BOOK 8 RESTRUCTURING REALITY
(THE HISTORY OF THE FUTURE - MAX)

 

 

 

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

 

 

PART 7

 

 

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

 

 

(Tuesday, December 21st, 2004)

(El Paso, TX)

 

Liz idly picked at her dinner as her thoughts consumed her.  For three weeks she'd had the same dream but for the last two days, there had been nothing.  If Kyle had been alive and trying to contact her, he had been unable to for the last two days and she didn't want to consider what that might mean.

 

Her gaze automatically fell on the Sheriff.  She and Max had agreed not to tell him of her last dream where Kyle had been revealed to her.  She knew Max didn't think the dreams were real and she didn't want to cause any false hope in Jim.  If Kyle had somehow survived, he had been suffering horribly and there was nothing any of them could do.

 

 

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

 

 

(Copper Summit, AZ)

 

Kyle awoke to a dull pain in his head and raised his hand but stopped as he noticed the cast encasing it.  His brow wrinkled in confusion.  Obviously Nicholas had come to his senses before he had killed him, but Kyle couldn't understand why he had gotten him medical attention.  But he did understand that he still had the same problem, he couldn't let Nicholas get the information out of his head.  The next time Nicholas came to him, he would simply have to taunt him until he forced the alien to kill him. 

 

Kyle slumped back onto the cot.  He had thought he would never wake up again when he slipped into unconsciousness and it really hadn't been as frightening as he had expected.  There had been a welcoming darkness where there was no pain and...  Liz!

 

Suddenly he sat up.  He had seen Liz.  He knew it was her, it felt so real.

 

Maybe it was a new power manifesting, he thought to himself.  Maybe somehow he had tapped into something that connected him with Liz, and maybe he could contact her again.  He felt a surge of hope for the first time since his capture.  He might just get out of this alive after all.

 

Kyle sat on the cot in lotus position and concentrated on focusing his energy.  He really didn't know how Max and Liz communicated with one another, but he drew from within himself his memory of Liz.  He fixated on her personality, her essence, the thing about her that was uniquely Liz, until he could see her clearly in his mind.  Then he called out to her, wrapping her name in the energy he had gathered and pushing it into his vision of her. 

 

Liz.

 

He sat quietly receptive but after a few minutes with no reply, he felt his hope dim briefly.  Then he strengthened his resolve and built his energy to try again.  Just because it didn't work once didn't mean it wouldn't work.  He had faith in Liz and he knew if anyone could hear him it would be her. 

 

 

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

 

 

(El Paso, TX)

 

There had been a strange sensation just on the edge of Liz's perception all evening but she just couldn't figure out what it was.  It was like the nagging feeling she got when she was forgetting something, but it was subtly different.  As she had gotten ready for bed, the feeling had intensified and she had tossed in bed, unable to sleep for more than an hour, trying to discover what was happening.

 

Finally she drifted into a troubled sleep and once again found herself in the corridors, but this time there was no fog. 

 

Liz.

 

A voice called her name within her head and she knew instantly it was Kyle.  She turned and hurried to the room where she had seen Kyle before and found him sitting on a cot, his eyes closed, obviously in deep meditation.  She stopped close to the bars of his cell and reached out to touch them, but her hand went through them.  She walked through the bars and reached out to Kyle but she couldn't touch him either.

 

"Kyle," she said aloud.

 

Kyle's eyes snapped open at the sound of her voice, and he had a brief glimpse of Liz before his concentration broke.  He reached out to her as her image dissolved before him, "Liz!"

 

Liz woke up immediately.  The sensation she'd been experiencing had been just different enough that she hadn't realized what it was, but now she knew it had been Kyle trying to contact her.  He had tried to speak to her like Max did, but she hadn't recognized him.  She could feel the similarities to her connection with Max but there were differences too and those were what had confused her. 

 

In her mind, she reached for the new thread of connection.  It was not as strong as the connection she shared with Max and there was a different flavor to it, as if it were a piece of Kyle, but it was basically the same.  Liz brought the link sharply into focus and pushed her thoughts into it.  Kyle, can you hear me?

