(Tuesday, July 4th, 2001)
(Copper Summit, AZ)
Nicholas passed his hand over the communications controls and waited for his master to answer.
Corporal Raltos slumped forward and then sat upright and Nicholas knew Khivar had taken over the body.
"My liege," Nicholas started formally, "I am pleased to announce the arrival of the two-hundred new troops."
"Excellent," Khivar said. "I had the engineers make a few improvements to the ship while it was here and now with the power of the Granolith, the trip between Earth and Antar only takes a few hours."
"That is excellent," Nicholas agreed. "It will be much easier to build up the number of troops on Earth."
Khivar shook his head, "For now, I am not sending a large force to Earth. We will wait and see if this plan is successful before committing more troops."
"I am sure you are right, Sir," Nicholas said. "The new troops arrived almost without incident and the plan will start on schedule."
"Almost without incident?" Khivar asked, immediately picking up on Nicholas' wording.
"There was an accident last night after the troops arrived," Nicholas reported. "They were getting settled into their houses in Copper Summit and somehow a fire broke out. Two soldiers were killed, but they were only minor technicians, nothing that can't be easily replaced. We are investigating the cause of the fire but it looks like they were simply too unfamiliar with the husks, and the workings of a human household, and the gas flame on the stove caught them unawares."
Khivar shook his head, "Make sure the others are properly trained. We don't want any more stupid accidents to ruin our plan."
(Wednesday, July 5th, 2001)
(The Evans House - Isabel's Room)
Isabel had worked at least an hour, every day for weeks on her memory recovery, but she had never experienced any success apart from the brief vision she'd gotten. Even Michael had experienced some general feelings and impressions of Antar and Isabel was frustrated at her lack of progress.
But as her frustration grew, so did her anxiety. Isabel started to worry that subconsciously she didn't want to remember. Congresswoman Whitaker had told her she had betrayed her family, her brother, and Isabel was afraid of what she would discover about her past life. But no matter what her other self had done in the past, she was free of guilt, and knowing the truth about what had happened might give them insight on how to stop Khivar.
Isabel felt a shiver of reaction race through her at just the thought of his name. If what Whitaker and Nicholas said was true, Khivar had been her lover and the reason she had betrayed her people, and Isabel admitted to herself that she was afraid of recovering her memories of him.
Her one glimpse of her other life had included a man, and even though she had no proof, she was sure it was Khivar. It made her feel terribly guilty that she hadn't remembered her mother or father or brother. Her first recovered memory had been of her lover.
Isabel took a deep breath and tried to push her anxieties aside as she started her meditation. The intense concentration she had attempted in the last few weeks had not yielded anything so she changed her technique. Ridding her mind of all thoughts, Isabel opened herself to the dark void of the past, simply letting her mind take her where it wanted to go.
After only a few moments, Isabel realized she could hear the sound of the ocean lapping gently on the beach. It was a soft, relaxing sound and it should have been calming but she felt nervous, excited. A warm breeze blew past her bare shoulders, making her hair swirl and dance and she cold feel the heavy length of it brush of it all the way down her back, longer than her hair had ever been in this lifetime.
The realization thrilled her and at the same time worried her, but she stubbornly worked to let more of the memory into her conscious mind. She could see nothing, but she was sure it was night and more sensations rushed into her mind as if she were there.
The sorrowful song of a night bird echoed in the distance as she walked away from the unmistakable sounds of a party. A warm hand rested on her waist, gently guiding her across uneven ground. A rush of emotions assailed her and Isabel knew she would have gone anywhere her companion suggested. She felt the touch of his hand on her face and words echoed in her mind in an unfamiliar language, but somehow Isabel knew what they meant.
"You are incredibly beautiful," her companion whispered and Isabel felt another shiver of reaction.
He leaned in for a kiss but Isabel knew it was wrong and heard the words she had spoken so long ago. "Please don't. My father would not approve."
But her companion didn't listen and she felt his arms around her, pulling her closer. She trembled in anticipation of his kiss but she knew it shouldn't happen. Her voice was barely a whisper between them. "Please, Khivar."
Then she felt his lips on hers and the overwhelming maelstrom of emotions that rushed through her scared her more than anything she had ever experienced. Forcefully Isabel shut off the memory as she raised a shaky hand to her lips, where she could still feel the kiss.
This one taste of the past made her doubt herself more than anything else ever could have. The feelings she had experienced for Khivar had been so powerful that Isabel was afraid of what she would have done for him. She was afraid to discover anything more and vowed never to attempt recovering her past again.
Maria looked up when the bell above the door announced the arrival of a customer and smiled broadly when she saw who it was. "Brody, it's good to see you."
Brody smiled, "I decided to come over here for dinner today."
Maria nodded her approval, "Well you do need to get out of that dungeon every once in a while."
"I have been working a lot lately," Brody admitted.
"Something happening?" Maria asked, trying not to seem too interested.
"No, not really," Brody said with a sigh. "When my team was going over the readings from the tracking stations, they found an anomaly in the desert outside of town on May 19th."
"May 19th," Maria said with a squeak, remembering the day Tess had left in the Granolith. She cleared her throat and struggled to get her voice under control. "What kind of anomaly?"
"Well, there were some unusual readings but it turned out to be nothing, just a glitch in the equipment."
"Oh," Maria said relieved, but she feigned disappointment, "I'm sorry to hear that."
