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Fallen + Marli & Lalo

FALLEN INVASION SERIES

Fallen

AND

Marli & Lalo:

A Fallen Mystery

BOOKS 1 AND 3

MIA MITNS

Copyright © Mia Mitns, 2015

All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any manner, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

Note:  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

First Edition: Marli & Lalo: October 2015

Fallen: January 2015

Cover designs by Mia

*Note: Marli & Lalo now also contains “Fallen,” the first story in the Fallen Invasion Series.

Marli and Lalo stands alone from Naya’s Invasion.  However, if Naya’s Invasion is read first the story is a little richer

Suggested reading order:

1. Fallen

2. Naya’s Invasion

3. Marli and Lalo: A Fallen Mystery

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Synopsis

Marli has a few problems. For starters Lalo, an alien, fell from the sky into her yard. An alien! These things haven’t scientifically been proven to exist yet. How could she communicate with Lalo without making him upset? Fortunately for Marli, Lalo is kind. When Marli uncovers a better way to talk to Lalo, she finds out he has a problem— amnesia, he can’t remember why he is on Earth. Lalo only knows he needs to protect Marli.

On the other hand, Marli feels she needs to shield Lalo from humans. Too bad her neighbor, Kallen, becomes very suspicious the morning after Lalo arrives. The news story of a possible kidnapping makes Kallen even more anxious about strange things occurring.

To find answers to Lalo’s memory loss, Marli and Lalo become wrapped up in solving the kidnapping mystery. But after Lalo starts to remember and rediscover his abilities, will Marli find out that Lalo has secrets of his own?

Table of Contents

Fallen

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Other Titles from Mia Mitns

Fallen

Book 1

As soon as I got home, I felt like I had to go to sleep, so I could get up early and go to work again.  I hated days like that.  Days when we had to work long hours, making short nights.  Barely any rest.  The sun had already left me with the dark when I left our facilities.  Increased activity caused us to stay late and monitor the machines.  I couldn’t be too mad though.  It was the activity increase in that area, Millsee, out in the middle of nowhere in Texas, which landed me my job.  I finally got to use my undergraduate degree.  I finally felt like an ecologist.

About a month ago, I was working at a local grocery store in Dallas.  Back then, I went home to the city.  Now, I came home to the open lands, the stars, darkness, silence, peace.  I could get use to this type of living. I still loved the city though.  My family still lived there.

I stepped outside of my house to breathe in the fresh air and catch the cool breeze of the night.  I looked around.  I couldn’t see anyone for miles—no one in any direction other than one.  That was one of the major things that would take me some time to get used to.  No close neighbors other than Kallen.

The cool breeze tickled my skin as it went on to do the same to my wind chimes.  I closed my eyes and stood there for a moment, taking in the sounds.  I always wanted wind chimes.  Now I have them and they sound beautiful.

All of a sudden the chimes stood still.  The wind vanished.  It was like someone trapped both of them.  Silenced them.  My eyes shot open with fear.  I surveyed my yard.  I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. 

After locking my door, I ran down the porch stairs and into the yard.  Nothing was there.  I held up my hand.  No wind either.  Something was wrong.  The gentle flickering of my porch lights caught my eye.  If I wasn’t outside, I was sure I would have been oblivious. 

That was it.  I was going to visit Kallen and see if he had noticed anything.  But before I could take off a sound, similar to a jet passing overhead, pierced the sky.  I looked up into the night.

A large, black, circular object was falling, and falling fast, towards me.  I took a few steps to my left to try and figure out where it would land.  It seemed to be coming directly for me. 

I ran east for about thirty seconds then stopped to reexamine my position, glancing to the sky.  The object was following me.  No way!  This is impossible!  How can I outrun it?

I sprinted as fast as I could until something in the grass tripped me.  I hit the dirt.  As soon as I realized I was on the ground, I got back up.  Still in flight or fight, I stuck out my leg to run but saw a large, black rock-like formation sitting in my yard. 

The grass rose high around the rock.  Well, as high as the tallest grass grew.  I didn’t have a chance to mow my lawn, correction, have Kallen mow it for me that week.  And that specific type of grass liked to grow.  In patches. 

Taking a breath in, I stared.  I was one woman standing only feet away from one strange rock that just fell from the sky.  I knew it was a meteorite, but I was pretty sure normal meteors didn’t follow you when you try to run away from them.

My hand had a mind of its own and reached to my pocket for my phone.  I couldn’t feel it.  I patted a few times.  Nothing was there.  Shoot!  I left my phone on the counter.  I was only planning on being outside for a few minutes. 

I patted down my other pocket, concluding with my back pockets of my jeans just to make sure.  It wasn’t in my sweater jacket pockets either.

I inhaled.  I was going to have to do something.  I couldn’t just ignore a meteorite sitting in my yard.  For confidence, I took several more breaths then walked towards the rock.  Well, it was more like dragged my feet.

As I got closer, the meteorite appeared to be much bigger.  It was even taller than me and I was 5’9”.  I regretted what I was about to do, but I did it anyway.  I reached out my hand, towards the rock.  I knew not to touch it.  I just wanted to know if it was still hot. 

The meteorite rattled.  Caught off guard, I jumped backwards and almost fell.  My eyes grew larger.  My heart pounded against my ribs.  I heard my labored breathing.  The meteorite rattled again.

Should I run or stay?  Why are you even thinking!?  Run!!!  I tried but couldn’t move.  At that point, I couldn’t tell if it was fear holding me back or some sort of force that extended from the rock.  I hoped it was fear.

I heard the rock crack. 

Run!!!

I can’t!

Several lines, marking the breaking points formed, covering the rock.

Another sound occurred, scaring me so much I thought I was going to pass out.  I couldn’t hear myself breathing anymore.  I couldn’t feel my heart pounding.  But I could see and hear everything that had to do with the meteorite. 

This sound was much louder than the previous cracks.  There was much more of a force behind it.  The rock was grinding; some parts slid across each other, like someone or something was trying to get out.

[_There’s no way this could be happening.  No way something is in there.  Please be dreaming.  Please be a human.  Wake up.  I don’t want to die.  _]

Run!

I wanted to move so bad but couldn’t.  I wanted to cry, scream, something, but I was paralyzed.  A piece of the rock flew away from the meteorite.  I was allowed to turn my head to watch the flying piece’s trajectory.  Another piece flew.  Then another.  Another.  Finally, a large piece was pushed over. 

With one more push my mouth hung open.  There were hands and arms… another rock gone, a head.  A head rose up while the arms pushed away the rest of the rock. 

The thing, the human like male thing, fell out of the rock.  A black soot substance covered him. He seemed confused when he hit the ground. 

Still fixed to my place I watched him.  He brushed his hand across the dirt covered ground.  He seemed like he had never seen a ground before.  At least not our ground.  He played in the dirt for a little while.  He picked it up, let it fall in between its fingers, and returned his hands to the land to dig in again.

This childlike fascination with the dirt calmed me down a little.  He seemed harmless even though he was a full grown human like creature.  A naked full grown human like male appearing creature.  I wondered if he knew I was there and that I had been staring at him all along. 

I took a breath in.  Hey, I had control of my breathing again!  I wiggled my fingers; they moved!  I felt for my heart, and it was no longer pounding. 

I decided to watch the creature a little while longer, giving him time to notice me.  If he didn’t, I would step up and try to get his attention.

***

About thirty minutes passed before I gathered the courage to even take one step towards him.  He was really strange.  I was practically next to him and he never looked at me.  Okay, I wasn’t next to him, but I was close enough.  I wondered if he knew I was there but was waiting for me to do something.  What if he was pretending to play while reading me all along?  It was possible.  He was an alien.  He turned around, putting his back to me.

I made a deal with myself—one breath to one step.  I agreed and took one step towards him.  I paused.  I hoped that he would hear me and turn around, but he didn’t.  I took another step.  I ended up walking all the way up to him and he still hadn’t faced me.  I crouched down to his level. 

“Hi,” I said.

He leapt up and turned to face me.  He stared into my eyes.  I returned the stare into his rosewood colored eyes that switched to gold. 

He opened his mouth but no words came out.  Then he crawled towards me until he was inches away from my face.  I focused on trying to keep breathing.

Examining my face, he studied my eyes for a moment then moved to my hair, forehead, nose, lips, then back to my eyes.  He lifted his hand, reaching for my cheek. 

Slowly, I moved back, but he touched my nose with his index finger and drew a line down onto my lips.  He continued to move his finger across my lips slowly and gently.  I felt a rush of emotion.  He had a faint smile.  I was a little terrified, wondering if the soot was dangerous.  I hoped I wouldn’t forget and lick my lips.

After lifting his finger from my lips, he brushed my cheek.  His fingers felt so warm.  I closed my eyes for a few seconds, losing control.  When I opened them, I squinted, questioning what he was trying to do.  He squinted back.

I lifted my hand and held it into mid-air, so I wouldn’t surprise him.  Then I outstretched my arm to touch his cheek.  His cheek was warm too.  While looking directly at me, he tilted his head and pinned my fingers between his cheek and shoulder.

I didn’t understand what he was doing, but I figured it was some sort of greeting.  He lifted his head and stood up.  I followed. 

He smiled.  “Lalo” he said.

I wiped my lips, trying to get rid of some of the soot.  “Lalo?” I repeated.

“Lalo.”

I patted my chest and said, “Marli.”

He patted his chest, “Marli.”

“No.”  I shook my head.  I pat my chest again, “Marli.”  I walked up to him and put my hand on his chest, “Lalo.”

He touched my chest, “Marli.”

I nodded.

He nodded.

I smiled.

He smiled.

I figured I would have to take him in until I could come up with a plan of how to present him to the public.  Lalo seemed like he had a gentle soul.  He seemed harmless.  I had to raise him, at least help him to learn a little more about our world before I let anyone know he existed. 

I peeked at the meteorite.  It was broken for the most part.  There were some gigantic pieces left.  I decided I would take care of that in the morning.

As if it had a mind that tracked mine, the rock exploded without warning.  I sprung back.  I caught Lalo smiling.  I guessed I wouldn’t have to worry about the rock anymore.  And did Lalo just read my mind, or all of that was just a coincidence?

I shook my head, as if shaking would knock away some thoughts, and stepped back up to Lalo.  I took off my sweater and wrapped it around his shoulders.  He wasn’t too much taller than me, about 6’2,” so my sweater jacket covered him pretty well.  I drew my sweater close together in the front.  Then I took his hand, and made him hold the jacket together.

Lalo smiled again.  I wrapped my arm around and walked him back into my home.

Marli and Lalo

Chapter 1

If someone told me this would have happened an hour ago, I wouldn’t have believed them.  How could I believe that an alien would be sitting at my kitchen counter staring at me?  Lalo’s appearance was exactly as most humans were, but he gave me the impression that he only understood gestures.  Every attempt I made to talk with him fell short.  Although frustrating this quality was good to have because if he ever went outside without me, people would just think he spoke a different language.

I sighed, for what felt like the tenth time that night, as I wondered what to do with him.  He seemed so harmless.  But letting my guard down and risking the consequences was too hazardous. 

For all I knew he could be a killer.  One who charmed his way into convincing his victims to let their suspicions go.  Attacking when they least expected.  Hmm, attack.  Actually, if an attack was on his mind, the little lock on my bedroom door would do nothing to stop him.  In fact, I should be the one charming him.

I broke contact with his large, golden brown eyes to admire the ground.  Those friendly eyes were distracting, and I needed help thinking.  Okay, so he was sitting there, still covered by my jacket only.  Perhaps if I found him some clothes and had him lay down on the couch, he would feel comfortable and fall asleep.  Then I could think about calling someone to help. 

But was he hungry?  I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I was hungry.  Sharp pains would cross his abdomen as his stomach would growl, keeping him awake.  Keeping me distracted from figuring out what to do.  Did he even have a stomach?  What did aliens eat anyway?  I hoped it wasn’t humans.  Now, who should I call?

“Call?” he said.

I flinched.  That had to be a coincidence.  But why would he say that word?  He waited until I was done thinking too.  There was no way he read my mind.  Was there?

“What?” I said as soft as possible.  I returned my eyes to his.

“No call?” he said.

I had no idea what to say next.  Was this his way of asking me if he was wrong?  Agh.  How would I ever find a way to talk with him?  What type of language did he speak usually?  Please be English.  Please be pretending to not know what I was talking about or please be very shy.

Lalo continued to stare at me and didn’t move.  I slowly stepped out of my petit, rectangular kitchen area, curved around the bar he was sitting at, and paused when I was aside him.  His expression didn’t change when he glanced at me, so I continued to gradually advance my way through my house.  I passed through my open family room/dining room area, towards the back, to my bedroom. 

Under my door frame I shuddered before spinning around to see Lalo one more time.  It seemed as though he followed me and would be in my face when I turned around.  Apparently this was not the case.  I was glad to see he kept his seat at the counter.  He merely had swiveled to keep his eyes on me instead.

Even though Lalo remained harmless, I imagined living in some apartments, there in Millsee, rather than being forced to rent out a one bedroom home.  I never would have met the alien, and if I did, at least my next door neighbors would have run to my aid.  But no.  I lived alone.  The closest person to me was Kallen across the field, about a three minute walk away.

I thought this type of stuff—aliens—interested you though so why are you scared?

Remembering my ramblings about charming Lalo, I smiled at him.  He did the same.  I gave thought to closing my door, but I needed to check on him every few seconds to make sure he didn’t move.  Make sure he wasn’t going to attack.

I whirled around and took two quick steps to switch on the light.  I added a couple more steps to my left and I slid my closet door open with speed but as little noise as possible.  Keeping quiet and being unintimidating was number one on my list.  I wasn’t sure if loud noises would frighten Lalo or make him anxious for action. 

I shot my eyes back and forth across the clothes. Hurry!  What could he wear?  Nothing in that closet.  _]Oh! [_What?  My gym clothes.  They were in the drawer on the other side of my room, across the doorway.

Tiptoeing across, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lalo still focused on something in my direction.  At least he stayed where he was.  I was thankful for that.  He could have decided to give me more problems.  Problems that I didn’t know how to deal with. 

I slid open the third old oak drawer of my dresser and rummaged around.  The first thing I found were some oversized sweat pants.  Thanks me from the past who bought oversized clothing!  Sifting through the rest of the drawer gave me a free T-shirt that I had scored from a college science conference.  It was, or would have to be, the perfect match.  Underneath that shirt I found a few more.

Although the shirts were free and too spacious for me to wear, they had become my pajama tops.  They also became the punchline for teasing about me and my frugalness.  Well, it saved me money back then and it was going to deliver me from having a naked alien sit around my house.  Maybe that’s why he wasn’t talking.  He was trying to decipher why this human was making him stay naked and cold.

Happy with my discovery, I closed the drawer and wandered back towards my door, back to Lalo. Before I actually saw where I was going, I ran into something warm. 

A scream soared from me, aiding me to jump backwards, halfway across my room, only to end up falling to the floor.  He finally moved!  Lalo had been standing in the doorway inspecting me when I walked into him.

Lalo rushed to bend down and pull me back up to my feet.  It wasn’t like I was light to lift, but the effort he used to lift me was as if he found a piece of paper on the ground.  It made me curious. 

Was extra human strength a feature of all of his kind, or was he simply one of the stronger ones?  The fact also reminded me to not get on his bad side.  He wasn’t human.  And I couldn’t be sure that battling females was frowned upon by his kind.  With that type of strength he could be unstoppable.  What if I was staring at the destructor of human kind who was simply curious to see how a female human would react to him?

[_What am I doing?  _]My mind had been constant in its part torturing me with possible fears, part racing to solve issues dealing with Lalo that giving him a bath never crossed my mind. 

The black soot from the meteorite hadn’t magically washed away.  He was covered in it.  And so was my bar stool.  He probably destroyed my carpet too.  The image of my tub being covered in black began to occupy my mind. 

Well, I couldn’t deprive him of a bath.  Not offer him the peacefulness of being clean.  Tomorrow, I’d get some cleaner from the store to wash all the soot away.  But would man-made cleaning agents work on iron and stone particles with a touch of shinny crystals?  At least his meteorite gave me the impression that it was made of simply that.  But then it again, he was covered in black soot as were the rock pieces.  Nevertheless, time to give him a bath.

Wait a minute!  Shouldn’t I take a shower first in case the soot causes a reaction to my skin?  Hmm.  I would most likely need to call into work sick anyway so I’ll wait.  I could take a shower at Kallen’s, but then I would have to tell him about Lalo.  And with Kallen’s theories about aliens it probably wouldn’t be safe for either one of them.

