What a Tangled Web...
Aesop


EMAIL:  ENOWON@JUNO.COM

DISCLAIMER:  I donít own the characters from Roswell or BTVS and I
donít profit by this.

AUTHORíS NOTE:  This is my take on ĎMeet the Dupes.í 

SUMMARY:  Three strangers with familiar faces come to town as the
Roswell teens are dealing with another problem.



NEW YORK CITY: One week ago

"The guy said Kívarís dead.  This is our big chance to step in.
Someone needs to take control back home."

"We ainít goiní.  No arguments."

"Yer beiní stupid!  This is our big chance!  Why you wanna blow it?"

"If you canít figure that out for yourself, youíre the stupid one."
Zan kept walking, ignoring the crowd and his second.

"Back me up here Lonnie?"  He looked to the taller of the two girls in
their small group.  She glanced at her brotherís back and then at him. 
She nodded slightly before looking away disdainfully.

"If my brother says we donít go, we donít go."

"You wanna continue beiní nobodies here when can be royalty back home? 
Whatís up with that?"

"Shut up Rath.  Try listeniní for a change.  Weíre not going, but that
donít mean we wonít be there."  Zan stopped abruptly and turned to
confront his second.  Rath stared stupidly for a moment, his leaderís
words having completely thrown him off track.  He glanced at Lonnie,
but she only looked curious.  Her face betrayed none of the confusion
Rath felt.  Zan rolled his eyes.  "Guess you are stupid.  This could be
a trap or it could be real.  Safest way to find out is to send someone
in our place.  Might as well get some use out of those dupes they sent
with us."  

Rathís eyes widened in surprise, then a crafty grin spread across his
face.

"Always did like the way you think bro."

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

ROSWELL: The present

Liz massaged her temples, trying to ward off the headache she could
feel coming on.  She cast an irritated glance at her teacher who was
practically doubled over with laughter.  "I donít see whatís so funny,"
she griped.  "This guy could cause us real problems."

"He already has," Spike grinned, his laughter tapering off.  He tried
to look serious for a moment, but then burst out laughing again.  "Then
he solved them!"  Liz sighed and turned away.  Clearly Spike wasnít
going to be any help.

"So he thinks Tess is psychic or something?" She leaned back against
the cushions of the old sofa.  Her basement wasnít the ideal place to
meet, but it was convenient to the returning group.  Max and Maria had
met the three as they returned home.  Liz had not seen her parents yet.
Fortunately, they were out of town till late that night.

"Or something," Max agreed.  "He mentioned a colleague in L.A.  He
mightíve been talking about Wesley."

"Maybe we should talk to him," Liz suggested, "Wesley I mean, find out
exactly what this means."

"Good idea," Max nodded.  "In the meantime we should keep an eye on
this guy.  We donít want him running into Liz on patrol."

"Maybe she should hold off until this guy leaves town."  Maria glanced
at her friend, but Liz shook her head.

"I doubt the vampires will hold off."

"So Spike can patrol in your place," Michael said.  "If Hawkins finds
him out killing demons heíll have an explanation for the rumors of a
Slayer, and itíll give him another reason to move on."

"Hey thatís right."  Lizís head came up sharply, a look of inspiration
crossing her face.  "Thanks to what that vampire said before Tess
killed him, Hawkins thinks thereís a Slayer in town.  If he finds Spike
is the one doing the demon killing heíll definitely think heís on the
wrong track.  Michael, thatís brilliant!"

Maxís second-in-command blinked in surprise before nodding, only just
realizing the implications of what heíd said.  "Uh, yeah, I thought
so."

"Itís an idea," Spike allowed, interested despite the potential risk to
himself.  "Could be fun too, seeiní exactly how stupid this guy is."
He thought for a moment and quickly warmed to the idea.  Putting one
over on the infamous Watcherís Council would be sweet indeed.  "Iíll do
it."

"Knew we could count on you Spike," Maria said, sarcasm dripping like
honey from her words.  Spike recognized her tone and knew he was being
made fun of, but it only made him grin the more.

"Yeah, yeah, tease if ya like, but Iím gonna enjoy this almost as much
as I would enjoy-" he glanced at Liz.  "Uh, wouldíve enjoyedÖ" He
shrugged.  "Ah, you know."  The others traded concerned glances and Liz
sighed, deciding it was best to move on quickly.

"So how do we do this?  Weíve gotta find him first.  Then set it up for
him to run into Spike."

"Well, we know where heís staying," Max answered.  "It should be easy
to keep an eye on him."  He glanced at Michael, then frowned
thoughtfully.  "What he believes now is a real stretch.  Do you think
heíll believe that the rumors of a Slayer started because of Spike?"

"Sure," Maria spoke up cheerily.  "I can do something with his hair,
and with the right earrings and a little make-up heÖ" she broke off in
a fit of uncontrollable laughter at the expression on the vampireís
face.

"Thanks Maria," Michael groused.  "Like thatís an image I want stuck in
my head."  Liz and Max shared a long-suffering look and waited for
their friends to grow serious again.  

"Can we focus?" Spike asked, surprising them.  "We need to deal with
this guy, and the sooner the better."

"Spikeís right," Liz nodded.  "Itís not going to be easy to pull this
off and not make it look contrived.  Itís not enough that he meets
Spike.  Heíd probably just try to stake you," she reminded him.  "And I
donít have to remind you that you canít fight back."

Her teacher nodded glumly, thinking.  "So.  We need a vampire or two as
well."  Spike trailed off, realizing that it would indeed be difficult
not to make such a meeting look contrived.

"Well, this guyís gonna be looking for vampires right?" Maria looked at
the others and they nodded hesitantly.  "So the chances of him running
into Spike by accident arenít that small.  Roswell isnít a very big
town."

"So it might not be such a stretch that two vampire hunters run into
each other," Max allowed.  "We canít depend on him to jump to the wrong
conclusions though.  I donít think this guy would have gotten where he
is if he were stupid."  He shot a warning look at Spike.

"I have to agree," Liz sighed.  "The two Watchers Iíve met, Wesley and
Giles, are pretty sharp."  She glanced at Spike.  "This guy may have
jumped to the wrong conclusion once, but we canít depend on his doing
it again."

"So lets make a basic plan and then revise it until we have something
workable," Max suggested.  "Whatís the first thing we need?"

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

"Okay," Alex sighed.  "Could we make this any more complex?  You know,
so when it goes wrong it can really go wrong?"

"Ah, the voice of optimism," Tess grimaced.  Though her tone was
sarcastic, she found herself agreeing with the Human boyís assessment. 
The slightest hitch could throw everything off and ruin the plan.

