BOOK 10 MAJESTY'S MORASS
(WHAT HAPPENS NOW, MAX?)





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PART 11


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(Wednesday, January 2nd, 2002)
(Copper Summit, AZ)

Nervously Tess, entered Nicholas' office on the Leptes. He had called for her a few times asking about her progress with her powers and each time she had stalled, but she didn't know how much longer she could get away with it. Tess didn't even know what kind of powers she was supposed to have.

She noticed immediately that Nicholas was not alone and Tess spared a glance at the tall, dark-haired soldier who stood silently behind Nicholas' chair. Nicholas had introduced him to her once as Corporal Raltos.

Nicholas motioned to the chair across from his desk, "Have a seat."

"How's it going, Nicholas?" Tess asked.

"Maybe that's what I should be asking you, Chanya."

Tess' mouth gaped open but she was incapable of speech.

Nicholas rose from his chair, "Did you really think you could fool Khivar?"

"But how did you . . ."

Nicholas laughed, "Khivar has ways of gathering any information he wants."

Tess shook her head, "But I only just found out myself. Lonni . . ." she trailed off.

"Lonni," Nicholas said, as he advanced on her. "And you didn't tell us because?"

"I didn't think you would make a deal with me," Tess said softly, "but I can still deliver what I promised."

"And how do you think you're going to do that?" Nicholas asked sarcastically. "Ava's power was prognostication, so unless you start getting visions of the future, I think you have outlived your usefulness."

"But I can help you with my powers," Tess argued. "I can make people see whatever I want."

"Yeah, yeah," Nicholas dismissed as he stopped next to her. "Maybe you don't remember your other life, but Khivar and I know all about your powers."

"I do remember some of it," Tess said quickly. "I also have the power to make people feel what I want them to, and I can change memories. And in case you forgot, I can make some of my illusions become real."

Nicholas smiled, "Khivar isn't interested in you're insignificant powers, you're lucky he's letting you live. Of course the deal we made is voided, but you might have some information in your head that will help us." Nicholas raised his hand toward her, "Don't struggle when I take your memories and it shouldn't hurt much. Of course you never know how it might affect your hybrid anatomy."

Tess remembered Nicholas' interrogation technique, Courtney had called it mind rape. Now that Nicholas and Khivar knew who she really was Tess didn't have many secrets left but she wouldn't be able to make a new deal if she was dead. Obviously she couldn't erase Nicholas' memory because Khivar knew the truth too but maybe she could shift Nicholas' emotions to be more sympathetic toward her.

She started a mind warp, focusing her power on Nicholas and the Corporal. She placed the images of Nicholas mind raping her in their minds and concentrated on manipulating Nicholas' emotions. For a moment Nicholas hesitated and Tess thought it was working.

Then Corporal Raltos spoke up, "She is attempting to cloud your mind, Nicholas. Feel her power."

Tess felt her mind warp start to unravel as a burst of power from the Corporal overwhelmed her.

Nicholas shook his head to clear it. "Impressive, but not good enough." He raised his hand toward her again.

Tess started to panic and blurted out the only thing she thought might save her. "Wait, you can't. I'm pregnant."

Nicholas hesitated, "What?"

"I'm pregnant with Max's son."


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


(West Roswell High School)

Maria and Liz sat on either side of Alex at the lunch table, arms entwined with his.

Maria laid her head on Alex's shoulder. "It's so good to have you back."

"Believe me it's good to be back," Alex said. "But it's a little weird too. All these people I never even talked to are welcoming me back. I'm an instant celebrity."

"How are your classes going so far?" Liz asked.

"Good," Alex said. "Luckily I don't have too much work to make up."


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


(Copper Summit, AZ)

Nicholas looked at Tess' slim figure closely. She was wearing lose-fitting clothes but she didn't appear to be with child. "What do you mean you're pregnant?"

"It's the easiest way I could think of to get Max to go back to Antar," Tess said. "He wants to stay on Earth and only something beyond his control would make him leave. So I mind warped him to think his son was ill and couldn't survive on Earth."

"And Max wouldn't leave with you because he knows the truth about who you are," Nicholas said.

Tess shook her head, "He doesn't know. He thinks I'm his wife."

"But he still didn't want to leave?" Nicholas asked.

"No," Tess admitted. "He'd rather stay on Earth with Liz."

"So what did you plan to do once you got Max back to Antar? He still wouldn't love you."

"I'm carrying his son," Tess argued. "He will stay with me because of that, and in time he'll come to love me."

"Or you could continue to use your powers on him," Nicholas sneered.

Tess looked away and Nicholas continued, "So Lonni has known about this the whole time but told you to keep your mouth shut."

