BOOK 9 VERISIMILITUDE
(THE CONSPIRACY EXPOSED)

 

 

 

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

 

 

PART 4

 

 

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

 

 

(Friday, November 24th, 2000)

 

Max had taken the remaining eight dollars out of his pocket and pooled it with the six ones Tess had left, and used his powers to change the bills to hundreds.  Then he had altered their IDs giving them new names and making them both in their twenties.

 

The agent at the counter had not even looked at them oddly when they bought the tickets and now they were on the plane heading for home.

 

Max looked out the window as Tess snuggled into his side.  It had been a weird couple of days but finally it was over.  He turned to look at Tess.  She just hadn't seemed to be herself since he had found her and he was worried about what had happened to her.  "Tess, are you sure you're okay?"

 

"Yeah," Tess said, smiling up at him.  "I'm fine."

 

"Do you remember anything else about what happened back there?" he asked.

 

Tess shook her head, hoping to put an end to the subject.  "No, but I remember that I saw Lonni try to kill you.  How did you get away?"

 

"It was the strangest thing," Max said with a distant look in his eye and a smile.  "I had a vision of Liz."

 

"Liz?" Tess asked incredulously.

 

"Yeah," he continued, turning to look out the window, as he remembered.  "I could see her and she was obviously yelling but I couldn't hear what she was saying.  But I could tell that she was frantic about something.  I walked toward her and then the scaffold crashed down barely missing me."  He turned to look at Tess, "I don't know how Liz knew I was in danger but she saved my life."

 

"I'm sure it wasn't really Liz," Tess scoffed.  "I mean, how could it be?"

 

Max shook his head, "I don't know.  It was similar to when Isabel dream-walked me but I was awake and I didn't see Liz in my head, she was right in front of me.  But it was real Tess.  I know it was."

 

 

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

 

 

(New York, NY)

(A Sidewalk Café)

 

Lonni slid into an empty chair at Nicholas' table.  Nicholas put down his fork and used a napkin to dab his mouth.  "I hope you are here with good news."

 

"Well Max is still alive, if that's what you mean," Lonni said.

 

Nicholas' eyes narrowed as he sat back, "So why are you here?"

 

"There has been a change of plan," Lonni explained.  "Let's just say that a better opportunity presented itself.  I am playing some of those cards I told you about and I think we will both be pleased with the results."

 

"And you want my help?" Nicholas asked.

 

"No," Lonni said, "I want you to back off.  Max and the others know you are their enemy and if they see you they'll get suspicious."

 

Nicholas nodded, "What's your plan?"

 

Lonni smiled and leaned across the table, "I think I'll play my cards close to the chest this time, but I’ll let you know when I win the pot."

 

 

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

 

 

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

(Saturday, November 25th, 2000)

(The Evans House)

 

Max pushed open the front door and let his backpack fall to the floor.  He looked around the living room that he had taken for granted for so many years and sighed.  It was good to be home.  He had never really considered leaving Earth before but when the possibility had been raised in New York he had been frightened.  Earth was home to him, this house, his family, it was the only home he knew.

 

He wanted to believe that his fear of leaving Earth had played no part in his decision not to take Khivar's deal, but he couldn't lie to himself.  It was true he didn't trust Nicholas or Khivar and he instinctively knew there must be a downside to the deal.  It was also true that he was apprehensive about handing over the Granolith to his enemies, but part of his decision had been based on the fact that he didn't want to leave Earth. 

 

He had also been worried that Lonni had invited herself and Rath instead of Michael and Isabel, but Max was pretty sure he could have made the deal so all of them could return.  But the fact was, when it came down to it, he didn't want to go to Antar because it would mean leaving his home, and Liz.  Even after everything that had happened, Max couldn’t imagine not seeing Liz every day, not being in the same town, on the same planet.  He loved Liz, he always would.

 

Max heard someone moving around in the kitchen and walked in to let his family know he was back and apologize for his behavior, but Isabel was the only one there.  "Hey," Max said.

 

Isabel put down the glass she was holding, "You're back?  What happened at the summit?"

 

"Well," Max explained, "Nicholas was there.”

 

“Nicholas?”

 

Max nodded, “He was representing Khivar at the summit.”

 

“What about the other skins?  Walt?  Ida?”

 

“I don’t know,” Max said with a shrug.  “Nicholas is the only one I saw.  It did seem odd that no one else was with him, no guards, no entourage, and I wondered if Nicholas was the only one who survived Tess’ fireball.”

 

Isabel nodded and Max continued, “Nicholas told us about a deal Khivar was offering to me.  He said the four of us could return to Antar if I got my supporters to stop fighting Khivar and let him rule.  He also wanted the Granolith."

 

"Why?" Isabel asked.  "Did you find out what it is?"

 

Max shook his head, "I don't know.  Lonni told me it's a religious icon our people worship, but I think it has to be a lot more."

 

Isabel nodded, "So when you said the four of us could go to Antar..."

