BOOK 12 DESTINY DERIVED
(THE ROYAL FOUR RECLAIMED)
Rath was escorted into the throne room by a Captain Naire and stopped before the King's throne where Khivar was seated. With a glance, he noticed that the Queen's throne was empty and vaguely wondered where Isabel was but pushed the thought aside.
"Alarath, how nice to see you again," Khivar greeted, as he dismissed everyone except Nicaron from the room with a wave of his hand.
Rath stood to his full height and smiled. "Is it?" he asked, all trace of accent gone from his voice. "I seem to remember that you were going to leave me on Earth to rot."
Khivar shrugged. "You were of no value to me. You had nothing to offer.
"But now I do," Rath said.
"Yes," Khivar agreed. "When you contacted me this morning, you said you could deliver the human Liz to me, and that means you know where Max and the others are as well. So why don't we forgo the games and you just tell me where they are?"
Rath shook his head. "Not so fast. I want to play let's make a deal, first."
"And why would I make a deal with you?" Khivar asked. "I could simply have the General take the information from your mind."
Rath glanced at General Nicaron, standing at Khivar's right hand, noting that Nicholas was no longer in the guise of a child. "You could," Rath agreed, "but he can't get information out of me that I don't have."
A look of confusion crossed Khivar's brow. "What do you mean?"
"I took Liz, last night," Rath said. "I have her in a secure place and you probably could get the location from me, but what I'm asking is so little for what I am prepared to give."
Khivar motioned for him to continue.
"By now, I'm sure Max has discovered Liz and I are gone, and you know he'll figure out that I'm making a deal with you. He will have moved his people to another location, so I can't lead you to him."
Khivar nodded, agreeing.
"I planned it that way to give myself a little more leverage," Rath explained. "See, I know if I give you Liz, you can bring Max out of hiding. He is so in love with her, he would do anything to save her, including sacrificing himself."
Khivar sighed, "And while you are here, he could be rescuing her. They are bonded, he can find her."
Rath shook his head. "Not with the drugs I gave her. She'll be out cold for a few hours yet."
Khivar nodded approvingly. "So what do you want in exchange for Liz?"
"I want the title and all property and lands of my ancestral home…"
Khivar interrupted, "But your father, the Duke, is still living."
Rath shrugged. "I don't really remember him anyway." He continued, "I want my former rank as General reinstated and I want to be your second in command."
Nicaron's eyebrows rose in surprise and Rath laughed. "I'm not asking you to off Nicholas, but now that Max killed all of your troops on Earth, I figured you could use a replacement. I am half Harcion, a distant cousin to your own family. I will swear fealty to you." He motioned to Nicholas, "Nicholas is your right hand, so make me your left.
"And this is all you want?" Khivar asked.
Rath shook his head. "Just one other thing. When you are finished with her, I want Liz, undamaged."
Khivar studied him carefully. "Why do you want a human?"
Rath smiled. "You can drop the act, Khivar. I know you were with them on Earth and I know they told you who she used to be."
"And who is that?" Khivar asked casually.
"Liz is the reincarnation of Ava, Zan's wife and the former Queen of Antar."
"Max told you that?" Khivar asked. "How very foolish of him to reveal so much."
Rath shook his head. "They do speak too freely, but Max didn't have to tell me anything. When I first met Liz, I made a pass at her, and when I kissed her I knew she was familiar. It took me a while to figure it out, but finally I remembered who she was. And while I don't remember a lot from my other life, I do remember her. I wanted her then and I still do."
"And you didn't tell anyone you knew the truth?" Khivar asked.
"Why would I?" Rath asked. "The information had no value to me then but I knew it would eventually. So I simply bided my time."
Khivar nodded. "So you made an alliance with Max. That's why they were ready for the attack on Earth, because you warned them."
Rath nodded. "I was working with them for months, keeping them informed of what was happening in Copper Summit. And I warned them about the attack simply because I needed them alive."
Khivar smiled, "But the whole time, you intended to betray Max when you got what you wanted, a ride home."
Rath shrugged, turning the conversation back to the main point. "I have no ambition other than to return to my life on my home planet. And I know I don't have a chance with Liz if Maxie is still around, so when you take him out, we all get what we want."
He motioned to Khivar with a bob of his head, "You already possess Isabel and Max's bastard son to secure your position. Liz isn't pregnant with an inconvenient, legitimate Tageonant heir, so after you kill Max, she is of no further value to you. Granted, Liz is of royal blood, but so are a lot of others, and she isn't from the direct Tageonant line, so she is of no threat to you that way. And I don't know what her title would be technically with her death and rebirth and whatnot, but according to Antarian law, when I marry Liz, any former title she held will be forfeit. I will make Liz a Duchess and end whatever speculation there may be about her title and status."
Khivar smiled wider. "Perhaps I did underestimate your value. You seem to have this all figured out."
Rath shrugged. "People have underestimated me my entire life."
