BOOK 8 RESTRUCTURING REALITY
(THE HISTORY OF THE FUTURE - MAX)

 

 

 

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PART 9

 

 

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(Tuesday, March 11th, 2014)

(Near Greeley, CO)

 

It had taken five days for Michael and Serena to elude the skins and rendezvous with the main body of the troops, and in that time Serena never let Michael see how much pain she was experiencing. 

 

When they arrived at camp, she allowed Max to take her into his tent to examine her wound, but she was fairly certain of the outcome.  The wound had been too serious and it had started to heal wrong.  She watched the play of emotions across Max's face as he examined her and knew when he came to the same conclusion. 

 

"Max, I know you can't fix my arm," she said softly.

 

Max shook his head sadly.  "I'll do what I can but you're right.  You will have very limited use of this arm.  I'm sorry Serena."

 

Serena shook her head, "I am not sorry.  I have done my duty."

 

 

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

 

 

(Monday, March 17th, 2014)

(Near the remnants of Denver, CO)

 

Michael rushed into the tent Max was using as his headquarters, "Max, we figured out how to use the amplifier and intercepted a message."

 

"Good," Max said.  "What did you find out?"

 

Michael shook his head, "It's not good.  The skins have found the President and what's left of the government, and are moving troops to take them."

 

"Where are they?"  Max asked.

 

"TheyÕre in some kind of underground shelter in Vermont." Michael said softly.  "It's more than nineteen-hundred miles, Max.  Even at top speed it would take more than two days to get there.  We would never reach them in time."

 

Max slammed his fist on the table, the impotent feeling overwhelming him.  "If the skins get the President, they'll force him to officially sign his power over to them.  The U.S. government will fall and with it the Earth."

 

"There is nothing we can do," Michael said.  "We can keep fighting, but if the President and the government fall, the people will lose heart."  He released a sigh filled with sorrow and defeat.  "Isabel, Jim, Amy, Alex, your parents, Liz's parents; so many are dead.  What's the point?  We haven't saved the world Max, we've failed."

 

Max stood to his full height, his eyes blazing.  "Soon we will be the last obstacle between Nicholas and the total conquest of Earth, but there's one thing we can do.  WeÕll implement Serena's plan.  We'll go back in time and stop the end of the world." 

 

 

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

 

 

Later that night, Max, Liz, Michael, Maria, Kyle and Serena sat at the table in Max and Liz's tent trying to work out the details of the plan.

 

"There has to be a point in time when things started to go wrong," Max said, "and if we can figure out what that was we can change it."

 

"Yeah," Michael scoffed, "maybe you can go back to yourself in kindergarten and tell him to start stock-piling weapons of mass-destruction, because short of nukes, I don't know how we could win."

 

"Funny Michael," Max said dryly, "but you do actually have a point."

 

"I do?"

 

"Yeah," Max explained, "we weren't strong enough to beat the skins.  Serena told me that on Antar we were three of the most powerful beings.  Maybe if we had worked on developing our powers more, we would have been ready for the skins."

 

"So you go back to Max in kindergarten and tell him to hone his alien powers?" Kyle asked.

 

"That might be part of it," Max said, "but there has to be something else.  A specific event we can change that will alter the outcome of the future."

 

"We could stop the skins from destroying Roswell," Maria suggested.  "We could turn them in to the FBI sooner."

 

"No," Michael argued, "they hadn't done anything yet.  What are you going to tell the FBI?  That they will do it in the future but now they won't because you changed history and stopped them?"

 

Maria's brow wrinkled, "That doesn't even make sense.  At least we could stop Kyle from being taken and save Alex."

 

Michael ignored her, "What if we stopped the Harvest?"  If the original skins all died, maybe they wouldn't send more.  Then maybe we could save Courtney and the skins wouldn't find out about us."

 

"Courtney again," Maria sighed.  "I can't believe that you are still thinking about her after all of these years."

 

Max hastily changed the subject, "Okay, those all have possibilities.  Can anyone think of anything else?"

 

Liz listened to the suggestions with a growing sense of unreality.  She knew what the solution was but she was too scared to say it.  Her plan would mean that she and Max would never be together, never share their lives, and she felt tears roll down her face as she desperately tried to think of anything else. 