My thoughts were interrupted by a shift in Lalo’s expression.  His eyes narrowed, and he peaked back toward my bathroom.  Every organ in my chest clamped down to hide.

So his telepathic ability is real?  Oh yeah.  I had forgotten to protect my thinking, like I knew how to do that.  Another thing I needed to learn, so I wouldn’t cause him to attack me.

Lalo smiled.  I sharply inhaled.  My eyes were wide awake.  Oh no!  He’s happy that I’m scared! 

If my bed wasn’t behind me, I would have run when he reached out to rub my arm.  Instead I flinched and found it suddenly hard to breathe.

“No,” he said, not in a mean way but kind, caring.  Was he an alien of an angelic family?  Did he actually come to help?

I didn’t get a chance to finish my brainstorm before his hand became an instant burst of frost gently stroking my cheek.  [_What’s going on?  _]My tortured breathing became softer and lighter.  The bone breaking tension that filled my body dissipated, and I stopped worrying about Lalo seeing my thoughts.

For a moment I wasn’t there in my room.  Lalo was nowhere to be found.  I was sitting in the middle of a sunny beach in California.  The sun warmed my skin.  The cool breeze blew as the early morning waves crashed, rolling the water back into the ocean. 

I enjoyed the peaceful waves for a while until they became threatening. They became so high that they could soak me, or worse, carry me back into the ocean.  The sun blended into the sky, which turned grey. The wind became angry.  And that was when the waves came in too close and too fast for me to get up and run away.

To make matters worse, I couldn’t even move when I tried.  I tried again; still it was useless.  I was held by a force causing me to be patient and react later.  The waves crashed a few feet short of reaching me, and its water ended up washing my feet. 

This happened again, preceding a cool breeze of wind that awakened me.  Lalo stopped his fingers from running up and down my skin.

Did I just have one of the first meaningful contacts with an alien by an ocean metaphor?  Lalo was peaceful, comforting, and beautiful, yet terrifying?  He had the power but didn’t want to hurt me?

A new idea popped up in my mind.  Or was that what Lalo tried to tell me all along?  Use telepathy to talk to him.

I imagined a glorious bath full of roses and bubbles with a bottle of champagne on the side.  Lalo didn’t get it.  He continued to study my face.  Right, champagne, roses that’s human stuff.

I dreamed of a great waterfall that was safe enough to stand close to.  I saw myself running through the water.  His eyes didn’t move.

How did I previously get him to read my mind?  Ah that was the trick!  I had to be direct.  Or was he playing with me, pretending not to hear me? 

I took in some air then delicately danced around his side to escort him to the bathroom.  I didn’t know if by touching my cheek, he connected us, but he followed and I had a greater sense of his presence a few steps behind me.

The light illuminated my bathroom with a flick.  My bathroom was far from luxurious but at least it wasn’t crammed.  The shower head hung over a standard, white tub.  My purple, polka dot curtains, halfway pulled forward, covered part of the side. 

I reached to my right to open one of my fake wooden, white cabinets that hung over the toilet.  I surveyed my towels[_.  _]

Now, which one means the least to me? That grime will never come out.  The yellow one.  Perfect!  That was one I knew took pleasure in trying to tear my skin.  It was the one I bought back when I denied myself at least a couple of luxury, soft towels.  And there was no way I would use those. 

[_Are you sure?  His skin felt soft to me, exactly like humans.  What if it was highly sensitive?  From all of the alien movies I watched, with the slimy appearing aliens, they sure did look sensitive.  _]

Fine.  I decided to sacrifice an orange one.  That way if the soot—Oh no!  The soot was on me—on my face! 

Horrified, I pivoted and rushed to the mirror.  I saw something jolt upwards out of the corner of my eye, which made my stomach clench.  Hopefully it was Lalo.

Quickly turning around, I looked up to the ceiling.  It was him; he was up in the corner.  His feet comfortably held him to the wall along with his hands, which were positioned behind him, making him appear as if he was going to attack.

Using my peripheral vision, I peeked at the reflection of my cheek in the mirror.  At least there wasn’t a rash.  I faced Lalo again.  I opened my arms to give the gesture of a hug because there was nothing else to do.  This means peace.  I won’t hurt you.

My arms begged me to let them rest after a while.  Lalo was fixed in his position.  Since no ideas popped up, directing me on how I could get him down, I placed Lalo’s towel set along the sink and began to run water into the tub, making sure it was lukewarm. 

No, I didn’t know what temperature Lalo liked.  I decided lukewarm was a good middle ground.  As I put the stopper in, I heard Lalo retreat to the floor.  He put his hand on my back then analyzed the running water himself, running his fingers and hands through it.

He wasn’t repulsed by the water.[_  Good.  He could take that temperature._]

After I stood up, it took a few seconds for me to realize that the water didn’t continue to fill the tub.  I squatted back down.  No way!  It was hard to trust what I was seeing.  No, the water didn’t fill the tub.  It filled Lalo instead.  I wanted to run and grab my camera to get a picture, but I felt the pressure of Lalo’s hand on my back.

[_How did he know what a camera was?  He couldn’t even talk. _]

Not wanting to upset him again, I decided to stay put and inspect the phenomenon with my hands instead.  I held mine under his.  It wasn’t a visual illusion.  Nothing fell through.  Slowly, I brought my hand up to his.  I watched to see if he had any change in expression as I embraced his hand.  None.  I inhaled.  Directly below the running water, I felt a spherical water pressure.  At the same time, currents traveled towards his arm.

They must have some system designed to transport water.  Or their blood stream, if they have one, gets the water directly through osmosis.

I removed my hand, stood up, and stepped back.  How long had beings like him existed?  What else was special about him?

I probably would find that out once he was comfortable.  And if I was him that would first mean clean.  I thought about removing the jacket that I draped over Lalo, and he stood to face me.  I put my palms up and thought about how I wouldn’t harm him.  I took his unwavering expression as permission to remove the jacket.  After it was off, I spun around and dropped it into my laundry hamper.

My thoughts switched to how I would get him to take a bath.  I knew there had to be a point where the saturation of water in his body was equal to the water in the tub, so he could use the water to take a bath.  I imagined Lalo using a towel, water, and soap to clean himself, hoping he would understand, get in the tub, and follow my directions. 

Okay… Maybe he didn’t possess the ability to read my mind.  Just like the other times when I tried to telepathically communicate with him he didn’t move. 

[_Physically showing him might be the only way.  _]

No.  I felt uneasy; I was already vulnerable enough by having him in my home.  I didn’t want to have to get naked in front of him too.  He was smart.  I was sure. 

I’ll get in the tub with my clothes on and show him.

Sounds good to me.

As I reached to roll up my pant legs, Lalo stepped into the tub and sat down.

Good.

I grabbed the face towel from my counter and held it under the tub faucet water.  I noticed that Lalo either had to have seen what I was thinking or was done drinking the water because the tub began to fill.  I lathered the towel with soap and Lalo stretched out his arm.  When I began to wash him, he laid back and closed his eyes.

His skin was no different from a regular human, but when I got to the hair I noticed it was alive with its own mind. 

I bit my lip when my shampoo first met his hair.  I didn’t know if the things, hair, would bite me, so I tentatively touched the tips.  Nothing happened.  I put my fingers into his hair and massaged.  His hair actually didn’t mind the wash.  It liked surrounding my hands and wrapping and unraveling itself around my fingers. 

Another few rinses and I was done.  But my problems were not.  I thought getting him into the tub was hard but getting him to move after he was clean was impossible.  Once again, I imagined Lalo moving himself.  When that didn’t work, I physically moved him or tried to.  After the fifth struggle, his eyes shot open and glared at me.

I tensed up and he smiled.

“Water,” Lalo said and pointed at the tub that I already drained.  His eyelids shut back down.

If he wanted the water, why didn’t he turn it on himself?  I thought he was an alien.  Weren’t they supposed to be smarter than us?

“Please Marli,” Lalo said.

I knew it.  He was acting.  He has to know more English than what he pretends to know.

“If you want something from now on, you have to use your words,” I said.  I sounded like I was talking to a child.

Lalo sat up and turned the water on.  After allowing his skin to soak up more water, he gathered a cup of it in his hands.  I leaned over, positioning myself to see what miraculous thing he was going to do next.  Then the water landed in my face.

I gasped.  What happened?  I got splashed again.  “Lalo!  Stop!”

I spent two hours yesterday dealing with my hair!

I was sure he understood but kept on splashing me and laughing.

Did I actually have a child alien who appeared to be a man?  Could the adults be taller, stronger?

I was drenched by the time he stopped.  He was pretty accurate when it came to hitting me.  There was only a little water on the floor.

The orange bath towel was within reach, so I picked it up and immediately dried my face.  Lalo ripped the towel away a few seconds later, smirking.

His eyes caught mine and didn’t move as he dried off.

So the alien is trying to seduce me?

I sighed.  I had enough for the day.  I wished I hadn’t met him.  That wasn’t true.  I just wanted to forget I had an alien in my house for a little while as I slept, although he was extremely handsome.

Lalo’s smug expression turned sour as he dried off, and he folded the towel prior to placing it on the counter.  Stomping past me, he left the room.  I followed him, wondering what he was doing.  We ended back up in my room.  He jerked the clothes I reserved for him off of the bed and put them on.

Without my direction, he strode into the family room and lie down on the couch.  I rushed to grab a pillow from my bed and some blankets in my closet then returned to lay them under and over him.

He closed his eyes the instant I finished putting the last blanket on.

“Sorry,” I said.  “Lalo, I’m sorry.”

I didn’t mean it.  I’m glad I met you.

Out of a half opened eye, Lalo peered at me.  His hand was frigid as he grabbed my wrist to place my hand on his cheek.  His expression softened.  A few moments later, my hand was back at my side, and he was relaxed and asleep.

After triple checking to make sure the front door was locked, I tip toed to my room and closed the door.

Chapter 2

The ringing of my alarm hadn’t occurred yet when I woke up, lying on my side.  The room was pitch dark with the exception of the numbers on my alarm clock.  A few minutes remained until it would sound, but I didn’t want to roll over to silence the impending alarms.  The image of Lalo hopping to the ceiling, ready to attack me flashed across my mind, which gave me the strength to push myself up and over to grab my phone.

My shirt tightened as I leaned over.  It felt as though it had twisted around me multiple times due to some major tossing and turning that night.  It was uncomfortable, but I ignored it until the alarms on both my phone and clock were history.

Wanting nothing more than to close my eyes and get rid of the discomfort, I rolled onto my back to untwist my T-shirt.  Surprise!  I flinched when I saw Lalo lying on the pillow next to me.  He had a strong grip on my shirt.

I suspected he did it to keep me from leaving while he was asleep.  He either wanted to control my actions, or he was scared.  I envisioned myself in his situation.  If I had fallen down from my home, I would be frightened and do the same.  But this was an alien.  They were, in some theories, superior.  I needed to find out his intentions.  Was there a specific reason to come to our planet?  Was it an accident?  Were there others?

Time definitely wasn’t on my side.  People would find out, not too long from then, that something crashed into my yard.  The people working with me most likely already knew something.  I was sure a meteor sighting was on the news.  Oh no.  The rock!

Despite the fact that the meteor blew up into pieces, I had to get out there and collect it; hide it.  I had to beat daylight.  I attempted to loosen Lalo’s grip, but his hand would not budge.

“Lalo,” I said, softly.  “Wake up.”

He didn’t move.

I rocked his shoulder.  Nothing.

I gauged the temperature of his forehead with the back of my hand.  He was like ice.  The hair started moving.  His eyes opened up.  I pulled at my shirt, and he let it go.

Not wasting any time, I slid out of bed, put on some pants, and tied up my tennis shoes.  I opened the closet and gave Lalo some sandals. 

After trying to leave a couple of times, I convinced Lalo to stay inside.  Although the early morning darkness covered the sky, I didn’t want to take the chance of him being seen.

With Lalo inside, and a black trash bag in my hand, I ran to the site of the meteor landing.  Bending down, I whipped the bag then proceeded to pick up the few pieces of glimmering rock that I could see. 

Unexpectedly, most of it was gone.  This should have been cause for celebration, but it invoked fear.  We could have been watched.  I was sure the type of meteorite Lalo arrived in would be valuable.  A pallasite?  Yeah, very rare usually equals valuable.  Whoever stalked us could have taken most of the rock with them for investigation too.  Then I would be in trouble, most likely would get locked away, and wouldn’t be able to protect Lalo.

My eyes were unfocused on the grass when I saw another piece of the meteor.  It glistened then sunk into the dirt in an instant.  I dug to find the missing piece, but it was gone.  What the…?  Regardless, I took some of the dirt and threw it into my bag. 

One more time, I surveyed the area.  Then I studied Kallen’s house.  No lights were on, but an eerie sensation that someone, or something, could see me remained.

Please, just be Kallen.

But if Lalo could exist then others could too.  I was too far away to see clearly.  Maybe I was scaring myself.  It wouldn’t be the first time.  My thrill for self-torture got horrible at times.  This was most likely another moment to add to the list.  I secured the trash bag and ran back inside.

Lalo was sitting patiently on the couch.  I put my hands to his cheeks to show him what I saw.  I tried to block out Kallen’s house.  He squinted at me but said nothing.  I became determined to find a new way for us to talk.  It would be beneficial for him anyway.  I could only physically hide him for so long.  Since he had human features, I could teach him more words and how to act more like a human.

Taking the trash bag to my kitchen, I opened the lower cupboard under the sink, and hid the bag under some others.  Lalo joined me as I stared at the wall, thinking about what to do.  My stomach growled.  Crap.  I forgot to feed him.  How did he eat?  How could I feed him?

I lathered my hands with liquid soap and Lalo pointed to my hands.

“Soap,” I said.

“Soap?” he repeated.

That was it!  I could teach him like a child or like someone learning a new language.  There were programs for that.  He could use one of my computers every day while I was at work.  I had to bet on the belief that he was far more advanced and technologically savvy.  But if he was merely a child, would it still be true?

In my refrigerator I found some apples and a few premade salads that I bought at the store.  There was some chicken left over too, but I didn’t know if they could eat that.  Did aliens eat chicken?  I didn’t know why but the thought of aliens eating chicken was funny to me.  Then again did their planets support growing fruits and vegetables?  Sure, I told myself.  That was the scientific rational I came up with.

I arranged the salad on a plate and cut up the apple into pieces while Lalo washed his hands and watched.  He studied me until I decided to demonstrate that it was food.  At least that was what I thought he was doing.  Lalo could have been laughing at me the whole time for assuming he didn’t know anything about human life.  And forgetting that perhaps he was reading my mind once again.

Lalo understood and ate some of the apple then moved me out of the way to grab the chicken out of the refrigerator.  After a cautionary bite, I had to make him save half of the chicken for later.  He tore through that meat and finished the salad.

At least I didn’t have to go on a quest for a specific food to feed him.

Now that he ate, it was time to test my theory on communicating with him.  Instead of attempting to get him to understand me, I went to go find my computer and set it up on the kitchen table.  I found out with every move I made, he would follow, so there was no point in wasting time to tell him what was going on.

I opened the search engine and began typing words to find a program to teach English.  I kept running into language learning programs, which would be great if they had one that taught from an alien language.  Spanish was a common spoken language.  Did he speak Spanish?

There was no physical conformation from Lalo, so I kept searching.  Learn to talk, learn to speak for babies, increase your vocabulary—nothing but futile searches.  The programs and videos I found were too short to expand his knowledge.  He needed a working English knowledge base for the ones that were more complex.

Running out of options, Lalo and I watched a children’s video.  It took too much time for what I needed to accomplish, but at least it was something.  I peeked over to Lalo, and he seemed amused.  When the video was over, I scrolled through the videos.  I needed another.  As I was about to click on one, Lalo slid the computer in front of him.  Then he used the mouse to click on random videos to watch.

Alright then.

Feed the alien, check.  Pick up the leftover meteor, check.  Work… I left Lalo to go into my room and call in sick to work before I forgot.  Dr. Stevenson didn’t say anything out of the ordinary.  Phew. 

The moment I hung up, someone knocked on the door.  My eyes lit up, and I rushed to Lalo.  I stopped the video and had him follow me into my bedroom.  I told him to stay the same way I did when I went outside.  Then I closed the door.

