FanFic - Other
"Out of the Woods"
Part 23
by Kath7
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters. I am just borrowing them. Lyrics to songs by Joe Cocker and Amanda Marshall.
Summary: This story is derived from a challenge from Actrez. The gang heads back to Fraser Woods (from Into the Woods) during their junior year. Tess and Michael join the Evans, while Maria goes with the Parkers. This story is post-Destiny. Liz had just returned from a lengthy stay in England. She returns to find a completely different Max and Michael.
Category: Other
Rating: PG-13
It was hard to follow River Dog and Michael and stay out of sight.

They headed straight out into the desert. There were few trees and very few things to duck behind should they turn around.

But they never did. They just walked.

The noon sun was beating down on my head when suddenly Michael and River Dog disapeared.

I broke into a run, tried to remember where exactly I had last seen them...

And then I stumbled over a rock and almost fell head-first into the hole.

It was small, barely five feet across, but I could tell that it was where my friend and River Dog had disapeared. Michael had left his water bottle sitting on a small rock near the entrance to what I assumed was an underground tunnel of some sort.

I got down on my hands and knees and peered into the dark opening...I couldn't see a thing, even when I made my hand light up the way I had when I had been with Liz and River Dog had "tested" me...

I really had no choice - I eased myself into the hole, was not surprised when my feet hung in mid-air....

I took a deep breath and let myself drop.

I didn't realize that I had been holding my breath until it whooshed back into my body when I hit the ground. I climbed unsteadily to my feet, looked back up the way I had come...Sunlight streamed into the tunnel from about ten feet above me.

The ball of light I created in my hand lit up the tunnel enough for me to see Michael and River Dog's footprints in the dust on the stone floor. They led off to the right...

It was then that I realized that the floor on which I was standing was not was smooth rock, clearly polished at one time, although it was now dusty and the walls were covered with spider webs. Where the hell am I? I wondered, amazed.

I swept my ball of light near the walls, was not at all surprised to see symbols engraved everywhere...I recognized the whirlwind galaxy from Isabel's pendant and the four-square...and there were a bunch more that I had never seen before...but I somehow KNEW them all - I didn't know what they meant, but they were familiar to me.

Finally I tore myself away from trying to read the symbols - I scanned them into my brain, knowing that they probably wouldn't all be there when I went back to access them, but I had improved a little bit - all that practive hadn't totally been in vain.

I followed the footprints. They wound through what seemed to be endless twists and turns. The tunnel was heading down...I wondered how far underground I was when after ten minutes I still hadn't found Michael.

After another ten minutes I wondered if I had gone the right way. Then the footprints stopped abruptly. I looked back the way I had come...and then I saw it..

A glowing handprint.

I stared at it for a minute...well, it was now or never.

I swiped my hand across it and the wall slid back immediately. I inched my way into the chamber, saw River Dog and Michael conversing on the far side of the room...

I ducked behind an outcropping of rock. I carefully poked my head up, tried to hear what they were talking about.

" sure I'm ready for the final stage?" Michael was asking, his voice excited and hopeful.

"Yes, my son. You have been ready for a long time. And when it is done you will be ready to take your true role in our society - as his right-hand. You will convince him of his destiny and he will go through the ritual himself. When you are both cleansed, then we will complete the four-square."

What the hell are they talking about? I asked myself, getting more and more worried...I just knew that something was not right here.

I turned my head, scanning the room for an answer.

And then I saw them.

Five glowing pods...

I stared at them, tried to see if they were like the ones I had seen in the pod chamber. They were identical - but there were five. What the...

I turned back to stare at River Dog. He was helping Michael into a white body-suit. I sort of recognized looked like the ones Michael, Isabel and I had been wearing in the memory Tess had shown me of us emerging from our pods when we were little.

"The first four stages cleansed you of your human skeletal structure, your blood supply, your human thought patterns and the majority of your organs." River Dog was explaining to Michael. My mouth fell open. "This last stage will be the most important - it will transform your human heart...return you to your true form...that of warrior and true member of our society. You will be ready to return to Illyria." Michael was nodding, clearly not disturbed at all by the fact that the other man had told him that he was losing his humaness.

And suddenly I knew exactly what the pods were for - they were to prepare us to return to our home planet.

It had never dawned on me that we would be unable to return as humans, but of course we couldn't. When Tess had told me that we were mostly human, just advanced humans, I had been glad. It had never occurred to me that that might not be the final form that the cloning of our essences was to take.

And Michael was only one stage away from NOT being human...from leaving us all behind - from abandoning his true self, his Michaelness. My brother would be gone.

Ridiculously, I wondered wildly what his name was on our home planet - because what was I going to call him when he was no longer Michael?

Okay, Max get yourself together, I ordered myself. You're the leader here. It is your responsibility to stop this.

Because even though I often felt like every question we had answered only made me realize how ignorant I really was of my place in the world, the universe, I was sure of one thing....

This was wrong.

I stepped out from my hiding spot. Michael had just waved his hand across the front of one of the pods. It was opening, the sides pulling apart in a strangely organic manner.

"Michael! Stop!" He whipped his head around, stared at me.

River Dog grabbed him by the arm, shoved him into the pod...

"Michael!" I raced across the chamber, pushing River Dog aside, tried desperately to grasp Michael's arm...but the pod closed around him, pushing my hand out.

As I watched in horror, the pod began to fill with a clear liquid. Michael's eyes closed and a blank expression came over his face. He floated in the liquid, apparently unconcious.

I turned, grabbed River Dog, pulling him to his feet. "I command you to get him out of there!" I barked. Being the supposed leader had to be good for something - I hoped.

The old man laughed, his tone mocking. "It is too late my is done." He pulled away from me and as I watched in astonishment he shape-shifted - he was no longer River Dog but instead - Michael. "And now I have you exactly where I want you."

Part 22 | Index | Part 24
Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours
Crashdown is maintained by and . Design by Goldenboy.
Copyright © 1999-2004 Web Media Entertainment.
No infringement intended.