With a laugh, Khivar rose from the throne and approached Rath, putting an arm around his shoulders. "Bring Liz to me, and after Max is dead, I will give you everything you requested." He motioned to the door, opening it, and waved Captain Naire inside to escort Rath out.
Nicaron waited until they were alone before turning to Khivar. "You're not serious? He changes sides whenever it suits him. Not to mention Liz's father is the Governor of Telos, Duke Telnada. If he finds out that she was given to Rath against her will, he could make a lot of trouble."
Khivar shrugged. "Rath will have to stay loyal to us until I return Liz to him. Make him your aid and keep an eye on him. In the mean time, we will get all of the information he has. As for Liz's father, we will deal with that if the time comes."
"So you think Rath really wants Liz?" Nicaron asked.
"Yes," Khivar said. "He wants her, all right. Now all we have to figure out is the reason. Is it simply because he loves her, or does he think it will be easier to maneuver for the throne with the former Queen at his side?"
(Secret Headquarters of the Resistance Loyal to the Tageonants)
It had taken less then ten minutes to vacate the compromised house, but several hours later, they were still settling in to the new one.
Max had overseen the relocation of the Granolith but then he had gone into his room and shut himself inside. Michael stepped in to help direct, trying to take the burden off of Max.
One of the guards approached Michael. "General Varros, all the security has been double checked and we are staying on the highest alert."
Michael nodded. "Report to me with anything suspicious."
The guard turned to leave and then turned back. "Oh, and sir, I almost forgot, Ryden requested to see you. He is being held in his room."
"Okay," Michael said. He walked to the room and dismissed the guard outside, knocking on the door before entering. "Sorry about the security," he apologized to Ryden.
Ryden shook his head. "It's like the Earth saying, locking the barn door after the horse has bolted. Obviously I am not working with Rath or I would have gone with him."
"I know," Michael said. "That's why I dismissed the guard. You gave us your oath. I trust you."
"But Max doesn't," Ryden said. "That's why he put a guard on me."
Michael shook his head. "Max does trust you. But he just lost Liz, and he isn't thinking straight."
"He's losing it," Ryden said, shaking his head. "Don't get me wrong. I like Max a lot. I think he is a nice guy, but since Liz was taken, Max has withdrawn further and further into himself, until he's stopped speaking. And the guard said Max has been locked in his room for hours. He's completely ineffectual."
"That's not true," Michael said. "Max is the most stand up guy I've ever known. He always comes through. He just in shock right now."
"It looks to me like you are the stand up guy," Ryden said. "You're the one running the show, while Max cowers in his room. That's why you should be in charge. You are the one we need as our leader."
Michael sighed. "Aren't you ever going to give up on that?" He moved to the door. "There's no guard, you're free to move around the house."
(Capitol city of Roistar - formerly Tageonon)
Rath sat on a chair next to the bed where Liz slept. He didn't want to give her to Khivar but it was the best chance he had of getting what he wanted.
As it was, he had been forced to take Liz before he had his entire plan worked out. Of course Rath had to wait until they arrived on the planet before he could make a plan, because he didn't know what to expect about Max's headquarters or security or anything else. But he'd been pleasantly surprised to find that he had access to all kinds of information at Max's headquarters through a system similar to Earth's internet. And using that resource, he had figured out everything, including how to turn off the security system, a hideout for himself and Liz, and even the anesthesia to use, but he had still been working on the transportation.
He had devised an elaborate plan to take Liz from her bedroom in the middle of the night, completely bypassing the four bodyguards outside her door. First, he would feign illness, kill his guards and deactivate the alarm. Then he would make a hole in Max and Liz's bedroom floor from the library below, entering their room by a set of stairs he had practiced constructing. Finally, using a fast-acting anesthesia, he would knock out both Max and Liz and then simply take Liz out the way he had come, escaping through the library door into the garden and the street beyond.
Rath had considered simply killing Max when he took Liz, but after a lot of reflection he had decided against it. He wanted Liz to like him, even love him, and she never would if he killed Max. Rath had decided to leave Max's fate to Khivar and simply concentrate on his plan to take Liz.
But that afternoon, one of Max's chattier men, who Rath had made friends with specifically to gather information, had told him that they were getting ready to rescue Isabel, and Rath knew he was out of time. He had acted that night, easily killing his guards and disabling the alarm system, then he had headed to the library. He had been surprised to see the two guards outside but he recognized them as part of Max and Liz's security force, and knew that either one or both of them was within the library.
Feigning illness again, he had simultaneously dispatched the guards with blasts of energy to their chests, when they rushed down the hall to help him. Then he had stuffed their bodies in a convenient closet and moved silently toward the library. Rath had been pleasantly surprised to find Liz alone in the library and had used the anesthesia he had synthesized to knock her out. Then he had followed his plan, hefting her small form over one shoulder and taking her out the library door, through the garden and down the street.
