BOOK 12 DESTINY DERIVED
(THE ROYAL FOUR RECLAIMED)
Ava had been awake for hours thinking about her conversation with Rath, the night before. What she told him had been true, she had no real memories of her past life. She had a few vague feelings and images but nothing concrete, and not for the first time she wondered about her family.
One of the memories that was the strongest was being loved by an older woman, Ava thought to be her mother. Ava had no memory of what the woman looked like, only fleeting emotions and impressions.
Was her mother, or any other members of her family, still alive? Ava wondered. She had been gone a long time, presumed dead in the coup, no doubt, and she wondered if her mother were still alive, would she welcome her as a daughter?
Of course there was Tess to consider too. Tess was the real clone, the one who hadn't been made as an expendable decoy. Maybe their mother would consider Tess to be her real daughter.
Ava sighed heavily and let her eyes travel over Kyle, sleeping beside her. He had loved both her and Tess and maybe their mother could too. Or, Ava thought to herself, maybe their mother would see Tess for the selfish, manipulative, traitor she was and reject her, claiming Ava as her real child, the good daughter.
Ava smiled. She had never thought of herself as a 'good' anything, but she rather liked the idea.
Michael entered the Granolith room behind Max and Liz and looked at the enigmatic machine. In the past he had felt a sense of power from it but he had never imagined that if could hold all of the answers to his many questions.
As he took a seat next to Max and Liz, Michael felt a sense of apprehension. What if he regained his memory and it changed who he was? But, he argued with himself, Max and Liz had done it and seemed mostly the same, a little more sad, more knowing perhaps, but relatively the same.
He glanced at them for reassurance and Liz smiled softly.
"Are you sure?" she asked. "There's no going back."
Michael nodded. "I'm ready."
Max and Liz clasped hands and started their connection and each reached out to Michael.
He took their offered hands and was immediately drawn into the connection, their overpowering emotions slamming into him.
Michael was awed by the strength of their bond and the deep love they shared. But he barely had time to consider it before images and emotions from their memories rushed through his mind; Liz's visit from future Max, her pain from lying to Max, pushing him away when she loved him so deeply, her anguish watching Max grow closer to Tess.
Then Michael saw Max's struggle with his leadership position, his fear for everyone's safety, his feeling of betrayal as one after another of his friends drifted away, including Liz, and the gut-wrenching pain of seeing Liz in bed with Kyle.
And the thought drifted through Michael's mind that he was sorry for any part he had played in increasing their troubles.
It wasn't your fault, Michael, Max said through the bond.
What? Michael asked surprise. We can talk?
Liz and I can speak through our connection, Max explained, so I guess since you are in it with us, you can too.
Okay, Michael said, so what do we do now?
Now we'll add the Granolith to the connection, Liz said, and hopefully the power boost will restore your memories too.
Hopefully? Michael asked.
Well, Liz admitted, we don't really know why connecting with the Granolith restored our memories, but we think it had something to do with the amount of power generated. We know it takes control of our powers to regain our memories and we think the addition of the Granolith's power allowed us to focus on the memories.
Michael nodded and he felt Max and Liz widen the connection to include the Granolith. Along with them, he could sense its power and he felt the tremendous burst of energy when it was brought into the bond.
For a moment Michael wasn't sure it was working and then he was deluged with images and emotions. The images whipped through his overwhelmed mind faster than he could process and only occasionally could he catch a brief glimpse of a memory or a snatch of a conversation.
And as quickly as it started, it was over, and Michael was left feeling confused and troubled. I couldn't focus on anything, he said. It was all too fast.
Just relax, Liz said. It takes your brain a few minutes to make sense of what it saw.
She and Max dropped his hands, ending the connection and Liz spoke aloud. "Max and I will wait outside, to give you some time to sort it all out."
Michael nodded, still reeling from the rush of images and emotions. He had never experienced such strong feelings of sorrow, regret and rage, and he was somewhat scared to remember the circumstances surrounding them.
Suddenly an image swirled to the front of his mind, slowly solidifying.
He was in a large room and there was a party in progress. An engagement party, the sudden thought occurred. He looked to a quiet corner where Max and Liz were seated, and then he corrected himself immediately, no it wasn't Max and Liz, it was Zan and Ava and it was the day they announced their betrothal.
Michael felt a stab of jealously but quickly shoved it away. He wasn't jealous of their happiness or their bond, he was jealous of Zan, because he loved Ava too. Michael shook his head to clear it. She wasn't just Ava, she was Liz too. But he wasn't just Rath either, he was Michael, and even though he admired Liz, he didn't love her, and he worked to let Rath's emotions within him merge with his own.