Tess nodded, "She thought the information was a good bargaining chip."

"It is," Nicholas agreed. "Does Lonni have any other information that she is keeping from Khivar?"

"I don't know," Tess shrugged. "Lonni doesn't tell me anything. We're not exactly friends. I didn't even want to help her, but she blackmailed me."

Nicholas took in the information silently. "When is the child due?"

Tess put a hand to her stomach. "We're not exactly sure. There's never been a hybrid child before but we think he's due in May."

"You haven't been seeing a doctor," Nicholas pointed out.

Tess' chin rose stubbornly. "No doctor can tell me anything I don't already know. I am connected with my son and he's strong and healthy."

"And for control of Max's son, what do you want?" Nicholas asked.

"I want the same deal we had before," Tess demanded.

Nicholas nodded, "I'll have to discuss it with Khivar but I'm sure he'll agree. Why don't you come back this evening after dinner."

Tess nodded and turned to leave.

"And," Nicholas said, "don't mention this to Lonni or anyone else."

Khivar waited until the door had closed behind Tess before he spoke through Corporal Raltos' lips. "Today is a day of revelations."

"Tess is very confident of her position," Nicholas said blandly. "She didn't even consider that it might be in your best interests to have her son killed, as Max's only heir."

"Chanya was always a fool," Khivar said, "and nothing has changed, especially if she thinks she can keep Max under control with her powers. He may not have come into his full powers yet but when he does, she doesn't have a chance of mind warping him."

"So shall I kill Tess and the newest Tageonant heir?" Nicholas asked.

Khivar shook his head, "Not yet. Tell her I accept the deal."


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


From behind a near-by building, Lonni watched Tess leave the ship.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


(Chavez Community College)

Hale and Isabel gathered their books as class ended.

Hale leaned closer to her, "So over to the library to get started on our project?"

"Oh," Isabel said softly, looking down to put her books in her bad and avoid Hale's eyes. "I can't today, Hale. I told Alex I would help him get caught up on his homework."

Hale nodded, "Well, we'll go another time. Maybe tomorrow."

"Yeah," Isabel agreed distractedly, "We'll go tomorrow."


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


(Friday, January 4th, 2002)
(West Roswell High School)

The bell rang, signaling the end of class and Mr. Seligman's voice rose above the departing students, "For Monday finish chapters fourteen and fifteen and do the reviews at the end."

Hand-in-hand, Max and Liz headed for the door but Mr. Seligman called out, "Liz, can I talk to you for a minute?"

Liz squeezed Max's hand, "I'll meet you at your locker."

Max nodded and left, and Liz turned back to Mr. Seligman.

"Liz I know you haven't asked me, but the deadline is coming up for most college admissions and I wanted to write a recommendation for you."

Liz nodded, "That's really great, Mr. Seligman and I appreciate it, but things in my life are really complicated right now and I'm putting college on hold. Maybe I'll be able to take some classes at the community college."

He nodded, "I'm sorry to hear that, Liz. You've always been an exceptional student and I had anticipated great things for your future."

"Me too," Liz said with a smile. "And I still do."

She left the room and walked quickly down the hall to Max's locker.

"What was that about?" Max asked.

Liz really didn't want to tell Max but she wasn't going to lie. "Um, Mr. Seligman wanted to write a recommendation for my college applications."

Max could hear the disappointment in her voice and tried to swallow around the sudden lump in his throat. "We never discussed this. I guess with everything else, I just forgot."

Liz shook her head, "There's nothing to discuss, Max. We all need to be together, I understand that. And the most important thing to me is to be with you."


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(Thursday, January 10th, 2002)
(Copper Summit, AZ)

Lonni had watched Tess carefully for the last week, waiting for the best time to confront her. On three separate occasions Tess had gone into the ship and Lonni was convinced that Tess had made her own deal with Nicholas.

As Tess left the safety of the ship this time, Lonni and Rath were ready for her and quickly pulled her into the woods. Lonni circled Tess like a predator as Rath blocked her escape back into town.

"So you went and sold us out." Lonni started casually.

Tess started to fidget, "I swear I didn't, Lonni."

"Then why all the trips to the ship?" Lonni asked. "Do you really think we're that stupid?"

Fearful of what Lonni would do, Tess started a mind warp of herself standing in the clearing and she started to back away.

But Lonni grabbed her by the shoulder and laughed. "She really does think we're stupid to try that, doesn't she Rath?"

Rath nodded, "Look little girl, we've been able to see through Ava's mind warps since we were ten."