 

Max felt a sudden wave of sorrow from Liz and turned toward her, "What's wrong, Liz?"

 

Liz shook her head and wiped the tears from her face.  She had to tell them because she knew it was the only way to save them.  She took a deep breath and looked up, "Tess."

 

"What?" Michael asked.

 

"Tess is the answer," Liz said softly as she turned to Max.  "In the message, your mother said you were all sent here to learn to use your skills and powers.  But we messed that up when we let Tess leave.  She should have been with you, helping you.  She would have made you stronger."

 

Everyone turned to Serena and she agreed, "It is true that the four of you worked well together on Antar.  I did not know what powers Vilondra and Ava possessed because it was a closely guarded secret, but all four of you were very powerful and were inseparable in the last days of Zan's empire.  Before we left to come to Earth, Sodan once told me that your powers complimented one another and that you were stronger together." 

 

"Okay," Kyle said.  "We start looking for Tess?"

 

"If she's still alive," Maria said blandly.

 

Max shook his head.  "If Tess was interested in helping us, she could have found us.  Even if she is alive, I don't think she cares about helping us or anyone else."

 

Kyle agreed with a nod.  "Then we go back in time and get Tess to stay.  Simple."

 

Max shook his head, "It won't be that easy."

 

"Why not?" Michael asked.

 

Max had told Liz all about his encounters with Tess years ago and she knew the answer, "Because Tess will not stay unless Max is with her."

 

"But Max loves you," Maria objected.  "He would never be with Tess."

 

"We will have to change that," Liz said simply.   

 

"And how are we supposed to do that?" Kyle asked.

 

"I don't know," Liz said, "but we'll have to find a way."

 

Max felt a shiver of distaste shoot down his spine.  Even after all of these years, he couldn't stand the thought of being with Tess, but he knew he had no choice.  This whole mess was his fault and he would be the one to fix it.  He would go back in time and he would make sure that this time, Max chose Tess.

 

 

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

 

 

(Wednesday, March 19th, 2014)

(Roswell, NM)

 

Max, Liz, Michael, Maria and Kyle had traveled quickly and arrived in Roswell that afternoon.  On their journey, they had seen no sign of pursuit and they felt even luckier when they found a part of Roswell that had somewhat survived the destruction.  A few houses on the edge of town were mostly intact and the small group settled into one of them for the evening.

 

Max had determined they would have a better chance of getting to Roswell if they left the main body of the army behind.  A smaller group could travel more quickly was less likely to attract attention.  Max had told the troops they had a plan and left one of the former military men in charge.  He sent the troops east, away from trouble and told them they would join them later.  Then he sent Serena northwest and instructed her to send a signal, hoping to draw the skins away and keep them busy.  The five remaining members of the group had climbed into a Jeep and headed to the place where it had all started.

 

Conversation was sparse as they finished their evening meal, knowing that tomorrow they would lose their leader.  Max had insisted he would be the one to go back in time and ordered Michael to take over the fight when he was gone.  Michael had argued, but in the end reluctantly agreed, knowing Max was right. 

 

Kyle took the first watch as it grew dark, and the others settled into the living room. 

 

Maria was the first to ask the question that was on all of their minds, "How are you going to do it, Max?"

 

Max shook his head.  "I don't know," he said sadly.  "I would just go to my younger self if I could but Serena said that wasn't possible."  He shrugged, "I guess I'll go to Tess and explain how important it is for us to be together."

 

"Oh, she'll love that," Maria sneered.  "I can't believe that witch is going to win.  It just isn't fair."

 

Liz smiled sadly, "Life isn't fair, Maria."

 

Maria nodded in agreement and a sudden thought occurred to her.  One sure way to keep Liz out of the picture was to let her die at the Crashdown when she was shot.  Maria knew if Liz thought it was the only way to change things she would stop Max from saving her.  "When will you go back to?" she asked softly. 

 

Liz reached for Max's hand and squeezed it reassuringly, "Max and I talked about it a little last night.  We decided he will have to go back before we made love because Serena said that's what solidified the bond between us.  ThereÕs no way we would leave each other after being connected so closely, so it has to be before."

