(Friday, October 20)
Zan barely slept.
He’d been up practically the entire night thinking about the unexpected events at the Crashdown Café, and trying to figure out what he should do.
After he and Ava had left the café they’d checked into a motel, and he’d lain awake, excited but cautious. He’d never been in love before.
Of course he’d thought about love. Everyone wanted to find someone they could be happy with, and he’d been told from the time he was a child that Ava was his love, his destiny.
He’d known almost from the beginning that it wasn’t true, and he had waited for the woman he could truly love.
Last night he’d found her.
He didn’t know anything about her, not even her name, but he knew it was meant to be. Some cosmic force had brought him to Roswell, and to that café where she worked so he could meet her.
He longed to discover everything about her, but he had be careful and not scare her. It was probable that she knew the other clone who looked like him, Max, and it would difficult to explain their identical appearance.
So when Zan had gotten up, he’d gone back to the café to simply observe from outside. But he was disappointed that his dark-haired girl wasn’t working.
He’d known it was unlikely since she’d closed the night before, but he hoped he might see her. He also thought she might be in school. She had appeared to be about his age, and most seventeen year olds were in school.
Zan had dropped out when he was fourteen, preferring to study and learn on his own, and he’d gotten his GED when he was fifteen. He was curious about everything and until recently he’d felt it was his duty to learn as much as possible to make himself a better leader when he eventually returned to Antar.
But now he knew he wasn’t the king.
The informer had told him that fact, along with his other revelations, and Zan knew it was as true as all the other information he’d been given.
Suddenly, a door on the side of the Crashdown opened, and his dark-haired girl emerged into the bright, morning sunlight.
Zan was surprised. He’d thought he might see her working, but he instantly took in her clothes and large book bag and knew she was heading to school.
He couldn’t figure out what she was doing at the Café, and then he had sudden thought. Did she live in the building?
She walked quickly down to the corner and turned, and Zan kept her in sight, following behind her on the other side street. He wondered if she walked to school but she went directly to a bus stop.
Zan jogged back to where he’d left the Mustang and pulled around the block, parking in the shade of an alley so he could see the bus when it came. He knew it was stupid. His dark-haired girl was going to school, and he couldn’t follow her inside, but he just needed to keep her in sight as long as possible, and he needed to see where she spent her days.
As she stood waiting, he was able to take his time looking at her. She was small, and not just short. She was a tiny person. Her long hair was loose today and cascaded down around her shoulders. Even from the distance he could tell her skin was like porcelain, and he wished he could see the color of her eyes.
She was beautiful, but that’s not why he was drawn to her. There was something unusual about her, something he’d never seen or sensed in anyone else. He wanted to get closer to her, to talk to her, and maybe he’d be able to figure it out.
And of course he wanted more than that. He wanted her eyes to look into his, he wanted to touch her, to kiss her, to hold her against him as she moaned his name. Being in love was so new to him, and the instant connection he’d felt with her was so unexpected, and he was impatient for their relationship to begin.
Without warning she looked up, starring in his direction, and it was as if her eyes met his.
Logically he knew she couldn’t really see him, but again she’d been drawn to him.
She glanced over his car, obviously not recognizing it and then her eyes started to move to the few people on the street looking for someone she knew.
At that moment the bus arrived and he watched her take one last look around before she dropped her gaze and climbed onboard with the other passengers.
. (New York, NY)
Lonnie and Rath collapsed on their bed, breathing heavily.
“Shit that was good,” Rath panted. “You are a wildcat, baby.”
Lonnie smiled. “Hope you don’t mind the scratches.”
Rath chuckled. “They’ll heal.”
“It’s nice to have the whole place to ourselves,” Lonnie said, stroking his chest. “And not have to wonder if Zan or the retard is going to walk in on us.”
“Zan,” Rath growled. “I am so freaking sick of him.”
“We’ll get rid of him soon, permanently,” Lonnie soothed. “We just have to keep him happy for a little while longer.”
“You don’t really trust Nicholas to uphold his end of the bargain, do you?” Rath said, raising up on one elbow.
“Of course not,” Lonnie assured him. “That’s why we have to get some extra leverage to make sure he does.”
“What kind of leverage?” Rath asked.
“I don’t know exactly,” Lonnie said. “But there must be something Khivar wants, something we don’t know about.”
Rath’s brow creased. “How do you figure that?”
Lonnie met his eyes. “There has to be a reason they didn’t just kill us all again. And we’re going to find out what it is.”
