BOOK 8 RESTRUCTURING REALITY
(THE HISTORY OF THE FUTURE - MAX)
(Saturday, November 27th, 2004)
Max stopped the Jeep next to the other cars in front of the old soap factory on the outskirts of town, where Courtney had suggested they meet. Maria's Jetta was there and the Sheriff's cruiser was parked next to Courtney's ancient Volkswagen Bug. Max glanced at his watch, it was just ten o'clock and he, Liz and Serena were the last ones to arrive.
Liz had been apprehensive about this meeting since they had heard about it and even though she had been trying to block it, her tension had been filtering to him through their connection. Max looked at her and noticed that her eyes were darting around as if she were searching for signs of danger. "It will be okay," he said as he took her hand and squeezed it reassuringly.
Liz forced a smile to her lips, "I hope you're right."
They exited the Jeep and headed toward the door and Liz released a tension-filled sigh when she saw the others gathered inside; Alex and Isabel, Michael and Maria, Sheriff Valenti and Kyle and finally Courtney. At least everyone was okay and she allowed her eyes to roam over the room as they took their seats on some overturned crates. The place looked basically the same as the last time she had been there for the party during the heat wave, all those years ago. They were in the same large room where the sound equipment had been set up, and Liz could still see signs of the fire on the wall and ceiling.
Courtney waited until they had taken their seats to speak, "I am glad you could all come today because I have something very important to tell you."
Suddenly the door slammed shut behind them and a dozen people with outstretched arms blocked their escape.
Michael swung back to face Courtney, "What's going on here?"
Courtney lips moved but it wasnÕt her voice that came from her mouth. "Quite obviously it's a trap," Courtney said, as she morphed into a boy, "and you have walked right into it."
"Who are you?" Max demanded.
Nicholas smiled, "On this planet I am called Nicholas but don't let my outward appearance fool you. I am in command of the skin army, and on Antar I am Khivar's right hand."
"General Nicaron," Serena said softly, with a touch of awe in her voice. She had recognized the boy as the one she had seen in New York all those years ago but she had never known who he really was.
Nicholas nodded, "Give the shape shifter a cigar."
"What do you want?" Max asked.
"What do I want?" Nicholas asked, as he paced before them. "What do I want? Well," he said, scratching at his chin, "I think I'll start small, like the location of the Granolith."
Max shook his head, "We don't know what that is."
Nicholas laughed, "Oh come now Zan, or should I call you Max? You really don't remember anything from your other life do you?"
Max didn't answer and Nicholas continued, "I have the ability to take any information from anyone's mind. Courtney's memories were particularly helpful in laying this trap for you. It was careless of you to reveal so much to an enemy soldier, but you always did put your trust in the wrong people. She knew everything about you, except where to find the Granolith."
Nicholas motioned to the group, "But some of you must know where it is. I thought I would start with the humans, maybe your wife, Liz. Of course my mind probe does have the nasty consequence of killing humans most of the time. But what can you do?" he asked with a shrug. "If the humans don't know anything then I will move on to the former General, now fry-cook, Michael, then your protector..."
As Nicholas spoke, Max made eye contact with Serena, Michael and the Sheriff, motioning to the skins behind them, and then he looked at Isabel, motioning to Nicholas. Then he spoke to Liz across their bond. Get Maria and Alex out of here.
He didn't wait for an answer, charging forward with a yell, and the entire room erupted into chaos.
Nicholas used his powers to knock Max aside but Isabel tackled him and they fell to the floor.
Liz grabbed Maria and Alex and yelled to the others, "Let's get out of here." She pulled Maria toward the back exit and Alex followed closely behind them. Another door to the side burst open and more skins poured into the room. The first few through the door stumbled and fell, blocking the entrance and the skins behind them shot wild bursts of energy at the humans, knocking Liz to the floor.
Max got quickly to his feet just as Liz fell. He grabbed a piece of wood off the floor, swinging at the skin closest to him, trying to get to Liz.
Serena and Michael used one burst of power after another, destroying the husks and the enemy soldiers inside. The skin soldiers continued to stumble in through the door, sending bursts of energy humming past Michael's head and he knocked aside their outstretched hands.
The Sheriff and Kyle had both grabbed pieces of wood and were fighting back-to-back fending off their attackers, trying to clear a way to the door.
Isabel struggled with Nicholas on the floor, desperately attempting to hold his deadly hands away from her. He was stronger than she thought and they rolled from side to side, each trying to get the upper hand.
Alex yanked Liz to her feet and they ran toward the front door. Alex turned just in time to see a group of soldiers with outstretched hands firing at them, and he pushed Liz and Maria aside, as three blasts simultaneously hit him in the chest and slammed him against the wall.
