BOOK 8 RESTRUCTURING REALITY
(THE HISTORY OF THE FUTURE - MAX)
Over the next few years, Max and Liz and the others settled into a comfortable existence, taking jobs and even going to school. They moved several times to different parts of the country, to avoid discovery.
After Kyle had been rescued, Max had forbidden them from using their powers except in emergencies, fearful of drawing attention to themselves. But Michael and Kyle disobeyed him and practiced secretly.
Liz also guiltily disobeyed Max and used her new power of astral projection to see her parents. She was glad they had finally accepted her marriage before she and Max had left for college. It would have been even more awful if she and her parents had been fighting when she had to go into hiding. Liz missed them terribly and even though they didn't know she was there, it made her feel better to know they were all right. At first, it had been difficult for her to get to them, but with practice she was able to visit them whenever she wished. Liz hated keeping secrets from Max but she couldn't bear the thought of never seeing her parents again.
(Wednesday, September 16th, 2009)
(Copper Summit, AZ)
"The new troops have arrived, Your Majesty," Nicholas informed Khivar. "How do you want to proceed?"
"Dispatch four squads of your best men to Roswell and take the Evans and the Parkers hostage. Then send a message to Max, telling him to come forward by an appointed time, or we will kill his and his wife's parents."
"Max would be an idiot to sacrifice himself for them," Nicholas sneered. "He won't surrender. He will probably try to rescue..." he let the sentence trail off as he realized Khivar's plan. "Of course, he will try to rescue them and we can set a trap." Nicholas frowned, "Max might suspect a trap though and not come."
Khivar shrugged, "At least it will appear that I gave him a peaceful way out. If he doesn't come forward, destroy Roswell. We will systematically destroy that planet one city at a time if necessary, until they surrender themselves to us."
Serena knew of Max's distaste for alien things and had kept the communication orb out of his sight for years. It was too important to abandon and she thought that one day he would change his mind and be grateful she had retained it. She kept it on a shelf in her room and had hardly given it more than a passing thought in years, only considering it when she dusted around it or packed it for another move. So when the shaft of blue-white light burst from it, she was so surprised, she almost fell off her bed.
After the initial shock, she grabbed the orb and headed into the living room were the others were gathered, and thrust the orb at Max. "We just received a message."
Max scowled, "From whom?"
"I haven't listened to it yet," Serena said.
Max sighed, they had to listen to the message, no matter how much he wanted to ignore it and he nodded to Serena.
She cupped the orb in her hands and sent a small burst of power into it and the message started.
"Max Evans, this is General Nicaron. His Majesty Khivar Roistar wishes you to surrender yourself, Isabel and Michael into our power no later than noon on Friday of this week. That should give you plenty of time to get to Copper Summit from anywhere in the United States. To assure your cooperation we have taken Philip and Diane Evans and Jeff and Nancy Parker into our possession. If you do not surrender by the appointed time, they will be executed.
"We will expect the three of you on Friday in Copper Summit at the UFL building. I'm sure you remember the way."
Max jumped out of his seat and knocked the orb out of Serena's hands with a growl, "They've already ruined our lives. Can't they just leave us alone?"
"What are we going to do Max?" Isabel asked. "We can't let them kill our parents."
Max reached for the cell phone and quickly dialed his parents' number, "First, we have to find out if it's true. It could be just another trick."
The Evans' phone rang until the answering machine came on and Max hung up. He dialed the number for the Crashdown but got the same result. He looked at his watch, it was just after seven p.m., the Crashdown's busiest time of the day, but there was no answer. A shiver of fear raced up Max's spine, Nicholas was telling the truth.
Liz picked up on his fear immediately, "No!"
Max took Liz into his arms and turned to the others, "This is my fault. I thought our families would be safe because they didn't know anything, but I never considered that Nicholas would use them against us."
"I wonder why he waited so long," Serena said. "He has known where your families were for years. Something must have changed for him to do it now."
Max dismissed her point, "It doesn't matter. We have to figure out where they're being held and come up with a plan to rescue them."
Kyle stepped forward, "Can Liz see where they're being held, the way she found me?"
Liz nodded, "I'll try."
Max nodded to Serena, signaling her to come to them. "Liz, do you want to do this here, or do you need some privacy?"
Liz shook her head, "It's fine Max." She allowed Serena to lead her to the sofa.
"Do you remember how you used your powers when you found Kyle?" Serena asked.
Liz glanced at Max guiltily, not wanting to admit to him that she had used her powers many times to see her parents, and nodded, "Yeah, I remember." Closing her eyes, she concentrated on finding her parentsŐ energy, as she had done so many times before. After a moment she felt herself becoming lighter and lighter, and she lifted off the ground and sped toward the place where she could sense them. Images rushed passed her, flying faster and faster and suddenly she found herself in a room.
She recognized the room immediately, it was the place where the skins had kept Kyle, but now her father was inside the cell instead of Kyle. He was crying, pleading with someone, reaching out to them, and Liz took a step toward him, but the sudden cry behind her made her stop and turn, and what she saw froze her in place.
Two skin soldiers were holding her mother on the floor in a kneeling position and Nicholas had his hand on her head. Her mother writhed in agony as Nicholas used his powers to extract information from her head and Liz was helpless to do anything but watch. In a matter of moments, her mother's screaming stopped, and as she closed her eyes and slumped forward, Liz knew without a doubt her mother was dead.
The two soldiers dragged her body into the corner of the room and dumped it next to two others that Liz had not seen before. But now she could easily recognize them as Max and Isabel's parents. Nicholas must have done the same thing to them.
But the Evans and her mother were beyond help and Liz turned back to her father just as Nicholas motioned for him to be brought forward. Liz saw an older woman approach and speak to Nicholas.
"Sir, if you kill him too we won't have any humans to bargain with."