Zan had followed the bus to West Roswell High School where his dark-haired girl got off, and he watched her walk into the school. It would be hours before he’d be able to see her again, assuming she was working that night.
He was about to head back to his motel when he saw something that made him stop. Pulling into the parking lot was an old Jeep, and inside was himself and his sister. Well, the other clones of himself and his sister. Max and Isabel. The true king and princess.
It was almost surreal seeing them, seeing himself as he could have been.
He watched them together, Max laughing at something Isabel said, and Zan envied them the closeness.
When they disappeared inside, he drove back to the motel, stopping to get breakfast on the way.
Ava was up and waiting for him when he arrived. “Where you been?” she said.
“I saw Max and Isabel at the high school,” he told her, handing he a coffee.
“You talk to them?” asked Ava.
“No,” Zan said, “not yet. We should go back to the Crashdown tonight and try to catch them.”
“Okay,” Ava agreed. “So what are we going to do until then?”
“Well,” Zan started, “we need to find a place to stay. We should get one that’s pretty big, and doesn’t have too many neighbors so we can practice our powers without attracting attention. We have to whip this Roswell bunch into shape, and we need a place to do it.”
Ava recoiled, looking shocked and horrified. “You want to get a house? Like real people?”
Zan chuckled. “I had something else in mind.”
The bell rang and Liz gathered her things, heading to the courtyard. It was lunchtime, and even though it was a bit cold, she knew all her friends would be eating outside.
When she reached the door, she stopped, already seeing them through the glass.
Michael and Maria were arguing as usual, Isabel and Alex were talking about something in one of his books, and Tess and Kyle were laughing about something she’d said.
It was perfect, Liz thought to herself. None of them had noticed her inner tumult, her pain. They were just going on with their lives as if nothing had happened, because in their minds, nothing had. And that was just as it should be.
She envied them their uncomplicated lives, but she was glad that she’d been able to save them the pain and the worry.
But Max, she thought with a sigh, he was in pain, and no one had noticed that either. No one was helping him through this tough time, not even Tess.
Liz wished there was something she could do, but she’d already said too much to him. Anything more and she risked messing up everything she and Future Max had worked to do. But she ached for Max’s pain, suffering along with him as he tried to pick up the pieces of his shattered heart.
And as if her thoughts had summoned him, he was suddenly at her side, speaking. “Not going out to lunch,” he said softly.
“Um, yeah,” she said, giving him a weak smile. “I was just thinking.”
“Not happy thoughts,” Max said perceptively.
She looked down shaking her head and he continued. “Liz, you’ve been so miserable and I know something happened,” he said tentatively, touching her arm, “and you started to talk about it yesterday.”
Her head snapped up and he could see the fear in her eyes as she shook her head.
“Nothing happened, Max,” she said too quickly. “I wasn’t trying to say anything.”
A grim smile crossed his lips. “Okay,” he agreed, reluctantly. She wasn’t ready to talk yet, but he wasn’t going to give up.
He changed the subject. “It’s tuna casserole day,” he said with a grin. “I know it’s your favorite.”
The panic on Liz’s face instantly turned to disgust, as she made a face. “Yuck, you know I hate that stuff.”
“That’s right,” he teased. “Then we’d better hurry before it’s all they have left.”
“Okay,” she said with a nod, and they headed together to the lunch line.
Max didn’t ask her again about what was wrong, but instead talked to her about things they had learned in class and their homework. She kept up her end of the conversation but all the time she couldn’t help thinking that one person had recognized she was different, and he was the one person she’d tried the hardest to keep it from.
She sighed. It was just one more reason she and Max were perfect together, and just one more reason it was so unfair that they had to be apart.
Zan and Ava had looked at property most of the afternoon, and finally they’d found a place that was exactly what he wanted.
It was an old distribution warehouse of some kind. The main floor was just a big open room with a large garage-type door that rose to the ceiling, and minimal windows. A perfect space to practice powers. Upstairs there were smaller rooms that had been offices, a break room with kitchen facilities, and even a bathroom with showers.
Zan paid the deposit and rent in cash, and then he and Ava spent the rest of the afternoon and evening using their powers, and a trip to a couple of stores, to make it more livable. They each choose an office and used their powers to clean it and change the old desks and filing cabinets into beds and other furniture. They divided the single huge bathroom into two, and cleaned it and the kitchen, and by the time it was dark they were both pretty satisfied.
“It’s too bad we couldn’t bring any of our stuff,” Ava said, motioning to the sofa they had made out of a few folding chairs.
Zan grinned. “It’s not like Lonnie wouldn’t have wondered what we were doing if we started packing furniture.”
