The Breach Implosion Complication
A/N: Ok, to say I am nervous to post this is an understatement. I think it's safe to say I am downright terrified. This is the first time I will be posting a crossover and I just don't know what to expect. But I have really been enjoying writing this and I hope you all love reading it just as much!
Just for some timeline references, this is set after Big Bang Theory 9x09 and Flash 2x09. And, yes, we've got some major dubious science in here lol.
Sheldon stared at his whiteboard with disappointment. His work was suffering; he knew this, but, now that the university had him on a time crunch for some work that was substantial… he was starting to see the scope of his work's downgrade. But he couldn't help that he was distracted by personal matters, by the loss of his most important relationship. Sheldon wanted to blame Amy for his professional downfall, but he couldn't bring himself to do so. Despite everything, he still loved her and wanted her to be happy. It wasn't her fault that he was an inadequate boyfriend.
Glancing over at the clock on his desk, Sheldon sighed when he realized it was almost noon. He had wasted half the day staring at this godforsaken whiteboard and still coming up with nothing. He was running out of time. The university was going to pull his funding if he didn't come up with something soon.
Suddenly there was a knock on his office door, and Leonard peeked his head inside. "Hey, buddy, we're off to lunch. You coming?"
Sheldon shook his head in the negative. "No," he replied. "I can't afford to waste any more time. I need to come up with something."
"Sheldon," Leonard sighed and fully stepped into the room. "Maybe it will help if you get out of this room for a while. You're working yourself to death."
He wanted to yell, throw, lash out at his best friend still standing in the doorway. He was *not* working himself to death. After all, he hadn't come up with anything of value in months. If he was working himself to death, he would have made progress by now. "Leonard, really, I'm fine," he tried reassuring the shorter man. "I just need to focus."
Leonard held his hands up in surrender. "All right, suit yourself. But I heard something pretty cool happened in Central City a couple of days ago. I know how you love a good discussion about that."
Without further ado, Leonard left him alone. Sheldon sighed once again. He loved talking about the latest metahuman news with his friends. Two years ago, when the Flash made his first appearances as the Streak in Central City, Sheldon and his friends spent almost all their time reading about him. Consuming the limited information that there was on this mystery man in red. Like the vigilante of Starling City, or the Green Arrow as he would later be known, nobody knew who the Flash really was. It wasn't that he was hellbent on finding out who this new hero was, but it made for an interesting hobby. Even if Amy told him it was a tad creepy.
Sheldon deflated again the moment his ex's name came into his mind. He couldn't let that hinder him, though. He needed to focus. Friday… he just needed to get to Friday. Then he could talk to his friends about exciting topics. He would either still have a job or be fired by the end of the week, no matter what.
Sheldon was about to turn away from his board to sit down, but a sudden woosh and jolt stopped him. And before he could even process what was happening, Sheldon was in an entirely different room altogether.
He knew he had just moved insanely fast, but the sudden stop was the thing that was truly disorienting. He held his arms out in front of him as if to make sure he had his balance. Sheldon looked around the room almost frantically, taking in his new surroundings, trying to deduce where he was. There were screens everywhere, each displaying some kind of data or logo. But Sheldon was so out of sorts he couldn't comprehend what it was. There was a hole in the wall, almost like a closet, but it was empty. There was nothing in it.
When Sheldon turned around, he was met with three pairs of eyes. Two of which were standing behind a large console with even more screens with even more data. A man and a woman both look shell shocked to see him standing there. But they were not who interested Sheldon the most. No, that award went to the man who stood next to the long desk. Clad in all red leather, a white emblem with a lightning bolt on his chest.
"You-you're," Sheldon sputtered and pointed at the man. He couldn't seem to take his eyes off of him. "You're the Flash."
With a nod, Flash validated Sheldon's last statement. "I am. And you're Dr. Sheldon Cooper."
"You know who I am?" he asked, shocked to hear his name come from the person he had admired for so long.
"I do. Child progeny, who graduated at eleven, had his first Ph.D. by the time he was sixteen and now works at CalTech."
Sheldon looked at the other two people in the room, wondering how in the world these people knew this information. What else did they know? "How- how do you know all of that."
The Flash smiled under his cowl. "Your biography on your university's website is very detailed."
One of the other two people in the room finally spoke up. The man... who had long dark hair and some kind of graphic t-shirt. "We also kind of ran a background check on you."
"Cisco!" Both the woman and the Flash whispered harshly.
Cisco, apparently, held his hands up. "Excuse me, but he asked!" He defended himself before sitting in front of the console to work on one of the screens.
There was an awkward silence for a moment as the remaining two people and Sheldon stared at each other. "As amazing as it is to meet you," Sheldon said, gesturing to the man decked out in all red. "Why did you bring me here? Also, where is here?" He asked, gesturing at all the surroundings.
"You're at STAR Labs in Central City, and we brought you here because we need your help."
"Wow, ok, STAR Labs as in particle accelerator explosion STAR Labs?" Sheldon had heard of what had happened here over two years ago. It was tragic, really, how wrong the accelerator being turned on had gone. Its success could have meant leaps and bounds for the scientific community. But instead, it only seemed to have brought tragedy.
The Flash sighed. "The very one. Look, I know our reputation here is less than stellar, but we really could use your help."
Sheldon looked at the woman, who at this point had still said nothing, and saw that she was nodding in agreement. He really wanted to help, but he had a deadline he had to meet. A very hard deadline that could cost him his job. "Look, Flash, I would love to help, but I have a lot of work back home that I need to take care of."
The Flash made eye contact with Cisco, who took a renewed interest in the conversation. "Dr. Cooper," Cisco started, standing again. "We know your work has taken a hit recently; if you help us, we may be able to help you too."
Sheldon narrowed his eyes at the shorter man and crossed his arms in front of his chest. "Do I want to know how you know that?"
"Probably not, no," Cisco rushed out, shaking his head. "But if we work together, I think we could be of great use to each other." Suddenly, he smirked. "And besides, I think you'll be more than happy to help us," he said, pointing at Sheldon's chest.
Looking down, confused, Sheldon was embarrassed when he remembered what shirt he had put on that morning. His signature red Flash shirt. Suddenly his cheeks were just as red as his clothing, and he kept his head down to hide that fact.
"Hey," Cisco called, bringing Sheldon's attention back to him. "It's alright, we of all people understand."
Sheldon shot the man a tight-lipped smile that was gone as quickly as it came. "I want to help, I really do. But I don't know how much help I'll be right now. I've been going through some stuff lately."
"Believe me when I say that everyone in this room has been through some stuff," The woman next to Cisco finally spoke. "Maybe a change of scenery will be good for you."
Looking back at the Flash, he saw that the scarlet speedster was questioning him with his eyes. "What do you say?"
"Alright," he nodded. "I'll help you. But I think it's only fair if I know why."
The Flash nodded. "I agree, Dr. Cooper. And it is only fair that you know who you're working with." He gestured over at his colleagues. "These are my friends," He spoke again, gesturing to the other two people in the room. "Cisco Ramon and Dr. Caitlin Snow."
Caitlin… or Dr. Snow… smiled genuinely at him. "It's nice to meet you, Dr. Cooper."
Sheldon nodded back at her. "So, what do you need me to do?"
Flash looked to his friends, and it was as if they were having a silent conversation simply through facial expressions. It was when Cisco and Caitlin both nodded that he turned back to Sheldon. "Maybe it would be easier if we showed you."
"Ok," he whispered, following all three people as they led the way.
STAR Labs was state of the art with all the latest technology, even though only half a dozen people were employed there. Sheldon had heard bits and pieces about what really happened here when the particle accelerator exploded. Still, like everything else that came out of this lab, it was a mystery. Maybe he would be able to get the full story before he went back home.
Flash led him and his friends through the winding halls and down an elevator. When they arrived at the heavy metal door, Sheldon went in ahead of them, cautiously curious. His eyes winded as soon as he saw it, though. A large mass of light that appeared to be stable but was whirling with energy.
"This," Sheldon pointed at the elephant in the room. "Is this a wormhole?"
"You could say that," Cisco said as he came to stand next to him. "We're calling them breaches."
Sheldon's brow furrowed in confusion. "Breeches? To what?"
It was the scarlet speedster who answered. "To another Earth."
"Another Earth?" Sheldon repeated. "The multiverse theory… it's true?"
"Definitely, and we have a giant problem to prove it." Cisco went further into the room to stand next to the breach.
"What's the problem?"
"He goes by the name Zoom," Cisco started, an edge to his voice that was telling of how serious the situation must be. "And he's from Earth-2. Zoom has an insane need for speed and will do anything to make sure he gets what he wants. He's already broken Flash's back once."
Sheldon's eyes shot to the man in question, who only nodded his confirmation. He remembered seeing that story on the news, how the Flash was nearly beaten to death by a new dangerous villain. "That was Zoom?"
Flash continued for Cisco. "Yes, and he won't hold back again if we let him, which is why we need your help. We need to close the breaches to the other Earth."
Cisco pulled up a map of Central City on one of the computer screens. He gestured for Sheldon to come over to him. "These are all the breaches that are scattered throughout the city. We need to close all of them except for this one," he said, pointing at the large wormhole in front of them.
"Exactly how many are there?"
"Including this one, there are fifty-two breaches in Central City," Cisco told him. Sheldon must have looked shocked because he quickly continued. "This is the largest one though, it's giving off the most transdimensional energy."
Sheldon studied the breach in front of him. He was fascinated with it. The way it flowed, to and fro, almost like water. But it wasn't a liquid, no, not at all. It was the gateway to a parallel universe. A door. He began nodding his head, understanding a little bit more of what they needed to do. Nothing was certain; he needed to write a formula, breakdown the math. But after months of getting nowhere with his research, he finally felt a renewed love for science.
"So, basically, we need to close the door from this side, ultimately locking anyone on the other side out. The event horizon on this side of the breach needs to collapse." Sheldon thought out loud, pacing back and forth. "Which means that the breach would need to be unstable…"
Flash and Cisco seemed to be catching on to what he was saying, and both of them came closer to the breach where Sheldon was now standing. With both men in close proximity to him and all three of them staring at the wonder in front of them, Sheldon continued. "It's going to take a lot of energy to do this, though."
Cisco snapped his fingers. "You'd need a detonation of some kind. Something that would destroy it but not create…" He sighed and paused heavily. "Not create a singularity."
The mood in the room suddenly turned somber, and Sheldon watched as the other three people simultaneously look down. He had a feeling he knew what this was about. "I take it you're referencing the mysterious singularity that happened here last year?"
All three people scoffed, but Flash was the one who ultimately spoke up. "Not mysterious, but yes, we don't want another repeat of that event."
Even though he was challenged with everyday social interaction, Sheldon knew better than to probe further on the subject. He had a feeling it was a sore spot for them, and as of late, he was also too familiar with sore spots. He wouldn't like them asking about Amy. Which was not outside the realm of possibility, seeing as how they knew a little too much about him. But regardless, he didn't want to cause any undue pain to people that he barely knew. Especially since one of these people was the Flash, a man who he'd admired for years.
A man who he now wanted to help.
"I'll need some time," Sheldon told the team. "But I think I can figure this out."
