Summary: Max and Tess experience the longest day of their
Author’s Note: Writing this has took the longest time. I want to thank all of my faithful readers who have been patiently following this story as well as my many others. Thank you for your support. I really appreciate it!
Author's Note #2: This takes place three months after "Arrival".
Disclaimer: I own nothing except the plot and original characters.
The Longest Day
He sighed heavily as he looked off into the distance. He could see the last two suns surrendering to nightfall. The evening made him jumpy sometimes because he could feel a presence approaching that he could not see. An ominous presence. The night held many secrets. It was anyone’s guess how they would unfold.
“Your highness.” The voice of a soldier snapped Max out of his reverie. “Raffen sends this report from the outskirts of Tabia.”
He looked over the documents handed to him. Six pages of war notes and strategies written in Antarian shorthand code.
“Very well then,” Max replied several minutes later. “Relay these documents to General Kell and Lieutenant Hydin,” he ordered.
The soldier started to leave.
“Wait,” he said. He addressed a guard standing nearby, “Toden, go with him. It’s getting dark. These papers must reach the appropriate coordinates as soon as possible.”
After the two soldiers left he reentered his tent and leaned back in his seat. He took of sip of his Lishu drink. ‘Doesn’t even need tabasco sauce,’ he thought randomly. He chuckled to himself. His life was so different since he arrived on Antar. On Earth he was relatively normal teenager, Max Evans. Here was King Max, leader of the Antarians.
When they first arrived here, he and Tess hadn’t planned on fighting war. Not when Michael and Isabel weren’t with them. Simple math proves that four are stronger than two. But little over a week later Kavar came after them near the city of Goan. The battle was fierce the suffered heavy losses but they again managed to escape. Even if that experience did not make their resolve stronger, what they learned had occurred after Kavar had rose to power made them ready for war.
Kavar was the head a government coup d'état. After they gained control of most of Antar he turned on his own allies, members of the coup, made mostly of Agorians (known as Skins on Earth) and a few corrupt antarian officials. After he made examples of them no one dared to go against him. He was given free rein and used his power to destroy any threat, real or imagined. First to go were anyone related to the royal crown—Max and Isabel’s entire family. Any living member who could succeed to the crown was executed. Then any relatives of the Rath and Ava’s in Kavar’s jurisdiction. Next all senators who had remained loyal to Zan as well as their families were killed. Warriors of the crown were also targets as well as any member of the royal household—from cooks to maids. In short, basically everyone Max knew or was close to was murdered. And Kavar’s wrath only grew when he learned of the recreation of the royals. He hunted down unmercifully anyone involved with the project. The scientists who avoided the crash by staying behind on Antar were most likely dead anyway. Max could see why Antarians needed a strong leader now more than ever.
Antarians were fractured. Currently three-quarters of the planet was under Kavar’s control. Inhabitants of the free territories constantly dealt with threats of invasion and border wars. The last major border war was fought ten years ago and reduced the size of the territories by nearly 28%. But those living outside of the territories had it worse. With any leaders beyond a mayoral position gone they were left to deal with the hardship of life under Kavar’s rein by their own devices for the past forty years. Some decided to keep a low profile. So many people had died already. Standing out more than you had to was dangerous. Others would never give up the fight. Of those fighters two powerful fractions of the resistance emerged—Royalists and Rebels. Royalists fought for the royal crown, for the rightful King of Antar. Rebels believed that the only way Antarians would be free again was if they took it upon themselves to rise against Kavar. A certain animosity existed between the two groups because Rebels thought it was crazy to wait for the return of dead royalty. They believed that the fight was now. Royalists thought Rebels should prepare for the Second Coming so that when the royals returned all of Antar would be ready. The group of allies Max and Tess met when they first arrived on Antar were Rebels.
* * *
Max paused at the door of the dwelling to take off his boots. They were all muddy. He had almost forgotten. When he looked up he stopped again to take in the sight before him. Tess was sitting on the living room chair. She looked beautiful. She was sharing a laugh about something with her friend and fellow soldier, Gia. He thought Tess had the most beautiful smile. ‘Was she glowing?’ he thought. She seemed to be bathed in a natural light. Maybe it was the glow he had always heard pregnant woman had. It looked great on her.
Tess looked up when she felt Max’s presence. She smiled. “Hey Max,” she greeted him.