She glanced around at the group that had assembled at the Evansí home. 
Maxí father had given the group a disapproving look before retreating
into his office.  Mrs. Evans had left to run unnecessary errands.
Neither really approved of the ĎSlayer meetingí happening in their home
and neither really wanted to know what was going on, but they had
resigned themselves to their childrenís participation.  The Evans
children were too strong willed to accept being forbidden to get
involved.

There were occasions though when Max found himself wishing he werenít
involved. "Youíre not helping," he said, a bit more sharply than he had
intended.  "If you have a better idea, lets hear it."

Alex considered, and then shook his head sadly.  "So who goes first?"

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

Rath watched his double leave the Evansí house and frowned.  "Do I
gotta dress like that?  Guyís got no style."  

Lonnie smirked.  "Poor baby."  Ava, sitting in the back seat of the
stolen Ford, said nothing.  She had privately been against the entire
endeavor, but it was what Zan wanted, and she would do anything for
Zan.

Several others left as they watched.  Some in pairs, others singly.
"Dinner party?" Lonnie speculated in a put on snobbish tone that made
Rath chuckle.  The last two to emerge were a tall, gangly, dark-haired
boy and Lonnieís double.  She took special note of the boy, as the two
seemed especially close.  He spoke softly to her and gazed into her
eyes while giving her hand a quick reassuring squeeze.  To Lonnieís
surprise though, he didnít try to kiss the girl before turning to
depart.

"Now thereís an approach I havenít seen in a while," Ava commented
almost wistfully.  Lonnie gave her an irritated, look.  "Shy and
sensitive," she offered by way of explanation.  Her voice was wistful
as she watched the two part company.  Lonnie ruined the moment by
blowing rudely between her lips.

"íCause itís stupid.  Thatís why."

"Donít get mad," Ava answered sweetly, "just Ďcuz guys ask you for a
price list instead."  Rath made a strangled noise that diverted
Lonnieís wrath.

"You think thatís funny?" she demanded.  Rath didnít answer, but his
lips were pressed tightly together and he studiously avoided looking at
her. She muttered an obscenity under her breath and ignored both of
them.

She turned instead and watched Isabel go back inside.  It wouldnít be
so bad impersonating her, Lonnie decided.  At least there was no
problem with style.  

"Do you think this Max guyíll go for it?  Will he help?"

Rath shrugged.  "Only one way to find out.  Gotta be ready if he
wonít."  He watched as the teens split up, headed in various
directions.  They were moving with definite purpose, not just wandering
off home.  "Whatís this about?"  Lonnie looked after the departing
teens and shrugged.

"We can ask Ďem later.  Pick someone."  Rath did so and they left to
follow his choice.

Using a car to follow someone on foot is next to impossible, especially
in a town with so little traffic after dark.  They gave up fairly
quickly, and Rath, after altering his appearance, got out and followed
the girl on foot.  The short brunette made her way toward the center of
town.  He had thought that she would be fairly easy to follow, but she
walked fast.  He lost sight of her after five blocks and three turns.

Rath cursed silently as he looked around the empty street.  "Now where
did you go?"

"Right here."  Rath spun to find the girl standing behind him looking
both amused and annoyed.  "Max ask you to walk me home?"

Rath cast a quick glance around.  Where the hellíd she come
from? He recovered quickly though and nodded.

"Sweet, but you know itís not necessary.  Go on home.  Iíll meet you at
the CrashDown tomorrow after school.  Kyle and Tess can let us know how
surveillance went."

Rath nodded reluctantly and turned to go.  Surveillance?  Of
who?  It was a question that might or might not be important to his
plans.  He decided to get back to Lonnie and let her know what heíd
learned.  What had he learned though?  Thereíd been no chance to
connect with her.  Donít even know her name.

He would just have to hope that Lonnie and Ava had better luck.

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

"Good morning Mr. Hawkins," Nancy greeted him as he sat down at the
counter.  He nodded in greeting and traded pleasantries with Nancy
Parker while he looked at the menu.  After a momentís consideration, he
asked for the least offensive item.  

American food was bad enough without giving it bizarre names.
Hamburgers and fries were simply not healthy, and he didnít want to
know what an alien slime smoothie was. Fortunately, the menu did
include a nice green salad.  He took a moment to be grateful that the
menu didnít refer to it as Ďalien foliage.í  

Nancy Parker was watching him covertly as she worked.  Might as well
get on with it.  It was one of the reasons he had come in.

"How are you feeling Mrs. Parker?  After your close call the other
day?"  He gave her his best Ďconcerned friendí smile, and she accepted
it at face value.

"Fine.  It was a shock, but Iím fine now.  How goes yourÖ research?"
The hesitation caught his attention, but he wasnít sure if it was
something he should be concerned by.  

"Well enough, though not as quickly as I had hoped." 

"Tess wasnít the one you were looking for then?"  

Hawkins stiffened.  "I beg your pardon?"

Nancy sighed.  "Iím not stupid Mr. Hawkins.  Is Tess the Slayer?"  When
he didnít answer she shook her head.  "I saw more and heard more that
night than you probably thought.  Youíre looking for the Slayer that
you told me was a myth."

Hawkins sighed and nodded.  "You are quite perceptive.  I wasÖ
premature in my judgment."  This wasnít going well, he realized.  It
was bad enough that a group of adolescents knew of his blunder, but if
the woman started telling the wrong people what he was doing, his job
could become very complicated.  "Tessís display seems to have been
nothing more than an incredible burst of adrenaline.  It is rare but it
is known to happen.  Lifting a car off a trapped person I believe is
the most common example."

Nancy nodded, seeing that he was embarrassed by his error.  "Well, no
harm doneÖ"  she broke off, "was there?"

Hawkins shook his head.  "Everythingís fine."

"I ask because I saw you, Tess, and the Evansí kids leaving.  I
wondered."

"They were showing me the scene of an unusual incident they thought I
should investigate.  Perfectly safe."  It hadnít been of course, but
there was no reason to alarm the woman. 

"Good.  You havenít found the Slayer then?"  He shook his head.  Nancy
could see the topic made him uncomfortable, but she had to know what he
knew.  "So youíre looking for someone very strong and fast, like a
permanent adrenaline rush."

"Essentially."

Nancyís mind flashed back to a scene in the diner almost two months
earlier.  A stool ripped out of the floor and a robber in a fright
mask.  What Hawkins had told Tess had caused her to remember that night
and the incongruities.  Who sticks up any place, let alone a
café, with a sword?  "It sounds like very dangerous work,"
she hazarded.

"It is, but its necessary.  It is imperative that I find her soon."  

"Why?  So she can get on with this work?  Risking her life every
night?"

