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New Beginnings, Chapter 15

Reply to Alex Parrish

Posted to the RoswellSlash mailing list October 6, 2003

Part: 15/19 "New Beginnings"
Author: Alex Parrish
E-mail: alexparrish@wi.rr.com
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Katims, Metz and the WB. No infringement is intended. I own nothing, Trust me. Suing is futile!
Paring: M/K
Feedback: Please
Distribution: Roswell Slash Archive/Others Ask
Rating: X? Explicit sex and language
Spoilers: Nothing in particular and seasons 1,2,3 in general
Thanks: To aunty_mib, Beta extraodinaire, eh!
Summary/General: The lives of the 7 primary characters for 9 months after they leave season 3.
Summary/Chapter: A Mysterious visitor appears at the lodge.



A Visitor

      It had been months since Liz had one of her visions -- visions of the future--so we almost didn't recognize what was happening to her at the moment. She was busying herself with housekeeping, a mindless chore she particularly enjoyed simply because it was..., well..., mindless. Maria was vacuuming at the entrance from the Foyer to the Great Room when she gave a little frightened scream and called out for Max. We all came running. Liz had collapsed right beside the front door of the lodge. By the time we reached her, she was almost recovered. She explained that the vision had come so suddenly and powerfully, that she had felt weak and lowered herself to the floor, but was all right now. She was eager to tell us about the vision, which had occurred when she touched the large ornamental door handle on the massive oak door. She saw what she interpreted as a visitor; a visitor to the lodge. This seemed really unlikely, because we were so isolated and snowbound; the roads were impassable and there was no area that seemed suitable for a helicopter landing. There HAD been a helicopter pad, but we had carefully covered it with debris so as to make landing there impossible.

      "No" Liz insisted, "there's going to be a visitor and he -- I think it's a he -- is coming on foot."

      "That¼s just impossible" Jesse protested, "It's twenty-five miles to the nearest passable road, it¼s minus 10 degrees out there, and some of that snow is more than five feet deep."

      "I know that, but I know what I saw in the vision. He's coming on foot."

      Liz's visions had been reliable as far as we could tell, but impossible to prove because we had intervened to prevent the outcome Liz saw in her vision. This time, there was no real outcome in her vision, just the fact that someone was coming; alone. No indication when, no indication who, no idea why. The prospect of a lone visitor didn't seem terribly dangerous, after all, we had three aliens and Liz's and my powers to counter any threat, and Jesse could handle any ordinary human challenge. We didn't have any guns, but we could relegate dealing with those to those with alien power.

      Michael suggested that, perhaps it wasn't a threat at all, perhaps it was just some itinerant Eskimo on a vision-quest. Jesse pointed out that there were no Eskimo peoples living anywhere even remotely near us, and Max added that he didn't think Eskimos had vision-quests, anyway. We didn't know how to plan for a 'visit', so we just agreed to keep 'on our toes,' what ever that meant.

      For Liz that meant trying to recreate the vision every day with no success. It seemed there are no second chances at visions, or so we thought, until four days later, when the vision reoccurred, this time even more powerfully. This time, she said that she sensed that it was nighttime in her vision, and she just had a sense that it would be tonight.

      Jesse and Michael and I napped in the afternoon in preparation for maintaining the night-watch; Michael, for his powers, me for my newly-acquired night vision, and Jesse for backup. Isabel, Max and Liz with their powers were to remain on the balcony, out of sight, in case we needed stronger back-up. That meant that they could sleep until we sounded the alarm, but I think they were too worked- up to sleep, anyway.

      It gets dark early here, so by 7:00 PM it had been dark for quite a while. For that reason I was alone at the window when I first saw it. Michael and Jesse were in front of the fire relaxing, because, they could see no more than any other human in the dark. I saw it while it was still in the woods. It was moving slowly through the deep snow, and picking its way around the remnants of the trees Max had trashed in his rage. I could see it clearly, but all I could tell is that it was a bundle moving on two legs. I say moving, because it wasn¼t exactly walking, it was more of a combination of a leap and a waddle. I called out, and everyone took their assigned places, Jesse at the door, me behind the door, ready to open it, and Michael in the Dining Room, just out of sight, but where he could see what was going on. We heard it step onto the wooden porch. I was trying to read its thoughts, but it seemed to be thinking in a language unknown to me. There was quite a bit of rustling and clomping-around on the porch, and I couldn¼t figure out at first what it was doing. After a minute or two it knocked on the massive oak door.

      Jesse and I gave each other a look to say 'are you ready?' and then, I opened the door and let the bundle in. It brushed off snow on to the floor of the foyer, leaned a pair of odd-looking snowshoes on the wall next to the door, (that explains the clomping and rustling- about on the porch -- snowshoes are a bitch to put on or off) and began to unbundle. It seemed to take forever; finally the hood came off -- there was a ski mask under it and one glove was jettisoned exposing a small brown hand which removed the mask. It struggled pulling off the mask, so Jesse reached out to help.

