Title: The Message – Book 2 in "The Messengers" Trilogy
Disclaimer: Gees, would I love to own them? But nope, you all know who the owners are, and certainly that doesn't include me. I'm just writing for fun :) But to make it official: The characters of "Roswell" belong to Jason Katims, Melinda Metz, WB, and UPN. They are not mine and no infringement is intended.
Category: Sequel to The Offer - CC/All – Post Graduation
Rating: T, for very occasional language

Summary: Eight years have passed, and much has changed in the pod squad's lives. From being essentially captives to infiltrating Dave's worldwide organization. Yet things seem rather mundane for awhile until Michael intercepts a message from their far away home. Is someone contacting Dave? And is he answering back?

With cryptic messages and shadowy characters all around, answers well kept for so many years are bound to get discovered. Answers that hold the key to save Max's life on time.

AN:This is a sequel to The Offer. This story won't make much sense without having read that one first. You can find it in my profile.

Thank you so much to Michelle in LA and marmez for taking the time to beta this story! Although the story is complete, some edition is still required, but I hope I'll be able to post every Monday.

Let's see what Dave's been up to...

The Message

Part 1: Soon
November 2nd, 2011

1 : Michael

T minus 3 hours, 17 minutes

They had stayed.

For eight long years the six of them had stayed within Dave's shadowy empire. Things had changed since those cold February days when they had accepted the offer, he would admit, but two simple things still remained: they still were under Dave's supervision, and they still were not clear about what exactly Dave was aiming for.

But not for long, Michael thought as his eyes swept the park. He was sitting on a bench in Central Park, the early November wind chilling his exposed hands. Tucking them in the pockets of his black coat, he tried not to get his hopes too high. He was waiting for Max and Isabel to share his latest discovery, and this time things did seem promising, if in a dark way. He could be wrong though, like so many times before. He actually hoped he was wrong this time, too.

Somewhere, children were laughing. The park was filled with trees in greens, yellows and reds, and more buildings Michael cared to count. Despite being in one of the world's most crowded cities, sitting here in a deserted area should feel lonely. But Michael always had the feeling that someone was watching him, at every turn, every time he stepped out into the world. Maria said it was only his paranoid self, and after years of being out and about, he thought that was probably true. Still, he felt edgy. Where were Max and Isabel?

Glancing at his watch for the hundredth time, he cursed his bright idea about being early. They had agreed to meet at 1 pm, and there were still 17 minutes to hit the mark. His foot impatiently drummed the floor, marking some inner rhythm that eluded his conscious mind. He was so eager about sharing his news he had rushed to this bench, but his eagerness was fast becoming dread.

He had news from home. That is, their other home.

Funny how he had spent half of his life wanting to know about it so much it hurt, and then he had spent the other half unraveling the secrets kept in his memories, just to be sitting on this bench pondering whether or not, now that home was closer than ever, he actually wanted to know.

He remembered what the view from Dimaras Rock looked like, how the skyline from the Palace looked, but most of what he remembered was facts. There had never been a sense of wonderment attached to those scenes. That life had always been about being alert, always being on the lookout. For some reason, he didn't remember much about what he felt for people or situations, and sometimes he wondered if it was because he didn't want to remember, or if nothing in that past life could compare to how he felt now. Here, in this time, in this world, he was in love, and for the longest time now, he felt like he fit in. Here on Earth. Although not exactly here on this bench.

He didn't remember much of his childhood back on Antar. None of them did. He didn't remember how he had died either, although his mind liked to play tricks on him from time to time and he would wake up in a cold sweat. He could never retrieve those memories, he wasn't even sure that those nightmares were about his death, but something told him that what lay dormant in his subconscious, was better left alone for now. At least until they could decide what to do with their growing knowledge.

He impatiently looked as a jogger went past him. The trail where he was sitting was secluded, but by no means private. New York was a busy city, and the fall foliage was a spectacle all on its own, making Central Park busier as well. But being out in the open made it harder for anyone following them to listen in on their conversation. Dave could swear all he wanted he was not following them, but Michael knew deep down with some inner sense that that wasn't the case. It was the strategist in him, the soldier in him maybe, that would not allow himself to feel comfortable about sharing this man's secrets in close spaces.