His entire academic career and Sheldon had never seen someone react with such gratitude for his assistance. Back in California, people only came to him begrudgingly. They knew he was the best for the job, but his lack of social graces gave him an infamous reputation. Sheldon always told himself that he didn't care, and maybe for years, he honestly didn't. But there was a strange feeling in his chest, looking at these people who didn't really know him and seeing them be thankful for his help—people who all seemed so genuine and caring and only wanted to do good in the world. Sheldon had to do this for them; he needed to do right by them.
Suddenly there was a beeping sound coming from one of the computers. The Flash looked at it for a moment. "I have to go," he informed them. "Look, Dr. Cooper, thank you for helping us."
Even if he was in a rush, Sheldon could tell that the man was genuinely grateful. He smiled slightly. "My pleasure."
And in the blink of an eye, the Flash sped off, leaving a gust of wind behind him. Papers flew off the tables, and his hair was messed up, but Sheldon was too mesmerized to care. So transfixed that he almost didn't hear Cisco when he said he would show Sheldon to a lab.
"So, why do you want to keep the breach downstairs open but not all the others?" Sheldon asked as he and Cisco walked the halls once again.
"One way in, one way out," Cisco stated simply. "Right now, Zoom could breach to almost anywhere in the city. But if he could only access this Earth one way, we could know he's coming and be prepared."
"You want to set up a trap," Sheldon affirmed. He had to admit, "That's smart."
They turned a corner and came to a stop in front of an open door. "It is, and get ready to meet the jerk who came up with that idea." Cisco's facial expression was somewhere between scared and annoyed.
And Sheldon was about to ask why he looked so apprehensive when a loud crash from inside the lab stopped him. And he could now add anger to the list of emotions so blatantly written across Cisco's face.
"Yo! Harry, what have I told you about throwing my stuff?!" The shorter man yelled as he stomped into the room. Sheldon cautiously followed behind him.
Inside there was another, taller, man dressed in all black. With hair sticking up in almost every direction, fingers through it, agitating it more. But when he angrily turned around to face Cisco, Sheldon had to take a step back. The man was older, late forties maybe even early fifties. But this man's face had been all over the news right after the particle accelerator exploded. And after his mysterious *death* which occurred last year. A death he was sure Team Flash knew more about than they were letting on.
Harrison Wells… the CEO of STAR Labs and the man who kept far too many secrets for the liking of the scientific community. But he was well respected, and he fascinated Sheldon anyway. Most of his research was leaps and bounds ahead of the times. Sheldon often read through his papers with interest instead of disdain like he did most other scientists. He had, honestly, hoped to meet the infamous Dr. Wells one day… but he died.
"Dr. Cooper?" Cisco questioned, pulling Sheldon out of his musings. "Are you ok?"
Sheldon couldn't look away from Dr. Wells… Harrison… whoever he was standing awkwardly in the back of the room. "You're dead," he stated outright, confusion seeping from his voice.
"On this Earth, yes," Dr. Wells answered, his voice rough.
Cisco explained it in layman's terms. "He's from Earth-2." He paused with a heavy sigh. "As for the Dr. Wells of this Earth, that's part of another really long story."
Well, that was one way to pique his curiosity, Sheldon thought. Obviously, there was more to the story of STAR Labs than the media was covering. And these new people that he had been introduced to obviously knew everything.
"Ramon," Dr. Wells whispered, the gruff in his voice stronger when his voice was quieter. "Who is this? And why is he here?" He asked, crossing his arms.
"This is Dr. Sheldon Cooper," Cisco beamed a stark contrast to the other man who only continued to frown. "He's going to help with our breach problem."
Dr. Well's brow furrowed with confusion. "How is a Geologist going to help close the breaches?"
Sheldon didn't think the other man could have hurt him more even if he physically punched him. He staggered back with a hand to his chest in offense. "Geologist- why would you? Who said I was a geologist?" He asked frantically, looking between Cisco and this hooligan who had the audacity to insinuate he was one of the 'dirt boys'.
"I take it you're not a geologist on this earth?" Dr. Wells' presumed.
"Wha- NO!" Sheldon shouted, and Cisco flinched but giggled beside him. Sheldon looked at him sharply, shooting fire at him with his eyes. How was this funny?
All the humor left the shorter man's face. "It's not funny," he said seriously.
"No, it's not!" Sheldon seethed. "Why would you think I'm a geologist?"
"On my Earth, you're a world-renowned geologist—best of the best. I pulled a lot of strings to get you to come work at STAR Labs with me," Dr. Wells explained.
Never in a million years did Sheldon think he was a rock monkey in any universe. He almost didn't want to believe it, just tell himself that Dr. Wells was just messing with him. That was until said scientist pulled up a picture on whatever fancy watch he was wearing and confirmed what he had told Sheldon.
Sheldon walked further into the room as a holographic picture of his doppelgänger standing with Dr. Wells appeared. It was a part of a news article from their world.
STAR Labs Revolutionizing the World of Geology!
The headline read. Sheldon didn't bother reading the article. After all, he wasn't this other Dr. Cooper. Sheldon didn't waste his time on rocks. He did, however, waste his time studying this picture from another Earth. Looking into the eyes of the man who was him but at the same time not. The man who stood by Dr. Wells' side, donning a wide grin. They were identical; of course, they would be genetically indistinguishable. But there was something lighter about the Sheldon Cooper of Earth-2; more at ease. Sheldon figured one would have to be if they decided to go into a field like geology.
But no, there was something else. Perhaps it was the fact that he was working in a multibillion-dollar facility with cutting edge tech and an excellent paycheck, no doubt. Or maybe it was that golden band on the fourth finger of his left hand—the gold glinting like a star in the night sky to the camera lens.
"He's married," Sheldon whispered in fascination, still examining the picture.
Would he look like that if he hadn't been so stupid? Would he have a dopey grin on his face if he had acted on their fifth anniversary instead of ruining it? Even though he was all the way in Central City, over fifteen-hundred miles away from Los Angeles, that wretched ring in his desk drawer was screaming at him like a banshee.
"He is married," Dr. Wells said, pulling him from his musings. He closed his watch with simultaneously made the picture disappear. "Quite the woman he found too. She's a force to be reckoned with."
Sheldon was too curious not to ask. "Who is she?"
With Dr. Wells poised to answer, Cisco's voice rang from the doorway of the lab. "Okay!" He yelled in a sing-song manner. Sheldon looked back at him incredulously. "Look, feel free to talk about your doppelgangers all you want, but I have some work I need to go take care of."
"Be my guest, Ramon," Dr. Wells snipped.
"I don't need your permission, Harry," Cisco snarked back. The tension between these two was insane, and Sheldon wasn't sure how he felt about it. "Listen, Dr. Cooper, everything you need should be in this room, but if you need anything, don't hesitate to ask. Oh! Before I forget," he reached into his pocket and handed him a flash drive of some kind. "This will give you access to a STAR Labs computer. Just plug it in, and you should be good to go."
Sheldon took the tiny device from his hand. Just an ordinary flash drive, it appeared. "Thank you," he told Cisco.
And with that, he was gone, but not before telling Dr. Wells… Harry… to behave himself.
Sheldon took a moment to really get used to his new surroundings. This had to be one of the smaller labs in the building, and yet, it was already more extensive than Leonard's. Tools everywhere, tech that any geek like himself would love to get their hands on. Their whiteboards weren't white; instead, they were like glass. You could see right through them. The white marker that was provided created enough of a contrast, though. Sheldon could tell by the plethora of calculations that Dr. Wells had on a couple of them.
As awkward as it was just standing in the room like an intruder while the man from Earth-2 got back to work on whatever it was he was working on, Sheldon found a spot and dove into the work he was brought in to do. A large table all to himself, almost twice the size of his desk back home. A board and white marker for him to brainstorm on. And a computer that sat idle with the STAR Labs logo.
When he plugged the drive into the monitor, a browser opened up and a long list of files. One of which was conveniently named, Breaches. Curiously he clicked on the folder and found that Cisco had complied all the information that they currently had on these portals to another dimension. In detail, it was explained to him how they stabilized a breach using quark matter. It was rather helpful, and Sheldon began to calculate on the "whiteboard".
He worked faster and more eager than he had in months. The formulas and equations flowed from him like blood did to the heart. That was until he hit a roadblock. Confused, he stepped back and observed his work, studying every last detail, every last decimal. Until he found the slight miscalculation that threw off most of his work. To say Sheldon was upset was an understatement. He couldn't even solve something he was inspired by, something he was excited about. His mind, once his most prized possession, was worthless now. In an uncharacteristic display of anger, he chucked the marker he held in his hand at the wall in an unbridled fit of rage.
Dr. Wells, who had barely made a sound since Cisco left well over an hour ago, looked up at him with wide eyes. His hands stilled over whatever piece of technology he was tinkering with and continued to stare at Sheldon with obvious shock.
Sheldon interlaced his fingers behind his head and took a few deep breaths. "I'm sorry," he apologized. "I'm just frustrated."
Dr. Wells laughed slightly as he wiped his hands with a nearby cloth. "Don't worry about it, believe me, I understand." He twisted on his stool to face him fully. "I even know what that look on your face is about."
"The 'someone I love is gone, and now my work is suffering because of it' look," Dr. Wells asserted.
Sheldon sat back down on the stool of his own and scoffed. "She's not gone, she just…" he couldn't bring himself to finish the sentence.
"She broke up with you," the other man supplied. "Yeah, I figured."
For what seemed like the millionth time that day, Sheldon looked confused. "How?"
"When I showed you the picture of your doppelgänger," Dr. Wells explained. "There was a glint in your eye when you realized he was married. Like a yearning almost."
Sheldon hadn't realized that his emotions were that obvious. Or maybe the other man was just smart enough to pick up on nonverbal cues like that. There was no point in trying to lie to Dr. Wells, though, because he was right. There was a yearning—jealousy.
"We've been broken up for almost six months," he started, letting down barriers that even his friends couldn't break down. But for some reason, he was trusting a complete stranger. "She's the only woman that I've ever loved like that, and now she's trying to move on, and I…" his voice began to break the more he spoke, but he shook his head. Even though he was willing to talk, he was not willing to break.
There was a rolling sound, and Sheldon looked up to see that Dr. Wells had moved closer. "Sheldon… can I call you Sheldon?"
"My wife died when my daughter was four. I had to learn very quickly and very suddenly how to raise a child on my own while simultaneously grieve for the woman that I loved. And, yes, for a while, I was not good at it. Because losing someone who is your whole world, who is essentially your other half, it's unnerving. Like a part of you has been yanked away, and you have to find a way to live with that. It's one of the hardest things to do, but only the toughest of people come out of it stronger than they did before. And if you're anything like the Sheldon Cooper on my Earth, I know you're capable."
Sheldon studied the man in front of him. He appreciated what he was trying to say, but Sheldon didn't feel like he deserved it. "How is this even comparable, though? Your wife died, my girlfriend just broke up with me."
"Pain is pain," Dr. Wells said. "There's no comparison because everyone feels it differently. I don't know your situation, and I am not going to assume anything either. But ignoring the problem won't get you anywhere. Believe me, I am speaking from experience."
Sheldon scoffed. "Well then, what am I supposed to do? Just be a brooding mess all the time?"
"No… don't let it control you, let it drive you." Dr. Wells smiled slightly as if he was thinking about something. Or someone, Sheldon couldn't be sure. "Who knows, you just might surprise yourself."