      Under it was a very round, very earthy face, jet-black straight hair, which could have used a trim, and sparkling dark eyes. It appeared to be a member of one of the nations of Native Americans, and to all outward appearances, human. I turned, and quickly put on my sunglasses, so as not to frighten it.

      "Hello." Jesse ventured, "My name is Jesse."

      "Hello." It said. "I am (He gave his name, his clan and his Nation, but I cannot name them here because you could then tell where we are) but you can call me Albert."

      "That's a good name," Jesse offered.

      "It sucks," was the reply, "Creeps at the school call me 'Fat Albert'"

      "Oh," Jesse gave a knowing look, "That's not good. I know how that can be. I won't call you that. Albert, welcome to our lodge. May I ask how you got here and why?"

      "How I got here is like, obvious, eh? I walked on these old snowshoes my grandfather made. They¼re totally cool, cause, if the terrain is right, you can, like, ski on 'em too." Albert spoke matter-of-factly. "As to 'why?' That you're gonna haf-ta wait for. Everything in due time, eh?"

      Jesse pursed his lips and gently nodded. "OK, Albert, may I help you out of your snowy things and take you to our fire?"

      "Yup" then he added "please." Albert was apparently spare with his words, but polite.

      Jesse helped him unbundle -- he was several layers thick, and I took his things to place near the fireplace to dry. We finally got a good look at Albert. He was a young aboriginal child, probably 11 or 12, a little on the chubby side -- probably baby-fat -- dressed in jeans. In contrast to his Nike t-shirt, he had moccasins under his tall boots. Around his neck was an ornament, or amulet, or fetish of some kind which I did not recognize; clearly his nation was not from New Mexico. It appeared to be of brightly-painted wood and it was hung from a leather cord.

      He was not shy. He marched right into the Great Room, heading right for the great stone fireplace, and drew up a chair.

      I was startled when, as I tried again to read his thoughts, I heard him think. "It's so-o-o not cool to steal somebody's thoughts. Please leave my brain alone."

      I immediately switched my abilities into 'idle.'

      Without looking around, he spoke aloud, "Call your homies from upstairs and from the other room and gather 'round eh? I've got stuff to tell you."

      The others had been standing on the balcony, at his back the whole time, and Michael was out-of-sight in the Dining Room, so I was sure he hadn't seen them, at least not with his eyes. I motioned and the others all came down and gathered around the hearth. He was quiet for a few moments as he looked from person to person, scrutinizing each face, but if he were reading minds, I couldn't detect it.

      He gave a little shiver, then spoke again. "Wow! There are major vibes in this lodge." Then he rose and moved in front of Max and gave a slow, ceremonial bow, and said, "You're the leader; thank you for your hospitality."

      Max nodded, and replied, "You are welcome here."

      "Yea, well, my grandpa's big on that ancient ceremonial stuff, and I promised him I'd try to remember."

      Albert then moved to me, bowed again and said, "and... you're the ONE" almost in a whisper. "You're why I'm here"

      "I responded with my deepest Buddhist nod." My name is Kyle. What do you mean I'm the ONE?"

      He ventured a small mystical smile, nodded and said "Kyle, huh? I guess that'll do for now." and then, moved to Jesse, demanding, "What Nation are your people; what clan?"

      Jesse gave a nervous smile. "My people are descended from the Pueblo Nation; far, far to the south. They mixed with Spanish and then with Anglos many generations ago. I have some distant cousins in Acoma Pueblo, the Pueblo in the sky. I haven't seen them for years, since I was a kid about your age, but they were an indigenous nation; people of the land, like you."

      "Too bad, eh?" He sounded disappointed, but he was done with Jesse and moved to Isabel, squinting a little as he examined her face, then pronounced, "You're like, the sister, right? The sister of the Chief."

      "Yes, she replied, giving her biggest smile "My name is Isabel".

      He looked her right in the eyes and said simply, "I don't think so."

      Isabel's smile morphed into a puzzled look, but Albert had already moved on.

      Liz was next, standing next to Maria. They each spoke their names, in turn. He merely nodded at them and moved on to Michael, who just said, "Michael."

      "Mich-ael" the boy pronounced it "the avenging angel in the Christian tradition, w-o-o-o-o-o, the slayer of evil. Yea, I think it suits you, 'cause you're the Warrior."

      Michael shot Max a look as if to ask "What the hell is this kid?"

      Albert then seated himself very stiffly in the chair, and announced to the group, "Listen-up. My spirit-guide sent me here to bring an important message. I have, like, no idea what the message is 'cause this message isn't from my spirit-guide, but from another spirit. In a minute or two, the spirit will speak to you guys through me." He closed his eyes as we looked with disbelief at each other.