 

She felt a rush of emotions along the connection but uppermost was anguish.  Liz?

 

Liz felt tears prick at her eyes, Kyle, we thought you were dead.

 

The skins saved me.  But Liz, listen, you've got to get me out of here.  They are trying to get the location of the Granolith from me and I don't know how much longer I can hold out.

 

Do you know where they are keeping you? she asked.

 

I'm in Copper Summit, but I don't know where exactly.

 

I'll tell the others and we'll come up with a plan.  We'll get you back, Kyle, I promise.

 

Liz felt his relief through the connection, I never doubted you, Liz.

 

Liz ended the connection and turned to shake Max awake.  "Max, get up."

 

Max rubbed at his eyes sleepily, "What's wrong?"

 

"Max, Kyle is alive and we have to help him."

 

 

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

 

 

Everyone sat around the table, listening intently as Liz finished her story.

 

There were tears in the Sheriff's eyes but a smile on his face, "My boy is alive."

 

Liz nodded, "But we have to figure out a way to get him back, fast."

 

"It's not going to be easy," Michael said, "to just walk into the skins' stronghold and take back a prisoner, especially when we don't know where he is."

 

Serena spoke up, "I think Liz can help with that."

 

"What do you mean?" Max asked warily.

 

"From what Liz was describing, it sounds like she is developing a new power.  Kyle could see her, and she could see what was happening, but she couldn't interact with anything.  Typically it is called astral projection.  Basically she can send her mind to a different place than her body.  If she could do it again, she could simply walk out of the building and see where Kyle is being held."

 

Liz agreed quickly, "I'll do it."

 

Max accepted her decision with a brief nod, "We still need a plan to get Kyle out.  A layout of the town would be helpful too."

 

"Um," Isabel started, "Michael and I can help with that."

 

"What are you talking about?" Max asked.

 

"Well it's like this Max," Michael started, "Isabel and I went to check out Copper Summit back during the harvest."

 

"You what?" Max asked incredulously.

 

"We were careful," Michael assured him.  "We hid in the hills outside of town."

 

Max swallowed his disapproval and focused on the present, "Can you and Isabel draw a map of the city?"

 

Michael looked to Isabel and then nodded.

 

"Okay," Max said.  "Since the skins are looking for us, maybe we can turn that to our advantage.  Somehow we could make the skins think that we are somewhere so Nicholas will send the troops after us."

 

Michael picked up on the idea immediately, "Yeah, we could make, like a distraction to lure them away from Copper Summit."

 

"It would have to be good or they wouldn't fall for it," Max said.

 

"Can't they track the signals from those orbs?" Maria asked.  "We could just send a message from like Chicago or somewhere and let them go chasing after us.

 

"That's not a bad idea," Max said, "but the skins know, that we know the signal can be tracked.  They would never believe we would be so careless."

 

"Unless," Liz said, with a speculative gleam in her eyes, "they thought we didn't know about it."

 

 

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

 

 

Liz waited until after three o'clock a.m. to initiate contact with Kyle, hoping that most of the town would be asleep and Kyle would be alone.  She called out along the connection, Kyle.

 

He answered immediately, Liz.

 

Kyle, are you alone?

 

Yeah, what's going on?

 

Remember when you saw me?  It's a new power I have.  Liz explained.  Hopefully Im going to appear there in a few minutes and find out where you're being held.

 

Hopefully? Kyle asked.

 

Well, Liz admitted, I didn't know I was doing it.  I thought it was a dream, so I'm not really sure how it works, but I have lots of people to help.  We'll figure it out.

 

Okay Liz, I know you'll do your best.  So what's the plan?

 

If everything goes as planned, we'll get you out of there the day after tomorrow.  Liz felt Kyle's relief through the connection.  Just hold on a little longer.

 

I'll be here, Kyle said, unless I decide to step out for a pizza or something.

 

 

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

 

 

Isabel waited until she could get Max alone and pulled him aside.  "Max, if Kyle is still alive then maybe Alex is too."