"Oh, thereís much more to it than that.  There are moreÖ practical
concerns as well.  A Slayer without the proper training and guidance is
not only vulnerable, but she is also a danger to those around her.
Everything about a Slayer is enhanced.  Speed, strength, and reflexes
are pushed to a superhuman level.  An untrained Slayer could
accidentally injure or even kill someone."

Nancy paled at the thought.  "Well, I guess youíd better find her
soon."  She wasnít yet willing to share her suspicions not when she
knew so little about Hawkins or his Council.  "Um, you said they showed
you a place where something strange happened?"

"Yes."  He didnít elaborate, not wanting to go into details.

"I was asking because I saw something sort of weird a while back."

Hawkins raised an eyebrow.  "Indeed?  What?"

"WellÖ" Nancy glanced around, but the café was all but empty.
There were only two occupied tables, both on the far side of the
café.  She reached into her pocket and retrieved the piece of
paper sheíd put there that morning for just such an occasion.  "I saw
this a while back.  IÖ Well I donít know what to make of it."  She
passed him the sketch artistís rendering of the Ďfright maskí the
robber had worn.  Valenti had said it might help track down the
suspect, as there couldnít be that many places that sold such elaborate
things.

Hawkins accepted and unfolded the paper.  "Good Lord!"  The blood
drained from his face as he recognized the rather crude drawing of a
Mora demon.  "Where did you see this and when?"

"A couple of months ago.  It was attacking this guy, stranger in town."

"What happened?"

"I didnít see it all.  Didnít want to get that close, but they fought,
and there was a bright flash of light, and when I looked back it was
gone.  The guy took off."  She shook her head.  "I havenít seen him
since."  Actually she had seen the young man at the café twice
since the Ďrobberyí.  She never had learned his name though and knew
nothing about him accept that he was Anyaís boyfriend.  "What is it?"

"Hmm?"  He looked up from studying the picture.  "Oh.  Itís called a
Mora demon.  Very nasty creature.  Two months ago you said?"  She
nodded.  That corresponded to the time that Seth Gecko and Cole had
been in the area.  It was quite possible the woman had witnessed a
skirmish between their forces.  Cole was known to recruit creatures
besides vampires.  It was interesting, but not particularly relevant to
his search.  The young man she mentioned was most likely one of Geckoís
fanatics.  "You havenít seen the creature or any like it since?"  Nancy
shook her head.  "Well then I wouldnít be concerned.  If the creature
isnít dead it has certainly moved on."  For some reason the woman
didnít look relieved.

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

"Somethiní weird is goiní on here," Lonnie opined.

Rath cast an irritated glance at her.  "Ya think?"  He got up from the
couch in the small room they had rented and started to pace.  "Question
is, what.  You followed Avaís dupe and that jock.  What did they do?"

"They went to this motel and sat outside for a couple of hours.  Then
they went home."

"Went to a motel and stayed in the car?  What?  Couldnít afford a room
or unclear on the concept?"

Lonnie made a disgusted noise.  "Get yer mind outa the gutter.  They
were watchiní the place."  She shrugged.  "I guess they was expectiní
somethiní to happen aní left when it didnít."  Rath had guessed as
much, remembering what the girl he had identified as Liz Parker had
told him.

"Could you tell which room they were watchiní?"  Lonnie shook her head.
"We donít got a lotta time yíknow.  We may just have to approach them
and take our chances."

Lonnie nodded, annoyed at the prospect of not having all of the angles
covered.  "We talk to Ďem tonight, even if we canít figure out whatís
goiní on."

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

"Guess he stayed in and did research last night."  Liz shrugged.  She
looked around at the group gathered at the factory and shook her head. 
They had moved to the factory after Liz had spotted Hawkins hanging
around the CrashDown earlier in the day.  

Liz focused on Tess.  "He never left his room?"  Tess shook her head.
"Tonight then.  We canít leave the town open like that.  I donít like
the idea of not having someone out there patrolling."

"Spike is-"

"-waiting for you to tell him where to go in order to set this bloke
up." The vampire didnít look happy at the delay or at having to be at
their beck and call.  "Weíll just have to hope he gets off his arse and
goes out tonight."

Liz nodded.  "So lets review.  Michael and Maria will be watching
Hawkins, following him when he goes on patrol.  Spike will be
patrolling nearby, waiting for an opening.  IÖ I wonít be anywhere near
there."

"And the rest of us will be going about our business but on call in
case something goes wrong."

"That will be the risky part," Liz frowned.  "Having any of us near
that meeting.  It has to look accidental.  At the same time we need to
be ready to intervene if things get out of hand in some way."

"What could go wrong?" Spike asked.

"We donít know," Maria said.  "Thatís the problem."  She looked around
the group.  Max and Liz were there, and surprisingly, so was Tess.
Alex, Isabel, and Michael were missing.  Michael was working at the
CrashDown and she would need to be there soon.  Her shift ended at
eight oíclock.  Then it was tailing duty.

"Letís get ready then.  Maria will keep in contact.  If any problems
crop up weíll be able to coordinate and decide what to do."

"Well letís just hope something happens tonight," Spike grumbled.

"Whatís your problem anyway?" Liz asked, becoming irritated.

Spike shrugged.  "Itís just rare that anything interesting happens
around here.  Now Iím finally gettiní some fun and I have wait for it?"

"Bummer," Maria agreed, deadpan.  Spike shot her a dirty look.

"Well youíre going to have to wait till sunset at least," Liz pointed
out.  "Just be sure you remember your part.  He has to believe youíre
the one behind the Slayer rumors."

"Yeah, yeah, I know.  Donít take all the fun out of it."

"Okay, fine.  Letís go."  She looked at the others and they nodded and
rose.  She turned to face Spike.  "I need to get to work.  Iíll be by
for training tomorrow morning before my shift."  Liz turned and started
to leave.

 "Right then.  Iíll see you tomorrow, unless something goes really
wrong."  His tone made her glance back sharply.  Spike saw her worry
and rolled his eyes.  "Donít worry.  Nothingíll happen.  It might blow
up, and yes, that might be very entertaining, but that wouldnít be
nearly as satisfying as pulling it off.  Makiní a fool of this
Watcher."  

Liz nodded, relieved.  "Thanks."

"For what?"

"For being honest about that."

He nodded.  "Uh-huh."  He looked uncomfortable for a moment then
continued.  "I wouldnít betray you Liz.  I may lose my bet with Angel
eventually, but it wonít be because I sold you out for a cheap laugh." 
He held her gaze for a long moment. Liz looked away first.

