With a gasp, Liz let go of Isabel’s hand, and they opened their eyes at the same time to look at each other, speaking simultaneously. “We know where they are!”
Isabel looked at Liz. “I don’t know that business, but we can look it up.”
Liz shook her head. “I’ve been there before with my Dad, buying supplies for the Crashdown.”
Isabel nodded. “We have to tell the others.”
Racing down stairs they both spoke at the same time. “We know where they are!”
“What?” Michael demanded, coming toward them. “How? Where are they?”
Isabel looked to Liz to explain. “They are in the northeast part of town, just like we thought, in a building just to the west of Halpren’s Restaurant Supply.”
“Okay,” Zan said, looking from Isabel to Liz, “what else did you see?”
Quickly Liz and Isabel described the parts of the building they had seen, drawing a crude diagram, and told the others about Rath’s condition.
“This is perfect,” Michael said, glancing outside. “It will start to get dark in an hour or so. We should go now so we can get the lay of the land, and they can’t escape in the dark.”
Liz looked from Max to Zan. “What are we going to do when we get there?”
Tess’ eyes narrowed on Liz. “Why is she coming?” she snapped, motioning to the brunette. “She’ll just get in the way.”
The last thing Tess wanted was for Liz to come. Tess didn’t think Liz’s fledgling powers could really help in the upcoming fight, but more importantly she didn’t want anyone taking Max’s attention away from her. She planned to show him how useful she could be and then he would forget all about Liz.
Maria didn’t really want Liz to put herself in danger, but she certainly wasn’t going to agree with Tess, and immediately stood up for her friend. “Umm, because Liz has powers and you can use all the help you can get against those two psychos.”
Max spoke up. “Liz, I think Tess is right,” he said.
Tess smiled behind him, but he didn’t see and continued as his gaze met Liz’s. “You are still so new to your powers.” Silently he added, “Zan and I will be so worried about you it could distract us.”
Zan nodded, adding aloud, “It probably would be better if you stayed here.”
“You can gang up on me all you want,” Liz said, straightening her back, “but I’m going.”
“Liz,” Max started, but she cut him off, “You can’t stop me from going,” she said stubbornly, looking from Max to Zan. “You might be able to pick me up and put me out of the car, but even if do you leave me here, I’ll just follow you, even if I have to hitchhike.”
Liz held their gazes but it was Michael who spoke. “I think she should come,” he said, scratching his eyebrow.
They all looked at him incredulously. Liz smiled at him and he shrugged one shoulder. “She helped Isabel find them,” he said, jabbing a finger over his shoulder to indicate Lonnie and Rath, “like she boosted Isabel’s powers or something. She could be useful.”
Michael shrugged again, “Besides, now that we know where they are, we need to get this taken care of.”
Maria opened her mouth but he shut her down immediately. “You’re not going,” he growled.
“But -,” she started, only to be cut off by him.
“You have no powers and I don’t want you anywhere near those psychos,” he said. “You have no idea what they could do to you. You’re going back to the Valenti’s with Kyle.”
Kyle’s eyebrows rose. “I know I don’t have powers but I have kicked a little alien butt.”
Ava kissed his cheek. “You have to make sure your Dad and Maria are safe,” she said softly.
“And those were Skins,” Michael reminded him. “Lonnie and Rath don’t go ‘poof’ when you hit them.” His gaze met Kyle’s and his voice lowered, “And I need you to look after Maria.” He glanced at her and then back to Kyle. “You and the Sheriff are the last line of defense if anything happens to us.”
“So,” he said, motioning to the door, “let’s stop talking and go.”
“Wait,” Max and Zan said at the same time.
Max stepped forward. “We can’t just go charging in there, we need a plan."
“You’ve gotta be kidding,” Michael said hotly. “Rath is dying and Lonnie is by herself. It’s seven against one.”
Zan nodded, backing up Max, “But Lonnie is still dangerous and we don’t want anyone to get hurt or worse because we underestimated her.”
Michael gave a single nod of his head. It was weird having Zan and Max working together so well, but they were in charge, and they were right. “Fine,” he grunted. “What is the plan?”
