BOOK 9 VERISIMILITUDE
(THE CONSPIRACY EXPOSED)

 

 

 

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PART 3

 

 

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(Episode - Meet the Dupes)

(Tuesday, November 14th, 2000)

(New York City)

(Central Park)

 

There were people all around them, walking, playing, eating, and Rath's eyes continually scanned the crowd looking for their contact.  Rath leaned against a tree and glanced at Lonni and Ava sitting on a bench.  "Where is this guy?  He's late."

 

"Yo, he'll show," Lonni said.  "He needs us."

 

"He could be here already," said Ava, looking around nervously.  "We don't know what he looks like."

 

A boy who had been circling the area on a scooter suddenly stopped before them and lowered his sunglasses.  "I can tell you what he looks like."

 

Rath glanced at the boy and quickly dismissed him, "Get lost, kid."

 

The boy smiled and flung the backpack he was wearing to the ground, "I thought your manners would have improved after two lifetimes, Rath."

 

Rath gaped in surprise but Lonni laughed.

 

"You're Nicholas?" Rath asked.  "Why are you a kid?"

 

Lonni answered Rath's question.  "It's a camouflage technique.  No one would ever suspect a kid."

 

Nicholas nodded, "I'm impressed."

 

"Yeah, whatever," Lonni said.  "What do you have for us?"

 

"Down to business.  I like that," Nicholas said, as he opened the backpack.  He withdrew a book and held it out to Lonni.  "The summit will only proceed if a King is present, so I would suggest any means necessary to get him there."

 

Lonni took the book.  It was a Roswell New Mexico high school yearbook.  "They live in Roswell?" she asked incredulously.

 

"It's better than this toilet," Nicholas sneered.

 

"You don't like New York?" Rath challenged him.

 

"No," Nicholas said.  New York reminded him too much of home and how much time he had wasted on this planet.  It also reminded him of Katian and how vulnerable he had allowed himself to become.  "I hate this stinking town, but I will be staying here until the summit."

 

"So a date has been set?" asked Lonni.  "I thought you said we could choose the date."

 

"I did, but the other families are getting anxious," Nicholas explained.  "To placate them, Khivar had to set a date, but if you can't arrange for a King to be there then the whole thing will be called off.  The summit is set for November twenty-third."

 

"Then we've gotta hurry," Rath pointed out.

 

"Yeah," Lonni agreed, "we'll leave tonight."

 

 

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

 

 

(West Roswell High School)

 

"A black hole," Mr. Seligman started, knowing it would get the class' attention, "that's what is left after a star dies.  And that's exactly what happened last week, my friends.  The spectacular, stellar, implosion of a red giant, unheard of in the history of astronomy.  The first time a post main-sequence star, burning in its prime, suddenly and without warning violently exploded in a supernova of a hundred million degrees and disappeared.  A process that typically takes many thousands of years.  What could have accounted for this remarkable loss?"

 

Mr. Seligman's words struck Max more that he would have thought possible, leaving him with a feeling like he had been punched in the stomach.  He felt tears gathering in his eyes as he attempted to breathe past it, but a profound sorrow settled over his entire being as if he had lost a beloved friend.  Intellectually, he knew it was ridiculous to feel a physical loss for a star that until today he had not known existed, but for some reason its passing seemed to herald disaster.  

 

 

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

 

 

(Antar)

(Capitol city of Roistar - formerly Tageonon)

(Secret Headquarters of the Resistance Loyal to the Tageonants)

 

"Your Highness," General Toaks addressed Queen Nedra, bowing formally.  "Our operative inside Khivar's inner circle has discovered that Khivar will issue an invitation to the heads of the four planets for a peace conference."

 

Nedra shrugged, "He has attempted peace conferences before, why is this one different?"

 

"Because, your Highness, Khivar is telling the other leaders that his Majesty, King Zantor will be present at this one."

 

"Zan?" she asked with a gasp.  "How is that possible?  The other families are not stupid, they will require proof that it is Zan."

 

Toaks nodded, "Khivar is suggesting the conference take place on Earth.  It is relatively neutral territory, Zan is there and the other families can attend by using human hosts."

 

"It could be a trap to lure Zan into the open," Nedra said, thinking aloud.

 

Toaks agreed, "It had crossed my mind as well."

 

"Or it could be the first genuine opportunity to bring Zan, Vilondra and the others back home to us," Nedra said hopefully.  "The war has been raging for so long, even Khivar must wish it to end."

 

Toaks was not as optimistic as the dowager Queen.  "Khivar will only end this on his terms."

 

"We need to warn Zan it could be a trap," Nedra said, "or at least try to insure the conference is conducted properly."

 

"Larek will attend as the leader of Talros," Toaks reminded her.  "He and his family have always been allies of the Tageonants."

 

"Yes, they have," Nedra agreed.  "It is too bad we have not been able to keep in touch with him over the years, but regular communication would have been too dangerous for all of us.  Larek is a good man and he will ensure the conference is legitimate.  But perhaps we should warn him of our fears.  Send a messenger to him and offer him the use of the human we have prepared.  The war has hit his planet severely and if Larek can use Brody, it will save some of his precious resources for his own people."

 

 

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

 

 

(Episode - Meet the Dupes)

(Wednesday, November 15th, 2000)

 

Lonni rubbed the back of her neck.  The radio stations all sucked outside of New York and not for the first time she wished they had stolen a car with some better CDs.  They had been on the road for more than twenty-four hours and not only was she tired of traveling but she was tired of Ava's sulking. 

 

Lonni had always disliked the other girl.  She thought her weak and inferior.  Since Lonni could remember, Ava had followed Zan around like a lost dog, even though he continually rejected her.  Ava never seemed to have a thought of her own, simply echoing what Zan said, blindly following his lead.  More than once Lonni had told Ava to get a life, but Ava seemed content to wait for Zan to notice her. 

 

Then with her other recovered memories, Lonni had received flashes about what Ava had done on Antar in their past life.  At first, she thought to taunt Ava with the truth, but Lonni had wisely decided to keep it to herself.  It was too big a weapon to use simply to get a reaction, although occasionally she couldn't help dropping hints.  It was perfectly obvious that Ava didn't remember much about her other life but sometimes Lonni could see the worry in the other girl's eyes, as if somehow she knew things weren't right.  But now that Zan was gone, Lonni didn't have to worry that Ava would turn against them, because she had nowhere else to go.

 

She spoke into Rath's mind, See if you can get Ava to talk.  We might need her to pull this off. 

 

Rath glanced in the mirror at Ava, "What's your problem, Ava?  You ain't said nothin' in two days."

 

Ava had been in shock since they had killed Zan.  She still couldn't believe he was gone and his sister had done it.  She felt almost hysterical but struggled to keep her voice calm, "You said you were gonna make him change his mind about going to the summit.  You..."

 

Rath cut her off, "Well, we couldn't, so we went with an alternative."

 

Ava couldn't believe that Rath could just erase Zan from their lives so quickly.  "He was the leader, Rath!"

 

"Zan coulda ruled a planet, but he didn't wanna deal," Rath said, "We're better off without him."

 

Ava took a deep breath, "And how do we know this, other Zan is gonna be any different?"

 

Lonni joined the conversation for the first time, "Max.  Max Evans.  That's his name.  And we don't.  We don't.  But we'll be smarter about it this time.  We'll find another way in."

