BOOK 12 DESTINY DERIVED
(THE ROYAL FOUR RECLAIMED)
Max looked at Tess. "This isn't my son."
Tess fidgeted nervously. "Of course he is," she insisted, and immediately started a mind warp to stir up his parental feelings.
Max shook his head. "Your mind warps don't work on me any more, Tess, and the last one has just worn off. I remember what happened now, all of it. You mind warped me to make me think we slept together but we never did."
"Of course we did," Tess said indignantly. "Just because you don't want to claim you son, you won't admit it."
"But this child isn't my son," Max said.
"No," Kyle said, as he stepped forward and spoke in a hollow voice. "He's mine."
Max, Liz and Tess all turned surprised faces to him and Kyle continued. "When I saw the baby, I knew something wasn't right. Somehow I just knew he was mine and it made me remember." He motioned to Max, "The morning after you and Tess were out all night, when we thought you had been together, she called me into her room. She told me that she had realized her true feelings for you and she didn't love you, and you had just spent the whole night talking everything out. She said she loved me and wanted to be with me and we . . ." he shook his head, "we made love."
He shook his head again. "At least I did." Kyle looked at Tess, "But obviously it was just a convenient means to an end for you, wasn't it Tess? You couldn't risk really sleeping with Max, could you? Because when you connected with him, he might have seen who you really were and rejected you." He turned back to Max. "Tess needed to be pregnant and she used me to do it. Then she mind warped me to forget."
"Don't be silly," Tess said with a laugh. "We've never been together like that, Kyle, other than in your dreams."
"It is true," Ava said, coming forward with Udac and Cuerena right behind her. "I saw it in Kyle's mind when we were connected." She turned to Kyle. "I didn't realize that you didn't remember. I thought it was one of those things you wanted to forget."
Liz felt a sense of profound relief, not only that Max hadn't slept with Tess but that he wouldn't suffer from the guilt any longer. And through the connection, which was still open between them, she could feel Max's relief too. But his relief was tempered with a touch of sorrow, which Liz understood, because Max had anticipated having a son for more than a year.
But Liz's relief was interrupted by a familiar feeling of uneasiness and Liz recognized it just as two things happened simultaneously.
Nicaron leapt from a doorway with an upraised hand aimed at Max, and Tess screamed in fury building a huge fireball behind her. Liz instinctively reached through the connection with Max, and using a sudden burst of Max's shield, lashed out at Nicaron and Tess, throwing Nicaron through a wall and sending Tess flying down the hall and to the floor.
Cuerena surged forward to the hole in the wall. "I'll take care of the General, your Majesty."
Max nodded and turned to Tess, who was slowly getting to her feet, carefully clutching her wrist. "How could you, Tess? How could you do that to me? To Kyle and your son?"
"Kyle is nothing," Tess hissed, "and neither is that baby. It's us who matter Max. You and me. I should have risked sleeping with you and then maybe you would have seen how important I am to you. You have always been so blinded by Liz, you can't see your love for me."
"You're deluded," Max said. "I remember everything from our other life, Tess. We dated before I ever met Liz, but I didn't love you. That's why I ended our relationship."
"You're lying," Tess screamed. "You loved me, I know you did."
Max shook his head. "I loved Liz, that's why I married her in our other life and that's why I married her again a couple of weeks ago."
Tess' gaze went to the telltale ring on Max's hand and her face twisted in hatred. Again she built her power, fueled by her anger and loathing. "I won't let Liz have you," she hissed, sending a fireball at Liz.
Max still held the baby in his arms but as the fireball passed him, he reached through his connection with Liz and looked through her eyes to raise a shield in front of her. Max kept the shield in place as he turned to make sure Liz was okay. His eyes quickly raked her body and seeing that she was uninjured, he then turned back to confront Tess, but she was gone.
Cuerena stepped through the hole in the wall, on guard, looking for Nicaron. She knew the General was powerful and ruthless, his reputation had been well known even before Khivar's coup. Max and the others had told her that he was leading the skin army on Earth, but Cuerena hadn't realized that she had faced him before, until a few days ago when it had been revealed that he was a shape shifter.
General Nicaron, Nicholas, Khivar's right hand, was also the shape shifter she had seen in New York all those years ago. At the time, Cuerena had only known him as the General, but Khivar had dozens of Generals and she hadn't even considered that the shape shifter was Nicaron.
The room was long with a large table surrounded by many chairs, but it didn't appear that it had been used in some time. With her eyes, she followed the path of debris caused as Nicaron's body had crashed through the wall and into the furniture beyond. Where the destruction ended, Cuerena expected to see the General's body but he wasn't there.
Instantly she was on guard, keeping herself in front of the hole in the wall, blocking Nicaron's exit.
From somewhere in the room, Nicaron called out, "Sent a shape shifter to kill a shape shifter."
Cuerena listened carefully but Nicaron's voice seemed to echo through the room and she ducked behind a nearby chair. Suddenly a blast of energy hit the chair near her head and Cuerena rolled out of the way, taking cover behind another chair.
Nicaron's laughter echoed all around her and Cuerena knew she was in trouble. The General knew where she was and he was very powerful. If she couldn't locate him quickly, he would surely get her first. But Cuerena did remember one thing about Nicaron. He had a terrible temper that caused him to act rashly, and if she could throw him off guard, she would have a chance.
Cuerena shifted into the form of Nicaron's lover Katian and in her voice called out to him. "That isn't very sporting, not to give a girl a chance."
"Katian?" Nicaron called out.
Cuerena raised her head over the chair briefly, so he could see her, and then ducked back behind the cover. "She was innocent of treason," Cuerena called to him. "I set her up because I couldn't let you find the clones hidden in New York."