Eight years was a long time to learn about his enemy. And even if Dave still kept things behind firewalls, Michael had gotten past almost all of them. He'd learned a great deal about what kinds of business Dave liked to do, and what kinds of people Dave liked to make deals with. That was why, when he had deciphered the Level Six codes yesterday, he had frozen.

It was lucky the three of them were in the same city –let alone the same country these days—

and he had taken full advantage of that. What he had read was not something he wanted to discuss over the phone, or worse, with their human circle around.

He winced slightly. He hated keeping things from Maria, but this was a necessary evil. Once he knew what to do with these memories and responsibilities, then he would tell her… some of it… maybe. There was just no good reason to bring this subject to the table only to decide later on that his long forgotten past would stay forgotten. The current theory was they should embrace it but keep it at a distance. Hell, if it were only that easy.

"Hey," Max said by his left, making Michael jump out of his thoughts, his first instinct to defend. The closest lamppost flickered, and Max took an involuntarily step back with his hands slightly raised. A flimsy, small, green energy shield shimmered for about two seconds as they stared at each other. Then Max let it go and they both let go of the breath they'd been holding.

"Jesus, don't do that!" Michael admonished. It had been at least a couple of years since he had lost control of his powers, and the reminder now was not welcome. At least Max had been startled too.

"Sorry, I thought you had… already sensed me."

"I had other things on my mind," Michael murmured, as Max took a seat beside him, both men feeling slightly embarrassed at their reactions. Their matching black coats gave them an air of mystery, though neither of them was conscious of that. They both subtly looked around, trying to see if anyone was paying attention to their energy surges. No one did.

"That was interesting," Max said lightly, his eyes going to the tree line as Michael's had done when he had settled in. Michael wouldn't say almost-blowing-you-up was interesting, but Max always had had a dry sense of humor. "Last time you almost blew me up was five years ago…"

"That was Jake's fault," Michael sourly reminded his best friend. He had never really trusted Jake –that was Max's department— but after that day, he had trusted him even less.

"All I'm saying is," Max said in a calm voice, still looking at the trees and the buildings further out, "that I haven't seen you so tensed up about anything for a long time. How serious is this, Michael?"

The last sentence was not a question, really, more like a command. Here was Zan's side of the equation, talking to his good ol' general. Out of the three of them, Max had had the most success in blending in his former memories with his own, but it didn't mean he wouldn't sometimes slip into that part of him that was used to giving orders and expecting answers. Michael was getting there. Isabel was still struggling, but damn if any of them would confess such things to anyone outside the three of them. Except maybe Jake.

He was not going to get into another argument with Max about Jake, nor was this the appropriate time to get into any kind of argument.

"It's serious," he simply answered, and Max nodded once, acknowledging he understood.

There were few things they would consider serious enough to have a private talk about, and they all pretty much involved Dave or the Special Unit. Now Michael was bringing up a third option.

Max turned to his right a second before Michael did. Now that he was focused on sensing her, Isabel's familiar energy was getting near. They had always sort of felt each other in close proximity, but after years of training, they could pinpoint exactly where the other was in a 100 feet radius. That is, if they were not worrying about something else. No wonder Max had thought it exceptionally odd that Michael had been startled.

"We're not gonna like it, are we?" Max asked, his posture a little less regal. This was Max talking, and Michael was happy about it.

Do we ever? Michael silently thought as he shook his head. They had rarely had any sort of meeting this way, usually preferring Isabel's dreamwalking sessions for exchanging information, but the problem with dreams was that details got lost by the time they awakened. He could not afford for details to get lost now.

Turning the corner, Isabel's red coat and blond hair were hard to miss. Her smile shone the second she saw them, and it was hard not return the smile. They had not seen her in the flesh in the last five months.

"Hey!" she said enthusiastically as she hugged Michael first, and Max second. "I've missed you," she added, looking them both in the eyes, her smile dwindling as the seriousness of their faces sunk in. "We're not gonna like it, are we?" she asked the same way Max had.

