FanFic - Other
"Thirty Miles"
Part 1
by Lisa
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. I don't own Roswell. These are Jason Katims' and Melinda Metz's wonderful characters but I am enjoying playing with them so don't sue me.
Summary: Consider this to be after "Crazy" but before "Tess, Lies, and Videotape." The gang is presented with the opportunity to slip into Area 51 but once inside they are separated from one another. As they cross 30 miles of desert in pursuit of a mysterious beacon each couple draws closer together.
Category: Other
Rating: PG-13
From the Journal of Liz Parker:

I'm writing because I can't say this out loud. I guess that's why I've written all along. There are some things I just can't say.

I used to believe people were honest-maybe not everyone, but most people. I don't think that any more. People keep secrets. Everyone does-- some for the right reasons, some for not so right reasons. Keeping the secret about Max, Isabel, and Michael has made me wonder about secrets other people keep, but I can't tell Max because we aren't alone.

It started when Max's boss at the UFO museum came to him with this "great opportunity." He knew someone who had worked inside Area 51, who had actually been to the crash site, a guy named Colonel Jack Hoag. After the military had labeled him an "alien nut" he had been discharged before earning his retirement benefits. For years the ex-colonel had planned a way to sneak into Area 51 to find evidence of the crash saying he wanted vindication. I'm not sure why the colonel came to Milton, that's Max's boss. Maybe that's why I've been suspicious from the start. But once Milton found out about it, he couldn't wait to tell Max. Then Michael found out and wanted to tag along. After that, it sort of snowballed. If Michael was going then so was Maria. If Max was going so was Isabel, and so on. Soon we all volunteered and, for a reason I can't figure out, Colonel Hoag agreed to it. Telling our parents that this was an "Outward Bound" sort of thing, we packed hiking gear and joined the Colonel as he headed into the desert. Now I'm sitting under a rock outcropping wondering if Colonel Hoag agreed too easily. What have we gotten ourselves into by walking into the desert with stranger . . . ?

* * *

"Why are we sitting around here doing nothing?" Michael snapped as he paced below the outcropping where Liz sat. "We're wasting time."

"Could it be that it's a restricted military base and maybe it would be better to wait until dark before trespassing?" Maria drawled as she pushed her hair off her forehead. "Is it just me or is it like a hundred and ten degrees out here?" She laid her hand on Michael's back. "And you aren't even sweating!"

"Did you have to point that out?" he growled under his breath.

Maria's eyes widened and her mouth formed an 'O.' Well that figures, she thought and glanced over at Isabel. Isabel was still picture perfect despite the fact that they had hiked 2 miles from the highway. Well isn't that great, Maria silently fumed. It's an oven out here and Isabel still looks like a prom queen. Perfect. Just perfect. Seeing that Michael had started to pace again, Maria threw her hands up in disgust and decided to join Liz in the shade. She plopped down in the sand and said, "Aliens don't have sweat glands. Who knew."

"Maria!" Liz protested. "You shouldn't say things like that."

"Why? Because it's rude? It's not like being rude ever stopped Michael or Isabel. Well, okay, Max is an exception but-"

"No, I mean because you never know who might be listening." Maria frowned. "In the desert?"

Liz looked in the direction where Colonel Hoag stood with Milton. "How much do we really know about him?"

"That he's an alien conspiracy nut. We've always known that." "I don't mean Milton, I mean-"

"They're both alien conspiracy nuts," Maria cut in. "Look, okay, we may know there are living, breathing, non-sweating extra-terrestrials walking around out here but Milt and Jack are just blowing smoke. They've surfed one X-File conspiracy web site too many. If you ask me, this is all just a waste of time."

"Maria," Liz whispered, "Colonel Hoag said he was there at the crash site. And the crash was real. You know that-"

Yeah, she knew that. But she couldn't believe that the old colonel could lead them to anything important. Surely the military had cleaned up any evidence of the crash long ago. It wasn't like Milton was the first conspiracy nut to get the idea to sneak onto the base. They weren't going to find anything on this field trip. Maria just knew it.

Max walked up and knelt in front of Liz. "Jack said that after dark we'd wait a couple of hours before slipping through the gap in the fence."

Liz stared deeply into Max's eyes and nodded.

A slight smile curved his mouth. "I thought I'd watch the sunset with you." Liz smiled beautifully.

"Well, that's my queue to leave," Maria drawled.

"You don't have to," Max told her with perfect politeness.

"Yeah, I do. Threes a crowd." She glanced back as she walked away. Max sat beside Liz and casually draped his arm across her shoulder as they watched the sunset. They had that "look" again-that soul mate slash made for each other look that always made Maria ache somewhere inside before searching for Michael. "Michael is over there with Jack," Alex told her.