It had been easier than he expected to find transportation. There had been a curfew patrol passing, and he had simply flagged it down, claiming Liz was deathly ill. The soldier had obligingly stopped and rushed to examine Liz, and Rath killed him. He had then changed his clothes to match the soldier's uniform and loaded Liz and the soldier's body into the transport, reaching the abandoned building he had chosen as a hideout, in a matter of minutes.
He had changed the appearance of the transport and carried Liz and the soldier inside. Using his powers, Rath buried the soldier beneath the floor and took Liz into a small back room. He formed a bed and gently placed her on it before completely sealing the room. Then he made a recliner and placed it facing the bed, where he'd caught a few hours sleep before going to see Khivar.
He'd had to leave Liz alone, while he went to the palace, but the anesthesia was powerful enough to keep her unconscious for several more hours, possibly even a day. So Rath had simply locked her in the room, altering the door to make it appear to be a wall. Then he had gone to a public place and contacted Khivar.
Liz's soft sigh brought Rath back to the present and he sat forward and took a tendril of her dark hair between his fingers, inhaling the sweet fragrance. It was a risk handing her to Khivar, but he really wasn't asking for much and he knew Khivar could be very generous. Rath was confident his plan would work.
Taking a last look at the sleeping Liz, he picked her up and strode out the door.
Nicaron watched Isabel from the window of his office as she walked in the palace gardens. He had watched her closely the last two weeks for any sign that she was remembering the past. He knew that Khivar was helping her regain her memories and Nicaron wondered when she would remember that he had killed her in her other life.
If she did remember and tell Khivar, Nicaron knew it would be the end of him. Khivar would never accept that it had been an accident. Nicaron knew that none of his years of loyal service would mean anything. Khivar would blame him for the years he had been apart from Isabel and take great pleasure in slowly killing him.
On his more optimistic days Nicaron thought that perhaps Isabel would never remember. Clones who regained their memories rarely remembered the circumstances surrounding their deaths.
But on his more realistic days, Nicaron knew that Isabel would remember. She was a remarkable person and she had a lot of power. Yes, he told himself, she would remember. It was only a matter of time.
(Secret Headquarters of the Resistance Loyal to the Tageonants)
Michael knocked softly on Max's bedroom door but after a handful of moments with no answer, he opened it and went inside.
The room was almost completely dark and it took a minute for Michael's eyes to adjust. "Max?" he called out, finally seeing him on a chair.
Max was seated with his eyes closed and he didn't even seem to know Michael was there.
"Max?" Michael said a little louder, taking a couple of steps closer and turned on a light. With a quick glance, Michael noted the necklace and book that had been recovered from the library next to Max on a table and one of Liz's shirts was draped across Max's knees.
Max still didn't respond and Michael reached out and shook his shoulder. "Max, what are you doing?"
Without opening his eyes Max answered. "I can still feel her, Michael. The bond is there, so I know she's alive but I can't make the connection work." He sighed loudly and opened his eyes, focusing on Michael. "I can't join with her or feel her strength."
Michael sat across from him. "Max we have the plan to rescue Isabel and your son, we'll just include Liz too."
"It won't work," Max said, tears gathering in his eyes. "We don't even know where Liz is. I can't tell where she is."
"We'll figure it out," Michael assured him. "We'll get that spy to give us more information and we'll get them all back." He motioned to the bed. "Why don't you get some rest?"
Max shook his head. "She's never been in that bed. How can I sleep without her beside me?" He picked up her shirt and brought it to his nose, inhaling deeply to catch a whiff of her scent. "I feel so lost, so out of control," he said, his voice hollow and wooden. "I don't know what to do without her."
Isabel leaned back into Khivar's arms as their daily memory retrieval session came to an end. Khivar had concentrated their sessions on their past relationship because that is what she had asked him to do. But more and more often Isabel was wondering about her family, and especially her mother.
Isabel had never told Max but she had always mourned the fact that they had been separated from their mother. Even though she had no memory of their mother she had always felt the void in her life. But she had been on the same planet as her mother for almost a month and she had been too scared to even ask Khivar about her. It was partly because she was worried that her mother would be disappointed in her for agreeing to be with Khivar, and partly because she was worried about Khivar's reaction.
Gathering her courage, Isabel took Khivar's hand in hers. "Khivar will you tell me about my mother."
Khivar kissed the top of her head. "I wondered when you would ask about her."
Isabel turned in his arms to look up into his face. "You did?"
"You were very close to your mother," he said. "I thought you might have remembered something about her."
"No," said Isabel, shaking her head. "I can't remember anything; what she looked like, even her name."
Khivar motioned with his hand, creating a photograph, and he handed it to Isabel. "Her name is Nedra."
Isabel's eyes devoured every detail of the golden-haired woman in the photo. "She's beautiful."
"Just like her daughter," Khivar said.
"I do kind of look like her," Isabel said. "I always wondered."
Khivar nodded. "Of course this is how she appeared the last time I saw her and it has been a long time. She has been in hiding since just after you were killed."
"And you have been looking for her?" Isabel asked.
