BOOK 8 RESTRUCTURING REALITY
(THE HISTORY OF THE FUTURE - MAX)
(Sunday, January 12th, 2003)
Max hadn't been able to stop the ideas flying through his head as he and Liz had flown back to Roswell. He had thought he was free to live his life as he choose and now there was another person who would want to tell him to follow his destiny. Unfortunately he didn't have the choice of dismissing this new shape shifter from their lives as he wished. He knew the others would welcome her into their group and eventually they would expect him to return to their planet.
At least Tess was gone, he thought. He was married to Liz and no one could take her away from him.
He looked at Liz, dozing next to him. He had been so afraid something like this would happen when Liz had told him she was having dreams. He had dismissed the dreams as nothing special, hoping they would just go away but he knew they hadn't. Liz had stopped telling him when she had the dreams, but he knew she was still having them. As he slept, he could feel the dreams spilling over their connection and sometimes he saw and felt what she did.
He knew that Liz didn't completely understand his reasons for wanting the cut all of the alien things out of their life, but she respected his wishes and didn't actively use her powers. That was why her dreams had scared him so much, because they were out of Liz's control. They were coming to her without her seeking them and Max was terrified about what that meant for the future.
Cuerena looked at the group gathered in Michael and Maria's apartment. There were three of the Royal Four and five humans; Liz, who had come with Max and was obviously his mate, Alex, who had come with Isabel, Maria, who was living with Michael, and the local Sheriff and his son. The introductions were made but no one mentioned Tess, and Cuerena decided to wait until she could get Max alone before she inquired.
Cuerena bowed formally when she was introduced to Isabel but sank to her knees before Max, "Your Majesty, what is your command?"
Max shifted uncomfortably, "Um, Cuerena, we aren't used to such, um, formality. Why don't you just call us by our first names?"
"But Your Majesty, it wouldn't be proper."
Max grimaced, "The titles would be awkward in public and it would just be easier to call us the same thing all of the time. So from now on I am Max and this is Isabel and Michael."
"As you wish, Your Maj...," Cuerena stopped and started again, "As you wish, Max."
"Okay," Max said with a smile, "Now why don't you tell us how you came to be here."
She quickly related her story, telling them of the decision to send her to New York with the duplicates and briefly outlining her life there. Then she told them about returning to the pod chamber and waiting for the other shape shifters. "So because I knew what you would look like, it was easy to find you in the school year books and then I obtained your addresses from the school records."
“And you used our addresses to find Michael,” Maria said.
Cuerena nodded. "Michael told me you knew Nasedo but what of the two other shape shifters, Kaldar and Letras?"
“The other shape shifters may have been killed by the military,” Max said. “I think at least one of them was.”
Isabel stepped forward, "I wonder why Nasedo never told us about you?"
Cuerena shook her head, "I don't know. Maybe he thought it was better that you didn't know." She turned her attention to Max, "The General, um, Michael refused to tell me anything until you got here, and I must admit I'm very curious to know what happened to you."
Max nodded. He had instructed Michael, on the phone, to make sure Cuerena was a shape shifter before he would believe her story and she had passed the test. She was what she claimed to be and she was there to help them. And Max knew she would eventually expect them to return to their planet. He pushed aside his worries for the moment and concentrated on telling their story.
Max related how they had been found and raised by humans, how they discovered that they were different, and being reunited with Michael. He continued with the circumstances around healing Liz and telling her what he was, and finishing with the investigation of Valenti and the FBI.
At first, Cuerena had been surprised the humans were involved, but as Max related the story of their past, she started to understand. They had grown up among humans and it was all they knew.
Liz picked up the story where Max left off, and had just finished explaining how Alex had become involved when Cuerena broke in. "So all of that time you didn't know anything about yourselves."
The three of them all shook their heads and Max answered, "We followed up on the few clues we had, but they kept leading nowhere."
Cuerena shook her head, amazed they had survived so long on their own. "So when did Nasedo come into your lives?"
"It wasn't too long after Liz told Alex," Isabel answered. She continued the story, relating their involvement with Topolsky and the FBI, finally getting to the time when Tess and her father had come to town.
"And the three of you didn't remember anything about the fourth pod?"