He walked over to where she was sitting and kissed her lightly on the lips. He then caressed her cheek. “Hi,” he said. He rested on the side of the couch next to her and asked, “How was your day?”
“I basically sat around here doing nothing since everyone is convinced that I can’t do anything myself.”
Both he and Gia laughed.
“Oh, I’m glad that both of you find this funny,” she said in mock anger. The baby was due any day now and the doctor told her to keep away from any strenuous activities. Help fighting in the war was definitely out but she was getting restless. On her list of great things about Antar food ranked high, but above all what she appreciated the most about being home was having access to a doctor. One of the first things that she and Max did when they arrived on Antar was see a doctor.
Max and Tess entered the tent slowly. ‘So this was what an Antarian doctor’s office looked like,’ Max thought. They observed the charts and diagrams on the walls. They were pleasantly surprised to find that they understood what the words meant. They had become much more familiar with the language since they arrived yesterday.
“Hold on! I’ll be right with you,” Doctor Traj yelled from behind a stack of papers. He seemed to be searching for something. He didn’t look up. After a few moments he came out from behind his desk.
“Sorry about that. I was looking for a file and…” He froze when he recognized them. “Your majesties. Forgive me for my haste—“
“That’s alright. No need to apologize,” Max said.
“No, no. It’s not okay. I finally meet the King and Queen and I bring across such a poor representation of myself,” he admonished himself.
“Seriously, it’s okay,” Tess said.
“Um, your majesties, what business brings you here?” he said slightly tripping on his words.
Max and Tess shared a hesitant glance.
“Well, you see, Doctor Traj,” Max said reading the name from the sign on the doctor’s desk. “We kinda have a situation. We need your word that you won’t speak what is said here to anybody.”
“You have it,” Doctor Traj responded immediately.
“Not to anybody. Not even General Kell.”
“My King, let me assure you that above all you have my loyalty,” Doctor Traj pledged.
“A life depends on it,” Max added. He took a deep breath. He looked at Tess. She nodded. “Okay. We’re expecting a baby.”
“Congratulations,” Doctor Traj exclaimed. “Is a boy or girl? Wait, don’t tell me.” After a few moments he realized what this meant. “Oh,” he said.
“We know that Kavar already wants us dead. But with a baby he’ll try that much harder,” Tess said.
“Yes. Kavar will try everything possible to keep an heir from being born,” Doctor Traj said sadly realizing how much danger the child was in. “How far along are you?” he asked Tess.
“One week,” she said.
He motioned her to come to the examining table so that he could check up on her and the baby.
“When we were on Earth the atmosphere was poisoning him. He couldn’t breathe. He was dying and Tess got really sick,” Max told him.
The doctor placed his hands on Tess’s stomach. He closed his eyes and after a few minutes he said, “Uh-hmm…”
“Is he gonna be okay?” Tess asked Doctor Traj concerned.
“Yes. He’s gonna be fine. He’s recovering nicely on his own from any damage caused by the atmosphere of planet Prog-181. However, I want to put you on a healthy diet plan right away to boost his energy.”
Max and Tess broke out in smiles and hugged. They were so happy that their son was okay.
“But I think I should tell you that the pregnancy is farther than one week along.”
“What do you mean?” Tess said confused.
“But we had sex a week ago,” Max said.
The doctor slightly chuckled. “That’s entirely possible. I know that the Royals were sent to Prog-181. So that you could blend in with the human-animals they had to slightly alter your DNA. To what extent I do not know but it seems to clear to me that some of your Antarian characteristics were dormant while you two were on Prog-181 and they’re now starting to appear. Like for example your auroius.” Doctor Taj pointed to his own located on his temples. They were small dime to nickel-sized spots on the sides of the forehead that were shades darker than the rest of a person’s skin. Auroius were arranged in various patterns that were as distinctive as a person’s fingerprint. “They wouldn’t appear while you were on Prog-181 because human-animals don’t have auroius. Likewise there are several differences that wouldn’t assert themselves for survival reasons. In the case of pregnancies it seems like that the cycle would be shortened because of the hostile atmosphere. The baby has a better chance of surviving the more developed it is because the more able is it to convert the gases into something less harmful and lethal.”
Max and Tess thought about it for a moment. Is that why they came out of the pods as six-year-olds?