Nicholas smiled, "That's the beauty of it. Max knows we took them so it doesn't matter if they are alive or dead. He won't know they are dead, and he'll walk into the trap anyway."
The two skin soldiers forced Liz's father to kneel before Nicholas and he reached out toward Jeff's head.
Liz rushed forward, "NO!"
Nicholas stopped and glanced around. "Did you hear anything?" he asked the other occupants of the room.
Ida looked around too, "What do you mean, Sir?"
Nicholas frowned, "I thought I heard someone call out, a woman." He looked at each of the others, "You didn't hear anything?"
The others shook their heads and Nicholas shrugged and continued, placing his hand on the human before him.
Liz had been so surprised Nicholas heard her that she hesitated for a moment, but then she concentrated all of her energy into solidifying herself enough so Nicholas could see her. She felt herself becoming more heavy, more solid but when she reached out to touch Nicholas, the fog started to swirl around her. "NO!" Liz screamed, "It's too soon."
But the fog became more dense and she helplessly watched Nicholas kill her father. The fog started to obscure her vision but she used all of her strength to hold on as long as she could. She could see her father straining against the skin soldiers, trying to free himself, as Nicholas pried the information from his head. Liz could almost feel her father's pain as he screamed out in agony and then was suddenly quiet.
Liz let the tears spill down her cheeks as she allowed herself to slip back into her own body. She felt Max's strong arms around her and opened her eyes.
Max could feel Liz's anguish through their connections and held her tightly to him, "Liz are you okay?"
Liz shook her head. "They're dead," she whispered, "Nicholas killed them all."
"No," said Isabel, as she jumped off of the sofa. "They can't be dead, you must be wrong, Liz."
Liz looked at her sister-in-law, "I watched him kill my mother and father, and I'm sorry Isabel but your parents were already dead."
Tears started to gather in Isabel's eyes and she quickly left the room.
Liz turned to Max, "I'm sorry, Max. I wish I could have done something."
"There was nothing any of us could have done, Liz."
Liz nodded and motioned toward the door where Isabel went, "Maybe you should go after her."
Max reached out to touch her cheek, "Liz, what about you?Ó he asked softly. "You saw it happening."
Liz nodded again and her eyes fell on Maria across the room, "What about Maria's mom? She could be in danger."
Maria jumped out of her seat, "You think they might go after my mom too? We've got to do something, warn her."
"Amy is probably being watched," Serena said. "The skins may be using her to draw us out."
"We'll have to be careful," Max said, "but we can't just leave her in Roswell. We need to come up with a plan, fast." Max looked at Maria, "Is there somewhere you could tell your mom to go that she would know without you telling her the name? Preferably somewhere outside of Roswell, in a public place where there would be a large crowd."
Maria looked thoughtful for a moment, "I think I know a good place. There's a mall near my Grandmother's house in San Antonio where we used to go. Ingram Park Mall."
"Okay," Max said, "that will be perfect." He looked at Kyle, "Get on the internet and find out what stores are in that mall, their hours and a layout too if they have one."
Kyle nodded and headed for the computer.
Max turned to Jim, "Find out how long it will take us to get to San Antonio and how long it will take Amy to get there." Then he turned to Michael "Start packing up our stuff, just the essentials. We don't want to have to come back here."
Serena stepped forward, "Max you can't risk yourself. This situation is almost certainly a trap."
Max shook his head, "That's why IŐm sending you."
The group had come up with an acceptable plan before Max allowed Maria to call her mother. They suspected Amy was being watched and Max knew they only had one chance to pull this off. As much as he wanted to save Amy, he wouldn't risk the others to do it.
He handed the cell phone to Maria, "Okay, you have to convince her quickly and remember to be careful about what you say. Don't mention that we know our parents are dead, in case the skins are listening."
Maria nodded and dialed. It was just after eight p.m. and she prayed her mother was home.
The phone was answered after two rings and Maria nearly broke into tears when she heard her mother's voice. "Mom!"
Amy was silent for a moment, "Maria? Is that you?"
Maria choked back the gathering tears, "Yeah, it's me."
"Maria, oh my God," Amy sobbed, "Are you alright? Where are you?"
"I'm fine, but mom you have to calm down and listen to me. This is very important."
"Okay, " Amy agreed.
"Mom the people that are after us, have taken the Parkers and the Evans and they might come after you too. You have to leave town right now."
"Why would they come after me?" Amy argued. "I don't know anything."
"Neither do the Evans or the Parkers, but the people after us are trying to use them to draw us out of hiding. Mom, these are bad people, they killed Alex and they will go to any lengths to get us. You have to leave tonight, now."
"Leave for how long?" Amy asked. "Where would I go? What about the store? I can't just leave it."
"Mom you don't understand," Maria said, getting angry. "They almost surely have bugged your phone and can hear what we are saying. They could be coming for you now. Your life is at stake. Don't pack, just get in the car and go."
Maria could hear the silence on the other end of the line and hoped she was getting through to her mother, "I wouldn't ask you to do this if there was any other way. You can come to us and we can protect you."
"Okay," Amy agreed. "What do you want me to do?"
Maria released a sigh of tension, "Okay, don't say any names or places, just listen. Remember the mall that we used to go to near Henny's house?"
"Yeah," Amy said with a touch of surprise in her voice.
"Drive straight there as soon as we get off the phone. Park on the south side of Dillard's and go to the dressing room at the back of the gown section. A woman will meet you there and tell you the name of the dog we had when dad left. Go with her and she will bring you to us."
(Friday, September 18th, 2009)
Serena and Amy had changed outfits and cars six times in the last two days, but in the end it didn't matter because Serena could not detect any sign of pursuit.
As they had planned, Serena had met Amy in the dressing room and taken her into the back where they changed their appearances. Then they had used the employee's exit to get out of the mall and rushed to Serena's waiting car.