"Innocent!" Nicaron bellowed, rushing toward Cuerena. "I loved her."
Cuerena barely had time to brace herself before Nicaron was on top of her, and they both tumbled to the floor.
"I'll kill you for that!" Nicaron roared.
Cuerena shifted quickly again, making Nicaron lose his grip and she put a hand to his chest, pushing a surge of energy into him. "Not if I kill you first."
"Tess!" Max bellowed. He handed the baby to Kyle and rushed after her through the twisting hallways, finally stopping at the destroyed door leading into the main part of the palace. He looked around quickly, but didn't see anything to show which way she might have gone. Max was furious at her for everything she had done, all the pain and heartache and death she had caused. But through the connection he felt Liz's calming presence and heard her soft words.
Let her go, Max. Tess' actions have cost her everything. She'll have to live with that the rest of her life.
Max nodded, and jogged back through the corridors reaching the others just as an explosion rocked the palace. Max quickly raised a shield over the group as pieces of the ceiling rained down on them.
Cuerena emerged from the hole where she had followed Nicaron. "He's dead."
With a nod Max turned to Kyle and Ava. "There's a passageway out of the palace not far from here. Take the baby and Udac and get out, you aren't safe in here."
Kyle nodded, still looking at his son. "Okay."
They walked quickly to the escape tunnel and Max opened it. "Thanks, for all your help Kyle, and congratulations on your son."
Kyle turned to Max. "What did Tess name him?"
Max shook his head. "It was all lies, Kyle. He's your son, you should name him."
Kyle smiled. "Thanks Max, and I'm sorry."
Max nodded and Kyle allowed Ava and Udac to move into the tunnel ahead of him, before entering.
Max turned to Liz. "Go with them," he said in a strangled voice, "please."
Liz shook her head. "No way, not again. I won't leave you, like you made me in our last life. I belong at your side, no matter what happens, and that's where I'm staying."
Max smiled. "That's what I thought you'd say." He closed the door and sealed it and turned back to Liz. "We still need to find Isabel and Khivar."
"Where do you think he is?" Liz asked.
"I have a pretty good idea," Max said. "Can't you feel him?"
Liz reached out with her senses and nodded. "Yeah, I can feel his power."
Max nodded. "It's like a light in the darkness, leading us right to him.
"It could be a trap," Liz said.
Max took her hand. "With Khivar, I wouldn't expect anything less."
"Let's go, Liz said, and turned to Cuerena, but she was gone.
Tess had hidden when she ran and now she was simply following Max and Liz through the hallways.
Max had his shield up, protecting Liz, but he would lower it eventually and then Tess would get another chance for revenge.
Cuerena hurried away from Max and Liz, making several quick turns to lose sight of them.
When she thought she was far enough away from them, her form shimmered and shifted into its usual face, General Nicaron.
He was lucky that Cuerena had come to dispatch him alone because it had allowed him to finish her off and take her form. She was a skilled fighter, but when she shape shifted, freeing herself from his grasp, he had taken advantage of his suddenly freed hand to deliver a fatal burst of energy, before she could execute him.
Liz had caught him by surprise when she had used Max's shield. Nicaron didn't even know such things were possible and too late he had felt the amount of power radiating from Max and Liz. He would have tried to kill Max again but he knew he was no match for Max's power and he was afraid that Liz would sense him again, so he determined that the best course of action was to warn Khivar.
He arrived at Khivar's office and was surprised to find the door shut, but he input the code and the door swung open to reveal Khivar with Isabel in his arms.
Khivar noted Nicaron's entrance immediately. "Is Max dead?" he asked as Nicaron strode across the room.
Nicaron stopped before Khivar's desk and glanced at Naire's body on the floor and then at Isabel. "There has been a new development," he said. "Max has suddenly acquired a large amount of power, more than he ever had in his other life. I attempted to kill him but Liz used his shield against me and I barely escaped."
"Liz used Max's powers?" Isabel asked. "How is that possible?"
Khivar shook his head. "I have heard stories, legends about such things but I didn't think they were real. And obviously Max is getting his new power from the Granolith. But the question is, how long does it last and is he able to fully control it?"
Nicaron nodded. "Also, it might be of interest to know that Tess lied to us all. Her child wasn't Max's, it was Kyle's."
Khivar smiled and then started to laugh. "I never even thought to question the child's paternity. Everyone, especially Max, had accepted that it was Max's son."
Nicaron broke into his laughter. "Sir, Max said he was coming to look for you and Isabel, perhaps I should summon your personal guard from the battle."
"I think I can handle Max myself," Khivar said, with a jut of his chin toward the door, "and besides it's too late."
Isabel and Nicaron turned to see Max and Liz step through the door.
"Welcome Max," Khivar said. "You are just in time to witness the total destruction of your followers. Then I will kill you and reclaim control of your lovely wife and her powers."
Max crossed half of the room before he stopped. "It won't be so easy this time, Khivar."
Nicaron moved to place himself between Khivar and Max, but Khivar waved him aside. "This is between Max and myself."
Isabel grasped Khivar's arm. "Don't do this, I'm begging you."
Khivar touched her face gently. "If Max had stayed on Earth, he would have been safe."
"That's what you told her," Max said. "But it wasn't the whole story. Isabel, after you left, Khivar ordered the entire skin army to Roswell to kill us all."
Isabel looked at Khivar, shaking her head. "That isn't true, is it? It can't be. You promised me."
Khivar sighed wearily. "Isabel, we are at war. I had a chance to kill your brother and I had to take it."
"And you were just sparing my feelings again," she said, backing away from him. "Was it all lies, Khivar? Everything you told me?"
