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This fic is the completion to Smoke and Mirrors and Here and Now.
Disclaimer: I still don't own any of these people, places, things, music or music lyrics. All belong to someone else, and those owning the original characters, unfortunately never knew what they had in the palm of their hand. At any rate, I'm just borrowing the characters.
Throughout Retribution, as with Smoke and Mirrors and again with Here and Now, you will find underlined links that will take you to the music that is featured for that particular part of the storyline. This music is there to enhance the overall story.
Give the links a try. I promise, you won't be disappointed.
There is a virtual potpourri of POVs in this one as well.
It's October 23rd, 2002. and I'm Liz Ava Evans, and soon I will be home again.
I've finally found the time today to start a new journal. It was a gift from my Dad. I had promised him that I would be sending him something which would explain everything that had occurred since this incredible journey began almost four years ago. It was past time for him to know the truth. There hadn't been time for me to sit down with him the way I had hoped to do one day, and so the journal had been the best answer for me. I did have to explain that we'd be going away for a while, and that I would have no way of contacting him. I needed to tell him how much I loved him and how very much I would miss him; and then I had simply pleaded with him to trust me. It had been one of the hardest conversations I'd ever had. There was never a more difficult goodbye.
The simple fact was, there truly hadn't been enough time to completely explain all of it to anyone...either my father, Max's parents or to Maria's mom; this whole thing had been heartbreaking for each one of us in so many different ways. There was something in my father's eyes that day, when he hugged me goodbye that helped me to believe that he understood that there was something private going on, something much bigger. Something I couldn't talk about. And so, I promised him that once I sent my journal off to him, he would then understand everything that I could never have explained to him properly even if I had had a million years to do it.
Max and I had returned back to the ranch from Kirtland that last night to find a neatly wrapped package just inside the screendoor. I knew what it was, without opening it. 'A new book for new beginnings', he had written inside the front cover, signing it 'Love always, Dad'. Later that same night, I placed my own journal into a shoe box and wrapped it carefully in brown paper. I then gave the package to Evan Prost. I had his sincere personal promise that he would hand deliver the package to my father sometime the following day, after we were gone.
Some of us had been reluctant to use the actual word 'departure' back then. It had sounded too ominous, as if we might not be returning; and that was something that we just were not prepared to deal with then. Knowing that Project Gemini's Stage 4 had been called OffWorld, it seemed a natural description as any that we could have come up with on our own. And so we weren't departing...we were simply going offworld for a while.
Almost a month has passed now since that last day, and needless to say, we've all been spending a whole lot of time together. Despite some early bickering which was driven by fear and worry, we have all now have gotten much closer. We needed to, there were no two ways about it. We were in this together. And so we pulled together, helping each other over the many rough spots those first few weeks, as space and time continued to stream by us at an incomprehensible speed..
It was a bit difficult getting used to the Horizon in the beginning. Much like being aboard a very large boat. Kal was at the helm, with Larek at the secondary controls. As it turned out she was not a Federalist ship at all. Larek had plainly stated the day that we had all laid eyes on the Horizon for the first time that she was not one of ours. Neither Antarian nor Adian. Nor was she like anything Jared had been using. I'll never forget the gleam in the 'boys' eyes at seeing her for the first time. It was Christmas morning and she was a fine toy. Personally, I only remember my heart being stuck up in my throat and my knees wobbling so badly that I was afraid to walk.
The controls and flight mechanisms were similar enough in structure and design that a problem had not been anticipated. Kal and John were familiar with earlier similar crafts to this one, although much smaller. Larek easily filled in the gaps, having flown highly sophisticated ships for the Federalists for so many years. Unlike Zan, Rath or I, Larek had had the opportunity to move on from the small scout ships that the four of us had used so many times in traveling from Adia to Antar and back again in our first lifetime.
As I mentioned, there were a few problems that were difficult at first for all to overcome. One of those was simply the lack of day or night. I found myself, and even still do occasionally, wondering at a glance of my watch whether it's day or night. John suggested that we start calling time as the military does, in the hopes of keeping our days and nights straight.
Larek had commented that he didn't know any other way. The measure of time in the worlds of the Whirlwind Galaxy was quite similar to that of Earth...give or take a few hours, which in the overall picture didn't amount to much at all. Anyway, you just don't realize how much the light, or the lack of it, can affect your sleeping patterns. And so, at least half had now succumbed to the 'sleep when you get tired rule'. That had been one of Maria's. It never really worked well for me though. Max and I each had our own responsibilities on board, which made it difficult to spend a lot of time together...well at least as we had before going...offworld. It just seemed that we were never tired at the same time; and after the first three days, we both realized that that just wasn't going to work for us. On the other hand, Rath could sleep just about anywhere, anytime. He always could, and Michael was now no different. So Maria and I usually found ourselves on different schedules, unless we specifically arranged to meet to spend some time either in the galley, gym or game room.
Even I have to agree though, that she is without a doubt a beautiful ship. Quite impressive, oh and did I mention ..big? There are three distinctive levels to each wing, or side of the ship.
Level 2, or Mid Level, is where we spend most of our time. It had been partially transformed (thanks to Project Gemini) into very roomy, and somewhat private, living quarters large enough to accommodate twenty some people.
Level 3 is Storage and Supplies. Basically it was still a cargo hull (as was originally intended by the previous owners). A more than adequate food supply for the trip had been stocked onboard before leaving; as well as, at least a ton of food rations for replenishing the Federalist armies. Water, clothes, miscellaneous storage and a few dozen crates clearly marked Hazmat, which Max and Michael soon found out contained the latest in what every Federalist patriot should be carrying this Fall for personal protection. The granolith, as well as the Hummer, are also stored there. Kal had spent hours back home explaining to us the advantages of having some form of ground transportation once we had arrived on Trinity,... well that and Michael and Katain's absolute refusal to leave the tank behind.
Level 1, was the Bridge, Guidance and Controls, very impressive computer banks. Continuing farther on within the left wing, was a dining room, galley, exercise room, and medical bay. The right wing on Level 1 was known as the heart of the ship. For safety reasons only John or Kal were allowed there. It contained generators, atomic breakers, antigravity equipment and pretty much everything that was needed to keep our temporary home afloat in space.
Space. Funny how sometimes I feel like I'm living in a fantasy dreamworld... I keep waiting to wake up and find out that I'm back home getting ready for high school in Roswell, New Mexico. But it's not a dream, this is so not a dream; and we are very far from the home we once knew.
Kal has informed us that we are now only days away from our galaxy. An old home in great turmoil and danger. Somehow we have got to do something to bring an end to the chaos....whatever we can do, to change all that has happened there, and all that is about to happen. It is imperative for everyone's sake.
So now it would seem that this is officially Journal II, and will serve as the Horizon log, as it were. But first, just so everything is documented here for whosoever may have the inclination one day to read through it all, I suppose I should start back at the beginning of this new and different existence... back at the fork in the road. It was the unspeakable that had brought us here, to this point, at this time. It had happened back in September, one month and and one day ago, when a sweet little girl was so horribly taken away from all of us.
This is for Emily....
Lyrics by S. McLaughlin
I'm so tired but I can't sleep
Standing on the edge of something much too deep
Funny how I feel so much, but I can not say a word
We are screaming inside where we can't be heard.
I will remember you
Will you remember me
Don't let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories.
Evan Prost had called at ten on that Saturday night, for the second time. The house was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, except for the occasional very faint voices coming out of the study where Max and Michael sat with John. Whether everyone was sleeping, or just off somewhere completely silent in their own thoughts was hard to say. Max was just now setting up another meeting for the following morning this time at Kirtland Air Force Base up in Albuquerque. Everyone's life was about to take yet another turn into the unknown.
A cell phone rang out, seeming to echo through the upstairs rooms. "Liz, it's Jim," Maria whispered from the top landing of the stairs, with half an eye open. Liz ran over for the phone. "Sheriff? How's he doing?"
"His head's really been bothering him. You know Kyle, he's not one to overreact to any physical ailments. So I took your advice, I drove him over to County General and they said he has a concussion and a few abrasions on his right leg and knee. The Doc took a couple x-rays of his knee, and told him to rest and not exert himself for the next forty eight hours. They gave him some Percocets for the pain. He's really upset, Liz. He still swears that he doesn't remember hitting his head or how his running jacket was ripped. He doesn't remember falling down at all. He only remembers running." Liz looked into the study, where Max was still talking on the phone.
She was really worried about Kyle. He had told them all on the phone how he had managed to outrun Tess that afternoon. He had called half hysterical immediately after barely escaping. He had been horrified to learn that within mere minutes, she had kidnapped Emily at the ranch. He explained to Max that the only thing he was thinking the entire time he was running for his life, was that he had to call Max. He had to let him know what was happening. Although he did have his cell with him, he couldn't remember the damn phone number out at the ranch. So he was forced to wait until he got home before he could call to warn them, which had been too late.
Liz was afraid that Jim Valenti was now realizing what they already had a few hours earlier. Kyle had begun having excruciating head pain within an hour of escaping Tess. Max had been reminded of Nicholas, and the horrible power he had of withdrawing information from his victim. With a touch of his hand he could literally extract thoughts from your mind, and you were rendered absolutely helpless to stop him. Both Max and Michael knew first hand what it felt like afterwards. Could she have acquired this power too, or had she quite simply mindwarped him and learned the truth while holding him delusional. None of them had to be reminded of Tess's mindwarping capabilities. There were no other explanation as to how Tess was able to locate Emily. And so they had all agreed that it would serve no good purpose to tell Kyle that he may have contributed to Tess's knowledge of the location of the ranch.
"She mindwarped him, didn't she, Liz," Jim said quietly into the phone, already knowing the answer. "Please, don't lie to me." Liz could hear the tension and worry heavy in his voice. Hesitating for only a second or two, she answered him with the only truth she knew. "We don't know that for sure. But at this point we are assuming, especially with his headaches now, that...yes, we think that she did. I'm sure that Kyle suspects it too, having been through it before. I think things will get clearer to him after the pain subsides a bit. There could be missing time, but eventually he'll remember...like before," Liz said, closing her eyes and thinking of Alex. "It's not his fault, Sheriff. He can never be aloud to believe that it was his fault," she repeated in earnest. "Promise me that you'll do everything you can to make him see that." Liz wanted to go to Kyle. They had been through so much together. He and his dad were loyal friends and she loved them both. They too, had been to death's door and then had had their lives given back to them, just as she had.
Liz knew that she couldn't go to Kyle now, and it hurt her deeply. There was far too much going on here, and far to much to do. Emily was out there somewhere and knowing her as Liz did, she knew the little one was without a doubt already growing impatient with them all. She smiled to herself not being able to get her face out of her mind. Liz fought hard not to let her mind wander to the darker place. There was only one truth right now that she could let herself believe. There was no room for doubt. Emily was alive. She had to be alive. But she also knew that time was critical, and somewhere deep inside, Ava knew that their time here now was to be short. Stage 4 was already beginning in the study on the telephone between two relative strangers. John Brown and Evan Prost, who up until a few days ago had never before met; now held so many lives balanced precariously in each of their hands. Not just Emily's life, but the possible fate of three worlds, and maybe many others that we had no idea yet about. Liz could feel Ava's strength growing inside of her, and what just hours before had seemed so hopeless and daunting, was now suddenly so much clearer and possible. They were all ready to make it happen.
Nicole had not heard from Lucas since he had taken off in the jeep without bothering to say goodbye that fateful Saturday afternoon. No one had any idea where he was headed, we doubted that he even knew.
All they could do was to hope that he would come to his senses in the next few days and return back to his family. In the back of everyone's mind they all knew that the chances of that happening were actually pretty slim. Not only did Nicole now have to deal with her young daughter being abducted by a psychotic madwoman, but also Lucas running off and abandoning them and it was almost more than she could bare. It was days before she left the bedroom up on the second floor. Larek took her plate up into her room at breakfast and dinner, but it didn't look as though he was having any luck getting through to her. It had been Angelique who had finally successfully coaxed her downstairs one night right after the group had all just returned from their first trip to Kirtland. Excitement had been at an all time high, with many in the room having just gotten the chance to see the Horizon for the very first time. Nicole anxiously listened to all the conversations, knowing that this was the only chance there was to save Emily.
Kal had sat contemplating what his next move with Janine would be. He didn't want to leave her behind, but at the same time he wasn't sure that she would agree to go on this exotic journey. Mitzie, as he had always called her, had become much more important to him than he had ever intended. Liz walked outside and sat down next to him. "All you can do is ask her," she commented quietly in response to the nagging questions in his head.. "She loves you Kal, you know that. Just present all the facts to her. I'm sure she won't let you down."
"The hardest thing I ever had to do was to tell her who I was six months ago before coming out here. And as you can see, she hasn't been too anxious to come over here and spend time with us," he looked down, not wanting Liz to see the worry on his face. "I just don't think she's up to this, and maybe it would be best if I just..ya know, left it all behind me."
"Kal, you don't want to do that. I know you don't want to do that," Liz repeated. "Please, just go home and talk to her. Bring her up to date on everything that's happened." Liz knew Kal's concerns all too well. Mitzie had only come to the ranch one time since Kal had moved them from Los Angeles. She had been Kal's secretary back at the production studio for years and years. He had only recently told her the truth when he asked her to move in with him after relocating in Roswell. She didn't seem to have a problem with Kal's heritage; but, while she was kind to everyone on that visit, it had been obvious to all that she was highly intimidated by everyone else. And who could blame her.
Kal stood up. "You're right, Kitten. I owe her that much, right. And if she decides that this whole thing is not worth it, I'll just have to understand." Kal grabbed her hand, kissing it tenderly. "I have something to finish, with or without her by my side," he added, walking toward the Hummer. "Tell the others I'll be back in the morning, will ya, Sweets?"
He smiled back at her, but Liz saw the sadness in his eyes. "Sure thing, Kal."