Amy had asked many questions on the drive but Serena had told her it was not her place to explain and Amy had been forced to curb her curiosity. Serena wouldn't even tell her where they were headed or when they would arrive.
They had driven in a different direction after each time they changed cars, but finally Serena decided they weren't being pursued and told Amy they were on their way to meet the others. Amy still didn't know where they were going, only that they were in Oklahoma and headed northeast.
Finally they exited the freeway and headed into a small town called Vinita. Serena pulled the car into the parking lot of the Western Motel, drove around the back and parked next to a black SUV.
Amy had barely gotten out of the car when Maria burst out of a hotel room, "Mom!"
The group had voted unanimously to tell Amy what was really happening when she joined them. It had taken an hour to tell her the whole story and several demonstrations of the aliens' powers before she believed them.
Amy turned to Max, "So these other aliens, these skins, are after you because you were a King on your planet?"
Max nodded, "They were sent here to kill us."
"And they killed your parents?" Amy asked.
"The skins were trying to use them to draw us out. They didn't think we would know they were dead," Max said.
Amy's brow creased, "How did you find out?"
Max put his arm around Liz and told Amy the slightly altered version of what Liz had seen, that he and Liz had agreed to tell the others. "Liz tried to see where our parents were being held, like she did with Kyle, but they were already dead."
Amy looked at Liz. The child she had known had grown into a woman but she could still see the six-year-old girl who used to play Barbies with Maria. "I'm really sorry about your parents, they were good people."
Liz smiled and took Amy's hand, "Thanks."
Amy turned her attention back to Max, "So what do we do now?"
"Get another house," Max said, "and start living our lives again."
"What about the skins?" Amy asked. "The deadline they set for you is today."
Max shrugged, "They don't know where we are and I guess they'll figure out we're not coming sooner or later."
(The Universal Friendship League Building)
(Copper Summit, AZ)
Nicholas watched as the minute hand on the clock clicked to one p.m. He picked up the amplifier and signaled Walt who was waiting with a legion of troops near Roswell. "Destroy Roswell."
The group spent the afternoon in the motel, catching up on the past few years. They had rented adjoining rooms, and after they finished dinner, Max, Liz and Serena sat in one room discussing where they should go next, while the others watched television in the other room.
"It might be a nice change to live a little farther north," Liz suggested.
"We can't get too close to Boston though, the skins might look for us there," Max said as he pointed to the map. "But what about the eastern part of Ohio? Maybe one of these towns outside Columbus."
Suddenly Michael burst into the room, his face pale as if he had seen a ghost. He motioned over his shoulder into the other room. "You guys have gotta see this."
They followed Michael back into the other room where everyone was gathered raptly around the television, the emotional voice of the news announcer the only sound in the room.
To recap the late-breaking news, the city of Roswell, New Mexico was destroyed this afternoon and most of its fifty-eight thousand residents are presumed dead.
The pictures shown behind the reporter, were miles away from a Roswell that was engulfed in smoke and fire.
The reporter spoke with a shaky voice. "Reports are still sketchy at this time but what we can tell you, based on the survivor reports, is that a group of people dressed as civilians, armed with explosives and high-tech weapons that appeared to be lasers, entered the city this afternoon. And in less than half-an-hour, the city of Roswell lay in ruins. They demolished business, homes and schools, completely destroying most of the city, seemingly unconcerned about taking innocent lives.Ó
ŇAt this time, no group has come forward to claim responsibility for this unprecedented act of terrorism and the perpetrators seemed to have just disappeared. The military and National Guard have the area around Roswell cordoned off while they search for survivors and try to determine exactly what happened. The FBI has asked for anyone with knowledge of the perpetrators to come forward..."
Max walked to the television, switched it off and turned to face Serena, "The reporter said people dressed like civilians used weapons to destroy Roswell. Nicholas told us there was a warship in orbit, surely it has weapons."
"Yes it does," Serena said, "but maybe they didn't want to use them and risk exposing themselves."
"What kind of weapons are we talking about on that ship?" Michael asked, "Bombs, lasers, what?"
"And how destructive are they?" Max continued. "Capable of destroying a city?"
Serena explained. "A warship carries fifty smaller attack ships similar to Earth's fighter planes but they have greater maneuverability and are capable of space flight. The attack ships are equipped with energy weapons similar to lasers but they are mainly geared toward destroying other ships. The warship itself is equipped with a larger version of the energy weapon but it requires an incredible amount of energy to use and is only capable of short bursts of power. It probably could vaporize several blocks or maybe a square mile, but that is all. It is nothing like the weapons the aliens had in the movie Independence Day, where they could destroy most of New York in a few minutes."
"A nuclear explosion would be capable of that type of destruction," Liz said.
Serena shook her head. "We did not use fission weapons on Antar because our bodies are even more vulnerable to radiation than yours."
"But you haven't been on Antar for almost seventy years," Liz pointed out. "They would have made advancements in technology you wouldn't know about."
Serena nodded, "They will have superior weapons but the amount of energy it would take to destroy a city in that manner would be enormous. Seventy years ago we didn't have anything even close to generating that kind of energy. For centuries all of our technology has been based on the element trithium. They would have to have discovered a new power source and developed completely new technology around it."
"It doesn't make any sense," Michael said. "Why do this now after all of these years? If Khivar wanted to destroy the Earth, he's had plenty of time to do it."
Liz nodded, "You're right, Michael. Something must have changed for them to do this now, but we might not ever know what that is."
"Maybe he has decided to take over the Earth too," Isabel speculated.
"It doesn't matter what their motives are," Max said. "We can't let the skins get away with this." He turned to Serena again, "Do we have a chance against them with the current level of Earth technology?"
"Max there are more than five thousand of them, " Michael reminded him. "We can't possibly hope to fight them."