"There were some necessary untruths," Khivar admitted, "but you know I love you." He suddenly raised his hand and used his powers to push her and Liz to the sides of the room as he propelled the dagger from Naire's chest at Max.
Max barely had a warning sensation that Khivar was building his power and was able to erect a shield between himself and Khivar. The dagger traveled at such a high speed that it shattered when it hit the shield, scattering poisonous shards to the floor in front of him, which Max quickly melted into the floor.
"That vexatious shield saved you again," Khivar said disappointedly. "And it would have had such a nice touch of irony if you had been killed by the dagger with which your spy meant to assassinate me." Khivar shrugged. "We will simply have to test the strength of your shield," he said with a flick of his hand, which sent several large pieces of furniture at Max.
Max pushed them aside, using a wave of his hand, before they even reached his shield and Khivar used his distraction to send a crackling bolt of black energy at him.
The energy bolt caught Max off-guard and when it hit his shield, it knocked him back across the room. He slammed into the wall and fell to the ground, his shield dissolving around him.
"Max!" Liz called out and tried to go to him, but Khivar held her against the wall with his powers as he stalked toward Max's still form.
With a smile, Khivar stopped next to Max, where he lay on the floor. "Easier than it was last time," he said, raising his hand and building his powers to deliver a deathblow.
Michael watched helplessly as the new ships streaked toward the palace. There were so many, he didn't have a change at bringing half of them down.
The squadron in the lead, fired a first round and Michael held his breath, waiting for their destruction, but when the explosions sounded they were not on the ground as he expected but in the air above. And Michael looked up to see the new ships, shooting Khivar's out of the sky.
A voice he vaguely recognized came over his communication device. "It's looks like you could use some help down there General."
Michael activated his communicator. "Larek? Is that you?"
"Just thought we'd stop by and see how the revolution is going," Larek said.
Ryden nodded at Rath and sat up straighter. "Maybe we can make a deal."
Rath smiled. "At first we have to make Khivar think I am loyal to him, and any inside information you can give me about Maxie's battle plans would be very helpful."
Ryden started to rise but winced from the pain, dropping to one knee.
Rath had his blaster aimed at him immediately. "I don't want to injure you further Ryden, so don't do anything that looks like you are going for that blaster."
"Sorry," Ryden apologized. "My head hit the wall pretty hard and I'm a bit dizzy."
Rath nodded and walked toward him, gathering all the weapons, on the way. Rath dropped a map of the castle and surrounding area at his feet. "Mark on there where Max's forces are."
Ryden looked up at him. "I don't have a pen and you are blocking my powers."
Rath sighed in annoyance and patted his pockets.
"Wait," Ryden said. "I think I have a pen somewhere." He patted his pants pockets and then his jacket, smiling with success. He reached into his inner jacket pocket and pretended to be fumbling around, as he carefully aimed the small back-up blaster he kept there.
The single shot hit Rath between the eyes, and for a moment he had a confused look on his face before he fell to the ground dead.
Ryden quickly gathered the weapons from Rath's body and with a well-placed shot, destroyed the amplifier in his hand. "Michael said you were treacherous, but I never would have believed this."
With a last sorrowful look at his men, Ryden hurried to join the others in the battle at the main gate. Michael was depending on them.
Khivar held Liz completely immobilized and she couldn't use her hands to raise Max's shield, so she went into his mind to do it, but Max was already in control. He was simply pretending to be injured, and when Khivar unleashed his powers, Max intended to focus his shield and angle Khivar's powers back at him.
From somewhere in the room, Liz heard Isabel cry out, just as Khivar's power surged toward Max.
Khivar threw a deadly energy bolt at Max but was shocked when Max's shield suddenly appeared and bounced the energy back at him. Khivar was standing so close to Max, that he was unable to dodge aside, and barely managed to deflect the brunt of the power away from him. But a portion of the energy caught Khivar in the chest and knocked him to the ground.
Max got to his feet and rushed Khivar, but Khivar rolled aside and used his powers to throw objects at Max from several directions.
"I have been keeping Liz and Isabel out of this unpleasantness," Khivar said, "but perhaps you should make sure that your wife doesn't stumble into the middle. Neither of us would like to see her injured."
Max used his shield to deflect the objects easily and glanced at Liz, raising a shield around her, and Khivar took advantage of the time to get a weapon from inside his jacket. He aimed it at Max and quickly shot, sending a long chain with three spiked balls soaring toward him.
Using a burst of speed, Max leapt out of the way and used his powers to send the projectile back at Khivar.
With an echoing surge of power, Khivar spun the chain, faster and faster, sending the spiked balls whirling through the air. Max backed a step, watching the spinning chain carefully as it advanced toward him. And at the last minute, he used his shield to deflect it back at Khivar.
Isabel stood immobile, Khivar's power holding her, and watched with disbelief the escalating scene before her. She didn't want either Khivar or Max to win, knowing the loser would end up dead.
Again and again Khivar threw the chain at Max, who dived and tumbled and used his shield to block each attempt. From inside his coat, Khivar produced a number of small explosive devices and threw them at Max.
Max encased them in a shield, absorbing the release of power as Khivar sent another arc of crackling, black energy at him.
Liz watched the battle with a horrible sense of deja-vu. It was so similar to the fight she had witnessed between the two in their last lifetime, on the security screens from a safe room, and she felt just as helpless now as she had then. And she struggled against Max's power holding her in place, without success. Max let me go, she complained through their bond. Let me help you.
She could feel Max's anger and desire for the situation to finally be over but she could also feel his fear. But Max didn't fear losing her or fear dying, he feared that after everything they had been through, all of the struggling and sacrifice, that Khivar would win by making Max like him.