"Thanks," she said, repeating herself, but she smiled.  "Iíd better
go."  She turned to the door and followed the others out.  Spike
watched her leave and grimaced.  He had meant what he said, but it
didnít make life in Roswell any less boring.  Never mind boring
he thought glumly.  If the Council finds out Iím here and workiní
with the Slayer lifeíll become damn near impossible.

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

Maria left the CrashDown shortly after 8:00.  Alex had just called to
tell her that Hawkins was on the move.  Michael was waiting for her at
his apartment, his shift having ended an hour earlier.

Her Jetta turned into the street a block from Michaelís apartment and
pulled to the side of the road.  She unlocked the door and called to
him as he walked towards home.  

Rath began to turn when he heard the car slow, instantly alert to a
possible threat.  An attack was, he knew, unlikely, but he had gotten
used to looking over his shoulder and taking precautions many would
consider excessive.  His paranoia was often justified.  It wasnít a
threat though.  It was the first thing that had gone right on the trip
so far.

"Michael!  Come on.  Weíre gonna be late."  Guerinís girl friend, Rath
guessed.  He recognized the girl from the night before and had used
their stolen yearbook to identify her as Maria DeLuca.  She had left
with his dupe.  Rath had been hoping it would be her that came to pick
up Michael.

He nodded and got into the car.  This should be informative and
fun.  The girl wasnít exactly hard on the eyes.  He watched her as
she made a U-turn and headed back into town.  "Alex said heís headed
for the park.  Thereís been some activity there."  Rath nodded
silently, having no idea what she was talking about.  That was, he
reminded himself, the entire point of the impersonation.

Pulling to the side of the road at the edge of a small city park they
sat in the dark and watched as a man in a three-piece suit made his way
down the street toward the park.  "Here he comes," Maria observed.  The
man moved briskly but kept a wary eye on his surroundings, like a
tourist in Brooklyn after dark, Rath thought.  The man entered the park
and made his way toward the trees.  "And there he goes."  

"Good," Rath grinned.  "Now we can be alone."  He leaned closer and
reached towards her, intending to initiate the connection that would
tell him what he needed to know about the group, but she slapped his
hand away lightly.

"Dream on space boy," she said, giggling at his antics.  "Weíve got
work to do."  Both jumped as someone knocked on the driverís side
window.  Maria scowled when she saw who it was, but she quickly
schooled her expression and lowered the window.  "Is there a problem
deputy?" she asked as innocently as she knew how.

"You two need to get on home," he said sternly.  "Weíve had reports of
muggers working the area.  So it isnít safe to be making out here."  He
straightened up and pointed.  "Go on home.  Both of you."  Maria
obediently started the Jetta and drove away.

"Get the cell phone in my purse and call Liz," she instructed in an
aggrieved tone.  Rath retrieved the phone, resisting the urge to pinch
her wallet as well.  He looked at it for a moment before Maria took it
out of his hand.  "Itís first on speed dial."  She hit a button and
waited.

 "Liz, babe, we got a small problem.  We werenít able to follow Council
boy.  Deputy Dog, I mean Dodd caught us parked outside the parkÖ. No we
werenít."  Maria shot an aggravated look at Rath.  "He said something
about muggings in the park soÖ  Yeah.  Iíll call him and tell him.  He
does have the phone doesnít he?  Okay then."  She hung up and dialed
another number as Rath watched in growing, but carefully hidden
confusion.

"Itís me, MariaÖ Liz is on her way.  Deputy Dodd is in the area.  He
spotted us parked outside andÖ No we werenít."  She rolled her eyes.
"Right, keeping Roswell safe from rampaging hormones.  Very funny.
Anyway, sheíll be here in maybe ten minutesÖ The others would be
spotted sneaking around remember?  Sheíll stay out of sight of Hawkins
and DoddÖ Yeah you taught her real good."  The last was added in an
overly patient voice.  "I think we can drive around a bit and be in the
area if you think we should.  This kind of throws things off you know."
She listened for a moment more and then nodded.  "Right.  Weíll be
ready just in case."

"So?" Rath asked, when she hung up, hoping for some clue.

"The bleached leech sends his regards.  Weíll drive around, stay in the
area, and watch out for Dodd.  We might be needed if one of them needs
to make a hasty get away."   She shot him a warning look.  "So keep
your hands to yourself.  Thereíll be plenty of time for that later,"
she promised with a grin.

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

Nancy Parker closed down the accounting program and opened her word
processor.  It was almost 8:30 and there was still a lot to do.  The
letter to the Small Business Association had to go out the next day and
she still had to review the paperwork from the insurance company.  The
claims adjuster was having some difficulty accepting the explanation
for their claim.  A wall damaged by a flying sword and a counter stool
ripped out of the floor did look a bit unusual she supposed.  The man
had been downright skeptical, even with the witness statements.

Thoughts of that incident brought back worries about her daughter.
What was going on with Liz?  As she had told Hawkins earlier in the
day, she wasnít stupid.  She had noticed a difference in Liz lately.
She had taken to sneaking out late at night and coming home somewhat
mussed.

On several occasions she had found Lizí clothing in the garbage, torn
or stained beyond redemption.  When she had asked, Liz had always had a
plausible explanation.  Now she was starting to wonder.  If Liz was the
Slayer and her abilities were getting her into trouble then maybe she
did need help.  She just wished she knew more about the Council. 

Something else worried her as well.  An image formed in her mind of a
tall, pale man who spoke with a cockney accent.  He had rushed in a few
minutes after the robber had vanished.  What was his connection to Liz?

What about the robber?  Was it a Mora demon as Hawkins believed?  If so
then it seemed that just being the Slayer was dangerous.  Were the
demons somehow drawn to her daughter?  It was a frightening thought.

Enough guessing, she decided.  Time to get some answers. 
Liz was in her room studying.  Nancy knocked on the closed door, but
didnít wait for an answer.  "Liz?  We need to talk."  There was no
answer.  The room was empty.  She went to the window that led out to
the balcony.  It was closed but not locked.  Quickly she went out on to
the balcony and looked down, just in time to see Liz round the corner
and disappear.  

Not this time.  She climbed down the ladder and followed her
daughter.  

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

Liz moved carefully from shadow to shadow.  She had hidden from police
cars twice as she made her way to the park.  Once she arrived, she
began to search for Hawkins and for any vampires that might be hunting
in the park.  This wasnít part of the plan, but there was little
choice.  Leaving Spike there without backup was out of the question.
She had been in the park only ten minutes when she spotted her teacher.

"Hey Liz."

Liz grimaced.  The vampire hadnít even turned around.  "Howíd you
know?"  

He spared her an amused glance.  "You tell me.  Hawkins is about 20
yards that way."  He nodded toward a grove of trees in which Liz could
make out furtive movement.  "No activity yet."  The figure moved out of
the grove and down an animal trail headed away from them.