 

"They don't wanna meet with just the three of us," Rath explained to Ava again.  "They want the King.  So all we gotta do is get him to the summit, and we'll marinate on the rest later." 

 

Ava withdrew into herself again.  Lonni and Rath would do anything to get what they wanted and she wondered how long it would be before she was of no use to them.

 

 

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

 

 

(Episode - Meet the Dupes)

(Thursday, November 16th, 2000)

 

Song Playing: My Immortal by Evanescense

 

Max watched Liz surreptitiously as she moved around the Crashdown.  He had been watching her a lot since the night he had seen her in bed with Kyle.  Because no matter what Liz said, Max knew she hadn't told him the whole truth.

 

It was as if Liz was suddenly two different people.  When Liz knew he was there, she put on a front, cheerful, laughing, without a care in the world, as if she were really moving on with her life.  But when she didn't realize he was observing her, she was the complete opposite.  She moved more slowly as if there was a physical weight bearing down on her, and Max had glimpsed the anguish and hopelessness she tried so hard to hide.

 

Max knew Liz wasn't in love with Kyle, and he rarely saw them together.  They were certainly not back together and he couldn't imagine her sleeping with someone she didn't love.  But she had told him she had slept with Kyle.  Either she had slept with Kyle to push him away, or she had been willing to lie and say she had, and Max didn't know which was worse.

 

Max could see that Liz still loved him.  He had seen the anguish in her face when he had confronted her in Copper Summit.  He had seen it when she had left him in the UFO museum to destroy the device the skins had used to make the humans disappear.  And he had seen it in school two days ago, when Liz had tried to talk to him about the supernova.  He could tell that Liz had been almost desperate to talk to him, but the memory of her continual lies had made him cruel.  And even though she might not have intended her statement about the star to encompass their relationship, Max had heartlessly twisted his answer to leave her in no doubt of his meaning. 

 

To him their love had been perfect.  He had believed their bond was so strong that nothing or no one could have possibly come between them.  But Liz had proved him wrong.  She had been willing to sacrifice their love not once but twice.  

 

Sometimes he wished that he didn't love Liz, but it was a part of who he was.  No matter what happened, Max knew he would love Liz the rest of his life, but their perfect, shining love had been tarnished by lies and betrayal.  The flame that had burned so brightly between them had not burned out it as he had told Liz, but it was diminished, wavering as if it were starved for oxygen, and it would never be the same again. 

 

Liz glanced at the booth where Max was sitting as she wiped the counter.  She had watched Max as he sat in the Crashdown every day after school.  Even though he didn't seem to want to be around her, he came anyway, and she often wondered why.  Something deep inside her knew Max could never truly stop loving her and the feeling grew stronger each time he came through the door.

 

It was tearing Liz apart inside that she and Max were no longer friends, and he would no longer confide in her.  They might never be together as a couple, but she had counted on their continuing friendship.  She had tried repeatedly to talk to him, and each time he had rebuffed her, but she couldn't stop trying. 

 

Liz gathered her courage, and with a plausible conversation starter she quickly approached him before she chickened out.  "Um, do you want anything else from the kitchen?  Cause it's gonna close."

 

Suddenly the subject of his thoughts appeared before him and Max shifted uncomfortably, somehow afraid that Liz could tell the direction of his contemplations.  "No, thanks," he said as he quickly gathered his things and started to rise.

 

Liz's hope faded as Max tried to escape her and the pretence fell away, revealing her true feelings.  "I hate this,” she said.  “I hate that we can't even be around each other.  Long before we kissed, we were friends.  We talked.  We laughed.  I don't understand why we just can't go back to that."

 

Her request caught him by surprise and Max shook his head automatically, "We can't.  I can't.  I just..."  He looked into Liz's pleading eyes, and for a moment his heart softened.  "I need time."

 

Liz was thrilled by his answer.  It was the first time she had dared to hope that there was a chance of saving any part of their friendship.  "Okay," she eagerly agreed, "I understand that, I do.  I can respect it."  As she spoke she could see Max withdrawing from her again, "But, um, I don't want you to hate me."

 

Max glanced at Liz quickly and then looked away.  He could see the pain in her expression but he didn't want to acknowledge it.  It shouldn't matter to him what Liz was thinking.  She was the one who had betrayed him.  She deserved her pain, but he still loved her and ached to offer her comfort.   

 

He wanted nothing more than for things to go back to the way they had been before, but it was too late for that.  And before he could do something he would regret, he turned his back on her without a word and walked away.

 

Liz seemed to sink in on herself as Max left and her hope deflated.  For a moment she had dared to hope that things between herself and Max would be okay, but he had rebuffed her again.  It just wasn't fair that she had done all of this for him but he would never even know.  But she had known the consequences and chosen the path anyway and she didn't regret her decision.  She only wished that she had not been forced to hurt Max in the process.    

 

 

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

 

 

(Episode - Meet the Dupes)

(Friday, November 17th, 2000)

(West Roswell High School

 

Rath entered the school and looked again at the picture of Liz, he had taken from Max's drawer.  He shook his head, still not able to believe an uptight guy like Max could get a hottie like Liz.  Rath knew it had surprised Lonni that he was attracted to Liz, but when he had first seen her picture he had been instantly drawn to her.  There was just something about the girl, and even though he couldn't place what it was, it really didn't matter to him.  All he knew was that he wanted her.

 

Even though his attire and hair were radically different from Michael's, the students assumed they were the same person, and as Rath wandered around the high school, he picked up several pieces of interesting gossip. 

 

Rath ran into a guy who knew Michael and he asked the guy where Liz was.  The guy, Scott, told him not only her full name, and that she was considered a brain, but he also joked about how over the summer Liz had dumped Max.  Rath laughed at the news, figuring Liz had gotten fed up with Max's crap.  Scott also laughed about the fact that Max was obsessed with Liz, practically stalking her to get her back, but she wouldn't give in.  And the latest rumor was Liz had slept with an old boyfriend.  

 

Rath also learned that Michael was dating a human named Maria DeLuca.  Scott gave Rath a wink and asked how he handled the blonde spitfire.  Rath simply smiled.  He didn't know what Maria looked like but he was considering looking her up after he found Liz.

 

Scott didn't know what class Liz was currently in, but he told Rath where her locker was, and as Rath rounded the corner, he saw Liz.  His eyes quickly took in her appearance and he smiled.  She was even hotter in person.  He approached, stopping just behind her and delivered his best line.  "Whassup?  You look tight."

 

 

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

 

 

Max waited for Maria outside her history class and motioned to her when she emerged.  "We need to move the meeting to tonight."

 

"But Max," Maria protested, "I already changed my performance to tonight."

 

"This is important, Maria."

 

Maria was suddenly concerned, "Is something wrong?"

 

Max nodded, "Yeah, we need an emergency meeting with everyone to figure this out.  Just tell Alex and L-Liz to be at the museum right after it closes."

 

 

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

 

 

(Roswell UFO Museum)

 

Max glanced at his watch again.  It was past the time he had told everyone to meet, but Alex still wasn't there and Max decided he couldn't wait any longer.  "I am going to start even though Alex isn't here yet.  This is just too important."

 

"What happened, Max?" Isabel asked.

 

"Well Brody told me he has been tracking signals near New York.  Someone is sending or receiving messages and it could be the skins.  And then Mr. Seligman told us about a star that suddenly went supernova, against every law of science known to man."

 

He paused and looked around at the others but he saw confusion in their faces and he continued to explain.  "So I think that the signals Brody tracked could be connected to the dying star somehow, and..."

