascinating the eastern cultures. Something like Tai Chi, or yoga... or some martial arts?" she said, checking her watch. It was almost four in the morning; they'd been in here forever. The formula was almost ready, just a few more minutes. She looked at Alec who hadn't said a word to her latest comment.

Alec was watching Liz. Her words had brought an image to his mind he was having trouble shaking off: Liz in skin tight clothes, hair flying wild behind her, executing a sweeping kick that landed him on his back.

"Martial arts, huh? I could help you with that. Anything in particular? Not that it matters. I know them all," he added chuckling. "You know, you really have to let me help with it, I'd love to see you try some of those moves," he teased her.

Liz laughed embarrassed, trying to imagine herself, doing some of the more advanced stuff, already changing her mind. "Maybe not," she mumbled.

"Come on, Liz, I was joking. I think it's a great idea," Alec encouraged her.

There was a ding behind her and they both turned to look at the liquid resulting from all their work... or her work.

"That's it? It's done?" Alec asked, seeing that Liz made no move to touch it.

"Yes. That's the final formula in Pierce's folder," Liz said, re-reading the paper they'd found in Eagle Rock. "Now all we have to do is figure out what it is."

"We could try it on me," Alec offered. Liz looked at him alarmed and he smiled, touched by her concern. "I'm immune to most poisons and chemicals, Liz," he reminded her.

"B-but... we have no idea what it is!" she exclaimed.

"Well, is there anything lethal in there?"

"How should I know?!" she panicked. "Everything can be lethal depending on the dose!" Alec looked at her sternly, silently telling her to calm down. Liz took a deep breath and re-read the document for the umpteenth time. "I don't think so, not on the original ingredients, anyway. But any of the combinations could be, or... Here," she said pointing at one of the names on the list, "This is a muscle relaxant, and this..." Liz checked the manual again. "This is a neuro depressant; this is used in sedatives and..." she trailed off, a thought occurring to her.

"What?" Alec asked confused.

"I just remembered, when Max was captured, Pierce dosed him up with some kind of serum that made his powers ineffective. This could be it."

"Makes sense. Where'd Pierce get it and how come Evans didn't mention it?"

"The FBI got Nasedo and another alien for years, remember? And Max, I'm not sure, he's tried so hard to suppress the memories..."

"Right," Alec agreed. The mind was very capricious. "So, I guess we should test it," he said shrugging.

"Yes, you're right." Liz took a syringe and filled it with the dose stated in the folder. Then put the needle in her arm and-

"What the hell are you doing?" Alec asked, holding the syringe under her nose.

Liz looked at her hand, still poised over her arm, and the syringe that wasn't there anymore. She hadn't seen him move.

"Testing it?" she said. "You just said yourself-"

"On me, Liz. I meant on me."

"But you don't have powers," Liz said confused.

"I know that, but we'll see it is indeed harmless except for the power thing. If it doesn't affect me at all, then we can try it on you."

"But you said these things don't affect you," she argued.

"They don't, but I feel them try to, and I feel my body overpowering them. I get hotter and maybe a little dizzy for a bit..."

"But-"

"No buts." Alec injected the liquid in his arm.

Liz shook her head. Typical. Oh well, at least he was letting her try it after him. Michael and Max would never have let her do that. Baby steps, Liz.



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



"I don't like it," Michael said, taking the words out of his brother's mouth. Isabel rolled her eyes.

They had all gathered in the living room to discuss what CeCe and Alex had discovered, as soon as Alec and Liz had gotten back.

CeCe had explained about Pierce's sister and they'd all decided it was a good choice. No problem till then. Now, the moment Isabel said she'd do it that had changed.

Max, Michael and Alex had strongly voiced their disagreement, although Alex had backed down almost immediately, which Isabel appreciated. But Max and Michael insisted it should be one of the X5 girls who did it. They didn't want Isabel to be in the first line of danger.

"It should be me," Isabel repeated exasperated. "One of us should be there, you know, in case anything happens. I mean, they might be trained for this stuff and be really good at it, but they still can't change things with a wave of their hands."

"Well, then one of us will go with them," Max insisted with a glare at his sister.

"I don't think so. I'm better actress than you two," Isabel said. "Besides, I'm good at manipulating people. If the clerk's a woman I'll just turn in the waterworks and if it's a guy," she smirked, "Then I have this," she touched her hair, "And these," she pointed at her chest. "It worked with the sheriff-"

"Eww! Don't say that!" Kyle exclaimed covering his ears.

"And it'll work now on whoever stands in my way," she finished, ignoring Kyle's interruption and Biggs and Alec's amused faces.

"Hm, hm," Alex cleared his throat.

Isabel turned to him, "It's for a good cause, sweetie. Don't worry, everyone knows they're taken," she winked at him.

"Izzy!" Max and Michael exclaimed, "I don't need to know that," Max complained with a disgusted face.

"Besides," Isabel went on. "Biggs will be there with me so, unless the clerk's an alien, I think I'm covered, right?" she asked the dark haired X5 who nodded hastily. "And if it's an alien then I'll save his ass," she smirked. "And you'll be there anyway!"



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



Alex sat alone in the couch, looking out the window.

Jesus, Alex, calm down! This isn't even the most dangerous thing she's done! Basically there's no danger at all.

He kept wringing his hands, messing his hair, straightening his clothes...

We have the bank's system in our computer; we have Pierce's account, all the data in his file that Iz is going to need.

CeCe and Liz watched him from the kitchen, understanding his concern and giving him as much privacy as they could.

All she has to do is say she's his sister, show the stupid key and give his social security number. Nothing is going to happen. It'll be over in like 15 minutes.

Suddenly the image of a security guard stopping her to ask her a few questions assaulted him and his heart froze for a second before his rationality came knocking again.

For God's sake it's a bank not Wolfram and Hart, they don't have mind readers as security! But then his mind sent him a curve one and the image of Isabel blowing up when she opened the box replaced the other. It'll just be some papers, he scolded himself, maybe something the Special Unit stole from Nasedo, not a nuclear bomb!

CeCe shook her head in the kitchen and muttered to Liz, "He's gonna give himself a heart attack."

Alex changed tactics and tried to sooth himself. She's smart, she's beautiful and I love her... geez, you're talking as if you've never gonna see her again. And I'm not even talking, I'm just rambling on in my head like a lunatic!

But it was working, the more he thought it all out the more he believed it.

Biggs is with her. Alec, Michael and Maria are in there too, pretending to be clients or whatever, she's covered. And Maxie is right outside in her bike, and Max and Kyle are in the SUV... they can all get the hell out in a second. Everything's okay.

He took deep breaths and tried to relax, and it almost worked but...

God, I'm gonna explode! He stood from the couch and started pacing, trying to work out his anxiety. I love her, and she knows I'm always with her even if I can't be with her right now... Okay, Alex, remember the 'calm down' five minutes ago? Now would be a good time to start.

He sighed, glancing to the kitchen to see if the girls were paying him any attention.

I wish I could be there and see for myself that she's okay, I wish I could put my hand on her back and calm both our nerves, that I could feel her next to me and then everything would be good with the world-

~I'm so good! Two more steps and that box is mine.~

Alex's head snapped up and he looked around wildly. What the-?

"Izzy?" he said tentatively, as if he was expecting her to appear from thin air.

No answer.

~Come on, come on, stop yapping already and get the hell out so I can get that box.~

Alex heard the voice again, but he noticed none of the girls seemed to have heard it. He closed his eyes and thought ~Izzy?~

He felt Isabel's shock and then, ~Alex? What-?~

tbc
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