“When you came back to Antar your body changed,” Doctor Traj continued. “Dormant Antarian characteristics started to show and your body was able to slow down the pregnancy to a normal rate. So as a result, the pregnancy is one month along.”
“One month?” Tess repeated.
“But she’s not even big yet,” Max exclaimed.
Tess glared at him.
Doctor Traj laughed. “No, but she will be in upcoming weeks. Antarian pregnancies on Antar last 4 months. So you have 3 months to go,” he clarified.
After visiting the doctor they had learned that they would have to stay on Antar longer than they had originally expected. Not long after Doctor Traj’s prediction came true. The Battle of Goan was their first hard fought battle but it was apparent that it wouldn’t be their last.
“I take it that you don’t like woman’s work,” Max teased her.
“Well that so called ‘woman’s work’ is important because how would you like it if you came back from the battlefield without any food to eat?” Until the baby was born and she could help with the war again, Tess spent time helping the base’s cook, Huttor. It was interesting because she got to learn many antarian food recipes.
“True,” Max laughed. He was only teasing because in reality there were as many female Antarian soldiers as men. Men and women in their society were very much equals. Women here had more rights than even in America.
“So how was your day?” she asked him.
“Muddy,” he said referring to his boots. “Not much happened today. Just relaying messages back and forth.”
“And…” she inquired.
He looked at her. How did she know him so well? “And Kyrik reports some movement in the southern Dalek provinces.”
“They’re planning something,” she stated.
“I’m sure of it,” he said. “But we don’t know when and where they will strike.”
Kavar’s forces had been unusually quite in past weeks. Their last battle with them was the Battle of Kah Chi, fought nearly four weeks ago. Something was going to happen soon. Everyone on the base could feel it in the air.
Max turned off the nearby lamp and settled into bed.
“Goodnight Tess,” he said. They shared a kiss.
“Goodnight Max,” she said.
He reached over and placed a kiss on her tummy. “Goodnight son. See you soon.”
Tess smiled. He went back to the head of the bed and put his arm around her, inviting her to lean back into his embrace. Satisfied they closed their eyes and began to drift into sleep.
The night sky on Antar was a spectacular sight. In the hours following the setting of the suns the sky gradually changed from complete darkness to a show of all the celestial wonders. The emergence of the stars and satellites brought the evening a certain magical feeling and peace. Erased the coldness of darkness and replaced it with a feeling of hope that despite all that had happened that day or would happened in the future, that somehow it would all turn out okay.
Nighttime was also special to Max and Tess because of the
time they got to spend together. With freedom from parental
supervision, sometimes they would stay up half the night talking.
About everything. About nothing. It was during one of those times
that Max learned about the talent show Tess entered in New Falls,
Michigan when she was in the fourth grade and that Tess learned
about Max and Michael’s short-lived Power Rangers card business.
–“When we split up that’s when thing went downhill for both of us. Michael ended up with cards for the Yellow, Red, and Blue Rangers while I ended up with cards only for the Green, Pink, and Black Rangers,” Max laughed.–
They were growing closer; their bond was strengthening.
* * *
The next morning Tess woke up abruptly. Her eyes quickly adjusted to her surroundings. It was early, just before first sunrise and the room was still clouded in darkness. She wasn’t feeling good. After a few minutes it was apparent she wasn’t gonna get anymore rest so she get decided to get up and walk it off.
She slowly began to sit up. She looked over at Max, who was still sleeping. She smiled at the serene expression on his face. She gently removed his arm, which was draped across her midsection, then proceeded to stand. It was harder now that she was so big.
She sighed. “I feel like a whale,” she whispered to herself. On her way to the kitchen she spotted the blanket she was working on. She had taken up to knitting again because she wanted to make something special for the baby. It was nearly finished. The blanket was primarily light blue and purple with an orange seam. In the center was the Antarian symbol for ‘one who touches the lives of many’.
She smiled and went over the list of baby names in her head. She and Max still hadn’t decided on a name for their son. ‘Hmm, Benjamin? Maybe Patrick.’ She shook her head. ‘Nah. Then people would call him Pat…’
Once she reached the kitchen area she decided to make herself a cup of tea. She reached into the cabinet and grabbed a tea bag of Eshku leaves. Eshku was a plant on Antar most common to woodland areas.