Liz settled in behind him to follow and watch while Spike moved off to
search for sport in another part of the park.  That had been part of
the plan.  Someone would keep an eye on Hawkins while Spike patrolled
nearby.  It increased the likelihood of an Ďaccidentalí meeting.  They
didnít have to wait long.

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

Nancy Parker was growing increasingly nervous about her daughter.  She
had nearly lost Liz twice because she kept hiding.  At first Nancy
thought that Liz had spotted her; then she saw the deputyís car.  

She had managed to follow Liz without being spotted herself, but wasnít
sure that was a good thing.  Despite the mounting evidence she hoped
that she was wrong about what her daughter was doing in the park at
such a late hour.  I must be the first mother in history to hope she
stumbles across a drug buy, she thought morosely.  Nancy doubted
she would be that lucky though.  Movement in a small clearing a few
yards ahead caught her eye.

Knowing that it could literally be anything, she brought out a cross
that she had taken to carrying with her at all times.  Feeling as ready
as she could, she moved toward the figure cautiously.

With all of her attention focused on the person in the clearing, she
didnít spot the figure hiding in the bushes till she accidentally
stepped on his foot.

"Ow!  What?!"  The figure spun to confront her, full vamp face in
evidence.  Nancy let out a small scream and shoved the cross at him.
Snarling, the vampire grabbed her wrist and pulled, applying pressure
as she stumbled past him.

She dropped the cross and would have fallen if the vampire hadnít held
her up and pulled her against him.  She found herself looking down the
shaft of a crossbow bolt.  

"Get away from her monster," Hawkins shifted his aim, but the vampire
held his hostage so as to cover his only vital area.

The vampire grinned.  "You should worry more about yourself Watcher."

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

Liz stared at the pair of feet balanced on the limb above her.  Her
eyes moved up the body the feet were attached to, from the black pumps
that looked outrageously out of place balanced on a tree limb, to the
dark nylons to the short, tight green skirt that ended about mid-thigh.
Then up farther to the black halter-top and choker.  She grimaced, both
at the fashion statement and at the incongruity of the clothing under
the circumstances. 

Not exactly dressed to blend are you?  Liz noted that the woman
was holding very still, not even breathing, not that that was really a
problem.  Her eyes were fixed on the figure in front of her on the
trail, and she hadnít noticed Liz yet.

What concerned Liz was that the vampire had let a victim pass by within
a few feet of her and hadnít attacked.  She seemed content to watch.
That suggested an ambush. How many?  Liz wondered.  This was
unexpected and possibly a serious problem.  Back up.  She
retreated.

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

Mariaís phone rang.  "Hello?"  She blinked in surprise.  "Ambush?  For
Hawkins?  Why?"  She shook her head.  "Okay, we can figure it out
later.  What do you want us to do?"  Maria glanced at her companion
dubiously.  "I donít know.  Michael, you up for some sneaking around?"

"Um, where?" Rath asked, asking himself, for the millionth time it
seemed, what he had gotten himself into.  

"Never mind," Maria said shortly.  "I think itís too late.  Careful
babe."  Maria glanced at him.  "What is with you tonight?  Itís like
youíre on another planet."  She smirked at her own joke.

"Not yet," Rath answered cryptically as Maria stepped on the gas.  His
effort to take her hand and form a connection was foiled as he was
thrown back against his seat by the unexpected acceleration.  

"So, we gonna help?"  

Maria shook her head.  "We would just be in the way now that the
fighting has started, especially with Hawkins there."

"Right."  Fighting?  The thought was cut off when he noticed the
patrol car turn into the road behind them.  "Cops."

Maria muttered something under her breath but turned away from the
park.  "Letís head for the CrashDown.  We can meet the others there."

Including Michael.  Time to improvise.  "Need to make a call."
He took the phone and dialed the room where he, Ava and Lonnie were
staying.  It rang twice before Ava picked up.  "We need to speed it up.
Get everyone and meet me at the UFO centerÖ Right."  He hung up.

Maria was watching him curiously.  "Why the Center?"

"So we can talk without worrying about watching what we say.  No one is
there this time of night."

Maria nodded.  "Makes sense."

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

"I thought you were with Maria?" 

Michael shrugged.  "So did I Maxwell, but she never showed up.  I
thought she might have been delayed here."  Max shook his head.  "Well
her phoneís been busy.  When did she leave?"

"Almost an hour ago."  He glanced at his sister, sitting across from
him.  "Did she say anything to you?"

Isabel shook her head, then glanced out the window by the booth when
Tess tapped on the window.  She motioned for them to follow.

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

Tess looked up from her book when she heard the tap on the window.
"Isabel?"  Tess quickly opened the window and moved aside so she could
come in.  

Lonnie shook her head.  "Come on."

"Where to?" Tess asked, climbing out the window.

"UFO Center.  Iíll explain when we get there."

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

The female vamp moved when she heard the scream.  Liz had retreated
almost 20 feet to make the call, but she heard it loud and clear.
"Gotta go."  Maria warned her to be careful and Liz started running.

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

Hawkins turned when he heard the bushes rustle behind him.  Three more
vampires stepped out into the clearing.  He swung the crossbow to aim
at one of the others, but a strangled cry from Nancy stayed his hand.

"Ah, ah, ah.  Donít want to hurt the lady now do you?"  Hawkins knew
the creature would kill them anyway, but he might be able to do
something if he could buy time.  "Iíll be happy to let her go if you
tell us what we want to know."

"What would that be?"

"Coleís treasure.  I think you know where it is.  Am I right?"

"Possibly," he hedged.  He hadnít the vaguest idea where the treasure
was, but he had to keep the creature talking.

"So where is it?"

"Whatís to keep you from killing her if I tell you?"  The vampire
opened his mouth to answer, but all that came out was a pained squawk
as he collapsed into a pile of dust.

"Thatíd be me."  Nancy turned to see a familiar figure stepping out of
the shadows.  "Come on then.  Plenty of pointy wooden things to go
around." Spike considered for a second and then tucked the stake he had
just used into his jacket and drew the ax he carried had carried across
his back to guard position.  "Or maybe a this is more to your liking." 
Stepping between Nancy and the vampires, he nodded to the Watcher who
was staring at him incredulously.

"Donít know who you are," one of the others snarled, "but you just
bought yourself a whole lot of pain."

"What is this," Spike griped, "a cliché festival?"  Mindful of
Liz watching from nearby, he kept close to her mother.  Hawkins
carefully moved toward Spike, while covering the three vamps, two males
and a female.

