He used to tell Belle stories about being from another planet...about arriving on earth in a spaceship and just waiting to go back home, where he *really* belonged. He and his sister alike had chalked it up to his overactive imagination and his need to be accepted--and Marlena had chalked it up to his mental instability.
What he wouldn't give for one of Doc's diagnoses right now.
Because, it seems his stories are true.
Isabel's ice cold hand clasping his is proof, tangible proof. They walk down the sidewalk of Main Street, towards the UFO Center, as if they're taking a lovers' stroll...but he can barely feel his legs propelling him forward. The paralysis is emotional, he knows, and not physical. What if he's walking away from Chloe forever? What if this is the last time he will ever be the person he so longed to leave behind?
He's just starting to *like* being Brady Black again. To like being in his own skin. To like being part of a family. To like being in *love*.
And Kivar might take all that away.
Kivar, with his thick, seductive whispers...running up and down his spine like a millipede...the drumming of a thousand tiny feet that want to walk him into another life. What if he's not strong enough to fight it?
"Don't worry," Isabel says...but her voice trembles just a little. "We'll get through this."
Flash of smoke and fire...palace walls crumbling...her slender gray-gold body lying broken amidst the rubble. The last word on her lips...a name...a question...bewildered. *"Kivar...why...?"* "Like we got through it in the last life?"
"No. Different. This time we do it different," she assures, squeezing his fingers.
"How can you be so sure?" he wonders.
Up until this moment, he'd never known that brown eyes could be as icy as blue ones. "Because you love Chloe. Because you love your sister. Because I'll kill you before you can make me betray my family again."
He grins, weakly. "Oh. Well, that's nothing if not reassuring."
"Come on." She tugs at his hand, forcing him to move faster. "Let's find Nicholas and get this started."
"Ended," he corrects, feeling his jaw tighten with resolve. "Let's get this *ended*."
"Isabel...it's a pleasure to see you again!"
"It's *Vilandra*. And drop dead, you little maggot."
"Oh, come on...you know you liked it."
"She liked what? Nicholas...don't tell me you made advances on my princess in my absence?"
"Uh...no! No, of course not, Lord Kivar. Didn't touch her...did I, Vil'?"
"Let's just say that you're never going to touch me *again*, Nicholas. Using the UFO Center as your hiding place...you have to admit it's not very imaginative...or discreet."
"Our boy has never been imaginative."
"Why bother exerting myself? You're here, aren't you? And that pathetic Brody Davis is tied up in his office, dreaming of skinny continental women with bad teeth."
"Are you going to release the girl?"
"Do you want us to, Lord Kivar?"
"To release her would be to prove that something of her brother still exists inside me, wouldn't it?"
"Then we keep her."
"Good. Evans and Guerin might think twice about attacking if we have human collateral."
"Oh, they'll probably attack...it's just a matter of being ready for the opposition...having all the players in place."
"God, it's good to hear you talk like this! You haven't changed a bit, LK!"
"Oh, I've changed all right, Nicholas. I've changed for the better."
"This time, no one is stopping us."
The interior of the UFO Center is like a hollowed out bomb shelter...gray, dank...hung with ridiculous green aliens made of plastic. He pities the man tied up in the office who has to pour money into such a stupid business.
But he also thanks the man...because it's the others' friendship with him that will allow this plan to succeed. Michael and Max will be breaking into the building soon...evidently the same way they did during a hush-hush crisis in the spring. In six minutes. Six minutes is when it will all go down.
It will all be over.
Isabel is with Belle. Presumably untying her. Or discussing fashion. He's not sure he wants to know. It is hard enough to focus on anything besides the rising presence in his chest. The pretense has made the Seekers stronger. And he knows that there is one more surprise left in store for *all* of them. Not just Nicholas and the partner about whom he's been boasting for the last ten minutes.
He wondered if this elusive being WAS Stefano Dimera. It would've been a delicious sort of irony that a man from his father's past was somehow involved in this insanity.
But, in reality, he knows that it has nothing to do with him.
He's certain that he's just an unfortunate pawn.