And through new eyes, he could see that Rath's love of Ava had been made of many things; respect of her intelligence and kindness, admiration of her power and strength and beauty. But now, he could see that what he'd felt for her hadn't been real love. Like the crush he'd had on Liz when they were young, it had simply been an infatuation. As Rath he had never found real love to compare it with, but as Michael he had been lucky to find love with Maria. Real love was based on all of those things he had admired about Ava but it also included something more.
And as if his realization opened the floodgates, all of his memories suddenly spilled into his mind. Michael saw his parents, his family, his friendship and service with Zan, their plan, and the horrible battle that had ended it all.
Isabel walked slowly around the hedge maze in the palace gardens, with a dreamy smile on her face.
Since she had arrived on Antar, Isabel had questioned her decision to come. It had been her only choice and she did want to be with Khivar, but the sacrifice of leaving her family and friends and everything she knew, had been overwhelming. She had also been concerned with what her mother would think about her choice. But last night with Khivar had been wonderful, and for the first time, Isabel felt hopeful for the future.
She loved Khivar and she knew he loved her and last night she had finally let herself relax and give in to her feelings. The connection she had with Khivar was everything she had ever wanted and she felt so complete and so loved, it was intoxicating.
Isabel reached out for a nearby flower and took a whiff of its delicate fragrance, humming softly to herself. She twirled and danced down the path and around the corner, oblivious to the garden's other occupants until she was practically on top them.
"I'm sorry," she started, but trailed off when she saw who it was. "Tess!" she hissed."
"Is-Isabel?" Tess faltered, eyes wide.
"You bitch!" Isabel ground out. "You pretended to be Max's wife, betrayed us and nearly got us all killed." She raised her hand, "I should kill you."
Tess backed away a couple of steps with her hands outstretched placatingly. "Wait Isabel!" She motioned behind her to a woman with a baby. "What about my son? Max's son. He needs me to survive."
Isabel barked a bitter laugh. "I seriously doubt that. He'd probably be much better without you."
"And what about Khivar?" Tess asked. "He won't be very happy if you kill me."
Isabel smiled. "Khivar would probably thank me."
Tess' face suddenly turned calculating. "Then maybe you should thank me too."
"What?" Isabel asked incredulously.
"Well, if I hadn't done it, you wouldn't be with Khivar, in the lap of luxury, about to become a queen. Would you?"
Isabel surged forward and slapped Tess, and the smaller woman staggered back a step from the force of the blow, clutching a hand to her face.
"You don't know what you're talking about," Isabel started, but was interrupted by a deep voice.
"Getting reacquainted, ladies?" Khivar asked, stepping around the corner.
"She hit me," Tess accused.
Khivar glanced at Tess. "I told you to stay away from Isabel."
"But I," Tess started to protest, but Khivar cut her off.
"Leave us," he said with a dismissing gesture. He turned his full attention to Isabel. "I'm sorry, my love. I warned her to stay away from you."
"Why is she here Khivar?" Isabel asked.
"If she leaves, she takes the child with her and I know neither you nor Max would want to leave his son in Tess' care," Khivar explained. "So I invited her to live at the palace where we could keep an eye on her. When the child is a little older and isn't so dependent on his mother, we will renegotiate his guardianship."
Isabel nodded. "You're right, we don't want to leave the baby with her." She glanced down the path where Tess had disappeared. "What did she name him?"
"Zantas, after your ancestor," Khivar said. "Tess remembered that it is tradition for Tageonant heirs to be given a form of the name Zan."
"Tess remembers more about my family than I do," Isabel said wistfully.
Khivar reached out to touch her cheek. "If you wish, I can help with that."
"You mean you'll help me recover my memories," Isabel clarified.
Khivar shrugged, "Or I could simply instruct you in the culture and traditions of our planet. It is your choice."
"I don't know if I want to remember," Isabel said, crossing her arms across her chest, as a shiver shook her body.
Khivar closed the small distance between them and enclosed her in his arms. "There is no hurry to make a decision," he assured her.
As Khivar's warmth seeped into her body, Isabel's shivers subsided. "I was so happy this morning and then seeing Tess ruined it."
Khivar looked down into her face. "Why were you happy?" he asked, with a smile.
Isabel met his eyes but blushed as she answered. "Well, last night was so wonderful."
"It was magical," Khivar corrected, with a smile. "A night I'll never forget because it was the first time you came to me when you knew the whole truth, and you accepted me completely."