But even though she couldn't help Max physically, Liz realized she wasn't helpless. You aren't like him, Liz told Max through their connection. You could never be like him. I can feel you holding back, but you have to end this, Max. For the people of Antar, for Isabel, for us, it's your responsibility, our responsibility. Draw strength from me, from our love, and know you are doing the right thing. I'm sorry it has to be this way and I know it isn't fair, but we both know we can't escape our destiny.
I know you're right, Max agreed. It's just . . .
He trailed off and Liz rushed to assure him. Max, you can mete out justice and punishment and even death if you must, and you will still be a good man. You will still be the man I love.
Liz could feel Max's relief through their connection as he reached for the overwhelming energy of the planet that he had been holding at bay. And with a mighty surge, Max struck out with his shield, pushing past Khivar's weapons and power, and struck him squarely in the chest, using his powers to drain Khivar's life force.
Khivar stumbled back but kept his feet and raised his hand, attempting to retaliate. But a look of surprise washed over his face, as he felt the amount of power radiating from Max and realized what was happening. Khivar clutched at his chest and sank to his knees as his strength left him.
Nicaron rushed forward with a roar of rage but Max threw him against the far wall with a small motion of his hand, as he concentrated on Khivar.
Max wanted to kill Khivar for all of the pain and suffering he had caused. For what he had done to the people of Antar, for what he had done to Liz to Isabel, for all of the deaths he had caused, Khivar deserved to die.
Max walked slowly across the room until he stood over Khivar. He could feel Khivar's heartbeat, so fragile, so easily extinguished, just like Khivar had extinguished his and Liz's lives. Max used his power to press on Khivar's heart, slowing the beat until Khivar fell to the floor, gasping for breath. But as Max watched Khivar slowly dying, he didn't feel justified, he didn't feel like he was avenging the evil Khivar had perpetrated, he just felt wrong.
The force that had been holding Isabel in place suddenly dissolved into nothing and she rushed forward. "Khivar! Max, please."
A voice suddenly emitted from the communication array. "Your Majesty Khivar, General Nicaron, we are being overrun. The citizens are charging our position, attacking with farming implements and their bare hands. Please respond, Sir. What are your orders? There are reports from all over the planet that the rebels are overtaking our positions. Many of our troops have mutinied and joined with the rebels. Our air fleet is wiped out. Sir what should we do? Please respond. Sir . . ."
The transmission cut off and static broadcast for a moment before it went completely dead.
Max stood over Khivar's prone form and released his hold on Khivar's life force, immediately feeling his heart beat and breathing ease. "It's over Khivar. Your army is defeated, you've lost and you're going to pay for what you've done."
Suddenly the room filled with thick, dark smoke and Max quickly backed away, expanding the shield around Liz to encompass him as well.
Tess and Idos, who had been watching from outside, took the opportunity to run into the room, past Max and Liz, to where Nicaron was already helping Khivar to his feet.
Idos ran to help Khivar, but Tess went to Nicaron. "I know you have an escape route. Take me with you," she said aloud, and then whispered to Nicaron. "Convince Khivar to let me go with you or I will tell him what you asked me to do to Isabel.
Nicaron considered her for a moment. He could easily kill her now. But perhaps her powers could help them escape. And when he was sure they were safe he would kill her slowly, enjoying every minute. Tess deserved to die, for killing his troops, for lying to him and Khivar, for daring to threaten him. It would be something he could look forward to. Nicaron turned to Khivar. "Perhaps her talents could be useful to us."
Nicaron hit a panel on the wall and a secret passageway slid open, and Tess, Nicaron and Idos went inside.
Khivar's eyes automatically went to Isabel and he held out his hand to her.
Isabel met his eyes and held them, and a perfect moment of understanding passed between them, as a tear ran down her cheek. She couldn't go with him, but she would let him go. It was the last thing she would do for him. Her last act of love.
Khivar nodded, his eyes never leaving hers. And as the door closed between them, Isabel attempted to memorize ever detail of his handsome face. She thought she saw a single tear escape his eye and roll down his cheek, and at the last moment he raised his hand to his lips and blew her a kiss.
Isabel continued to stare at the wall, where the door had closed between them. She knew she would never forget Khivar, never stop loving him but she couldn't be with him, it was impossible.
And as the smoke started to clear, Isabel turned to look at Max and Liz and she was filled with hope. Perhaps she and Khivar would be together, in their next life.
The door sealed between Khivar and Isabel, blocking her from his sight and for a moment he couldn't move. He reached out a tentative hand, toward the door, not sure what he intended but Nicaron's voice brought him back to the present situation.
"Sir," Nicaron called out. "We've got to leave before Max figures out where we've gone."
Khivar turned to him with a brief nod and climbed on-board the small escape ship, using his powers to cloak them from sight and technology.
As Nicaron quickly readied the ship for take off, Khivar relived the events of the day. Everything had happened so quickly, he still couldn't believe that Max had won. Khivar berated himself for growing complacent, but he was still alive and it wasn't over yet. They would go into hiding on the planet he had previously secured, and he would plan. It would take time, perhaps years, but he had set aside a large amount of currency to prepare for just such a situation. And if nothing else, he was patient.
Through the ship's window, Khivar took one last look at the door that hid Isabel from him and released a weary sigh. "Let's go."
A beeping sound on the large screen behind Khivar's desk drew Isabel's attention and she could see dozens of small blips approaching Antar. "Max," she called out, "Khivar said that Kathana was sending reinforcement troops."