Serena fought her way to the side door, where more soldiers were coming through, and used her powers to push them out and sealed the door shut. Then she headed to do the same to the back door.
Max could feel Liz's pain through their bond and rushed to her side. "Michael, quick over here," he called as he ran.
Liz and Maria were kneeling next to Alex, and as Max dropped to the floor beside them, a gasp of horror escaped him. Alex's neck was at an unnatural angle and a pool of blood was quickly forming under his head. Max took Alex's damaged head in his hands and when he felt the bones protruding from the back of his neck, he knew there was no hope. He shook his head sadly, and motioned to Michael. They pulled Liz and Maria to their feet and headed for the front door.
Kyle destroyed the last skin soldier and turned to see Isabel struggling with Nicholas. He reached them just as Nicholas used his powers to throw Isabel away from him. Her body slammed into Kyle and they were both propelled back into the wall, the burnt boards breaking under their combined weight. Dazed by the blow to his head, Kyle watched blearily as Isabel got to her feet and held out her hand to him. He tried to roll over, but his movement dislodged the precariously leaning boards, and the wall and ceiling collapsed on top of him and Nicholas.
Isabel jumped back, as the ceiling fell and a cloud of debris filled the room, unable to believe what had happened.
The Sheriff ran forward, "NO!" He started to pull at the pieces of board that covered his son but the rest of the structure started to fall and he was forced back.
"Everybody out!" Max yelled as he pushed Liz toward the door. "Serena, get the Sheriff out of here."
Maria's Jetta exploded as they ran out into the parking lot and they were rushed by a large group of skins. Max used his shield in a burst that threw the skins back, and the gang ran to the two remaining cars to make their escape. Max yelled to Michael and Serena, "Go with the Sheriff!" He, Liz and Isabel climbed into the Jeep and Max started it and turned toward the entrance.
Skin soldiers emerged from the bushes surrounding the buildings and sent blasts of energy at the cars, and Michael and Serena shot back with deadly accuracy.
Isabel looked around, her voice frantic, "Where's Alex?"
Liz turned to her with tear-filled eyes but didn't have to say a word.
"NO!" Isabel screamed. "Not Alex!"
Max slammed on the breaks. The skins had constructed a roadblock that completely cut them off from the parking lot exit and he couldn't see a way past.
The Sheriff stopped his cruiser next to the Jeep and yelled through the open window, "Follow me. I know an old fire road in the back."
They turned the cars and headed back past the buildings as more and more skin soldiers emerged. The Sheriff ran down several skins who were blocking their way, sending their bodies flying. Energy blasts streaked through the air and struck both vehicles as they drove; one shattering the back window of the Sheriff's cruiser.
As the vehicles rounded the building, they passed the cars the skins had hidden and Serena and Michael sent blast after blast into them, causing as much damage as possible. One car exploded, causing a chain reaction that engulfed several others in a massave explosion, and the Sheriff increased his speed as debris rained down around them.
The skins ran around the building and got into the remaining cars to pursue their escaping prey.
The Sheriff drove as fast as he could on the dusty road and still keep the cruiser under control. He felt tears come to his eyes and angrily wiped them away. He couldn't believe Kyle was really gone but he had seen the ceiling collapse on top of him and he knew there was no way anyone could have survived.
Isabel watched with growing rage as the skins' vehicles pulled nearer and nearer to them. The skins had killed Alex and they would just as easily kill all of them too but she wouldn't let that happen. She concentrated on building a tremendous amount of energy, letting the power of her anger work for her. Then she stretched out her hand and sent a crackling, black ball into the front of the closest car, surprised when it cut a hole completely through the vehicle and embedded itself into the truck following it, causing both cars to explode.
The swirling dust kicked up by the cars' tires and the smoke from the explosions obscured Isabel's view of the road behind them, but as they continued into the desert, she couldn't detect any sign of pursuit. After a few minutes she turned to Max, "I think we lost them for the moment."
Max nodded, "Liz have you got your cell phone?"
Liz wiped at her eyes, "Yeah."
Liz dialed and Maria's voice came over the phone, "Liz?"
Liz spoke into the phone, "It looks like we have lost them for now but we have to find a safe place."
"We can't go home," Max said.
"Was that Max?" Maria asked. "Did he say we can't go home?"
"He's right," Liz agreed. "Nicholas said he read Courtney's mind. The skins know everything she knew. They know who we are and where we live, and they are probably waiting for us at home."
Liz heard Maria repeat her words to the others in the car and she heard Michael's reply, "Then we gotta keep driving."
Max spoke to Liz, "Ask Serena how likely it is that the skins would be able to monitor our cell phone conversation."