What if my time with Lalo was already over?  What if the FBI or some secret government alien organization already knew I had him?  I couldn’t let them take him away from me.  He was like a child.  He wouldn’t understand.  They could do horrible things to him.  He would never see daylight or have the opportunity to go back to his home again.

I took a deep breath and remembered what it was like to act normal.  I opened the door.  To my relief, it was Kallen.

“Hey Kallen,” I said.  “Why are you …?”

Kallen was tall, strong, and determined to come into my house that morning.

“I just wanted to check to make sure you are alright,” he said.

“I’m fine, why?”

After glancing around the inside of my house for the twentieth time he said, “Something happened last night.  Something woke me out of my sleep, and when I went outside, there was nothing.  I was about to go back home when I saw this.”

Kallen held up a piece of the meteorite wrapped in a clear bag.  I sucked in a breath.

“Amazing,” I muttered.

“I know you had to hear or see something Marli,” he said.

I shook my head.  “No, I went to sleep much earlier yesterday.”

“Because you’re sick.”

I scrunched up my face.  How did he know?

“You know Dr. Stevenson called and told me right?” Kallen said.[_  But I just got off the phone with him._]  “If it wasn’t him, someone else would have told me.  I find out everything.”

“Well, yes it’s true.  I woke up feeling horrible today.”

“That’s it!  What if the meteorite affected you?  This was on your yard Marli.”

“It was?”

“Yes.  You need to go to the doctor,” Kallen said.

“No, I—”

“What if … what if something is happening to you because of this?  What if it can kill you?”

“Looks like a meteorite Kallen.  Out of all of the others that fell, why would this one have magical powers?  And wouldn’t you feel bad too?  You are holding it.”

Kallen let the meteorite drop back into another, darker bag.  “Marli,” Kallen said and put his hand on my shoulder.  “I’ll come and check on you at lunch.”

“I’ll call you, alright?” I said.

He nodded.  “And I’ll have Dr. Telason come by.”

“No Kallen.”

“She’s my cousin.  She’ll come.  Don’t worry.”

“Okay, Okay,” I said, putting my hand up.  “I’ll go.  I’ll go see Dr. Telason.”

“Great!  You ready to go now?”

“Kallen, don’t you have to go into work?  It is the second week of the month.  And this is the one day you actually go somewhere.  Don’t you think they’ll take away your work from home position?”

“I told them I’ll be a little late,” he said.  “Besides, you’re still new.  You don’t know the area that much.  I’ll take you.”

“Give me a few minutes,” I said.

“Okay.”  Kallen took one last peek into my house.  “You usually let me come in,” he said.

“I’m usually not sick.  I’ll call you when I’m ready.”

Kallen reluctantly left, going back to his house.  He must have been the one to see me picking up the rock that morning.  He could have seen Lalo the night before. 

Kallen was overall a good guy.  I could trust him with most things, personal things.  But he was so enthusiastic with new findings of alien existence that by the end of the day, everyone always knew what happened.  And he was close with my boss, the tall and athletic Dr. Stevenson, who could not only take Lalo down, but make one call and have the Environmental Protection Agency and a few top astronomers, among others, at my house within 24 hours.  With that much power, getting the FBI to arrive should be easy.

I closed the door, and Lalo came out of the back room to sit down and continue watching videos.  How did he know it was safe for him to come out?  Was it possible for him to hear our entire conversation?  Could he read my mind regardless of the times he didn’t understand?

I sat down next to Lalo, took his hand in mine, and using my mind to speak I told him he had to stay inside.  I’ll be back within a few hours.  Don’t answer the door.  And hide if someone tries to break in.  I said these things out loud too.  He flashed me a smile.  I could only hope that my house would still be standing when I got back and that Lalo would still be there either sleeping or watching videos.

Chapter 3

Leaving was hard.  An alien was in my house with no one to watch out for him.  Something could happen.  He could run away, be kidnapped… I needed the chance to help him find his way.  I checked three times to make sure the front door was locked and got into Kallen’s truck.

“Early signs of OCD?” Kallen joked.

“Yeah, I guess …” I said.

Being that Millsee was a small town, it took a few minutes of mile long, empty fields to reach downtown where all of the offices stood.  To an outsider it was as though a string of little houses and parking spots lined the road.  No office had more than one floor.  No hospital cared for patients in our town.  Just a little make shift clinic that Dr. Telason put together.  For problems of greater proportion, we traveled over to a town named Greele, about twenty minutes away.  All we were missing were little tumbleweeds that were supposed to blow around deserted towns.

As I sat in Dr. Telason’s waiting room, I stared into a magazine and reflected.  I was told there were changes in the habitat.  Dr. Stevenson didn’t care if we were fresh out of school or seasoned ecologists; he needed more bodies.  Five of us were hired.  I was the last to join the team.  And after happening to join that team to live in the middle of nowhere for a month, I came into contact with an alien. 

“Marli,” Janene said, calling me out of the waiting room.

Kallen stood up.  Why did he want to go with me?

“Kallen, I appreciate your help, but I can see her myself.”

“I need to talk to her,” Kallen said.

There was no use in fighting him.

—-

We both sat, staring at the door of a treatment room for a few minutes until Dr. Telason came in.

“Hey, Marli,” she said as she shook my hand.  “Kallen.”  She turned to give Kallen a hug before refocusing on me.

“Kallen tells me you have a headache,” she said.  “One that kept you from work.”

Pretending to be groggy, I slightly nodded and closed my eyes.  I was “too sensitive” to the light.

After Dr. Telason performed an exam, discussed the migraine that I “had,” and gave me some medicine to cure it, Kallen spoke up.

“Alana, the other reason why I had to come with Marli was to ask you…”

Alana studied Kallen with raised eyebrows.  I glanced in his general direction.  Kallen was about to go off on one of his strange rants again.  Correction, previously strange.  I hoped it wasn’t going to be about Lalo.  Maybe he had to run the meteorite story by her.

The funny part was somehow I became part of Kallen’s insider group quickly.  Kallen shared the details of his alien ideas and strange happenings exclusively with Alana, Ren, Dr. Stevenson, and me.  Well, Dr. Stevenson received the watered down version, spiked with a few details here and there.  The rest of the town just got the water but enough to know he was a little “different” as they told me, aka crazy.

“Go on,” Alana said.

“It’s no secret that strange things have been happening with the animals and plants lately,” Kallen said.  “And we are late as usual, picking up on strange occurrences.  But last night a meteorite landed in Marli’s yard.  Now she has a migraine.  Is there any coincidence?”

“Uh…” Alana began.  “The meteorite isn’t causing her headache, no.  At least I wouldn’t think so.  Did you get a headache all of a sudden last night?”

“No, I said.  “It happened this morning.”

“And you have a history of migraines?” Alana said.

“Yes,” I said.

“So it’s more likely to not be related,” Alana said.

“Have there been any other strange illnesses?” Kallen asked.

“No, not that I’ve seen,” Alana said.

“Strange people?”

“Everyone I’ve treated I knew.  Are you suggesting there is something out there?”

Kallen nodded slowly.  “I thought I saw one last night.  An alien.”

Oh no.  He saw Lalo. Wait, didn’t he just tell me he didn’t see anything?

A faint smile lifted the corner of Alana’s lips.  “Kallen.”

“It was late night,” Kallen continued.  “Around 2 a.m.  I couldn’t sleep.  So I dragged myself into my kitchen and…” His eyes drifted as if he was there again.  “And a light made me look outside.  It was only a reflection of the meteorite on the ground, but someone was hovering over it.  I was about to go outside and ask them what they were doing, but they started sniffing as if they were a dog, following a scent.  It sniffed the air and picked up a few pieces of the meteorite to inspect it too.”

Kallen laughed.  “I saw its face, a woman’s face.  Then it started moving fast around Marli’s yard—too fast for any human.  It sprinted to different points to stop and sniff the areas.  Before it left, it stared at Marli’s house for a few minutes.  Seconds later, it was at her front porch.  I guess it heard something and scrambled away.”

My eyes opened wide.  This thing was trying to find Lalo.  There was no way to tell if it was good or bad.  Suddenly the FBI was the least of my worries.

Kallen locked his sight on me.  “That’s why I was wondering if you were hiding something Marli.  This thing, woman, whatever it was, circled your house a few times too.  I was terrified even though it wasn’t hunting me.  It basically gave me a really bad feeling you know.”

Hunting!?

“Oh Marli,” Alana said, putting her hand on my shoulder.  “You can stay with me if you want.  That doesn’t sound safe—being there by yourself.”

“I’d rather stay at home,” I said.  Should I tell them?  “This is weird and scary but…”  I closed my eyes for a few seconds.  “I should be alright shouldn’t I?  It ran away.  I have no idea why it came.”

“It’s looking for whatever came with that meteorite,” Kallen said.  “There were pieces of meteorites in your yard, Marli.  I think it was one big rock that broke apart.  Whatever came is gone.  But we need to find that thing, that woman I saw, before it comes back and tries to hurt someone, which would most likely be you Marli.”

“Yeah, I agree,” I said.  “I just want to go lie down though.  I can’t think about other stuff hurting me when this migraine is killing me.”

“But what are you going to do if it comes back today?” Alana said.  “Marli—”

“I can watch out for her,” Kallen said.  “I took off work today too.  And I told one of my associates about the incident.  With everything going down the way it has—he believed me.  He is working on getting in contact with the government.  Someone who deals with these things.”

I hope this is just one of Kallen’s delusions.

“There are people who do that?” Alana asked.

“Yeah,” Kallen said.

“Seems right up your alley,” Alana said.

“It is,” Kallen said.  “That’s why I love my job.”

“You never told me what you do exactly,” I said, forgetting that I didn’t want to talk because of my pretend headache.  If he worked with the government, I needed to know.

“Remember I told you,” Kallen said.  “Contract work.  You know.  Writing.  Most are scientific and medical papers.  Sometimes I do technical…”

Why does he meet with his team once a month then?

“Alright, enough stalling,” Kallen said.  “Let’s get you home to rest.”

Stalling?  Was this was his way of getting me out of the way to check my house when I wasn’t there?  Something wasn’t right.  Either he was crazy or he had some deep connections.  The type to get me in trouble and put Lalo in danger.

The secretary, Janene, knocked on the door, quietly but nonstop.

“My head,” I said.

“Yes Janene,” Alana said, opening the door.

“You have to come and see this,” Janene said.  “There are some more homeless people missing.  They lived close to the outskirts of Dallas.  These kidnappings are getting closer to Millsee.”

We hurried into the waiting room to catch the last bit of news.  The newscasters were finishing talking about a string of disappearances of homeless people.  Shelters slowly saw less and less people show up at night and during the times they gave out meals. 

Things became more serious that morning when the police were called.  A large group of homeless people, who all congregated in the same area, didn’t show up for a free breakfast.  To make things worse, a previous missing homeless person was found wandering the streets the night before.  The person was brought into the station for questioning but was oblivious to their own kidnapping.  They claimed they never were missing.  This alerted the police to investigate further.  They were now looking for kidnapping, cult leader, and murder suspects.

No reports of meteor sightings made it to the news.  Not even on the running ticker.  At least that was some good news.

After being stunned for a few minutes, we said our goodbyes, and Kallen led me outside.  He opened the door and helped me get back into his black truck.

“Can you believe it?” Kallen said.  “Our world is falling apart.”

“It’s always falling apart,” I said, slumping in the seat.

“But not like this,” Kallen said.  He gently closed the door and strolled over to his side.

Kallen’s words stuck with me, making me question what was next.  I didn’t think Kallen knew about Lalo, but even if he did, Lalo did nothing to destroy our world.  But were these unreported meteor crashes becoming more normal?  Were there many more Lalos out there?  Was that woman one?  And were these aliens dangerous?

There was no way the mass kidnappings could be the work of aliens, I argued.  These odd things happened every once in a while.  Humans did crazy things.  But if this was the work of a group of aliens, it would make sense.  A classic alien abduction—kidnapped and brought to their world.  Or kidnapped and brought to another place on Earth.  A place where more of them lived.  A place where they were waiting to do something?

I really needed to find a way to communicate more efficiently with Lalo.  He was kind.  Perhaps he could ease the worry of an attack or help find out what was going on.  Kallen was a heavy conspiracy theorist anyhow.  I know I wouldn’t have been bothered by his words if an alien hadn’t fallen from the sky the night before.  But the way he described that woman.  She was scary.  So why did I feel so calm?  It was like she didn’t matter.  The ocean waves?  Did Lalo teach me to be calm when I subconsciously sensed another alien?

“What are you thinking about?” Kallen asked me.

I twitched, forgetting that he was in the car with me.

“Deep thoughts?” he asked.

“It’s nothing,” I said and peeped outside.  I figured the medicine Alana gave me should have been working by then.  The sunlight didn’t bother me as much anymore.  The pill was still stuck under my tongue, partially melted away.

“You know we are lucky to have you,” Kallen said.

“What do you mean?  I finished school not too long ago.  You speak like I’m some kind of genius.”

“I just trust you will figure it out,” Kallen said.  “You will discover what happened to those animals, and we will have greater insight to what is going on with our world.”

I slightly nodded.  If I didn’t know better, I would have thought Kallen got hit with a piece of the meteorite.  He became more protective and encouraging overnight.

Minutes later, Kallen parked on the dirt paved to be my driveway.  My driveway leading to no garage.

“Thanks,” I said and reached for the door handle.

Kallen gently put his hand on my shoulder.  “Marli, if you need any help, you know I’m here for you.  And I’m not only talking about watching out for that woman.”

Why did he have to keep reminding me?

“Yes, thanks Kallen,” I said.

“You don’t have to keep secrets to yourself.”

“Kallen, is there something you want to say?” I asked.  I should be probing him instead of running from his questions.

Over parted lips, slowly air escaped from Kallen.  “Marli, things are changing.  We won’t be that safe for long.  I don’t have all the details, but I know.  And I don’t want you to get hurt.  We are vulnerable out here you know.  Living far away from large groups of people.  Living in between large uninhabited areas of space.  I don’t want to scare you, but please.  If anything happens—”

“I’ll tell you,” I said.

Kallen nodded.

We got out of the truck and strolled to the front door.  I jiggled my keys a few times, stalling so Lalo could hide.  I opened the door, and Kallen blocked my path with his arm.

“If you don’t mind could I take a peek inside your house?” Kallen asked.  “It would help me stop worrying.  I just…I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I couldn’t keep you safe.”

I hesitated for a few moments.

What was I supposed to do?  I needed to protect Lalo from Kallen, but what if Kallen was right?  What if Lalo was dangerous but holding back?  It would be more comforting if someone else also knew about him.  But would Kallen want to trap Lalo and give him over to the authorities?

“Marli,” Kallen said.

“Okay,” escaped from my lips.

Hide Lalo.  Please hide.

I prepared myself to say that Lalo was one of my friends who was visiting, or a boyfriend, someone.  If Kallen developed a strange feeling, in all probability, I would tell him Lalo’s true identity.

Stepping inside, I glanced around and noticed the house lights were still lit.  Lalo wasn’t on the couch.  My computer remained on my kitchen table, but closed.  There was no trace of Lalo’s existence.  Maybe he heard me.

After Kallen determined that the family room and kitchen area were secure, he explored the bathroom while I stood by the couch.

If Lalo attacked Kallen, how would Kallen defend himself?

I was sure Lalo was much stronger.  Kallen was athletic too though.  But Lalo could get infuriated and make an effort to kill Kallen for no reason.  My legs got to work and rapidly put me into my bathroom.  I spotted the area of the celling where Lalo positioned himself the night before.

“There’s no one in here,” Kallen said, staring at me as if he knew something was wrong.

Although I was glad Kallen had no evidence, I began to worry but for a different reason, Lalo. 

What if Lalo left me?  I couldn’t help him.  He couldn’t help me.  I couldn’t learn why he came.  Did he even know the way back to my house if he got lost?

Fear spread through my body as we withdrew from my bathroom to analyze the final room—my bedroom.  The door was closed, not as I left it, but Kallen didn’t know that.

Kallen’s hand slipped into his back pocket to pull out a gun.

“Kallen?” I whispered.

“Precautions,” he said.  “Get behind me.”

Kallen definitely couldn’t be who he said he was, so I did as he said.  Kallen opened the door then promptly re-grasped the gun.  He checked what he could see from the doorframe prior to entering.  The area was clear.

Kallen used the same procedure to open my closet.  Lalo didn’t leap out at us.  There was nothing there other than my clothes.  We spent more time in my bedroom investigating yet found nothing.

