|"Always With You - Part Three"|
by Watcher Tara
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Roswell.|
Summary: Max and Kyle have to team up to save Liz from an unexpected threat.Meanwhile, the rest of the gang returns to Marathon, Texas looking foranswers and finds more than they anticipated.
Authors Note: You REALLY should read Always With You part one and twofirst, but if you haven't, here's what you've missed: Tess was evil and notthe fourth alien, the gang killed her and Liz discovered she has powers,too. They find an alien weapon called the Shield and learn about theexistence of the Sword, another weapon. Please, please e-mail me with yourthoughts.
|The trip to Marathon was uneventful. It lasted not quite six hours. Michael, Maria, Isabel and Alex all arrived at Atherton's house in one piece. Everyone but Alex agreed that it didn't look any different from the last time that they'd been there. Of course Alex hadn't been with them on the last trip. It had been before they'd let him in on the big secret that Liz's new friends were aliens. When they'd been there last November, it was because Michael had been having visions about Atherton's dome house ever since he'd broken into Valenti's office and found a key.|
It had taken him a while to figure out what the visions were trying to tell him, but once he'd discovered that it was this dome house he'd been seeing, nothing could keep him from coming here. When Max had refused to let him have the Jeep for the trip, insisting that it wasn't a safe time to be going, Michael had been pissed. In retrospect, he had to agree that Max had been partially right. They'd been followed, and had almost been trapped inside the house by both Valenti and Topolsky.
Kidnapping Maria hadn't been his best idea, either, he admitted. Having been denied use of the Jeep, he had coerced Maria into giving him a ride, intending to steal her car at the first opportunity. As a plan, it was very weak, but he hadn't been thinking very clearly at the time. After all, Maria would have called the police as soon as he pulled away and he would have been stopped before he'd gotten far beyond the city limits. He hadn't thought that far ahead. All he could focus on was the house in Marathon. The plan had backfired when she'd refused to get out and just let him have her car, so together they headed down 285 South toward the Texas border.
Using her cell phone, Maria had alerted Liz to the situation. Liz, Max and Isabel had all hopped into the Jeep and had followed them.
Getting out of the minivan, Maria could barely suppress a shudder. She reached for Michael's hand, needing his presence to calm her. She'd forgotten how much malice vibrated from the structure. In a second she flashed back to last November. She had clung to Liz like ivy as they'd walked through the deserted house. Maria hadn't said anything at the time, but she could feel a presence in the house, and it was extremely unhappy.
"Are you ok?" Michael looked down at her.
She swallowed and nodded. He said, "Ok, then let's go."
Alex and Isabel had gotten out of the van, and were approaching the front door. When the other two had caught up, Isabel reached out and turned the doorknob. The door swung open easily. Apparently, no one had bothered to lock it when they'd left. The four teens stepped inside the house.
Alex looked up at the skylight in the foyer. It was a pentagon: five triangles laid out side by side so that their bottom edges formed almost a circle. Since the entire structure was created out of triangles, he supposed it wasn't an unusual choice for a house like this. The room they'd entered was empty except for an overturned bench.
Michael broke away from the group, and headed for the room that contained the hidden keyhole. Isabel followed, and Maria and Alex brought up the rear. Needing human contact in a way she couldn't explain, she grabbed her friend's arm. "This place gives me the creeps," she said by way of explanation.
"I can see why."
Maria saw where a few things had been moved or taken since she'd been there last. The FBI was probably responsible for the changes, she supposed.
Michael moved unerringly to the wall with the secret niche. The rock that had concealed the keyhole had never been replaced since he'd removed it last year. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the key he'd brought along.
Just as before, when he turned it, a trapdoor in the floor opened up.
Maria had to bite her tongue to keep from begging Michael to forget the whole thing. Then it was too late and he was going down the steps that led to the secret room. Her hair was standing on end, and she had goose bumps going up and down her spine. Every instinct she possessed was screaming at her to leave, to run away.
