Afterburn (Zan Pov, Adult) (Complete)

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Breathless
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Afterburn (Zan Pov, Adult) (Complete)

Postby Breathless » Tue Jan 11, 2005 11:33 pm

Winner - Round 10

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Winner - Round 7

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Author: Debbi aka Breathless
Category: Zan
Rating: Adult

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Roswell, Jason Katims, The WB, or UPN. I am just borrowing the characters for a little while.

Author note: Well I’ve been away for awhile, but I’m back - I think. This fic is Zan’s story, his sequel to Aftermath. If you haven’t read Aftermath, you won’t have any idea who this Zan is. This story is all about him and his adjustment to life on Antar, without Liz.

Here’s the link:
http://www.roswellfanatics.net/viewtopic.php?t=302

In Aftermath, Zan wasn’t exactly a nice guy. He was born and bred to be an assassin, and damn good at it. He was a cold blooded killer, until a dormant connection opened with Max, awakening human emotions in him. And then he met Liz and his whole world was turned upside down. Some people found Zan sexy and exciting, in a bad boy kind of way. Others hated him from the get go and never warmed toward him. Some even wanted him to die a horrible violent death. All of those reactions are valid.

There’s no doubt that this Zan is a very flawed man. The only question now is if it’s possible for a stone cold killer to find redemption, and if so, at what cost?


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Afterburn
Part 1



Lips.

Red lips.

Warm and moist against his skin.

He inhales sharply when she kisses his throat, when her tongue darts out to taste him there. His Adam’s apple bobs as he swallows. His tongue darts out to wet his lips.

“Liz . . .”

“You like that?” she asks.

Her voice sounds sultry to him. Sensual. So sexy he can barely contain the desire to roll her onto her back and have his way with her. But he needs to let it happen this way. He needs to let her be in control. To come to him willingly. To share herself without coercion or force. To want him, as much as he wants her.

He aches for her.

Burns for her.

Loves her.

“Well?” she lifts her head from his throat. Her hand feels warm on his bare chest.

“Yes, I like that,” he smiles into her dark eyes. The soft glow of candlelight reflects in her irises, or maybe that’s the flame of love. He hopes that’s what it is. He wants that so much.

“Do you like this?” she asks.

Her head lowers and he feels the brush of her soft lips on his chest. Her tongue sweeps around the dark circle of his nipple. She flicks at the tip as it rises to a peak.

“Yes,” his breathing turns a little sharper.

“How about this?” her lips move lower, down his ribs. His heart rate doubles when her tongue dips into his navel. Her hair feels like silk on his skin, draping across his stomach like a curtain. He closes his eyes and lifts his hand to caress the back of her head, but he won’t force her lower, even though he’s silently begging her to touch him there. She has to want to do it on her own. She has to want him, otherwise it means nothing.

“Cat got your tongue?”

He opens his eyes to see her looking at him. The candlelight flickers across her creamy skin, so supple and smooth, so warm against his naked body. The scent of alirias fills the tent. It’s the closest thing he can find to roses.

“Do you know how beautiful you are?”

He sees her blush. She doesn’t think she’s beautiful, but she is. Just looking at her takes his breath away.

“Tell me what you like.”

“You,” he answers.

A smile flashes over her face, but it’s gone quickly, replaced by a look he’s waited what seems like a lifetime to see. His breath catches in his throat as she glides up his body, her soft breasts touching his chest, her thigh lifting to cross over his thighs, aligning her body over his. She looks down into his face, her hand gently caressing his cheek.

“Make love to me, Zan. I want to feel you inside me.”

His body goes still. Is he even breathing anymore? He’s waited so long to hear her say this, to speak his name with such reverence, to hear how much she wants him. It’s the truest moment of his life. The echo of his name drifts on the air, singing to his soul.

Her face drifts nearer, her lips move closer, her mouth opens to take his. “I love you, Zan,” she vows just before she lifts her hips and impales herself on his rigid length.

He’s rendered speechless by the feel of her silken walls surrounding him, and by her declaration. Her words echo in his head.

“I love you, Zan. I love you, Zan. I love you, Zan.”

“Zan.”


“Zan.”

“ZAN!”

A hand on his shoulder shakes him out of his dream. He comes out of it feeling groggy and confused. He can’t see at first. Everything is dark. He hears the strike of an energy stick and then a light flares, bathing the tent in its warm glow. He’s already half off the cot before he sees who it is.

“Ava?”

“I heard you mumbling in your sleep,” she sets the energy light on the ops table, illuminating the charts and graphs Zan was studying before he fell asleep. She keeps her back to him, and it takes him a moment to realize he isn’t dressed. He reaches for the leather pants he discarded earlier and slips them on. He doesn’t bother with the vest. It’s a warm night, and he’s not a modest man.

“What’s happened?” Zan asks as she unfurls a map of the Morrow Hills. She’s disciplined. A warrior. She wouldn’t be here at this hour without reason.

“Word’s come in of an outbreak in the southern hills. Fifty clicks from the Capital City. Intel believes Khivar’s formed a command base in the caves, and that he’ll attack the Capital soon. He’s not going down without a fight.”

Her voice sounds raspy. Zan knows his sounds much the same. They don’t use their vocal chords as often as they did on Earth, it isn’t necessary when conversing with Antarians.

“He wants a fight?” Zan growls. “Then we’ll give him one.”

“I’ve instructed a battalion to be ready to move at first light.”

“Good,” Zan acknowledges her militaristic planning. But underneath her emotionless words he senses something else, a deep longing for what can never be. Her next words confirm it.

“Do you miss it?” Her crystal blue eyes lift to meet his; she doesn’t need to clarify her question. They both know she means Earth, and all they left behind.

“No,” Zan lies, but he knows he doesn’t fool her. He dreams about Liz at night. He talks to her in his sleep. He misses her everyday, but she wasn’t meant for him. He envies Max.

“I miss the blue sky,” Ava says wistfully. “And the rain. Do you remember how fresh the air would smell after a rainstorm?”

Silence is his answer, which is all she expects. He doesn’t talk about Earth. He keeps it all inside.

The tent flap rustles and Kel enters. The shapeshifter stands at attention giving Zan the respect he deserves, awaiting his orders.

Zan sweeps his gaze over the form Kel has assumed tonight. The shapeshifter can be anything he wants to be, but it hasn’t escaped Zan’s notice that Kel prefers a human form whenever Ava is in the vicinity. Sandy colored hair. Strong jaw. Blue eyes. Muscular but not overly tall, reminiscent of a human Zan once knew.

“Speak,” Zan tells him.

“The troops are ready at your command,” Kel informs him. His stance is stiff. Formal. An unspoken ‘Sir’ hangs at the end of his words. The world views Zan as their Savior, a living legend, but Zan doesn’t like titles. He’s just a man, mortal and conflicted. War is what he knows, what he’s good at, what he was born for. He doesn’t rejoice in the kill like he used to, but he does what needs to be done. As She would want him to.

“We move at halflight.”

Kel inclines his head at Zan’s command. He turns to leave to inform the troops, but before he goes, Zan notices the brief look he sends Ava’s way, and the momentary smile Ava gives him in return. It passes quickly, but Zan’s aware of the growing attraction between them. As Kel leaves the tent his form shifts to Antarian, small bodied, thin arms and legs, smooth gray hairless skin. Kel mimics those around him, one of the few remaining of his kind.

Zan is well aware of the history, that the Skins conquered the Shapeshifter’s distant home world eons ago, laid their planet bare, exterminated all but the few they enslaved and took with them. Zan freed Kel in a raid nearly two years ago, and he’s been a faithful servant ever since, rising in the ranks to serve as one of Zan’s most trusted Lieutenants.

When Kel is gone, Zan swings his attention back to Ava. “You like him.”

“Kel?” Ava sputters a denial, but the pink hue rising in her cheeks gives her away. She’s not as good at hiding her emotions as Zan is.

“He’s a good soldier,” Zan acknowledges.

That earlier smile returns to Ava’s face, softening her features. He might be a man of few words, but what Zan’s just spoken is the highest praise he can give a man. It’s also his way of sanctioning their union. Zan has no claim to her; he’s been a solitary man since his departure from Earth. Ava willingly came with him, but only for the cause, not to share his bed. He has no complaints, though. His heart belongs to someone else.

“Show me the maps,” he joins Ava at the table. Time to make a battle plan. He lets the preparation consume him; the strategy, the logistics, the tactical planning necessary to wage war.

It’s the only thing that keeps him from thinking of Her.

* * * * *

A young recruit, fresh from the training schools, arrives at the command center with a message for his commander. His skin is still mottled, at least a cycle or two away from turning the uniform grey of an adult Antarian. On Earth he would have been called green behind the ears. The term doesn’t apply here, since Antarians don’t have them. The boy bows in front of Zan, obviously awed to be in the presence of such a warrior.

“Sir –”

“You will address me as Zan,” he scolds the youthful soldier. He neither wants nor covets their idolization.

“Yes, Sir – Zan!” He bows again. The words don’t come easily. The Antarian mouth isn’t made for talking. Too small. No tongue to speak of, or with. So many things are different here.

“What have you?” Zan asks the youth, who appears to have forgotten what brought him here. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon. Since his arrival on Antar three years ago, Zan’s presence has been cause for adoration and worship. The Antarian people had lived under the tyrannical rule of the Skins for decades, oppressed and enslaved, with little to no knowledge of warfare or rebellion. But Zan has taught them well, his cunning, skills, and bravery are extolled throughout the land.

“A message, Sir – Zan,” the boy soldier holds out his hand. Three fingers, long and thin, flank an opposable thumb. In his grip is a silver orb. “The scouts have observed movement in the vicinity of the Adearian Passage.”

Zan takes the orb but he doesn’t activate it. He steps out of the tent instead, casting his gaze toward the Morrow Hills, just now becoming visible in the ruddy morning light. Antar’s sun, a distant red dwarf, tints the skies in varying shades of red, and vermillion, and purple. The new sun will rise in a couple of hours, changing the deep red to pink. It appeared in the sky on the same day Zan and Ava arrived here, bringing brightness where before had been only dark. Like a herald to harken their Savior.

“What’s your name, soldier?” Zan asks the boy. With no obvious external differences, it’s hard to tell Antarian sexes apart. At least from the human perspective. Antarians don’t seem to have any trouble.

“Linta,” the boy says to Zan’s back and then immediately corrects it. “I mean, Lin. Lin,” he states it again, showing his nervousness, then compounds it by telegraphing the name mentally. Zan can’t help but smile. He turns around to look the boy up and down.

“Lin, huh?”

“Yes, Sir – Zan!”

Zan returns his gaze to the distant hills. The boy’s just given away his age, but he’s valiantly trying to hide it. The ‘ta’ at the end of his name is a form of endearment given to Antarian children. When Linta reaches the age of adulthood, his name will become Lin.

It is the only name he will have. Just as Zan uses no surname, neither do the Antarians. They don’t need it when telepathic communication is the norm, where each individual is recognized by mental images and thought patterns. Names don’t hold a sense of high importance.

Unless your name is Zan, and you’ve come across the stars to set your people free.

“We break camp in an hour,” Zan scans the horizon, mentally preparing himself for battle. “Get your things. You ride with me.”

‘I – you want – me?’ the words form in Zan’s head, the boy’s excitement making him forget to speak aloud. Zan sees the aura around his body turn a brilliant shade of orange.

“Yes, you,” Zan turns to re-enter the tent. Along the way he pauses to place his hand on the youth’s narrow shoulder. “You will be my bearer.”

Lin’s dark ovoid eyes blink repeatedly, beyond surprised to be given the honor of bearing the Great Zan’s weapons into battle. His small chest swells with pride.

“Now go,” Zan orders him.

‘Yes Sir!’ Lin mentally shouts as his thin legs carry him away.

Zan’s smile disappears as he watches the boy go. He’s seen so much death in the three years he’s been here, so many small Antarian bodies littering the battlefield. He makes a silent promise that Linta won’t be one of them. He’ll keep him out of the heat of battle, and keep him safe from harm.

* * * * *

Zan finishes his morning routine; he showers, dresses in his usual black leather attire, brushes his teeth in a makeshift sink. He looks at his reflection in a frosted mirror seeing crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes, long hair hanging to his shoulders, prematurely gray at his temples at the ripe old age of 30.

Antarians don’t use the same calendar, of course, but Zan still counts the time in minutes and hours. Days and months have turned into years. She’s 20 now, in college, studying to fulfill her dreams. He wonders if She ever thinks of him.

He shakes the water out of his toothbrush and secures it in a pouch. All his worldly possessions travel with him, he doesn’t have much. He straps a knife to his ankle and a blaster to his belt. Only one other thing is important.

His hand slides into his right front pants pocket and removes a small locket on a chain. The silver sparkles in the light. He closes his fist around it and brings it to his lips, a tradition he does every morning, a prayer to Her to guide him though the coming battle.

To keep him true, and honest . . . and human.

He feels each and every death he inflicts now, unlike the monster he used to be. Every Skin he kills at one time was a gentle Antarian, before the parasites infected them and turned them into predators. Killing them isn’t easy for him now, no matter how necessary.

“Zan,” Ava says from behind him. “The troops are ready.”

Zan acknowledges her with a nod. “I’ll be right there.”

He senses rather than sees her departure. He lifts the silver chain over his head and lets it settle around his neck. The locket falls against his chest, containing the only physical link he has to Her, a strand of hair he holds so dearly. The troops think the mysterious amulet makes him invincible, but that’s not the reason he fights like a man possessed. The truth is, he can not rest until he completes the mission She has given him. He can not fail Her.

It’s all that keeps him going.



TBC…
Last edited by Breathless on Sun Jun 19, 2005 1:11 pm, edited 26 times in total.

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Part 2

Postby Breathless » Mon Jan 17, 2005 6:11 pm

Author: Debbi aka Breathless
Category: Zan POV
Rating: Adult


Author note: Thanks for the warm welcome back. It feels really good.

Scottie
asked about the age difference between Zan (he’s 30) and Liz (she’s 20). This story is based in canon, up to Destiny. That’s when it took a Debbi turn, and went into a completely different direction. Max and company were born looking like 6 year olds. Zan and company were born in the same year, however they were born as teenagers, approximately 16 years old. That’s why Zan is 10 years older than Liz.

So on with the next part…


Afterburn
Part 2




Her hand touches his face, caresses his skin, her eyes see into his soul.

“You have to go back.”

He feels his stomach twist, her words tearing him up inside.

“To where? Antar?”

He can’t hide the pain in his voice. He needs to be close to her, not on a world light years away from her.