Liz listened to Maria repeat the question and Serena's answer, "Serena checked Valenti's phone and said itÕs not bugged. She thinks the skins didn't bother because they thought they had the perfect trap. She also says it would be almost impossible for them to listen to the call because of the amount of cellular traffic on various frequencies."
"Okay," Max started, "we need to figure out where to go."
Liz heard Maria tell the others what Max had said and then Valenti's voice came across the phone, "There is a track that connects to this road going south, and eventually hooks up with 285. We can keep going south and drive through to Texas."
Liz repeated what the Sheriff said and Max agreed, "We should head for one of the larger cities. The small towns will be too easy to search and maybe we should stay away from the main roads, just in case."
Maria relayed what Max said and Valenti answered, "That sounds like a good plan. There are fire roads running all through the backcountry. If we head west when we reach Artesia we can take the back roads through the National Forest and down along the boundary of Fort Bliss almost straight into El Paso. It's a big enough city to hide us for a few days until we decide what to do. The trip will take longer than following the highway but Max is right, they might be searching the main roads."
Max agreed with Valenti's plan, "Okay. That's what we'll do. But we need to change the colors and license plates of these cars before we hit the main road. We should switch cars as soon as possible and we'll have to stop in Artesia for gas."
As they watched the Sheriff's cruiser, the lights on the roof disappeared, the white paint swirled into a dark blue and the license plate numbers changed.
Isabel worked on the Jeep. She altered the grill to a more modern style and changed the dull khaki to a glossy black, the trim to chrome, and finished with a new license plate.
Max spoke to Liz, "Tell them we should change our clothes and when we stop in Artesia each group should go to a different gas pumps and stay apart. Someone might remember a large group meeting at the gas station."
Liz spoke up, "Maybe we should change our hair too, make us blondes and them brunettes. It would help to separate us even more."
Max nodded, "Good idea."
"Max," Isabel said, from the back seat, "what about our parents? If the skins know who we are and where we live then our parents could be in danger. We have got to warn them to leave."
Liz turned to Max, "If they know everything Courtney did then they are aware that our parents don't know what is really going on. That's why Nicholas made sure we were all there today because we all knew the truth."
Max tried to reason through the problem aloud. "If we do call them and tell them to leave, what would we tell them? If they know the truth, we put them in even more danger. And there is no way they would just leave their lives behind unless there was a really good reason."
"You're right," Isabel agreed sadly, "what could we tell them? They would never believe us."
Maria had been relaying their conversation and suddenly spoke up, "Liz, Serena says that she believes our parents will be safe. She thinks the skins will watch them hoping we will contact them."
Liz told Max and Isabel what Serena said, and voiced her agreement. "I think Serena is right. They will try and track us down again and the only lead they have is our parents."
Isabel's voice was almost a whisper, "Then we can never go home again."
Nicholas carefully used his powers to lift the rubble off of himself and shore it up at the same time, not wanting to risk another collapse.
Ida rushed in with a group of soldiers and they held up the wall while she pulled him out, "Are you okay, Sir?"
"I'm fine," Nicholas said, as he got to his feet, brushing himself off. "I saw the wall falling and used my powers to save myself.
The skin soldiers pulled Kyle from the same pile.
"Is he alive?" Nicholas asked.
One of the soldiers pressed his fingers to Kyle's neck and nodded.
"You must have saved him too when the wall fell," Ida said.
Nicholas nodded in agreement, "I'm sure you're right, otherwise he would have been dead for sure." He indicated the other body the soldiers were gathered around, "Who's that?"
The soldiers parted as Nicholas approached and he recognized another of the humans, Alex. Nicholas could tell by the angle of his neck that he was dead and turned his back on him with a nod, "Now, would someone like to tell me what happened?"
"I'm not really sure, Sir," Ida started. "It all happened so fast. One minute there were the sounds of blasts in here and then the building started to collapse. They ran out, and cars were exploding, and they drove off into the desert."
Nicholas nodded and pulled out his amplifier, "Major Tratis, report."
"The road block stopped them Sir, but they drove around the back of the building and into the desert. We tried to pursue but they destroyed most of the cars and by the time we found a way around, they were gone. They were just too powerful for us, Sir."
"Thank you, Major," Nicholas drawled. "Gather the remaining troops and report to me."
Nicholas changed frequencies, "Walt, they have escaped, do you read me?"
"Yes Sir, I read you."
"Keep your troops in place and let me know about any activity." Nicholas turned the amplifier off without waiting for an answer. This whole day had been a disaster from beginning to end and he had a pretty good idea what had gone wrong. He had seen the new troops stumbling and falling over themselves, missing their targets, and it could only mean one thing; they had not adjusted to their skins as Major Tratis had reported.