‘Kyle would probably like Eshku tea,’ she thought fondly. Tess missed Kyle and Valenti. Sometimes she wondered if she would ever see them again. It was more and more unlikely that she and Max would return to Earth anytime soon. The war was just heating up.
Tess placed a mug for the tea on the counter. Suddenly she felt a sharp abdominal pain like she had experienced earlier when she awakened, but this time there was no mistaking what was happening.
“The baby,” she said aloud. ‘Oh my god, I’m having a baby!’ it suddenly hit her. She fought to overcome the panic that was beginning to rise and rushed to wake up Max.
“Max! Max wake up,” she said as she shook him. He stirred in his sleep. “Now is not the time to be a heavy sleeper! Wake up!”
“Can I sleep for a few more minutes?” he asked groggily half-awake.
“Max, the baby!” she told him. This time he heard her.
“What?” he said as he quickly sat up. Too quickly, he moved too suddenly and fell off the bed. Tess tried to stifle a laugh but did not succeed.
Max groaned. He rubbed his eyes and said fully awake, “Let’s go.” He stood then helped her up.
After they changed their clothes they went directly to the birthing tent. Max left and came back a few minutes later with Doctor Traj and nurses.
* * *
Ven Fallo had been on duty for hours. He looked off into the distance, eyeing the orange-red sky in which four hours earlier he watched the suns rise. His job was simple, stand guard as lookout for the base.
“Ahhh,” he groaned as he lowered his viewing equipment. His eyes were tired. He took a swig of his canteen water then poured some on his tousled auburn hair. It was not long after the last sun had risen and already the rays from the suns were harsh. ‘I should be in Tabia,’ he thought to himself. His native province wasn’t as hot or tropical as this area of Antar.
Suddenly a low rumble interrupted his thoughts. He dove to the ground and put his ear to it so that he could pinpoint its location. He then stood up slowly and with his viewing equipment looked towards the direction of the sound. His hands shook fiercely as he attempted this task.
“C’mon, c’mon,” he whispered as he searched for something, anything to show. Finally he spotted forms off in the distance. Tall grayish-blue forms. He swallowed hard. He began to count how many there were.
“Two thousand, three hundred, forty-seven,” he said confidently. It took thirty seconds for him to count them all. He climbed a nearby boulder to get a better view. He once again looked out with his viewing equipment and found that those two thousand enemy troops all belonged to one regiment. There were over twenty regiments. As they came upon the rough terrain he saw more and more of them coming. It was like a wave of them as far back as his eyes could see. Ven ran as fast as he could to his could to his vehicle.
Once inside he urgently punched in the codes to his communicator. He had to alert his superiors about the situation.
“Code 424! Large approaching army! Get ready to defend!” he screamed.
* * *
Max sat beside Tess’s bed. It had been four hours since she went into labor. He found it best during contractions to shut up and be as invisible as possible. In between them he tried to be as supportive as he could. At the present moment, it was in between contractions. He took the opportunity to brush a few stray blonde curls away from her forehead.
‘I don’t know how you’re doing this but you’re truly amazing,’ he thought. He hated seeing her in so much pain. He felt awful knowing that he was the cause of it.
He suddenly felt a tap on his shoulder.
“Message for you waiting outside, sir,” a soldier informed him.
“Now?” he questioned not wanting to be bothered at this moment.
“They say it’s urgent.”
He sighed. “I’ll be there in a moment.”
He turned to Tess. “Tess, I’ll be right back,” he said.
She nodded. He kissed her on the forehead and went to see what the message was about.
Once outside he found a nervous looking first officer waiting.
“What is it?” Max asked her.
“Your highness, I regret to inform you of an approaching Agorian army. Your presence is requested at once.”
Max looked away. Of all times for this to happen right now was the worst. After he got over the initial shock of the current attack, he asked, “How many troops?”
“Over eighty-thousand, sir.”
“Have all the generals, lieutenants, and sergeants been notified?” he inquired.
“Yes. Over 90% of our forces have already been dispatched. Reinforcements from surrounding provinces are on their way.”
He nodded. “Alright, I’ll will join them soon,” he told her and walked back to the birthing tent. His heart was in turmoil. He didn’t want to leave but he would do everything in his power to keep Kavar’s forces away from Tess and his son.