 

"Yeah," Max interrupted her.  "The invitation was issued to Lonni, Rath, Tess and I."

 

"If you took the deal you were just going to leave me and Michael here?" asked Isabel.

 

Max shook his head, "Of course not, but that was one of several reasons I said no."

 

"So in the end, what made you decide not to take the deal?" Isabel asked.

 

"I was going to," Max admitted.  "I was gonna take the chance that, that Nicholas was telling the truth."  Max paused and looked at his sister.  They had both said some terrible things and he wanted to reassure her that things hadn't changed between them, even if it wasn't the whole truth behind his decision.  "But in the end, I realized that, that any deal which meant leaving you and Michael behind was something I couldn't do.  You're my sister, Isabel.  Isabel, Vilondra, whatever your name is, it doesn't matter to me.  You're my sister, and I love you, and that comes first.  Always."

 

Isabel hugged Max and accepted his apology, "Thank you."

 

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

 

 

(Crashdown Cafe)

 

As Ava packed her few belongings, she told Liz what she knew.  "Our protector told us that if we brought a human back it would change them.  And when you told me about your connection with Max, I knew it was true."

 

"That's how you knew I could contact him?" Liz asked.

 

"I really didn't know," Ava admitted, "but with a connection like you told me about, I thought there was a good chance."

 

"So you don't know what kind of powers I will get or even if I will get any."

 

Ava stuffed the last shirt into her bag, "No.  Your guess is as good as mine."

 

Liz followed Ava down the stairs to the door, "Are you sure you have to leave?"

 

Ava smiled.  She'd never had a close friend and she didn't want to leave.  Liz had been so kind to her but she couldn't stay.  "Yeah.  I don't really belong here."

 

"Sure you do," Liz assured her.

 

Ava shook her head, "Thanks, but I gotta go.  I gotta figure out what I wanta do with my life."

 

"Okay."  Liz smiled, "Good-bye.  Good luck, okay?"

 

"Thanks.  You, too," Ava said.

 

Liz reached out and hugged Ava.

 

At first Ava was surprised but after a moment she hugged Liz back.  "So cornball," she teased as they parted.

 

Liz laughed, "Okay."

 

Ava waved to her new friend and then went out the door to head toward the bus station.

 

 

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

 

 

Max climbed the ladder to Liz's balcony apprehensively.  After the way they had parted he didn't know how she would greet him or if she would even talk to him.  And he had to admit, he deserved her anger.  He had acted like a complete jerk when she had tried to warn him about the Granolith. 

 

He had been so hurt by her betrayal that he had lashed out at her and said the most hurtful thing he could think of, and then dismissed her warning about the Granolith until it was almost too late.  He hated himself for saying those things to her but the thing bothering him the most was the fact that she had been right.  Somehow Liz knew more about the Granolith than he and the other aliens did, and he needed to find out how. 

 

Liz had told him that she couldn't say how she knew about the Granolith but Max felt it was somehow connected to her sleeping with Kyle.  That was when she had started acting strangely and when she had started keeping things from him, lying to him.  Liz, Kyle and the Granolith were somehow all connected.  Something had happened and he wanted to get to the truth.  But he also respected and trusted Liz enough to know if she said she couldn't tell him then there must be a good reason.  Liz had betrayed him or appeared to, but Max had started to wonder if she had done it because she felt she had to.  Something wasn't right, Max could feel it but he didn't have the slightest clue as to what it was.

 

Max crossed to the window and saw Liz inside and took a deep breath to gather his courage before he knocked.  He tapped softly on the glass and immediately Liz turned toward him.  For a moment he saw a look of fear and surprise cross her face but it was quickly replaced by a shy smile.  Max released the breath he hadn't realized he had been holding.  Liz was glad to see him and his heart soared.

 

Liz had wondered what would happen between herself and Max the next time she saw him and she had simply hoped that her saving his life would allow them to be friends again.  But seeing him so soon filled her with expectations.  She crossed to the window and raised it, silently inviting Max to enter.

 

"Hi," Max greeted as he climbed in through the window.

 

"It's good to see you back safe," Liz said.

 

"I have you to thank for that," Max nodded.  "I'm just not sure how you did it."

 

"Neither am I," Liz admitted.

 

"Isabel told me what Ava said," he motioned nervously toward her, "about how my healing you changed you somehow."

 

"Yeah," Liz said, as she turned toward the mirror, "I keep looking for some sort of change."

 

Max walked up behind her.  "You mean like..." he raised two fingers up above her head mimicking antennae. 

 

Liz laughed, "Yeah.  Something like that."  She looked over her shoulder in the mirror and a warm feeling of happiness and peace settled on her to see Max enjoying himself again.  It had been so long since she had seen him smile, ever since he had seen her with Kyle.  She let her thoughts trail off and concentrated on him, "It's nice to see you smile again."

 

Max became suddenly serious and waited for Liz to face him, "I want to thank you for saving my life."