Their was such a mixture of excitement and apprehension in the house. There were about to be major changes in all of our lives, but each and everyone of us were ready to face the unknown no matter what it meant. There was one priority now, aside from what we had all been destined to accomplish in that other world, and that was getting Emily back safely. The frustrating truth was that nothing could begin, until Gemini had finally gotten everything in order. The third meeting at Kirtland was to be a major one. With all in attendance. We were to meet the entire Gemini team, most of which had worked on the project for decades. They consisted mostly of enlisted personnel of varied levels and a handful of scientists, all with astronautical expertise. General Evan Prost was third in command, but from our vantage point, he seemed to be running the preparation and was most definitely the person in charge of direct personal contact with us. They had gone to extreme lengths to make each and every one feel comfortable, which had been a feat in itself. It took exactly six days to arrange everything that was needed.
"We have an extremely important package that has to be delivered under very discreet measures," John explained to Prost near the beginning of preparations. "There's a crate that belongs to us. It's stored at Stanford University. It's highly sensitive and we need great care to be taken in bringing it here and storing it aboard the Horizon."
Prost nodded his head. "I'll see to it that it's done. We'll have it on it's way and delivered here to the air force base within twenty four hours," he said, without asking for any further explanation.
"There will be three people accompanying the crate back here as well," John said without hesitation. "One Serena Nichols, she's a professor there, and two young gentlemen who will be joining her."
"Not a problem, John," Prost replied, smiling. "Whatever you need, just let me know. We're here to accommodate you in anyway that you should see fit." He made a few notations on a clipboard.
John and Larek then walked closer to join Max and Liz who were standing just outside the Horizon along with Katain. "I know a lot of these markings," Larek said, motioning to the band of symbols around the brim of each wing. Max stepped up to have a closer look. "Antar," he replied, pointing up some eighteen feet above his head, where the Antarian symbol was plainly in view. Liz called out to them from further down the port side of the ship. "Trinity," she said, looking in amazement at the infinity sign there.
"It is amazing. I just don't understand...how is it that I've never laid eyes on such a ship before?" Larek face frowned.
"Well, they obviously know us," Liz said, referring to the symbols. "Should we be happy about that or not?"
John continued looking high above him at the engravings and shrugged his shoulders. "Well, we've checked out the bridge. There won't be much of a problem, shouldn't be too difficult to translate. It seems to be a mixed dialect of a few ancient languages. But I don't see anything referring to Eos at all anywhere on the exterior or interior."
"Strange," Larek said in half a whisper. "Didn't Prost say that there was information that they retrieved from the ship when it was picked up from the Russians?" John nodded his head. "He told me that there was a digital log of some kind that they had tried but failed to decipher. He's getting all that together for us, apparently it's not here at Kirtland."
"Well, my friends," Prost began getting everyone's attention. "Let me take you all on board. I'm hoping that you can help us out with a few things. The gyro system is a bit quarky. Hopefully one of you," Prost said looking from Kal to John, "will be able to set it straight."
They looked at each other and Kal grinned. "We're not real good with fixing gyro's. If we were better at it, you wouldn't have gotten that first ship at Yucca," he laughed, referring to the destruction of the gyro system on their own crashed ship in Roswell. John patted him on the back, smiling. "Let's take a look at it, Lan. Just maybe we can figure it out."
On the morning of the next to the last day at home, Maria sat writing at the kitchen table. She was composing a letter, at Michael's request, to Took and Charlie back in Lovell. "...and so Maria and I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your honest concern at helping us with the problem that we were presented with a few weeks ago. It meant a lot to me just to know that you and Charlie were willing to go out on a limb for us. You both have been honest and wonderful friends. I don't know how long it might be before we'll get the chance to contact you again, but we will be thinking of you both a lot...."
"I feel really shitty about doing this in a letter, Maria," Michael exclaimed. "We should just call them. They've been good friends."
"Michael, you know we can't do that," she said, trying to be rational. "This is the best way. It's better than just not doing anything. Besides, if we're on the phone they're gonna start asking a lot of questions that we just can't answer..."
"I know, I know," he muttered. "Don't forget to tell them how much we loved being with the band, too," he added, a touch of regret strong in his voice.
"I will." She smiled looking at him and gently touching at his hair. It was sad, she thought. All his life he had never quite been able to find his niche. And just when he had finally found something that he loved doing, he had to leave it behind. He had been trying very hard to hide his emotions about Emily for almost a week now. They had become so close. Maria found that just thinking about Em would start a sickening flutter in the pit of her stomach. Trying to shake off the growing fluttering feeling again, she added quickly, "Babe, John said that we can take a load of his books from the study with us if we wanted," she said, knowing how fond he had become of reading and digesting new information when he worked at the library in Lovell. His face seemed to brighten for just a brief moment, but then he frowned again. "Maria, I think I'll have alot on my mind. I don't expect to have much extra time."
"Michael, you've got to have something to do on your down time. You can't be stressing about battle strategy crap 100% of this trip. God, it's gonna take a month, Michael! A month! You'll go crazy if you can't unwind. ...and you'll drive me crazy."
"Okay, okay," he stood and headed to the study, hoping to find something just to keep her happy.
Liz had gone to visit her Dad for lunch, knowing that it would be the last time she'd see him for a very long time. Her heart was breaking, but there was nothing she could do about it. She lingered in the livingroom lightly fingering the pictures along the mantle. All the memories of days gone by. Memories of a past life. Her past life. A picture of her as an infant caught her eye. Liz stared at the photo in the brushed silver frame, but what she saw was someone so different than who she felt herself to be inside right now. Jeff Parker called in from the kitchen breaking her thoughts. "Lunch is served," he announced with a big grin.
"It's been nice that you guys hung around a little while longer, Hon," he smiled across the table as they finished eating.
Liz forced a smile. "Dad, that's what I need to talk to you about. We've decided that we'll be leaving early Friday morning." She waited as the silence of the kitchen began to pound in her ears.
"Oh," he replied quietly, not looking up from the now empty plate in front of him. "Well, I'll miss you, Sweetie." His jaw tightened. "But I know you all have to get back to work ..and all."
"I'll miss you too, Dad," her voice cracked. She took a deep breath and tried with everything she could to keep her voice steady. "There's something that we have to do. It's really important." No matter what Liz said, everything was sounding so wrong. "There are some things that...some things you need to know. My journal, Dad, remember how you used to kid me because you said I must be writing a book because I was always writing away?" Jeff looked up into her eyes and nodded his head as the corner of his mouth curved upward, as his daughter stammered nervously. "Well, everything that's happened to me for the last four years of my life is there in that journal. Very private, unbelievable and incredible things. Well," she folded her hands in her lap so he wouldn't see them shaking. "I want you to have it. I'm going to send it to you."
"Lizzie, you don't have to do that," he said, surprised at the whole idea that she would want him to read anything that had once been that personal to her.
"No, Dad. I need to do this," she pleaded with him to understand.
"Well.. okay, Sweetie, if it's that important to you. Of course, I'll read it." He was confused, but more worried, "What's this all about?"
Liz sighed and she looked around the room at anything...anything but his face. "I can't tell you that right now, Dad."
"Liz, you're scaring me. Why can't you tell me? You know you can tell me anything..anything at all. I love you. Are you in some kind of trouble? Is it Max? Is he in trouble with the law?" His back began to stiffen up as he spoke.
"No, Dad. It's not..." her face was now in her hands. "Dad, please you just have to trust me. Please trust me."
Jeff Parker was up and around the table, taking his little girl into his arms. "Oh, honey,.. always. I have always trusted you. I love you so much, Lizzie. If this is important to you, then it's important to me, and I'll understand."
"The journal will answer all your questions, Dad. I promise you." He hugged her, and she hung on for as long as she could, fighting back the tears.
Max had already, the night before, said his goodbyes to both of his parents. Coupled with a convincing story that the four of them were taking a trip up into New England and possibly wouldn't be returning until the beginning of the new year, he also had done his best to convince them that Isabel had been spotted by Brody, somewhere in Texas. He hated lieing to them, but felt he was left with no choice at this point. "You know Isabel, Mom," he had said. "She wasn't happy at the prospect of having to live in Roswell the rest of her life. I think Brody mentioned that she was on her way to Hollywood to apply for a few modeling positions that she had gotten the inside track on from a close friend."
"From Peter?" Diane asked a mixture of pain and sadness in her voice. Max's eyes widened a bit, "Yes. Right. I think it might have been Pete, I'm pretty sure they're together." A slightly relieved smile crossed Diane Evans' face, as Max kissed her on the cheek so ashamed of the necessary lie he had woven. Phillip Evans didn't take it as well. He was furious that his daughter hadn't even taken a few moments to come in and talk to her mother on the day that she found it necessary to take off with their car. Max's emotions were playing very close to the surface now, as the vision of his sister's face continued to come to his mind. He spoke and felt his head begin to swim. "Dad, she always put herself first. You know that. I'm not trying to be mean, it's just fact."
"Well I'm sure once she gets herself settled, she'll give a call," Diane continued talking, not really listening to her son or husband, as she continued folding clothes.
The one thing that came of his visit, was that the contrived situation with Isabel had taken the focus off of his own announcement of having to be away for a while. Of course, he felt sure that both of them were expecting him to keep in touch with them and it wasn't long before they insisted just that. "I'll do my best," he answered, knowing how much the next months were going to break their hearts.
Maria and Liz had gone together to say goodbye to Kyle and his Dad, both figuring that things might be easier that way. It hadn't been.
When dealing with each of their parents it had been necessary to uphold the lie, so they weren't able to let their emotions go the way they now could and did at the Valenti household that afternoon. There were no secrets here, and it was with some relief that Liz finally broke down when Kyle's Dad had hugged her goodbye. All the previous exciting talk and great thoughts around the Valenti kitchen table just minutes before, about where they were going and what they were doing, went right out the window. Once the dam had broken inside Liz, it didn't take long before Maria too followed suit.
"I'm gonna miss you so much Kyle," Liz whispered into his ear, as his arms held her tightly. She buried her face into his shoulder. "I can't even begin to say everything I want to say to you."
"I know. Me too. I still can't believe that I'm saying goodbye to you… that you're lea…ving" he stammered softly, feeling his own eyes filling with tears.
"Not goodbye, Kyle, ...until." Liz answered him quickly.
Then finding the need to change the somber atmosphere hanging thick in the air, Kyle continued in the infamous Valenti way, "Hey, Parker-Evans," he winked down at her. "… don't forget to write." Liz couldn't help but break up a bit at that one. "Kyle, see... this is one of the things I'll miss the most." She wiped at her eyes and then his, as Maria pulled the three into a group hug. Jim Valenti, with his arms around the others, put his head down and said in a low voice, "May God watch over you all."
The news that we would soon be going offworld was just the medicine that Sierra had needed. She was missing her sister worse than any of us. But once Larek had lifted her up and carried her onto the Horizon for the first time, she had been like a kid in a candy store.
"This is just like my dream, Liz!" she had announced loudly, grinning from ear to ear. "Now I know what I couldn't remember before... why I was so scared. I was missing Emily, and I was afraid that I was never going to see her again." Liz watched her and her heart was breaking remembering just how emotional Sierra had been after having her dream just days before her sister was taken.
Everyone tensed for a second as Larek hastily replied, "Sierra, we are going to go and get Emily. That I promise you, little one. Wherever she is, we will rescue her and the two of you are going to finish that blasted puzzle that you two loved so much and then your Uncle Kal can hang it up somewhere for you." She smiled at his insistence, and her little arms wrapped around his neck tighter and tighter in a death hold. "O-ka-yy," he winced and choked slightly as she held on tight. "Lighten up just a wee bit on the hold there, Reds. That's it. Thanks."
Sierra had finally stopped asking about her father, sensing that it only upset her mother when she had. But in private she had talked to Larek about her Daddy, and where and why he had left them again. He had done his best to explain to the small one that it had nothing to do with either her or her sister or their mommy, and that it was something that Lucas couldn't help. He was a very scared man, he had explained to her, biting his tongue on all the other thoughts that were running around inside his mind. He'd have a piece of his hide for certain if he ever ran into the coward again. "I'm very sure that wherever he is, he loves you both very much," he had said all the right words without finding truth in any of them. From that point on, Sierra busied herself with the rest of the crew. She was particularly fond of Katain and of course Maria, that is, when she wasn't shadowing Liz and Max around. She had also taken to calling them both Ava and Zan, which had brought a raised eyebrow from John at first, but soon he realized that it didn't really matter anymore, after all the truth was the truth.
Pete had decided to abandon his studies of the granolith and had announced to Serena that he would not be accompanying her and Coby to Kirtland that Thursday afternoon. She couldn't say that she was too surprised. He just hadn't seemed himself since that day on the ride to Stanford when she had told him about Vilondra's death. And now she didn't have to wonder any more as to what his truer deeper feelings had been for the girl. Unfortunately, as he himself maybe just had realized, he had fallen in love with someone who had no longer existed. If he had decided to stay on with the project and follow through on this dream of his, he would be constantly reminded of everything, every second of every day. No, he needed a fresh new start, Serena thought. A big part of her was happy for him, being able to make this decision as he had. Had Vilondra not taken control of Isabel, Serena was now quite sure that Pete would have been right here by her side for whatever might lay ahead. But that wasn't what had happened, and Pete's life would never be the same unless he took a hold of the reins and steered it away from it all…right now. It was a damned shame.
He had turned over every thesis and paper he had ever written; every notebook of notes, scribbles and deductions that he had ever written on time travel and any other aspect involving the granolith. She was sure that it was heartbreaking for him not to be following through with the icon studies. He had poured so much of himself into everything having to do with this marvel of a machine since the very first days. She would miss him terribly.
During those last six days, we were constantly in a state of reevaluation of everything we knew of Adia and Trinity. It was most important that we remembered as much of the past as was possible. That, of course, was a double-edged sword. While bringing the memories to the surface, we each then had to again face our past’s head on. It was a highly emotional time for us all. Rath and Zan seemed to have an easier time with catching themselves up than did I. There would be much that we would have to face if and when we arrived back on Trinity. We needed to remember everything about Castle Leoch and Rochelle as well as the Dannon Mountain ranges of Trinity.
