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“Checkmate”

Written by Liz, Annie, Bri, Britt Cole and Shira

Edited by Tiff, Katie, Kristin, Lisa and Mark

Playlist:

1. “Adagio for Strings” composed by Samuel Barber

2. “Fear and Love” by Morcheeba

3. “Get Free” by the Vines

4. “Dear Diary” by Pink

~.~.~.~.~

“Oh my God,” Liz whispered as a sudden fear consumed her.

She was trapped in a house full of the people who wanted all of the people she cared about dead. Liz looked over at Max for support and saw the fear and frustration in his eyes.

They had to get out of there.

She just couldn’t believe it. They had been careless! They couldn’t trust anyone anymore, not even themselves. Even Jesse was against them now. They had to do something quick before time ran out.

“Isabel!” Liz hissed. “Can you put up another mind warp?” Liz continued pleadingly.

Isabel stared at her for a split second before nodding. She squeezed her eyes shut in concentration. After only a moment, all of the FBI agents started running out the door, apparently chasing them.

“Let’s go,” Liz said as she grabbed Maria’s arm, pulling her along.

“Are we just going to run from them?” Michael asked.

“She can’t hold up the mind warp for long Michael, come on!” Liz urged.

“Why don’t we just kill them? It’s either us or them and I prefer them.”

“We would only draw more attention to ourselves Michael,” Max said in a quiet, yet authoritative tone.

“Let’s go,” Liz said more firmly, tugging Maria along harder.

Finally everyone started making his or her way out of the house. Suddenly, Isabel opened her eyes.

“Jesse?” Isabel asked, startled.

The mind warp dropped.

~.~.~.~.~

1.

“Where is Isabel?” Max asked the others.

“You mean she isn’t behind us?” Liz asked as she stopped running.

“No.” Max turned back, his face twisted in fear.

“I thought she was following us,” Michael panted.

“She’s still inside,” Liz said, terror filling her voice.

“I’ve got to go back,” Max said, turning to run in the opposite direction.

“Max no!” Liz cried, stopping him in his tracks.

“Don’t worry, I’ll go after him,” Michael said, starting after Max.

“Do you want them to kill all three of you?” Kyle said angrily. “We’re too exposed. Let’s go to those trees over there.”

“Liz they have…” Max interrupted, his eyes pleading with hers. His body was poised between running two different worlds, one that lead to certain freedom and the other to his worst nightmare.

For a split second time stood still and an understanding seemed to pass between him and Liz. Michael glanced from one to the other before yelling, “Go! Go!”

Max took off towards the house and Michael blocked Liz’s path, dragging her towards the woods surrounding the prison that lay inside.

~.~.~.~.~

Max ran harder than he had ever run before in his life. Isabel, his sister, was still in there. He could only pray that she was still holding the mind warp. If not, they were in trouble, but he refused to give up hope.

Max entered the house just in time to see Isabel slumped on the ground in exhaustion.

“Isabel” Max cried, running up to her. “Are you okay? We have to get out of here!”

Isabel nodded her head weakly as Max helped her to her feet. He put his arm around her and started to leave.

Then he heard a voice, the shrillness of which sent his teeth on edge.

“Bring him here,” Windler ordered.

Jesse was pushed forward roughly. Caught off balance, he fell to the ground, letting out a hiss of breath as his chest made contact with the floor.

Isabel winced as she watched him crash to the ground, pain striking his face. Quickly, she began to rush back to him, determined not to leave him behind. “Jesse!” she cried out, trying to reach him.

“Step back,” one of the agents demanded. As he stepped between her and Jesse, he opened his coat and exposed a gun.

Max instinctively reached out to her, making the attempt to pull her back, but Isabel would not have it. Giving Jesse up the first time was the hardest thing she ever had to do; and now fate had brought them back together. It was a sign…a prayer answered, and nothing was going to make her leave him now.

“Let me go!” she screamed at Max as another agent grabbed one of Jesse arms, twisting it behind his back and securing it within steel handcuffs. She was not going to stand by and watch him suffer.

“We have to get out of here,” Max told her, dragging Isabel towards the window. They would come back, he resolved in his mind, but right now they must escape. Getting captured was not the way to save Jesse.

Isabel struggled against her brother’s firm hold. “I have to help him!” she screamed, finding herself getting farther and farther from Jesse by the second. In a last desperate attempt, Isabel threw her entire body weight in the opposite direction Max was heading.

Unable to keep a hold of her arm, Max felt her slip through his fingers as Isabel fell to the ground. The instant she came in contact with the floor, she scrambled back to her feet, awkwardly trying to make it to the place where her husband lay restrained. But she never reached him.

“Stay right there,” an agent commanded, pointing the barrel of his 33-caliber automatic at her.

That was more than Max could take. He lunged forward, only to have another agent attack him. The man barreled into him, knocking Max into the wall.

“Restrain him,” Windler ordered.

Quickly, Max tried to raise his shield but it was too late. The agent had him pinned against the wall, hands clutched behind his back.

Isabel steadied herself, staring at the agent who threatened her with the gun. “Are you going to shoot me?” she challenged, figuring that the scary alien card was the only thing she had left to play.

“Isabel,” Max warned, the word being exhaled with a loud gasp of air as the agent forced him harder into the wall.

“Stop that,” Isabel demanded.

Windler finally took it upon himself to approach her. His footsteps remained even as he moved across the living room. “You are in no position to be making orders here,” he told her bluntly. “I’m the one in control, not you. Resign yourself to that fact, and all this will be a lot less painful.”

Isabel stuck her chin out. “How do you figure that?”

The second the words left her mouth, Windler reached down to his holster and pulled out his gun. “Two living aliens to experiment on or one alive and one dead…makes no difference to me,” he told her, aiming the gun at Max.

Isabel’s gaze shifted from the agent to her brother and then to her husband lying on the floor. She didn’t have any other choice but to give in.

Watching as she stood down, Windler grinned at his victory. “Set it up,” he ordered the agents.

~.~.~.~.~

Sheer panic fell over Liz when she saw one of the agents pull a gun on Isabel as she looked through the window. Slowly emerging from their hiding place she made a few tentative steps towards the house until someone took her firmly by the arm.

“I don’t think so,” Kyle told her, dragging her backwards, deeper into the woods. “You’ll get yourself killed.”

“We have to go back!” she cried, moving against the direction Kyle was going. “We can’t leave them there.”

“We won’t,” Michael whispered forcefully. He had one hand lightly on Maria’s shoulder, guiding her though their wooded hiding place. With the other hand, he reached out and took hold of Liz’s other arm, helping Kyle pull her back. “We need a plan first.”

Liz rooted herself to the spot the second she heard the words leave Michael’s mouth. “We don’t have time for a plan!” she insisted.

Michael had never seen Liz’s hysterical side before, and right now he did not appreciate its appearance. He tightened his grip on her arm and he turned to face her. Irritation was beating in his veins. “Without one, we’ll die.” Michael scolded, meeting her gaze.

Fidgeting under the scrutiny of his eyes, Liz went from hysterical to lost. “And while we wait for one, they might,” she whispered, choking on the words.

Kyle saw Liz’s legs beginning to buckle and he hurried forward, grabbing her just before she hit the ground. Gently, he eased her into a sitting position, kneeling down next her for support.

For the moment, Michael forgot Maria. His full attention was focused on Liz as he watched her curl her body into a ball by tucking her knees under her chin.

“They’ll torture them,” Liz quietly sobbed. “You weren’t there that night. You didn’t see what happened while the FBI held Max in that god-forsaken white room. The things they did to him, I…“ Liz whispered as she choked back tears.

