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



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


PART 12


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


(Wednesday, February 28th, 2002)
(The Parker House - Liz's Room)

Liz woke up with a headache and a vague feeling of unrest. She had dreamed all night but none of the images had stayed with her, only the foreboding sense of something wrong.


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


(Copper Summit, AZ)

Nicholas reported to his office as ordered, bowing formally, "My liege."

Khivar picked up a handful of papers from the desk that he had been reading, crushed them in his hand and shook them in Nicholas' face. "General, gather your troops and ready for the attack," Khivar bellowed through Corporal Raltos' borrowed lips.

The light of battle ignited in Nicholas' eyes, "Yes your Majesty. I've been anxiously awaiting this moment." Nicholas hesitated. "Forgive my curiosity Sir, but we've been training for months, so why now?"

"I'll be damned if I let Isabel get involved with a human," Khivar roared. "Instruct the troops to make sure he is dead and warn them to follow my other instructions to the letter. If anything happens to Isabel, those involved will pay with their lives." He tossed the ball of papers across the room. "I refuse to wait any longer."


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


(The Evans House)

Down the hall, Diane could hear laughter coming from the kitchen, and she stopped just outside the kitchen doorway to peer inside. Max and Liz were sitting at the kitchen table with schoolbooks open before them and they were both laughing. For a moment Diane leaned against the door jam, smiling. It was good to see Max so happy.

Liz intertwined her fingers with Max's, clasping their hands tight and the sunlight streaming in the window caught a ring on her finger, reflecting a bright blue flash.

For a moment, Diane was simply curious but then she noticed Liz was wearing it on the ring finger of her left hand, the finger an engagement ring would be worn on. And when Max lowered his head to kiss Liz's hand just above the ring, Diane had no doubts who had given it to her.

She backed out of the doorway and made some noise before coming in again. Max and Liz were sitting farther apart when she entered. "Hey Max. Liz, it's nice to see you." She crossed to them, starting casually, "Doing homework?"

"Yeah," Max said, "just some chemistry."

Diane stopped next to the table and took a surreptitious look at the ring Liz was wearing, noting quickly that it was of good quality. "What a beautiful ring. Where did you get it?"

"Um," Liz started nervously, "it was a Christmas gift, from Max."

"Oh." Diane nodded and looked at Max, "Well I think you and Liz should join your father and I for dinner tomorrow."

Her tone left nothing up for discussion and Liz and Max simply nodded.


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


(Thursday, March 1st, 2002)
(Frazier Woods)

Hale gathered wood for a fire as Isabel arranged the blanket and set out the food for the picnic. It was the first time she had really been alone with him in weeks and she was a little nervous, but when he had suggested a picnic, she had readily agreed. She loved him and wanted to build their relationship and she was determined that she wouldn't let her guilt about Alex stand in her way.

She glanced up to see the sun lowering in the dusky sky. It would be dark in half-an-hour but the fire would provide a cozy setting for herself and Hale to talk and mend their relationship.

Isabel smiled. Tonight would be special, she would make sure of it.


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


(The Evans House)

Max stopped the Jeep in his driveway and squeezed Liz's hand, "Are you sure you're up to this?"

Liz smiled to cover her nervousness, "It'll be fine Max. I really like your parents."

Max grimaced, "Yeah, but this is the proverbial dinner with the parents."

Liz laughed, "It was inevitable when then found out you gave me the ring."

Max sighed, "Maybe, but I know you're nervous too. I can feel it."

"A little," Liz admitted.

Max turned to Serena, who was in the back seat. "And what are you going to do while we're getting the third degree?"

"I can protect you just as well from outside, and since my being at dinner would be difficult to explain, I will wait in the yard."

"You can't just skulk around in the yard," Max said. "The neighbors will call the police. It isn't really even necessary for you to be here, Serena."

"But Sir," Serena objected.

"Max," Liz said, placing a hand on his arm. He had objected several times before when Serena had insisted on accompanying them to provide protection, but it made Liz feel better to have her there and she didn't question the feeling. "It's okay, Max. Serena knows how to be discrete."

"Okay," Max agreed reluctantly. He turned back to Liz, "Let's go face the firing squad."


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


(Crashdown Cafe)

"That's two Will Smith Burgers," Jeff said as he placed the plates on the table in front of the Sheriff and Kyle, "a Blue Moon Burger for Sean, Eclipse Burger for Alex, and two Asteroid Salads for Amy and Maria." He stepped back, "The shakes will be up in a minute."

"Thanks Jeff," Jim said. "This looks great."

Jeff stepped behind the counter to get the shakes. "Nice to have a night out with family and friends."

"Yeah," Jim agreed. "We went to see an early movie and I guess it made everyone hungry." Jim glanced around the otherwise empty cafe. "Looks like we're the only ones though."

Jeff laughed, "This isn't typically our busiest night and tonight is slower than usual. I was just thinking about closing early."

The phone rang in the back and Michael left the kitchen to pick up the receiver. "Crashdown."

