BOOK 6 - CAUSATIVE RELATIVITY
(THE PROBLEM OF LIZ)

 







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PART 3


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(Friday, August 31st, 2003)

Max had been speechless when he had arrived at Liz's door that morning. She had greeted him wearing a simple white dress with a fitted bodice, held up by thin straps, her hair piled on top of her head and decorated with tiny white flowers. Max had never seen her look so beautiful and he had swelled with pride that the radiant, intelligent woman before him would soon be his wife.

And now, as they walked hand-in-hand toward his apartment, Max still couldn't take his eyes off of her. No, he smiled as he corrected himself, now it was their apartment. Mr. and Mrs. Max Evans.

He paused at the threshold to swing Liz up into his arms and unlocked the door with his powers. He smiled at the surprised look on her face. "Sometimes they do come in handy."

He stepped across the threshold and closed the door behind them, shutting out all of the world's complications, eager to begin their lives together.

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

Michael pounded on the door of Liz's apartment. He really didn't want to see Liz and he was relieved when Isabel opened the door. He motioned inside with a jut of his chin, "Liz here?"

Isabel shook her head.

"Good," Michael said as he pushed past her and threw himself down onto the couch. "We have to talk."

"Come on in and have a seat," Isabel said sharply.

Michael waved her protest aside, "Whatever. We've got important things to talk about." He took the book, that Alyssa had given him from his pocket, and handed it to Isabel. "This is from our world."

He waited impatiently as she flipped through the pages.

Isabel gasped as she saw the pictures depicting the pregnancies. "These pictures of us. What does it mean?"

"I've been studying it all night but I still can't remember the language,” Michael said. “Alyssa told me it's in a code that only the four of us knew. She also told me a little about our past. Max was called Zan; he is the King. Your name was Vilondra and you are his sister, a Princess. I was called Rath and I am his General, his second in command, and Alyssa was Ava, Max's wife. Our people are waiting for us to come home and save them from the guy that stole Max’s throne and killed us all.”

Isabel’s eyes were wide with surprise but she remained silent and Michael continued, motioning to the book. “We have a purpose and it’s bigger than us or anything we have on this world. Max is throwing his life away with Liz and we have to stop him."

Isabel froze at the mention of Liz. Max and Liz were probably already married by now. Isabel had promised Max she wouldn't tell Michael because Max wanted to break the news himself. She walked to the other side of the room, careful to keep her face from Michael, trying to decide what to do. Max genuinely loved Liz but the pictures in the book clearly showed another path already laid out for them.

Isabel felt torn between her love for Max and wanting him to be happy, and her feelings of duty to a planet she didn't remember. Finally she turned back to Michael, "There is nothing we can do about them right now. Max and Liz went out of town for a few days and they didn't tell me where they were going."

Michael looked a little deflated at her news but nodded decidedly. "Come with me, back to the hotel. We’ve wanted answers for a long time. Sam and Cuerena have them and we’re going to get them.

"But what about Max?" Isabel asked.

Michael shrugged, "What about him? It doesn't seem like he's interested."

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

As they drove to the hotel, Isabel called Max’s apartment on her cell phone. She didn't expect him to answer and when the machine picked up, she left a brief message that she hoped Max would understand and Michael wouldn't. "Michael was looking for you. I told him you went out of town. Call me as soon as you get this, it's important."

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

(Saturday, September 1st, 2003)
(Max’s Apartment)

Song Playing: World in My Eyes by Depeche Mode

Max woke slowly with a feeling of total contentment that spread throughout his entire being, and he tightened his grip on his wife, whose smaller frame was curled into the curve of his body. He inhaled the sweet scent of her hair and marveled at how perfectly they fit together; her head just under his chin, her back against his chest, and her legs tangled comfortably in his. He would have been perfectly content to stay with her like this for the rest of his life.

His stomach growled, protesting the lunch and dinner they had skipped. He glanced at the clock; eleven-thirty pm. Neither of them had eaten since breakfast that morning and Max suddenly had the urge to make dinner and serve it to Liz in bed. He kissed the top of her head, gently untangled himself from her, careful not to wake her, and headed into the kitchen where he gathered the ingredients he needed.

He was just heading back into the bedroom with the feast he had prepared when he decided something was missing. He slipped out the front door and picked some of the daisies growing in the yard. As he headed back into the kitchen, he noticed the message light on the answering machine was blinking. He almost kept walking but hesitantly stopped and pressed the button.