 

Liz shrugged, "I guess that makes us even."  She lowered her eyes still feeling guilty.  She didn't want Max to thank her, she felt like it was her fault for his being in danger in the first place.  If she hadn't pretended to sleep with Kyle maybe Max wouldn't have gone to New York in the first place.

 

Max could see something was upsetting Liz but he continued anyway.  "And, I'd like to, start again."

 

Liz felt the hope rise up within her at his words.  Maybe Max wanted to get back together, she thought, he wanted to give their relationship another chance.

 

Max continued, "Our friendship, that is.  I mean, I miss it."

 

Liz nodded sadly, Max's words killing her hopes.  She couldn’t have allowed a romantic relationship to start between them again, but for a moment she had forgotten.  "Yeah," she said quickly, trying to cover her disappointment.  "Um, I miss it, too."

 

Max smiled.  He was sure he saw disappointment in Liz's face when he said he wanted to be friends.  No matter what Liz had done to push him away, she still loved him.  And it gave him the first hope he'd had since he'd seen her with Kyle. 

 

He turned to leave but Liz's reaction made him bold and he had to ask the question that had been uppermost in his mind for weeks.  He had asked her before, but for some reason he just didn't believe Liz's answer.  Max took a deep breath, "There's just one thing I have to say.  One thing I have to ask.   And, I promise I'll never ask it again."

 

"Yeah?" Liz asked apprehensively.  "Go ahead."

 

Max looked Liz in the eyes, eager to catch every emotion.  "Did you, sleep with Kyle?" he asked breathlessly.

 

Liz felt the instant prick of tears in her eyes as Max held her gaze.  She couldn't believe Max was asking her again.  He just wouldn't let it go.  Liz knew Max must still love her to keep after her so relentlessly but the knowledge gave her no joy.  As tempting as it was to tell him the truth and end the hurt, she couldn't do it.  She would have to live with the secret of what had really happened, the rest of her life. 

 

Liz opened her mouth to lie to Max again but the words wouldn't come.  She couldn't bear to say them again and her eyes never leaving his, she forced herself to nod.

 

Before Max had asked the question, he had known what the answer would be but he had allowed himself to briefly hope Liz would say no.  He had promised Liz he wouldn't ask again and he intended to keep his promise.  He just hoped that one day Liz would tell him the whole truth about what had really happened.  "Okay," he said as he nodded sadly and forced out a brief smile.  "I'll see you tomorrow."

 

Max crossed the roof without looking back, he had too much on his mind.  He wanted Liz back but he knew he would have to work slowly.  She had made it clear that she didn't want a romantic relationship, even to the point of sleeping with another man, but that didn't matter to Max.  He knew she had done it because she felt she had to.  But no matter what had happened, he still loved her and he would get her back.  Today he had laid the groundwork to renew his friendship with Liz and eventually he would make her his again.

 

 

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

 

 

(The Evans House)

 

"So Ava said that Liz would develop powers because Max healed her?" Tess asked Isabel incredulously.

 

"Not exactly," Isabel said.  "She just said that Liz was changed."

 

"But Liz is getting powers?" Tess asked.

 

Isabel nodded, "Yeah, she is.  I could feel it when we connected and she was able to contact Max without me, I just got her started.  She has some kind of bond with Max, maybe because he healed her, or maybe just because they love each other."

 

A hundred questions flew through Tess' mind.  What kind of powers would Liz develop?  If she could get into Max's head from across the country, then what could she do to people close to her?  If Liz found out the truth about what had happened on Antar she would surely tell Max, and Tess couldn't let that happen.

 

Isabel broke off when she noticed Tess' scowl.  "What?"

 

Tess shook her head, "I just wonder what kind of powers Liz will get, that's all."

 

 

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

 

 

Tess waited behind the Crashdown in the dark alley, knowing Liz would soon bring out the trash.  The fact that Liz was developing powers complicated things, but it was easily fixed. 

 

As the back door opened and Liz appeared, Tess stepped out from behind the dumpster, "Hi, Liz."

 

Liz jumped at the sound of her voice and Tess smiled.

 

"Oh," Liz gasped, "Tess, you startled me."

 

"Sorry," Tess said, "I was just out for a walk."

 

Liz frowned, "Do you always walk in the alleys?"

 

Tess shrugged, tired of the game.  "Liz," she said to get the other girl's attention, and when Liz looked at her, Tess quickly closed her eyes and started the mind warp.  She implanted the idea in Liz's head to discourage her from wanting to work at developing her powers, and instead work to suppress them.  Tess even gave Liz the knowledge of how to control her burgeoning powers and ways to redirect the excess energy.

 

The whole thing took only a moment and Tess opened her eyes to see a dazed, unfocused Liz before her.  Tess waved her hand in front of Liz's face.  "Liz?" she asked innocently.

 

The motion brought Liz out of her trance and she refocused on Tess, "Oh, I'm sorry.  I must be more tired than I thought.  What were you saying?"

 

Tess shrugged, "It wasn't important.  I'll see you tomorrow."