      In 30 seconds or less, he rolled back his head, opened his eyes, and we could see that his eyes were rolled back as well. The voice that came from his pudgy little body, was not his own, but that of a grown man.

      "Don't be afraid. This is Larek. I have chosen this boy to communicate with you. He has an exceptional mind and I will be able to maintain communication with you for several hours. We will do this on the next earth day, in the ninth measuring of your cycle. It is very, very important that I speak with all of you. I am going to release the boy for now. Give him nourishment and rest so that he is strong for our meeting. Power and glory to the King."

      The boy slumped forward, but was almost immediately conscious, speaking again in his own voice, "I guess that's all you'll get right now. You got any Dr. Pepper?"

      In the next few minutes, the kid consumed three peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, and 2 Dr. Peppers. We offered more healthy choices, but he told us what he wanted, and we supplied it; probably not a good track record if we intend to eventually be parents.

      We let him eat in peace, even though we were nearly bursting with questions. When he finished, Max took the lead.

      "Where are you from?'

      "Dude, you gotta listen better; I'm bringing you some very important stuff. I already told you that I am from the (name) tribe and clan."

      A bit chagrinned, Max tried another approach. "How, exactly did you get here?"

      "My grandfather drove me to (he named a village about 25 miles from us) and I walked the rest of the way on those wild snowshoes. It took, like, forever."

      "Where is your grandfather now?"

      "He stayed in the village. He's gonna sleep in his truck 'cause he doesn't trust the people there; they're always tryin' to rip-us-off, and he just got a new pickup. It's phat, man!"

      "So, you came the rest of the way alone?"

      Albert looked at Max as though he were an annoying child asking silly questions, then sighed, "You see anybody else?"

      Isabel jumped in, trying to sound motherly or something like that. "Weren't you afraid?"

      "Of what?"

      Isabel was already stumped. "of...of wild animals?"

      The boy just laughed. "Look, I made a trip on foot that seems long and cold to you, but it's no big deal for me. I was dressed plenty warm and there's nothing out there to be afraid of. My Grandfather says I was, like, born with good senses." He stifled a yawn and added, "But I am bushed; definitely, eh? Where am I bunking tonight?"

      "We'll get one of the spare rooms ready," Maria volunteered, grabbing Michael by the arm and steering him upstairs.

      "You're acting like you didn't know I was coming." The boy looked perplexed. He turned to Liz. "Didn't you tell them I was coming?"

      Liz flushed and then spoke, "Yes...yes, we knew you were coming, or at least that someone was coming. We just didn't know it was you, and we didn't know if you were friend or foe."

      "Oh." That seemed to satisfy him.

      "Which are you" Max asked.

      Albert pointed at me and just said, "Ask him."

      This kid was frightening, (then again, I find most 11-year-old kids frightening) but I couldn't sense any actual danger, even though I had stopped actually reading his thoughts. After a moment of silence, I said, "Friend."

      Albert smiled and gave Max a little nod, then turned and muttered, to no one in particular, "At least somebody's paying attention." Then he perked up. "You got a TV here?"

      I answered. "Yes."

      "Good," he said, "I get a kick out of Saturday cartoons. I think I'll hit the rack now, so I can roll-out early for them, eh?"

      "Come with me, I'll show you to your room." Liz smiled and started for the stairs.

      Albert rose to follow, but turned back for just a moment to say, "Goodnight."

      Everyone left in the kitchen responded, and then Liz and Albert were gone up the stairs.

      Max, Jesse, and Isabel were left with me in the kitchen, staring at each other as though we had seen a ghost. No one spoke for a minute, then Max spoke.

      "Well, this is sure a surprise. I'd know what to do if it was one of the Skins, or something like that, but what are we to make of a little Indian kid?"

      "He could be a shape-shifter" Isabel offered.

      "I don't think so. I think I would have sensed something in his thoughts." I wasn't quite as sure as I sounded, but said it anyway.

      "Just the same, I think one or two of us should stay up to be on guard." Max countered.

      "Agreed." I said. "Jesse, Michael and I slept this afternoon to prepare for night watch, so the three of us are set to stay up."

      "I don't think there is any need for the old guy to lose a night's sleep (Max always teased Jesse about being the oldest). If you don't think Albert is dangerous, I'm sure you and Michael can handle it."

      "Right."

      We spent a few minutes asking questions we couldn't answer, about the kid, about whether he really was Larek, and stuff like that. Since there was nothing to add, the others went off to bed, leaving Michael and me to ourselves.

      Even though Michael and I had become better friends, I wasn't particularly looking forward to spending all night alone with him. As it turned out, it wasn't all that bad. We watched some really, really bad movies on TV and Michael and I supplied additional dialog, kind-of like MST3000 that used to be on TV. We just had to be careful not to laugh so loud that we woke the others. The night passed quickly and uneventfully.