Words hover unspoken in the air between them. He doesn’t want to leave her. He needs to stay here to protect her, to watch over her, to love her. How can he do that if he’s on a different planet?

“Your destiny is on Antar. You’ll find what you need there.”



Activity in the camp brings Zan out of his memories. It’s a place he often goes to, the Earth of his memories, reliving the brief time he had with her. It’s painful, yet comforting at the same time. The memory of her face, her voice, the darkness of her eyes is just as vivid as the day he left Earth, over three years ago. He remembers the day she told him he’d find what he needed here, but he never got a chance to tell her that all he needed was her.

Linta scurries across the ground to retrieve an errant tentpole as it rolls to a stop beside Zan’s boot clad foot. Zan tries not to smile, knowing it will only embarrass the youth. Linta’s aura is already turning orange, not a color that’s easy to hide.

‘Sorry,’ Linta picks it up, rattled enough to forget to speak aloud. He brushes non-existent dirt from Zan’s shoe before hurrying back to Kel.

Technically, it’s not really a tentpole, or a tent, they’re assembling. The pole is actually an energy rod that, when linked together, beams a protective shield from one pole to the next, forming a “tent” to hold back the elements, and to give Zan privacy. Zan calls it a tent, even uses his powers to make it visibly appear like one, much to the Antarians amusement. But they don’t understand Zan’s need to retain a connection to Earth – to home – even if it’s in the form of a simple tent.

Zan concedes the irony of it, that when he was on Earth he never considered it ‘home’, and now that he’s on Antar not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about Earth that way. Because home is where She is, on a planet light years away. He fights here, so that She can be safe there.

He becomes aware of a presence behind him, familiar and soothing. Ava never talks much but he can always feel her. Even in the heat of battle, he always senses where she is. She’s so strong; he wonders why he never saw it before. When they were on Earth, he always considered her weak, defective, when the whole time he’d been the flawed one.

“Linta is certainly eager,” Ava smiles.

“He has a good heart,” Zan’s tone reveals his affection for the youth.

“He worships you.”

Zan doesn’t respond. Such talk makes him uncomfortable. He’s just a man, unworthy of the adulation.

“Are you going to let him go into battle?”

“God, no,” Zan answers. “He’s just a child.”

“He won’t like being left behind.”

“No,” Zan agrees with her. “I don’t suppose he will.”

* * * * *

Inside the tent, Zan studies the map of the caverns under the Morrow Hills while Linta hovers nearby, ready to jump at Zan’s command. It’s almost time to begin the assault. Khivar has been on the run for weeks now; it’s only a matter of time until the enemy is vanquished.

Zan longs for it to be over, for the fighting to come to an end, but he can’t stop until every Skin has been wiped off the face of Antar. He knows a single parasite has the capability of regenerating an entire colony, something Zan can’t allow to happen. He’ll fight until every last one of them is dead. He doesn’t question what will happen after that’s accomplished. As far as he’s concerned, he sees no future beyond that. Not for him. He’s a warrior. Killing the enemy is all he knows. When his mission is complete his purpose will be over.

“Sir,” Linta kneels in front of Zan with his head bowed.

“Don’t bow in front of me,” Zan wraps his hand around Linta’s thin arm and urges him to his feet.

“Will we go into battle soon?” Linta asks.

Zan sees the anticipation on the Antarian’s face, the eagerness in his dark eyes. Linta’s aura glows in a vibrant shade of pink. Zan hates to dampen his enthusiasm, but war is no place for a child.

“I have a project for you,” Zan steers Linta toward the ops table. “See these maps and charts? They contain our latest intel on the Skins; their suspected hiding places, their fire power, their strengths and weaknesses.” Zan lifts an orb from the table and hands it to the boy. “I want you to scan the information into this orb so I can access it from the field.”

“But,” Linta’s aura fades from pink to gray. “I thought you wanted me to bear your gear into battle. You need me to –”

“I need you to stay here,” Zan overrides his protest. He lifts a second orb from the table and affixes it to a clip on his belt. “This information is vital to the battle ahead.”

Disappointment floods the boy’s face, but Zan doesn’t let it sway him. Linta takes the orb to begin his arduous task. Zan watches him for a moment. When he leaves, he’s satisfied the assignment should keep Linta safely behind the lines.

* * * * *

Zan stands in the shadows of the Morrow Hills on the verge of what might be his final battle. The entrances to the caves are barely visible in the halflight, just seemingly empty dark holes in the rock face, but Zan knows better. The enemy resides within. By the time the new sun rises, he hopes the fighting is over, and victory attained.

Zan reaches for the locket around his neck and closes his hand around it. The morning air is silent, even though there are hundreds of Antarians waiting behind him. They won’t move until he gives the word. When he finishes his silent prayer, Zan raises his fist above his head.

The anticipation is thick in the air. When Zan lowers this arm, the landscape explodes with activity. In ancient times on Earth, marching armies made the ground quake and rumble as they advanced. But Antarians don’t possess a human foot, or the same kind of body mass. They scurry and jump using both hands and feet, their bony claw-like extensions making clicking noises on the ground. It’s the only audible sound as the battle begins, and even after three years, it still sends a chill down Zan’s spine. The air rings with it as they swarm over the rocks like an army of ants.

There are no battle cries, no war whoops, no piercing shrieks when they attack. Only thoughts swirling from mind to mind, a cacophony of noise screaming inside Zan’s head. He blocks it out so it won’t drive him insane.

He’s learned to issue orders with his mind, to direct the battle through thought transference instead of his vocal cords. He can mentally jump from one mind to another, to see through another person’s eyes, to monitor the progress of the battle. He tells the right flank to close up ranks; they’re lagging behind and leaving an opening for the enemy. Zan jumps into the fray issuing the only vocal war cry; he’ll take no prisoners today.

He races over the rocks and into the dark caverns inside the Morrow Hills. He can’t see as well as the Antarians, but his eyes adjust quickly to the gloom. His chest heaves from the physical exertion, and from the excitement of battle. It’s what he was born to do. Adrenaline pumps through his veins, air rushes in and out of his lungs, the muscles in his thighs burn as he rapidly advances. The bloodlust rises as he prepares for hand to hand combat.

An energy blast whizzes past his head and impacts behind him. He senses a direct hit to his troops. His mind senses the loss and inside he dies a little bit with them, but he can’t mourn for them now. Tonight, in the privacy of his tent, he will honor all those who have died, when no one is around to see him.

More energy blasts explode in the confined space of the caves, echoing off the walls, tearing apart stone and Antarian flesh. Zan pushes through the dust and smoke, blaster in hand, firing at will. He hits one Skin after another, the thrill of the hunt driving him, the smell of blood in the air, flowing darkly from grey bodies.

The Antarians chase the Skins deeper into the caverns. Resistance, light at first, is picking up now. Lights flare. Blasters explode. Hand to hand combat escalates. Blood flows over the rocks.

Zan stands tall above the Antarians he fights with. He makes an easy target, yet nothing ever seems to touch him. An occasional piece of flying shrapnel hits the skin of his arm, or shoulder, or face, but nothing ever life threatening. It’s as if he’s impervious to the chaos around him. The Antarians hail him as a God. The Skins fear him as a Devil.

Movement to his right catches Zan’s attention, Ava fighting in hand to hand combat with a Skin. She’s no longer the shy, meek girl he brutalized all those years ago, but a woman and a warrior. She strikes a killing blow. She steps away from the body and sweeps her gaze toward Zan, their eyes locking for a moment. An unspoken communication flows between them; the battle is going well, but it isn’t over yet. They move deeper into the caverns.

* * * * *

Two hours later Zan stands over the carnage, lungs heaving, body trembling. The smell of blood fills the air. Bodies litter the ground all around him, but the victory is a hollow one. He kicks over another dead alien but none of them are the one he’s looking for, the leader of the Skins. The alien faces all blend together, but none of them have the distinctive scar that zigzags across the face of his most hated enemy.

Zan moves toward the entrance to the cave, stepping over the bodies that lie in his path. He sees Sul, and Min, both brave soldiers he trained and fought with, now lying in pools of their own blood. Their auras no longer shimmer in the air around them. He feels their loss, but he doesn’t let it show. Many men have died today; many husbands and fathers will not be coming home.

The adrenalin rush of the battle fades, leaving an empty feeling in the aftermath of such carnage. Killing is easy for him, too easy, ingrained in him from the moment of his birth. But he never used to suffer from the guilt he now feels afterwards. He wants the pain and suffering to end.

He can’t let anyone see how he feels, though. They look to him to be strong, to be their leader, to free them from the enemy who has enslaved them. He can’t let them see his shattered soul.

As he nears the mouth of the cavern he sees a crowd has formed. What should be a band of jubilant soldiers celebrating a victory is instead a hushed throng; even the voices in his head are silent.

“Ava?” Zan whispers, momentarily afraid. The augur of Death hangs in the air, seeping into his heart. He pushes through the crowd, pulse pounding, a mantra screaming loudly in his head: ‘Don’t let it be her. Please, don’t let it be her.’

He’s come to realize how much he loves her, like a sister, his only family, his only friend. It can’t be Ava lying on the cavern floor in a pool of her own blood.

The crowd parts revealing a head of golden blonde hair. Relief floods though Zan when he sees that she is fine. He wonders who she’s hovering over, why the crowd is so subdued. Kel stands beside her with a stricken look on his face.

“Ava?” Zan says again, hearing the shaky timbre in his own voice.

Ava turns to face him, with tears streaming down her cheeks. She leans into Kel as she looks at Zan. “I’m sorry. There was nothing I could do.”

“What?” Zan says in confused response, but his eyes are already falling to the body on the ground. The one that Ava couldn’t save. At first he looks like all the others, the same uniform, the same weapons, but Zan recognizes him in an instant. The thin arms, the mottled skin, the boy masquerading as a man. The realization slams into Zan like a physical blow, almost knocking his feet out from underneath him.

“Lin?” Zan says the name through the constriction forming in his throat. He blindly makes his way past Ava and falls to his knees beside the body.

“Lin,” Zan says the name again, almost a sob, as he turns the boy over. The uniform is ill-fitting, a boy trying too soon to be a man. Zan wonders where he got the uniform, not that it matters. The child-like face looks peaceful, as if he’s only sleeping, but the gaping wound in the boy’s chest attests to the truth. Linta’s blood paints the ground red.

“Lin,” Zan presses his hand to the torn and ravaged flesh. His hand glows as he rails against what his mind already knows. “Lin, look at me. Listen to me! Linta, don’t you die on me!”

“Zan,” Ava reaches out to touch him on the shoulder. “There’s nothing –”

“No. NO!” he shakes her off.

The crowd backs off, shocked by Zan’s display. They’ve never seen him act this way before. Zan’s hand glows against a wound that cannot be healed, fights to save a boy already lost.

“Nooo,” Zan lets out a mournful cry, clutching Linta’s broken body to his chest. He rocks him back and forth, pleading to a higher power but his words fall on deaf ears.

“You were supposed to stay in camp,” Zan whispers to the boy. “Why didn’t you stay in camp?”

Antarian voices swirl around in Zan’s head, speculation on where Linta got the uniform, and why he joined the battle, but Zan closes them all out. There’s only one person to blame here, and that’s himself, for bringing Linta here in the first place. He should have sent him to the city where he’d be safe.

Silence descends as Zan rises to his feet carrying the small body in his arms. Linta’s blood stains Zan’s clothes, his hands, his face, but he doesn’t even notice. All Zan knows is that a light has been extinguished, a shining life has ended, and the loss is almost more than he can take.

Zan makes his way out of the cavern, a solitary figure bearing the burden of his guilt in the form of a dead child in his arms. The new sun rises to light his path, but Zan is too cold inside to feel its warmth.




TBC…
Last edited by Breathless on Tue Apr 19, 2005 12:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Afterburn Part 3

Postby Breathless » Mon Jan 24, 2005 12:47 am

Author: Debbi aka Breathless
Category: Zan POV
Rating: Adult

Author note: Carol! So good to see you made it over here!



Afterburn
Part 3



He looks into her dark eyes, so deep and full of love. Her face looks radiant in the candlelight. Glowing. Staring up at him with such desire it takes his breath away. He hovers above her wanting to be inside her.

Body. Heart. Soul. He wants every part of her.

“Zan.”

Her hands caress his face. Her thumb slides along his lower lip. His long hair hangs down but she doesn’t seem to mind it. She never objects when the strands tickle her, or when his whiskers scrape her delicate skin. He wants to kiss her now. He wants to do that so badly. Her fingers slide into his hair. He feels her hand cup the back of his head.

“Come here,” she whispers to him.

A small smile comes to his lips. She pulls him down to her, and when their lips touch, he feels the fires inside him explode. His lips cover hers, needing the hope, the joy, the love she has to offer.

Her hand grazes along his shoulders, his back. Her legs spread wider to accommodate his thighs, his hips. His body responds, silently begging for her to touch him – there – where he needs it the most. He shivers when her nails scrape along his side, his hip, down the chiseled V that leads to his manhood.

His mind screams out for her to touch him, to make him come to life, to make him live. He barely exists when he’s without her.

“Tell me,” she whispers.

He feels her fingers teasing him; touching him everywhere EXCEPT the place he desires it the most. His breathing turns heavy. Harsh. Expectant. He swallows hard.

“Tell you what?” he asks. She’s evil. Beautiful. An angel.

“Tell me what you want.”

Her body feels so warm. So soft. So incredibly arousing. He’s certain she knows what she’s doing to him. But he can’t ask her. He can’t order her. It has to come from her. His body trembles.

Her lips part. Her soft voice speaks.

“Tell me. Tell me what you want. Tell me what you need.”

He looks into her face but hesitates to answer. He wants her to want him. He needs her to know he isn’t like he was before. He won’t force her to love him.

Her hand touches his stomach. His muscles quiver. He feels it in his core.

Her hand moves down, through the coarse hair that surrounds his maleness. He can feel the heat emanating from her, but she withholds what he craves the most. She won’t touch him there.

“Liz. Please.”

“Say it. Tell me.”

The anticipation is pure torture. He wants her. Needs her. Needs to lose himself inside her. To release the emotions that have him tied up in knots. Her nails scrape along his inner thigh, up to the crease where his leg meets his torso.

So close.

Achingly close.

He kisses her. Wants to bite her full lower lip. She’s driving him crazy.

“Tell me. What do you want me to do?”

His mind screams ‘Touch me. Touch me!’

He fights it. He won’t be an animal.

She kisses him. He wants to take her. The way her lips press against his makes his pulse race.

Her kiss turns harder. More insistent. Commanding. No longer a question, but an order.

“Tell me!”

She bites his lower lip. A jolt shoots through him, a primal cry.