 

Max shook his head but Isabel continued, "They could both be held in the same place, maybe Kyle knows where Alex is or maybe Liz can find him too."

 

"Iz," Max said gently, "Alex is gone.  I saw him."

 

"No Max," Isabel's voice rose desperately, "he could still be alive.  It could have been another skin trick.  You just thought he was dead."

 

Max shook his head again and reached into his pocket, "I was going to give this to you, but it never seemed to be the right time." 

 

He held a folded piece of paper out to her and she hesitatingly took it and smoothed it open.  It was the front page of the Roswell Gazette from December eleventh.  Isabel looked at her brother, "You told us not to get the Roswell paper so we wouldn't have anything that linked us to Roswell."

 

"That's true," Max admitted, "but I also didn't want you to see the articles about us, about our families, because I knew it would hurt you.  I've had Serena keep up on what was happening in Roswell because we need all the information we can get."

 

Isabel's hands started to tremble and she asked in strangled voice, "So what's in this paper you wanted me to see?"

 

Max pointed to an article at the bottom of the page and Isabel glanced down.  The headline brought tears to her eyes.

 

"I'm really sorry Iz," Max said, and left her to read the article alone.

 

Isabel wiped the tears from her eyes and started to read.

 

 

 

 

Body of Missing Roswell Teen Found

The body of Alex Charles Whitman was
found yesterday, by the Roswell Sheriff's
department, in a shallow desert grave
behind the old Barnet Soap Factory. The
Sheriff's department received an anonymous
tip earlier that morning leading them to
Whitman's remains. Acting Sheriff Hansen
reported that Whitman had sustained a
broken neck and the body had obviously
been there for some time.

Whitman was one of a group of eight
Roswell residents, who disappeared on
November 27th of this year, under
mysterious circumstances. The Sheriff's
department is conducting a search of the
area surrounding the soap factory for the
others, but so far, there has been no
evidence pointing to their current location.
Others missing include Roswell Sheriff
Jim Valenti Jr. and his son Kyle; the two
adopted children of prominent local lawyer
Philip Evans, Isabel and Max Evans; Liz
Parker Evans, wife of Max Evans and
daughter of Jeff Parker, owner of the local
theme restaurant The Crashdown Cafe.

Also discovered near the soap factory
was the charred frame of a Volkswagen
Jetta belonging to...

 

 

 

 

The article continued but Isabel dropped the paper to the floor as she dissolved into tears.

 

 

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

 

 

Serena, Liz and Max sat around the table and Serena tried to explain to Liz how to use her new power.  "You have done this subconsciously, so you know how, you just have to try not to let the conscious part of your brain get in the way.  Remember you are not in a corporeal form so you don't have to follow the laws of physics.  No door or wall can stop you and gravity does not effect you."

 

Liz nodded.

 

"Just close your eyes and focus your energy," Serena said.  "Concentrate on the place where you saw Kyle."

 

Liz closed her eyes and tried to picture the cell with Kyle on the cot, but all she saw was the thick black fog. 

 

Serena continued, "Let his energy guide you to your destination."

 

With her mind, Liz grasped the connection she had with Kyle and let it propel her.  She felt as if she were getting lighter, floating, and then she suddenly gathered speed and the fog thinned as her velocity increased.  A rush of images assaulted her, too fast for her to make out, and then she was standing before Kyle. 

 

The room was completely dark, but Kyle sat on the cot as had she expected.  He saw her immediately and smiled.  Liz longed to stay with him and offer comfort but she wasn't sure how long she would be able to continue, so she waved and turned to the door. 

 

Liz reached out to touch the door and her hand passed through.  She took a deep breath and before she could think about it too much, she walked through.  Behind it were stairs leading up, and Liz concentrated on lifting her form up through them.  She could feel herself becoming lighter and she floated up through two flights of stairs and out into a large room on the main floor. 

 

Liz could see outside through the windows on the double doors across the room and quickly headed toward them.  As she reached them, a wave of dizziness washed over her and she knew her time was running short.  She pushed herself through the doors and out into the dark street, as the fog started to swirl in around her.  She quickly turned around and her gaze settled on the building where Kyle was being held, and her eyes roamed over it, trying to memorize every detail.  It was a two-story, yellow brick building, but the thing that stuck uppermost in her mind was the name, The Universal Friendship League. 