"Who are you?" Hawkins asked, sparing his unexpected ally a glance.
"Not that Iím complaining mind you."

"Just a demon hunter, happened to be in the park.  Roswellís been
jumpiní of late."

The vampires had recovered from their initial surprise and were trying
to surround them.  One in particular was watching him suspiciously.
Spike could almost see the light bulb over his head.

"Spike!"  Hawkins started and glanced at the vampire that had spoken.
The voice practically dripped venom.  "Iíve heard about you!"

Hawkins stared at the outraged vampire in confusion.  What was he
babbling about?  And why was the name Spike familiar?  "Spike?"

The vampire snorted derisively.  "Some Watcher.  Doesnít even know a
vampire when heís got his back to one."  The others started to laugh,
and the name Spike suddenly clicked.  Hawkins turned to cover the
infamous killer of two Slayers, and didnít see the closest vampire
lunge at him.

"Oh soddiní-!" he was standing directly in front of Lizí mother,
protecting her.  He took a split second to appreciate the irony of that
before reaching behind him and shoving her one way even as he dove the
other.  

The bolt from the crossbow thudded into the tree when the vampire hit
Hawkins from behind.  Spike came to his feet fast, lunging and catching
the closest vampire across the throat with the haft of the ax.  When it
staggered back Spike swung the ax in a flat arc.  The vampire ducked
under the swing and drove doubled fists into Spikeís stomach.

He spared a glance for Hawkins.  The Watcher wasnít doing too badly
actually.  He was using the crossbow as a blunt instrument and had
drawn a stake from inside his jacket.  The vampire he had clubbed was
already climbing to his feet though and coming after him again.  Spike
glanced at Nancy who was successfully fending off the third vampire
with the cross she had dropped earlier.

Hawkins stepped back, but half-turned toward Spike.  Nancy cast a
worried glance at him.  "Oh for pityís sake!  Watch that vampire."  She
gestured with a free hand toward the one Hawkins had knocked down.  "I
remember you... Spike."  

Spike cast a distracted glance her way. "Yeah?"

"You came to the café a couple of times.  You were looking for
Liz."  She let out a shuddering gasp.  "Itís my Liz isnít it?  Sheís
the Slayer?"  

That got everyoneís attention.  Hawkins looked at her, realization
clear in his eyes.  The vampires looked suddenly nervous.

Spike just looked exasperated.  "And you felt the need to share this
insight, why?"

Nancy glanced at him, too flustered by the situation and by Spikeís
tone, to muster any kind of a response.  Before she could begin to form
an answer the vampire facing her started to back away.  "Slayer?  The
Slayer that tore up Coleís army?"  Nancyís jaw dropped at this.

Army?!  "Army?  What army?  Whoís Cole?  Whereís Liz?"  Her
inquiries were becoming increasingly more frantic.  Nothing was making
sense.

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

The two groups stared at each other.  Maria kept glancing back and
forth between Michael and Rath, unable to speak for some time.  Finally
she managed a single baffled word.  "What?" 

"We knew there were other pods," Michael said grimly.  "I think we just
found the people in them."

"Good guess," Lonnie allowed herself a slightly condescending smile.
"There were two sets of hybrid clones made.  Insurance I guess in case
something happened to one of us."

"Why are you here?"  Max got straight to the point, wanting an
explanation for their deception.  "Why the charade?"

"We didnít know anything Ďbout you," Lonnie explained.  "Needed to know
you were trustworthy before we talked."

Rath broke in.  "Look, weíre sorry already, but thereís way too much at
stake for us take any chances."

"What do you mean?" Tess asked for the group.

The three duplicates traded looks before Rath answered.  "Weíve been
contacted." 

"They got a big problem back home," Lonnie picked up the explanation
after allowing Rathís announcement to sink in.  "The one that contacted
us said that Kívar, the guy who overthrew our family, is dead.  No one
is sayiní exactly what happened."  She noticed the way their
counterparts looked at each other.  What seemed odd was that there was
no sign of surprise.  She made a note of it and pressed on.  "Only a
few people back home know right now.  If the word gets out wellÖ Kívar
wasnít a real popular guy.  There were a buncha people who woulda liked
to kill him and try to run things their own way."

"So," Max broke in, "if word gets out that Kívar is dead-"

"Thereíll be a blood bath." Michael finished.  "Everyone will take a
shot at the throne."

Lonnie and Rath nodded.  "The leaders got a problem.  The heads of the
five planets need a way to keep the peace.  They think bringiní the
Royal Four backíll do that."

"They want us to come home?" Max sounded dubious, and not merely
because of the potential for a setup. 

Lonnie nodded.  "Theyíve called for a summit.  Each of the leaders of
the five planets will be there.  They think if the Royal Four return,
all of the factions will fall in line." 

"Could be a trap," Michael noted.  "Iím betting that at least a couple
of those people think that they should be the ones in charge."

"Itís a risk," Lonnie agreed, "but thereís millions of lives at stake. 
If we can get everybody to agree on how to do this we could all go
home."

"Why come to us?" Tess asked.  "Why not go to this summit yourselves?" 


Lonnie looked down, troubled.  "We canít, not without Zan."  

"Iím guessing heís my double?" Max asked.

Lonnie nodded.  "About two weeks Ďfore they called usÖ there was an
accident."  She stopped, hoping that she looked suitably grief
stricken.  "Zanís dead."

"A stupid traffic accident," Rath fumed.  "Guy comes all the way to
Earth, all this way, just to get hit by some jerk runniní a red light."
None of the Roswell group answered for a moment.

Finally Max spoke for them.  "Iím sorry.  I canít imagine what it
mustíve been like to lose him like that."  He glanced at Isabel, Tess,
and Michael.  "IÖ Iím sorry," he finished lamely.  "I still donít see
what this has to do with us."

"They want the Royal Four, not the Royal Three," Rath answered.
"Without Zan, they wonít give us the time of day.  Thatís why we need
you Max.  Youíre the king."

"You want me to stand in for Zan?"  He nodded thoughtfully.  "Makes
sense, but what happens when they find out thereís seven of us?"

"We donít tell Ďem," Lonnie said succinctly.  "We go to the summit,
work out the details and then we let Ďem know when they canít back out.
If they donít like it, tough.  They need us."

"Weíre gonna need some time to think on this," Max hedged.  "There are
other things to consider."

"Like what?" Lonnie wanted to know.  "Our lives here?  Theyíre not
real.  Itís not us."

"Yo!  You really think anything here is more important than stoppiní a
war back home?"  

Max didnít have an answer to Rathís question, so he fell back on what
Michael had said earlier.  "How do you know itís not a trap?"