 

Max nodded sadly and brought Liz's hand to his lips.  "But we don't want to go back too far because we learned a lot of important things right before that time, about the skins and the other pods.  And it wasn't too bad with Tess then," he finished softly. 

 

He paused for a moment and continued in a stronger voice, "We have to be careful because we don't know how altering the time line will change things.  Any small difference could have huge consequences, and Liz and I don't want to risk changing things too much.  Plus, I have to make sure not to run into my other self, so I had to choose a day when I remembered where I was and what I was doing.  We decided I should go back to the night that I serenaded Liz with the Maraichi band.  It's the perfect time.  It was a few days before Liz and I got back together, but after we learned about the skins, and I remember that night well enough to avoid my younger self."

 

Maria sighed in relief.  At least her other self would still have her best friend in her life. 

 

Michael looked at Liz and Max's clasped hands and then up to their faces.  He couldn't even imagine the bond they shared but he knew they belonged together.  And the fact that they were willing to sacrifice their love to save the world left him in awe of them.  What would happen if they succeeded? he wondered.  Would the world be a different place?  Would Max and Liz's sacrifice make a better future?  If Serena's theory was correct, none of them would ever know if Max had succeeded, they would just simply cease to be.

 

He looked at Max and Liz one more time.  They should be alone, this would be their last night together.  He reached for Maria's hand and rose to his feet, pulling her with him.  "It's been a long day.  I think it's time for bed," he said tactfully.

 

Max and Liz both smiled at him and spoke in unison, "Good night."

 

 

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

 

 

Yesterday Nicholas had discovered the main body of Max's troops traveling east.  They had been easily captured but Nicholas had been disappointed to learn that Max and the others were not among them.  He had carefully searched the mind of one human after another until he was sure he had discovered the truth.  Max had devised a plan and he and the others were heading south. 

 

It had been relatively easy to guess where they were going.  Nicholas had suspected for years that the Granolith must be near Roswell.  And with MaxÕs destination known, one of the warships had pinpointed the group within a few hours. 

 

Nicholas had hastily eliminated the rest of the rebel troops and gathered his army, still over eight thousand strong, into the three warships.  They tracked the Jeep from orbit until it stopped in Roswell and then Nicholas ordered the ships to land.  They needed to take the group alive to find the Granolith and that could only be accomplished on the ground.

 

They knew the basic area where Max had stopped for the night but Nicholas sent out scouts to discover the exact building, then at first light, they would start bombing to drive Max into the open.  With all of his strength concentrated on a single goal, Nicholas was positive they would succeed in taking Max and the others. 

 

 

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

 

 

(Roswell, NM)

 

Song Playing: Never Tears Us Apart by INXS

 

Max led Liz into the bedroom they were using and closed the door behind him.

 

Liz turned to Max and pulled him down onto the bed with her.  She traced her hands over his handsome face.  "Max," her gentle voice urged him, "I want you to go to me."

 

Max picked up on her meaning immediately.  She wanted him to go to the Liz in the past for help.  A sudden sorrow overcame him and he flashed on all of the times they had shared.  He wondered what his life would have been like if Liz had not been with him but he couldn't even begin to imagine a world without her, she was so much a part of his life.  He did suspect that there were times in the last few years he wouldnÕt have been strong enough to go on without her, but he stayed silent, cursing himself for his weakness. 

 

He wanted to go to his younger self and knock some sense into him, wake him up, and force him to accept his destiny.  He had been so foolish to allow his wish for a normal life to consume him so entirely.  His love for Liz had been so overwhelming and so selfish that there had been no room in his life for anything else.  He had cavalierly driven Tess away and neglected the duties of leadership that had continued to return to him, no matter how hard he had tried to leave them behind. 

 

Max sighed, letting his guilt and weariness show and hoped that Liz's strength was enough to save him from himself and with him, save them all.  But he knew it was.  She loved him just as completely as he loved her but he knew she would survive without him.  Liz possessed strength that he lacked, even when she had been seventeen.  She had loved him desperately but she had found the strength to walk away from him at the pod chamber, all of those years ago.  Max knew she would do whatever she had to do, to ensure their survival.

 

He cursed himself again.  He was allowing the events to dictate his actions.  He would not let his failure condemn a seventeen year-old Liz to carry the weight of two worlds on her shoulders.