"No," said Max. "And when we found out that Tess was an alien, we thought she was Nasedo."
"We discovered the truth, but then Nasedo took Liz," Michael said. He explained about Pierce and the white room, Max's escape, and the message from the orbs. "So until we got the message, we didn't know anything about who we were."
Max continued with the disbandment of the special unit and Nasedo's return. "Nasedo came to my window, terribly wounded and warned us that our enemies were in town. Then he died in my arms."
"How was Nasedo wounded?" Cuerena asked.
"A skin killed him," Max said simply.
"A skin?" Cuerena asked, clearly confused.
"Our enemies who followed us to Earth. Apparently the Earth's atmosphere is toxic to our kind and they have to wear husks to protect themselves. They call them skins."
"Khivar's troops who shot down our transport?" Cuerena asked.
Max shrugged, "I don't know. Nasedo was never big on the details."
Cuerena nodded, "He was a warrior not a tutor."
Max continued, "Anyway, you can meet one of the skins later. She is with a group who are working to overthrow Khivar."
"And you trust her?" Cuerena asked.
Max shrugged, "As much as I can trust an admitted enemy soldier who wants to put Michael on the throne."
Michael smiled at the verbal barb and continued the story with their discovery of Whitaker and Courtney. Then he told her of Whitaker's death, the harvest and the Ganderium fiasco.
Cuerena took it all in, disgusted with herself that she had not thought of the consequences of the crash. If she had envisioned what could have happened she would have killed the Ganderium at the crash site and not allowed them to breed and strengthen. "You saved the Earth and no one will ever know," she said softly.
"We are the ones who endangered it in the first place," Max replied.
Michael was impatient, "So what do we do now?"
Cuerena shrugged, "The other shape shifters and I never discussed how we would return, after the transport was destroyed in the crash. Everything just happened too fast." She motioned to Max, "I always assumed Zan would call home or his allies and get another ship."
Max laughed, "We don't know how to call home and I don't remember any allies."
"You have the two communication orbs in the pod chamber and I can teach you memory recovery techniques," Cuerena offered.
"So everything is up to Max," Michael intoned blandly. Over the last couple of years he and Maria had grown much closer despite Courtney's interference, or maybe because of it. Maria had suggested that the two of them move in together and now they were together all the time. They worked, went to school and lived together and he couldn't imagine life without her. He had occasionally wondered what he would do if he had the opportunity to return to their planet, but as time passed, it seemed more and more like an impossibility. But now that Cuerena was there, a whole new realm of possibilities was opened to them and suddenly he was scared. Scared that he might have to leave Maria, scared of the unknown represented by their planet and their people, scared of what he might have to do.
Then he remembered what Max had told him on the day he and Liz were accepted to Harvard. Max had been scared too but he had decided to put it behind him and make a life on Earth. If they had a choice of going back to their planet or staying on Earth, Michael knew what Max's decision would be, and for the first time he was genuinely glad Max would choose Earth.
Max decided to avoid the subject of their mission for the time being, "It's getting pretty late. Why don't we continue this in the morning?"
There were nods of agreement all around. The Sheriff and Kyle left for home and the others went to sort out sleeping arrangements and fix some food.
Cuerena waited until she was alone with Max to ask the question that had been worrying her. "What happened to Tess?"
Max had expected the question and answered simply, "She left town a few months ago."
"And you don't know where she is?"
Cuerena pressed for more information, "Did she leave because of you and Liz?"
"No," Max denied instantly. "Liz had nothing to do with it. Tess left because I told her to."
Cuerena could tell it was a sore subject for him and decided not to press any further. "It is curious," she said. "My Zan in New York, never loved his Ava either."
Max nodded, taking in the information and feeling justified in pushing Tess away. Max had wondered occasionally if he would have accepted Tess, had they been together their whole lives, but now that he knew Zan had also rejected her, he could release his guilt about not loving her. Something had changed since their last life and neither of them loved her in this life.
Cuerena noted his thoughtful expression and quickly changed subjects. "Has Liz started to develop any powers?"
Max was surprised by her question and its accuracy. "She has, but how did you know?"