"Only because she is leading the rebellion," he said. "I would have left her in peace otherwise."
Isabel met his eyes. "You said you would give amnesty to Max's followers who agreed to pledge loyalty to you. Does that include my mother?"
"Yes," Khivar said. "I would like her to come and live at the palace, so you two could be close."
"And it wouldn't hurt your position if the former Queen was supporting you, along with myself," Isabel said.
Khivar smiled. "You are correct, but I also want you to be happy and I know you want your mother here."
"So Khivar, why haven't you announced that I'm on the planet?"
Khivar reached up to touch her face. "I was waiting for you to be ready. If it were up to me I would announce your presence today and I would marry you tomorrow. But I don't want to rush you into anything."
"You've been very patient with me," Isabel said. "I am kind of surprised. I thought you might want to use the fact that I was with you to your advantage."
"I am practical," Khivar said, "even ruthlessly so, but I can also be infinitely patient. I waited for almost sixty years to get you back," he reminded her. "I have Antar and now you are at my side. There is only one more thing I desire and that is to make you my wife."
He leaned in and kissed her gently and Isabel wrapped her arms around him, urging him closer. Khivar deepened the kiss as Isabel wanted. When they were together, all of her fears and doubts left her but when she was alone and had too much time to think, she wondered if she had done the right thing in coming to Antar with Khivar.
She loved him. There was no doubt in her mind about that. What did trouble her was the barely disguised streak of ruthlessness she had seen in him. She knew that he was the reason they were all dead but she had tried not to think too much about it. But the memories she had recovered only reinforced her impressions about him. Khivar was single-minded about ruling Antar. It was the only thing he had ever wanted beside herself, and Isabel feared that he was willing to go to any lengths to stay in control.
But, as the old saying went, she had made her bed. Even if she wanted to leave him, she knew there was nowhere to go. Khivar had found her after sixty years, in another galaxy, he would find her no matter where she went.
And even though she had doubts, Isabel didn't want to leave him. She broke the kiss and took his handsome face in her hands. "Khivar, let's get married."
Udac felt a familiar twinge of jealously rise up within her as she watched the nanny caring for Tess' son Zantas. Tess had ordered the shape shifter to have no contact with the child, leaving his care to the nanny.
As Tess' handmaid it wasn't technically Udac's duty to care for the child but she had raised Chanya, acting almost as her mother. Chanya had always been a spoiled child, but she had always shown great affection for Udac and they had been very close. Chanya had told her everything, her hopes and dreams and plans for the future; but Tess didn't trust her.
At first, Udac thought Tess had accepted her, but as the days passed, the truth became painfully obvious. Tess had allowed her to stay and was eager to learn of the past, but she didn't allow Udac into her life or into her confidence at all.
And Tess' rejection of her hurt Udac more than she had thought possible. She was simply a protector but she had been a big part of Chanya's life, almost like a member of the family. But Tess didn't want her anymore.
Nicaron answered the late-night knock at his door and his new second in command, Colonel Talodan, was in the hall with his adjutant Captain Naire.
"Sir, we've got an uprising in one of the poor neighborhoods on the edge of the city," Talodan reported.
With a swipe of his hand Nicaron dressed himself and quickly followed Talodan and Naire outside to a waiting transport. Nicaron took out his amplifier and switched to their most secure channel to call his servant Idos. "When Khivar awakens, tell him I have gone to see about a riot and I will call him when I have news."
(Secret Headquarters of the Resistance Loyal to the Tageonants)
Song Playing: Sweet Dreams by Air Supply
Max walked into the bedroom and was relieved to see Liz waiting for him. It had been a long day and he wanted nothing more than to lose himself in her. Without a word he crossed to her, his attention only momentarily diverted as the shiny surface of the pendant she wore caught the light.
He enfolded her eager form into his arms, kissing her hard, as he opened the connection between them. Their souls rushed together as he kissed her thoroughly and he felt her hands go to the buttons on his shirt. Breaking the kiss, he traced his thumb down the smooth column of her exposed throat, causing a golden glow to emanate from her skin.
He leaned in and kissed her again, reveling in the perfect union of bodies, minds and souls. Even though his eyes were closed, Max could see the golden light of Liz's soul in his mind and he let it surround and cover him, drawing strength and comfort from her.
Suddenly the golden light flickered and dimmed and then it extinguished. Max's eyes snapped open and he tightened his grasp but his hands met nothing. Liz was gone.
He burst through the bedroom door and ran down the corridor of the palace, desperately calling out for her. "LIZ!!"
It seemed like he ran forever through the twisting, grey stone hallways, growing more desperate with each step, but he saw no one.
A doorway loomed ahead of him and he rushed inside, stopping immediately when he saw Tess. But it wasn't Tess, Max realized, it was her former self, Chanya.
She turned to him with a smile, seemingly unaware of his tumultuous state. "Good morning, Zan."
"Chanya," Max said, ignoring her greeting, "have you seen Liz?"