He loses control and growls out what he wants. “Touch me! TOUCH ME!”

When she does, he lets out a harsh gasp. Her hand cups his balls, making them tighten and pull up closer to his body. She explores him, the shape and texture of his oh so human body. Large, heavy balls. Thick, swollen shaft. Weeping glanshead. Her palm becomes wet with his desire. He can’t hold back a moan.

“Jesus…”

He buries his face in her throat as she pumps her hand up and down the length of his erection. She knows how to touch him, which spots elicit the greatest response in him.

“What do you want, Zan? Tell me what you want.”

He can’t keep it inside anymore. She’s making him admit his needs. She won’t let him keep them buried.

“I want you. You!”

She rubs his cockhead through her feminine center, coating him with her wetness.

“Liz . . .”

“Does that feel good?” she asks in a breathy whisper.

“Yes,” he chokes. Her hand on him, her wetness coating him, he wants her so badly. Wants to just let go. He’s barely holding on.

“And this?” she draws his cock to her entrance. Her heat surrounds his tip, just the tip, she teases him with just the tip. “Do you want this? Do you want more?”

“Yes,” his muscles quake.

“How much more?”

“All of you. I want all of you.”

“You want inside me?”

“Yes.”

“Deep inside me?”

“Yes!”

Each question inflames him more. The tension inside him is explosive. He’s spent years burying his own needs. Years holding back his emotions. The old Zan took whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it. As an act of penance, the new Zan denies himself everything. But she’s tearing down his defenses, making everything bubble to the surface.

“You want me?”

“Yes!”

“You need me?”

“Yes!”

She releases his cock and spreads her legs wide. An open invitation to take what he wants.

“Then have me.”

He slams into her, burying his cock to the hilt. He pounds into her hard, rough, blindly seeking the release he’s aching for. His fingers gouge into her flesh, pinning her hips down while he violently plows into her slick heat. He has no sense of control, no sense of time or space, no thought except the need to come, to explode inside her, to bathe her inner walls with his semen.

When his orgasm hits he arches his back and cries out like an animal. His seed leaves his body in thick, shuddering spurts, ropes of semen shooting from his cock to fill her. He slams into her repeatedly until he pumps himself dry, then collapses down on top of her, burying his face in the softness of her throat.

His body trembles in the sexual aftermath, until something else takes hold. Her pre-coital torture has successfully stripped him bare, forcing his emotions to the surface. His shoulders begin to shake, not from sexual pleasure, but from the release of pent up pain and anguish.

He clings desperately to her. Her arms hold him close.

“Let it out, Zan. Let it go. I’m here for you.”

Wracking sobs tear through his body. He trembles. Shakes. His tears drip onto her skin.

“He was so young,” his voice cracks. “Too young to die. Too young.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” her soothing voice whispers in his ear.

His face presses into her soft skin. His agony bleeds.

“Why? Why did he follow me? Why didn’t he stay where it was safe? Why couldn’t I save him?”

She has no answers for his questions.

She’s not really there.



Zan whimpers in his sleep. The pillow beneath his cheek is saturated with his tears. The Liz of his dreams is only the voice of his subconscious mind, a means of releasing all the things he keeps buried.

In the morning he will hide behind a stoic face again, detached from the world around him, while inside his heart still bleeds.




TBC …
Last edited by Breathless on Tue Apr 19, 2005 1:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Afterburn, Part 4

Postby Breathless » Sun Jan 30, 2005 6:51 pm

BlueStar wrote:The magic that was Roswell comes back to me every time I see your name, your writing, your avatar and it makes me happy. For that, I am so very grateful to you.


Thank YOU, BlueStar, for your inspiring post. Next time I'm feeling down and thinking about quiting, I'll give you a call!

Thanks to everyone for all your great feedback. A few of you have commented that maybe Zan's dreams of Liz aren't necessarily a good thing, and this is true. In one way they can be cathartic for him, but in another way it can be an obession. He still has a long way to go to come to terms with himself; what he was, what he is now, and what he someday might be.

Thanks for coming along with him on this journey.



Afterburn
Part 4



Zan awakes long before first light. He stares at the ceiling of his tent, unable to go back to sleep, plagued by the memory of Linta’s face. He’s formed few attachments here, a true stranger in a strange land, an outsider with nowhere to belong. But in the short time he knew Linta, he opened his heart to the boy without even realizing it. The pain of losing him is great, the responsibility for his death is nearly crushing.

Zan draws the covers aside and sits on the edge of his cot, resting his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. His eyes feel gritty, his throat raw, his stomach queasy, though he isn’t sick. Not physically, anyway. Emotionally he’s far from well.

He rises to his feet and dresses quickly; he can’t stay within the confines of this tent for another minute. He grabs his trademark leather vest on the way out, unmindful of how cold Antarian nights are. He hurries across the camp, leaving behind Ava and Kel and the soldiers he fights with, but as fast as he moves, he can’t run away from himself.

Hours later, as the new sun rises above the mountains and warms the frigid air, Zan finds himself on the outskirts of the Capital. He ambles into the city without clear direction, drawn by the activity of the people as they go about their daily tasks. He hears the whispers when he’s noticed. Sees their black eyes turn in his direction. Heads bow as he passes by.

They think he’s something that he’s not. They treat him like a king, or a legend, but he’s just a lonely man.

‘Zanta! No!’

Zan hears the voice in his head moments before he feels the impact from behind. He turns in surprise to find a small child, no more than two or three cycles old, firmly attached to the back of his left leg. Its mother rushes across the street in obvious embarrassment. Her aura glows a bright shade of orange.

‘Zanta!’ she scolds the child, trying to peel his fingers away from Zan’s leg. She looks at Zan, mentally stuttering, ‘He’s just excited,’ then tries to honor Zan by speaking aloud.

“My son. First time see you. In flesh. So sorry.”

Zan crouches down in front of the boy. The child’s appearance might not be human, but Zan’s learned to read their alien faces. On Earth, humans feared him. On Antar, people revere him.

“Hi,” Zan offers the boy a smile. “You’re name’s Zanta?”

The child projects a mental image to Zan, of a fierce three year old taking on an army of Skins. The sentiment is clear. Zanta wants to grow up to be just like Zan.

Zan smiles, bemused that this child has been named after him, and honored by it. He doesn’t understand the fascination they have with him, but then, there are many things about this land that he doesn’t understand.

Zanta throws his thin arms around Zan’s neck. The mother frets.

‘Zanta, no! Come away!’

“It’s okay,” Zan says to soothe her agitation. The child is offering just what Zan needs. Innocence and simplicity. He rises to his feet, lifting the boy into his arms. Other children wander over to join them. They have no fear of Zan. They see him for the man he is now, the one who fights to bring them freedom.

At times like these, he’s almost glad to be here. There’s beauty in the red tinged skies and splendor in the purple hills. There are moments when he thinks he could be happy here, if only…

Zan pulls his thoughts back from things he cannot have. He holds the young boy out to his mother.

“You have a beautiful son.”

‘Thank you,’ her aura turns pink as she takes him. A moment later she’s shooing all Zan’s young admirers away. Adult Antarians know what a private man he is and they give Zan his space, but to the children he’s a hero come to life. They grumble as she sends them away.

Zan continues on his way, the amusing antics of the children skittering along the streets lifting his gloomy mood. A part of him realizes this is what he came here for, to bury death, and embrace the living. These alien children do that for him. No matter how much death encompasses the world, it can’t tame their zest for life.

He passes by an open market where food and goods are bartered. The stocks are plentiful today; a testament to the changes Zan has brought to this world. Three years ago, the Skins controlled all commerce and doled out rations at near starvation levels. Now, after years of subjugation, the people are once more free to rebuild their lives. The Skins are on the run, hiding and fearful, the way the Antarians once were.

The streets turn quiet as Zan leaves the marketplace behind him, only the sound of his footsteps ringing on the pavement to keep him company. On a conscious level he has no clear direction, until he rounds a corner and sees a familiar structure ahead of him. Apparently his wanderings weren’t so random after all.

He doesn’t know why he tortures himself coming here. He’d been so hopeful in the beginning, but it all went for naught. He subconsciously reaches for the locket hanging from the chain around his neck. His hand closes around it, protective of all he has left of her. He closes his eyes as memories come flooding back to him . . .


Antar, Day 6

He walks through the streets of the ravaged city seeing destruction everywhere he turns. Buildings nothing more than burned out husks. Alien faces hiding behind shuttered windows. Silence hangs heavy in the air.

Ava walks quietly at his side, taking in the widespread destruction. Her hand grips his arm, clinging to the only human contact in an alien world.

“This is the Capital City?” Zan asks.

In response, their guide gives Zan a mental image of what the city once was, a thriving metropolis with a contented population living peaceful lives. He’s still getting used to the way Antarians communicate, through thought patterns and mental images, but the picture is quite clear. Their planet’s been at war for years.

“Can you hear them?” Ava’s hand tightens on Zan’s arm.

Zan nods his head, coming to a stop in the center of what must have once been the town square. He’s been hearing the voices in his head since they entered the city, words tumbling together making it hard to understand, but now becoming clearer.

‘Is it him?’

‘Is he the one?’


So many voices make his head hurt. He touches his forehead with his hand to take the pain away. As his palm glows a collective gasp rises from the group of aliens that accompany him.

‘You are fatigued?’ a voice cuts through the others.

Zan lowers his hand and focuses on the leader of the group. He’s been calling him Hal, but he’s not sure if that’s his name. They never seem to use them. The other seven let Hal do all the communicating. They’ve been together for several days now, since first contact out on the plains. As incomprehensible as it seems, they act as if they know him, as if they’ve been waiting for his arrival.

“I’m okay,” Zan says. He hasn’t figured out how to respond mentally yet. He wonders if he ever will. In truth, he’s surprised they’re able to communicate at all. They’re different species, from different planets. It makes it all the more curious why they seem to know him.

“Why did you bring me here?” Zan asks.

Hal turns to the lurkers hiding in the rubble. His silent gestures are Zan’s only clue that he’s communicating with them. An image or two flash in Zan’s mind, but he can’t make them out. Too quick and disjointed. The voices start again.

‘Get Luc. Find Luc.’

‘Hurry.’


Movement to the left draws Zan’s attention. A Grey is pushed out into the streets. It slaps back the insistent hands pushing him, then straightens its tattered tunic and faces Zan. The alien takes a deep breath and steps forward.

Zan and Ava exchange quick glances. Ava arches an eyebrow, Zan holds back a laugh. The newcomer’s actions seem so… human.

Hal turns to face Zan again, sending him a mental image of a dignified Grey standing before a crowd giving a speech. The meaning quickly becomes clear for Zan. The newcomer is some kind of official. Or he once was, before the Skins destroyed the city.

The Grey stops in front of Zan. His voice sounds inside Zan’s head. ‘I am Luc. Proctor of the City. Welcome.’

Luc bows his head in a show of respect. Zan mirrors his actions. “My name is Zan.”

Voices explode in Zan’s head again, a multitude all talking at once.

‘Zan.’

‘His name is Zan.’

‘It’s him.’

‘It has to be him.’

‘Zan.’


Zan looks around seeing more faces appear. They step out of the shadows, blinking in the sunlight, moving forward to form a circle around him. He towers over their small grey bodies. Three fingered hands reach out to touch his arm. Zan looks at Ava. They’re touching her blonde hair.

A shadow falls across them. Zan looks up to see an object in the sky, some kind of ship hovering high in the air above them. Hal grabs his arm. The Antarians run in a panic for the shadows.

“What the –” Zan starts in confusion. Hal pulls on his arm as the ship sweeps down and opens fire. The ground quakes from the energy blasts, nearly knocking them off their feet.

Panic rules the street as Antarians run for cover. Hal and the other members of his unit swarm around Zan and Ava to shield them from the line of fire. They race for the protective overhang of a burned out building.

Zan looks back into the street, stunned by the sight of such massive destruction. The Antarians have no weapons, no means of fighting back. They’re like lambs being slaughtered. The screams in his head are overwhelming.

“Zan,” Ava grabs his arm. He follows her line of sight to see a small figure sitting in the middle of the street – a child – dirt streaks on its grey skin, black eyes wide and frightened. A figure runs toward it, Zan hears her screams in his head and somehow knows it’s the child’s mother, but she’ll never make it in time. The ship swoops down, firing right at it.

Instincts drive his actions. Zan flings his arm out, pointing his palm at the child.

The ground shakes as the ship’s energy blast explodes, obscuring the street with a brightness that’s almost blinding. A mother’s agonized wail echoes through Zan’s mind. He sees her collapse to the ground in grief.

The ship suddenly ceases its attack. It hovers in the air above them like a malignant eye. When the smoke and dust clears, a collective gasp arises. The child sits unharmed on the ground inside a shimmering green bubble.

Zan closes his hand, drawing the energy back into his body. The shield retreats. As mother tearfully reunites with child, Zan feels a hundred eyes turn on him. They look at him in wonder and awe, a legend come to life. But they aren’t the only ones who witnessed it.

The ship zooms in on Zan. He feels pinpricks on his skin as it scans him, then it shoots upward into the sky and disappears. Hal mentally tells Zan what he already suspects.

‘They know you’re here now.’


The orb on Zan’s belt gives off a familiar vibration, bringing him out of his memories. He knows who it is even before he engages the holographic image. He activates the orb, showing no surprise at the face that appears in the air before him.

“Where the hell are you?”

“Good morning,” Zan smirks at Ava’s stern reflection. She’s a no nonsense kind of girl. She gets right to the point.

“Why did you leave without telling anyone?” Ava demands. Her hands clench her slim hips, showing just how irritated she is. But the color of her aura tells him something else, too. She’s worried about him.

“You shouldn’t be wandering around alone without protection!” Ava huffs. “Where are you? I’ll send Kel –”

“I’m a big boy,” Zan reminds her. “I don’t need a bodyguard.”

His gaze sweeps over the peaceful city. He feels no threat here. He realizes too late that through the orb she can see exactly where he is. He sees the tension enter her face.

“You’re in the Capital?” Ava asks. “Is that the DOSA behind you?”

Zan doesn’t say anything. She knows exactly where he is. And now that he sees the Department of Scientific Advancement building, he knows his trek here wasn’t just idle wanderings. His subconscious mind brought him here, still clinging to the elusive dream.

“Zan,” Ava sighs, as if she’s disappointed in him.

“It’s not what you think –” Zan starts to say, but Ava isn’t listening.

“Kel and I are coming to get you.”

“Ava, don’t –” Zan says in protest but he’s only talking to air. She’s ended the transmission. There’ll be hell to pay when she gets here, but the draw of the DOSA building is too strong for him to fight. This is the place of his greatest hopes, and his deepest disappointments.