"Michael," said the familiar voice with a New York accent.

Michael turned his back to the dining room, for a little more privacy, "Yeah, what do you want?"

"Listen up," Rath said, "I just found out that Khivar ordered an assassination squad down there. I don't know when they left exactly but it was at least four hours ago, maybe more. They could be there any time."

"What are they after?" Michael asked.

"They want you all dead."

The bell above the door in the dining room sounded but Michael ignored it and depressing the receiver, he started to dial Max's number.

Suddenly the back door exploded inward, knocking Michael into the wall. He was stunned for a moment and watched as two skin soldiers walked in.


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


(The Evans House)

Max and Liz sat together across from his parents in the living room.

"How is everything with your family, Liz?" Diane asked.

"Fine," Liz said. "Everything is going just fine."

Diane nodded, "So does this ring mean that you two are engaged?"

Philip coughed in his drink. "I thought we were going to ease into this discussion."

"They're both adults or close enough if they feel they're old enough to get engaged," Diane argued.

"Well, why don't we let them tell us," Philip said.

"Mom, Dad," Max started, "we're not engaged, but I gave the ring to Liz as a promise, a commitment for our future together." He took Liz's hand in his. "We're in love and that's not going to change, but we want to be responsible and realistic and at least wait until we graduate high school."

The sound of glass shattering in the back drew their attention and Philip and Max rose.

"What was that?" Philip asked, looking at Max.

The front door burst open and Serena rushed in. "Your Majesties, we are under attack."


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


(Frazier Woods)

Isabel nestled into Hale's arms in front of the fire, and took his hand in hers. "I'm really glad you suggested this. A picnic under the stars, what could be more perfect?"

"It's perfect every time I'm with you, Isabel," Hale said.

Isabel half turned in his arms and touched his face. "I know things haven't been great between us since Alex came back and I'm sorry. And I just want you to know that I'm going to concentrate more on us from now on. I can't let what happened to Alex ruin what's between us."

"You haven't ruined anything," Hale said.

"I hope not," Isabel whispered, "because I really love you."

A blast of energy hit the blanket near them and they rolled to their feet as five skin soldiers emerged from the trees.

The first soldier into the clearing raised his hand and a blue ball of energy shot forward, barely missing Isabel as she dived out of the way.

Hale stood frozen for a moment but grabbed a hefty tree limb he had gathered for the fire and took a mighty swing, connecting with the ribs of the closest attacker, sending him to the ground.

Isabel grabbed for another piece of wood and called out to Hale, "Aim for their lower back."

Hale dodged as another man rushed him, and swung the limb at his lower back as instructed, knocking the guy to the ground.

Isabel used her powers to send two of their attackers flying and she swung the branch at the third, connecting solidly with his back, but nothing happened. "What?"

The first man Hale had knocked to the ground got up and rushed him, grabbing him from behind.

Isabel turned to see Hale struggling with one of the skins, as two others ran toward her with outstretched hands.


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


(Crashdown Cafe)

The bell above the door rang, drawing the attention of Jim and the others sitting at the table, as three men entered the cafe.

Jeff called out, "Take a seat anywhere you'd like."

But the three men simply stood their ground.

Suddenly there was a sound like an explosion in the back and the three men raised their hands before them.

"Hit the dirt," Jim called out as he grabbed Amy and dove to the floor.

Alex threw himself aside as a ball of energy came toward him, and his chair took the brunt of the blast, exploding.

The others scattered just before the table they had been sitting around burst into pieces.

They all scrambled for the relative safety of the counter, as another round of energy blasts rang out and the counter shook with the force of the hits.

"Who are those people?" Jeff yelled. "What is going on?"

"Jim, use you gun," Amy screamed, her voice rising with hysteria.

"It won't do any good," Jim said as he looked around for any kind of weapon, but he couldn't see anything useful. "We can't just sit here," he called out to Kyle. "They'll take us apart."

"What do you mean, it won't do any good?" Amy shouted.

The skin soldiers advanced slowly as they continued to blast away at the counter.

A rack of glasses on the wall behind the counter collapsed and glass rained down around them and Kyle knew they were out of time. He focused his powers like he'd practiced and sent a burst of energy toward the skins. A chair exploded near the closest one and Kyle swore. He hadn't quite gotten the hang of aiming.


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


Michael used his powers to throw the two skins back into the wall. They hit hard and one disintegrated into a shower of dust.

He rushed the other skin soldier and they grabbed one another, struggling to get the upper hand. Michael tried to turn his hand toward the skin to use his powers but the skin spun them around, and they stumbled into the kitchen.

Michael heard blasts of power and shattering glass in the dining room and glanced through the service window. He caught a glimpse of three more skin soldiers standing near the door, shooting blasts of energy at the group huddled behind the counter. Kyle was trying to defend them with his powers but the counter was disappearing quickly under the continual attack.