Tess started to panic, "Lonni, I didn't tell them anything. Khivar and Nicholas already knew everything about who I was and I had to tell them I was pregnant. Nicholas was going to mind rape me and I didn't know if it would hurt the baby."

"Hurt the baby," Lonni mocked. "That child is an abomination. Who do you think you are to have my brother's child? You aren't even of royal blood. The original Zan was smart enough not to marry you and contaminate our family with your inferior line. Zan may have dallied with you, but he made the correct decision when he married. He chose Ava, and even though she was practically a child, she did come from a family with a royal lineage." Lonni motioned to Tess, "Your son was conceived out of marriage, a bastard. The only thing that kid is good for is a political bargaining chip."

Tess crossed her hands protectively over her growing stomach. "Max has claimed his son, so my background doesn't make any difference." Tess raised her chin proudly. "Unlike you Lonni, my son is heir to the throne of Antar."

"Not if he's never born," Lonni said softly. She raised a hand and using her powers, threw Tess across the clearing."

Tess was helpless to stop her progress and watched horrified as she hurtled toward a tree.

Suddenly she halted, stopping in mid-air and was lowered carefully to the ground. Tess looked around quickly, eager to see her savior and her eyes fell on Nicholas, who strolled casually into the clearing.

"Lonni," Nicholas scolded, "I thought I told you to play nice."

Lonni shrugged and started to walk away, "I'm tired of playing."


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


(Monday, January 14th, 2002)

Billowing clouds rolled across the night sky faster than naturally possible; the darkness broken by frequent shafts of lightening, and the accompanying thunder shattered the silence. The wind whipped across the desert, blowing sand around the observer and she put up a hand to shield her eyes. She turned in a slow circle but the view was the same in all directions, just sand, rocks and scrub brush as far as she could see.

The wind sped up suddenly, sending the sand swirling faster and faster into an impenetrable mass, surrounding her, and she closed her eyes against the stinging particles.



**Flash**

A glimpse of the empty pods in the pod chamber

**Flash**

A light ignited in a dark cave

**Flash**

Alien symbols




With a gasp, Liz sat up and looked around quickly, glad to find herself in her own bed. She had been having the same dream for the last two weeks and each time she hoped it would reveal something more but each time it was exactly the same.

Liz had told Max and the others about the dream but she didn't have a clue about what it meant. Michael, the natural skeptic, had dismissed the dream as merely the meaningless production of her mind, but Liz knew it was something more, she could feel it.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


(Hale's House)

Isabel stretched her neck, taking a break from the project she and Hale were working on. She glanced around the room with a smile. "How do you keep this big house so clean?" she asked. "It's always so immaculate, like no one really lives here."

"With magic," Hale said with a smile, and then shrugged. "I have a maid that comes in a few times a week."

"She doesn't live in and cook for you too?" Isabel teased.

Hale winked at her, "I'm a big boy, and besides, having a house full of servants seems like it would be stifling." He leaned in close to her. "Plus I wouldn't feel free to do this," he whispered and then closed the distance between them, taking her lips in a kiss.

After a moment Isabel pulled away. "That was nice."

"There's plenty more where that came from," Hale growled.

He moved toward her again but Isabel stopped him with a hand on his chest. "I'm sorry Hale. It's getting late and I promised my Mom that I would help with dinner tonight."

Hale nodded, "Of course. I understand, you have to keep your promises."


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


(Wednesday, January 16th, 2002)
(Copper Summit, AZ)

Lonni had carefully watched the door of the small building leading to the ship for weeks. It was the only thing that showed where the ship was located because Nicholas had used his powers to completely conceal it with a cover of trees and rocks. Even standing next to the ship you couldn't tell that anything was there except a forest on the mountainside.

The building was the only way into the ship and Lonni had been waiting for Nicholas to leave the door unlocked. Usually he would wait outside and re-lock the door when the new shift of workers had gone inside, but today he was obviously in a hurry and disappeared into the ship.

She had used her powers to dream walk all of the technicians, carefully guiding their dreams until she was sure that she knew the layout of the ship. But she had been surprised to discover that the small building concealing the ship's entrance was made of a substance she couldn't manipulate. A key was required to get inside and Nicholas had the only one, which never left his person. But the technicians had also shown her that Nicholas sometimes forgot to re-lock the door when he was inside the ship.

And now, finally getting her chance, Lonni used her powers to take the appearance of one of the technicians allowed on the ship. The guard at the door didn't even glance at her twice as she strode past him, following the other technicians through the open door and down the hallway.