Now that he’s here, he can’t turn away.



TBC…
Last edited by Breathless on Sun Jan 30, 2005 7:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Breathless » Sun Feb 06, 2005 6:58 pm

Author: Debbi aka Breathless
Category: Zan
Rating: Adult

LTL wrote: . . . his burgeoning love of the Antarian geography, which was just plain alien to him at the start, shows that he's becoming a true resident of this planet.


I'm glad you noticed this. When Zan was on Earth it never felt like home, even though his physical appearance was "normal". On Antar his physical appearance is very different from the native population, but he does seem to be bonding to the planet.

Some of you have expressed concerns about a possible Liz clone, and the inherent creepiness that goes with that. Your concerns are very valid. Let's see how this plays out ...


Afterburn
Part 5



Zan stands in front of the DOSA building with his hand on the door. The surface of it is smooth, unmarred, starkly different from the first time he saw it.

When he enters the building the sights and sounds are at once familiar. Antarian scientists fill the labs, more now than in the early days after first arrival. Three years ago, only a handful of scientists worked secretly within these walls, searching for a way to retaliate against their conquerors. Now the lab overflows with activity.

But in the beginning, it was very different. The memory of his first visit here floods over him…


Antar, Day 9

“What is this?” Zan looks around the ravaged room. Laboratory equipment lies in ruins on the floor. Glass shards from beakers and test tubes crunch under his boots. What must have once been spotless walls are now scorched and burned.

Luc, Proctor of the Capital City, steps forward from the entourage that is accompanying Zan. He projects his thoughts into Zan’s mind.

‘You asked to see the most advanced lab we have. This is what is left of it. The Skins took what they wanted and destroyed what was left. Each time we try to rebuild, they come.’

The image is clear to Zan. The Skins have the Antarian people living in fear. Each attempt to rebuild is met with harsh punishment and death.

“And the scientists?” Zan asks as he wanders deeper into the lab. He and Ava have been in the Capital City for three days now, assessing their strengths and weaknesses. Of the first, there are very few. Only the Antarians strength of character has kept them alive.

Luc indicates a rag tag group of seven milling together across the room. ‘They’re all we have.’

“That’s it?” Zan can’t hide his obvious shock. They look like the Antarian equivalent of teenagers, still with mottled skin. “In the entire city, only these seven?”

“Eight.”

At the sound of the unfamiliar voice, Zan turns around to face an Antarian female, small in stature but with a glowing aura. He can’t judge her age, but he gets an immediate sense of wisdom and strength. She walks toward him with her hand outstretched, surprising him by speaking to him directly.

“My name is Mira.”

Her three fingered hand encompasses his, startling Zan with the human gesture. She’s the first Antarian to shake his hand. Her next words surprise him even more.

“You probably don’t remember, but this is where you were created …”


Movement from the right snaps Zan back to the present. He turns to see a familiar face. He hasn’t seen her in months, but her aura is as individual as a fingerprint. He has no problem recognizing her.

“Hello, Zan.”

“Hello Mira,” his face softens. “It’s good to see you again.”

“It’s been a long time,” Mira audibly responds. The implant in her throat allows easy communication between them. “I thought we would see you before now.”

“It hasn’t been that long,” Zan counters. “A few months? Maybe a year?”

“More like two,” Mira corrects him.

“After…” Zan begins, then falters. Some things are better left unsaid. “I thought it best I stay away.”

“Much has happened,” Mira tells him.

Her face looks as nondescript as all the others, gray hairless skin, large impenetrable black eyes, but there’s something in her aura that makes his stomach tighten. She’s a born scientist, methodical and precise, yet her aura is dancing with colors.

‘We thought it best to wait until you returned. Come.”

“Until I returned?” Zan asks in confusion. He looks around, aware of all the black eyes watching him. He should be used to it by now, all the alien faces staring at him, but after more than three years here it’s still disconcerting. He doesn’t like being the center of attention. He recognizes a few auras, young scientists he met before, but most of them are new. He’s not surprised Mira has filled the lab with a new generation. She’s an excellent teacher.

“Come,” Mira urges him again. “There’s much to show you.”

Zan falls into step behind her, letting her lead him deeper into the lab. As he follows, he remembers their first meeting . . .


Antar, Day 9

Zan stands beside Ava amid the ruins of what once was a thriving laboratory.

“The work was done right here,” Mira waves an elongated arm over the rubble. “I used to come here just to watch my father. He had a brilliant mind…”

“Had?” Zan asks. He sees Mira’s black eyes cloud over for a moment. When she refocuses, Zan reads the sadness in her aura.

“My father headed the team of scientists that discovered the way to combine Antarian and Human DNA.”

Zan looks around trying to picture how it must have once looked. He wants to hear it now, the real reason why he was made, straight from the source.

“For what purpose?” he asks.

“Exploration. Scientific advancement. We’d been studying Earth for years. When the decision was made to make first contact, we thought it would be less threatening if the first team appeared human. It took years to cross the genetic barrier between the two species, and just as we achieved success, the Skins invaded. They stormed the lab. Took everything.”

“Me?” Zan asks, then quickly expands his question to include Ava. “Us?”

“Yes,” Mira nods. “They took everything associated with your creation; the notes, your pods, everything, including my father. I never saw him again.”

“I’m sorry,” Ava offers.

Mira studies Ava’s face for a moment before saying, “It was long ago. I’m glad his final experiment worked.”

“Final experiment?” Ava asks.

Mira lifts an elongated finger to Ava’s temple. “You’re different from Zan. You weren’t meant to return here.” Ava darts a look at Zan, then lowers her head. Mira nods. “I understand. There are no absolutes. Random selection. Your counterpart stayed on Earth.”

At the mention of Earth Zan stiffens. His protective posture resurfaces. He states bluntly, “Tell us what you know.”

Mira’s aura sparkles. “Look at you. My father was right. You’re just what we need.”

Zan’s brow furrows. She’s talking in riddles.

“Yes, I’m sorry,” Mira quickly continues. “Forgive me. I don’t have the proper words to give you.”

Before Zan can speak again, Mira sends him a series of images. The lab as it once was, vital and alive; scurrying with activity centered around two pulsating sets of pods. Four life forces in each. The scenes change quickly to something dark; Skins attacking, burning everything, killing and maiming. A young female hides in a corner trying not to be seen. Zan recognizes her as Mira.

“They took your pods, my father, the other scientists. I was too young to be of any importance to them. Later, those of us who were left received word of what the Skins intended to do with you. Soldiers for their interplanetary conquests. My father was forced to work for them, but he had a plan. He’d seen the Granilith, and the possible futures it revealed. He went with the only choice he saw that gave us a chance to survive. Let one set of pods undergo programming by the Skins while keeping the second set pure, but linked to each other. The first set would learn to be soldiers, taught by masters of warfare. The second set would be protected to keep their…”

Mira’s voice trails off as she searches for a word. Zan provides it for her.

“Their humanity?”

“Yes,” Mira’s aura flares brightly. “After hatching, the two sets were meant to join, one learning from the other through their link.”

“And then?” Zan asks, but he already knows the answer. One set would stay on Earth to protect it. The other would return to Antar to free it.

“Yes,” Mira confirms what she sees in his mind. “Except …”

Zan feels a heavy weight on his shoulders. He sags under what might have been. “Except you hadn’t planned for the crash. The pods were separated. The Skins’ programming took hold in me before my link opened with Max.”

Zan stares at Mira wondering if she has any idea of what they’ve done to him. He’s a soldier, programmed to kill, inbred with the need, the want, the desire to kill, yet afflicted with a conscience. He can’t control it when the bloodlust rises, but in the aftermath he suffers.

“After the war …” Mira offers a vague promise.

“Yes,” Zan lowers his gaze. After the war, when his purpose has been served. But what place will he hold in a peaceful world? He was made for war, raised for war, programmed to kill and to like it. His humanity came too late to save him.

Or did it? There is one thing he wants above all others. One thing that can soothe the beast inside him. But it’s the one thing he can’t have, or can he? His hand reaches for the locket that hangs around his neck –


“Zan? ZAN?”

“What?” Zan snaps back to the present. He releases the locket he’s holding onto.

Mira’s aura takes on a brilliant glow, her way of smiling at him. “Are you listening?” she teases.

“Sorry,” he responds. He can’t help it though. This place holds so many memories.

“As I was saying, when the new sun appeared, the brightness was nearly blinding for us, but through genetic engineering we’ve come up with a solution. Future generations will be born with an inner eyelid to filter out the harmful rays.”

“Like built in sunglasses?” Zan asks. He guards his thoughts to keep them private.

“Something like that,” her aura smiles again. “Eventually, we’ll adapt.”

“You’ve done good work here,” Zan says, watching the scientists go about their tasks. It’s satisfying to know his pursuit of the Skins has allowed them to proceed with their work unfettered. The Antarian people will benefit, even if he doesn’t.

No one can give him the only thing he wants. He learned that two years ago …


Antar, Day 379

“Where are you going?”

“Into the City,” Zan jerks his boots on and rises from the edge of the cot. The locket around his neck clinks against his bare chest as he pulls a clean t-shirt over his head. He tugs it down and grabs his leather vest on the way out.

“Why?” Ava follows him into the waning afternoon light. “Why did we camp here?”

“Because,” Zan answers curtly, not breaking his stride.

“Because?” she parrots. “But Hal’s battalion is expecting us. We still have hours –”

“He’ll wait.”

“Zan,” Ava grabs for his arm. “Let’s talk about this.”

“No,” he shakes her off. His long strides carry him through the camp. “I have to see Mira.”

Ava’s pace falters. When she speaks, the icy tone of her voice makes Zan stop in his tracks.

“You did it, didn’t you?”

Zan reaches for the locket around his neck. His hand closes protectively around it. With his back to Ava he says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

A breeze blows strands of long hair across Zan’s face. In the distance he sees the protective bubble that shields the Capital City from aerial attack. It’s a recent invention, one inspired by Zan’s own energy shield, and adapted for use on a grand scale. If they can do that in such a short period of time, he clings to the hope they can do more.

“You gave them a sample of her hair, didn’t you?”

Zan’s back stiffens, giving Ava the only answer she needs. She sees his fingers curl into fists at his sides.

“Zan –”

He whirls on her with fire in his eyes. “Stay out of this!”

For a moment Ava stares at him speechless. He hasn’t treated her like this in months. It only takes a moment for the guilt of his actions to come crashing down on him, but he can’t let it sway him. He clings to the only hope that keeps him going.

“Go back to camp,” he orders.

“It’s not right!” Ava blurts out, torn between hurt and anger. “They have work to do. Important work. They’re trying to rebuild their lives here!”

“And what about me?” his eyes burn with an intensity she only sees when he’s in the heat of battle. He hits his fist against his chest. “What about what I want!”

Ava looks at him with her piercing blue eyes. “This war isn’t about you.”

He blinks at her, knowing she’s right, but he can’t let go of the dream. He’ll do anything – anything – to hear Her voice again.

“How long?” Ava asks. Her chin sticks out, challenging him to answer.

“Six weeks,” he admits. He forces himself to take deep, even breaths. He doesn’t like fighting with her.

Despite herself, Ava’s features soften. She sees how much he’s hurting. “Was it successful?”

Zan swallows hard. He bites his lower lip before he answers. “I don’t know yet.”

“Zan,” Ava crosses the ground to stand in front of him. Her fingers touch his arm, slide down to take his hand. His fingers curl around hers. “The lab was destroyed. The equipment ruined. Mira said they couldn’t …”

“I know that,” his head dips forward. For a moment he looks like a lost child.

“Maybe that’s a good thing.”

His head lifts up again, jaw clenching, not wanting to hear what she’s about to say. She says it anyway.

“It’s not right, Zan. You can’t play God.”

He steps back, shutting Ava out, and pulls his hand away from hers. He turns toward the city, leaving Ava behind, to find what fate has waiting for him.

An hour later he strides into the DOSA building searching for Mira. The rubble is gone; the soot covered walls are painted over. Under Zan’s leadership, the Capital City has become a fortress. For the first time in over 50 years, the Skins can’t touch them here.

Zan searches though the labs, unconcerned with the experiments being conducted, he’s only interested in one. When he finds Mira he rushes toward her.

“Zan!” Mira exclaims when she sees him. “You’re here! We heard you were headed for the southern quadrant.”

“I am,” Zan tells her. “But first . . . I need to know. It’s been weeks.” He gathers his courage to ask the most important question of his life. “Did it work?”

Mira’s aura darkens.

“Zan,” she begins to shake her head.

“Do you need more of her DNA?” he asks, reaching for the locket and its precious cargo. He feels his stomach pitch and churn, tied up in knots by Mira’s disconcerted aura. “I’ll give you anything. Anything you need.”

He knows his voice sounds desperate, but he can’t stop. He’s been in the thick of battle for months. He’s killed too many men, watched too many others die. He needs something to hold on to, to preserve his humanity.

“I’m sorry,” Mira looks up into his tortured eyes. “I wish I could give this to you, but I can’t.”

“What do you mean, you can’t?” his voice rises. He’s on the ragged edge. “You made me. You made others like me.” He tears the locket from his neck and opens it, offering all that he holds dear, all that he has left.

“It won’t help,” Mira closes her elongated fingers around his hand. “The technology is lost. The Skins took everything. Notes. Files. All the records. We can’t replicate the process.”

“But you did it once,” he insists. “You can do it again!”

“I told you before; it took us years the first time. The scientists responsible for creating the original cloning process were either killed or taken prisoner when the Skins invaded. Unless you can recover the records, I can’t guarantee we’ll ever be able to duplicate the process.”

“But you were there!” his agitation makes his voice grow loud.

“I was just a child,” Mira’s aura remains calm and soothing. “I’m sorry Zan. I wish we could help you, but we can’t bring her to life for you.”

The impact of Mira’s words tear through Zan’s heart. His one hope, his only dream, is nothing but a fantasy. He’ll never feel her soft skin again, or kiss her tender lips, or hold her in the dark of night, or watch over her as she wakes. The loss of her is a crushing blow, something he’ll never get over …


Zan comes out of the memory flash feeling just as devastated as he did two years ago when he learned his dreams would never be realized. A part of him died that day, knowing with certainty he would always be alone.

He thinks back to the recent skirmish, and the men left dying on the battlefield, and envies them. At least their agony is over. For him it never ends.


TBC…
Last edited by Breathless on Tue Apr 19, 2005 1:16 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Breathless » Sun Feb 13, 2005 8:27 pm

Author: Debbi aka Breathless
Category: Zan
Rating: Adult


Carol000 wrote:So Ava was never meant to return? I'm confused by that. I thought one group was meant to and not the other, unless you're saying that Tess and Ava were switched, which we've hypothesized for years.


