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



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PART 16


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(Tuesday, June 4th, 2002)

(Roswell Sheriff's Station)

Hansen rushed into Valenti's office with a file folder that he thrust at Jim. "Sheriff, the coroner's office just faxed over their initial report and Sheriff, there's something here you need to see."

Jim quickly skimmed the report and then looked back at Hansen. "Are they sure?"

Hansen nodded. "What are we going to do?"

"I'll take care of it. Thank you, deputy," Jim said, dismissing him. He reached for the phone and quickly dialed the familiar number.

When it was answered, Jim got right to the point. "Max, I don't know what this means but Isabel wasn't on that plane."


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


Isabel awoke to a throbbing pain in her head and with a groan she quickly shut her eyes, raising her hand to shade them from the light.

The light in the room dimmed instantly and Isabel carefully opened her eyes again. Her vision was fuzzy but she could see that she wasn't in her own room. With a hand to her head, she sat up, trying to figure out where she was. She took in the room in a sweeping glance, vaguely noting the ornate furnishings as she turned, but there was nothing familiar.

As her gaze reached the other side of the room, she suddenly discovered that she wasn't alone. For a moment she was startled but then she recognized her companion. "Hale?"

But suddenly the events of the last few days came rushing back to her and she gasped, "Khivar!"

She scrambled off the bed. "Where am I? What happened?"

Khivar held up his hands in a placating motion. "You're safe and on my ship in Copper Summit."

Isabel put a hand to her still throbbing head. "What did you do to me?"

"I'm sorry about your head," he said as he walked toward her. "It was a regrettable mistake."

Alarmed, Isabel backed to the wall shaking her head, but Khivar ignored her, stopping only inches away.

"Unfortunately you are allergic to the anesthetic we gave you." He reached up and gently touched her cheek. "It made you very ill. You have been unconscious for two days."

Isabel's breath caught in her throat. She had fallen in love with Hale and even knowing his true identity, her feelings were still there.

Khivar pressed his free hand against the wall and leaned into her, his voice barely a whisper, "For a few hours I thought I was going to lose you again. I held your dead body in my arms once and it almost destroyed me, but we were given another chance. You were reborn and I've waited so long for us to be reunited."

A shiver of reaction ran through Isabel and she whispered, "Khivar."

He took her head in his hands and brushed her lips with his once and then again.

Isabel closed her eyes with a sigh and let herself get lost in the kiss. But too soon, the reality of her situation came rushing back and she put her hands to his chest and pushed, ending the contact. "Stop, Khivar. Tell me why you brought me here."

Isabel thought she saw annoyance flash through his eyes but it was quickly replaced as he smiled.

"I couldn't wait for you any longer," he said simply.

Isabel felt her own temper rising. "So you kidnapped me?"

"I had not planned it that way but when you found out who I was, you attempted to run away from me and I could not let that happen."

Isabel shook her head. "I wasn't running away. I was scared, confused. I was going to my grandparents for some time to think."

"Why were you sacred?" Khivar asked incredulously. "Surely, you remember how it was between us. How much we loved one another, how much I still love you?"

"But that's just it," Isabel tried to explain. "I don't remember."

Khivar shook his head, "When we made love, I saw your memory of our first kiss on Antar."

"Yes, I started to remember it," she admitted, "but I wouldn't let myself remember anything more. The intense emotions I felt for you." She shook her head, "I didn't want to learn anything else."

"Why not, Isabel? Why would you deny us?"

Isabel continued to shake her head, as tears streamed down her face, and she tried to push past Khivar but he held her firmly.

"Isabel, tell me why you are so afraid?"

"I don't want to know the truth," she sobbed. "I don't want to remember choosing you over Max. I don't want to remember betraying my brother."

Khivar's brow creased as he enfolded her in his arms. "Who told you that?"

"Vanessa Whitaker," Isabel whispered. "She said I betrayed my brother, my family, for you. I didn't want to believe her but Nicholas told me the same thing."

Khivar smoothed his hand over her hair. "Shhh. It's okay, Isabel. You didn't betray anyone."

Isabel pulled away from him. "What?"

Khivar shook his head. "It is commonly believed among my people that you did betray your brother, because you were with me when you died. Afterward, the rumors spread that you had come to join me and divulge all of your brother's plans."

He reached up to brush the tears from her cheeks. "But it isn't true. You were faithful to you brother to the end, and ultimately it was why you were killed." He took a deep breath and continued, "Vanessa told you that because she believed it was the truth. As for the General," Khivar said casually, "he does tend to be a little overzealous at times."

"But Khivar, Lonni told me the same thing," Isabel argued. "Why would she . . ." Isabel suddenly trailed off.

Khivar nodded, "I am sure you are aware that Lonni would say or do anything to get what she wants. Or perhaps she doesn't remember the whole truth herself."

Isabel felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders and she suddenly felt faint. She grabbed for Khivar as her knees went out from under her.

Khivar caught her easily and swung her into his arms, gently placing her on the bed and smoothing her hair out of her face with a brush of his hand. "You have to be careful, you still have not fully recovered. You should rest for a while."

Isabel shook her head as she tried to sit. "I can't just stay here. My family and friends will worry. You said I've already been gone two days."

Khivar gently but firmly held her down. "I have arranged everything, Isabel," he assured her. "I promise, no one is looking for you." He handed her a glass. "Drink this, it will help you get stronger."