Just as he's certain that Max and Michael are going to be shocked as hell when they get here. He just hopes they can recover in time to fight.
"But, Nasedo, you DIED."
"You didn't really think there was just one of me, did you? Tsk tsk tsk, Max. Did you learn *nothing* from the other me? From your unwashed brethren in New York?"
"Clones? You're Nasedo's clone?"
"Eight pods were sent down. And two protectors. You knew this. You just didn't bother wondering where the other one went, did you? You have no foresight. No sense. And that is why you'll never be king...why you're all going to die. *Again*."
"That's where you're wrong."
"My Lord Kivar...?"
"I hate to break it to you, Nasedo...but this is one time where blood really is thicker than water. *Human* blood. Mine. And Isabel's."
"Belle and Max mean more to us than your crusade for revolution ever will."
The look on the shapeshifter's face is classic. One of snobbish affront...more dismay than horror. Like he broke a nail...not like his plans for world domination have been crushed.
Even so, Brady feels victorious as he slowly releases his grip on the creature's throat and steps back. Because he can barely hear the Seekers over the sounds of Nicholas' fluent stream of curses...and the footsteps. Isabel, Max, Michael, all circling their circumvented enemies. Kivar, he thinks, is going to be silent soon... because he'll have nothing to say. And no one to lead.
Michael's hand goes up...and Nicholas flies back twenty feet...hitting a wall. Isabel smiles, coldly, and walks over to kick the scrawny kid's body several times. Max goes for the simple, mortal approach of punching his mentor's clone in the face...and then in the gut...and then a green light begins to emanate from his palms...or maybe from somewhere inside...and the shapeshifter begins to writhe.
He'd like to help, he realizes, but his arms are full of happy, relieved, little sister. A sister who doesn't want to watch aliens beating up on other aliens unless it's on t.v. and she can fast-forward the gruesome stuff. He hugs her close, inhaling the flowery scent of her shampoo and letting her hide her face in his chest as Nicholas tries to rise...as Isabel waves her fingers and he is, suddenly, grotesque. Not an angel-faced child any longer, but something deformed, misshapen.
His battle, Brady realizes, is within.
And he hugs Belle closer, willing the insidious whisper down...deep... stuffing it beneath layers of good memories, of shining life moments. And he sings to her, softly, so she doesn't have to listen to Nasedo and Nicholas scream as they die. She can't possibly know that Kivar's voice is even worse.
"Are you sure he's gone?"
"As sure as I can be...I treated it like I'd treat somebody who's sick."
"Kivar was a sickness all right...he almost killed the only person in the world that matters to me."
"And what am I, Chloe, chopped liver?"
"You're my best friend, Belle...you know that."
"Oh, Tink...we love you. You know we couldn't live without you."
"Yeah. I *do*. I love you guys, too!"
"Well...uh...Brady, Belle, Chloe...I wish I could tell you that it was nice to meet you...that, uh...we'd love to have you back some time."
"No problem, Evans. We'd just as soon never set foot in this town again."
"I'm going to immerse myself in Verdi and forget any of this ever happened."
"Salem will seem soooo normal after this!"
"For what it's worth, Brady...if Kivar was anything at all like you...I can see why I would've given up everything for him. You and Chloe are lucky. Really lucky."
"For what it's worth, Isabel...whoever you are, you're amazing...and you'll be lucky, too. Just keep waiting...it'll hit you when you least expect it."
"Hopefully, it'll be the only thing to do that."
"Yeah...no more surprises for any of us...PLEASE. I don't think I could take it if I got kidnapped by a twelve-year-old again!"
"No, I think it's over. I think it's really over."
"We hope you're right this time, Max."
Sometimes she hears them whispering. Far beneath the surface of her skin, their voices echo...nasty little urgings, black ideas, and bleaker stories of another world. They sound like the crunch of breakfast cereal...fast and noisy and all chewed up. Only she can't push away from the table and escape them. She can't run to the other room, slam the door, throw the lock, and turn her stereo up to the highest volume to block out the insane cacophony.
Because they are always there.
She calls them the Seekers.
And she still doesn't know what they are seeking.
All Maria DeLuca knows is she never wants it found.