Yes, Carol, in the mythology of THIS story, Ava should have been with the Roswell gang, and Tess should have been with Zan.



Afterburn
Part 6



“Tired?”

“Hmmm,” Zan says, drowsy and content. Her fingers trace circles on his bare chest, the weight of her head rests against his shoulder.

It’s a perfect moment, lying together in the afterglow of their lovemaking.

“Now that the war’s over,” she touches the swirling tattoo above his left nipple, “what are you planning to do with all your free time?”

“Sleep?” his lips curl upward in a smile. No more death. No more pain. No more endless nights spent away from her. He has everything he wants now. Peace. Freedom. Liz.

“And then?” she lifts her head from his shoulder to look into his eyes.

His fingers brush her cheek, trail down her throat. He lowers his hand to cup her breast with his smile turning seductive. “More of this…”

He thinks she looks beautiful tonight, even more so than normal. Her skin glows, her hair shines, being with her fills him with happiness. He lifts his head to kiss her, but she stops him with a fingertip pressed to his lips.

“If you could have one thing,” she asks, staring into his eyes. “What would it be?”

His answer comes without hesitation. “You.”

“You already have me,” she reminds him. “What else?”

“Nothing,” he tells her. “My life would be perfect.”

“Are you sure?” she asks.

There’s something in her eyes, her smile, a secret she isn’t sharing. For a fleeting moment he worries, but then she takes his hand and presses it against her stomach and everything changes. He feels something, something that wasn’t there before. His eyes open wide.

“Can you feel her?”

“Can I…?” he says in a shaky voice. Beneath his hand he feels a presence, a new life growing. “Are you…?”

When she nods her head, Zan doesn’t know what to call the sudden rush of emotions that sweep over him. A baby? She’s having a baby? His baby? He’s been a soldier all his life. Death and dying is all he’s known. It’s an incredible feeling to think he’s capable of creating life, not just taking it. But then the rest of what she said sinks in. He sits upright, stuttering, “Did – did you say . . . her?”

She nods, but his reaction makes her smile falter a little. “Are you disappointed?”

He stares at where his hand presses against her stomach. A girl. She’s pregnant with his daughter. A surge of fierce protectiveness comes over him, along with the most pure feeling of love he’s ever known. In his mind he can even see her, long dark hair like her mother’s, honey brown eyes like his, her tiny little hand wrapped around his finger –

“Zan?”

His eyes snap back to her face, seeing the uncertainty there.

“Disappointed?” he gawks at her. “God, no, I’m not disappointed!” He sweeps her into his arms, nearly crushing her to his chest.

No more war. No more battlefields. No more dying. A new life beginning –



“Any results on the latest round of cultures?” Mira asks a young technician, yanking Zan out of his daydream. It’s not the first time that he’s had it, and it probably won’t be the last. With the war winding down, and victory imminent, he doesn’t know what he’ll do with his life. He only knows that what he wants is something he’ll never have.

He thinks maybe it will be better if he dies a warrior’s death, succumbing to a mortal injury after slaying his most hated enemy during the heat of battle. It would be an honorable death, and preferable to the kind of life that he foresees, alone and unneeded. He’ll tell Ava to spread his ashes over the battlefield, to sow the ground with all that’s left of his mortal remains. And maybe, in due time, nature will reclaim the ravaged land, and life will take hold, the only kind of life he’s capable of giving.

“Zan?”

He shakes off his wandering thoughts, silently scolding himself for being so unfocused. He covers his emptiness with a false smile, something he’s grown accustomed to wearing. He looks at Mira and says, “Yes, I’m listening. Please continue.”

“First, as you know,” Mira shoots him a look to make sure he’s still with her, “we had to contend with the climatic changes that developed when the Granilith went supernova. The mean temperature of the air rose by several degrees, melting a portion of the icepacks, raising the level of the oceans and flooding coastal areas. Fortunately, our population centers are inland. We’re not an aquatic species.”

“Do you think it will burn itself out?” Zan asks. In all his time on Antar he’s had communication with Max Evans exactly once, shortly after first arrival when he was contacted through the communication orb and informed of the fate of the Skins armada. He’s never tried to contact Earth since. The sight of Liz standing beside Max in the holographic display, holding his hand, so obvious in where her loyalties lay, was too painful to repeat.

“Unknown,” Mira says in answer to his question. Though the scientists on Antar know the true origin of the new sun, the people prefer to see it as an omen; it appeared in the sky when Zan first arrived here, heralding in a new age, a brighter future in every sense of the word. Zan’s heard the whispered stories; that the sun burned across the heavens to deliver him to Antar. He’s even heard his own men around the campfire extolling about his invincibility on the battlefield, and his miraculous healing powers. He knows there’s nothing ‘miraculous’ about him, but the people need something to believe in, and so his legend grows.

“The Granilith was immensely powerful,” Mira continues, “but it will be many cycles before we’re capable of going into space again to study it. We have our hands full here.”

Zan nods his head, knowing all the challenges facing Antar. The population, once in the millions, after years of subjugation and slavery now stands at a fraction of that. The Skins have decimated the once a thriving planet, leaving much of the landscape barren. The climatic changes of the last 3 years have only added to their burden.

“We’ve had to make adjustments,” Mira tells Zan as she shows him around the lab. “Some of our primary food sources couldn’t acclimatize to the new environment, but others have flourished. We’re adapting.”

“You’re good at that,” Zan says, a comment to his view of the Antarian people as a whole. While other civilizations were annihilated by the Skins, Antar is rising from the ashes.

“Yes, we are,” Mira pats his hand. The color of her aura suggests she thinks Zan is being too humble; the Antarian race could never have survived without him, but she knows him well enough not to voice it. Such talk makes him uncomfortable. Instead, she continues an oration of the lab’s status. “We’ve been working on speeding up the gestational period in our primary food sources. With the population rebounding, we don’t have adequate reserves. Through genetic manipulation we’ve developed a means to drastically increase crop production, while improving yield. In some varieties we’ve been able to cut the gestational time by half, or even more.”

Zan studies the labs they pass by. He’s gotten reports over the months and years of how they’ve put things back together, but for his own sanity, he’s stayed away. Watching it in action now, he knows he won’t understand the experiments they’re working on, so he doesn’t bother asking.

“Things have changed a lot.”

“Changed?” Mira says cryptically. “Yes, they certainly have.”

They come to a stop next to an unmarked doorway. In the few times he’s been here, he can’t remember being in this section of the lab before. Mira’s long fingered hand lifts toward a security panel to gain access to the room beyond. Zan stops her.

“Mira, wait. I want – about last time – before, when I –”

Mira’s hand curls around his. Her fathomless black eyes stare up at him. “What are you trying to say, Zan?”

Zan lets out a slow breath. She’s as direct as always.

“Last time I was here, I said things I shouldn’t have. Ava accused me of being selfish and demanding, and she was right. I put my own desires above everything else. That was wrong.”

It’s never been easy for him to admit his mistakes, but Mira appears unfazed. She seems to harbor no ill will against him. He hears a teasing quality in her tone as she cocks her head and says, “Are you apologizing?”

Zan lets out a small laugh. “I guess I am.”

“There is no need,” Mira tells him. “You wanted something we couldn’t provide you. At least not then.”

“Not … then?” Zan asks hesitantly.

Mira’s hand presses against the security panel next to the door. Zan’s pulse escalates as she leads him inside. She stops beside a glass panel wall, the room beyond bathed in shadows.

“Your arrival here caused many changes, Zan. You freed us from enslavement by the Skins. You brought life to a world that was dying. Ava might have thought your demands harsh, but not us. We failed you the first time, but we never stop trying.”

Zan stares at her, not quite understanding.

“What’s the one thing you want above all others?” Mira asks him.

He knows his response should be altruistic. World peace. The end of the Skins. A return to prosperity for a gentle people. But there’s only one true answer to the question she asks him. God help him, even after more than three years, he can’t forget her.

Mira’s aura shines.

The light in the room beyond the glass wall brightens. It’s a room like all the others, filled with equipment and test tubes and scientific devices Zan can’t pronounce the names of, but he doesn’t see any of those things. There’s only one image that fills his vision. A pod hovers in the center of the room, condensation obscuring much of its contents, but revealing enough to make Zan’s heart catch. A petite figure suspended inside, eyes closed, quiet in repose, the spill of her dark hair floating around her beautiful face.

Zan steps up to the glass wall, his nose only inches from it, his hands trembling as he stares at her, whispering the name of his beloved.

“Liz.”

The girl he dreams of.

The love he can’t let go of.

Alive again.

“How?” he asks Mira, still reeling from the shock of it. He can’t take his eyes off the slumbering beauty.

“Luck,” Mira answers, “or maybe destiny. After your last visit here, we didn’t want to fail you, but we lacked the expertise to give you what you wanted. It was only by accident, or maybe through divine guidance, that led me to my father’s notes.”

Mira leads Zan into the lab. He stands before the pod on shaking legs, mere inches from the membrane that separates him from Liz. He wonders if her hair is as soft as he remembers, like silk strands falling through his fingers.

Or if her skin is as warm and vibrant.

Or her lips as sweet.

Her complexion looks so fair, like ivory. Her dark lashes rest against her cheeks. Her face is relaxed, smooth, no lines of worry or stress to mar her beauty. He wonders if she dreams.

“Is she … will she …?”

He’s not sure what he’s trying to ask. Is she the girl he remembers? Will she know him? Will her eyes ever open and look at him?

He turns to Mira, almost afraid to ask if he’s dreaming. “Is she real?”

“As real as you are,” Mira studies the slumbering beauty with her usual scientific detachment.

“You said it was impossible,” Zan returns his attention to the inhabitant inside the pod. He touches the membrane that separates him from her; it gives beneath his hand, warm and vibrating with life. He feels a pulse through the artificial womb.

“What you asked for two years ago was impossible,” Mira tells him. “We were only just getting the lab functioning again. We were understaffed and overworked, and the threat of the Skins was still strong. In fact, it was during one of their raids when we were hiding out in the lower levels that we stumbled across my father’s hidden files. He made backups of everything and sealed them in the walls.”

“The cloning process?” Zan tears his eyes away from Liz to look at Mira. At her nod his face grows pensive. He turns back to the figure in the pod. “But, she . . . I was in the pod for years. How long will she . . .?”

“As I told you Zan, we’ve had a breakthrough in shortening gestational periods. Our work on subject A led to improvements across the board, in both flora and fauna.”

“Subject A?”

For the first time Mira’s aura takes on an embarrassed glow. She bows her head. “Forgive me. We didn’t presume to give her a name. We felt that honor belonged with you.”

Zan feels his trembling slowly subside. The shock of seeing her is sinking in, becoming real, the possibilities hitting home. He has her back now. He no longer has to settle for just dreams and memories.

And this time, Max Evans doesn’t stand between them.

“When will she wake up?” Zan asks with growing excitement.

“That I can’t tell you,” Mira admits. “She’s maturing at an accelerated rate, at least physically, but this is new technology. It could be days, or months, or even years. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

“And what about her mind?” he asks. He wants her to be just as he remembers her, the same sharp mind, the same gentle nature, only this time, with eyes just for him.

“We’ve programmed her neural receptors for basic skillsets like language and speech. When she hatches she’ll be able to feed and clothe herself, and have a basic understanding of the world around her. But in many ways she’ll be like a newborn. She’ll need someone to teach –”

“I will,” Zan says without hesitation. His future suddenly has a clear direction.

“We can program –”

“No,” Zan cuts Mira off. “No programming.”

He doesn’t want her tainted by forced behavior or manipulated memories, like he was. He wants her pure, innocent, the way he remembers her. He’ll teach her everything she needs to know about life, and the world they live in.

For the first time in his miserable existence, he has a future to look forward to, and someone to share it with. He refuses to think about any other possibilities.




TBC …
Last edited by Breathless on Tue Apr 19, 2005 1:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Afterburn, Part 7

Postby Breathless » Sat Feb 19, 2005 5:41 am

Author: Debbi, aka Breathless
Category: Zan
Rating: Adult


Author Note: There’s one thing I want to note before I post this next part. In following the feedback, I see two camps forming. On one side are the people that find it objectionable or morally wrong for Zan to clone Liz. On the other side are the ones who want Zan to find happiness with this Liz, and find nothing wrong with him using the same science that created him to find a mate for himself. After all, he isn’t going to find the love of his life in an Antarian woman who is 3 feet tall and green – er, make that grey, with big black eyes and bald, and with fingers that are 12 inches long, give or take an inch.

But in all this talk, no one has voiced any objection to Ava’s relationship to Kel, and the fact that Kel takes the human form of Kyle Valenti when he’s around her. As a shapeshifter, Kel can take on any form he wants, and he chooses to look like Kyle, someone who Ava found a friend in back on Earth, and yes, possibly even felt an attraction towards.

True, the circumstances are different, Kel CHOOSES to look like Kyle, and isn’t being forced into anything. Lis’s clone, on the other hand, is a blank slate at this point. And the fact remains, clone or no clone, Liz – or at least some semblance of her – is alive and growing in the pod. Her future is yet to be determined …



Afterburn
Part 7



Zan watches the gentle rise and fall of her breast, the pulse point in her neck, her eyes darting beneath her lids, mesmerized by every little movement Liz makes. Her hair floats on unseen currents inside the artificial womb, obscuring her face at times, revealing it at others, a sight he still can’t believe he’s seeing.

“Does she ever open her eyes?” he asks, darting a look over his shoulder at Mira.

“Not yet,” she tells him.

Zan touches the pod with his hand again, delighting in the reaction it elicits. “Did you see that?!”

“See what?” Mira tears her eyes away from the array of medical devices she’s scanning.

“When I touched the pod she moved towards me!” Zan's enthusiasm bubbles over in his voice. His hand moves to mirror his words, touching the pod, nearly shouting when it happens again.

“See?!” he swings his gaze to Mira again, asking with unveiled excitement, “Do you think she recognizes me?”

“She can’t see you, Zan.”

“I know,” Zan turns his gaze back to the pod. “But maybe she feels me.”

“The warmth of your hand?” Mira ponders the possibilities. “Yes, I’m sure she senses you.”

“Do you think she can hear my voice?” Zan asks in unconcealed worship.

“Yes,” Mira indulges him. “I’m sure she can.”

Zan’s face turns thoughtful, even wistful. “On Earth, mothers sing to their unborn babies.”

Mira’s aura turns a shade of blue. She’s not sure of his meaning.