With that, Dr. Wells rolled back over to his own workstation and left Sheldon sitting in thought. The last time he had seen Amy was on thanksgiving, the day they went to the aquarium together. As friends. In the car, Amy had asked him if he was doing ok. Of course, Sheldon knew what she was asking him, but he didn't want to tell her the truth. He didn't want her to see him vulnerable and hurt. And later that night, when he laid in bed unable to sleep, he wished he had just opened up to her. Because everything inside of him was coming to a head, ready to explode. Maybe talking to Amy would have been freeing.
Perhaps he would do something about it when he got home. But first, he had a job to do, and he wasn't about to blow it for the Flash.
Just as he turned back to start working on the equations again, an alarm sounded throughout the building. The other scientist in the room leaped from his seat and moved around the room frantically.
"What is that?" he asked as Dr. Wells grabbed what looked like a futuristic rifle.
Dr. Wells slung the strap of the weapon over his shoulder. "That is a proximity alarm; we need to move," he informed Sheldon, taking him by the arm and leading him out of the room.
Sheldon ran alongside the other man down the long winding corridors of STAR Labs. "What is going on?" he asked. He struggled to breathe as they came to a stop in front of a random concrete panel.
With a quick survey of their surroundings, Dr. Wells said nothing as he raised his hand to the wall like he was pushing a button. Sheldon watched as a specific part of the wall split in the middle creating an opening to a hidden room. But it wasn't like a door, no, the two halves disappeared into the adjoining two panels of concrete.
"Get in," Dr. Wells nudged him.
Sheldon stubbled into the all-white room that was, for the most part, empty. Except for, what looked like, a plinth in the deepest part of the space. He ran his hand over the white tiles that had random bumps everywhere, like brail.
"What is this place?" Sheldon asked, turning back to Dr. Wells.
The mechanism that let them in, activated again, but this time closed the "door" instead. It was like it wasn't even there. There was a mechanical clicking noise that sounded like when Sheldon's father cocked a shotgun. Sure enough, that's almost exactly what it was. Dr. Wells was now standing with his gun aimed towards the closed door.
"This is the only place I could think of to hide," Dr. Wells spoke shakenly.
"Hide? From what?"
Dr. Wells looked him dead in the eye, and Sheldon could see the fear there. "From Zoom… he's in the building."
A/N: Thank you so much for reading :)
I have about two and half chapters written already and will try to update on Fridays.
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Reflections: Chapter 3
Liz was panicking. She wanted to bolt, but was certain he would stop her again if she tried. Who knew what kind of power he had?
She tried to rationalize what she had just seen. Maybe—maybe something in the cosmic storm had given him some kind of delusion? A dissasociative identity disorder? It would also explain the guy who thought he was Kyle’s dad.
Whatever the case, the man in front of her was clearly insane.
‘Max’, for his part, sighed in frustration. He should have expected as much. Whatever similarities there were, it was clear everything was still new to her. Even he was having trouble wrapping his mind around the situation, and he’d been dealing with bizarre events for nearly a decade.
“Doctor Ortecho,” Max called to her. “Please, just listen…”
“No!” Liz snapped, pointing a finger at him accusingly. “No, you are NOT Max! I know Max—in the biblical sense!”
Max raised an eyebrow, surprised—and a little amused--by her outburst.
“I’ve known him since we were kids, and he’s never looked like you,” she argued. “You have a different facial structure, his hair’s thicker, his ears don’t stick way out…”
“They don’t stick out that much!” Max countered, a little insulted.
“If you’re trying to confuse me,” Liz said. “Make me think you’re the ‘real’ Max Evans, and Max has been impersonating you all this time…”
“You asked for the truth, and I’m giving it to you!” Max cut her off. “If you’ll just give me the chance, I’ll explain how there can be two Max Evans’!”
Liz took a deep breath, calming down—she crossed her arms.
“You have five minutes!” she ordered. “Then I’m calling Max, and believe me—you’d prefer dealing with the Sheriff!”
“I don’t doubt it,” Max smirked. “Especially if he’s anything like me.”
He took a step closer, but Liz stood her ground.
“I’m telling you the truth, Doctor Ortecho,” he explained. “I am Max Evans—but not the one you know. Not the one from this world.”
“This world?” Liz questioned him.
“This—dimension,” Max said carefully. “Those lights in the sky—earlier, when I referred to it as a gate, you asked me what it was a gate to. It’s a gateway to the place that I come from. On the other side is another version of Earth. Another Roswell.”
Liz blinked, trying to take it all in. As much as she wanted to dismiss his story as the ravings of a lunatic, the scientist in her couldn’t help but jump at the possibility he was telling the truth.
“Multiverse theory is, well—theoretical at best,” she countered. “At worst, it’s a plot device used by comic books and science fiction shows that have jumped the shark.”
“Forty-eight hours ago, I would have said the same thing,” Max agreed. “Yet—here I am. What possible reason would I have to lie to you?”
“I don’t know,” Liz sighed, losing her nerve. “Using me to get to Max, maybe?”
“You think this is a trap,” Max realized. “You think one of his enemies sent me to get to him through you. Yeah—if it was me, I’d probably think the same thing. That’s one of the reasons I approached you about this instead of my—counterpart.”
“Max doesn’t have enemies,” Liz told him.
“No?” Max asked. “Have you ever heard the name Kivar before?”
“No,” Liz answered.
“The Skins?” he asked again. “The Dupes? The Grandolium Creatures?”
“The Special Unit? Nikolas?” he continued. “Everett Hubble, Tess Harding, Clayton Wheeler and Metachem?”
“Should I know what those are?” Liz asked.
“Wow…” Max breathed. “He’s had it easier than I thought. Or maybe all that just hasn’t happened yet?”
He seemed genuinely surprised, making his whole story being less and less likely to be an act. Still, it didn’t discount some sort of delusion. Except…
“Your fingerprints,” Liz told him, taking out the paper she’d received from the Sheriff and showing it to him. “You have Max’s fingerprints.”
“What?” he asked, taking the paper and looking at him. “How is that possible? I don’t have his face, but I have his fingerprints? How does that work?”
“If your whole plan was to cast doubt, then you would have led with that,” Liz pointed out. “But you didn’t even know, which means—your whole story about parallel universes might actually be true.”
She tried to wrap her head around the ramifications of that: here was an actual live specimen that proved multiverse theory as a fact. Never mind the literal laundry list of so-called ‘enemies’ he recited just a moment ago. Were those something in Max’s future, or simply a variation in THIS Max’s dimension that didn’t exist in their own?
“Ok—suppose I buy that you are some alternate version of Max,” Liz countered. “How did you do that thing with the green energy? Max described seeing something like that the other night, only bigger. What is it—focused electrical current? An atmospheric discharge? How does bio-electrical manipulation make walls of light?”
“I don’t control electrical fields,” he explained. “Well, I could, but it would take a bit of effort. My powers work a little different.”
“How do you explain that trick with the lights?” Liz questioned him.
“I manipulated the light switch,” he said with a smirk.
Liz opened her mouth to retort, but then felt really stupid about completely missing the obvious.
“For dramatic effect”
Liz rolled her eyes.
“Telekinesis, then?” she asked. “Are you sure you’re not an alternate reality Michael Guerin?”
Max chuckled, because he could image how Michael WOULD have handled this situation—with a lot of yelling and slamming of doors.
“My abilities are a lot broader than that,” he tried to explain. “I can manipulate molecular structures.”
“The molecular structure of what?” Liz questioned him.
“Of anything,” he clarified. “Here, I’ll show you…”
He walked over to Liz, grabbing her arm gently.
“May I?” he asked.
With a nod from Liz, Max placed his hand on her silver bracelet. His hand started to glow, and the bracelet literally melted off her wrist, forming a small muddle of liquid metal on the floor.
Liz stared at him wide-eyed.
“How did you…?” she asked. “Dios mio, it didn’t even get hot!”
Liz kneeled down to examine the silver puddle.
“That’s because I didn’t heat it up,” he explained, leaning down himself. “You’re a scientist, right? What happens when a solid becomes a liquid?”
“The molecules go further apart,” Liz stated without thinking. “You’re—you’re saying you can psionically force matter to change its state?”
“And its composition, watch,” Max continued, placing his hands over the puddle.
His hands started to glow again, and when he removed them the bracelet was solid once again—only now it was made out of copper.
“No way…” Liz breathed.
He repeated the action, and the bracelet turned to lead. One more time, and it was its original silver once more, as if nothing had happened.
“Max can manipulate electricity,” Liz stated. “Absorb it, rechannel it—use it to generate heat. Even human bodies generate a small electrical current. But this—this is borderline alchemy!”
They stood up, and Liz put her bracelet back on.
“What are your limits?” she asked, excitedly. “Are there certain elements you can’t effect? Does the size of the object make a difference? Is there a period of recharge between using your abilities? Does it work on organics, or just inanimate molecules? How do you compensate for atomic weight? Do all the aliens in your dimension have this power, or is it just you?”
“We have the same power, but we each have a specialty,” Max explained to her. “For example, I’m really good at generating force fields, as you saw earlier. I also have the power to heal.”
“Just like my Max,” Liz noted. “I guess that answers my question about living molecules. Can—can you raise the dead?”
Max bit his lip.
“I can,” he admitted. “But I try to avoid it if possible. It—well, it comes at a price.”
Liz nodded, understanding.
“But sometimes I can’t help myself,” he admitted, his voice softening. “I don’t like to see people hurt.”
Liz looked into his eyes, and it hit her. As insane as it sounded, the truth was undeniable.
“You really are Max,” she whispered.
“Thank you,” Max said.
Chapter 3: Questions & Answers
Max peered out of the mouth of the cave at the lights in the distance. Was it his imagination, or had they gotten bigger? Or was it closer.
“Why do I get the feeling you know more about this event than we know?” he asked his guest.
The girl shrugged, and went back to writing. Max had taken a peek, hoping it would provide some explanation to her origins. Unfortunately, it was just a bunch of symbols he couldn’t decipher.
“What are you trying to tell us?” Max wondered. “If only you could talk…”
Suddenly, he got an idea. Of course—if she had his powers, then maybe…
“Hold up a second,” he said, before grabbing a backpack that was stuffed in a corner of the cave. The girl watched him, curiously.
“Here,” he said, pulling out a bottle of acetone. “This might help.”
The girl raised an eyebrow in confusion.
“Go ahead!” Max encouraged her, giving a smile.
In response, the girl showed Max the back of her hand, wiggling her fingers around.
It took Max a moment to realize what she was trying to convey, then laughed.
“No, not on your nails,” he laughed. “Drink it!”
Her eyes went wide, staring at Max as if he’d lost his mind. She shook her head violently.
“Come on, just try it…” Max said, opening the bottle and moving it toward her mouth.
The girl, for her part, kept her mouth shut, moving her head out of the way in a comical attempt to avoid him. Finally, having had enough, she just pushed Max away.
The girl jumped to her feet, pointing at Max with one hand, and making a circular motion on the side of her head with the other.
“I’m not crazy,” Max scoffed. “It’ll help—trust me.”
The girl crossed her arms, glaring at him.
“Stop being so stubborn,” Max sighed, clearly annoyed. “We’re trying to help you.”
With that, the girl threw the bottle at Max’s head. He ducked it just in time.
“Hey!” he protested.
She tried to yell in frustration, but all the came out was a strangled gasp. She kicked the sand in protest.
Turning to Max, she made a mock drinking motion, then grabbed her throat and dramatically fell to the ground.