"Yeah," Brody said. "I thought we were on to something, you know. I have all of this great equipment and employees searching twenty-four hours a day. I thought we would have found something by now but there hasn't really been any activity since last year."
"I'm sorry, Brody, I know how disappointed you must be. But one of these days I know you'll find what you're looking for."
(Saturday, July 7th, 2001)
(The Evans House)
"The pizza's here," Isabel called out. She carefully threaded her way past everyone and placed the boxes on the dining room table. "There's cheese, vegetarian, combo, and of course meat lover's for Michael. We also got hot wings and bread sticks."
The six of them passed around plates and helped themselves to food, and the debate started about which movie to watch.
"The Princess Bride," Maria suggested.
Michael and Kyle exchanged a grimace and Kyle groaned, "No chick flicks. Let's have some action."
"I brought Braveheart," Michael said.
Maria booed and Isabel threw a balled-up napkin at him, "Not Braveheart again."
"Okay," Michael said, "what about the Patriot?"
Kyle turned to Maria, "Does he have a weird Mel Gibson fetish or something?"
Maria rolled her eyes, "Don't even ask."
Max and Liz stood to the side and watched the others arguing about the movie choices. Max spoke softly so only Liz could hear, "It was a good idea to get together tonight."
Liz shrugged, "I thought we could all use a little fun for a change."
"And it will help the group bond," Max added. "Maybe we should schedule an evening just for fun. You know, have a standing date, and we could do different things like bowling or movies or something. Saturday nights would be perfect."
Liz turned to him and studied his face until Max grew uncomfortable, "What is it Liz?"
"I guess I just realized how much you've matured in the last year. You're really growing into your role as the leader."
Max shook his head, "I don't feel mature and I certainly don't feel like a leader. Half the time, I don't really know what I'm doing. I just try to do what's best and keep everyone safe."
Liz nodded, "You're a good man, Max. A good friend and a good person, and that's why you'll be a good King."
The figure quietly climbed the ladder onto Liz's balcony and crossed to the window. He was pleasantly surprised to find it unlocked and slipped easily inside. Liz's room was dark but there was no one home and he switched on a light, unafraid of being seen.
He quickly opened drawer after drawer, sifting carefully through Liz's belongings. He tried the closet and then under the bed but he didn't find what he was searching for.
Finally he opened the small drawer on the bedside table and carefully extracted a small strip of photos that had obviously been taken in a photo booth. There were three shots on the strip of a smiling Liz and Max Evans.
(The Evans House)
Maria had sensed that Liz was somewhat subdued, and when her friend headed toward the bathroom, Maria followed. "Liz, do you want to tell me what's going on."
Liz shook her head, "Nothing."
"Liz, I know you better than that," Maria insisted. "Is it you and Max?"
"No, not at all," Liz denied instantly. "At first, he was really anxious to get things back to the way they used to be between us, but he has really calmed down. It's been nice just letting our friendship grow again and we are getting closer.
"But there is something wrong," Maria pressed.
Liz sighed, "Really there's nothing specific. It's just this feeling I have. I can't say why but I'm worried about everyone."
"Now that Khivar has the Granolith, I thought he would leave us alone," Maria said.
"We don't know that for sure," Liz said. "Their world has been at war for over fifty years. It would help secure Khivar's position if all of Max's family and supporters were… um… out of the way."
"You mean dead," Maria clarified. "You think that's why Khivar took over the Earth in the other time, don't you? And you think he'll do it again."
Liz shook her head, "No. No, I don't."
"Have you told Max about this?" Maria asked. "I mean what are we going to do?"
"I haven't really discussed it with Max but I'm sure he's thinking the same thing. That's why he has us practicing our powers and why we are getting the book translated. So we are prepared as we can be if something does happen."
"So this bad feeling you have," Maria persisted, "is it related to Khivar?"
"No, I don't think so," Liz said. "I can't pinpoint anything specific but I just have the feeling that something is wrong."
Isabel got another two-liter of soda from the kitchen and headed back into the living room. Kyle, Max and Michael were laughing, making jokes and Isabel stopped just around the corner to watch.
"They look like they're having a good time," Alex said over her shoulder.
"Yeah," Isabel agreed. "It's good to see them laughing. It's been a while."
"They're getting over my death and over the betrayal. Moving on with their lives. Healing." He placed his hand on Isabel's shoulder, turning her to look at him. "And so are you."
"No," Isabel instantly denied. "I'll never forget you."
"Of course not," Alex agreed. "Healing doesn't mean forgetting, it just means living."
(Thursday, July 12th, 2001)
Sean waited until everyone had left, and Liz was the only one in the Crashdown before knocking on the locked door.
Liz turned to the door, recognized Sean and crossed to him. She unlocked the door and opened it half way, "Sean the kitchen is closed."
Sean pushed past her and into the dining room. "Good, because I didn't come to eat."
Liz sighed, "Look Sean it's late and…"
"This is important," Sean insisted.
Liz sank down into one of the booths. "Okay."
"I've found out some things Liz, and you need to hear them," Sean started.
Liz sat forward, suddenly concerned, "What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about Max."
Liz felt herself go cold, "What about Max?"
"I've been asking around and I've got some pretty convincing evidence that Max isn't such a great guy."
Liz breathed a sigh of relief but rose from the table. "Sean you have no right to investigate Max. He is none of your business."