Isabel relaxed with a nod, suddenly exhausted. She took the glass and drained it. "Okay. I'll sleep for a little while."

Standing, Khivar pulled the blanket over her. "I'll be over there in the chair when you awake."

"But it might be hours," Isabel protested.

Khivar smiled and touched her cheek. "I have barely left your side since you were brought here."


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


(The Evans House)

Philip and Diane sat at the dining room table surrounded by Max and his friends as Sheriff Valenti delivered the news. They were rendered speechless by the Sheriff's revelation; Isabel hadn't been on the plane when it exploded, there was definite proof. Tears gathered in Diane's eyes and she started to weep softly.

Philip turned to Max, "So what do you think happened to her?"

"The most likely scenario is that she was taken by the skins," Max said softly.

"Your enemies from your planet," Philip said, trying to get a grip on what was happening. "Why do you think that?"

Max explained, "I saw Isabel get on the plane and watched until it took off. I didn't see her or anyone else get off. That means someone used alien powers to alter my perception of reality."

"They can do that?" Diane gasped.

"Tess could," Michael said gruffly.

"And you think Tess is with these other aliens who attacked us?" Philip asked.

Max nodded, "We're sure of it."

"But they won't hurt Isabel?" Diane asked anxiously.

Max put a hand on her shoulder. "No Mom, they won't hurt her." He shook his head, "We should have seen it before. That's why Liz didn't feel sick that day. Khivar loved Vilondra and his goal has always been to get her back. He wouldn't kill Isabel."

"So what can we do?" Diane asked. "How do we get her back?"

Max glanced again at his cell phone. When the Sheriff had called him with the news, he had immediately paged Rath. If Isabel was in Copper Summit, Rath could find out. This was a chance for Rath to prove that his offer of an alliance was genuine and Max hoped he had done the right thing in trusting him. "I'm not sure yet, Mom," Max admitted, "but we will get her back."


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


(Copper Summit, AZ)

Khivar waited until the sleeping draught he had given Isabel had taken effect and he was sure she was soundly asleep, before he let himself out of the room. Immediately he went to Nicholas' office and summoned his second in command.

While he waited impatiently for the General to arrive, Khivar considered his tenuous position with Isabel. He hadn't wanted to force her to come to him but unfortunately the events had dictated his actions. He couldn't take the chance that Isabel might have told Max who he really was. Max and the others had a lot of influence over Isabel and they might have been able to turn her from him, so he'd faked her death. And now he had to play his hand carefully or risk turning her from him permanently.

He kept reminding himself he was dealing with Isabel not Vilondra, and even though they were the same person, Isabel had been raised on Earth with possibilities that had never been available to Vilondra. Isabel was an independent woman, free of the paternal restraints and royal traditions and duties that Vilondra had been subjected to on Antar. And Isabel's strength and spirit made Khivar love her even more.

But Isabel's independence also made him cautions. Khivar couldn't predict her reactions and he knew if he pushed her too hard or too soon, she would leave him.

Nicholas entered the office with a deep formal bow. "My Liege."

The formality wasn't lost on Khivar, and an amused smile turned up the edges of his mouth. "General Nicaron, you must think you have been summoned here to be disciplined."

Nicholas winced at his true name on his master's lips. "I am only here to serve."

"Isabel woke up briefly," Khivar said, watching Nicholas closely. "We spoke candidly for a few moments before she exhausted herself."

Nicholas nodded, "I'm glad she is regaining her strength."

"Are you?" Khivar asked casually.

Nicholas was suddenly terrified for his life and he fell to his knees, pressing his head to the floor. "Your Majesty, I assure you . . ."

Khivar cut him off, "Isabel told me you led her to believe she had betrayed her brother on Antar."

Nicholas held his breath and remained silent as Khivar continued.

"Now, I understand your use of deception to achieve your ends, but I will ask you before I speak to her again, Nicaron. Is there anything else in your interactions with Isabel you would like to report?"

Nicholas sighed in relief and raised his eyes to meet his master's. "My liege, in the course of my mission to reunite you with the Princess, there have been occasions where perhaps I was a bit harsh," he admitted, "but I was careful not to inflict any permanent damage. I knew you were impatient for her to be returned to you and I thought the fastest way to get her back would be to play on her fears. I hoped I could confuse and manipulate her into voluntarily joining us."

Khivar nodded.

Nicholas grew bolder, "I thought we were in agreement, Sir, that there might have to be some unpleasantness and it was better done by me."

"Yes, we did agree," Khivar said with a sigh. "I know you have been loyal, Nicholas. She is just so delicate and she was so terribly sick. I almost lost her before we were together again."

It was as close to an apology as Khivar had ever uttered to him and Nicholas got to his feet, bowing formally. "Is there anything I can do for you, my liege?"

"You have disposed of the team that participated in Isabel's abduction?"

"Of course, Sir, just as you instructed. They never had the chance to talk to anyone. The healer is the only one left alive and he is confined to the ship."

Khivar nodded, "Keep the troops in town for now, away from the ship, but be covert about it. Distract them with drills and assignments, training. Most importantly, keep Lonni occupied. The last thing I want is for her to ruin my plans."


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


(The Evans house)

The gang was laying out some preliminary rescue plans when Max's phone rang. He answered it immediately, "This is Max."

"Yo, duke," Rath said, "I got your message."

"We think Nicholas has taken Isabel," Max said. "Do you know anything about that?"

"Not a thing," Rath said surprised. "A van did drive through town and go straight to the ship two days ago, in the evening, but I don't know anything else."