"I finally broke through the Level Six codes," Michael said without answering her. She would know soon enough how much she was not gonna like it.

"And?" Max said, surprised and afraid at the same time. They had known for a long time that in those codes lay the answers to all their questions about Dave. Or at least they had thought so.

"I only went through a few of the files, and the Network Keepers helping me were having a heart attack at managing to get in, but there was one… about high-energy microwave signals in deep space."

"Wait—like Brody's microwave signals?" Max asked, trying to understand.

"Exactly like Brody's microwave signals. I got the file, and went to decipher it on my own. They seem to be messages, back and forth, though most of them are still gibberish."

"What are you saying?" Isabel asked, worry now in her voice. If there was one thing she hated, was remembering anything that had to do with Antar and her traitorous past. "That Dave's been communicating with someone out there?"

Someone pretty much meaning Khivar, and that would make Dave the next in line for the traitor title.

"It seems exactly like that," he somberly answered.

"Is there any chance he might be just monitoring communications?" Max added, ever looking for ways to make things not so bad. Michael reluctantly nodded.

"It's not like they have a sender and a subject, or that I could see where the signals are coming from here on Earth, I still have work to do on that, but… The last message that came through a couple of weeks ago was very clear: Someone's coming for us."

2 : Liz

T minus 2 hours, 59 minutes.

The thing about the Czechoslovakians, Liz thought, was that they were nowhere to be found. All three of them were out there somewhere, cell phones off. It would usually not bother her, but since she had arrived early at JFK Airport, she thought it would have been nice to see her husband sooner rather than later.

Now, stuck in traffic inside a yellow taxi, she wondered where on Earth he was. It wasn't like her to worry, but she just felt something off coming from his side of their connection. He was worried, therefore she couldn't stop the domino effect. She had to worry too.

They had been planning this vacation forever. All seven of them were going to converge in New York City for the next seven days. Max, Michael and Isabel were already here. She was supposed to arrive the next day, and Maria and Kyle two days after. She wasn't sure about Jessie.

What she was sure of was how much work they had all put into coming to the city, and convincing Dave it was a good idea. Funny how eight years ago they could not go anywhere without the whole group, and now it took six months of planning and coordinating to get them to the same spot roughly at the same time.

And here she was, arriving one day early in order to surprise Max. If only he would pick the phone before he got a chance to sense her close by. She was so thrilled about their upcoming time together as a group she was sure it would take him no time to decipher she had already arrived. She was also trying not to feel let down at the unexpected feeling she'd gotten from Max. He's always worrying about something, she told herself with a small smile. He'd gotten good at covering his feelings when they had some hundred miles apart, but seldom when they were close, and never when they were together.

The taxi stopped at a red light, and Liz aimlessly turned to see the street. People walking, tourists gaping, and posters everywhere. If there was a city in the world where anyone would like to advertise, that was New York City.

Best view of the City. Come to the Empire State Building.

The car moved, but Liz's eyes remained fastened to the hanging poster as long as she could. Her heart was beating fast, and her hands started to sweat. She didn't know why, but something terribly important was going to happen there. Something concerning Max.

3 : Isabel

T minus 2 hours, 43 minutes

Sometimes she wished she could just forget about the whole thing. About being alien, about being a glorified prisoner. About being Vilandra.

"What do we do?" she asked, sitting on the bench where Michael had met Max and her earlier. The two of them were standing, sentinels guarding who was coming and how far they were.

"We find out more about this," Max sternly said, his face turning a bit hard. "Especially about how much Dave knows about this. He's been hiding us for so long, he might be hiding us from them too."

"Why do you always believe he's on our side?" Michael asked, exasperated, the same hardness coming to his face. It was the same argument all over again. It wasn't that Max trusted Dave, it was that Max trusted they were valuable enough for Dave to keep them safe. The problem was, they weren't sure exactly for how long they would be valuable, because they still didn't know what about them was that Dave wanted the most. Eight years had passed, and they were still guessing in the dark.