“It’s not going to kill you,” Max chuckled. “It’ll heal you. Maybe even restore your voice.”
The girl stared at him, her eyes lighting up.
She pointed at Max, then at her ear, then finally at herself.
“I hear you?” he asked. “I understand you?”
The girl nodded enthusiastically, smiling widely now. She pointed to herself again, then made an X-shape with her arms, then pointed at Max again.
“You’re—not me?” he asked. “You’re not LIKE me?”
She nodded again.
“Charades,” he sighed in relief. “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Max stood up.
“Guys?” he called outside of the cave. “I’ve got an idea!”
Back at the Crashdown…
Liz slid the milkshake in front of Max—other Max, she reminded herself.
‘This is going to get so confusing,’ she thought. ‘I need to think up a way to differentiate him from Max. Mirror-Max? Counter-Max? Molecule-Max?’
“Thanks,” he said, taking a sip. “I—don’t actually have any cash on me.”
“It’s on the house,” she reassured him. “If you’re feeling bad about it, just turn one of the napkin holders into gold and we’ll call it even.”
“It doesn’t work that way,” he admitted. “I tried that once, and the guy at the pawn shop knew it was fake. I need something with the same—uh, density, I think?”
“Atomic weight,” Liz realized. “So, you do have some limitations.”
He took a sip of the shake.
“Mmm…” he moaned, savoring it. “Been a long time since I’ve had a Green Martian Shake.”
“Actually, it’s called the Little Green Man,” Liz corrected him. “It’s Max’s favorite, so I figured it was yours too.”
“It is,” he said. “Though the Crashdown back home called it the Green Martian. Didn’t have the double cherry, though…”
“So there’s a Crashdown where you’re from?” she asked. “Only it has a different menu?”
“Different menu, different sign,” he recounted. “A little bit more UFO memorabilia, but I like the art here better. But, uh—the waitress uniform’s practically identical.”
“Are you kidding me?” Liz deadpanned. “The antennae is the multiuniversal constant?”
“What’s it like in your world?” Liz asked him curiously.
“Not that different,” he remarked. “Technology here is a little more advanced, but when I left it was 2007. It’s possible that it’ll advance to this point in the next thirteen years.”
“What about you?” she asked.
“You knew the important things about me before I even got here,” Max pointed out.
“I know about my Max,” Liz corrected him. “I don’t know about you.”
Max considered that for a moment.
“Think of it as an experiment,” Liz suggested. “You tell me your story, and I’ll see where there are similarities and where there’s variations.”
Max took a deep breath. He supposed it wouldn’t hurt.
“Well, I guess my story really starts in 1947,” Max explained. “When a UFO crashed at a ranch outside Roswell. The army claimed it was a weather balloon, but—you and I both know that wasn’t the case.”
“Same,” Liz stated. “So, you don’t remember your life before you can to this planet either?”
“I’ve learned after the fact,” Max explained. “I’ve met people who knew me before, but—no, I don’t remember anything myself. As far as I’m concerned, my life started the moment I landed on Earth.”
Liz nodded in understanding, allowing him to continue.
“The government covered it up,” he continued. “But some of the creatures onboard the ship managed to get away. They took these—incubation pods, and hid them in a cave where they sat for decades. Until 1988, when three children came out of them.”
“Ten years earlier,” Liz remarked. “You, Michael, and Isobel, right? They both have counterparts in your world too?”
“Isabel with an A instead of an O,” Max pointed out. “I did some research on your phone. But yeah—they do.”
Liz wrote the two different spellings down on in her notebook for future reference.
“The other boy was separated from me and my sister,” Max recounted. “Then, they were found by a couple—the Evans’. They took them in, adopted them, and raised them as their own. Michael ended up in foster care, but eventually we crossed paths again. It didn’t take long for us to realize we were different than the humans—especially after hearing the legends surrounding the crash. We knew we had to keep it a secret, even from our parents.”
Max looked down at the menu on the table.
“We felt our lives depended on it,” he recalled, no longer just talking to Liz, but also speaking aloud for his own sake. “That we could never stand out or draw attention to ourselves. Never—get close to anyone. That it was just the three of us. All that changed, though, the first day we went to school.”
“What happened?” Liz asked. “What changed things?”
“The same thing as any good story,” Max told her. “It was a girl.”
Max looked up, smiling at the memory.
“The most—amazing girl I’d ever seen,” he recalled. “Beautiful, kind—smart. The most amazing person I could ever imagine. The first time I saw her, it was like the world just stopped. That my heart stopped beating, and only started up again when I heard her voice. I’d always been frightened of other people, even other kids, but with her--I wanted to know everything about her. You know, you ask most people if they believe in love at first sight, hardly anyone would agree. It sounds like an unrealistic expectation—up until the moment it happens to you.”
“What was her name?” Liz asked.
Max closed his eyes, an embarrassed smile on his lips.
“I really need you to be upfront with the details here,” she pointed out.
“Liz,” Max said.
“Fine,” she scoffed. “If you’re too embarrassed to tell me, we’ll just move on…”
“No,” he said, still smiling. “I was answering your question.”
Liz looked at him, confused.
“Her name was Liz,” he repeated.
Liz’s mind reeled, taken completely by surprise. After all, if there could be another Max Evans somewhere out there in the universe, wouldn’t fate suggest that there was another one of her as well.
“So—there’s a Liz Ortecho where you’re from?” she asked, her voice shaking.
“Sort of,” Max said uneasily. “There are differences between you and her.”
“Clearly,” Liz scoffed. “I mean, you’re different from my Max, so I shouldn’t expect the other me to be identical.”
Max chuckled at her uneasiness. Liz crossed her arms.
“So—love at first sight, huh?” she said, teasingly. “Did you and little Elizabeth hit it off on the playground?”
“I kept my distance,” Max confessed. “I tried to stay away. And even when we ended up being lab partners in biology class, I made sure it didn’t extend outside the classroom.”
Hearing that made Liz’s face fall.
“Why?” she asked. “I mean, it wasn’t like that for me. For us, I mean. Me and Max, we were friends growing up. We hung out all the time, listening to music, complaining about our crazy families, and just…I mean, I didn’t know how he felt about me or what he really was, but we were still close.”
“I was—afraid,” Max confessed. “Like I said before, Michael, Isabel, and I were convinced the only way we could stay safe was by not drawing attention to ourselves. I was scared that, if anyone ever found out who I really was—what I really was—that they’d reject me. I imagined telling her so many times, but—the thought of Liz looking at me and seeing some kind of monster—something ‘other’, well—it was the worst thing I could possibly imagine.”
Liz’s heart broke upon hearing this, and she couldn’t help but wonder—was his feeling that way really a difference between his world and her own, or merely something that remained unsaid?
She placed her hand over her heart—on Max’s handprint hidden under her shirt—and wondered if her Max had ever felt that way. She thought back to when she first found out the truth, when she had thought Max had killed her sister, and she considered the possibility that he really was a monster.
The worst thing he could possibly imagine? Liz hated the very thought that she could have ever made her Max feel that way.
“Doctor Ortecho?” Max asked, concerned.
“Yeah, sorry,” Liz said, wiping away a tear she hadn’t even realize she’d shed. “It’s just—you must have been so lonely.”
“I was,” Max admitted. “I spent years watching her from afar—watching her grow up, even though I couldn’t let myself be a part of it. I savored every moment that I was able to spend with her. Until I turned sixteen, and—everything changed.”
Max took a deep breath.
“Michael and I were at the Crashdown, grabbing a bite to eat,” he recalled in perfect detail. “Liz was there, working at her family’s restaurant, wearing that very same uniform you have on right now. The place was packed. These two guys were there, arguing about money, and—and one of them pulled out a gun…”
He closed his eyes, shuttering at the memory.
“The gun went off,” he said. “And—and then I saw Liz hit the floor.”
Liz held her breath. She could almost guess what happened next. It was HER most vivid memory.
“I ran over to her,” Max recalled. “Michael tried to stop me, but I just brushed him off. I saw Liz lying there, and—and there was so much blood. I didn’t stop to think about the consequences, I just knew that I couldn’t let her die. So, I put my hands on the wound, and used my powers to heal her.”
“You were sixteen?” Liz whispered. “You said—the place was packed. You used your powers in broad daylight?”
“Someone could have seen you!” Liz realized. “You could have exposed yourself, and Michael and Isobel—but you still did it? Why?”
Max looked at her as if the answer was obvious.
“It was her.”
Liz sat in silence for a long time, as the weight of everything settled in. When Max had healed her, they had been alone. She’d been a full-grown adult, the victim of a hate crime. She tried to imagine how she would have reacted to all of this if it had happened in high school. Heck, her counterpart had been even younger than she’d been when Rosa had died.
Liz didn’t think she would have been able to survive the past few months if they’d happened while she was still a teenager.
“You can probably guess what happened next,” Max finally continued. “I tried to come up with a cover story that she’d spilled ketchup on herself, but—I left evidence behind.”
“Evidence?” Liz asked. “Something like this, you mean?”
Liz lifted the shoulder of her uniform, showing the handprint on her shoulder.
“Wow…” Max remarked. “It’s more—technicolor—but yeah. It hasn’t faded yet?”
“We keep coming up with excuses to put it back,” Liz explained. “I’m—not good expressing my feelings, so…having the mark keeps my mental connection to Max open.”
“I don’t really need the mark to connect with people,” Max explained. “I got some surface thoughts from you earlier when you gave me back the pendant…”
“That’s why you zoned out,” Liz realized. “You wanted to know if you could trust me.”
“Sorry,” he apologized.
“What exactly did you see?” Liz asked.
“The shooting,” he admitted. “An argument you had. Fighting another alien. Saying that you trusted him. You didn’t look much different, so I’m guessing it was recent.”
“About six months,” Liz explained.
“That was eight years ago for me,” Max explained. “I’m younger than you are, so—I guess I can understand why this is a lot to take in.”
“What happened next?” Liz asked, changing the subject. “You told her the truth after the handprint showed up?”
“And we connected,” Max admitted. “Uh, I mean, I showed her inside my head so she’d understand. Same, right?”
“But, at the time, she was seeing Kyle Valenti,” he explained. “His father was the Sheriff, who had seen a handprint like that before. He confronted her about it—and about a murder victim with the same mark.”
Liz held her breath.
“From 1957,” he continued. “Even confronted with that, she kept my secret.”
“She didn’t think it was you?” Liz asked, surprised.
“She asked if it was, and I told her no,” Max admitted. “Anyone else would have run away screaming, but Liz—she believed me. More than that, she and Maria went out of her way to throw Valenti off our trail.”
Liz was hit with a wave of guilt, remembering her reaction to seeing the autopsy photo. This Max was right about one thing—whoever this other Liz was, they couldn’t be more different.
It was a version of her who didn’t make any of her mistakes.
“Did you say Maria?” she asked. “Maria Deluca? Are you telling me that I—I mean, the other me told Maria?”
“Almost immediately,” Max said. “It was—actually kind of funny to see her reaction.”
“Another variation,” Liz realized. “Here, Kyle was the first one I told.”
“He eventually found out there, too,” Max recalled. “A man named Pierce tried to use him to control his father, Jim Valenti—convince him to join him in hunting us down. In the end, Valenti sided with us instead. He’s helped us out so many times that I can’t even believe we ever considered him an enemy.”