Max nodded, "You're right. We wouldn't stand a chance but the U.S. military would. I think we should make an anonymous call to the FBI telling them who destroyed Roswell and where they are."
Isabel laughed, "What are you going to tell them, Max? That a group of aliens has set up camp in Copper Summit, Arizona."
Max smiled, "No, I thought I would tell them the skins are a cult that have gotten their hands on high-tech weapons. I could say I was part of the cult but left when they started talking about helping aliens destroy the planet." He shrugged, "It's even pretty close to the truth."
Serena nodded, "It could work. The military could overwhelm them by sheer numbers."
"I think that's a good idea," Jim said. "The skins hadn't done anything we could prove up until now. This is the perfect opportunity to get the military to wipe them out."
(Saturday, September 19th, 2009)
(Copper Summit, AZ)
Nicholas' amplifier sounded and he pressed the activation sequence, "What?"
"This is Greer, General. Captain Toilad on the warship Plemas reports that there are U.S. troops moving into position around Copper Summit."
"Tell the Captain I want exact numbers and positions," Nicholas ordered. "Move the ship into a lower orbit if necessary."
"But General, if the ship moves into a lower orbit they risk being spotted," Greer reminded him.
"Yes they do," Nicholas agreed as he switched off the amplifier. He turned to Walt, who was seated across from him, and smiled, "The U.S. military is lining up outside of Copper Summit. I have been itching for a good fight for years."
Walt nodded as Nicholas pressed another sequence of symbols on the amplifier, "Battle stations! This is not a drill!"
(Sunday, September 20th, 2009)
"In the last ten years I have been embedded with our troops all around the world," the reporter said in a voiceover, as the footage started to roll depicting the events he was describing, "but I have never seen anything like this. It was like something out of a movie.Ó
ŇU.S. military forces had the town of Copper Summit, Arizona surrounded but it was totally silent and appeared to be deserted. After repeated failed attempts at communication with the inhabitants, we started to move in. Then suddenly the sky erupted with a deafening sound, and what I can only describe as flying saucers attacked our positions. They fired some kind of energy weapon that destroyed tanks and personnel carriers, and sent us running for cover."
Tess smiled as the reporter continued, the sound of his voice fading into the background. She knew the skins' actions would be horrifying Max. He had always been so involved with the humans, so protective of them.
When she had heard about the destruction of Roswell yesterday, Tess had let herself momentarily dwell on the pleasant image of Max's broken and bloody body lying on the side of the road, but her satisfaction was short-lived. Max deserved the worst kind of torment for casting her aside, but somehow she knew he would have survived. He would have gotten out of Roswell in time, or maybe he was living somewhere else entirely, but she was sure he hadn't died, it was just her luck.
For years, Tess had tried to put Max and the others out of her mind and concentrate on making a life for herself and mostly she had succeeded. But the past two days had brought all of the pain of Max's betrayal back to the surface. Tess let her eyes roam over the opulent surroundings of her house, but she knew they were nothing compared to the palace on Antar.
Max had denied her everything that was rightfully hers and she vowed to have her revenge. Suddenly the twisted hatred on her face turned into an enchanting smile as the perfect solution came to her. It was so simple, she didn't know why she hadn't thought of it before. Max had betrayed her, she would simply return the favor.
She would go to Copper Summit and make a bargain with the skins. In return for immunity and passage back to Antar she would give the skins the Granolith and help them destroy Max and everything he loved.
(Copper Summit, AZ)
Nicholas smiled as he inspected the destruction his troops had inflicted on the U.S. military. They had easily destroyed their tanks and vehicles and sent the soldiers scurrying into the hills. But he knew the government would never let it stand. The next time the military came, they would have better weapons and more troops. He turned to Walt and Greer, "I want all troops on the highest alert. Destroy anything that comes near Copper Summit. This is only the beginning of the war."
(Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009)
Tess had flown to Phoenix, but from there she had been forced to drive the rest of the way to Copper Summit. The military blocked all the major highways leading into the area and cordoned off the roads leading into the small town for more than twenty miles. She had been turned back by the soldiers at a checkpoint, but she detoured onto a small dirt road and waited in the wilderness until dark to continue her journey.
Now she was less than ten miles away from Copper Summit and Tess had to admit that she was growing nervous. She really hadn't made a plan. She had simply come, driven by her need for revenge, but now she was having second thoughts. Maybe she should have stayed in Florida and negotiated her surrender to the skins, made an agreement before she had come.
What if the skins didn't agree to her terms? She would have delivered herself to the enemy with no hope of being rescued. Nicholas could take the information about the Granolith from her mind and there would be nothing she could do about it.
Tess saw the lights from the town ahead, she slowed the car and pulled off the dirt road she had been following. Her doubts had belatedly made her cautious but another thought buzzing in her head was drowning out the sound of her doubts. The skins represented the only chance she might ever have to get revenge against Max and return home, and anything that might happen to her in Copper Summit was better than staying on this planet the rest of her life.
She made up her mind with a nod of her head and pressed down on the accelerator, eager to arrive. The skins weren't unreasonable. What she was asking for wasn't that much and they would probably be glad to have her help. She might even be welcomed home as a hero.
Suddenly a blazing light illuminated the area around her and a ship swooped down out of the dark sky. A burst of red energy erupted from the ship and headed straight for her. Tess had only seconds to realize that she had made a huge mistake.
(Friday, September 25th, 2009)
Exactly one week after they had watched the report of Roswell's destruction, Max and the others were seated in front of the television witnessing the end of the great city of Los Angeles. Just after dawn that morning, the skins' ships had descended from the clouds over the sprawling metropolis, and within two hours, nothing remained but a smoldering pile of rubble. The strike had obviously been timed to catch the majority of the citizens in the morning commute, when cars blocked all of the major roads, preventing mass evacuation.