"Bugging him to death no doubt."

"No doubt."

Maria cocked her head to one side. "Why are you here, Alex? I know you don't like to camp. You didn't have to come, you know."

"You too?" he asked with irritation.

"Me too, what?"

"Look at me. Do you see me? Wait. Better question, do you like me?" Alex demanded.

Maria frowned. "Of course I like you. You're my friend. We've been friends since fifth grade."

"Then why do I constantly feel like you guys would leave me out of everything if you could?"

"We don't leave you out of anything."

"Sure you don't. You and Liz discover"


"Yeah, Czechoslovakians going to our high school but do you tell me? No. You and the Czechoslovakians stonewall--"

"Ah-ha!" Maria crossed her arms and smiled at him. "Now I get the 'you too' remark. This isn't about me and Liz-and by the way, Liz did tell you about the Czechoslovakians, you just said we'd been brainwashed by some UFO cult-no, this is about one particular Czechoslovakian. Isabel said something about your not needing to be here, didn't she?"

Alex didn't answer, he just looked over at Isabel. Maria knew how he felt. She knew what it was like to constantly be pushed away, to be put at a distance. She placed a comforting hand on Alex's arm.

* * *

Liz watched the sky's color deepen from blue to crimson to violet as the sun set. Max's arm was warm and heavy over her shoulder, and it made her feel safe. Her worries seemed to recede when he was beside her. She looked up at his face and saw him staring intently at the horizon. She wasn't sure if he was looking at the sunset or not.

"You're worried too, aren't you?" she asked quietly. She wasn't sure how she knew what he was thinking. She just did. "Is it about the Colonel?"

He looked at her with mild surprise. "It's all just a little convenient isn't it? His showing up this way, his allowing us to go along. Under the best of circumstances going into Area 51 is dangerous. Having a bunch of teenagers tagging along? I'm not sure why he would agree to that."

"Unless he had a reason," Liz finished for him.


"But you agreed to go along with this anyway."

"Because this may be our best chance to make it onto the base and find out something. No matter the risk, it has to be done. It's just. . . " His voice trailed into silence.

"It's us, isn't it? The rest of us. You're worried about getting the rest of us into something that could be dangerous." She cupped her hand against his cheek and turned his face toward hers. "You didn't drag any of us out here. We made our own choices. We each knew what we were doing. We're here because we want to be." "You're here, you, Alex, and Maria, because you care about us. I should never have-"

"Don't. Please don't, Max. I don't regret anything that has happened, and you shouldn't either." She took his hand and held it in hers. "Whatever happens, never be sorry that you told me the truth. It brought us together. It brought all of us together. You aren't alone any more, Max. Yes, we're here because we care about you-" She smiled sweetly "-but that's a good thing."

He leaned over and touched his lips to hers. Softly, briefly, but long enough to take her breath away. He sat back and stared deeply into her eyes. "I'm glad you're here, and I'm glad you care."

* * *

"Nineteen-hundred, people. It's time to move out," the ex-Colonel announced. Michael jumped to his feet dragging his backpack over one shoulder. "It's about time."

Liz shivered and Max removed his jacket to drape it over her shoulders. "It's cold after dark."

Alex offered Isabel his jacket but she shook her head and said she was fine. Maria crossed her arms and glared at Michael. "Well?" she asked.

"Well what? You said you were hot." Walking over to the colonel Michael asked,

"So where is this breach in the defenses?"

"It's about a quarter of a mile north of here."

"Then we should start moving." Michael immediately ventured into the darkness. Maria quickly bent down, picked up her backpack and followed him. "You could slow down a little you know!" she yelled after him.

"The boy's right," Colonel Jack said in a lilting southern drawl. "Better get a move on, Milty." The men followed Michael and Maria.

Taking Liz's hand, Max quietly said, "Come on."

Alex looked at Isabel as she struggled with her backpack. "You're sure you don't need help?" he asked. . . for the third time.

"I said I had it," she told him. "I just need-Damn!"


"I broke a nail."

She sucked her injured finger and Alex felt something clench in his gut. He bent down and picked up her backpack. After helping her put on the back pack he stepped back silently.

"Aren't you going to say I should have let you do that from the beginning?" Isabel asked somewhat petulantly. "Michael wouldn't wait two seconds before rubbing it in."

Alex shrugged. "I don't think it's necessary for me to rub anything in. You wanted to do it yourself. I understand that. You hurt your finger, so I helped. End of story."

A faint frown line creased her perfect brow. "I. . .uh. . ."

Alex put on his own back pack. "We better catch up with the others."

She reached out her hand and touched his for the briefest of moment. At least he thought she touched his hand. It was so quick he wasn't sure. He glanced down at her hand as if by looking at it he could tell whether she had touched him, and he noticed that her nails were perfect.