      At 5:00 Jesse and Isabel showed up to relieve us, giving us almost four hours to sleep before our appointment with Larek. I slept, but not well.

      At 8:00 I gave up and showered and went down for some breakfast. I found Jesse and Albert enjoying the cartoons together in the Great Room, and Isabel in the kitchen, playing breakfast hostess. By 8:45 we were all in the kitchen. By consensus we decided that the best place for the meeting would be around the big round table in the dining room. By 8:55 everyone had eaten, Jesse and Albert had been called-in, and we were all in place around the table. We sat in a very nervous silence for the next few minutes.

      Larek was punctual. Exactly at 9:00 Albert's face changed, he rolled back his head, and when he opened his eyes again, we were in the presence of this 'spirit' whom we were trusting to be Larek.

      "Greetings, your Majesty, power and glory to you."

      Max nodded and quietly said, "Greetings."

      "And greetings to the Royals, to all of you. Thank you for being punctual and for heeding my summons. I have some very important things to discuss with all of you and there is a limit on how long I can sustain my connection with this child. He is exceptional, but he has limits."

      Max spoke. "What kinds of things?"

      "With your permission, your Majesty, Some of your allies, meeting in council, have prepared an agenda of issues to cover, and it will be most efficient if we can follow that, and then I will entertain inquiries with the time that is left. Is that agreeable?"

      Isabel broke in. "Why couldn't you just take over Albert's body as Kivar did when he showed up at our wedding?"

      "That technology is new, and I could not risk using it, because we believe it can be detected by Kivar's forces, which still hold some key outposts and could endanger this mission, so we must keep our communication with you in the utmost secrecy." He turned again to Max. "Your Majesty, may I proceed with the agenda?"

      "Proceed." Max gestured with his hand as he spoke.

      "I will begin with information which should have been supplied to you by those sent to guard you. I must tell you that we had the best intentions in sending shape-shifters to guard you; I'm not sure we could have decided differently, even now. Unfortunately, the ones we sent turned out to be unreliable, and we are very sorry for that. The one whom you called Nasedo was secretly compromised by Kivar -- he had made a deal -- for his own gain. We simply didn't know. The one you know as Langley abandoned his duties completely for no reason we can discern. His decision to live, even today, on this planet as a human is a total mystery to us.

      That being said, I will try to explain to you what you should have known about for at least the last several years, as soon as you were old enough to comprehend. You already know that the decision was taken to clone you as hybrids and allow you to live on Solus III -- you call it Earth -- because Kivar led an insurrection and deposed your government. This was possible for him because you, your Majesty, had lost the confidence of the people by instituting change at too rapid a pace, and by dealing severely with opposition to that change. It was not a happenstance that this planet was chosen to nurture you. We have seeded thousands of planets in this galaxy alone, and there were many from which to choose.

      Michael interrupted, "Seeded? You mean, you...uh...people have been to Earth before? And does this mean that you are our ancestors, and that there are thousands of planets around with races you seeded?"

      "Yes, we have been to earth. We have common ancestors, as we do with the races of thousands of planets."

      Maria jumped in, "Do they look like us?"

      "No, you all look like US. May I proceed?"

      "Sorry," Maria said as she sat on her hands.

      "It was necessary that we locate a planet with a civilization which had advanced enough to give you useful skills to learn, and with a level of technology which would not render you afraid of technologies. We had one additional important criterion, however, which led us to select this planet over all the others. We wanted you to be nurtured in a civilization which values life, and which seeks to promote peace among peoples. It was important to us that our ruler developed the traits of compassion and respect for others."

      I couldn't restrain myself; I jumped in, "And you chose THIS ONE? You've gotta be kidding. This planet is just moments away from blowing itself to smithereens and there are a dozen wars going on somewhere on earth at any given time. Boy did you guyz choose the wrong planet."

      "We don't think so" Larek replied quietly. "We know that the people of Earth don't always live out their values, and often act contrary to what they say they believe, but it is the compassion, the optimism and willingness to pursue peaceful coexistence which your peoples seem to have as part of their basic psyche which we wished for our leaders to learn. These qualities have been lacking in the peoples of the Antarian Federation for several millennia now. In our pursuit of technology and the betterment of our peoples, we feel we have lost sight of these simple but crucial traits. There have been sects trying to rekindle these qualities among our peoples for centuries, but without examples in our leadership, their good intentions have been thwarted. You were sent here to learn -- if you will -- humanity, and to return it to our peoples -- by example. I think you can see, as an example, that the behavior of Nasedo and that of the late Queen Tess lacked that sense of compassion and humanity completely. Queen Tess was not raised by humans, as we had planned for her, but instead by Nasedo, and she learned nothing of what humanity means. This is why she thought nothing of killing, over and over. She learned from Nasedo. We believe that you, unlike Queen Tess, possess these qualities, and that you will be able to demonstrate them in your life as an example to our peoples."