The sound of Isabel's voice and her vague message filled him with dread. Since the aliens had come for them, he felt as if he and Liz were living on borrowed time. He had agreed so quickly to her elopement idea because he was afraid if they waited, Liz would be taken from him. He lived in fear, that each day would be their last together and it seemed as if Isabel's strange message somehow heralded the end.

Max considered not calling his sister but he knew she was on his side and perhaps she was trying to warn them. He dialed her cell phone number, even though it was close to midnight.

She answered on the second ring with a whisper, "Max?"

"What's going on Iz?"

"I'm at the hotel with Sam and Cuerena. They showed me and Michael a book from our planet. It shows us together; you and Alyssa, me and Michael, with us, the girls, pregnant. Max, I think what they’ve been telling us is true. We were meant to be together."

Max’s shoulders stiffened. "So you and Michael have decided to be together."

"No," Isabel said sharply. "But," she sighed and her voice dropped with uncertainty, "what if we don't have a choice?"

"Isabel, we always have a choice,” Max said, “and I’ve made mine."

"Sam told us that on our planet you were the King, Max. You have responsibilities, we all do."

"I don't believe him,” Max asserted, “and I'm not going to let some pictures in a book, and the words of strangers dictate how I run my life."

Isabel sighed, "I thought that's what you'd say, especially if it meant being without Liz, so I told them you and Liz went out of town."

"Thanks Iz. I don't want to hide my relationship with Liz, just the opposite I want to tell the world, but I just wanted some time alone with her."

"I know," Isabel said.

Max paused wondering how much to tell his sister. "Iz, I’m also afraid of what might happen to Liz when I tell them we are married."

"What do you mean? You think they will try to hurt Liz?" Isabel gasped.

Max sighed, "I don't know, but I keep remembering what happened to Laurie."

"You think Sam and Cuerena are those jellyfish creatures?" she asked with horror in her voice.

"No, not really," he said with a shake of his head. "But we don't really know who they are, or what their motives are, and we don't know to what lengths they will go, to get what they want. I think we should all get together and have this whole thing out, once and for all. I’ll bring Liz with me, she's a part of this and I will feel better if she's where I can protect her. I just wanted to ask you if you’ll help me protect Liz, if things go badly. I just don't want to take any chances."

"Of course I’ll help you,” Isabel said, “but what do you want me to tell Sam and the others?"

"Give us a little more time. Tell them we’ll be back on Monday and we’ll meet them at the hotel."

"I hate lying to Michael, but I'll do it," Isabel agreed.

"Thanks Iz, you have no idea how much this means to me."

"No." she said simply, "but I wish I did."

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

(Monday, September 3rd, 2003)
(Royal Sonesta Hotel)

Max and Liz exited the elevator and walked toward Sam and Cuerena’s hotel room. Liz could feel the tension radiating from Max through his hand she was holding, but she could tell that he was trying not to let her see. Without a word, she planted her feet and waited for Max to stop.

Max turned to her immediately, "What's wrong?"

"I think that's what I should ask you," Liz said.

"What do you mean?" he asked, his voice sounding unconvincing even to his own ears.

"Max, " Liz said with a smile, "you can't hide your feelings from me. I know you’re upset about something and when you're upset it upsets me."

"I'm sorry Liz. The last thing I wanted to do was worry you. I just...," he sighed, not wanting to tell her about his fears for her safety, but knowing she would wait until he revealed everything. "Liz I'm worried about what they might try do to you when we tell them we’re married."

Liz smiled reasuringly, "I know you won't let anything happen to me."

"No I won't," he promised. "They’ll have to come through me to get to you."

"We’re together Max, we can overcome anything."

"You're right," he said, and raised her hand to his lips with a smile. "Let's go tell them our good news."

They knocked on the door and it was opened instantly. Sam glanced at Liz dismissively and turned his attention to Max. "She doesn't belong here."

Max held Sam's gaze and spoke in a firm tone, "She's with me."

Sam paused for a moment and then moved aside to admit them. They were the last two to arrive and the others looked up as they entered the room.

Both Michael and Alyssa spoke at the same time, "What's she doing here?"

Max stepped forward placing himself just ahead of Liz.

She squeezed his hand, acknowledging the gesture, but she took a step to stand next to him. "Together," she whispered so only he could hear.