She took a couple of deep breaths while Isabel and Alex followed Michael into the secret room. "Just stop it, ok. Nothing is going to happen. You're going to be just fine. Nothing's wrong, so just calm down." The pep talk made her feel a little better, and she headed down the stairs right behind her friends.
Michael was examining a wall. Last week he'd had another vision, this time when he'd touched a scroll that had come from his home planet. The vision had told him that there was a hidden panel somewhere on this wall. Inside the panel, he hoped to find the missing Sword.
He didn't know what the Sword looked like, or what it could do, but he knew its purpose was to help to protect them from their enemies. If it was crafted like the Shield, it could probably be used only by himself and Isabel. Michael could feel his excitement growing.
Isabel and Alex were looking around the rest of the room. The FBI had picked it pretty clean. All of the photos that had been there earlier were gone, as were the papers and files. Now all that remained on the battered table was an old time typewriter.
Suddenly Maria screamed. She ran to where Michael was standing while the others demanded to know what was wrong with her. With shaking hands, she pointed toward the stairs they come down. A man stood there.
"I knew you'd come back. What took you so long?"
Taking up fighting positions, Alex and Michael both pulled Isabel and Maria behind them, and faced the stranger. "Who are you?" Alex asked.
Michael was thinking the man looked familiar. "You mean to tell me that you don't know who I am? This is my house. You're trespassing on private property, all of you."
"Atherton." Michael said under his breath.
"What?" Maria screeched from behind him.
"But Atherton's dead, Michael." This from Isabel.
"Am I? Who told you that?" Atherton took a step forward. The light filtering in from the room above shone through his transparent body.
Alex took a step backward, intent on shielding Isabel with his body. Liz had told him that there was a bolthole in the back of this room. A tunnel that led to an exit blocked only by a manhole cover. She'd told him that it was how they'd escaped discovery before. It looked like they just might need to use it again.
"What do you want?" Michael asked.
"Justice!" Atherton flung himself at Michael who was prepared to defend himself. As soon as they touched, Atherton disappeared. Michael lost his balance and had to catch himself before he fell to the floor.
"Oh my god! What was that?"
"Michael, are you ok?"
Michael stood there stunned. What had happened? One second the man had been heading right toward him, the next he'd been gone. He shivered at the cold breeze that blew across his face and rubbed a hand across his eyes.
"Let's find that thing and get out of here before he comes back."
With renewed purpose, all four of them began scouring the wall that Michael had been looking at before Atherton arrived. No one said a word. They were all afraid to verbalize what had just happened. It was as if they felt that by talking about it the whole experience would become more real somehow.
After about ten minutes of searching, Alex said, "Hey guys, come look at this."
Everyone crowded around him. There was a barely detectible line on the wall. It could possibly be the door of the secret panel, but how to work it? They all pushed on different sections, looking for some sort of release. There was nothing.
Alex stepped back and looked around the room with renewed interest. The lever that worked the door had to be there somewhere.
"Stand back." It suddenly occurred to Michael to use his powers to get the panel open. He put up one arm and focused his energies outward. Nothing happened, and he called up more and more of his energy, until the force of it caused heat waves to flicker off the wall. Still nothing happened.
"Let me try." Isabel stepped forward and repeated the process, but had the same results. They couldn't penetrate the wall.
"You'll never open it that way." The ghostly form of Atherton was standing behind her. Maria, whose nerves were stretched to the breaking point, again screamed in surprise at seeing him. She fled up the stairs and out of the house. The others looked after her, but Isabel and Michael were determined to continue their search, and Alex was determined to protect Isabel.
"Was it something I said?" Atherton asked.
Michael was getting angry "Look, either tell us what you want, or get out of here. We're busy."
The specter approached them. "I told you what I want. I demand justice."
"Justice for what?" Alex asked, using anger to hide his fear.
"Do I have to spell it out for you? I'm DEAD!"
Michael stated, "Yeah, well, you probably deserved it."