"It is my business because I care about you and I don't want you to get hurt. Max was stringing you on before. How do you know he isn't doing it again?"
Liz shook her head. "You have no idea what you're talking about, Sean. Max isn't like that."
"Well Liz, maybe Max isn't the guy you think he is."
"You should go now Sean," Liz said, heading toward the door.
Sean followed her. "Liz you never told me why you came to the bowling alley the night of the prom but I could tell you were hurting. I know you went to the dance with Max but he didn't take you home, so something happened between you two that night. I've been asking around, and some people saw him kissing a blonde named Tess at the prom."
Liz felt tears prick her eyes as the painful memories came rushing back and ducked her head so Sean wouldn't see.
Sean could see her pain and knew he was finally getting through to her. "Your incredibly honerable guy was kissing another girl at the prom he took you to." Sean didn't want to hurt her but he continued ruthlessly, "And it's not even like they were trying to hide it, were they? They were right there in front of everyone, just like Max didn't even care if you saw them. And people saw you witness the kiss and run out of the building."
"Please go," Liz whispered.
Sean took her chin in his hand and lifted her head, forcing her to look at him. "Tess and Max were together after that, weren't they? People saw them together a lot and she was always hanging on him."
Liz wiped the tears from her cheeks. "That is in the past, Sean. T-Tess left town."
"Yeah," Sean agreed, "she left pretty quickly didn't she? Tess didn't wait the couple of weeks until school ended, didn't tell anyone she was going. People talked about that too. Some of the crazier theories have her running off to join a cult or abducted by aliens. One guy I talked to thinks Max murdered Tess and buried the body in the desert. But the leading theory seems to be that Max got her pregnant, and she left either to get an abortion or have the baby somewhere else."
Liz was incapable of speech she was so dumbfounded and merely shook her head. Sean had come very close to the truth.
Sean continued, "The timing is about right too. If Max was cheating on you with Tess before the prom, she could have discovered she was pregnant and left in May." His voice softened, "Liz you're a smart girl. Why are you staying with someone who would do that to you? Max stole you from Kyle. Maybe he's one of those guys that's just into the chase and as soon as he has you again, you'll find him making out with another busty blonde."
His words angered Liz and she jerked her head away. "Max didn't steal me from anyone. I am not a possession. And not that it's any of your business, but Kyle and I weren't going anywhere so I broke up with him. Max and I didn't get together until later." She sighed, "Sean you don't know everything that happened and I'm not going to explain it to you but I will say that there is nothing you can tell me about Max."
"But Liz," Sean started, only to be interrupted.
"Sean, I don't know if Max and I will make it but we're going to try again and there is nothing you can say to change my mind." She motioned to the door.
Sean studied her for a moment, saw that he wasn't getting through to her and walked outside. He stood on the dark sidewalk and watched as Liz turned off the lights and went into the back. "Maybe I can't change your mind about Max yet, but this isn't over."
He turned toward home, walking slowly but he didn't get more than a few steps before someone called his name.
Sean turned in the direction he had heard the voice, but saw no one. "Who's there?"
A man stepped out of the shadows that Sean didn't recognize. "Do I know you?" he asked.
The man shook his head, "No, but I think we can help one another."
"What makes you think that?" Sean asked sarcastically.
"You want Max out of Liz's life and if you help me expose him I guarantee that will happen."
Sean's brow knotted, "Expose him doing what?"
The man leaned in closer. "Haven't you ever noticed anything odd about Max?"
The night Brody held them hostage in the UFO museum immediately flashed into Sean's mind but he stalled, "Maybe."
The man smiled, "Why don't you tell me everything you know?"
"Let's take it slow pal," Sean said. "Who are you exactly?"
"Does it really matter, if you get what you want?"
Sean shrugged, "So what do I call you?"
"Why don't you just call me, John?"
It was obviously a false name but Sean nodded. "And what's in it for you, John? What do you have against Max?"
John smiled, "Let's just say I owe him one."
(Friday, July 13th, 2001)
(The Parker House – Liz's Room)
There was a light knock at Liz's door and she looked up from the book she was reading in bed. "Come in."
Her mother entered and sat next to her. "Can we talk about something?"
Liz closed the book and focused on her mother. "Sure, Mom."
"I, um, noticed that you have been spending more time with Max again," Nancy started, trying to sound casual, "alone."
Liz nodded, "Yeah."
"I know you two had broken up, but now you're back together?"
"It's really complicated, Mom," Liz said, "but yeah, we're trying again."
"So what kind of complications are there?" Nancy asked. "Did he pressure you to, um, do things you didn't want to do?"
Liz smiled at the uncomfortable tone in her mother's voice. "No it's nothing like that. Max would never do anything like that. He's a good guy."
"So what did happen between you?"
Liz sobered suddenly, shaking her head, "That's between me and Max, Mom and we are working through it."
Nancy nodded. "Liz I really meant it when I said you could talk to me about everything. I want you to feel that I'm here for you."
"I do, Mom," Liz assured her.
Her mother gave her a quick hug and Liz waited until she had left the room and closed the door behind her. "I wish I could talk to you about everything, Mom. But no matter how much I want to, there are just some things I can't tell you."
(Saturday, July 14th, 2001)
(Michael's Apartment Complex)
The man waited outside the apartment complex until Michael had driven away with a girl in a red Jetta, then he easily picked the shabby lock on Michael's door and slipped inside.