Michael looked confused for a second. “Liz,” he said softly, trying to get her attention. “Liz, how do you know what happened in the white room?” Then it dawned on him. “The connection.”

Slowly, Liz nodded her head. “And it’s happening again. I can feel it. I can feel his fear.”

Kyle put a reassuring arm around Liz as more tears spilled down her cheeks. She leaned against his shoulder, burying her head there. “Okay,” Kyle trailed off. “We have to do something and the sooner, the better.”

“Nothing like stating the obvious Kyle,” Michael groaned. “What we need to do is come up with a plan.”

“We,” Kyle repeated. “As in you,” he pointed to Michael, “And me?” he said, gesturing to himself. “Somehow I have a feeling that this is not going to be the best plan ever concocted. In fact, I doubt it will make the top one hundred.”

“Have you got any better ideas?” Michael retorted.

Kyle shook his head. “No, I’m just stating my reservations ahead of time. What do we do?”

“First, we have to hide them,” Michael informed him, glancing from Liz to Maria.

Liz heard what Michael was saying and began to shake her head in opposition. “No, no, I’m coming with you,” she demanded.

“Not like this you’re not. We’re not going to risk losing anyone else,” he explained.

“That won’t be the case,” she said, straightening up a bit.

“Okay then,” Michael backed off. “Then, we have to make sure Maria is safe somehow.”

~.~.~.~.~

Maria listened to the sounds they were making, each syllable connecting to form words and sentences that could mean the difference between life and death for the entire group. Yet, somehow, she really didn’t understand.

She knew they were talking about her, trying to find the best solution on how to deal with her so she wouldn’t be an inconvenience. Whatever they decided, she would play the part they gave her because, in the end, she always did. But right now, she didn’t want to deal with it.

Taking a few steps away from the group, Maria looked around at her surroundings. The light warm breeze rustled the leaves up high on the trees. The sound was almost peaceful until the sound of a breaking branch shattered it.

That was when Maria felt it. Fear faintly ebbed at her conscious. The feeling was unbidden and unwanted. She backed up a few steps, finding herself with what was left of their group. Reaching out, she gently began to tap Michael on the shoulder.

When he didn’t respond, the tapping grew more insistent. Finally, he turned to face her. “What is it Maria?” he questioned, concern etching throughout his face.

“Someone’s out there,” she whispered.

A flash of red appeared though one of the bushes. Instantly, Liz, Michael, and Kyle were on their feet. Taking defensive positions, Michael and Liz raised their hands, ready to fight if provoked.

The whirl of red hair came again, whipping around a tree not more than a few feet from where the group was standing.

It was Serena. “What the hell is going on?” she demanded. “Are you guys playing hide-and-go-seek or something? Where are Max and Isabel?”

Silence, as Liz dropped her hand.

“And why in the hell are you all waving at me?”

~.~.~.~.~

The cold metal restraint snapped around his wrist, the clicking sound seemed louder then anything he had ever heard before.

He was back where he feared most, back in the clutches of the FBI.

And now it wasn’t just him, it was Isabel and her husband too.

He turned his head and watched two agents strap Isabel and Jesse to their own gurneys. It wasn’t as an elaborate of a set-up as the white room, but it still had the same feel. It was more chaotic, more disorganized. Max hoped that he could use that against them.

“I’m sorry, Isabel. I made a deal with them. I just didn’t know…” Jesse said softly.

Isabel’s eyes glassed over and she turned her head weakly away from him. Max wanted to pound Jesse to the ground, but seeing the look on Isabel’s face…he needed to tend to her first.

“Isabel,” Max whispered. “Isabel, can you hear me?”

Isabel’s only response was a soft cry. She licked her lips. Max noticed blood running down her left cheek from when an agent had hit her in her attempt to not be strapped down.

Rage engulfed Max and he strained against his bounds.

“I wouldn’t try that if I were you, Max,” Windler chuckled, standing in the midst of the agents running around him. “You remember the first time. You can’t escape.”

“I’m sorry, Isabel,” Jesse was continually saying over and over. “They captured me and I didn’t know, I thought, they threatened my mother’s life…“

“Shut up,” Max growled, glancing in Jesse’s direction. “You’re going to reveal too much information, if you haven’t already.”

“Oh, we already have all the information we need.” Max’s attention was on Windler again, who stood at the end of his gurney. “We know all about you. Of course, Pierce helped with that, studying you personally in the white room and all. Remember that, Max?” Max’s gaze followed Windler’s hand as it reached down and picked up a scalpel. He brought it up to his face, twirling it with morbid fascination.

“Not only that,” he placed the scalpel back down. “But the good deeds that you’ve been accumulating are very interesting. Not the usual M.O. activities for a cold-blooded alien murderer.” An agent handed him a clipboard and he began flipping through it. “September 18, 1999. Roswell, New Mexico. A shot is fired in the Crashdown Café and Elizabeth Parker is seemingly shot by that very bullet – except there is no bullet. But there’s a hole in her dress.” He flipped the page again. “December 25th, 2000. Five children are miraculously healed at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona from life-threatening illnesses.” He glanced up at Max, smiled, and then looked down again. “Traces of Cadmium X were found on the silver handprints on each of the children.” Flipping another page, “And then there’s a report of an old millionaire somehow being healed – but then old man disappeared and so did you.” He put the clipboard down.

“We thought you were dead, Max. But then you showed up in Roswell two weeks later and...” Windler spread his hands and shrugged. “What can I say?” He came forward and leaned close to Max. “You’re much better equipped to help us alive then you are dead. Oh, and,” he glanced at Isabel. “I’m sure your sister can be a great help to us also.”

“She’s not a part of this, let her go,” Max ground out.

Windler laughed. “Max, Max, Max. Always trying to save the ones you love – oh, yes, Pierce noted that in his research of you. But there’s one thing you’re forgetting.”

He snapped his fingers and an agent came forward, holding a plastic bag between his fingertips. Windler took it and held it up for Max to see. In the plastic was a plain videotape clearly labeled, “Isabel, 2002.”

~.~.~.~.~

Michael tucked Maria safely behind him, and kept his eyes locked with Serena’s; he raised his hand and began to concentrate his energy, energy sprung from anger. His family was in that house being poked and prodded, and here this little human was mocking him, belittling the situation. He was going to end it right here, right now.

Liz, however, was thinking clearly. "No!" she yelled, rushing forward in front of Michael, blocking his line of fire. "Serena’s not the enemy here Michael." She explained as she took a few steps forward. "You are not a killer, maybe a jackass sometimes but not a killer!"

Swallowing hard, Michael lowered his hand just as Serena started to speak again.

“Okay, what in the hell?”

Liz opened her mouth, as if to explain, when the front door to the house, almost one hundred yards away, flew forcefully open. Everyone instantly ducked except for Maria and Serena, who just stood there, confused.

Michael roughly pulled Serena down and instructed Kyle, with a mad hand gesture, to do the same with Maria, as he turned back to Serena. "Keep your mouth shut and maybe we'll let you live, got it?" He barked before turning back again to Maria, his hands gently cupping her face as he asked her if she was all right.

Serena watched this display and her face crinkled instantly in confusion. “One minute he's yelling like a frickin' lunatic and the next he's cuddling?” she thought out loud. “Can he be anymore unbalanced?” Well, she wasn't going to listen to a lunatic that was for sure, so she turned to Kyle deliberately disobeying Michael's order not to talk. "Kyle..." She started softly as she edged closer to him, his warm eyes seeming strangely cold. "What's going on?"