Max nodded, "Check around and see what you can find out."

"You got it," Rath agreed.

Max hung up and turned to the expectant faces before him. "Rath doesn't know anything but he saw a van come into town the same day Isabel went missing. It went right to the ship."

"They have Isabel on their ship," Diane said. "What if they take her back to your planet?"

"We'll get her back no matter what, Mom. I promise." Max said.

"How are you going to do that?" Philip asked. "Don't they have a whole town of soldiers?"

Max nodded, "That's why we're getting help." He dialed a number on his phone, "This is Max. We think Nicholas has kidnapped Isabel and we need your help. Can you meet us at my house?"

He hung up the phone. "Ryan is coming over. He can tell us the layout of the town and the ship, any passwords or security protocol and the guard schedules. We'll start with that and layout a plan."

Max turned to Michael, "After we meet with Ryan, I want you to see if you can find Hale. We haven't heard from him in days. He could have been taken too, or worse."


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


Michael knocked on the door to Hale's house for several minutes without an answer and then moved to peer in the window. Nothing seemed to be out of place and Michael walked around the back of the house.

All of the windows and doors were locked but when Michael looked through the window into the garage, he saw that Hale's car was gone.

He took out his cell phone and called Max. "The place is locked up tight but Hale's car is gone."

"Any signs of a struggle?" Max asked.

"No," Michael said. "Maybe Hale just took off."

"I hope so," Max said.


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


(The Evans house)

Max waited until Liz and Serena and his parents were the only ones left, before he turned to Liz with his request. "Liz, will you try to project to Isabel?"

Diane sat up straighter. "Liz can contact Isabel?"

Max nodded and explained to his parents. "One of Liz's powers is astral projection. She can make her spirit leave her body and go somewhere else." He took Liz's hand. "That's how she saved me at the summit in New York."

"So how does it work?" Philip asked.

"It's like I can feel people's spirits," Liz explained, "and my mind just takes me there."

"It's not dangerous," Diane said.

"No," Max said. "Liz will only stay a minute, just to see how Isabel is and tell her we're coming." He squeezed her hand, "Right?"

Liz nodded, knowing Max was worried about her too. It had taken a lot for him to ask her because there were so many unknowns. They didn't know if any of the skins could detect her presence or what could happen if they did.

"I'll be fine," Liz assured them.

She sat on the sofa next to Max and took a deep breath, closing her eyes. In her mind, she pictured Isabel, concentrating on the part of her that was unique, the part that made her Isabel. Then she let her mind follow the sensation, drawing her to Isabel. She felt the familiar sensation of flight, traveling at extreme speeds and suddenly she stopped.

But Isabel was not before her as she expected. Liz stood next to what she could only describe as a flying saucer. She reached out to touch shining, metalic surface but forgot she wasn't solid until her hand collided with the surface. Liz recoiled in surprise, checking to make sure she wasn't solid but she was still transparent.

Once again she concentrated on going to Isabel but she didn't go anywhere. It was obvious to Liz that Isabel was on the ship, but for some reason, Liz couldn't get inside.

She let herself fall back into her body and opened her eyes.

"What happened?" everyone asked at the same time.

"I couldn't get to her," Liz said. "I was stopped outside the ship. I couldn't get through."

Serena nodded, "I wondered if it would stop you. The ship is made of heavy metals that our powers don't work on, but I didn't know how your ability would work. The fact that you were led to the ship though means it is probable Isabel is inside."


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


(Wednesday, June 5th, 2002)

(Copper Summit, AZ)

Isabel awoke feeling much better. Immediately she looked to the chair where Khivar said he would be waiting, but she was disappointed to find it empty. She looked around the room, carefully taking in the contents and it suddenly occurred to her that there was no window. Of course Khivar had told her they were on a ship but she had never considered there would be no windows. It was somewhat disconcerting and claustrophobic and Isabel glanced at her watch to see what time it was.

Her watch showed nine o'clock but she didn't know if it was morning or night. The growling in her stomach didn't help her tell the time either but it was insistent enough that she felt the need for some relief. She was a little apprehensive about leaving the room without Khivar, considering she was on a ship of enemy soldiers, but she knew Khivar wouldn't let anything happen to her, and squaring her shoulders she approached the door.

Isabel was surprised to see there was no handle on the door but she assumed it opened automatically like on Star Trek or something. But the door remained closed even when she was only a few inches from it and she waved her hand around, attempting to trigger a motion sensor. Still nothing happened and she was starting to get annoyed. She pushed a small amount of power into her hand and ran it over the surface of the door and along the frame, hoping to see a glowing handprint trigger like the one in the pod chamber, but again nothing happened.

Then the truth occurred to her. She was locked in. Instantly Isabel was angry that Khivar had dared to lock her up. She raised her fists and pounded on the door, calling out, "Hello. Is anyone there?"

The door slid open suddenly, surprising her and she involuntarily stepped back as Khivar appeared outside.

"What's wrong?" he asked, concerned.

"I'm locked in a room, that's what's wrong," she said angrily.

"Yes," Khivar said with a nod. "It was for your own protection. My troops are screened carefully but it is always a remote possibility a traitor has slipped through. I would rather err on the side of caution than risk losing you."

Isabel nodded, accepting the information. "Is that the only reason, Khivar? Am I free to leave whenever I want?"

"Of course," he assured her, "but the healer is still concerned for your health and he has ordered complete rest for a few more days, at least."