“I read somewhere that it helps them bond,” he continues. After a lengthy pause he tears his gaze away from the pod and turns to Mira. His brow furrows as if he’s troubled. “I don’t know how to sing.”

“You don’t have to sing to her,” Mira counsels. “Just talk to her.”

“But what should I say?” He’s never felt so vulnerable before, but he can’t help it. What he does in this room may be the most important thing that ever happens in his life. He’s being given a second chance.

“Just be yourself.”

“Myself,” Zan echoes, but the thought doesn’t reassure him. He’s a murderer and an assassin. A programmed killer with a body count in the thousands. Skins, humans, even two of his own podmates, all dead at his hands. It’s all he knows, all he’s good at, but he can’t tell her about that.

“Zan, how did you get here today?”

He frowns at Mira, puzzled by the change of subject. “I came across the southern tip of the Solidin Plateau.”

“Tell her about your journey,” Mira suggests. “What it’s like here, or what Earth is like, or whatever you want to talk about. The subject isn’t important. She’ll hear you.”

Zan’s face brightens. He talks to her in his dreams all the time; it shouldn’t be too hard to talk to her for real. He walks a circle around the pod soaking in the sight of her.

Her body is that of a fully developed human female, with porcelain skin and dark hair he isn’t sure the length of. It floats in the warm fluid that surrounds her, but he thinks when it’s straight and dry it might hang half way down her back. He likes it that way, long and silky, or wavy around her face, or even when it was up, showing off her beautiful neck, but ultimately the style of her hair is unimportant. He just wants her. He leans forward when he notices a mole below her shoulder blade, and then another near her spine, birthmarks he remembers from before, making it hit home that it really is her.

She floats with her knees drawn upwards and her arms close together, almost like in prayer. If he was a religious man he’d beg the deity to make her open her eyes so he could see her, so he could look inside her soul and form the connection he craves, but he doesn’t believe in God.

Completing the circle, he stands face to face with her again, with only the membrane of the pod between them. He studies every inch of her, falling deeper and deeper under her spell, until he sees it. Or rather, it’s what he doesn’t see. He turns to Mira with a knot of apprehension forming.

“Something’s wrong.”

Mira’s aura darkens as she studies the mechanical devices hooked up to the pod. After a minute she returns to her normal healthy glow. “Everything appears to be working fine.”

“No, look,” Zan points towards Liz’s face. “It’s not there.”

“What’s not there?” Mira peers closer.

“The scar,” Zan scowls as a curtain of hair once more obscures Liz’s features. He uses his powers to make the currents inside the pod part her hair to reveal her face again. “Look. There, above her left eye. There’s supposed to be a scar there, but it’s not –”

“Relax,” Mira makes a noise that resembles a laugh. Zan looks like he’s ready to tear into the pod. She touches his arm to stop him but he doesn’t seem to notice.

“Zan,” Mira says his name to get his attention. “Scars are formed from injuries, but she’s never been injured.”

The truth of it begins to sink in, making Zan pull in a deep breath. She’s Liz, but not Liz. Her physical body is the same, but how much of her spirit was born in her, and how much was learned? Will she be reborn as the Liz he loves, or someone different? The latter is something he doesn’t want to contemplate. She’s a gift. A blessing. It’s all he’ll allow himself to think about.

Mira picks up a silver orb from a nearby counter and scans the pod. A blue beam tracks downward across Liz’s naked body, from the top of her head to the tip of her toes. Zan can’t decipher the 3 dimensional holographic symbols the orb emits into the air, but evidently Mira doesn’t have any problem.

“All her vital signs look good,” Mira seems satisfied with what she sees. She’s about to set the orb down when Zan stops her.

“Wait,” Zan kneels down in front of the pod, touching a faint inscription on the lower front quadrant; a word someone carved into the surface and then apparently attempted to remove. He takes the orb from Mira and shines it on it, the blue beam making the word stand out. He looks up at Mira.

“Forgive us,” Mira lowers her head in an act of contrition. “A junior technician presumed to apply a label, not understanding that honor resides solely with you. He only thought to please you.”

Zan turns his gaze back to the pod, smiling at the familiar looking word. They might understand the English language, and even speak it, mostly with the aid of translators embedded in their throats, but they still haven’t mastered how to write it. To them, the entity floating in the pod is a “subject”, a scientific experiment. They’ve identified the subject by labeling her with the name Zan remembers her by, with an added qualifier at the end. Only some Antarians have trouble distinguishing between the letters Z and S. The label on the pod reads Lis:A.

Zan touches the inscription. “Lisa.”

“Lisa?” Mira asks curiously.

Intellectually, Zan knows the woman inside the pod isn’t Liz, even though emotionally he’s still tied to her earth name and her earth persona. A part of him knows it will be better to try to separate the two, now, before she’s born.

“Her name,” Zan smiles up at Mira. “I’m going to call her Lisa.”

The laboratory door slams open causing Zan to bolt to his feet. He stands protectively in front of Lisa’s pod, shielding her with his own body from whatever menace has come here to do her harm. He won’t let anyone touch her; not the Skins, not their programmed drones, not even Khivar himself.

But then he sees who it is, and his stomach tightens. It’s even worse than all those other possibilities all rolled up together.

Ava stands in the doorway with her hands clenched at her sides, staring past his shoulder to the entity in the pod. Zan can tell by the pinched look on her face that she isn’t happy. He tries to explain.

“It’s not –”

Ava’s eyes narrow and her jaw clenches as she turns her ire on Zan. Unhappy is an understatement. “Damn you to hell! How could you?!”

“Ava –”

“Don’t ‘Ava’ me!” she moves into the room verbally blasting Zan with both barrels. “You just had to do it, didn’t you? Didn’t you learn anything? Did you browbeat Mira until she capitulated to your demands?”

“Ava,” Zan tries to calm her. He’s never seen her this angry before. “I didn’t –”

Ava turns her sizzling gaze on Mira. “Did he threaten you? Did he force you?” She turns her anger back on Zan, spitting out, “You haven’t changed at all –”

“ENOUGH!” Zan growls. He won’t listen to Ava disparage what Mira’s done here. He loves Ava in his own way and he doesn’t want to fight with her, but she’s never understood what it’s been like for him. They have a long history, most of it bad, but since their arrival on Antar, they’d been able to put the past behind them. His desire to bring Liz back into his life had been the only sore spot between, but when the prospect seemed impossible, the animosity between them dissipated. Now it’s once again rearing its ugly head.

“This – this technology,” Ava spits out the word with repugnance, “it’s caused nothing but heartache since its inception. You can’t just make people, and force them to be what you want them to be!”

“I haven’t forced anyone,” Zan says coldly.

Ava’s stance softens. “Zan, don’t you see how wrong this is? What if …”

She doesn’t finish her sentence but she doesn’t have to. Zan’s well aware of her unspoken arguments. After Lisa is born, what if she’s different than Liz? Different than what he expects her to be? What if she doesn’t want him? They’re all questions he refuses to think about. She won’t be different. She won’t. He can’t let himself think any other way.

“Zan,” Ava’s animosity dissolves in the wake of his tormented expression. “No good can come of this.”



TBC


Note: I'll be posting the next part probably on Monday night. Then I'll be going out of town for a couple of weeks with no internet access.
Last edited by Breathless on Tue Apr 19, 2005 1:26 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Afterburn, Part 8

Postby Breathless » Mon Feb 21, 2005 7:32 am

Author: Debbi aka Breathless
Category: Zan
Rating: Adult


Author note: I find all the discussion of the morality of “cloning Liz” fascinating! There are definitely strong opinions on both sides. Going into this I knew the subject matter would be sensitive. I guess that’s why I felt it was so suited to the Alien Abyss forum. Issues of morality can go quite deep, and we are each shaped by our own moral code. What one person views as reasonable, another views as objectionable or wrong. I thought Realistic Dreamer stated her views very eloquently. And BlueStar’s knowledge of DNA and cloning blew me away (I am SO not scientifically inclined!).

But on the other hand mareli and Carol and others have expressed grave reservations about the morality of cloning a living being. Is it right to clone Liz without her consent? Is it right to create life, whether for the purpose of scientific advancement, or to save a planet, or to fulfill one man’s desire, or does only God have that right?

We know that the process that created Max and Zan and the rest of the hybrids came about from the merging of Human DNA and Antarian “essence”. Lisa was also created in this manner, with DNA supplied from a follicle of human hair, and an Antarian contribution to blend with it. So, how much of Liz was coded in her genes, and how much was learned through life experiences? And how might the Antarian element play a part in her development?

Lisa exists. There’s no changing that. Just like Max, Michael, Isabel, Tess, Ava and Zan exist. They were all created for a purpose, but each developed as their own individual, unique unto themselves. Even though Max and Zan sprang from the same genetic material, they are both uniquely different, shaped by the experiences they have lived through. Yet at their core, they’re not so different.

I happen to be one of those people who believes in love at first sight. I believe Max experienced it when he saw Liz for the first time, on the school playground when they were just kids. I believe in soulmates, two individuals who are just “meant to be”. And since Max and Zan are so genetically linked, it’s not a stretch for me to believe that Lisa and Zan can share the same type of “chemical attraction” that Max and Liz do. I’m a romantic at heart, and I like the idea of looking across a crowded room, and making eye contact with someone who you immediately sense is going to play a huge role in your life. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s Magical. It’s what Max and Liz have. It’s what Zan and Lisa might have, too. But that’s yet to be determined …



Afterburn
Part 8



The normally bright lights of the lab are dimmed, softened at Zan’s request. When she wakes, he doesn’t want Lisa’s eyes to be strained by excessive brightness. He sits on a chair by her pod with an open book in his hands, the same place he’s been for days now, reading words memorized years ago.

“And when he saw her looking so lovely in her sleep, he could not turn his eyes away; and presently he stooped and kissed her, and she awaked, and opened her eyes, and looked very kindly upon him. And she rose, and they went forward together –”

A sound behind him makes Zan slam the book closed. He drops it on the floor as he whirls around ready to do battle. He’ll do whatever it takes to keep Lisa safe. He’ll kill a hundred men, or a thousand if he has to –

“A little jumpy today, are we?” Mira asks.

Zan’s battle stance relaxes when he sees who it is. The brightness of her aura suggests she’s laughing at him.

“If you’re going to sneak in here, I can’t be held responsible for my actions,” Zan warns gruffly. He would never hurt Mira on purpose, or any of the other Antarians, but his protectiveness over Lisa is like an obsession. He eats here. Sleeps here. Lives only for the moment when Lisa finally opens her eyes. It hasn’t happened yet, but soon…

Mira retrieves the book Zan dropped on the floor. She looks at the cover, reading the title. “Sleeping Beauty?”

“It’s an old Earth fairy tale,” Zan says, more than a little embarrassed to be caught reading aloud.

He takes the book from Mira, embarrassment turning to remorse as he remembers the first time he heard the tale; a young mother sitting on a blanket in a park, reading aloud to a small girl. He’d listened to the lilting tones of her voice for awhile, memorizing the story, then later, after he completed his assignment, he’d taken the book from the woman’s lifeless hands. He’d kept it for awhile, not even sure why, rereading it in privacy when he thought he was alone, until Rath caught him one day. He’d destroyed the book to prove it didn’t mean anything to him, but he’d never forgotten the story. Or the face of the woman he took it from.

“What’s it about?” Mira asks, unaware of the thoughts tumbling through Zan’s head.

“It’s about a princess, cursed to sleep for a hundred years,” Zan turns to watch Lisa floating peacefully inside her pod, “and a prince who woke her with a kiss.”

“Does the story have a happy ending?” Mira asks.

“I hope so,” Zan answers wistfully.

He stands deep in thought, aware of every movement Lisa makes. The minute flexing of her fingers, the occasional stretching of her legs, the way her head turns in his direction when he speaks to her, as if she’s aware of every word he says. And sometimes, when he touches the pod, her hand reaches out and brushes against his. The first time it happened he didn’t stop smiling for hours.

“Her vitals all look good,” Mira scans the equipment monitoring Lisa’s bodily functions.

Zan starts a little at the sound of Mira’s voice. For a minute he’d forgotten she was there. He becomes so enthralled by watching Lisa; he loses focus on what’s going on around him.

The orb on his belt vibrates giving Zan another start. He activates it, not surprised to see Ava’s holographic image appear in the air in front of him. But then he notices the bruises on her face, the dark circles under her eyes, and blood trickling down her chin from a split lower lip. He instantly goes into combat mode.

“Tell me your status,” Zan demands.

Ava wipes her hand across her cheek. It leaves a trail of blood on her skin. “We’ve encountered stiff opposition. Khivar’s forces are putting up a fight. Casualties are heavy.” She sighs, something more than mere fatigue. “We need you here.”

Zan’s gaze is instantly drawn to Lisa’s pod. He can’t leave her. What if she wakes while he’s gone? What if she hatches from the pod and he isn’t here? What if –

“Zan,” Ava’s strained voice penetrates his tumultuous thoughts. “The troops, they fight better when you’re here. They look up to you. You make them stronger, more confident.”

An explosion rocks the tent she’s in, hurling Ava to the ground. Zan reaches out to brace her fall, but she’s just a hologram. He can’t help her when she’s hundreds of miles away. She climbs to her feet, shaken and bruised, begging Zan to honor his duty.

“We can’t win without you.”

Zan stands frozen, torn between responsibility and heart’s desire. He doesn’t want to leave Lisa, but his duty is with his men, his troops. A battle rages inside him.

Mira’s elongated fingers curl around his upper arm. “Ava looks like she needs help.”

“But,” Zan looks into Mira’s black eyes. He can’t read what’s there, but her aura glows in soothing shades. She knows how much he wants to stay with Lisa.

“All her vitals are stable,” Mira counsels. “There’s no indication her birth is imminent.”

“You think I should go?” Zan asks, though his eyes are once again focused on Lisa.

“I can’t presume to tell you what to do,” Mira voices. “Only you can make that decision.”

The battle within him is a short one, but none the less difficult to make. His heart wants to stay here with Lisa, but his mind knows she’ll never be safe until he deals with the Skins, once and for all. He needs to end this war now, to pave the way for a peaceful future, not just for Antar, but for a future he’s only dared to dream about, but never believed would be his.

Zan levels his gaze at Mira, for better or worse, his decision made. “You’ll call me? At the first sign?”

Mira bows her head in assent. “Of course.”

Zan touches the pod with the palm of his hand, feeling the vibrancy of the life within. She sleeps unaware of the war that rages outside, a war he silently vows to end.

“You won’t leave her alone, will you?” Zan asks. He takes in Lisa’s image, committing it to memory so he’ll never be without her.

“You have my word,” Mira promises.