No matter how much he wanted to let her in, his loyalty was to his friends, no, his family. Looking away from her, an almost pained expression on his face, he remained silent. He started trying to explain, but then stopped.

At his silence, Serena turned to Liz. "Liz, what…" But Liz was already shaking her head.

Serena glanced up in time to catch Michael's looks of approval to both Liz and Kyle and at that moment she had had enough. She turned on all of them. "Alright, I want to know what's going on and I want to know right now!" She demanded. “Or I’m leaving!”

Michael's eyes glazed over in irritation and anger as his head snapped away from Maria towards Serena. "We don't need to explain…"

"Excuse me but I wasn't finished." Serena snapped; starting back with her demands. "The van, the secrecy, the way that wherever I go, you guys aren't far behind," she listed. "It's all abnormal! And her!" Serena pointed to Maria, who merely glanced up with a void expression.

"Maria." Kyle chimed in.

"Yeah, Maria," Serena said as she moved over next to Maria and waved her hand frantically in front of her eyes, which instead of moving as fast as Serena's hand, blinked once...then twice, almost unfazed.

Dropping her hand Serena looked back to everyone, her gaze stopping on Michael.

"That's not... normal!"

Michael's eyes narrowed dangerously as he slowly reached forward, grabbed a hold of Maria's hand and pulled her down next to him, keeping his gaze on Serena. Finally, after several moments of silence, he said, "You touch her again and I swear…"

"Michael!" Kyle exclaimed.

Michael turned his treacherous gaze on Kyle. "What! We don’t trust her any more than she trusts us!"

"Who said I trusted anybody?" Kyle whisper-yelled, almost too loudly, then wished he could take it back when a momentary flash of hurt passed over Serena's features. "All I'm saying," His voice dropping considerably, "Is that scaring her half to death isn't going to help anything."

"I agree we need to stay calm." Liz urged her eyes then suddenly narrowing on Maria whom she noticed was mumbling quietly and gently pulling on Michael's sleeve. "Michael." Getting his attention, she nodded towards Maria.

Michael glanced down at Maria and placed both of his hands on either sides of her face. Her eyes were closed and she was mumbling incoherently. "Maria, what's wrong?" Michael asked quietly.

Maria slowly opened her eyes and for the first time Michael noticed that her eyes were no longer that of blue-green pools, but a blue-gray. Almost as if they had faded. "Who is he?" She whispered to Michael.

"Who's he who?"

"That man, twenty feet behind you, coming this way," Maria replied.

Everyone suddenly turned to see that an agent, who'd stepped outside, had spotted them and was moving swiftly toward them, gun in hand.

Michael glared at Serena as he stood. "This is your fault," he stated, as he began to raise his hand towards the agent, just as the agent raised his gun towards Michael.

"Would you let the brooding badass routine take a rest and use your super powers to save our asses!" Kyle exclaimed. He glanced back towards the agent. “Oh crap.” He ducked down, grabbing Serena with him.

Michael looked at the agent, just ten feet now past the distance of his hand, and prayed silently to whatever God would hear him for forgiveness. "This isn't a super power," he whispered as he concentrated his energy again and released it into a blast of perfect white light that instantly sent the agent flying backwards into the bushes where he lay motionless.

As Liz stood and stepped up beside Michael, he lowered his hand, staring off towards where he could see the agent’s legs half out of the bush he'd landed in. Liz looked sympathetic. "I'm sorry you had to do that," she said softly.

Michael scoffed as he grabbed Maria's hand again and pulled her up gently. He started to pull her with him past Liz, when Liz stopped him with a firm hand on his shoulder. "I mean it."

"Why?" Michael asked. "According to you, I hurt people on purpose," he stated, glancing down at Maria, who in turn glanced up at him and gave a small smile as if nothing was wrong. Michael's eyes softened and he loosened his grip on her hand slightly as he brought it to his lips and gently kissed the back of her fingers. Looking back to Liz, he took a few steps closer and looked down directly into Liz's eyes, making the emphasis of his words only more pronounced. "I never meant to hurt her," he whispered, "Never..." His voice trilled as he backed up. "And you know that."

Anguish and pain was reflected in his eyes and Liz recognized and related to it instantly, but looking to Kyle and Serena, who both looked impatient and then to the body in the bushes, she knew that now wasn't the time. "We'll talk about this later. Right now, we need to check the body."

"Check the body?" Kyle asked. "Isn't he dead? That's what usually happens right?"

Michael looked off towards the body again. "Yeah," he said, pulling Maria with him as he headed towards the crumpled bush.

A soft gasp came from Serena at Michael's reply and both Kyle and Liz turned towards her. Liz nodded to Kyle to somehow explain and then turned to follow Michael.

Kyle took a deep breath, stepping closer to Serena. "I'm sorry, but..." Kyle trailed off as he looked into Serena's frantic questioning eyes. He didn't know what to say and he had never been the authority on all the alien business. "Look, now really isn't an adequate time to explain all of this..." He waved a hand as he trailed off again. He tried to think of a word to correctly exemplify what 'that' was. “...that...just all of that. I can't explain it right now." He said with a nod and Serena's eyes narrowed. "But I will!" He said quickly. "So just, stick with me here, okay? We don’t have time; we have to go, now."

Serena nodded slowly, very little sinking in. "Uh, okay."

Kyle nodded in turn. "Okay, um, shall we?" Kyle asked as he started towards Michael and the others, Serena following a good distance behind.

As they approached, Liz called out, "He's alive!"

Letting out a deep breath, Michael said, "He is? He's alive?" He turned slightly and gave a confused but relieved look to Kyle.

Kyle shrugged. "Maybe you're losing your touch?"

Liz stood up over the body and was silent in thought for a moment before she looked back up to Michael. "We should interrogate him. Wait for him to wake up," she suggested and Michael's eyes lit up.

"Let him see how the other half lives?" he asked with a slight smirk.

Liz nodded. "It works for me."

~.~.~.~.~

“Why are you injecting him?” Isabel asked Windler directly. An agent in a white lab coat had appeared with a long needle and was hovering over her husband.

“Because he’s one of you,” he replied, smiling. He nodded to the agent who had paused, hand poised, waiting for orders from Windler. He waved a hand dismissingly at him and the agent began injecting Jesse.

“He’s not one of us,” Isabel said firmly. “He’s my husband. He’s human. Ask him if he can do any cool alien tricks. I bet he won’t be able to.”

“Now, now Isabel,” Windler grinned wildly. “That’s not fair. We’ve already injected him with the serum. We can’t rely on the word of an alien, can we?”

Max watched Isabel plead with Windler to spare Jesse from testing and noticed an agent approach him out of the corner of his eye. When he saw the needle, he stiffened, images of the white room flooding his mind.

“Do you need to do that?” he asked, watching the needle come closer.

Windler turned his attention to him. He snapped his fingers at the agent approaching Max and directed him towards Isabel.

“No!” Max cried, straining against his bounds.

“Max, what did I tell you?” Windler hopped up and sat on the edge of his gurney, leaning close. “Fighting it will only make it worse. That goes for you too Isabel.”

“Why are you doing this?” Max said, sickness showing on his face. “You’re a monster!”

“To save the planet from an impending alien invasion, of course! Don’t think we haven’t been watching your kind.”

“You must be running out of real jobs at the Special Unit if you’re resorting to watching a bunch of teenagers heal kids and save lives,” Max spat out.

Windler hissed, pursing his lips together. “Clever, Max. But unfortunately, I don’t need your humor right now. What I need is to do a few rather invasive experiments on you.” He got off the gurney and began walking towards the end.