“I know,” Ava sighed. “I just miss my own bed.”
He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, giving her a hug. “I know this is hard, but it’s better than being dead, right?”
Ava laughed. “Yeah, it’s not so bad.”
“Okay,” Zan said with a jerk of his head. “Let’s go find the Roswell clones so they don’t wind up dead either.”
Together they got into the car and headed to a drive-thru to get some dinner. Then Zan drove to the main street where the Crashdown was located and he parked across from the café, so they’d have perfect view inside.
Quickly they scanned the interior, sorting through the many customers for familiar faces.
“They ain’t there,” Ava sighed after a moment. “What are we going to do?”
But Zan wasn’t concerned. He’d seen his dark-haired beauty, smoothly moving between the people with a tray of plates filled with food. “It’s early yet,” he assured Ava, never taking his eyes off his love. “They’ll show.”
He didn’t care if they had to wait all night for the clones when he could have the pleasure of sitting and watching her.
She moved from table to table, taking orders, wiping off countertops, delivering drinks. Briefly she went into the back room carrying a tub of dishes, and when she emerged she went to the window to talk to the cook.
Zan could see her motioning around while she obviously spoke loudly, berating the cook, and a grin crossed his face. She was feisty.
But his smile faded as the cook approached the window, and Zan recognized him. “Wait,” he said to Ava, pointing. “Look at the cook, it’s Rath’s clone, ummm, Michael.”
“No shit!” Ava exclaimed. “An alien working at a joke of an alien diner. How screw is that?”
Zan nodded. “Maybe that’s why they all hang out here.”
They watched until closing time, but none of the other clones showed up. Zan was wondering if they should wait and try to catch them tomorrow, or just confront Michael.
The diner was empty except for the three staff members who were cleaning up, Michael, a blonde girl, who was obviously Michael’s girlfriend, and Zan’s dark-haired girl. When they had finished in the dining room, they went into the back.
Zan didn’t want to wait, he’d had enough waiting and he started to open his door when Michael and his girlfriend came back into the dining room in their street clothes.
Great, Zan thought with a roll of his eyes, they were going on a date.
He saw the blonde girl turn and yell behind her, and watched the door from the back open again as his dark-haired girl hurried out. She was dressed in street clothes too, and the three of them were obviously going somewhere.
Apparently Ava was thinking the same thing. “Where they going?” she said, sounding annoyed.
Zan thought they would get into a car, and he was debating if he should follow them, but they walked across the street and down to another garishly neon lit building. The UFO Center.
Michael put his hand on the door, pausing, and Zan knew he was using his powers to get inside. He was shocked. The girls must know about his powers.
Zan felt his heart jump. His dark-haired girl knew about aliens and accepted them, hung out with them. It would make it much easier to approach her.
As Michael opened the door more people emerged from the dark parking lot on the side of the building, and Zan recognized Isabel and Ava’s clone Tess. Michael held the door for them, and they all went inside.
“Freaky,” Ava said softly beside him, and he knew she was talking about seeing her other self.
“What the hell?” Zan said. “They having a party?”
“Everybody but you,” Ava said. “The other you. Think he’s inside already?”
Zan shrugged. “Maybe.” He motioned to the door. “Let’s go take a look.”
Ava pulled her thin leather jacket closer around her as she exited the car. “Who knew it would be so freezing in the freaking desert.”
Zan laughed and put his arm around her, pulling her into his side as they hurried up the street. He reached to open the door and noted it was unlocked. Was someone else expected?
They walked into the UFO Center and found themselves on the top level of a staircase. Voices came from below and they looked down, seeing that Isabel, Tess, Michael and the two other girls had joined Max.
“I wonder how much those humans know,” Ava said softly.
Zan nodded. “I wonder why they decided to tell them in the first place.”
Max’s voice rose up to them. “So I think that the signals Brody tracked could be connected to the dying star somehow, and... “
Michael interrupted him. “You called us all together here for this emergency meeting to talk about a star that croaked?”
Max shook his head, and Zan could see he was trying to make him understand. “I think it could mean something. It's been haunting me.”
Michael’s girlfriend stepped forward, obviously not hearing the urgency in Max’s tone. “I cancelled my performance, Max.”
Max sighed. “I think we should be ready for the next challenge.”
“He’s right,” Zan said softly to Ava, “even if the others don’t want to believe.
Ava nodded. “They’ll find out soon enough,” she agreed. “Do you want to go tell them now?”
Zan was about to answer when the door opened behind them, and someone else came in. They both turned to see the newcomer.
