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The Antar Chronicles, Chapter 4: In the Heat of the Chase
Reply to Alex Parrish
Posted to the RoswellSlash mailing list June 24, 2004
In the dream, I was back in Roswell. We all were. In the dream we were all OK. I knew it -- don't ask how I knew -- it was in the dream. In the dream, I stood in my own bedroom in my father's house with my arms wrapped around my man -- the only man. In the dream, I had drawn him to my face and our lips were touching, brushing gently and I could breathe in his familiar fragrance. It was so real ... so intoxicating. In the dream, I could feel the heat of his body against mine and the strength of his arms around me.
(I really hadn't thought I could sleep, not with all that was going to hell around us. At first I resisted even returning to the sleeping pod, but the others all agreed to go if I would -- a small conspiracy -- and my body was truly exhausted. I agreed to rest in the pod for a while -- there was almost nothing else I could do at this moment -- but I doubted I would, or could sleep. I was wrong. I have no idea how long I slept. I don't know if I had other dreams before 'the dream,' but I clearly remember, as I said, where I was in the dream.)
She didn't even knock -- just like before on the "Titanic," she just opened the door and burst in. but this time Max and I were only kissing, and she wasn't embarrassed, even a little. She hesitated in the doorway for just a moment, then she said it, damn her.
"Kyle, I'm sorry, but Max isn't really here."
Just that quickly I found myself standing in an open grey featureless plain; no bedroom, no father's house, no Roswell, and -- no Max.
Still in the dream, I searched around and called his name, but she was right. Max simply wasn't there. But Isabel was.
"Kyle, believe me, I am so sorry to take you away from Max in your dream, but we all agreed this was the place to start.
"What? Who? Who agreed? To start what?"
"Kyle, you're still asleep. You're dreaming. The rest of us, Liz, Jesse, Kuhn and Ray felt it best to let you rest, and thought that dream-walking would be the best way to start helping you uncover your powers. That's why I'm here; we're dream-walking."
Isabel had dream-walked me before. The last time was when I was unconscious after my "flying accident" at the lodge, and before that when we were back in Roswell. Both times had had less-than-satisfactory outcomes. The first time, I found myself turning into a green, slimy, alien. The last time, I was convinced I was dead. This was different. This time, we seemed to be in some kind of neutral area. I was still dreaming, but my dreamscape was, well, gone, I guessed.
"Where are we?"
"Well, Kyle, I don't know exactly, this is all kind-of new to me too, but I think, at least I hope, that you are controlling where we are. I believe that you can dream us to be wherever you would like us to be. You just need to take control of your dream."
"Swell. How the hell do I do that?"
"Kyle, even ordinary humans can accomplish guided dreaming with a little practice. I believe that you have the power to do it at will. Here, take my hand and tell me where you would like to be."
"I liked where I was, in my bedroom in..."
"Oh..." she interrupted, "So that's what that was, I should have guessed." She had a slightly disgusted look on her face, then forced a smile. "OK. if that makes you happy, let's go back there. Think, Kyle. Concentrate on your bedroom, and think of how much you want to be there."
It was almost too easy. In a moment my bedroom reappeared, but without one important element -- Max. Naturally, I asked, "Where's Max?"
"Well..." she hesitated, then pressed on, "Dream-walking isn't exactly the same as dreaming. In a dream-walk you can conjure-up objects and places, but the only people you will find are the ones who are actually dream-walking with you. In this case, me. A Dream-walk is a little more real than a dream, I guess somewhere between dreaming and reality. In reality, you can only deal with, well, reality. In a dream, you can only dream things, nothing is real. In the dream-walk, you and I are real, but everything else is just a dream."
"So, you're telling me that Max was..."
"Only a dream. I'm sorry. I'm worried sick about him, just like you, and I miss him too. We all do, but that is why it's so important to help you uncover as much power hidden in you as we can. We need it to get Max back, and quickly"
So it began. When I was in High School, I would have given anything for the ability to sleep and learn stuff in my dreams that I could put to use when I woke. For the next several days while we were on our way to a planet called "Maroon" I spent large blocks of time in sleep -- a high-school athlete's dream-job -- while Isabel dream-walked me, attempting to teach me a lifetime of power-wielding in a few hours. She was actually a good teacher, though, sometimes not as patient as she might have been.
Early on, about the second session, I asked, "This seems so effective, and kind-of like a no-brainer, why didn't you use this way to teach Michael to use his powers when we were back home?"
"To tell the truth, we just didn't think of it. It never occurred to us that this was a good way of teaching. In fact, it was Ray who suggested it yesterday. Apparently, this is the way they teach some high-risk activities at the military academy on Antar."
