Welcome back!

Book 3, The Rebel, has now been posted :D

Here's the preview, although you can already find the first chapter published on it's own thread.

Thank you to all for coming back to read, and for your wonderful reviews! They truly inspire us authors to keep telling our stories :)

- The Rebel -

Part 1 : Friend or Foe
November 2
nd, 2011 - New York

1 : Max

The time was 4:00pm.

As the elevator doors closed, Max had a feeling of déjà vu. He'd been in this exact same elevator ten years ago, one cold November afternoon, with Tess. He'd been so nervous and so afraid about the upcoming Summit, while she had taken it all in stride. He'd been lightheaded then, and he was starting to get lightheaded now, the memory strong enough to transcend time and space. Things had changed, though. So much.

Now he also carried the memories of one Antarian king, though he felt far from royal. If the Summit were happening today, it wouldn't be such a nerve-wracking experience and no one would be able to accuse him of not knowing who he was: Max Evans, proud husband, son, and earthling. Gone was the uncertainty of those days, when he'd been afraid of his alien self and what it represented; when he'd been terrified he would wake up one day and Max Evans would be gone.

The one thing that had truly, fundamentally changed was that he was no longer afraid to lead. Zan had been a natural-born leader, literally. Not only had he been raised to lead an entire planet, he'd been bio-engineered to be good at it. Max still didn't like it, and would gladly give up leading any given day, he just didn't shy away from it, didn't feel guilty about giving orders any more. Not that he got to issue orders on a daily basis, of course, he was hardly a king in this time and place.

Michael still thought he was too passive. Max still thought Michael was too impulsive. And that's why we're gonna make it, Max told himself, the elevator movement making him slightly dizzy. They both valued their differences as assets now, and things didn't get as heated as when they were kids. There were more compromises, more angles considered, and there was so much more at risk.

Someone coughed, a couple of girls giggled, and other, more important matters intruded in the here and now. This meeting with Dave was not really sitting well with him. Dave was never impulsive about things, and he was extremely careful about not interrupting Max's and Liz's time together. That he would text him for a meeting in the middle of the day, right at the beginning of his vacation, could only mean trouble.

And Dave knows about those messages Michael intercepted from space. He knows someone's coming for us soon. Is that what this is about?

There were few other options. There was the ever present threat of the Special Unit, that Max knew was still out there. Ray kept them updated whenever they were in the US, and although news of the Unit was always an unwelcome reminder that they needed Dave to come and go, Max was confident that any threat from them was something Dave could handle in a heartbeat. So the Unit was hopefully out of the picture.

There was the possibility that something had happened to his parents. Family matters were always a sensitive topic, and something Dave would get to know before they did. Through the years they had managed to see their parents twice in person, and often through the computer. But, if this meeting were about his parents, Isabel would have been invited as well.

Someone's coming for us. Michael's words echoed in his mind. That certainly qualified as a major problem, and he could see why Dave would want to reason with him first before bringing Michael and Isabel into the picture. But why here?

The Empire State Building was anything but private. What would Dave want in a place like this, out in the open? Was he trying to manipulate Max into not reacting? But if Dave were afraid of him, he wouldn't have chosen to speak in person. He would have been safely tucked away at the other side of the world while talking through the network.

What is it? he wondered for the hundredth time as the elevator reached its destination, up, up, up above ground. At the back of his mind, he had a nagging feeling that someone was watching him. People spoke in languages he did not recognize, and readied their cameras for the big tour. Their excitement would have been contagious had he not been so worried about what he was going to talk about with their "jailor", as Maria was so fond of calling Dave.

Max was the last one to get out of the claustrophobic box, his mind feeling crowded with so many thoughts. Although he had only been here once, everything looked exactly as he remembered it. Couples were mingling, kids were shouting, everyone's eyes were on the horizon. It certainly was a breathtaking view of the city, if one cared enough to enjoy it.

Max's honey eyes looked around, searching for Dave.

Somewhere, out there, Liz was scared out of her mind. He felt her sudden panic like a jolt of electricity, the impact on his senses almost making him lose his balance. His fists closed, his heart skipped a beat. Trapped at the top of the building, there was nothing he could do but swallow hard, and concentrate on her. For the first time since he could remember, it felt as if there were a wall between them. A wall made of fog that let only the vaguest of feelings through.

Liz…? he whispered in his mind, unsure of what this meant. Instinctively, his body turned towards her direction, and while his mind tried to figure out what was happening to her, he was already planning to take the next elevator down, to hell with Dave's urgent meeting.

His plan was shot down a second after that. A green flash blinded him for a moment, and thinking it an annoying camera flash, he ignored it. But the next thing he registered was the lack of chattering sounds. And along with this realization came the fact that he was alone.

Everyone had disappeared.

For one instant he was sure he was strangely caught between his life as Max and a flash from Zan. Except it didn't quite feel like that. It actually felt like… Nicolas. The thought froze him in place. This felt exactly like the time Nicolas had come to Roswell and everyone had disappeared. Everyone but those who were aliens, with a few exceptions.

His heart beating in his ears, Max flattened himself to the wall. He was about twenty feet from the elevator, and some thirty from the emergency stairs. He had to get out of this place, and neither exit was going to be fast or risk free. If flight was not an option, there was always fight… At the very least, he would make Ray proud.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a tall man standing, looking at the city as if he were a tourist himself. His dark coat hid much of his body, perfectly concealing any weapons. He turned then, looking directly at Max, his face impassive. Long, dark hair snaked around him as the wind blew, loosely tied at the base of his neck. He didn't look older than Max, and he definitely didn't look surprised by the absence of people.

There was a sense of danger about him, of someone who was not used to being out in the open. He definitely didn't look like Nicolas, but who was to say a Skin couldn't change looks? Meeting up with that traitor was not a pleasant thought. On Antar, Rath had loathed him, and Zan had not been far off, a sentiment Max shared with them both in this life.

Energy tingled in his fingertips as Max assessed the situation. The man in front of him walked slowly towards him, giving Max plenty of time to make a decision. Fight or flight, Max? Ray's words echoed from hours of training and playing possible scenarios. Max swallowed, hard.

Whoever this person was, he was certainly skilled with Antarian technology. There was a very unsettling possibility that this man had a device like Brody's that would disable his powers, and his powers were all he had for his defense.

The elevator or the stairs?

The man stopped some twelve feet away. The wind blew again, chilly, the sound of the city non-existent at this height. They both stared at each other for seconds that felt like eternity. Something odd was going on, but Max was barely aware of it. He couldn't properly concentrate, couldn't make the decision of how to get out of there, couldn't stop questions from forming and going unanswered. If this man was not the enemy, then why go through all the trouble of this? What was happening to Liz? Where was Dave?

"Greetings, Your Highness," the stranger finally spoke, slightly inclining his head.

A diplomat? A messenger? A soldier? A rebel?

Friend or foe?

"Greetings…," Max answered, still cautious, still needing to understand so many things and clear his head for once. "Although it is clear to me you know who I am, I am not familiar with you or your reasons for this setting." It was easy to summon up Zan's words and tone. Much easier than Max would have thought. Or liked.

The man's eyes flashed with emotion, excitement, maybe? And then it was gone. They weren't cold, no. Rather like Ray's, vigilant, and a little like Maria's, passionate.

"I am Van," he replied, standing still and very focused on him. "I am the commander of the Rebellion."

This is too soon, Max fleetingly thought, before his mind was stunned by the man's next words.

"And I am your brother."