      He paused, looking from person to person around the table. We were dumbfounded; not by what he said, but by what was implied.

      Finally, Max spoke, almost in a whisper, "Then, you're here to take us back?"

      Larek spoke again. "Not exactly -- I'm not actually here at all, you know -- but I am communicating with you to discuss with all of you the possibility, and the advantages of your return to Antar."

      Jesse spoke, "What do you mean by 'all of us?'"

      "I mean ALL of you. I have the specifics of such a plan on my agenda if I may be permitted to continue." He was beginning to sound a little annoyed at the interruptions.

      Max nodded.

      "This brings me to the subject of 'maturing.' This is the best translation for the process through which a human brain changes to become more like us. You have been told that there is nothing among your special abilities which is beyond the capabilities of the human brain. It is through the maturing of your human brains that you have developed your powers. Some of you have manifested these powers, and some of you have not yet matured enough to realize them. You will. All of you. Once you have had Antarian powers applied to your human brains, they will begin to mature. The more exposure you have, the faster you mature."

      "That explains what has been happening to me?" I asked.

      "Yes, and no. You began that way, but you are a special case. I will deal with your case later."

      "Figures. I can't even be a normal alien"

      "This has been a continuing source of problems for us, since Max's compassion has caused him to use his healing powers on so many humans. We've had to dispatch shape-shifters to monitor each of them."

      "All those kids in the hospital?" Michael asked.

      "Yes."

      Max looked anxious. "What about my son. Will he develop powers?"

      "We don't think so, but we have two monitors near him who will observe him until puberty. If he doesn't manifest by then, he should be entirely human, with only human traits."

      "What if he isn't?"

      "Let's deal with that matter in the future if it comes to pass."

      "They won't interfere with his life will they?"

      "Absolutely not, and we even have a monitor monitoring the monitors to be certain."

      "I want him left alone -- to grow up as a normal human."

      "We have every confidence that he will. To insure that none of your enemies will interfere with him, our population has been told that he perished in the crash with his mother. They all believe that he is dead. We believe this was the only way to comply with your stated wish that he be raised human, and still keep him safe from your enemies. Obviously, he will not be prepared to be your heir, but this child will be kept safe and you, presumably will produce another heir, to take the place of this 'deceased' brother. This has been kept in the highest secrecy, so no one should ever suspect another child exists. Even if, someone suspected -- which is highly unlikely -- we have plausible deniability; I believe that is the term used by your rulers here."

      "So...you know where he is? He's OK? I don't want to know where he is, but is he OK?"

      "He is doing quite well -- a thriving baby with doting parents. There is one piece of information I have been authorized to provide you, however. The human parents were told that he had been named 'Zan.' They presumed that this was a human name which is a nickname for Xander, or for Alexander. His legal name is now Alexander, and they call him -- Alex. We did not interfere, they did this on their own"

      Slowly a smile spread around the table. It seemed a fitting tribute. Max smiled and nodded his head in silent agreement. I think Isabel had a tear.

      Michael broke the silence. "What about all those kids in the hospital."

      "That had our scientists in a quandary for quite a while. It has been an important part of our intra-planetary policy to allow each species to mature at its own rate. When one, or worse yet, several individuals of a species mature suddenly through outside interference, we have found this to be seriously disruptive to indigenous societies. When maturation occurs naturally, we don't interfere, but otherwise, we try very hard to not contaminate developing species. Your situation is, of course, a rare exception to this practice. We considered the possibility that we might have to abduct everyone you healed, but finally our scientists came up with a solution. Can you recall the device which was in the possession of a human named Brody? It was a device which prevented use of non-human powers by anyone within 25 feet."

      "We remember." Max answered.

      "Our scientists have miniaturized that type of device and provided it with a 200-year power supply; We chose 200 years as a goal, because we do not anticipate that average human life span will reach anything near that number during the generations now living. The scientists predict we have allowed at the very least a 50-year margin of error. The device is smaller than a millimeter in size and can be implanted under the skin. We will need to abduct the humans for a few moments to implant it, but we will use shape-shifters, and the children will have no idea that anything at all happened. We believe it will be undetectable to your medical devices, but we will monitor them from time to time for as long as they are alive. I am sorry to tell you that the small warm-blooded vertebrate which you rescued as a child had to be destroyed -- I think you call it a 'bird;' it was about to sire a brood of 'super-birds' which would have upset the ecology of your entire planet, and we could not let that happen."

      "We had no idea" Max offered.

      "We knew you were ignorant of the consequences. We saw it as a sign that you and Rath were developing the compassion we sought for you, so we don't see it as a problem, rather as a sign of success."

      "We have already implanted the device in River-Dog and in the Law-Keeper, Valenti. and they remain totally unaware."