The group sat in a shocked silence as the enormity of the situation overwhelmed them. The television news crew had caught the majority of the destruction of the city center and the station was replaying the carnage over and over.
Finally Liz couldn't watch anymore. She walked over to the window and pulled the drapes aside, hoping the warmth of the sunlight would chase away the shivers that racked her body. They couldn't let the skins destroy the world around them.
Max rose from the sofa and followed Liz to the window, wrapping her in his arms and tucking her head under his chin. He spoke through their bond, automatically seeking to reassure her. It's okay Liz. Everything will be okay.
No, Max it's not okay. The skins have killed thousands of innocent people. We have to do something. We have to stop them.
Do you have any ideas on how to stop them? Max asked cautiously.
I have one idea, Liz sighed, but I don't want to even think it.
Max nodded, knowing what she meant. You are thinking the skins might stop if Michael, Isabel and I turned ourselves over to them.
It has crossed my mind, Liz admitted. But apart from not wanting to lose you, I'm also not sure it would work. If you did go to Nicholas he would get the Granolith and then nothing would stop him from destroying Earth and your world too.
If I thought it would save Earth, I would turn myself over to Nicholas, but I'm sure you're right. He would get the Granolith and destroy Earth anyway. There has to be another way.
Liz sighed, I did have one other idea. What if we called your people for help?
Max shook his head. I have already spoken to Serena about it. She said that no one came to our aid when Khivar took my throne. So I doubt they would travel three or four years to another galaxy to help us. And even if they did, the Earth would be in ruins by then.
After the skins had destroyed L.A., the U.S. military bombed Copper Summit but when they searched through the rubble they discovered it had been deserted. Not one skin soldier had been seen on Earth after the destruction of Roswell. Max anonymously gave the military all of their knowledge about the skins, including how to kill them, but it was of no use because it was discovered the skins had repositioned themselves into orbit where none of Earth's weapons could reach them.
Over the next two years, the skins destroyed city after city in a largely uncontested campaign, because none of the Earth's defenses were strong enough to stand against them. After L.A., they systematically leveled every large city and major military instillation in the U.S. and then continued with the smaller cities and towns. At first, the allies of the United States came to their aid, but the skins decimated each of the armies and then turned their destruction on the other countries, slaughtering civilians by the thousands, as they leveled the foreign cities.
The human survivors were forced to flee into the countryside or live in the ruins of their former homes. Some banded together in groups to try and fight the skins, while others just tried to survive. What was left of the U.S. government went into hiding and an elite group of the military were assigned, to keep the President and the others alive.
After the Earth's major militaries were decimated, the skins erected several new strongholds from which Nicholas directed the continuing destruction and subjugation of Earth. Any captured humans were put into labor camps and forced to work for the skins, while the free humans continued to annoy the skins with supply raids and rescue attempts. Nicholas was forced to send ground patrols to fight the rebels and take as many captives as possible.
Max assembled a group of people who wanted to stand against the skins. At first, he carefully hid the fact they were aliens, assuming that the humans would automatically distrust them if they knew the truth. But the truth came out quickly when their group was ambushed, and Max, Michael and others were forced to use their powers to save them all. Max feared his troops would turn against them but they eagerly accepted their differences when Max explained the skins were their enemies too.
Max and Liz decided to conceal the fact he could heal because they were afraid he would be overwhelmed by requests. He also asked them to conceal the fact that Liz was a hybrid and tell everyone Liz's talent for prognostication was a natural human ability. He was afraid she would be a target if the humans turned against them, but he was even more afraid of what Nicholas might do to her if she were captured.
Max found he had a natural ability for leadership, and even though he didn't remember his other life sometimes the answers to difficult problems would simply come to him and he knew it was prompted by his past experiences. He led one successful raid after another and soon the stories spread of their group's success, and people came from all over to join with them.
Max's army moved almost constantly, traveling great distances at night to avoid detection, afraid if they stayed in one place the skins would find them. They learned how to use camouflage to their advantage and relied on guerilla warfare tactics for engaging the skins. Liz and Serena learned how to make C-4 and other explosives and Max's troops were able to capture some energy guns from the skins, called blasters. They repeatedly attempted to get a communication amplifier from a skin soldier but none of the ground troops they killed were carrying them.
They used every resource at their disposal to defeat the skins. Whenever they could, Max's troops would take a skin soldier prisoner, but they always killed themselves before they gave away any information. Isabel attempted dream walking the skin soldiers and Liz tried astral projection to help determine what Nicholas' troops were planning, but there were so many groups of skins acting on Earth and in orbit, that it was almost impossible for them to get anything more than trivial information. Isabel had even tried to get into Nicholas' mind, but he was too powerful for her.
(Wednesday, June 13th, 2012)
Jim, Amy and Kyle led a small band of rebels to the edge of the trees surrounding the skin outpost. It had recently been erected to prepare for the construction for another skin stronghold, and supply ships had been making regular trips to stock it. Max's scouts had reported that the outpost was not heavily guarded and the supplies could be easily taken.
Jim raised his binoculars and peered through them, only seeing half-a-dozen skin guards. Their group should be able to handle that number easily but something felt wrong. He scanned the area looking for anything out of the ordinary, but could see nothing. The food and supplies in the building were desperately needed and he pushed his doubts away. He signaled to his men silently, motioning for some to go right, others to go left, and the remainder to follow him. Then he turned to Kyle, "Stay here, watch our backs and signal us if anything goes wrong."
Kyle briefly hesitated, sensing his father's apprehension and then nodded, "Okay dad."
Jim signaled for the men to move forward and they spread out along the edge of the forest, carefully staying under cover. At another signal from Jim they rushed the skin soldiers taking all six of them by surprise and then they proceeded cautiously into the building.
Kyle kept a careful watch on the surrounding area, looking for any signs of more skin troops. He hated waiting, but it was a necessary part of the raids.