"We donít," Lonnie admitted, "but I figure we gotta take the risk."

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

"Yíknow," the female vampire facing Hawkins began thoughtfully.  "If
these people are important to the Slayer, and she fought against Cole,
we might be able to trade them for info about the treasure."  The
vampire menacing Nancy seemed to draw courage from his comrades, and
moved towards her again.

"Yer not layiní a hand on her," Spike declared, not daring to take his
eyes off his own opponent for more than a second.

"Why should you care?" the one facing Hawkins demanded.  "Sheís just
food.  Whatís wrong with you?"

"He switched sides," the first snarled.  "Traitor!"  The vampire leaped
forward to attack.

Spike rolled his eyes even as he brought the ax up, in a cross block
that, once again, caught the vampire across the throat.  He swung the
ax again, this time compensating for the defensive crouch the vampire
dropped into.  Its head flew clear, but Spike didnít wait to see it hit
the ground.  He turned in time to see the vampire threatening Nancy
explode into dust as Liz emerged from the shadows, stake in hand.  The
last backed away hastily looking from one enemy to another.  After a
few seconds she turned and bolted.  She didnít get far.

Liz caught her before sheíd gone three steps, driving a fist into her
back.  The vamp flew forward and landed face down. Lizís stake rose and
fell.

"Lizzie?"  Liz rose slowly and turned to face her mother.  Nancy came
forward quickly and looked her over, checking for injuries.  "Are you
all right?"

Liz nodded, while returning the scrutiny.  Nancy was a little dirty
from having been knocked out of the way of Hawkinsí crossbow but was
otherwise unharmed.  She gave a sigh of relief and hugged her mother
before turning on Hawkins who was watching Spike closely.  "Do you
normally shoot at people trying to help you?  Endangering innocent
bystanders in the process?!"

"Help?" Hawkins looked incredulously at Liz.  "Heís a vampire."  He
cast a baleful look at Spike.  "Heís only out for himself, probably
drawn here by rumors of Coleís treasure.  I donít know what your
involvement with this creature is, but it must stop.  The Council I
representÖ"

"I know about the Council," Liz informed him coldly.  

Her words and tone surprised him.  What could she know about the
Council?  Had Tess and the others filled her in, or had Spike been
telling tales?  He recovered quickly from his surprise, deciding that
Spike was the more obvious answer given her tone.  He had clearly been
working to turn her against them.  A part of him had to admire the
tactic.  Turn the Slayer against the Council with his lies.  

Details of Spikeís history began to come back to him.  He doubted that
the vampire could have defeated the Councilís efforts to find the
Slayer, not being a sorcerer, but he might have a connection to the one
responsible.  Speculation was pointless at the moment, however.  He had
to try to undo some of the damage.  "Do you know who youíre dealing
with?  Spike is notorious.  Heís killed two Slayers before you.  We-"

"How many has the Council killed?  I know you didnít kill Faith, but it
wasnít for lack of trying."

Hawkins was completely thrown by this.  He stepped back as if slapped. 
"How do you know about Faith?"

"Doesnít matter."  Liz raised a hand, cutting off any further debate.
"I know Faith wasnít exactly the ideal Slayer, but she was trying to
set things right.  Trying to make amends."  She cut him off again.
"That wasnít good enough though."

"You donít have all the facts."

"I have enough of them.  I know that the Council tried to kill her when
they couldnít control her.  Three men working for you made multiple
attempts on her life, and they werenít all that concerned about
innocents getting in the way.  The last was after she had surrendered
to the police and pled guilty."  She glanced at her mother.  "Faith was
on a bus, being taken to a prison with several other convicts and a
group of guards when their men ambushed her, shot at her, nearly killed
a couple of guards."

"That is-"

"The truth?" Liz interrupted hotly.  Faithís memories of the Councilís
attack replayed before her eyes in vivid detail.  She saw the windows
shatter under a hail of automatic weapons fire. 

"Why?"  Nancy asked suddenly.  "Why would they try to kill her if she
was going to prison?" Hawkins opened his mouth to answer, but didnít
get the chance.

"Control," Spike cut in.  "With the Slayer in prison sheís not runniní
around jumpiní through hoops for the Watcherís Council, and without a
Slayer theyíre pretty much just watchiní X-files reruns.  They wanted
to start fresh with a new Slayer and killiní Faith was the way to get
one."

"I will not get into an ethical debate with a vampire," Hawkins
sneered.  "Think what you will of the Councilís decision.  The fact
remains that the fate of the world sometimes rests in a Slayerís hands.
If you know as much as you claim then you know that is not an
exaggeration."

Liz nodded.  "I know that, but Ďthe ends justify the meansí is not an
argument I want to have with you."  Sighing tiredly she waved him off. 
"Go home.  The Council is not welcome here."  She turned to go.  "Come
on mom, Spike."

"Where is Coleís treasure?" Hawkins asked.  

Liz glanced at him.  "Donít know.  Donít care."

"You should.  Cole collects magical items, books, talismans, hard to
find ingredients for spells.  Some of them are extremely dangerous.  If
Cole-"

"Cole is dead.  I was there.  Spike and I helped Seth wipe out his
entire force.  None of them escaped."

"Then the treasure is out there, hidden somewhere for any demon to
find, and a great many demons are looking for it."  Liz had turned
away, but she was still listening.  "Rumor has it that he was on the
trail of a particularly powerful artifact, capable of literally
reshaping the world.  Something called the Granalith."

Liz felt the blood drain from her face and was grateful for the
darkness.  The Granalith.  It was the thing the Skins had been after.
The thing Kívar had said was crucial to their success.  Hawkins hadnít
seen her reaction, but he did see that she wasnít walking away from him
anymore.  Spike, much to his surprise, was looking thoughtful rather
than angry.  "Imagine what could happen if that collection fell into
the wrong hands."

After a long moment Spike spoke up.  "I hate to say it pet," he
admitted reluctantly, "but heís right.  We canít allow that."  He
turned to Hawkins.  "You got a lead on it?"

"Why would I share it with you if I did?  Youíre not involved vampire."

Liz finally turned to face him.  "Thatís where youíre wrong," Liz said.
She glanced at Spike.  "We donít need him to track it down.  I think
weíve got a pretty good idea of where to start looking."

"And what will you do with it when you find it?  You donít know what
youíre dealing with Liz.  You donít know what Spike is."

Liz smiled, wanting to see Hawkinsí expression.  "Heís a soulless demon
who enjoyed killing and eating people until he got a chip put in his
head that zaps him every time he tries to hurt a Human, and frankly I
trust him more than I trust you."