 

"No," he said harshly.  "I will find another way."

 

"Max," Liz smiled sadly and pressed a kiss to his forehead, "there is no other way."

 

"There has to be,Ó Max insisted.  ÒWe don't even know if this idea will work.  What if I go back and separate us and it still isn't enough?"

 

"Max," Liz said softly, "we have to do something and this is the best plan we could come up with."

 

Max shook his head, "I can't do this to you, to her."

 

Liz took his hand in hers and brought it to her lips.  "You aren't doing anything to me.  I want you to go to me.  You know I would do anything for you."

 

Tears fell freely from his eyes.  "It's my failure, my weakness that has forced us into this position.  I can't let you suffer for my shortcomings."

 

Liz gently kissed the tears from his face.  "If I can't be with you, at least let me serve you."

 

"But you will have to live with this secret for the rest of your life," Max protested.

 

"And I will have a piece of you that no one can take from me."  Liz kissed his lips hungrily, knowing it would be their last night together.  Max would do as she asked, even though he was fighting her, she could feel it through their bond.  There was no other choice and he knew he could trust her to do what had to be done.

 

 

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

 

 

(Thursday, March 20th, 2014)

(Roswell, NM)

 

Michael burst into the room where Max and Liz were sleeping, "We've got to go now!  The skin army is just a couple of miles out of town!"

 

Max grabbed Liz and hauled her out of bed.  He reached for his boots and an explosion rocked the house.  Liz was thrown into him and they fell back onto the bed.

 

Another explosion detonated just outside, shattering the window and Max put up his hand, instantly raising a shield to protect them from the flying glass. 

 

They quickly scrambled to their feet and ran for the door, as Kyle burst into the room and looked them over quickly for injury.  "They are just lobbing explosives, it doesn't look like they know where we are.  They're probably just trying to flush us out."

 

"Okay," Max yelled over the sound of explosions.  "Get to the Jeep and let's get out of here."

 

Liz pulled on her boots and reached for Max's hand, "It's time."

 

Max nodded sadly and squeezed her hand, "Let's go."

 

They entered the hall just as Michael pulled a sleepy Maria from their room and pushed her at Liz.  Michael rushed toward the door, "I'll check the road and make sure it's clear."

 

"Meet us at the Jeep," Max called, as he headed toward the garage.

 

Michael looked out the window and when he saw no movement, slipped through the door.  He slowly circled the house, checking the ruins of the surrounding buildings and streets, and when he didn't see anything, he crossed to the garage door and used his powers to lift it. 

 

A blast hit him in the back and spun him around, as a skin soldier ran toward him with his arm outstretched.  Michael aimed a blast at the soldierÕs mid-section and the enemy disintegrated into a shower of dust.  Grasping his hand to his chest, Michael sank down onto the ground.  With a strange sense of unreality, he raised his hand and looked at the blood covering it.  The blast had gone all the way through him. 

 

Max ran through the garage and dropped to his knees, taking Michael in his arms.  Max laid his hand across the wound and quickly connected with Michael but the amount of damage brought tears to his eyes. 

 

Michael could feel the life pouring out of him and he knew Max couldn't save him.  "I'm sorry Max," he whispered.

 

Max shook his head, "You've nothing to be sorry for.  You're the best second in command and brother I could have asked for."

 

Liz and Kyle ran into the garage and stopped a few steps away. 

 

Maria pushed past them and fell to her knees beside Max and Michael, tears running down her face.  "Michael," she sobbed, "you've got to hold on.  It's not that bad.  Max can fix you up."

 

Michael tried to shake his head but winced in pain.  "Maria," he gasped, "love you."

 

"No Michael, don't you let go!" Maria yelled at him, "I love you too much."

 

Michael smiled and coughed out his last breath.  Max felt him go still in his arms.  He wanted to cry out, but they had to leave or they would all die.  He hugged his brother one last time and got to his feet, pulling a sobbing Maria with him.  "I'm sorry Maria but we've got to go."

 

He sent a thought to Liz and she came forward and took the devastated Maria to the Jeep. 

 

"We just can't leave him here," Maria cried. 