"Well, despite the past and who we both are," Isabel said, "I love you very much. There's no denying it."
(Secret Headquarters of the Resistance Loyal to the Tageonants)
Michael opened the door to leave the Granolith chamber and colored with embarrassment when he saw Max and Liz. He looked at the ground, unable to meet their eyes. "So you two saw what was in my memory."
"No," Max said. "Your memories are your own and we didn't want to intrude. When the images started, we blocked them from our minds."
Michael looked up. "You know how to do that?" he asked, and then answered his own question. "Wait a minute, I know how to do that too, I just remembered."
Max smiled, "It's weird huh? Having two sets of memories."
Michael nodded. "It's almost like a movie I've watched a million times, that I can quote all the lines to, but it's more real than that because we really did live it."
Michael glanced at Liz briefly and then back at Max. "Now that I have my memories back, I don't see any way our people could have made the mistake of sending Chanya to Earth instead of Ava. There is just no way to confuse them. Granted, I died before you did, didn't I? But I still don't know how you would confuse a brunette for a blonde."
Max nodded, "That occurred to us too. After your death, Chanya was given tissue-harvesting devices and my mother told her about the plan. And before Khivar killed us, he told us Chanya was working with him, so she would have had access to our bodies. Liz thinks Chanya must have made the switch herself, taking my brain material and using a confederate to collect hers after she was dead. My mother thinks it must have been her protector, a shape shifter called Udac."
Michael squinted, thinking. "Yeah, I remember her. She was always petting Chanya's hair, calling her beloved."
Max continued. "Mother told us that Udac was the one who smuggled Ava's and my genetic material out of the palace and to the lab. But it wasn't Ava's it was Chanya's. Udac was hailed as a hero among our people for years, but a few months ago, she just disappeared."
"To go back and reveal our secrets to Khivar?" Michael asked sarcastically.
Max shook his head, "Apparently she was too saddened by Chanya's death to stay in the resistance and returned to Chanya's father's house. It was there that she disappeared."
"That's quite a coincidence," Michael said. "Her disappearing just before Khivar brings Tess here. What do you bet she's at the palace too?"
"I'd say it's a strong possibility," Max said.
Michael snorted. "And I say we get rid of Tess' dupe before she betrays us all just like Chanya and Tess. You could say it sorta runs in the family."
"But Ava isn't like that," Liz protested.
Michael opened his mouth to argue but a suddenly memory of Liz's powers in their other life, made him reconsider. "You have a feeling about her?" he asked.
Liz nodded. "She's a good person and we can use all the friends we can get." She smiled and shoved Michael's arm playfully. "Why didn't you argue with me? I could tell you wanted to."
Michael smiled. "Liz, did I ever tell you that I hate it because you're always right? But now that I have my memory back, I remember you predicted our deaths and it makes me hate it even more that you're always right."
Liz nodded solemnly. "So do I."
The gang met Toaks, Nedra and Cuerena in the makeshift laboratory in the basement of the house, where Raltos and Hale were being kept.
"Has there been any progress?" Max asked the head scientist Kranon.
"Not much yet, your Majesty," Kranon said. "It is a long process. Withdrawing information from a subject's mind without damaging it takes a special power and exacting control. We only have one mind reader who is unquestionably loyal to us and he has an exceptional talent, but the process causes him to tire quickly."
"Well," Michael said impatiently, "what have you found out?"
Kranon motioned to a nearby screen. "From Hale we retrieved a memory of an abduction and though I don't know what the Princess Vilondra looks like now, I assume it was her." He passed his hand over the controls causing an image of Isabel to appear on the screen.
"It's Isabel," Max corrected automatically. "Can you show us what happened?"
Kranon passed his hand over the controls again and the image on the screen flickered to life.
Through Hale's eyes, Max watched the scene he had witnessed firsthand when Isabel had boarded the plane headed for San Diego. But this time he saw what had really happened.
In a van, Hale and five other men drove onto the tarmac and toward the plane Isabel was on. As the plane pulled away from the terminal, Hale turned to the man in the passenger seat, "I am cloaking us and the van, start the illusion."
The man placed his hands to his head and closed his eyes, concentrating.
The van closely followed the plane as it taxied down the runway and when the plane stopped to await takeoff permission, Hale and two other men quickly climbed onboard. None of the passengers on the plane were aware of them and Hale hurried down the aisle locating Isabel.
He used a syringe to Isabel's exposed neck to deliver a sedative that acted immediately, causing her to slump sideways. Her seatmate was unaware of Isabel's condition or the fact that Hale lifted her into his arms.