"It is one of the side-effects of the healing. Whether you realized it or not, in order to bring Liz back from such a terrible injury, you had to alter the basic chemistry of the surrounding cells. Liz's body has gradually changed to become like yours. It has been more than three years since the healing, she is completely a hybrid now."
"No," Max cried, "not Liz. What have I done to her?"
"You saved her life."
Liz ran back into the room, feeling Max's distressed state through their connection. She looked at Cuerena suspiciously, "What's wrong Max?"
Max couldn't bear to look at Liz, "Cuerena told me that when I healed you, I changed you."
Liz smiled, "I know that Max."
Max shook his head, "No, you don't understand. You're a hybrid now too."
Liz crossed to Max and cupped his face in her hands, "Max, I have suspected it for a while, especially after I started getting powers. And I haven't been sick for almost two years."
"But you never said anything," he protested.
"I didn't want to upset you," Liz explained. "I knew how guilty you would feel for changing me, but Max it makes me so happy to be what you are. It just binds us more closely together."
Max wrapped his arms around Liz, kissed her tenderly and spoke across their bond. Liz, everything you do just makes me love you more.
Max, my love for you grows every moment of every day.
Liz broke the kiss first and looked into Max's eyes, "But there is one thing you're forgetting."
"What's that?" Max asked.
"Who's going to tell Kyle?"
Max was awakened by the sound of the front door opening and he turned in his makeshift bed on the living room floor, just in time to see Isabel slip out into the night. He rose, careful not to wake Liz, pulled on some pants, a shirt and some shoes, and went after his sister.
He caught up with her a few minutes later, sitting on a swing in the apartment complex's playground. "What wrong Iz?"
Isabel was not surprised Max had followed her and she answered without turning, "I like my life, Max. I'm happy. Alex and I are close, school is good and I don't want to change it. I don't want to go back to our planet."
Before Max could answer another voice interrupted.
“I thought I might find you two out here," Michael said. "What’s going on?"
Isabel turned to look at her brothers. "I was telling Max that I don't want to go back."
Michael sat on the swing next to Isabel. "That's funny, because I came out here to tell Max the same thing. Ever since we came out of the pods, I've been on some quest to figure out where I belong. I finally found home. The weird thing is, it's here, it's on Earth."
"You of all people," Max said with a smile. He looked to each of them, "I'm sure you both know I intend to stay on Earth with Liz."
"So what are we going to tell Cuerena?" Isabel asked apprehensively. "She expects us to go back."
Max shrugged, "We'll tell her the truth."
Max waited until everyone had eaten breakfast the next morning to confront Cuerena, and since he was the leader, he had taken the job of telling her. "Michael, Isabel and I have decided we’re going to stay on Earth."
Cuerena nodded, "Of course. You're not yet ready to return. I will help you regain your memories and hone your skills..."
Max cut her off, "No, you don't understand. We're not going to pursue our mission or return to our planet."
Cuerena's brow wrinkled in confusion, "I don't understand. What about your people, your planet?"
Max took a deep breath and tried to explain, "We don't remember any of that and we don't feel any loyalty or responsibility toward them." He took Liz's hand in his own, "All we know is our life on Earth and we don't want to leave it."
"But Your Majesty," Cuerena said, using his formal title in her shock, "your people are expecting you to return."
"Return to what?" Max asked. "A world that is controlled by our enemies? A world that has been at war for more than fifty years? How could the three of us possibly make a difference?"
"I don't know," Cuerena admitted. "I assumed you must have had a plan."
"Whatever the plan was, it got screwed up a long time ago," Max said. "And the three of us have decided that we will not live our lives based on a plan, other people constructed in another life. We choose to live our lives here on this planet."
Cuerena nodded, unsure of what to do.
"Tomorrow Liz and I will return to school and everyone else can go back to their lives."
Suddenly her duty became clear and Cuerena got to her feet, "Then I will accompany you to Boston."
Max shook his head, "You don't have to do that."
"I must protect you," Cuerena said, "It is my duty, my purpose in life."
Liz watched the interaction with growing unease. She had suspected what would happen but now that it was being played out before her, an unsettling feeling was building within. Suddenly the amorphous feelings solidified and she was frightened that Max would send Cuerena away, and for some reason she knew it must not happen. Liz placed her hand on Max's arm and started to rise, "Max, I have to talk to you."