 

 

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

 

 

(Wednesday, November 29th, 2000)

(The Valenti House)

 

Jim opened the door to Isabel and Michael, "Hi, what's going on?"

 

Isabel shrugged, "We came to see if Tess wants to go shopping with us, Sheriff Va-len-ti."

 

Jim nodded, glad they were finally becoming friends with Tess.  He motioned inside, "You know where her room is."

 

Isabel smiled and she and Michael went past him and down the hall.  Isabel knocked on the door and then pushed it open, without waiting for an answer.

 

Tess looked up from the homework she was doing, "Kyle..." but stopped when she saw who it was.  "Oh, Isabel, Michael.  What are you doing here?"

 

Isabel shut the door behind her and the illusion suddenly faded away, revealing Lonni and Rath.  "We're here to start on the plan."

 

Tess jumped off the bed.  "Are you crazy coming here like this?"

 

"Chill," Rath said.  "We got it under control."

 

"What do you want?" Tess hissed.

 

"We need to have a little talk about what we are going to do," Lonni said.

 

"Well not here," Tess whispered.

 

Rath motioned to the door, "Let's go then."

 

Lonni smiled, "We told Valenti we were taking you shopping."

 

Lonni and Rath morphed back into their disguises and Rath opened the door, motioning to Lonni and Tess, "After you."

 

"Such a gentleman," Tess sneered.

 

They passed the Sheriff in the living room and Tess waved nervously, trying to get out of the house quickly, afraid of what Lonni and Rath might do to Jim if he became suspicious.  "Um, were going out, um shopping."

 

Jim barely looked up from the football game he was watching, "You kids have fun."

 

Rath paused at the door and looked back, "Word."

 

The three climbed into the car and Tess immediately attacked them verbally, "What the hell do you think you're doing coming here?  What if the real Isabel and Michael just happened to show up?"

 

Lonni laughed, "That isn't gonna happen now is it?  They don't really have anything to do with you."

 

Tess sat back against the seat with a huff, "Still it's dangerous."

 

Rath drove the car into the desert just outside of town and stopped behind some rocks. 

 

Tess exited the car and slumped down onto a near-by rock.  "Okay, so what do you want?"

 

Rath picked up a stick and started hitting rocks out into the desert, ignoring her.

 

Lonni climbed onto the hood of the car.  "We want Max and the Granolith."

 

"Why do you want Max?" Tess asked apprehensively.

 

Lonni rolled her eyes, "We need Max to take back to Antar, so he and Khivar can work out a deal and stop the war."

 

Tess shook her head, "Max won't go."

 

"So, you have to give him a reason to want to go," Rath said over his shoulder.

 

"You're his wife," Lonni mocked.  "Use that as a reason to get close to him."

 

"But won't Khivar just kill Max?" Tess asked.

 

"You heard Khivar's offer at the summit," Lonni said.  "It was made in front of the other families.  Khivar just can't kill Max.  People would know."

 

"And what about Michael and Isabel?" Tess asked.  "There is no way he will leave them behind."

 

Lonni shrugged, "They don't really matter, but if Max won't leave without them then get them to come too and we'll sort it out later."

 

"And the Granolith?" Tess asked.  "I'm not just going to hand it over to you."

 

Rath turned to Tess for the first time, "You'll do whatever we say, little girl, or Maxie will find out the truth."

 

Tess shrugged and quickly changed the subject, "What is the Granolith anyway?"

 

"I told you the truth before," Lonni said, repeating Nicholas' lie easily.  "Our protector told us it's like a religious artifact.  It has been in my family for generations.  It also happens to be capable of faster than light travel and it can get us home in just a few days instead of the years it would normally take."

 

Tess gasped, "You mean we can go home?  Today?"

 

"Well," Lonni admitted, "not today.  See, we don't know how to use the Granolith."

 

"But you could just hand it over to Nicholas..." Tess started only to be cut off.

 

"No, we can't trust Nicholas," Lonni said with a shrug.  "Besides, he might not know how to work it either.  And even if he did, what would stop him from taking the Granolith and leaving us here?”  She shook her head, We need some leverage so we can make a deal."

 

Tess frowned, "So what do we do?"

 

"We need to figure out how to work the Granolith and use it to our advantage," Lonni explained.  "You're sure you don't know anything about it?"

 

"There is a metal book written in the Antarian language that our protector, Nasedo gave us.  The book tells about the Granolith, how to use it."

 

"Have you read it?" Lonni asked.

 

"No.  Nasedo told me it was written in the Antarian Royal code and even he didn't know how to read it, but he said it would come back to me..." she trailed off and then finished softly, "when I regained enough of my memories."

 

Lonni smiled cruelly, "Those memories were taken from Rath and me so we can't read it either.  I remember the language and the fact that there was a code but I can't decipher it."

 

Lonni thought a moment.  "I've heard of supercomputers that the government uses to break other countries codes.  So maybe our best option is to get someone who is good with computers to help us break the code."