He carried her unconscious form down the aisle and past two of his men, who had just finished activating a series of buttons on a small device that appeared to be a bomb. They attached it to the plane's wiring and followed Hale back to the van where the three others were waiting.
Hale placed Isabel on the seat between himself and another man. "Attend to her, Doctor."
He turned to the driver and ordered, "Go." The van sped toward the exit and Hale addressed the man in the passenger seat, "Stop the illusion."
Hale watched out the window as the plane started down the runway and climbed into the sky.
"Sir," the Doctor said, drawing his attention. "The Princess has stopped breathing."
Hale turned toward Isabel just as the sound of the explosion reached them.
The images on the screen stopped and Liz reached for Max's hand, feeling his heartache. I'm sorry Max, it must have been awful seeing that, she sent through their connection.
"I can't believe he killed all of those people just to cover up Isabel's disappearance," Alex said.
"It's a good thing he was sloppy," Michael said, "or we might never have known she was alive."
"What about Raltos?" Max asked. "Does he remember anything?"
"No," Kranon said, "He has no conscious memories when Khivar was using his body, but we were able to tap into the part of his brain that Khivar used. So far all we have gotten are disjointed images and snatches of conversation, but we will keep trying."
Kyle motioned to the chevron-shaped device. "What about that thing Brody had?"
"It is a device created by Khivar's scientists called a trithium amplification generator. We have known about them for years. Khivar's troops have used them to subdue the populous, but this is the first time we have had one to examine. We know it is used as an untraceable communication device and it can temporarily suspend powers but if it has other applications, we haven't discovered them yet."
"Well what are you waiting for?" Michael asked.
"We have limited resources and personnel," Kranon explained.
Maria touched Michael's arm. "And it's only been a day. They're going as fast as they can."
Alex stepped forward. "I'd like to help, if I could."
Kranon nodded. "Your help would be appreciated."
Max put a hand on Michael's shoulder but spoke to Kranon. "We know you're doing everything you can. If you discover anything else, please let us know immediately."
Song Playing: Endlessly by Muse
Tess entered her room wearily, dismissing the nurse with the baby and waiting until they had left to sink down on to her bed. The tears that had been threatening started immediately, and quickly turned to sobs that racked her small body.
Isabel was the only real friend she had ever had, besides Kyle, and because of what Lonni had forced her to do, Tess had lost not only Kyle and Max, but Isabel's friendship too. Khivar had told her that Isabel had returned to the planet with them and Tess had actually looked forward to seeing her, hoping to rekindle their friendship. But it was obvious Isabel hated her.
Tess' sobs intensified as she realized that her loss of Isabel was just the latest in a long line of disappointments. The first, and most surprising and disheartening, of course, had been Max's rejection of her.
She had loved him her entire life, long before they had ever met. Nasedo's descriptions of him, as Zan, in his other life, had captivated and beguiled her and she had anxiously awaited their reunion. Then Nasedo had brought her the pictures of Max and she had fallen even more for him, his handsome face and solid body only reinforcing her feelings that they were meant to be together.
She perfectly remembered the day when she had started at West Roswell High and first seen Max. Yes, he had been with Liz and hadn't even looked in her direction, but Tess had been certain that when he did see her, he would be drawn to her as irresistibly as she was to him.
Then Isabel had invited her home and she made her presence known to Max, using her powers to boost his awareness of her, and she had been sure that he had recognized her. But now she had to admit that Max hadn't seen her then or any other time since.
Tess' tears subsided as her anger took over. She had loved Max for years and given up any chance she might have had with Kyle, but it hadn't done her any good. All Max had ever wanted was Liz. Even when Max had finally turned to her, Tess had been horrified to learn that he still loved Liz. And now that she knew the truth about who Liz was, Tess had to admit that it made sense, but it only made her hate Liz more. In two lifetimes Liz had taken everything that should have been hers.
Looking back over the past year, it was easy for Tess to see that she should have simply left Copper Summit and gone back to Max before the baby was born. The child was a powerful bond between them and Tess was sure that Max would have overlooked her past mistakes to have his son in his life. At least she would have had a chance to build something with him instead of being separated on different planets in different galaxies.
Everything was so complicated and all she had wanted was for the man she loved to love her back. Tess remembered just enough of her other life to realize that Max hadn't loved her then either, but she had been close to succeeding, just like she had been close to getting Max in this life. But the same obstacle had existed in both lives, Liz.
Tess was certain that if Max had never met Liz, he would have turned to her. She just needed the chance to wipe Liz from his mind and then he would be hers. But in order to do that, she needed access to Max which meant returning to Earth or bringing Max to Antar, and the only way was with the help of the Granolith.