Max looked at her with confusion clearly written on his face, but followed her to her feet. "Excuse us for a minute," he said to the others as Liz practically dragged him out the door. She closed it firmly behind them and took a deep breath to gather her thoughts before she spoke. "Max you can't just send Cuerena away."
"Why not?" he asked, surprised.
"Don't you see? She has devoted her whole life to serving you. She left her home and family to come on this mission with you, to be your protector, risking her life every day to save you. All of the other shape shifters have died or vanished, so she has nowhere else to go. She said it's her purpose in life to protect you. What else would she do with her life? Get a job at Wal-Mart?" Liz shook her head, "No Max, you are responsible for her, we both are. She's a person, we can't just throw her out like a toy we're tired of playing with."
"You're right," Max nodded. "So we take her to Boston with us? What is she going to do there?"
Liz shrugged, "I don't know but at least she can feel useful while we figure something out."
(Tuesday, January 14th, 2003)
Liz looked at the shape shifter, who was sitting next to them on the plane. Before they had left Roswell, they had agreed that Cuerena keep her youthful appearance so she would blend into the campus atmosphere but they had not figured out exactly how she would fit into their lives. Liz turned toward her, "So what kind of job did you have in New York?"
Cuerena shook her head, "I had no job other than to protect and train my charges."
"How did you get money?" Liz asked.
"When we needed money I created it."
"Oh, of course," Liz nodded, not sure what to say.
"You and Max have jobs?" Cuerena asked.
"Yeah, we both work part-time to make extra money to supplement our scholarships, and maybe next year we can afford a better apartment."
"There is no need for you to work," Cuerena said. "I could easily..."
Max cut her off, "No."
"But Max," Cuerena continued, not understanding his conviction, "if you didn't have to work it would give you more time for other things, like studying and spending time with Liz."
Liz could feel Max's growing unease and tried to explain, "Max wants to do things the human way."
Cuerena accepted the information with a nod of her head, "Am I to live with you?"
"I don't know," Liz started consideringly. "You will have to stay somewhere until we figure this all out."
"Absolutely not!" Max said.
Cuerena spoke up, "It is not necessary for me to live in your apartment. My species is adaptable to most conditions. In New York we lived in the sewer tunnels..."
"Wait," Liz cut her off. "You lived in the sewers?"
"Yes, it was very convenient. We were rarely bothered and there was no rent or other bills."
Liz turned to Max and with a single look, convinced him to reconsider.
"Okay," Max relented, "she can stay with us for now." He had to admit Liz was right. It did seem that Cuerena had lived a miserable life on Earth and it was up to them to make it better. "We don't have a room for you but we can get a sofa-bed or something. I don't know what you'll do with yourself, maybe you could enroll in classes but we don't have to decide right now. We'll tell our neighbors you are an old friend or a cousin but we'll have to do something about your name. It's too unusual. We should change it to something more common, Sarah or Sandy or something." He turned to the shape shifter, "Haven't you ever used a more human name?"
Cuerena nodded, "I have used many names..."
"I know Max," Liz interrupted with a smile, "we'll call her Serena."
In the next few months, Serena attended classes with Max and Liz so she could stay close and protect them.
Max continued to keep her at arms length, sometimes bringing up the subject of her getting her own place, but he never took any action to force her out.
Liz was less suspicious and welcomed her into their lives and they became good friends. Serena was much more advanced in all kinds of science and she and Liz would talk for hours. Serena was careful not to mention her life on Antar, fearful it would bring up memories of Zan and Ava and there was no reason to tell Liz about that. With Liz's help, Serena also learned about Max and his reasons for wanting to leave his other life behind. Liz helped her to understand him better and she accepted his decision to stay on Earth.
Max often worked late and he was glad Serena was not only a companion but a protector too. He didn't worry about Liz when she was with the shape shifter and that was the main reason he let her stay.
At Max's suggestion, Serena took a job where Liz worked, and with the three of them working through the summer, they would be able to afford a bigger apartment in the fall.
(Saturday, May 15th, 2004)
(Boca Raton, FL)
Tess finished the last of her drink and replaced the empty glass onto the table beside her. "Kathy," she called to the maid. "Kathy, I need another ice tea."