"No," she said shaking her head.
The motion caused the pendant she was wearing to sway from side to side, catching Max's eye. It was identical to the one Liz wore but he noted immediately that it wasn't broken.
Max awoke with a gasp, practically jumping out of the chair where he had fallen asleep. His eyes darted to the nearby table where he had laid the pendant he had given Liz, and he snatched it up, running his fingers over the jagged edge.
He had never really thought about where the pendant had come from, but now the dream had reminded him that Chanya had worn one that was identical. She had worn it all the time, he remembered now. It hadn't seemed like something she would wear because it wasn't made of precious stones or metals, and he'd wondered if it had been sentimental to her, perhaps given to her by a lover. But that didn't explain how it had gotten to Earth.
Max rose from his chair and crossed to the travel bag Liz had brought with her. He knew that she kept the broken piece of the pendant in the small, leather, drawstring bag that Eddie had given her.
He shook the piece into his hand and placed the broken edge against the pendant, fitting it perfectly into the jagged fracture. With a pass of his other hand, Max repaired the pendant, but almost dropped it in surprise as the center triangle illuminated with a red light.
Liz awoke slowly, feeling strange and aware that something was terribly wrong. Sitting up, she saw the unfamiliar surroundings and then she remembered Rath grabbing her and putting a cloth over her mouth. He had kidnapped her, and even though she didn't recognize the room, she had little doubt about where she was. Antar's royal palace had only been her home for a few years, but the elegant style of the room was familiar.
A movement to her right caught Liz's eye and she turned to see someone seated in a chair against the far wall. She was unsurprised by his presence and acknowledged him softly. "Khivar."
"I'm glad to see you're finally awake," he said. "I assume since you recognize me, that you have recovered your memory. Or was it simply an educated guess?"
"I have my full memory back," Liz confirmed.
Khivar nodded. "Then you remember there are certain substances that our powers will not affect." He motioned around them. "This room is comprised of one of those materials, even the bars on the windows, so there is no use attempting to escape by using your powers."
There was a fuzzy sensation in Liz's head and she blinked a few times attempting to clear her thoughts but it didn't help. Automatically she reached for the connection with Max, but although the connection was still there, it wasn't responding. She turned to Khivar accusingly, "What did you do to me?"
"I had your power of astral projection and your link to Max blocked," Khivar said, "to discourage any ill-conceived rescue attempts. But I didn't tamper with your abilities of empathy and prognostication."
"What about Max and the others? Are they okay?" Liz asked anxiously.
Khivar studied her worried face for a moment, deciding if he should tell her and then shrugged. "Rath only removed you from the house," he said. "The others are still in hiding, safe from me, for now."
Liz breathed a sigh of relief and Khivar continued. "You didn't have the power of astral projection in your other life. It must be one of the benefits of your half-human status."
Liz didn't answer.
"Your original talents of empathy and prognostication have always been fascinating to me," Khivar admitted. "To be able to tell the future must be quite empowering."
Liz shook her head. "It isn't all it's cracked up to be." She looked around, motioning to the room. "I didn't see this coming until it was too late. Often all I get is a dream I can't remember and a feeling of impending dread." She turned to face Khivar. "It's really frustrating to know something is going to happen but not know what or when or if I could do something to prevent it."
Khivar frowned. "Isabel said you had a premonition about the skin solders' attack on Earth."
Liz shrugged. "Maybe. All I know is that I had a nervous stomach and a feeling that we should keep Cuerena near us. If you remember though, that was the day Max and I were meeting his parents to tell them we were planning to get engaged. I was pretty nervous about that, so an upset stomach didn't really seem odd. I didn't think anything else was wrong."
"But you did follow your feeling and keep Cuerena with you," Khivar pointed out.
"Yeah," Liz said. "I've learned not to question my impressions."
"And what is your impression about the current situation?" Khivar asked.
Liz studied him for a moment before speaking. "Isabel loves you desperately but your continual betrayal of everything she believes in will turn her from you."
Khivar's face tightened momentarily before he could control it and when he spoke, his voice was too calm. "Nothing will come between Isabel and myself."
"It did before," Liz reminded him. "When she was Vilondra, you forced her to choose between you and her family, and you are making the same mistake of underestimating her now." Liz looked away from him. "On Earth, Max and Isabel were everything to each other for so long. You have no idea how close they are."
"So close that Isabel kept her true identity from Max, and he turned on her at the first opportunity," Khivar said. "I've seen it all in Isabel's mind."
"Because she isn't strong enough to keep you out?" Liz asked. "It's just one more betrayal Khivar, and one day Isabel will grow to hate you for them."
"You are mistaken," Khivar said.
Liz turned to face him again, meeting his eyes. "So you are impressed with my powers but you don't believe what they reveal?"
"You have seen Isabel turn from me?" Khivar asked, with a look of uncertainty.
"No," Liz admitted. "But I know her pretty well."
Khivar smiled. "So do I."
