Fanfic - Crossover Stories
"The Art of Diplomacy"
Part 1
by Aesop
Disclaimer: I donít own the characters from Roswell or BTVS, and I donít profit by this.
Summary: Kívarís death has left a void. A void that every faction in the home system is clamoring to fill. To avoid an all out war, a summit has been arranged. Can any of the delegates be trusted?
Category: Crossover Stories
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: This directly follows ĎWhat a Tangled WebÖí Feedback is welcome, as always.
Spike moved through the tunnels, frowning fiercely. Again he wondered what had possessed him to agree to the plan. It made facing Coleís army seem almost safe by comparison. "Nobody to blame but yerself," he muttered. "You were the one who was complaininí about being bored." He shook his head resignedly. He should have remembered that there were worse things than being bored.

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THREE DAYS EARLIER

Spike waited impatiently for his student to arrive. She would have contacted him if she werenít going to show. Nancy Parkerís interference in their plan to rid themselves of the unwanted Watcher had been completely unforeseen, and Spike had no doubt that mother and daughter had talked well into the night.

He understood that, remembering all too well Joyce Summersí reaction to learning her daughter was a Slayer, but her motherís acceptance or lack thereof didnít change the fact that there was a crisis to deal with. Actually, he realized, there were several. Now whatís the plural of crisis? He grimaced at his own wandering thoughts. "Get a grip Spike."

He stopped his agitated pacing when his sharp hearing detected the sound of the back door to the factory being opened. Moving quickly to the top of the stairs he looked down and saw Liz entering the building. She glanced up and smiled at him. He started down to greet her. "Good. Youíre here. Weíve got a big problemÖ" He was halfway to the ground floor when he noticed how nervous she looked. "Whatís wrong Liz?"

The Slayer didnít answer. She simply glanced back toward the door, and Spike looked up to see Lizís parents just entering the factory. "Oh bugger."

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THE PRESENT

Max straightened up and stepped aside so that Tess could look out through the viewer. "Quite a sight huh?" Tess made a noncommittal noise. New Yorkís skyline as viewed from the Empire State building was indeed impressive, but she found she really couldnít enjoy doing Ďthe tourist thing.í

Apparently, Max was having the same problem. "What are we doing here?" He asked rhetorically. Tess glanced up at him, mentally bracing herself for the coming bout of doubt and self-pity. It had been understandable and expected the first time. Now it was becoming tiresome. Max was supposed to be a king.

"Max-"

He had already turned away and begun to pace in frustration. "I donít know how to solve their problems. I donít know where to begin. What do I know about politics or diplomacy?"

"Youíll do fine," she assured him. "Remember, they need you."

"Some of them need me dead," he reminded her.

Tess sighed in exasperation. "Well that attitude isnít going to help. Weíll figure it out Max. I have faith in you." That got a smile from him. It was rare that he smiled at her for any reason. The expression brought back memories that Nasedo had so painstakingly taught her to access. Memories of better times on the home world, before the coup, before Kívar. It pained her to have to wipe that smile away so quickly, but there was something she had to say. "I donít have so much faith in Lonnie and Rath though."

"You donít trust them." His tone told her it wasnít a question.

She shook her head uncertainly. "I donít think theyíre being straight with us. Theyíre hiding something."

Max nodded. "I noticed Ava took off as soon as we got back. She hasnít even been around theirÖ home." Tess heard the hesitation and barely hid her grimace. The dupes lived in a sewer, literally. Max had been shocked at first. The pods the dupes had emerged from hung on one wall of the large, junk filled chamber they lived in. Their belongings had obviously been salvaged from the garbage. A few of the nicer items, they quickly realized, had been stolen.

That was another thing that disturbed Max about their hosts. They seemed to have no qualms about stealing or lying to accomplish their goals. He had personally witnessed four acts of petty theft since they had left Roswell in the dupesí company.

Max realized that they hadnít had the same advantages that he and Isabel had had growing up, and perhaps some questionable actions were necessary in order to survive, but it still made him uncomfortable. He sighed, dismissing his depressing thoughts about their lifestyle for the moment. "I agree. I think theyíre hiding something. The question is what?"

"Thatís the question," Tess agreed, not knowing what else to say. The dupesí motives confused her as much as they confused Max. After seeing where and how the clones lived, she seriously doubted that they were going to the meeting for altruistic reasons. Their claims to care about the war going on back home somehow rang false.

Max noticed Tessí stall but said nothing. He could guess at what she was thinking and had had similar thoughts. Their motives confused him, and he didnít know how to proceed.

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THREE DAYS AGO

"Spike isnít it?" Jeff Parker came forward hesitantly.

Spike nodded. "Thatís right." He glanced at Liz who was looking increasingly uncomfortable standing between teacher and parents. I should have expected something like this; he mentally kicked himself. As clever as Liz was, her natural inclination was toward honesty. She didnít have it in her to try to deliberately deceive her parents if the worldís fate wasnít depending on it. After sparing her parents a measuring look, trying to gage their mood, he turned to her. "I think I get it Liz, but itís not really the best time."

"What do you mean?" she asked looking nervously between her parents and her teacher, suspecting that she already knew what he meant. I really donít need a new crisis right now. The one standing beside her was more than enough and she had no idea of what to say to her parents.

"Weíve got a problem. Maybe a big one."

"I know," she nodded, hoping she did. She had noticed Spikeís agitation immediately, and hoped that it was related to their current problem with the Watcher.

Spike shook his head. "No, I mean a new and different one."

Liz closed her eyes. I knew it. "I feel a new and different headache coming on." She sighed. "Okay, whatís up?"

Spike gestured toward a small room off to one side of the main factory floor. "Best talk about this alone." He glanced at Lizís parents.

Nancy Parker stepped forward, determined not to let her daughter out of the promise she had made only hours before. "Liz, I thought we agreed no more secrets."

Liz glanced at her mother and then at Spike and nodded. "I agreed."

Spike glanced back and forth between them. "Yeah, well, its just thatÖ" he broke off for a moment, uncertain how to ask if she had told them about Roswellís alien residents. "Do they know about-"

Liz raised a hand to stop him as the possibility of an alien related crisis occurred to her. "These arenít my secrets to tell you mean?" Spike nodded, relieved, and Liz glanced apologetically at her mother. "Iíll be as quick as I can." She followed her teacher into the room that had once been the factory managerís office and closed the door.

Jeff Parker watched the door shut and turned to his wife, completely baffled. "Are you ready to tell me whatís going on?" He was growing tired of their evasions. When he had walked into the kitchen the night before to find Liz looking contrite and Nancy looking frightened he had been worried. That worry had quickly escalated to alarm when they had tried to put him off without offering any reassurances.

He had wanted to know everything immediately. Clearly they were both upset, but neither wanted to tell him what the problem was. Finally Liz had proposed that they wait until morning. "Better to show than tell," she had said. Nancy had agreed and told him that he would learn everything once they got to the factory in the morning.

"Well. Itís morning, and weíre here in an abandoned building, and Iím no closer to knowing whatís going on now than I was last night."

Nancy looked at him apologetically. He could tell the situation made her uncomfortable, not that that was much of a consolation. It only made him worry the more. "You wouldnít believe me without proof. Itís too crazy."

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"I donít believe this," Liz ran her fingers through her hair nervously. "Clones?" Spike nodded. "A peace conference?" Again her teacher nodded, not sure what to say. Several clever comments popped into his head, but he ruthlessly quashed them. Now wasnít the time, not when she had so much on her mind. He wondered when he had become so considerate.

Liz sighed and closed her eyes briefly. When he had insisted on speaking to her in private she knew that it must have something to do with Max. Perhaps more Skins had surfaced or an odd bit of alien technology, but she had never expected anything like this.