“This kind of solidifies that I’m wacky,” Kallen said when he finally declared my home was safe.  “But I have these premonitions, visions.  I saw you Marli.  I sensed danger.  And not from that woman from someone or something else.”

“Danger?” I said.

“Yes.  Marli, I can stay with you.”

“I’m fine for now Kallen.  You checked, and now I feel safe.  I’m just going to sleep all day anyway.”

“Alright, I’ll be at my house,” he said.  “I hope you’ll feel better soon.”

“Thank you,” I said.

Kallen took one more sweeping scan of my home before he left.  The idea that he was lingering outside, waiting for something to happen, stayed with me.  My suspicion was confirmed when the engine of his car didn’t make a sound until five minutes later.

When I was sure Kallen left, I called out for Lalo, but there was no answer.

“Lalo, please,” I begged.  “Come out.”

I generally combed through the house, checking for Lalo once again.  I began to panic as the thought of him leaving crept back to the front of my mind.  I rushed to reexamine my closet, dropped to my knees to look under my bed, and then ran to the kitchen to tear through the cabinets.

Heaving, I deliberated about the places he might have run to.  With an idea, I rummaged through my purse and found my keys.  My hand was on the doorknob when I was tugged backwards with a cold hand.  The air in my throat zapped.  He caught me unexpectedly.  At least I hoped it was him.

Turning around frightened me even more.  No one was there.  I touched the area of my skin where I felt the frigid sensation.  An almost silent and unrestrained, “Lalo,” came from my mouth.

Then I saw an outline of a person preceding Lalo’s reappearance.  “He’s nice.  He’s nice.”  I repeated in my head.  I had to convince myself that he wasn’t a threat to me because that trick let me know what any future with him would hold.  Danger.  Kallen was right.

Lalo soothed me again by rubbing my cheek.  I became calm but upset that he showed me that side.  I wasn’t sure I had the ability to cover up continuous lies.  I was the good girl.  I had always been factual, only telling the truth. 

I would have been better off not knowing about some of his skills.  It was a matter of time before the government would find out.  Too many people were indirectly connected including me.  What would I say then?  How could I lie to the government if I didn’t know what Lalo was capable of and what he wanted to do?  Lying could give his species a vast advantage.  What if they came to Earth to destroy us?

I backed away from Lalo, giving myself an extra six inches of space.  He squinted and shot his head to the side then brought up his hand under his chin.  “Marli, why are you scared now?” a deeper voice, Lalo’s voice, said.

I gasped.  He spoke in complete English sentences and his voice changed.  This could have been someone else.  It had to be someone else.  What if Lalo left and was replaced by a replica?  Everyone in his species could look the same for all I knew.  What if this was some sort of leader, a commander?

“I learned,” Lalo said, “while you were gone.  Marli, I didn’t come to hurt you.  If I did, I would have done that already.  And no, I’m not a different being.  I’m the same ‘alien,’ as you would say.”

He took a step forward.

My leg jiggled.  Not willing to be outdone, my hand joined in with its shaking.  “W-Why?  Why—”

Lalo grasped my head until the shaking stopped.  “Marli, I don’t know why I came.  I can’t remember.  The one thing I know, the one thing I feel, is that I have to keep you safe.”

“You don’t know anything?” I said.

“I’m afraid not,” he said.  “And when I say afraid, I mean afraid.  There could be others out there who are planning to attack me or you.  We, my species for a better word, are most likely planning something.  The thing is I don’t know what.  All I remember was one day I would come here and Earth would become home to me as well.”

“You as in you alone?” I asked.

“I…”  He shrugged.

“That would explain the being Kallen saw running around my house last night,” I said.  “The woman he keeps talking about.”

“I saw it too,” Lalo said.  “I think it was a female from my species.  It found nothing, so we are in the clear for now.  I made sure of that.  The one thing I do know is that I need to find out what happened.”

“Why don’t you start with last night?” I said.  “It seemed like your meteor chased me.”

“It’s possible,” he said.  “I am linked to you in a way.”

“What do you mean?”

Lalo smiled.  “It’s the reason why I can feel when you’re upset, know where you are, sometimes hear what you’re thinking.”

“You can do this to everyone?  All of your species can?”

“No and no.  Only a few were born like me.  I do remember that so at least the amnesia hasn’t entirely destroyed my ability to recall information.  Hopefully it’s temporary.  Anyway, our few can link with certain human individuals.  We are connected on the same wavelength, as you might say.  It’s determined by your DNA.”

Lalo paused to lead me to sit on the couch.  Sitting close by, he faced me.  “It’s the reason I had to find you first—you are like a key to my power.” 

Lalo’s words began to pour out as if they were being revealed to him as he spoke.  “Power that could be used.  If all of us found the keys to our power.  But why would a human matter?  Keep talking Marli.  It helps me remember.”

“If you can connect with humans, can you connect, in the same way, with others of your species?”

“No,” Lalo said.  “But some humans can connect with more than one of us.”

“What if that…”  I struggled to find a word.  What would I call him without offending him?

“Don’t waste your time worrying about making me angry,” Lalo said.  “It’s unclear how much time we have to throw away.  I might be bad luck.  Something bad might happen because I’m here.”

“What if an individual—” I said.

“Just say alien,” Lalo said.

“Okay.  What if an alien could connect with high level human officials?” I said.  “And intend to do evil things like take over our country or planet?”

I couldn’t help but revert to the alien invasion idea.

“This question isn’t helping me recall anything, so my answer is it could happen.”

“And why is your demeanor different now Lalo?” I continued.  “Yesterday you were like a child.”

“By learning how to speak,” Lalo said, “well, most likely by remembering how to speak your language, my thoughts and memories were exercised and awakened. 

“Yesterday, I didn’t know what you were capable of either.  Young earthling species tended to be cute and harmless, as far as I could remember, so I played that hand.  I pretended to be young, and when I saw that it worked, I continued the behavior. 

“I was a little confused too because I also felt our connection at times.  And you were uneasy, especially when I went into your room.  I didn’t want to scare you.  So being a child helped in that way as well.”

“That makes sense,” I said.  “So can people, I mean aliens like you, disappear?” I asked.

“As far as I can remember I’m the only one,” he said.

Oh no.  What if he was escaped his home to come to Earth to hide?  What if they were in the middle of a war?  Or what if the leaders simply wanted to murder him because he was different; his power outmaneuvered theirs.

“It’s all possible,” Lalo said.

I flinched.  Getting accustomed to the mind reading was going to take some time.

“We have to get Kallen’s help,” I said.

“No!”  Lalo’s eyes alternated to some sort of fierce, warrior mode.  “I don’t trust him.” 

“Okay,” I said.  My voice was barely above a whisper.

“He will not know anything about me,” Lalo said.

“He won’t,” I said and tensed up.

“I’m sorry,” Lalo said and relaxed his eyes.  He placed his hand on my thigh.  “My instincts tell me not to trust him because he knows something.  He’s lying to you about some—” Lalo grabbed my remote and switched on the TV but instead of watching it, whipped his head to watch the door.

I wanted to speak, but didn’t.  My mouth was open for a while before I tried to see what Lalo was staring at.

About five minutes later the threat was over when Lalo said, “How about we relax?”

I nodded and listened to the TV.  The news reporters further about the missing people in the city.  Lalo’s relaxation period lasted all of a few seconds.  He clutched his fist as he focused in on the story.

By the way Lalo was on guard for the rest of the night I could tell that we were not safe.  I wanted to know what was going on but figured it was best that I didn’t know.  I had no extra information to accidently give out.  If I happened to find myself in the company of trouble, I could possibly slip away because I would think everything was fine.  But what if trouble could also read my mind?  What if trouble had a connection to me?

Chapter 4

The next morning, Lalo assured me that he wasn’t going anywhere and that I was actually better off because he would be there to protect my home.  He gave me a hug on my way to the front door because, “That’s what some humans do.”  I laughed as I left, making sure I locked the door.

As I rounded the corner of my house, I imagined Kallen scaring me.  Again, the self-frightening thing.  Kallen had called me a few more times to make sure I was “feeling better.” I was sure those calls provoked my behavior.  I didn’t doubt he had concerns about my health and the scary woman.  There were just other reasons he called too.  The reasons I didn’t know about. 

Kallen was the first person Dr. Stevenson introduced me to when I moved out to Millsee.  Kallen agreed to show me around town and watch out for me.  He certainly did keep that promise.

The roaring of Kallen’s truck got louder as he traveled a few seconds from his driveway to mine, breaking me from my thoughts.  He slowed down as he pulled up my driveway and opened the passenger door.

“Figured I’d give you a ride to work since you had those headaches yesterday and all,” Kallen said.  “You can call anytime you finish.  I’ll pick you up.”

“But I have to go to the store later,” I said.  “I’ll drive.  I’m fine.”

“I insist,” Kallen said, raising his eyebrows.

[_Did Kallen have something to hide behind that look?  Did he know true things about aliens and had to hide it so people wouldn’t think he was insane?  Maybe he knew the woman.  _]

It probably would be best, for Lalo’s sake, to find out everything Kallen knew.  Would he be on our side or become our greatest enemy?

Repeating over and over in my mind as I got in the car were Lalo’s words, “I don’t trust him.”  To agitate things, a force fought against me as I closed the truck door too.  But I met Lalo less than two days ago.  I trusted Kallen.  Kallen wouldn’t do anything to me.  Would he?

—-

That day my job consisted of inspecting one of the lakes, Lake Lakada.  Kallen hung around, talking to everyone while my team waited for the rest of our members to arrive.  My other colleagues updated me on what they found during the previous day.  The fish and insects were migrating at their own pace.  They also followed our mysterious northern route.  The same route that the first set of migrating animals took.  This was, in fact, the exact problem that gave me my job. 

The land animals and insects’ behavior first caught the scientists’ eyes.  Some of the animals and insects, who roamed the area for decades, headed towards major cities.  Then the other insects and animals that stayed behind started avoiding certain places.  It took a little while to notice because the behaviors changed gradually.  It was like they tried to make sure no one would figure it out on purpose.  This was a very strange realization.  And on top of that all of the animals, land and water, were leaving in the same direction.  The migrating animals were also too early for their departure. 

That day Dr. Stevenson became something we never saw before, nervous.

“I’ve called in people, more experts,” Dr. Stevenson said during our morning meeting.  “Maybe they can see what we aren’t.  I also talked to other scientists across the U.S.  They haven’t seen these types of changes or noticed any abnormal climate or weather differences.  People in South and West Texas haven’t seen unusual things either.  Does anyone have a theory about why this is happening?  Let’s hash this out.”

“We already mentioned climate change,” Ashley, an ecologist, said.

“With the effects due to global warming,” Myoko said.

“And we found the climate hasn’t changed,” Tyree, a climatologist, said.  “In fact, there is no significant difference from last year or the prior five.”

“But could it be due to longer than normal days and shorter nights?” Ashley said.  “Ignoring the climate aspect, what about considering daylight only?”

“Would moving north help them though?” Laksha asked.  “They should be going south.”

“True,” Ashley said.

“I think we also have to keep in mind that this was a sudden change,” I said.  “What suddenly changed for them?”

“The food supply hasn’t dwindled,” Ren said.  “There is no increase in predators.”

“Yes,” Dr. Stevenson said.  “Then what is it?”

“A different type of predator?” Kallen threw in.  “Or an old one that has altered its ways.”

“One study did show that certain animals will put themselves in danger with predators to avoid humans,” I said.  “But barely anyone lives out here.”

“And to my knowledge there hasn’t been a drastic increase in humans,” Dr. Stevenson said.  “You’re looking at all of the new people of this town.”

“No new animals have been found dead,” Ren said.  “No remnants of any either.”

“Let’s do this,” Dr. Stevenson said.  “We will all meet with the new specialists…”  He continued on, speaking about how some new people would be joining us, and we were to divide to make sure we weren’t missing any information. 

I continued to listen to the plan but couldn’t help to be suspicious of Kallen.  During the ride over to Lake Lakada, I wondered if there was another reason Kallen was adamant about carrying me.  He personally knew almost everyone already.  Showing up wouldn’t be strange.  But why show up? 

All of a sudden it became clear.  Kallen was nervous about being safe, he had his alien ideas, and he actually saw an alien.  Weird things were happening with the animals.  Kallen was on the prowl for something out of the ordinary.  The facial expressions he gave during the meeting made me feel like he knew more about what was going on than us.  He could have volunteered to give us the information, but didn’t.

It was possible this whole being suspicious thing wasn’t entirely about Lalo.  It could have been about an attack that was about to occur.  Soon, more aliens would come down from the sky, if they haven’t already.  Perhaps Kallen had the connections and power to stop a large alien invasion.  After all, he did work from home doing some sort of consultant writing.  He gave me the impression that he was the boss by canceling his once a month meeting.  All the more reason to think that writing wasn’t his real job.  He had to be working for the CIA or some similar type of organization.

“Marli,” Kallen said, pulling me off to the side after the meeting was over.

“I know,” I said.  “Be careful.”

“It’s very important,” he said.

“Kallen, what are you not saying?  What’s going on? Who are you?” I whispered.

Kallen’s eyes scanned mine.  “There are some things I need to tell you,” he said and glanced over to the team who was getting things ready to put on the boats.  “But not here.  Like I said, things are changing.  Things will get worse.  Even more so for your team if their theories become aligned with mine.”

“Your theories?  Care to share?”

“There are spies everywhere.  Don’t trust anyone.”

“You included?” I asked.

“Here.”  Kallen rustled around in his pockets and pulled out a compact walkie-talkie two way radio and gave it to me.  “Keep this on you at all times.  Cell phones can break down—on purpose.  Do you understand?”

“Yes,” I said and slid the device into a pocket.  “You sure aren’t being slick.”

“I want the attention,” Kallen said.  “See you later.”  Kallen strolled back across the camp site and tapped Dr. Stevenson on the shoulder then said goodbye to everyone and left.  I rejoined the group to help prepare the boats for our trip down the lake.

“Looks like you have another father,” Ashley said.

I chuckled.  “I basically do.”

Three hours of relatively tame, hot and humid weather, coasting on murky water, was all it took to find out the fish and other insects we were tracking continued north.  Some crossed areas they avoided in the past.  Most of my team was worried about the safety of each species.  I began to worry that it was our species we should be concerned with.  The fish, insects, and animals were all telling us to run.

Chapter 5

Taking the walkie-talkie out of my pocket was a relief.  I didn’t even use it.  My phone worked just fine.  I rotated the device in my hand.  Although it had normal characteristics, I questioned if it doubled as a tracking instrument or monitor.  If Kallen was interested in spying on us…

I set my sight out to the tall trees that framed the lake.  Why would Kallen want to spy if Dr. Stevenson was his friend?  Or was he really Kallen’s friend?  With the arrival of Lalo I began to question everything.

Was the idea for this team all planned?  Was I a specific person chosen?  Were we all brought there on purpose?  This is exactly the recipe for going insane, I reminded myself.

“What are you thinking about?” Ren asked as he moved some jet black strands of hair away of his face, tucking them behind his ear.  He must have noticed I was drifting away when he and Ashley had nothing else to talk about.  Ashley’s squinting eyes examined me too.

“Home,” I said.

“Hmm,” Ashley said and got up to crank the motor. 

[_What did she mean by that?  What was it about?  _]

When we made it back to our meeting site, Kallen was there waiting.  Dr. Stevenson most likely informed him we were on our way back.  Kallen at least benefited from one of our problems that day.  The mosquitoes had already fled too.

During the brief meeting we had prior to leaving for the day, I made an effort to secretly check everyone out.  No one was acting out of the ordinary.  If they were spies, they played their role well.

—-

Through the trees, in the parking area, a large, black tarp stood out.  It covered the bed of Kallen’s truck.  The same bed that was empty when Kallen dropped me off that morning.  Getting closer, I noticed fresh mud covering the jet black coating of the truck.  Adding to the oddities, a wonderful rose potpourri scent filled my nose as I climbed in.  Who rode with Kallen during the day?  Or what was he hiding? 

Kallen started the truck without speaking a word.  I remained quiet, waiting for him to determine the safe zone.

“Anything unusual?” he said as we entered the highway.

“Other than your warning this morning?” I said.

“So your fish continued their path,” he said.  “And you still haven’t figured out why they are leaving?”

“Kallen, what do you want to say?” I said.

His eyes remained locked on the road.