Max rushed to the console and looked at the screen. He set the controls and picked up the communicator and spoke into it loudly. "This is Zantor Tageonant, the true King of Antar. The usurper Khivar has fled, and the planet will shortly be under my total control. I am ordering troops loyal to Khivar to lay down their weapons now and surrender, and I guarantee you will be dealt with fairly."
Quickly adjusting the controls on the communicator, Max turned it to a secure channel and spoke into it once again. "Kathana, Royal Duchess of Ravok, this is King Zantor Tageonant. I am aware that your forces are approaching Antar. Khivar's regime is defeated and he has fled the planet. The war is over and I once again rule Antar, with the power of the Granolith at my side. Recall your troops now or I will be forced to pull them from the sky."
Max watched the blips on the screen, and for a moment nothing happened, but then they suddenly reversed course and the communicator indicated an incoming message.
He switched on the com and a female voice emitted. "Zantor Tageonant, King of Antar," she greeted formally, "I have recalled all troops."
"Kathana," Max said, "I hope we can work toward forgiving old hostilities and again enjoy the friendship we and our planets used to share. You are invited to join us at my palace this evening, in a celebration of newfound peace."
She was silent for a moment, as if deciding what to do and then she spoke. "Thank you for the invitation, your Majesty. I would be happy to attend."
"We look forward to seeing you," Max said and he switched off the com. He turned back to Isabel. "I'm really sorry that things turned out this way."
Isabel shook her head. "No, Max, Liz, I'm the one who's sorry. I shouldn't have returned with Khivar. I just . . ." she trailed off.
Liz put her arm around her sister in law. "You are in love," she said softly. "We understand that Isabel."
"We know Khivar told you that he would leave us alone," Max said. "You did what you thought would save us. You don't have anything to be sorry about."
Liz gasped, as realization suddenly dawned, "Max, Nicaron was here. That means -"
Max cut her off, "That means Nicaron was posing as Cuerena and she's still back in that room."
The three of them ran back down the hallways and ducked into the hole in the wall. The room was a disused meeting room and they spread out to quickly search it.
Isabel opened a closet and yelled, "Max!"
Max and Liz rushed over to where Isabel was on her knees. "It must be Cuerena," she said, motioning to the small, genderless, gray body, lying on the closet floor. She pressed her hand to the shape shifters throat. "I think I can still feel a heartbeat."
Max knelt down next to Cuerena and put his hands on a burn mark on her stomach, using his additional power to force a connection with the unconscious shape shifter. He quickly found her injuries and pushed his energy into her, healing the wounds.
As her injuries healed, a golden light enveloped Cuerena's body and she shifted into the form that they were familiar with.
She sat up quickly but relaxed when she saw who was around her. "The General defeated me."
Max nodded. "But he and Khivar and Tess have fled the planet. He helped her to her feet. "We're taking Antar back."
Once it had been announced that Khivar had fled the planet, the remainder of his troops quickly surrendered, and the celebration started immediately after.
The citizens of the capitol city played music and danced in the streets. Max opened the palace grounds to the celebrations, and revelers and well-wishers surged around the palace.
Hand-in-hand Max and Liz climbed to the heights of the palace wall, flanked by Isabel and Michael. Ryden, Toaks, Cuerena and the remainder of the shape shifter guards took up positions behind them. They were joined by Ava, Udac, Kyle and the baby, and Maria, Sean, Alex, Nedra and Kranon from the safe house.
Max and Liz took Michael and Isabel's hands and raised them for the crowd to see. The Royal Four returned.
The crowd let out a mighty cheer, chanting Royal Four, and Max held up his hands to signal for silence.
"Today is a glorious day for the people of Antar. Working together we have overthrown the criminal Khivar and taken back the planet."
Another roar went through the crowd and Max waited for it to quiet down before he continued.
"But we also lost a lot of people today, friends and family, and there is still a lot of work to do. People are in need of food and housing. Relations between the five planets of the system are strained, and the government is compromised. There is a lot of damage to repair in structures as well as trust, and I promise you that all of these issues will be dealt with. For my first official act, I am reinstating the original name of Antar's capitol city to the name of Tageonon. Under that name, the city has always been a place of reason and justice, a center of technological advance, arts and higher learning, and we will make it so again."
A louder cheer raced through the crowd and once again Max motioned for silence.
"It will take a lot of effort, but with all of us working together, the noble houses and commoners alike, we can make Antar a place of peace and prosperity for everyone."
The crowd cheered again and Max turned to Michael, grasping his hand and pulling him into an embrace and then he turned to Ryden and did the same. "Thank you Michael, Ryden. I couldn't have done it without you."
Michael smiled. "I don't know about that," he said with a shrug. "With all of that power, you probably could have taken on Khivar's whole army on yourself."
Ryden nodded. "I have never seen or heard of anything like that." He bowed formally, remaining on one knee before Max. "You truly are the rightful King of Antar, your Majesty."
Max placed a hand on his shoulder. "Please rise, Ryden. For your invaluable service and courage, Liz and I have agreed to award you the rank of Colonel, directly under Michael."
For a moment Ryden was speechless and then he bowed again. "Thank you, your Majesties, I am honored."
Michael threw an arm around Ryden. "Come on, Colonel, I'm looking for a new adjutant. You can tell me your qualifications."
Alex, Sean and Maria rushed to Liz and Max and Maria pulled them both into an embrace. "I knew you'd bring Liz and Isabel back to us." She released them and hugged a surprised Isabel. "Welcome back to the family."
Isabel smiled and hugged her back. "Thanks, Maria."
Maria released her and motioned over her shoulder. "There's someone here I know would love to meet you."
Isabel turned and recognized Nedra immediately from the photo Khivar had shown her. "Mother?" she said softly, somewhat unsure of her welcome.