It was at the last of these meetings that Angelique was brought completely up to date. We made sure that Raymond was present with her when the truth was finally told regarding who was indeed the true Ava.
"You're saying that my granddaughter is not Ava, Princess of Adia," she said slowly with a somewhat hesitant smile. "How exactly do you know that for certain?"
Max answered as he sat with his arm interlocked with Liz's. "It is true, Angelique. Liz wasn't aware of any of this until last June. Her conception was handled very differently from Rath, Lonnie and mine. There is no doubt. She is my Ava."
"Kal and I were aware of Liz's heritage for quite a while before we thought it best to tell her the truth," John added honestly. The room was unnaturally quite as everyone there felt the old woman's dreams disintegrating. Ava Landau walked and knelt down in front of the woman who had taken care of her most of her life. "Grandmother, it's okay. It's not anything that I ever wanted to be true. I've never felt that I was “Ava”, I never wanted to be. But, I've never wanted to disappoint you either." The young woman was in tears as she knelt there holding her grandmother's hands in hers. "We need so much for you to fully understand that it is Liz and Max who have been destined to be together again. They are the rightful heirs to the throne of Adia." Everyone in the room waited for the old woman's response.
"I understand. I would say that apparently I have no choice in the matter. It's difficult for me to grasp, but you must know that I love you very much, Ava." The two woman shared a look of reluctant understanding, one with great relief and the other with guarded disappointment at learning the truth after twenty years.
"Angelique, no one here would ever do anything to hurt you, you must know that," Liz stated with deep compassion. "But the simple truth of the matter is that we have a very trying time ahead of us, and we so badly need your support."
The old woman nodded only slightly and rose from her seat. "I'll be in my room resting." As she reached the door, leaving the silent room behind her, she turned, looking directly at Max. "You have always had my most sincere and complete support, and you will until the day that I die. We have work to do."
For all the doubt we once had felt for Evan Prost, the man turned out to be a saint in General's clothing. In the beginning, most of the exchanges were between John, Kal and Evan; but, for the four days before our offworld adventure was to begin, Larek, Katain, Marshal and I had been brought in on every meeting. Most taking place at the base, in or around the WSA Bunker. During the first full meeting, Marshall had inquired as to what the WSA stood for.
Evan smiled. "Quite some time back, the bunker was dubbed the World Security Arsenal. When this ship was found in perfect condition and more so… with the equipment and weapons we found aboard her, we knew that the Horizon was to be a very important piece of the puzzle that Gemini had been steadily putting together. You might say the entire Gemini Project almost seemed to have been choreographed from the beginning from... some place else. Offhand, I don't remember who it was who actually coined the phrase as a joke in the beginning, but it stuck. And ironically now I would say, it seems to be a most prophetic name." And so we all then had learned of the payload aboard this cargo ship. In laymen's terms, there were enough explosives of varied substances aboard to assure the security of a few small worlds, as General Fannel had so delicately put it. Arsenal was an understatement.
"Is this safe...? I mean we'll be spending a lot of time traveling in this ... bomb," Max's concern was growing.
"Well, let me put this the only way I know how," Evan explained. "Does it matter?" All eyes dropped to the floor, realizing that in fact, it didn't. This small army needed all the help it could get. We were on the course that we were meant to follow, nothing at this point could stand in our way. Too much was counting on our return home.
Steve Monihan had worked as first a trail boss and then John's head ranch hand for over fifteen years. John had the utmost of respect for him and indeed had been planning on leaving the ranch in his care. All that Steve was aware of was that John and Serena were about to take a long deserved holiday to Europe. When they would be returning, no one was yet sure. He was honored to be left in command of something that John valued so highly. It was on our last day at home that Chavez entered the picture.
John was in the process of going over the financials with Steve in the study sometime right after noon. "I've kept a thorough record here for you to follow. Bills, cattle assessments, auctions... well, you already know all of this from being by my side all these years. Sorry, I know I really don't have to go into much detail with you about any of it," John exclaimed. Steve was sitting in the side chair with a few books in his lap. "Do you have any questions?" John asked.
Steve Monihan's tanned face suddenly turned a few shades paler. "John?..." Beads of perspiration were forming on his brow, as he took a handkerchief from his back pocket. The handkerchief fell to the floor. He then sat motionless for several seconds as his eyes glazed over. John waited for his further response. "Steve?"
"Larek? I'm in need of Larek," a strange higher pitched voice with a strong accent came from across the desk. John was immediately on his feet. "... And you are?"
"Captain Michel Chavez. I don't have much time. I need Larek here. Now." The voice was adamant and loud.
"Don't move!" John exclaimed heading out into the living room. "Larek! Where the hell is Larek?" he yelled out. "Chavez is here, hurry!"
Larek was flying down the steps two at a time with Nicole hot on his trail. "Chavez? Where? Who?"
"In the study. He's coming through Steve," John replied anxiously.
Everyone gathered in the study, most standing back, as Larek approached the man slumped in the chair. "Michel? It's me," Larek whispered. Chavez stood and heartfully embraced his liege. "Thank God! We had word that you were dead. But here you are," the man broke out in something close to hysterical laughter. Larek turned to Michael who was approaching them both. "Can you get him some water?" Michael turned quickly on his heels, heading for the kitchen.
"I'm quite alive, Michel. But what is happening back home?"
"Three quarters of the Federalist troops are now held up in Dannon Pass. We are safe there, but we've lost many troops on Adia. Jared has reinforced his ground troops there, he must be recruiting straight from the Cuyahoga colony." Liz's heart skipped a beat, thinking of the penal colony where Tess had refined her powers. Chavez continued. "Our hold on Adia's own Milinga has been weakening. I'm here to tell you that he has been perfecting a weapon of mass destruction, much larger even than anything he has had in the past. Our sources from deep inside, tell us that this is the weapon to end all wars. His air troops have also strengthened. I'm sure he's used the truce as a means to bolster his front lines."
Larek was pacing, as Michael handed Chavez a glass of ice water. "I need you to keep our people strong, Chavez," Larek pleaded. "Do you understand me? The dream is in sight. We are returning, and Jared will not live to see two moons." Steve was visibly weakening. "I can't stay with this man much longer. It's taking too much out of him."
"I understand. But I need to know about Rochell. Is the mountain and observatory free of the tyrants?"
"Jared has no use for Rochell. He doesn't believe that we can get that close to Leoch."
"I see," Jared replied with a half smile. "I will see you soon my friend. Tell the others that I am coming home, and I am bringing the Lady Ava and Prince Zan with me."
Chavez's mouth fell open, as Steve groaned...and blinked his eyes open. "What?" Steve slumped back into the chair looking around the room in shock of everyone staring in awe at him. "What's going on? I feel nauseous."
The little bit of information that Larek had been able to formulate from his short conversation with Chavez, had been enough to relight the fire within him that just seven days before he believed was extinguished forever. Everything had been in answer to a prophecy so far, but for Larek it had indeed also been the answer to a prayer. He had tried his best to keep his spirits up after Tess had left him at the pod chamber. He knew at that time that the chances of his returning home to continue commanding his troops were near to none. And while everyone at the ranch, including his three oldest and dearest friends, had done their best to make him feel at home here in this world, only a few knew just how badly he was aching inside. Once the identity of Prost had been established, along with the pure and simple fact that there was actually a ship, well, let's just say, his aura had changed greatly. I think I always knew in the back of my mind that Larek would have eventually found a way to be the lone captain and sole passenger aboard for his escape back home. After all, this was Larek we were talking about. There had been very little in his lifetime on Adia that he had set his sights on that he had not completely succeeded at. That was what had made his sojourn here so difficult for him. He is so dear to me, and I will love him always.
Learning of the ship hadn't done much though to spur the rest of us any closer to fulfilling our destinies. We just hadn't felt ready. This royal team was young... very young. We certainly couldn't be old enough to rally sufficient armies to defeat an enemy as powerful as Jared had now become.
Of course, things have a way of not going as planned. No one ever expected Tess to show on that horrible Saturday afternoon so soon after the wormhole had supposedly closed. And it was at that moment, when Emily's vision faded into nothing, that everything changed for all of us. Not just for those who we had only just met here at John's ranch that weekend, but for Zan and Ava as well. Ava became the dominant personality in my psyche, at that very second. My words were hers, as were my thoughts and actions. This phenomenon grew steadily during the preparation period. I could at any time, draw on either personality at will. I am still Liz Evans, but a stronger prominent being is very alive inside of me, and she is very happy to be going home again.
Much the same was happening to Max. Zan's instincts kicked in, and he has begun taking much of the burden away from John. He knew full well that this was his quest, and it was now time for him to become the decision maker. That's not to say that we weren't listening to everything around us, we were. Factoring in everyone's opinions and thoughts, and then coming up with the most rational answers that we could… that had become our modus operandi. We were a team. We were an army. Small, yes. But never were there more with a stronger resolve and purpose. We had a common goal. A psychological metamorphosis was taking place in all of us, most especially after setting foot on board the Horizon. Katain and Marshall sensed the changes inside of them, as did all the others. And the Rath that we had seen developing again in Michael, has now grown stronger and more determined every day as Zan's second in command. What had once seemed crazy and ludicrous is now looking possible. It is called hope.
The day that Serena arrived home again was one of the happiest I had experienced all week. Most of us were weary from running back and forth between the ranch and the base. While it was extremely interesting, it was very draining. It was a monumental task that was ahead of us, and it weighed heavy on everyone's mind, twenty-four/seven. Serena's return had been just the shot in the arm that some of us needed. They had arrived home by military jeep and dropped precisely at the front door, only after Serena had insisted on accompanying their crated cargo all the way back to Kirtland first to be sure it arrived there safely.
Everyone had been disappointed to hear of Pete's decision, but respected him for the courage that it had taken to abandon that which he had worked on for the last six years of his life. Serena had told John once they had had a private moment, that all Pete had asked was that once the icon had been safely transported back to Adia where it had once started from, that his name be left in remembrance in some inconspicuous way there. Serena had agreed, believing that it was the least they could do, considering that it had been Pete who had flown off to Europe and uncovered the French-Landau connection there. Serena had no problem communicating with any of the newer Landaus or the Duncan family members. All had sensed what a genuinely warm person she was from the start. Angelique and Ava had both taken quite easily to her, and there could be no mistaking that she was very happy to be back in John's company.
On the last afternoon home, Nicole and Maria were working together on a spaghetti and meatball dinner, with Nicole making fresh pasta. "So... you do realize that you'll be cooking for us on board, right?" Maria remarked matter of factly, referring to Nicole's culinary attributes. She blushed as she watched Maria ripping the head of iceberg and romaine into a large bowl beside her. "Besides I think it would be really good for you, ya know… and for us. We need someone to make sure we eat properly. Maybe I could even play at being your protégé. I'm gonna need something to keep me busy, because if the small amount of time that I've actually seen Michael in the last five days is any barometer," she frowned, "then I can only imagine what it'll be like once we... ya know."
"They're going to have a lot to deal with before we leave; and yes, I agree, things will probably be pretty stressful at least for a short time. Larek says that these project people have been incredible. They've thought of practically everything. They've fully stocked the ship, there's more than a years food supply on board. Not to mention, the rations for the armies of Trinity. He told me to make up a list of anything I might need for me and the girls...," she stopped short, as her face paled. "I mean..." her sentence hung in the air.
"No, Nicole, you're right." Maria quickly replied, with deep sincerity. "It will be the girls again, both of them, very soon. Emily will be back where she belongs, I know it." Nicole blinked back tears, but continued flouring the cutting board and pasta press as if to drive the negative thoughts from her mind. "Em always loved my homemade pasta," she forced a smile and looked up into Maria's face. "It will be the very first thing that I cook for her when I see her again."
Larek walked into the kitchen on his way through to the back door. "Seen Max?" he asked, sneaking a length of heavily floured noodle and tossing it into his mouth. "Yuk!" he swallowed hard, spitting and making a face. "That's not good."
"It's not supposed to be... it's got to be cooked first, goofball," Maria exclaimed, flicking flour in his direction. An enlightened look came over his face and he nodded. "That explains it," he smiled at Nicole blushing slightly with embarrassment. "Cooking is the secret to its success then?"
Nicole shook her head, "Otherwise you're just eating dough." Maria thought she caught a slight electricity in the air.
"I have eaten something similar, but never actually was witness to how it was made. Dough? As in bread?" he asked turning away, straining to look out the kitchen window still in search of Max.
"Yes, slightly different dough, but same idea, except bread dough has yeast and much more butter; and you can add many other ingredients that you don't add to pasta." Maria was agreeing with Nicole's assessment, as if she had made it herself a thousand times. She sliced a few overripe tomatoes, throwing them into the salad bowl.
"I don't understand a word she just said," Larek said looking at Maria with a dimpled smile, "but she was damn pretty while saying it."
Nicole nervously wiped her hands on the make shift apron tied around her jeans, without looking up. Changing the subject, Larek asked the question that had brought him into the room. "Now has either of you wenches seen the fair prince??"
"No we haven't, and I think you'd better leave before the two wenches draw and quarter you, with all due respect, my fair lord," Maria said sternly, noticing that a small smile escaped from Nicole's lips. "Wench, huh?" Maria asked grinning and raising an eyebrow. She looked directly at Nicole. "Do you two have something you'd like to share with me?"
A quick interruption came in the form of Katain, entering from the backdoor, "Larek," she called out loud and stopped suddenly, spotting him there. "Oh, there you are. I've found Kal and Max. They're in the tack house." Katain looked curiously at the ingredients and mess on the kitchen table. "Tortillas?" she asked.
"No, it's pasta… its for dinner," Maria answered quickly for Nicole.
Larek opened the fridge grabbing a can of Coke and tossed one over to Katain. "Alright then, tack house it is, let's go," he grabbed for her arm and the two headed outside, closing the door quietly behind them, as Nicole tried not to stare after them.