 

Liz looked around at the surrounding buildings, studying any landmarks and trying to see the name of the street.  She noticed a sign across the street and hurried toward it, but the fog became more dense with every step and Liz felt another wave of dizziness.  She wanted to return to Kyle one more time, but she could feel herself weakening.  She pushed herself the last few steps, but the fog completely engulfed her before she could read the name of the streets.

 

Suddenly she was back in her body and reeled to the side, not prepared for the rapid change. 

 

"Liz!" Max cried as her body swayed toward him and he caught her easily.  "Liz, are you okay?"

 

Liz felt Max's strong arms encircle her before she fell and heard the worried tone in his voice as he called her name.  She turned to him with a weak smile.  "I saw it, Max.  Kyle is in the sub-basement of a yellow-brick, two-story building, The Universal Friendship League.  But I couldn't stay long enough to see the street it was on." 

 

Liz collapsed into Max as her strength left her and he lowered her to the floor, quickly making a connection to check for injuries.  He relaxed only after he was satisfied nothing was wrong with her. 

 

Max's cries brought Michael, Maria, Isabel and Jim running into the room. 

 

Maria rushed to Liz's side, "What's wrong with her?"

 

"She's just exhausted," Max said.  "She'll be alright."

 

Jim came forward, "Was she able to tell where Kyle is?"

 

"Yeah, he's in the Universal Friendship League building.  She said it was yellow brick, two stories but she couldn't see what street it's on."

 

"I remember it," Isabel said.  "They sent Whitaker that letter, remember?  I thought the name was really creepy.  It is at the T-intersection of the two main streets."

 

"Okay," Max said, "you and Michael get to work on a map of Copper Summit.  Jim see if you can find a place that will be suitable.  Serena get the orb and the other equipment we'll need.  After I put Liz in bed I'll come down to help with the rest of the plan."

 

Max gathered Liz in his arms and headed up the stairs toward their room, with Maria following closely behind. 

 

 

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

 

 

(Thursday, December 23rd, 2004)

(Copper Summit, AZ)

 

Nicholas rushed into the communication center.  His soldiers had just picked up a transmission on the royal frequency and they had been able to pinpoint the location of the origin.  Nicholas stopped, barely inside the door, noticing the strange looks on the faces of Ida and Walt and the others gathered there.  "What?" he asked.

 

Walt grinned, "The, um, message, obviously starts in the middle of an argument.  He coughed, trying to hold back a laugh and shook his head, "You just have to hear it."

 

"Okay," Nicholas said, and nodded to the communications officer.  "Play it."

 

 

 

"...have to listen to me, Max," Michael shouted.

 

"Michael, we've already had this argument several times and I don't want to rehash the whole thing again."

 

"Max, this orb may be the only thing standing between us and death," Michael said dramatically.

 

"Michael, put the damn orb down.  You don't even know what you're talking about."

 

"We should use this thing to call for reinforcements, call your followers on Antar and the other planets.  We can't possibly hope to defeat the skins alone.  "

 

"No, Michael.  We aren't calling anyone."  Max laughed, "Remember what a bunch of bumbling fools the skins were, falling all over themselves?  They must have outnumbered us ten to one.  I couldn't believe how easily we escaped them. 

 

Michael scoffed, "Yeah, you saw how many of 'em there were.  Maybe we just got lucky that day."

 

"Lucky?" Max huffed.  "We shouldn't even be having this discussion.  I decide what we do.  I am the King."

 

Michael laughed, "Some great King you are.  Alex, Kyle and Courtney are dead, and we had to leave our homes and everything we've ever known.  For hell sakes, Maxwell, we are hiding in friggin' Kansas."

 

"Not for much longer," Max reminded him.  "Remember we're leaving tomorrow just after sunrise.  We can't afford to stay in one place too long."

 

"Yeah, so we're running like a bunch of scared rabbits.  If we had the help of our allies..."