"Weíll deal with the collection," Spike assured him.  "Destroy the
dangerous parts and pass the rest to Angel or Giles."  He met Lizí
curious look and smiled.  "Donít worry.  They can put it to good use."

"Hold on a minute," Nancy interrupted, looking between the three.
"Setting aside the talk of magic andÖ well, everything else.  Who are
you to decide anything for her Spike?"

Liz smiled.  "Heís my Watcher."  Spike had decided long ago that he
didnít want to be called a Watcher, but under the circumstances he
didnít mind, especially when he saw the look on Hawkinsí face.

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

"I donít trust them," Maria declared.  She had been silent throughout
the meeting with the three doppelgangers.  Once they had retreated, at
Maxís request, the five of them were able to talk in private.  The
center was deserted.  Even Brody, normally a workaholic, had gone home.

The five teenagers had made themselves comfortable in the ĎSmall Town
Americaí exhibit.  "Why did that guy Rath pretend to be Michael?"  She
glanced at her boyfriend.  "He even tried to kiss me a couple of
times."  Michael looked distinctly unhappy when he heard that.  He
thought he might know Rathís motives, but Maria wasnít finished.  "And
how long have they been sneaking around?  Who knows what they learned
about us?"

"I think that may have been the point," Michael told her.

"What do you mean?"

"He tried to kiss you.  Remember how Max got flashes from Liz when they
were making out?"

"You think he was trying to pick my brain?" she sounded disgusted at
the very idea.  "ThatÖ thatís just low!"

"Theyíre paranoid," Max interjected in a reasonable tone.  "Given some
of the things that have happened to us it could be justified.  We donít
know anything about their lives."

Maria gave the idea grudging consideration but finally nodded.  "Okay,
maybe."

"He didnít do it did he?" Michael asked.

"Huh?"

"Did he kiss you?"  Maria shook her head.  "Good, then I donít have to
kill him."

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

"Why are we doing it this way again?"

Lonnie gave Rath a tired look.  "They take the risks, of going to the
conference," she explained in an overly patient voice, "but we canít
get Ďem to go without at least one of us along.  Iím hopiní that just
Maxíll come.  Everyoneíll be lookiní at the king at the summit.  If
itís a setup heíll be the first one dead and we take off.  If itís
legit, we gotta be there to make sure he does it right.  You saw what
theyíre like, not real quick on the uptake even if we could trust Ďem."
Rath nodded.

"And it means we got just one to get rid of when weíre ready to go."
Lonnie nodded; glad she was finally getting through to him.  The plan
wasnít working out quite as they had hoped, but it seemed to be
working.  

The only thing that worried Lonnie was that they still had no idea what
was going on with Maxís girlfriend.  

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

"You canít be serious."  Hawkins stared openmouthed at the two.  Nancy
looked almost as confused.  How could a vampire be a Watcher?  Even a
vampire that couldnít kill people?

"Heís done well by me so far."

Spike nodded.  "I took the job Ďcause I knew it would be interesting,"
Spike smirked, "and she hasnít let me down yet.  With my training sheís
taken out some pretty tough demons."  

"Your influence shows," he said dryly.  "Was it youíre idea to attempt
to convince me that our meeting was accidental?  That you were the
source of that vampireís claims that there was a Slayer in Roswell?"

Liz winced at this, but raised her hand.  "Actually that was my idea.
Mightíve worked if youíd never seen me or my mother here."

"Unlikely," Hawkins responded, his arrogant tone grating on Lizís
nerves.  "At any rate deception-"

"-is easier than beating an enemy into a bloody pulp," Liz interrupted.
"Itís also more effective.  Well, most of the time."

"Strangely enough," Spike said, casting Liz a proud look, "itís also
more satisfying.  Like that time you sent those slavers from Oden-tahl
off on a wild goose chase."  He glanced back at the Watcher.  "Which
isnít to say she canít beat bad things into a bloody pulp.  Bear that
in mind."

"Letís go Spike."  Liz got her mother and her teacher moving again.
She badly wanted to know what Hawkins knew about the Granalith, but she
couldnít risk letting him and by extension the rest of the Council know
that she was even aware of its existence.  The mere fact that Humans
and demons outside their small circle knew of it was troubling.

She had walked only a short distance when Hawkins spoke again.  "For
uncounted centuries the Council has protected and guided the Slayer.
We have things to teach you that the vampire cannot.  Whether or not
you accept my tutelage I will be staying in Roswell.  I have resources
that yourÖ teacher lacks.  When you need me I will be here."  Liz had
to force herself not to pause.  From what she knew of the Council and
the impressions she had gotten of this man in particular, what he was
saying was completely out of character.  He sounded almost humble, as
if he wanted nothing more than to be of service.  She kept moving while
trying to make sense of the change.  Why would he make an offer like
that?

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

"How does this guy know anything about the Granalith?" Michael
demanded.  "We donít know anything about it."  He sounded almost
petulant.

"We know itís powerful," Spike offered, annoyed at the alienís tone.
"Didnít that Kívar bloke say it was the key to the invasion?"  He
glanced at Max who nodded grimly.  "Hawkins said that the rumors heíd
heard said that it could Ďreshape the world.í"  Spike really wished
that Liz were there.  She should be the one answering the
questions, he groused silently.  Unfortunately Liz had had to go
home to face her parents.  She had asked him to get them focused on the
Granalith.  Her own problem was small by comparison.

"So how seriously do we take Hawkins?  I mean what could he or the
people he heard these rumors from really know?"  Isabel glanced at her
brother, the worry writ plain on her face.  "We have to find it Max.
Before anyone else does."

Her brother nodded.  "I know.  I guess we start by backtracking Cole.
If he found the Granalith or even a clue about where itís hidden then
we need to find his treasure first."  He considered carefully for a
moment.  "We should start at the mine and try to backtrack his
movements.  We need to contact Kate."

"Thatís all well and good Maxwell," Michael interrupted, "but arenít we
forgetting something?"  Max glanced at him distractedly.  "What about
the dupes?"

Spike blinked.  Obviously he had missed something.  "The what?"

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

"I donít even know where to begin," her mother paced almost frantically
in front of her.  "I donít know what questions to ask."

"Then why not let me begin at the beginning?"  Her mother ignored her,
continuing to pace while worrying her lower lip with her teeth,
something she only did when she was very upset.  Liz sighed, almost to
distracted to worry about her motherís reactions.  The night had not
gone at all as planned.  Whatever else happened next, her life was
going to get a lot more complicated.

"Whatís going on?"  Both looked up, not having heard Jeff Parker enter
the kitchen of their small apartment.  He took in their matching
expressions of worry and grew immediately concerned.  "Whatís
happened?"  Neither of them knew how to answer.

NOT THE END