Max squeezed her hand and turned his attention to the group before him. "Liz and I have an announcement that may come as a surprise to some of you. On Friday we got married."

The silence of shock seemed to chase all sounds from the room, but Michael was the first to recover. "Are you crazy?"

"Michael…" Max started angrily, only to be cut of by his friend.

"No Max. We have things to do, important things, and you are playing house with Liz?"

"Michael that's enough," Max growled, advancing on his friend, before Liz's grip on his arm stopped him. "Liz is my wife and you will treat her with respect."

"No!" Alyssa yelled as she jumped to her feet.

Isabel rose from her seat and placed herself between Liz and the blonde alien, as Alyssa continued. "I’m your wife and look how you treat me. You flaunt your affair with this...." she motioned in Liz's direction, "this human in my face."

Max gave a grateful look to his sister as he turned to Alyssa. "We are not married in this life, and we never will be."

"You won't accept the truth!" Alyssa screamed.

Sam interceded, "Everybody calm down, nothing will be solved by this chaos."

"There is nothing to solve," Max said softly but with conviction. "Liz and I are married. The end."

Michael wasn't ready to end the conflict. "Max you don't know what you’re doing." He took the metal book from his pocket and offered it to Max. "This book tells us all about our destinies."

Max pushed the book aside and called his bluff. "Okay Michael, what does it say?"

Michael's eyes nervously darted around the room and Sam came to his rescue. "We can't read the book. It is in the Antarian language but it’s in Royal code," he motioned to the four of them, "and only you, the Royal Four know how to read it."

Max turned to Alyssa. "Surely you have read it?"

Alyssa regained her seat with a huff, crossing her arms. "I don't remember everything from our other life."

Liz looked at the three aliens and spoke for the first time. "None of you have read the book and you are trying to tell Max how to run his life based on what you assume it says."

Alyssa glared at her but Sam was the one to speak, "I know what Max would have wanted in his other life, what he planned, and I have a duty to help him carry it out."

Liz stepped forward unafraid. "But he has told you he's changed his mind. He doesn't remember the plan and he isn't interested in continuing with it."

"We believe Max will eventually regain his memory,” Sam said, “and when he does, he will be angry we gave up so easily."

Liz nodded, "So all you really need is Max's assurance that he won't blame you." She turned to Max. "Will you give your word, in front of all of these witnesses, that you won’t blame Sam and Cuerena if you regain your memory."

Max smiled and nodded. "I will swear to whatever god or gods you believe in, that I won’t hold you responsible."

Sam frowned, "It's not that easy. Your people are waiting for your return."

Max shook his head, "Humans are my people now and I'm not going anywhere without Liz. If you force me to choose, I will choose Liz every time."

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

Michael waited until Max, Liz and Isabel had left. "What are we going to do about him?" he asked Sam. "Now he's got Isabel with him too."

"Calm down Michael," Sam soothed. "For now we'll honor his wishes and stay away from him." Michael started to protest but Sam stopped him. "Max trusts you and we don't want to spoil that. We'll continue to work with you and when you regain your memories, Max will be forced to accept his destiny."

Michael nodded, "I'll talk to Isabel. She's afraid but I think she'll come around."

Sam nodded, "In the mean time why don't you and Alyssa go work on your exercises."

Sam watched them leave the room and he closed the door behind them before he turned to Cuerena. "Liz,” he said angrily, “always Liz. I am beginning to hate the name. She is proving to be quite a thorn in my side."

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

Over the next year, Michael repeatedly tried to convince Max of the importance of their mission but Max refused to listen, and a wedge of contention grew between them. Max was tired of Michael's persistent interference in his life and his insistence that their past life on Antar was more important than their present life on Earth. Max also resented Michael's disrespectful attitude and rudeness toward Liz. Max had warned Michael many times that Liz was more important to him than anything else but Michael had continued to treat Liz as if she were merely a temporary inconvenience.

Max had also broken off all contact with the other aliens. Again and again they attempted to become a part of his life, but he would not allow it. Alyssa, who had been so persistent in her pursuit of him, backed off of the seduction and tried to concentrate on gaining Max's trust, but he was wary of her motives. He refused every invitation the aliens issued and every overture of friendship that was offered. He did not trust them and repeatedly told them he wanted nothing to do with them.