When he saw Tess again he paused. How was he supposed to tell her this? That he had to go fight a war. What if he didn’t return? ‘What if I never see my son born?’ Max thought. He shook his head. He couldn’t bare the thought. He made up his mind that he was gonna survive this, that he was going to come back.
“Tess,” he said softly and sat beside her.
She turned to face him. “Yeah,” she answered. He stared into her eyes briefly and smiled.
“Tess, I love you,” he told her.
“I love you too Max,” she said.
He struggled to find the words to tell her what he had to. “Whatever happens, I want you to know that.”
“Max, what’s going on?” she asked alarmed.
He paused. “There’s an approaching Agorian army near our vicinity. Most of our forces are already heading them off. I’m going to join them. I won’t let our enemies reach this base.”
“Max…” she started.
“I’m the strongest fighter our side has got. I have to help them. We’ll lose a lot more men if I don’t.”
Tess sighed. She couldn’t argue on that point. Being that he was one of the Royal Four, Max was stronger than the average fighter. But that still didn’t make him invincible. In ever battle there was a 50/50 chance of returning alive. There were so many factors and risks beyond even the best warrior’s control. She was so worried for him.
“I won’t let them reach this base,” Max stated again. His top priority was to keep her and their child safe.
He kissed her forehead again and whispered a few words into her ear. He then left to fight the war.
Once outside of the tent he addressed two soldiers standing guard at the entrance. “Gerkim and Adhi,” he said. “I want you two to stand full alert. Don’t let anyone unauthorized into that tent. I mean anyone, Agorian, Fularian, or Antarian. Use as much force as necessary.”
“Yes, sir!” They responded.
Max went to the artillery and put on his war gear. He then went straight to the battlefield.
“What’s the current report?”
All of the high-ranking officials at the command post immediately stood up upon Max’s arrival.
“Well, sir, over half of our forces have gone to meet the Agorian offense. They are fighting approximately fourteen miles away from the base and currently are trying to hold that position. So far things are going as well as expected,” Lieutenant Hydin informed him.
Hydin was a short man with rich green hair and pale skin. At the surface he often came off as brash but he performed each task given with meticulous precision. He continued, “Our primary objective is to stop them from advancing. We have also sent out teams to survey the area. To let us know if Kavar is planning to surround the camp, as such a large army would allow him the opportunity.”
“So how are our troops holding up out there?” Max inquired.
“That’s hard to tell right now,” another commanding officer, named Kor’l, interjected. Kor’l was of Nasedo’s race, the Fularians. “We don’t have any estimates on the fig–”
“Just in, the Agorians have advanced to thirteen miles,” a soldier interrupted.
“I’m going out there,” Max said decisively.
“Sir, I’ll join you,” Hydin said. Fifteen of the twenty officers in the room opted to go with them.
“The rest of you monitor the situation. Every two hours I want to you to contact the base and update them on the state of affairs,” Max ordered.
With that said he and sixteen commanding officers headed towards the battlegrounds.
* * *
Tess rested her head back on a pillow exhausted. She had just gone through another painful contraction. Trying not to think about it, her thoughts wandered. They settled on Max again for the hundredth time. How long had it been since he left? Hours? How many she wasn’t sure of but it felt like an eternity.
She thought about her current condition. ‘All of this because of an hour of fun doesn’t seem worth the trouble,’ she thought to herself. She smiled, ‘But it was fun.’ She thought back the first time she met Max in this life. He looked so cute and silly with the dumbfounded expression he had on his face when he realized someone had overheard him giving advice to Michael. Though he sometimes came off as stubborn and callous, she knew that in his heart that he was good person. She knew his soul and that he was capable of so much.
The past three months he had become so strong and proved himself to be remarkable leader. Not that she had any doubts. It was incredible seeing him respond to their home planet. Feeling normal for a change, because they were normal. Realizing that they were all along.
A tear fell down her cheek. She couldn’t lose him now. She loved him so much. She needed him.
Tess urgently tried to shift her thoughts to something else. Something more positive. But it was hard because all she wanted to know was if he was okay.
Her thoughts were interrupted by another contraction.
* * *
“This is a battle we shall not lose.”
Kavar fixed his cold, calculating pale gray eyes on the battle raging in distance.
“Yes, sir! Things are looking up,” his lieutenant agreed.
“Well, I should hope so!” Kavar retorted with confidence.