Unlike with most girls, he didn't suspect that the "broken nail" thing was an excuse. He was sure she had broken her nail. She never would have admitted a moment of imperfection if it hadn't been true. It was just that she had "healed" it. Everything was back in its picture perfect place.

"I'm sorry, Alex," she apologized. "I should have let you help."

"It's okay. You're independent. I admire that. So are you ready to go?"

"Looks like it." For a few minutes there was only the sound of their shoes against the rocks. . . and the distant drone of Michael and Maria's bickering. Because of the full moon Isabel could dimly see the outline of the others even in the darkness. "The moon almost looks like you could reach out and touch it."

"Yeah," was his monosyllabic answer.

She tried again. "Isn't that the sea of tranquility?"

Alex squinted and looked at the blotch on the moon that she was pointing to. "No, um..." He caught her arm and lowered it a little. "See, that's the Mare Cognitum. It's where two of the Apollo missions landed." She gazed at him. "You really are into this stuff, aren't you? I mean, it wasn't just. . . "

"No," he told her. "It wasn't just to get close to you." He looked up at the stars. "I've always liked astronomy. I always wondered what's up there."

She looked at him in a whole new light.

* * *

"So, how much further?" Michael asked Colonel Jack.

"We're here." He pointed to the gap in the chain link fence. "Once we're through that-"

"We're there?!" Michael interrupted with dismay.

The colonel began again. "Once we're through the fence, there's 30 miles of desert to cross."

"Oh great," Maria drawled. "Like I don't already have blisters." Before she could finish the words Michael was through the fence. In a moment he would be jogging away in the darkness and she'd lose him.

She could never keep up with him. He was always moving. Always running. It wasn't like she wasn't used to elusive men. Look at her father. She could never hold him and if she was smart she wouldn't try to hold onto Michael. Yeah, he was interesting. Something inside her seemed to wake up whenever he was around, but she was a bright girl. She could only have Michael for the moment. That's all he would allow. That's all he would ever allow. Sighing, she crossed through the breach in the fence with Max, Isabel, Liz and Alex behind her. Colonel Jack and Milton brought up the rear. They kept that order for what seemed like forever. Hours passed without anyone saying much more than a word or two.

"Okay!" Maria finally called out, "I give. I didn't know this was going to be the Eco Challenge. Can we take a break?"

"No," Michael answered from somewhere in the darkness. "Suck it up and keep going."

"And if I say no?"

Suddenly Michael appeared right in front of her. "I'd say if you want to wimp out like this you can just sit here, but I'm going to keep going."

"And people say chivalry is dead."

"If the little lady wants a break, we take a break," Colonel Jack announced. "It's not a bad idea. Wouldn't hurt to take a read on our location. It's easy to get lost in the desert at night." Pulling out a hand held GPS tracker, the colonel looked at the coordinates.

Maria pulled off her back pack and threw it on the ground then sank down on top of it. Earlier she had been kidding about having blisters. Now they were real.

"Wimp," Michael grunted as he sat down beside her.

She glared at him. "Hey, I can't be the only one who wants to sit down for a few minutes. I think Colonel Methuselah there could use a break. What is he? A hundred?"

Michael frowned. "Probably a couple of years over seventy."

"And trekking into the desert on a wild goose chase. Amazing. Tell me is it the Y chromosome that makes men nuts?"

"This isn't a wild goose chase. We're gonna find something."

"Sure we are."

"Look, I've been doing some reading-"

She gasped theatrically, "You read something? Deliberately?"

"Cut the crap, Maria. The U.S. government is hiding all sorts of stuff. Why do you think they've kept this area a no fly zone for decades? Why do you think it's fenced off if there isn't something to hide?"

"Wouldn't it be easier to log onto the web site?" she questioned. "I mean, if there really is something to find-which by the way I don't think there is-wouldn't it be better to check it out on the web than hike blindly into the wilderness?'

"I did check the web page," he admitted, "but you can't tell anything. Besides that could be doctored. The government will only allow stuff to be seen that they want seen."

She rolled her eyes. "You really have become an alien conspiracy nut."

"That's 'not of this earth,' and if the first half is true the second part probably is too."

She looked over at him, at his face set in an intent, determined expression and said seriously, "You aren't going to like be crushed or something if we don't find anything are you? I mean, I know you want to find something-"

"I need to."

Worry colored her expression. "You don't really need to, you know. I mean, it's not the end of the world if we don't find anything today."

"Not the end of your world maybe. If we don't find anything you go home to your mom, and I-" He jumped to his feet abruptly and stood staring into the darkness. "What else is there for me? An empty apartment with an old black and white TV and roaches? Being invited to dinner at the Evans where I sit and never know what to say but still know I don't fit in?" He looked over his shoulder at her. "But you're right. If we don't find anything out here it wouldn't be the end of the world because I don't have all that much of a world to begin with. " He walked off leaving her to brood alone.