Michael moved into the house that was purchased by Sam and Cuerena so he could continue to learn from them. He had kept up his studies with the aliens and started to recover some vague impressions of his life on Antar. He and Sam had thought that when he could tell Max of their past Max wouldn't remain so steadfastly against them, but Michael's recovered memories had only strengthened Max's resolve to disassociate from the other aliens.

Isabel felt as if she was continually put in the middle of the argument between Max and Michael. She loved them both and it hurt her to have to try and support one more than the other, and she made it her mission to repair their friendship. She had also grown curious about their past life and she started to work with Sam and Cuerena too. She told her parents that she had fallen in love with the area when she was visiting Max and just couldn't bare to leave. She took a job in the area and continued to live in the apartment vacated by Liz.

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

(Monday, September 13th 2004)
(Copper Summit, AZ)

"General," the Lieutenant called out, "we are receiving a message from just beyond the edge of the solar system. The troop ship is requesting the information for evading Earth's defenses."

"So send it to them," Nicholas barked.

"Yes sir," the Lieutenant quickly agreed.

"I am surrounded by fools," Nicholas bemoaned. "I hope the new troops are a little more on the ball. Maybe they can teach you something," he ranted, addressing no one in particular. He turned and strode out of the room. "I want to know the minute they arrive," he yelled over his shoulder, "and tell Corporal Raltos to come to my office immediately.

He entered the room and waited impatiently for Raltos. They had been on the planet for over fifty years but he finally felt the end was near. Nicholas was confident Khivar's plan would work, and work quickly, and they would be heading back to Antar in a matter of days.

Raltos entered the room and Nicholas motioned to a chair. He placed a hand on the Corporal's forehead and sent a burst of energy into him. After a few minutes Raltos sagged slightly and then jerked to attention, and Nicholas greeted his lord formally. "Your Majesty, the troops will be on Earth in a matter of minutes."

"Excellent," said Khivar. "We don't know what was salvaged from Zan's transport after the crash so we must assume he has monitoring capabilities. Wait until the troops arrive and then issue an invitation to Zan and his party to attend peace talks."

"And if they don't respond?" Nicholas asked.

"I am sure they will respond if the invitation is worded correctly."

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

Nicholas tuned the trithium amplification generator to the transmission frequency used by the Tageion royalty on Antar and spoke the words Khivar had given to him.

"Zan Tageonant, this is General Calles Nicaron. His Majesty, Khivar Roistar, invites you to attend a peace conference to discuss a cessation of the hostilities that have plagued our planet. Khivar wishes to extend a hand of peace at a time and place of your choosing."

"Of course the discussion will include terms for your return to Antar, ceremonially accompanied by a legion of troops and one of Khivar's greatest warships that is currently in orbit around this planet."

Nicholas paused for effect and couldn't help a small chuckle before continuing, "We eagerly await your reply."

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

Sam and Cuerena simply looked at one another after the message they had received through the orb finished playing, neither believing what they had just heard.

Sam was the first to speak. "It seems the war must be going badly for the usurper."

"So much so he was willing to send a warship to retrieve the Royal Four," Cuerena added.

"Yes," Sam agreed. "I very much doubt Zan and the others would make it off the planet. More than likely the skins plan to kill them at the so-called peace talks."

"Perhaps, but Khivar will want the Granolith," Cuerena pointed out.

Sam nodded, "This is precisely the type of situation why the spare set of clones were manufactured and sent to Earth. We will convince them to go the conference. The enemy will think they are the Royal Four, but they know nothing of the Granolith so they cannot divulge anything. The skins will do with them as they wish and Max and the others will remain safe here to continue with the plan. We will tell Alyssa and she can talk to Michael and Isabel but we need to see Max and explain the situation."

Cuerena balked momentarily, her feelings for her former charges still strong, as she considered what would happen to them in the hands of the enemy. But she had no choice. As Sam had said, it was why the decoys were created. She nodded decidely. "We should leave for New York as soon as we talk to Max."

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

(Max and Liz’s apartment)

Max opened the door to two familiar faces with annoyance. "Sam, Cuerena, " he said softly, "I thought I told you not to come here."

Sam stepped forward. "We have an urgent message, your Majesty,"

Max looked around nervously, making sure they were not overheard, "A message from whom?"

"Our enemy on Earth has contacted us." Sam motioned inside, "May we come in to discuss it?"

Max warily stepped aside allowing them to enter his apartment, and got right to the point. "What do they want?"

"They have invited you to a peace conference," Sam said.

Max shook his head vigorously, "I’m not going to any peace conference."