"Maria!" Michael called out, as his rage engulfed him. With a burst of power, he threw the skin away from him, sending him across the back room and grabbed a fire extinguisher off the wall. He strode to the skin soldier, who was trying to get up off the floor, and struck down on the skin's lower back with the extinguisher, but nothing happened. "What the . . ."

The sound of another blast in the dining room propelled him into action and he slammed the extinguisher down on the skin's head and the soldier collapsed back down onto the floor and stayed still.

Michael burst through the door into the dining room just as the skin soldier nearest the door started to scream. It was a horrible sound that froze everyone. For a moment it appeared as if the soldier was glowing from inside and then he burst into flames that quickly consumed him.

Michael saw Ryan through the door with an outstretched hand, and he knew Ryan had killed the skin.

Michael took advantage of the soldiers' surprise to throw one of them into the wall and Ryan rushed through the door. "Hit them on the back of the neck. That's where the seal is now."

The remaining skin flung Ryan aside with a flip of his hand and sent a burst of energy at Michael that caused him to dive behind a booth.

Kyle jumped up and grabbed a long, splintered piece of wood that had been blown off the counter and struck the stunned skin soldier in the back of the neck, turning him to dust. Then he rushed the remaining soldier.

The skin turned and sent a blast of power, knocking Kyle to the floor and the wood from his hand.

Michael rushed the skin and grabbed him. Ryan got up, grabbed the wood and used it to finish the skin.

Michael turned to go into the back room and nearly collided with Nancy Parker, who was holding open the door behind him. She had wide eyes and a gaping mouth, obviously from having seen the last of the fight.

The Valenti family and Jeff Parker slowly emerged from behind the counter. "Is everyone all right?" Michael called out.

Alex had a scorch mark on his arm but he wasn't seriously injured. And satisfied that everyone else only had minor cuts and scrapes, Michael pushed past a shocked Nancy and into the back room.

Michael took up the fire extinguisher again and dropped it on the remaining soldier's neck, turning him to a pile of dust, as he reached into his pocket for his phone. He pressed the speed-dial for Max and waited impatiently for an answer.


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


(The Evans House)

Two skin soldiers came in through the dining room and Serena sent a burst of power through one, turning him to dust.

Max put up a shield as the other skin sent a ball of energy toward them and it was diverted into the wall. "Get behind me," Max yelled and Liz grabbed his shocked parents, pulling them down behind the sofa.

Serena dived to the floor rolling, and took a shot at the advancing skin, but he threw himself aside.

Three more skins came in from the front hall and Serena took out the first one, but the other two sent burst of power at her, barely missing her and hitting a chair instead.

Max focused his shield, using it with a quick burst to knock the two skins back into the hall and then he raised it in front of them again.

Liz shut her eyes and concentrated on appearing behind the skin soldier in the dining room. She was suddenly there and looked around briefly for a weapon but seeing none, simply solidified enough to tap the skin soldier on the shoulder. As he turned, Liz let herself go back into her own body.

Serena took advantage of the soldier's confusion to send a ball of energy through him, turning him to dust.

The soldiers from the hall stayed just out of reach, shooting bursts of energy through the doorway.

Max glanced at Serena and motioned to the soldiers with a jut of his chin, and then to the dining room.

Serena understood immediately and nodded.

Max turned to Liz and his parents. "Stay down."

Serena used her powers to make the soldiers see her run toward the dining room and their fire followed her.

Max waited until their fire was diverted and he pulled the shield down into a ball the size of a quarter. Focusing all of his power, he thrust the shield through the wall and into the skin soldier beyond. He felt it puncture the husk and immediately the husk started to heal, but Max expanded his shield, forcing the puncture larger and larger until the husk ruptured.

Serena took advantage of the diversion to dispatch the final soldier with a well-placed burst of energy.

For a moment there was silence, the only things moving were the pieces of stuffing from the sofa, floating in the air.

"Serena," Max ordered, "take a look outside and make sure there aren't any more."

"Yes Sir," said Serena with a short bow, before she left the room.

Max turned to his parents and Liz, running his eyes quickly over them, "Are you all right?"

Everyone nodded.

"Who were those people?" Diane asked. "And how did they do that? Max, how did you?"

Philip leaned forward, motioning in the direction Serena left. "Who was that? And why was she calling you Sir and your Majesty?"

Max reached for his cell phone. "We'll explain everything but I have to make sure Michael and Isabel are okay."

The phone rang before he could dial and he saw Michael's number on the display. "Michael are you all okay?"

"We're fine Max. Were you attacked too?"

"Yes," Max said. "Luckily Serena was here."

"Max," Michael said, "we've got a problem. Amy and the Parkers saw everything."

"So did my parents," Max said. "I think it's time we told everyone the truth."

Michael swallowed hard, suddenly nervous. "Okay Max. What do you want to do?"

"You bring everyone over here and we'll do it all together."

"What about Isabel?" Michael asked.

"I thought she and Hale were at the Crashdown," Max said anxiously.

"They were," Michael confirmed, "but they decided to go on a picnic. You don't think they were attacked too?"