Carefully he searched through Michael's belongings, making sure to put everything back where it came from. But he stopped when he discovered some photos in a drawer. He sifted through them slowly, looking on the backs of some of the photos and then replaced them into the drawer.
For the day's training, Max had separated the groups into boys and girls. He and Michael were honing their marksmanship on the quarry's many rocks, Kyle was meditating, while Isabel, Maria and Liz were attempting to discover her unique ability.
Liz addressed Isabel, "How did you, Michael and Max figure out your powers?"
Isabel shrugged, "It was all by accident. Max healed a pigeon in the park and that was the first time we knew we had powers. I discovered my dream walking the same way. It just happened one night."
"But I haven't had any experiences like that." Liz said. "I have to really concentrate to use my powers."
"What about when you contacted Max in New York?" Maria asked. "You didn't know you had powers then."
"I was going on a lot of faith and desperation and Isabel was helping me," Liz said.
Isabel shook her head. "I helped you focus at first, but then it was all you, Liz. You went farther than I ever could have."
"But I don't even really know what happened," Liz protested.
"Maybe that is her special power," Maria suggested. "She can send her mind or her spirit or something, to other places."
The suggestion shocked Liz. "Astral projection?"
"It could be," Isabel agreed. "Why don't we work on it and see what happens?"
"Okay," Liz nodded in agreement. "How do we start?"
"Do you remember what it felt like the night you contacted Max?" Isabel asked.
"Yeah, I focused on Max, tried to feel him with my mind. Then it felt like I was flying really fast to where he was."
"And when you saw him?" Isabel asked. "What happened?"
"I was suddenly on a street and I saw him and tried to call him but I wasn't making any sound. I waved and finally he saw me."
"Okay," Isabel said. "Why don't we try it again. Maria can go over behind those big rocks and I will help you focus on her."
Maria nodded and left them and Isabel waited until she was out of sight to start. "Take my hands, Liz. I'll start a connection between us and well both focus on Maria, her essence, the part of her that is uniquely Maria."
Liz grasped Isabel's hands and nodded. She took a deep breath and shut her eyes as the connection came to life with a rush of images.
Isabel gasped when Liz's memories and emotions slammed into her and suddenly dropped her hands.
Liz's eyes snapped open. "What's wrong Isabel?" she asked concerned.
Isabel grasped at her chest, breathing heavily. "The other time we did this, you were shielding me from your mind and I wondered why, but it was because…" she trailed off as tears pricked her eyes.
Liz instantly understood. "I didn't block you this time and you saw my memories of what happened with the other Max," she said softly.
"It was so awful for you," Isabel whispered. "The things you had to say to Max while loving him so much and the way he treated you after. I don't know how you did it."
Tears started in Liz's eyes as Isabel continued. "I'm glad you are able to be together. Love like you and Max share shouldn't be denied. I know I was horrible to you at first Liz, but I really see now how good you and Max are for each other."
Liz pulled Isabel into a hug, "Thank you."
They released one another and Isabel wiped her eyes, "Maria's going to wonder what we're doing." She held out her hands again, "Let's try again."
Michael took careful aim and blasted a single rock in the middle of a pile. "So how are things going with you and Liz?" he asked Max casually.
Even though Max didn't have a destructive power like Michael's, he had figured out how to use his shield to hit things. He held up his hand and used his shield to punch a hole through a rock and then turned to Michael with a shrug, "Okay, I guess."
"Nice," Michael said, indicating Max's rock. "So no thawing of the ice then, huh?"
Max glanced over to where Liz and Isabel were sitting, and then back at Michael. "I don't want to move too fast, or push her. After everything that happened, I'm just grateful she's even speaking to me."
Michael nodded. "You, um, ever wonder about your son? I mean what he looks like, what's happening?"
Max sighed, "All the time."
Michael indicated Liz with a jut of his chin, "That's got to be a sore subject between you."
Max looked at the ground. "Liz has asked me about him a couple of times but I don't really want her to have to relive that pain, so I don't talk to her about it."
"Well if you need to talk about your son or Tess or anything," Michael said, "you know you can talk to me, right?"
Max nodded, "Thanks."
The first few times, Liz had used Isabel's help to get started. She had focused on Maria, like she had done before with Max, and suddenly found herself standing next to her best friend. But she had only seen Maria for a moment before she felt herself fall back into her body, and Maria had not seen her.
"Try it on your own," Isabel suggested. "I think you're ready to solo."
Liz closed her eyes again and this time focused on Maria. Again she appeared next to her best friend, and this time Liz concentrated on making Maria see her. Strange sensations assailed Liz as she fixated her entire attention and she could literally feel herself solidifying.
Liz's sudden appearance startled Maria but then her curiosity took over and she reached out to touch her. "Wow, that's really cool, you're like a ghost, I can see right through you. Can you hear me Liz?" she asked as her hand passed through Liz's shoulder.
Liz nodded, "Yeah."
Maria shook her head, "Sorry babe, no sound."
Liz concentrated harder attempting to make herself more solid. "Now Maria?"
Maria jumped up, clapping her hands. "I heard you say Maria, and you almost looked solid for a minute."
A sudden wave of weariness overcame Liz and she let herself slip back into her body, but the sudden transition made her dizzy and she swayed to the side.