“We will crush them! When we destroy their king and their heir the Antarians will have no choice but to back down!” He spit out the words ‘king’ and ‘heir’ like acid on his tongue.
“Enough!” Kavar yelled. The lieutenant’s babble was giving him a headache. He brought his hands to his temples and massaged them.
He and his forces had spent many weeks planning this attack. After their last confrontation with the Antarians they resolved to catch them off guard and when they were most vulnerable. At their current position the Antarians were quite a distance from any city, last time that accessibility had cost the Agorians victory at the Battle of Kah Chi. Presently it would take awhile before any reinforcements called in would reach the Antarians and with the number of troops Kavar had he could fight off most of their reinforcements before they had a chance to join the others. Originally he had hoped to blockade the base but if things stayed on schedule he wouldn’t need to. His forces would reach the Antarian base in a few hours.
Kavar rubbed his rough orange beard, quite pleased about his considerable advantage.
“I apologize sir. It’s just that I’ll loved to see the Antarians heartbroken faces when their precious prophecy doesn’t come true.”
Kavar’s eyes glowed with fury. “Never mention that damnable prophecy in my presence!” he roared.
The lieutenant stepped back and raised his arms meaning he meant no harm.
In a low dangerous tone Kavar said, “I don’t believe in such things.”
To himself Kavar admitted he was a little apprehensive about it. Long ago he had executed a young Antarian man called Otaron. Otaron spoke of the return of the granolith bearers and revitalized the Royalist movement. Kavar took great pleasure in destroying another Antarian leader, but at the time he didn’t think him to be much of a threat. However, over time many things Ontarion had prophesized had come true. Kavar had thought for sure he would get to the royals long before they had the chance to fight him. He also never thought that they would return to Antar. He cursed his servant Nicholas for failing him. But more disturbingly, now it seemed another of Ontarion’s prophecy was set to occur. It was no accident that Kavar chose today to attack. Guided by signs of alignment of the constellations and formation of the four Djin stars he knew today would be the most vulnerable time of attack the King. A day that he would be most distracted. For today would be the birth of the heir.
* * *
Max quickly diverted the beam of energy hurling at him from an enemy soldier by forming his green shield. When the beam hit it, it went flying in the opposite direction, directly hitting the sender. Glancing behind him, he crouched to the ground and avoided another blast.
He saw a large piece of debris about to crash on three of his fellow soldiers and used his powers to stop it.
“Get out of there!” he yelled as loud as he could. He couldn’t keep it up for long. A few seconds later it fell, hitting only enemy troops. He breathed a sigh of relief. It didn’t last long.
Out of nowhere it seemed it he was nearly knocked down by an Agorian soldier. He stepped back and quickly ducked, escaping his adversary’s attempted grip. Agorians had a powerful and often deadly grip if they caught you around the neck. They were nearly four times stronger than even the strongest Antarian and nearly a foot taller. They were muscular beings that were hard to inflict pain on even when they wore no armor. The Antarians compensated for the difference in physical strength with their superior mental strength.
The soldier advanced towards Max and was caught in his yellow shield. Over the past few months Max developed many different types of shields. The yellow shield was deadly. Once he disengaged the shield the Agorian fell lifeless to the ground.
“Your Highness,” Max heard from behind. He looked up. It was Kor’l.
“Sir, the reinforcements have arrived,” Kor’l informed him.
“Excellent,” Max said. “What is their position?”
“They are two miles away, centered near the southern outskirts of the base.”
“Good. I want several hundred surrounding the base. We are losing ground. I want the rest of them to join us fighting here,” Max commanded. Several hours had past and the battle was now only three miles away from the base. Daylight was fast fading into nightfall. The first sun had already set and the last two would only provide an hour or so of light. Night battles for bad for Antarians because Agorians had far superior night vision.
“So it shall be done, sir,” Kor’l said and headed back to the command post to relay the information.
* * *
“Your almost there. Only a few pushes left to go,” Doctor Traj said encouragingly.
“I-I can’t,” Tess sobbed. She was in so much pain. She just wanted to stop.
“Yes you can. Give me another big push.”
Tess gathered all her strength for another push.
“I can see the head!” he said. “You’re doing great. Just one more strong push like the last one.”