 

Max cut him off, "If we use the orb it will also alert the skins to where we are."

 

"Well, I say bring them on, we might as well get this over with.  What else are we going to do, hide the rest of our lives?"

 

"No," Max said, "but we need a plan.  We can't just walk into the skins' headquarters and have a shoot out, like it's the wild west or something.  Besides you can't even control your powers half of the time."

 

"Hey," Michael said defensively, "I've been practicing and I'm getting better."

 

"Yeah but you can't control your powers at all when you're upset.  Remember all of the windows you accidentally blew-out of the last house, when you and Maria were fighting?  Glass was flying everywhere, Michael.  It's just lucky that no one was hurt or killed.  You don't even know if you could control your powers enough to use the orb," Max scoffed.  "So Michael, I'm going to ask you once nicely, to hand over that orb, before I have to take it from you."

 

"You can try," Michael said with a sarcastic tone in his voice.

 

"Michael, I'm warning you..."

 

The voices stopped as several blasts of power sounded.  Then there was a loud crash and the transmission stopped.

 

 

 

Nicholas looked around him at the amused faces of his senior staff and they burst into laughter.  Nicholas smiled and shook his head, "I always knew Rath was a moron."  He turned to the communications officer, "So they're in friggin' Kansas.  Do you have the address yet?"

 

 

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

 

 

(Havensville, KS)

 

Isabel slipped the orb and the tape recorder into her bag, got into the rented car and dialed a number on her cell phone, "Hi mom.  I just wanted to tell you I'm running a little late and not to hold dinner for me."

 

A woman's voice answered her, "Okay dear, we'll start without you."

 

Isabel ended the call, put the car in gear and headed north toward Topeka and the airport.

 

 

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

 

 

(The hills outside of Copper Summit, AZ)

 

Serena turned off her cell phone, "That was Isabel with the signal."

 

"Okay," said Max, turning to the others, "they'll have to high-tail it out of here to get to Kansas before tomorrow morning.  And hopefully the message we sent and the fact that we escaped him before will make Nicholas angry enough to send most of his troops after us.  So all we have to do is wait until they leave and then we go in to get Kyle."

 

As they watched, the sleepy little town erupted into a maelstrom of activity.  Skin soldiers poured out of the buildings and jumped into vehicles, with the diminutive Nicholas at the heart of it all, shouting orders. 

 

Max watched with growing horror at the number of troops.  Courtney had told them at the time of the harvest that the skins were down to just over a hundred, but clearly there were more than that in Copper Summit now.  Max turned to Serena, "Can you tell how many of them there are?"

 

"I've counted at least four thousand and there are still more coming out," Serena said.  "If the information that Courtney gave you was accurate, Khivar has sent more troops."

 

"There could be thousands more of them down there," Michael said.  "And what's the deal with the cars?  Don't they have space ships or something?"

 

Serena nodded, "They do, but using them even at night is risky.  There are people everywhere watching the skies and everybody has a video camera these days.  If the U.S. government found out about the skins, their mission would be over.  Nicholas would never take that chance."

 

Max nodded, "Let's just wait and see what happens."

 

More and more vehicles filled with skin soldiers drove out of Copper Summit until only a handful of people were left standing in the street.  Nicholas was obviously giving them orders, gesturing wildly and shouting.  Two of the remaining soldiers went into the yellow brick building where Kyle was being held and the others got into two cars and drove north.  Finally Nicholas got in the passenger seat of the single remaining vehicle and it headed east with the others.

 

Max and the others watched Copper Summit for an hour after the skins had left, but there was no activity.  Max looked at Liz.  He had wanted her to stay in El Paso where he could be sure she was safe, but she had insisted on coming and he had to admit to himself that he was glad.  He needed Liz at his side.  He felt stronger when she was with him.  "Liz, contact Kyle and ask him how many guards are with him."

 

He turned to the others.  "I don't know where those other skins went who drove north, but the town seems to be deserted.  This will probably be the best chance we'll get.  Jim, you and Michael go in from the west and Serena and I will go in from the south and we'll meet in front of the UFL building.  Serena will go in first disguised as Nicholas, we'll take the guards by surprise and get Kyle out as quickly as possible."