“You’ve already done that,” Max stopped Windler at the table where all the instruments were kept. “In the white room Pierce experimented on me. Why keep on doing it if you’ve gotten what you want?”

Windler slammed down the scalpel he was holding and whirled around to face Max.

“Yes, the white room. The white room is where everything began. Our experiments on you were only the beginning. Once we catch your wife, we’ll be opening her up too. And this time, you have nothing to bargain with.”

Max leveled his gaze at Windler, “You won’t catch Liz.”

Windler leaned down close to Max’s ear. “And you won’t leave here alive.” He pulled back enough to read Max’s response.

When Max didn’t do anything, Windler angrily slammed his hand down on the gurney.

“Let’s start with your sister. Remember these words? I’m going to take her apart piece by piece and make sure she’s conscious enough to feel every second of it,” he cocked his head. “And I’m going to make sure you see everything I do to her – right before I do it to you.”

~.~.~.~.~

"Alright, back over there, behind those bushes." Liz instructed as she, Michael, and Kyle dragged the agent's body back into the brush and out of sight of the house.

Maria stood off to the side watching as all three of them nearly collapse into a heap after dragging the heavy agent nearly thirty feet.

“Disarm him,” Liz said to Kyle.

"He's FBI?" Maria asked out of the blue, turning a few heads, namely Serena's.

"Oh, she speaks." Serena stated sarcastically, rolling her eyes. “Oh wait, you mean this is an FBI agent? Michael killed an FBI agent?”

Not picking up on the barb, Maria pointed off towards the house. "There's more in there right? With Max and Isabel?" She asked. "Are they hurting them?"

Serena’s eyebrows crinkled up in a most unusual manner, and she decided it might be best just to be quiet. Or perhaps run, she didn’t know which sounded more appealing.

Michael and Liz exchanged glances at having actually heard what they both feared and also at having heard Maria actually string a complete sentence together.

"I, ah..." Michael started to say to Liz, gesturing helplessly. "I'll, ah, try to explain what I can to her, you stay with secret agent man," He said as he pulled Maria aside and slightly behind a tree.

Taking a deep breath, Michael tried to think of something to say, but Maria beat him to the chase, "Why do you always have that look when you try to talk to me?"

"What look?"

"I don't know – a look like you had when you were dragging that man." She replied.

Michael blinked. "I don't know. Look, I need to explain what's going on…"

"Why? It's not like we haven't been in this situation before," she shrugged.

"So you understand that we're in danger?" Michael asked, beginning to become confused.

Maria's features darkened. "No, that I don't understand."

"Don't understand what?" Liz asked, stepping up beside Maria.

Rubbing his eyes, Michael replied, "Danger, she doesn't understand danger. She remembers everything else, but she doesn't understand danger. What in the hell--"

"Michael, calm down." Liz said, stopping him from starting a rant.

Michael sighed. "I'm sorry. It's just frustrating."

"Frustrating?" Maria inquired as Michael clenched his hands tightly, Liz's eyes widening slightly.

"Maria, do you remember your mom and how much you cared for her?" Liz asked and Maria thought about it for a minute before shaking her head no.

Liz stepped forward and asked softly, setting her hands on Maria's shoulders. "Do you remember any emotions at all? Love, fear, hate..." Liz trailed as Maria just kept shaking her head. "Do you feel any of them? Remember any of them?"

Maria shrugged, "I don't know what you mean."

Liz nodded slightly and turned to Michael. "I know what's wrong," she nearly whispered.

Michael swallowed. "What?"

"Liz! Michael! He's awake!" Kyle called looking for a way to restrain him.

Liz turned and ran back with Michael and Maria closely behind. As Michael followed he wondered what was wrong with him. His family was in there getting only God knows what done to them and he was...what...worried about his girlfriend? Had that ever happened before?

"Michael we need to bind him somehow," Liz said, pulling him from his thoughts.

Michael grabbed the agent’s handcuffs and bent his arms behind the back of the bush, securely locking them in between some branches, a loud moan emanated from the wounded agent.

The agent blinked awake to see Michael and Liz towering over him. He immediately tried pulling at his restraints, but to no avail.

"You're not going anywhere," Michael said as he bent down closer to the agent. "Not until you tell us what we want to know and even then you'll be lucky if we let you walk."

Liz recognized Michael’s intimidation tactics and thought he was laying it on pretty thick. "What are they doing to our friends in there?"

"How many agents are in there?"

"What kind of security do they have?"

“Speak, now!” Michael demanded, raising his hand at the bound man.

“Okay! Just please, don’t blast me!” the agent coughed. “I’ll tell you, don’t kill me!”

They continued to overwhelm the agent with their interrogation, until they'd found out that there were fifteen agents, no specific security system, and most important of all...what was going on inside the house.

Liz pulled Michael aside, tears brimming her eyes. "Michael, they're dissecting them like earthworms in anatomy class."

"Liz, you heard him, fifteen agents and no real security...we've gotten out of worse," Michael reassured and then turned back to the body. He eyed Serena. "Turn around," he barked at her.

"I've already seen you…"

"Just shut up and turn around." He repeated with more force. When she didn't budge, he shrugged. "Fine, I'm going to change into his clothes and you can watch if you want to," he said simply.

Serena made a sound of disgust and turned on her heel.

Only mildly insulted, Michael knocked out the agent with his fist, and proceeded in removing the handcuffs and taking off his clothes and changing into them. When he looked like one of the FBI’s elite he slicked back his hair with a wave of his hand.

Kyle raised an eyebrow. "Done this before?"

Michael scoffed, "Too many times...come on Liz. We’re going in." Then he turned back to Kyle. "Keep both of them out here and out of sight, got it?"

"Got it, Agent Guerin."

Michael nodded, giving a long look towards Maria and then motioned for Liz to follow him. It was now or never. So they left, with the other three standing there with the half-naked body of the unconscious agent.

Serena didn't waste any time. She turned to Kyle, the second they were out of sight. "Kyle, I want to know everything."

~.~.~.~.~

"Liz, you have to dream walk Max or whatever and tell him that we are on our way," Michael said, now that they were out of earshot of Serena.

"Michael, you know that I can't do that," Liz replied with an exasperated tone.

Michael grabbed her shoulders, "I have faith in you."

"Yeah, well that is just what I need," Liz groaned.

Michael dropped his arms to the side, recoiling instantly.

"Michael, I didn't mean..."

"Yeah, sure. I know, don't sweat it," the words flew from his mouth in a murmur.

"I just need Max," Liz stated obviously as she stared off.

"We all need him."

There was a long silence between them, so much to say, yet not enough time. This was becoming the story of their lives. He knew she had to be still pretty pissed off at him over the Maria thing and well, he was still pretty upset over it himself, but they had to get past that... they all had to come together and save Max, Isabel, and Jesse. Michael shook his head and raked his left hand through his slick hair while massaging his forehead with his right, there was no way he could save them alone... he needed help. He was tired, his body called for much-needed rest, but he couldn't stop until everyone was safe. He cleared his head and thought about what was important, getting his family back. He looked at Liz with pleading eyes.

"Liz, you have to try... they need to know that we are coming for them."

"I don't know how..."

"Just try," he coaxed "Just focus on him, like you did that day when you and Isabel reached him in New York. You saved him that day and I know you can do that again. Tell him to hang on, just a little while longer."

"That was different, Isabel was there; she did all the work." She paused. “And not only that, I didn’t really talk to him. I mean, I don’t think it was an actual dream walk.” She furrowed her brow in frustration. Michael tried another tactic.