Isabel caught her easily, "Whoa, are you okay?"
Liz nodded, "Yeah, just tired and kind of dizzy."
"Do you want me to get Max?" Isabel asked, already rising.
Liz put a hand on Isabel's arm. "No it's okay. I'll be fine."
Maria came running from behind the rocks, whooping with laughter. "I saw her that time and she said my name."
Max, Michael and Kyle, alerted by Maria's antics, came running.
"What happened?" Kyle asked.
"It was so cool," Maria started. "At first I couldn't see her but then she was like a ghost. I could see right through her and I heard her speak."
"What is she talking about?" Michael asked Isabel.
"It looks like Liz has the power of astral projection," Isabel said casually. "But it takes a lot out of her."
Max knelt in front of Liz. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. It was just like nothing I've ever experienced before," she said and then quickly amended herself. "Well, okay, once before."
"And you nearly fainted that time too," Michael pointed out.
Max extended a tentative hand toward Liz. "Maybe I should check you…"
"It's nothing," Liz assured them. "It'll just take a bit of getting used to."
"Okay," Max agreed. "But be careful when you are practicing. Don't over-tire yourself. I don't want you to get hurt."
Sean stopped his car on the side of the highway and pressed speed dial on the new cell phone John had given him.
The phone was answered immediately, "Yes."
"It's Sean. I tried to follow them today but I lost them."
"You lost them?" John asked incredulously. "How do you lose anyone in the desert?"
"I had to hang back enough so they wouldn't see me. It's not just flat desert and straight road, you know. The highway curves and there are rocks and trees and hills blocking my view and when I got a clear view again, the Jeep and Jetta were gone."
"You couldn't tell where they'd turned?" John asked.
"That whole area is riddled with Jeep tracks and old roads that go out into the desert and up the hills. There was no way to tell where they went. I tried a few roads but I didn't see anyone."
"Damn," John cursed. "We need to find out what they are doing. Max lives a normal life in town. Those trips into the desert are definitely the key."
"You keep saying that," Sean said, "but you won't even give me an idea of what they might be doing. What is it? Drugs or some kind of cult? Brainwashing?"
"I'm not exactly sure myself," John admitted, "but I know Max Evans, and you can be sure that it's big."
"But Liz goes with them," Sean protested. "If she knows about it already, how is exposing Max going to turn her against him?"
"Like I already told you," John said slowly, "I doubt Liz knows the whole story or if she does, she probably doesn't want to be involved. You told me yourself that Liz went back to Max under suspicious circumstances and seemed reluctant to be with him. It's possible he's holding something over her, forcing her to stay with him. If you free her, you'll be her hero."
"Okay," Sean agreed. "But you know their schedule as well as I do. They go out Saturday and Wednesday. I'll just have to try again."
Liz waved to Max and Isabel as they drove away and let out a deep breath. She had worked hard all day to not let the others see how exhausted the astral projection had made her. Letting herself in the back, Liz slowly climbed the stairs, hoping she wouldn't see anyone.
Entering the kitchen she saw a note on the table her parents had left, telling her they were at the store. Relieved that she wouldn't have to explain her weariness, Liz went in her room and sank down onto her bed. She knew if she told Max how much the new power took out of her, he would be worried and perhaps even try to stop her from developing it. But Liz had a feeling it could be important to them and she couldn't let Max or anyone else interfere.
(Monday, July 16th, 2001)
(The Evans House)
A figure watched from across the street as first Mr. and Mrs. Evans drove away and then as Max and Isabel climbed into the new Jeep. He waited until they had driven down the street and disappeared around the corner before he exited his car.
With a quick glance up and down the road, he slipped into the yard and through the unlocked gate, closing it softly behind him. And now that he was free of the prying eyes of the neighbors, he took his time opening one of the ground floor bedroom windows.
Climbing inside, it only took a cursory glance to determine that this was not the room he was looking for. There was a collection of perfumes and makeup on a dressing table and girls clothes flung haphazardly on the flowery bedspread. This was obviously Isabel's room.
He proceeded into the hallway and found the room he was looking for after only one wrong turn. The spartan furniture and brown plaid bedclothes immediately alerted him to the fact that this was Max's room.
With practiced hands, he sifted quickly through the room's contents, slowing his pace only when he discovered a small velvet-covered box in a dresser drawer. He withdrew the box and opened it, revealing a necklace; two heart charms on either side of a star, engraved with the names Max and Liz. He closed the box and replaced it, shutting the drawer.
And then finishing his search, he quietly left the house.
(The Parker House – Liz's Room)
Liz's alarm sounded, waking her from a fevered sleep. She reached over and quickly silenced the buzzing, hoping it hadn't awakened her parents. It was only two-thirty in the morning and she had specifically chosen the time hoping that Max would be asleep and she could practice her astral projection on him.
She had practiced on Isabel and Maria the previous two nights, visiting their bedsides in the middle of the night. But she had only been able to hold on for a few minutes until exhaustion had overtaken her and she was forced to return to her body. Liz was hoping to build up her strength quickly so her friends would never know how much her new power was taking out of her.
Propping up the pillows behind her, Liz leaned back and closed her eyes. She focused on Max, on the part of him that was unique and made him who he was. The now familiar flying sensation washed quickly over her and when it passed, she opened her eyes to find herself standing in Max's room.