“We need to take them by surprise,” Max said. “We don’t know if Rath can do anything or not, but we have to assume he can.”
“We can park a couple of buildings away and sneak in, so they don’t hear us coming,” Zan suggested. “And Isabel and Liz saw two entrances.”
Michael picked up on Zan’s point. “We should split up and hit them at the same time, make sure they can’t escape.”
Max nodded, glad they were finally working together, but a sudden thought made him pale a little. What if he or Zan got a memory while they were in the middle of a fight? They couldn’t afford to be out of it for even a second.
It was true neither he nor Zan had gotten another memory in the last couple of days, so maybe he was worrying about nothing. But it was still a possibility. It could happen any time; today, tomorrow or never.
He couldn’t let it paralyze him. This might be their only chance at Lonnie and Rath.
He opened his mouth to warn the others but immediately changed his mind. There was such a small chance it would happen and the others would only worry if they knew.
He spoke aloud. “Remember what they can do,” Max reminded them. “Watch out for each other.”
Zan’s mouth tightened as he looked toward Ava. “And remember they will kill you if they can, so don’t hesitate. Do what you have to do to keep yourself and the rest of us safe.”
“What are we going to do with them?” Isabel said. “It’s not like we can hand them over to Valenti.”
Zan spoke up. “Max and I will take care of them if it comes to that.”
Max nodded, feeling the full burden of leadership. He never wanted to kill anyone, but he really didn’t see another choice.
Tess moved to stand next to Max and touched his arm. “I’ll help any way I can,” she purred, looking up at him. “Anything you need me to do.”
Max was kind of horrified that Tess was basically volunteering to kill Lonnie and Rath, but he just nodded. The last thing he wanted to do right now was push her away. “Thanks,” he said softly.
Liz sat in the backseat of Zan’s Mustang as they drove toward the warehouse district where Lonnie and Rath were hiding, staring at the back of Zan’s head and the little of his profile that she could see.
She was worried about what would happen, of course, but even more she was worried about what Max and Zan would have to do.
Isabel was right, they couldn’t hand Lonnie and Rath to the human authorities. Even if they had any evidence of wrong-doing, there was no way a human jail could hold them. The only other choice was the government, the alien hunters, if they still existed, and even if they could control the alien duo, there was no doubt in Liz’s mind that Lonnie and Rath would expose the rest of them.
Really, the only choice was to kill them.
Liz never imagined she would be in a position where she would have to kill someone, but there was nothing else to do. And even more, she hated that her two gentle lovers would have to do it.
No matter what she had done, Lonnie was Zan’s sister. Liz knew Lonnie and Zan had never been close but no one should have to be forced to kill someone they were related to.
And even though Rath wasn’t related to Zan, they lived together, grew up together, were friends at some point.
Even though Max had never officially met either of them it wouldn’t be any easier for him either. Technically Lonnie was Max’s sister too, and Rath was a copy of his best friend.
She looked out the windshield at the road in front of them, her eyes following the yellow lines as they rushed past.
It felt wrong to kill anyone, but it had to be done. She was so sorry for Max and Zan, and so guilty about the burden they would carry.
She knew they would do it themselves because they would never order someone to do it for them, but they would have to live with it the rest of their lives.
The Jeep and Mustang silently pulled into the side parking lot of the building two over from the abandoned warehouse where Lonnie and Rath were staying. Parking next to each other, the four people immediately exited the Jeep, nervously looking around for any signs of unusual activity.
Isabel, Tess and Ava came together around one side of the Jeep as Michael exited the driver’s door, scanning the area before he glanced at Tess.
There had been an awkward moment at Zan and Ava’s place, as they divided to get into the two cars, when Tess made a fuss about going in the Mustang with Zan, Liz and Max. Ava solved it quickly however by looping Tess’ arm with her own and saying, “Come with us so we can plan how we are going to celebrate when this is all over.”
Michael was sure Tess already had an idea about how to celebrate and it didn’t include him or Ava or anyone else but Max. She was probably plotting how to get him alone right now. They’d purposely kept her in the dark about Max, Zan and Liz’s relationship, but after they took care of Lonnie and Rath, it was time to tell Tess the complete truth.