His father's voice suddenly came over the walkie-talkie, breathing hard as if he were running, "Everybody out, it's a trap. There are no supplies here, only empty boxes. Kyle do you see any..."
JimŐs voice was cut off as an enormous explosion engulfed the building, throwing Kyle to the ground. "Dad? Amy?" Kyle gasped, as he sat up, unable to believe what had just happened. "Dad!" he shouted, and jumped up running toward the fire hoping to save his father, but the intense heat forced him back and he knew no one could have survived. Stumbling back into the trees, Kyle fell to his knees, retching in the grass.
He sat for a few minutes just trying to draw breath and automatically went into a meditation. Neither fire nor wind, birth nor death can erase your good deeds. All created things perish. All created things are sorrow. All forms are unreal. As he repeated the words, Kyle's mind cleared and the reality of the situation sank in. The skins had deliberately lured them here to kill them. They had set up the whole situation with no other thought than killing more humans.
Kyle could feel the hatred rising up within him and unconsciously started the meditation against hate. Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time, but then he stopped himself. After everything the skins had done, they deserved his loathing and he let his hatred for them build, deliberately stoking and strengthening it with memories of the past. He knew the Buddha would be disappointed that he had given in to his hatred but he couldn't stop himself.
Hot tears flowed down his cheeks as he mourned the loss of his father and the others. The skins had taken almost everything from him, including his faith, and that just made him hate them more. With every fiber of his being, he hated the skins and he would use the energy his hatred provided, to slaughter every last one of them.
Kyle looked down at the skin blaster in his hand. He had taken it off a skin soldier he had killed last year and the sense of irony never ceased to amuse him. He would use their own weapon to destroy as many of them as he could.
(Friday, November 23rd, 2012)
(In the ruins of Idaho Falls, ID)
It was a cold night, as Max and Isabel led the small band of fighters through the eerie silence of the abandoned buildings. Once it had been a thriving town but now it was nothing but a pile of rubble. There was not even a single building standing where their group could take shelter for the coming day.
The fighters were spread out military style, so a single blast from the enemy could not kill them all. Max always led with Isabel, while Michael and Kyle took up the rear. Max kept Liz and Maria near the back of the troops for their safety and assigned a couple of ex-marines to watch over them.
Suddenly a brilliant light erupted, making the night sky brighter than high noon, and then the laser blasts started.
ŇScatter,Ó Max yelled, as he and Isabel dove for cover. Ňlz take the left flank,Ó he ordered and then through the connection he shared with Liz, he sent more instructions, Tell Michael to take the right flank and you and Maria stay back and keep down.
He felt LizŐs mental ascent through the connection and turned his full attention back to the battle. It only took a few minutes for him to determine they were only fighting a small group of KhivarŐs soldiers, probably scouts, but they couldnŐt let any of the enemy live to pass on their position.
Using a blaster he had taken off an enemy soldier in an earlier battle, Max sent one burst of energy after another into the darkness, where he estimated the enemies to be. Even though he couldnŐt see them, it was as if he could somehow sense their presence and he made each shot count.
They were just gaining the upper hand when suddenly he felt LizŐs fear through their connection. Without a second thought Max leapt up and rushed to where Liz and Maria were hiding, knowing he would never make it in time.
And then it was as if he were seeing through LizŐs eyes, and Max watched horrified as a skin soldier rushed toward her and Maria. The enemy soldier had somehow sneaked past their defenses and his first shots had taken out the men protecting Liz and Maria. That had alerted the women to his presence or the soldier would have taken them completely by surprise.
Maria and Liz both carried weapons and had been trained to use them, but neither of them had actually shot an enemy soldier and Max never wanted them to. In Liz and Maria, Max saw the last vestiges of the world before Khivar had attacked, and as crazy as he knew it was, he wanted to preserve their innocence. In all of this war and insanity, Max had hoped he could spare them the weight of taking a life, even if it was the enemy.
Through LizŐs eyes, Max saw Liz and Maria raise their weapons to fire, but the skin soldier used his powers with a careless flip of his hand and threw the girls several yards, sending them crashing into a wall. Liz was the first to regain her feet and shoved Maria out of the way as the skinŐs next blast hit the rocks near them. They fell to the ground and scrambled behind the rocks but the weapons had been knocked from their hands and now they were defenseless.
Another blast from the soldier also hit the rocks, but it was closer and Max felt the flying rock chips sting LizŐs face. The skin soldier knew the women were unarmed and took his time walking toward them for his next shot.
Through the connection, Max experienced LizŐs fear that she would be killed. She was desperately afraid, but she didnŐt fear death, her greatest fear was that she would be separated from him. Liz was not ready to be parted from him and an incredible anger started from deep inside her. Max could feel her anger fueling a rush of power, that quickly built up within her body.
Max raced around the final corner as Liz stood, channeling her power through her hand, toward the enemy soldier. The burst of energy hit the soldier square in the chest and left a sort of burn mark, but at first it appeared to Max as if nothing happened.
Max took aim on the enemy but a horrible scream escaped the soldier as he clutched his chest and collapsed to the ground. He flailed around for a moment as a finger of blue flame flickered from a hole in his chest and then he burst into a shower of ash.
For a moment none of them moved, frozen in place by the shock and then Max felt LizŐs overwhelming grief. He crossed the last few yards between them and took her trembling form in his arms. Liz collapsed into him, sobbing uncontrollably.
Max gently stroked LizŐs head as he sought to reassure her, ŇShhhhh. ItŐs okay, my love.Ó But he knew his words were lies, and carefully shielded his true feelings.
What kind of King was he? Max asked himself, then shook his head. No, it was more basic than that. What kind of man was he, that he couldnŐt even protect his wife? Liz was the most important thing in the world to him. He would do anything for her, sacrifice anything for her, but he hadnŐt been able to keep her safe and she had been forced to take a life. Yes, they were at war but Max had tried to protect his sweet Liz as much as possible from the horrors.