      "You planted a 'device' in my Dad?" I wasn't at all sure I approved of that.

      "Yes, we did; please don't be concerned, we are confident that it is absolutely undetectable."

      "Right." I wasn't convinced.

      There is no one else you healed besides those in this room is there?"

      Max thought and then said, "No, I don't remember anyone else."

      "Good." He seemed satisfied. "Now, I must ask you to indulge me, as I present a little bit of Antarian history which will help you to better understand the things I have to tell you." He looked around the table at each of us as we each nodded in turn.

      "We know that by now, you have all heard of the Granolith."

      Max spoke, "Then you must also be aware that we know almost nothing about it."

      "Yes, we are aware of that. That was partly for your own protection and peace of mind. We felt that, if you knew its real power and its value, its presence here could be a burden to you. The time has come now to tell you. The Granolith is one of the oldest artifacts in this universe, much older than our race. In fact, our tradition tells us that the Granolith was given to us by one of the last survivors of the race which was the progenitor of our race, we call them 'The Builders.'

      "These 'Builders', they all died?" Michael asked anxiously.

      "Not exactly, they passed, one-by-one, into another dimension. The last one left, by tradition, about four million of your years ago. We believe that The Builders were not the first beings to inhabit this universe, and that they were given the Granolith by their progenitors, so, you can see, it is quite ancient. It is a revered relic to all our peoples -- you might even say 'sacred' but we do not worship it in any way that you understand the word. The Granolith holds information from the very origin of the universe, as well as the combined memories of billions upon billions of beings who have interfaced with it. While it is not 'alive' in any sense you understand, the Granolith does have a consciousness, and this consciousness has guided our leaders and our people since we attained self-awareness. It does not govern us, but acts in an advisory capacity for the benefit of the universe. Do you understand me so far?"

      Max answered, "I...I...my mind is boggled by this, but I have understood the words, so far."

      Larek/Albert appeared satisfied with the answer and continued. "You can understand then, why Kivar was enraged when he learned that the Granolith had been sent to Solus III, er, Earth with your clones. He wanted the Granolith more than anything in the universe, and he needed it if he was to solidify and legitimize his regime and his claim to the throne. He could only be King if the Granolith granted him the 'sign'; the sign which you, Max Evans, bear in your body. The same sign which the Granolith passed to you, Michael Guerin, when Max's life-force became undetectable to it, as he had executed a bodily exchange, and which Max subsequently took back -- but, unknown to you, only with the Granolith's power. Kivar needed it so much that he was willing to strike a deal with Queen Tess and Nasedo, even though he never intended to honor his part of the bargain. Everybody take a deep breath before I go on."

      We did just that.

      "Everyone ready? Good."

      "Now, we do not interface directly with the Granolith, rather, The Builders created a being to act as an interface with the Granolith. We will call this being 'The Avatar' for the sake of your understanding, since that is the closest your language can come to describing this being. The being is a physical embodiment of the Granolith. The first Avatar was created by the last of The Builders, and ever since they left, only the King of Antar has the power to create the Avatar, which he does through the power of the Granolith acting through him. It is only through the Avatar that the King communicates with the Granolith and vice-versa. This fact makes the Avatar the most important being, next to the King himself. In fact, the Avatar has equality with the King in that, although the Avatar does not rule anyone, he is not subject to the rule of the King; he answers only to the Granolith. In our history, this has lead to many clashes between the King and the Avatar, but when the Avatar and the King cooperate and get along with each other, the Avatar is a most powerful resource to the King. In our history, all the great Kings have had good relations with the Avatar. We have a saying on Antar; "The King makes the Avatar, and the Avatar makes the King." This Avatar is held in the highest respect by all our peoples -- he is considered to be our 'spiritual leader.'" He paused, allowing us to take a few more deep breaths.

      "The Avatar is the keeper and guardian of the Granolith, and it was, in fact, the Avatar himself who decreed that the Granolith would travel to Earth with you. Kivar did not know this at the time of the insurrection, but quickly learned of it when he summoned the Avatar, and tried to make the Avatar crown him as King. Of course, the Avatar refused, and Kivar threatened his life. The Avatar merely laughed at Kivar and said 'You have no power over me. I will decide when I am to die, and I choose now.' He then just died, right there in front of Kivar. This enraged Kivar even more, because, when Tess eventually produced the Granolith, he had no way of communicating with it. He tried many times to create another Avatar, but, in fact, no one really knows exactly how the Avatar is created, but we are certain that only the true King can do it and we are fairly sure it requires some kind of action by the Granolith itself."

      "This brings me to one of my most important points. One of you has been selected by the King and by the Granolith to be the new Avatar. I'm sure you realize that I am referring to you, your Lordship, Kyle.