A tall, thin human guy walked in, barely glancing at them. ”Hey, sorry, guys. Sorry I'm late.”
He looked at them more closely, taking in their hair and clothes with a chuckle. “I don't remember it saying anything about costumes on the invitation. But it's too early for Halloween, and way too early for Mardi Gras, so what's going on? Are we like going on the Ricki Lake show or something?“
Zan raised an eyebrow, and the human guy looked past him to the people talking below. Suddenly he was nervous and Zan knew he must have realized that he and Ava weren’t who he expected.
The human slowly stepped away from them, toward the stairs, motioning wildly. “Scratch that question,” he said. “Uh, who needs a holiday to dress up, right? Anyway...” he trailed off as he ran down the stairs.
Ava smiled. “Guess our cover has just been blown.”
Zan nodded. “Let me do the talking. We don’t want to freak them out by telling them everything at once.”
The tall human ran to the others at the bottom of the stairs, and Max spoke, not realizing his distress. “Alex, you’re late.”
Alex pointed toward the stairs, unable to speak a coherent sentence. “Uh, um, uh.”
Zan started down the stairs, calling out. “Yo.”
Ava followed him, and they joined the group of stunned clones and humans.
“Now this is freaky,” the blonde girl said.
Max stepped forward protectively, his eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Who are you?”
Zan looked around the group, noting the surprise and fear on the faces. His gaze lingered on his dark-haired girl, and he felt a rush of satisfaction that she didn’t take her eyes off of him.
Brown, he thought with a rush of pleasure, she had deep brown eyes, almost black.
He looked back at Max as he spoke, answering his question. “We’re clones, just like you.”
Isabel spoke up. “I don’t understand.”
“They’re shape-shifters,” Michael suggested.
Zan shook his head, opening his mouth to speak but his dark-haired girl spoke first.
“Eight,” she said confidently. “There were eight pods originally.”
Everyone looked at her and then back at Ava and Zan.
He smiled at her, nodding. “That’s right. But we didn’t think you’d know about us.”
Michael seemed surprised and he spoke haltingly. “Yeah, I, um, we just found out recently. But I didn't know you'd look like us.”
Max took over. “All we know is that there were eight originally. We never knew what happened to the other four.”
“They went to New York,” Ava said, speaking for the first time.
Max was shocked. “New York?”
“The Big Apple,” Zan said with a smile. “Center of the universe. Amazing pizza.”
“Um,” said his dark-haired girl, “but there's only two of you.”
Zan nodded. “There’s four of us, but the other two, Lonnie and Rath, have joined up with our enemies. That’s why we’re here. To warn you.”
Isabel gasped. “Your sister betrayed you?”
“Yeah,” Zan said sadly. “She means to kill me, and you too eventually,” he said motioning to Max.
He could see that they were accepting the information. “By the way,” he said casually, “I’m Zan, and,” he motioned to Ava, “this is Ava.”
Max made the introductions of his group, motioning to each one as he spoke the names. “I’m Max, this is Isabel, Michael, Tess, and our friends, Alex, Maria, and Liz.”
Once again Zan had an excuse for his gaze to linger on the girl he loved and he held her eyes as he gave her a smile and a dip of his head. Her name was Liz, and being this close to her he felt even more drawn to her. It was as if there was an energy between them, a connection. And he now knew besides being beautiful, she was smart and brave, and she took in all of the crazy alien stuff as if it happened every day.
And maybe it did, he said to himself. She might have known about aliens for years.
“So Zan,” Max said, “why is Lonnie trying to kill you?”
“She probably would have tried eventually anyway,” Zan admitted. “Lonnie is very ambitious. But this time she’s made a deal with Khivar.”
“What kind of deal?” Michael asked.
“Khivar has set up a summit,” Zan explained. “But it’s just a trap to lure us out. Lonnie is supposed to get me to the summit, and then kill me when it’s over.”
“Why didn’t they contact us about the summit?” Max asked. “They know where we are.”
That information surprised Zan, but he just shrugged. “They used the orbs to send the invitation,” Zan said. “And they didn’t know we had one. They didn’t mean to invite us, but we responded and you didn’t.”
“So Khivar knows there are two sets of us?” Isabel asked.
“Yeah,” Zan said. “I don’t know how, but he does. I didn’t even know until a couple of weeks ago.”
“What’s the plan then?” Michael asked Zan.
Zan nodded, glad they believed him so easily. “We fight,” he said simply. “We set a trap for them, and we fight.”
Never Underestimate Destiny|
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