"I don't know," Max said, "but we can't take any chances. I'll call and make sure they're okay."


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


(Frazier Woods)

Isabel looked at Hale, struggling against the skin soldier, and a rage like she had never known welled up within her. The thought of losing Hale was more than she could bear and she flung her hand forward, her power building like never before. A crackling, black ball of energy leapt from her hand and passed through the chest of the closest skin soldier.

For a moment he simply stood, looking at the gaping hole in his chest and then he disappeared in a shower of ash.

Everyone froze, witnessing the destruction and Hale took advantage of the moment to flip his attacker over his shoulder and to the ground. Then the moment was over and another soldier rushed him. Hale dodged the next attacker, letting the man run past him and struck him hard in the back of the neck with the branch. There was a sickening pop and the man disintegrated before him.

"Hit them in the back of the neck," Hale called out as he rushed the next attacker.

But Isabel was past using the tree branch. She concentrated on bringing forth another black energy ball and easily sent it though the next skin soldier, turning him to dust.

Then she looked to the last of the attackers, struggling with Hale. She raised her hand meaning to help him, but with a few well-aimed hits of the tree branch, Hale knocked the skin off his feet and quickly dispatched him.

Both Hale and Isabel stood ready, looking for more attackers, but after a few minutes with no movement except that of the crackling fire, they relaxed.

Hale dropped the tree branch and straightened up. "So do you want to tell me what the hell just happened? The energy balls? The disintegrating guys who attacked us?"

"Hale . . ." Isabel started, shaking her head but suddenly the magnitude of the event registered in her shock-numbed brain. "Max!"

"Max?" Hale asked.

With shaking hands, Isabel dug her phone out of her pocket and pressed the speed-dial for Max. "Don't you see?" she asked Hale, as she got a busy signal. "Crap!" She pressed the redial and held the phone to her ear. "We might not have been the only ones attacked. I have to warn them."

The busy signal sounded again and she pressed the number for Michael.

He answered on the first ring, "Isabel, are you okay? Max is trying to call you."

"Yeah, we were attacked but we're okay. What about you and Max?"

"Everyone's okay," Michael reassured her. "Skins attacked here and at your house."

"Mom and Dad!" Isabel gasped.

"They're fine," Michael said, "but they saw everything just like Amy and Liz's parents did here. We've got a lot of explaining to do and Max wants everyone to meet at your house."

Isabel nodded, "Okay. I'm bringing Hale too. He saw me using my powers. He's part of this too now."


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


(Crashdown Cafe)

Michael opened the door into the dining room and motioned to Ryan to come into the back. He called out to Jim, "Get the door locked and the blinds on the front windows down. And Kyle can you start cleaning some of this up? I need to talk to Ryan and then Max wants us all over at his house," he glanced at Amy and the Parkers, "and we'll tell everyone the truth."

Kyle and Jim nodded and Michael closed the door behind Ryan. "Okay, what's the deal?"

"I am a member of the same group Courtney was part of. I believe she said you called us the Michael worshippers. A number of us infiltrated Khivar's troops when he originally sent them to Earth but all except Courtney and myself were discovered. And then when you destroyed the husks just before the harvest, I was forced to remain on the ship with most of the rest of the troops."

Michael studied him for a moment. "So you came back with the new troops and you have just been hanging out all this time? Why didn't you tell us?"

"I wasn't sure you'd believe me, or how Max would react if he found out," Ryan said with a shrug. "I thought Khivar might attempt something like this attack, so I just waited and watched."

"And how did you know where to find us?"

"Courtney and I kept in touch, though not very regularly. She told me everything she knew about all of you, but the last time I talked to her was before the harvest."

"She died the next day," Michael said softly.

Ryan nodded, "Yeah, Nicholas took great pleasure in telling us how another traitor had been unmasked and killed. For months afterward, I thought I would be next."

"We're going to need to talk, but right now is not the best time," Michael said, reasoning that Ryan didn't need to know everything they were going to tell the others. "You might as well go home and I'll get a hold of you about a meeting."

Ryan nodded understanding, and left through the back, mending the door with a sweep of his hand.

Michael took a deep breath and started into the dining room again.

Amy's shrill voice met him as he pushed open the door. "Max ordered us to come to his house." She turned to the Parkers, "Who does he think he is? And how does he know anything about what happened?" She turned to Jim. "And why are you taking this so calmly?"

"It's okay Amy," Jim soothed. "Everything will be explained."

"This is just like in my dream," Amy continued. "Max ordering everyone around."

"Mom!" Maria said. "Just calm down."

Michael cleared his throat to make his presence known. "Sheriff, why don't you take Amy, Maria, Sean and Kyle in your car." He turned to the Parkers, who were still visibly shaken, "I don't think you're in any condition to drive, so Alex and I will take you in his car."


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


(The Evans House)

Max and Liz were able to hold off his parents' questions by repairing the damage to the living room, and in just a few minutes it was back to normal.