“So, Kyle’s dad is still alive in your world?” Liz realized. “Variation.”
“I still tried to keep my distance,” Max recalled. “I told Liz it was too dangerous for anything to happen between us—that I couldn’t risk her getting hurt by getting too close to me. What I didn’t realize is that she’d fallen in love with me, too. The more dangerous things became—the more we learned about our past—the more involved Liz became in our search for answers.”
“You mentioned enemies before,” Liz asked. “Is that where the danger came from?”
“There was a group of alien hunters working for the government, called the Special Unit,” Max explained. “Other aliens from our home planet came looking for us, including the one who killed that man in 1957. Others found out about our powers and wanted to exploit them for their own gain.”
“And you dealt with all that in high school?” Liz asked in disbelief. “How many classes did other me flunk while she was off playing Scooby-Doo?”
“Straight A’s,” Max said, proudly. “It wasn’t all fun and games, though—even though it felt like it at times. For every victory—every brief moment of fun and happiness—there was just as much suffering. I made my share of mistakes—some of which I’m still paying for. Sometimes, the wrong people got hurt. People—died, and I couldn’t save them.”
The guilt on Max’s face—so much like the Max she knew.
“Eventually, we just couldn’t hide anymore,” he admitted. “The Special Unit went rogue, and was actively hunting us. After graduation, all six of us hopped in a van, and left. We’ve been traveling ever since, using our powers to help people wherever we could. That was five years ago.”
“But you said you came from Roswell,” Liz reminded him.
“We recently had a –victory of sorts,” Max said, proudly. “Our greatest enemy, a warlord from our home planet named Kivar, has been planning an invasion of earth for a long time, but he wanted to make sure the three of us were out of the way first. After so many repeated failures, he decided to just go ahead. He came to Earth personally, taking every head of state hostage during a peace conference. Televised. The Special Unit was helpless to stop him—so we stepped in.”
“We?” Liz asked. “You, Michael, and Isobel stopped an entire alien invasion yourselves?”
“And Liz, Kyle, and Maria, too,” he said.
“Maria and Kyle?!?” she asked in disbelief. “Ok, I am just picturing that in my head, and—what about Alex?”
Max bit his lip.
“He was there,” he admitted. “Sort of. In the end, we managed to send Kivar’s entire army packing, rescued every visiting world power, and handed Kivar over to the government. Two months later, we were contacted by the Special Unit’s newest commander—a General Jesse Manes.”
Liz shook her head.
“You can’t trust him!” Liz exclaimed. “I don’t care what reality it is, that man is a monster! He killed Kyle’s dad—not to mention every other survivor of the UFO crash.”
“Michael said pretty much the same thing,” Max recalled. “But—they were desperate. There—was a fourth alien that crashed with us. One who didn’t share our pro-human upbringing, having been raised by the person who left that handprint behind in the 50’s.”
“Please tell me their name wasn’t Noah!” Liz groaned.
“Tess Harding,” Max explained. “At first, we tried to get through to her. Teach her to fit in, like the three of us did. For a while, we thought it was working. She fought by our side, became close with Kyle and his dad…but she couldn’t let go of the past. She wanted our old lives back at any cost, no matter how much I refused to accept it. She betrayed us—and murdered a lot of innocent people, including someone we cared about.”
Liz put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“Before we left Roswell, Tess attacked Eagle Rock Military Base on a suicide mission,” he continued. “Caused a nuclear explosion, destroying herself and every soldier on the base. At least—that’s what we thought happened.”
“That’s ominous,” Liz commented.
“As it turns out, she left something behind,” Max continued. “The explosion tore a hole in reality, letting her escape just as she faked her death in the process. The radiation was self-contained, leaving only a small hole behind. A pinprick so small that the army just assumed it was contaminated soil. Only it’s gotten bigger, letting off more and more energy.”
“The lights,” Liz realized. “The lights in the desert—the gateway—this enemy of yours created it?”
“To escape?” Liz asked, horror creeping into her voice. “To escape here? There’s an alien murderer from your world somewhere in Roswell?”
“Oh my god…” Liz whispered. “Someone with—with your power, who doesn’t care about who she hurts?”
“Now you understand,” Max said. “Why I’m risking trusting Manes. As bad as he might be, I couldn’t risk her killing any more innocent people.”
“How do you know General Jesse won’t just lock you and your friends up once you’ve dealt with Tess?” Liz suggested.
“Because he made us a deal,” Max explained. “We hand her over to him, and in exchange he erases every file the government has on us. We’ll finally be able to go home—to see our families again.”
Liz tried to put herself in their place. What if she was forced away from her home, from her career—not able to see Papi or Rosa? If Jesse had made her an offer to change all that, could she have refused?
Rosa? It just occurred to Liz that he hadn’t mentioned just WHO this alien had killed.
“What happened to Rosa in your world?” she asked, her voice steady.
“Who?” Max asked, looking confused.
“Rosa,” Liz repeated. “My sister.”
“Sister?” Max asked, genuinely surprised.
“How can you not know who Rosa is?” Liz challenged him.
“I’m sorry,” Max apologized. “I’ve never met any Rosa where I’m from. Liz is an only child.”
“We’ve connected,” Max reminded her. “Liz and I don’t have any secrets from each other anymore. If she had a sister, I’d know about it.”
Liz let that sink in for a moment.
“There’s no Rosa in your world,” Liz realized. “She—she doesn’t exist where you’re from.”
Liz started pacing back and forth, trying to formulate a hypothesis in her head.
“That’s the variation!” she realized. “Rosa’s what changed everything! No Rosa, no murder! No murder, no coverup! I don’t leave town, we get close a decade earlier—I find out your secret, we catch the killer before we’re even old enough to drink! Kyle’s dad doesn’t become depressed, doesn’t get killed by Project Shepard—it all makes sense!”
Liz stopped, turning towards Max.
“Wait—Kyle’s dad?” she asked. “Jim Valenti? That prisoner that Kyle’s interrogating…”
“Yes,” Max answered before Liz could even answer the question.
“You mean to tell me he actually IS Jim Valenti?”
“The one from our world, yes,” Max clarified. “He must have followed after me when I dove through the gate.”
“He probably doesn’t realize he’s in another reality,” Liz concluded. “That’s why he’s not trying to hide his identity like you were. But if the Sheriff runs his fingerprints…”
Liz’s eyes go wide, and she grabs her phone.
“Please answer, Kyle!” she begged.
As she listened to the ring, she realized they had a much worse problem than Sheriff Valenti discovering that her husband was seemingly back from the dead—the second mysterious resurrection in as many months.
If counter-Max could be believed, there was another alien killer on the loose, and they needed to find her before it was too late.
“Okay,” Kyle sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “We’ll try this one last time. What were you doing out there in the desert?”
“I already told you, son,” Jim explained, frustration evident in his voice. “I got a call from some friends that the army needed their help containing something dangerous. I showed up at the base, everything went to hell—when I woke up, I was in the middle of the desert until Deputy Cameron picked me up.”
“Yeah—sure, the base,” Kyle repeated. “The military base that doesn’t exist. And you’re saying Jesse Manes can vouch for you?”
“I don’t know,” Jim shrugged. “Is he gonna look like a completely different person, too?”
Kyle reached over and checked the reading on his blood pressure. It seemed normal.
“What’s that supposed to prove?” Jim asked.
“We’ll, you’re clearly suffering from some kind of delusion,” Kyle explained. “I just can’t tell if it’s psychological or was induced by trauma or stress. My friend Liz says that thing up in the sky giving off large waves of magnetism. Do you have any implants? Metal plate in the head? Hip replacement?”
Jim started to laugh.
“You think I’m crazy,” he stated. “I’m starting to think I’m crazy, too. The whole world’s gone crazy.”
“You said you have a friend named Liz?” he asked. “And you’re—Kyle, right?”
“Doctor Valenti,” Kyle corrected him.
“Doctor…” Jim repeated. “Wow—your old man must have been very proud.”
Kyle paused. From his words, it seemed like the stranger was dropping the story that he was his father, seemingly back from the dead. But the way he was looking at him suggested otherwise.
“Tell me, do you know a Max Evans?” he asked.
“Yeah, he’s dating my ex,” Kyle said, nonchalantly.
“The, uh…scientist friend, by any chance?”
Okay—now it was getting creepy.
“Do you believe in aliens, Kyle?” he asked, his voice low.
That question made Kyle’s blood run cold, especially considering he had just asked about Evans.
“That depends,” he replied, trying to keep as calm as possible. “Are you asking if I believe life can exist on other planets, then yes—the universe is too vast for us to be the only intelligent life in it. Now, if you’re asking if I think a UFO crashed here in 1947, and that the survivors are still hanging around decades later, well…I think you’re talking to the wrong kind of doctor.”
“That’s funny,” Jim chuckled. “Because—I’ve been a cop most of my life. My father was a cop, and I followed in his footsteps. I pride myself at being able to tell when someone is lying to me. And, well…you are. You wanna protect your friends, you’re going to have to get better at it.”
“And, on that note—this conversation is over…” Kyle said, wanting to get out of there as soon as possible.
“When did you see the handprint?” Jim asked, as Kyle turned to leave.
Kyle froze in place.
“Medial examination?” Jim asked. “Or was it accidental? Was it on a dead body, or a live person?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kyle lied. “But—I really suggest you not tell the Sheriff about this.”
“Why?” he challenged. “You worried she might start asking you questions you can’t answer? Or won’t?”
Before Kyle can answer, Sheriff Valenti came back in the room—but she wasn’t alone.
“You can’t just come waltzing in here, Manes!” she spat. “Not without written approval.”
“Oh, this isn’t an—official visit, Michelle,” Jesse Manes countered. “I just heard a rumor that my old friend was here, seemingly back from the dead.”
His eyes met Kyle’s, hatred shining through it. Kyle remembered their last meeting quite well, and clearly the Master Sargent hadn’t learned his lesson from that encounter.
“Remember, I’m still on medical leave,” he spoke, as if directed specifically at Kyle. “And under investigation by the CIC, from what I hear?”
“Imagine that,” Kyle retorted.
“As you can see,” Michelle spoke up, trying to get between this man and her son. “The man in question is clearly not my late husband. He’s just a very sick man.”
“A shame,” Jesse sighed. “I guess I just find it funny—first Rosa Ortecho shows up alive and well, then James Valenti. I’m not one to believe in miracles, Sheriff, but they do say good things come in threes.”
As he approached, Jim felt a chill crawl up his spine. Just like with Kyle and Michelle, the face was different from the Jesse Manes he had met only days earlier, but there was something else—a feeling of unease as he looked in the man’s eyes.
He didn’t want to take any chances. He knew that, if worse came to worse, he could be out of this cell in moments—but not without causing a scene. Unlike Max and the others, he couldn’t really be public about the things he could do. Not if he wanted to work behind the scenes.
Which meant he needed to play it smart.
“General Manes,” Jim greeted him.
“Master Sargent Manes, actually,” Jesse corrected him. “Though I wouldn’t turn down the promotion.”
“And you’ve never met this man before, Jesse?” the Sheriff asked. “Because he claims that you asked for his assistance at an—Eagle Rock base?”
“I don’t believe we have any location by that name,” Jesse explained. “Although I have been in a coma. Perhaps if you asked my son?”
“Maybe that information’s classified?” Jim suggested. “Need to know basis?”
Jesse looked over his shoulder.