And once Lonni was inside, she separated herself from the others and easily navigated the hallways going exactly where the dreams had shown her. She was nervous but excited, sure that her plan would give her the leverage she needed in the battle of wills with Khivar. Reaching into her pocket she felt the cool, reassuring surface of the command crystal she had made for the Granolith.

From Tess' description of her journey in the Granolith, Lonni believed it was possible for the Granolith to remain intact as it punched a hole through Nicholas' ship, but she only wanted to get Khivar's attention not make him angry. If she did damage the ship there might not be a possibility of repairing it on Earth.

Because she had helped Nicholas put the Granolith aboard the ship, Lonni knew there was a door in the hull that led directly into the engine room where the Granolith was kept. But the door could only be opened from the inside. Once she made it to the engine room she would open the door in the hull and call Rath to help her take the Granolith outside. Then the Granolith would serve the double purpose of helping them escape while also providing them a bargaining chip.

Finally Lonni reached the corridor that led to the engine room and she held her breath as she silently moved past the last doorway between her and her goal. It was Nicholas' quarters and she moved as quietly as she could to avoid alerting him to her presence. She had almost reached the end of the hall, when a voice behind her brought her to a halt.

"Lonni," Nicholas said, "what an unexpected surprise."

Lonni dropped her disguise and turned to face the diminutive General. "Nicholas."

"To what do I owe this pleasure?" he asked.

She walked toward him, putting an extra sway in her hips, while covertly using her powers to transform the control crystal into a lipstick. Laying a hand on his shoulder, she leaned into him, using her ready-made excuse. "I wanted to surprise you," she purred. "I think it's time to reevaluate our relationship."


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(Friday, January 25th, 2002)
(New York, NY)

A crack started in the concrete slab and slowly spread across the surface to the other side. Suddenly the concrete exploded outward and when the dust cleared, a pale hand emerged.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


(Friday, February 1st, 2002)
(West Roswell High School)

Liz sat in the dark History class watching the video documentary of the causes of the Vietnam War. She was tired from the sleepless nights caused by her dreams and leaned her cheek on her hand. The droning voice of the narrator, combined with the low lights, quickly lulled her into a semi-sleeping state.

Suddenly she was in the desert again, watching the rolling clouds and swirling sand. In the vision, she closed her eyes and the flashes came again, more clear this time, but still only vague glimpses.



**Flash**

A glimpse of the empty pods in the pod chamber

**Flash**

A light ignited in a dark cave

**Flash**

Alien symbols




Liz's chin slid off her hand waking her from the vision and suddenly she knew exactly what it meant.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


The figure finally arrived at the pod chamber.

Scanning the desert quickly, there was no sign of life and the figure passed a hand over the opening device and the door slid open. Once inside the figure kindled a light to illuminate the darkness and searched the room thoroughly. The lack of dust on the floor showed that there had been recent activity in the chamber but the figure did not see what it had come in search of.

With a sigh of frustration, it turned toward the door and extinguished the illumination but the flickering light briefly brightened the dark corner practically hidden by cobwebs near the door, revealing Antarian writing on the wall. The figure rekindled the light, brushing the dusty webs out of the way and quickly read the faded message.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


(Nasedo's Cave)

Max and Liz carefully approached the chamber in the cave where Nasedo had lived. The light from the flashlights they carried, danced on the rocky walls of the cave creating shadows and movement, making the cave seem eerie, but Liz wasn't frightened. They needed to be there. Because of her dreams she knew it was important, if not crucial to their lives. She'd had an overwhelming urge to come and even though Max had objected at first, Liz had finally convinced him.

Through their bond, Liz could sense that Max was nervous, frightened for her safety, afraid of what they might find and Liz squeezed his hand to reassure him.

As they continued deeper into the cave, they noticed it was growing lighter and turned off their flashlights as they approached the last bend in the pathway. Together they stepped into the chamber where Nasedo had lived but stopped when they saw the figure examining the writing on the wall, with an otherworldly ball of light hovering overhead. Max stepped in front of Liz, and the figure turned toward them, having heard their approach.

Instantly she straightened and a smile lit her face. "Zan."

Max glanced behind him at Liz, who shrugged in confusion, and then back at the woman before them. She was in her early twenties with light brown hair and Max had never seen her before. "Who are you?" he asked warily.

"I am Cuerena, your Majesty," she said, with a formal bow.

Max watched her carefully. "Is that name supposed to mean something to me?"

Cuerena's brow creased in confusion, "I am early but didn't Sodan tell you of my coming?"

Max shook his head, "I don't know any Sodan."

Cuerena motioned to the writing on the wall. "Sodan lived in this cave and made these marks."

"Oh," Max said, understanding dawning. "We never knew his real name. We called him Nasedo."