Nedra smiled and came forward to embrace Isabel. ‘My beautiful girl, I've missed you so much."
Isabel felt tears roll down her cheeks as she embraced her mother. "I've been waiting for this for so long."
Alex embraced Liz. "It good to have you back."
"Thanks Alex," Liz said. "I'm glad that you came with us. I saw in Max's mind how much you helped."
Liz turned to Sean. "Thank you too. What you said to Max was really important"
Sean shrugged. "Somebody has got to keep that guy anchored to the ground. And you were right Liz, Max practically is a saint."
Liz smiled and turned back to Alex. "Isabel lost a lot today and if you're up to it, she could use a good friend."
Alex nodded. "Thanks Liz."
Max had been watching Isabel and his mother and he turned back to Liz, but a movement behind her caught his eyes. With a smile, he approached Liz and placed his hands on her shoulders, slowly turning her around.
At first Liz was confused but then she saw her parents. "Mother! Father!" she exclaimed as she rushed into their outstretched arms.
They pulled her into a tight embrace. "Avalynd," her father said, "our precious Avalynd."
Michael took Maria's hand and pulled her to a relatively quiet area. "Maria, today has really put a lot of things into perspective for me. I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
Maria placed her hand on Michael's lips, cutting him off. "I know Michael and we will."
Michael shook his head and removed Maria's hand. "No, you don't understand. I will live for maybe two-hundred and fifty years or longer and I want you there for every minute."
A look of confusion crossed Maria's face. "How would that be possible?"
"Max could fix it," Michael said. "He could make you a hybrid like me. But I want you to think about it and be sure. It would mean a lot of changes in your life."
For a moment Maria looked pensive, and then she smiled. "Of course I don't have to think about it," she said, throwing her arms around his neck. "I love you and I want to be with you."
Michael smiled. "Then will you marry me?"
Maria squealed, jumping up and down. "Yes!"
Kyle watched Ava lovingly as she held his son and he put his arm around them. "Ava, I've been thinking. You and Tess are the same genetically, you practically are his mother and I would be honored if you would consider raising the baby with me?"
Ava looked at him. "Is that the only reason? Because I'm like Tess?"
Kyle shook his head, "No, I'm not very good at this obviously but what I meant was that I love you and I want you to be my son's mother."
"And Udac?" Ava asked.
Kyle nodded. "Of course she's welcome. I know she means a lot to you."
Ava nodded. "Then I accept. I've always wanted a family." She handed the baby to him. "Have you decided what to name him?"
Kyle shook his head. "I don't know."
"You could name him after your father," Ava suggested.
Kyle nodded. "I love my father and he is a good man, one of the best I know, but I think there are enough Jim Valentis running around already." Kyle put his arm around her. "We can decide, together."
Udac approached them with an older man at her side, and placed a hand on Ava's shoulder. "Beloved, this is your father."
Ava searched his face and felt a spark of recognition. "Father?"
"Chanya," he said, "my angel."
Ava rushed into his embrace, hugging him fiercely. Eventually she turned and indicated Kyle and the baby. "Father, this is Kyle, the man I love, and our son."
Alex handed Isabel a drink. "I'm sorry about what happened with Khivar."
Isabel took the drink, nodding. "Thanks. I know you really mean that." She smiled sadly. "You're a good man Alex, and a good friend. Much better than I deserve."
Alex shook his head, "That's not true. You thought you were saving your friends and family by going with Khivar."
"I love him," Isabel said.
"I know," Alex said softly. "He is the love of your life." He took her hand, "All I want, is for you to be happy."
Kyle handed the baby to Liz.
"Have you decided what to name him?" Max asked.
Kyle shook his head. "Ava and I are going to choose a name."
"She's a good person," Liz said, " and she loves you. I know you'll be happy together."
"Thanks, Liz," Kyle said.
Max smiled. "How do you think your father is going to feel about being a surprise granddad?"
"A big surprise," Kyle agreed. "But he had started to get attached to the baby before Tess left. He'll be happy.
"Max!" a familiar voice called out.
Max turned and grasped Larek's hand, pulling him into an embrace. "Larek, it's so good to see you. Thank you for coming to our aid."
"I know you would do the same for me," Larek said. "And getting rid of Khivar was what we all wanted."
Larek turned to Liz. "I am so happy that you two found one another. You are the best thing that ever happened to this shy boy."
Max put his arm around Liz and placed a kiss on her head. "She sure is."
Larek motioned to the baby. "Is this your son, Max?"
Max shook his head. "It turns out that Tess lied about that too. When Kyle saw the baby he figured out it was his son."
Max turned to Kyle. "I was holding the baby, touching him and the connection was wrong, that's how I knew he wasn't mine. But how did you know?"
Kyle shook his head. "I don't know how to explain it exactly. Sometimes it's like I see people in these, I don't know, these colors. When I saw the baby, his color was wrong for Max, but it was right for me. And that triggered the memories of being with Tess."
"The colors you see, Kyle," Larek said, "what color do you see Max?"
"He's a deep blue," Kyle said.
Larek nodded. "And Liz, what color is she?"
"She's a warm gold color, like sunlight."
Max's gaze snapped to Larek. "That's exactly how you described our auras."
Larek nodded again. "Kyle sees auras. That's how he knew the baby was his."
"I see what?" Kyle asked.
"Auras," Larek said. "They are a visual representation of a person's life force, their soul. The ability to see and read them is very rare."
Kyle smiled. "So that's my special power. I can see auras."
Michael and Maria walked slowly through the crowd, hand-in-hand, when Michael suddenly picked up speed, trailing Maria behind him.