"Max can give you more details. He didnít have time to go into it last night. Why donít you hook up with the others and get the whole story?" Liz nodded dumbly, not sure what to make of this new development. Turning toward the door of the office she stopped in her tracks when she saw her parents waiting impatiently outside.

She offered her teacher a tired smile. "Whatís that old saying? When it rains it pours."

"Cats and dogs pet," he agreed, almost sounding whimsical, "or demons and aliens." The office was soundproof, but itís large window, which had once given the factory manager a clear view of his employees, now offered an unobstructed view of her impatient and very worried parents. "Better deal with this first." Liz nodded and, taking a calming breath, went out to face them.

***********************************************************************

"I donít see as we have much choice," Max argued. "We have to take the risk." Michael looked uncomfortable, but he nodded.

"Iíd still feel better if you had back up. We can all go." Max shook his head and glanced at Liz. After a moment she noticed and nodded in a distracted manner. Max understood the reason for her mood and spoke for her. "Liz and Spike are going to need you and Is here to help track down the Granalith and Coleís treasure. Tess and I can handle the summit." I hope. For the sake of the group he did his best to hide his nervousness. "Weíre racing the clock here. The time for the summit is set, and we canít afford to take the chance that someone else will discover the Granalith before us. If itís as powerful as Cole believes it to be then we have to be the ones to find it."

No one disagreed. They all considered in silence for a moment before Tess finally spoke. "So you and I go to New York with Rath, Ava, and Lonnie, and everyone else will stay here to look for the Granalith." She frowned suddenly. "What if Cole didnít find it? Is his treasure still a priority?"

"It is," Liz spoke up, startling them. "We canít let a collection of magical items fall into the hands of demons bent on mayhem, and yes, I know how corny that sounds." She shot Tess a look. The other girl had the grace to look contrite, even though the acerbic comment hadnít actually passed her lips. "Iíll contact Kate as soon as I return home. Hopefully, sheíll be able to help us." She rose from the couch in the Evansí home and made her farewells. The door opened as she approached, and Diane Evans came in.

Diane met the Slayerís eyes momentarily before turning to look at the rest of the room. She eyed the gathering with a mixture of fear and resignation, knowing that Lizís presence could only mean that there was demon related trouble afoot. "LizÖ" She trailed off, suspecting that a plea not to involve her children would fall on deaf ears. This suspicion seemed confirmed when Liz moved past her, barely acknowledging her.

She turned to Max and Isabel as Liz left. "Do I want to know?" Before either could speak she answered her own question. "No. I donít. JustÖ just be careful."

Max and Isabel traded worried glances. Michael and Tess rose and hurriedly left, suspecting that the conversation about to commence should only involve the Evans family was involved. "Um, mom? Actually there is something you need to know." Diane turned toward her daughter, waiting expectantly. "You see Lizís mom followed her when she left on patrol last night andÖ"

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Philip Evans tried to avoid working weekends. Unfortunately, being a lawyer was not a 9-to-5 job. As he sat in his office reviewing briefs for Monday morningís hearing his mind wandered, listing all of the things heíd rather be doing than finding a way to help his current client duck out of the contract the man had signed in good faith. He had gotten up to 35 activities when there was a knock at the office door. Ah, a legitimate diversion. "Come in."

The outer door opened and a moment later the door to his inner office opened and he got a clear view of his visitor. "Phil."

"Jeff. What brings you by?" He stood and smiled, glad that the distraction wasnít a new problem. His cheerful greeting was met with a stony stare and a long uncomfortable silence. The smile dropped from his face. "Whatís wrong?" Jeff didnít answer; he began to pace instead. "Je-?"

"How long have we been friends?"

The question surprised him, but he answered readily enough. "Weíve known each other since high school. We used to compete over the same girl, Becky Halsten."

Jeff nodded. "Yeah, we were almost at each otherís throats until we found out she was also going out with Carl Mathews." He smiled ruefully. "That was embarrassing." Phil nodded, remembering all too well how they had found out. Jeffís smile vanished suddenly, and his tone became accusatory. "Looks like thereís another secret now, involving another girl I care about. Were you ever going to tell us?"

Philip Evans blinked, thoroughly baffled now. "I donít understand."

"Liz! You knew what happened to her and you didnít tell us!"

Understanding came quickly, followed by guilt. He gestured to a chair, which Jeff dropped into, his nervous energy spent for the moment. Philip Evans lowered himself into his own chair and looked at his old friend gravely. "Iím sorry Jeff, it wasnít my secret to tell. Liz insisted and WesleyÖ impressed on us the need for secrecy."

"Wesley. Heís that Watcher guy that Liz told us about?" Phil nodded. "I donít even know where to begin. I can barely bring myself to say it out loud, it sounds so ridiculous." He seemed to gather his courage before finally getting the words out. "A vampire Slayer. My daughter is a vampire Slayer."

When Philip Evans didnít look surprised or confused by the statement, as Jeff had been half-afraid the other man would, he relaxed. Phil nodded encouragingly.

"Tell me everything," Jeff insisted. "Tell me what you saw that night."

***********************************************************************

"Are they gonna do it or not?" Lonnie looked up tiredly from her place on the couch. Rath had been pacing by the phone for what seemed like hours.

"How should I know?" She asked irritably. "Now sit down Ďfore I knock you down."

Rath complied with bad grace. "Itís taking too long. We still need time to get to the summit yíknow?"

She did. "I know, but worryiní ainít gonna help." Time was running out. That was indisputable, but she didnít want to press her luck with the Roswell aliens. The four teens were already suspicious. Lonnie put it down to bad luck as much as to Rathís blunder. In similar circumstances she wasnít sure she would have done much better. Not that she would ever admit it to anyone.

The knock at the door caught them by surprise. It was late and there was no reason for someone to be calling on them even if someone knew they were there. Rath rose and went to the door, ready to use his powers should their visitor prove hostile. He opened the door and stared. "What are you doing here?"

Tess smiled smugly, enjoying the look of consternation on his face. It felt good to surprise and confuse them for a change. "You wanted our answer as soon as possible didnít you?"

"How did-?" He stopped and nodded. "Well? You gonna go or not?"

"Weíre going with you to the meeting. Max and I will be here tomorrow about nine oíclock. The others, Isabel and Michael, will stay here to cover for us and to get ready to leave."

"Ava can-" Rath started, but Tess was already shaking her head.

"Iím not letting Max go alone." She allowed a fond, somewhat indulgent smile to cross her face. "Who knows what kind of trouble heíd get into without me?" She said it as if she was having fun strictly at Maxís expense. "See you tomorrow." With that she turned and left.

Closing the door, Rath turned to Lonnie. The leather-clad blonde smiled at him. "We got Ďem Rath. We got Ďem."

***********************************************************************

"Camping? Max its Thanksgiving in a couple of days." Max found it difficult to meet his fatherís gaze. "This has something to do with Liz doesnít it?"

"No," he said honestly. "It has to do with getting away for a while." He paused and carefully thought out what to say next. Max wanted to tell as much truth as he could. "This business with that Watcher and Lizís parents has put everyone on edge. You know how stressed weíve all been over this Slayer business. I just want to put some distance between me and the whole mess for a while." Thatís right, Max thought morosely. A nice change of crisis will do you good. Instead of worrying about what the demons were up to he could worry about what the aliens were up to.

His father frowned thoughtfully. "Going by yourself?"

"Neither Liz nor Spike nor anyone even vaguely supernatural will be anywhere near me for the next three days," he promised. That was true. He wasnít going to New York to hunt demons. "I just need a little peace and quiet." That was also true. Wonít be getting any though. Iíll probably need a vacation when I get back from this vacation.