 

Tess smiled, "I know just the person we need."

 

"Who's that?" Lonni asked.

 

"Alex," Tess said.  "You met him when you were here."

 

"You mean Opie?" Lonni asked with a laugh.  "What can he do?"

 

"He's a computer genius," Tess explained.

 

"Is he really?  How convenient," Lonni said with a smile.  "Now we just need to come up with a plan." 

 

 

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

 

 

(Sunday, December 3rd, 2000)

(West Roswell High School)

(Chemistry Lab)

 

Song Playing: Somewhere Out There by Our Lady Peace

 

Liz watched as Max poured the mixture into the beaker and turned on the bunsen burner.  He was reading the directions aloud as he followed them, and she smiled remembering all of the other times they had worked together. 

 

He turned to her with a smile, "Okay, we just need to bring it to a boil and then measure the precipitates."

 

Liz nodded and released a sigh of relief as he turned back to stir the mixture.  Things were still a little strained between them but Max was really trying to put the past behind them and renew their friendship.  And to see a genuine smile on his face was worth more to her than all of the money in the world. 

 

With her eyes, Liz lovingly traced his profile of his face as he concentrated on his work.  She longed to reach out and touch him, to run her fingers over his cheek and down the side of his face to his soft lips, but she pushed the thoughts to the back of her mind.  She knew they could never be together, it just wasn't possible.  But, she thought to herself, if they could be friends, it might be enough.

 

 

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

 

 

(Saturday, December 9th, 2000)

(Roswell Airport)

 

Maria and Liz hugged Alex one last time before he went through the airport metal detector.  Only ticketed passengers were allowed past that point and they had to say their goodbyes there.

 

"Have a great time, Alex," Liz said.

 

"And don't let all of those gorgeous Swedish women make you forget your friends back here," Maria added with a wink.

 

Alex smiled, "No way."

 

"What about your host family's phone number or address?" Liz asked.

 

"Real mail is so slow to and from Europe that I probably wouldn't get any letters in time to answer them but e-mail is almost instantaneous."  He lifted up his laptop and pointed to it with his free hand, "See, got the computer right here.  And I'm also taking my cell phone so you can call and it'll be just like I never left.

 

He shrugged, "How great could Sweden be anyway?  I'm sure it's just the same as here but with snow and lots of hot tubs and blonde beauties in bikinis as far as the eye can see."  He paused in mock consideration.  "Actually," he said in a teasing tone, "I may never come back."

 

Alex stopped just past the security check and turned to wave one more time.  Then he gathered his belongings and started the long trek to the plane.  "Of course," he murmured to himself, "I would be at the very last gate."

 

"You know," a familiar voice said to him, "talking to yourself is a sign of a demented mind."

 

Alex turned toward the speaker with a smile, "Isabel?  How did you get here?"

 

Isabel smiled and leaned in close with a wave of her hand, "Just a little alien magic." 

 

Her gaze drifted past him and he turned to see Michael coming toward them with a wheelchair.  "Michael?" Alex asked, but as the other guy approached, Alex could see that he was mistaken.  "Rath."  Alex turned quickly back to Isabel but saw Lonni where Isabel had been.  "What is going on?" he asked suspiciously, as he started to back away.

 

Lonni grabbed his arm in a surprisingly strong grip and held him painfully.  Alex struggled against her, "What are you doing?" 

 

"We want you to do us a favor, Opie," Lonni purred in her own voice.

 

"What kind of a favor?" Alex asked apprehensively.

 

Suddenly Tess appeared out of thin air next to Lonni, "We need you to do some computer work."

 

A sharp prick in the back of Alex's neck alerted him to the fact that he’d concentrated his attention in the wrong direction.  He swung around and tried to call out, but Rath's hand over his mouth prevented any sound from escaping and he collapsed into Rath's arms as his strength suddenly left him.  Alex struggled to keep his eyes open as he watched through an increasingly thick haze while Rath placed him into the wheel chair.  They started down the corridor and Alex could hear vague pieces of the others' conversation but it made no sense to him, and after a moment he slid into unconsciousness. 

 

 

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

 

 

(University of Las Cruces - Dorm Room)

 

Tess stopped the mind warp and opened her eyes.  "It's done."  She glanced at Alex who was sitting on a chair in a sort of trance and turned her attention to Lonni.  "I did just what you said.  I made him believe that he was on a top-secret mission to translate the book.  He believes he has to tell his friends and family he is in Sweden for their own safety, so the skins can't find out the truth.  I told him if the book fell into the wrong hands, everyone on Earth would be killed." 

 

She took a deep breath and continued.  "He will stay in the room during the day and work from here.  And when he needs to go the Computer Science building he will do it after two a.m.  I also told him that we enrolled him as Ray White and to interact with as few people as possible.  Oh, and I gave him a craving for Thai food, like you said."

 

"Good," Lonni said.  "That Thai place is the only place around here that delivers to the dorms besides pizza and I certainly don't want to spend my time cooking for him."

