Melinda Metz

The Intruder

(Roswell High 005)

[front blurb] [version history]

*** 1 ***

'Please, Max,' a voice begged. 'You can't die on me now… not after you finally agreed to be more than 'just friends.''

The voice sounded so far away. Like it was coming from the end of a long tunnel. Max Evans turned in a slow circle. He didn't see anyone. He didn't see anything, anything but the light. The pure white light.

'The communication crystals are in your hand,' the voice told him. 'You have to connect to the collective consciousness, Max. Do it now! You don't have much time!'

The collective consciousness. That sounded familiar. Sort of. The voice sounded familiar, too. But he couldn't remember from where.

Max sat down, then stretched out on his back. The light was so awesome. It actually had patterns in it, like white snowflakes against white sheets or something. He just wanted to lie there and watch the bright snowflakes coming down.

New voices joined the first one. He felt as if he'd heard them before, too, a long time ago. All the voices joined together, pleading with him to make the connection. Join the consciousness. Live.

Max tried to tune them out. The snowflakes were something that should be looked at in silence. He didn't know how he knew that, but he did.

'Max, no! Don't die! You can't die. If you really love me, you'll stay with me,' the first voice cried.

Liz. Liz Ortecho. The name appeared in big amber letters in his brain. How could he have forgotten the sound of Liz's voice, the voice of the girl he loved?

Now he recognized the other voices, too. His sister, Isabel's. And the voices of his friends Alex Manes and Maria DeLuca. He peered into the white light. Where were they?

Where was he?

'Can't see…,' he mumbled. He swallowed hard, trying to unglue his tongue from the roof of his mouth. 'Where… where are you?'

'We're right here, Max. We're all here with you,' Liz exclaimed. 'Stay with us. Stay with me.'

And without thinking about it, without deciding to do it, Max was up on his feet. Flying through the brilliant white light, the snowflakes whizzing past him faster and faster until they were nothing but blurs.

Then the light began to fade, and he could see he was speeding down a tunnel. His bed stood at the end, so far away it looked as tiny as a box of matches. Liz, Isabel, Alex, and Maria, small as dolls, gathered close around it, staring down at Max's body.

My body, Max thought. How can that be my body?

He was rushing straight toward the body on the bed until he was so close, he could see the droplets of sweat on the body's forehead, see the tiny splotches of blood on the body's lips. Then he slammed into the body-his body-and melded with it. He could feel the sheets crumpled beneath him. The pillow soft under his head. The air rasping in his lungs as he breathed. Liz's hand holding his.

'Focus on the crystals, Max. Connect to the collective consciousness,' Liz urged.

The collective consciousness. This time the words brought back a rush of memory. He was going through his akino, his life change ceremony. If he didn't connect with the collective consciousness of his home planet, he would die.

And he'd thought that was what was going to happen because he couldn't make the connection without the communication crystals stored on his parents' spaceship. The ship kept in a secret compound, surrounded by guards with machine guns.

He turned his head slightly, locking eyes with Isabel. 'You found the ship?' he asked his sister, his voice cracking. But he already knew the answer. He held the communication crystals in his hand. That was the proof. 'Where's Michael?' he croaked out. 'Ray?' They'd gone into the compound with Isabel, so they should be here, too.

'Not now,' Isabel answered, her voice tight. 'Make the connection, Max. Hurry!'

Liz pressed Max's fingers more tightly around the crystals. He closed his eyes, and he reached out with his mind. Instantly he felt, not a touch exactly, but the sensation of someone standing very close to him, close enough that the edges of their auras blended. It wasn't Liz, Isabel, Alex, or Maria. He knew the feel of their auras almost as well as he knew his own, and the aura touching his was unfamiliar… but somehow comforting.

Another presence moved close, its aura touching Max's, too, mixing with his, mixing with the aura of the first presence, until a single shared aura formed around the three of them. He felt none of the brain-shredding pain he'd experienced when he tried to connect to the collective consciousness without the crystals. This time connecting was like stepping into a tropical ocean, with the warm salty water surrounding him, making his body light and buoyant, rocking him with gentle waves.

The ocean was made of auras. Not just the two blended with his, but thousands of them. Hundreds of thousands of them. Maybe more. Maybe millions. Max stretched out and out with his mind and could find no end.

He heard a single word from the two presences closest to him. The word wasn't spoken in English. It wasn't actually spoken at all. It was as if the essence of the word washed over his brain, needing no translation. Son.

Son. The word swept through Max again and again, filling him with emotions not his own. Joy and grief. Pride and longing. Love.

My parents. No. It can't be.

Yes, they answered without words. Yes, son.

But his parents… his parents were dead. They died when their spaceship crashed in the desert-the so-called Roswell Incident. They had been dead more than forty years when Max and Isabel broke free of their incubation pods.

So that meant he wasn't only connecting with all those who lived on his home planet. He was connecting to the spirits of the dead as well. Max felt his eyes start to burn. This just blew him away. His parents. He was actually communicating with his parents. He never thought… never even hoped…

An image flashed through his mind. Two shining beings staring down at the incubation pod Max shared with his sister. He felt a rush of the beings' giddy, practically giggly excitement, their eagerness to see their children born.

But they never had.

Max felt a stab of grief from his parents, a grief he was also experiencing himself. Then music began to play, humming, almost vibrating music, more like the sound a finger makes rubbing around the rim of a crystal glass than any musical instrument Max knew. It was a lullaby. The lullaby his mother's mother had sung for her, the one his mother had planned to sing to her children. This knowledge was somehow passed along to Max as he listened.

A new presence touched Max's aura, and the image of two moons, half covered by acid green clouds, filled his mind. Seconds later another new presence touched him, and a sweet, tangy liquid poured down his throat. It tasted exactly right, the way no earth food ever did. Max was always having to mix mouthwash into his orange soda or pickle juice into his milk to get them to taste good to him. But this-more of the liquid filled his mouth-this was perfect just the way it was.

Again a new presence touched Max, and a lemony, peppery smell enveloped him. With the smell came the knowledge that the scent belonged to a kind of berry that could be used to treat digestive problems.

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