"If you became the man you could be, the good man you pretended to be on Earth, Isabel would never leave you," Liz said. "It's your choice, Khivar."
(Secret Headquarters of the Resistance Loyal to the Tageonants)
Alex entered the lab later than usual that morning because of his late night of experiments the night before, and he was surprised to see Max in earnest conversation with the head scientist Kranon.
They looked up at his arrival and Alex stopped. "Am I interrupting something?"
"Of course not," Max said, motioning him inside. "I was just telling Kranon that a couple of hours ago I had a dream where I remembered that in her other life, Tess used to wear this pendant."
Alex's eyes narrowed. "The one you found at Atherton's house?"
Max nodded. "Yeah but it wasn't broken in my dream, so I used my powers to fix it and the center triangle turned red."
Alex motioned to the swirling pattern. "Does the symbol mean anything?"
"It's the symbol of Antar," Max said, handing the pendant to Alex.
"Just so it doesn't mean radioactivity, or poison, or bomb," Alex said, taking it. He turned it over in his hands as Max continued.
"I thought you could run some tests on it and try to figure out if it's important," Max said.
Alex turned the pendant to examine the front. "Has anyone tried pushing the triangle?" he asked with a laugh. "It kind of reminds me of this old answering machine we used to have. You know, a red light meant that you had a message."
He pressed the triangle and jumped when a voice projected from the pendent.
. . . things could have been worse, Khivar. But with a show of force we calmed the situation pretty quickly and we're holding the ringleaders.
What started the riot, Nicaron?
The ringleaders were spreading the rumor that Max is back on Antar and he is gathering an army to take back the planet.
Where did they hear this rumor?
They aren't talking, Sir.
Well General, pry whatever information you can from their minds and then execute them.
Yes Sir, make an example of them to the others. I know the routine, unless things have changed while I was on Earth the last sixty years.
Usually I would agree with you, Nicaron, but Isabel has been asking a lot of questions lately, and for now I would prefer to keep her in the dark. Take the prisoners somewhere secure and when you're finished with them dispose of the bodies so we can keep this to ourselves.
As you wish, your Majesty.
Alex looked at Max and Kranon shaking his head. "I didn't think it would really work."
Max's eyes narrowed. "That was a secret communication. Probably on an encoded frequency."
Kranon nodded, motioning to the pendant. "Obviously it is some kind of transmitter. Khivar obtained technology that allows him to send messages without us being able to track them. For years we have been trying to figure out how it works. Maybe this device will finally help us figure it out."
"We also learned that Nicholas is back on the planet," Max said. "That certainly wasn't a shape shifter playing him. I'd hoped we'd gotten him with the rest of the skins when we destroyed the busses." Max shook his head and turned to Alex. "Thanks, Alex. This could really be a big breakthrough."
Alex shrugged. "It was nothing really, but your welcome."
"It could help us get Liz back," Max said, his voice rough with emotion.
Alex noticed the tired look that came over Max suddenly. "We'll get her back," he assured Max, with a comforting hand on his shoulder.
Max nodded and turned to leave but stopped when Alex cried out.
"Oh!' Alex exclaimed. "I almost forgot. I had an idea about Raltos and Hale."
"What's that?" Max asked interested.
"Well, we haven't been able to get much information from them, trying to pry it from their minds but what if someone possessed them like Khivar did. Wouldn't that give them access to his stored memories?"
Max looked to an obviously surprised Kranon, who slowly nodded and smiled.
"That just might work," Kranon said. "That just might work."
Even though Khivar had told her it would be impossible to escape, Liz had been testing the room all afternoon. She had used her powers to check every surface of the ceiling, floors, walls and windows without success. But she didn't give up.
Liz sat in the middle of the floor and started to concentrate, focusing on the thread of connection she shared with Max. Khivar had blocked the connection but Liz had faith that she could break through and she knew Max would be attempting to do the same thing from his end.
She let everything drop out of her mind and the golden thread filled her consciousness. It felt the same in her mind, like a piece of Max, but when she attempted to open it, she was met only with silence. She could still feel Max at the end of the connection, could tell that he was alive but she couldn't feel his emotions or hear his thoughts.
In her mind, the barrier was like a tangible object and Liz concentrated harder, willing it to break. She pushed harder and harder with her powers but the barrier was strong and Liz started to get a headache. She ignored the pain and continued to batter the barrier using surges of power and she thought she sensed it give a little when she was interrupted by a knock at the door.
Liz rose quickly, not wanting her visitor to guess what she had been doing and settled on the sofa before calling out. "Come in."
The pain in her head intensified because of her rapid action and she put a hand to her temple.
"You have a headache?" Rath asked from the doorway.
Surprised, Liz rose from the sofa and turned toward him. "Rath? Khivar told me that you only took me, that you left the others okay. Is that true?"
Rath nodded. "I didn't hurt any of your friends or Max."
Liz sighed in relief. "What are you doing here?"