 

Michael cut him off, "You called us all together here for this emergency meeting to talk about a star that croaked?"

 

This wasn't the reaction Max had been hoping for and he tried to make them understand, "I think it could mean something.  It's," he paused looking for the right words, "been haunting me."

 

Maria stepped forward, "I cancelled my performance, Max."

 

"I think we should be ready for the next challenge," Max defended himself.  "The skins or someone else could be massing for an attack."

 

"We don't know that," Isabel said.  "You're just guessing.  The signals and the star might just be a coincidence."

 

"Or it might be a lucky accident that we..."  Max was distracted by Alex running down the stairs.  "Alex. You're late.

 

Alex pointed up the stairs behind him, mumbling inarticulately, "Uh, um, uh."

 

Max barely had time to take in the appearance of the three new-comers before the one who resembled Michael shouted, "Hey, yo, up here!"

 

"Now this is freaky," Maria said as they clomped down the stairs.

 

Max stepped out in front of the others, ready to defend them, "Who are you?"

 

"We're you," said Isabel's look-a-like.

 

Isabel looked to the others for an explanation, "I...  I don't understand."

 

"They're shape-shifters," Michael guessed.

 

Lonni smiled, "I know you must be buggin' out right now, 'cause I'd be buggin', too."

 

"How could this be?" Isabel asked.

 

Suddenly the truth dawned on Michael, "Eight.  Eight.  There were eight pods originally."

 

"You know about that," Rath said with surprise.

 

Michael nodded, "Yeah, I, we just found out recently, so...  I just, didn't know you'd look like us."

 

"All we know is that there were eight originally,” Max explained.  “We never knew what happened to the other four."

 

"They went to New York," Lonni said.

 

"New York?" Max asked.  He should have been surprised that the visitors had come from New York but he wasn't.  Maybe the strange feelings he had experienced had really been about the others coming instead of about the star dying.

 

"The Big Apple," Rath answered, "Center of the universe.  Amazing pizza."

 

Liz listened silently but one thing was bothering her, "Um, but there's only three of you."

 

Lonni bowed her head, "We had a fourth.  We just lost him."

 

Liz noticed that Tess' double addressed Max directly.  "His name was, Zan."

 

Liz could see the pain on the girl's face and she sympathized with her.  It had only been a few weeks since the Max from the future had disappeared and she had irrevocably lost her Max.  It had been like losing him twice, and the pain was still fresh.

 

She studied the girl as the others continued to talk.  The blonde looked so much like Tess but Liz could tell there were differences.  The newcomer seemed unsure of herself, downtrodden, even scared, and Liz felt sorry for her.  Liz didn't know what had happened in this girl's life, but she wished there was something she could do to help.

 

 

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

 

 

(Episode - Meet the Dupes)

(Saturday, November 18th, 2000)

 

Song Playing: Bring Me to Life by Evanescense

 

Max stepped onto the ladder leading to Liz's balcony for the first time since he had seen her in bed with Kyle.  The sudden thought caused his stomach to clench and he grabbed the side of the ladder for support.  Maybe it had been a mistake for him to come and see Liz but he was drawn here for many different reasons.

 

Max had to admit to himself that he simply wanted to see Liz once more before he left, but it was not the only thing he had come to do. 

 

He felt as if everyone around him had betrayed him.  Isabel had been keeping secrets from him, lying to him, and Michael had betrayed them all to Courtney when he had told her the location of the Granolith.  Max still couldn't believe two of the people he had trusted the most could do that to him, but Liz's betrayal had been the worst.

 

Max reached into his pocket and brushed his fingers over the box within.  He needed to confront Liz with his feelings about what had happened, and return the one thing she had given to him.  Somehow he felt that giving it back to her would allow him to make a clean break from her. 

 

Max took a deep breath, climbed the last few steps to the top of the ladder, and crossed to Liz's window.  For a moment he didn't want to look into her room, fearing what he might see, but he forced himself to confront the truth.  Liz was inside, lying on her bed clutching a stuffed animal, and in her other hand she held a long strip of white paper. 

 

At first Max thought she was studying, reading her notes, but then he recognized what she was holding because he had one too.  It was a strip of photos taken in a photo booth that they had made last spring before things had gone so terribly wrong. 

 

Max felt a sickening rumble in his stomach.  Whether she had slept with Kyle or not, Liz wanted him to believe she had.  Everything they could have had between them, all of the potential happiness, all of the love, Liz had simply thrown away.  She had betrayed them both.

 

Max now wanted this over more than ever, and he knocked on her window. 

 

Liz was looking at the pictures of herself and Max that had been taken before all the trouble had started.  As she studied every detail of each picture, the day they were taken came flooding back to her.  The memories were so strong it could have been yesterday instead of months before, but Liz knew she would remember that day the rest of her life.  She and Max had been so happy together, it was just not fair they were forced to be apart. 

 

A knock at the window interrupted her reverie, and as she recognized Max a feeling of relief and happiness washed through her entire being.  It was the first time Max had approached her since he had seen her with Kyle and she felt sure he was there to renew their friendship.

 

Max watched as Liz recognized him and practically skipped to the window.  She was glad to see him, but he no longer wanted to be there and anger rose up within him.

 

Liz opened the window and stood back to allow Max to climb in, like he had done so many times before.  "Hi," she greeted him cheerfully.

 

Max climbed through the window and turned to confront Liz.  There were so many conflicting feelings raging through him that he didn't know what to do.  He wanted to be cruel to her, to hate her, but at the same time he loved Liz and wanted to protect her from everything, including himself. 

 

He started slowly, hesitatingly, "You said, you wanted to be friends.  And I thought about it.  And, I realized that, that I can't be friends with you, because, I'm still hanging on.  To you.  To what we had." 

 

Any feeling of happiness Liz had experienced at seeing Max was crushed as he spoke.  Maybe she had been asking too much for them to just be friends again.

 

Max watched as the light of optimism in Liz's eyes was extinguished by his words and he hated himself for hurting her, but he ruthlessly continued.  "So, I decided to make a clean break."  He reached into his pocket, withdrew the box and pushed it toward her, "Here."

 

He barely looked at Liz as she opened the box, not wanting to see the pain he knew would be clearly written on her face. 

 

Liz felt her heart drop as she opened the box, revealing the knife she had given him.  "Max, this is yours.  I gave it to you last Christmas."

 

Max shook his head.  "I'm giving it back."  He lowered his head to avoid Liz's glance.  "I'm, I'm going to New York with Rath and Lonni and," Max raised his head and looked Liz in the eyes wanting to see how his words effected her, " and Tess.  To the summit."

 

Liz swallowed hard, trying to dislodge the lump quickly forming in her throat, wondering if this was the end of everything.  "Are you gonna come back?"

 

Max hated himself for wanting to hurt Liz in any way but the anger within him had made him cruel.  He shook his head trying to concentrate on Liz's question but everything was just so uncertain.  "I don't know.  I can't think that far ahead."

 

Liz was devastated by Max's answer and lowered her head so Max wouldn't see her reaction.  He could walk out of her life forever and she would never know what happened to him.  She had never even considered that he might leave Roswell, but it was happening right before her.

 

When Liz didn't respond Max started toward the window.