 

"Yeah and that pizza place sucks," Rath said.

 

Lonni nodded and motioned to the blonde girl laying on the floor unconscious, "And Leanna?"

 

Tess nodded.  "I have made her believe she wants to go home for the next semester, to take a break from school.  And if she gets the urge to come back to school, I gave her a compulsion to call me first.  So you can take her place, move right into her dorm room and stay close to Alex."

 

Lonni nodded again.  She had chosen Leanna because she was about the same height, build and coloring as Isabel, who Lonni would be impersonating to keep Alex in line.  It would only require a small amount of power to make herself appear to be Leanna when she needed to be the other girl and no one would question her presence on campus.

 

"So," Tess asked, "what is Rath going to do?"

 

"He'll stay here with Alex and do whatever needs doing," Lonni said with a shrug and then elaborated.  "One thing he's going to do is get books on Sweden and make the stupid slides of Alex's trip.  You said everyone would expect him to take dozens of slides so we have to provide slides to make this believable.  And when this is over, you will simply erase all of the memories of translating the book out of his head and give him the memories of actually having been in Sweden, so we have to do some research to make it authentic."

 

Tess nodded.

 

"How long will this mind warp work?" Rath asked Tess.

 

"I don't know exactly," Tess admitted.

 

"Well you'd better make sure it's long enough," Rath growled.  "This had better not get screwed up because you can't control your powers."

 

"Chill," Lonni soothed him, running her hand down his arm.  "Tess is going to come down here once a week and make sure everything is running smoothly.  Aren't you?" Lonni asked, turning her glance to the smaller girl.

 

"Once a week?" Tess asked.  "I don't know if I can get away that often."

 

"You'd better find a way," Lonni's voice rose slightly, "or I don't need to tell you what will happen."

 

Tess nodded, resigned to the deal she had been forced to make.

 

"And I want you to keep in touch," Lonni said with a softer tone and a smile.  "I want to know everything that is happening in that cute little town of yours.  I want to know everything about what Max and the others are doing.  Anything could be important to us, so keep your eyes open."  Lonni handed Tess a slip of paper, "Here is my cell phone number.  You will call me every day at midnight, to report," she ordered, "but if anything important happens don't wait, call immediately."

 

Tess glanced at Alex.  "What about if his friends try to call him in ‘Sweden’?"

 

"No, that's not a problem," Lonni said.  "I had Rath go to the high school and the Whitman's house and change the contact number for the family he was suppose to stay with, to a cell phone I set up."

 

"So they won't be calling Sweden," Tess said, "they will be calling here."  She nodded, "But what about the mail?"

 

"Do you ever stop nagging?  We aren't stupid you know."  Lonni sighed, "We changed the mailing address when we changed the telephone number.  We set it up so all the mail would go to a post office box in Sweden and once a week it will be gathered and sent here.  The mail is so slow between here and there that no one will notice, even if they are stupid enough to send mail.  Why would anyone send real mail anyway?  E-mail is so much faster."

 

"But the mail will have the wrong post marks, when it is sent from here," Tess pointed out.  "Someone might notice that."

 

Lonni looked at her like she had lost her mind and suddenly the solution came to Tess, "Oh!  You can fix it with your powers."

 

Lonni continued before Tess could ask, "We also contacted the real Olsen's in Sweden, pretending we were the student exchange program and told them Alex had gotten ill and was not able to come, but they would be put back on the list and hopefully get another student real soon."

 

Tess nodded.  “So the school still thinks Alex is going to Sweden.”

 

Lonni nodded and motioned to Alex, "Can we question him now?"

 

"Yeah," Tess said.  "Just snap your fingers a couple of times and he'll come out of it."

 

Lonni morphed into Isabel's form and snapped her fingers directly in front of Alex's face, "Alex."

 

He immediately focused on her, "Huh?  What did you say Isabel?"

 

The faux Isabel smiled, "I just asked if you could tell me how long the translation will take?"

 

Alex shook his head.  "I'll have to write a sub-routine to get the computer to work on it at night and early morning when no one else is around.  That will take a few days.  And then I will have to see how quickly the computer works to give you an accurate estimate."

 

Lonni was becoming impatient but she determinedly kept her cool, "So when can you give us an estimate?"

 

Alex shrugged, "In a week or so, I think."

 

Lonni sighed, "What about a guess now?"

 

Alex thought for a moment, "It's a good thing you remembered the base language because without the language and it being in code, the translation could theoretically have taken years to complete."  He shrugged, "But hopefully it will only take a couple of months."

 

"But Alex, you are only here for a little over a month?" Lonni reminded him.  "What if the translation isn't finished by then?"

 

"No problem," Alex assured her.  "I can set the program to work without me and e-mail the results to us."