He held out his hands placatingly. "I just came to see if you were all right."
"All right?" Liz asked. "You took me away from Max, from my friends. How could you think I would be all right?"
Rath came into the room, letting the door shut behind him. "I did it to save you."
"Save me?" Liz asked incredulously.
Rath nodded, coming closer. "You know Max is on a suicide mission to save his sister and his son. Khivar's forces outnumber him by the thousands or more. There is no way he is going to live through this and he is taking you all down with him."
Liz shook her head, wincing in pain. "Rath, it was my decision to stay with Max, no matter what. And if we died, well at least we'd have been together. "
He came a few steps closer. "I made a deal with Khivar to guarantee your safety."
"Me for Max?" Liz guessed, pressing her hand to her head again. "Rath, you can't trust Khivar."
Rath stepped forward, closing the distance between them and grasped Liz's head in his hands, one hand on her forehead and one on the back of her head, and before Liz could protest, he eased her headache away.
He released her and stepped back. "Better?"
Liz nodded gingerly. "Yeah, thanks. I haven't quite gotten the hang of things like that."
Rath shrugged. "You're still pretty new to your powers and healing takes precise control."
Liz's eyes narrowed suddenly. "What happened to your accent? And your grammar has improved by about six grade levels."
Rath smiled. "It pays to let people think I'm just the dumb muscle. I am often underestimated."
Liz nodded, knowing she fit into that category and studied him more closely. She knew Michael was a lot smarter than he let people see but she had assumed that Rath wasn't blessed with his intelligence. Now she knew Rath had a brain and she hoped she could appeal to him. "Rath, you have got to help me get out of here. Max will forgive you for taking me if we go back."
"You don't understand Liz," Rath said. "I was made to be disposable but I don't feel like stepping aside for the real thing. I am claiming my life and my position on my home world."
"But in your other life, you would have never turned against Max," Liz argued. "You were his best friend, his second in command, almost like brothers."
"Even with your memory restored," Rath said, "you don't know everything about my other life."
Isabel gripped Khivar's hand tightly as they walked into the throne room. Khivar had told her the room would be filled with reporters but Isabel was unprepared for the number of people gathered.
Khivar had called the press conference but he hadn't told the reporters what he was announcing. There had been much speculation in the media, but when the gathered reporters saw Khivar enter the room with a woman on his arm, they naturally expected him to announce his wedding and they pressed forward, eager to get a glimpse of his fiancée.
Khivar led Isabel slowly to an elaborate throne on the dais and they took their seats, amid a flurry of questions called out from the audience.
"Khivar, are you finally announcing a betrothal?"
"There have been rumors of a woman living in the palace. Is this the same one?"
"When is the ceremony? Has a date been set?
"Khivar, who is this woman? Where is she from? Is she of Royal birth?"
"Where will you go for your wedding trip?"
For a few moments, Khivar let the excitement in the room build by remaining silent, but then he held up his hand, signaling for silence. The room went quiet immediately and Khivar remained seated to make his announcement.
"Ladies and gentlemen, as you have speculated I have come here to announce my betrothal to the beautiful lady at my side," he said smoothly, indicating Isabel by raising her hand to his lips. He kissed her hand softly, and as he had anticipated, Isabel blushed prettily. He smiled with satisfaction and kept her hand in his as he continued. "And yes she is of Royal birth, a family second only to my own. Allow me to introduce Isabel, the reborn Princess Vilondra Tageonant, finally returned to me and Antar."
The room erupted into an immediate cacophony as every person seemed to be talking at once. Isabel swallowed nervously, looking at the eager faces in the crowd straining to get closer to her. And for maybe the first time in her life, she felt overwhelmed by the attention.
Nicaron went into his suite of rooms and was greeted by Idos. After all of the years on Earth he found it difficult to call her by her proper name instead of Mom.
She took his coat and handed him a drink, motioning to the bedroom. "You have a visitor, Sir. Shall I retire for the night?"
Nicaron nodded, dismissing her and stalked to the bedroom door, pushing it open with a burst of power. He observed the blonde waiting in his bed with curiosity. He and Tess had become lovers a couple of weeks ago and she often came to his room at night, but tonight he was interested in something in addition to companionship.
He took a seat at a table adjacent to the bed and swirled the liquid around the glass. He knew Tess had the ability to erase or alter memories and if she could help him with Isabel's memories, all of his problems would be gone. Except for the fact that then Tess would know his secret, but she would be easier to deal with than Isabel. "Tell me about your powers."
Tess' welcoming smile turned to surprise. "What?"
"Your powers," Nicaron said, motioning to her. "Particularly your power to erase memories. How does it work?"
Tess swallowed hard. "Why do you want to know?"
Nicaron shrugged. "Everything, it could be very useful."
(Secret Headquarters of the Resistance Loyal to the Tageonants)
It was late and Michael entered his room quietly, hoping not to wake Maria. He kicked his pants and shoes aside and was about to pull his shirt over his head when Maria's soft voice stopped him.