 

Max's movement jolted Liz out of her contemplation.  She couldn't let Max leave without arming him with everything she knew, and granted it wasn't much, but her information might save him.  "Wait, um, Max.  Um, when, when you're at the summit, the Granolith, okay?  It's powerful, and it could be really dangerous if the wrong people get their hands on it."

 

Max turned back to her angrily, "What are you talking about?  How do you know anything about the Granolith?"

 

Liz could see the confusion and disbelief on Max's face and realized that from his point of view, she would be ignorant about the Granolith.  "Oh!  I can't tell you.  But I just, I know, and..." she let her words trail off when she could see that she wasn't getting through to him.  "Please, Max," she begged.  "You have to trust me."

 

Max couldn't believe what Liz was asking.  It was just too much.  After everything that had happened, after she had betrayed him in the worst way possible and continued to lie to him, it was almost funny.  He could feel hysterical laughter start to rise up within him but brutally pushed it down, turning on her heartlessly.  "I guess that's the problem, Liz." 

 

Max left without looking back and Liz slammed the window down behind him in frustration.  She was so angry that he wouldn't listen to her, didn't trust her, but what made it worse was it was all her own doing.  If she hadn't pretended to sleep with Kyle, Max would know she was telling the truth.  And now there was the possibility that she and Max would never see one another again.  For the rest of his life, Max would think she had betrayed him, and if he disregarded her warning about the Granolith it might cost him his life. 

 

Of course if she hadn't pretended to sleep with Kyle, the world would have ended.  But how did she know it still wouldn't end?

 

The other Max had never said anything about a summit, but then he hadn't said very much about anything.  Liz had simply trusted that the new world she and the other Max had created would be better, but now, for the first time she questioned the consequences of their actions.  What if the new world wasn't any better?  What if something she had done made the future worse?   

 

 

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

 

 

(Episode - Max in the City - aka. Journey to New York)

(Wednesday, November 22nd, 2000)

(New York, NY)

 

Max grew more and more apprehensive as he and Rath entered the building where they were supposed to meet the emissary.  Max didn't know what was about to happen but whatever it was he was afraid that he wouldn't be up to it.  How could he think of himself of a leader when everyone was turning against him?  He hadn't even had enough power to keep Liz with him.

 

Rath and Lonni were no better.  They wouldn't reveal anything to him, only that he had to pass a test before they would be admitted to the summit.  The nature of the test remained a mystery but Rath assured him he would pass.  

 

He and Rath entered the room and walked to where the emissary was sitting.  Max hesitated, looking at the ordinary, bald man at the table.  He didn't know what he had expected, an alien maybe, but he felt disappointed.

 

Rath walked ahead of him and pulled out the chair, indicating that he should sit. 

 

Max slowly walked forward and sat in the chair.  He looked around nervously but turned to face the other man.  The emissary rose from his seat and walked toward Max and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat, but stilled as the other man examined him.  The emissary stopped behind him and before Max could wonder what he was doing, he felt a burst of energy passing into his head and pushing through. 

 

It didn't exactly hurt, but the sensation was strange and Max had a moment of discomfort.  He watched amazed as the energy emerged from his forehead and started to form an image.  Five pinpoints of light defined themselves, growing and swirling and finally arranging themselves into a familiar 'V' pattern.  The bottom light shone more brightly than the others, briefly eclipsing them and then the image faded.

 

The emissary regained his seat before Max recovered from his surprise, and Max sat dumbfounded as the emissary filled out some paperwork and handed it to him.

 

"Sign here," said the emissary motioning to the line, "your Majesty."

 

The use of the title startled Max and he looked up to meet the emissary's eyes.  The man deferred to him respectfully and Max suddenly felt empowered.  He had assumed the roll of the leader but this was the first time that someone outside his group had acknowledged it, and for the first time it actually seemed real to him. 

 

Max sat up straighter.  For the first time, he felt like the King of Antar.

 

 

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

 

 

(Episode - Max in the City - aka. Journey to New York)

(Thursday, November 23rd, 2000)

(Thanksgiving)

(New York, NY)

(The dupes’ home)

 

Lonni and Rath hadn't been forthcoming with the answers Max wanted and finally he confronted them.  "So what was it the emissary did to me?"

 

Lonni laughed, "He was looking for the mark of the King, the Royal seal.

 

On a convenient piece of wood, Rath used his powers to create a rough version of the V-shaped pattern that had come from Max's head. 

 

"So this is the Royal seal?" Max asked.

 

"You got it," Rath answered, motioning to the representations of the planets.  "And these are the five worlds of our star system.

 

Max motioned to the bottom spot, "And that one?  That's home?  Home."  He savored the world in his mouth.  He had never really thought of the place they had originally come from as home but now it seemed real to him in a way that it never had before.

 

"Bingo," Rath said.  "That's how the emissary knew you were the real deal.  You got the royal seal stenciled on your brain."

 

Max continued with his questions, "And these other four worlds?  They'll all be sending a representative to the summit?"

 

Rath nodded, "Well, they'll be doing the possession thing again, you know, like the emissary."

 

"Why don't they, come in person?" Tess asked.

 

Rath rolled his eyes.  He was tired of dealing with Tess, she was so much like Ava.  "You see, little girl," he sneered, "space is what we call very, very big.  You know, it's not easy to get places.  People just don't zip around the galaxy like on Star Trek."

 

Lonni rushed to smooth over Rath's rudeness, "No one's coming back here again in person unless there's a good reason."

 

"Like to bring us home," Rath said.

 

"We can go home?" Tess gasped with obvious pleasure.

 

"Yeah, we can," Rath said pointing to Max.  "If the man here cuts a deal at the summit."

 

Max was suddenly wary, "What kind of a deal?"

 

"A deal to bring peace back to our world," Lonni said grandly.

 

Rath picked up on the cue he and Lonni had practiced.  "In our world, blood on the streets, baby.  That dude Khivar that took your throne.  People hate his ass."

 

"Our mother sent our pods to earth for safekeeping, hoping we'd come back one day," Lonni continued.

 

"And that day is now," Rath said.  "The word is that Khivar's desperate, and he'll do anything to end the fighting."

 

"Including let us come back home," Lonni added. 

 

"Home," Max repeated distractedly, a thousand thoughts running through his head.  "I never thought...  Not this soon."  His thoughts automatically turned to Roswell and Liz.  He had never thought he would actually leave Earth, but suddenly the possibility was in front of him.  And then his thoughts turned in another direction, "What about Michael and Isabel?"

 

"And Ava?" Tess asked.

 

"They're expecting the Royal Four, yo, not the Royal Seven," Lonni said angrily.

 

"I am not leaving Michael and Isabel behind," Max challenged.

 

Lonni instantly started to soothe him, "Look, Max.  Max.  They seem so happy, in that cute little town."  She could see that her argument wasn't swaying him and tried another tactic.  "Chill, chill.  It'll all be okay.  You'll see.  It'll all fall our way.  Unless they bring up the Granolith again."

 

"The Granolith?" Max asked, surprised by its introduction into the conversation.  His mind raced back to the conversation he'd had with Liz before he left, and her words echoed through his head.

 

 

 

...the Granolith, okay?  It's powerful, and it could be really dangerous if the wrong people get their hands on it.

  

 

 

Liz had been right.  He might not know what it was or what it did, but there were others who did and wanted it.  Again he wondered how Liz knew about the Granolith but quickly pushed the thought aside.  For the moment it didn't matter how she knew, it only mattered that she was right and he had to protect it.

 

Rath interrupted his thoughts.  "Yeah.  Yeah, it's this stupid religious thing."