“Could you give us a moment?” he asked. “I’d like to interrogate the prisoner.”
“Like hell you are!” the Sheriff spat. “What happened to not being here in an official capacity?”
“It’s all right,” Jim said, raising his hand to try and calm her down.
“Was I asking you, McMurphy?” she countered.
“Mom, it’s ok,” Kyle told her, fairly certain he wanted his mom to be away from both of them. “I’ll make sure he doesn’t stress out my patient.”
The Sheriff threw her hands in the air, exasperated, before exiting the room.
“Whatever you’re here to say, better get out with it before she gets back,” Jim told him.
Jesse walked up close to the bars, looking Jim straight in the eyes.
“Is that you in there, James?” he asked. “I confess, I’m skeptical, but as I said before it seems to be the year for resurrections. If anyone could cheat death, it would be Jim Valenti. Plastic surgery isn’t unheard of for men who want to disappear.”
“Sorry for getting your hopes up, but I’m not the Jim Valenti who died,” Jim told him.
“Yet you seem to know things only he would,” Jesse countered. “Why is that?”
“How about you tell me where the bug is, first?”
Jesse paused, then managed a small smile.
“I’ve got some friends at the FBI,” Jim explained. “I know how it works. You clearly have history with the Valenti family here, so I don’t expect you not to keep tabs on them.”
“You’re observant,” Jesse noted. “I’m curious—just what were you doing out in that desert?”
“That’s the question of the day, isn’t it?” Jim laughed. “Why so curious?”
“Because something happened to you out there,” Jesse reasoned. “There were—disturbances in the midst of the cosmic event. Several objects passed through, and I believe you may have found one of them.”
Keeping his distance, Kyle made sure he was close enough to hear what they were talking about. Had Liz been right? Had ‘John’ come through those lights, wherever they led.
“And what if I had?” Jim challenged. “What interest is it to the army?”
“I believe there is a great threat to our country,” Jesse explained. “A threat that comes not from across borders, but from somewhere much further. I believe that, whatever came through that—tear—represents the first wave of an attack.”
“Further?” Jim asks, with a mocking tone. “You don’t mean—outer space?”
Jim appears shocked at first, leaning in closer to the bars.
“You sure it wasn’t a weather balloon?”
He laughed, and slapped his knee.
“Good lord, man…” he chuckled. “You had me going there for a second.”
“Make fun if you want,” Jesse scoffed. “But these creatures are real, and they won’t hesitate to destroy anything that threatens their mission. If you care anything for your safety, you will turn whatever you found over to me. I have the means to protect you.”
“Suppose I buy your alien theory, Master Sargent?” Jim suggested. “What makes you think this is an attack?”
“The explosion,” Jesse suggested. “The sandstorm.”
“Which could have been the result of whatever crashed in the desert,” Jim suggested. “For all you know, any visitors could be a peaceful visit. A mutual exchange of ideas and cultures? Or maybe they’re as afraid of us as we are of them?”
“You are incredibly naive,” Manes scoffed. “These creatures have been here before. They’re killers. Destruction is all they know.”
“Yeah, because the human race couldn’t be described the same way?” Jim challenged. “How many wars have we had, just in the last century? How many murders happen every year? Is it really hard to imagine any other race out there could have the same kind of conflicts?”
“These monsters have no concept of morality, my friend,” Jesse countered. “I’d almost think you were Valenti—he made much the same arguments at times. They need to be eliminated, before they have the opportunity to strike.”
Jim shook his head in disbelief.
“You’re wasting your breath, Master Sargent,” he chuckled. “I’ve met your type before. I’ve heard the spiel.”
“My ‘type’?” Jesse scoffed. “You mean a patriot?”
“No, I mean a xenophobic psychopath!” he said with disgust. “I met a man just like you a few years back. His name was Pierce. He made much of the same arguments, but you see—then he tried to kill me when I wouldn’t play along. And my son. So, you can see why I’m kind of a sceptic when it comes to a man in a uniform suggesting genocide.”
“You’re a fool,” Jesse sighed. “Just like Jim was. I suggest you reconsider, because those who don’t ‘play along’ have the unfortunate tendency to—disappear. Just a friendly warning.”
Kyle tensed. He cursed his own morality, and part of him wished he had finished off Jesse Manes when he had the chance.
“Fine,” Jim sighed. “Come closer—wouldn’t want the Doc here to overhear where I’ve hidden the weapon, just in case he can get to it before you.”
“A weapon!” Jesse said, his eyes lighting up. “I’m glad you’ve seen reason.”
He approached the bars, getting as close as he can.
“Now, where have you…?”
Before Jesse could even finish the sentence, Jim reached through the bars with one hand, grabbed Jesse’s tie, and gave a sudden yank—slamming the Master Sargent’s head against the metal bars.
Then, pulling to the side, he spun Jesse around so his back was against the bars. He wrapped the tie around his hand, nearly strangling Jesse as he held him there. Finally, with his free hand, he reached under Jesse’s jacket, pulling out his gun, and pressing it to the surprised man’s back.
“Holy @#$%!” Kyle exclaimed.
“Now you listen to me, you crazy bastard!” Jim said in a low, threatening voice. “I know when I’m being threatened—and I have a very low tolerance for threats. There are things going on here that will make your little witch hunt seem like a training skirmish. I have seen things that would make you lock yourself in one of your little bunkers and wait for the bombs to drop, and I’ve managed to walk away from it. So, don’t come in here making your little anti-alien arguments and expect to scare me. I’ve been scared by professionals.”
“You’re making a big mis—”
Jim pulled on the tie tighter, strangling out Jesse’s threat.
“I’m pretty sure James Valenti didn’t die by accident, right?” he asked. “So, I’m warning you right now—if I even get the hint that you plan any ‘accidents’ while I’m in town, then so help me, I will give you a taste of your own medicine. I will hunt you down like a dog, and I promise that you will not be able to stop me. Do I make myself clear?”
With that, Jim let go of his tie, pushing Jesse away from the cell. He still held onto his gun, though, and pointed it at the Master Sargent.
“You’ll never make it,” Jesse warned him. “Michelle and her deputies have you outnumbered.”
“I’m not planning to leave,” he said. “I just want to make sure you don’t, either.”
Smirking, Jim pulled back on the hammer.
With no weapon, and very little room to find cover, Manes quickly raced out of the room, trying to find the exit.
With him gone, Jim turned towards a still-shocked Kyle—grabbing the gun by the barrel and handing it to him through the bars.
“That shut him up,” he said. “Sorry you had to see that.”
“You just—” Kyle stammered. “I mean—what the hell are you? FBI? CIA? James Bond?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” he sighed. “Listen, your friend Liz—she knows about all this, right?”
“About all what?” Kyle asked. “She knows Manes, if that’s what you’re…”
“You know what I’m talking about!” Jim said, cutting him off. “You need to get a message to the man who you hit with the Jeep—tell him that Manes is tracking us somehow, and we need to find the others before he does.”
“The others?” Kyle asked. “So, you’re working with John? You’re part of his team?”
“Damn it!” Jim cursed. “Yes, and we don’t have much time to waste. If I’m right, your friends might be in danger.”
“From the weapon?” Kyle asked. “The alien weapon?”
“It’s not a weapon, son,” Jim sighed. “It’s a person—two of them, in fact. Two killers, who are just as bad as what the Master Sargent described. Maybe even worse!”
Kyle’s eyes went wide.
Two killers? Two alien killers, here in Roswell?
“And ‘John’ is probably the only one who can stop them,” Jim finished.
Meanwhile, near the army barricade…
“Hold on, Kyle!” Alex said into the phone. “What do you mean my dad was there? Are you ok?”
His eyes went wide as Kyle told his frankly-insane story.
“Did he happen to mention how many?” he sighed. “We know about John, and Guerin told me he and Isobel found some girl further out. How much should we believe either of them? My dad’s insane, and this guy sounds it, too. I’ll look into it—call you back if I hear anything.”
Alex sighed, knowing better than to be optimistic in this case. If Kyle Valenti was warning him about possible alien murderers, then he was not going to discount it as the ravings of a pair of lunatics. His father may be the devil himself, but he wasn’t completely delusional.
But how were any of them supposed to identify them? They’d known Max, Isobel, and Michael for years, and never suspected they weren’t human. Heck, Noah was able to fool other aliens, and only exposed himself due to random chance.
He could be staring an alien murderer in the eye and not know who it was.
“Excuse me?” a voice called behind him. “Captain Manes?”
Alex turned to see a female officer holding a file folder.
“Hey, sorry…I didn’t see you there,” he apologized. “I don’t believe we’ve met, Ms.?”
“Whitman,” she introduced herself, smiling widely. “Courtney Whitman. I’m an analyst specializing in cryptography. I wasn’t sure who I should show these to, but…”
She reached into a bag a bulled out a sheet of metal. The symbols—they almost matched the ones he’d seen on Michael’s control panel.
“Where did you find this?” he asked.
“It was partially buried near the event,” the officer explained. “I’ve studied a lot of dead languages, but I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
“I have…” Alex admitted.
Her face lit up, but she tried to hide it.
“I came across something similar a few months back,” he explained. “The symbols are slightly different, but I can probably differentiate the meaning by comparing it to the cypher I’ve already compiled. Have you been able to figure any of it out?”
“I have a partial translation…” she explained. “I could show it to you—maybe over dinner?”
“Yeah—probably not the best idea,” he laughed.
“Ou, sorry,” she apologized, feeling embarrassed. “You’re probably seeing someone, right? Or is bad taste to fraternize with your sub-ordinates? Or maybe you’re just not into blondes?”
“None of the above,” he explained. “You’re just, well—the wrong gender.”
The officer’s mouth hung open.
“Oh, wow…” she laughed. “Ok, I am really bad at this. Sorry.”
“No harm done,” Alex told her. “I’m honestly surprised there’s someone who doesn’t know.”
“Well—your secret’s safe with me, Captain!” she said with a wink.
“Call me Alex,” he said. “The promotion’s still new, so…”
He noticed Courtney staring at him in shock. She almost seemed—scared.
“Is—something wrong, Whitman?” he asked.
“No,” she said. “No, it’s just—just had a brain freeze, for a second. “I’d still like to show you my partial translation, in a purely professional sense. I wouldn’t recommend letting anyone else know I showed this to you.”
Alex looked over his shoulder, then nodded.
“Especially my dad,” he whispered. “If you see the Master Sargant sniffing around, you hide that—understand?”
“You can count on me, Al!” she said with a nod. “You mind if I call you Al?”
“Sure, go ahead,” he agreed. “Thanks for trusting me with this.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t trust anyone else,” she reassured him. “Just make sure it stays our little secret.”
She handed him the bag, and walked back to her jeep. As she left, Alex quickly zipped up the bag—noticing something peculiar inside.
Right beneath the sheet of metal was a half-empty bottle of tabasco sauce.
The next morning, at the Sheriff’s office…
“Liz?” Kyle asked, as she walked into the station with ‘John’. “I see you found him.”
“I’ve been trying to call you all night!” she complained.
“Had my phone on silent,” he explained. “Besides—somebody stole your phone.”
He gave ‘John’ a dirty look, before turning back to Liz.
“Listen, we’ve got a situation here…”
“The man you brought in,” ‘John’ asked. “Do you still have him locked up?”
Kyle gave him an annoyed look.