"Did it say when? How many? Where?" Max asked, refusing to rise to the bait. He was right, they needed more information, Michael would not argue about that. Everything else was fair game, though.

"Soon. That's the most I got. The Keepers are going really slowly about it, they don't want to risk Dave finding about this too soon."

"Of course not…" she whispered, worried, frowning at the possibility of how soon soon meant. Max was their glorious king, Michael their glorious general. She had been glorious too, but how much did their planet truly know about her role in their downfall? How many people had died because of her past selfish self?

A comforting hand was placed on her shoulder, and Isabel looked up to see Max's soft smile. He knew. He always knew when she was being dragged into her past memories and her current worries.

"We're not them," he had once said, when their memories had started to come with shocking definition, "at least, we're not them anymore. This is our life. These are the memories that matter. We are the people who matter."

"What do we do if soon turns out to be next week?" she suddenly asked. "Do we go to Dave? Do we run?"

"We have to see first what we're up against. It doesn't mean we don't plan," Max rushed in at Michael's pained look at being told to wait and see. "How long do you think it will take you to decipher all the messages? Without caring about Dave finding out?" Max asked, making both Isabel and Michael looked at him a bit shocked. Max was always so cautious when it came to Dave, that hearing him proposing an open defiance of their deal was so un-Max like that it scared them. They blinked.

Michael recovered first. "A couple of days, maybe less. "

"If he finds out, would he just shut everything down? The entire system?" Max pressed, trying to decide how feasible the plan was.

"Would he?" Isabel asked, "There are a lot of other things than just us in Level Six codes. Practically everyone who has a deal is there, right?"

"Keepers won't help us to cover our tracks if the risk of Dave finding out is that big," Michael added, "So I might just grab blindly before he shuts me out. He doesn't need to shut everything to everyone."

"Blindly won't help us if— " Max trailed off, slightly looking at his left as if he had heard something. He frowned. "Liz is in the city already…" the frown turned into a small smile.

"Wasn't she supposed to come tomorrow?" Isabel interrupted Max's happy thoughts, checking for Jessie on her own connection automatically. They had arrived in New York together, and while she had her "secret" meeting, he had gone to see one of Dave's businesses. They would meet at their hotel in two hours.

"Can we focus here?" Michael interrupted her happy thoughts. They both turned to look at him a little annoyed.

"Blindly won't help us if we won't have another shot at it," Max finished his original sentence. "At the very least, we'll need something to confront him with. We cannot break this deal without some sort of insurance against Dave. You know that."

"There might be something else… someone else," Michael slowly said, the wind sweeping the trail and making the three of them cover their hands on their pockets.

"Who?" Isabel impatiently asked. Michael was already trusting Network Keepers, Dave's own hackers, to get this much information. Who else could be out there who was skilled enough to help them get into Dave's files?

"He used to be a Network Keeper, about six years ago."

"Used to be?" Max asked, narrowing his eyes.

"Rumor has it he did break Dave's codes, made a deal of his own, and left with Dave's secrets on his hard drive."

"All of them?" Max asked, this time worried. Dave had always said the only people who knew who and what they were remained just Jake, Ray and himself. And they relied on that promise a good deal.

"I don't know," Michael agreed, "but I've been tracking him for the past two months. I think I might have found him, but…"

"…but asking him might mean we'll have to let our secret loose with this hacker as well," Max finished for their friend. Michael nodded with a grim look on his face.

"But if he knows how to get in, he might already know," Michael added, still not liking the idea. "At the very least we should check him out, make sure we won't get surprised again somewhere down the line. He might not touch us now, while we're under Dave, but once we break free…"

"You want me to check him out?" Isabel asked, eager to be useful.

"I'm not sure if I've got the right information, let alone the right picture. Once I get the right guy, I'll give you the impression."

Funny how getting 'impressions' had come from working with Jake. What used to be a random flash under stressful circumstances, was now an incredibly reliable way to pass information between them. They connected, and in doing so they shared thoughts, feelings, images. They couldn't hold it for too long, and there was only so much they could tell each other, but it didn't matter. All she needed was a brief impression from Michael's mind about the man he was thinking about, and she would be able to dreamwalk him.