"But she was right that day, Liz... no matter where Max is he will always be able to hear your voice. Please Liz, give it a try."

Liz seemed to be contemplating something and then she confessed, "I'm scared."

"Of what?"

Liz paused and looked Michael in the eyes, brown met brown, and Michael felt fear tightening the air around them.

"Actually I don't know what scares me most, failing or succeeding."

Michael stood patiently waiting for Liz to go on.

"If I don't get in, I fail, but if I do get in, I have to see a Max that is being tortured. I'm scared of the white room, Michael. You didn’t see the horror in there, feel the fear…"

Michael pulled her into an embrace as she let two tears fall down her red cheeks. He pulled out of the embrace and again held her shoulders.

"It has to be a pretty scary thought. But…"

"But I have to try," Liz interrupted.

Michael gave her a half smile, "You want a little privacy?"

"Don't go too far."

"You don't have to worry about that," he said, looking around nervously.

Liz sat down; she didn't even know where to start. Sure, Isabel could do this with ease, but her... alone nonetheless? She shook her head, she didn't even have control of her own alien power, if it was real alien power, and it only came when it was needed, not when she wanted it to. She wished she had a picture to focus on, but the situation didn't provide any such convenience. She closed her eyes, concentrated on letting all her fears subside, and thought of Max.

Her thoughts traveled back to the first day of the third grade, him stepping off that bus looking alone and scared, when their childhood selves made eye contact for the first time.

And then the flashes started.

*Flash*

Max alone at lunch in junior high.

*Flash*

Max and Michael sitting on the bleachers at the Halloween dance in the 7th grade, dressed like soldiers.

*Flash*

Her dropping her books, Max the only one who stopped to help her pick them up and giving her a warm smile.

*Flash*

Lab partners in biology.

*Flash*

Saving her life at the Crashdown.

*Flash*

Learning the truth about him.

*Flash*

Max drunk, professing his love.

*Flash*

Sitting with Max at the Christmas service, holding hands.

*Flash*

The last New Year's Eve.

*Flash*

Graduation.

*Flash*

Wedding.

*Flash*

Wedding night.

*Flash*

Out of nowhere she heard a scintillating crash and felt a bright flash of light.

~.~.~.~.~

She could feel his presence, wherever she was.

"Max?"

Liz opened her eyes and she could see nothing but a gray swirling fog that was making her dizzy and nauseous.

"Max?" she questioned again, the words delayed as if traveling a great distance.

"Liz?" came a slow answer.

"Where are you? I need to see you!"

"Here..."

Liz followed the direction in which the voice came. She walked through the thick fog which had no visible floor, until she saw him laying on a gurney like table, his arms and legs strapped down with powerful restraints.

"Oh, Max," Liz said as her hand came to her mouth in disbelief. In front of her was her husband, tired and pale, but far from broken.

"Liz..."

"Are you okay?" Liz asked as she grabbed his hand.

"Yeah, so far."

"Are Isabel and Jesse with you? Are they okay?"

"They are in the same room, they’re scared and tired."

There was a pause while Liz thought of how to tell Max that they were coming for them, he wasn't going to be happy. The last thing he wanted was for anyone else to get captured and she knew he was going to give her a fight. She decided just to let it out.

"We're coming for you all, just sit tight a little longer," Liz said awaiting Max's reaction.

"No!" Max yelled as his amber eyes flared, the grey mist swirling in response to his words. "Stay away, don't come near here, you don't know what will happen if you do."

"Max..."

"Liz, I'm serious. They gave us a drug that’s sedated us and took our powers away. We couldn't help you even if you did make it in here."

"Max, that doesn't matter, we're coming now."

"Don't you see? It's a trap. They know that the rest of you can't be too far away because they know you wouldn't leave us behind. They know you’re coming."

"We know they are expecting us and we don't care, it is a risk we have to take."

"No, it's not."

"If the situation was reverse you would come after us, even if it meant your life, now let us do the same."

Max's eyes calmed and what was once anger was now replaced with sadness.

2.

"This is the second time I have been caught, the second time Michael and everyone has had to rescue me," he said softly.

"Max, don't think like that because it doesn't matter, we're all family and we aren't leaving anyone behind."

"God, I love you Liz," Max said with sincerity and love in his eyes

"I love you, too," Liz said as she ran a hand through his hair.

"Now, be careful, promise me you will."

"Of course."

"And if things turn bad, I want you to get whoever you can out and never turn back."

"Max..." Liz’s heart stopped in her throat.

"Liz, promise me," he said firmly.

Liz saw how serious he was and nodded in agreement and Max continued, "If something would happen to you because you saved me, I wouldn't be able to live with myself."

"I would die if I never saw you again, but no one is dying. We're going in, getting you three and getting out. We came in to Fresno as a family and we are leaving as one," Liz said with more confidence than was in her heart. Deep down she was scared.

Max gave Liz a small, tired smile, "After we get out of this, I think I may need some sexual healing."

"The faster we get you out, the faster that will happen," Liz said, smiling. "So, wake up and make sure Isabel and Jesse are ready for a quick exit."

Liz moved her hand from his hair and ran it across his face as they looked into each other's eyes. In an instant he was gone; she opened her eyes with his voice still ringing in her head. "I love you…"

She smiled softly; knowing there was a long day ahead of them and turned to find Michael. As promised he wasn't far, he was right behind her.

"Successful, I see?" Michael asked.

"Yeah, it was," Liz replied, tucking her hair behind her ears and wiping her eye.

"What did he say, minus the lovey-dovey stuff?"

"He told me that we shouldn't risk our lives to save them, it was a trap, and we should save ourselves."

"Always the martyr," Michael said under his breath.

"He also said that the three of them have been sedated and are powerless."

"I figured as much."

"Yeah."

"Ready?"

"As ready as I will ever be."

~.~.~.~.~

“Tell you everything?” Kyle glanced up at her, then at Michael and Liz’s retreating forms. “Oh, look at the time…” He glanced at his empty wrist. “Nope, there's no time.”

“Kyle!” Serena hissed.

“What?” Kyle hissed back.

“Argh!” Serena let out, running a hand through her hair. He was so infuriating! “Michael just blasted an FBI agent with some power and you’re not going to tell me what’s going on!”

“It’s not that simple,” Kyle managed to say, running his hand through his messy hair. She could tell he didn’t work well under pressure.

Serena chose to watch Michael and Liz’s conversation instead. Maria was sitting cross-legged, alternating between staring off into space and picking at the grass. Kyle sat just to her right; he was watching Liz and Michael’s conversation carefully.

“Kyle?” Serena began quietly. This time she wanted answers. The only way she was going to get them was by being less forceful.

“Yeah?” Kyle’s head shot over to her, but she noticed that he still kept an eye on Michael and Liz, probably to see that Michael didn’t do, that thing he did to the agent.

“Can I ask you something?”

His gaze locked squarely on her just then, his eyes piercing hers. “You can ask me anything, Serena.”

She struggled not to let her emotions take over. She rested her head on her knee, taking deep breaths and avoiding his gaze.

“Who are you guys?”

Kyle took in a deep breath and turned to look back and Michael and Liz. “Except that,” he muttered to himself.

“Why can’t you tell me?”

Kyle picked up a small twig that was on the ground and began pushing aside leaves and dirt, flinging them a few inches ahead.