Nicholas waited until all of the troops were standing around him before he sent a powerful blast of energy into Major Tratis. The Major fell to his knees and Nicholas put his hand on the Major's head to extract his memories. He quickly ripped through the images until he found what he was looking for and then allowed the man to fall to the ground.
He turned to the soldiers before him, "It seems that Major Tratis was not capable of following my orders and his failure has allowed the Royal Three and their humans to escape. And now instead of leaving for home, we are back where we started, searching the country for them."
There were murmurs from the crowd and Nicholas held up a hand, signaling silence. "There is only one way I deal with this kind of failure, so let it be a warning." He motioned to two of his trusted soldiers and they picked up Tratis and held him before Nicholas. Tratis struggled feebly but the attempt just made Nicholas laugh. He concentrated on building his energy and then once again placed his hand on the Major's head and pushed the power into him. Tratis cried out and Nicholas concentrated on building the heat within the husk. For a moment, it appeared as if Tratis were glowing from inside but Nicholas knew it was the flames burning his body, and then the husk exploded into a shower of dust.
Nicholas calmly brushed his soiled hands together and turned to Lieutenant Zaptfa, who flinched. Nicholas smiled, "I don't blame you Lieutenant, you were just following the orders of your superior. But in the future, if your superior disobeys my orders, you report it to me."
Lieutenant Zaptfa swallowed hard, "Yes Sir."
"Now Lieutenant, I want you to take some soldiers into the desert and make a thorough search."
Max studied Liz's sleeping form as he cradled her in the back seat. She was having a bad dream, probably about the events of the day, and he smoothed his hand over her forehead, sending his love to her through their connection to soothe her nightmares away.
He had always been afraid that something like this would happen and he would end up ruining Liz's life. And he did feel guilty for bringing her into his world, but at the same time he felt selfishly happy that she was at his side. He didn't know what he would do without her.
Liz had been the one to suggest leaving the Jeep in Artesia in its original condition and taking another car. It had taken him a moment but then he had seen the brilliance of her idea. When the Jeep was discovered, the skins would waste valuable time searching for them in Artesia while they were making their escape. So he and Isabel had left the Jeep in the parking lot of a twenty-four hour grocery store and stolen an SUV from another lot down the block, quickly changing the color and license plate, before continuing on their journey.
He glanced out the window, noting that the sun had finally set on this long day and Max started to feel himself relax. They had seen no signs of the skins and they were just a few minutes away from their destination. He mourned the loss of Alex and Kyle but he was glad so many had escaped the trap, glad Liz had escaped.
He blamed himself entirely for leading the others into the trap. He was the leader and it was his responsibility to keep his people safe. He should have trusted Liz's burgeoning powers and avoided the place altogether. Instead he had delivered all of them into the hands of their enemies and they had nearly lost everything. And now they were running for their lives, with little money and no resources.
They had been forced to leave their homes and families and everything they had ever known behind them and he feared they could never return. Max's parents were expecting Liz, Alex, Isabel and himself for dinner in just a few minutes. Tears pricked his eyes when he thought of what his mother and father would have to go through, both of children disappearing on the same night. Their families might never know what had happened to them and worst of all, Alex's family would never know he was dead.
But no matter how much he grieved for the others, his mind kept returning to Sheriff Valenti. Jim had lost everything he had ever worked for that day; his home, his job, and his son, and it was all because he had helped them.
Isabel spoke over her shoulder as she concentrated on her driving, "It's almost six o'clock, Max. We were supposed to go to home for dinner."
"I know," Max said softly.
"They'll be so worried when we don't show up." Her voice rose with anger as she continued, "Then they'll find out that all of us have disappeared on the same day and eventually someone will find the Jetta. They'll probably think we were all murdered by a cult and buried in the desert. I mean what other explanation could they possibly come up with. Loving sons and daughters and a Sheriff don't just disappear."
"Iz," Max said softly, only to be cut off.
"I mean it just isn't fair to them. There has to be some way to contact them and tell them that we are okay. There has to be."
"Iz," Max tried again. "We'll find a way. I promise."
"But not Alex's family. They will never know what happened to him," Isabel said with a haunted tone. "Oh Max, if I hadn't gotten involved with him again, this never would have happened. He died because of me."
"No Iz, that's not true and you know it," Max said. "Alex knew there were risks and he still wanted to be with you. Anyway, even if he wasn't with you, the skins still would have tracked him down using Courtney's memories. None of us were safe from them."
Nicholas had sent the remaining troops out to search but they had made no progress. None of the Royal Three or the humans had returned to their houses and there had been no sign of them in the desert or on the roads. And now that it was dark, they would have to wait until tomorrow to continue the search.