 

"Max," Liz interrupted, "Kyle says there are two guards with him and according to his description they are the ones we saw go in earlier."

 

"Okay," Max continued, "Liz and Maria will stay here."  He held up a hand to stop Liz's protest and continued, "You will stay here to keep watch.  If any of the skins come into town and head toward the UFL building you can contact me through our connection."

 

Liz nodded in agreement.

 

Max looked at each of the people before him, "Hopefully we'll be in and out quickly and we'll meet at the hotel where we agreed.  If anything goes wrong, split up and keep in contact through the cell phones.  This won't be like last time.  We aren't walking into a trap and Maria and Liz have our backs, but we still need to be careful.  Don't take any unnecessary risks and keep yourselves safe.  He nodded.  Okay, let's go get Kyle."

 

Max turned to Liz and embraced her.  "I'll see you in a few minutes."

 

Liz forced a smile to her lips, "Be careful."

 

Serena took Nicholas' appearance and got in the car with Max, who now had blond hair.  They drove slowly into the town looking for an ambush, but there was no sign of activity and Max stopped the car in front of the Universal Friendship League building.  A curly-haired Michael and a long-haired Jim met them on the front steps of the building and they followed Serena inside.

 

As they descended the stairs, Max contacted Liz through their connection, Liz, tell Kyle we're coming down the stairs and Serena looks like Nicholas.

 

Okay, Max.  So far everything's clear.

 

Serena entered the room where Kyle's was being held and two skin soldiers sat at a table playing cards.  They snapped to attention when they saw her. 

 

"Sir, we didn't expect you back so soon."

 

"Change of plans," said Serena dismissively.  She motioned to Max, and he and Jim moved past the soldiers to unlock Kyle's cell.  She turned back to the skin soldiers, "I have another job for you two." 

 

One of the guards noticed Michael for the first time and raised his hand menacingly as he recognized him, "Hey isn't that..." his sentence was cut off as Jim broke the seal on his husk and he turned to dust.  The other skin whirled toward Jim but a blast of power from Serena easily eliminated him. 

 

Max and Jim helped Kyle out of the cell and up the stairs and Max called out to Liz, Is the street clear?

 

It's clear Max.  We haven't seen anyone.

 

They reached the main floor of the UFL and paused at the outer door but they saw no one.  Michael held the doors open for Jim and Max to get Kyle through, and Serena rushed ahead to the car.  She opened the door to Jim's car and they put Kyle in the back seat.  Max climbed in with Kyle and Jim got behind the wheel while Michael and Serena got into Max's car.

 

As they drove out of town, Max removed the cast and healed Kyle's arm.  In the connection created, he saw a brief glimpse of what Kyle had been subjected to during his time with the skins.  He quickly checked Kyle for other injuries but besides some soreness he was okay.  "I fixed your arm and I don't see any other damage."

 

"No physical damage at least," Kyle said tightly. 

 

Max nodded stiffly.  Kyle's experience had been similar to what he had been subjected to in the white room but where he had only been tortured for one day, Kyle had suffered for almost a month.  "Kyle, I'm really sorry.  If you need to talk..."

 

Kyle nodded, "Thanks for coming to get me Max."

 

"It was Liz who found you," Max reminded him.

 

"Yeah and I'm going to give your wife a big hug when I see her."

 

 

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

 

 

(Friday, December 24th, 2004)

(Havensville, KS)

 

The bulk of Nicholas' army were setting up positions around the small town while Nicholas and his band of hand-picked soldiers waited to rush Max's hideout.  The signal sent by the orb had been tracked to an abandoned granary just outside of town, near the cemetery.  Nicholas glanced at the sign just down the road.

 

 

 

Havensville, Kansas

Population 147

 

 

 

Nicholas had to admit that it was a good location to hide out, even if the name of the town was a little hokey.  The granary was far enough out of town for them to mostly avoid the locals and even if anyone did notice them, they would probably assume the group of teenagers was a cult.  There were two large and four small buildings on the compound, giving them lots of room to hide, but Nicholas was counting on them acting like humans not soldiers.  They were probably all staying together in the old farmhouse. 