"I thought you and Liz were pretty close?"

"We are. I mean I want us to-" Max really didnít want to talk about it. "Itís complicated."

His father sighed. "That I believe." He hesitated for a moment, but finally nodded. "Okay Max. I guess if you want to spend the holiday this way instead of-"

Max raised a hand. "Donít. Dad just donít, please? Itís just something I need to do." Much to his surprise his father let it go at that. He doubted that Diane Evans would have been so accommodating, and a guilt trip about skipping out on Thanksgiving was the last thing he needed at the moment. He rose and left his fatherís home office and made preparations for the trip to the summit.

***********************************************************************

Liz stared at her best friend with growing alarm. "He did what?"

"He impersonated Michael," Maria repeated. "He even tried to make out with me a couple of times. Michael thinks that he was trying to get information out of me about our four Czechs," she said, resorting to an old code word for alien that she used in public. "You remember how you got the flashes?"

Liz nodded distractedly and rose from the bench and began to pace. "That could mean any number of things," she reasoned. "After some of the things that have happened to us you canít blame them for being cautious." It sounded weak, even to her ears. "It doesnít necessarily mean theyíre our enemies."

"I donít trust them," Maria cut into her thoughts, sounding very sure of herself. "I think we should do something."

"Like what?" Liz asked, unsure herself what to make of the three new aliens. "You donít even know what you suspect them of." She was almost inclined to dismiss her friendís concerns as simple outrage over Rathís actions. Liz liked to think she was seeing things more clearly. Paranoia, she knew all too well, could make people do stupid things. There had certainly been enough times when the Roswell teens had let their fears and suspicions lead them into errors in judgment.

Liz remembered how Isabel had wanted to kill Brody when he first arrived; convinced that he was one of their enemies. They had almost made a horrible mistake, one that Isabel had felt guilty about for weeks afterwards.

Something told Liz that there was more than simple paranoia motivating the dupes. Her instincts told her that something was wrong, and over the months in which she had been the Slayer, she had learned to trust her instincts.

Maria hadnít yet answered the question. Liz had her own ideas though. "Iím going to send Spike after them. Heíll follow them and keep a discrete eye on Max and Tess. If these Ďdupesí arenít trustworthy heíll find out."

Maria was skeptical, but she didnít have any better ideas. "What do you think Spike will do if he finds out thatÖ thatÖ well, that theyíre not?" Liz didnít know the answer to that. "I mean, can you trust his judgment if thereís a serious problem?"

"Iíll have to. I canít go myself." Maria nodded, frowning at the thought of what was coming. She remembered the aftermath of the battle with Cole. She especially remembered how Michael had pulled away from her, and Liz had withdrawn into a shell so completely that Maria had feared her friend would never come out. They had all thought that that was over. Now it seemed that it wasnít. Coleís legacy could very well cause them more trouble than the demon himself.

Reluctantly she nodded. "You know the rest of us are here for ya babe."

Liz nodded, smiling. "I know. Thanks. Iíd better go talk to Spike. There are arrangements to make."

"What about Max? Shouldnít you tell him that Spikeíll be there? Heíll be leaving soon."

Liz wrestled with her conscience for a moment before shaking her head. "If they can pull information out of us with a single touch, it might be better if Max and Tess donít know." Maria made to interrupt, but Liz didnít give her the chance. "I canít take the risk. I have to give them every advantage I can." She grimaced as she realized that all of her precautions could be a dramatic overreaction. "Even if thereís nothing wrong."

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THE PRESENT

Spike didnít know what Liz had told her parents or what Max had told his, but it had evidently worked. Max and Tess were in New York and so, unfortunately, was he.

The town brought back some interesting memories. It was in New York, back in the 1970s, that he had killed his second Slayer. My glory days, he thought ruefully.

If anyone had told him back then that a mere 30 years later he would be trailing an alien through a sewer on orders from a Slayer he probably would have laughed in that personís face before killing them. What would I have found funnier? The aliens or the Ďworking with a Slayer?í

He shoved those thoughts aside as he saw Ava turn a corner and head up to the street. It was the night before the summit and he didnít have much time to find out what Liz needed to know. A tall order, since Liz didnít know herself what he would find. All she knew was that she didnít trust them.

Personally, he didnít trust the clones either. They rubbed him the wrong way. The clones did what they wanted when they wanted, and they didnít take crap from anyone. Remind you of somebody?

Spike shoved that thought away quickly. It was closer to self-analysis than he liked to get. He had no patience for psycho-babble at the best of times, but he was especially uncomfortable when he was the one being analyzed.

Ava entered a building bearing a sign that read ĎTravelerís Hotel.í Spike waited thirty seconds and followed. On the street, and in the sewer before that, it had been difficult to track her using his sense of smell. He had been forced to risk exposing himself by maintaining visual contact, but now her unique, or nearly unique, scent guided him to a ground floor room.

Spike stopped as another scent caught his attention. Whatís he doiní here? He listened carefully; his sharp ears easily making out every word of the conversation behind the door. Both voices were familiar despite the accents. "Two of Ďem came then? Not just Max?"

"Yeah. My dupe, Tess, said she wouldnít let Ďim out of her sight." She paused for a second and then added almost shyly. "I cín understand that."

The other snorted dismissing the sentiment. "Donít matter. We can still take Ďem easy when its time to make the switch aní go home. You sure they ainít suspicious?" Ava must have nodded. "Good. Soon as the emissary verifies that Max is the genuine article we wonít really need him anymore."

"I thought the plan was to let Ďem go to the summit, see if itís on the level?"

"It is, but I gotta be ready to change plans. If it looks legit and Max donít play it right then we gotta be ready to take their place and fix it."

Zan, Spike realized. It had to be Maxís dupe. Clever boy, Spike thought. Max and Tess took the risks of exposing themselves to the aliens and then the dupes could reap the benefits of their efforts or if it was a setup they could disappear and let the trap close on Max and Tess alone.

Spike listened for a while longer and then carefully slid back into the shadows and left the building. He needed to warn Max.

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Max sat in the chair as directed. The tall, balding man had barely spoken since they entered the room. Rath had introduced the man they had found waiting in the empty office, of the all but deserted building as the emissary. Neither Max nor Tess had known what to expect. They knew something bizarre and alien was going to happen and tried not to seem to surprised when the man slowly moved his hand behind Maxís head and a pattern of lights appeared on the wall in front of him, rather like an image in a slide projector. Max instantly recognized the pattern of stars heíd first seen more than a year before.

"Sign here." The emissary handed Max a piece of paper and Max signed on the dotted line of what turned out to be a time card from a temporary agency. "Thank you your majesty." The man took the card, left Max the carbon and left without another word. Although Max had braced himself for something strange, he couldnít keep the incredulous look off of his face when he turned to Rath.

"The emissary works for a temp agency?"

Rath chuckled. "Dude, the emissary never leaves his crib. Heís still on his own planet." Max stared at him blankly and Rath sighed. "Okay, hereís how it works. These guys got a great way to reach out and touch someone. They can take over a body here thatís been prepared for them. The human goes to sleep aní an alien walks around in his body for a while."

"When he wakes up," Lonnie laughed, "the guy thinks heís been abducted by aliens." She thought a moment. "Which I guess he was."

"So theyÖ possess these people in order to do anything on Earth? Why not come themselves?"

Rath glanced at Tess and smiled condescendingly. "It ainít like Star Trek little girl. Space is what we call really big. No one travels unless they have to."

Max got the implication at once. "Does that mean that the people at the conference will be the same way?"

Lonnie nodded. "Yeah. Theyíll all be doiní the Linda Blair thing."

Max frowned. There were definite advantages to that, he supposed, but it was creepy just to think about it. He was quiet for the remainder of their journey back to the dupeís home.