Serena came back into the house. "As far as I can see there are no more soldiers, Sir."

Max nodded, "Keep checking and if you see anything let us know immediately."

Liz waited until she was gone before she pulled Max aside. "How much were you planning on telling everyone?"

Max sighed, "I don't know that there's any point in holding anything back."

Liz nodded, "I think we should keep the part about the Granolith being a time travel device to ourselves. Not because I don't trust them but because the less people who know, the less likely that the information can be taken from them. Maybe we should also leave out the fact that Rath is a traitor to Khivar. If anyone found out, he would be killed."

"You're right," Max said. "If Nicholas got a hold of my parents or yours, any of the humans, he could take anything he wanted from their minds." He nodded, "We'll tell the others when they get here but other than that the parents will finally get the whole story."


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


It had taken over an hour to tell the whole story, from the three children waking up in the pods, to the shooting in the Crashdown, the FBI, the arrival of Nasedo and Tess, the message in the pod chamber, the harvest, the dupes, the summit, Tess' pregnancy and departure, the discovery of Liz's true identity, the translation of the book, and the return of Serena; only leaving out the part about future Max and the deal with Rath.

Then it had taken several demonstrations of powers, including Max healing Alex's arm, before Hale, Amy, the Evans and the Parkers were convinced. And they still had questions.

Nancy shook her head and turned to address Max, "So you just found out last year that Liz is your wife Ava, reincarnated?"

"Yeah," Max said, "but to me it made perfect sense. I've loved Liz since the first time I saw her when we were kids, and I never would have risked our lives to save anyone else."

Jeff sighed, "I still can't believe Liz was really shot that day."

Philip spoke up, "So the reason these other aliens attacked is because you are the rightful King of your planet?"

Max nodded, "Those are some of the troops the usurper Khivar, sent to find us."

"And this Serena is an alien too, a shape shifter?" Diane asked. "What does that mean exactly?"

Max called out, "Serena, come in here please."

She came in through the back and addressed him formally, "Your Majesty?"

"Will you shift into the form of Ed Harding?"

"Of course." She raised her hand before her and after a bright flash of light, Ed appeared.

"That's the damnedest thing I've ever seen," Philip said, shaking his head.

"Thank you, Serena," Max said. "Please continue your patrol."

Max turned back to the friends and family gathered in the room. "None of us wanted to lie to you but we felt we didn't have another choice. This information is dangerous and we wanted to keep you all safe."

"And everything I remember happening that night at the UFO museum is true," Amy said. "At least I know I'm not going crazy." She turned to Max, "And in the circumstances, I guess I can forgive you for being a little bossy."

Max smiled shyly. "Sorry. I really don't mean to. I guess it just comes naturally."

Amy nodded, "Of course it does. Even if you don't remember it, you once ruled a planet."


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


As the questions continued, Isabel took Hale aside to speak to him privately. "So, um, this has all got to be pretty weird for you."

"Weird but cool," Hale said. "What do you remember about your past life?"

Isabel shook her head, "Nothing. Max has shown me some of his memories and they seem familiar but I don't remember anything."

"And Liz being the reincarnation of his wife. What are the odds of that?"

"Where Max and Liz are concerned, nothing surprises me," Isabel admitted.

Hale nodded, "I can see why you said that Max and Liz had been through a lot to be together. I still can't believe he has a son."

"I didn't know if Liz could forgive him for sleeping with Tess," Isabel said. "And having a child with her is just one more pressure on their relationship. It's probably good that Tess left. Max didn't love her and he never would have chosen to have a child with her."

"You think it would be better for Max if he never saw his son again?"

"I don't know," Isabel said. "I just think it would make things easier. Liz is supportive of Max in every way and she has said she will accept his child, but it's got to be hard on both of them. But if anyone can handle it it's Liz. She one of the strongest people I know."

"Why do you say that?" Hale asked.

"Liz was always there for us, from the beginning, long before we knew who she really was. Liz took a lot of risks for us and always came through. And even though Liz loved Max more than anything and knew they belonged together, she gave Max up so he could follow his destiny with Tess." Isabel shook her head, "I don't think I could have done that."

"So what about you, Isabel?" Hale asked. "Any special man in your past?"

Isabel shook her head, "If there was, I don't remember." She looked into Hale's handsome face and asked the question she was dreading, "So how are you talking all of this?"

Hale smiled, "You mean, now that I know you're an alien Princess, am I going to head for the hills?"

Isabel nodded, "Something like that."

Hale touched her face, "I love you Isabel. I'm not going anywhere." He leaned in and kissed her softly. "Plus, how many guys get to be with a real Princess?"


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


Michael waited until Hale had left, and the parents were gathered around Jim, before he pulled the others aside. "There's another thing I thought I should wait to tell you. It turns out Ryan is a Michael worshipper. He helped us in the Crashdown against the skins. He says he knew Courtney and I'm pretty sure he's the one who killed John that day at the quarry."

"Why do you think that?" Maria asked.