He was in bed, clad only in a t-shirt and boxers and soundly asleep. Liz could see the gentle rise of his chest as he breathed and she knelt on the floor next to him, envying his deep slumber. Over the last few weeks she had been plagued by dreams she couldn't remember, and they filled her with an ever-increasing feeling of dread.
But she didn't know what to do about them. After all, they were only dreams, and an amorphous feeling of impending doom wasn't exactly the kind of thing that could be researched. She released a sigh, knowing exactly what Michael would say, hearing his sarcastic tone in her head.
"You want us to be on alert because you have a bad feeling. You've got to be kidding, Liz."
And maybe he was right. Maybe she was just feeling her own anxiety about everything that was happening. It hadn't exactly been a relaxing year with all the group had been through; Congresswoman Whitaker, future Max's visitation, the skins, the dupes, Laurie's kidnapping, the Ganderium, the horror of Alex's death and Tess' pregnancy. And even though Tess was gone and Liz knew she and Max could be together, there was still so much to work through.
Liz studied Max's face, wishing with everything that was in her that things could have been different between them. They had been so close at one time, sharing everything, and she missed that desperately. She reached out to brush his bangs off his forehead but her fingers passed through his hair and she suddenly remembered she was not really there.
Glancing at the clock, Liz saw she had been in Max's room for almost fifteen minutes and she didn't even feel tired. The extra practice had been worth the restless nights, Liz mused. She was already increasing her time out of her body.
She took a final look at Max's handsome face and leaned in to place a kiss on his forehead. For a second it felt a if her lips had actually touched him and as she let herself go back into her body, Liz swore she heard Max's whispered voice.
(Friday, July 20th, 2001)
(Roswell UFO Museum)
Max had just finished stuffing the intestines back in the alien model when he was distracted by an unfamiliar voice.
"Yeah," Max said as he turned. But instead of a customer, he was surprised to see a guy he didn't recognize in the UFO museum uniform, gold vest. "You work here?" he asked.
The new guy smiled, "Just started today." He held out a hand, "I'm Ryan MacGregor. Brody said you're the guy to tell me all about this place."
Max shook the proffered hand as he quickly sized up the new guy. Ryan was just taller than Max, but thinner and more gangly, like he hadn't quite grown into his body yet. He had reddish blond hair and bright green eyes and he seemed to be about Max's age.
Max smiled, "Yeah, I guess I'm one of the old-timers around here."
"Great," Ryan said. "I'm really looking forward to getting started. I've always been into aliens."
"Yeah," Max intoned blandly. "I'm surprised Brody hired anyone," he mused, changing the subject. "He never said anything to me about needing more help."
Ryan shrugged, "I don't know. I just came in yesterday and Brody said I could start today."
Max nodded, "Well let's start over here with the depiction of the '47 crash."
(The Valenti House)
Jim entered his house and turned on the light but stopped short as he noticed Kyle on the sofa.
Kyle opened his eyes, "Hey Dad. How was work?"
"Good," Jim said with a nod, "Really good." He quickly changed the subject, "Kyle you were sitting here with the lights off meditating?"
"Yeah," Kyle said. "It really helps me focus."
"You've been doing a lot of meditating lately, with your friends and alone."
"I have to be ready when I get my powers. It would be pretty hard to explain to the FBI that your son has uncontrollable alien powers."
Jim nodded, "I understand you want to be prepared but I'm worried that you, that all of you, are focusing so hard on this and you're forgetting to be kids and have some fun."
"It's important Dad. Liz said the world ended in the other time and we have to be ready. Especially now that Tess betrayed us."
Jim paused, looking down and then he looked back at Kyle. "We never really talked after we discovered the truth about her, did we?" Jim asked.
Kyle shrugged, "What's there to talk about? We took her into our home, into our family, our hearts, and she used us and threw us aside."
Jim sat down beside Kyle. "For a while there, I thought the two of you were getting close."
"I thought so too…" Kyle trailed off. For a time, starting last Christmas, he thought he had really been in love with her. He shook his head, "But I realized I saw her more as a sister."
Jim released a sign, "Sometimes Kyle, I'm sorry I got you involved in all this mess."
Kyle shook his head, "I was angry for a while but a few things changed my mind. Hearing everything Liz sacrificed really put things into perspective for me. And there was something Alex said to me when we were trapped in the cave with the Ganderium crystals. We didn't think we were going to make it out, but Alex wasn't scared or angry. He said, we were part of this amazing thing, and he was right. Even with everything that has happened, I know Alex wouldn't have traded his experience for anything, and neither would I."
Max held the door for Ryan, "This is the Crashdown. I eat here pretty much every day."
"Is the food that good?" Ryan asked.
Max shrugged, as he slid into a booth, facing the back room. "Yeah, the food is fine but I come here because…" his sentence trailed off as Liz came into the dining room and smiled at him.
Ryan turned to follow Max's gaze. "Oh, she's a good reason to hang out here. Is she your girlfriend?"
Max was suddenly jealous. He didn't like the tone in the Ryan's voice and felt the need to make sure Ryan knew where things stood. "Yeah, Liz is my girlfriend," Max said, never taking his eyes off Liz as she approached. Max wished he could kiss Liz to reinforce his position in her life, but he settled for taking her hand when she was close enough.
"Hey Max," Liz greeted warmly, even though she was surprised to see Max with someone she didn't know. "Who's your new friend?"