***********************************************************************

"Tell me about the delegates," Max said. "I need to know who will be there." Rath bristled at Maxís presumption, but hid his reaction quickly, just as he always had with Zan. Granted, Max wasnít as arrogant as Zan, but he still acted like he expected everyone to obey automatically. Well I ainít no good little soldier, he sneered silently. He might not be able to lash out at Zan, but he was going to relish killing Max.

"Donít know that much," he said tersely. "Thereíll be a rep from each planet. Each oneíll have their pitch. What you gotta do is figure out if theyíre on the level. Convince Ďem that takiní us backíll stop the fighting." Max nodded thoughtfully, but didnít say anything. "You gotta make a real impression on Ďem."

"An impression on them? Iím still trying to wrap my head around this Ďpossessioní thing." He shook his head. "Thatís just creepy." Rath nodded, almost sympathetic. He had felt the same way when heíd first found out about the strange form of communication.

"I hear ya man. People as cell phones is bizarro."

Max set the unsettling thoughts aside and got back to business. "Do you know anything about the people weíll be meeting?"

"Wish I did," Rath groused. "I like to know who Iím up against." He thought a moment. "Hey! Maybe you do have somethiníÖ an advantage, somethiní they want."

"What?" Max asked, intrigued.

"Do you know anything about the Granalith?" Max was hard pressed to hide his reaction with Rath looking at him expectantly. "You do have it." Rath smiled triumphantly.

Max shook his head, deciding to speak honestly. "No. I donít. Weíve had run-ins with our enemies, Kívarís agents, who wanted the Granalith, but weíve never seen it ourselves. Nasedo was probably the only one who knew where it was and that secret died with him."

Rath scowled. "Damn. Woulda made a nice bargaining chip."

"What do you know about the Granalith? They said they wanted it, but never told us why."

Rath shrugged. "Dunno actually. It sounds like some kinda religious thing. Like aÖ holy grail or somethin.í"

Rath sounded sincere, and Max was inclined to take him at his word. He really didnít know what the Granalith was, or at least he didnít know the extent of its power. Max wasnít sure whether to be relieved or disappointed. The chance to get some clue about the Granalithís nature was not something easily passed up, but Max didnít want to press the issue.

Rath seemed suspicious of everyone and everything. Too many prying questions from Max could easily provoke the volatile clone. So he contented himself with knowing that Rath didnít know any more about the Granalith than he did.

Lonnie was another matter. She was smarter than Rath, not as prone to violence. She was cold, and that made Max wary of her. Of the three dupes, he believed that she was the most dangerous.

When did I start thinking like this? He remembered a time when he hadnít been so suspicious. The world had always been dangerous for Isabel, Michael, and himself, but now he seemed to view each new situation, each new person, as a potential threat. He had begun to assess everyone he met in terms of the risk they might pose to him and his unusual family.

What he had told his father was true. He did need to get away for a while. It was amazing how taxing being on Ďyellow alertí all the time could be. He hated having to think that way.

"I need to take a walk." So saying he rose walked out of the sectioned off tunnel that the Rath, Lonnie, and Ava called home. Rath and Lonnie looked after him curiously, but didnít object. Tess made to follow but Max raised a hand to stop her. "Iím fine Tess. I just need to clear my head." She looked worried but subsided and let him go without objecting.

Max didnít look back, and barely maintained enough awareness of his surroundings to be able to retrace his steps, automatically making note of the turns he made and the offshoots he didnít follow. The rest, he ignored, thoroughly wrapped up in his own thoughts. He hadnít realized how inattentive he had been until a hand grabbed his shoulder, and he became aware of an irritated voice with a heavy cockney accent hissing at him.

"What the hell do you think youíre doiní Max?" Blinking in surprise he turned to find Spike trying to guide him off into a side passage where the shadows were, amazingly, even thicker.

"What are you doing here?" Max demanded. As soon as the question was out of his mouth the answer occurred to him, but he waited expectantly anyway.

"Liz asked me to tag along and look after you. Good thing too." Max sighed. He knew that Liz would be worried about him, but he didnít see how sending Spike could do anything but cause problems. The vampire was simply too unpredictable. Something Spike had said suddenly clicked. He had a feeling that whatever Lizís teacher was about to tell him wasnít going to make him happy.

"What do you mean Ďgood thing?í" It came out more harshly than he had intended.

The vampire scowled at his tone. "Nice to see you too."

"I didnít mean it that way," Max said raising a pacifying hand. "IÖ" He took a breath. "Is there something I should know?"

Spikeís scowl faded somewhat, as Maxís words succeeded in mollifying him, but he still sounded annoyed when he answered. "I wouldnít even know where to begin that conversation." It was Maxís turn to scowl. "Right now though itís the dupes you need to worry about." Spike quickly related the eveningís events to him, ending in his discovery that Zan was alive and using them to feel out the aliens at the summit.

"If itís a trap," Spike concluded, "they donít lose anything, youíre the ones takiní all the risks. If the offerís legit, to take you back to Mars or wherever and put a crown on your head, then theyíll kill you and the dupesíll go in your place."

Max let out his breath in a long shaky sigh. "Theyíve got it all planned out. The focus will be on me and Tess. If it is a trap, Lonnie and Rath can slip away easy." Spike nodded, a thoughtful frown on his face. "If its not a trap-"

"If its not a trap its four against two and theyíd have the element of surprise. We need a way to turn this around Max, and we need it fast." He scowled again, thinking furiously.

"What happens at the conference will be crucial. They wonít make a move one way or another until something is decidedÖ. SoÖ" Max frowned fiercely.

"So," Spike picked up, "We need a way to make sure that nothing gets decided. Need to throw a spanner in the works and louse up everyoneís plans." He thought a moment. "It would be simpler if you could just cut and run, but that wouldnít settle anything with the dupes, and Iím bettiní theyíre the vindictive type."

Max looked dubious, suddenly remembering why he had agreed to come to the summit in the first place. "Leaving isnít an option for another reason Spike. If the conference falls apart, and nothing gets settled then the war back home will continue."

"Not gonna matter to you either way if youíre dead," Spike pointed out reasonably. "And since when is this alien planet a gazillion miles away home?"

Max blinked, surprised by the question. "IÖ Itís where weíre from Spike. I had responsibilities there. I was the king."

"This Zan guy was the king you mean. So you were an alien in a previous life. I used to be human. Doesnít seem to matter how you start out. Whereís home now? Who are you now? How are you going to help them if you donít know the answers to those questions?"

Max was silent a long time. The hardest thing to accept at the moment was that Spike was right. He was torn. More than a year before, he had told agent Pierce that Earth was his home planet. It hadnít been a lie then and it wasnít now, but that didnít lessen the responsibility he felt for the people of his, or was it Zanís, home world. "I canít just abandon them. If my being there couldÖ stabilize things, maybe end the warÖ"

"News flash your majesty. If telling your subjects to Ďplay niceí worked you probably wouldnít be here in the first place."

Spikeís words struck a nerve. ĎI donít know how to solve their problems. I donít know where to begin. What do I know about politics or diplomacy?í "You're saying itís no longer about solving their problems, itís just about getting out alive."

The vampire managed to look sympathetic. "Hard pill to swallow I know. Sometimes itís the best you can do though. Back in Sunny D I had to make that choice a few times. I wouldnít have survived so long against the Slayer there if I hadnít known when to cut my losses and concentrate on saviní my own tail." He saw Maxís look and continued before the inevitable objection could be raised. "I know it ainít the same. I was the big bad back in those days, out to do pretty much the opposite of what youíre tryiní, but still, the principleís sound."