John lit a fire that last night at home. A few of us gathered around the hearth in the living room. It was dark and the flames were throwing tall shadows on the walls and ceiling. Liz laid her head back, resting against Max's chest as he shifted his body to stretch his legs out straighter. Maria tossed over a pillow for him, as she laid out on her stomach feeling the heat from the fire burning into her face. Intense, she thought. The fire and the future. Michael gently rubbed her back, and she closed her eyes remembering all the wonderful times they had all had here… here in Roswell.
Thinking back about how very scared she had been those first days after learning the truth about these Czechoslovakians. How strange it had all been. She had felt a connection with Michael from the beginning, even though she had feared him so very much. It was a connection that she just couldn't break. Even now, with everything that had happened and with everything that was yet to happen, she loved him like she had never loved before. Having first heard of the ship from Liz, she was certain that he would leave to fulfill his destiny, leaving her behind, maybe with the empty promise of returning one day. She wasn't sure exactly how it would play out; but the last thing she would let herself believe was that he would ever ask her to go with him. To be part of it all, part of the life that he was growing into. Her Michael had come through for her again. She looked over her shoulder and grinned at him, and he returned with the most sweetest smile she had ever seen from him. Yes, she thought, things were changing. There was a personality in him that was coming through so clearly, and for the first time, she didn't fear it.
Serena snuggled closer sharing the side chair with John. "I still can't believe that we're about to do this," she said softly in his ear. "By the way, thanks for sending an air force escort for me."
"Oh, well that was for the granolith," he kidded with her. "I told them that if they couldn't by some chance find a gorgeous dark-haired Indian girl to bring back to me, then I'd have to just take some skinny geeky kid named Coby." She pinched at his arm, "John Brown, if you had left without saying goodbye, I'd... I'd… I don't know what I'd have done, but it wouldn't have been pretty."
"I told you before, Love. I gave you my heart the night I first kissed you out on the Mesilika reserve back long before either of us had even heard of John Brown. I couldn't have done any of this without you by my side. And tomorrow? and all the tomorrows after it? I can't do any of that without you there. Well," he added, "I could...but I wouldn't want to." John nuzzled his face under her long black hair at the nape of her neck. "I love you, Serena. You have been so strong for me. You've stood right by my side from Liz's birth to this very day. Whatever is going to happen, it is going to happen to the both of us… together… always together." He leaned and kissed her as he hadn't for a very long time.
There was noise on the porch as Kal arrived back from home, alone. Everyone exchanged glances, but the look on his face told the story. "Hey, how's everybody doin’?" he asked, as he walked straight for the bar. "I think a nightcap is in order. Janine will not be joining us," he said in a strong voice, keeping his back to the others. Liz winced. "Oh Kal, I'm so sorry," she said softly covering her mouth with her fingertips, as she slowly rose to her feet.
"Hey, no problem. Really, it's okay. We've said ariva durche, maybe we'll meet again and if not, well we've got some great memories. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna hit the sack. JB, I will see you at four sharp." He walked past Liz on his way to the staircase, "Don't worry, Kitten. I'll be fine." Liz turned to see Michael, John and Max put their heads down, jaws tight. Maria and Serena glanced quickly at each other and then to Liz. Their faces all held the same look of stunned disbelief.
It was drawing near to eleven by the time Max led Liz upstairs to their bedroom at the top of the stairs. Neither had to say very much to each other. Feelings and emotions were so very close to the surface. Their future was to begin at five o'clock the next morning, when they all, the most important members of the Gemini Project, were scheduled to gather at the WSA Bunker at Kirtland field.
Max pulled on cotton pajama bottoms and climbed into bed, propping a pillow up behind his head. The only light was that of a small night-light across the room. Liz reentered the bedroom from the bathroom down the hall where she had changed into an old tee-shirt that had once belonged to Max. It hung large on her small frame. Across the front were the worn letters that read West Roswell High. Watching her standing by the bed Max had never seen her more beautiful, or more sexy; with her hair freshly brushed and tousled and her eyes bright. As he reached up to pull her down to him, his body filled with all the love he had ever felt for this creature who now looked longingly back into his eyes. His lips brushed her cheek and her lips, ever so slowly. She leaned down while carefully straddling him, all the while her eyes never leaving his. Then slowly her lips parted into the smile he had remembered deep in his soul for so very long. He had seen that smile as she reacted to his touch so many times before, as well as in every dream he had ever dreamt of her. He traced the lines of her face gently with his fingertips and they felt the waves of control faltering. She closed her eyes, still seeing his face there before her.
He spoke in a whisper as he touched her hair softy, "We've come such a long way to find ourselves here… back at a starting point again. Tomorrow we will be picking up where we left off once; and whether things are good or bad, I need you to know that you are all the strength that I need to make me believe... all that I will ever need." He kissed her tenderly, as she again settled over him.
"Wherever this takes us, I know that I'm where I am meant to be. I love you Max, more than I ever knew it was possible to love, and I promise you that I will always be there for you, for us. As long as we have each other, we are so much stronger than we know."
He rolled carefully to his side, pulling her down to lie next to him. For the longest while he could do nothing but lose himself in the depth of her eyes as he unconsciously ran his fingers through her hair. "I don't know what's going to happen. I only know that whether I die tomorrow or fifty years from now, my destiny is the same. It's with you, Liz, it's always been with you." Tears came to her eyes as she recalled that night now seemingly so long ago when he had spoke similar words to her. The night they had been running to save their lives. The same night, she had known that she would always risk it all for him. He had told her he loved her for the first time that night and even now the memory sent chills up her spine. She had been so happy and yet she had been forced to walk away that very next morning, believing his destiny had not included her. And now here they were again… sharing this incredible love... and running for their lives again... for so many lives.
Liz pushed all of it from her mind for now. That was about tomorrow, she reminded herself. They still had five hours ‘til dawn.
An early morning chill hung in the dark as everyone gathered outside the ranch at four thirty. Everything that anyone was taking with them had already been delivered to the base during the days before. They were now about to split up into two groups to accommodate both the Hummer, and a military issue jeep that was on loan from Prost.
John stood leaning against the jeep staring back at the house. His home. Once before he had left home on a mission. A different home, one he was now about to return to. It wasn't going to be as he had left it. It would be worse. Much had happened there over the years. He looked around him. He had invested so much of himself here; and so much of here had been invested within him. He said a silent prayer, to whom at that particular moment he wasn't quite sure.
"Listen up. There's something that I'd like to say here before we go." The small talk settled down and all eyes were on John, as Kal sat down on the front step. "Everything up until now has been about finding yourselves and finding each other. While it's true that the past has made each and everyone of you who you are at this very moment, have no doubt, people, this is about the future. It has always been about the future." He looked over the faces standing before him. Each one strong in it's own right. "Let's do this."
Liz sat on the floor of the quarters that had been set up as a game room on Level 2. Sierra sat cross-legged by her side. "This is one huge puzzle you've got here, Sierra."
The little one smiled. "But it's half done already." She frowned slightly, "We really shouldn't go too fast cause Emily will be upset if we finish it without her," she said placing another piece into Sleeping Beauty's hair ribbon.
"I don't think we'll be finishing this up too quickly at all, honey, and I'm afraid that I'm not much help. I'm not very good at this."
"I know," she said in all her innocence. "Kal never had much luck with it either. Michael's good but well, he's always too busy." Liz smiled as the piece in her hand suddenly found it's proper place in the horse's reins. "Did you do that?" Liz asked looking suspiciously back at her.
Sierra grinned mischievously. "I just don't want you to lose interest like Maria does," she stated flatly.
"Oh, I see," Liz tried not to smile. "Well, since I've been sitting here for the last... oh… forty minutes or so and this is the first piece I've found, I'd say that maybe you should help me out a little more." Liz laughed and ruffled the red hair beside her, as the intercom called out to her. "Liz, come to the bridge, Kitten. I've got something to show you." It was Kal's unmistakable voice. "Coming," she replied. "Okay, I have to go for a little while, but I will be back so you can help me some more."
"That's okay. I'm kinda tired now. It's just not the same," she pushed herself to her feet with a sigh.
"I know, sweetie. But soon we'll all be in a big beautiful castle, and you'll be finishing this with your sister." Sierra looked at her and smiled.
"I don't want a castle, I just want Emily back," she brushed herself off. "I'm gonna go find Zan now," she announced suddenly and skipped off out the door and down the corridor. Liz picked up another piece and promptly placed it into the hair ribbon next to Sierra's. Smiling a proud smile, she jumped up to her feet and followed her out the door.
On the bridge, Max sat at the console, with Larek to his left; Kal hovering back and forth behind them. "It's beautiful," Max exclaimed, looking out through the observation window in front of them. "Oh my word! What is it?" Liz asked excitedly upon entering the room and seeing the fiery large silver streaks passing by them.
"It's the tail end of a comet," Kal explained. "We just maneuvered ourselves through the tough part, thanks to Larek. I thought you'd want to see this."
Liz stared with wide eyes at the glowing sparks that soared passed in the pitch darkness around them. "It's breathtaking," she whispered, taking a stand behind Max. He reached up and grabbed her hand on his shoulder. "Star dust," he nodded, "just for you."
"Yeah, well that sounds romantic and all, but actually they're ice crystals," Kal remarked. "Dangerous ice crystals." Larek looked back over his shoulder at her. "Not to fear, Sparrow. I've got the wheel," he winked. "How's Sierra holding up?"
"She's worried … and bored," Liz answered sliding into the seat between the two men.
"I'm going down to the gym. You got it, right?" Kal said to Larek. "It's under control, Lan." He nodded back knowingly. "Page me if you need me."
The three were silent as they took in everything stretching so far out in front of them. "It's just so incredible," Liz was spellbound. Larek motioned to her, "Take the controls, Ava," he smiled. "It's much the same as the runners we had back on Adia. Same principles, just bigger."
"Yeah, that's what I'm afraid of… the bigger part," she shook her head, refusing.
"Listen to me, I'm right here. Max already had a spin, so it's your turn."
"Kal will kill you," she exclaimed to both loves on either side of her.
"Kal is the one who suggested it. He wants you both to reacquaint yourselves with flying." Larek checked the control board in front of him, while Liz looked over at Max. "So how'd you do?"
"Like riding a horse. It was easy. No it wasn't easy... it was great." He smiled proudly.
"You can do it, Liz, just like we used to. Ava knows how, just let her go." Larek pushed the controls forward and threw a few switches. "Well, you have to take it now. It's all you." Liz's heart rate was increasing as she grabbed quickly onto the control before her. Flashes passed through her mind as her memory veered back in time. She remembered the runners. They were small three man vehicles that held a strange miniature resemblance to today's shuttles. Before she even realized, she was adjusting speed and veering in and out of the oncoming objects.
"Just like a video game," Max commented calmly. "Good, see I told you. I can't believe that I had forgotten the fun we used to have. Any runners left up there?" he asked.
"A few. But there's better now. Wait ‘til you see the new improved versions. Twice the speed with half the fuel," Larek's face lit up. "I really can't wait. I've missed being home... regardless."
Liz was lost in the spaciousness in front of her. "How long?"
"What?" Larek asked.
"How long ‘til we arrive?" she said throwing the ship into a higher mach. He laughed out loud. "That's my girl! Damn Zan, I do believe she's been practicing."
Max laughed out loud. "The high breeding in her must be kicking in."
"I was always better than the both of you combined and you know it. You've just conveniently forgotten that's all," she said indignantly.
"Now see what you've done, Larek? She wasn't supposed to remember that part." Max swung his chair around, looking at the computer equipment behind him. "What's the updated time of arrival?"
"All things factored in, maybe four days." The three were suddenly quiet again for the longest while. Larek broke the silence answering their thoughts. "We're gonna be just fine."
"Speaking of just fine," Liz couldn't help the opportunity to steer the conversation elsewhere. "You and Nicole seem to be spending a lot of your off time together. What's going on there?"
A serious look came over Larek's face. "Nothing. Nothing is going on there." Liz looked sideways trying to read his face.
"She's a friend. Don't get any of your matchmaking harebrained ideas. I like who I am. I'm not looking for a change. At least, not in that way." Liz heard the tone in his voice and knew when to drop the conversation, being somewhat sorry that she had brought it up to begin with.
Max interrupted, "Some things never change. You see, Larek, both Liz and Maria are of the belief that a man is never complete without the woman he loves by his side." Larek busied himself with one of the keyboards to the controls, deliberately and need fully ignoring his dear friends comment. Max stood up, "Alright give the ship back to the co-captain, we have a date with the sandman. It's been almost fourteen hours for both of us, and we need to catch some Z's.
Liz reached up throwing a toggle switch, "It's back in your capable hands," she stood up and kissed Larek on the cheek. "Thank you, we'll have to do this again sometime real soon." Then in a more sincere tone, "And... hey, I'm sorry for prying."
"No harm done, sugar," he said very quietly, then gathering more strength he added, "Get some sleep. Kolt's scheduled that meeting at seven hundred hours. Be there or be square." He waved them on.
"Stay away from Michael," Liz ribbed at his remark, as they left the bridge. "Even Rath should have roll over on that one."
Serena stood at the counter in the galley. "I can't sleep. I don't know how you three have gotten into this whole routine."
Katain, Jessie and Jonathan sat eating cereal at the table. "Well, somehow I manage to get eight hours at a stretch. I'm no good without it," Jonathan stated. "It took a while, but I think I've got it down to a science now. It involves headphones."
Serena watched as the other two at the table nodded in agreement. "Headphones? Why didn't I think of that?"
"I'll be glad to give you a loan of mine if you want to give it a try. I've just woken up, so I'm good ‘til after tomorrow morning's meeting," Jessie added. Serena smiled, "That would be wonderful, Jess. Thanks, I'll give it a try as soon as I'm done my chamomile." She opened the cabinet over her head. "I can't believe they stocked thirteen different kinds of tea!" she exclaimed excitedly.