"Michael!" Isabel couldn't believe he was baiting a ghost.
Atherton suddenly turned to look at Alex. "You. What are you doing with them?"
"What do you mean?"
"They are aliens. You're a human..." He chuckled, amused at something. "This is too perfect."
Then, everything happened at once. No one was given any reaction time at all. A force suddenly threw Michael and Isabel against opposite walls.
Isabel, hitting her head hard, slumped to the floor unconscious, but Michael was held against one of the exposed support beams. He watched helplessly as the heavy, ancient typewriter sitting on the table lifted suddenly, and flew at him. The impact crushed his ribcage. The ghost released him, and he pooled lifelessly to the floor. Alex had rushed to Isabel, and was pulling her into his arms. He needed to get her out of there. "Not so fast, human." Atherton put a ghostly hand on his shoulder. "I have need of you."
Fearfully, Alex turned to confront Atherton. The ghost grabbed his head with surprising strength, and he found himself looking directly into - through - his eyes. The room started swirling around him. The eyes got closer and closer, until he was looking out through the eyes of James Atherton. The teenager fell to the floor in convulsions. The ghost took over his body, and his mind was flooded with his memories.
It was like sitting a theater. Alex was unable to anything but sit and watch the following unfold in his subconscious: Atherton was a Communist. He was a Russian agent who was sent to America in 1945 following the Second World War. His orders were both vague and specific: he was to observe the Americans, and report back anything that could be used against them, and be ready to take up arms against them if they were plotting anything against Mother Russia. He was one of hundreds of agents sent over.
His assigned location was "any small town in Texas." He'd settled on Marathon because of its remoteness. He'd build most of his house himself, and no one but him knew about the small hidden room underneath the floor. There was a secret exit leading out of the room that he could use if he was ever discovered.
In 1947, there had only been two news items of note. Both of them concerned him. First of all, there was the Hollywood Black List. It was the beginning of the big Communist scare. It emphasized to him how important it was that he keep his identity a secret. Secondly, a weather balloon fell in a small town in New Mexico. The Texans in Marathon were certain it was a governmental cover-up of something much more important. And the more he listened to them, and read the local papers from Roswell, the more convinced he became that they were right.
He thought about it and decided that he could use this cover-up to his advantage. He reported his ideas to his superiors and they agreed with him.
If they could throw the Americans into a panic over an alien threat, then there was a possibility the Communists could use it to their advantage. Point-in-case: look at the last time they'd had a panic over something; Black Tuesday followed by The Great Depression.
He began to publish articles on the "crash." He did a lot of traveling and interviewed thousands of people in the next few years. The more he heard, the more he began to believe his own stories. Soon, he didn't have a single doubt that aliens truly existed. He began searching for a real alien. He followed lead after lead, usually running into dead ends or just ordinary people who were just a little different from their neighbors.
It was a lead just like this that led him to the Mesaliko Indian Reservation on the outskirts of Roswell, New Mexico several years later. The inhabitants whispered of a stranger. A stranger who kept to himself, but had somehow befriended the tribe. Rumor had it that they had originally thought he was some kind of evil spirit, and they had tested him. Reports from there were mixed. Some say he failed the test. Others say he passed.
Some say he died and came back to life. Others said he'd just had a cold and had recovered.
Atherton was there to discover the truth. He'd pulled up next to the tribe's outpost on a hot summer day in June 1953. He got out of his RV, and went to introduce himself to the tribe's chief, Moon Gazer. He told the elderly man that he was interested in writing a book on the tribe's customs and rituals. He played on the old man's sentimentality, telling him how the times were changing them all, and little by little, the traditions held sacred by the old were being forgotten by the young. The chief had agreed to let him stay on the condition that he would leave at anytime that he was asked without causing trouble for the tribe.
Atherton agreed. He moved his RV to an out of the way place where it would be shaded in the afternoon. For the next week, he moved through the tribe asking questions, getting to know the villagers. He took a lot of notes in his notebook about the tribe's archaic customs. He knew that some members of the tribe were suspicious of him, and they checked his trailer regularly to see what he'd been writing down.