He focused back on the task at hand.
The drive had been uneventful. Several businesses still operated in the area even though most of the surrounding buildings were empty. On the way over, they had passed a few cars driving the roads, and there were people going in and out of some buildings. As they got closer to their destination, the traffic thinned out and then stopped completely. It was practically silent around them, the only sounds the occasional bird and traffic noises in the distance.
Zan turned off the car but he and Max didn’t get out and immediately turned to Liz. She held up a hand before they could speak, having no doubt that they had a silent conversation on the short drive about how to make her stay behind and out of harm’s way.
“I’m coming,” she said determinedly. “End of subject.”
She looked from one of them to the other. Max’s jaw clenched but he knew better than to try to get Liz to change her mind. Zan nodded once stiffly.
Liz knew they were worried, but she knew she needed to be with them. Their powers were stronger when they were together, and even though Rath was at death’s door leaving Lonnie basically alone, and the odds were overwhelmingly on their side, Liz didn’t want to risk it. She’d seen Lonnie and Rath in action and they were masters of their powers.
Plus, she’d hated being left behind in the past while the aliens went to face danger, like the horrible day Michael, Isabel and Tess went to rescue Max from the White Room. Even though her powers hadn’t emerged then, she’d wanted to help Max any way she could and having Tess tell her she was a liability had infuriated her, even if she had possibly been right. But now that she had powers, she wouldn’t be left behind. She would stand by her soulmates no matter what happened.
Before either Zan or Max could make any further arguments, she got out of the car.
Max and Zan got out too and moved to stand with Michael. “See anything?” Zan asked.
Michael shook his head as his eyes darted around the area. “No, it seems to be completely quiet.”
They couldn’t see the building where Lonnie and Rath were staying because there was another building between them, and they had to get closer to make sure it was safe.
Max looked at Zan. “You take that side of the building,” he said pointing to the front, “and we’ll take the back, and if it’s clear we’ll meet at the far side.”
Zan nodded, “and we’ll keep in contact about what we see.”
“It will be dark soon,” Max said, “so-,”
Michael cut him off, “So be careful.”
On the ride over the two Kings had decided how to split the groups. One of them would go in each group so they could communicate silently. Michael would go with Max, so they would have someone with a shield and a blasting power, and Zan’s power could function as both.
The group split in two. Ava and Isabel went with Zan, and Michael, Liz and Max started the other direction with Tess following them.
Liz looked longingly after Zan. She didn’t like being separated from him, but she understood why it had to be. She just wished they could stay together.
Zan turned just as he reached the edge of the building, knowing Liz was watching him. He gave her a nod and a sexy smile. “We won’t be apart long,” he promised her silently. “And you can hear me in your head all the time.”
Liz knew he was right, but it was still hard. She nodded and returned his smile as he slipped around the side of the building and out of sight.
Michael went first, with Max, Liz and Tess right behind. Silently they moved, staying close to the building, using it and the overgrown brush as cover.
It seemed to Liz like it took forever to get around the building as they stepped a quietly as possible. It was so surreal. She couldn’t help noticing it was a nice day as she looked around, and a million things popped into her head that she’d rather be doing.
Instantly she felt Max and Zan agreeing with her in her head.
“We can do anything you want,” Zan said silently, “after this is over.”
Liz couldn’t help but wonder if it would ever really be over. It seemed like their enemies would always be after them.
“It will be okay,” Max said turning to her with a reassuring smile.
It made Liz feel a bit better just hearing it and she smiled back, but her smile dimmed as Tess took the opportunity to push past her and get close to Max. She rolled her eyes at Michael who shook his head. Tess just never gave up.
Tess would never give up. She had spotted the chance to get between Max and Liz and quickly taken advantage.
She’d seen the look that Zan gave Liz and it only helped her cause that they were close. Maybe she could give Zan a push with her powers to want Liz all to himself. He was doing okay at getting Liz alone, but she was tire of waiting.
Zan couldn’t be happy about sharing either, and if she could provoke a confrontation between Max and Zan, it might force them to make a choice or at least make it very obvious to Max that Liz would never be all his.