Nicholas looked at Kyle, who was still lying on the floor. The healer had been unable to connect with the unconscious human to heal his head injury but he was familiar with human medicine and anatomy and assured Nicholas the injury wasnÕt serious, although he had said it could be a few hours before the human awoke. Nicholas nudged Kyle with his foot; the human was the best hope they had of locating the others and the Granolith.
Nicholas sighed, running his hand through his hair, he had delayed long enough. The troops would remain here and continue their search but he would have to return to Copper Summit and report his failure to Khivar. They had been so close to succeeding but it had all fallen apart. Luckily he had a scapegoat. He could truthfully tell Khivar that Major Tratis was to blame for this fiasco. If Tratis had done what he had been ordered, none of this would have happened.
Nicholas turned to Ida, "Bring the car around and send in someone to load the human into it. We are returning to Copper Summit."
Ida motioned to Alex, "What about him?"
Nicholas shrugged, "He's no good to us. Have someone bury him out back."
(Sunday, November 28th, 2004)
(El Paso, TX)
Max squeezed Liz's hand as he looked at the others seated around them. They had all stayed in the same motel room last night, taking turns at watch, and none of them looked like they had gotten much rest. Max had not been able to sleep all night, trying to decide what he needed to do to keep them all safe.
Liz, Jim and himself had spoken with Serena at length about her abilities and their options, and together the four of them had decided on a plan. At daybreak Max had sent Serena out to get food and a newspaper and now that breakfast was over, it was time to tell the others what they had come up with.
Max addressed the others, "Yesterday was a terrible day, the worst day of my life. Everyone here lost people they love and it won't be easy to move on, but we have to because we aren't out of this yet."
He paused to let the information sink in. "Liz, Jim and I have been trying to figure out what to do and we have come up with a plan but this will affect all of our lives and I think we should all agree. So please don't interrupt until we will tell you what we have in mind, then you can all tell us how crazy we are. Okay?"
The others looked at one another and nodded silently.
"First, our biggest problem is a place to live. We can stay at motels for a while but soon we will be tripping over each other and a big group like ours is bound to be noticed. We think we should look for a house to buy, right here in El Paso."
Max held up a hand as he saw Michael starting to protest, "Yes, I know we are close to Copper Summit and we have no money or credit, but with Serena's help we can set up accounts and enough background information to pass any credit check."
Liz continued, "And as for our location, we think it could be an advantage. It's not like the skins will do door-to-door searches and they will probably think we will get as far away from New Mexico as possible. If we buy a house, we can avoid landlords and it will be easier to find a place that is big enough for all of us, away from nosy neighbors."
The group was silent as Max continued, "Second, we need to get rid of any items that could link us to our past; cell phones, pagers, I.D. and we each need to choose new identities. We can put all of our new information in the Texas government computers and make it look like we have lived here for years."
"Third, I'm sending Serena to New York to get the help of the others. On the way, she could stop in Roswell and mail letters to our families, so at least they know we are alright."
"We could also send an anonymous tip to the police about where to find Kyle and Alex," Liz said softly.
Max looked around the group, meeting each person's eyes, "Finally, Liz and I both hope that we all agree to stay together. A large group could be more easily recognized but we all have different strengths and talents and I would hate to think that our enemies were able to drive us apart. We only have each other now and I don't want to loose any more of my family."
Michael spoke up, "Won't buying a house kinda tie us down?"
"We can always just leave," Liz said, "and the house will revert back to the bank. Then we do the same thing in the next city."
"We know what we are suggesting isn't legal or ethical," Max said, "but we don't see any way around it. We have to have money to survive. We can change one-dollar bills to hundreds, but for some things we will have to manipulate data in the bank's computers. We can't just take several thousand dollars in cash to a bank without arousing suspicion. Liz has volunteered to keep an accounting of everything we spend and if we ever get out of this mess we can pay back the appropriate people."
Max asked, "Any other questions?"
"What are we going to tell our parents?" Maria asked.
"Jim came up with a idea," said Max. "He suggested telling our parents that we were put into the witness protection program. It might seem far-fetched but it would explain why we all disappeared on the same day without telling our families and they would know not to look for us. It is better than the truth because the main thing keeping our families safe is their ignorance."
The others sat silent, digesting the plan. When no one spoke for several minutes Max continued, "Our entire lives have changed literally overnight but we'll try and make the best lives we can. It won't be easy. We can't ever go home again, and probably at first we will have to move around a lot. Everyone will have to agree not to use powers unless it's absolutely necessary, so we don't draw any attention to ourselves. So even if the skins are still looking for us, there will be nothing for them to find. We will blend in with everyone else and hide in plain sight like we always have."
Max looked at each of his friends, "I think we should take a vote now. All in favor of the plan?"