Max mulled this over for a moment, but finally nodded. "Okay. I get it. I have to try though. At the very least I have to take the opportunity to learn as much as I can. The conference is going to be pretty weird by the sound of it." Spike raised an eyebrow, silently encouraging him to continue. Max told him about the delegates and the possession the humans present would be subjected to.

Spike whistled softly. "So thatís what this Ďabductioní business is huh? Sure saves on petrol."

"Itís a lot safer too," Max realized. "Since the delegates wonít actually be here then violence at the conference would be pretty pointless."

"Well violence against them anyway." Max conceded the point somewhat sourly. It didnít, after all, make the conference any safer for him. "On the other handÖ"

Max looked up sharply. "What?"

"A possibility." He grinned suddenly. "Maybe there is a way to reach out and touch someone. If we can show Ďem that theyíre vulnerable, even when theyíre visitiní like that, it might set Ďem back a bit."

"What would that get us?" It was a hard question to ask. Max still hadnít given up on the idea of finding some way to help the aliens. He knew Spike was right though, and that keeping himself and Tess alive took priority.

"What if these guys can possess anyone they like at any time? If theyíre out to kill you itís gonna be next to impossible to avoid them. You wouldnít be able to trust anyone." Max felt cold at the thought. He had to find out more about the process. Somehow he doubted it was something the aliens could do at will, but he still had to find out. "It might be a good idea not to tell Ďem your name. Just answer to Zan."

Max nodded. "Makes sense. They wouldnít know where Iím from or anything about my family."

"So for the time being youíre Zan. You canít let Ďem know how little you know about their planet or people."

"I donít know if I can do that. If I give myself awayÖ"

"Ask Ďem to bring you up to date on whatís been happening back home. They couldnít expect you to know that." Max still looked unsure. "Look Max, sometimes diplomacy is just stalling until you find an advantage. Like the old joke goes. Diplomacy is the art of sayiní Ďnice doggyí Ďtil you can find a stick. So get in there and pat heads and scratch bellies for all your worth."

That image was so bizarre it took him a moment to react when Spike turned and started to walk away. "Where are you going?"

"To find a stick."

***********************************************************************

Spike entered the small shop in Chinatown cautiously. The owner wasnít overly fond of vampires, and she had nothing to fear from them. He looked around carefully, trying to spot the proprietor amid the shelves and racks that cluttered the small space. Myriad smells assaulted his nose, only a few of which he could identify. There were herbs of virtually every description, mostly from China, although the owner did carry hard to find items from other parts of the world as well. The cluttered shelves boasted an assortment of what anyone not familiar with magic would have dismissed as junk. Talismans and idols, charms and scrolls were haphazardly piled on every available surface. It was just as he remembered it.

He called out hesitantly in Chinese, realizing that time was wasting. When there was no answer he called out again. This time he got an answer.

"Please," an aggravated voice responded. "If you insist on speaking my language at least have the courtesy to speak it correctly." The proprietor stepped from behind a freestanding wire book rack holding books on the Chinese zodiac, love charms, and other bits of popular junk that were priced to move. "What do you want night walker?" Lin asked peevishly.

The woman now watching him with a look of mild annoyance had actually changed very little since Spike had last seen her. There were, perhaps, a few more gray hairs, but the shapeless robes and traditional hairstyle made her appear timeless as always. Spike had never been sure of her age and there were old people in the neighborhood that claimed that Lin and her shop had been there when they were young. Spike had used magic occasionally, and he knew power when he was in the presence of it. The womanís confidence was justified.

"Um, You may not remember me-"

"I remember you William. Youíve got a lot of nerve showing your face here after last time." The last time had been when Spike had killed the Slayer back in 1970. He was surprised to feel a stab of guilt when he realized he didnít even know the girlís name. Lin and the girlís Watcher had been close friends. Suddenly, being there didnít seem like such a good idea.

"Um, it may be hard to believe, but Iím workiní the other side of the street now. Tryiní my hand at beiní a white hat." Lin didnít respond, either by asking him to explain or by turning him into something that would squish under her sandal, so he hurried on. "The details of how that happened arenít really important. Iíve got a problem I think you can solve." Still no response. "Um, look. Iíve heard that you can tell when a person is lyingí to you, even a vampire, so youíll know this is on the level, no matter how strange it sounds right?"

"Continue," Lin answered in a neutral tone.

"Well, you see there are these demons, ah check that, the whole truth thing. Um. There are these aliens and theyíre having a meeting here on Earth. A friend of a friend has got himself mixed up with them and Iím a bit worried about him. Ya see heís important to them. Some of them may want to help him and some may want to kill him." He paused and looked at Lin expectantly. She didnít comment although he thought he detected a glimmer of interest.

"Thing is these aliens donít trust each other. Theyíre not even going to be in the same room together." He described what he knew of the Ďalien possession.í "I thought of you because I heard this story when I was in China, Ďbout these blokes who could leave their bodies and take over other people, get Ďem to do all sorts of things."

Lin nodded and moved silently to a seemingly random shelf. She pulled down a book and opened it. "I know that story. You believe that its ending may give you the key to dealing with these aliens."

"Well, yeah." Spike was grateful that she was finally responding. He hated the way she made him feel like a bug under a microscope. Nervous babbling was a new experience for him and not one he enjoyed.

"You do tell the truth night walker. I imagine it is a new experience for you." Spike stiffened at this, but he didnít contradict her. "Tell me more about these aliens. Why is this Ďfriend of a friendí so important to them?"

"He used to be their king," Spike answered promptly, knowing it was pointless trying to hide anything from the old sorceress, even if he had the time. He gave her an abbreviated version of the story heíd learned. "The copies donít know if the meetingís a trap so they want to use Max to test the waters." Lin had continued to move calmly about the shop reading from the book and gathering powders and small bags of leaves from various shelves. "Itís gonna end badly for him and Tess whether itís a trap or not."

"I see. Come." She led the way through a beaded curtain and into a workroom. "You need to show these visitors that they are vulnerable here. It will make them think twice before they attempt to becomeÖ disagreeable." With the ease of long practice she began to mix the ingredients, combining the powders in a mortar and using the pestle to grind them. "It is bad enough that humans must cope with night walkers and other demons. There is no need to import problems."

"My thinkiní exactly. Max," he hastened to add, "is a decent sort, even hunts demons with the Slayer. These other guys though. Theyíre trouble." Lin was ignoring him. She poured the contents of the mortar into a leather bag.

"This is what you require." She briefly instructed him in the powderís use. "The aliens who are actually here, the dupes and theseÖ ĎSkinsí you spoke of, you will have to deal with the old fashioned way. Iím sure you can do that William."

Spike grinned. "I think I can manage." It would be tricky dealing with the dupes, since like humans he couldnít attack them, but he would find a way. He took the bag of powder and listened carefully to her instructions. "Thanks. Me and the Slayer will owe you one for this."

"I will remember that," she assured him with a tone that left no doubt she would be collecting.

***********************************************************************

"Welcome back," Lonnie said, not even glancing up. Apparently she hadnít shifted from her place on the couch. Max didnít bother to acknowledge her greeting. Rath looked just as disinterested. Only Tess rose to greet him.

"Max? You okay?"

"Iím fine. I just needed to think. Weíve got some planning to do."

Tess blinked. "What do you mean?"

"A few things occurred to me. First of all," he sat down on the couch, next to Lonnie and waited until he was sure that he had everyoneís attention. "We canít let them know that I donít remember the home world. So until the meeting is over Iím Zan, and you," he nodded at Tess, "are Ava. It would make things more difficult for everyone. They would start out not trusting us. We donít know if this is a trap or not. What we need most is information. The best way to get it is to ask them. So we ask for back-story. We get as much information out of them as possible."