The problem was, she didn't know where the Granolith was. But she could find out.
She had been used as a pawn, by Lonni and Rath, then by Nicholas, and now Khivar, but, Tess swore to herself, she would never let that happen again. She would work with Khivar and whoever else she had to, but she had her own agenda and from now on that came first.
(Secret Headquarters of the Resistance Loyal to the Tageonants)
When they left the laboratory, Liz took Maria and Alex aside into a sitting room. "I'm sorry I haven't been able to spend a lot of time with you guys."
"Yeah," Alex said, "but there's been a lot of important stuff going on."
"You know Alex," Maria started, "I've been meaning to ask you what you told your parents you were doing. They don't know about the whole alien thing so what did you say, that you were going to join the circus or something?"
Alex nodded. "Well I didn't want to lie to them, but I couldn't tell them the truth, so I just said that I had an opportunity to go on a great adventure but I would be incommunicado for a while." He shrugged. "My parents assumed that I was going on some kind of archeological expedition in the Amazon jungle and I didn't do anything to correct them. My mother was reluctant to let me go but I told her it was my life's dream. She couldn't refuse me that."
"And how do you both like being on another planet?" Liz asked.
"It seems pretty much like Earth," Maria said, "except for the advanced technology, and the red oceans, and the extra moons, and the space ships, and the aliens."
Alex smiled at Maria's explanation. "It's wonderful, but I wish we could see more of it."
Maria studied Liz closely. "But there's something different about you, Liz. What's going on?"
Liz smiled. "Nothing gets past you, Maria. You're right." She took a seat across from them. "Last night Max and I connected with the Granolith and we got our memories back."
For a moment Maria and Alex were dumbfounded but finally Maria spoke. "All of your memories?"
"Yeah," Liz said, "everything."
"How do you feel about that?" Alex asked.
"It's really weird to have memories from two lives," Liz said, "but it's a relief to know exactly what happened and not have to depend on what people tell us."
"It must be wonderful to remember your life with Max," Maria said dreamily. "How you met, your courtship and marriage."
"But she must also remember the bad stuff too," Alex pointed out.
"Yeah," Liz said grimly. "There are certainly some things that I wouldn't have chosen to remember."
"I'm sorry, Liz," Maria said. "I didn't think."
Liz shook her head. "It's okay really. There were a lot of great memories, friends and family, and Max."
"So do you think of yourself as Ava or Liz?" Alex asked. "And what about Max? Do you want to call him Zan?"
Liz shook her head. "I'm still Liz, I just have more of me to remember. And Max is basically the same person he was when he was Zan. There are hardly any differences. He's still my Max."
"Okay," Maria said, "So tell us about you and Zan, how you met, your life together, and you're parents. We want to know everything."
Liz nodded. "I'll tell you everything you want to know but there is one other thing you should know, Maria. This morning Max and I took Michael to see the Granolith and he got his memory back too."
When Khivar and Isabel reached their suite of rooms, Khivar allowed her to precede him through the door and closed it behind them with a wave of his hand, before gathering her to him for a searing kiss.
Minutes later they parted and Isabel touched his handsome face. "I want to know, Khivar."
Khivar knew what she was referring to immediately and kissed her gently. "Are you sure you want to start the memory recovery?"
Isabel nodded. "I need to know what happened and I want to remember you."
"Okay," Khivar agreed. He led her to a sofa and sat beside her. "Close your eyes and we will start with the memory you've already partially recovered."
Isabel nodded and closed her eyes.
Khivar cupped Isabel's head in his hands, opening the connection between them and showing her his memory of the first night they had met when she was Vilondra.
The familiar scene played in Isabel's mind, but this time she was able to see herself because it was from Khivar's perspective. And when it was over, she opened her eyes. "I was beautiful," she gasped.
Khivar smiled. "You still are." He moved in closer, whispering, "Do you remember anything else about that night?"
Isabel shivered in reaction, her eyes flicking between his eyes and lips. "I remember how much I wanted you to kiss me, even though I knew my father wouldn't approve."
He brushed his lips against hers briefly. "And was it worth it?" he asked.
Isabel nodded. "Yes," she gasped, as her hands slid around his neck, drawing him closer. "I never wanted anything so much in my life, except maybe this." And she raised her lips to meet his.
(Secret Headquarters of the Resistance Loyal to the Tageonants)
Michael had been avoiding her all day, acting strangely, distant, pensive. In the past it wouldn't have alarmed Maria but now that he had gotten his memory back, she was worried. He hadn't said a word to her about his recovered memory and she wouldn't even have known if it weren't for Liz.