"He killed one of the skins in the same way tonight." Michael turned to Max. "I sent him home because I didn't know how much we wanted to reveal to him."

Max nodded, "Good thinking but we'll have to get together and have a talk with him."

Michael nodded, "I'll set it up."


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


(Copper Summit, AZ)

Nicholas entered his office to confront Khivar in Corporal Raltos' body. "My liege, it's official, all of the troops we sent to Roswell have been killed."

Khivar nodded, taking in the information.

Nicholas was a little surprised by his lack of reaction but continued, "Shall I order another squad to be sent? A larger one?"

Khivar shook his head, "No. This mission gave us some valuable information, more than I expected, and I need some time to consider all of the possibilities."


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


(The Evans House)

After everyone had left, Max and Isabel turned to their parents, expecting a barage of questions.

Philip was the first one to speak. "So the night that we found you in the desert . . ."

Max nodded. "That was the day we came out of the pods. We didn't speak because we didn't know the language."

"And you knew the whole time that you were . . . different?" Diane asked.

Isabel shook her head. "We just regained the memories of coming out of the pods a couple of years ago. Before that we didn't remember anything about who we were or where we came from. But it didn't take too long for us to figure out that we were different."

Max nodded. "And we had an instinct to keep it to ourselves. We never told anyone, until Liz."

Tears started in Isabel's eyes. "We're really sorry that we couldn't tell you, Mom and Dad. We just thought it would be too dangerous, and we didn't know if you would still want us if you knew the truth."

"Still want you?" Diane asked. "Of course we still want you." She pulled Isabel into an embrace. "Isabel, you and Max are our son and daughter, and we love you no matter what."

Philip put his arm around Max's shoulder, "I just wish you would have told us sooner. Maybe we could have helped."


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


(The Parker House)

It had been a long, illuminating night but Jeff still had questions, and he knocked on Liz's door. "Liz, can I talk to you?"

Liz opened the door, "Sure Dad, come in."

She sank down onto the bed and he took a seat next to her, looking at her carefully. "It's like you're a different person."

"Because I'm an alien?" Liz asked.

Jeff shook his head, "No, it's because you've lived this whole other life right under our noses and we didn't know anything about it."

Liz nodded.

Jeff continued, "Do you remember your other parents?"

"No," Liz said. "I don't have any memories of my other life, just what Max has shown me."

"It's hard to believe my little girl was all grown up and married," Jeff said.

Liz smiled, "It's hard for me to believe too."

"But you don't have any doubts that it's true. That you were this Ava?"

"No," Liz said. "No doubts at all. When Larek told us, I just knew it was true."

"And that's one of your powers, isn't it?" Jeff asked. "You can tell if someone is telling the truth."

Liz shrugged, "Serena thinks so but I haven't really noticed a difference except with Max. I can almost always feel what he's feeling."

"And you love him, even though he got Tess pregnant."

"It's really complicated," Liz said. "Max and I thought we couldn't be together because Tess was his wife. But I love Max no matter what."

Jeff sighed, "So what's the real story with that Rath character? I take it he's Michael's duplicate but why did you ask me not to say anything about him in front of the others?"

"I asked you not to say anything because the knowledge is dangerous, Dad. The skin leader Nicholas, we told you about, has the ability to take information from people's minds, so the less people who know Rath came here, the better. See Rath is Michael's dupe and he has been working against us, but the night you saw him, Rath offered us an alliance. He's living in Copper Summit with the skins and he found out he was betrayed, so he offered to spy for us."

Jeff nodded, "And you don't want that knowledge to get back to your enemies." He pulled a hand through his hair. "And how do you know you can trust him?"

Liz shook her head, "We don't trust him, but as an offer of good faith he took us to Alex."

"So Alex didn't just wake up on his own?"

"No," Liz said. "Max healed him. Otherwise Alex would still be in that nursing home and we would still think he was dead. And today it was Rath who called and warned Michael about the attack."

"So Rath could be telling the truth or it could be just a ruse to get you to trust him." Jeff nodded, "I just can't believe you kids have to deal with things like this."

"Yeah," Liz said. "It isn't easy but we're trying to examine every possibility and be careful with everything we do."

Jeff put his arm around her. "I hope you know that none of this changes the way your mother or I feel about you. You're our daughter and we love you."

Liz wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. "Thanks Dad, that means a lot." She pulled back and looked into her father's face, "I don't need powers to tell that you're worried."

"It's just you're all so young and you're involved in the huge intergalactic war." He shook his head, "Maybe you should all leave, hide somewhere, until this is all over."

Liz shook her head, thinking of the other timeline when the Earth was taken over by aliens. "Khivar would just hunt us down." She looked into her father's concerned face. "If there's one thing I've learned," she said softly, "it's that you can't escape destiny."


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


(The Evans House - Max's Room)

Max picked up his cell phone immediately when it rang, almost dreading what news it might bring, "Hello?"

"Duke," Rath greeted, "I'm glad to hear that everyone survived the attack."