Lonnie was nodding. "Makes sense. Weíll need to know that stuff if weíre gonna help Ďem. Think ya can bluff Ďem?"

"Can you?"

She smiled. "Yeah. Me aní Rath, we got some memories. Itíll be easier for us."

Max nodded. "We just pick up things as we go along. Names, places, history." He turned to Tess. "Nasedo taught you some things about the home world, about remembering."

Tess nodded hesitantly. "Yeah, but bluffing wonít be easy for either of us." She placed a reassuring hand on his arm. "Weíll manage together." She gave him an encouraging smile while Rath made silent gagging gestures behind her.

Max ignored him. "Hopefully itíll give us a chance to gage their intentions. We need to find out who sincerely wants us back and who doesnít. One more question then. Does anyone know if they can use their powers while possessing someone? I know they have limited access to the hostís brain and some of the natural Human talents, but what can they do? Are they a direct threat to us?"

Lonnie and Rath looked at each other in surprise. Max guessed that the question had honestly never occurred to them. Finally Lonnie answered. "We know they can do some things, but I donít know if they could attack us. Possession takes a lot of power. Itís a helluva commute. I donít think they could keep it up long."

"Thatís good. Do you know if there are anyÖ special conditions? Can they just take over anyone?"

Rath shook his head. "Naa. Human has to be prepared first." He frowned thoughtfully. "Guess thatís a good thing. Means they ainít gonna be poppiní up every time we turn around."

Max nodded. "Just what I was thinking. If their abilities are limited then we donít have to worry so much about them. If there are Skins at the meeting that could be a different story."

"Skins," Lonnie mused. "You said somethiní Ďbout them before."

"Yeah, we ran into them a while back." He gave them an edited version of events, leaving out any mention of demons or Lizís role as the Slayer. He had their full attention when he described the easiest way to kill them. That in itself worried him. Again he took a moment to regret having the kind of life that required him to think only in terms of tactics and strategic advantages.

When he finished Lonnie looked thoughtful. "Then we should probably be wary of any Skins that show up for the summit."

"Shouldnít be any. Message said that reps from the five planets would be there. If what you said is right the Skinsíve been here a while."

Max nodded. "Yeah, and I got the impression there was someÖ friction between them and the new arrivals. Could mean that the Skins were used to doing things their own way and didnít like Kívar showing up and telling them what to do."

"Yo! You sure it was Kívar?" Rath asked incredulously.

"Thatís what the Skin called him. Guy named Nicholas, looks a couple of years younger than us, didnít seem too happy to be taking orders from his boss again."

"You think this Nicholas guy killed Kívar?" Lonnie asked.

Max shrugged, honestly not knowing. "I donít know." He suspected that Nicholas had indeed killed Kívar, but he couldnít share his reasoning with the dupes without giving away more than he wanted to.

"So," Lonnie said, summarizing, "we go to the summit, get Ďem to tell us whatís been going on back home and pick up as much back story as we can."

"Right, just keep your eyes open and listen carefully. Iím hoping the ones that want to kill us willÖ I donít knowÖ tip their hand somehow."

"Not much of a plan," Rath grunted.

"Let me know if youíve got a better one," Max countered. Michaelís dupe considered a moment and then shrugged. "All right then. We need as much information as possible. Thatís our priority." He glanced at Lonnie. "What time again?"

"Summitís at 8:00 tomorrow morning."

Max nodded, looking vaguely impatient. "Till then," he sighed. "Iím going to get some sleep." It was, he realized, the best thing he could do at the moment. He would have liked to find a way to warn Tess, but thought it would look suspicious if they went off alone. He would find time in the morning, he promised himself. He didnít want her giving away their connection to Spike.

Spike. He honestly hoped that the vampire could pull it off, whatever it was. Knowing that Lizí teacher didnít have an actual plan made him extremely nervous. It was hard for Max to accept that the situation was completely out of his hands. The best thing to do, he decided, was to spend a few hours not thinking about it.

***********************************************************************

Spike set up near the dupeís hiding place, knowing he had to keep them away from the meeting. Ava had stayed with Zan. He doubted Maxís clone really wanted her, but he hadnít sent her away either. It rather reminded him of the way he had treated Harmony, and despite indications of what might be a recently discovered conscience, he could not feel anything but contempt for the blonde ex-cheerleader. He certainly had no regrets about leaving her behind in Sunnydale.

Timing was crucial to what he had in mind. With no fear of hurting the dupes, both because they were enemies and because he was certain they could take care of themselves, there were a wider variety of Ďdistractionsí available to him. He had listened to them until they fell asleep and moved quickly to his objective.

Fortunately they were staying in a hotel, a place that didnít require an invitation to enter. No one actually lived in the rooms. His preparations took almost an hour, an hour of first sneaking and stealing, then running like hell.

Entering quietly, after assuring himself that they still slept, he placed the Ezara egg under the bed the clones shared and left quietly, grinning all the way. That ought to keep them busy. He left quickly, knowing that the creature would, when forced to choose between tracking his scent and retrieving its egg, would choose to go after the egg as long as he wasnít directly in its path. He really didnít want there to be any choice though. Staying nearby and watching, entertaining as it would be, was not an option. An Ezaraís nose would put a bloodhound to shame. He had laid a confusing trail, one that led through the dupesí home in the sewers, but he knew the demon could follow it easily.

***********************************************************************

Max opened his eyes and looked around. The same depressing sight he had gone to sleep with was still there. He and Tess were in a sewer with people who, at best, would abandon him if the summit turned ugly. Getting up only reluctantly, he looked around the room. Rath and Lonnie were still asleep, but Tess was stirring. He roused her quietly and led her out of the room.

She was incredulous when she heard his story, more so when she learned its source. "And you trust Spike in this?"

"Why would he lie? Besides, it makes sense. Do you really think that Lonnie and Rath are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts? I canít see them really caring about a war can you?"

Tess pursed her lips for a second, but then shook her head sadly. "I guess not, but SpikeÖ Okay. I guess thereís no good reason for him to lie." She looked depressed. "I suppose this means our chances of going home are nil one way or the other?" Max hid his annoyance at her answer, wondering at her priorities, and shook his head.

"Looks that way. Spike has a point. Right now letís just concentrate on getting out of this alive."

Tess nodded unhappily. "Lets get it over with then."

They returned to the dupes and found them just waking up. The group quickly organized and headed out for breakfast, which turned out to be day old donuts snatched from a bakery. Max thought to object, but didnít want to aggravate them any more than he had to. He knew it would only lead to an argument. Foregoing the donuts, he and Tess stopped at a small diner for eggs and bacon. The dupes chafed at the delay and their counterparts squeamishness at the stealing, something they couldnít understand. Eventually though, they returned to the site of their meeting with the emissary and waited.

They didnít have to wait long. People began to file into the room. The first to enter was an overweight woman with curly red hair. She gave the four teenagers an appraising glance and her face twisted as if sheíd just tasted something sour. Max raised an eyebrow and watched until she had taken her place at the conference table.

She was followed by a construction worker carrying his hard hat under one arm. Ignoring them entirely, he took a seat opposite the woman and eyed her in a vaguely hostile way.

The third was a small bespectacled man in a business suit who seemed to be in a great hurry. He sat down on the same side of the table as the florid faced woman but was careful to keep a fair distance between them. Max wondered what that meant. Did they simply not want to be near each other or was violence against them not so pointless after all? If they were being cautious with their hosts it might mean that they could be hurt.

Max dismissed the idea at once. He doubted he could affect any of the delegates without hurting or killing the host. None of them spoke; they merely glanced suspiciously at each other and waited impatiently. Max decided he didnít want to be the one to break the silence, so he waited with the rest. The door opened one final time and Max looked up to see a familiar face.