Again she summoned her strength. She would remember this moment forever, being on the cusp of a life-changing event. Despite all that was happening for a moment everything seemed stop. Above what she could see, hear, feel, or even think she was conscious of an energy that was building.
* * *
Seeing an enemy soldier running towards him, Max hurled a blast of energy that sent the soldier flying right into a sharp canyon wall. Hard.
Max looked at the sky. He was uneasy. Only minutes of sunlight remained. He glanced around at his surroundings. With the reinforcements they had managed to stop the Agorians from advancing and were able to force them back two additional miles.
Without warning Max began to feel a wave of energy. A familiar energy. It did not take him long to figure it out. He knew that at this moment his son was being born.
* * *
The screams of labor pains gave way to a cry of a baby. Tess smiled. She could feel the life energy of her son the instant he had come into the world. A feeling so pure and unlike anything she had ever experienced.
“Congratulations on a healthy baby boy,” Doctor Traj said cheerfully and placed the infant in her arms.
Holding her son for the first time was surreal to Tess. Her first thought was that maybe this was a dream because it was too good to be true. No words could describe the amount of joy she felt. Looking down at the newborn she held in her arms tears of happiness spilled down her cheeks. He was absolutely beautiful. For a few moments she was at a lost for words.
“Hi,” she said softly to him.
He opened his eyes in response to hearing her voice. She was surprised to see that he had blue eyes. Like her.
“I’m your mommy.”
* * *
Max felt the exact moment his son was born. He felt his son’s life force grow, like before it had been muted. Though he was filled with happiness he was also conflicted. He wished he had been there to witness it.
Suddenly he felt cool, sharp metal plunge through his flesh. White-hot pain burned through his chest. Not comprehending he looked up. A rather large Agorian troop had sneaked up on him. He could tell from his uniform that the soldier was a sergeant. The soldier twisted the dagger deeper into Max’s chest. Max yelled out in pain.
The soldier’s helmet covered his face, but Max got the distinct impression that underneath it he was smiling. A cruel, sadistic smile. Seconds later he removed the dagger out in one swift movement. This action cause Max even more pain. As Max slumped to the ground he didn’t get a good look at the dagger but he saw it had very jagged edges like an arrow. Hurts like hell going in but hurts even more coming out.
The soldier stood above Max. He raised his sword and sneered to Max in Antarian so that he would be understood, “Some King.”
Max clutching his wound, grimaced anticipating the final blow. However it didn’t come. The Agorian sergeant collapsed unexpectedly before his eyes. He had a burning hole through his back.
“Sire!” General Kell yelled running towards him. “Your Highness, are you alright?”
“Kell, you saved my life!” Max exclaimed. He thought he was a goner.
The General shrugged. “You would have done the same for me. Can you sit up?” he asked assessing Max’s condition.
“I’m fine,” Max said.
“Not you’re not. You are bleeding,” Kell observed. Max was losing a lot of blood.
Max sat up abruptly, ignoring the pain. “Only a little bit,” he said stubbornly. “We have to drive the Agorians back.” He hastily attempted to stand. Kell moved in to assist him.
“You have be treated by a doctor now. This is serious,” Kell insisted.
“And so is this battle. I can’t afford to lose this one. My son was just born. I have to protect him,” Max told him.
Kell sighed. “C’mon,” he relented.
The last sun had surrendered to nightfall less than a half-hour earlier when the Agorians began to retreat. Antarians breathed a collective sigh of relief. The fighting would continue well into the night but on a much smaller scale.
When Max got to the base the first thing he wanted to do was see his family.
“You should really seek medical attention,” Kell lectured him. Lieutenant Hydin nodded in agreement.
The wound was currently covered by a makeshift dressing from ripped material of his uniform. The bleeding was now under control but how deep the wound was a concern.
“I think I know what’s best,” Max insisted.
“Hey! Do you think you’re gonna do both of them any good by showing up all beaten and bloody?” Kell yelled at him.
Max sighed. He knew that the general was right. They headed to the infirmary. Max looked around. So many soldiers were wounded.
He sat on a table and immediately a doctor came over.
“Looks like your swarmed,” Max commented.
“It might be hard to believe but it’s not as bad as it looks,” the doctor responded as she removed the dressing from his wound. “But I'm not sure I can saythe same for you. Nasty wound you got here.”
“Yes, it hurt lik–ow!” The solution she put on it stung.