"Right away ma'am," the woman said, as she took the glass and hurried away.
Tess stretched out on her lounge chair and glanced at the shimmering water of her pool. This is the life, she thought to herself.
It had been so easy using the money Nasedo had gathered over the years, to create the appearance of great wealth and buy this house on the beach. It was certainly different from some of the places she had lived with Nasedo over the years. Even though he had squirreled away large sums of money, Nasedo forced them to live within the income of the individual he was impersonating.
Kathy returned with the iced tea, "Is there anything else ma'am?"
"Not right now," Tess dismissed her with a wave of her hand. She tossed her long, blonde curls over her shoulder and looked down at her tan, bikini-clad body. If Max could only see her now.
(Monday, October 25th, 2004)
(Copper Summit, AZ)
"General, 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 the communication room immediately.
Nicholas entered the communication room and waited impatiently for Raltos. He had waited over fifty years for this moment and finally it was here. He felt confidant Khivar's plan would work and work quickly. 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 the 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 that 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."
(The Pod Chamber)
The two orbs emitted a bright shaft of light upon receiving the signal, but there was no one in the chamber to see it.
(The home of the Dupes)
(New York, NY)
The sudden light that burst from the orb surprised Lonni and she practically fell off the couch. She had never seen the orb do anything, and after all of these years suddenly it had come to life. Serena had told them she would contact them through the orb if it became necessary and had taught them how to use it, and Lonni assumed it must be her.
Lonni took the orb in her hands and pushed a stream of power into it. The message started immediately.
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.
We eagerly await your reply.
Lonni smiled. Khivar had finally found her. She could return home and reclaim her life at his side.
She pushed another stream of power into the orb as she spoke, "This is Vilondra Tageonant. I don't know what Khivar wants but I will help in any way I can. I just want to go home."
The answering voice came through the orb immediately. "Vilondra, how lovely to hear from you."
"What do I have to do to go home?" she asked aggressively, getting right to the point.
Nicholas' laugh came through the orb, "The same Vilondra I see."
"I don't remember everything from my other life but I do remember Khivar and I remember what it was like to be Vilondra. I want that life, and I'll do what I have to, to get back."
"Well Vilondra, why don't we meet and maybe we can make a deal that will be mutually beneficial."
(Saturday, October 30th, 2004)
(New York, NY)
(A Sidewalk Café)
Nicholas sat across the table from Lonni. "Well," he started casually, "why don't you tell me about your life here. You live in New York..." he trailed off waiting for her to continue.
"Yeah," she said, rolling her eyes, "we live in New York. Look, can't we get to the point. I didn't come here to reminisce."
Nicholas held up his hand, "Indulge me, please."
Lonni sighed, "Fine. Zan, Ava, Rath and I have lived in New York our whole lives. Until about two years ago a shape shifter lived with us as our protector."
"And where is this shape shifter now?" Nicholas asked casually.
Lonni shrugged, "Don't know. Said she had stuff to do and we were old enough to look after ourselves."
Nicholas absorbed the information without comment, "Did the shape shifter tell you about your past?"
Lonni shook her head, "She never would really say much. She told us we would remember in time but I am the only one who remembers very much."
"And do you remember me?" Nicholas asked.
"A little. I remember that you are Khivar's most trusted General." She dropped her head and looked through her eyelashes seductively, "And I remember that you used to look at me."
Nicholas smiled. It was just as the scientists had told them. Lonni didn't remember what had happened just before her death. "You were very beautiful," Nicholas said with a shrug, and then quickly changed the subject. "Can you contact your shape shifter?"
"No, she said it wouldn't be safe, so she didn’t tell us how to get a hold of her. What is it with all the questions about the shape shifter?"
"We need to find her,” Nicholas purred. “She would be part of any deal for you to go home."
(Monday, November 1st, 2004)
(Copper Summit, AZ)
(Onboard the Leptus)
"You have found Vilondra?" Khivar asked, through Corporal Raltos' borrowed mouth.
Nicholas shook his head, "No, it was the duplicate. She calls herself Lonni."
"How can you be so sure?" Khivar demanded.