"You had a long day," she said.
Michael tossed his shirt on the pile. "Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."
"You didn't," Maria said. "I couldn't sleep."
Michael got into bed next to her and took her in his arms. "You're worried about Liz," he said with a sigh. "I'm sorry I haven't been around much since she was taken."
"You're helping to find her," Maria said. "That's more important."
Michael pulled back from her, shaking his head. "Nothing is more important to me than you."
"But you've been so distant lately, Michael," Maria protested. "Since you got your memory back, I hardly see you." She looked away. "I thought maybe you remembered a girlfriend from your other life."
He took her head in his hands. "I have been distant but it's only because I'm trying to fit all the pieces of my two lives together." Michael smiled but it turned out more like a grimace. The real reason he had been avoiding her was that he was trying to decide whether to tell Maria about his crush on Liz in their other life, but he had decided it wasn't important and the information would only hurt her. He continued. "And there was no one, no girlfriend. I was totally committed to my career, my King and Queen."
"But you were engaged to Isabel," Maria said.
"It was only a sham to make the people think she wasn't supporting Khivar," he said. "I never loved her. You are the only one I have ever loved. And I know I don't say it often enough but with Max losing Liz and our future being so uncertain, I wanted to make sure you knew."
Maria kissed him quickly. "I know, Michael. I know."
Kyle angled his ship into a dive, aiming for a large group of Khivar's troops. When he was over them, he fired the lasers, watching with satisfaction as explosions destroyed the ground around them, sending bodies in all directions.
He pulled up and turned sharply to go in for another pass, targeting another group of soldiers. He was almost in range when the sickening whine of anti-aircraft laser erupted and Kyle saw a shaft of blue light coming at him too late to avoid.
The laser struck his ship and crippled the controls and Kyle fought to bring the craft to a safe landing. It hit the ground, bouncing once before skidding to a stop. Immediately he threw open the cockpit and leapt out, tossing aside his helmet.
He drew the blaster on his hip and used his ship for cover as he looked for signs of approaching soldiers. When he didn't see any, he headed for the protection of the trees just a few yards away. Reaching them in a few strides, Kyle dove and rolled into the cover, turning quickly around to look for pursuers. There was still no sign of Khivar's troops and Kyle jumped to his feet and jogged deeper into the trees, heading back to Max's headquarters.
He ran for a few moments before noticing that the trees were thinning and then they opened up forming a wide path. Jogging a few minutes more, Kyle was surprised to suddenly find himself in a gray, stone corridor. He stopped and looked behind him, but the forest was gone, replaced by a dark hallway. And even though he had never been there before, Kyle knew he had somehow entered the palace where the Royal Four had lived in their other lives, that was now in Khivar's possession.
Ahead, the passageway was lit with torches hanging from the walls and Kyle could see that the hall split into two, and he approached it carefully, watchful for Khivar's men. He inched to the opening, with his back pressed against the wall, drawn blaster ready. Quickly he peered down both corridors but he saw nothing to indicate which way he should continue and he was about to choose the left path, when a soft voice stopped him.
"Help. Please, can anyone hear me?"
Kyle turned toward the right corridor. "Liz?"
"Kyle, is that you?" she called out.
"Yeah!" he said excitedly. "Where are you?"
"I don't know exactly," she said. "I was drugged when they brought me here. Can you follow my voice?"
"Keep talking and I'll try," Kyle said.
"Okay," Liz said and she started reciting.
To be, or not to be: that is the question
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind . . .
"Is that Shakespeare?" Kyle interrupted, as he hurried down the hall.
"It was the first thing I could think of," Liz said. "We had to learn a Shakespeare passage for my AP English class. It's from Hamlet."
"Well keep going," Kyle said.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come.
Kyle had walked the entire time Liz was reciting but he still couldn't tell if he was any closer to her. He had passed several locked doors and several more corridors but he couldn't pinpoint where Liz was, and finally he stopped. "Liz, I can't find you. Your voice seems to be echoing from all directions."
"You don't sound any closer either," Liz said sadly. "What are we going to do?"
"Don't give up," Kyle said. "I'll keep looking until I find you. Keep reciting and when we get out of here you can tell me what it means."
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come . . .
Liz's voice grew suddenly fainter until Kyle couldn't hear her any more. "Liz!" he called out. "Can you hear me? Liz? Liz!"
A gentle shaking on his arm caused Kyle to spin around and suddenly he was in his own room, in bed, with Ava beside him. "Liz!" he said anxiously. "I've got to find her."
Ava put a soothing hand to his cheek. "It was only a dream Kyle."
"A dream?" Kyle asked incredulously. He shook his head, knowing she was right. "It seemed so real."
"It's okay, we'll find Liz," Ava assured him. "But now it's the middle of the night and you need to get some sleep."
Kyle lay back against the cool pillow and closed his eyes as Ava soothingly stroked his brow. He sighed. "To sleep; perchance to dream."