Sam nodded, "For once we are in agreement. We believe it is a trap and we will not risk you. We have decoys who will attend in your place."

"Who are these decoys?" Max asked suspiciously.

Sam shrugged off the question, "They will be able to handle the situation."

Max sighed wearily. "Then why are you here?"

"We wanted to keep you apprised of the situation and warn you there is a possibility that Cuerena and I may not return."

Max looked at them with disbelief. "You think you may be murdered? At a peace conference?"

"You don't know our enemies,” Sam said. “They are deceitful and treacherous and will do anything to secure the place of the usurper, Khivar. There is a warship in orbit above Earth to guarantee your cooperation."

Max was still suspicious, "How did you receive this message? I thought the ship was completely destroyed in the '47 crash."

"It was, but one communication orb was salvaged." Sam took the orb from his pocket and handed it to Max. "If we don't return, you will need this to contact your allies on Antar, to send a transport for you when you are ready to return."

Max took the silver, oblong object and turned it over in his hands, studying it. "How does it work?"

"Simply concentrate your powers into it and it will transmit your words. But use it carefully,” Sam warned, “you never know who else you may be contacting."

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

(New York, NY)

Cuerena led Sam into the old tunnel the decoy clones had used as their home since they had emerged from the pods. She called out as they approached the dwelling to alert her former charges of their presence. "Zan, Lonni, it's Cuerena."

She noticed a shift in the appearance of the tunnel before them and knew Ava had been projecting a mind-warp. "Ava," she called out as the blonde girl ran down the dark tunnel and threw herself into her arms. Cuerena enfolded her in an embrace. "It's good to see you."

Ava squealed with delight, "I didn't think we'd ever see ya again."

Cuerena's smile dimmed, "I wish it were under better circumstances."

"Whatta ya mean?" Ava asked.

"Are the others here?" Cuerena asked, motioning into the tunnel ahead.

Ava nodded, "Yeah, we're all here."

"Let's go and see them and I will tell you all what has happened."

They only took a few more steps before Zan emerged from the darkness, his crooked smile and jut of his chin welcoming and warm. "Cuerena," he said, as he pulled her to him in a tight hug, “welcome home."

"Zan, it's good to be back,” Cuerena greeted, “but we have a big problem."

Zan kept his arm around her and started into the tunnel. "Come and chill in the crib wit' your friend," he motioned to Sam with a nod, "and give us the four-one-one."

They continued down the tunnel as it became lighter and finally opened into a large room where Lonni and Rath were lounging on one of the sofas.

"So ya did come back, shape shifter," Lonni drawled, the boredom evident in her tone. "I'm shocked."

"Shut up Lonni," Zan ordered, "Somethin's up."

Rath motioned to Sam, "Who's this?"

"This is Sodan. He was on the ship with us too."

Zan nodded a greeting.

Sam ignored the pleasantries, "Our enemies have sent an invitation for a meeting."

"What kind of meeting?" Ava asked.

Cuerena continued, "The war is going badly and they want to discuss terms for a peace treaty."

Lonni looked interested for the first time. "And we can go home?"

Cuerena nodded, "That would be part of the deal."

Lonni stood up. "Then what are we waitin' for?"

Zan shook his head, "It's a trap."

Lonni rolled her eyes. "It's not a trap, they need us."

"It could be a trap," Sam agreed, "but we can set the time and place of the meeting and make it as safe as possible."

Zan scratched his ear, deep in thought and walked away from the group.

"Zan!" Rath called.

With his back still toward them, Zan held up his hand, signaling for quiet. Rath turned to Lonni and their eyes met, and Rath backed down.

Lonni rose from the sofa and crossed the room to where Zan was standing. "What's the problem, little brother?"

"What if it's a trap?" Zan asked. “We need to have a plan.”

"Chill," Lonni said, trying to soothe his fears. "They need us. You'll see. Everything will go our way."

"Zan," Cuerena called out, as she approached him, "Khivar has sent a warship along with the invitation."

Zan turned toward her, his expression grim. "Implyin' that it'll be used to hunt us down if we don't accept the invitation."

"That is what we believe as well," Cuerena agreed.

Zan straightened to his full height and squared his shoulders. "Then we have no choice but to attend." He turned to face the others, "But if we can choose the place, we’ll choose the hood, a place we know."


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


TBC




BOOK 6 - CAUSITIVE RELATIVITY
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