 

Liz pulled Maria into her arms, "I'm sorry Maria.  There's no time, we'll all die if we don't go now."

 

Kyle helped Max pull Michael's body into the garage and Kyle covered him with his jacket.  "I'm sorry," he said to Max.

 

Max nodded and they climbed into the Jeep.  Max drove out onto the street and a skin soldier jumped in front of them.  Max accelerated and hit him before he could move, and the body disintegrated instantly. 

 

The road ahead of them exploded, and Max swerved to avoid the broken pavement.  They drove past an alley, and a truck with four skin soldiers in the bed pulled out onto the road behind them.  The soldiers aimed blasts of energy at the Jeep and Max quickly turned, hoping to avoid them.  He took side streets, changing direction several times trying to keep the burnt-out shells of buildings between them, but the truck started closing. 

 

Kyle grabbed the blaster in his belt and turned in the seat to take aim at their attackers.  He carefully targeted the front tire as the truck pulled closer to them.  With a single shot he hit the tire, which exploded and forced the wheels sideways.  The truck flipped onto its side and ejected the soldiers from the bed.

 

Max maneuvered the Jeep through the allies and finally back onto the main road.  As they continued into the desert, Kyle kept a watch for more skins, but the only movement behind them was the fading sound of explosions.

   

 

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

 

 

The Jeep skidded to a stop near the foot of the rock formation that housed the pod chamber and Granolith.  The four survivors jumped out and Max handed backpacks to Kyle and Maria, "Get started on the pod chamber and Liz and I will make a control crystal."

 

Max met Kyle's gaze and held it, and Kyle nodded.  Even though they had never been able to communicate through a connection, a moment of perfect understanding passed between them. 

 

Kyle knew Max was asking him to look out for Liz and Maria if the plan failed.  Kyle reached out his hand and Max took it, only to be pulled into a brotherly embrace.  Kyle held him tightly for a moment, "You are the closest thing to a brother I ever had, Max.  It was an honor knowing and fighting with you."

 

Max nodded, "We'll fix this.  It'll turn out better next time."

 

Kyle cocked his head to the side, "It couldn't get much worse." 

 

Max smiled and nodded.  Trust Kyle to try and lighten the mood.

 

Kyle shared a brief smile with Max, then he took the backpacks and jogged up the ledge.  He stopped at the door and used his powers to activate the door and disappeared inside.

 

Max turned and embraced Maria, "I'm sorry about Michael and your mother and Alex..."

 

Maria cut him off, "None of it was your fault, Max.  I've never blamed any of you for anything that happened.Ó  She released him and stepped back to see his face.  You and I have had a special bond since the summer when Liz left all those years ago.  I'm just sorry I have to lose you, even if it will fix everything."

 

Max smiled sadly, "Thanks Maria."

 

Maria nodded and glanced at Liz, "I'd better go help Kyle.  The skins will be here soon."  She turned away quickly before her tears started, and ran up the hill.

 

Max turned to Liz, "Are you ready to do this?"

 

Liz shook her head, "No, but we don't have any other choice."  She sighed and refocused her thoughts, "Do you remember what Serena told us?"

 

Max nodded, "Yeah, it seemed pretty simple."

 

Max and Liz knelt in the sand and Liz gathered a handful of the grainy particles.  Max raised his hand above them, building his energy, and then stopped as tears gathered in his eyes.  It had been his idea to do this but now that it was time, he had changed his mind.  More than anything he didn't want to leave Liz.  He didn't care if the skins overwhelmed and killed every person on Earth, he only cared about staying with Liz.  Even if it meant that they would only have a matter of moments together before they died, it was better than surviving apart. 

 

Liz could feel Max's sorrow through their bond.  She had been fiercely shielding her emotions from Max so he wouldn't know how terrified she was about what they were doing.  Max had been such an integral part of her life and she didn't know how she would live without him.  

 

Trying to push the useless emotions away, Liz forced herself to concentrate on MaxÕs hand hovering over hers, but when his hand remained where it was, she knew something was wrong.  Liz opened a tiny fraction of the connection between them, but Max was shielding too.  She knew he was trying to protect her, but nothing could stop the pain that was already starting to consume her. 