Zan tears himself away from the pod and strides quickly for the door. He misses the way Lisa reaches out for him, how her fingers linger on the membrane of the pod where his hand was moments before. When his presence leaves the room, she curls into a fetal position again, and waits.

* * * * *

Zan strides into camp just as the new sun falls below the horizon. Despite the deepening gloom he assesses the situation quickly; the troops look beaten and tired, many suffering from wounds received in battle. They all seem to perk up when they see him, their auras brightening, unspoken whispers tickling at the back of Zan’s brain.

‘It’s Zan!’

‘He’s here!’

‘Where’s Kel? Get Kel!’

‘Zan’s back!’


Antarians swarm around Zan, re-energized by his presence. Word spreads quickly through the camp. Kel appears on his right, trying to keep pace with Zan’s long strides.

“Where’s Ava?” Zan demands. He’s been worrying about her since the holographic transmission he received back in the Capital City. It’s the first time he ever saw her look defeated in battle, and the guilt of it weighs on him now. He should have been here, with her and the others, ending this decades long war.

“She’s in the infirmary,” Kel tells him.

Zan stiffens, shooting a concerned look at his second in command. Kel’s wearing human skin tonight, with sandy blond hair and intense blue eyes, a face Zan has known on two worlds. At 5’7”, the shapeshifter is short in human standards, but a giant among Antarians.

“Is she hurt?” Zan’s stomach clenches.

“She’ll live,” Kel responds. “Her pride is hurt the worst. She didn’t want to ask you to come.”

Zan stops. He didn’t mean for this to happen. It’s his responsibility to end this war, not Ava’s. He never should have dumped it on her.

“Take me to her.”

* * * * *

He sees her as soon as he enters the tent. She’s sitting on the edge of a cot, blonde hair streaked with blood, while an Antarian medic tends to her injuries. Her face is bruised on the right side, her cheek scraped and bloodied, her clothes torn and dirty.

Ava looks in his direction, surprise and then relief flooding her face. “Zan.”

He’s at her side in three long strides. The medic backs off when Zan lifts his hand to heal her wounds. As his palm glows, the bruises on her face fade, the cuts and scrapes disappear.

“They were stronger than we expected,” Ava hastens to explain, as if her failure to defeat the Skins has somehow let Zan down. “We chased them into the Lorimir Flow – we thought we had them trapped – but it was an ambush. I’m sorry –”

“Hush,” Zan cuts her off. She has nothing to apologize for. “I should have been here.”

“I can show you,” she starts to rise from the cot but her legs are too unsteady. Zan catches her before she falls and helps her sit back down.

“You’re not going anywhere,” Zan tells her. “You’re staying right here until you get your strength back. Kel can bring me up to date.”

“I’m fine,” she tries to object, but Zan won’t have any of it.

“Stay,” he insists, gently brushing her hair back from her face. “Rest tonight. We’ll need you in the morning.”

He sends a final burst of power through his palm, healing a laceration near the crown of her head. On the way out of the tent, he motions for Kel to follow him.

Before he leaves, the Shapeshifter and Ava exchange a silent look, a shared smile, relief that the burden of war rests once more on Zan’s shoulders.

* * * * *

“She fought hard,” Kel says, staring into the glowing embers of the campfire. Flames crackle, sending sparks up into the cold night air, drifting up toward the stars. “The troops followed her orders without question, but …”

Kel’s voice trails off, but he doesn’t need to finish for Zan to get his meaning. Zan is the one born and bred for fighting. His skill at war is instinctual, superior to anyone else on the planet. If they want to beat the Skins, Zan has to be the one that leads them.

“We’ll go in before first light,” Zan tells him, stirring the fire with the tip of a Jessip branch. When he looks up at Kel, flames burn in his amber eyes. “I want this to end. Now. Khivar and his followers have to die.”

“Agreed,” Kel’s gaze doesn’t waver from Zan’s intense stare.

“Every one of them,” Zan continues. “The Skins have to be eradicated. If even one of them survives –”

“I know,” Kel nods. “All it takes is one to regenerate the species.”

“When the host is dying, the parasite tries to flee to preserve itself. We can’t let that happen. If it’s in the body when the host dies, it dies too.”

“I know.”

They’ve learned these things the hard way, through three long years of intense fighting. There can be no sentimentality when it comes to killing Skins. The host body is lost as soon as a parasite enters it. It might look like a friend, and talk like a friend, but the parasite controls its every action. The only sure way to kill it is to kill the body it lives off of while it’s still trapped inside.

Silence falls between them, each deep in their own private thoughts. Zan reaches inside his leather vest and removes a small pouch. He taps out the Antarian equivalent of tobacco and rolls himself a cigarette, then offers the pouch to Kel who waves him off.

“Remember the first time we met?” Zan slips the cigarette between his lips and lights it with a twig from the Jessip branch. He squints his eyes as smoke billows around his face.

“How could I forget?” a wry smile cracks Kel’s face. “You tried to kill me.”

“I thought you were infected,” Zan leans back with one elbow on the cold hard ground, blowing out a smoke ring.

“I wasn’t, but you didn’t want to believe me.”

“I couldn’t afford to believe you,” Zan says without humor. “At the time, I didn’t know you were a Shifter, or that Skins don’t like the way you taste.”

Kel chuckles. “I give them indigestion or something.”

“You give me indigestion,” Zan teases.

They laugh together in easy camaraderie. It’s late, and they have a battle to finish in the morning, but it’s not often Kel talks about the years he spent in servitude to Khivar before Zan freed him. Zan wants to know more.

“How long?”

Kel lifts a human looking eyebrow. “You mean, how long was I with them?” At Zan’s nod, Kel gives him an honest answer. “In human terms? Five hundred, I guess.”

“Five hundred YEARS?” Zan sits up straight.

“Give or take,” Kel nods. At Zan’s incredulous look, Kel continues, “I’m not immortal, just blessed with a long life span. Or maybe cursed would be a better word for it.”

“Does Ava know?” Zan asks.

“That, barring an accident or an act of war, I’ll outlive her by several hundred years? Yeah, she knows. She wants to be with me anyway. I know it’s an old fashioned Earth custom, but … I want to ask her to marry me.”

Zan contemplates that for a minute. When he finally speaks, his tone is filled with caution.

“And what happens when she grows old, and you don’t?” He wants Ava to find the happiness he could never give her, but how can she find it with someone who will outlive her by hundreds of years?

“I can “grow old” with her,” Kel tells him, “grey hair by grey hair. And when her time comes, I’ll carry her memory with me forever.”

“You love her,” Zan voices what is plainly obvious.

“With all my heart,” Kel answers. “Well, if I had one, but you know what I mean.”

Despite himself, Zan can’t help but laugh. It’s one of the things he likes the most about Kel, his ironic sense of humor. When their laughter quiets, he’s compelled to say, “But why are you asking me? Ava’s her own woman. She doesn’t need my permission.”

Kel looks down into the fire. “I know she loves me, but she still feels bound to you. She won’t agree to anything until this war is over. I think it has something to do with her past, some form of atonement, but she won’t talk about it.”

“Ava’s always been too hard on herself.” Zan stares into the glowing embers of the fire. She’s only guilty of doing things he forced her to do. It’s a burden she shouldn’t carry, and one that he deserves.

“When this is over,” Kel asks, wearing his metaphorical heart on his sleeve, “you won’t object to us being together?”

“Hell, no,” Zan declares. “Why would you even think that? And why would my opinion matter?”

“You really don’t know, do you?” Kel looks at him.

“Know what?” Zan asks. His place in this world has always been clouded.

“What you mean to the people around you,” Kel bares his soul to Zan. “To Antarians, you represent freedom. To Ava you represent family. To me, you’re all those things rolled into one. The day you freed me, I vowed I would follow you anywhere, do anything you asked of me. In all the battles we’ve fought together, I’ve never doubted you. I was there when the Granilith foretold of a great warrior who would come, and as soon as I saw you, I knew you were the one. Khivar’s lived in fear of you for centuries. He’ll play his mind games, pretending he’s the superior one, but he won’t win. You will.”

Zan rises to his feet and flicks the butt of his cigarette into the fire. He holds his hand out to Kel, helping his friend to his feet, linking their hands together to reinforce the bond between them.

“Not me,” Zan vows. “We. In the morning, we take on Khivar and end this once and for all. And then we celebrate with a wedding.”



TBC …


Note: As I said before, I’ll be leaving on Thursday and be gone for awhile. In fact, I have 3 trips scheduled in the month of March, so my posting will be kind of sporadic for the next few weeks. Because of that, if everything goes according to plan, I’ll be posting the next part on Tuesday or Wednesday night. I want to leave it on a good note before I go. Or is it I want to leave it on a cliffhanger so I can drive you all crazy until I get back??
Last edited by Breathless on Tue Apr 19, 2005 1:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Afterburn Part 9

Postby Breathless » Wed Feb 23, 2005 4:11 am

Author: Debbi, aka Breathless
Category: Zan
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17



Afterburn
Part 9



Zan inches along the walls of the ice cave, feeling the cold leach into his skin. Blue crystals embedded in the walls give off a faint illumination, enough for him to see by. His breath is visible in the frigid air, but the cold can’t deter his purpose. The enemy is within his grasp.

“It’s over Khivar!” Zan calls out, taunting his unseen prey. “You’ve lost.”

He signals for Kel to circle around to the left, while he takes the right. They’ve trapped the last of the Skins in the Lorimir Flow, an ancient underground riverbed, frozen for millennia. He hears the intermittent echo of dripping water from somewhere deep in the caves, and the scurrying of clawed feet on the ice.

‘You’re a worthy opponent,’ Khivar’s voice speaks inside Zan’s head. ‘But now it’s time to return to your roots.’

Zan pauses, pressing his hand against his forehead. He’s been in the thick of battle for two days now without rest. Fatigue has worn him down, making him susceptible to Khivar’s mental probings.

‘You were the best of the best, Zan. You can be that way again.’

“Are you okay?”

Zan looks up, meeting Kel’s intense blue eyes. The shapeshifter still wears his human form, his expression one of earthly concern. Zan nods to reassure him. “I’m fine.”

‘Remember the rush, Zan? The thrill of the hunt? You know you want it. You know you need it. Join with me. Be what you were born for.’

“I was born to eliminate you!” Zan shouts out.

“Is he?” Kel whispers, pointing at his own temple.

Zan nods. “He’s trying.”

Of all the Skins, Khivar is the strongest. He’s led the conquest of untold worlds, leaving a path of death and destruction behind him. He’s taken many forms, inhabited many bodies, slipping from one to another with ease, assuming the new body’s traits. His mental attacks aren’t new to Zan.

“Let’s go,” Zan pushes off from the ice wall. Kel grabs his arm to hold him back.

“Do you want me to go in first?” the shapeshifter offers.

Zan knows Kel will do anything for him, even sacrifice his own life if it were to come to that. Kel is his most trusted advisor, and the closest thing Zan has to a friend. They’ve fought countless battles together, protecting each other’s backs, but this is the most important battle of all. If Zan can kill Khivar today, then he can return to the Capital City, and start living.

“You’ve never been this close to him before,” Kel warns. “I have. He’ll use his mental powers to try to undermine you, to make you doubt yourself.”

“When it comes to war, I never doubt myself,” Zan speaks with confidence. “I’m an old pro at mind games, remember?”

‘How many humans did you kill, Zan? Five hundred? A thousand? Do you remember how good it felt? The rush. The excitement. Join with me and you can have that again.’

Zan closes his eyes and leans back against the ice wall. Images rush at him, of the people he’s killed, of the blood on his hands. Khivar thinks he can be enticed back into that life, but he’s misjudged the man Zan has become. Nothing could make him go back to what he once was.

Zan fights back against Khivar’s mental attack. He uses his mind to grab hold of Khivar’s mental connection, tracing it back, forcing his way inside to see through Khivar’s eyes. He sees the last of the Skins, the final band of soulless creatures, their numbers once in the thousands now less than what Zan can count on one hand.

Zan holds up four fingers and mouths the word to Kel, who nods in understanding. After years of fighting it’s almost over. Just four more kills and Zan can put this all behind him. At times he’s despaired that this day would never come, or when it did, what purpose he would have after. But now his future is clear. She’s sleeping in the Capital City, waiting for a kiss to wake her.

Zan turns to look behind him and motions for Ava to come closer. When she’s near enough he grips her shoulder and whispers, “Kel and I are going in. Keep everyone else back.”

“Is that wise?” she asks. “You’ll be outnumbered.”

“What we do here has to be precise,” Zan looks from Ava to Kel. “No survivors. Too many soldiers in there means too many chances for one or more of the Skins to hitch a ride on a new host. Kel and I go in alone. It’s the only way to be sure.”

Ava doesn’t like it, but she obeys Zan’s orders. She retreats while Zan and Kel move forward.

“You take the left, I’ll take the right,” Zan instructs. “But,” Zan grips the shapeshifter’s shoulder. “When we get in there, Khivar’s mine.”

Kel nods, as if that was never a doubt in his mind.

As they move through the dimly illuminated cavern, Zan uses all of his senses to pinpoint the remaining Skins’ locations. He feels Khivar probing at his mind, the only Skin strong enough to break through his defenses.

‘Poor Zan. You think you’re in love. Don’t you know? No one could ever love you.’

Zan tries to shut the voice out, but Khivar is relentless.

‘You’re only good at one thing, Zan. Do you think your precious sleeping beauty wants to spend her life with a mass murderer? She’ll despise you when she learns about your true nature. Join with me and she won’t matter. You’ll have your pick of women. They’ll fall at your feet. They’ll worship you like a God!’

“Is that what you think I want?” Zan’s shout echoes through the cavern.

‘Of course! It’s what you were made for. To conquer the world.’

Zan sees a shadow move in the rocks. He wonders for a moment if it’s Khivar, but the brief glimpse of its face lacks Khivar’s tell tale scar. He motions for Kel who spots their prey.

They work together like a pair of experienced predators, Zan using all of his senses to track the hiding enemy, and Kel following his Commander’s lead. Zan signals to Kel the Skin’s location. Kel moves in for a silent kill. One down, three to go.

‘The Granilith said a Human would come for me, but I never thought it would be you. Your unit was always undermanned, yet your kill ratio was the highest of all my soldiers. You like killing, don’t you Zan. You like the feel of their blood on your hands.’

‘I’ll like feeling YOUR blood even more,’ Zan sends out a mental taunt. He wants to rattle Khivar to weaken his defenses. It must be working; he senses the alien’s fear. But then Khivar shifts the direction of his mental attack.