By the third day, I pretty-much had the major concept down. Almost any form of matter can be manipulated using my mind. I was doing it almost effortlessly in the dream, and actually doing pretty well when I was awake too. Maybe I did have a few powers without the Granolith's help after all. If it seems that I'm describing this like this sort of thing happened every day, it's probably because I am so astonished that I can do this -- and do it without the Granolith's support -- that I can't even think of words to describe how I feel about it.
Actually, the longer I hang around the "pod-squad" the more 'everyday' this sort of thing becomes. Now that I think of it, I'm no longer just hanging with the 'squad,' I'm part of it; even Michael said so. That still blows my mind, too -- not just that Michael said it -- but that it became true. I know I said that I thought I might start "buzzing and crackling like tinfoil in a microwave," but thinking it and then becoming the Avatar and having it really happen are worlds apart. Then, again, being worlds apart has taken on new meaning too.
There it is. No matter what I think about it always comes back to "worlds apart." All I can think about is Max, or really, Max's absence. When I'm not asleep, I'm thinking about Max. When I am asleep, I'm dreaming about Max (at least until Isabel puts me to work.) To go from being together 24/7 for most of a year to being, literally 'worlds apart' in the blink of an eye has put every other thought or care onto the back-burner. I don't know what is killing me faster: not being with Max or not being able to do anything about that. We are still two days from Maroon -- an incredibly long time to imagine being without Max; an incredibly short time to come up with a plan for what to do when we get there.
While I've been chalking-up all this rack-time learning to use my alien voodoo, Jesse, Kuhn, Ray, and Liz have been trying to put together a plan for rescuing Michael, Maria and Max. Liz has taken the lead in this group to come up with plans and 'cover every conceivable contingency' (her words.) I've always known that Liz was probably the smartest one among us, and I've often observed that when she sinks her teeth into something, she is unshakable. She has taken on this planning project as though her life depended on it -- which it might. I guess this shouldn't come as a surprise since she (and I) have the most to lose if we fail.
Liz and I have grown much closer in the time we have been married to Max, and I think I'm glad that we have each other to -- I don't know -- kind of cling to. One afternoon, during a little awake-break, she came over and sat beside me and then put her arms around me and laid her head on my shoulder. That's all, there were no words. None were necessary. It really made me feel kind of, better, just knowing that she understands.
I didn't feel better a day-and -a-half later however, when I heard the results of all the planning which had been going on. Liz explained what they had in mind in some detail, but as far as I could tell the essence of the plan was: 1. Find out where they are. 2. Figure out how to rescue them. OK, I'll admit I simplified it a little, but that is really all they were sure of. I suppose no one could do better, but I felt totally unprepared, and we were now only hours from Maroon.
There were a few things we did learn. The planet known as Maroon is an independent planet, that is, not allied with any other planets. Its government was mostly charged with providing the various syndicates of traders with the least possible interference. Graft and bribery are the common tools of governance, and the military and the police, such as they are, take a 'live-and-let-live' attitude as long as all the blood is cleaned up. Black-market trade is rampant in just about anything you can think of, including arms and, even slaves.
Maroon, we also learned, is still too far from Antar for me to be in direct contact with the Granolith, so it looks like, whatever we have to do, we have to do it on our own, without the Granolith.
The planet is flanked by 6 artificial moon-sized docking stations; one at each pole and 4 supporting quadrants of the planet. All interstellar traffic is required to dock at one of these artificial moons, and take locally-run transportation to the surface. Our first task would be to find out which moon the Antarian ship had selected for docking -- if any. We still weren't 100 percent certain that this was their destination, but all the evidence we had pointed this way. Once we determined where they were docked, we planned to choose another moon for our ship and take public transportation to track the kidnappers (and Max and Michael and Maria) so that we wouldn't tip them off right away that we know where they are.
Disguises were in order all around. The group felt this was especially important for me, not so much because of my hair, but apparently my eyes are unique, even among the thousands of races we would encounter on Maroon. Isabel helped me turn an ordinary pair of sunglasses which I had in my backpack into a kind-of goggles which covered my eyes completely and fit flush with my face. We made the side pieces go completely around my head and connect in the back so that they are almost impossible to remove. After a few headaches I adjusted them so that they are pretty comfortable, considering that I have to wear them 24/7 if I don't want to be recognized and blow our cover. She still couldn't change my hair color and neither could I, but Kuhn had a piece of a space suit which covers the entire head and neck except for an opening for the face, kind-of like a scuba headpiece. It is made of some kind of 'breathable' material, so it's not all that uncomfortable to wear. I changed the color from black to a drab beige so that it would seem less conspicuous. Between the goggles and the headgear, I really look alien (at least I'm not green and slimy,) but Ray and Kuhn assured me that I would fit right in on Maroon. No one would notice me.