“Kallen, you took me from my home, told me there were spies, and now,” I said and motioned to the rear, “you have something back there.  This truck also smells like flowers or a woman.  You don’t get to be silent now.  You chose to let me know what’s going on.  So what is it?”

He exhaled and gripped a chunk of his jet black hair and slid his hand down half its length.  He released his hair, allowing it to fall back to his waist.

“I don’t want to put you in danger by telling you, but if I don’t, you could be worse off.  I am here for a reason Marli.  One of my jobs is to protect you.  I also have to find the spies.  Failing to identify them all could put us in a horrible position.”

“And,” I said.

“Things are not what they seem.  Everything can tell a truth but depending on how you see it, from your viewpoint, information—people—can be misread.  Like the disappearance of the homeless people.”

“You’re saying they have something to do with you?”

“Us.  Actually all of us.  We think there is also a connection to the spies.  We’re not sure.  It could be something unconnected but—”

“We?” I said.

“Not for me to discuss.  I tell you this Marli because I don’t want you to be going out alone at night or to some secluded place.”

“So this is what the ‘protecting me’ part was about?” I asked.

Kallen nodded.

“You have a gift,” Kallen said, “one that must be protected.  I will not say anymore.  I need you to behave as normal as possible.”

Could this gift be the same as the one Lalo discussed?

“I will,” I said.

“And if you see something out of the ordinary,” he said.

“I’ll tell you.”

“Thank you Marli.”  Kallen glanced over to me and smiled.  “I know you think I’m a little bit psychotic, especially with the alien stories and interests.”

“You know that’s what I thought this was about.  Your alien obsession.”

“Well, parts of it may be true.  They could be coming again.”  Kallen raised his eyebrows as he peeked at me.

“Ah huh,” I said, nodding.  Good, he didn’t know about Lalo.

“I’ll tell you what.  When this is all over, I’ll take you out for a drink.”

“A drink?” I said.  “That’s all I get?  What about the steak dinner?”

The rumble of Kallen’s laughter filled the cab.  Then out of nowhere, he got serious.  “Marli, I hate to sound so glum, but you’ll be happy to have just that.”

I bit my lip and leaned back in my seat.  He wasn’t kidding.  I wished I would have woken up and took off with the animals months ago.  Escape the impending disaster.

“Remember to be calm.  Normal,” he said.

Chapter 6

Calm!!  Normal!!  These words kept going through my head as Kallen and I entered the supermarket.  It was my favorite place to take a day trip, being that it was one of the places I actually saw more than ten people at a time.  That day, however, it became a source of anxiety.

I had to tell myself to breathe a couple of times.  Kallen asked me what I wanted to buy.  My list kept rotating; I was sure that I forgot what I originally planned.  Why did Kallen have to scare me like that?  I kind of wished he would have left me to unknowingly go through the rest of my life.  I wouldn’t have been the crazy lady in the store.

Maybe it was a test.  To prepare me to learn how to act “normal.”  A way of scattering my brain so I would tell him everything I knew about Lalo.

I finally eased my mind by focusing on Kallen.  He was suspicious of someone.  Apparently it was me because he started making jokes about buying so much food.  It was so I wouldn’t have to “go alone,” I told him.

“Alright.  Good enough for me,” Kallen said and backed off the issue.

Although the situation was a bit daunting, especially since I didn’t know all of the details, it was great to hang out more with Kallen.  We had become friends during my stay in Millsee, what little month of it I had.  But we weren’t even friends that long.  He was gone most of the time during the previous week.

Around 4 p.m. Kallen dropped me off at my house.  My job, most of the time, allowed us to finish earlier during the day.  That also meant we began way too early in the morning.

Once inside, I expected to have to probe for Lalo again, but he was sitting on the couch, watching the news.  [_How did he know Kallen wasn’t coming in?  _]After putting up the groceries, a yawn initiated my teary eyes.  I shuffled to the couch where my brain told me to go to sleep.

Fluttering my eyelids to fight the darkness, I tried to face Lalo to ask what he did that day.  He smiled and said, “Go to sleep Marli.”  With that I was out.

—-

I was underground, or above it, in some dark, stone building.  The sound of the city wasn’t too far away.  For a moment, sirens passed by.  I tip-toed down the long hall.  In advance of reaching an opening, I heard voices.  I froze.  I checked behind me to see that I was alone then peeked around the stone wall.

“We have to find him!”  A tall, extremely strong, warrior type of man said.  Never had I ever seen someone that couldn’t pull off a pair of regular jeans.  They were too normal for him.  Too informal.  His muscles bulged up under a black tee, adding to the unfitting outfit.  I missed some of the conversation due to my impression of the actual man.  But something wasn’t right.  A chill twisted through my body.  This place wasn’t safe for me.  “Before he becomes lost,” the man continued.  “Like the others.”

“I know he is part of the plan, but why?” another warrior guy said.  “We are as strong as him.  Is it really that important to waste so much time?  He’s not of the highest blood.”

“It is not for me to discuss with you,” the tall man said.  “They are orders.”

“All of these millions of people and you expect to find him,” the second man said and huffed.

“With the signs he will know,” the tall man said.  “Do you feel that?”

“Feel what?” the second man said.

“There’s no way.  He couldn’t have.  Unless they—”

The second man wore a puzzling expression.

“A human,” the tall man said.  “A human knows of us.  They are listening.”

He surveyed the room.  As he was about to see me I gasped, and my eyes opened then shut down from the light in my living room.  The news was on again.  The reporters were a broken record, back on the topic of the missing homeless people.

“Marli,” I heard Lalo say.  He rubbed my shoulders.

I panted as I struggled to calm down from my dream.  I didn’t think it meant anything specific to Lalo, but it was scary.

“Bad dream?” he asked.

“Yes.”  A laugh escaped my mouth.  “It was a conversation.  Some men were nervous that a human was listening, and I was the human.”

Lalo took too much time to think about the dream as he lie back into the couch.  “Tell me more,” he said.  Lucky for him I remembered it exactly.  Most dreams I forgot.  Some, I remembered the subject.  It was rare for me to remember the scenes.  Remembering the word for word conversation was a miracle.  It was like the thing downloaded and stored itself in my brain for future reference.

Lalo’s concern became clear when he made me detail the description of the two guys.  He said he didn’t remember anyone like them.

“So you think this has something to do with you?” I asked.

“I need to find out,” Lalo said and changed the subject.  “So I’ve been watching the news, and this story, all day.  I don’t know exactly why, but the fact that these people who don’t have a home are vanishing… My memory is fighting to come back, but it can’t.” 

He refocused on the news show.  The camera panned away from the reporter and revealed part of the scene behind her.

“There!” Lalo said and stopped the live broadcast.  He rewound the newscast and played it again.  Paused it.  He sprung to the TV, pointing out a detail.  I pushed myself off the couch to have a closer look.  Under his finger was a rock.  This rock was different from the others that surrounded it.  The rock was almost like glass.  It was a familiar purple color, in spots.  I inhaled and Lalo nodded.

“We have to go there, now,” Lalo said.

“No!” I said.  “We’re not going there.  That’s all the way in the city, an hour away.”

And Kallen told me to be cautious; stay at home.

“We have to,” Lalo said.  “It’s a clue.  I think going to the scene can help me remember.  What if something bad is going to happen?  We need to find out before there is nowhere to run.  And besides, I need some clothes.”

He was right.  He did need some clothes.  I couldn’t expect him to wear the same thing every day. It would make him stick out and draw attention if I ever let him go outside.

“You’re lucky there are no stores around here,” I said.  “But we have to be alert.  Police are most likely continuing to patrol the area.  We will become suspects if they see us fishing around for something.”

“So, we’ll get the clothes first.  Then go late in the night.  Or we can go in the morning.”

I sighed.  “So much for sleep tonight.”

“I’ll drive back.”

“No you won’t!” I said.

Lalo closed his eyes, and chuckled.  “Marli, I flew my spaceship down from outer space, and you think I can’t drive?”

“It wasn’t a spaceship.  It was a meteor.”

“No, it was a spaceship disguised as a meteor.”

“All of you have these things?  These spaceships designed as meteors.” I said.

“A few,” he said.

“A few,” I said.  I ran to my computer.  Lalo joined me.  My fingers reached maximum speed as I searched for recent meteors seen and meteorites found.  The last large one seen was about three months prior.  It landed overseas.

“What are you thinking?” Lalo said.

“What if,” I said, “if a whole lot more of your species is coming? Or came?”

“This terrifies you?” he asked.

I hesitated.

“Be honest,” he said.

“The truth is we don’t know what you are capable of,” I said.  “And why would you come undetected?  Is it to harm us?”

“I see.  That’s why I frighten you.  You assume the unknown to be dangerous despite of the fact that I’ve proved you wrong.”

“I have to be cautious,” I said.  “Lalo, you have to understand.  I think a lot of people would also be cautious, or even worse, violent, in my position.  They would call the police, who would contact the government, who could possibly lock you away forever.  You wouldn’t have any freedom.  And who knows what they would do to you?  Run tests, do surgeries, give you diseases and see if you could cure them, make you work for them to further technology, or our society.  You’re what we call an alien.  As far as I know you haven’t been proven to exist.  I have to ask why you came.

“So you should be cautious too,” I continued.  “Of us.”

“Alright.  Yet another reason to find out why I’m here, and if there are others, pronto.”

“Yeah,” I said.  “And I need to make up some sort of story for you in case anyone finds out about you.  You are an ex-boyfriend or something.”

“It’s funny you said ex instead of a friend from childhood,” Lalo said.  “This should be fun.”  His grin was so large, he reminded me of The Grinch from How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

“Whatever,” I said and grabbed my bag and keys.  I snuck Lalo outside.  Thankfully, I didn’t see Kallen’s truck sitting at his house.  He must have left to visit his cousin.

Chapter 7

Shopping with Lalo was interesting.  I bit my tongue, trying to hold back my laughter.  He wondered why all of the shirts made from the same type of fabric were a wide range in price.  A few shirt designs caught his attention, and he spent some time deciphering the meaning.  I stopped him after a few minutes, telling him the simple artwork didn’t mean anything.  He was so out of his element that I asked him if they wore clothes on his planet.

“The Masqysava, we wear clothes, but we don’t have as much variety,” Lalo said.  “The first time I saw so many…”  Lalo returned to the shirts with the artwork and grabbed three different shirts.  He put one on the end of the rack and held the other two next to it.

A sign due to the combination of shirts?  Was that even possible?  And the name, Masqysava.  Masqysava equals Humans as in a type of being or Masqysava equals a type of alien species?

Lalo stared at his display for a little while then pivoted around to me.

“Do the patterns mean anything?” I asked.

“That would be cool wouldn’t it?  But no, we studied this,” Lalo said and held up the shirts.

So these designers were aliens too?

“Clothes,” he said.  “In a class when I was young.”  One of the customers caught Lalo’s eye.

“What is it?” I asked as I got a good look the man who grabbed Lalo’s attention.  I didn’t know him.

“That person is familiar to me, but.  Anyway, I remembered asking why we didn’t have so many choices.  We studied your clothes, but why?”

Lalo refocused his attention to me.

“To determine the personality of humans you came into contact with?” I said.  “Find out who likes fashion, follows or sets their own trends, likes comfort over style, has money?”

“To know your culture,” Lalo said, not sure of his answer.  “In case we came into contact with you.”

“Or in case you moved here.  To know how to fit in.”

“Or to target,” Lalo said.  “Target a specific section of your population to make peace, or attack.”

“Woah,” I said.

“Yeah.  We better get moving.”

—-

Jeans, T-shirts, and a few casual shirts was what Lalo ended up with.  He said they would be easier to move around in.  I asked him if he wanted a jacket in case the air conditioning in places got too cold.  He said he didn’t get too cold or too hot.

Lalo was again in awe at the shoe store.  Hundreds of shoe designs lined the floors, which meant hundreds of shoes for him to play with.  At one point, I stopped him to remind him of my price range and budget.  I laughed to myself about having to stop him.  He was so happy in there.

Even I became glad we went to a shoe warehouse where we helped ourselves to find the perfect fit.  Memories of childhood returned when I knelt down to the floor and slid the cold metal device under Lalo’s foot to figure out his shoe size.  As my mother did with me, I pressed down at the end of the shoes Lalo put on to make sure he had enough toe space.  I stuck to approving stable shoes, and I made him walk a little bit down the aisle to make sure they were comfortable.

My mom.  My parents.  They too would be affected if something sour was about to go down.  And I was taking care of someone who could help figure out a way to stop it.  By the looks of it, getting aliens addicted to shopping was a viable solution to thwart an alien invasion.  All we would have to do is lure them to the mall.

I glanced outside of the giant picture windows at the front of the store.  The sun was almost gone, and the sky would be extremely dark within the hour.  Our plan was to go at night, but the idea of going at night bothered me.

The site of the disappearance wasn’t in a safe part of town.  At night violence rose.  I nudged Lalo and told him we could finish shopping later.  He made his decision, running shoes of course, and we headed toward the crime scene.  Lalo exchanged the flip flops he was wearing for the shoes during the drive over there.

“Lalo, we can’t get out,” I said.  “We are going to have to drive by.  I don’t want to get on the suspect list.  The police are probably patrolling the place.”

“What about you drop me off,” he said.  “I can go undetected.”

“But if I’m constantly driving around, they will know that I am up to no good.”

“Fine,” he said and gazed out the window.

As we approached the area, the night took over the cotton candied sky.  A black bird flew down to the gravel.  The two steps it took delivered enough information, telling it to get out of there.  Other than grass and weeds I saw no other sign of life.  I slowed down and drove under part of the bridge next to where the disappearance took place.

“I don’t see any cameras and there is a parking lot over there,” Lalo said.

“What about finding clues nearby?” I said.  “Like the coffee shop that isn’t too far from here.”

“No!  We get out,” Lalo said.

“But—” I said.

“But nothing!  I will protect you!” he said.

“Don’t cut me off!” I said.  Who did he think he was?  “And you don’t even know what’s out there!”

Marli,” he said with a stern voice.  “Please.  I have to find out.”

I huffed and drove a little further to make a U-Turn to get to the parking lot.  No, don’t go my gut said when I parked.  Three streetlights lined the bridge.  They were dim, beginning to wake up.  To add to the creepy scene, the living area under the bridge wasn’t one large area.  It was divided into sections, made from arches of the cement that supported the bridge.

Lalo reached for the door, and I grabbed his arm.  “Five minutes,” I said.  “No more than that.”

“I’ll try for less,” he said.

I stayed in the car, crossing my arms while looking out onto the seedy road and patches of dirt amongst the grass behind me across the street.  I didn’t dare shut off the car in case we had to leave in a hurry.

Lalo startled me when he tried to open my car door.

“Come on,” he said.  “We need to stick together.”

I got out and rushed him to the crime scene, the area across the street, under the bridge.  I also kept an eye on my car.  We would have to run at least a minute to get back to it.

I didn’t like how I kept getting chills, thinking that the scene was a trap.  No one was there but us.  Nothing but the underside of a bridge with a few cars passing over it, grass, and dirt.  Lalo ducked under the yellow tape.

“Hey,” he said, pointing to some graffiti under the bridge.

“That’s graffiti,” I said.

“No,” he said.  “It means something.  I’ve seen it.  I think.”

“Well,” I said and pulled out my phone.  I walked further down the tape to get a clear shot.  I took a few pictures.  I flipped through them and was satisfied with the quality.  I saw that Lalo was watching me.

“I got a good shot,” I said.

“K,” Lalo said and started searching for the rocks he saw on TV.

After roaming around impatiently for a few minutes, I heard something in the grass.  I spun around.  It remained hidden.  I mouthed Lalo’s name.

Keeping my eyes forward, I took careful steps towards Lalo.  A small patch of rocks crunched below my feet, causing me to freeze.  I waved for Lalo to come to me so we could go.  He held up his finger to say “one more minute.”  I vigorously shook my head.  I did not want to wait for what was behind the solid divider.

Memories of the man from my dream flashed across my mind.  My insides tightened.

Please do not be that guy.

The crunching of the grass began again.  I brought quivering my hands up, preparing to fight.  I saw something in the bottom of my eyesight.  A part of the monster?  No, nothing more than a cat peeked around the divider.  When it saw me, it strolled across the grass, maintaining eye contact.  A few feet further away it started trotting.

I relaxed.  A cat.  That’s all it was.  I hoped.

“Hurry up,” I whispered to Lalo.