He scanned the room and nodded; there were seven raised hands.
(Copper Summit, AZ)
Nicholas slammed into his office in the UFL building; he was not in a good mood. After returning from Roswell last night, he'd had to report their failure to Khivar, then he'd stayed up all night directing the search. The houses of the friends and family of the Royal Three were under constant surveillance and he had arranged for the phones to be bugged and the mail to be watched. He had distributed photos to each of his men and kept in continual contact with the officers.
In the early hours of the morning, Max's Jeep had been discovered in Artesia and even though Nicholas suspected it was a decoy, he'd had to concentrate on searching the area. It was now almost dark and still there had been no other sign of them.
Then he had received the news from his new technician at SETI. The technology to trace the reception of a signal would not work on this planet. It had something to do with the amount of nitrogen in the atmosphere and the technician didn't think they would be able to alter it to work.
A knock at the door interrupted his thoughts. "What?" he growled.
Ida cautiously pushed open the door, "Sir, the human is awake."
Nicholas jumped out of his chair. It was the first piece of good news he had gotten since the catastrophe in Roswell. He strode into the hall and down the stairs to the sub-basement where Kyle was being held. He motioned for Ida to unlock the cell door and stepped inside, "So you're finally awake."
Kyle recognized his captor as the same person who had laid the trap for them, "What happened?"
"Now that is an interesting story," Nicholas started. "It seems you're friends escaped and left you to our tender care."
Kyle shook his head, "No, they would never do that."
"But you are here in lovely Copper Summit and they're not. How else do you explain it?"
Kyle kept silent and Nicholas continued, "If I were you, I would want revenge."
Kyle shook his head, "I remember, the wall collapsed. My father and the others must have thought I was dead or they never would've left me."
Nicholas smiled, "You sound so sure, but Courtney's memories tell me that you're not one of Max's favorites. To rescue you, Max would have had to endanger his wife, his family, and I don't think he values you enough to do that."
Kyle smiled, "You don't know what you're talking about. Max is too honorable to leave anyone behind, even me."
"So you won't tell me where they are?" Nicholas asked.
"Even if I knew, I wouldn't tell you."
"And the Granolith?"
Kyle shook his head, "I don't know what that is."
Nicholas saw the sudden tightening in Kyle's face and knew he was lying. The human had heard of the Granolith and he knew where it was. He smiled, "You're lying."
"No," Kyle denied quickly, "I have never heard of this Granny--, what did you call it, Granny-ith?"
"It's Granolith, as you well know," Nicholas laughed. "You will tell me one way or another. We can do this the easy way or the hard way."
"I don't know anything," Kyle repeated.
Nicholas smiled, "Okay, the hard way." He didn't want to risk using his mind probe on Kyle because it so often killed humans before all of the information was gathered, but, Nicholas thought to himself, there were other ways of extracting information. He rubbed his hands together, building power between them and then sent a blast of steady energy into Kyle.
The blast hit Kyle in the chest, knocked him into the wall and held him there, and a scream was torn from him.
After a moment, Nicholas stopped the energy and grabbed Kyle by the hair, forcing him to look at him. "The location of the Granolith?"
Kyle spoke through his teeth, "I don't know anything."
Nicholas raised his hand and sent another powerful blast into Kyle, doubling the length of time.
Kyle writhed on the floor, screaming in agony.
When he released him, Nicholas asked once again, "The Granolith?"
Kyle drew gulps of air into lungs, attempting to breathe past the pain, and raised himself into a sitting position. He looked up into Nicholas' gloating face, "I don't know anything."
(Saturday, December 4th, 2004)
A dense, black fog obscured everything from her view as she stumbled along the corridor, trying to feel her way. Her hands found an opening and she turned down the new hall. The screams of agony became louder with every step she took but she at least she knew she was finally getting closer. She could feel the hopelessness pouring off of the other and she called out in reassurance, "I'm here. I'm coming." But she could tell that the other was unaware of her presence.
Her progress was stopped by another wall and she pounded her hands on it in frustration. The cries became more desperate as the other's pain increased and then suddenly there was silence.
"No!" she cried. Strong arms encircled her and she fought against them wildly, trying to break away from her captor but the arms were too strong and held her tightly in place. As she continued to struggle, a sense of calm started to surround and settle into her. And after a moment, she heard her name, and the arms holding her were suddenly familiar.
"Liz, wake up!" Max held Liz tightly and strengthened the connection between them, concentrating on bringing her into wakefulness. "It's just a dream. Liz!"
Liz's eyes fluttered open and she stopped struggling, "Max?"
He nodded with relief, "You were having another dream." He gently took her head in his hands and placed a kiss on her forehead, "I was scared that you weren't coming back to me, I had a hard time waking you."