"Hot water's over here," Ava motioned to the teapot on the table. "Yep, they were a bit anal about that, and the bar soap, too," she laughed. "There are seven different types."
"I guess Gemini thought it best to try to distract us from the fact that the freak'n showers are so small," Jonathan responded, placing his trash into the disintegrator.
"Well they're big enough for one, Jonathan. What the hell did you have in mind?" Serena laughed at him, as Jessie blushed.
"I like to move around a bit in there, is all, without coming out with bruises on me. But hey if any one of you lovely ladies would care to join me, I would be glad to be inconvenienced." He said with a huge grin. Hey, I'm a healthy thirty-year-old male. What can I say?"
"Go take your pill, Jonathan," Serena answered, referring to an earlier hysterical conversation she had been privy to from John. The boys had been jokingly talking amongst themselves about the unattached male travelers and their possible uncontrollable urges. Of course, they had been referring to light year traveling, Serena smiled to herself. Lightyears, she thought automatically, so ... Buck Rogerish. If nothing else, traveling this great distance had certainly disproven the entire lightyear hoax for her personally.
"For the love of sanity, Jonathan, it's only been a month! And if you don't have any other answers, I'd be more than happy to mention a few," Katain threw a soggy Corn Pop in his direction.
"Been there, done that," he winked.
"Waaay too much information," Serena exclaimed, sitting down in the booth with the girls. "How bout a little pity on the older generation over here." Jonathan mouthed a kiss to Serena and left.
"He's been lovin' you since the first day he saw you, Jessie," Katain explained the already known. "I know, but he's just...just..." Jessie couldn't come up with the word.
"...a Cad?" Serena tried to help. They both nodded their head in agreement. "Yes, Cad is good," she responded. "He's adorable looking, but not subtle enough for me," Jessie joked. "Katain, what's with you and the patriot?"
"What? Nothing. Absolutely nothing," she was adamant as she toyed with her teacup. "Besides, I believe his interests currently lie elsewhere." Serena purposely didn't look up, not knowing if she was referring to Nicole or possibly to Liz, or maybe just the Federalists. Jessie pursued the comment. "He's a military man, is that what you mean? Or does he have someone already back home?"
The entire conversation had dropped to just above a whisper. Katain looked at Serena until she looked up into her face. Katain took a breath, "A very long time ago there was someone in his life, and he lost her. He's had no one special for a long time. There are women in his life back home, of course. I mean look at him, there'd have to be; but I don't believe he's looking for a serious relationship. There is a war on, and there are much more important things." Serena nodded to her, both completely understanding each other.
Liz sat in their quarters, feet propped up on the bed waiting for Max to come out of the closet shower. Rubbing her eyes, she realized just how tired she really was. "Max," she called in to him. "Are you taking us to Dannon Ridge when we get there? Is that the plan?"
"Once we get past the Adia radar defenses and on to Trinity, the best direction is Dannon. It will be easy for you and I to find camp, since we remember it there." Liz smiled as she listened to him and visions of the gorgeous snow covered mountains of Dannon flashed through her mind. Max continued from the other room, as Liz heard the water shut down with a groan. "We should be able to go a good distance with the Hummer and jeep. The snow doesn't proceed down the mountains very far yet at this time of the year. But Larek says that we'll need to travel about six miles or so by foot, unless we get lucky and can reach Chavez. Maybe then we could get an escort back up into the camp."
"And how many exactly are holding up there?" Liz asked as she pulled down the double sized cot attached to the wall. Max wrapped a towel around him and helped with the fresh linens. "When Larek joined Jared during the truce to search for the granolith and the..." Max quickly left the sentence unfinished, again being reminded that he had succeeded in finding one of the keys, even though the granolith was not in his possession. "...uhh, last count I think he said there were roughly twenty four hundred. Of course, not all are in the home camp. There are thousands of sympathizers to our cause, but fewer that are willing to come right out and admit it openly. Some are undercover at Leoch and elsewhere on Adia. Many are living in the secluded mountains there outside the city of Milinga."
The little town Milinga was a small hamlet in Ava's memory. Liz smiled remembering all the children there. She had taught them schooling for a few years during her father's prohibition of Antar period. Liz frowned remembering those years that she had been force to secretly meet with Zan high in the mountains of Trinity just to spend a few stolen moments together. One thing she remembered vividly about Milinga was it's wonderful fragrances. Fresh baked Nilia, Liz smiled. Bread... marble styled bread. And then there were the beautiful Rosarias. Roses. Wow, she thought. It was an entirely new world inside her mind now as all the memories flooded her mind. Almost like reading a good book or seeing an intriguing movie where you could place yourself into the scenes so well. Except, this was real, this had been her world previous to becoming Liz Parker. She smiled as her heart filled with emotion. Yes, she was ready to go home again. Ready to take back what rightfully belonged to her people there. It couldn't come fast enough for her now.
Kal entered the dining quarters like a bull in a china shop. In his hands he carried a very large carton. "Thought I'd find most of you here this morning," he grinned, mischievously.
"Uh-oh, what now?" Max asked, trying to talk and swallow scrambled eggs at the same time. It was a half hour before their scheduled meeting, and the entire crew, with the exception of John who was on the bridge, was gathered for an early breakfast. Liz and Nicole were sharing clean up detail. "I've got a bit of a surprise for you all from the Project. It was a last minute thing, and we were asked to wait until we were almost to our destination before handing them out," he found some room on the counter and opened the box. "Shirts, compliments of the people who made this all possible."
It didn't take a whole lot to excite the crew at this point, and this did it. He held up a sample to the ooh's and ahh's of everyone gathered there. "There's a few different sizes, along with two very small ones," he smiled glancing over at Sierra. He held up one long sleeve pullover, all black with a small golden Adian insignia on the left hand side.
Liz and Michael exclaimed at the same time. "Uniforms!"
"You're not being ordered to wear them, but I thought it was a decent gesture on their part," he said, nodding his head. "I don't intend to wear mine... but, you all can do whatever you choose to do with them."
"They're great," Max said, looking to Jonathan and Marshall, who sat silently. "Oh, come on you two. It officially makes us a team."
"A bit Star Trekky," Marshall mumbled across to Michael. "But at least we won't have to go through that...oh what will I wear today thing." Laughter broke out as Michael batted his eyelashes; and suddenly everyone was on their feet heading for Kal.
"Hold on. There are three for each of you. Mediums and larges only, except for the children’s sizes," Larek added, getting up to assist with the distribution.
"Black? Why black? Why not light blue or some brighter more fashionable color," Jessie teased.
"Meeting, people," Kal said hastily. "Get your shirts and head on over to the meeting on the bridge," Kal again reminded them, as each one walked passed him.
"Black is fashionable. It's my favorite color," Katain chimed in, taking hers and nodding to Kal. "Thanks."
"How bout those of us who were cursed with being full bred humans?" Maria asked. Coby grinned at her and responded, "Well, I'm wearing one… regardless."
"Everyone gets ‘em," Kal stated again as he started sorting through the box and handing shirts out to all. "John already has his, and I just want one for a souvenir," he explained.
"Oh right, Kal. You know you can't wait to put that on," Michael exclaimed laughing. "It'll look devine on you, and it'll match your hat too. Where is that damn hat anyway?" he asked teasing him at the short hair growth on his head.
Kal rolled his eyes, "Well in case no one noticed, I'm lettin’ the hair grow out a bit. So no hats for a little while. People need to recognize me when we arrive. Hot babes and all," he laughed at his own statement.
The last three shirts were handed to Angelique. "And exactly what do you expect me to do with mine?" she asked trying not to smile.
"Medium, right?" Kal winked at her. She smiled back grabbing the three folded shirts from him. "Thank you, Lan. It was very nice of them to do this. But the first time anyone calls me Spock, off it comes!" He cracked up at this ninety-year-old standing in front of him. He had had his doubts about her making this long voyage at her age, but the two had a very intimate conversation the night before going offworld. Angelique insisted she would not be left behind, as a matter of fact Kal remembered her exact words that night to him. She told him that if she was to die during the night, she expected him to take her home to bury her. This had been a lifelong dream for Angelique, and nothing was stopping her from completing it.
Kal grinned as he kissed her on the cheek tenderly. "Angie, I love ya."
Sierra was flying up and down the port wing. She had grown quite found of this hallway and her silver scooter. During this time of the day the hall was pretty much deserted and she didn't have to worry about staying out of anyone's way. The scooter had been a present from her mom, along with a great assortment of books, puzzles, crayons, paints and games… everything her mom could have thought of to keep a three, soon to be four year old girl busy, except of course for the one thing she really wanted. Her sister. They had always been each other's best friend. It hadn't been possible to have many other close friends, first, because they moved around and second because their mother was slightly paranoid about either of the girls slipping and letting their secret out in some way. She missed her sister, but she missed her best friend even more.
She did love hiding things though… all over the ship. They were her treasures and with a little help from Larek, she had drawn herself a map of the entire second level, carefully marking with small red x's the location of each of her special hidden treasures. The little map was beginning to fill up quickly and Sierra surmised that she'd have to do a little treasure hunting very soon. Very carefully she folded up her map into a small triangular shape and stuck it in her jeans back pocket, the one with button closure for safekeeping. Turning the scooter around and running several steps, she jumped on as the little silver wheels sparkled in the dimly lit corridor.
The meeting began right on time, just as everything else on the ship had become a matter of clockwork. As everyone settled in, Kal stood for a second, "I'm going to let Larek begin here, then he can go relieve John." He motioned to the opposite side of the room, where John nodded from the controls. "He has a little something to cover with you all, as well. Larek..." he motioned to him. Everyone was sitting in a semi circle at the far end of the bridge, with Liz, Max, Michael and Kal at the center. Larek spoke up from his seat between Max and Michael. "I just wanted to fill in some information for you that we haven't spent nearly enough time on," he checked his notes, but remained sitting.
"First of all… Dannon Pass. This is a relatively safe area of Trinity. High altitude. Winter is just ending there now. There is snow, but not as much as there was a few weeks back. Camp is at 15000 feet, so I hope no one here has a problem with heights," he looked around the group. The responses were all negative. "That's good," he answered.
"Now, Chavez has been told that we're coming. However, he doesn't know when. We Federalists are very good at what we do, plus Trinity has very sensitive incoming warning systems. I have no doubt that we will be spotted. Just in case, we're not, we'll be sending out a coded message once we are within range. If they don't shoot us down, we'll be fine." He gave everyone a look waiting for a response. Jessie looked alarmingly at Ava and a few faces turned gray at the thought of being shot out of the sky by their own kind. Larek quickly then added, "Just kidding." He stood and walked to a few maps that Kal had been hanging in the room when they all arrived there. "This," he pointed, "for the Landaus and Duncans most especially, is... home. It is Trinity. This is just a cross section of what pertains to us right now," he explained.
A proud look washed over several faces as they craned to get a better look. "You can check all this out later." he said. "For now, this large mountainous range here," he pointed to the top of the map, "this is Dannon. The camp is well secluded there, as you can all see." Maria raised her hand slightly to catch his attention. He nodded to her. "Will we be able to breath at that altitude?"
"Good question," he replied, dryly. "I won't lie to you. You may feel some discomfort. The air is thin. Actually, the air is thin on Trinity and Adia, as a whole. But we've calculated that it will not be anything that any of you cannot overcome. A few of you may have a longer adjustment period than the rest of us," he smiled, referring to their human counterparts. "But don't worry. I have no doubt whatsoever that you'll all be fine. The air is the last of our worries."
"Where do you intend to put this thing down?" Marshall asked. Kal spoke up almost too quickly, "Someplace flat," he grinned as everyone stifled their laughter. "No, seriously. We have to find a place suitable to leave this home of ours, some place out of sight from the air and safe. Angelique and Raymond, for obvious reasons, and Nicole and Sierra will be staying with the Horizon. And quite possibly Serena and Coby." Both of them looked at each other not being sure if this was a good or bad decision.
"Jared has been sending scout ships to stir things up on Trinity. I don't believe at this point that he's willing to put a lot of troops into attacking Trinity directly as of yet. He has his hands full enough on Adia at the moment."
He walked to the second map. "This is a section of terrain on Adia, within a six hundred mile perimeter of Leoch. Castle Leoch is the main seat of power, as it's always been for centuries, accept now it's under Jared's complete control." Liz stirred uncomfortably remembering the beauty that once surrounded its high turrets and flying flags. Larek continued, after picking up on her thoughts. "And it will be again," he winked at her. She did her best to smile back at him. Max gently caressed her hand, as he fought off the emotions rising inside of him. This was what it was all about, he thought. Regaining what had been lost, and rebuilding what had already been destroyed.
Larek turned back to the group. "Figures show that his troops now command three quarters of that planet." He cleared his throat and continued. "The closest cities to Leoch are both very small, they are Milinga and Frasate. Control of both are imperative if we are to get anywhere near Leoch. We have operatives in Milinga, Frasate and within the castle walls themselves, but not near enough to drive the Eosians out."
He placed his finger on a small triangle that had been drawn onto the map, just to the northwest of Leoch. "This little place here is where we hope to set camp while on Adia. It's the Rochell Observatory. For his own reason, Jared has no interest in this place. It's been run by Adian Monks since before Eos even entered the picture in our star system. Again it is high in the mountains and quite accessible to Leoch. The mountain, some forests and a rather large waterway separate one from the other. It also has a huge vantage point to the surrounding area. However..."
"Knew there had to be a however," Michael stated instinctively.
"Yes, they are a sequestered order. They don't associate with anyone, or at least they haven't up until now. Just how much resistance we may run into there is unknown right now." Larek returned to his chair. "Any other questions? I know you have a million questions, but let's stay with what I've just told you for now."
"Once we arrive at the camp at Dannon," Katain asked, "then what? How long until we move on to Adia?" Her anxiousness was evident.