And Maria had been wondering all day why Michael hadn't told her. There had to be a reason he was keeping it from her. What if he didn't love her now that he remembered his past? What if his memories made him a different person? What if he had a lover or girlfriend in his other life? Or worse, what if he really had loved Isabel?
Liz had confirmed that Michael and Isabel were engaged in their other life, but she had said it was all an act to convince the people that Isabel didn't support Khivar. But, Maria reasoned, for them to pretend to be engaged and make it convincing, Isabel and Michael must have grown pretty close, and it was possible that he had fallen for her.
After all, Isabel was beautiful and sophisticated and a Princess, and Maria knew there was no way she could compete with that. She was only a waitress in a small town diner on a backwater planet.
Of course Maria had known that Michael had an entire other life but it had never even occurred to her that his feelings toward her would change if he got his memories back. But now that he had recovered his memories, it looked like that was exactly what had happened.
Liz had been looking everywhere for Ava and finally she found her in the solarium. She was sitting alone, watching the lazy motion of the red viscous liquid flowing down the small built-in creek.
"Ava?" Liz called out to get her attention.
Ava greeted her with a smile. "Hey, Liz. What's up?"
Liz took a seat next to her on a bench. "Are you okay? You seem sad."
With a shrug, Ava looked away. "I'm really not sure coming here was the best thing for me. I was never meant to come back, maybe I should've just stayed on Earth."
"It's because Tess is here, isn't it?" Liz asked. "That's why you didn't stay in Roswell the first time you were there, because of her."
"It's hard knowing she is the real thing and I'm just a disposable copy," Ava said. "I'm not really sure what my place is in this world."
Liz took her hand. "Well, I can tell you some of it. You are my friend, and part of our family, and Kyle's love. And that's just a start. As for the rest, you can be anything you want, anyone you want. There's no hurry to figure it all out, just take your time. And just for the record, I am very glad you did come with us."
Ava smiled, "Thanks Liz."
"But," Liz said, "if you are interested in the past, Max and I can help you."
"What do you mean?" Ava asked.
"We used the Granolith to get our memories back and we helped Michael get his back too. Now Max and I wanted to offer it to you."
Ava's eyes grew wide. "Get everything back, just like that?" She shook her head, "I don't know. What if it turns out that I was a bad person?" Ava asked. "Aren't you afraid I'll betray you like Tess did?"
Liz shook her head. "You're a good person Ava and who you were in another life isn't going to change that."
"But you remember me, I mean my past self, don't you?" Ava asked, suddenly realizing the truth. "And you know something."
Liz nodded sadly. "Chanya did bad things, but that doesn't have to change who you are now. I just thought you would want to remember your family." She continued softly, "I remember that your mother died when you were young and you were raised by your father and your protector, a shape shifter named Udac."
"I would like to remember them," Ava said, "but I'm afraid of what else I might remember."
Ryden located Michael in the garden. He had been waiting for two days to get him alone and he finally had his opportunity.
"How's it going, Michael?" Ryden started. "Or should I say Rath now?"
Michael turned to him with a suspicious expression. "How did you…"
Ryden smiled. "I didn't know it was a secret you had gotten your memories back. It is all over the house that you and Liz and Max have recovered your former lives. I don't think there are any secrets in this house."
Michael shrugged. "It's not a secret. I just didn't know people knew."
"And now that you have your memory back," Ryden started, "you must remember Courtney, or her real name Scorene."
Michael nodded. "Yeah, I remember her. She's practically all I've been thinking about. I wish I would have known who she was on Earth."
Ryden continued, "You must also remember that she approached your past self about leading our cause, and taking your rightful place as our leader. We have kept the faith for years that you would return to Antar and lead our planet to peace."
Michael smiled grimly. "I remember she had a lot of wrong ideas that made her think I was this great guy." He turned to Ryden. "The whole thing is based on misconceptions. Probably more propaganda that Khivar's people spread."
A look of confusion crossed Ryden's face, "What do you mean?"
"I mean you have all been wasting the last seventy years of your lives on me," Michael said. "All of that wasted effort and wasted lives." He shook his head. "I am not the one you wanted, it was Max all along. He is the generous and caring one, he is the one who fought for the rights of the common people, he is the one who fed and housed them, not me. Yes, I was in the field supervising everything, but only under Max's orders."
Ryden shook his head, "That can't be true."