‘I like your body. It’s bigger than the one I have now. Stronger. More imposing. When I take it over, I’ll enjoy using it. Especially when Sleeping Beauty wakes, and I – what’s the term you use? Fuck her –’

Zan loses his normal cool. Rage burns inside him. “SHUT UP! JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

“ZAN!”

Zan hears Kel’s shouted warning just as an energy blast whizzes by his ear, singeing his hair and blistering the skin on his cheek. He ducks not a second too soon as a second blast explodes against the wall behind him. Shards of ice and rock pelt against his skin. He looks up to see one of the three remaining Skins racing right at him.

Zan’s reaction is swift and instinctual, ingrained in him from countless years of fighting. He raises his hand and sends the Skin flying backwards. He’s on the alien seconds later with his hand spread out over its chest, burning through cloth and flesh, liquefying internal organs until the body lies dead beneath him. Two down, two to go.

Before Zan has a chance to revel over a good kill he hears a scuffle on the far side of the cavern. In the faint illumination he sees Kel in hand to hand combat with what was once an Antarian, but the dark aura that surrounds it now attests to its true nature. He sees something else too, the jagged scar that cuts its cheek, the Skin Zan’s been hunting since his arrival.

“KHIVAR!” Zan shouts, adrenaline pumping through his veins at the sight of his enemy. He wants to be the one to bring the leader of the Skins to his knees. He wants to stand over him as he begs for his life. He wants to be the one who reduces Khivar to nothing more than ashes on the ice. The bloodlust rises in his veins feeling victory in sight.

The fourth and final Skin suddenly appears in front of Zan, blocking his path. Zan silently curses himself for letting human emotion cloud his judgment. He should have been expecting this, instead of focusing only on Khivar. He raises his hand to make worm’s meat out of the enemy.

“Wait!” the Skin’s aura fluctuates, turning from black to brown to orange. “Don’t kill me!”

Zan doesn’t have time to think. He knows what’s happening; he’s seen it many times before. The brightening of its aura indicates the parasite is trying to separate from the body, to invade a new host. Zan can’t let that happen. The parasite itself gives off no aura, making it almost impossible to track. As tragic as it is, Zan needs to trap it inside the Antarian’s body in order to destroy it.

“Please,” the Skin falls to its knees.

Despite himself, Zan hesitates. These are the hardest kills, when the Antarian inside begins to reassert control. But he’s learned the hard way that being compassionate is tantamount to suicide. If the parasite escapes, the war could drag on for years to come, and he can’t let that happen. He hurls an energy bolt directly at the alien’s chest, knocking him to the ground.

Zan’s on him in a flash, pinning him down to finish him off. He presses his hand to its chest, whispering, “I’m sorry,” just before he burns a hole right through him. As it dies, Zan hears the parasite scream. He keeps up the assault until he’s certain the enemy is dead, then scrambles to his feet to assist Kel.

The first sight Zan sees is Kel with his back to the ground, and the alien Khivar straddling his chest with his hand pressing against the shapeshifter’s forehead. Kel’s face looks twisted in pain.

Zan reacts quickly, raising his hand and directing an energy bolt straight at Khivar. It hits him square in the back, with the impact tossing the small body across the ice. Zan’s on him in a second, using all of his power to destroy the last of the alien monsters. Kel tries to stand, but his legs are too unsteady. His body briefly loses cohesion, melting into a liquid form, then quickly reasserts its human appearance. He shakes his head to clear the cobwebs, then focuses intense blue eyes on Zan’s struggle with keen interest.

“DIE!” Zan snarls in Khivar’s face as his hand burns a hole through the Skin’s chest. Bloodlust surges through Zan, shutting out everything except the body struggling beneath him. Incoherent screams fill Zan’s mind, shouts of protest and pleas of innocence, but he blocks them out. He concentrates only on the dark aura around the Skin as it fades to nothing.

It takes a few minutes for the bloodlust within Zan to dissipate. When it does he sits back on his heels, pulling his hand away from the charred remains of what was once the leader of a race of conquerors. There’s nothing left of the body now except ashes and bones.

“It’s over?” Kel’s tone is one of wonder and expectation. “It’s really over?”

“Yeah,” Zan sits back on the ice, breathing heavily. Killing the last of the Skins has drained his energy, but the outcome is worth all the aches and all the pains this war has inflicted on him. It’s over now. The war is finally over.

“What do we do now?” Kel asks.

Zan looks up at him seeing a man of honor, a man of courage, a man he’s proud to call his brother. With the Skins dead, everything looks different now. The past is over. The present is here. The future is waiting for him. A smile breaks over Zan’s face as he puts voice to something he’s never felt before, about a place in the northern quadrant that’s calling to him.

“Now we go home.”


TBC …



I’ll be back in about 2 weeks with the next part. See you then!
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Breathless
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Afterburn, Part 10

Postby Breathless » Fri Mar 11, 2005 3:22 am

Author: Debbi aka Breathless
Category: Zan
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17

Author note: This is a quick fly by post. I didn't think I'd have time to post this week, but I managed to squeeze a minute in between my frantic unpacking from one trip and packing for another. I'm leaving on Saturday and will be gone for another 2 weeks, so I hope this part will tide you over until then.


Afterburn
Part 10



Zan exits the Lorimir Ice Caves to the sound of triumphant cheers. The word has already spread amongst the troops; that Khivar is dead and the war is over. They swarm around him, most of them coming no taller than chest high, reverently touching his arms and patting his back. Hundreds of voices all sound in Zan’s head at once.

‘He did it!’

“We’re free!’

‘It’s over!’

‘Long live Zan!’


“You’re very popular,” Kel observes with good humor, placing his hand on Zan’s shoulder. Ava walks towards them, looking worn, and tired, and infinitely happy.

“It’s a day to celebrate,” Zan replies, unwilling to take all the credit. “The men fought bravely. As did you,” he finishes, looking directly at Kel. Victory wouldn’t have been possible without him.

“It has been my honor to serve you.” Kel lowers his head in homage but the movement makes him sway unsteadily on his feet. Zan catches him, wrapping a hand around Kel’s upper arm to keep him from falling.

“Kel!” Ava cries out. She rushes to his side.

“Are you alright?” Zan supports his ailing comrade.

“The battle must have taken more out of me than I thought,” Kel shakes his head to clear the cobwebs. He looks up at Zan, and then smiles weakly at Ava.

“Are you hurt?” she touches his face. Worry clouds her aura. “Are you injured?”

“I’ll be fine,” Kel wraps his hand around hers and pulls it to his lips. “Nothing 12 hours of sleep won’t cure.”

“Let’s get you back to camp.” Zan lifts the orb from his belt to signal a hover craft to assist their evacuation. It’s too far for Kel to walk in his condition. When he activates the communicator, he sees a flashing message. “Mira tried to contact me …”

He makes the connection quickly and waits impatiently for her to answer. When she does, he gets a sense of great activity transpiring in the background. Mira’s image appears in the holographic display, her aura pulsating in a rainbow of colors showing her excitement.

“Zan!” Mira exclaims. “Is it true? We’re getting reports from the front. Is it really over? Is Khivar dead?”

“That was quick,” Zan chuckles. He’s not surprised she’s heard about it already. When mental telepathy is the normal means of communication, word travels quickly.

“So it’s true?” Mira appears nearly giddy, something very rare to see in an Antarian. They don’t usually display their emotions so openly.

“It’s true,” Zan nods. “The Skins are dead. Every last one of them.”

“That’s wonderful! So many of our people don’t know what true freedom is like. This is the beginning of a new era for us. We must celebrate!”

Mira’s enthusiasm spills over into Zan. His normally stoic countenance relaxes into a genuine smile. “We’ll break camp in the morning. We should arrive in the Capital by mid day. Save a glass of ale for me.”

“I think you might want to come back before then,” Mira suggests, clearly excited about something other than victory over the Skins. “The reason I tried to contact you wasn’t to get a progress report on the war.”

Zan’s smile wavers. “It wasn’t?”

Mira shakes her head. “I wanted to let you know right away. Lisa’s pod, it’s thinning.”

“Thinning?” Zan stares at her dumbstruck.

“The process has begun. If you want to be here for Lisa’s birth, you should come now.”

Zan’s heart begins to race. His stomach flutters like a thousand butterflies have just take flight inside him. It’s Kel’s turn to catch Zan when his knees suddenly become too weak to hold him upright.

“Are you saying …?” he stares at Mira’s holographic image.

“Yes, Zan.” Mira’s tone is like that of a proud mother relaying good fortune to a favorite son. He can almost hear the unspoken ‘ta’ she silently adds to the end of his name. “What you’ve waited for is finally happening.”

For a moment Zan can’t say anything. His heart is blocking his throat. He looks at Ava who, despite the disagreements they’ve had over Lisa’s cloning, is none the less smiling happily for him. The hover craft arrives overhead, waiting silently to be informed of its next destination.

“Go ahead,” Ava tells Zan. “Take it. We’ll call for another one to take us to base camp.”

* * * * *

Zan’s anticipation soars as the dome above the Capital City comes into view. The rays of the new sun slice through the protective barrier causing a rainbow effect across the surface of the shield. Blue and yellow and purple and green, a kaleidoscope of colors against the pink tinged midday skies.

Zan maneuvers the hover craft like a seasoned pro, coming in fast and low, careening to a stop near the main security checkpoint. Someday they’ll rebuild landing pads, and develop flight terminals, like the airports on Earth, but that’s not what’s on Zan’s mind as he bolts from the ship. His thoughts are focused on what’s happening in the DOSA Building, and what he’ll find when he gets there.

The gates open as he runs to the main entry point. There will be no identification checks necessary today. The streets are lined with a throng of Antarians eager to greet their returning hero. They cheer as Zan comes into view.

He runs through the familiar streets feeling alien hands patting his back and mental voices cheering in his head. The word of victory over the Skins has spread quickly, but they don’t try to stop him or even slow him down. They all know his mission today is a personal one. His destination is no secret.

Zan barely hears the applause. The Antarians part like the Red Sea, leaving him a clear path. He races down the street desperate to get to Lisa before her birth.

He bursts into the DOSA building full of anticipation tempered by anxiety. All activity stops as the scientists, stunned by Zan’s display of wild abandon, watch him race headlong through the corridors. They’re used to his controlled behavior; they’ve never seen him act this way before. As he nears the containment lab he flicks the door open with a wave of his hand, then screeches to a stop when he sees what’s happening in the room beyond the glass wall.

Mira and a handful of junior scientists scurry around, scanning the pod, reading holographic displays, checking the vast array of equipment recording everything that’s happening. The pod itself is bathed in a shimmering reddish light, something that wasn’t there before. At first he fears something is wrong with Lisa, until it dawns on him what the reddish glow means. An aura has formed around Lisa’s pod, unique only unto her, as distinctive as a fingerprint.

He’s fleetingly aware that Lisa’s aura is different from the brownish glow that surrounded Liz back on Earth, but the thought is quickly swept away when he sees a slit form at the center of the pod. A trickle of fluid flows from the opening.

Zan rushes into the containment room unmindful of the scientists that scurry to get out of his way. He reaches the pod just as her small hand pushes against the thinning membrane.

“Lisa,” he whispers. He remembers his own birth, how he fell to the garbage littered ground when his pod spit him out. He remembers the feel of the cold dank air on his exposed skin, the sound of rats scurrying nearby, how he waited alone in the dark for the others to be born. It won’t be like that for Lisa. He’ll catch her when she falls. He’ll be with her when she enters this world.

She won’t ever have to feel alone, like he did.

“You made it,” Mira appears at his side. “Go wash up. Quickly.”

“When did it start?” Zan demands. “Why didn’t you notify me earlier? I could have been–”

“You’re here now,” Mira scolds impatiently. “Now go wash up, or get out of the way. I won’t allow you to touch her with blood on your hands.”

Most Antarians wouldn’t dare to speak to Zan that way, but Mira is different. She’s almost like the mother he never had. He looks down at his hands, seeing the discolored stains under his fingernails and the blotches of dried blood on his skin. He left the battlefield in such a hurry he never noticed the evidence of death on his hands.

He cleans up quickly, removing the grime of war from his skin and clothes. When he returns to the pod, it’s just in time to see Lisa’s hands searching for the opening in an attempt to find her way out. He lunges for the pod to tear it apart, to ease her way into the world, but Mira grabs his arm to stop him.

“Zan, don’t force it. She’s transitioning from a liquid environment to air. Let her lungs have a chance to adjust. She’ll come out of the pod when she’s ready.”

Zan takes a deep breath trying to calm himself. He knows Mira is right, that he shouldn’t rush Lisa’s birth, but he’s been waiting for so long. The pod contracts, forcing out a stream of amniotic fluid through the small opening. He watches it trickle down the pod to form a puddle on the floor.

“The fluid’s clear,” Zan darts a look toward Mira. “That’s good, right?”

“It should be soon now,” she nods indulgently. “Look…”

Zan turns back in time to see Lisa’s hand poke through the membrane. Her fingers glisten with life sustaining fluid. He reaches for her in slow motion, blind to the activity going on behind him, aware only of Lisa’s slow entrance into the world. His hand touches hers, feeling her warmth, her vibrancy, her strength. In his mind he hears a sigh, though he’s not certain if it’s his, or hers.

“Heart rate climbing,” a junior technician reports. “120. 130. Stabilizing at 140. Should we–”

“Everything’s fine,” Mira smiles at the sight of Zan holding Lisa’s hand. His touch is infinitely gentle, a loving caress to guide his soulmate into the world.

Lisa thrusts her left hand through the opening, widening it from six inches to twelve, drenching Zan with escaping amniotic fluid. It drips down his leather vest onto his form fitting leather pants.

“I’ve got you,” Zan speaks softly to Lisa. “I won’t let you fall.”

The slit in the pod widens from twelve inches to eighteen. Lisa’s forearm appears, then her elbow. Her skin looks pale, untouched by the sun. A minute later her shoulder appears, then a wisp of dark hair. The pod splits open from top to bottom, spilling Lisa’s nude body out into the world.

Just as he promised, Zan catches her to break her fall. Her body feels as light as a feather in his arms, though the emotional impact of her birth sends him to his knees. He holds her across his lap, taking in every beautiful inch of her.

“Lisa,” he brushes wet strands of her hair back from her face, seeing goose bumps form on her skin in reaction to her first contact with the cool Antarian air. With a wave of his hand he dries her skin and hair so she won’t be cold. Her eyelids flutter and slowly open.

Their eyes meet, his full of hope, hers filling with recognition. She lifts her hand to touch his face. When she speaks, her voice is soft, weak, as if her birth has drained her energy, but full of something else as well. The sound of it fills Zan with more joy than he’s ever known.

“It’s you,” she sighs. “You came back.”

And then she sleeps.




TBC …
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