"How did you know?" Max asked.

"These skin soldiers gossip more than a bunch of girls in the bathroom," Rath said. "The news was all over the town but I had to wait until it was safe to call you."

"Thanks for the warning, Rath," Max said. "It's just too bad that you didn't find out a little earlier."

"Yeah, well Nicholas isn't exactly up front with me. I found out about the attack from the soldiers, but by then it was almost too late." Rath chuckled, "But Nicholas sure is pissed that you all survived. He's been kicking cans all night."

Max grimaced, "Have you heard any plans to send more soldiers here?"

"Not yet," Rath said. "Nicholas ordered another group to get ready but then he went into the ship for a while and when he came out, he told them to stand down. He must have talked to Khivar and been ordered to stop."

"I wonder why he would do that?" Max asked.

"Don't know, duke. But Khivar must be up to something.


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


(Friday, March 2nd, 2002)
(West Roswell High School)

Michael and Maria were the last to enter the empty classroom where the others were already gathered.

Maria patted Michael on the arm. "Another Michael worshipper. That means there were two of them," she mocked. "But at least he's not in love with you." Her brow creased and she turned to Ryan, "You're not, are you?"

Ryan laughed, "No, I'm not."

Max sat with Liz on one side and Serena on the other and started the questions. "So when you were taken back to Antar, did you volunteer to come back to Earth?"

"I would have," Ryan said, "but Khivar wouldn't let anyone stay on Antar. He sent everyone back to Earth."

Max nodded, "And are you still reporting to Nicholas?"

"No. On the first day back I started a fire and faked my own death."

"So no one knows you're gone," Isabel said.

"And you were the one who killed John in the quarry that day," Michael said.

Ryan nodded, "Yeah. I had been keeping an eye on the Crashdown because that's where Michael is most of the time, and I saw Sean colluding with John. I thought they were up to no good so I followed them."

"And saved Liz's life," Max said. "That means more to me than you could ever possibly know, thank you."

Ryan shook his head self-consciously. "It was a group effort."

"You've been watching us a long time," Max said. "What are your plans?"

"You mean am I going to try and overthrow you and Khivar to put Michael on the throne?"

Max nodded, "Something like that."

"Well," Ryan said, "it's obvious Michael is loyal to you and it wouldn't exactly endear me, or my cause, to him if I did anything to you."

Michael grunted and Ryan continued, "Actually, I really like you Max. You're a nice guy, loyal, protective of your people. I don't want to be your enemy. It was some of your predecessors' politics I disagreed with. I know you don't remember much about your other life and maybe you'll change when you get those memories back, but I think growing up among humans, in this country, could be the best thing that happened to you."

"Thanks," Max said sarcastically, "but you still didn't answer my question."

"You're right," Ryan agreed with a sigh. "The truth is, I really didn't have a plan beyond getting to know Michael and offering my services to him, if I got the chance."

"And now that you know Michael is loyal to me?" Max asked.

Ryan got down on one knee. "I offer my services to both of you."

Max shifted uncomfortably, "Get up Ryan, please."

Ryan stood and Max offered him his hand. "We accept your offer."

Max turned to face everyone. "After this attack I seriously considered maybe it was time for us to leave Roswell, but I don't think that would solve anything. Khivar has made it clear he wants us all dead, and no matter where we go he would find us. We aren't ready to take him on yet but we won't let him chase us from our home."


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


(Copper Summit, AZ)

Lonni waited for Nicholas at their usual rendezvous. She had become his lover in January when he had caught her in the ship, partly to distract him from her real motive but also hoping that being close to him would give her other opportunities.

But Nicholas was an annoying stickler for regulations and he had never allowed her on the ship again. Lonni had even tried to convince Nicholas that they should meet on the ship to keep their relationship a secret from Rath. Nicholas had simply suggested they get rid of Rath, as an unneeded annoyance, but Lonni had convinced Nicholas he might still be useful. So Nicholas had taken her to an unused house on the edge of town, to use as their love nest.

Her hope of being taken into Nicholas' confidence had not happened either. She had known nothing about the troops being sent to Roswell until last night, when she'd heard the rumors of their failure. At first she'd been angry, but she had quickly revised her opinion when she realized it would be the perfect opportunity to use the failure to her advantage.

She stood near the hearth and kept her back to the door as Nicholas entered.

He crossed to her and put a hand on her shoulder. "Why aren't you upstairs, in something more comfortable?"

Lonni slipped out from under his hand, and walking away from him, spoke back over her shoulder, "Actually, I'm not really in the mood since I heard about yesterday."

Nicholas' eyes narrowed. "What does that mean?"

Lonni shrugged, "I thought you were smarter." She motioned to herself, "Here you have a perfect source of information about Max and his friends but instead of taking advantage of the situation, you foolishly went into Roswell blind." She shook her head, "I gave you more credit than that, Nicholas. I thought you were this great General, but it looks like I was wrong."