"Brody?"

"Larek actually."

Maxís mind flashed back to Brodyís tales of alien abduction and several things fell into place at once. Brody, or Larek, was one of the delegates and a potential threat. That meant that almost anyone could be. He didnít like the idea of a potential enemy being that close to him. Max quickly hid his surprise and shelved his concerns so he could concentrate on the summit. One crisis at a time, he reminded himself.

"Letís get down to business," the redhead started the meeting. She sounded impatient and Max nodded in agreement. He had no more wish to drag this out than she apparently did. "Each of us is here to speak for our home worlds. Iím Zera, this," she pointed at the construction worker, "is Maras, and that," she indicated the small man, "is Tol." Obviously they didnít stand on ceremony, which was fine with Max. "You I take it are Zan?"

"Thatís right. This is Rath, Ava, and Vilondra." Apparently they couldnít tell which was which. Max wondered if she recognized the other delegates or simply knew who would be attending and recognized the hosts.

Zera nodded and dove right in, "It has been confirmed that Kívar is dead. Although how it happened isnít clear. This information is being kept from the general public and all but a few high-ranking officials. If it becomes general knowledge before weíre ready thereíll be chaos." She glanced at Zan. "Youíve been out of the picture for a long while."

"I think I have the basics. Kívar wasnít very popular. Now that heís gone youíre worried about a multi-sided civil war. Everyone who thinks he can do a better job and has the resources will be taking a shot. Can I assume there are a lot of them?"

"Only a few who matter," Larek interrupted, "but yes, youíve got the basics. While most donít stand a chance they would try. It would be anarchy. Billions could die."

Max kept his face impassive. He knew the stakes, and that made it all the harder to do what he had to do. Rather than think about it though, he focused on his goal, getting as much information as possible. "Iím going to need some background. Whatís been happening since Iíve been gone?"

"Weíve been at each others throats is what," Zera growled. "We refused to recognize Kívarís authority and broke away. There have been a few short-lived truces, but someone always breaks them. Kívar attacks Maras, Maras attacks Tol, Tol attacks me. It goes around and around with no one gaining an advantage. It's intolerable." The womanís face grew redder during her diatribe and Max wondered if possession was stressful on the host body. Tol and Maras agreed with her, and began to list, categorically the offenses the others at the table had committed against them.

"Bad as it has become though," Larek managed to interrupt before the argument could progress too far, "Kívar did provide some stability. The peoples of each world had to remain united. Many of the factions have kept their peace for the most part, for the common good of their own world. When it is learned that Kívar is deadÖ Well, you said it yourself. Everyone who thinks they can seize power will make the effort. That is why we are here. With Kívar dead, you speak for your world."

"Actually, Max doesnít speak for his world." All looked up to see a boy a couple of years younger than Max coming through the door with a smug look on his face. "I do."

Max knew the voice, even though heíd only heard it once before. "Nicholas."

"Max Evans of Roswell New Mexico," the other grinned as he took the seat at the far end of the table, uninvited, and faced Max. "As I live and breathe." He was about to continue, no doubt intending to fully discredit Max before the delegates. He didnít get a chance.

"Those remain your worst habits Nicky," Tess interrupted, adopting her most acerbic tone. "Doesnít anyone stay dead when you kill them anymore?"

Nicholas spared her a condescending glance. "Look whoís talking." He looked about the room taking in the disconcerted expressions of the delegates. "Now then. We can really get down to business. Max," he stressed the name, "has no say in this. I was Kívarís second. I will succeed him. I will however allow the Royal Four to return home so Max can take the throne, as a figurehead only, and help to restore order. There is only one condition. He must return the Granalith." This evoked shocked looks from all of the delegates.

Tol, who had contributed little to that point, spoke up. "Do you mean that the Granalith is on Earth? That Kívar did not have it all this time?" There were similar surprised exclamations from the others. Rath and Lonnie exchanged concerned glances. This was not part of the plan.

Lonnie began to think quickly. She needed a way to turn the summit around quickly. She didnít know who this Nicholas was, Kívar had never bothered to contact them certainly. They had first been contacted via an orb left in their care by the one called Zera.

Nicholasí arrival was an unexpected and unwelcome surprise. It grated that Kívar had never acknowledged them in any way. It was another grievance to add to the list as far as she was concerned. She set that aside for the moment to focus on what Nicholas had said about the Granalith and the way the delegates had reacted. Apparently it was a lot more than a religious icon. They had known that already, but the fact that the belief that Kívar possessed it had apparently kept his enemies off guard was crucial. Perhaps that belief had been all that kept him in power.

That made getting their hands on the Granalith even more important, and theyíd have to do it quickly now that the cat was out of the bag. She glanced at Max. His expression was studiously neutral, but she knew her brother well enough to see through his poker face. The significance of the exchange hadnít been lost on him.

Doesnít matter, she dismissed that concern. One way or the other, he and Tess would be dead by the end of the day. Without Maxís guidance, the others in Roswell would be easy to kill.

"If all of the representatives agree we can proceed," Nicholas continued. "All Max has to do is hand over the Granalith."

"Arenít you forgetting someone?" A voice from the door Nicholas had used drew everyoneís attention. Nicholas rose from his chair and spun, recognizing the voice, but the intruder was already there. Moving with the casual grace of a natural predator Spike crossed the distance between them in the blink of an eye and drove a fist into Nicholasí jaw.

The impact spun the would-be dictator around and lifted him off his feet. Landing flat on his face on the table, he made an easy target. Spike landed one more blow, shattering the husk at the seam. Nicholasí remains scattered across the table leaving the delegates slack jawed with astonishment.

Spike dropped into Nicholasí seat and regarded the others with mild irritation. "You didnít invite a rep from Earth. Now that that shocking oversight has been corrected we can make some progress."

"Who do you think you are?" Maras demanded. The first to find his voice he rose to his feet, glaring at the intruder. "You-"

"Shut up," Spike cut him off in a tone that stopped Maras in mid-sentence. "If I want any lip from you Iíll rip one off." Maras stared, obviously not used to being addressed in such a manner.

Max had known this was coming, but he cast a confused glance at Rath and Lonnie who looked baffled by the new development. They had never met Spike and knew nothing about him. "Now then. Just so thereís no misunderstanding, I donít give ratís entrails about your petty problems. As long as they stay your problems, understood?"

"Not entirely," Max spoke hesitantly. "Who are you?"

Spike cast him a withering glance. "Iím the guy thatís speaking for Earth. Try to keep up." He looked back at the others. "You got a war going on back on your home planet. Doesnít concern Earth. We want no part of it." He leaned forward glaring at each of them in turn. "And we really donít want you bringing it here. I killed that little idiot Ďcause he was doing just that and meddling with things he didnít understand. Thereís a lot about this planet that you donít understand. Bit of friendly advice. Clear out and donít come back."

"It is you who donít understand human," Maras snapped. "You have no say in this, and you cannot interfere. It is not your business."

"Iím making it my business," the vampire focused on the burly construction worker that was currently serving as Marasí host. "Two things you need to remember. One." Spike let his game face show. "Iím not human. Two." He flicked a pinch of the dust he had gotten from Lin into the alienís face. Maras sneezed and for a second a bright glow hid his form. "I can interfere."

Maras blinked and shook his head. Suddenly he sat up straighter and looked around. "What the hell?" Although the voice had not changed, the manner had. Pushing his chair back from the table, he quickly got to his feet. "Where am I? Who are you people?" His queries were met by a stunned silence. "Look. JustÖ just somebody tell me whatís going on here."