“As a matter of fact, yes,” he explained. “Jesse Manes came by to ask him some questions. He knows something, Liz. I don’t know how, but he’s—aware of you-know-what.”
“You know?” he asked. “Were you aware that there are apparently some—more? That they came out of that light show in the sky? And that Manes has a way of tracking them?”
“Are you sure?” John asked, suddenly paying close attention. “We’ve got to find a way to getting it from him.”
“We?” Kyle challenged. “Liz, what’s going on here?”
“It’s—it’s a long story, Kyle,” Liz sighed. “John is involved, but not in the way we thought. He doesn’t work for Jesse. He’s—not from around here.”
“Clearly,” Kyle scoffed.
“We’re wasting time,” John reminded Liz. “We need to get Valenti out of that cell.”
“Do you have to call him that?” Kyle challenged. “How about you explain who you are, before you start ordering me around.”
“Because, if I told you, you’d think I was crazy, too,” he retorted.
“I already think you are!”
“Doctor Ortecho?” he asked.
“Kyle, uh…” Liz said, taking him aside. “Do you know anything about multiverse theory? Parallel realities?”
“Like, what—alternate universes?” Kyle laughed. “Feels like I’m in one right now, actually…”
Liz bit her lip.
“What, like other worlds where things are different?” Kyle asked. “Like, say, one where the Nazis won World War 2? Or where JFK was never shot?”
“Or—” Liz said, taking a deep breath. “Maybe, possibly, one where Jesse Manes never killed your dad?”
Kyle smiled sadly.
“It’s a nice thought, Liz,” he sighed. “But, this guy is just…”
“It’s not a thought,” Liz corrected him. “Kyle, I know it sounds crazy, but—that man in there is Jim Valenti. A Jim Valenti from a timeline where he lived.”
Kyle stood there in shock. Liz was right—it did sound crazy. Yet…
“Kyle, he’ll have the same fingerprints as your dad,” she warned him. “If your mom runs them…”
“Oh my god…”
Suddenly, they realized they were alone.
“Ok, where’d John go?”
They headed into the Sheriff’s station.
Sheriff Valenti looked up to see the young man in a leather jacket approach the cell.
“Hey!” she warned him. “How did you get in here?”
“Sheriff, thank god!” he breathed in relief. “I’ve been looking all over for him. Thank you for taking care of him for me.”
“You know this man?” she asked.
“My grandfather,” he told her. “He used to be a small-town Sheriff himself, before—well, he kind of snapped under the strain. As long as he gets his medication, he’s fine—but without it he loses touch with reality.”
At that moment, Kyle and Liz enter the room, getting the tail-end of his story.
“Like—say, impersonating a dead man?” the Sheriff challenged, not quite buying the story.
“Mostly people he reads about,” the young man explained. “Or sees on TV. Anyone who has the same name as him, right Grandpa James?”
“The poor kid is speaking nonsense again!” Jim grumbled. “Someone tell Mr. Spock to get him off of my bridge!”
“Mr…Spock?” the Sheriff repeated. “And that would make you…?
“James T. Kirk, of the U.S.S. Enterprise at your service, Ma’am,” Jim said, with a small bow. “Now, if you’ll just turn off the forcefield generator and let me out of this cell, I will personally speak to Starfleet Command on your behalf and we can forget this whole thing.”
The Sheriff was struck dumb.
“Grampa, your pills…” the young man said, handing him a bottle. “He should be fine in a few hours, Sheriff.”
“Thank you, Bones!” Jim said, popping a few in his mouth. “I was feeling a bit on edge.”
“Just—just get him out of here!” the Sheriff stuttered.
She quickly unlocked the cell, letting Jim leave.
“Live long and prosper!”
“I cannot believe that worked!” Jim laughed, as the four of them left the Sheriff’s Station.
“Just don’t go around using your real name, ok?” Max told him. “I know it seems hard to believe, but—we’re not in our own dimension anymore.”
“Really?” Jim asked, a sarcastic tone in his voice. “I’m pretty sure the fact that I was just thrown in a cell by some hardcase who happens to have the same name as my dead wife could have clued me into that fact, Max!”
He shook his head in disbelief.
“I’d almost forgotten how—interesting—life gets with you kids around,” he chuckled. “Oh, Max—have you met DOCTOR Kyle Valenti here?”
“Yeah—we’ve met,” Max said, clearly amused.
“Listen, Mr. Valenti…” Liz spoke up. “I’m really sorry about the mistaken identity thing, but if what—your friend here—said is true, we’ve got bigger problems.”
“Liz, right?” he asked. “I should have guessed as much. I guess Max already clued you in on why we’re here.”
“Killer aliens?” Liz asked. “Yeah—I got the message.”
“I’ve got a question!” Kyle spoke up, pointing to Max. “Why do you keep calling him ‘Max’?”
“Because that’s my name,” Max informed him.
Kyle’s eyes went wide.
“Remember how I said Jim here is from a parallel world?” Liz reminded him. “Well…he’s not the only one who came through…”
Kyle shook his head.
“Don’t tell me…you’re?”
“Max Evans,” Max introduced himself. “Hate to say I told you so.”
“Are you friggen kidding me?” Kyle deadpanned. “Like one of him wasn’t bad enough? And he’s STILL just as tall!”
Max raised an eyebrow.
“Max, we’ve got a problem,” Jim warned him. “I’ve just met this world’s General Manes. I don’t think we can count on him being helpful. He’s a full-on alien hunter. As bad as Pierce was—maybe even worse.”
Max shuddered, as memories of his encounters with Agent Pierce resurfaced. Memories he would much prefer to stay buried.
“Doesn’t matter,” Max said. “The doctor here said he has some way of tracking us, so the important thing is to find out what that is and take care of it.”
“You let me worry about that,” Jim said, with a smirk. “I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve.”
He pulled what looked to be a pager out of his pocket.
“What’s that?” Kyle asked.
“Remember how I asked him about where the bug was?” he asked.
“You put a tracking device on Manes when you grabbed him?!?” Kyle exclaimed. “You really are James Bond.”
They walked up to Kyle’s car
“Use Doctor Valenti’s high-tech phone to keep in touch,” Max instructed. “I’m heading out to the desert, see if I can pick up the trail. We’ll meet up at this world’s Crashdown tonight after it closes.”
“Manes knows me,” Kyle pointed out. “He knows my car. He’ll see us coming a mile away, so we’re going to have to…”
While Kyle was speaking, Max placed the palm of his hand on the car. His hand started to glow, and a coat of bright red paint flowed over the car in seconds.
Kyle’s eyes went wide.
Kyle walked around the transformed car, still not believing his eyes.
“How—how did…?” he stuttered. “Liz, did you see…?”
“His, uh—his powers are different from our Max’s,” Liz explained. “He can alter matter on a molecular level.”
“No kidding?” Kyle replied, sarcastically. “What, no racing stripes?”
Another flash, and several decals appeared on the car.
“You can change it back later, right?” Kyle asked. “Because people see this, they’re going to think I’m embezzling money from the medical Centre.”
“Just be careful,” Max warned him. “If this Manes is as fanatical as the alien hunters from our world…”
“I can handle him,” Jim said. “You just do what you came here to do, ok? Find her.”
Max nodded, as he and Liz headed towards her car.
“The world?” Max asked.
“No—the universe?” Isobel added.
“Flowers?” Rosa suggested.
“I don’t know…” Michael sighed. “You’re getting…taller?”
The mysterious girl sighed in frustration, taking a deep breath. She moved her arms in an expanding motion over her head.
“You’re angry…you’re getting steamed!” Isobel attempted, pointing at her. “Like smoke is coming out of your head?”
She closed her eyes, trying to come up with something else. She snapped her fingers, and pointed towards the mouth of the cave.
“The desert?” said Michael.
“The sky?” said Max.
“Something in the sky?” Rosa suggested. “The clouds, maybe?”
“The lights!” Isobel exclaimed.
The girl pointed at her, nodding. Isobel clapped her hands, jumping up and down excitedly.
“In your face, losers!” she taunted the boys.
The girl put up two fingers, indicating she wasn’t done.
“Second word?” Max asked.
She went back to moving her hands outwards in an expanding movement.
“They’re getting bigger?” Michael asked. “Yeah—we already know that.”
She shook her head, repeating the same motion only shaking her hands at the end.
“Jazz hands!” Isobel exclaimed.
The girl gave her a look that said ‘are you serious?’
Thinking for a moment, she kneeled down and tossed some sand into the air.
“The lights are—made of sand?” Rosa asked. “They’re going to cover the entire desert? I’ve got nothing!”
She started to trace some kind of symbol in the sand.
“More alien writing?” Max asked. “I told you…we don’t understand what those mean…”
The girl shook her head. She stood up, closed her eyes, and concentrated. Slowly, the tip of her index finger began to glow.
“Whoa!” Isobel gasped. “That—that is new!”
The girl began to trace the same symbol in the air, as the light from her finger left traces of light in the air in front of her—forming a shape.
“Can the rest of you do the midair spirograph thing too?” Rosa asked, getting shrugs from the others. “What is that—I’ve seen that symbol before somewhere. Is it alien?”
“No, it’s an earth symbol,” Michael groaned. “An atomic symbol. Used to represent nuclear energy.”
She nodded, then made the expanding motion again.
“So, the lights are nuclear?” Isobel asked. “Atomic—expansion?”
“Atomic sand?” Max asked.
The girl whistled, making the motion of a rocket falling earthwards as she did.
“Atomic rocket?” Michael asked.
“Atomic—I don’t know, bomb?”
With that, the girl stood completely still. She just looked at Rosa and nodded.
“That’s it?” Rosa asked, surprised. “The lights are—an atomic—bomb?”
Slowly, Rosa went pale as the horror of what she just said started to sink it.
“Are you sure?” Max demanded. “The lights—the reason they’re expanding, and the earthquakes—they’re building up to some kind of nuclear explosion?!?”
She nodded, handing him the paper she had been writing on earlier.
“I told you—we can’t understand what this means,” Max groaned.
However, before he can give it back, Michael snatched the paper out of Max’s hands.
“Max, this isn’t alien writing!” he said, his voice trembling slightly. “These are mathematical equations! This entire time we thought she was trying to communicate with us, when she was really working it out in her head.”
Michael stared at her in disbelief.
“Whoever this girl is—she’s a genius!” Michael admitted. “At least as smart as me—I don’t know, maybe smarter!”
“What’s it say?” Isobel asked.
“Look here…” he said, showing the calculations. “Whatever created those lights started small. A split atom, like the size of a pea—but it mixed with something else, and became self-perpetuating. Absorbing energy from—I don’t know, the world around it. Getting bigger and more powerful.”
The ground shook again. Michael moved towards the mouth of the cave, pointing towards the lights.
“Each time it grows, it creates vibrations to release the access energy,” he continued to explain. “A—pulse. That’s what’s causing the earthquakes, but it’s building towards something else. That sandstorm—it was probably the last explosion of energy it released. If these calculations are right, the next one is going to be bigger than that. A lot bigger!”
“Like dropping a nuke in the middle of the desert,” Max realized, panic filling his face.
Quickly, Max picked up his phone.
Back at the station…
“Evans?” Jenna answered. “Where have you been? Valenti just took our mental patient out of here, and your girlfriend…”
“Cam, it’s a bomb!”
“Excuse me?” she asked.