"That depends on the latest news once we get there," he answered honestly. "The strategies will not be undertaken until we have all the pertinent facts. We don't want Jared to know that we're there. Once he knows this, our element of surprise is gone, and we desperately need that. Emily is at Leoch, we'll not do anything until we've secured her safety. So the first order of business will be covertly and safely getting her out of there, and we can't do that until we've set something up at Rochell and have gotten word to our contacts within Leoch. Have no doubt, that very well could be the most difficult part of this mission of ours."
"If that's it for the questions for now, I'll get over there and let John talk to you all," Larek said. "Thank you."
A few minutes later John was standing in front of the group. "Right before we left Kirtland, Evan presented Kal and I with two gifts. One Kal has already passed out amongst you. The other," he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small silver disc. "Is this. This CD, and on a side note... we now know where the CD technology came from, this is the digital log of the original owners of the Horizon." The room became so quiet you could almost here the heartbeats.
"Kal and Max have already listened to the contents." Liz looked stunned at Max. "You never mentioned that you had listened to it, Max," she whispered to him. "I know I didn't. Kal requested that I not say anything. Don't worry it's nothing bad... not at all," he smiled at her.
"I'm not going to play it for you just now, but I will tell you a few things that we have found out." He walked to the empty chair next to Max and sat down. He started by shaking his head and a smile lit up his face. "Well first of all, they were on our side. Just so there's no misunderstanding about that," he couldn't help but smile again. "We know that the families of the Landaus and the Duncans... the original crew... were sent from Trinity in 2005. They came back in time to assure that we'd all be here today, be here... right now."
He walked around and stood next to where Sierra was sitting, and then went on. "Well, this ship that we have called home for the last month was also sent through time, let's call it an esoterical back up plan. You see it was sent from the past into the future to fulfill the same prophecy that is still so alive on Adia and Trinity today. They didn't know about Eos back then, it hadn't become part of our star system yet. That's why there are Antarian, Adian and Trinian markings on the outside, but nothing referring to Eos. These ancestors of ours believed so wholeheartedly in the words of the prophets that they went to this extent to save the future. As I said, they didn't know anything about Eos, or Kivar or Jared, but they did know of a great danger… a foretelling of the future destruction of their worlds. And so, they too, set out with the help of the granolith, to transcend time, which resulted in this ship crashing in Chechnya in 1954."
"Oh my god," Liz whispered to Max in amazement. "They were coming at us from both directions... all to fulfill the prophecy. A full circle." John was nodding his head in utter agreement. "The future sent us the army, the past has sent us the means and the weaponry, each with absolutely no knowledge of each other or what each other had done."
"This is really happening," Katain murmured, as she stood up. "It's… it's just incredible. These people had so much faith in their beliefs... I mean, our people lived through the destruction and genocide, they witnessed what was happening first hand; but, the past? That was pure faith," she rubbed at her neck, trying to comprehend the overall picture.
"Who was manning this ship when it crashed in Russia?" Michael asked, still puzzled. John shook his head. "We'll never know. We only know that the ship was intact and if the Russians found anyone, they sure as hell didn't tell our government about it."
"Could it have been unmanned?" Serena asked, as her mind was whirling a mile a minute. "Could they have sent only the ship through their granolith? The ship and the payload."
"I guess it's possible," John replied. "The disc is only about the prophecy. It doesn't name a crew or anything specific about the trip itself. It's not so much a log as it is… a message. A plea to stop their worlds from being annihilated."
"How far in the past? I mean what year was this ship sent through the granolith?" Maria asked, trying to swallow the lump in her throat.
"I've been working on deciphering that, and the closest I can come up with is that it was before 1500. And that's pretty much based on earth time. I'm hoping that quite possibly there could be some hint about it somewhere at Rochell," he pursed his lips as he spoke. The same thought was now in everyone's mind.
The time span was emotionally staggering.
"Sierra, where have you been?" Nicole raised her voice, which then echoed even louder down the long hallway.
"No where," she answered innocently and wide-eyed, leaning on the scooter handlebars.
"I've been looking for you! I couldn't find you! I tried the galley and the game room. Where were you?" Nicole was frantic as her voice grew louder. "Young lady, you're not pestering Max again are you?" Nicole gripped the little shoulders tightly, and Sierra's face fell. "I'm not pestering anyone, Momma. What did I do wrong?"
"What did you do wrong? You disappeared! I couldn't find you!" Nicole felt herself shiver and came to her senses, trying desperately to regain her composure. "Oh, Sierra, I'm sorry, it just frightened Mommy when I couldn't find you. I didn't mean to get so upset with you. Just… next time please tell me where you're going, or who you're going to hang out with, okay?" She hugged her close to her, so mad at herself for blowing this whole thing totally out of proportion. Sierra had been nothing short of an angel and extremely well behaved for this entire exhausting trip, and Nicole was feeling worse than horrible for yelling at her the way she had. "Sierra, honey, I'm so sorry." Sierra hugged her back, then pulled away. "Can I go meet Maria in the game room now? I'm late."
Nicole bit her lip, "Sure… just be careful." Sierra scooted on down the hall and around the corner toward the back entrance to the game room. Nicole rocked slightly and then crumpled against the wall. She closed her eyes to stop the tears from coming, but it didn't help. Her body began to shake as she slid ever so slowly along the wall, her body racking in sobs. Her emotions had reached their final breaking point. Her daughter had been kidnapped by a murderer and whether she was dead or alive at this very minute, she had no idea. And her husband... that bastard had deserted them… for the second time in the last year. She moaned then sobbed again and again, all the time trying to gain control, but couldn't. Suddenly she felt two strong hands under her arms lifting her gently, turning her around to face a strong chest. The anger was still explosive inside of her, she began beating unmercifully at his chest with her fists, but he never flinched. Instead he pulled her head closer to his chest and then let her cry. Minutes passed as she remembered where she was. She looked around the hallway and then took several deep breaths trying to speak. "I'm…so... I'm sorry," her voice was barely audible.
"This has been too long in coming," Larek said calmly. "Let it go now. You need to let it all go," Larek's strong but low voice whispered into her hair. "It's okay."
She looked up and tried to pull away. She could barely see straight, "No…," she sniffled, suddenly realizing who had been holding her.
"Yes," he answered with determination. "Nicole. Hush," he pulled her back against him. "I'm here, and no one is going to hurt Sierra." His mouth half smiled down at her tear stained face, "…or anyone else on this ship, and that includes Emily and Sierra's mom."
She could no longer fight the need to respond to him. She gave in sliding her arms around his waist, resting her head. "I didn't mean to scream at her like that, she's just a little girl… a little girl who has been through so much," her voice began breaking up.
Larek carefully pushed the hair hanging down in her eyes back to its natural place. "Sierra understands all too well what you are going through too, you know. She's a very strong little one. She misses her sister greatly and her Dad as well. But you are here, and she loves you very much."
"I need so much to be strong for her, but I can't always keep up that front. None of this has been easy," she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "Listen to me...here I am complaining to you… you of all people."
"Me of all people? What do you mean?" his voice came softly.
"Well, it's just that you've been through so much back home, the sadness and misery that you've seen among your people... it must be tearing you apart. And well anyway, here I am having an emotional breakdown… in your arms. How humiliating is that?" She trembled and tried hard not to look into the eyes looking so strongly into hers at that moment. He had always tried hard before not to notice how green her eyes were; there was so much there, behind the sadness. "I cannot offhand think of a better place for you to fall apart, my lady." He touched her chin gently with his forefinger. "Come on, you need yourself a good rest. I'll get Serena to get something for you from med bay." He slowly but steadily walked her back in the direction of her quarters.
Coby was wandering from computer to computer on the bridge. "Well, what do ya think?" Kal was asking him. "There has to be a way." Coby nodded silently. Kal continued, "If we bypass the smaller computer bank and directly wire into..." He was interrupted by John entering on deck. "…and just what are you two directly wiring into??" he asked wearily.
"It won't disrupt anything," Coby quickly assured him. "I swear it. This smaller computer here doesn't seem to be dedicated anywhere in particular. Kal thinks we can redirect the outside images." As Coby spoke he pushed five or six keys on the main data board and turned a few small dials. Instantly the computer buzzed loudly then became quiet again. The screen flickered and then an image appeared, the same image that was visible through the large front observation windows.
"For what?" John asked. "Why would you want an eighteen inch version instead of all this," he asked waving his hand panoramically at the glass walled three-sided observation window.
"Navigational purposes for one," Coby explained. "This way with additional information fed into the computer we'll now be able to capture images and also map out alternate routes ahead of time… in case they should be needed." John chewed on his lip, raising his eyebrow and nodding his head about the possibilities.
Coby was in his element. "John, before we left Kirtland, I got to talk to two of the project techs. This ship is equipped with what we now today know as a Dobsonian Telescope lens. Of course back in 1954, this was never heard of before."
"Dobsonian? As in, Hubble-like?" John asked and then with some surprise, he added, "Shit."
"If they think the Hubble shots are unique, wait ‘til they get a load of some of the ones we'll be taking way out here. Now that this box is hooked to the main terminal, we'll be able to see so much more by using the lens and redirecting it to this monitor. In fact we could even project it up onto that humongous screen in the dining room." Coby grinned like a Cheshire cat.
"It might come in handy when we get nearer to Eos and have to sweep past Adia. We can see here, what we won't see there," he pointed to the observation window, "a good twelve hours ahead of time," Kal further explained to John. "It's an incredibly powerful lens, and it appears to be built into the ship."
John's smile broadened too. "Tell you what Coby, when Serena doesn't need you down in the cargo hold, you can be in charge of the pictorial log of our trip home. But only when she doesn't need you with her. There is a lot of crated equipment down in the cargo hold, feel free to check it out. Just please, be careful down there."
"Thank you, John. You won't regret this." Coby was so excited as he quickly grabbed shaking at John's hand, until John was forced to stop him.
Lunch had been over for a while, what there was of it. Appetites were waning after a general announcement had been made that the revised estimated time of arrival was now at seventy-two hours. Whether it be excitement or nauseous anticipation, not many touched their meals. There was something more evident about the days now being converted to just hours.
Max and Liz had been putting in eighteen-hour days for most of the last week and Kal and John had been discussing it at length. Kal caught Max in the hall just outside the galley at four that afternoon. "Yo, listen up. Where's Liz?" Max shrugged, "I guess she's with Serena, why?"
"John and I want you two to take some time. After your duties late this afternoon, grab some dinner and get lost for a while, you both deserve it. I know it's not the Bahamas, but try to think of it as sweet hours of no responsibilities. It's a big ship. I don't want to see your face or Liz's ‘til seven hundred hours, tomorrow morning," he gave a little wink as he turned and walked away. "No, no, don't bother throwing yourself at my feet to thank me," he said back over his shoulder. "Just try to forget about the future... and the past… for just a little while." Extreme pressure had been on both he and Liz for the last week and everyone on board was aware of it. They had great responsibilities, and the most difficult ones hadn't even started yet.
Max stood speechless in the corridor. He checked his watch. "Hey, what's up, Max?" Maria snuck up behind him. "Anything good to pick on in here," she motioned into the galley.
He shrugged. "The last of the fruit, oh and Nicole made that Jello up early this morning. But don't tell her I told ya."
"Where's Liz? I haven't seen her all day. I even missed her at breakfast," she continued talking to him, as she reached up into the top closet. "Ah hah, cookies," she smiled, taking down a large container. "And they said astronauts had to eat out of little paper pouches. We could teach NASA a thing or two." She rolled her eyes at the insanity of it all.
Max smiled and helped himself to a handful of chocolate chips cookies. "Too many long hours," he answered her question. "She wasn't feeling very good earlier this morning, so she skipped breakfast. Any message for her? She's with Serena and Jessie, they're scrubbing down med bay."
"What happened?" Maria asked with a look of horror on her face.
"Raymond accidentally knocked something over in there...it must have been pretty wicked. Serena insisted they put on hazard suits to clean it all up," Max explained.
"Well… yeah. Wow," she noted. "What the hell was it?"
"We don't know. John checked it all out before he let anyone in there after it happened. It's safe, but just to be safer, Serena insisted on protecting themselves, and temporarily sealing off the bay. I was just on my way down there to check things out."
"Well, tell Lizzie that I'd love to meet her tomorrow around ten hundred hours for popcorn and a movie in the lounge," she comically enunciated the words.
"Sure. What's playing, and can I come?" Max popped his last cookie into his mouth. She frowned deeply at him, "No, you can't come. This is girl time. Besides it's not Crouching Pussycat or Bravehardon." She replaced the hidden container on the top shelf of a different cabinet. "Don't tell anyone where those cookies are or I will have to kill you. The movie of choice is When Harry Met Sally."
Max made a loud gagging sound. He cleared his throat and responded, "I'll pass."
"I thought you would, Evans," she grinned and stuck her tongue out, as she passed by him in the doorway. She sauntered off towards the metal spiral staircase ascending to the bridge. Max silently crept back into the galley and began to root through the cabinets for anything intriguing he could find there.
Liz and Serena stood in their HAZMAT gear. They were both dripping in sweat. "Lord, I'm glad that's over," Serena exclaimed. "I'm not sure what it was, but did you see the way it literally took the paint off parts of the floor?"
Liz shook her head. "I'm glad it didn't eat its way through the suits, or our gloves." Jessie stepped out of the totally glass hyper chamber, carrying her suit carefully in her outstretched hand. The hyper chamber was a small cubical containing a shower for just such an occurrence, apparently. "Why would anyone keep something so toxic and dangerous in the medical bay??"
"Yeah, I'm wondering about that myself. There are three gallon sized containers… well, two left now. Neither of them is marked in anyway. It's a clear odorless liquid, that could be mistaken for water… thank God no one got thirsty thinking it was." Liz stripped down and stepped into the chamber, throwing her suit beside her on the floor. Jessie turned around to finish getting dressed.
Suddenly the doorknob began to turn. "WOAH! Naked ladies in here," Serena yelled out.