Max made the introduction, "Liz, this is Ryan. He just started over at the museum."
"It's nice to meet you Ryan," Liz said.
"Nice to meet you Liz." Ryan picked up the menu, "What would you recommend for a first-timer?"
"Well the special today is the Flying Saucer Platter; chicken strips, cheese sticks and onion petals with ranch and horseradish sauce," Liz said.
"That sounds great," Ryan said. "I'll have a Coke too."
Max released her hand so Liz could write their order on her pad.
She made a brief note for Ryan's order and looked at Max, "The usual, Max?"
Max smiled, almost grateful for Liz's implied intimacy. "Yeah. Thanks Liz."
Liz crossed to the kitchen to put the orders in and was stopped by Maria.
"Who's the guy with Max?"
"He just started at the museum," Liz said. "I guess Max is showing him around."
"I wouldn't mind showing him around," Maria said. "He's quite a babe."
"What?" Michael asked huffily, as he caught the end of Maria's sentence. "Who's a babe?"
"Down, Spaceboy," Maria laughed. "I was just saying Max's new friend is cute."
Michael looked past the girls to where Max was sitting. "Who is that guy? And what's he doing with Max?"
Liz sighed, "His name is Ryan."
"He works at the museum," Maria finished.
"Why is Max hanging out with him?" Michael grunted.
"I don't know," Maria hissed. "Why don't you ask him?"
She was saved from any more of his questions as their attention was diverted to the door.
Isabel came in and took a seat at the counter, not realizing Max was there because his back was to the door.
Ryan's gaze followed Isabel across the room and then he turned back to Max. "This really is the place to hang out. All the babes come here. Did you see that blonde that just walked in?"
"That's my sister," Max said with an edge in his voice.
"Whoa, sorry man," Ryan apologized. "I didn't mean anything."
At that moment Max saw Liz motion to their table alerting Isabel to his presence, and his sister hopped off the stool and slid into the booth next to him.
She addressed Ryan, "Liz tells me you're the newest employee at the museum," she said with a smile. "Ryan right? I'm Isabel, Max's sister."
"Uh, yeah, hi," Ryan stammered, obviously smitten.
Isabel pulled at Max's sleeve, "Ryan, can you excuse us for a minute? Family business."
Max rolled his eyes at the sharp tone in his sister's voice. "I'll be right back." He followed Isabel to the counter where the others were waiting.
Michael was the first to speak, "Maxwell, what the hell are you doing with this guy?"
"He's new in town and he doesn't have any friends," Max said.
"So what, you're the freaking welcome wagon now?" Michael asked.
Max sighed, "Brody asked me to show him around at the museum and he just followed me over here for lunch. It's not a big deal."
Michael nodded, "Okay, but just don't let him think he's going to join the group or anything."
"And how am I going to do that, Michael?" Max asked.
"You be rude to him," Michael said. "Let him know he's not wanted. We can't take the risk of letting anyone new in."
"Michael," Maria scolded.
Max rolled his eyes, "Michael not every new person in town is an enemy alien."
Michael shook his head, "I know that, but we've got our training to concentrate on, not to mention Khivar might send troops to invade Earth at any minute. We don't have time to be babysitting some lonely UFO geek."
"Even though I don't agree with Michael's methods," Isabel said, "I do agree we can't let anyone else in Max."
(Saturday, July 21st, 2001)
Kyle and Isabel followed the other two couples into the bowling alley for their Saturday evening out.
Kyle smiled watching Max and Liz and Michael and Maria. It made him feel good that things were getting normal again and he was glad his friends could find some happiness. Of course, seeing the couples did reinforce the fact that he was alone, and so was Isabel.
He glanced at her walking beside him. She was beautiful and smart, not to mention an alien Princess, and he admitted he had a bit of a crush on her. But Kyle knew Isabel wasn't ready for anything other than friendship. She was still getting over Alex's death.
But friendship was one thing Kyle could offer. He turned to her as they approached the door, "Isabel I don't want this to come out the wrong way but I was thinking, with the two couples, you and I kind of get left together anyway. So I propose we make it a standing arrangement. We could be like buddies. Any time either of us needs a partner, for a game or a movie or whatever, we both have a friend who is willing."
Isabel turned to him but was interrupted by Maria, "So Isabel are you on our team or is Kyle?"
Isabel smiled and put an arm around Kyle's shoulder, "Actually, Kyle and I are teaming up to show you guys how this game is played. Right partner?"
Kyle smiled, "You got it buddy."
(Wednesday, July 25th, 2001)
Liz was stacking the dishes from the last dirty table into the brimming tub, when the bell over the door sounded, drawing her attention. But when she saw who it was, she sighed wearily. "Sean we're closed."
"You know I didn't come to eat, Liz," Sean said.
Liz turned her back on him and continued bussing the table. "Well then you might as well go, because I don't want to talk to you about my relationship with Max."
"Liz, just listen to me…" Sean started only to have her cut him off.
"Sean we don't have anything to talk about," Liz said over her shoulder as she hefted the heavy tub of dishes and headed toward the back. "There is nothing you can say that will make me leave Max."
Sean was incensed that Liz could dismiss him so easily. He grabbed her arm and spun her toward him, causing her to lose her grip on the tub and it crashed heavily to the floor, sending dishes and food everywhere.