"They were guarded by only one protector who left them almost two years ago, with no way to contact her."
"To go and help protect the real Royal Four," Khivar finished, disappointedly. "And you have not received any other response because the shape shifters have warned the real Royal Four about using the communicators."
"I also asked Lonni about the Granolith but she had never heard of it.” Nicholas shrugged, “She is useless."
Khivar sighed, "It would be expedient to eliminate all clones of the Tageonant line. Perhaps she could be useful in luring the other duplicates into a trap."
(Thursday, November 4th, 2004)
Lonni woke up to a throbbing pain in her head and tried to raise her hand but discovered she was shackled to a chair. She cracked her eyes and quickly looked around the unfamiliar room but she had no idea where she was. She pulled at her bonds but they held her tightly. For a moment, she thought that maybe Rath was playing a joke on her but then she remembered going to meet Nicholas.
She had gone to the address he had given her and he had been waiting inside, but he hadn't been the only one. She had been quickly surrounded, and then everything had gone black. For the first time in her life, Lonni was scared and she struggled against the bonds, attempting to use her powers to loosen the handcuffs, but nothing happened.
The door opened and Nicholas stepped inside. "Oh good, you're awake."
"What kind of game are you playing Nicholas?" Lonni asked, trying to keep her voice calm.
"There's no game, Lonni," Nicholas said, as he approached. "You have information and I want it."
Lonni smiled, "Well, there is no need for the fancy bracelets. I will tell you whatever you want to know."
Nicholas placed his hand on her head, "Yes you will, but this method is much faster."
Lonni strode into the abandoned sewer tunnel she called home and stopped at the sight of Rath lounging on the sofa.
He looked up from the hockey game he was watching, "Where've you been?"
"Out," she said, glancing around the room. "Where’s Zan and Ava?"
"Don't know, lover." Rath shrugged as he rose from the sofa and stalked purposefully toward her, "So why don't you come over here for a little somethin'-somethin'."
Lonni closed the distance between them quickly and as Rath reached for her, she raised her hand between them and shot a burst of power into his chest. Rath's eyes widened in shock and he sank to his knees as Lonni shifted into a boy before him.
"Goodbye, lover," Nicholas said, as he watched Rath take his last breath and fall to the ground. He called out to the troops waiting in the tunnel, "Come on in."
Greer stopped next to Nicholas and motioned to Rath's body, "Do you want us to clean that up?"
Nicholas shook his head, "No, leave him." He motioned to the wall near the entrance, "We will wait there and when Zan and Ava come in and see him lying there, they will rush past us to help him and they'll be dead before they know what hit them."
(Friday, November 5th, 2004)
Nicholas and Ida stopped outside the door to the SETI Institute. Neither of them had been there since Courtney had been assigned to the Institute but the new technology that had arrived on the transport from Antar was worth the trip. Khivar had sent a new type of receiver that was capable of tracing signals being received. There were unsure if it would function in the Earth's atmosphere but Nicholas was hopeful Courtney could find a way to make it compatible with the SETI array. If it worked, all Nicholas had to do was send a message on the royal frequency and they would be able to detect where the Royal Four were when they received it.
Nicholas looked up at Ida, "Okay, turn on your best small town idiot routine."
At the reception desk, Ida gave the attendant her best bumpkin smile and switched on her thickest drawl. "Howdy ma'am. I was wondering if you could help us," she started. "Me and my son, Nicholas here, are visiting from out of town. Now my sister's daughter works in the computer department and it's her birthday," she said, motioning to the brightly wrapped package Nicholas was holding, "and I thought it would be fun if we could surprise her."
The attendant smiled, "Tell me her name and I will call her to the desk and you can surprise her."
"Isn't that nice?" Ida asked Nicholas. "The kind lady will help us with our surprise."
Nicholas gave the attendant his most practiced innocent look, "Thank you ma'am. My cousin is Courtney Banks."
The attendant checked her phone list and then a frown crossed her features and she re-checked it. "I don't see a Courtney Banks. Let me call the head of the department, he will know where she is."
She reached for the phone and dialed and after a brief conversation, replaced the receiver. "I'm sorry but it seems that your niece has not worked here for about four years."