“Serena, the reason I can’t tell you is that it’s not my secret to tell,” he raised the twig when she opened her mouth to protest. “Let me finish. I can’t tell you what you want to know because if I do your life changes. It does. And it may not change for the better. I can’t put you in danger when you don’t want it. I didn’t want it.” He pointed to himself. “And here I am. I don’t want the same thing to happen to you. You’re better off not knowing.”

“But I want to know,” Serena said sincerely. “I want to be a part of this, whatever it is.” Serena reached out her hand and touched his shoulder, “Please Kyle.”

He stiffened at her touch but he didn’t pull away. Instead, he continued beating up the ground, now moving on to a new spot to clear. “I can’t tell you Serena,” he said quietly.

Slowly, Serena’s hand dropped from his shoulder. Hurt, she turned away and watched Maria, who, like her, was all alone.

~.~.~.~.~

An agent stood guard outside the front door of the house, bored from hours of doing nothing except watching the scenery. The sound of rustling leaves filled his ears and he peered at the source, a bush only a few feet from the doorway. He pulled out his walkie-talkie and glanced at the bush just as it was for hours before the sudden noisy movement.

“Agent Alpha come in,” he radioed, “This is agent Delta. I heard a rustling in the bushes. Checking it out, over.”

“Let me know what you find, over,” came the reply.

The agent clipped the walkie-talkie onto his belt and placed one hand on his gun, ready to draw it quickly if needed. One step at a time he crept toward the bush. He sifted through the branches with his free hand and smirked when he found the young brunette woman who was supposed to be captured earlier.

“You’re coming with me,” he told her.

“I don’t think so,” she spat, her eyes on a spot behind him.

He turned around to see what she was looking at, but before he could draw his gun something hard hit him on the head. Liz let out a sigh of relief when the agent crumpled to the ground. Michael walked over to him while Liz checked his pulse. She looked up at Michael with a half-smile. “He’s okay, but he’ll have quite a headache when he wakes up,” she told Michael.

“Let’s go,” he insisted, “I’ll take care of the next one.”

Together they approached the front door.

He stood half a step in front of Liz, ready to protect her if needed. She waited nervously for the door to open, her hands opening and clenching repeatedly wanting to keep herself calm and under control. The plan wasn’t even technically a plan, but Liz didn’t have the presence of mind to think of anything better. Michael dressed as an FBI agent again, however, was almost like déjà vu only this time the costume probably wouldn’t help. All the agents had already seen him.

“They’re still going to recognize you,” Liz whispered to Michael while he knocked on the front door.

“Let them,” Michael replied.

As he knocked on the door, Liz’s heart raced a mile a minute. She couldn’t believe that she was about to invade a house occupied by the FBI special unit with the most impulsive guy she knew. All she knew for certain was that she had to be sure that Max would be okay and having Michael’s help seemed like the best option.

The door swung open and an FBI agent dressed in a black suit, much like the one Michael was wearing, stepped forward. Liz’s mouth fell open, unsure how to handle an agent of the FBI special unit who was aiming his colt 33 at her and Michael. She decided that the best option would be to wait and see what Michael had planned for him.

“Come with me,” the agent demanded.

Michael raised his hand and the gun fired. Liz screamed at the sound and gasped when the bullet simply stopped and plopped on the ground. The agent’s mouth fell open in shock and Michael lunged at him, pressing his hands against the agent’s chest. A red glow emanated from Michael’s palms briefly and Liz watched, fascinated. Michael pulled away and the agent looked at him with wide fearful eyes.

3.

The agent put the barrel of the gun to his chest, scratching one of the spots where Michael touched him. Then he dropped the gun and began to scratch himself in other places and soon he was too busy scratching himself to notice Michael and Liz walk into the house and through the front hallway. Whether the agent eventually noticed or not, he shouted to the other agents in the house.

“RED ALERT, RED ALERT, INTRUDERS ARE IN THE HOUSE!” and he mumbled just loud enough for Michael and Liz to hear, “Ah, help me … ugh this itches … what the hell?”

Liz covered her mouth with one of her hands to keep from laughing. Michael motioned for her to follow him and she nodded. Walking behind him toward a closed room, she wondered what Michael had planned for the next agent who dared to cross him. She froze, however, when they heard the metal clicking sound of a gun being cocked. In a moment of desperation, she looked down and noticed the area carpet that lined the brown wood flooring. She ducked as Michael spun around to use his powers on the agent and turned her body around, yanking the carpet out from under the agent’s feet. She could hear Michael gasp while the agent landed on his rear, but didn’t hesitate to grab the man in his moment of vulnerability, giving him the itches as well and tossing him toward the other disabled agent in the main hallway.

“Impressive,” Michael admitted while they walked on, “we’ve got to keep moving, stay close.”

Liz remained near him and nearly bumped into him when he suddenly came to a dead halt. She moved to find out why Michael stopped, but he kept her hidden behind him much to her dismay. The sound of a stranger’s voice stopped her from pushing Michael out of her way.

“Your kind is way too predictable,” the voice spoke slowly and in monotone as if to scare them.

“So is yours,” Michael countered, mimicking the agent’s tone.

Liz smirked, figuring that like the other agents this one would also pull out a gun. She didn’t get to see because Michael lunged at the man, punching him as hard as he could with both fists. Liz opened her mouth to tell Michael to hurry up, but ended up squealing in protest when someone grabbed her by her long straight brown hair and yanked her backward.

“Let go of me!” she demanded.

“I don’t think so,” the agent retorted.

She saw Michael knock the other agent unconscious with his fists and turn around to see her being held by the one agent he hated most of all in that moment. For a few seconds, Liz struggled against her captor, but relented because her scalp screamed in protest when she tried, the pain giving her an unwelcome headache. Michael raised his hand, Liz’s eyes widened in fear and her captor spoke up.

“Don’t even try it Mr. Guerin, one move and I get a new dead alien to study.”

Liz quickly assessed the situation and realized that it was Windler. And he didn’t seem to have a gun on him. She slowly reached behind her back and focused with all her energy to make her powers work. If she had any besides the premonitions something had to happen.

“Let go of me,” she stated calmly, “or face the consequences.”

Nothing was happening so she looked up at Michael and suddenly realized that the closed room was open. Michael’s look meant action. He noticed something in the room behind her, a wooden table. Windler pushed Liz toward the wall just as a loud explosion rocked the room behind her. If she had looked she would have found Agent Windler tangled awkwardly among the remains of a small broken table and Michael following her into the room.

“What’s going on?” Max spoke up as Liz ran to his side. “What happened, Liz?”

“We’re getting you and the others out of here,” Liz told him; furiously working on finding the keys to the metal constraints that bound them.

Walking back over to Windler, Michael searched his pockets and retrieved a set of silver keys.

“Here,” Michael told Liz, tossing her the keys, “Windler had them.”

Liz glanced out the doorway to see Windler twisted painfully among some wooden debris and turned her gaze to Michael.

“Is he-” Liz began, but Michael interrupted her.

“Dead? Yeah,” Michael stated.

Max shot him a disapproving look, but Liz wasn’t sure if he meant it. Windler wasn’t a good guy, after all. Michael scoffed and spoke again.

“What? I had to get him out of the way.”

Yet, they knew Michael wasn’t being cold-hearted. He was not cold like Windler and he acted the same the last time he killed an agent. Acting that way was merely a defense mechanism, a façade to hide his own pain from having to do such an awful thing, even if deserved.

“It’s not like he didn’t deserve it,” Jesse spoke up from his restraining spot on the carpeted floor.

“Shut up,” Isabel demanded.