"Called," repeated Cuerena, picking up on his phrasing. "Nasedo is dead."

Max nodded.

"How did you know to meet me here?" she asked confused.

"We didn't," Max shook his head. "We only came here because Liz had a feeling we should."

Cuerena looked past Max to the dark-haired woman behind him and noted their clasped hands. "This is Liz?"

Max moved to stand completely between Liz and Cuerena, and nodded.

His protective gesture wasn't lost on Cuerena. "She is your mate."

Max didn't answer but kept his attention focused on her. "So Cuerena, who are you and why are you here?"

"Zan, you have nothing to fear from me," Cuerena said. "I am a shape shifter, a protector. I was sent to Earth with you. I am a scientist and an expert on the Granolith. I was to have stayed with Sodan and Letras to help school and train you for your return to Antar but the crash forced us to alter our plans."

"So what happened?" Max asked.

"Two sets of pods were sent to Earth; you, the Royal Four, and a set of duplicates that were taken to New York. Another shape shifter, Kaldar, was supposed to have watched over the duplicates but he was badly injured in the crash and we did not know if he would recover. So it was decided I would go to New York with the other pods as their protector."

Max listened silently, showing no sign of emotion. The dupes had never told him what happened to their protector or anything about him or her, so this woman could be what she claimed, but Max didn't want to tip his hand yet. "And why did you come back?"

"That was always the plan," Cuerena continued. "When the duplicates matured, their protector would return here to assist you."

"But you said you came early?"

"That is a long story, but one you need to hear."

Max nodded, digesting her story. He wasn't sure what to believe but if she was a shape shifter, she must be a protector. Lonni had told them about their protector when he and Tess had gone to New York but she hadn't wanted to talk about it. He had just assumed their protector had died too.

He raised his hand before him, ready to defend Liz and himself if necessary. "Change shape," he said bluntly.

Cuerena could see the mistrust in his eyes and slowly raised her hand before her. She transformed into Zan's best friend and second in command, Rath.

Max watched the process carefully; ready for any attack but when the transformation was complete he nodded.

Cuerena motioned to the male form she was wearing, "His name is Rath."

Max nodded, "I know. We met him last year."

"You met him?" Cuerena asked with confusion.

"Them." Max sighed, "It's a long story. We'll have to fill you in."

He motioned to the body she was wearing, "Here his name is Michael, and I'm Max." He stepped to the side and allowed Cuerena to get a clear look at Liz for the first time. "This is Liz, my um . . ." he trailed off, not sure how to categorize their relationship. Wife wasn't quiet right, or fiancˇe, and girlfriend seemed too innocuous for the bond they shared. Finally he smiled, "Liz is my soul mate."

Cuerena bowed formally, not sure what to think of Max's last statement. Where was Ava? she asked herself, but kept silent and spoke her other nagging question. "What of the two other shape shifters, Kaldar and Letras?"

Max shook his head, "I'm not sure what happened to the others, they may have been killed by the military. I think at least one of them was. That's what Pierce said, anyway. Nasedo is the only other shape shifter we have seen and that is also a long story."

"How did Nasedo die?"

"A skin killed him," Max said simply.

"A skin?" Cuerena asked, clearly confused.

"Our enemies who followed us to Earth. Apparently the Earth's atmosphere is toxic to our kind and they have to wear skins, husks to protect themselves."

"Khivar's troops who shot down our transport?" Cuerena asked.

Max shrugged, "I don't know. Nasedo was never big on the details."

Cuerena nodded, "He was a warrior not a tutor."

Max continued, "Anyway, there's a lot to tell you. We'll gather the group together and you can hear the whole story and tell us yours.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Cuerena looked at the group gathered in Michael's apartment. There were three of the Royal Four and five humans; Liz, Alex, who had come with Isabel, Maria, who was obviously with Michael, and the local Sheriff and his son. The introductions were made but no one mentioned the fourth member of the Royal Four, and Cuerena decided to wait until she could get Max alone before she inquired.

Cuerena bowed formally when she was introduced to Isabel but sank to her knees before Max. "Your Majesty, what is your command?"

Max shifted uncomfortably, "Um, Cuerena, we aren't used to such, um, formality. Why don't you just call us by our first names?"

"But Your Majesty, it wouldn't be proper."

Max grimaced, "The titles would be awkward in public and it would just be easier to call us the same thing all of the time. So from now on I am Max and this is Isabel and Michael."

"As you wish, Your Maj...," Cuerena stopped and started again, "As you wish, Max."

"Okay," Max said with a smile, "Now why don't you tell us how you came to be here."