If she could convince Max that he was better off without Liz, Tess was sure he would turn to her.
She’d been going over and over things she could say to Max in her head. First she would point out that Liz didn’t care enough about him to only date him and made him share her with Zan. She would remind Max that he was a king, but Liz didn’t treat him with the respect he deserved.
Then Tess would tell Max what she felt about him, that he was the best king and the best husband anyone could ever have. She was in awe of him, knowing that he had so much power and strength that he could rule an entire planet. She would do anything for him, and she’d never even look at another man.
It was true, that she hadn’t gotten much of a chance to talk to Max and obviously this wasn’t the time, but afterward she would tell him everything she could think of to get him away from Liz and to the summit. It was the best chance for them to go home.
Ava and Zan could stay on Earth with Kyle and Liz, and it would leave the four of them, the real royal four, to return to Antar and claim their destiny as rulers of the planet. It was perfect.
She almost sighed aloud as she looked at Max’s back. They could be so happy together, living as the King and Queen on another planet. It was everything she had ever wanted, and she knew deep inside that Max wanted it too, even if he didn’t realize it yet. But it was her job as his wife to want the best for him and to show him what he was missing.
Max was in front when they reached the edge of the building, with Tess close behind. Michael carefully moved up so he and Max could talk.
Together they knelt and looked around, studying the space between the buildings. There were a few short shrubs near the building and then an open field of dying grass that offered no cover.
“I don’t see anything,” Max said softly.
Tess immediately agreed. “Me either. Everything is quiet.”
Ignoring her, Max spoke to Zan in his head. “See anything?”
“No,” Zan said. “Nothing unusual.”
Max nodded and turned to Michael, but kept the connection open so Zan could hear. “I’ll go across the open space between the buildings and if it’s clear I’ll wave.”
Michael grabbed his arm. “No,” he said. “I’m your first in command so use me that way. You shouldn’t put yourself in danger. I should take point.”
Max started to argue. He hated putting anyone in danger, but he knew Michael was right. “Okay,” he agreed. “Just –“
“Be careful,” Michael finished for him. “I know.”
Staying low, Michael crept across the open area, going as quickly but silently as he could and reached the other side uneventfully.
Max didn’t realize he was holding his breath until he released it once Michael was safe against the other building.
Michael only waited a moment before taking a quick glance around the side of the building. Then bending down, he looked again, scanning the area more carefully for a few moments. And satisfied nothing was wrong, he motioned the others forward.
Going single-file, Zan led the way with Ava and Isabel, and Max sent Tess and Liz before him so he could cover the rear. They all pressed against the side of the building for a moment before separating into their groups and moving forward around the front and back.
Liz felt her heart pounding in her chest as they reached the edge of the building. There was only a small driveway separating them from where Lonnie and Rath were staying and she could see the car Lonnie had used parked in the back.
Crouching, they all studied the building for any sign of movement, and Liz heard Zan in her head. “I don’t see anything,” he said.
“Me either,” Max agreed. “I guess this is it.”
Max turned to Liz, Tess and Michael. “We’ll go for the side of the building while Zan covers us.”
They nodded and moved quickly across the open space, ducking beneath the windows, then kept watch while Zan, Ava and Isabel disappeared around the other side.
Zan coordinated with Max in his head, “We’re in place,” he said.
“Okay,” Max said aloud, “on the count of three we go in.”
“One . . ., two . . ., Three!”
Max and Michael darted around the side of the building and silently let themselves in through the open door, with Tess and Liz right behind them.
In her mind, Liz could see that Zan and the others were doing the same thing. Zan used his powers to unlock the door and entered the reception area but saw no one, and they continued to the conference room where Liz and Isabel had seen Rath in bed.
Coming from the back, Max, Michael, Tess and Liz went around to the rear of the same room.
At a signal from Zan and Max, the two groups surged into the two entrances of the large conference room with arms outstretched, but stopped in surprise when they saw what was inside.
Facing them was Lonnie, a fully healed Rath, Nicholas and a dozen Skin soldiers.
Nicholas smiled. “You’re here finally,” he quipped. “It’s about time.”
Never Underestimate Destiny|
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