They had once tried it all three together, and the overload of all their thoughts and feelings at once had given them a collective migraine. The thought made her wince.

"How long before you get the right man?" Max asked, looking thoughtful.

"I'm meeting a contact in a couple of hours. I'll know for sure then. Isabel can be dreamwalking him tonight if he's close enough."

That shouldn't be a problem, Isabel privately thought. Her best distance was New York to Paris, and she only ever did it with Jessie, but with the proper motivation, she was sure she could find this guy as long as he was inside that radius.

"Okay," she agreed. "What's our other option? I mean, if Dave is not a part of this 'coming for us' plan… Do we ask him for help?" Would he even want to help us?

"I'll talk to him if that's the case," Max said without pause. He had already formed a plan in his head about this. "He won't be happy we got into his files, but it's not like he would be surprised about the message. Remember, he already knows about this. He's just not telling us about it."

"Which should be the hundredth big, fat clue to you that he's not in our side," Michael didn't lose time on pointing that out. Max didn't react to their old argument. They knew where each other stood, and they both wanted to get out of Dave's shadow as soon as possible. It was just the approach that was abysmally different.

"Is there something else we should be doing besides waiting?" she changed the topic before Max would really rise to the fight. When Max got into what she privately called Royal Mode, then things tended to get heated. Add Michael on his own Royal Mode, and things tended to explode. Though truth to be told, it had been years since that had literally happened. "You know, to speed things up, or set things up…"

"Having fun?" Michael humorlessly said. "Maria's gonna kill me if we ruin her vacation."

"Maria's gonna kill us if we pass up an opportunity to turn the tables on Dave," Max countered, though not cheerfully. Liz would probably kill Max too. Sometimes Isabel thought she was the only one of the three aliens who had a sane marriage. That was, until Kyle finally decided to propose to his own darling and be done with that.

They fell silent as a couple passed them, a curious look cast their way.

"Soon," Max said to no one in particular, repeating Michael's findings out loud. "We've been preparing for years for something like this. We're as ready as we'll ever be." There was resignation in Max's voice, a subtle calm that belied the uncertainty they all felt about their future. One that soon would be redefined.

Isabel could defend herself pretty darn well, but that was when it came to physical combat, and evasive maneuvers. She had no idea how to deal with political charges in the worst case scenario. She wasn't even sure she could play princess to tell the truth. Everything Vilandra represented was toxic to her. She didn't want to be thinking about it now. Not now or ever.

"Maybe we should take this opportunity to tell them," Max proposed quietly, taking a seat besides Isabel. "We've been dealing with this for so long now, afraid of how they might take it, but…"

"We're running out of time," she finished for him. None of them were thrilled about sharing this news, but least of all her. How could she face Jessie with so much blood on her hands? I'm not her! she'd been repeating in her mind for years, and she still didn't quite believe it.

"If someone is coming for us, they should know we're not as in the dark as they think," Max added. "They already know we haven't changed because of our memories. They'll understand." He sounded so confident, but Isabel knew better. There was a good reason none of them had told their significant others about their memories: they might not understand. It was a lot to ask of them to deal with their past lives, with their past loves and responsibilities. Plus, not even they had been sure what it meant to know all these things. What side of them was more important? And would their past selves overcome their present selves?

Now they knew better. Now they had answers to give. Nodding, she agreed to Max's suggestion, and they both turned to look at Michael.

Michael looked up at the gray sky. "Maria's really going to kill me now…"

4 : Kyle

T minus 2 hours 37 minutes

"He's going to ruin it," Maria said out loud, staring at the seat on the front row, slightly shaking her head.

"What are you talking about?" Kyle absently asked, as he was waiting for the stewardess to get him his drink. Flying first class never got old.

"Michael. He's going to ruin our vacation. I just know it."

"I think he's too afraid to do that," he said, as the young, pretty attendant went to his aid. Pretty, yes, but she had nothing on his own girlfriend. Soon to be fiancée, if he could find the right time to propose on this trip. She was not part of their vacation –one that included only the "I-Know-An-Alien-Club" members, but she was going to arrive in the city right when everyone was leaving. He might even score a bachelor party, now that he was thinking about it.