He glanced around the place then headed to meet me halfway.  To get to Lalo, I began stepping on the area full of rocks.  My ankle adjusted for the uneven surface until I landed on a rock that sent a sharp, piercing sensation to my foot.  My knee jerked up.  I examined the bottom of my shoe.  There was no puncture.  Phew.

“You alright?” Lalo asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

Lalo rushed over and bent down to check my foot.  Placing it aside, he picked up one of the rocks.  He twirled the rock in his hand then moved the top layer of rocks off to the side.

“What’s going on?” I asked as I glanced down, towering over him.

He picked up a couple of small, purple spotted glass rocks.  “Here is our clue.”  He put the rocks in his pocket.

The wind blew, sending more chills through me.  I took that as a message to get out of there.  “Let’s go,” I said.

“Okay,” he said.

I pulled out my car keys and surveyed the area for any upright, standing, living things as Lalo and I trotted back to my car.

Under the hold of my windshield wiper was a flyer, flickering in the wind.  I snatched it.

Out of all places.  They always find you don’t they?

Once we were inside the safety of my car, my fingers couldn’t move faster to lock the doors and turn the key.  I wanted to slam my foot on the pedal and peel out of there, but I escaped at a moderate pace.  I noticed I had maintained a death grip on the flyer, so I put it in the drink holder.

“Look and see if anyone is back there,” I said.  That cat could have been making the noise, but someone else could have been there too, excuse me, something else could have been there too.

Lalo twisted around in his seat.  “I can’t see anyone.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“What about feel?  Can you sense anyone, anything?”

“No.”

“Good.”

I didn’t relax until we were on the highway again, going back to the country.

“Let’s not ever do that again,” I said.

Chapter 8

When we reached my house, I couldn’t get out of the car.  I had to sit there for a while.  Lalo held my hand.

“It’s okay to be scared,” he said and massaged my shoulder.

“It’s just…” I said. “When we were there.  The sight of that tall man flashed across my sight.  I don’t know what is happening to me.”  I met Lalo’s eyes with mine.

“Part of the process is what it is,” Lalo said.  “Marli, you aren’t exclusive to me as far as connecting.  If this is more than a made up dream, you may be connecting with another Masqysava.  We Masqysava can be good and bad like people.  We aren’t all the same.  But I would think we all have the same purpose for being on Earth.  We couldn’t do what we wanted, back at home.  Everyone had to have permission.”

Lalo paused and shifted his eyes towards Kallen’s house.  “We had to have permission… but I don’t think I did.”  He closed his eyes.  “I remember running to my ship.  I hastily got in and left.  I don’t even remember setting the course.  The next thing I saw was you running, and I crashed.”

“Is your planet controlled by rulers or a family?” I asked.

“I don’t know.  But back to you.”  He reverted his eyes to me.  “If you are connecting with someone else, what you see either happened not too long ago or at current time.  You are safe as long as they don’t know you are there.  I need to teach you to be able to block others.  In case they try to find you.

“Earlier, at least ten years ago, Masqysava found that people like you, ‘connectors,’ existed.  They were so intrigued that they requested a whole group of Masqysava to be sent to Earth to find connectors.  Those Masqysava who left for that mission never returned.”

I perked up.  “That could be why you are here— to either find people like me or find the missing Masqysava!”

“No,” Lalo said.  “From what I can perceive the reason is darker, and it won’t be that simple.”

“So ‘Masqysava,’ is that term similar to people or humans?”

“Yes,” he said.  “We’re from a different planet, similar to Earth.  I lived there all my life and can’t even remember what it’s called.”

Right as I put my hand on Lalo’s shoulder to comfort him, one of the lights in Kallen’s house flipped on.  My heart jumped.  Kallen told me not to go anywhere, especially at night.  If he saw that I was gone, he might snoop around to find out where I went later.  I couldn’t tell him about the visit to the crime site.  That was one of the things that triggered his anxiety about whatever was going on.  I definitely couldn’t tell him about Lalo yet.  He used the term “we” in the truck.  I had to find out whose side he was on.  And find out who made up the sides.

“Lalo, Kallen might be watching,” I said.

“Let him,” he said.  “I wouldn’t mind meeting him.  After all, I am your ex-boyfriend or friend right?”

A corner of my lip curled as I fought to depress a smile.  “Come on,” I said.  “Let’s get your stuff out from your shopping extravaganza.”

“I have to admit it was fun figuring out what I could get on that budget of yours.”

“What?” I said and laughed.  “Why don’t you go out there and make your own money to buy some things.”

“I could set up a company and within three months I’d be a millionaire.  Our technology is actually far more superior to yours.”

“But can you remember how to work that technology though?”

Lalo chuckled.  “Good one.”

I trailed Lalo and closed the door once we got inside the house.  Dropping the shopping bags to my side, I slid up a blind to spy on Kallen.  Less than ten seconds later the light went off.

“Crap!” I said.  “He knows.”  I abandoned the blind, pivoting to Lalo.

Lalo didn’t respond.  He was wrapped up in reading the flyer.

“Lalo,” I said.  “Aren’t you worried about Kallen knowing?  He may hunt you down.”

“No,” Lalo said.  “Like I said, I’m the ex.  We should be more worried about this.”  Lalo handed me the paper.  It was a brochure, advertising a product for car repair.

“Are you saying my car needs help?” I said, laughing.

“Open it.”

I did.  There was a handwritten note taped to the inside.

I don’t know who you are, but a woman (a. psychic) found me and told me to tell you.  I was there.  I saw them take my friends.  My friend and I were on our way back from the shelter to visit with our other friends who stayed under the bridge.  For some reason, we didn’t walk the usual way; we went behind the empty buildings.  Before we got to the corner something told me to grab my friend and tell them to be quiet.

We peaked around the corner of the building.  We saw them!  All ten or so of them!  They were people I’ve never seen.  They were dressed too well to be homeless, in random styles.  All wore hats, covering their eyes.  I searched for the homeless people I knew.  They were on the ground.  They didn’t move.  We didn’t know if they were dead or sleeping.  I hoped they were drugged.  It was better than being dead.

A muscular man spoke to another, who was also tall.  I heard him say something about carrying them (our friends) back to their town.  He also said he can’t wait until they could leave the town.  They had been there too long.  It was too small.  The towns surrounding were too small.  People found out too much information too quickly.  It wasn’t that far from Dallas anyway.  They would have been better off in Dallas, or a suburb of it.  It was easier to hide with a bunch of people.  The tall one reminded the other that they had work to do in their town.

A few minutes later, the strange people were finished loading our friends into black SUVs.  And the thing was they lifted our friends like they were a backpack.  It was too easy for them.  Then they drove away.  We saw them get on the interstate, heading east.  We didn’t tell the police this.  We couldn’t.  The psychic said they have “their people” in the force.  They would probably come and kill us.

Please, find our friends.

I lowered the letter, almost losing it to the ground.  There was nothing I could say.

“We’re east of Dallas?” Lalo said.

“Yes.”

“How many small towns are there?” Lalo said.

“Several,” I said.

“But how many people have access to this?” Lalo asked, raising a piece of the meteorite like “rock” that we found.

“Chances are I work with all of them,” I said.  “That type of meteorite is rare.  It’s a collector’s dream.  If any other person found it, I would think they would either sell it or have it cut to make jewelry.  This rock is untouched.  But what if a Masqysava landed in our area previously and someone, a human, found a rock like this?”

“Search?” Lalo said.

I retrieved my laptop.  No meteorites were found in our area within the last ten years.  Neither were there sightings of meteors that should have landed close by.  And the meteorites found were made of stone, no crystals.  The collectors lived in large cities.

“So that’s a negative,” Lalo said.

“Oh no,” I said.  Why didn’t I think of this before?  “Lalo.”

“What?”

I informed Lalo about Kallen’s alien interest and continued.  “I was over at Kallen’s house once.  He had this collection.  They were random things.  They were normal to me.  I thought nothing of it.  But there were a few small rocks.  He said they were meteorites.  They would be stony meteorites.”

“I told you I didn’t trust him.”

“But he didn’t have anything like that rock,” I said, pointing to our new meteorite.  “I know Kallen pretty well.  He opens up to me.  He would have showed me if he had something like that.”

“You’ve only known him for a month,” Lalo said.

“It’s not him,” I said.  It couldn’t be him.  The Kallen I knew didn’t do that to people.  He was too worried about what went on.  He and his people had to be investigating.

“So it’s not him,” Lalo said.

“There’s something else.  Dr. Stevenson,” I said.  “One day I overheard him and Kallen talking about meteors.  Dr. Stevenson said he was lucky to find some left over from a meteorite shower when he was younger.  That event sparked his interest in science.  Now, he likes following stories about meteor sightings his spare time.”

“A shower,” Lalo said, “or a landing of an alien ship?”

“This is when he was younger,” I said.  “I doubt that he happened to find pieces from an alien ship.  Meteorite showers happen.  Meteors land on Earth every year.”

“And wouldn’t this life changing event make him want to collect meteorites?” Lalo asked.  “He does follow meteor sightings.”

“I’ve been to his house,” I said.  “He had those two pebble sized rocks in a case.  If he had something like your meteorite, it would be on display.”

“Mhum.”

How would Lalo understand?  He didn’t know these people.

“It’s hard to consider it being Dr. Stevenson,” I said.  “He’s a leader in the field.  He has been honored several times over.  What would he want with a bunch of people?”

“Don’t know, so what about your other coworkers?  Does anything stand out?”

I shook my head.  “Other than Ashley up in everyone’s business and Ren, who takes trips every once in a while to Dallas to visit his brother’s family, no.”

“It’s back to the letter then,” Lalo said.

“Wait,” I said.  “How do we really know it’s true?  How can we trust this letter?”

“It did come exactly at the time we were there,” Lalo said. “And—”

I cut him off.  “What if they, the people who did this, are setting us up?”

“They’re not.  Look at the letter again.  It doesn’t say ‘a psychic.’  It says ‘a. psychic.’  Why is there a period there?”

“A clue?” I asked.

“Yes, and it is a clue that helps me to remember.  When I was young, I used to play with another Masqysava named Naya.  She had an aunt who knew about things, more than normal things.  That aunt, whose name is Aquasa, became an aunt to me too.  She told me to keep my abilities hidden.  I didn’t listen.

“Anyway, I was ten when she told her family and me that she was leaving when the time came.  We should too.  When the voyages to Earth were open to regular Masqysava, non-scientists nor officials, she left.  She also became one who never returned from Earth.”

“So how do you know it is her?”

“It’s her handwriting.  And you can’t see this, but there is a pattern in how this is written. It should give us a number or letters.”

Swirling my finger on my laptop pad, I prepared to investigate while Lalo deciphered the message.  He came up with a combination of letters and numbers.  There was also a place.  Lalo said she always took him, and other Masqysava, there when he was young.  It had a special meaning.

With the clues, it took less than a second to find her online.  I made the call and put her on speakerphone.

“Hello,” an older woman said.

“Yes, I’m—”

“I was expecting you two,” she said.  “No names or details are necessary.”

“Is it true?” I said.  “How can we know it’s true?”

“Yes,” she said.  “You must help them.”

“Where do we begin?  Are we correct in assuming it’s someone I know?”

“Though I can see things,” she said, “I don’t see all things.  From the description I received, the captors could have been mixed company, or it could have been nothing but us ‘others.’  I had a vision of this happening.  Two people, friends of the victims, would see the crime.  I found the two and convinced them to tell their story.  They were too terrified to write it.  I did, but the vision said they had to deliver this message to you.  How did I know you would be there at that exact time my dear?  How did I know you would be able to understand the second story in the message?  Likkatta, you may not remember much now, but it will come back.  Certain medicinal beings know how to hide poisons.”

“The highest one,” Lalo said.

“But if he planned to get rid of you, why would the highest waste time?” she said.

“Another enemy,” Lalo said.

“Not quite enemy.  Not quite friend.  They spared your life, but wanted you to forget.  I can see the energy from the being.  If I knew the face….  I’m glad you chose to ignore.  Your spirit will guide you.  You will need other’s help.  This is all I have, other than my dreams.  Dreams I wish were true.  I see you two, Marli and Likkatta, and me.  And we are all free.”

Aquasa hung up.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the phone.  “Likkatta?” I said.

“My nickname,” Lalo said.  “It means little one.”

“She knew we would call,” I said, shocked that a psychic knew so much.  I doubted they possessed actual talent.  People sought futures as entertainment.  Then again, although I accepted the fact that aliens could exist, I didn’t think I’d actually know one.

“How am I going to be normal at work?” I said.

“The best thing to do is to forget about this,” Lalo said, taking the phone from my hand.

“You are going to forget that someone tried to erase your memory?” I said.

“I will address that when the time comes.  But for now, forget this information and the letter.  Build a wall around it.  Your coworkers, they haven’t been violent with you yet.  They may progress once they find out you’re onto them.”

I nodded.  I would have to forget to be able to work with them.  This letter wasn’t real.  Aquasa wasn’t real.  It was a dream.  It was a coincidence that one of the people involved in the kidnapping was a tall and very strong man.  And a coincidence that Aquasa, a psychic Masqysava, sent us the witnesses.  It was definitively all a dream.

Chapter 9

The next morning I was expecting Kallen to come knocking on my door, but he never showed.  Too bad.  I spent all morning thinking about “happier” things like deciding if Lalo was going to be my friend or ex.  I kept glancing at Lalo as I travelled in and out my room to get ready. 

It would have been strange if I said ex.  We would most likely run into having to explain something.  Then again, it could explain his need to keep track of me while I slept.  Even though Lalo let go of holding onto my clothing, he still slept on the other side of my queen sized bed.  He could protect me from there.  That was our agreement.

Remaining in my cheerful mood, I eased outside to go to work.  Across the field from my house, Kallen’s truck was already gone.  How odd.  It was the first time he left before me that I could remember.  I double checked the door lock and saw Lalo staring at me through the window.

“Don’t go anywhere,” I said.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said and shut the blinds.

“I’m serious,” I said.  Though we didn’t see anyone at the crime site, I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone saw us.  And by our deduction they lived in our town.  I took a deep breath and fixed my demeanor to “normal” as I left for the lake.

Marli, it will be okay.

—-

Three new faces, one woman and two men, were present at our morning meeting, the three team members that Dr. Stevenson called in.  I usually wasn’t good at remembering names, but I remembered Marcus.  He was a few inches taller than the other new guy and about the same height as Dr. Stevenson.  And Marcus was fit.  But that’s not why I remembered him.

Marcus repeated everyone’s name as he shook their hands, going around our circle.  When he got to me he said part of my name then said, “Nice to meet you,” allowing his hand to linger a little longer.  Ren, who stood across from me, squinted as if something strange was going on.  To add to the list, I saw Dr. Stevenson observe us out of the corner of his eye.  I gave Marcus the best smile I could.

As my team began setting up the boats, Ren came to visit me.  He strolled, pulling down his sleeve to cover red streaks that decorated his forearm.  He must have forgotten about them.  Fresh streaks, hmm.

“What happened to your arm?” I asked.

“Oh, I went to visit my brother’s family yesterday,” Ren said.  “They live about an hour away, in the city.  Their cat was being ridiculous.  I picked it up, to move it, and then I accidently scratched my arm.”

“Your own arm?” I said.

“Yeah, it hurts.  I put some ointment on it last night.  Hey Marli, I came to say if that guy Marcus gives you any trouble, let me know.”

“I will,” I said.  “I’m glad I wasn’t alone in thinking something bizarre occurred.”

“Those guys and woman, they’re at the top of the field.  It still doesn’t mean what he says goes.”

“Agreed.  Hey, have you seen Kallen?” I asked.

“No,” he said.  “That dude.  He was over at my house about a week ago talking about aliens again.  He visited the day those homeless people went missing too.  Kept saying to be careful of who I talk to, stuff like that.  You know we are the only people besides his family who know about that right?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Doesn’t Dr. Stevenson know too?”

“A little.  Poor Kallen.  I think he really believes it’s all true.”

But what if he knew the truth?  Could I trust Ren like Kallen trusted him?  Or was Kallen testing us because he knew what was really coming?  And was Ren a spy?

I nodded.  “I’m concerned about Kallen.  He was gone this morning.  He’s not usually gone.”

Ren shook his head.  “The last time he acted strange another invasion story followed.  I hope he is okay and not getting mixed up with trouble.”

“Me too,” I said.  “Can you call me if you hear from him?  I called his cell.  He didn’t pick up.”

“Sure,” Ren said.

“Okay, Okay!” Dr. Stevenson said.  “Let’s get to work!”