She quickly related her story, telling them of the decision to send her to New York with the duplicates and briefly outlining their lives there. Then she told them about being betrayed and almost murdered by Rath and Lonni. "They sealed me in a wall in the subway tunnel and that's where I woke up two weeks ago. It took me a few days to build up my strength and then I went back to our abode but it was empty. I waited for a few days but no one came so I returned here early and went to the pod chamber."

"And how did you find Nasedo's cave?" Michael asked.

"There is a message in the pod chamber from Nasedo about the cave," Cuerena explained.

Isabel stepped forward. "I wonder why Nasedo never told us about you?"

Cuerena shook her head, "I don't know. Maybe he thought it was better that you didn't know." She turned her attention to Max, "I must admit I'm very curious to know what happened to you and how the humans became involved."

Max nodded and related how he, Isabel and Michael had been found and raised by humans, how they discovered they were different and finally being reunited with Michael. He continued with the circumstances around healing Liz and telling her what he was and finishing with the investigation of Valenti and the FBI.

At first Cuerena had been surprised the humans were involved but as Max related the story of their past, she started to understand. They had grown up among humans and it was all they knew.

Liz picked up the story where Max left off and had just finished explaining how Alex had become involved when Cuerena broke in. "So all of that time you didn't know anything about yourselves."

The three of them all shook their heads and Max answered, "We followed up on the few clues we had but they kept leading nowhere."

Cuerena shook her head, amazed that they had survived so long on their own. "So when did Nasedo come into your lives?"

"It wasn't too long after Liz told Alex," Isabel answered. She continued the story, relating their involvement with Topolsky and the FBI, finally getting to the time when Tess and her father had come to town.

"And the three of you didn't remember anything about the fourth pod?"

"No," said Max. "And when we found out Tess was an alien, we thought she was Nasedo."

"We discovered the truth but then Nasedo took Liz," Michael said. He explained about Pierce and the white room, Max's escape, Kyle's shooting and the message from the orbs. "So until we got the message, we didn't know anything about who we were."

Max continued with the disbandment of the special unit and Nasedo's return. "Nasedo came to my window, terribly wounded and warned us our enemies were in town. Then he died in my arms."

Michael continued the story with their discovery of Whitaker and Courtney. Then he told of Whitaker's death, the harvest, the destruction of most of the skins, the summit and Zan's death.

Cuerena nodded sadly, "I was afraid of that when none of them returned to our abode."

Michael finished with the discovery of Larek and the Ganderium fiasco.

Cuerena took it all in, disgusted with herself that she had not thought of the consequences of the crash. If she had envisioned what could have happened, she would have killed the Ganderium at the crash site and not allowed them to breed and strengthen. "You saved the Earth and no one will ever know," she said softly.

"We are the ones who endangered it in the first place," Max replied.

Isabel could see the sudden look of exhaustion that overcame Max and she took up the story where he left off, telling Cuerena of Alex's supposed death and Liz's search for the murderer. She continued with the discovery of the book translation, Tess' pregnancy and the planned trip back home.

Cuerena shook her head, "It is not possible that Earth's atmosphere would harm your son, and the pregnancy would take at least a year."

Michael nodded, "We just found that out." He continued the story with their discovery of Tess' betrayal and departure.

Cuerena was dumbfounded, "Tess betrayed all of us."

"Yeah," Michael said, and then he looked to Max and Liz to see if they wanted to reveal anything about future Max.

Max took Liz's hand in his and a look of agreement passed between them.

Liz took a deep breath. "That's when I told them a secret I had been keeping for months," she started, and related the story of future's Max's return.

"It really worked," Cuerena gasped.

"You knew about this?" Michael asked.

Cuerena shook her head, "I was a Granolith technician on Antar for nearly two-hundred years. I had a theory that the Granolith was capable of opening a time conduit but I never told anyone or tested it. I was afraid of what might happen."

"So was I," Liz whispered.

Max squeezed her hand. "So when we realized Tess had betrayed us, we went to see Larek to ask about the translation of the book. He couldn't decipher it but he told us Tess wasn't Ava."

"What?" Cuerena asked. "Of course she is. We brought her essence from Antar."

Max shook his head, "Larek can see auras. He told us Tess was someone named Chanya."

"She was Princess Vilondra's closest friend," Cuerena said.

"Well by accident or design Chanya was sent instead," Max continued. "But Larek was also able to tell us about Ava." Max brought Liz's hand to his lips and kissed it gently. "Ava's soul was reincarnated into Liz."

Cuerena didn't think she could possibly be surprised again but Max's revelation knocked her for a loop. "Larek saw Ava's soul in Liz," she gasped, and then nodded. "It actually explains a lot."