 

He had watched the compound for about half an hour, but there was no sign of movement, no lights, and it was eerily quiet.  Nicholas glanced down at his watch, there was just over an hour until sunrise and he wanted to take Max and the others before they could reach their cars.  He spoke into his amplifier, "Is everyone in position?"

 

All the group commanders reported positively and Nicholas barked orders into his amplifier, "Hold the parameter at all costs but I want all of them taken alive.  Teams one through six, move out."

 

Nicholas led his team into the house and they quickly went from room to room but found no sign of the Royal Three or the others, and as they finished their search, Nicholas realized that a thick layer of dust covered everything in the house.  No one had been in there for years.  A suspicion started growing in his mind and he spoke into his amplifier, "Groups two through five, report.  Any sign of them?"

 

Each of the group commanders reported negatively.

 

Nicholas signaled the commanders of the troops at the parameter asking if anyone had attempted to pass, but as he suspected, they answered negatively.

 

Nicholas changed the frequency on the amplifier and signaled the soldiers guarding Kyle but there was no reply, also as he suspected.  Then he signaled the communications room on the ship, calling the leader of the group he had assigned to protect it, "Greer, come in."

 

He was answered immediately, "Yes Sir."

 

"Send some men to the UFL building.  I think our prisoner has been liberated."

 

 

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

 

 

It had been a subdued holiday season because of Alex's and Kyle's deaths, and the fact that they had been on the run.  No one had planned on celebrating or exchanging gifts, but now that Kyle was safe, a feeling of thankfulness and optimism infused the group. 

 

Maria and Liz stopped on the way back from Copper Summit and bought the fixings for a traditional turkey dinner, a small Christmas tree and decorations.  While Max and Serena went to collect Isabel from the airport, Liz and Michael prepared a sumptuous feast and Maria and the Valentis decorated the tree.

 

Later they all gathered around the table and Max stood and raised his glass to give a toast.  "This is to remembering absent friends and family.  Just because they aren't with us doesn't mean they will ever be forgotten.  And to Kyle for his bravery and determination that allowed us to get him back.  And finally to all of you."  Max looked at each person around the table, "I couldn't have gotten through this without each and every one of you.  I love all of you.  You are my family now."

 

 

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

 

 

(Copper Summit, AZ)

 

Khivar faced Nicholas in Corporal Raltos' borrowed body, "So let me get this straight.  You had one of Max's human friends who knew the location of the Granolith in your possession, but you couldn't force him to divulge where it was, because you didn't want to damage his mind.  In the mean time, you received a seemingly accidental message from Max that conveniently pinpointed their location.  So you sent the majority of the troops to take Max's group, leaving your town and your prisoner relatively unguarded.  And while you were gone, Max took back his human."

 

Nicholas winced.  He knew it was his fault but Khivar had made it sound worse than it was, and Nicholas didn't think his master would forgive him this time.  He had served Khivar almost his entire life and he was the closest thing to a friend that Khivar had, but Nicholas had no illusions.  Khivar would kill him without a second thought if he had outlived his usefulness.

 

The sudden sound of Khivar's laughter filled the room.  It was a terrible sound, joyless, almost maniacal, and Nicholas was afraid to look at his master.

 

Finally Khivar spoke, "You have to admit it was a daring plan.  I'm surprised that Zan came up with it, but maybe the human DNA has given Max some backbone."

 

"Or maybe it's his human wife," Nicholas offered.

 

"Yes," Khivar mused.  "Zan was so much in love with Ava, it's hard to believe he has cast her aside for a human.  This Liz must be something special."  Khivar shrugged, "It's too bad we don't know where his Ava went.  She would be very helpful, and after Max's rejection, she might be eager to join us."

 

Nicholas nodded but stayed silent, waiting for Khivar to decide what to do.

 

"Do you still have the message Max sent?"