 

She could feel Max's gaze on her and looked up at him, her eyes shining with unshed tears.  She studied his face, trying desperately to memorize every plain, every curve; the shape of his mouth, the exact color of his eyes, the way his hair curled around his neck. 

 

Max reached out and gently touched her face, "Liz."

 

The tears spilled over her lids and down her face, at the tone in Max's voice.  He sounded so sad, so defeated, as if he had already given up.  Liz let the sand sift through her fingers, took Max's face in her hands and pressed her forehead to his, "No matter what happens, I will always love you."

 

Max pressed his lips to hers and felt the bittersweet sensation of knowing it would be the last time.  He sat back enough to look into her eyes.  "Liz I just..." he started, but was interrupted by the sound of an explosion just a few miles away.  The skin army was approaching and they were running out of time. 

 

Liz quickly scooped up another handful of sand, "We have to hurry.  Remember to concentrate on the night you serenaded me.  Picture my balcony a few minutes before the other you arrived.  I had just returned from the psychic and I was standing in front of my mirror, imagining what our wedding ceremony would be like."

 

Max nodded and winced, pushing aside the pain in his heart.  The Liz he was going to visit would never have that wedding ceremony, would never share her life with his.  Max hardened his heart to his feelings.  He was doing this to save the other Liz, to save them all, he just wished he didn't have to sacrifice his Liz in the process.  Before he could reconsider again, he passed his hand over the shiny grains of sand, pushing his energy and his intent into them, as he formed them into a six-sided crystal. 

 

Just as he finished, another explosion sounded much nearer and Max stuffed the crystal into his pocket as he and Liz rose to their feet.  Hand in hand, they raced up the trail toward the pod chamber door and as they reached it, a closer explosion caused the ground under them to roll.  Liz staggered, almost falling, but Max kept his balance and pulled her with him into the relative safety of the pod chamber. 

 

Max nodded to Kyle and Maria, who were already well into their task.

 

"Good luck," said Kyle.

 

 

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

 

 

(The Granolith Chamber)

(Minutes Before The Fall)

 

Max and Liz stumbled into the Granolith chamber as the explosions drew nearer, rocking the ground below them.  As Max looked at the Granolith before him, the reality of the situation came crashing down around him.  No matter what he did in the other time line, he would never be with his Liz again.  He turned to Liz in desperation, begging her one last time to change her mind, "I won't leave you."

 

The same desperation was echoed in her voice but she would not relent, "No, no.  No, Max.  You have to."

 

Hearing the pain in her tone he continued, hopeful that he could appeal to her.  "If I'm successful, if I can do this, you and I won't exist, not as we do now."  But he could see the resolution in her eyes and knew she wouldn't give into him.

 

"Max, if you don't do this, we're gonna die, everyone will.  Max, you have to do this.  You have to try it."

 

"I'll never see you again."  He smiled sadly, knowing her decision was irreversible.  Her strength and resolution were contagious and shored up his flagging courage.  Liz would force him to save the world when he would have been happy to die now at her side.  "Thank you."

 

"For what?"

 

She had misunderstood him and he covered quickly.  For everything, he thought.  There were so many things and he regretted, and the end had come upon them so quickly he could not take the time to enumerate every wonderful moment of their lives together.  "For every kiss, every smile."

 

Liz opened the connection between them one last time and let all of her love surge into him, "Max, I don't have any regrets."

 

Max felt the full strength of her love and devotion pouring over him and sent back his own, basking in the power of the emotions between them, the perfect unity of their souls.  An explosion shook the chamber again, throwing them to the floor.  They were out of time, and before he could change his mind he thrust the crystal into the base of the Granolith. 

 

Together they watched the powerful machine come to life, unsure of what would happen. 

 

Suddenly Max was disoriented and looked around to discover that he was inside the Granolith, separated from his wife for the first time in years.  He turned to look at Liz for the last time, desperately trying to memorize her as she stood before him.  Attempting to control his raging grief, he reached for Liz's calming influence, as he always had in bad times.  He pressed his hand to the surface separating them and she raised her hand to his, but before they could touch, Max felt the power rush through him as the Granolith propelled him into the past.