"To us too," Max nodded. He continued the story, telling her of their pursuit of the book translation, the confrontation of the former FBI agent, the new troops in Copper Summit, Rath's offer and the return of Alex, and the discovery that Tess and the Granolith were still on Earth.

"So Liz started to develop powers," Cuerena said. "What about Kyle?"

"He has," Max said with a smile. "He's great at blowing up rocks."

Liz spoke to Cuerena, "When your Ava was here, she told me I had been changed because of the healing. How exactly was I," she motioned to Kyle, "how were we changed?"

"Whether you realized it or not," Cuerena explained motioning to Max, "in order to bring Liz and Kyle back from such terrible injuries, you had to alter the basic chemistry of the surrounding cells. Their bodies are gradually changing to become like yours. Eventually they will be hybrids too."

Liz nodded, "I've suspected it for a while. Especially after I started getting powers."

"But you never said anything," Max protested. "Are you okay with it?"

Liz smiled, "Max it makes me so happy to be what you are. It just binds us more closely together."

Max wrapped his arms around Liz's waist, kissed her tenderly and spoke across their bond. Liz, everything you do just makes me love you more.

Max, my love for you grows every day.

"Wow," Kyle said, "I really am turning into an alien. But this doesn't mean I'm going to fall in love with Max too, does it?"

Michael ignored Kyle and turned to Max. "So what are we going to do with her?" he asked, motioning to Cuerena with a jerk of his thumb.

Maria stuck an elbow in his ribs. "That was rude Michael. She's not a stray dog."

"It is perfectly all right," Cuerena said. "I am only here to serve."

"The first thing," Max said, "is she'll need a place to stay."

"I will live with you and Liz, of course," Cuerena said.

Max nodded, "Well, Liz and I don't live together, we live with our parents."

"How will I protect you both?" Cuerena asked.

"We don't expect you to be a round-the-clock bodyguard," Max said.

"But that is my duty," Cuerena argued, "my purpose."

Liz touched Max's arm, "Maybe Cuerena could stay in the Harding house for now and we can figure out the rest as we go."


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Max stopped the Jeep outside the Crashdown and turned to Liz. "Okay, something has been on your mind since we left Michael's."

"I was thinking it can't just be a coincidence," Liz said. "Cuerena is a Granolith expert with a theory about time travel, and a Serena helped the future us send Max back in time."

"Cuerena and Serena," Max mused. "I think you must be right."

A shiver went through Liz. "Don't you see what that means? Maybe the same future is coming true."

Max shook his head, "We won't let that happen."

"But Max," Liz protested.

Max put a finger to her lips, silencing her. "I was thinking as we were driving too. After Cuerena gets settled into the house, I think we should send her on a fact-finding mission to Copper Summit to see if what Rath told us is right."

Liz nodded agreeing.

Max continued, "I also think we should check the computer equipment we took from John or Thomas or whatever his name was. We'll look for phenomena in the Copper Summit area around the time when we think the ship left and came back. If we find anything, we can set the computer to watch for the same disturbances and then we'll know if the ship is possibly bringing more troops to Earth."

"Yeah," Liz said, "that's a good idea. I just wish we knew what really went wrong in the other time."

"I'll be okay Liz," Max said solemnly. "I promise."


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


(Monday, February 4th, 2002)

The Harding house was signed over to Ed Harding's oldest daughter, Serena Harding, as the gang had decided to call her, and she took up residence the same day.

Serena created all of the paperwork and background information necessary for her new identity. Then Max had Serena consolidate all of the bank accounts Nasedo had set up over the years, into a single joint account accessible by the Royal Four, Maria, Alex, Kyle, the Sheriff and Serena.

As the group sat around the dining room table in Serena's house, Max passed out the information for the bank account. "Now, I'm not saying you should all go out and buy a Mercedes or anything but if anyone needs any funds from the account, for whatever reason, go ahead and use it."

"That's very generous, Max," Jim said, "but I wouldn't feel right about it."

Max nodded, "But keep the account information, just in case."

Jim nodded, agreeing.

Max continued, "Serena would feel better with a more active part in our everyday lives, where she can protect us, so we've decided she'll enroll in school under the name of Serena Harris." He motioned to Serena and she shifted into a younger version of her present form.

"When we're not in school," Max said, "she can hang out with us. She can show us some new techniques for training and memory retrieval, and help us with Antarian language lessons. And tonight I'm sending Serena to Copper Summit to check out the situation and see if Rath is telling us the truth."