Jesse went blonde -- he actually looks kind-of hot that way -- and Isabel, believe-it-or-not, went completely grey. Liz went with black hair tucked inside a stretch-cap, which covered most of it anyway. Ray and Kuhn felt they could get away with changing out of their uniforms and wearing dark glasses. While Antarians are common on Maroon, humans are not, so they felt that no one would notice them, while we were likely to be, at the very least, noticed. Our disguises were meant to confuse any descriptions or photos which might occur and get enough attention to alert Seed or Kier.
Finding out if the other Antarian ship had docked, and if so, where, was the first step. That turned out to be a task for Ray, who, we learned, is an experienced hacker in the kind of systems used by most intra-stellar traffic. Seven Antarian ships had entered the Maroon system in the last 16 hours. Five of them were medium-to-large passenger transports and one was a private yacht. The remaining ship had been somewhat mysterious about its point of origin, its registry, and its cargo -- apparently not a problem for Maroon's authorities -- but traffic control had identified the configuration as Antarian. This sounded most likely to be the Antarian cruiser.
We docked at a moon on the opposite side of the planet from the mystery ship. Ray and Kuhn presented themselves as agents and translators for our threesome of expatriate humans engaged in willnorium futures-trading (willnorium [if anybody cares] is apparently, a rare, but naturally occurring element which is highly sought-after for use in power-conversion technologies.) The customs staff took no interest in us whatsoever, as far as we could tell, except for one guy who kept his eye on Jesse. I decided to (very subtly) try to read his thoughts. Ray and Kuhn couldn't tell me for sure whether any other races could use or detect thought-reading, and I didn't want to attract attention right off-the-bat. It took only seconds to realize that the guy's interest in Jesse was purely sexual, and a little kinky. Jesse noticed my little grin, which I tried to hide, but I didn't tell him what I knew. No sense upsetting Isabel unnecessarily.
I found, to my amazement, that I could read the signs and understand most of the speech around us, but I tried to act as if I had to rely on translation. I was, in fact, sometimes actually translating for our translators. They were good. I was better.
Kuhn produced a handful of something resembling quarters which, he explained, was a universal trading currency. I didn't see how much he spent, but it was enough to get us a private compartment on the ferry-ship to the moon where the mysterious ship had docked. We kept up our roles, even in private, because we had no way of knowing whether we were being bugged. We mostly sat quietly for the 40-minute ride to the other side of the planet. There seemed to be about 50 spaceships at this little section of the port, which seemed to be made up of thousands of these little docking centers. As the ferry approached the artificial moon, we all gazed out the portal, and almost missed seeing the ship in question at a small berth, until Liz noticed it. The ship was berthed between two much larger vessels and was out of sight again almost as soon as Liz pointed it out to us. We had no way of identifying it as the ship we were looking for, but Kuhn had caught a glimpse of it and announced that it definitely was the one we were looking for. Then we docked and had to get off the ferry.
The plan called for for Jesse, Liz, Isabel, Ray and me to park ourselves in a restaurant while Kuhn located some old contacts he had established before entering the service (he promised to tell us the story later.) Ray did the ordering -- Antarian dishes. Isabel found it quite tasty. I thought it was like eating sugar that was on fire, but pretended that it was just as expected. I drank a lot of a bland liquid which Ray described as "tea." Jesse, grinned, and Liz pretended she found it just right. I could not come up with an Antarian word for 'cheeseburger.' Yes, I know that the Buddha says that eating meat is a Karmic debt, but the Buddha never had to confront Antarian food.
Kuhn returned just as we were finishing. I couldn't read his facial expression, but reading his thoughts, I knew he had found the information he was after. He just wasn't sure about his source; he wanted to trust, but he just wasn't sure.
He presented his news. "The two Antarians and their sealed cargo containers were shuttled to the planet's surface about three hours ago."
We now had the city, and the docking location for the transport, and discovered the next shuttle going anywhere near our destination would leave in 25 Earth-minutes. Ray paid our bill and we made our way to the shuttle.
As we got closer to the planet, we passed the point dividing dark from sunlight and the blood-red globe turned to a murky black covered with thousands of tiny points of light. Certain areas, however, were totally dark. Kuhn explained that those areas were the oceans. In a few minutes, a particular group of lights grew brighter and closer and a buzzer signaled that we were preparing to land. I was feeling airsick, and the meal had not helped matters. Ray laughed, but when I turned a little green, he found a bag in a first-aid kit and handed it over. I used it. I was too tired and too scared to be embarrassed, but I did let Liz rub my back in a gesture of support. Looking back, I don't know if it was airsickness or fear which caused the reaction, but knowing what I know now, it SHOULD have been fear.
Continue to Chapter 5
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