"I know! I've been terrorizing him over ruining this for two months now. He promised he wouldn't mess it up."

"Well, there you go," Kyle said, taking his headphones in his hand, with all the intention of spending the last hour of their trip listening to nothing else but sports news. Maybe some music.

"He's up to something," she explained, now turning to look Kyle square in the eyes, practically daring him to put those headphones on and effectively shutting her out.

"Maria, he's always up to something. They all are. It's their nature. We're just along for the ride," he patiently argued. Plus, if he started to worry, then he would start listening to everyone's thoughts in the plane. Granted, he could barely do it, and most of what he got was gibberish anyway, but it also meant having one hell of a headache. Yet as long as he was relaxed, then everything was normal.

"You would tell me if he were about to ruin it, right?" she finally asked the question that was eating her alive inside.

Kyle got gibberish for almost everyone, but he got pretty clear thoughts from their alien trio. Random, and usually without any context and quite short, but the fact was, he did get them.

"No," he simply answered, as if they hadn't gone over this pretty much weekly since he had discovered what his latent power had turned out to be.

"Pleeeease," she stretched the word, making goo-goo eyes at him.

"No, Maria. The only reason they don't exile me to the North Pole is because I promised them I would never say anything they were thinking. And they still look at me funny when I'm around." Which wasn't entirely true, but it might just be the thing to make Maria drop it.

"Just a yes or no…"


"'No', he's not gonna ruin it, or 'no' you won't tell me?"

"Would you like me to tell him what you're thinking every time he asked and I actually had an answer?" he sternly asked, the headphones right in midair by this point.

"That's different. We band together. You know that," she said with a mischievous smile, although Kyle was sure she meant exactly what she had said. It would always be different when it was about humans than when it was about aliens.

"Look, do you think Michael actually goes around thinking up ways to ruin your vacation?"

"Our vacation, Kyle. He's not going to ruin this just for me. Michael always goes all the way."

"Right, right…" Kyle decided to ease out of the argument. He wasn't usually that big on defending Michael, but he was very big on defending his brain. If he started babbling the snatches he got from anyone to everyone, pretty soon no one was going to want to be around him. Except those who wanted to know. Like Maria.

"So?" she insisted.

"So I'm not telling you. You can ask Liz if she sees the end of the world once we have landed." This time, it wasn't a smile that met him. It was complete annoyance. Liz wouldn't tell her either, and Kyle knew it. Finally putting his headphones on, the conversation was over.

5 : Jake

T minus 2 hours, 31 minutes

"Have you tried to contact Dave?" Jake asked over the phone. He was supposed to be on a plane to Heathrow, London, right now, but he had just missed it. On purpose. Now, standing in a corner at JFK International Airport, he was trying to get through to his best friend in the world. Except Dave was not picking up. The next obvious choice had been Ray.

"I talked to him yesterday," was his quick answer, but his voice had gained a worried tone. This wasn't a surprise question, more like an expected one. Ray had noticed something before I called, Jake realized.

"He's not answering. And I'm being followed." Jake turned to look at the police officer that passed by, slightly smiling as he nodded at him in greeting. The man went on his patrol, Jake's eyes went to his fellow passengers. He had bought another ticket, this time to Madrid. In ten minutes, Network Keepers would buy him a dozen more locations. He just had to call Ray before setting that plan in motion.

"Can you get out?" Ray's voice came loud and clear.

That was the question. He had little on him to change his appearance, and although he was reasonably sure his tails were now stuck on his discarded plane, he could not be sure all of them were there. He would wait a reasonable time to see all the current passengers board. Then he would disappear into New York City. By 5 pm he would be at Grand Central, taking a train to either Boston, or some random suburban town down the line in the opposite direction. He wasn't sure yet. He didn't know if he wanted to spend hours stuck on a train or not.

"Jake?" Ray's voice gained an edge of urgency now.

"I'm not sure, Ray. I think I have a plan, but I'm cornered here at JFK for the next couple of hours. I'm more worried about Dave. If they found me, they must have found him too."