Liz glanced at Jesse before busying herself with Isabel’s metal cuffs. Michael helped Max off of the other bed while she freed Isabel. She watched Max lean against Michael, one of Michael’s arms around him for support and her hands began to shake while the memories of white room flooded her mind again. The only difference was that Max was still clothed and not bleeding.

“Are you okay?” Isabel said to Liz as she pushed herself with all her strength into a sitting position on the bed.

“Yes, here let me help you,” Liz insisted.

“No please, unlock Jesse,” Isabel insisted, “I’m okay for the moment.”

Liz nodded and moved to unlock Jesse’s restraints when Michael grabbed the keys from her hands.

“Michael,” Isabel began, but he cut her off.

“We can’t Isabel,” Michael reasoned, “I’ll help him out of here, but he stays tied up. We can’t trust him.”

“You don’t know that,” Jesse protested.

“You tricked us,” Max pointed out, “We have no reason to trust you.”

“Exactly,” Liz agreed, “now let’s get out of here.”

“But I had no choice!” Jesse exclaimed, throwing his head down in defeat.

When they emerged from the house, Kyle and Serena run over to them, helping Michael and Liz with the others. Kyle put an arm around Isabel and Serena helped Jesse, allowing Michael to speak to Max face to face while the others walked ahead of them.

“Listen Maxwell, about what happened back there,” he said, not noticing how the others stopped walking in order to hear their conversation as well.

“Yeah?” Max prompted.

“We can’t kill all of them, but we have to end this. We need another solution,” Michael insisted.

Max glanced at his sister and smiled, a plan formulating in his mind almost instantaneously. He looked at Michael again and nodded toward Isabel. Michael nodded in agreement. Although, her mind warping ability was still new and she was exhausted after the last time she used it, it seemed like the only solution left if they weren’t going to kill the agents. They simply hoped that Isabel would have the will and the energy.

~.~.~.~.~

Two days later

Michael paced around the living room floor, his shoes making shuffling sounds on the wood. Isabel was slowly mind warping each agent into thinking they had spent the past few years of their life as FBI archive librarians[tkw1]. Everyone else was silently sitting around the room, Liz was stroking Max’s hair, Serena was sitting close to Maria, and Kyle was sitting off on his own, probably contemplating the sayings of Buddha. Jesse was still tied up and sitting rigidly in a chair. Michael didn’t trust him.

Isabel slowly opened her eyes. She felt completely drained of energy and her head… her head was pounding obscenities at her incessantly. She slowly brought a hand up to the side, supporting it as she leaned forward, exhausted.

Max disentangled himself from Liz’s embrace and sat down by Isabel. Placing a hand on her back, he began rubbing it in comfort.

“Are you okay?”

Isabel opened her eyes and then immediately shut them again. “Yeah,” she groaned. “It’s just my head, it really hurts.”

“Want me to heal it?” Max asked, concerned.

“No, no,” Isabel immediately said, rubbing her eyes. “I’ll be fine. I just need to rest my head for a bit.”

Max began stroking her back again and then he gently placed a hand on the back of her head. It glowed white faintly for a few seconds and then was gone.

Isabel turned and looked up at Max, “Thank you, Max.”

“Anytime.” His hand dropped from her back and he scooted over to her so that they were sitting side by side. “Is, when, when we were here earlier and even before that, I’ve been meaning to tell you, talk to you about something.” When Isabel didn’t reply, he went on. “I’ve been a really bad brother to you lately. I’ve been wrapped up in my own life with Liz and I’ve been ignoring the most important people around me, especially you. You’ve been dealing with so many things. Receiving Tess’ powers and losing Jesse and I could see that, I could. But I chose not to be the brother I could be to you. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you’ve been all alone in this, Is.”

Isabel’s cheeks were stained with tears. She leaned forward and wrapped her arms around Max.

“It’s okay, Max.”

“No, it’s not Isabel. I can’t keep on ignoring the people that are most important to me in this world. You’re my home, remember?”

Isabel looked over at him, searching his face. "What about Liz?"

Max gave her a faint smile. "Home is family. You, Liz, pretty much everyone here are my family. I forgot about that. But the truth is that I need you all."

Isabel nodded, swiping tears off her face with the back of her hand. She sniffed and glanced in Jesse’s direction. “What are we going to do about Jesse?”

Max glanced over at Jesse whose head was slumped forward, he appeared to be sleeping. He looked back at his sister, who was pleading with her eyes for him to make a decision, do something.

Slowly, he got up and went over to Michael who, in the midst of their talking, had stopped pacing and stood next to the window, looking outside.

“Michael.” Michael turned and Max saw his eyes briefly glance in Maria’s direction to see if she was okay.

“What are we going to do about Jesse?” Max continued. “We can’t just leave him here but we have to do something. He betrayed us.”

Michael turned to Jesse. “I know exactly what we have to do, Maxwell,” he said with purpose. He strode over to where Jesse was still slumped over.

“Hey, Jesse,” he started, sarcasm dripping from his voice. “Remember me? Remember us? Remember that we’re the big bad aliens that can kick your ass?”

“Michael,” Max interrupted, tugging on his arm.

“No, Max, I’m not going to stand by.” Michael stood up to face him. “He’s married to Isabel, so what? The guy betrayed our trust. He tricked us. He doesn’t deserve to live.”

“That’s a little drastic, don’t you think?” Liz had suddenly appeared behind them.

“Killing me won’t solve anything,” Jesse’s voice resonated from across the room. “In fact, it would probably make your problems worse.”

Everyone’s heads turned in unison as they looked at him. Jesse was no longer tied up. He was standing, facing them and the aura about him said he was not Jesse Esteban Ramirez.

Liz’s careful eye traveled down to his wrists. There wasn’t any red marks, no sign of a struggle to get the rope off. Instinctively, she backed up and ducked down low, bringing Maria with her. Serena noticed her position and crouched down with her whispering, “What’s wrong?”

Liz didn’t get a chance to answer. Jesse raised his right arm and Max, Michael and Isabel automatically raised theirs in return. A flash of blinding white light flew through the room and when it cleared, Max’s green shield stood blinking in the dusty aftermath.

The man on the other side of the shield looked nothing like Jesse Ramirez. He stood tall, wiping off his suit disdainfully with his hands. His head of dark hair bowed, making sure he got every last particle.

“Oh, my god,” Serena breathed, her eyes either fixed on the green shield or the man, Liz couldn’t tell.

“I’m William Hanley, at your service,” he bowed low. “But please, just call me Hanley.”

“Who are you?” Max didn’t waver, keeping his shield up and Michael and Isabel slightly behind him. That’s when Liz noticed that Isabel was shaking.

“Why, I’m your protector. Surely you’d know that. I thought the ‘at your service’ part gave it all away.”

“We don’t have any protectors,” Michael stated for the record.

“Well, you do now,” Hanley sarcastically replied.

“Who, where,” Isabel choked.

“Where’s Jesse?” Hanley corrected her. “And would you put that thing down?” He pointed to Max’s shield. “I’m not going to attack you. I can’t anyway.”

As Max slowly lowered his shield, he addressed Isabel again. “Jesse is in Boston, where he’s supposed to be, starting his new job.”

Isabel sank down to the floor and Kyle rushed to her side, making sure she didn’t hurt herself. Liz noticed out of the corner of her eye that Serena instantly stiffened at the sight of Kyle cradling Isabel.

“If the real Jesse is in Boston and you’re here, why did you impersonate him?”

“To save your royal ass, your highness,” Hanley sighed, apparently bored. “You want the full story? Here’s the full story. I came to earth three years ago; I infiltrated the FBI to get to you. When they captured Jesse, I told him the story, took his form, sent him to Boston, got you guys and here we are.”