"What are we doing, Michael?" Maria asked.
Michael kept going, dodging people in the crowd, but answered her over his shoulder. "There's someone over here I want you to meet."
He stopped their progress before an older man who smiled in recognition and pulled Michael into an embrace. "Welcome home, son."
Michael gripped his Father tightly as tears came to his eyes. "It's good to be home, Sir. I've waited a long time."
Michael kept one arm around his Father and indicated Maria. "Sir, this is my fiancée Maria, and Maria this is my Father."
The Duke smiled and took Maria's hand. "It's lovely to meet you, my dear."
Maria could see the tears in Michael's eyes and knew how much it meant to him to finally be reunited with his Father.
Maria hugged the older man briefly. "It's wonderful to meet you, Sir."
It was late, but the celebration was still going strong and Max and Liz moved to join Michael, Maria, Alex and Isabel in a relatively quiet corner, to catch up on the events of the day.
Michael motioned to Max and Liz. "So Isabel says that Tess got away with Khivar and Nicaron."
"Yeah," Max said. "I have declared all three of them war criminals."
Isabel spoke up. "And I bet we can guess why Tess didn't mind warp us all to go to Copper Summit with her in the Granolith."
Liz nodded. "She was doing too many mind warps and she had to make sure that Max didn't remember the truth so he would accept the baby as his own."
"Yeah, Max," Maria said. "We're all really sorry that the baby didn't turn out to be yours."
"I am sorry and relieved at the same time," Max said. "I am glad that I won't be bound to Tess but I was really looking forward to being a father."
Liz squeezed his hand, with a smile. "We have plenty of time."
"So," Alex said, glancing at Isabel, "what is the plan from here?"
"Well, in a couple of days," Max said, "there's the summit with the heads of the other planets, and after that I have called a session of the Council. There is a lot of work to do. The alliances need to be repaired. There are people starving, the commoners have no representation in the Council and I want to get shape shifter declared citizens, not a servant class or possessions."
Alex smiled. "So are you going to live here?" he asked. "Rule as the Royal Four?"
Max turned to Liz and brought her hand to his lips. "You can't escape destiny, but you can choose how to fit it into your life."
Michael and Isabel smiled and nodded.
Song Playing: Longer by Dan Folgelberg
It took a few days to clear and secure the palace, but finally the Granolith was moved back into the room where it had once resided.
Max and Liz sat down before it and Max took Liz into his arms, fully opening the connection between them.
I will never get tired of the simple pleasure of just being together, holding you, Max said.
Me either, Liz agreed. Especially since we saw what it was like being apart. I knew our bond was a wonderful consequence of being with you, but I didn't realize how vital it had become. I'm just so used to having you with me all of the time, and when we were cut off from one another, I felt so isolated, so alone.
Me too, Max said, as he released the last bit of control and allowed their souls to completely join.
They both felt the overwhelming sense of completeness and all-consuming love they had for one another, chasing their worries away.
Max allowed them to bask in the union until he felt that both of them were completely content and then he pulled back until their souls were barely touching, making it easier to concentrate. He placed a kiss on Liz's forehead. I really needed that.
Because of the summit tomorrow, Liz said. It would be the first meeting between the reunited Royal Four and the leaders of the other four planets, to try and rebuild trust and the old alliances. And that was why they had come to consult the Granolith.
Liz reached out, to include the Granolith in their connection and instantly, she felt that something was different.
Max could feel her confusion and reached out with his senses. It feels strange, he said. Almost like when I was connected to you through Kyle.
That is somewhat correct Max, a soft voice said in their connection. It feels different because another is present.
Max was instantly concerned, but he didn't sense any feelings of malice. Who are you?
I am the Granolith.
You are alive? Max asked.
Yes, said the Granolith. But I am not a life form like you. I require no food or oxygen or rest. I am a being of pure energy who only requires a crystal, such as this, to live. At times I know Liz has sensed my life energy but I have been unable to communicate with you because I was worried that the amount of power I produce would harm you. But when you accessed and harnessed the energy of Antar, and avoided my power, and refrained from killing, even after you knew your power would do so, I knew it was time to alert you to my presence.
I am so sorry, Max said. You are a living being and we have been using you like a machine.
The Granolith sent a soft wave of soothing energy to them. It is my purpose. My people are an ancient race, who wish to spread peace, prosperity, and enlightenment throughout the universe. With the help of a race called the Lathens, we are sent to planets whose inhabitants' mental powers have developed enough to use us. And when they are strong enough, and we recognize that they desire to use their powers to bring peace and not conquer others, we reveal ourselves.
So what happens now? Max asked.
We do not wish to influence the natural development of your culture, I am simply here to help. Use my power as you have in the past to enhance your own, for healing, for prognostication, to produce crops, to build your society, but be aware that there is a larger purpose. And for now, keep my existence to yourselves. There is still prejudice, crime and war, not all of your people are ready, but perhaps in time.
But you thought Max and I were ready? Liz asked.
You and Max are good people, the Granolith replied. You have never sought power over others, never wanted to resort to war, in any of the lifetimes I have observed.
Max shook his head. Lifetimes?
She must mean the time line that Future Max came from, Liz guessed.
Yes, the Granolith said. Whenever beings come inside to use me for transportation or time travel, a connection is formed and I am able to see all of their thoughts and memories. And when I saw that their intensions were to alter the time line, I transferred all of my memories to my self in the time that would survive.
How many times has this happened? Liz asked.
The time line when Max came back, you already know about, the Granolith said, but there was another where your protector Sodan went back in time.
Nasedo? Max asked. Why did he go back?
I will show you all, the Granolith said.