 

As Max's body faded into nothingness, Liz felt their connection sputter and die, and as the grief started to consume her, his name was forced from her lips in anguish, "Aah!  Maaax!"  The overwhelming pain of his loss drove her to her knees.

 

Liz had pushed her thoughts to the back of her mind, carefully not letting herself think about what they were doing.  She had known she would never see Max again but only now did she allow reality to set in.  If she had let herself think about being without Max, she never would have let him leave.  She would have clung to him and begged him to stay and let the world fall apart around them. 

 

Max was her best friend, her life, her heart and soul, without him she just felt empty inside.  She didnÕt know how to live without him, how to go on alone.  Max was everything. 

 

Maria came in moments later and found Liz still on her knees.  "We heard the activation," she said softly.

 

Liz nodded, unable to speak.

 

Maria's own loss was still fresh but she proceeded gently, "Liz we have to finish this.  The skins are almost here."

 

Liz silently rose to her feet.  There was still too much to do and she would have the rest of her life to grieve the loss of her beloved husband.  She took a deep breath and pushed her pain aside.  "Let's get it over with."

 

Maria passed half of the packages to Liz and they spaced them evenly throughout the room, connecting the wires that they pressed into the soft clay-like substance.  They left the Granolith chamber and carefully threaded their way through the C-4 lining the pod chamber, connecting the wiring from one room to the other and activating the remote detonator. 

 

When they were finished, Liz and Maria joined Kyle outside, where he was keeping watch, and they got into the Jeep and drove quickly away from the pod chamber and the approaching army. 

 

Liz shrugged into the backpack that contained the remote detonators as they drove.  With Max gone and Michael dead, Liz knew the rebellion would look to her to lead them but she just didnÕt have the strength.  Neither she nor Max had anticipated the loss of their connection when he went back in time and she wouldn't have allowed it to change their plans, but the sense of loss was almost more than she could bear.  It felt as if her heart had been ripped from her chest, as if half of her was gone, and she longed for death to stop her pain. 

 

Liz took a deep breath and focused her remaining strength on accomplishing the all-important mission.  Kyle had argued that they should wait until the skins entered the Granolith chamber to detonate the explosives but Liz feared the skins might have enough power to stop the explosion by disconnecting the wires or mutating the C-4 into play-doh or something else equally harmless.  So it had been decided that they would wait to detonate until the skins were near but not in the door, hoping they would eliminate a few of the soldiers when they destroyed the Granolith.  They simply couldnÕt take the chance and let the Granolith to fall into Khivar's hands.  It had to be destroyed. 

 

Liz finished the sentence in her head.  It had to be destroyed, in case Max failed.  Max.  His name echoed through her head.  It was doubtful they would know if he had succeeded or failed.  For all they knew, he was already dead, destroyed in the Granolith or on the trip back.  The theories of time-travel Serena had worked out were sound but they were just that, theories, and Liz would never know of her husband's fate.  She felt the suffocating grief start to engulf her again and with great effort pushed it back.  

 

They had all suffered great losses at the hands of the skins, losing their friends, families and lovers, their way of life, their freedom, and their planet, but Liz and Maria agreed, Kyle should activate the detonator.  After his capture and torture, his hatred of the skins was a tangible thing and Liz doubted that even the lingering death of every one of their enemies would satisfy his hunger for revenge. 

 

 

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

 

 

With Maria and Liz beside him, Kyle watched from a ridge a mile away as the skins' terrible army advanced on the rock formation housing the pod chamber and the Granolith.  They had left the pod chamber door open purposfully, and sent a signal from one of the orbs to attract the skins and lead them into the trap. 

 

The first of the skin scouts started the climb up the rocky surface, and Kyle desperately searched the area for Nicholas, who had haunted his dreams and his fantasies of revenge, but the leader of the skin army was nowhere in sight.  And as the first skin soldier reached the entrance to the pod chamber, Kyle reluctantly depressed the button to activate the explosives.

 

The explosion was tremendous, bigger than they had anticipated, and the resulting shockwave leveled anything that stood for hundreds of feet.  Rocks and flaming debris rained down on the skin army, who scurried for cover that didnÕt exist.  As the dust cleared, the three friends were satisfied to see a gaping crater had replaced the rock formation and there was no sign of the Granolith.   