"I tried to tell Scorene the same thing before the war started," Michael said. "She wouldn't believe me either. But I will tell you one thing, I will not betray Max. Not only is he is the rightful King, but he is my best friend and a better leader than I could ever be."
"But our people will follow you," Ryden argued. "You could bring peace to this planet."
Michael suddenly grew angry. "And what would betraying Max make me?" Michael motioned to the house, "Well you don't have to go too far to find out, you just have to look at Rath's loyalty to see. He betrayed and murdered his best friend and King, who he claimed to love like a brother, and left his lover behind on Earth. What kind of leader do you think he'll make?"
Michael turned and started to walk back toward the house but shouted back over his shoulder. "If you're so anxious to follow Rath, it's not me you want. So just go talk to him. I'm sure he would jump at the chance to take the throne and then have you all executed."
Tess answered the knock at her door and was surprised to see Khivar, but she smiled and greeted him warmly. "Khivar, how nice of you to stop by."
Khivar returned her smile. "As proof of my commitment to working with you, I have a gift for you."
Tess stepped aside, inviting him in. "I love gifts," she said.
Khivar motioned behind him and a matronly woman stepped forward.
"Beloved?" she asked Tess.
Tess looked to Khivar. "Who is this? Another nanny?"
"You do not recognize her," Khivar said. "She is Udac. In your other life she was your handmaid and protector. I thought you would like to have her back."
Tess bowed. "Thank you, Khivar. Your gift is very, um, thoughtful." She waited until Khivar had shut the door behind him before she turned to Udac. "Great, another shape shifter. Just what I need."
The hopeful look on Udac's face fell. "You truly do not remember me, Chanya?"
Tess shook her head. "No, and my name now is Tess." She looked at the older woman skeptically. "How do I know you're not some spy for Khivar?"
"I would never work against you," Udac said vehemently. She studied Tess for a moment. "In your other life, you made a deal with Khivar. He agreed to eliminate your true love's wife, if you gave him information. But Khivar betrayed you and killed your love. That is why you died. So you could be reunited with your love, in your next life."
Tess nodded. "I was, but Max rejected me because his stupid wife showed up."
"How is that possible?" Udac asked. "She was dead."
"She was reborn into a human," Tess said.
"And you are working with Khivar?" Udac asked. "He will betray you again."
"No, he won't," Tess said. "Before Max rejected me, we were together one night and I bore his son. Khivar thinks controlling Max's son will give him power, and he made a deal with me. So I am working with Khivar, for now. But the child will assure that Max will never stop looking for me and eventually we'll be together."
Udac shook her head. "Khivar cannot be trusted. He took me from your father's house and tortured me until I told him what your powers were. I suspected he knew your true identity and I resisted as long as I could, but in the end, Khivar's men took the information from me."
"You betrayed me?" Tess accused. "That's how Khivar found out who I am."
Udac shook her head furiously and reached out to Tess. "I would never betray you, but I couldn't stop them from prying the truth from my mind."
Tess backed away a step. "If Khivar didn't know who I am, I would have had a lot more leverage. I could have been considered the former Queen instead of a merely a Duchess and mother of Max's son."
"A Duchess?" Udac asked.
Tess nodded, "It's part of my deal with Khivar, he made me a Duchess. So you can see that he's keeping his word."
"Perhaps you don't remember, but Khivar seemed to be keeping his word the other time too, but he was just using you," Udac said.
"I don't remember everything," Tess huffed, "but I do remember that I almost had Zan, and I did get Max.
"But now that Max has rejected you, how much of a chance do you have with him?" Udac asked.
Tess narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "Don't you want me to be happy? Don't you want me to follow my dream of being with Max?"
"I want everything for you," Udac assured her, "but it may not be possible. I just don't want you to set your heart on something that may never happen."
"Of course I'll have to mind warp him to forget Liz," Tess said, "but we will be happy."
Udac shook her head. "Zan was too powerful for you and he was able to break your mind warp."
Tess hadn't liked Udac from the first moment she saw her and she had been about to send her away, but suddenly she saw how the shape shifter could be useful. She crossed to a sofa and sank down into it, motioning for Udac to take a seat as well. "Tell me about the past."
(Secret Headquarters of the Resistance Loyal to the Tageonants)
Alex sat on his bed and pulled out the picture of Isabel he had brought with him, his eyes tracing her face lovingly. In the time that he had been presumed dead, she had moved on and he understood that, he really did. He certainly wouldn't have wanted her to mourn for him her entire life if he really had died. But the months that had passed hadn't happened for him and even though he had tried, he still couldn't let go of the feelings he had for her.