Ashley and I loaded our boat with supplies and took it out onto the lake to find our markers.  Ren didn’t come with us; he was assigned to work with the new people instead.  As soon as Ashley and I were a far enough distance from others, Ashley asked me about the new guy, Marcus.

“So, do you know him?” Ashley asked.

“No,” I said.

“He sure did want to get to know you.  Something else was off about him, don’t you think?”

I wasn’t sure if I should trust opening up to Ashley.  We usually made polite conversation, but I never got to know her that intimately.  I kept Kallen’s advice of being careful in the back of my mind.  She could be a spy.  But what if she was one of the good guys?

“There was,” I said.  “I think it’s one of those things you can’t point to specifically, but you can sense something is different.”

“His smile gave me an eerie sensation,” Ashley said.  “I think we should stick together when we are around him.  Especially since we are women.”

“I agree.  Hey, what are the other scientists’ names again?”

“The woman is Sahar and the guy, Alessandro,” Ashley said.  “You know I’m surprised Kallen didn’t show up.  Have you seen him?”

“He didn’t come by this morning, but I’m sure he’s around.”

“Hmm.  I asked because you know he likes the alien things.  I think there will be a meteor shower soon.  If you see him, can you tell him?”

“Yes, but how do you know?” I said.  “That there will be a meteor shower?”

“My mother.  She used to predict futures, and now I’m afraid the skill has been passed down to me.  I don’t see a lot of things, only a few per year.  That’s why I don’t think Kallen is crazy when he suggests that other beings exist.  I think he jokes about it to hide the truth.  I think he really believes in it.”

“It’s possible,” I said.

“Has he talked to you about it?  About an alien experience?”

“No.  Not more than anyone else.”  I lied.  Even before the strange woman showed up in my yard, he was so drunk once that he admitted to Ren and me that he had spoken to aliens.  They got along with him.  They were coming for Earth.  Ren also told me that Kallen warned him to be wary of strange people aka aliens a long time ago.  We basically thought it was due to his interest in extraterrestrial things.  Why did I completely forget about that story until now?  I don’t think those aliens could be related to Lalo though.  Could they?

“The aliens could be out there,” Ashley said.  “Just because it isn’t scientifically proven yet doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”

“True,” I said.

“If I were one, I’d be hiding.  Wouldn’t you?”

“I wouldn’t let my presence be known if that’s what you are saying.  Not necessarily physically hiding.”

“Exactly,” she said.

What did she mean by “exactly?”  She was trying to tell me something?  I hoped she wasn’t nudging me for information on Lalo too.

“Well,” Ashley said, finally changing the subject.  I guess she saw she wasn’t going to get anything out of me.  “What do you think about the possibility of a new predator?  The one that Kallen was hinting at.”

I thought she was letting it go, but no.  I wouldn’t have imagined that Ashley was the spy.  She was so into her work.  I didn’t think she had time for extra nonsense outside of knowing everyone’s dirt.  All the other times she asked me about my life, I chalked it up to her nosiness.

“In this situation I don’t think one would rise up,” I said.  “Out of all the days we’ve been out here, we would have found it already.  I think the new predator he was hinting at is us.  Humans.”

“Interesting,” she said.  “You said that the other day but no one took it as serious as they should have.”

We went on to find our markers and collect data.  Nothing we uncovered was different from the prior days other than a more stubborn species of fish that finally traveled north.

“I can’t wait to hear what the new people think,” Ashley said.

“I can’t—”

I was transported back to the long, dark hallways.  I heard the two men’s voices again and peered into the hall to see them.  I focused on seeing their faces.  I couldn’t make out their features.  They wore long sleeved outfits, so I couldn’t see their skin.  The color of their faces, one sunburned and one golden in color, had switched with each other.  What I was seeing wasn’t reliable.

“There’s a connector human close by,” the tall one said.

“But you didn’t see anything,” the other said.

“I can sense our human connector,” he said.  “We are going to have to locate them.  Lalo will be pleased if we present the human upon his arrival.”

“Go home!  Go now!” I heard Kallen’s voice say.  “Stay at home!”

“Marli!  Marli!” Ashley called.  I opened my eyelids to a grey, overcast sky.

“What happened?” I mumbled.  I found myself lying across the full length of the boat with wet towels on my forehead.  I slowly pushed myself up.

“You fainted,” she said.  “Heat stroke, I guess.  It’s a good thing you didn’t fall into the water.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“No problem.  I’m heading back to the shore now.  We saw what we need to anyway.  You need to go home,” she said.

“No, I can—”

“No you can’t.  Dr. Telason is coming to check you out.”

“It’s alright.”

“No it isn’t,” she said.  “If you woke up from a heat stroke… my visions.  I didn’t want to tell you I saw this happening.”

“Ashley, other than this, how do you know they are true?”

“It feels real.  Well, they don’t simply feel real, you know they are real.  You know it happened.  You had one a few seconds ago didn’t you?”

I didn’t answer.

“Listen, don’t tell anyone,” Ashley said.  “Especially anyone around here.  It could get you in trouble.  And from what I’ve heard, from a little birdy, it could put your life in danger.  Even more so now.”  Ashley was glancing towards our new team members.  “It seems wrong to judge them, but we have to be cautious.”

When we made it back to shore, Dr. Stevenson was there along with Dr. Telason.  Dr. Telason shinned light into my eyes, examined my hearing and balance, took my temperature, and performed other tests.  All normal.  My sickness was due to dehydration, she concluded.  With Ashley’s advice we left out the part where I blacked out.  I got really tired, was dizzy, and didn’t feel good, nothing more than that.

Dr. Stevenson suggested that I should go home, but I wanted to stay.  I had to see what Marcus’ conclusions of our situation were.  I had to see if he would gaze at me suspiciously again or if that was just the way he treated all women.  And if Ashley and Ren saw that he was a little creepy, did everyone else get the same impression?

Dr. Telason made me sit on the bank and eat some food.  Ashley stayed with me.  We worked on wring our conclusions for the day.

After about an hour, I recalled Ashley’s meteor shower vision.  What if that’s why the animals and insects were leaving—the meteorites?  What if it had to do with outer space’s rocks instead of living things from outer space?  They could contain chemicals harmful to the animals.  Lalo did say his ship was designed to impersonate a meteor.  So pieces of alien ships could send or give off chemical or inaudible signals into our environment without us knowing.

Lalo’s meteorite had special properties.  On the outside it was black.  When Lalo got out, he was covered in soot.  But the next morning, when I went to clean it up, there were pieces of rocks that appeared to be like glass with purple crystals.  The lab!  I could go to the lab to figure out what was different.  I had to go when everyone else was out on the lake though.  They couldn’t know until I knew who to trust.

“Ashley,” I said.  “We can go to the lab without permission, right?” I had been in the lab once with the group previously.

“They keep that place locked down,” she said.  “You have an idea?  Get a piece of Marcus’ hair to see if it’s human?”

“You really think he’s an other?”

“It would explain things.  We could start with a simple background check.”

“But if he finds out you were checking up on him,” I said.  “I would save that for a more dire time.  No reason to make him angry when you met him no more than a few hours ago.”

“You’re right,” she said.  “Out of all the days Kallen chose this one to not come by to visit us.”

“You think he can identify them?” I said.

“Yeah,” she said.

At the end of the day, Dr. Stevenson decided to wait for a few days to tell us who would split up and move to the other location.  He first wanted to determine who worked best together.  What a relief!  But that meant I only had a few days to get to the lab.

Chapter 10

I arrived at home without incident in the late afternoon.  My eyes shot straight to Kallen’s house as I parked my car.  His truck was still gone.  I called him again.  No answer.  I began to get more nervous about Kallen’s safety.  He could be in the danger he warned me about.  I had no information on who to blame if he was.  For once I wished he was over at my house, making me wonder why he was so overprotective.  Lalo had mentioned he wasn’t too sure about Kallen.  It made me think that Kallen had a secret.  Maybe Lalo knew more than he decided to share.

The TV was on mute when I finally opened the door. I was tired, using the wrong key for a few minutes to unlock it.  But Lalo wasn’t sitting there watching TV.  I heard him rummaging around my room.  I put my backpack on a kitchen chair and hurried to find him.  I had to tell him about the dream.

I was two feet from the narrow hallway that led to my room and bathroom when a man with sapphire eyes, pale skin, and black hair emerged.  He came from my room.  I screamed and ran for the front door.  He caught up and tackled me from behind, bringing me to the floor.  Then covered my mouth.

I struggled to hit, scratch, kick, whatever I could, to get away from the man.  He blocked my attacks and secured my limbs under his all while keeping cover over my mouth.  Jolting my body to the side, I made an attempt to free myself from him again, but he was too strong.

“Marli.  Marli, it’s okay,” he said.

“Mmmm!” I yelled.

“It’s me, Lalo.”

It wasn’t Lalo.  His voice was higher pitched.  He had a British accent.  The only similar trait was his physical build and he wore Lalo’s new clothes.  I struggled some more.  This dude was sick.  Why was he wearing Lalo’s clothes? 

Lalo had to be smarter than this guy.  I was sure Lalo had previously left my house or snuck out when this guy broke in.  I wasn’t going to find him dead or get the message that they had kidnapped him.  Please let my thoughts be true.

“I’m going to take my hand off your mouth,” the man said.  “Don’t scream.”

I glared directly into his eyes and stopped moving.

“Good, because—”

“Help!!” I yelled as soon as he took his hand off.  I envisioned Kallen hearing my cries as he drove past my house to his.  Please hear me Kallen!

The man covered my mouth again.

“I don’t intend to hurt you,” the man said.  “I had to show you.  I remembered how to do it this morning.  I was thinking about who you could have seen in your dream.  That didn’t help.  I didn’t remember anyone.  What did help was thinking about them wearing disguises.  What if they were already a part of your life?  Kallen is tall.  He is hiding something.  What if it was him?  Then my hand started to tingle.  I looked down to inspect it and my hand had transitioned to a darker shade.  Something soft, but unexpected brushed against my neck.  It was hair.  I rushed to the mirror and all of my skin was the same few shades darker.  The same color as Kallen’s.  In addition, the soft hair I felt was only a small section of the long, dark that hair grew, mimicking his.

“I panicked,” the man continued.  “How could I reverse this?  Did this mean Kallen was the culprit?  Did I have some sort of sensibilities that I didn’t know of?  ‘Turn back,’ I thought, and I transitioned back into the Lalo you know.  All morning, I’ve played with looking like different people.  I can modify most of my features except for changing into a female or changing my body structure.

“When you got home, you took your time.  You were outside for a few minutes longer than normal after the engine turned off.  I was in the bathroom and thought you could be someone else.  Then you tried to open the door, and it didn’t open.  A few tries later it did.  Then you didn’t call out my name.  I decided to stay like this.  In case you were someone else.”

The man removed his hand from my face, and I stared deeper into his eyes, but I couldn’t see anyone resembling Lalo.  I pretended to relax.  I wasn’t going to fight.

The man loosened his grip on me.

“Can we stand?” I asked with a voice that I didn’t recognize.  It was more faint than normal.  He nodded and helped me to my feet.  He smiled.  I ran.

I caught him off guard and had a hand on the doorknob.  Before I could twist it, the man had ripped my hand away, wrapped me in his arms, and pulled me to the couch.  My right leg was wild, fighting to kick, knee, or sweep a leg out from under him as he sat me down.  Again, it was useless.  He sat next to me and kept my arms pinned down.  I stopped kicking my legs.  There was no point.

He laughed.  “At least I won’t have to teach you to fight,” he said.  “So, now you will be cordial with me?”

I didn’t give him the satisfaction of an answer.

“When we were on the floor, you studied my eyes,” he said.  “You can’t tell it is me by doing that.  Remember we have a connection.  You have to feel.  Try to feel what I’m thinking.”

I took a few moments to decide if his words were a trap.  My earlier thoughts about who he represented were a lot less harmful than the truth.  I had wished he was from the FBI or CIA, but he was another alien.  One that knew I had the ability to connect.  He might have been who the tall guy sent to find me.  Maybe Marcus alerted him to my existence.

He frowned.  “Marcus?  Who’s Marcus?”

I remained silent.

The man relaxed his eyes and started stroking my cheek.  That time I didn’t feel more comfortable and safe.  I was losing control.

“I thought we were fighting,” he said.  “Don’t let me take your power away.”

“I’m not,” I said, batting my eyelashes, resisting falling asleep.

“There she is,” he said.  “Fight me.  Block me out.”

He converted his attack into a teaching lesson?

“Marli,” he said.

“Huh,” I said.  I had no control over my will to answer.

“You’re letting me win,” he said.  His voice deepened.  “You’re never going to find Lalo’s body.”

I gasped and shot my eyes open.  An evil smile lifted a corner of his lips.  I started thinking of colors and shapes.  Red.  A red square.  It became a blanket.  I covered myself with it.

The power he wielded slowed, but it preserved its control over me.  I imagined chains, locks, safes.  I put myself behind and in them.

“I can still see you,” he said.  “All I have to do is break the chain.”  His power surged.  “Open the lock.”  My head rolled back.  “And—”

“No,” I whispered.

Darkness came over me.  But it wasn’t a bad thing.  I got stronger.  I opened my eyes.  That was it!  By imagining darkness I could hide in it.

“Good,” he said.  “Now I can’t see you.”

I squirmed, aspiring to sit up in the couch.  He stopped rubbing my skin and let my arms and legs go free.

“What do you want?” I said.  “Who are you?”

“I told you, I’m Lalo,” he said.  “And I want you to be able to see who I am in these conditions.  You will be the sole person who can tell.  That will give you power.  And make you a target.  You don’t have to touch me to see who I am now, but I want to show you how to see me by touch first.  Feel my hand.”

I touched it only to yank my hand away.  The touch made a slightly transparent image of Lalo flash by.

“It doesn’t mean you’re him,” I said.

“Since you doubt me try something else.”

I shook his hand and saw nothing.  I wrapped my palm around his hand and received an overwhelming sensation of happiness.  Putting my hand on his cheek gave me the same sensation.  Then I mimicked him by stroking his face and saw nothing, experienced nothing.

“Are you at least getting sleepy?” I said.

“You’re not one of us Marli,” he said.  “And I don’t think all Masqysava have that power.”

I was beginning to think this was Lalo.

“Can you switch back now?” I asked.

My question amused him.  “So you really think I’m Lalo now?  You still haven’t checked without touch.  Try it.”

I began in the same manner I previously did when I tried to block him but instead imagined opposite things—a key, a code, the light.  None of it worked.

“Think of how you can connect with me,” he said.  “Or how you can invade my privacy?”

I saw myself close to Lalo, holding both of his hands, feeling exhilarated.  He leaned into me and I heard him say, “I should have saved this exercise for later.  She is going to find out everything I’m thinking.  Then I’ll have to block her.  She’ll find out the real reason—oh.  She’s listening.”

“The real reason for what?” I said.

“Great job!” he said.  “Now I can change back.”

“No, what were you talking about?” I asked.

Lalo transformed in front of my eyes.  His skin got darker, the blue hue left his eyes, his hair lightened and loosely curled in a few places.

“I didn’t know aliens could shift,” I said.

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” he said.  “That I am one of the few if not the only one.  A unique quality makes me dangerous and a threat.  I don’t want anyone sneaking up on me, trying to kill or trap me.  That’s why we have to find out more about those rocks, which, by the way, look exactly the same as the rock that made up my meteorite ship.  So who did they come from?  And what Kallen is hiding?  You know he’s been gone all day.  I’ve been watching his house.”

“I know and I can’t contact him,” I said.  “But first two things, no three.  One, don’t ever do that to me again—that shifting stuff—unless you have to.  Two, I think I can examine your meteorite and the one from the crime site at our lab.  And three, I agree about Kallen.  I’m worried about him.  The last thing he told me was to be alert because things are going to start happening.”

“Okay,” Lalo said.

Lalo’s eyes shifted to the TV then to me.  His eyes shot back to the TV.  “Marli, check this out.”  Lalo found the remote and took the TV off mute.

“There has been an accident in Greele today,” a reporter said.  The videographer scanned the town.  People were everywhere, on the ground, moaning.  “People are missing and many are injured.  No one witnessed what occurred.  Paramedics were called to the scene after a random 911 call that couldn’t be tracked.  This is the only place people have been found.  The rest of the town is deserted.  The police chief of Naplesee has a message.”