Fire Shadow was one of these men. He never stopped by to chat, and forbade the members of his family to do so. Atherton wondered at his reticence, but let it pass. The rest of the tribe was open and friendly, after they'd gotten used to him. Unfortunately, they couldn't give him any other information on the stranger than he already had. Most either ignored his questions or changed the subject when he asked. The few who would talk didn't know anything.
It became obvious that they were covering something up, and the more they tried to hide, the more he was determined to seek. After he'd been there for over three months, he was in the small village store one day when he heard voices coming clearly in from the open window.
It was Fire Shadow and his son.
"You did not come home until late, son."
"I know. I'm sorry father. It was a clear night, and the moon was full. It was practically as bright as noontime in the desert."
"Even so, when it gets cooler, the animals that sleep during the hot part of the day come out to hunt. It is not a good time to be out walking around."
"I'm sorry father. I'll be more careful in the future."
"That is good. How is your friend?"
"He is the same. He seems so lonely out there by himself, father."
"He need only come to the village if he wanted company. No one is keeping him out there but him."
"I know. I spoke with him about it, but he insists that he is happy out there. Still, I think that he is glad for my visits."
"I'm sure he is. You are a good boy, Riverdog. And a good companion."
"Truly father? I sometimes worry that I bother him with my questions."
"I'm sure he would tell you if he wanted you to stop visiting him."
"Yes. I believe you are right. He is very direct when he talks to me."
Riverdog's voice reflected a world of irony with that sentence. "Has he told you anything about who he is or why he is here?"
"No. I have stopped asking. Perhaps in time he will come to trust me with his secrets, but until then, I feel privileged just to be his friend."
"I believe that he is privileged as well."
The voices were moving away, and Atherton peeked out the window at them. Fire Shadow and Riverdog were walking back toward their lodge. Riverdog was gone from the reservation a lot, and Atherton hadn't thought to wonder what he did while he was away. Now he knew. He'd wasted all this time in the village when he should have been following Riverdog around.
He walked quickly back to his trailer. He spent the better part of the evening transcribing the notes he'd taken around the village in the past few days. As sure as he was sitting here, he knew that someone would be by to check his progress while he was away tomorrow.
Following Riverdog was easy. The child made no effort to conceal his route. However, when he'd arrived at their destination it was to discover the boy wasn't meeting his friend, but had chosen to go swimming. Atherton hid himself in some shrubs along the riverbank to watch. After an hour of frolicking around, he got out and laid on the sand to dry. Looking at him, Atherton wondered how old he was. He figured that he was sixteen or seventeen. He appeared to be just getting past that awkward age where he wasn't a child, nor was he an adult.
An hour later, when Riverdog led him right back to the village, Atherton was disappointed. What a waste of a day, he thought. He wasn't discouraged, though. He knew he'd get another opportunity and soon.
Later that same afternoon, he decided to retrace the route they'd taken earlier. For being September, it was still pretty hot in the desert, and a long swim sounded inviting suddenly.
He was walking along a narrow ledge on the side of a cliff when he heard the sound of footsteps coming from above him. Then, there was a sudden rock fall further up the trail, and Atherton watched in disbelief as a stranger plummeted past him toward the floor of the canyon. Skirting the loose gravel left by the landslide, Atherton hurried to the bottom of the cliff where the man lay senseless.
As he approached the stranger, the man sat up groaning. He was in obvious pain. Atherton approached, and asked, "Are you ok? Let me help you."
"Who are you?" the man asked.
"James Atherton. Call me Jim," he said as he extended one hand.
Hesitantly, the stranger took it. Atherton pulled him to his feet. "That was quite a fall."