"Dave is sneakier than you are," came Ray's reassuring tone. "He might be in a tight spot, just like you."

He would make sure I was okay, a small voice said at the back of his head. It was selfish, and certainly, Dave could be in enough trouble right now to not be able to contact him, but… They had been together for so long now, and the stakes were so high if either of them got captured, that Jake needed to know for sure that Dave was okay. That his friend was okay.

"Could you track him, please?" he asked the only man in the world he would trust with such request.

"I'm already on it, Jake. I'm working on getting to you, too."

6 : Maria

T minus 2 hours, 23 minutes

Please turn off all your devices, as we are preparing for landing

The stewardess's voice came somewhat loud, and kind of clear through the speakers, followed by some words by the captain about the weather and estimated landing time. Welcome to New York, he ended his little speech.

She smiled. She'd been in New York City too many times to count, and at some point, she'd wondered if she should consider it her home. She'd even gone as far as telling Liz that she was thinking that this was the place to be after they left Dave's shadow. It's the perfect city to get lost in, she'd said, to what Liz had replied, Yeah… but it's the kind of place Dave would expect us to go.

For the past three years Maria had been trying to find the perfect spot on Earth to 'go under'. It had been around their fifth anniversary under Dave's deal that they had finally decided they did want out, and their options were narrowed to two: they went out with Dave's approval, or they went out without it.

The first option had been taken by Michael. It meant telling good-bye to Dave while ensuring he would stay away. The only way to make that possible was to find something about Dave to keep him on his side of things. The second option had been taken by herself. Finding a place where they could run, where Dave would not find them. It meant vanishing, and probably getting on the man's wrong side. And then, Kyle had ruined everything.

She elbowed him as he listened to his music.

"Ow! What was that for?" he said, rubbing his arm. She had not been gentle.

"For falling in love with Sybelle," she simply said, a smile on her lips. He smiled at her.

"Yeah, I sort of screwed things up by falling for the boss's daughter, uh?"

Technically speaking, she was Dave's sorta, kinda, somewhat goddaughter. Kyle had met her under some odd circumstances, but Maria did not regret it. The one and only time Dave had ever asked for a favor of the alien trio, it had been to help protecting Sybelle. It was the one favor they had on Dave, and damn if she didn't love it. The downside had been that now Kyle wad dating her. He was coming with them just because she had to take her finals in Cambridge and then she would come to New York to celebrate. Kyle had wanted to be with her, but on a last minute decision, she had convinced him to travel with Maria. He was a distraction, Sybelle had said, and she really needed to study.

So, if Kyle and Sybelle tied the knot together, it meant tying the knot with Dave as well. He was not Sybelle's father, but he was certainly involved in the woman's life. He was paying for her tuition, and he was going to pay for her vacation in New York as well. Her adoptive family had money, but not the kind of money that paid for one of the most prestigious colleges in Europe, plus all expenses on a vacation on another continent. She was a spoiled brat, and Maria liked her.

Under any other kind of circumstances, she would be thrilled for Kyle. As things stood now, she was happy, but the dark cloud was always following them with this conversation. For them, it meant either leaving Kyle behind never to see him again, or making peace with Dave and becoming one big, happy family. Neither of the two choices was great, but as long as they didn't have to make them just yet, she was not going to examine them too closely. Besides, Kyle was big enough to make his own decisions, anyway.

She'd seen him change. He had been the odd man out once Jessie had returned to Isabel's life. Maria was the odd man out when it came to powers, but at least she had then had Jessie to commiserate with about being plain human. Kyle had tried to date, but he was always afraid of his latent powers. Once they had stabilized, he had been afraid of someone discovering his secret. Yet one look at Sybelle – and Sybelle's motorcycle – had knocked him flat. All his fears had crashed like the sea on the sand.

Sybelle didn't know, and that was a problem. She was used to secrets, but it was different to have a godfather who seemed all-powerful and wonderful, than to marry a man who had no intention of sharing his own secret life.

"You should ask them," Maria said out of the blue as Kyle was repositioning his headphones.