 

 

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

 

 

(Saturday, December 16th, 2000)

(Liz’ Room)

 

Liz ran her fingers over the letters engraved on the knife.  Max had given it back to her because he said he needed to make a clean break from her, and maybe it was easier that way for both of them.  But Liz had hoped that Max loved her enough to want to keep it as a memento. 

 

She sighed and replaced the knife into its box.  There was no use dwelling on things she couldn't change.  She was just grateful that Max wanted to be friends.  Liz put the box into the drawer of her dresser next to the pictures of Max, and pushed the thoughts of what could have been to the back of her mind. 

 

Liz smiled.  There were more immediate concerns, like what she was going to get her friend Max for Christmas.

 

 

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

 

 

(Episode - Roswell the Miracle - aka. A Roswell Christmas Carol)

(Thursday, December 21st, 2000)

(University of Las Cruces – dorm room)

 

Alex groggily put his hand to his head, attempting to dull the throbbing pain.  He realized that he was sitting in a chair but couldn't remember where he was and slowly opened his eyes.  The bright screen of his laptop was before him but the other surroundings were unfamiliar.  He quickly looked around the room, taking in the table and chair, a small bed and kitchen in the corner.  His first thought was that he was in an apartment of some kind, then he remembered seeing Isabel and Michael at the airport.

 

But it hadn't been Isabel or Michael it had been Lonni and Rath and they had done something to him, drugged him.  Alex rubbed his eyes trying to remember anything else, but it was all just a blank.  His brain was fuzzy but he forced himself to put together the pieces of what he knew.  Lonni and Rath and Tess, or had it been Ava, had taken him from the airport and brought him to this place.  But why? 

 

Vaguely he wondered how long he had been gone and if the others had missed him yet, then he remembered he had been leaving for Sweden.  No one would realize he was gone right away but when he didn't show up in Sweden surely someone would report him missing.

 

He reached out to the touch pad on his computer and moved the pointer to the bottom of the screen to see the date, but recoiled in surprise when it was revealed.  December twenty-first?  The date couldn't possibly be right.  That would mean he had been gone for almost two weeks. 

 

Alex attempted to get out of the chair but his legs gave out and he fell heavily to the floor.

 

"Where'd you think you're going?" asked a male voice, with an unmistakable New York accent. 

 

Alex craned his head to see Rath rising from the sofa.  He hadn't seen him before because Rath had been seated directly behind him.  Alex attempted to scramble away from Rath but the larger boy subdued him easily with a firm grip, and forced him back into the chair.

 

"Where are we?  What am I doing here?" Alex asked.

 

"So you're coming out of it, huh?" Rath asked.

 

"Out of what?" Alex asked, getting angry.  "What's going on?"

 

Rath chuckled, "Chill.  You just volunteered to help me and Lonni on a little project we're doing."

 

Alex shook his head, "I don't remember that."

 

"Oh sure," Rath assured him.  "We needed some help with the computer and since you are so good with them..."

 

Alex cut him off, "But you drugged me at the airport."

 

Suddenly the door opened and Alex launched himself toward the escape route but was stopped as two people came through.  Lonni used her powers to propel Alex back into the room and instantly Rath was on him.  Alex struggled but it was no use and suddenly Tess was before him.   

 

"Tess what is going on?" Alex asked.  "What are you doing with them?"

 

"It's about time you two showed up," Rath said. 

 

Tess ignored Alex and spoke to Lonni and Rath.  "He's breaking out of the mind warp sooner every time," she admitted, "but I'm afraid if I give him a stronger dose, it might damage his mind."

 

"Well, you'll have to come down more often," Lonni said.

 

"How am I going to do that?" Tess asked.  "What if they notice I’m gone a lot?  What if they get suspicious?"

 

Lonni laughed, "I bet no one even notices you are gone."  She moved in close behind Tess and pulled one of her blonde curls through her fingers as she spoke softly into her ear.  "I bet no one notices you at all.  But help us get this book translated and the whole of Antar will fall to their knees before you.  Queen Tess the savior of Antar."  Lonni suddenly released Tess' hair with a shrug, "And if anyone does notice you’re gone just tell them you’re shopping."

 

Alex listened to their conversation but most of it didn't make any sense to him.  Apparently Tess had struck a bargain to help Lonni and Rath, and mind warping him was a part of it.

 

"Tess," he said, to get her attention, "I don't know what you're doing but there's still time to reconsider.  Just go to Max and Isabel and tell them the truth.  They'll understand, they'll help."

 

Tess looked at Alex for the first time and shook her head, "No one will help either of us."   Then she closed her eyes and started the mind warp.

 

 

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

 

 

Tess stopped her car in the Valenti's driveway and released a heavy sigh.  She didn't like helping Lonni and Rath but she didn't have any other choice.  If she didn't do what they said, they would ruin everything between herself and Max.  Besides, she wanted to go home just as badly as they did and it was apparent Max was in no hurry to return. 

 

She felt badly about using Alex, remembering his plea for help but pushed it to the back of her mind.  Alex wasn't important.  He would go home when it was over and wouldn't remember anything that had happened.  The only thing that mattered was getting home and being with Max.