A voice from behind the still closed door laughed. "And... that's supposed to keep me out?" It was Michael's voice. The three inside chuckled, and Serena responded, "No, I guess that wasn't exactly the right thing for me to yell out, was it?"
"Is everybody alright?" Michael asked through the door.
"Yep, we appear to be just fine, Michael. Thanks for checking on us though," Jessie answered him.
"Liz, Max wants you to bring a jacket and meet him at your quarters in fifteen. Oh, one other thing… dinner will be delayed tonight," he added. "Nicole's a bit under the weather, and DeLuca's just been put in charge of things. Hopefully we'll all be eating before it's time for shuteye," he grinned to himself and walked away glad that he wasn't feeling hungry.
"A jacket? Where does he think you two are going anyway?" Jessie asked, looking strangely at Liz.
Liz couldn't help but smile. "With Max, you never know."
Serena was about to wrap things up for the day, and yet she still sat on the floor of the cargo hull staring up at the granolith. "What is you secret?" she asked out loud. "Help us out here will ya."
They had done their best with running the DNA profiles through the computer and just when Coby thought things were going so well, they ran into a snag. A good portion of the code had been cracked, but something was missing and for the life of her she didn't know what it was. They had started the granolith up several times during this trip, although she had worried each time. It had caused a pretty intense vibration the last time, and Coby had finally closed it down after the small lights around the base had turned from a neon green to a bright dazzling amber.
There was only a very small portion of the code that was still eluding them both, and for a few seconds she wished that Pete were here to help. Another mind, another opinion. She wiped her face feeling totally exhausted. Well one thing was for sure, she thought to herself, they were taking it home again, back from where it had started out from a long time ago. At this moment the only hope running in her mind was that if they were unable to get the icon fully functional, then there was always that chance that Jared would not be able to do any better than they had.
She thought of John and everyone else on board this floating miracle in space. She looked around her at the spaciousness and cold alien metal. The past…, she thought. How were they able to send a ship forward in time? And that would mean that those long ago had their own granolith, or maybe... maybe it was this one that they had, she thought. There was no way of knowing how old the icon was. According to everything written at Adia, it had just always been. It was a fable still to some.
She thought of Evan Prost and the Gemini Project. Although she was relieved, she still couldn't quite understand why they asked no questions about what it was that had been in that crate at Stanford University. Did they know? In all their studies, wouldn't they have run across the same references in all the old manuscripts that she and the others had? References of the keys, both crystal and 'angelic'. They knew that Trinity had sent a team of twenty four back in time to begin this long sojourn. How did Gemini think these people got here? Weren't they curious? They had had the disc from this ship in their possession for close to fifty years, and yet claimed that no one could decipher the coded message. But then, of course, she reminded herself, John had been the one to decode it and only because of his knowledge of the ancient dialects of their star system. Gemini might have known about the Whirlwind galaxy, but they wouldn't have had access to the dialects there.
She shook her head trying to clear her thoughts. It was time for a few hours of sleep, then tomorrow they would both be here again...and again until they solved the puzzle. She didn't want to think about it, but a silent thought was ringing in her head. There was a distinct possibility that the icon would be returned to its home with little more known about it than the day it had left.
Serena arrived on the bridge to gather up John at the end of his shift. Once there, she found Coby hovering over one of the computer terminals. She swore she saw the excitement oozing out of his ears. "Serena! Look at this," he called out to her. She walked over to where he, John and Max were standing. "What's going on?" she asked as she stifled a yawn.
"Coby has presented us with our first shot of home," Max exclaimed, grabbing her arm and pulling her closer to the console.
"Oh my god," her mouth fell open. "Hurry," she said excitedly, now in full awake mode, "Call everyone in here!"
"Max what are you doing?" Liz watched as he grabbed his backpack and jacket. "Where are we going?" They both stood inside their quarters right before the dinner bell.
"We're gonna take a walk after dinner," he answered with a grin. "Grab your jacket, we're not coming back here after we eat. We're going exploring." He took her hand in his. "Just you and me, like old times."
"Max, we're flying through space at a mach speed never experienced by mankind before," she grabbed at his arm. "What exactly do you have in mind?" she asked staring up into his face.
"Well the Caps have given us some down time and pretty much have threatened me with what will happen should they see either of our faces anytime after dinner. Now we can leave right now, or eat something first. And I have to warn ya, Michael says that Maria's cooking tonight. Nicole's sick."
"Maria? Come on Max, if I didn't show up for a dinner that she cooked, she'd never forgive me," she pulled him toward the door, stopping to stuff her jacket into his backpack on the way out into the corridor. "And remember, whatever it turns out to be...it's delicious." Max winced, "Yes, Ma’am." Both then ran headlong into Marshall and Katain also on their way to the dining room.
"So... what's she cooking?" Marshall made a face and looked to Max for an answer. His only response was a roll of his eyes. "I guess it'll be a surprise."
"Stop," Katain demanded sternly. "You two will give her a fair chance. Besides if you say the wrong thing, Marshall Duncan," she said turning to her brother, "everyone's dinner will be your creation tomorrow night." Liz smiled at her. "I know Maria, she'll do fine. She's been an eager student in there with Nicole for over almost a month now. I agree with Katain, let's not judge her too harshly before we give her half a chance. She may just surprise the hell out of all of us."
The two young men walked ahead, as Liz stopped to pick up My Little Pony who was lying abandoned in the hall. "Michael mentioned that Nicole wasn't feeling well. Hope she's not coming down with something, that's the last thing we all need," Katain said seriously. "We've got less than seventy two hours, I will be greatly pissed if I should get sick now."
"I hear ya, I wasn't doing to good this morning either. I was really worried. I hope we don't have a flu bug aboard," Liz agreed. "I haven't seen her today to talk to her, but I'm anxious to find out how she is. I know she's taking all the same vitamins that we're all on. I think its just nerves. My heart's been breaking… and Emily doesn't even belong to me. I can only imagine how devastated she is inside. And then I'm sure she's worried about what happens after we arrive."
"Well Lucas didn't help the situation," Katain added. "She doesn't know it yet, but him running off is the best thing that could have happened to her... and to the girls, too. I should have kicked his whiny ass when I had the opportunity," she whispered, as the four entered the dining quarters. "I'm thinking there's not a soul on board that doesn't feel that," Liz responded, looking up and seeing Maria standing proudly at the head of the fully set table before them.
"Everyone. Dinner is served," Maria announced rather formally. Three or four other conversations were taking place at once as everyone took their places around the table. Sierra came running in the door at the last minute jumping in the seat next to Max. He looked around for Larek, as Kal entered the room. "Won't be here," Kal murmured back to Max. "I told him not to worry that we'd save a plate for Nicole and one for him too." Katain and Liz standing not far away both overheard his remark.
"Is John coming?" Katain asked curiously, looking up to meet Kal's eyes, and searching for some deeper answers.
"No, JB's got the wheel tonight," Kal answered back to her while the truth of her question became clearer. Katain looked down to the table in front of her now realizing that Larek was not attending to the bridge. She tried hard to think positive thoughts. When that didn't work, she tried her very best to ignore them.
Liz felt an uncomfortable wave of emotions at the end of the table, as her own heart skipped a beat as well. "I'll help you serve Maria," Liz volunteered quickly, motioning her into the galley. As the two rounded the corner out of sight of the others, Liz asked, "Soooo, how did it go? This is so exciting, what did you make?"
"Roast pork with brown potatoes and Chelsea gravy, cheese rolls, green beans and a side Caesar salad for the Duncans. Oh, and a fresh apple pie for desert. Made from scratch." She took a deep breath and then let it out slowly. Liz stood with her mouth hanging open staring at the assortment of piping hot food sitting on the counter for serving. The mixture of aromas in the small galley were nothing short of mouthwatering. "Maria! This is wonderful. You did all of this yourself?"
"Sierra helped me with the cheese rolls… but, yes, yes I did." Maria finally beamed. Liz laughed out loud and threw both her arms around her. "You did good, real good, DeLuca. Now lets go surprise the troops, shall we?"
Liz pulled her jacket on, as Max lead the way deeper into level three on the port side of the ship. This side was relatively new ground for the two of them. Most things of interest or of need to them were stored on the starboard side. Liz herself had never ventured into this area of the Horizon. "Aren't you glad you brought your jacket?" he asked slowing down and throwing his arm around her shoulders. "Chilly in here."
"I strike the Chilly and raise you a COLD," she laughed pulling gloves out of her pocket.
"We have free roam of the ship, and I've even brought some munchies along for us." His voice began to echo in the massive hull. Liz's neck craned looking up into the blackness above her head. "This thing still amazes me," her eyes searched the darkness. "What all is in here anyway?"
"Food mostly… and water, lots of bottled water. All those steel drums are filled with water. This is where the supplies for the Fed armies are. Blankets, soap, alcohol, surgery equipment, assorted medical supplies, oxygen tanks," he walked to the right down one of the many aisles, pointing up to the four high stacks of crates and cardboard boxes. "Batteries, generators, tents, radios, communication equipment, oil lamps, clothing, and… all the comforts of home," he said rounding the corner. "Wait, close your eyes," he said stopping short.
"Close my eyes?" she replied surprised. He shook his head turning to face her again. "Okay, ...closed," she smiled closing her eyes tightly. "Max Evans, what are you up too?" He led her carefully around another corner six or seven steps to her far left. "Okay, open ‘em." She opened her eyes wide again adjusting for the lack of light, only to see candles... candles everywhere. There must have been thirty, she thought glancing around. "M-a-x," she stammered as her face softened. Looking closer there were two cots side-by-side, complete with pillows and blankets. A crate turned into a makeshift table held two wine glasses. A tall bottle sat in a helmet filled with ice. "I- I can't believe you've done this...Oh, Max, it's so romantic!" she squealed in a whisper, jumping into his waiting arms, and pulling them both down to the floor in one move. She giggled and it was the most precious sound Max had heard for a long time.
"Well... I don't know about romantic… but, I did try," he winked at her as the smell of her hair filled his senses. The two sat on the floor by the cots for the longest time in each other's arms, saying nothing, but feeling again everything they had left behind them.
"How did you manage all of this?" she still was in a state of disbelief, as he settled with his head in her lap. "I cannot lie, I had a little help," he confessed, shyly. "Michael and Larek both helped. I really didn't know where any of this stuff was."
"Max, this is the most wonderful surprise you could have given to me, most especially right now." Her eyes were caught in his and suddenly it really was just the two of them again.
He played with the zipper on her jacket as he spoke. "It's not all that special, but my options were a bit limited," he smiled. Then in a more serious tone he needed her to know. "We've both been so preoccupied most of the time here. It just hasn't been fair, nothings been fair. It seems since the day we were married, I've always been wanting to do so much more for you and couldn't for one reason or another. I just didn't want you to ever think that my mind isn't thinking this way all the time, because it is. I love you Liz, just as much if not more than I ever have, and I'm so grateful that you've stuck by me through all of this."
Liz placed her finger to his lips. "Ssh, there isn't anywhere else I could possibly be… but with you, Max. You don't have to do anything, but be with me and love me. That's all I need. I love you, heart and soul. I always have and always will."
He reached up, placing his hand at the back of her neck, pulling her face down to his. He kissed her sweetly and then was interrupted by a faint noise around them. Both were startled. "What is it?" she whispered. "Hear it?" The sounds surrounded them again. Sweet sounds, almost melodic. They seemed to fill the space above them. An eeriness settled, and then peaked again. They felt it throughout both of their bodies. A tingling feeling, a warm yet tingling feeling that filled them both, setting off that familiar electricity within them that neither could ever ignore.
"Yeah," he said softly as he listened again. Then finally whispered back close to her ear, "The ghosts of the ship are talking to us."
He held onto her tightly as his lips brushed hers softly. Staring back into his eyes, she saw her reflection there and their lips meet with a determined passion and intense need. He unzipped her jacket as she helped remove his shirt. A rhythm danced between the two until they both were naked in only the warmth of the flickering candlelight around them.
Liz no longer felt the cold anymore, as his hands caressed at her waist, pulling her body up against his. He tasted that soft skin in the curve of her neck, and his hands gently caressed her breasts. "M-ax," she whimpered.
"I love you, Liz," he breathlessly whispered over and over again. He watched hungrily, as his finger lightly traced the curves of her stomach and thighs. He closed his eyes then, and drank in every curve as his heart felt it would burst inside him.
She kneaded at the soft skin drawn over the muscles of his shoulders and then let her hands ever so slowly rub down his tensed arms, then farther down to his hips where they lingered. She felt his buttocks tighten as she guided him until he filled every space left between them. Searching… Searching for everything they had left behind them and everything that would now lie ahead.
"So there I sat, not knowing what to say," Larek was heavy into a personal discussion with Michael, as the latter was on the bridge keeping him company. "I know that we've spent much time together since this journey began, but it started out to be because of the training that she and her brother and sister needed. There were things that needed refining. They each have incredibly strong gifts. For that we can all be grateful. Someone was needed to replace Vilondra in this team of would be assassins."
"Let's not get off track here," Michael said, impatiently steering the talk back to the subject at hand. "Aside from training, right after first coming aboard the Horizon, it seemed to me... or I should say to Maria, who doesn't miss a trick… that you were very rarely seen without her. Look man, personally? I don't care. If you two have this thing going on... more power to you. She's one strong and sexy woman. A bit intimidating for my own tastes… but still."
"She is a very persuasive woman, Rath," Larek answered as he reached up onto the panel and pushed a few handles, disengaging the manual override and dimming the interior lights down all the way. The bridge resembled a darkened movie theater. The observation window at one end displayed an ever-changing scene of colors and hues of the outside world. Larek swung his chair around. "We did the movie thing..."
"Yeah, but it wasn't that dark in the dining room, man, and I wasn't the only one who noticed." Michael smirked. "So let's cut the crap. You care... or you don't."
"It's not that simple, comrade," he walked a bit in front of Michael with his head down. "We are all here because, and only because, of a prophecy, Rath. I am connected to both of these women in one way or another."