 

Lonni expanded the explanation, "Our protector told us it's like the holy grail, some piece of junk people on our planet worship for some reason.  You ever heard of it?"

 

"No," Max lied easily.

 

"No?" Lonni asked somewhat surprised.

 

"That's too bad," Rath said.

 

"Yeah," Lonni agreed.  "Would have been a nice bargaining chip if you had."

 

"I haven't," Max reaffirmed.

 

"No problem," Lonni said with a shrug.  "They probably won't even bring it up anyway."

 

 

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

 

 

(Crashdown Café)

 

Liz sipped her tea and listened in fascination as Ava told her about their life in New York.

 

"Zan was stubborn, strong," Ava said.  "He put up a wall, and you just couldn't get through.  He always tried to do everything right, to be perfect.  He was like that, right up until..." she let the sentence trail off.

 

Liz knew Zan's death was still painful for Ava.  It was obvious from what the other girl had been telling her that she and Zan had been great friends and companions, and Liz felt she must have done the right thing in letting Max go.  But the realization saddened her and she worked to keep her voice steady, "You must have loved him a lot."

 

"Yeah," Ava agreed softly.  Her whole life had changed practically overnight when Lonni and Rath killed Zan.  Ava thought she had a place in the world, a purpose.  She was Zan’s wife, lover and Queen, but all of that was gone in an instant and Ava had begun to question her whole life.  As ironic as it seemed, Ava had started to wonder if Lonni and Rath had been right all of those years.  In the last few days she had carefully reexamined every minute of her life she had spent with Zan from a new perspective, and the doubts had come rushing in.  Zan had been her best friend, her confident, her champion, but he had never once told her he loved her.

 

Ava sighed and finally admitted to Liz her worst fear.  "I'm not sure he ever really loved me back though."

 

The admission shocked Liz, "Why?"

 

Ava shrugged, "Just a feeling.  I always felt like he was waiting for someone else to walk into his life."  She pictured all of the nights that she had heard Zan dreaming and she knew that hadn’t been about her.  The remembrance was painful and she quickly changed the subject.  "So what about you?  How'd you find out about Max?  He just hauled off and dropped the bomb one day?"

 

"No," Liz shook her head.  "It was right over there.  I was working, and he was sitting at that booth.  And, um, someone brought in a gun, and it kinda went off, and I got shot.  I was dying, but Max brought me back."

 

Liz suddenly had all of Ava's attention, "He brought you back?"

 

"Yeah," Liz said.

 

Ava remembered what their protector had told them about healing humans and looked at Liz carefully.  This human was changing and she didn't seem to know it.  With shaking hands Ava sipped her tea to give herself a moment, and wondered what she should tell Liz.  Despite the fact that Liz was a human and a cornball too, Ava liked her.  Liz was kind and understanding and Ava felt an instant friendship with her.  Ava didn't want to scare Liz though and instead decided to ask some of the thousand questions in her head.  "So how long ago was it that Max healed you?"

 

Liz had noted the other girl's strange reaction and had been about to question her but she was distracted by Ava’s new question, "Um, it was just over a year ago."

 

"And then you got together?" Ava asked.

 

Liz shook her head, "Not right away.  We had been friends since elementary school, but when he healed me he made a connection and I saw into his soul.  It was incredible and I fell in love with him instantly.  He thought we should stay apart because we are different.  We tried, but we couldn't stay away from each other, and finally we got together.  And then I started getting visions when we kissed.  It was just so perfect, as if we were meant to be together."

 

Ava felt a shiver of reaction race up her spine and quickly took a gulp of the hot tea to push back the chill.  Serena had told them that humans would be changed but she had said it would take time.  But a connection had manifested between Liz and Max almost immediately after he had healed her.  Ava looked at Liz again with a tinge of jealously.  Ava had a feeling that Liz would be powerful when she came into her full abilities and Ava also believed that Max's healing of Liz had created a bond that would join them together forever. 

 

 

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

 

 

(Episode - Max in the City - aka. Journey to New York)

(Friday, November 24th, 2000)

(New York, NY)

 

After Rath and Lonni's lesson in Antarian history and politics and a sleepless night, Max needed some time to himself and went for a walk.  There were so many different thoughts flying through his head and he wanted to sort through some of them.  The situation on Antar, the peace conference, Liz and the Granolith, and the possibility of returning to their planet; it all seemed so overwhelming.

 

He wished he could talk to Liz and ask her what she knew, but she wouldn't tell him before, and after the way he had left things between them he didn't think she would have changed her mind.  Max's mind raced with possibilities about how Liz could have discovered anything about the Granolith.  She could have guessed, he supposed, but that wouldn't explain why she wouldn't tell him.  No, he thought, someone must have told her about it. 

 

Maybe Nasedo had told her something when he had taken her, but that would mean she hadn't told him everything about her time with the shape shifter.  Maybe what Nasedo had told her was something so terrible that she didn't want them to find out.  Maybe Nasedo had threatened her.  But that couldn't be right, Max argued with himself, Liz would have told him when Nasedo died. 

 

Max shook his head trying to clear his thoughts.  He would never reason out how Liz knew.  He would simply have to ask her again when he saw her.  But, came the sudden thought, he might not be returning to Roswell, he might be going to Antar. 

 

He had never suspected when he had agreed to come to the summit that there would be the possibility of returning to Antar, but Lonni and Rath acted like it was a certainty.  They also seemed to take for granted that they would be going instead of Michael and Isabel. 

 

Last summer, when he, Isabel, Michael, Tess and Liz had heard the message in the cave, Max had assumed they were the Royal Four.  He had not even considered there might be another set of clones.  When the others had come to Roswell, Lonni had told Michael the New York set were the real ones and Max had actually been relieved because it meant he didn't have to take the responsibility of saving his planet.  But, Max reasoned, it couldn't be the truth because he had been given the Granolith.  He, Michael, Isabel and Tess were the real Royal Four and Lonni and Rath were simply trying to use the situation to their advantage.

 

Max didn't know what would happen at the peace summit or if there would be a chance to return to Antar.  Even if the war ended and they could return Max didn't know what he would do, but he wanted Michael and Isabel to be able to make their own choices.  Things had been bad between himself and Isabel and Michael when he left but they were still two of the most important people in his life, and they deserved to know what was going on. 

 

He walked to the pay phone, picked up the receiver and quickly dialed his home number.  

 

 

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

 

 

Rath, Lonni, Max and Tess walked into the building where the summit was being held. 

 

As Rath and Lonni had agreed earlier, Rath offered reassurance to Max.  "Now, you get in trouble, you look to us, and we'll help you out."

 

Tess was appalled at the suggestion.  Max was the King, he would make the decisions.  "I think he'll handle it," she told Rath belligerently.

 

Rath turned to Tess, surprised by her outburst.  "Hey, is someone talkin' to you, retard?"

 

Tess felt a flash of pain and embarrassment caused by Rath's comment.  No one had ever talked to her like he did, but obviously he treated Ava this way.

 

Max stopped and turned to Rath, tired of Lonni and Rath's continual abuse and superior attitude.  "All right, that's it.  Let's get something clear right here, right now.  I'm the one who passed the emissary's test.  And that means from now on, I'm the one in charge here."

 

Lonni's instant reaction was to back down and try to placate Max.  She had dealt with Zan for so long she knew Max would accept her submissive posturing as an apology.  "Understood, duke.  You're the King."