"What?" he asked, taking them off again.

"The Pod Squad. You should ask them about telling Sybelle."

"Oh, they already know," Kyle nonchalantly said, intending once more to put on his headphones.

"Wh-what?" she stuttered, "And they said yes? Wait, when was this? Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't Michael tell me?"

"Calm down!" Kyle admonished when the passenger in front stood up to retrieve something from his carry-on. "I asked them in an e-mail two days ago. If it comes down to it, they agreed I can tell her the same alibi we used to have on the compound. It explains things away without complicating them."

"You are going to tell her they are psychics?" she whispered, confused. How was that better?

"Well, yeah. It keeps them human in her eyes, and if they need to ignite the barbecue with bare hands, she won't freak out. Much," he amended with half a smile.

"Yes, but when the alien-hunters come down the street…"

"If they come down the street, Maria. Plus, you think Dave would leave his precious flower without protection?" Kyle asked, bringing to front and center the issue of Sybelle's ties to their jailer. Maria really didn't want to go there, but now that he was bringing it up… "Listen," Kyle interrupted before she could start, probably having read where her thoughts were going, "I'm not even sure if she wants to settle down. Or even if I want to settle down. I've just been thinking about… things. Jessie has giving me good advice too. Now, if you'll excuse me, I really want to hear how this game ends."

Maria wanted to keep going, but what was the point? Kyle had not proposed yet, Sybelle had not said yes yet, and they were still unsure about how to leave Dave. So many things were up in the air.

Turning to look out the window, all she could see was ocean and clouds. Shutting her eyes tight, she really wished all these thoughts away. Starting with Michael ruining their vacation and ending with Sybelle ruining their lives. She was going to have a good time. It was the first time in ages they were all going to be together. Fun, fun, fun, she chanted, and when the city finally came into view, she had a genuine smile on her face.

Nothing was going to ruin her vacation.

7 : Max

T minus 2 hours, 5 minutes

"Can I borrow your phone?" Max asked Michael, stretching out his hand. It was one thing to know Liz was one whole day early in the city, and another entirely to hear her sweet voice on the phone. They had tried for years to turn their connection into actual telepathy, but it had never really worked out that way. A word might cross between their minds, but never anything more complex, like a concept or an elaborate image. Never an impression. Beyond feelings and a sense of each other's direction, they needed the aid of a phone to actually communicate. His, unfortunately, was not letting him call, text, or email her for the moment.

"Yours isn't working either?" Michael asked, reaching for his cell phone on his right pocket and turning it on.

"What?" Max asked, frowning. It was the first time that day that he sensed something wasn't right.

"It's been acting weird all day long. I lost internet connection, and then the entire network around 10 am. I can't even get calls out."

"Mine did the same thing as soon as I got off the train at Grand Central," Max elaborated, going through the settings on his phone to see if he could fix it with a touch of his finger. Unfortunately, healing an ailing human body was way easier than fixing his phone's connectivity.

"Maybe it's something on the network," Isabel added, taking hers out too. "Jessie's and mine stopped working as well once we came into the city's perimeter a couple of hours ago."

Max's eyes went searching for people far off. People talking over their phones. He didn't have time to get paranoid anyway, as a ring went off his phone right that moment, startling him into almost dropping it. He'd gotten a message.

"Well, it seems yours is back on," Michael absently said, reviewing his own device.

"What is it?" Isabel asked as Max was reading the text.

"I've got an urgent meeting with Dave at the top of the Empire State Building," Max summarized for her, his voice both surprised and annoyed. He had been officially on vacation the moment he had left Washington behind. What on Earth was Dave doing in New York City, anyway?

"When? Now?" his sister asked, taken aback as well. The three of them were off duty by this point, plus Max wanted to call Liz and make plans now that she was here. His phone refused to get the call out, however, and it was back to being as dead as five minutes before.

Isabel raised her eyebrows expectantly, waiting for his answer. Looking at his watch while holding the phone to his ear in a vain attempt to call again, he finally answered: "In exactly two hours."

T minus 1 hour, 59 minutes