 

Kyle's eyes burned brightly with the fire of satisfaction as he watched the skin soldiers die, engulfed in fire or crushed under rocks, but he searched the chaos in vain for Nicholas.  The diminutive General was not among his troops and Kyle felt a shiver of cold dread race up his spine.  He stood and pulled Maria to her feet with him.  "We've got to get out of here." 

 

He turned to Liz but she was already standing, facing something behind them with a look of calm resignation, almost relief, on her face.  Kyle spun toward the beings he knew were there, and drew his blaster as he turned, only to have it knocked out of his hand before he could fire a shot. 

 

"What did you think you could do human?" Nicholas scoffed.  "Haven't I proven my superiority over your species?"

 

Kyle's rage boiled through him and he rushed the smaller being with murderous intent, only to be knocked back into Liz with a careless flip of Nicholas' hand. 

 

Liz helped Kyle stand and kept a hand on his arm, willing him to look at her. 

 

But Kyle refused to look into her eyes, knowing he could not stand to see the emptiness he knew he would find there.  Since losing Max, Liz had spoken less than a dozen words and Kyle knew that having destroyed the Granolith, she wished for death, where she hoped to join Max. 

 

Years ago he had read a quote by the Buddha that he had always thought described Liz perfectly.  Good people shine from afar, like snowy mountains. 

 

Kyle dared a glance in LizÕs direction but then quickly looked away.  He could still see the golden light shining from her, but it was dulled by her grief, like a dark cloud blocking the light of the sun.  Kyle squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head.  He did not want to acknowledge that the small woman who had kept their group together for so many years, who had demonstrated her unfathomable strength, time and time again, who had stood between them and death, had given up.  He did not want proof that his vivacious, beautiful friend craved death above all else. 

 

Nicholas saw Kyle's reaction and continued.  "There is no use resisting."  He refocused on the small brown-haired woman before him.  "Khivar is waiting for his prize, Liz Evans.  Where is your husband?"  Nicholas looked around, considering the three before him for the first time.  "Max is always at your side.  Why did he leave you unprotected?"

 

Kyle felt Liz open the connection between them and he started to resist, but she dropped in the kernel of an idea before he could shut her out.  She had retained some of the explosives and a detonator but she doubted she could activate it alone.  Through their connection, Kyle felt her grief wash over him like a hot suffocating rain that pressed the breath from his lungs, and he understood the depth of her connection and her love for Max for the first time.  Being without Max was literally killing her.  Kyle wanted to comfort Liz, take away her suffering, but he realized what she was asking him to do would put an end to all of their pain.  He silently relayed his agreement to her and placed a strong arm around her as if to offer comfort, but instead slipped his hand into the backpack she was wearing.

 

Liz straightened to her full height and looked Nicholas in the eyes, but spoke in a ragged tone, "Max is dead." 

 

She reached for Maria's hand and a look of understanding passed between them.  Maria moved closer and signaled her agreement with a sad smile and a squeeze of her hand.  "I love you Maria," Liz whispered to her life-long friend.

 

Maria whispered, "I love you too." 

 

Liz felt Kyle in her mind as his hand closed over hers.

 

It's done, he said. 

 

She responded aloud with a sigh of relief, knowing her pain would soon end, and spoke in Kyle's mind, I'm glad that we'll end this together.

 

Me too Liz, Kyle said as he squeezed her hand.  There is no path through the air.  No creature is eternal, but the awakened never die.

 

Liz smiled sadly and squeezed his hand, Thank you Kyle.  Thanks for everything. 

 

Even though Liz could no longer feel Max through their connection, she reached out with her mind for the shining, golden thread that bound them together.  She wondered briefly if she could invoke it without Max but it slipped eagerly into place as it always did.  Liz gathered her strength, built her power, as she had never done before, and using a burst of energy sent all of her love into the bond, hoping that Max would somehow receive her final message to him.

 

And holding the hands of the only loved-ones left to her, as Kyle counted down in her mind, 5 - 4 - 3, Liz turned to face Nicholas.  "And now we will all go to meet Max, together."

 

 

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

 

 

TBC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



BOOK 8 - RESTRUCTURING REALITY
Part 10
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Alpha & Omega
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