Khivar slipped an arm around her waist, deftly turning and propelling her back into the room. With a flourish, he indicated a chair and she took a seat.

"A few more days?" Isabel asked. "I really don't feel that sick."

"Isabel, this allergic condition is very serious. You don't want to risk a relapse," Khivar pointed out.

"Okay," Isabel agreed, "but . . ."

Khivar cut her off, "No buts. Just let yourself get well."

"I just feel strange being here," Isabel said. "Since we learned who we used to be, and about the war, we have thought of you as the enemy. Now, I have been taken against my will and brought to Copper Summit. So basically I am in the enemy stronghold in a locked room, surrounded by soldiers. Just off the top of my head, I think that makes me a prisoner of war."

Khivar smiled and then broke into a joyous laughter. "I have missed you so much. I had almost forgotten how quickly your mind works."

He sat forward and reached for her hands. "Isabel, that is why I couldn't wait any longer to be with you. It is why I came to Earth and posed as your classmate, so we could be close again, so you could learn to love me again." He stroked the back of her hand with his thumb as he continued, "I wanted you to get to know me and choose to be with me. And when we made love, I knew you loved me, and I thought we would be able to work through the rest together."

Isabel interlaced her fingers with his and held up their clasped hands, her gaze meeting his. "But you're not really on Earth are you? You are possessing this body from Antar."

She rose from her chair suddenly angry, and dropped his hand. "You made love to me with someone else's body, Khivar. How could you do that?"

Khivar rose took and took her by the shoulders. "I would never defile you in that manner. You mean too much to me."

A confused look passed over her features and he continued, "You are right, of course, I am not really on Earth. But I had this special skin made from my own genetic material, mixed with human DNA. It is closer to the procedure that produced you, almost a hybrid itself but it is not another person, it has no will of its own."

Isabel felt herself being swayed to him and tried to remember he was the enemy. She thought of the future Liz had told them about where Khivar's army had taken over the Earth. But she couldn't blame him for things that might never happen, it was the same as Max blaming her for things she had done in her other life. None of them knew what had led to that terrible future and it wasn't like she could ask Khivar about it. The man standing before her didn't know anything about that timeline. But more importantly, she couldn't give away the secret of the Granolith.

Isabel let her eyes roam over his handsome face. What type of man was Khivar really? The kind, loving man she had met and fallen in love with, or the evil, black-hearted dictator who had stolen her brother's throne.

She shook her head. It was all too complicated. "I never would have let myself fall in love with you if I'd known who you were."

"I suspected as much," Khivar admitted. "That is why I deceived you. And now you are grasping at any excuse to stop loving me."

"I don't know," Isabel sighed. She sat down again and put her hands over her face. "I'm so confused. We're enemies, Khivar, we're at war. I . . ." she trailed off, shaking her head. "I don't know what to do, how to act. We've been fighting the skins, Nicholas. You sent those troops to Roswell just a couple of months ago. We might have all been killed. If Liz . . ." she trailed off, realizing what she had been about to reveal.

But Khivar picked up on her slip. "If Liz what?"

Isabel shook her head, still unable to meet his eyes. She had been about to say, if Liz hadn't told us about the other time line so we could prepare ourselves, we probably would have died. But Isabel had stopped herself in time, and she hurried to cover her slip. "Nothing. It's just that Max would have been devastated to lose her."

"As I was devastated to lose you," Khivar said softly. He shook his head, "Things aren't always so black and white, Isabel. Make no mistake, your brother and I are at war. A very long, very costly war and it is time to end it. But I didn't send those troops to Roswell, Nicholas did. He is getting impatient to return home and he acted without my orders. I'm just glad we were together when the attack occurred so I could make sure nothing happened to you."

Khivar knelt in front of her and gently parted her hands. "Do you still think of me as an enemy?"

Isabel looked into his handsome face, the one she had fallen in love with, and shook her head. "No."


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


(The Evans House)

Max spread out a detailed map of Copper Summit on the dining room table, while all of the others gathered around. "Rath wasn't able to find out anything about Isabel being in town so he knows she must be on the ship. And last night Liz attempted to project to her but she was stopped at the ship. Serena thinks it is because the ship is made of the heavy metals, so Liz couldn't get through."

"Ryan says the ship is here, on the outskirts of town," he said pointing to a location on the map. "It is constantly guarded by two soldiers but the main problem is that Nicholas had a small building with a lock on it put at the ship's entrance. There is no other way onto the ship than through the building, because the cargo bay and engine room can only be opened from inside. The building and lock are built of metals we can't manipulate because Nicholas was worried about deserters trying to steal the ship. So we'll have to figure out a way to get past that."

"What kind of lock?" Sean asked.

They all turned to Ryan and he explained, "It's just a regular lock like you find on a house, but we have to have a key to get past it. Nicholas doesn't trust anyone. He has the only key and must be there to let anyone on the ship. Occasionally Nicholas does forget to lock the building but only when he is on the ship. He's methodical about keeping it locked otherwise."

Sean smiled, "I've never met a lock I couldn't pick."

Max met his gaze and held it briefly before nodding and continuing. "Okay, so once we get inside, we might run into some technicians or Nicholas, so we'll have to be prepared to take them out. We'll split into two groups to get everything done faster. Kyle, Ryan and I will go in one group, Serena, Michael and Liz in the second."