 

"Yes, your Majesty," Nicholas answered formally.

 

"I would like to hear it for myself."

 

Nicholas crossed to the console and pressed a series of buttons, activating the message.

 

 

 

"...have to listen to me, Max," Michael shouted.

 

"Michael, we've already had this argument several times and I don't want to rehash the whole thing again."

 

"Max, this orb may be the only thing standing between us and death," Michael said dramatically.

 

"Michael, put the damn orb down.  You don't even know what you're talking about."

 

"We should use this thing to call for reinforcements, call your followers on Antar and the other planets.  We can't possibly hope to defeat the skins alone.  "

 

"No, Michael.  We aren't calling anyone."  Max laughed, "Remember what a bunch of bumbling fools the skins were, falling all over themselves?  They must have outnumbered us ten to one.  I couldn't believe how easily we escaped them. 

 

Michael scoffed, "Yeah, you saw how many of 'em there were.  Maybe we just got lucky that day."

 

"Lucky?" Max huffed.  "We shouldn't even be having this discussion.  I decide what we do.  I am the King."

 

Michael laughed, "Some great King you are.  Alex, Kyle and Courtney are dead, and we had to leave our homes and everything we've ever known.  For hell sakes, Maxwell, we are hiding in friggin' Kansas."

 

"Not for much longer," Max reminded him.  "Remember we're leaving tomorrow just after sun rise.  We can't afford to stay in one place too long."

 

"Yeah, so we're running like a bunch of scared rabbits.  If we had the help of our allies..."

 

Max cut him off, "If we use the orb it will also alert the skins to where we are."

 

"Well, I say bring them on, we might as well get this over with.  What else are we going to do, hide the rest of our lives?"

 

"No," Max said, "but we need a plan.  We can't just walk into the skins' headquarters and have a shoot out, like it's the wild west or something.  Besides you can't even control your powers half of the time."

 

"Hey," Michael said defensively, "I've been practicing and I'm getting better."

 

"Yeah but you can't control your powers at all when you're upset.  Remember all of the windows you accidentally blew-out of the last house, when you and Maria were fighting?  Glass was flying everywhere, Michael.  It's just lucky that no one was hurt or killed.  You don't even know if you could control your powers enough to use the orb," Max scoffed.  "So Michael, I'm going to ask you once nicely, to hand over that orb, before I have to take it from you."

 

"You can try," Michael said with a sarcastic tone in his voice.

 

"Michael, I'm warning you..."

 

The voices stopped as several blasts of power sounded.  Then there was a loud crash and the transmission stopped.

 

 

 

Khivar scratched his chin as the message ended and spoke his thoughts aloud, "It was a clever plan.  I can see why you fell for it, but there may be a grain of truth in it too."

 

"What do you mean?" Nicholas asked.

 

"The part about contacting their allies.  Obviously they know more of our troops have been sent to Earth.  What if they are in contact with the dowager Queen and the rebel forces?  They could be planning to bring their own army to Earth."

 

"It's possible," Nicholas admitted.  "But why would they tell us in the message?"

 

"To throw us off," Khivar said thoughtfully.  "If Max already has troops coming to Earth they could arrive and kill all of you before more of our troops got there.  If he has the resources, I have seriously underestimated him." 

 

Khivar paced back and forth before the desk, growing angrier and angrier with each step.  Suddenly he stopped, slamming his fist on the desk.  "We can't let Max get the upper hand now.  This whole thing has dragged on too long.  I have been complacent and Max is gaining ground. 

 

Khivar nodded, having made up his mind.  I will send two more legions of troops to you.  Until they arrive, keep searching for Max and his group.  If you find them before the troops arrive, then proceed with the original plan.  But if the troops arrive and you still have not found them, I want you to take that insignificant little planet apart.  You will have fifteen thousand of our finest battle-ready troops, armed with the latest weapons, and three warships with full compliments of fighters at your disposal.  Destroy anything that gets in your way."

 

 

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

 

 

TBC

 

 

 



BOOK 8 - RESTRUCTURING REALITY
Part 8
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Alpha & Omega
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