      Was he talking to ME? My head was swimming. He couldn't mean me; Kyle James Valenti. "There must be some mistake," I said, "I thought you said, 'Kyle.' I'm just a kid from New Mexico -- what do I know about Granoliths and planets and Kings and Avatars?"

      "There is no mistake. The Granolith and the King have chosen Kyle, of the House of Valenti, son of James the Law-Keeper."

      You've never heard such silence as overtook the group at that moment.

      "Oh my!" It was Liz who spoke first. "What a... wonderful honor... for you Kyle!" Then she added, almost under her breath, "I think?"

      "I...I...I..." I stuttered; I had no words. I looked to Max.

      More silence.

      Max spoke up. "How do you know for sure?"

      Larek answered immediately and without hesitation. "His body bears the signs. Just as your body bears the mark of the King, his shows the attributes of the Avatar of the Sacred Granolith of Antar. The ability to read thoughts, the pure white hair, and the very special eyes which, although you do not know it yet, can discern light in an almost infinite spectrum -- most of which is unknown to humans. This last attribute is used in communication with the Granolith."

      More silence.

      "Well," I ventured, "at least I now know what they're for. I really preferred my eyes as they were -- blue -- just like my dad's."

      Larek spoke quietly now, and directly to me. "We anticipated that this would be difficult for you to accept. Frankly, it was somewhat difficult for us too; as far as we know, there has never been an Avatar from anywhere but Antar, except the first, and as far back as our records go, there has never been an Avatar who was consort to the King. This is all very new to us."

      "We don't know exactly when the Granolith chose you, but we speculate that the Granolith acted through the King when your brain was injured earlier this year. We think that, because of your injury, and the fact that your brain was being repaired and reconstructed by your own body, Max's and Michael's healing powers literally blasted open parts of your brain which usually remain unused even by advanced species, such as ours. We suspect this is how you were created.

      Michael interrupted. "I didn't have any part in it other than the 'injury' part. I was responsible for that."

      "Forgive me, we believe very much to the contrary, my Lord. We are aware that you maintained physical contact with Lord Kyle for 4 full earth cycles. All that time you were trickling your power into him. Then, at regular intervals, the King was applying massive doses of power. These two power sources worked together to both heal, and mature his brain exceedingly rapidly.

      "You mean, I was actually healing him all that time even though I didn't know it?" Michael was really interested in this.

      "Well...,yes. We assumed you knew. Why else would you have maintained contact with him for such a period?"

      "Well, wha'd' you know? I helped make an Avatar." Michael seemed pleased with this news.

      "Yea, thanks, bro' -- I think." I said it, but I don't think I really meant it; I hoped it didn't sound too sarcastic -- I was, after all, glad to be alive.

      "My Lord Avatar," Larek continued, "We have allowed time in the schedule for you to accustom yourself to these facts. I must caution you, however, that I am giving you facts. You ARE the Avatar, whether this fits with your plans or not. You can choose to run from it, or ignore it, or deny it, but you cannot change it. It is now a part of you -- it is who you are. Please consider that, your physical appearance makes it highly unlikely that you will be accepted among humans, and we fear that your life will be in grave danger should you stay here."

      I could only hope that this was a nightmare from which I would wake. I wanted to pinch myself, but I thought that would look kind-of corny. Still, I wished I could just wake up.

      "The Avatar is not the only one among you who must begin to understand a new way of being. Each of you has a valued place in the Antarian Federation, and we have great hopes that our plans for you will be acceptable. Naturally, Max -- Zan -- we must presume you knew from the beginning that you would return as King. You have had a great deal of time to think about this, as has Isabel -- Villandra, and Michael -- Rath. The others have had less time to consider their future."

      "Here is the plan. You, Elizabeth of the House of Parker will be crowned as Queen and reign with your husband, Zan the 6th. The children you produce with Zan and his consort, the Lord Avatar, will be the heirs to the Antarian Federation. The population has already become excited at the prospect of a beautiful, intelligent and compassionate new Queen, so much that Elizabeth has become the most popular name for newborn females. The second most popular female name is now Maria. You, Maria of the House of DiLuca are honored by our population as 'the female who tamed the brute, Rath.'"

      I couldn't say who looked more stunned; Michael or Maria. The rest of us looked at each other and couldn't help snickering at the thought. Maria got it -- and joined us. Michael never got it.

      "Rath, you were born of a noble house, but not of royal blood; you are to be elevated to the title of "Prince Royal, and Regent to the King" and you will reign representing the King over the entire planet of Usa'ar. It is our hope that you will make Maria your wife, either through a ceremony or through producing children, so that she will then be crowned, 'Princess Royal,' and will reign with you."

      Maria and Michael just looked at each other in disbelief and said nothing. What could they say?