“That should take care of infections and also help it heal faster,” she said. “You’re very lucky that you came when you did.”
“Why is that?” he asked.
“Whatever was used to puncture you skin was laced with poison. Had you waited any longer to get it treated it would have been fatal.”
Max and Kell looked at each other stunned.
“Thanks Kell,” Max said unnerved.
“No problem, sir,” Kell said.
* * *
When Max entered the birthing tent he paused at the doorway to take in the scene before him. The breathtaking sight of Tess holding their child. He felt so much at that moment. He committed the scene to memory. He was brought out of his reverie when Doctor Traj patted him on the soldier.
“Congratulations, sir,” he told him good-naturedly on his way out. “He’s as healthy as a whistle.”
“Thank you,” Max said politely, but his eyes remained on the baby and Tess. Tess looked up when she heard him speak. They stared at each our briefly, their eyes conveying so much emotion, their smiles matching. The ugliness of the day instantly melted away. He wordlessly walked towards her, discarding his helmet on the way.
When he reached her he immediately embraced her in a hug. His whole body seemed to shudder slightly, overwhelmed by emotion. He was so happy to be with them. It had been over twelve hours since he left. When he pulled back he looked their son. He was in awe of him. He was so tiny and innocent.
Tess signaled to the nurses to give them some time alone.
“Want to hold him?” Tess asked. Max nodded.
She gently placed the infant in his father’s arms. Max looked down at his son. Tears sprung to his eyes.
“Are ever going to say anything?” Tess asked after a few more minutes of silence.
“Yes,” Max said laughing, just realizing that he hadn’t said anything since he entered the tent. “This is just… wow,” was all he could say.
Tess nodded. “I know. Surreal is my word of choice at the present moment.”
“Yeah, ‘surreal’ fits the situation pretty well,” he agreed.
“Your majesties, I don’t mean to interrupt,” a young man said upon entering the tent, “but I wonder if you both might be interested in a picture.” He was ready with a camera in hand.
Max and Tess looked at each other.
“I think that’s a great idea,” Tess exclaimed.
“Me too,” Max nodded.
The young man walked over to where they were and positioned the camera.
“Now said ‘picture perfect’”, he said as he readied the camera.
They laughed and repeated what he said.
“Thank you. Congratulations and Good Day,” the photographer said before he left.
Tess and Max knew it was probably their worst picture. She was exhausted and sweaty from childbirth and Max was all scruffy from battle. But as far as either of them was concerned it was a perfect picture. It was their first family picture.
* * *
It was later on in that first night when Tess felt a sense of belonging and family she had never known. When she opened her eyes and saw Max and Darin both asleep her heart ached. The three of them were now a family. Family. That word seemed so strange to her. She had memories of her family in her past life on Olar, but they were so vague and fleeting. In this life she had Max, Michael, and Isabel but the four of them never really came as close as she had hoped. Now suddenly she had a family of her own.
Her eyes rested on Darin. She smiled. She and Max decided on the name before they fell asleep. He was her son. The thought that she was now a mother still blew her away. Darin looked like the perfect mix of her and Max. He had Max’s dark hair. Somehow she knew it was going to be curly. He had her blue eyes. And his ears were definitely like Max’s.
Tess pursed her lips. She knew there was so much danger surrounding them. Darin was so little and innocent. She wanted to protect him and would do anything to do so. She hoped that there would be no more days like today but she knew there probably would be. Today Darin was born and Kavar chose that day to launch a surprise attack. She knew it probably wasn’t a coincidence. Her heart broke when Max had to fight. She didn’t want him to leave and Max didn’t want to either but he was determined to keep Kavar’s troops away from them.
A tear fell down her cheek. She remembered being so scared when he left. What if he didn’t come back?
“Are you alright?” Max whispered bringing her out of her reverie. He gently wiped her tear away.
“Yeah. I was just thinking,” she whispered back.
He took her into his arms. After a moment he spoke.
“He looks beautiful, doesn’t he?” he said motioning to their sleeping son.
Tess smiled. “Yeah.” She fought the urge to hold him knowing he needed his rest.
“I know things are kind of strange now, but I know everything will be alright,” Max assured her. “I mean, look how far we’ve come. Who would’ve thought?”
“Definitely not me,” Tess laughed softly.
He smiled back at her and held her closer.