“Wait, three years ago?” Liz piped up from the back. Hanley’s gaze landed on her for a split second and it seemed to waver, but held steady. “Why three years ago?”

“Once you opened the chamber where all your pods were kept, that let us know you were still alive. I prepared to come here and I landed May fourteenth.”

Isabel gasped. “That was the day we activated the orbs.”

“Yes, I know. Now can we get out of here? These suits are not very becoming on me.” Hanley started for the door.

“Wait a minute,” Michael said, stepping forward to block Hanley’s path. “You’re our protector? What reasons did you have to impersonate Jesse and let us believe that he had betrayed us? You tricked us! I could kill you right now.” He raised his hand threateningly.

“It won’t make a difference, consular. You kill me and there will be another protector here to take my place.”

“Another protector?” Isabel finally spoke up. “We only have two.”

“Well now, you have a whole slew of us.”

“How many protectors do we have?” Max inquired.

“Enough,” Hanley replied crisply, leveling his gaze at Max. “You may be king but there are some things you just aren’t meant to know.”

“Why,” Michael demanded.

“For safety issues. I came here to bring the Royal Four home.”

“Okay, wait a minute.” Everyone’s heads turned as Serena spoke up from where she was crouched next to Liz and Maria. “I want to know what’s going on here. Royal Four? Protectors? Consular? And the weird flashes of light that keep happening when you raise your hands…“

Max glanced at Michael and he gestured towards Serena. They came to a silent understanding and then Max turned towards Serena, a grim look on his face.

“We can’t tell you who we are,” Max began slowly. “Because we don’t trust you.”

“Oh, that’s just wonderful,” Serena fumed. “You expect me to trust you?”

Max looked taken aback. Serena plunged on.

“You guys come out of nowhere, try to kill me, save me and then start raising your hands and doing white things and green things and you won’t tell me who you are! I deserve to know! And why can’t you trust me? I haven’t done anything except try to not get killed and stay out of the way!”

Max started to nervously glance around and his gaze landed on Hanley who just shrugged and gave him a secret smile.

“This is just classic, it really is. I mean, I even saved your asses. I helped you, I befriended you, and this is all the thanks I get in return? Wonderful.” She rolled her eyes and stood up. “That’s it, I’m going home.”

Dead silence permeated the room as she stormed out.

“Well,” Kyle cleared his throat. “Um…”

“What, the witty comebacks have been depleted?” Michael sighed, bored and obviously glad to have Serena gone.

“You know what Guerin…” Kyle stood up and glanced the way Serena had left. “I think I’m just going to let my actions piss you off this time instead of my ‘witty comebacks,’” he waved his hands to emphasize the direct quote. Then he turned and headed out of the room, following Serena.

Michael blinked, in shock. “Did that just happen?”

Max laughed. “Apparently.” He went over to Liz and helped her to her feet. After making sure that everyone was okay, he murmured, “Let’s give them a few minutes. But in the mean time, I need some questions answered.” Max turned his gaze to Hanley.

~.~.~.~.~

Serena heard footsteps crunching on the gravel road behind her and knew instinctively without looking back that it was Kyle who had followed her. It was always Kyle, even though he was obviously into Isabel.

“Hey!”

“Hey yourself,” Serena replied, not looking back.

“Serena,” Kyle panted, planting himself in front of her. She promptly sidestepped him. He grabbed her arm as she went by.

“Don’t go.”

“Why?”

“Because I asked you to come with me. We’re not done yet.” He smiled broadly at her. She glared at him and his smile dropped. “Look, Serena…“

“Look Serena what?” She fumed, wrenching her arm from his. “You said it was their secret to tell. I think I got them in a pretty good situation where they could tell me and they didn’t. Now you want me to come with you on some joy ride in that stupid van without knowing the truth? I don’t think so. No. No way.” She spun on her heel, and began stalking down the road again.

Kyle stopped walking after Serena and ran his hands through his tousled hair.

"Serena, please. Just come with us. You're in this no matter what. Remember, Buddha says…"

Serena stopped and turned around, a smile slowly broadening on her face.

"Shut up, Kyle."

~.~.~.~.~

4.

Serena Journal entry – heading towards Boston

Where to begin? The beginning? Where did this all begin? When I got into the van with Kyle? No, before that. Way before that. The carnival? Liz bumping into me? No, it didn’t start then either. I don’t really know when it started. It just did, and I still don’t understand any of it. None of them will tell me anything. Sitting in this gritty van, they’re all silent, too silent for what has just occurred. It’s like they knew. Did they? Are they some secret organization trying to overthrow the government? No, don’t be stupid, Serena. Even government gadgets don’t do what these guys can do.

I don’t get it. I’ve never had this feeling before in my life, the feeling of not getting something, yet completely understanding it at the same time. I feel safe here, yet everything I’ve seen or heard since I met these people contradicts everything I feel.

Liz, the brunette, she’s not like them. Not like the rest, I’m not sure how, but she isn’t. It’s a feeling, a sensation that she understands something on a higher level. Something I understand but cannot pinpoint. It’s wrong. It messes with things. I’m sure of it. But how can I say what I think to them? To these people, if they are even that. They could kill me in a second, I know they could. Michael, I think, given the chance, would have killed me at the carnival. He would have killed me if it had been him driving the van that night in the rain. But why? Who am I? What importance do I have to them? It feels like an eternity since I met any of these people, since I was aware that any of this madness existed. Now, I still wish I didn’t.

Well, I think I wish. My feelings are all up in arms, swirling round me like an aura of purple and silver, clouding my judgment.

I guess, no wait, I don’t want to guess anymore. I want to know. They all know and won’t tell me a thing. They just keep me here; tell me what to do and how to do it. Why should I be taking orders from these people? But oddly, I feel as if I have to. As if, I don’t know - just as if.

We’re heading towards Boston apparently. We could be going to bloody Mars for all I know, actually, come to think of things. Maybe, nah, that’s just stupid. Boston. What the hell’s in Boston anyway? They won’t even tell me that. This is not how I imagined anything in my life to be. I’m just me. Normal. So why are they suddenly demanding that I go to Boston with them?

He’s no help. Kyle. I trusted him, god knows why, but there was something. A genuineness that he held in his eyes. Something that told my instincts to trust him, yet also told them to be careful and wary. He lied to me. He said everything would be explained to me, and that it wasn’t his secret to tell. But it has to be his secret. Of course it does. He knows and he’s aiding all these people. He lied to me. Maybe in not so many words, but in his eyes, yes. He shone a different image through them, a different hope, and a different light. Now, all I see is lies. Lies, betrayal and uncertainty.

Who am I? I’m Serena. They know that, I know that, yet I’m still in a rusty old van. Traveling at some obscurely normal speed towards Boston. They have to tell me soon.

©2002 Roswell: The Final Chapter. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. Any similarities to events, real or imaginary, are strictly coincidental. Roswell: The Final Chapter is in no way affiliated with UPN, the WB, Regency Television, 20th Century Fox, or Jason Katims Productions.

© 2004-2005 Roswell: The Final Chapter. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. Any similarities to events, real or imaginary, are strictly coincidental. Roswell: The Final Chapter is in no way affiliated with UPN, the WB, Regency Television, 20th Century Fox, or Jason Katims Productions.

© 2006-2007 Roswell: The Final Chapter. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. Any similarities to events, real or imaginary, are strictly coincidental. Roswell: The Final Chapter is in no way affiliated with UPN, the WB, Regency Television, 20th Century Fox, or Jason Katims Productions.