Maria flinched knowing that she had said the wrong thing to Michael. She'd unleashed his demons, and she was left feeling like the jerk she frequently accused Michael of being. She should have kept her mouth shut ... but she hadn't. She never did. She was just afraid of his being hurt if they didn't find anything. She didn't want him to have his hopes dashed. He had so few hopes to begin with that she hated to see any of them destroyed.

"Am I so wrong?" she asked.

"No," Liz said as she sat beside her. "I wanted a break too."

Maria swung around to look at her best friend and wondered if Liz had wanted to stop, why hadn't she said anything? But then Liz was. . . well Liz was Liz. Calm, enduring, valiant...probably a lot like those pioneer women who had set out to settle the west. Liz persevered without complaint. She was courageous as she bravely ventured into the unknown. In fact, if Liz wasn't her best friend in the whole wide world, Maria probably would resent her for being perfect. Perfect like...well like perfect, exotic Isabel. Isabel with the tall, curvy beauty, and that enigmatic quality that kept guys like Alex transfixed. Maria on the other hand... Maria felt ordinary. Just plain ordinary. Well okay, she could be somewhat quirky but that wasn't the same as being strong and exotic like Isabel or intelligent and inspiring like Liz. Maria knew that her best qualities were common sense and a smart mouth-not exactly the most devotion inducing personality traits.

"Do you hear that?" Max asked.

The colonel shook his head.

"I do," Michael said.

Maria frowned. "I don't hear anything."

"I think it's. . . " Isabel's voice faded as the sound of an engine grew louder as it droned in the distance.

"It's a helicopter," Alex realized.

Max started to back up and he took Liz's hand. "That's not one helicopter. That's-"

"A battalion of them," announced the old colonel.

Milton started looking around with a panicked expression. "What do we do? What do we do? What do we do?"

"RUN!!!" Michael, Maria, Alex, Isabel, and Max screamed in unison. Kind of like the characters in the Blair Witch Project, they ran blindly into the pitch black darkness-only they did it much more quietly because they weren't in doubt about who or what was after them. Helicopters with guns and searchlights approached from the distance. They were trespassing on a classified military base and they were in deep, deep trouble.

Maria ran as hard as she could. When she stumbled Michael grabbed her shoulder and dragged her to her feet. "Come on!" He yelled over the now deafening roar of the helicopter motors.

Liz blinked. "Where is everyone? I can't see them."

"Don't stop running," Max commanded.

"But where are Isabel and Alex?"

Max stopped for a moment and looked around them. A helicopter swooped down. Wind rushed up under them spraying rock and sand into their eyes. Liz screamed, and Max hauled her protectively against him. "We have to hide," he told her.

"Where?" she asked. "There's nothing out here but some scrub and rocks." Max looked around. Liz could see in the distance that one of the helicopters had landed and that men were getting out-men with guns--and there was no place to hide.

"Here!" Max pointed to a large rock that had sort of a niche under it.

It was low, maybe less than twenty inches high and only about three feet deep but there wasn't time to question. She got on her hands and knees and crawled into the space. Stretching out she tried to push herself as deeply as possible in the crevice.

Max followed her laying between her and the open desert. She could see that the soldiers, or whoever they were who had gotten out of the helicopters, had search lights. The beams of light pierced the darkness in criss-crossing patterns as the soldiers systematically searched. The lights were almost hypnotic she thought as she became aware that she was gripping Max's hand so hard that her nails were digging into the back of his hand.

Lights moved toward them relentlessly, and it was too late to scramble from their hiding place to make a run for it. Foot by foot they came closer. Thirty feet, then twenty then ten. Her eyes met Max's and in the dark depths of his gaze she read that he knew as well as she did that they were about to be caught, and that being caught would be a disaster. Eight feet. What were they going to do?

Max turned from her and raised his hand. He shook a little and she could feel his breathing deepen. Then she saw it. She couldn't believe her eyes but she couldn't deny that she saw it. The scrub in front of them began to transform. No longer were there bushes shielding their hiding places but rock. Solid rock... except for a small two inch crevice that allowed in air. He had somehow changed the structure of the scrub bushes to stone. She saw a flicker as a narrow beam of light pierced the two inch crevice then harmlessly passed over them. Then she heard soldiers pass overhead. . . and move away. They had made it!

"Max," she whispered in excitement. "They missed us."

He didn't move. He didn't answer.

"Max?" Frantically she turned him over. He was dead weight. In horror she realized he didn't seem to be breathing. . .

Index | Part 2
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