The stranger took a minute before replying. He looked back up to the incline he'd fallen down. It was as if he was trying to figure out how he'd gotten to the base of the cliff. Slowly, he scratched his head before replying. "Yeah. I guess. Same thing happened to a friend of mine last year." He looked around him, stupidly. Atherton was left wondering if the fall hadn't addled his wits.
"Really? You were lucky then."
"Yes." Then the man finished, "Need to be more careful."
"Can you walk? I hope you don't have far to go to get home."
"Yeah, I'm fine. Maybe I'll just soak it in the water for a few minutes, then it'll be good as new."
"That sounds like a good idea." Together they walked to the river's edge. As short as the distance was, he was out of breath before they reached the shore. The stranger sat down and removed his shoe and sock then put his injured ankle into the water.
"Ahhh, that's better." The stranger looked at him and said, "So why are you out here, Jim?"
Atherton quickly told him about staying at the reservation and the book on Indian customs he was writing. He said, "A swim sounded good suddenly."
"Yeah, sure does. Don't let me keep you." The stranger waved his hand at the water.
Again, Atherton got the impression that this person was more than a few bricks shy of a load. On the other hand, it seemed that deep intelligence shone in his eyes. He didn't know what to make of the paradox. He was intrigued despite himself. "No, I'll wait." He spent the next hour shooting the breeze with the stranger. He was fairly certain that this was Riverdog's friend. It mostly meant that he was the stranger he'd been hearing about. That meant he could possibly be the alien he'd come looking for. He shot the stranger a look out of the corner of his eye. He looked plenty human to him, but that would be the perfect cover.
He would want to be as average was possible to blend in. Atherton understood that. He'd spent the last eight years pretending to be average Joe American himself.
Suddenly he felt a camaraderie with the stranger. "Well, Jim," the man said as he stood. "Thanks again. I should get going. Dinner won't cook itself, you know." He walked effortlessly to where he'd put his shoe and pulled it on along with a sock.
"No problem." Atherton followed him and again held out his hand. "It was nice to meet you."
"You too," the stranger said as he returned the handshake.
He started to walk away when Atherton called out, "Hey, mister! You got a name?"
The man turned around to answer, "Nasedo." Then he was gone.
Atherton practically ran back to the village. He wanted to write down every word that they'd exchanged before he'd forgot any of it. He entered his trailer, and pulled out a clean sheet of paper and his pencil and began to quickly write, using his own version of shorthand. He observed how normal the alien had looked, how he'd been injured but that the water had some sort of healing properties. Also how he didn't really seem intelligent and how he'd lost his breath easily. All of it was fascinating. He sketched out their conversation and finished with the man's name. Nasedo. It sounded exotic and foreign. It sounded... Indian. The following morning, he asked around. It didn't take him long to discover that he'd been right. It was Indian. It meant 'visitor'. Well they got that right, he thought. He sure was a visitor, a visitor from outer space if his suspicions were correct.
It was nearly evening that same day when Nasedo arrived in the village. Many of the villagers went to greet him, and he treated them cordially. He looked pleased to see Riverdog there.
Nasedo saw him, and after a few minutes broke away from the others and came over to him. Riverdog followed him. "Hello, Jim."
"Hello, Nasedo. Are you all recovered from yesterday?"
Riverdog asked, "What happened yesterday?"
Nasedo replied, slowly, "I was in a real fix. The ground out by the cliffs gave way under me, and I took a header into the canyon. This man stuck around until we was sure that I was alright." He held something out to Atherton, and said, "I am in your debt. Living alone in the desert, you take the chance of something like that happening. I could have been crow bait before someone wandered down that stretch of river."
"I did nothing. You would have been just fine on your own."
"Even so, I feel I owe you. Please take this." He again offered the small parcel.
Intrigued over what the alien could be giving to him, Atherton took the offering and unwrapped it. There was a beautiful necklace inside. It was silver and black, and had some sort of strange symbol on it. "I can't take this."
"I'll be highly offended if you don't. You see how the bottom is missing?" He pointed to the one flaw on the necklace.