Max felt a piece of him die as the scene re-played in his mind. He had failed Liz in almost every way possible but he vowed to redouble his efforts. Never again would he trust anyone else to protect her, he would personally ensure her safety.
Max pulled the still trembling Liz closer and quickly checked her for injuries. Finding nothing major he sighed in relief as he healed the few scrapes and cuts she had received. Then he gently stroked her hair, ŇIŐm so sorry, Liz but I swear IŐll never leave you again.Ó
(Thursday, August 29th, 2013)
(Outside the ruined city of Cheyenne, WY)
Max, Liz, Michael, Maria, Isabel, Kyle and Serena stayed at the makeshift table in their shelter after the latest strategy meeting. Max was increasingly depressed by their ever-worsening situation but he had to keep up a brave front for the troops. It was only when he was alone with his family that he allowed his true feelings to show. "We kill a few skins here and there and have some small successes but we aren't making progress fast enough. This skins have almost completely wiped human civilization off of the face of the Earth and it won't be long before they find us or the Granolith."
He paused, looking down at the table. "We have lost so many people, so many who didn't deserve to die. And none of us would have survived the raid last week if Liz hadn't gotten the premonition. I just feel like all of this is my fault. If I had let all of you develop your powers, maybe we would have been strong enough to fight them and none of this would have ever happened."
He turned to Liz, "If I hadn't told you to suppress your powers maybe you would have seen what would happen. I just wish I could go back and change everything."
Liz put her hand on Max's, "None of this is your fault, Max. You didn't choose this and I know you would change it if you could."
"Maybe we can change it," Serena said.
"What do you mean?" asked Isabel breathlessly.
"You remember that my primary task on Antar was a Granolith technician?" Serena asked. "I studied the Granolith for over two-hundred years trying to discover how it worked and possibly duplicate it. In that time, I developed several theories about its capabilities."
"And you think one of these theories could help us?" Michael asked.
"Maybe," Serena admitted. "If we were left with no other choice it would be worth exploring. The Granolith is capable of producing an enormous amount of energy and according to the calculations I have made, I believe it would be able to tear a hole in time-space."
"You think itŐs capable of time travel," Liz said softly.
"The Granolith is basically a machine like the computers on Earth," Serena explained. "To use it you just have to program it, tell it what to do."
"How do you program it?" Max asked. "I didn't notice an interface of any kind on the Granolith."
Serena picked up two nearby rocks and passed her hand over them, fashioning them into a rough six-sided crystal approximately eight inches long. "You simply make a crystal like this one, the size and shape don't really matter, the Granolith will adapt. There needs to be some silicon in the mixture, rocks or sand are the best materials to use. The important thing is that you put your instructions in it when you make it. Just push your thoughts into the energy you use to form the crystal. For time travel I would specify a time and a place you wish to travel and who is going on the trip."
"And what about returning?" Max asked.
Serena shook her head, "If a traveler changes the past, he won't be able to return. He will have come from a reality that no longer exists. The events that made him who and what he is won't have happened and he will disappear as if he never lived, because in essence, he never did exist."
(Sunday, January 12th, 2014)
(Near Hot Springs, SD)
Nicholas surveyed the battle below him from his vantage point in the hills. More and more humans had joined with Max's army as the skins tightened their grip on the Earth, and now Max commanded thousands. The rebels had become increasingly troublesome, raiding one skin outpost after another. They always struck quickly and forcefully, sometimes overwhelming his troops with their sheer numbers. It was as if they had information about his troop movements they could not have known, hitting their targets when they were most vulnerable.
Nicholas had been forced to delegate some of his other duties and lead the skin army against the rebels in many battles. On more than one occasion, Nicholas thought he had the rebels in his grasp, but each time they miraculously escaped him. Nicholas had come to only two conclusions; one, Max was a brilliant military strategist or two, he was getting help.
Finally Nicholas learned from one of Max's captured soldiers that Max's human wife Liz, had the gift of prognostication and her visions had repeatedly saved them. The captive told him that Max and Liz were always together and the troops trusted Liz as much as they did Max or Michael. Nicholas also learned that Max didn't trust Liz's safety to anyone else, even his second in command. Nicholas smiled, Liz was Max's AchillesŐ heel and that was the type of weakness he could use to his advantage.
Many times, Nicholas had seen Max in the distance directing his army, and always his human wife had been at his side. Nicholas took out his far-viewers and set them to the extreme range. And searching the hills opposite to his position he finally spotted Max, and Liz just beyond. Nicholas reset the focus, trying to get a better look at the small woman. He had heard of humans with psychic abilities but he had always considered them to be charlatans and frauds. The odds were astronomical that Max would find a human mate with such abilities.
As he studied Liz, Nicholas wondered how attuned her abilities were at foretelling the future. Prognostication was a rare gift on Antar and even the most acclaimed seers could not predict every event. Nicholas decided he would simply have to test Liz's abilities. He would set one trap after another for the rebel army, and sooner or later the law of probability had to fall in his favor.
(Thursday, March 6th, 2014)
(Near Ft Collins, CO)
Nicholas smiled as he watched a large group of Max's troops walk into the trap he had set for them. Obviously he had been right, Liz couldn't foresee everything and today her failing would be the end of the rebel army.
Nicholas signaled for his troops to wait until all of the humans had entered the area before springing the trap, and his eyes quickly scanned them to see who from Max's group was present. He noticed Michael right away, because he was in the lead, but it took him a few minutes to pick out Isabel. Nicholas sighed. For years he had not known if Isabel were alive or dead and he was relieved to see her. Khivar would surely reward him for delivering her back to Antar.
Max, Liz and the other humans were not present as far as Nicholas could see, but it didn't matter because Michael and Isabel could tell him everything he needed to know; including the location of the Granolith and the current whereabouts of Max and the rest of the rebel troops.