“Those lights in the sky,” Max clarified, and she could swear she could hear his running his hands through his hair as he said it. “They’re nuclear, and they’re gonna explode.”
“Oh @#$%!” Jenna cursed. “How long?”
“No idea,” he answered. “We’ve got to evacuate the area.”
“On what, your sayso?” Jenna challenged. “Valenti’s never going to go for it.”
“Just get everyone back into town, then,” Max warned. “I’m going to try and find out as much as I can, but if even one of those gawkers dies when that thing blows…”
“And you’re, what—going to be at ground zero?!?” she asked. “You come back from the dead, suddenly you think you can survive a nuke going off? Or is that just one of your biological quirks?”
“I’ll figure something out,” Max said, before hanging up.
Meanwhile, out in the desert…
Liz drove her car at full speed, as Max held onto the necklace—closing his eyes tightly.
“What exactly are you doing?” Liz asked.
“Trying to focus,” he admitted. “Sometimes I can sense a psychic residue from objects—where they’ve been, who they’ve been in contact with. I’m trying to see if I can find the other half.”
“And this—Tess—has the other half?” Liz asked.
“No,” he admitted. “No, not Tess. Your—counterpart.”
Liz raised an eyebrow.
“I’m here too?!?” she exclaimed.
“Liz was hit by the pulse before I was,” Max explained to her. “I jumped in after her.”
Yeah—that sounded like a very Max thing to do.
“So, essentially—I’m wandering through the desert—trying to, uh, to find myself?” Liz asked.
“You said it, not me!”
She rolled her eyes.
“That’s a pretty big risk you took,” she remarked. “I mean—did you know it was a portal to begin with? For all you knew, you could have died.”
“No,” he said. “If she were dead, I’d know it. We have a—connection.”
“You must be pretty close,” Liz remarked.
“Yeah, we are.”
“As close as me and the Max of this world are?” Liz asked, digging for information.
“Closer,” Max countered.
“I highly doubt it,” she said. “No to brag, but the things Max and I have been through the past couple months are…”
In response, Max put up his hand. For a moment, Liz thought that maybe he was trying to silence her. However, on closer inspection, she noticed what he was showing her.
A ring. A plain, gold ring on his fourth finger.
Liz slammed on the breaks, not trusting herself not to crash.
“You ok?” he asked, concerned.
“We’re married?!?” Liz shrieked. “I mean—you’re married to my counterpart on your world? You’re not here looking for your friend or your girlfriend, you’re looking for your—your WIFE?!?”
Max couldn’t help but chuckle at her reaction. He could only nod.
“Yes, and I’ve been worried sick about her since I woke up in that hospital,” he revealed. “So, we really should keep looking.”
“You’re younger than I am!” Liz pointed out. “How old are you exactly?”
“And how long have you been married?” she asked.
“Five years,” he answered.
Liz did the math in her head.
“Nineteen,” she realized. “That—that is young! That is TOO young!”
“Well—we had just figured out that the government was coming to kill us,” Max recalled. “The night before graduation. That we could both die at any moment. I guess we didn’t want to waste any more time. I made a ring…”
“You MADE a ring?” Liz asked. “Yeah—yeah, you could probably do that, couldn’t you?”
“We stopped at a small church out in the country, with our friends as witnesses,” he continued. “Even though we were all running for our lives, that was probably the happiest day of mine.”
Liz tried to imagine that herself. Teenaged her, taking that kind leap—a spur-of-the-moment decision—and she just couldn’t picture it. It was so irresponsible, so reckless, so—romantic?
And how many irresponsible, reckless things had she done in the past few months? Since discovering the truth about Max and his family?
“You know—it’s funny,” she recalled. “Max and I were planning to go on a road trip after graduation, too. I wonder—if everything hadn’t happened with Rosa the way it did—cold we have ended up the same way? I’m picturing some drunken night in Vegas as opposed to the country chapel, but…”
“Vegas?” Max asked, slightly amused. “Well…that almost happened. Sort of.”
“You lost me…”
“And it wasn’t like we were alone, either,” he pointed out. “Kind of hard to have a decent honeymoon when your sister and three best friends are crammed in the van with you. We did manage to get some alone time a few months later, once we were outside of the country and beyond their jurisdiction, but…”
Suddenly, the ground shook again. The two of them jumped out of the car, looking over at the lights.
Arcs of electricity were shooting out of it.
“Not again…” Max gasped. “It’s gearing up for another pulse!”
“Is that bad?” Liz asked.
“Extremely!” Max warned. “I managed to stop the last one with my shield, but it still created a massive sandstorm—and this one looks to be bigger.”
Liz took out her tablet.
“You’re right,” she remarked. “Out here, I can get readings from the towers remotely. This is looking just like the spikes from that night, when the radio went haywire and I started hearing those—voices?”
It was then that Liz realized something.
“Maxwell,” she recalled. “I heard someone say the name ‘Maxwell’. It wasn’t my Max they were talking to—it was you!”
“That’s what Michael Guerin calls me,” Max realized. “You were able to pick up the radio communications through the tear?”
Liz nodded, pointing towards one of the projection towers.
“Maybe we can make them go the other way,” he realized. “Contact my world, and…”
Suddenly, Max was hit with something. A feeling…a familiar feeling of panic.
“What’s wrong?” Liz asked.
Max focused across the desert—at a small cave right below where the lights shone in the sky.
His eyes narrowed.
With that, he took off running towards it—moving faster than any human could follow, his heart pounding in his chest.
In the cave…
“There’s gotta be some way to stop it, right?” Rosa asked. “I mean, use your powers or something!”
“I move rocks with my brain!” Michael argued. “I can’t hold back a freaking nuke!”
“Didn’t Max, like, absorb a bold of lightning?!?” she spat back.
Michael and Isobel looked towards Max.
“I can try,” Max said. “But this isn’t electricity, Rosa. I’m not even sure this is nuclear energy the way we understand it. It’s not plutonium or uranium, it’s just—cosmic radiation. Like a star. It might be more than I can handle, ‘savior’ or not.”
Suddenly, the girl fell to the ground, holding the side of her head.
A presence coming through the tear—something dark, and evil, and bent on revenge
An old man in a white panama hat, bright blue eyes shining.
‘You don’t realize what you’re capable of—if you wanted, you could be a god…’
‘You have something that I want—and I’m going to take it!’
“What is it?” Michael demanded, shaking the girl. “What aren’t you telling us?”
“Back off, Guerin!” Rosa warned him.
“Do you want that thing up there to explode?” he asked. “We need answers, and we need them now! If she’s not going to give them, we’ll just have to go inside her head, and…”
“GET AWAY FROM HER!!!!”
The four of them spun to see a newcomer standing in the mouth of the cave. He had dark hair, a leather jacket, and wore a broken medallion around his neck. Most of all, he looked angry—the rage visible on his face.
“Who the hell are you?!?” Michael demanded.
“If you’ve hurt her…” the young man spoke, as he approached them. “I swear, I will make you regret it!”
Michael raised his hand, holding the stranger in place with his telekinesis.
It lasted a moment, before the stranger broke his hold—sending Michael’s power right back at him. They struggled for a moment—power against power—with Michael clearly on the losing side.
“How—are you—doing this…?” he demanded.
With a nod of his head, he sent Michael flying into the cave wall.
“Michael!” Isobel exclaimed, raising her own hand.
This time, the newcomer placed his hand on the floor of the cave—and a wall of stone rose to separate him from Isobel.
“That’s enough!” Max ordered, raising his gun at him.
From the palm of his hand, the stranger generated a wall of green energy, separating the two of them.
The same energy that Max had seen the other night.
“It was you!” he gasped. “You’re the one that protected those people, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” ‘John’ confirmed.
“Who are you?” he demanded, still pointing the gun.
His eyes narrowed.
Before Max could answer, the mysterious girl jumped to her feet and rushed towards the newcomer.
“Wait!” Rosa tried to warn her. “He just wiped the floor with the three of them, there’s no way you can…”
However, Rosa’s warning came too late—and unneeded, as it turned out. The girl wasn’t attacking him. Instead, she flung her arms around his neck, and kissed him full on the lips.
“Oh…” she said. “Ok, yeah, that kinda explains it. Just ignore me, ok?”
The danger gone, the wall separating Max from the two of them dissipated. Isobel crawled out from the wall of stone, and Michael picked himself up.
“Did I miss something?” Isobel asked.
The two broke off the kiss, gazing into each other’s eyes.
“You’re all right,” he sighed in relief. “When you got sucked in the tear, I was afraid I’d never…”
She tried to speak, but only rasps came out of her mouth.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, concerned.
“She can’t talk,” Michael explained. “Swallowed some sand—we’ve been trying to communicate with her since we found her in the desert.”
The newcomer nodded, understanding. He placed his hand on her throat.
“Here—let me help,” he asked, to which she nodded.
Suddenly, his hand began to glow.
It was at this moment that Liz ran into the cave, taking in the scene around her.
“Max!” she exclaimed. “What’s going on?”
“Liz, did you bring him out here?” Max asked. “John—he’s one of us.”
“You have no idea, Max!” Liz laughed. “We have a problem—a big problem.”
“No kidding!” Michael added. “Your research project is about to literally blow up in our faces, Ortecho!”
“What’s she doing?” Rosa remarked, still focused on the two strangers. The glow from the newcomer’s hand faded, and the girl began to cough.
“You ok?” he asked.
“My hero…” she gasped, smiling at him.
Max, Michael, Isobel, and Rosa all stared at the two of them in shock.
“Max!” Isobel exclaimed. “He—he healed her! He’s got your powers!”
“He doesn’t have my powers!” Max scoffed. “I mean—he didn’t even get sick!”
“Maybe you just need practice,” the man in the leather jacket commented.
Max glared at him. However, before either of them to continue, the girl stepped between the to of them, placing her hand on her healer’s chest.
“Ok, first off—” she said, pointing at Max, Michael, and Isobel. “You three SUCK at charades! I mean, god—how hard can it be to guess ‘explosion’?”
“So, you can talk now, great!” Michael said, approaching the two of them. “How about giving us some answers then?”
“Or what—you going to threaten me again?” she challenged. “See, there’s a little thing called diplomacy—maybe you should learn how to use it, Michael?”
“That’s Michael?” the man in the leather jacket asked. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”
“Yeah, and that’s Isabel over there,” the girl explained, pointing at Isobel.
“With an ‘O’ instead of an ‘A’,” he told her. “And I’ve already met Deputy Max Evans. And this…”
He took her hand, leading her towards where Liz stood beside Max.
“Allow me to introduce you to Doctor Liz Ortecho,” he said.
“Wow…” she whispered. “So—you’re Rosa’s sister, huh? She’s told me a lot about you.”
Liz didn’t know what to say. She just stared at the pale girl with the long brown hair, staring into her eyes—and feeling a strange sort of familiarity.
“And you are?” Liz asked, but was pretty sure she already knew the answer.
“I’m Liz Parker,” she introduced herself. “And, unless you all listen to me right now, a lot of people are going to end up dead really soon.”
To Be Continued…
Next: Max and Liz team up with—Max and Liz? To try and stop the sky from exploding and raining nuclear fire down on everyone. Meanwhile, the pair of Valentis track Jesse Manes down to his secret base, only to find that he has recovered a lot more from the cosmic event than they had first guessed. Meanwhile, something about Courtney has Alex suspicious, and he wonders just how much of his discovers he should share with her