She crossed back to him and leaned in close. "And I don't give myself to fools."

Nicholas huffed, "It doesn't seem to have been a problem in the past. You take that moron Rath to your bed on a daily basis."

Lonni turned away from him. "You're right, Rath isn't too bright. But he knows it and can admit when he's out of his depth." She turned back to face Nicholas. "Rath also has other . . . assets that make up for his intellectual shortcomings."

Nicholas rolled his eyes.

Brushing her fingers through his hair, Lonni continued, "If you just let me in, tell me your plans, there's a lot I could offer you."

Nicholas smiled, "Maybe there's something we can offer one another."


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


(The Evans House)

Max stuck his head into the living room as he came in, and noticed that his mom had a slightly dazed look on her face. Obvisouly she was still struggling to accept the overwhelming truth. "Hey Mom," he greeted her.

"Oh Max," Diane called out, "how was your day?"

Max entered the room and sank down onto a chair. "Good. It was kind of hard to concentrate though, with what happened last night."

Diane nodded, "I guess I haven't realized how grown up you've become. You must be worried about everyone."

Max nodded, "In a way it's easier when we're all at school because when we're together I feel I can protect everyone."

"With that shield you used yesterday," Diane said. "How strong is it?"

"I've never really tested it," Max said with a shrug, "but it did stop bullets from a rifle."

"A rifle?" Diane gasped. "When did . . ." she trailed off shaking her head. "Maybe I don't want to know."

Max nodded, smiling sadly.

"I did want to ask you about something," Diane said.

"What's that, Mom?"

"On Halloween, I was looking for you, and I saw you and Liz sitting on your bed. You weren't doing anything, not even speaking. The two of you had your foreheads pressed together, but I got the distinct feeling that you somehow understood each other."

Max's smile warmed. "Liz and I have a sort of connection between us, and when we touch we can communicate through the bond in our minds. We can send our thoughts and feelings to one another and nothing is held back."

Diane was enraptured, "It sounds amazing."

Max nodded, "Serena says that sometimes our people even have bonds that allow them to communicate when they are apart."

"Will you and Liz develop a bond like that?"

"We don't know," Max said. "But our powers are still getting stronger. Anything is possible." Max smiled, "That night, Halloween, I got my first memory of Liz from our other life and I was sharing it with her. I remembered the first time I saw her, and it was love at first sight."

Diane shook her head. "It's just so incredible that you and Liz could find one another and fall in love without knowing anything about your past."

Max smiled, "I've been in love with Liz for so long, I don't remember anything else."


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


(The Parker House)

Liz knew her mother had been upset yesterday when they'd revealed the truth, and she had been waiting for her to get home, so they could talk. Finally Liz heard her in the kitchen and went to see her, but stopped just outside the kitchen door when she saw the look on her mother's face.

"Mom, are you all right?" she asked tentatively.

Nancy shook her head. "I've been thinking about this . . . revelation, all day."

Liz stepped forward and put a comforting hand on her mother's arm, "I know it's hard, Mom . . ."

But Nancy wasn't listening and interrupted, "This is why your grades went down, isn't it? Because you were involved with these aliens."

Liz nodded. "Yeah."

Nancy's eyes narrowed. "And this is why you and Max were out all night together that time. You were doing some alien thing, weren't you?"

Liz nodded. "That night I had a vision that led us to a potentially important clue about their past.

Nancy's brow creased. "A vision? How are you getting visions?"

Liz blushed. "At first it was only when Max and I kissed, but now I get them on my own."

Nancy shook her head. "I can't believe that all of this was going on, right under our noses. If I would have known, I could have stopped you somehow. Stopped you from seeing Max. I had a feeling at the time that I should forbid you from seeing him and I just wish I would have followed my instincts. If I would have stopped you then, maybe you wouldn't have been dragged so far into this."

"Stopped me?" Liz asked incrediously.

"Yes," Nancy said. "I would have stopped you from getting involved in all of this, from putting yourself in danger." She raised a hand to her head. "It's a miracle you didn't get hurt or worse, pitting yourself against the Sherrif, the FBI, these enemy aliens. I can't even imagine what could have happened to you." She reached out to touch Liz's face, with tears in her eyes. "And we don't know what they've done to you to make you have these visions and powers."

Liz shook her head. "I can't believe you just said that." Her voice rose in anger, "The only reason I'm alive now is because Max was brave enough to get involved when I was shot."

Nancy nodded. "I realize that, and I'm greatful he saved you," she said, "but it doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice the rest of your life helping them."

Liz sighed. "Mom, in case you've forgotten, I'm one of them."

Nancy reached out to her. "But you're human. You were born on Earth. How do you know that Max and the others aren't mistaken? Maybe you aren't this Ava. Maybe Max just wants it to be true."

Liz shook her head. "It's true, Mom. I am Max's wife, and you can't wish it away. But even if it weren't true and I was just human, I would do anything for Max because I love him.


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


TBC







BOOK 10 - MAJESTY'S MORASS
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