Max and Ryan exited the UFO museum and Max naturally looked to the Crashdown to see if Liz was still there. He spotted her instantly but she wasn't alone. Sean was there, and for a moment Max wondered what he was doing with her. Max watched as Sean grabbed Liz and jerked her toward him, sending a bucket of dishes crashing to the ground, and an overwhelming rage rose up with Max that Sean would even dare to touch her. "That bastard," Max ground out.
"What?" Ryan asked, confused.
Max didn't answer. He sprinted across the street and burst through the Crashdown's door. "What the hell are you doing, Sean?"
Sean turned toward Max and let go of Liz's arm.
Ryan came through the door just behind Max but he tripped and fell to the floor. Max helped Ryan up and turned back to Sean.
Sean laughed as Max advanced toward him. "Oh, aren't you the big man? Come running in here with your army to save your woman," Sean said sarcastically. "Calm down, Evans. We were just talking."
Max crossed to Liz, struggling to keep his anger in check but he saw Liz rubbing her arm and was instantly furious again. "I don't know what you were talking about, but you hurt Liz."
Sean looked at Liz and was instantly apologetic, "I'm sorry Liz. I didn't mean to. I just wanted to talk to you."
Liz sighed, "Sean, I already told you, we don't have anything to talk about."
Max knew Liz didn't want him fighting her battles for her, and even though he wanted to drop-kick Sean out the door, he held his tongue.
Sean motioned to Ryan standing near the door. "So Evans did you bring your friend here because you knew you couldn't take me alone?"
Max surged forward but Liz's hand was instantly on his arm. "Stop it! Both of you," she said.
Max felt all of the anger drain out of him at Liz's touch and she took his hand in hers as she continued, "Sean, it's been a long day. Why don't you just go home?"
Sean looked down at Max's hand clasped in Liz's and knew he had lost this round, but he wasn't giving up. "Okay, I'm going. And I really am sorry about your arm."
Ryan stepped aside to let Sean pass and nearly fell back into a booth. He regained his balance and waited until the door closed. "Who was that guy?"
Liz smiled grimly. "A persistent admirer who won't take no for an answer."
"An admirer," Ryan said woodenly. "He hurt you."
"It'll be okay," Liz assured him. "It's nothing really. So what are you two doing here anyway?"
"We were locking up the museum when I saw Sean grab you," Max said softly.
"And you came running to the rescue?" Liz asked, looking between Max and Ryan.
Ryan smiled, "I couldn't just stand by and watch a lady in distress." He motioned to the mess on the floor, "Can I help with the clean-up?"
"No thanks," Liz said with a smile. "We'll get it."
Ryan nodded, "I can see that everything is well in hand, so I'll say goodnight."
Max followed him to the door. "Thanks Ryan, for worrying about Liz. She means a lot to me."
"Anyone with eyes can see that," Ryan said. "Catch you at work."
Max locked the door behind Ryan and crossed to where Liz was already starting the cleanup. He knelt next to her and noticed an angry red mark spreading across the pale skin of her arm. "Liz, let me check your arm."
"It's nothing really," Liz said, dismissing his concern.
He placed a hand under her chin and raised her face to his, "Please, Liz."
Liz held out her arm and Max laid his hand over the reddened area, gently soothing it away with his powers.
"Thanks," Liz said.
"What did Sean want to talk to you about?"
"I don't know," she said with a shrug. "You and Ryan came in before he got to his point."
Max scowled, "You must have some idea. I got the impression this wasn't the first time."
Liz continued to gather pieces of broken dishes into the tub, avoiding Max's gaze.
But Max wasn't going to let her get away that easily. With one swipe of his hand, Max mended all the dishes, stacked everything into the tub and cleaned the floor.
"Liz," he said again, encouraging her to talk to him.
Liz lifted the tub onto the counter and looked him in the eyes. "It's not the first time, Max," she admitted. "Sean came to me a couple of weeks ago and tried to open my eyes about you."
"He did what?"
"I guess he's been asking around about you, trying to find out something that will make me turn away from you," Liz said.
"This is bad, Liz. What didn't you tell me?"
"Because there is nothing we can do about it," Liz said simply. "I knew you would get mad, but then what Max? Don't you see, the best thing we can do is nothing? There is nothing for Sean to discover other than a few rumors. He can't turn me away from you and he'll soon see he's wasting his time."
Max nodded knowing she was right, but one of Liz's phrases struck him, "What rumors did he hear?"
Liz tried to make it sound like no big deal, even though the words she was about to speak had been tearing her apart for weeks. "Well, I guess some people at school are speculating on the reason for Tess' sudden departure from Roswell, and quite a few of them think she left town because you got her pregnant."
Max was suddenly paranoid, "Liz, how does anyone know that?"
"I don't know that anyone does know for sure," Liz said with a shrug. "Maybe they just put two and two together, or maybe Tess told people she was p-pregnant."
Max felt tears prick his eyes, hearing the pain in Liz's voice. He had said sorry so many times but it never felt like enough.
Sean walked down the street to where he had parked his car and reached for the door handle only to be stopped by a voice behind him.
"You'll never convince Liz that way," John said.
Sean turned to face John, "And what do you suggest?"
"Find out what they are doing," John urged. "I'll lend you my car and you can follow them on Saturday. Expose Max and Liz will be yours."
Neither Sean or John noticed the figure watching them from the shadows.