They were interrupted as the door crashed open and Michael and Isabel burst into the room with outstretched hands and Jim with a baseball bat right behind them. They looked quickly around but seeing nothing, their eyes fell on the couple in bed.
"What's going on?" Michael asked.
"It's okay," Max reassured them. "Liz just had a bad dream."
The others visibly relaxed and Isabel took a deep breath, "That must have been some dream."
"I'm sorry I woke you," Liz apologized.
Michael smiled, "That's okay. We need something to keep us on our toes."
The others left and Max turned his attention back to Liz, "Are you really okay?"
She nodded, "Yeah."
"Let's go downstairs," Max suggested, "I'll make you some tea and you can tell me about it."
Liz nodded her agreement, "That sounds nice."
Song Playing: In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel
As they walked down the stairs, Liz looked around the house that had been their home for a little over a week. They had purchased the large farmhouse because it had enough room for all of them and it sat on a large piece of land that was well away from any neighbors. They had quickly arranged for furnishing and other household necessities and had started the difficult task of settling into their new life.
Max settled Liz at the table and went to fix the tea, and Liz allowed her thoughts to roam back to the terrible day when they had lost Alex and Kyle. Of course they had also been forced to leave their friends, families and homes but it would have been more bearable if the two others had been with them. Liz felt tears prick her eyes and quickly wiped them away. She had lost two of her best friends, but Isabel had lost her love, and the Sheriff had lost his son. Her eyes immediately went to Max and she was so grateful that she had not lost him.
"Max, I love you."
Max turned to her with a smile, "Not that I'm complaining, but what brought this on?"
"After everything, I'm just glad we're here together."
Max nodded his understanding and gathered her in his arms. "The last week has been very hard and you are having these nightmares."
Liz froze, "I didn't tell you I was having nightmares."
"No, " Max said with a smile, "you didn't want to worry me. But I love you so much and I know you too well for you to be able to keep things from me."
Liz sighed, "I should have known."
"So do you want to tell me what the dream was about?"
"It's awful, Max, it's the same every time. I can hear someone in pain and I try to help, but there is a thick fog and I can't see where I'm going. I try to find my way but the cries become more and more urgent and I can't get there. I'm completely helpless."
Max stroked Liz's hair, "This is about Alex and Kyle and the way we had to leave them. I feel guilty about what happened too but there was nothing else we could have done."
"I know," Liz agreed. "I just can't believe they're really gone."
(Wednesday, December 8th, 2004)
Serena had arranged for the final purchase of the house and furniture and made sure Max and the others were settled before she had left them. As Max instructed, she had stopped in Roswell to mail the letters to their families and then she had continued to New York.
Serena had changed her appearance several times as she traveled, and now as she approached the subway tunnel that led to the home of the duplicates, she slipped into an alley and changed into the guise of a homeless man. She descended into the subway and turned into the secret entrance leading to her former abode.
A feeling of dread settled into her as she neared the entrance. Uncharacteristically it was pitch black and totally silent. She continued carefully into the room and reached for the switch, but the light did not turn on when she flipped it. She kindled a light and pushed it up, to hover over-head but the scene the light illuminated shocked her so much, the light nearly went out.
All four of her former charges were laying on the floor, dead. As she approached them, she saw the blast marks on each of their chests. They had been killed by aliens. Serena didn't know how Nicholas had found them but he had, and they had lost their lives. She turned to leave but the orb sitting face down on the table caught her eye and she put it into her pocket.
(Saturday, December 18th, 2004)
(Copper Summit, AZ)
Kyle cradled his broken arm against his chest as he sat on the floor meditating, attempting to lessen the pain. He repeated the mantra over and over, "No suffering befalls the man who is not attached to name and form," but he was having a hard time concentrating.
He had been a prisoner of the skins for three weeks and every evening Nicholas came to torture him. Sometimes Nicholas was alone and sometimes he brought other skins with him. They had various powers that they used to physically and mentally torture him and Kyle never knew what would happen next. It was obvious that Nicholas had hoped to destroy his spirit and loyalty to his friends, but the continual pain had only created a deep hatred in him for the skins and everything they were trying to accomplish.
Last night Kyle had taunted Nicholas into using a wild burst of energy that had snapped both the bones in his left arm and Kyle knew he had found one of the alien's weaknesses. Nicholas was easily moved to anger and it could be used against him.
Kyle could feel the anger building up within him at the thought of the diminutive skin leader and one of the Buddha's sayings suddenly came to him, We live happily indeed, not hating those who hate us, we dwell free from the hatred. He took several deep breaths and attempted to release his hatred as he continued with his chant, "No suffering befalls the man who is not attached to name and form. No suffering befalls the man who is not attached to name and form." Slowly he felt himself relax and the pain started to leave him. He concentrated harder on pushing the pain away through his breathing, and he didnÕt hear Nicholas enter the room.