"We don't want to use the ship's communicators to keep in touch between the groups because they might be monitored and we're not sure if walkie-talkies will work in the ship. Hopefully Liz will be our communicator, talking to me through our bond."

"Serena's group will take control of the bridge, locking down the entire ship, while we open the cargo bay and bring the cars inside. Ava will be outside to use her powers to create any diversions we need, including making it look like the guards are still there. She won't come inside until the last minute."

"We'll have to take two cars to transport everyone. Ryan suggested a place near the cargo bay to park, where he's sure we won't be detected. Once the cars are inside, we'll search the ship to make sure Isabel and Tess are aboard. Rath says Tess hasn't left the ship for three days, so either my son has been born or it is close to the time."

"Rath is the only one who can reliably see through Tess' mind warps, so we'll use him to search the ship. But we still don't know if we can entirely trust him so we won't tell him we are coming until we are there. When we have control of the bridge, I'll call Rath and tell him something to get him to the ship. Then we'll just take him inside and he won't have a chance to warn anyone."

When we make sure we have everyone, we'll take-off and use the ship's weapons to destroy Copper Summit. If we take the ship and don't strike now, the skins will simply retaliate, so it has to be done. We'll have to worry about Khivar's reaction later."

"In the ship, the trip back to Roswell will only take a few minutes. Maria and Alex will meet us at the pod chamber. We'll land the ship there and disguise it with rock, like the pod chamber."

Max looked at each one of them. "This is going to be dangerous and if anyone doesn't want to come speak up now."

No one spoke and Max continued, "Does everyone understand their part it the plan, have any questions or see any problems?"

Everyone shook their heads.

Max nodded, "Okay, it's too late to leave tonight. The drive takes almost eight hours so we'll leave tomorrow. Everyone meet here at noon and we'll get there just before dark."


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


(Copper Summit, AZ) When Isabel awoke after resting for the afternoon, Khivar offered her a surprise. He took her down the hall and led her into another room, where Ida was cradling a baby.

Isabel gasped, "Is he Max's son?"

Khivar nodded, "He was born the day we brought you here."

"Can I hold him?" Isabel asked.

Khivar motioned to Ida and she handed the baby to Isabel.

"He's beautiful," Isabel said. "Max would be so proud." She turned to Khivar, "We have to tell him about his son."

Khivar looked at Ida, "Leave us." He waited until the door closed behind her. "Isabel, Tess has asked me to take her and the baby back to Antar."

"But Max," Isabel started to object.

"Would it be so bad?" Khivar asked. "You said yourself that the baby was a mistake and Max would never have chosen to have a child with Tess. If Tess and the child come to Antar, they will be out of your brother's life forever and he can concentrate on Liz, just like he has always wanted."

"That would mean Max would never know his son," Isabel said.

"Surely he and Liz will have other children," Khivar said.

"But Max doesn't trust Tess and he doesn't want her raising his son," Isabel objected.

Khivar nodded, "What if the baby were in the care of someone he trusted?"

Isabel shook her head, "Who do you mean?"

Khivar took the baby and placed him in a crib and then led Isabel to a nearby sofa where they sat down. He took her hands in his. "Isabel, I want you to come back to Antar with me."

"But Khivar," Isabel started, only to be cut off.

"Just hear me out," Khivar said. "We love one another and we want to be together, and you're not satisfied with your life on Earth. On Antar you could do anything you want, be anyone you want."

"What about Max, Liz and Michael?" she asked.

"As you've told me, they are all happy on Earth, living their human lives," he said. "If you returned with me I would remove all the troops from Earth and leave them in peace. They could do whatever they wanted and not worry about any enemies."

"And the war?"

"With you at my side, the war would be over and I would be willing to give amnesty to any of Max's followers who swore featly to me."

"What about Max's son?" Isabel asked.

"Surely Max wouldn't object to you supervising the upbringing of his son."

Isabel shook her head, "I don't know, Khivar, it's all so sudden. I would be leaving everything I know."

Khivar smiled and gently touched her face. "We'll be together on your true home and I will help you regain your memories."

"What would I tell my family?" Isabel asked. "Max would never understand."

"Is that your only objection, what Max would think?"

"I don't know if he would ever forgive me," Isabel said. "I don't know if he would forgive me even if I stayed. I fell in love with you again."

"Then come with me." He leaned in and kissed her tenderly.

Isabel smiled as she suddenly made up her mind. "I have to say goodbye, tell my family I'm leaving."

"Not if you don't want to," Khivar said. "I told you no one was looking for you. That's because I anticipated that you might want to leave Earth without a big argument with your brother and friends."

"What did you do?" Isabel asked.

"I arranged an accident that appeared to take your life. Your parents and friends think you died."

"Khivar, how could you!" Isabel gasped, remembering how she had felt when they thought Alex was dead.

"I merely wanted to spare you the pain of a scene with your family. This way the break is already made."

"But my family," Isabel said. "Khivar, you can't just do things like that. Why didn't you just tell them we ran away together?"

"Would your brother have ever stopped looking for us?" Khivar asked.

Isabel shook her head, knowing he was right.

"Perhaps I overstepped my bounds," Khivar said. "If you wish, I will arrange it so you can return to your life."

"If I did, the attacks would continue," Isabel said.

"We are at war," Khivar said, "and it has to end one way or another. Even if I wanted to, I don't know if I could protect Max and the others at this point. There are many who have a lot invested in this war. If you come with me, we could convince everyone that Max was dead and no one else would come looking for him."