Nasedo opened his other hand to show what was in his palm. "I have the other piece. This will symbolize my debt to you. Please keep it with you always as a reminder of the good deed you did for me. I'll keep this part. My family takes our debts seriously. I'll be very offended if you say no."
Atherton shot a look at Riverdog who looked crestfallen at this exchange. Apparently, the alien didn't just hand out tokens at random. "I would be honored," he said as he slid the rawhide thong over his head. The weight of the heavy pendant pressed against his chest.
"The honor is mine. I'm sure we'll meet again." He looked down at Riverdog to ask, "So, where's your father today?" The two of them walked off together.
Another couple of months flew by, and it was hard for him to keep up the pretense of studying the tribe. He looked for Nasedo at every opportunity.
The alien seemed to be very down to Earth, Atherton thought, and chuckled at the pun. He was knowledgeable on any number of subjects, but nothing out of the ordinary. Of course, he could be shamming, too. The saying about the deceiver who sees deceit all around him was very true. He figured there had to be more to Nasedo than one saw at first glance.
His time with the tribe was running out. He'd been there well over six months, and he knew that Chief Moon Gazer would be asking him to leave soon, and Atherton was desperate to find Nasedo's lair before then. Time and again, he followed Riverdog, but every time he did, the kid was going off to be by himself. When he didn't follow, the boy would be gone for hours on end, and he just knew he'd been with the alien at those times.
He finally figured out that the boy knew when he was being followed. Atherton was livid when he realized his mistake. Trying to follow an Indian boy required some skill. He drove into Roswell and bought a pair of binoculars. The next day, before the sun came up, Atherton climbed to the top of a hill that overlooked most of the trail that Riverdog usually took. He waited for several hours before his patience was rewarded. He watched as Riverdog made his way along the path as usual. Atherton watched until he disappeared from view, and then he quickly moved to the hill that overlooked the next portion of the trail. In this manner, he was able to track first Riverdog to Nasedo, then Nasedo to the area where he had his lair.
That night he made his plans. He would go to the cave, and find out whatever he could about the alien, then hightail it off of the reservation. If the alien discovered him going through his stuff... Well, he didn't know what would happen, but assumed that it wouldn't be pretty. He said his farewells to the chief and the other villagers that had been friendly to him during his stay. He packed up his trailer and ensured that the RV was ready to travel. Wanting to make sure that nothing happened to it, Atherton removed the necklace that Nasedo had given to him after he'd helped him, and tucked it up under the dash.
Long before dawn the following morning, Atherton was up and out in the area he'd last seen Nasedo heading toward. He scanned the terrain with his binoculars. There didn't appear to be any structures around. Trying not to be discouraged, he waited for Nasedo to arrive.
After three hours of waiting, his patience was rewarded. Stretching, Nasedo appeared by some bushes about a quarter mile away. Atherton watched him move away and down the trail. He was headed in the direction of the river, and Atherton prayed that he was meeting Riverdog out there. With a great deal of caution, he climbed down from his lookout, and made his way over to where the alien had first appeared.
The footprints on the ground were easy to follow. They led him to a cave. He didn't think to bring a flashlight with him, but he did have some matches. After a moment, he had constructed a torch, and entered the cave. He didn't know what he was expecting, but this clean, Spartan living wasn't it. There was a sleeping bag on the ground. Some cups and utensils were laid out on a flat rock that appeared to serve as his table.
There was a chess set laid out on a crude board on the floor. A couple of the pieces were missing, the white king and queen, and one of the pawns. Other than that, the set was complete. He looked closer at the pieces. They were... well, he didn't know what they were, but they weren't human, that was certain. He looked at the black king closely. Its large head and big eyes matched the description he'd been given repeatedly from people who had supposedly seen a real alien. He removed the satchel from his back, and stuffed the pieces inside. He was taking them with him. He was anxious to be out of there. He knew that Nasedo could return any second. On the other hand, he might not be back for hours. Still, he'd rather be safe than sorry.
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