 

Max glared at Rath and continued, "And for your information, her name is Tess."

 

Rath glanced at Lonni and she nodded to him, "Rath, take Tess and go inside.  I wanna talk to Max for a minute."

 

Rath turned to Tess, "Come on."

 

Tess walked alongside the Michael look-a-like but she wasn't paying attention to where they were going.  Her heart was full to bursting because of what Max had done.  He had stood up for her, defended her, and she was so happy she felt like shouting with joy.  Max was finally accepting her.

 

 

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

 

 

"We're here in the spirit of reconciliation." Larek said.  "We're not here to rehash the past, point fingers, and assign blame."

 

Max listened to the others arguing about war and politics and he felt like a dumb kid just like he had told Tess he would.  When he had seen the emissary he had felt like a leader, but now he was just an observer.  He didn't know enough about what had been happening to contribute anything constructive and he just felt useless. 

 

Nicholas had also been sitting back and observing the others arguing.  He glanced at Max and smiled.  The former all-powerful King of Antar was just a confused teenager, in over his head.

 

Nicholas waited until the argument reached a peak and then casually offered the answer.  "And Khivar has a solution."

 

Max's attention was captured by Nicholas' words and he focused on the boy across the table.

 

Nicholas met Max's eyes to make sure he had his attention and continued with Khivar's offer.  "Khivar will abdicate the throne and allow the Royal Four to return home under the following conditions.  One, Max becomes King only in name.  All real power and government remains in Khivar's hands.  Two, Max calls upon his followers to lay down their weapons and support the new government.  And three, most importantly," he paused for effect, "Max returns the Granolith to us."

 

"The Granolith?" Kathana asked incredulously.

 

Nicholas winced inwardly.  This was the most dangerous part of Khivar's plan, revealing the absence of the Granolith, but Khivar had decided it was worth the risk to get it back.  Nicholas quickly explained, "No, it's no longer on our world.  Yes, we've known about it for a long time.  No, Khivar decided he didn't need to tell you, and yes, we know where it is.  It's with Max."

 

With his last statement Nicholas returned his gaze to Max and the eyes of all the others turned to him too.

 

"Is this true, Max?" Larek asked.

 

Max considered lying but the skins already knew it was on Earth.  "It's here," he admitted.

 

"What?" Lonni asked with disbelief.

 

Nicholas smiled.  Everything was falling into place.  "So there you have it.  Max comes home with the Granolith.  All is forgiven."  He paused to look at Max, "Do we have a deal?"

 

Max looked at the others seated at the table.  He felt completely overwhelmed.  "I,” he paused stalling for time, “need to think about this."

 

 

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

 

 

Lonni watched as Max and Tess left the summit room to think over Khivar's deal.  It had really surprised her when Max had revealed he had the Granolith.  She would have sworn he had told her the truth, but more than that she wondered just how much control she really had over him.  If Max was keeping things from her, it meant he didn't trust them.

 

And then there was Nicholas.  Lonni had suspected she couldn't trust him completely and she had been right.  Nicholas had mentioned nothing about knowing Max from before.  At least she and Nicholas had a common goal that would help unite them.  They both wanted to go home and would do anything to get there. 

 

Lonni slipped behind a pillar and used her powers to conceal herself, waiting for Nicholas to return. 

 

He entered the room talking to himself, "God, I hate this town."  Suddenly he felt the use of power and called out, "Hello?"

 

Lonni dropped the illusion and revealed herself to him, "Yo."

 

Nicholas smiled, "Yo yourself."

 

Lonni circled him like a predator stalking its prey, knowing it would raise Nicholas' interest.  "Miss me?" she purred.

 

"Always," he admitted.  "Can't wait to see more of you."

 

"Well, that'll have to wait until we get home," she teased.

 

Nicholas was interested but business always came first, "Let's be clear, Lonni.  You don't get home unless I get the Granolith."

 

Lonni's temper flared at his tone.  No one talked to her, the Royal Princess of Antar, that way.  "Let me be clear, Nicholas,” she said, with a touch of anger.  “I don't give a damn whether or not you get the Granolith.  I'm going home."

 

Nicholas smiled, hearing Vilondra in her voice, "Big talk for a woman with no cards to play."

 

Lonni thought about certain facts she had discovered about their past lives and smiled.  "I've got cards.  I just haven't shown them to you yet."  Her voice dropped to a purr, "You know, I'm not like the others.  I remember our world.  I remember Khivar.  And I remember what it was like to be Vilondra," she taunted Nicholas with a hint of what she remembered, but knew it would reveal nothing to him.  "I want that life, and I'll do what I have to, to get back.  Be on my side, and you'll benefit.  Be against me, and..” she trailed off to make her point.  “Well, it would be a mad, crazy idea to be against me." 

 

Lonni dismissed the problem of Max with a wave of her hand, "Don't worry about Max.  He's a cornball.  He'll go for the deal.  He'll go for the deal because millions of lives hang in the balance.  Besides, he wants to go home and give mommy a kiss and get fitted for his crown."

 

Nicholas listened to her carefully, trying to discover her meaning about remembering the past but quickly decided she simply wanted to be reunited with Khivar.  If she remembered anything else about her other life, she would have attempted to use it as leverage to insure her return.  He relaxed against the pole with a smile and continued the discussion of her brother, "He won't live long enough to wear it.  Khivar wants him dead."

 

"Well, I'd have to be a special kind of stupid not to have figured that out," she said sarcastically.

 

"If he takes the deal," Nicholas continued, "there'll be a nice public execution to attend.  If he doesn't take the deal, Khivar still wants him dead."

 

Lonni nodded, "I can arrange that.  What's in it for me?"

 

Nicholas smiled.  Lonni was trying to make a deal.  She didn't remember anything useful from her other life.  "Passage home," he said casually.  "But just you.  The freak with the mohawk stays here."

 

Lonni hesitated for only a second.  Since she had remembered her real love Khivar, she had known that her relationship with Rath was only a temporary diversion, and now it looked like Rath’s time was up.  "Yeah, I can live with that.  See you at the summit."

 

"What a woman."  Nicholas smiled.  He wondered if Khivar would let him keep her if he did bring her back to Antar.  Khivar would have Isabel, and that would leave the feisty Lonni for him.

 

 

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

 

 

Lonni stopped around the corner and took a surreptitious look back at the diminutive Nicholas.  The Granolith, always the Granolith, she thought.  Nicholas seemed to be awfully focused on an item he described as a piece of junk.  And in the conference, she had been surprised that the leaders of the other worlds had been interested in the Granolith too.

 

When she and Rath had brought Max and Tess back to New York, Lonni had questioned Nicholas about the Granolith.  He had told her it was a religious icon that had been in her family for years and that's why he thought she would know where it was.  But she hadn’t believed him and pressed for more information.  It was then that the heat of desire had lit Nicholas' eyes, and Lonni had bargained for the truth about the Granolith with a promise of future favors and one searing kiss. 

 

Nicholas had then admitted the Granolith did have one other purpose.  It was capable of faster-than-light travel, and when it was attached to the propulsion unit of his ship, it would allow them to return to Antar in a matter of days, instead of years.  The trip would use up all of the Granolith's energy, but the people of Antar thought of it as some kind of holy grail and Khivar was eager to have it returned.  "Because as the infamous Karl Marx once said," Nicholas had quoted, "religion is the opiate of the masses."

