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Love...too late? Michael: He's being held in a secret compound. But he's concerned less for himself than his friends. Max. Maria. Liz. Alex. And Isabel. He's got to get out before he's forced to betray the Roswell residents whom Sheriff Valenti is dying to capture. And once Sheriff Valenti has the information he wants, he won't be needing Michael anymore. Isabel: She used to think of Michael as a brother. But now that he's been captured, she seems to be the only one able to hear his every thought, feel his every emotion, share his dreams. Could this special bond between them mean they're meant to be together? Time is running out for Isabel to know for sure...
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Melinda Metz and Laura Burns have written dozens of books for teens under many different names including books for the Buffy the Vampire and Roswell series, Vampire Beach, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Camp Confidential, and the Wright and Wong series which was nominated for an Edgar Award. They have also both written for television.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"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.
They're each sharing a little scrap of information about my planet, Max thought. This was too cool.
Another presence touched him. He recognized the aura instantly. It belonged to Ray Iburg, Max's boss at the UFO museum, and the only adult who had survived the crash. "Ray!" Max cried, not sure if he was actually using his vocal cords to shout the name or just his brain. "Ray, you saved my life. You, and Michael, and Isabel! I never thought you guys would make it back with the communication crystals in time! I don't even know what to say, how to thank you. All I know is we're going to have to have a serious party -- maybe at the museum after we close tomorrow night."
An image filled Max's brain, an image of him and Ray in the museum, both dressed in the goofy sequined Elvis outfits Ray had had made, both laughing so hard, their faces were all scrunched up.
Ray was showing him one of the great times they'd had together. But the emotion Max was getting off Ray didn't match the picture. He wasn't getting anything close to laughter. There was relief, and sadness, and something that felt like a good-bye.
Another presence touched Max, breaking his connection with Ray. The image of the control panel of a spaceship replaced the image of Max and Ray. Knowledge about the mechanics of the panel filled his brain. Max tried to shove it away. He needed to connect with Ray again. What was going on with him? Why was there all that sadness pulsing off him?
"Ray!" Max called. "Where are you?"
Another new presence touched Max, and the sound of a low clacking surrounded him. With the sound came information -- the clacking was a warning that a poisonous insect was nearby.
Max didn't care about that right now. "Ray!" he shouted. But there was no answer. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.
Max opened his fingers, allowing the communication crystals to fall free of his hand. He could still feel the presences around him. Another one touched him, showing him the image of a being changing shape as it stepped out of a spaceship.
"Stop! Just stop!" Max yelled. He sat up in bed and immediately turned to his sister. "Isabel, tell me what happened to Ray," he demanded.
"Are you okay?" Liz cried. She pressed her palm against his forehead. "You look so much better. Are you -- "
Max didn't take his eyes off Isabel. "I'm fine," he interrupted. "I just need to know what happened to Ray."
The devastated expression on Isabel's face told him everything. But he still needed to hear it.
"He's dead. Sheriff Valenti shot him," Isabel answered. "Ray was trying to save me, and Valenti shot him." Tears welled up in her blue eyes, and she wiped them away with a vicious sweep of her hand.
Liz sat down on the bed and pulled Max close to her. He could tell from her breathing that she was trying not to cry. "I knew," Max whispered against her shoulder, the wool of her sweater making tiny scratches across his cheek. "I knew. That's why he was saying good-bye."
"What about Michael?" Maria asked, her voice quaking.
Max jerked up his head. Michael?
"The last time I saw him, he was fighting off a couple of guards," Isabel answered. Max could tell she was working hard to keep the emotion out of her voice. Michael Guerin was like a second brother to her. And to Max.
"And you left him there?" Maria cried, her voice climbing into a shriek.
"That's right. I left him there." Isabel's words came out hard and clipped. "I knew there was a chance he would survive on his own. But there was no way Max was going to live if I didn't get back here with the crystals."
Max felt the acid in his stomach start to bubble. Isabel had sacrificed Michael for him. If she'd stayed and helped him take out the guards, would Michael --
"He could still be alive," Liz said, pulling him away from this thoughts. "We've got to get out there right now. We've got to -- "
"No," Alex interrupted. "They'll be expecting us. We'd never make it in."
"You're saying we should just leave him there?" Max demanded. There was no way that was happening.
"No, we won't leave him there," Alex shot back, obviously peeved. "But we have to make a plan, let a little time go by so we can catch them when they're not standing at the front door with an arsenal."
"I don't care what the rest of you do. I'm going to the compound. Now." Maria turned toward the door.
"Wait. I'm going with you," Max answered.
Alex moved to block the door. "Actually, neither of you is going anywhere." He turned to Isabel. "You said Michael was fighting off a couple of guards. That means they weren't using their machine guns on him, right?"
Machine guns, Max thought. Is that what Valenti used on Ray? A machine gun? Max tried not to imagine Ray's body jerking while the bullets hit.
"They were using..." Isabel swallowed. "I think they were cattle prods. Something that gave an electrical charge."
"Okay, so they must not want him dead," Alex continued. "Best-case scenario, he got away and is heading back here. Worst-case scenario, he's being held prisoner. But alive. We need to give him a little time to show up. If he doesn't, we'll make plans, and we'll get him out."
"Alex is right," Isabel said. "We go in now, it's over for all of us. If we wait until they're not expecting us, we at least have a shot."
"All right. I hate the thought of leaving Michael in there. But I think we have to do it," Liz agreed.
Alex glanced from Maria to Max. "You two, promise that you won't do anything stupid. No one goes to the compound before we come up with a strategy to get us all back out alive."
"Yeah, yeah. Okay. But we better come up with this brilliant strategy real soon," Max said.
Maria hesitated. "I'm with Max," she finally said. Then she shoved past Alex and bolted.
"Do you all mind just leaving me alone for a while? I'm really wiped out," Max said. It wasn't true. Connecting to the collective consciousness had left him feeling strong and invigorated. But he needed time to think, to process.
Ray was dead. Michael was captured. And it was all Max's fault. They wouldn't have been in the compound if he hadn't gotten sick.
He couldn't do anything about Ray. But he could do something about Michael. Yeah, he might wait a few days. But he would free Michael.
No matter what it took.
Copyright © 2000 by Pocket Books
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2000. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P11067177459X
Book Description Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2000. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # MB00RWSYKWC
Book Description Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2000. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX067177459X