"Nothing that concerns you anymore mate," Spike told him, not unkindly. "No more alien abductions for you." The man turned and saw Spikeís vampire visage still in place. "Now why donít you run along home?" He added a slight growl to the Ďsuggestioní and the man stopped asking questions and ran.

When the door shut behind the fleeing human, Spike looked back to the rest. "Next time you see yer pal tell him that if I catch him on Earth again Iíll trap him here and kill his host slowly. Donít know if itíll kill him long distance but it oughta be fun finding out."

"HowÖ how did you do that?" Zera demanded.

"I told you there was a lot you donít understand about this planet."

"What are you?" Tol asked, trying to mask his shock.

"Heís a vampire," Lonnie said disdainfully. "A parasite."

"What I am little girl," Spike corrected her, "is the top of the food chain. The undergroundís been tolerant of you and your alien buddies till recently. Then Nicky boy stepped over the line, and we decided you werenít so harmless after all. Iím here to give you notice. Earth is off limits."

"That so?" Rath asked belligerently.

Spike gave him a cold stare and snapped his fingers. "Yeah," he said as the door opened behind them. "Thatís so."

Rath and Lonnie turned to find themselves looking up at two Fyarl demons pushing through the door. Spike had chosen them personally. Dumb as doorposts the Fyarl but they had other attributes. As the dupes found out when they raised their hands to attack.

The energy blasts staggered the Fyarl slightly, but they did not fall. They made a stomach churning noise with their noses and cut loose with a stream of mucus that knocked the rash young aliens off their feet. When they tried to rise, Lonnie and Rath discovered that they were pinned to the floor by the mucus, which had solidified almost instantly and held them as surely as concrete would have.

Astonishment and disgust warred for possession of Lonnieís facial muscles and she cast a beseeching look at Max who had frozen in place, careful not to provoke another reaction from the demons. He cast the dupes an apologetic look but otherwise held still, not wanting to be stuck to the floor.

"That was disgusting," Tess breathed, also holding very still. She had been hard pressed to look surprised or disturbed by Spikeís antics until the Fyarl arrived. Then she genuinely began to worry.

"Now then," Spike continued. "There will be no further conflicts on Earth. You will keep your war on your own bloody planet. You cause trouble here again and youíll get more trouble than you know what to do with." He sat back and looked at the delegates coldly. "Get off my planet."

Tol and Zera rose without a word and left the room, giving the Fyarl as wide a berth as possible. Larek, however, lingered. "We do need to resolve this Zan. When you return home, come to my capital. We were friends before, good friends. I was at your coronation. I introduced you to Ava. You know you can trust me if you can trust anyone in the home system. Perhaps we canÖ"

"We wonít be leaving," Max said to Larek and Spike. "This is our home." He focused on Spike. "If you know about us you know weíve tried to avoid trouble."

Spike shrugged. "Donít really matter, the Powers say youíve got to go." Max and Tess traded worried looks. "Iím just here to deliver their pronouncement. You want to take it up with them personally? Your funeral." With that he rose and left the room. The Fyarl gave the alien teens menacing looks and followed.

"Zan-"

"What I said was true Larek. This is our home, and Iím not convinced weíd be of any use to anyone back there. Would anyone accept us?"

Larek opened his mouth to offer assurances, but then hesitated. "Maybe not. Maybe itís for the best to go slow," he sighed, clearly remembering something painful. "I warned you when you became king to take things slow. I told you that you were trying to accomplish too much at once. That was what made you vulnerable. That was what made it easy for a rabble-rouser like Kívar to stir the people against you." He rose to his feet. "I wish you luck old friend." Without another word he turned and left the room.

"Very touching," Lonnie said from the floor. "Now, could you get us out of here? This stuff wonít dissolve."

"Your powers?"

"Yo! If they worked on the stuff would we still be down here?" Rath was straining against his bonds like an animal in a snare. Max and Tess glanced at each other and both shrugged.

"Iím not sure what we can do then. Maybe we should go get Ava, bring back some chisels," Tess suggested.

"Weíll send her," Max nodded, "but we need to go. If Michael and Is got a similar visitÖ" he trailed off looking deeply worried. "Weíve got to get back to Roswell."

Tess nodded. "Weíll find Ava, but weíve got to go." They moved to the door and pushed through, ignoring the clonesí protests. Leaving the building, they hastily made their way to the train station, their first priority being to put some distance between themselves and their dupes. Spike was to meet them there and then they would leave separately for Newark, that being the destination of the first out of state train leaving New York.

Once there, they would hook up with Spike, compare notes, and manufacture plane tickets for themselves so they could fly home. Tess was grateful for the vampireís assistance, but drew the line at driving cross-country with him.

***********************************************************************

Zan leaned against the wall of the tunnel breathing heavily and glanced at Ava. He had healed the injuries made by the creature, but she was still weak. "What the hell was that thing?" he demanded.

"Whyíd it come after us?" Ava whined from her place on the ground. She glanced up at him with wide frightened eyes. "Do you think there are any more? One was bad enoughÖ so many teethÖ"

Zan gave her a contemptuous look, but he was none to steady himself. "I donít know, but I think it's dead. We gotta get to the conference, we should have been in position an hour ago." Zan glanced up through a grate as an ambulance passed by, on its way to the Travelerís Hotel, or whatever was left of it. The creature had made quite a mess. The ambulance, he knew, would be looking for Ava. "Stupid humans," he muttered under his breath as he thought about the solicitous old man who had called the authorities and insisted that Ava lie still till help arrived. They had spent almost as much time getting away from the scene undetected as they had defending themselves. "Damn, what was that?" he asked again.

Shaking his head and firmly putting the matter out of his mind he reached down and yanked Ava to her feet. "Come on. Weíve got to get there."

***********************************************************************

"I donít believe this! A vampire?"

Lonnie nodded. "And two things Iíve never seen before. I donít know what he was talking about, or who this Nicholas guy was, but apparently he did something to piss off the demons."

"Max and Tess?"

"Gone. They said theyíd find Ava, tell her about us and then head home."

"We didnít see them," Ava answered, "but if they went back to our place, they might have just left town. Itís been trashed."

"What?!" Rath demanded.

"Our crib," Zan growled. "Somethiní big and nasty came through there, tore the place up. Mightíve been the thing that attacked us."

Rath made an inarticulate sound of outrage, casting aside his shirt, hopelessly caked with the demonís gunk. "What do we do now? We should go after Ďem for runniní off like that."

"I think weíve got bigger problems," Zan disagreed. "We need something to convince the people back home to take us back. The only thing thatís gonna do that is the Granalith. We need to find it."

"That could mean goiní through Max and his simps," Rath fumed and then stopped. "Yo! Bonus!"

"In time," Zan assured him. "For now we need to plan, and to protect ourselves in case more demons attack." He turned and headed out, knowing the others would follow. There would be a reckoning for the Roswell teens, but they had to see to their own safety first.

***********************************************************************

Spike was grinning broadly. Tess scowled. Max seemed to be splitting the difference with his usually neutral expression. "That was incredible!" the vampire enthused. "I couldnít have hoped for better. Sticking those two to the floor put it over the top. I couldnít have scripted their parts better."

"I doubt weíve heard the last of them," Max cautioned. "We solved the immediate problem, nothing more." He smiled reluctantly. "It was good though." He turned to Tess, who still looked unhappy. "Did you see the look on Lonnieís face?" Tess allowed a grin.

"Okay. That was pretty good. You said it yourself though, Max. Itís a short term solution."

"Yeah," Max nodded. "But now weíve got more information and more time to find a permanent solution. I think we at least gave them something to think about. They may hesitate before showing themselves again to move against us." He sighed, suddenly feeling exhausted by the entire affair and the prospect of having to deal with the dupes again some day. "Letís go home."

NOT THE END

Index
Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours
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