He had known that he couldn't compete with Hale, and Isabel was happy with him. And to Alex, Isabel's happiness was all that mattered. He had accepted that she'd moved on, and he wished her well.
But Khivar had lied to and abducted Isabel, and Alex had started to wonder once she found out who Hale really was, would she still love him? Khivar was their enemy, he was the reason they had died and the reason they had been sent to Earth. Was Isabel really capable of loving him when she found out the truth?
Alex knew it was foolish for him to hope that Isabel would turn back to him, but it was all he had.
Max and Liz sat wrapped in each other's arms in a large chair that they had brought into the Granolith room.
"This is just like old times," Max said. "Consulting with the Granolith to try and figure out what to do."
Liz nodded, taking Max's hand in hers. "At least we have it back and we remember how to use it now."
Max sighed and opened the connection with Liz. Remember how we used to go into the Granolith chamber in the evenings. Our powers complimented one another so well, blending so easily. Together we are stronger than we ever were apart. But it's frustrating to remember how powerful we were and we just don't have access to that kind of power now. We have to grow into it.
Liz nodded. I remember how very powerful you were. More powerful than anyone I had ever encountered. I could feel the power surrounding you, just naturally there all the time.
I remember you were very powerful too. Max said. But even with all of that power, we weren't able to save ourselves.
I've been thinking about that, Liz said. What if it was destiny or fate all along? What if we weren't meant to live the first time?
What do you mean? Max asked.
Well, like Kyle said, it's a reincarnation thing. We needed to die and be reborn to learn a lesson, to become stronger.
But we don't know if we've learned the lesson, Max said, and we have to do this anyway.
We'll get through it, Liz said. Just like we do everything else.
You know that? Max asked. You had a vision?
No, Liz admitted. But we have to. You and I and everyone else deserve to be happy, deserve a chance to live our lives.
Max squeezed her hand. You're right, and we will, Liz. He widened the connection to include the Granolith and instantly felt its familiar energy joining with them.
They settled into a type of meditation, relaxing their minds, opening them to the Granolith.
Liz felt weightless like when she astral projected, but at the same time she felt enveloped and protected by Max and by the Granolith. A feeling of profound peace settled over her and she let her cares be washed away momentarily. The power of the Granolith pulsed like a heartbeat and Liz once again had the sensation that it was a living thing. With her mind she reached toward it but was stopped as Max gasped in their connected minds.
Liz, he said, it's like I can feel the energy in the planet. It's all around us.
Liz focused on his thoughts, feeling the sensations too. You're right, it is the planet. I've never felt it before and there is a tremendous amount of power.
If we could learn to harness that power, Max said, Khivar or no one else would be able to stand against us.
It would be dangerous Max, Liz said. How could you only take the power you could control? It would be like opening a spillway on a damn to fill a glass of water. It could easily overwhelm you.
You're right, Max admitted, but when we're older and stronger and working together, maybe we could control it.
Maybe, Liz said, feeling a trickle of apprehension. She let her mind drift again hoping to discover more about her feelings. Thoughts, emotions and images of the present and past rolled through her mind faster and faster. The sensations were different than she had ever experienced before in a connection with the Granolith, and she had a fleeting feeling that it was due to her half-human status.
She felt like she was on the verge of a discovery when suddenly she received an intense sensation of horror from Max, and he broke the connection. Opening her eyes, Liz reached out to him, searching his face. "What's wrong?"
Tears spilled out of Max's eyes and down his face, as he glanced at her and then looked away. "I… Just now, I realized…" He looked into her eyes. "Liz, I'm a killer. Potentially worse than Khivar or any other mass murderer."
Liz could feel Max's fear through their bond and rushed to reassure him. "Max you are not a killer."
"But I am capable of it Liz, and now that I have an idea of what I could do with my powers..." he let the sentence trail off, somehow feeling if he didn't speak the words they wouldn't be true. He looked down at the ground not wanting her to see the truth in his eyes. "So much power," he said softly, "more than I realized I possessed. In our other life, I, Zan, could have ended the war the first day if he had realized."
"But Max you don't possess destructive powers," Liz argued. "It's not in your nature. Your powers heal, give life."
Suddenly she stopped as the possibilities started to crowd into her mind. She gasped as tears welled up in her eyes. It was the ultimate cruelty that her gentle, peaceful husband would possess such power.
When she spoke, her voice was breathy, just above a whisper. "Oh Max, your powers, now I see. If you can give life, you can take it."
Max felt pain slash through him and lifted his eyes to hers expecting to see rejection of the killer he was, but he only saw compassion, sorrow and love.