 

Tess got out of the car with the bags of stuff she had quickly purchased to make her story of Christmas shopping more believable and headed for the door. 

 

There were some ways she envied Alex.  He had a home, a family, friends, people who loved him, and she didn't have any of that.  She didn't remember her real family other than Max, Isabel and Michael and they didn't really want to have anything to do with her. 

 

The closest thing to a family she had on Earth, was the Valentis. 

 

She pushed open the door, dropped her bags on the floor and plopped down onto the ottoman, ready with her cover story.  "It is a zoo out there.  God, every store is packed with desperate people trying to find the perfect present.  Oh, and the streets are loaded with overzealous people singing.  And then, there's all these insane people dragging Christmas trees on top of their cars."

 

"Whoo!!  Oh!!" the Sheriff and Kyle cheered. 

 

Tess was confused by their reaction, but suddenly the lack of Christmas decorations struck her, "But clearly you guys don't bother with Christmas trees."

 

"We've got ours out in the garage," Kyle said, "Plastic."

 

"Oh," Tess said, disappointed.  "Oh, well I guess there's no hurry to bring it into the house then."

 

"Well actually," the Sheriff said, "we haven't brought it in for a few years."

 

"We like it in the garage," Kyle agreed.  "I use it to dry my socks."

 

"Good!" the Sheriff exclaimed, "Second down.  Second down, here we go.  Come on.  Come on.  Visualize."

 

"Oh, and about Christmas dinner," Tess started expectantly, "I hope you guys aren't planning some big..."

 

Kyle cut her off, "We usually hit the Crashdown for turkey."

 

"Seven ninety-five, all-you-can-eat," the Sheriff said.

 

Tess smiled to cover her disappointment, "Great.  You know, I don't celebrate Christmas anyway."  She gathered her bags and headed to her room.  Nasedo had taught her not to care about her human side and they had never celebrated Christmas.  But for some reason, the holiday seemed important to her this year.  

 

 

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

 

 

Max had been haunted all day, by the man who had died, and the ghost's accusations were hitting too close to home.  Max needed to talk to someone who could help him try and figure out what to do, and the first and only person he thought of was Liz.

 

He stopped the Jeep outside the Crashdown and walked toward the door but stopped when he saw Liz through the window.  She had her back to him but he knew her instantly.  The delicate curve of her body, the dark sweep of her hair; every detail about her was indelibly etched into his memory.  He would know her anywhere.

 

He had come to her because he knew Liz would help him.  She kept him anchored and gave him strength, and together he knew they would find the solution.  Together nothing could stop them.

 

Max took a step toward the window and Liz instantly turned around, as if she had known he was there. 

 

Liz had been attempting to balance the register for the evening when suddenly she knew Max was behind her.  She turned, a smile of greeting lighting her face but it was almost immediately replaced by a look of concern when she saw the serious expression on Max's face.

 

Liz met him at the door and pushed it open.  Max didn't quite know how to tell her what had been happening and he started shakily, "You know how we said that we were going to try to be friends?"

 

"Yeah," Liz agreed.  This was the first time Max had approached her alone, and away from school.  It made her think back to last year when they were first getting together and he had come by the Crashdown all the time.

 

"I think I need a friend," Max said.

 

"Oh," Liz said, realizing she had misinterpreted his reason for coming.  She studied his face and noticed for the first time how unsettled he seemed.  Something was wrong.  "Oh.  Okay," she said, stepping back to allow him to enter.  "Come on in."

 

 

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

 

 

(Episode - Roswell the Miracle - aka. A Roswell Christmas Carol)

(Friday, December 22nd, 2000)

 

Tess had noticed the chemistry between the Sheriff and Amy DeLuca almost immediately and an idea had been forming in her mind since then.  Just once she decided that she wanted to be a part of a real family and she wanted to do something nice for Kyle and the Sheriff for accepting her into their home.

 

She reread the note she had written with a smile.  It was perfect.  She would just deliver it to Amy on her way to the grocery store tomorrow and everything would be set for the perfect Christmas.

 

 

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

 

 

(Episode - Roswell the Miracle - aka. A Roswell Christmas Carol)

(Sunday, December 24th, 2000)

 

After Michael had taken him to Brody's house to see Brody with his daughter, Max had started to think about what the ghost had said to him.

 

 

 

It's Christmas.  You should be with your loved ones.

 

 

 

And having seen Brody and his daughter together, Max knew he was right.  But as much as he loved Isabel and Michael and his parents, they weren't the ones he wanted to be with tonight.  There was one person who was always there for him, who always supported him.  She was his best friend, his soul mate, and he knew he could always turn to her. 

 

It had been Liz he had thought of when the ghost had mentioned loved ones, and despite his earlier decision not to go to midnight services, Max knew that's where he wanted to be because that was where he would find Liz.  

 

 

 

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

 

 

TBC

 



BOOK 9 - VERISIMILITUDE
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