"One major problem with that excuse..." Michael chewed on his pencil as he haphazardly wrote down figures in the log from the twenty odd dials and gauges on the control panel. "Nicole is 100% human, and obviously... Katain is not."
Larek leaned on the back of his chair. "Maybe it's not right for me to be with someone who is not my kind."
"Excuse me?" Michael exclaimed. "I resent that remark. Look, for all the landmines we squirmished through, I wouldn't trade it all for anything else. Being 100% human has nothing to do with it. Maria is 100% woman and that my friend is what it's all about." Placing the tablet down and the pencil behind his ear, Michael went on. "Look, you're obviously feeling guilty about this whole thing, or you wouldn't feel the need to talk about it. This is what I think you should do. Tell Katain that your attraction for her was more of a... need to be with someone who shared some of your own physiology... your own kind."
"Are you crazy?" Larek replied in amazement. "I can't tell her that... I won't tell her that. Rath, I don't want to hurt her; but, I can't continue with her as we have been, when I'm being pushed so hard from some force within to deal with my feelings for Nicole."
"...and are you certain that you're ready to do that? Or are you simply looking for a way out before your true emotions… those real emotions get involved," Michael looked at him knowingly.
"Conversation's over." Larek announced with a frown.
"No, no. I don't think so. Larek, listen to me. I'm the best one to talk to. I'm the only one to talk to about all this. I know the past, man. Lighten up, I didn't mean to insult you if that's the way you took it. It's me, damn it." Michael patted him on the back. "I'm listening, just like I've always listened."
Larek sighed looking at his close friend. He was right they had shared so much together. Good, bad, sad and insane times. He spoke quietly. "I don't know what I'm meant to do. I am connected to both of these women." He stared up and out of the observation window as if the distance he saw before him there could somehow control what he was feeling inside. "I grew up believing that it was her. That it would always be her." Michael looked down at the floor, remembering. Larek continued to pace. "But when the time came, I knew that I had to step aside or have my insides gutted out."
He sat down next to Michael. "On the morning of the wedding..." Larek hesitated before going on as his words took them both back in time. "I knew that this was my stepping off point. Oh, I had been sure to say all the right things before hand, to Zan and even to you, but in my heart that wedding… that was to be the culmination of everything that she had ever dreamed of. The end, the conclusion of mine. I would never ever desecrate sacred vows, Rath. They were both so ecstatically happy. One couldn't help but feel everything they were feeling." Michael shook his head, knowing, and let him continue. "But, just as the final words were never spoken in that ceremony, I never allowed myself the final goodbye. Instead of mourning something that wouldn't be... I was now mourning something that had been taken away. There is, my friend, a grave difference. For so many years I poured every ounce of my fiber into fighting the tyranny that had ripped three wonderful and close friends out of my life forever, or so I then believed. A true feeling of love no longer had a place anywhere in my life. Women that I involved myself with wanted no more than I did. It was a mutual abuse, you might say."
"And both of these woman make you feel differently now?" Michael asked. A look of concern was on Larek's face as he nodded in answer to his question.
"So what's your gut feeling on it?" Michael asked in all sincerity, knowing that his best friend was at a place that had the potential of being a major turning point in his life.
"I have yet to separate the two gut feelings," Larek confessed. Michael walked to the printer as another picture from the telescope finished printing there. "I guess there's no one then at home that could break this tie," he asked, looking at the eight by ten glossy in his hand. "You just can't go on bedding two on such a small ship, Larek," he smiled at the thought.
"That's not how it is, if you can believe that," Larek's mouth slightly curved into a smile. "One night with Katain was all there was so far. It's easy for me to say now that it never should have happened. Nicole and I have only a platonic relationship. But I fear that it could become something much more."
"So you're sleeping with Katain?" Michael asked the question he had just heard the answer to. The bridge door slammed. "Who's sleeping with Katain? ... and it better not be you, Guerin," Maria exclaimed seconds after coming onto the bridge and overhearing part of their conversation. She wrapped her arms around a flustered Michael's neck as he quickly spun his chair away from her.
"Why is it so dark in here?" she asked. "Hi sweetie," she said in her best baby cooing voice.
"Of course it's not me, Maria," Michael denied vehemently.
"Well, of course it's not. You would have been dreaming," she giggled.
"What? Hey, wait a minute..." Michael stuttered, looking hurt.
Larek interrupted their banter. "Maria, do you think we could keep this conversation between the three of us?" He was all too aware of the closeness that had grown between Nicole and Maria over the last month.
Maria adamantly shook her head yes. "My lips are sealed, Larek. But it's not like it's a well kept secret. I was hoping that somehow it wasn't true. Nicole seems to look up to you so much... I wonder why that could possibly be...?" she snarked at him.
"We know, Maria," Michael replied quickly. "Larek's got some things he's working out."
Maria stared out at the heavens in front of her, smiling. "I can't believe that Maria DeLuca is standing here seeing all of this. I'm speechless. It's so much more impressive with the interior lights out." She was mesmerized for a few seconds by the surreal scene out in front of them. Then as if finally hearing Michael's comment, she answered without turning around. "Isn't it the working out that has made this whole thing a problem?"
"I don't want to hurt anyone, Maria," Larek's voice was strong. "I swear to you I don't. Up until now I haven't wanted to become involved with Nicole. But for everything that up until now has told me not to, there is now something telling me the opposite. Something is drawing me so strongly to her, and I can't explain it. The two of them are making me crazy.."
"That's a pretty good kinda crazy..." Michael quipped, followed quickly by Maria's hard smack on the back of his head. She cleared her voice less than subtlely. "Larek, let me tell you something about the human female. When we love, it usually is hard and deep, so if that's where you're planning on taking Nicole… you better be damn sure that there's no confusion of the matter. We are all here on this ship together. I for one don't want to have to take sides with anyone. I think they're both pretty cool in their own somewhat opposite ways."
The room was quiet as she lay staring up at the ceiling. The haziness began again to clear a bit from her mind. She knew who she was, she knew where she was; but she was helpless to do anything about it. Swinging her feet over the side of the bed she pulled herself into an upright position. She sensed the time that had passed and knew that Siobhan would be coming in soon with her medicine. Her breathing increased rapidly as her thoughts became clearer.
Where were they? Weren't they ever going to come and take her home again? She looked down at her freshly painted fingernails, a surprise earlier that morning from the two sisters who took care of her. Siobhan and Chalone. They were twin sisters, older sisters. They were very nice to her. Almost anything she wanted they'd sneak up to her. But seeing them together only reminded her of Sierra and it hurt her heart so much to think of her own sister. It had been so long now.
He didn't come for her as often as he had in the beginning. She remembered those first weeks so clearly. She had been so scared, even though he had pretended to be nice to her, pretended to be her friend. But she knew who he was.
The big man with the scar had given her a lot of medicine that had made her feel lost, medicine that made her forget all the horrible things she dreamed during the times she was alone with him and the scary woman. They had hurt her leg that first week. The bruise was gone now, but some pain remained. Emily knew they had taken blood from her leg, again and again. But there was little more that she remembered, only that she would always be here in her bed when she woke up again. She heard steps in the hallway and quickly lay down, pulling the covers up over her, and she waited.
Serena hung around after dinner to give Jessie a hand with cleaning up. "Dinner was great, wasn't it?" she asked the young girl as they both cleared the plates from the table. "She did a great job. I think we now have two fine cooks aboard."
Jessie nodded. "It'll give Nicole a break, too… well at least for the next two days," she said with a heavy smile.
"Yes, things will be changing. But everything will be alright," Serena placed the dishes in the sanitizer.
"Are you staying on the Horizon when we get to Trinity?" Jessie wasn't sure of what she herself wanted to do when that time came. Serena knew that Jessie was the youngest adult on board, being just barely seventeen. She was a quiet girl, so it was sometimes difficult to tell what was going on in her mind. "I'll be staying here while the others go to up to Dannon. John feels that someone should stay here that has some medical background... well, because of Angelique and Raymond. Of course, Sierra and her mom will be staying on board, too. Once Max and the others meet up with the troops at the camp, we'll all make some different arrangements before moving on to Adia."
Jessie nodded her head. While Jessie shared equally in the powers of her sister and brother, she was not as comfortable at performing them as they had become. "I've never killed anyone before," she confessed in a whisper.
"Not many of us have, Jessie," Serena turned looking straight into her eyes. "As a team, you are all much stronger than individually. I think that it would be better for you to not think too much in detail about what might have to occur. Just know that you all will be there for each other." She reached for her hand. "Jessie, you come from an extraordinary family. I'm sure that when the time comes you will do just fine." The young girl smiled through worried eyes and clutched her hand tighter.
Nicole felt groggy upon waking up. She hated sleeping during the day, it always left her feeling disoriented when she woke. She was hungry and instinctively looked around the small quarters she shared with her daughter who was now nowhere in sight. She stood and stretched. Suddenly the events of earlier in the day came racing back to her. She was embarrassed and sick at herself for behaving that way with Sierra. And the fact that it had been Larek there in that hallway had only made the matter more unbearable. She did know one thing. She knew that Larek was right, she had to put it all behind her.
Emily wasn't with her right now; but soon, within days she would be so much closer to her than she had been for the last six weeks. They would rescue her and she would have her back in her arms once again. She hadn't dreamt of her for five nights in a row now, and it worried her. Of course the dreams she had, weren't all happy dreams. Some were memories of things that replayed in her mind from when Emily was an infant. But, mostly it was the same dream, the nightmare of that Saturday afternoon in September.
For the first time in a long while she thought about what would happen after Emily was safely on board the Horizon. What would they do then? She knew well enough that Maria wanted to return home again. They had spent hours talking about Roswell in the galley over the last weeks. But what plans did the others have? Funny, but not much had been mentioned from the rest of the crew about what was to transpire after their trip proved to be successful. How long would that take? Ava and Zan were returning to a home they had once started from. She knew that the overall intention was to reestablish the royal family on Adia. Both Jonathan and Marshall had freely spoken of their intentions to stay on Trinity, to live out their lives there. She wondered if Jessie would stay with Jonathan. The girl continued to deny it, but Nicole was sure that she was sincerely smitten with the guy, and it was obvious to most that Jonathan felt the same in return.
Her mind wandered, and Larek became the vision there. What was she going to do? It wasn't possible to deny her feelings to herself anymore. How her heart raced whenever he was in the same room. And Katain? She couldn't seem to get the picture of the two of them together that night out of her mind. They had all been gathered for the Tuesday night movie, as it had come to be called. The Terminator, she remembered. A movie that she had seen several times back home, but apparently had never paid close enough attention to one particular scene. Kyle had come across time for Sarah. When the actor spoke those words, she noticed that Max and Liz were engrossed in a severe lock of lips, and she smiled thinking of all the hell the two of them had been through to get to this point in their lives.
She had glanced in back of her looking for Maria, who earlier had told her that this was one of her favorite scenes of all time. Instead of Maria, her eyes had fallen on Larek sitting in the back of the room with Katain. Nicole shook her head even now trying to dislodge the memory of his hands in her hair and his lips on hers. She remembered her heart falling into her stomach. Turning around quickly so as not to let on, her eyes met with Serena's and she quickly looked away. A nauseous feeling was quelling up in her stomach. She had never felt so alone in her entire life.
She closed her eyes now as her emotions were scattered by Kal's voice over the loudspeaker echoing throughout the ship. "Good evening passengers. We've just revised our ETA. In nineteen hours we will be entering the atmosphere of a beautiful little world known as Trinity. Coby has calculated that the temperature is 44 degrees, and it is snowing in the mountains of Dannon. We hope you have enjoyed your flight."
Liz entered onto the bridge at 8:05 am. Max, Michael, John and Kal were already there waiting. "Morning love," a smiling Max greeted her with a kiss on the cheek. She blushed as all eyes fell on her. "Good morning," she grinned. She turned to Michael who continued grinning back at her. "Thank you Michael," she whispered out of the side of her mouth. He winked at her, "You're welcome, Sparrow. Anything to help the cause. Hey, we just located the candles." Liz nodded in embarrassed gratitude at the thought that so many on board had knowledge of their last wonderful hours together.
She watched the computer monitor, then turned to see the bigger picture out the front glass. "Home," she murmured, feeling Max's arms surrounding her from behind. "I can't believe we're here." Three planets seemed to hang amongst the stars just up ahead in plain view.
"The bluer one is Trinity. This closer greenish is Adia." Michael helped to explain, "We'll be using Adia's gravity pull to slingshot around to Trinity."
"Won't we be detected?" Liz asked. She felt a strength inside her growing. It was so very strong now. She had momentarily closed her eyes and when she opened them again, everything around her seemed brighter, more defined. She swallowed hard and felt her breathing slowing down and she knew Ava was stepping in.
"We should be fine," John answered. "We'll be coming in on the farside of Adia, near the Qualand continent... opposite side of the planet from Milinga. We know from Larek that Jared's air defense radar isn't as concentrated in that particular hemisphere. Mostly mountains and desert in that area. His defenses are bolstered around the castle," he explained. "and within a perimeter of three hundred miles. We should go through with little if any detection. We have a fifteen minute window of exposure."
"Fifteen minutes is a long time," Max replied raising his chin, as he too felt a strange sensation filling him. "I want everyone, but we here, safely in their quarters until we're clear. Get Larek up here. Michael..."
"Yes, my liege, I'm on it." A serious Michael nodded and left the bridge heading for the diningroom, where most of the crew were still having breakfast. Kal was relaying from the computer data, "We'll be gaining speed slowly for the next two hours; then at 1100 hours, we switch to Mach 4 as we enter their atmosphere. Hopefully it's going to give us a good trajectory and we'll be cold-cocked right on to Trinity. It's the safest way to be undetected. We should then be within communication distance of Trinity by 1300 hours this afternoon."
John glanced up at Liz who had moved to his side. "And now… I bring you home," he said tenderly, raising her hand to his lips.
The world is full of stories, and from time to time, they permit themselves to be told - Prey