 

It could be a religious icon, Lonni supposed, that would explain everyone's interest, but she suspected it was much, much more.  Max had it, and Nicholas wanted it, badly.  If she could get her hands on it, she could bargain for a trip home and everything else she desired.

 

 

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

 

 

Max and Tess exited the building and Max talked through his misgivings about Khivar's offer.  "Cut a deal with Nicholas?  I don't trust him any more than I can throw him."

 

"You could throw him pretty far," Tess added.

 

Max ignored her inane comment and continued, "Then there's Lonni and Rath.  It's hard to believe they have the same DNA of Michael and Isabel."

 

"For what it's worth," Tess said, trying to be helpful, "I don't trust them."

 

"And then there's this whole thing about the Granolith..."

 

Tess interrupted him, "Why did you lie to Lonni and Rath about the Granolith, anyway?"

 

Max shook his head, not sure how to explain it to her, "There was something Liz said, just before we left.  She told me the Granolith could be dangerous if it fell into the wrong hands."

 

"How does she know that?" Tess exclaimed unbelievingly.

 

"She wouldn't say," Max said.

 

"But she's never even seen the Granolith."  Tess shook her head.  She had thought Liz was out of their lives finally, but she kept showing up again and again.

 

"I know.  I know," Max agreed.  "But I just keep thinking about it.  The way she said it.  She seemed so sure.  I just don't know what to do."

 

Tess changed the subject away from Liz.  "Whatever you do, it'll be the right choice.  I'm sure of it."

 

Max looked at her in surprise, "Why?"

 

"Because despite whatever Nicholas said about you in there, I know that you were a great man in that other life, a great King," Tess explained.  "I know it in my bones."

 

Max studied Tess.  He was glad they had come to a non-verbal understanding of sorts.  He would accept her as a friend and she would act like one instead of always throwing herself at him.  "All you've ever done, is trust me, been there for me, whenever I needed you.  I've never done anything to deserve that kind of loyalty."

 

Tess smiled, "I think in that other life, you must have been one great husband."

 

Max smiled back, accepting the compliment in the spirit in which Tess had offered it and Tess relaxed even more.  Liz had been right about the way to win Max's friendship.  It would take time but he was accepting her more each day.

 

And when Max held out his arm to escort her back inside Tess felt as if he had offered her his heart.

 

 

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

 

 

(Crashdown Café)

 

Isabel slammed her hands down on the table in frustration, "Damn it!  It's not working.  I can't reach him."

 

"Yeah, but you gotta try again," Michael said.

 

Isabel shook her head, "Won't do any good.  He's not hearing me."

 

"Okay, so um, what's plan 'B'?" Liz asked.

 

"There isn't one," Isabel said with finality.

 

Ava had watched Isabel's repeated attempts to contact Max with growing concern.  If they didn't get through to him soon it could cost him his life.  Suddenly an idea occurred to her.  The connection Max had created with Liz could save him.  She stood up, grabbed a chair and walked toward them, "Liz can do it."

 

"What?" Isabel asked.

 

"What are you talking about?" Liz gasped.

 

"Max brought you back from the dead," Ava explained briefly, pushing Liz down into the chair.  "You've been changed."

 

"What do you mean by changed?" Liz asked, suddenly alarmed.

 

Ava shook her head, "Look, there ain't enough time to explain.  You just gotta trust me here.  If Max brought you back, then, you're different now."

 

Isabel reached out to Liz, "Liz, take my hand."

 

Liz sat with her hands in her lap.  There were so many emotions rushing through her that she couldn't separate them, but looming above all the others was fear.  Max had changed her when he healed her.  What did that mean?  Was she becoming a more advanced human or an alien or maybe something in-between? 

 

But it wasn't the change that scared her the most.  Something deep inside her worried if she was able to connect with Max, she would never be able to give him up.  It was as if he would become a part of her that she could never escape.  A few months ago she would have welcomed being that close to him, but now with what she knew about the future, she couldn't let it happen.  She wasn't strong enough to give Max up again.

 

Also Liz was worried about what Isabel might see when they were connected.  If Isabel discovered the visit from the other Max it might ruin everything she had worked so hard to do. 

 

Liz's inner agony was evident in her voice, "I don't know why, but I'm really scared to do this.  You know, if you can't contact him what makes you think I can?"

 

"I know my brother," Isabel said, "and I know that if there is one voice he will hear no matter where he is, no matter what he's doing, it's yours."  She could see the fear and pain in Liz's face and she was sorry to cause her more, but this was their only option and Isabel steeled herself.  "Take my hand, Liz."

 

Isabel's words offered Liz no comfort.  Instead they reinforced her fears.  But how could she refuse to help?  Max's life hung in the balance and that was the only thing that mattered.  She would have to deal with the rest later.  Pushing her fears away, Liz reached out to Isabel and as they touched hands, she closed her eyes.

 

As they connected, Isabel waited for the rush of images she usually received, but strangely there was nothing.  It was as if Liz were desperately trying to stop her from seeing into her memory.  Isabel was curious as to the reason Liz would try so hard to keep her out, but figured she simply wanted her privacy. 

 

Where her hand touched Liz's, Isabel was also surprised to feel intermittent surges of power.  Ava said Liz was changed but Isabel hadn't really believed her, she was simply desperate to try anything.  Now she could see Ava was right. 

 

To Liz, the connection with Isabel seemed different than the one she had with Max, but, she reasoned, it was probably because she and Max left themselves completely open to one another.  With Isabel, Liz was working hard to keep her out of her mind.

 

Liz concentrated on relaxing and she could feel Isabel's presence guiding her into another state of consciousness.  It should have been strange, but Liz found it somewhat familiar.  It felt as if they were floating through time and space, the only thing anchoring them, was each other.  Soft, white fog surrounded them, swirling and ebbing in a current Liz couldn't see, and there was a feeling of tremendous speed. 

 

Isabel concentrated on finding Max, reaching out for the part of him that was uniquely Max.  Being connected with Liz allowed her go farther than she had before, but suddenly it was as if she had no control.  Then she realized with surprise that Liz was leading her.  She felt Liz soar ahead of her and knew instinctively that Liz was honing in on Max.  

 

Suddenly Liz knew exactly where Max was and reached out to him.

 

Isabel opened her eyes.  Liz had surpassed her limits and no longer needed her guidance.  Isabel knew Liz could find Max.  She just hoped she got to him in time.

 

The fog before Liz thinned and she found herself on an unfamiliar street.  She looked around quickly, trying to get her bearings and then she saw Max.  He was with Tess, Lonni and Rath, and Liz watched in horror as Rath grabbed Tess from behind, and Lonni raised her arm to drop a scaffold on Max. 

 

"Max look out!  Behind you!" Liz yelled, but Max couldn't hear her.  She tried to go to him but for some reason, she couldn't move.  Becoming more desperate with each moment, she started motioning frantically, and finally caught his eye.

 

She made wild gestures with her arms as she yelled, "Hurry, Max!  Run!"  Each motion made her feel more and more exhausted but she struggled to push past it, watching as a confused Max took one step toward her and then another.  The fog swirled thickly around her again and started to obscure her view of Max.  Suddenly the scaffold fell and Liz screamed, but she saw it hit the ground safely behind him before she lost the connection with him.

 

It felt like she fell back into her body, hitting the cushioned surface of the chair beneath her hard.  She was exhausted and the pull of sleep beckoned and she felt herself sliding out of the chair. 