Ida put a hand to her mouth, "Oh dear, surely I couldn't have gotten that muddled. Thank you for your help, ma'am," she said, as she took Nicholas by the hand and headed for the door.
Once they were outside, Ida dropped Nicholas' hand, "What do we do now, Sir?"
"We find out what Courtney has been up to these last few years." Nicholas said as he reached into his pocket, withdrew his amplifier and entered Courtney's code. When she answered, he spoke into the device, "Courtney, how have you been?"
"Fine, Sir," she answered.
"How is SETI?" he asked.
"Good, glad to hear it," he said looking at Ida, with a raised eyebrow. "I have a new technology that might help us in our search for the Royal Four. I thought I would come out there for a visit and bring it to you, but right now I have so much to do and I might not be able to make it for a week or two."
"Oh, um, no, no Sir, don't come here," Courtney stuttered. "I mean, you have so much to do and I could use a vacation. It would be nice to see Copper Summit again."
Nicholas nodded, knowing he had given her no choice but to return. "Well, we will expect you tomorrow then? At the UFL?"
"Yeah. I'll be there tomorrow afternoon."
Nicholas deactivated the amplifier and looked at Ida, "Let's get back to Copper Summit. We want to welcome our prodigal home in style."
(Saturday, November 6th, 2004)
(Copper Summit, AZ)
Courtney entered the main hall of the Universal Friendship League and was immediately grabbed from behind.
Nicholas stepped out from behind a curtain on the dais, "Secure her hands. We don't want any more heroic suicides."
Greer and Walt shackled her tightly between two metal poles as Nicholas approached. "So Courtney," he sneered, "what have you been up to these last few years? Obviously you haven't been in California at SETI. Would you like to just tell me or should we do it the hard way?"
Courtney pulled at her shackles frantically, but they wouldn't give. She knew Nicholas would take all of her memories and kill her and there was nothing she could do. She motioned for him to come closer and when he stopped a few inches away, she smiled, "I think I see a chest hair, Nicholas. Way to go."
Nicholas smiled, "Fine. We'll do this the hard way." He placed his hand on her head and started to sort through the information of her memories. He ripped through her mind causing as much pain as he could, but when he saw where she had been, he stopped in surprise. He had suspected her of being a traitor but to find out that she had been in collaboration with the Royal Four for the past four years was an exciting bonus.
"You always were the social butterfly, Courtney. Always the first to make new friends." He laughed as he turned to the others in the room, "She has been in contact with the Royal Four." He motioned to Ida, "Get a recording device. I want to make sure to get every detail."
When Ida returned, Nicholas replaced his hand on Courtney's head, "So let's see what's going on with the Royal Four." He carefully sifted through her memories of the last few years, gleaning every piece of information she had, and spoke aloud for the recording device as the pictures flashed through his mind.
"Three of the Royal Four have been in Roswell the whole time," Nicholas said with a laugh. "Practically right under our noses."
"Zan and Vilondra are called Max and Isabel Evans. They were adopted by humans, who still don't know what they are. Max has married a human named Liz and they are attending Harvard." He looked at Walt with a shrug, "Harvard, that's impressive."
Nicholas returned to his task, "Isabel is attending the University of Las Cruces. Rath is called Michael Guerin and works as a fry-cook in a restaurant owned by Liz's parents." He raised an eyebrow and the others laughed.
Nicholas continued reciting the details of their lives in Roswell, recounting how each of the humans became involved and how Courtney was revealed to them.
Courtney struggled to block Nicholas, but it was no use. She just didn't have enough power to stop him.
Finally, when Nicholas was convinced that he had gathered every piece of information, he released her and turned to Walt. "Unfortunately she doesn't know where the Granolith is and their Ava, now called Tess Harding, left town in a jealous fit because Max married the human. But we have found the missing shape shifter and she is the last one."
Greer motioned to Courtney, "Do you want me to alert the troops?"
Nicholas shook his head, "No. It's just a couple of weeks until Thanksgiving and according to Courtney's memories, the whole gang will be coming home for the holiday. We'll wait until they are all together and then lead the Royal Three and the humans into a trap.
"No," Courtney screamed. "You can't! Please!"