Isabel considered everything Khivar had said. She didn't like the fact that her family thought she was dead but maybe it would be easier for them, instead of thinking she had betrayed them. If she went back to Antar, she could guarantee the safety of Max and the others and stop the war.

Isabel looked into Khivar's face. She was in love with Khivar and she did want to spend her life with him.

Then she thought of the sacrifice Liz had made for them. Liz had been willing to give up the man she loved and her future happiness to save the world. The sacrifice that Isabel was contemplating was almost as severe, giving up her family and friends, her home, but her actions would save them all and she would be with the man she loved.

Isabel quickly made up her mind. "I'll come with you."


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


(Thursday, June 6th, 2002)

Max's phone rang early, waking him. "Yeah," he said groggily.

"It's Rath. Duke, the ship is gone."


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


(Copper Summit, AZ)

Lonni rushed into the hall when she felt the familiar shaking of the ship lifting off.

Nicholas met her at the head of the stairs. "Going somewhere?"

"You sent the ship home again without me?"

Nicholas leaned against the wall with a large smile, "Khivar wanted to take possession of Tess' son before she had a chance to change her mind," Nicholas said. "But the good news is that Khivar has ordered Max and all his friends executed. We're going to Roswell to kill them all on Saturday night and Sunday we're headed home."


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


(Roswell UFO Museum)

Max arrived in Brody's office before he got there and waited impatiently for him to arrive.

A few minutes later Brody came in. "Oh, Max. How are you? I was so sorry to hear about your sister."

Max nodded. "Thanks." He waited until Brody was seated and he put a hand on his shoulder, pushing a burst of power into him.

Almost immediately he saw Larek looking out from Brody's eyes. "Max, I was just about to contact you."

"Why?" Max asked.

"My men have just told me the Leptes has returned to Antar."

Max nodded, "With Isabel aboard. Nicholas took her."

Larek shook his head, "I'm sorry, Max."

"I've got to get her back Larek. Are you in contact with my mother?"

"Not really, Max. It is too dangerous for her. Khivar's men might be able to trace her position if we were in regular contact, but I could get a message to her. Actually this body was originally prepared by you mother, she suggested I use it for the summit."

"So could I contact my mother through Brody?" Max asked.

"It is possible but Brody has been prepared to be used by me so he is more attuned to my equipment, that's why you contact me when you use Brody. But I could send a message to your mother to use Brody to contact you about this same time tomorrow."

Max nodded, "Okay, I'll come back then."

Larek released Brody's mind and Brody refocused on Max. "I'm sorry, I seem to have drifted off for a moment, Max. What were you saying?"

"Um, I was just saying I won't be back to work next week. I need some more time."

Brody nodded, "Of course you do. Take off all the time you need."


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


(The Evans House)

Max stood before his friends and parents, with Liz by his side, as he filled them in on the events of the day. "Tomorrow I'm gong to talk to my mother and see how she can help. The first step is to find out where Isabel is being kept and then we'll work on a plan to get her back."

Diane spoke up, "How are we going to get her back from your planet?"

"I don't know," Max admitted, "but we'll figure out a way, I promise."

The others nodded and started talking among themselves.

Max took Liz aside. "Tomorrow, I want you to come with me when I talk to my mother." He shrugged, "For moral support, I guess."

Liz nodded, "Anything you need."


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


(Friday, June 7th, 2002)

(Roswell UFO Museum)

Max and Liz walked into Brody's office hand-in-hand to find Brody already there.

Brody smiled when he saw them, "My son?"


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


(Copper Summit, AZ)

Rath slipped into an alley and dialed Max's number but the call went straight to voice mail. "Damn it," Rath said. "Get off your freaking phone Max."


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


(Roswell UFO Museum)

"Zan?" Queen Nedra asked through Brody's mouth.

Max nodded, "My name is Max now." He motioned to Liz, "And this is Liz."

"Ava?"

"Yeah," Max said softly. "And you are . . ."

"Your mother, the dowager Queen Nedra."

Max was suddenly nervous, and automatically reached for Liz's hand. She squeezed his hand encouragingly and Max turned his attention back to his mother. "I'm sorry but we don't remember you."

Their interaction was not lost on her and Nedra nodded. "Larek told me."

"There's not time to catch up or get to know one another," Max apologized. "We have an emergency."

"What has happened?" Nedra asked.

Max continued, "We contacted you because Khivar has taken Isabel, um Vilondra. Their ship took her back to Antar yesterday. Khivar has her now."

Nedra nodded.

"I need you to find out everything you can," Max said.

"Of course," Nedra said.


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


Max waited until they were outside before he took the phone from his pocket and turned it on. "I'll call Michael to get a meeting together." But before he could dial, the phone rang and he answered. "Hello?"

"Duke," Rath's voice called out, "the ship is back."

"What?" Max asked.

"I tried to call you earlier," Rath said. "The ship came back this morning."

"Were you able to find out anything?" Max asked.

"Nicholas called a big meeting and told the troops that Khivar has ordered all of you executed, and when you're dead the troops can go home. He's sending all of them to Roswell, Saturday night, in charter busses so it won't look suspicious."

"Did Nicholas say why the ship went to Antar?" Max asked.

"No," Rath said, "and no one asked except Lonni. Nicholas told her it was to send your son to Antar."

"My son?" Max asked as his throat tightened. He turned to Liz and she squeezed his hand.

"Yeah, he must've been born in the last few days."