      "Jesse, of the House of Ramirez, you should know that you are exceedingly popular as well. You are known as the human who stood up to Kivar, and as the man who conquered the tempestuous Villandra, as well as for your remarkable sexual prowess -- that is since Villandra has the reputation of being insatiable, and yet you are able to be consort to Lord Rath; most impressive. Your name is the most popular among parents of male children."

      "Hey, I threw one punch and he decked me! And -- that is my wife you are talking about -- watch what you say." Jesse didn't know whether to be flattered or insulted.

      "Nevertheless, you stood up to Kivar and survived -- no, you won. You are a hero to our peoples. Your wife is a bit more of a problem."

      Larek turned to address Isabel directly. "While I know that you are a very different person from the one who betrayed the King and brought down the dynasty, you ARE still Villandra, and our population has not forgotten this. There are those who would have you killed or banished forever. We -- the council, feel it would be a poor example to start off with if we did not show you mercy, but you will have to earn the trust of the people. For this reason, you will take your place beside your husband mostly as a figurehead. You will retain the title of 'Princess Royal.' Jesse will be invested as 'Prince Regent' for the planet of Prota'ar, and will reign there as the King's representative. May I suggest to you that, the bearing of attractive children is an excellent way to gain goodwill with the people. If they see you as a faithful wife and a loving mother, much else can be forgotten or forgiven."

      Isabel took Jesse's hand in hers and smiled at him.

      "The other two planets of the Antarian Federation, Knes'saar and Ba'aktara will be ruled locally for the King by someone of a noble family who remained loyal to Zan. You, Zan will make this choice, and the person will be elevated to 'Prince Regent' or 'Princess Regent.''

      "So, as you see, we have a place for each of you, and we sincerely hope that this will be acceptable to you."

      "That's all well and good, but how can we be expected to lead a planet or an empire we know nothing about -- hell, we don't even speak the language." Max almost sounded angry. "I second Kyle -- I'm just a kid from New Mexico -- I don't know anything about anything!"

      Larek, or Albert smiled and spoke calmly. "Actually, there are 15 languages which you will need to master, along with several dialects and local variations, but don't be concerned about this. We have the technology to download everything you need to know directly into your brain."

      Maria asked. 'Well, if you can just download stuff into people's brains, why didn't you just download compassion -- humanity, into your King's brain instead of sending him here?"

      "That's a very astute question, your Highness. Facts and empirical data are easy to process and download. Emotions and principles are quite a different matter. We're nowhere close to being able to do something like that."

      Max spoke again. "Why are you coming to us now to bring this to us? What about Kivar? What about the insurrection? How do we know that the people want us back, and how do we know, for that matter, that this is not some kind of a trick?"

      "That is of primary concern, is it not? That Kivar was able to seize power after killing you, was a very complicated and well-thought- out scheme, which had been years in the planning. Kivar had been fermenting discontent in the armies for years, waiting for just the right political moment to occur, and when it did, he had the political machinery in place to insure that he would be your successor. He was, by no means, the people's choice -- he was what they got, wanted or not. The longer he reigned, the less popular he was. He began to introduce draconian policies and practices, and oppressing anyone who disagreed with him. He began to seize the holdings of the nobles throughout the federation, making him anathema to the nobles, even those who supported him at first."

      "When the population learned that the Avatar had chosen to die rather than support Kivar, a resistance movement was born. It lost a little strength when Kivar managed to get Tess to bring him the Granolith, but since he was unable to communicate with it, its power was only symbolic. When the population learned that he had rejected your son, the rightful heir, and ordered him killed, the resistance movement surged, and upon learning of the death of Tess and the heir, the resistance became a viable army; another crucial reason to keep the existence of Tess's child a secret. Finally, when the population learned that the new Avatar was here with you, their minds were made up. First the palace guard revolted, and Kivar was forced to flee for his life. He quickly found that he had burned too many bridges behind him, and that almost no one would give him protection. He is currently on Knes'saar in the palace of the house of Mk'kohl, and is being held in siege by the forces of the regular army, which he once commanded. The people are clamoring for your return, but there are still a few outposts that are in the hands of Kivar's followers, so this is not entirely without danger"

      "As to the question of whether you can trust me, well, that is more difficult. In our session later in this day, I will permit the Avatar to examine my thoughts, and invite your Queen to touch me to see if she can envision any ill intent. I will also permit you to question me about anything which has occurred between us in the past -- details known only to yourself and me, so that you may be satisfied that I am truly Larek. Beyond that, you will have to trust."

      "This human, Albert, is tired now and we must give him nourishment and rest. I will leave him now, but I will return through him at the 15th hour of your daily cycle to answer questions and discuss plans for your return. Power and glory to the King." With that, Larek was gone, and Albert was back with us.

      "I'm famished," he announced.

      "I don't doubt that; let's get you something to eat," Max said as he rose from the table.

      The rest of us didn't really have food on our minds right then. In fact, as is my custom in such situations, I immediately hurled.

Continue to Chapter 16

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