Nicholas smiled, "It seems that Courtney has a bit of a crush on the former General." He turned back to her, "Sorry Courtney," he mocked, using her own words, "I guess you wasted fifty years for nothing after all." He nodded once at Walt over her head.
Walt picked up a convenient crowbar and slammed it into Courtney's back, smashing the seal on her husk and she disappeared in a cloud of dust.
Nicholas pulled his amplifier out of his pocket and used it to signal the warship orbiting in the shadow the moon. "Major Tratis, this is General Nicaron."
He was answered immediately, "Yes General?"
"We have located three of the Royal Four. I am laying a trap for them and I want your troops ready in two weeks time."
"Of course, General," Tratis spoke into the amplifier. He deactivated it and turned to Lieutenant Zaptfa at his side, "Have you tried on your skin?"
The Lieutenant shook his head, "No, not yet."
"They are horribly uncomfortable," Tratis said.
"Yes,” the Lieutenant agreed, “I heard some of the men complaining."
"Nicaron told me that it took them a while to get used to the skins when they first arrived on Earth but these new skins we have are much more advanced. We have a couple of weeks until we are needed. I don't think it is necessary to make the troops get into the skins yet, they can't be that difficult to use."
Michael picked up the ringing phone, "Hello?"
"Michael, this is Courtney," she whispered.
Michael sighed, "What do you want? And why are you whispering?"
"I can't talk any louder. I was called back to Copper Summit and something is going on."
"What's going on?" Michael asked.
"I don't know yet, but I will get back to you as soon as I find out."
"Hey, Courtney," Michael said, suddenly concerned.
"Be careful, okay?"
"Yeah, I will." Nicholas put the phone down and turned to his senior staff, "Okay, let's put this plan together, so we can get off this stinking planet."
(Wednesday, November 24th, 2004)
Liz looked out the window of the plane taking herself, Max and Serena back to Roswell for Thanksgiving. Usually she loved this time of year, getting caught up in the spirit and warmth of the season, but this year was different.
She'd had a bad feeling ever since Michael had told them about Courtney's phone call and the feeling intensified with every day that passed. Something was terribly wrong.
(Friday, November 26th, 2004)
Michael hung up the phone and turned to Max and Liz, sitting at the counter. "That was Courtney again. She's coming back tomorrow and she has something big she needs to tell us."
Max nodded, "Okay, I'll tell Isabel. Where and when does she want to meet?"
Michael scratched at his eyebrow, "She said it was really important and the humans should be there too."
A shiver of fear ran through Liz, "Did she say what it was?"
"No," Michael said softly and then frowned trying to shake off the sound of worry in Liz's voice. "I'm sure she was totally over-reacting."
"Yeah," Liz agreed, with a weak smile.
(Copper Summit, AZ)
Nicholas stood before his troops and outlined the plan on a diagram, pointing to the various locations as he spoke. "Tomorrow at ten o'clock, three of the Royal Four, five humans and a shape shifter will arrive. We have more than enough troops to take them alive and that is exactly what I want. We will wait until they have all entered the building before surrounding it. We don't want to risk being seen too early or they may escape."
He pointed to a group of the soldiers in the front, "I want you to take their rear, blocking their escape from the front door." He pointed to two other groups, "You will take up positions at the side entrance and you will take the back of the building."
Nicholas motioned to his senior staff standing next near him, "Walt and Greer will select some of you for surveillance of their houses in case of an escape. You will be fully briefed by them. And our new arrival, Major Tratis, will be selecting others to man the roadblock." Nicholas turned back to the main group of the troops, "The rest of you will be concealed in the foliage around the buildings to prevent any escapes."
Nicholas looked out at the sea of new faces, the newly arrived, untried troops. He had almost refrained from using the new troops, but Major Tratis had assured him they were some of Khivar's best men. "Some of you have never been in my command before and only know me by reputation. Let me assure you that every word of my reputation has been earned. I do not tolerate failure. So I will reiterate my main goal again so there are no misunderstandings. I want all of them taken alive. Any powers used will be of the non-lethal variety and just in case you don't realize how serious I am, any deviation from my orders will be punished by death."
He paused to let his word sink in, "Are there any questions?"
BOOK 8 - RESTRUCTURING REALITY|
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