 

Someone caught her and then there were raised voices and someone was shaking her.  Liz opened her eyes to find Michael cradling her on the floor.

 

"Liz, are you okay?" Michael asked.

 

She nodded, still feeling somewhat disconnected, "Yeah."

 

"What happened?" Isabel asked.  "You screamed.  Is Max okay?"

 

Liz released a sigh and smiled, "Yeah.  I got there just in time."

 

 

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

 

 

(New York, NY)

 

Lonni watched as Max stepped out from under the scaffold just as it crashed, missing him by inches.  She quickly used her powers to change her appearance and rushed away to meet Rath. 

 

Now that the attempt on Max's life had failed, he would know they were not his allies and they had to resort to her plan 'B.'

 

Lonni entered the building where the summit had been held and descended into the basement.  She had intended getting information out of Tess even if Max had died, but now Tess would be part of the plan. 

 

When Lonni appeared, Tess started toward her, only to be stopped by Rath's hand on her shoulder.  "Is Max...”  Tess gasped, “Is he dead?"

 

Lonni smiled at the smaller girl, "Of course not."

 

Tess shook her head, "But I saw you.  You tried to kill him."

 

"No," said Lonni smoothly.  "We only distracted him so we could talk to you, in private."

 

"What do you want?" Tess asked breathlessly, remembering the torture she had received from Congresswoman Whitaker.

 

"First," Lonni said, approaching her, "I want to show something to you."

 

Tess shook her head and backed away, but Rath grabbed her from behind and pushed her down into a chair.

 

Lonni knelt down before Tess.  "My powers are the same as Isabel's, so you know I don't have the ability to put images in you head, like you do."

 

Tess nodded, agreeing.

 

"I just want to show you what I remember about our life on Antar," Lonni explained, holding out her hand.

 

"Why?" Tess asked.

 

Lonni cocked her head to the side, "Don't you want to know the truth about Ava and Zan?"

 

Tess studied Lonni briefly.  She didn't know what Lonni had in mind, but she was frustrated because no matter how hard she had tried over the years, she hadn’t been able to recover more than a few vague memories.  She was desperate to remember her other life, and making up her mind suddenly, took Lonni's hand. 

 

The connection started immediately and Tess watched her former self through Lonni's memories.  At first, the memories were disjointed, a series of still images, but then they started to flow through her mind, faster and faster until she couldn't distinguish one image from another.  It was like watching a movie in extreme fast forward, but she was still able to understand what was happening.

 

Tess had gotten vague images of her other life but they were nothing compared to Lonni's memories.  The images were so vivid, so alive, and Tess had no doubt they were the truth.  The pictures slammed into her, assaulting her, and she was unable to stop them.  Even when the terrible truth started to unravel and Tess desperately tried to sever the connection, the images still came. 

 

"NOOOOO!" Tess cried.  "No, it can't be."

 

The memories become more sporadic and Tess could see that Lonni didn't know the whole story of what had happened but what she did know was enough.  "No.  No.  No.  No."  Tess repeated, shaking her head, as if the action would somehow rewrite the past.  

 

Lonni broke the connection and looked into Tess' eyes.  "So little Queen," she sneered, "either you help us or we will simply go to Max with what we know."

 

Tess sagged, defeated and shook her head, "You can't tell him."

 

Lonni smiled, "We both want the same thing.  We want to go home, and with your help not only will we go home but we will go in style.  If you help us, Max will never have to know the truth and you two can live on Antar a happy little husband and wife."

 

Tess considered her options.  Briefly she thought about going to Max and telling him the truth but she knew he would turn against her.  The other choice was joining with Lonni and Rath and possibly getting everything she had ever wanted.  It didn't take long for her to make up her mind.  "Okay.  What do you want me to do?"

 

Lonni smiled, "First, I want the Granolith..."

 

Lonni was cut off as Rath suddenly burst into the room and Tess noted vaguely that she hadn't seen him leave.

 

"We've gotta go," Rath said.  "Max is almost here."

 

Lonni handed Tess a cell phone, "I'll call you later and we can talk about the details."

 

Tess nodded and started to rise but Lonni grabbed her.

 

"Listen to me, Tess.  Don't screw with us.  I would hate to have to tell my brother what really happened."

 

Tess stood and watched distractedly as Lonni and Rath ran out a door in the rear.  She stuffed the cell phone in her pocket and started up the stairs.  She had just reached the middle of the room when the full weight of the truth came crashing down on her.  And swaying slightly, her knees collapsed and she hit the floor hard. 

 

Tess didn't want to believe what Lonni had shown her but she knew it was true.  Lonni's memories explained some of the fragmented images in Tess' head, giving meaning to things Tess had been unable to decipher.  It also explained why she hadn't made greater progress on her memory recovery, because somehow, deep inside, she knew that she didn't want to remember the truth.  And suddenly some of Tess' own memories started to come forward.  They were just snatches of conversations and situations but they confirmed everything Lonni had shown her. 

 

Tess wanted to cry.  If the truth were revealed to Max, he would turn from her forever.  But she loved him desperately and she would do anything to keep him.

 

She had never felt so scared and alone in her life.  She had just started to make friends, a home.  What would happen to her if the truth were discovered?   

 

"Tess!"

 

Suddenly she heard Max calling her name and knew she had only moments to concoct a plausible story.  She crossed her legs and extended her arms, releasing a tension-filled breath as Kyle had taught her.  Then she tried to concentrate on clearing and calming her mind, reminding herself that Max didn't know the truth and she would make sure he never found out.

 

"Tess!"

 

Max's voice was closer this time and Tess pushed the memory of the past few minutes to the back of her mind, letting her body relax completely.

 

"Tess!  Tess!" Max cried as he entered the room and saw her sitting on the floor.  He ran to her, falling to his knees before her and took her face in his hands, desperate to see if she was alive, "Tess, are you all right?"

 

Tess opened her eyes and answered honestly, "I don't know."

 

"What happened?" Max asked anxiously.

 

"They tried to get inside my head," she said truthfully and then quickly added, "to find out where the Granolith is.  I, I didn't want them to, so I fought back."

 

"How?" Max asked.

 

Tess was so thrilled Max was worried about her, that she couldn't think fast enough to make up an answer, "I, I don't know."

 

Max looked around, "Where are they?"

 

"I don't know," she answered truthfully.

 

Max helped her to her feet, but she was shaky and he grabbed her by the shoulders, concerned that Lonni and Rath might have injured her in some way.  "Tess.  Tess, are you all right?"

 

With everything that had happened, she suddenly needed to be comforted and she craved her own room and her own things.  "I'm ready to go home now."

 

She could see Max misinterpreted her statement and clarified with a sigh, "Home to Roswell."

 

It was evident to Max that Tess was still shaky, and he pulled her into a concerned embrace, "Okay."

 

The pleasure of being in Max's arms, pushed Tess’ recent discoveries aside and she leaned into him.  She loved him more at that moment than she ever had, and she vowed she would do anything to make him hers.

 

 

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

 

 

Lonni and Rath watched from the shadows as Max and Tess left, arm in arm.  When they were out of sight Lonni turned to Rath, "Ain't that sweet?"

 

Rath simply laughed.  "Okay so when do we contact her?"

 

 

"We'll give her a day or two to settle in and worry about things and then we'll show up on her doorstep and give her a surprise."

 

 

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

 

 

TBC

 



BOOK 9 - VERISIMILITUDE
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