Nicholas spoke softly into his amplifier, "Michael and Isabel are in this group," he alerted his troops. "Be careful where you aim. Greer will take Michael, I will take Isabel and the rest of you eliminate the others. I want no escapes and no survivors."
Finally the last few stragglers entered the trees and Nicholas signaled for the trap to be sprung. He watched for a moment, savoring the looks of surprise on the rebel's faces as his troops completely enclosed them. They had nowhere to hide and the only cover was the trees. He had chosen this location particularly because of the lack of cover.
Michael sent bursts of energy into the skin soldiers who suddenly emerged out of the trees around them. He attempted to find some cover as he picked off one skin after another, but there was none. A sound behind him alerted Michael and he turned just in time to see an older skin soldier rush toward him. Michael sent a blast of power into the charging soldier, breaking the seal on his husk and turning him to dust. A small black object was revealed by the soldier's demise and Michael caught it before it hit the ground. He had just stuffed the pentagon-shaped device into his pocket when he was tackled from behind by several more skins.
With a smile, Nicholas slipped into the dense undergrowth, changing his coloring until he blended into the greenery perfectly. He moved stealthily around behind his troops until he had Isabel in sight. He watched the humans fall to the ground dead, one after another until there were only a handful left and then he rushed forward and grabbed Isabel from behind. "How nice to see you again Vilondra."
Isabel was surprised at first but she struggled against her captor. She couldn't see him but she recognized his voice from when he had nearly captured them and killed Alex. She screamed in rage, throwing her full weight against the smaller man.
Nicholas was momentarily knocked off balance and his grip on Isabel loosened. Isabel spun toward him and aimed a burst of energy at him but Nicholas used his powers to keep his feet and reached out to force her hand aside. Her blast went wide but still caught Nicholas on the shoulder and he roared with rage, spinning Isabel around and trapping her arms behind her. He roughly shoved her to her knees to gain control of her and looked to where Greer's team was securing Michael.
Nicholas motioned for two of his men to come forward and take Isabel. She struggled against them but their superior strength kept her easily subdued.
Nicholas incredulously examined his shoulder, where Isabel had hit him. He had not been injured the entire time he had been on Earth, and the fact that Isabel had succeeded made all of his latent anger against her rise to the surface. He had intended to return her to Antar intact but that was not the only option. "Where's Greer?" Nicholas growled as he reached into his pocket.
One of the skin soldiers motioned to Michael, "He killed Greer."
Nicholas looked Michael in the eyes and Michael could see the burning hatred within. Michael fought desperately to escape his captors but they held him fast. A feeling of horror overcame him as Nicholas suddenly pulled a device from his pocket and a long thin blade slid out of it. Michael surged forward, pulling the three soldiers with him a few feet, but they held him back.
Nicholas held Michael's eyes as he brushed Isabel's golden hair aside from the back of her neck and raised his arm to strike.
"NO!" Michael screamed, as he struggled helplessly, and Nicholas plunged the blade into the base of Isabel's head.
For a moment Isabel swayed but then Nicholas slowly withdrew the blade, and the soldiers let her lifeless body slump forward and fall to the ground.
Michael was suddenly thrown back into his captors by a nearby explosion and he shook off the skins holding him and jumped to his feet. He took a hesitating step toward Isabel but someone grabbed his arm and pulled him back toward the trees. Michael was so stunned that he didn't struggle and let himself be led deeper into the forest.
"Are you injured?" Serena asked as they ran, but Michael didn't answer. Serena quickly looked back over her shoulder at him. He was stumbling along behind her only because she pulled him, but his head was turned back to the place where Isabel had fallen. She knew she had to snap him out of his shock. Both of their lives might depend on it. She raised her voice, "Michael!"
Michael turned his head toward her and tried to slow their pace. "We have to go back for Isabel," he said woodenly.
Serena could hear the sounds of pursuit now. She couldn't allow Michael to stop, and she used a harsher tone of voice to bring him back to the reality of the situation. "Isabel is dead and we will be too if we don't hurry."
Michael's head snapped up and he focused on Serena for the first time and briefly nodded. He followed her unresistingly and quickly looked around as they continued to run, trying to determine their position from the maps he had studied. A rock formation to the south caught his attention and suddenly he knew where they were. He surged forward and pulled Serena by the hand, angling her toward the rocks. "There's a small cave on the other side of these rocks. We can hide inside until the skins are gone."
They increased their pace as they rounded the rocks attempting to put as much distance between themselves and their pursuers as possible. Michael pushed Serena into the cave ahead of him and crawled in after her. He turned and passed his hand over the small entrance covering it with rock.
Serena kindled a small light when he finished and he noticed for the first time that she was injured. "You're hurt," he said, as he crossed to her and inspected her wound. It was a deep, raw wound high on her chest by the left shoulder, and her left arm hung uselessly at her side.
"I was hit by a blast from one of the skins that knocked me unconscious for a few moments and I awoke too late to save Isabel."
Michael nodded, "I'm not very good at healing wounds like this but I'll give it a try."
Serena shook her head, "It would take too much of your power and we may need you to be at full strength to get away."
"But the pain," Michael argued.
"There is not much pain," Serena lied. "I can endure it until we return to Max."
Nicholas' soldiers had been searching the woods for more than four hours with no sign of Michael or the shape shifter. He still couldn't believe that they had escaped. In the confusion of the attack, the shape shifter must have waited until her best opportunity to rescue Michael. Nicholas just couldn't understand why she had not tried to save Isabel.
He looked at the tissue-harvesting device in his hand. Michael may have escaped him this time but he had collected Isabel's brain cells and that would ensure Vilondra would live again.
BOOK 8 - RESTRUCTURING REALITY|
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Alpha & Omega|
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