Max cleared his throat. "Did Nicholas say exactly when the attack was scheduled?"

"Just Saturday night," Rath said, "tomorrow. There are like two hundred and twenty soldiers with orders to take you out and Nicholas told them not to let anything stand in their way. They'll take Roswell apart looking for you. What are you going to do, duke?"

"If they leave any earlier, call me, otherwise I'll get back to you," Max said, hanging up. He looked at Liz, "The ship took my son to Antar too and Rath says Khivar ordered all of us killed tomorrow night. He's sending the entire compliment of troops to Roswell to execute us."

Liz nodded slowly, obviously deep in thought. "That means tomorrow, Copper Summit will be empty and the ship practically unguarded. We could take it and go to Antar to get Isabel ourselves."

Max smiled, "That's just what I was thinking."


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


(The Evans House)

Once again Max and the gathered friends and family stood around the dining room table with the map spread out before them. "We already have a good plan," Max said, "and it will still work. We just won't bother searching the ship until we are in the air. The only major change is that we will have to destroy the vehicles carrying the skin troops to Roswell. They'll be traveling together through a desert so we probably won't have any witnesses, but we have to take the chance. We can't leave the skins on Earth."

"I'll ask Rath to make an excuse to stay in town and he'll call us when all the troops have left town." Max pointed to the map. "There is a town on the highway, Willcox, that is at the turn-off leading to Copper Summit. We'll leave for there tonight and we'll be able to see the skins driving through, to corroborate Rath's account."

"We'll wait half-an-hour to make sure they're gone and then we'll go into town, get Rath and leave."

He looked at his parents, the Parkers and the Valentis. "No matter what, I think you should all leave town for the weekend, just in case. When we're sure everything is safe we'll call you."

Jim shook his head, "Can't do that Max. I'll help evacuate the others but I'm the Sheriff." He shrugged, "If you don't get all of the skins, someone has to be here to clean up. Besides I don't know why they would care enough to come after me."

Max nodded, "Just be careful."

Max looked at each of his friends. "This trip is different than just stealing the ship. We're going to another planet and we don't know how long we'll be there or even if we'll be coming back. We will be facing our greatest enemy on a hostile world where we don't know the rules. Serena says that Antar's atmosphere is safe for the humans and we won't have any trouble blending in because there are always a lot of off-worlders on the planet. The multi-dimensional thing that made all of the humans disappear, won't be a problem because naturally all of the dimensions exist together on Antar and it is only when one is separated that causes humans to disappear. Ryan says that the ship is equipped with a signal that identifies it as part of Khivar's personal fleet, so we won't be bothered at the spaceport. But that is the least of our worries."

"Liz and I have both decided to go. Now each of you have to make the decision and we'll understand either way."

Michael spoke up immediately, "Count me in."

"Me too," said Ryan.

Serena bowed, "I am at your service, your Majesties."

"There's no way you're going without me," Kyle said.

Maria slipped her arm in Michael's. "I'm going too."

Ava simply nodded.

"A chance to see another planet," Alex said. "That's every nerd's dream."

Sean sighed, "Well I can't let you all go without me, you might get into trouble."


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


(Crashdown Cafe)

Using a single sweep of her hand, Liz made a sign to put in the widow of the Crashdown.



Closed due to death in the family.



She put it up and locked everything securely and then went upstairs to help her parents finish packing. "Can I get anything out of the laundry for you?" she called out.

Nancy came into the kitchen. "Liz, you have to let me tell you where we are staying."

Liz shook her head, "It's better if I don't know. If anything goes wrong, no one can take the information from me."

"But if you change your mind about going," Nancy argued, "you won't know where to find us."

Liz smiled sadly. Her mother had never really accepted the fact that she was part alien, and not only had a past life, but an important destiny. "Mom, I'm not going to change my mind. I would do anything for Max, follow him anywhere."

"But you don't know what you're getting into," Nancy said softly. "You could just come with us and live the rest of your life like a normal person."

"I'm not a normal person anymore," Liz said. "I never was. I just didn't know it until that day Max healed me."

She took her mother's hand. "I know you don't understand, but to live a life without Max would slowly kill me, both of us. And whether we succeed or not, it'll be okay because we're together."

Liz saw the tears in her mother's eyes and felt them in her own. She wrapped her arms around her mother and gave her a tight hug. "I have to go with him, Mom. It's what I was born to do."


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


Max put his parents' luggage in the trunk of the car and turned back to hug his mother.

"Part of me doesn't want you to go," Diane said, "because I'm scared of losing you too. But I know I can't ask you to stay. I want Isabel back too much."

"I'll be okay, Mom," Max said.

"We don't have to tell you to be careful," Diane said.

Max shook his head, "We'll be careful."

Philip hugged Max. "I still can't believe you're going to another planet."

"I know," Max agreed, "it's hard for me to believe too."

"Come back to us," Philip said, releasing him.

Max nodded, "We will and we'll bring Isabel too."


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


(The Valenti House)

Amy hugged Sean and Maria. "You two don't have to go. You're not aliens, you don't have any powers."

"But we're part of this," Maria argued. "And we have to help our friends."

"Of course," Amy said, "but going to another planet is a little beyond the bounds of friendship. You'll be risking your lives."

"They saved my life," Sean said. "I think I owe them a little. Besides I'm not really doing anything here. Up there I have a chance to be part of something big."

Amy turned to Maria. "I know you love Michael but you don't have to follow him into a war."