Nicholas watched Kyle as he persisted in his chanting and noticed that he must have broken the human's arm. Usually he was careful not to cause any permanent damage but Kyle's continued refusal to talk had frustrated him and then the human had started to taunt him, and he had simply gotten carried away.
"Is the Buddha helping with the pain," Nicholas mocked, "or has he forsaken you like your friends."
Kyle's eyes snapped open and he felt the hatred rise up again at the sight of Nicholas. He took a deep breath attempting to calm himself and looked Nicholas in the eyes, "Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time, hatred ceases by love."
Nicholas laughed. "I can feel your hatred for me human," he mocked, "and your mantras haven't done anything to lessen it. But you should be directing your hatred at your so-called friends. If they hadn't left you to save their own butts, you wouldn't be here now. They don't deserve your loyalty, they certainly didn't show you any.
Kyle shook his head, "I won't betray my friends."
Nicholas shrugged, "Everyone breaks in the end."
Kyle knew Nicholas was probably right but he couldn't let his friends down, because if Nicholas found them he would kill them all. Kyle knew there was only one way out, he had to make Nicholas kill him before he gave up the information. He gathered his courage and forced himself to laugh as he shakily rose to his feet. "You're wasting your time peewee, because you just don't have it what it takes to get me to talk."
Nicholas raised his hand and sent a blast of energy into Kyle, slamming him into the wall.
Kyle fell to the floor and an intense pain lanced through his broken arm. He almost passed out, but fought through the pain and staggered to his feet. He laughed again. "That was pathetic, junior. Is that the best you've got? No wonder you got banished to this planet, you're completely incompetent. You've been here for more than fifty years and you can't even get information out of a human."
Nicholas roared and sent a powerful stream of energy into Kyle that once again knocked him to the floor.
Kyle writhed in agony as the pain ripped through him. It intensified to a level that he thought was impossible, and even though he fought against it, he screamed. The pain was like a fire that tore through him and he shut his eyes trying to block it out. Kyle felt his strength pouring out of him, and as he slipped into the waiting darkness, a figure appeared before him; Liz.
Liz placed a hand on the wall to guide herself along the corridor. The fog obscured everything and the sounds were the only thing guiding her. The screams were particularly loud and tonight she could feel the pain behind them. But it wasn't only a physical pain, the other had given up and was preparing to die. "I'm here," she called out, "I'll help you."
She hurried forward but was stopped by another wall. "No!" Liz yelled. "Not again." The screams stopped and she quickly felt along the wall looking for an opening, "Where are you?"
There was no answer but there was another scream of pain, more powerful than any of the others, and suddenly the fog lifted. Liz was standing inside a cell with Kyle and Nicholas was killing him.
"No!" she called out, "Stop!" She rushed forward, trying to stop Nicholas but the fog swirled around her and she passed through him. She reached out toward Kyle but she could no longer see him. "No!"
Liz felt herself fall and suddenly woke up in her own bed.
Her movement woke Max and he grasped her by the shoulders, "Liz are you okay? Did you have another dream?"
Liz nodded, "I saw Kyle. I think he's still alive."
Max pulled her to him, "No Liz, he can't be. We saw the building collapse on him."
"I saw him in my dream. He was being tortured by Nicholas. Max it was real, I know it was."
"Liz," Max started gently, "I know it seemed real but it couldn't have been. Kyle is gone."
(Copper Summit, AZ)
Ida rushed into the room when she heard Nicholas cry out and there was a look of such feral rage on her master's face that she nearly went back out again. But she knew in his anger, Nicholas would simply obliterate Kyle without realizing it and they would lose the only lead they had. She called out to him, "Sir."
Nicholas didn't respond and she risked stepping closer to him, "Sir! You have to stop. You'll kill him."
Ida's words penetrated Nicholas' rage and he stopped the stream of energy, with a nod to her. "Yes, I got a little carried away."
Ida entered the cell without comment and checked the human for signs of life, feeling relief that he still had a strong pulse. "He's just passed out," she said as she noticed the injury to his arm, "probably because his arm is badly injured. Do you want it repaired or should we leave it like it is?"
Nicholas paused considering the possibilities, "If we leave the arm, it will cause him a lot of pain but he will not withstand as much interrogation." He motioned to Ida, "Send for the healer."
She reached the door before Nicholas' called out to her, "Wait. Tell the healer to fix the arm the human way, set it in a cast. The pain and the cast will serve as a reminder of my power that he will not soon forget."
BOOK 8 - RESTRUCTURING REALITY|
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