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


(Saturday, February 6th, 2002)
(Crashdown Cafe)

From the back room, Jeff watched through the small diamond-shaped window as Liz interacted with her ever-growing group of friends. A new girl named Serena, had joined the group, and including Sean and Ryan, there were now ten friends gathered around three tables.

It was good to see the kids laughing together but somehow the stark contrast reminded him of the night Michael's look-a-like had come. The excitement surrounding Alex's return had completely dislodged the event from Jeff's memory, but now he was determined to speak to Liz.

He waited until after closing and called out to Liz on her way to bed, "Liz, can I talk to you?"

Liz sank down onto the sofa next to him. "Sure Dad. What's up?"

"Liz, I'm concerned about something I witnessed a few weeks ago. A man named Wrath, that could have been Michael's twin, was downstairs in the dining room."

The color drained from Liz's face as her mind rushed, trying to remember exactly what was said.

Her father continued, oblivious to her discomfort. "Michael said Wrath had murdered someone and tried to kill Max. Are they mixed up in gangs or something Liz?"

Liz remained silent and Jeff continued, "But the most disturbing thing I think, was the revelation that Max had gotten Tess pregnant." Jeff sighed, glancing down at the ring Liz wore, knowing without asking who had given it to her. "Liz, I'm trying not to be judgmental but I have to ask if you think Max is really the right guy for you? He hasn't graduated yet and he already has a child. How is that going to affect your relationship?"

Liz relaxed a little, hearing her father's worst fear was the baby and not aliens, but she didn't want her father to think badly of Max and gave him the first excuse she could think of. She forced a laugh and a smile. "Oh Dad, you didn't think that was real, did you?" she asked playfully. "Did you think Max was the head of the Roswell mafia or something, fathering illegitimate children and involved in murder plots?"

Jeff shook his head uncertainly, "Well, it did seem a bit out of character."

"Dad," Liz continued, warming to her part, "it's only a game they play, on the computer. They're in rival political factions and Rath was offering an alliance. Sometimes they just get carried away and bring it into the real world."

"Oh," Jeff said relaxing visibly, "of course, how silly of me to think it was real. I've heard about games like that with political intrigue and murder." He laughed at himself. "So who is this Wrath person?"

"Michael recently found out he has a brother," Liz said, making a mental note to let the others know what she had told her father.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


(Tuesday, February 20th, 2002)
(The Quarry)

Michael sank down on a rock next to Max. "This is great with Serena here. It's only been two weeks and already our powers have gotten a lot stronger and more manageable."

"Yeah," Max agreed. "Serena's techniques are a lot different than the ones Tess described."

Michael grunted, "Yeah, well, either Tess didn't really know what she was doing or she was screwing us up on purpose."

Max motioned to Kyle, who was busy blowing up rocks. "He's really getting the hang of it, but even Serena isn't sure if he has a special ability."

"What about Liz?" Michael asked.

"Besides the astral projection and prognostication, Serena thinks that Liz is an empath."

Michael's brow wrinkled in confusion, "Empath?"

"She can tell what other people are feeling," Max explained.

"What good is that?" Michael asked.

"Well, she might be able to tell if someone is telling the truth or not," Max suggested.

Michael nodded, "Maybe that's why she trusted Rath so easily the night he took us to Alex."

Max nodded, "And thanks to Serena, we know Rath was telling the truth about the new troops in Copper Summit."

"It's not really reassuring to know they are in training to kill us though," Michael argued.

Max nodded and changed the subject, "I know you told me once the Harding house gave you the creeps but now that Serena is there, have you thought about staying there with her?"

"It has crossed my mind," Michael admitted. "But I think I'll stay where I am for now. I'm kind of used to my privacy."


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


(Tuesday, February 27th, 2002)
(Crashdown Cafe)

Max and Liz swayed slowly to the music of the jukebox, barely aware of the others surrounding them.

Sitting at a nearby table, Michael and Maria regaled Serena with the merits of the movies they wanted to see that weekend.

Near the front window, Hale and Isabel sat alone, and he reached across the table and took Isabel's hand in his, stroking the soft skin with his thumb.

Isabel let Hale hold her hand for a moment but then started to pull away.

Hale sighed but tightened his grip, refusing to let her go. "Isabel, what's wrong? Since Alex returned I can feel you slipping away from me. Don't you love me anymore?"

"Of course I love you, Hale," Isabel rushed to reassure him, as she placed her free hand on his. "It's just that I feel so guilty about Alex."

Hale nodded, "I understand and I won't rush you. As long as I know you love me, I can wait forever."


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


From across the street, a figure carefully watched everything that happened in the Crashdown.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


TBC




BOOK 10 - MAJESTY'S MORASS
Part 12
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