Maria smiled. "Michael stayed on Earth for me and I want to do this for him."


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


Jim pulled Kyle into a hug. "Are you sure that this is what you want to do?"

Kyle hugged him back. "This is my path, Dad."

Jim nodded, "Come back to us safe."


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


(Roswell UFO Museum)

Max walked into Brody's office, "Hey Brody."

"Max," Brody greeted warmly, "I didn't expect you back so soon."

"I'm not really back," Max said. "In fact I came to tell you I'm quitting."

Brody nodded, "I'm sorry to hear that. I think of you as a good friend. But maybe you can come by from time-to-time and I'll catch you up on our progress, or of course I'll see you at the Crashdown."

Max shook his head, "I'm leaving town tonight, Brody. Liz, Michael, Maria, Alex, we're all going. A friend of ours, who lives out of town, needs our help. We don't know how long we'll be gone, so I wanted to tell you."

"Oh," said Brody, obviously disappointed. "Well when you come back, your job is always here."

"That means a lot Brody. I think of you as a friend too and I wanted to thank you for all of your help over the last couple of years. You've done more for us than you could ever know."

Max held out his hand and Brody shook it, and Max pushed a stream of power into him.

He only had to wait a minute before Brody's eyes refocused on him.

"Max, you're calling early," Nedra said.

Max nodded, releasing Brody's hand. "There has been an interesting turn of events and if everything goes as planned we will be on our way back to Antar tomorrow afternoon."

He turned and called out, "Serena."

Serena entered the room and bowed formally before Brody. "Your highness, Cuerena at your service."

Max turned back to his mother. "We need communication frequencies so we can tell you when we are arriving, a landing location and some kind of transport capable of carrying a dozen passengers and the Granolith. Can you arrange that in time?"

Nedra nodded, "Of course." She turned to Serena, "Use royal frequency L-23 with royal code blue to transmit just as you arrive at the outer atmosphere and we will send the landing location."

Max glanced at Serena. She nodded and headed toward the door, only stopping briefly to take the octagon-shaped alien object from its box on Brody's desk, and replace it with an identical one.

When she was gone, Max turned back to his mother. "If anything goes wrong I will contact you, otherwise we'll see you tomorrow."

Nedra smiled, "I will count the moments."

Max watched as Brody's mind took over once again. "Bye Brody, and thanks again."


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


Max parked the Jeep behind the Crashdown and let himself in the back door to wait with Liz. He had sent Michael and Serena to the airport to rent a van that they could all fit in. Max didn't want anyone to get accidentally separated on the way to Copper Summit.

Liz, I'm here, he called out, through their connection.

She answered in the same manner. Upstairs, on the balcony.

Max jogged up the stairs and went through Liz's room and out the window. She was looking down into the street and he enfolded her in his arms from behind, looking over her shoulder. "Taking a last look at Roswell?"

Liz leaned into him with a sigh, "It's funny the things I never thought I would miss. The neon of the Crashdown and the UFO museum signs, the way the streetlights light up everything at night, this balcony. So many things have happened here, good and bad."

Max frowned, "Liz, I don't want you to feel that you have to go . . ."

Liz turned in his arms, cutting him off with a finger to his lips. "Max my mother said the same thing. She tried to get me to stay and I'll tell you what I told her. I don't have a life without you."



Song Playing: I Swear by All-4-One



Max smiled and reached up to touch her cheek. "Liz, I know this isn't exactly the right time or place." He got down on one knee and took a small velvet box from his pocket. "For weeks I was planning to do this tonight, but that was before Isabel and everything."

Tears started in Liz's eyes and she sank to her knees before Max, putting them closer to eye level.

Max smiled, "You make me feel complete in a way I never knew existed, anchored in a world full of chaos, and brave like I could take on anything. And what you said is true for me too. Without you I simply don't want to live. Liz, I love you so much I don't have the words for it, but if you marry me, I'll spend every day for the rest of our lives showing you."

The tears spilled over Liz's eyelids and down her cheeks. "Max I can't think of anything more wonderful than sharing your life. I love you more than I ever thought possible, of course I'll marry you."

They wrapped their arms around one another, both crying with joy.

Max released Liz and opened the box to reveal a perfect, heart-shaped diamond set on a platinum band. He took her hand and removed the promise ring he had given her, placing it on the ring finger of her right hand. Then he took the emgagemet ring from the box and slid it on her left hand. "The ring is platinum, which is said to help sustain the forces within and allow them to achieve their full potential. The band is made of two separate strands that have been twined and bound together by the heart, a symbol of our eternal love.

Liz reached for him, pulling him into a kiss, the tears on their cheeks mingling in their shared happiness.

Finally Max pulled back. "I called the City Clerk in Willcox, Arizona. If you agree, we can get a marriage license tomorrow morning and the clerk will perform the ceremony. No blood tests and no waiting, unlike New Mexico." He looked at Liz's expression carefully. "I know it's sudden and it isn't a romantic setting like you deserve, but for some reason I think it's important for us to be together in every sense of the word before we get to Antar."

Liz nodded. "I've had that feeling too Max, but even if I didn't, I would marry you any time, any place," she winked at him, "even at the Elvis chapel by the King himself."

Max studied her. "Are you sure you won't regret not having the big wedding with the flowers and the dress and the bridesmaids?"

Liz smiled, "None of that matters to me Max, only being with you."


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


TBC







BOOK 10 - MAJESTY'S MORASS
Part 17
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