Max and Liz experienced a sudden rush of images and emotions, that lasted mere seconds but when it was over, they were both in tears.
They had seen everything the two shape shifters, Sodan and Kaldar had done and seen; the crash, their capture by the humans and escape. Kaldar's life, staying near the pod chamber to guard them, his murder of Sheila Hubble, his rescue of the three of them when they came out of the pods early, and losing them because of his poor health.
They also saw Sodan's recapture by the humans, his torture and escape, his time with River Dog's people, his interaction with Atherton, his torment of the skins and the FBI, his return to retrieve the Royal Four but only finding Tess, and his long search for the missing three, Sodan's eventual reunion with Cuerena and finally locating the three of them, Max's total rejection of his alien side and relationship with Liz. The skin's offer of a summit where the dupes were killed, Max's sacrifice to save Liz, and Cuerena's suggestion that they use the Granolith to go back in time.
They also saw future Max's entire life, from his point of view. His pursuit of Liz, their marriage and life together, Tess' departure, the conquest of Earth, the death's of their friends and families and their decision to go back and fix it.
Then they saw Chanya's memories, her collusion with Khivar, her betrayal that led to their capture and death, and her suggestion to switch her own genetic material for Ava's
Finally they saw Tess' memories when she had left Roswell in the Granolith. Her plans for herself and Max, Lonni showing Tess her true identity, Tess' collusion with Lonni and Rath to use Alex, her many mind warps and betrayals, including the masterful web of lies surrounding the baby.
The Granolith spoke softly. I knew that Chanya had substituted her genetic material for Max's real wife because my power was used to prepare the tissue samples before they left Antar. But I had no way to tell anyone. But in the other time line, when Sodan entered the crystal and I experienced his memory, I saw that Max had rejected Chanya, and he truly loved Liz so much that he was willing to die for her. But Sodan believed so deeply that everything had ended badly because Max wasn't with his former wife, that he was willing to do practically anything. And when I saw that Sodan intended to go back to prevent Max and Liz from meeting, I couldn't let it happen. Max wouldn't have wanted that, so I altered the date Sodan had entered, sending him to a time when Max had already fallen in love with Liz. It was September 17th, 1999.
That was just two days before Liz was shot, Max gasped.
Yes, the Granolith said, and I believe it was Sodan who caused Liz's shooting, because in his memory of your lives together Liz was not shot, and Max didn't revel his secret to her until more than a year later.
But you didn't know who Liz was? Max asked.
I did not, the Granolith said. I only knew that you loved her desperately.
Poor Nasedo, Liz said. He was only trying to do his duty.
Max agreed silently, And we'll have to show Michael how Kaldar saved us when we came out of the pods early.
I wish we knew what happened to him and Letras, Liz said.
I am sorry I cannot tell you, the Granolith said. I only have the memories and thoughts of those who enter my crystal. There is only one exception. When Max came back from the future, somehow his Liz sent him a message. I have no idea how it done because when Liz sent the message she had already destroyed the Granolith in the future.
What was the message? Liz asked.
She wanted to assure her Max that they had succeeded in destroying the Granolith so I wouldn't fall into the hands of the enemy and be forced to use my time travel abilities for their purposes, the Granolith said, and then she let the memory flow into their minds.
Max and Liz saw through future Liz's eyes as she said goodbye to her Max and then she, Maria and Kyle set the charges around the Granolith and pod chamber. Then they drove to a nearby ridge and blew up the entire rocky structure as the skins approached. Suddenly future Liz felt a strange sensation and turned, unsurprised to see Nicholas. Kyle tried to attack the General but Nicholas threw him aside and Liz convinced him to help her kill them all.
As Kyle finished setting the explosives in Liz's backpack, future Liz built her powers and sent her message, mixed with her memories and enclosed in her overwhelming love, to her Max.
The images filled Max and Liz's linked minds and Liz gasped when she saw the one image that stood out from the others. It was future Liz's most precious memory, her wedding day with her Max.
Max, that must be how you saw the vision in Las Vegas, Liz said. Somehow you were picking up on her memory.
Or maybe you were, Max said, and I got it through our connection, even though we didn't know we had one.
Liz nodded. However it happened, I'm glad that we know what our other selves when through.
Max nodded, but suddenly a thought occurred to him and he asked the Granolith. So you knew what Tess' intensions were when she took you to Copper Summit, Max said. Why didn't you try to stop her?
I didn't want to go, the Granolith said, but you gave me the instructions and you allowed her to leave. You are the leader of your people. I am bound to your decisions, right or wrong.
Max nodded. Thank you for all of your help and for giving us those memories.
I will leave you for now, the Granolith said, but rest assured that I am here when you need me.
Max and Liz both felt her leave the connection and Max spoke first. You suspected something like that, didn't you?
Something, Liz admitted, but I didn't know what exactly.
Max sighed, recalling the memories from the other lives. I can't believe that we've ended up together in four lifetimes, he said. Against the odds and overcoming all the barriers.
Liz nodded. We are truly destined to be together.
Max took her head gently in his hands, I never told you, but in our first life here on Antar, before Khivar had us killed, I made a wish on a dead star that if we couldn't be together then, that we would be together after death.
Liz could feel the rich layers of his love for him surging through their bond, surrounding her, as she reached out to touch his face. We'll always be together Max, no matter what happens. Our souls are bound, two halves that only together make us whole. I believe that with everything that's in me.
Max pressed their foreheads together. We're bound together by a love so great that it transcends time and space, life and death.
Liz leaned into him and sighed with contentment as she pressed her lips to his. I love you so much, I can't think of anything more wonderful than living many lifetimes with you, and spending all eternity together.
The End of Book 12