The camera showed the chief.  “If you are in nearby towns, stay in your homes or at your workplace.  Do not try to go anywhere.  If you are alone, we advise you call someone and stay on the line with them.  We are not sure if a large group of people attacked.  We are sweeping the nearby towns.  This is a dangerous situation.  Please don’t leave until you have been told you can do so.  If you have any information or have seen anything strange, please call the hotline number.  We ask you not to call 911 unless your life is in immediate danger.”

The reporter was on the screen again.  “Once again, if you didn’t hear the message, stay in your homes.  Follow the directions on the screen.  Police from nearby towns are gathering clues.  Many police from major cities are coming to help find out what happened.”

A weight pulled my stomach down.  What if Kallen was there in Greele?  What if he found the people—the spies—and they took him?

“This is tragic,” Lalo said.  “Not—” I whipped my head to see Lalo staring at the people being brought to the ambulances on stretchers.  Some looked like they had been drugged.  Others looked like some sort of animal or human viciously attacked.

“Oh my,” I said.  “What if this is why you’re here?  To join in with the invasion.”

“This looks like an invasion to you?” he said.

“If I didn’t know about you, I would think it was a terrorist attack,” I said.  “But with Kallen being alert, Ashley telling me she can predict things, the animals and insects running away, you falling from the sky, and me having these visions—.  I-I forgot to tell you Lalo.  I had a ‘dream’ again.  Only it wasn’t a dream.  I passed out.  But the tall guys, they were looking for you.  They wanted to find a connector to present them to you.”

“Hmm,” Lalo said.  “And you said you met a Marcus.”

“Do you know him?” I asked.

“It’s a familiar name.  The name of a Masqysava who I never felt comfortable around.  I remember him admiring me for some reason.  We were the same age.  There was something alarming about him.  The way he was so angry when he wasn’t chosen as one of the top, regional leaders.  He was, however, chosen to lead a team.  That day I wished I was put on any team but his.”

“So were you put on his team?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Lalo, what were these teams for?” I asked.

“To learn how to get along together and to get to know each other.  To train, learn to fight, in case we had to go to war.”

“Everyone had to go?” I asked.

He nodded.  “With the exception of the highest born and those with special talents, everyone was assigned.  The few who refused were never seen again.”

I knew already, but this information was a spear of truth travelling through my soul.  They were being trained to exterminate us.  Who knew if Lalo was lying to me about who he was?  About if he could remember.  What if everything was clear?  What if he needed me to connect with him to give him access into our government?  What if the past week I had been protecting our enemy?

“Don’t do that to me Marli,” Lalo said.  “Don’t be scared of me now.”

“How can I not be?” I asked.

No wonder Kallen was viciously seeking him.

“Marli, we are going to find the people or aliens who did this.  We will figure out these clues.  And we will stop them.  I may be alien to this place, but I won’t let them take over this planet.  They’re not going to hurt you.”

“What about everyone else?”  I swallowed sadness.

“If I have to build an army to take the attackers out of the picture, I will,” Lalo said.  He hugged me.  “The first thing we need to do is find Kallen.”

Chapter 11

Later that evening, I got a call from Dr. Stevenson saying that work has been cancelled for at least the next four days.  He would call and let us know Monday night if our ban changed.  He also added that everyone in our group was safe.  The few members who lived alone had all joined each other at Ashley’s house.  He invited me to join them, but I said I would be alright.  My friend from out of town was visiting me.  He had military experience.

The thing was I had already spoken to Ashley and Ren.  Ren called us on three-way.  They asked me to come stay with them.  But if I did, I wouldn’t be able to help Lalo figure out what he was supposed to do.  Or I would have had to introduce Lalo.  I told them about Lalo the same way I did with Dr. Stevenson.  Briefly, we discussed what happened in Greele.  Ren concluded that it was terrorists.  Ashley kept mentioning aliens, so the conversation switched to Kallen.

None of us had been able to get in contact with him.  Worried that the worst happened, we came up with a plan.  I was to observe his house and see if he showed up while the others kept calling.  In the morning, we would search for Kallen if he never showed.  I planned to bring Lalo in case we somehow ran into the bad aliens.

Still on the phone, Dr. Stevenson again said to stay safe.  He let me know that along with more police coming into town so was a special branch of the armed forces and FBI.  I asked him if he had seen Kallen.  He took a couple of seconds to answer, which alarmed me.

“Uh, no.  No.  I haven’t seen him, but I did speak with him.  He’s fine.  It was less than an hour ago.”

“Where is he?” I asked.

“Uh Claireview,” he said.

I had known Dr. Stevenson for about a month, and I never heard him be so unsure.  He had a role in Kallen’s disappearance too?

“Isn’t that past Greele?” I said.  “He would have come back through there to get home.”

“Yes,” Dr. Stevenson said.

“So he’s stuck?” I said.

A car drove down the road to Kallen’s and my house the instant I released my last word.  The car slowed down to stop.  I advanced toward the window.  Lalo beat me there and slid a small piece of the blind up.

“Kallen,” he whispered.

“You know.  I’ll let you go now,” Dr. Stevenson said.  “If I hear from him again, I’ll get you on the phone too.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“I know the two of you have become close friends.”

“Yes, he has helped me a lot.”

Dr. Stevenson and I said our goodbyes.  Then I watched Kallen close his front door and assumed he flicked on the light.

“Something is watching us,” Lalo said, “from Kallen’s house.”

“What?” I said.

“To the right,” Lalo said.  “The kitchen area.”

How did he know that was Kallen’s kitchen area?

My eyes shot to the window.  There was someone there, peeking around the curtains.

“I hope it’s the woman from the truck,” I said.  “The one that wore a rose scented perfume.  You think they can see us?”

“Don’t think so.  But they are watching.”

Whoever was behind the curtains closed them.  I faced Lalo.

“What if it’s one of these spies he was worried about?” I said.  “What if they came to hurt him!?”

“Get behind me,” Lalo said.  “We’re going over there.  They won’t see us.”

“But how do we get in?” I asked.

“I know a window.”

“How do you—”

“I told you.  I didn’t trust him.  Come on we can talk later.”

Lalo made me grab the back of his shirt then he became invisible, or so he said.  I could still see and hold onto him.  We jetted outside of my house and jogged across the field to Kallen’s.

I was relieved not to hear a struggle inside.  But what if the being or person there killed him already?  My stomach was in knots again.

The window Lalo chose was on the first floor in Kallen’s deserted dining room area.  It was on the opposite side of the house from the kitchen.  The probability that they would come into that room was low.

Somehow Lalo opened the window without making a noise.  He had me let go of his shirt to climb in.  Then he helped me in and closed the window.

At first, we heard Kallen roaming.  Well, I hoped it was him.  The wooden floors creaked as if a taller, more solid built person patrolled them.  They turned the TV on, to the news.  To see we crept across the front of the house, towards the kitchen.  I saw Kallen’s head of hair that rose above the chair he was sitting in.  We made it into the foyer when a woman started talking.

“You know Kallen, watching that isn’t going to make things any better,” she said.

Relief escaped me when I heard the woman say Kallen’s name.  He was alright.

Lalo wrapped my arms tight around his waist.  “In case we need to jump,” I heard in my head.  For whatever reason I wasn’t startled, even though that was the first time I heard Lalo in my head.  I became glad he scared me that afternoon and made me practice connecting with him.  It was working.

The open floor plan allowed us to see Kallen get out of his chair in the family room and go into the kitchen from the foyer.  We didn’t move.

We can’t get closer?  We are invisible, right?

Maybe Lalo worried that they might be able to sense us.

“Kallen,” the woman said.  “Talk to me.”

“What we did was,” Kallen said.  “I can’t actually believe I did it.  After all of these years, all it took was seeing the others, and I snapped right back into my role.”

Phew, he knew her.

“It’s not your fault,” she said.  “What they did to us was wrong.  It’s going to take years to get away from it.  Chances are we’ll need therapy.  I try to do right by being in the force, staying away from new arrivals.  It is going to take a little time to persuade them all.”

“But I did nothing,” Kallen said.  “I stood and watched her tear him apart.”

“You knew she wouldn’t murder him.  And you couldn’t do anything out of their normal training there.  They need some time on Earth then you can talk to them.  Besides, you know the Emperor has to be sending down spies.  If you stopped them, you would be marked to be killed eventually.”

Kallen was full of sorrow.  I had never heard him sound so sad.  “She was one of the excited ones,” he said.  “She got a lot of kills in the other towns.  She loves the chase.  And I love her.”

“Naya will change too,” the woman said.  “They all will.  These are not the most dangerous ones.  That’s Dak and Marcus.”

I took a deep breath in.  Please let Marcus be a common name.  Naya.  Naya.  Remember that name.

We heard the uncomfortable sound of a chair being dragged across the floor then the chair creaked as someone sat on it.

“You have to remember Kallen,” the woman continued.  “We changed with this earth too.  You were once like them.  That’s why you lead.”

“But that was long ago.  We had time to relax.  Naya said they gave her quotas.  She gave them to me.  What happened today was merely one of her quotas.  It’s going to happen again but be much worse.  We have to stop her.  She is assigned to keep an eye on the people at the hospital.  She will transform that guy she attacked.  I’m sure of that.  I don’t truly know how to stop her because I switch back to that leader.  That superior, lethal monster when I’m around her.”

“Kallen,” the woman said.

Lalo moved closer to the kitchen.  We saw Kallen sitting on a bar chair and the woman, who also had long, dark hair and brown eyes, stroll over to him.  She leaned into him and rubbed his hand.

“Forget about being with her,” she said.  “And be with me.”

“Martinez.”

“Don’t Martinez me Kal!  Call me by my name!”

“Don’t call me Kal!  I am not that monster!  Not here!”

Martinez sniffed like she was about to cry.  “Why do you always choose her?  Huh?  When we were little, and she wanted nothing to do with you, you chose her.  When we were teens, and she was hanging onto everything Lalo said, you chose her.  And now that she’s here, in our home—Earth, you choose her.  We were better together Kallen, remember?  For a few years we were happy.  Then she says she is coming here permanently and you chose her again.”

She sniffed some more but no tears trickled down her face.

“Shelie, I’m sorry, but I love her,” Kallen said.

“But she doesn’t love you.”

“She will,” Kallen said.  “The earth will transition her like it did to me.”

“Not in that way.”

“It will.  And if not—”

“If not what?” Shelie said.  “You’ll go after your little neighbor over there.  Your neighbor that you told everything about yourself except that you are the alien you’re obsessed with.  That neighbor, Marli.”

“Don’t,” Kallen said.

“Don’t what?  She also has a hold on you.  The kind where you make sure you protect her from us and forget about your duties.  Too bad you forgot about the duty involving finding Lalo.  We had a lead.  We knew he was here.  Now, everyone knows something is wrong.”

“It’s not that big of a deal.  We’ll still find him first.  We have a bigger army now.”

“It is that big of a deal,” she said.  “He is unique.  Whatever he decides—”

”But you found out he remembered nothing,” Kallen said.

“Yeah, and it’s only a matter of time until he remembers everything,” Shelie said.  “You did nothing Kallen.  And he landed closer to you.  I at least inspected Marli’s house and talked to him.”

“You could have exposed us if she saw you running around her house that fast at night.  You also lost Lalo so …”

Shelie huffed.  “At least I did something.”

“Yeah, you made him hide.”

“You try following one of the most powerful and smartest aliens, and we’ll see how you do.”

“What you seem to forget is that I am pretty powerful and smart myself,” Kallen said.  “So are you.  Naya, she has the same abilities as Lalo.  However, she kept them hidden because she didn’t want to be used like they are using Lalo.”

Lalo made a move to take a step forward, but I pulled him back.  I didn’t know this Kallen.

“I think it’s a good time to tell Marli, don’t you?” Kallen said.  “She needs to know the full extent of the crisis she is in.  I’ve sensed Lalo hanging around.  It was the first morning he was here on Earth.  I haven’t seen him.  Saw some man get out of Marli’s car last night.  They went shopping.  I figured at least he can help protect her.”

“No human can stand a chance against him,” Shelie said.  She relaxed.  “And why are you so focused on her?”

“I’m positive she’s a connecter.  I think someone she works with has more information about what’s going on that we can’t see.  I think she gets visions of Lalo’s connector.  That’s why Lalo has to find her.  But he can’t see her abilities unless she lets him.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because you would come out of nowhere,” Kallen said.  “Draw unnecessary attention.  This is a small town.”

“I’m sure she’s there now,” Shelie said.  “Everyone was advised to stay home.  We need to tell her.  Lalo, he has his ways.  He will find out in an instant.”

“Not necessarily.  Not if he doesn’t remember.”

“Look, I’m sorry Kallen,” Shelie said.  “The stress modifies my mood.  This invasion is about to happen and we aren’t prepared to fight.”

“I know and I’m sorry too,” he said.  “Let’s go help Marli.”

Shelie agreed and grabbed Kallen’s arm to get him up and out of the seat.

They were coming straight for us.  Lalo made sure my arms were secured around him before we flew straight up to the top of the ceiling.  Well, I felt like I was flying, but Lalo had jumped.  He secured his hands and feet on the walls, in the corner of the foyer.  Seconds later, Kallen and Shelie walked under us and out the door.

Lalo waited a minute to let go of the walls and land back on the ground.  My legs were jelly as Lalo helped me peep out the nearest window over to my house.

Shelie and Kallen were halfway there.  I wanted to open the window and scream out, but I wasn’t sure.  Kallen was part of some sort of terror attack.  He helped hurt some people.  How could I trust him?  What if he was the tall man in my dreams?  What if he also directed others to kidnap the homeless people?  If he was who we were searching for, we would need to be careful around him.  They could have detected us and made up all of that stuff about having remorse.

Then again, what if they were telling the truth about Lalo?  Was I dependent upon some super powerful killer?  Was it even safe for me to live with him anymore?  What if he remembered why he was there the next day after he arrived?

He does remember things randomly, or so he says.  He could be pretending to not remember to get me to let my guard down.  If Lalo finds those guys from my visions, they could hook up to attack everyone.

But I couldn’t put him on the street with all of the police in the area.  What if he was the key to stopping the bad things from happening?  What if he had been evil but changed?

Kallen and Shelie were at my house.  They saw my car then started running around my house when no one answered the door.

“We have to face them,” Lalo said, directing his attention to me.  “They might be able to help.”

“But I’m not sure they won’t kill us,” I said.  “What if these were the two I saw in my dream?  How can we trust them after Kallen did something horrible to someone?  He’s never told me any of this information.  He was simply obsessed with aliens.  I didn’t know he was one.”

“We’re going to have to take that chance.  He wants to protect you.”

“But protect me from whom?  The bad guys?  You?  Lalo, they have been seeking you.”

“I remember Shelie,” Lalo said.  “I left the house that day, trying to find answers.  I ran into her then knew I had to hide.  But if she wanted to kill me, she would have tried that day.”

“She wouldn’t have killed you in public,” I said.

“But I gave her the opportunity,” Lalo said, “out of sight.”

I was furious that Lalo left the house.  He could have been taken away from me.  This alone made Kallen and Shelie’s beliefs about him seem true.

Lalo helped me shuffle out of Kallen’s house.  As soon as we opened the door, the alarm rang.  Shelie and Kallen snapped their heads toward us like animals do when they hear an unexpected sound.  Kallen lifted a remote, ending the alarm.  Then they ran to us.

Lalo wrapped me in his arms and we met them in the grass.

Kallen smiled.  “Marli, I’m so glad you are alright.  We thought—”  He reached a hand out toward me, and I pulled back.  The joy in his face faded.  “We need to go inside.  Let’s go to your house.”

“Why mine?” I asked, keeping an eye on Kallen.

He stared at Lalo.

“It’s more familiar to you,” he said.  “It will help you relax.  You don’t trust me anymore.  You will feel safer there.”

“You can still murder me in my own house,” I said.

“That won’t happen,” Lalo interjected.  “Let’s go.”

Kallen desired to travel behind us.  We stepped to his side.  I guessed Kallen thought Lalo would do something.  I was worried that Kallen would throw bags over our heads and drag us out to some abandoned warehouse.

Chapter 12

Kallen, Shelie, and Lalo sat at my table.  I got everyone some water and sat next to Lalo, who held my hand.  It was weird that I had more trust in a stranger I met days ago than one of my new best friends.

“So here we are,” Kallen said.

“Who are you Kallen?” I said.  “Who are you really?  What did you do?  And who is she?”

His eyes met Shelie’s for approval.

“She is Shelie,” Kallen said.  “I am Kallen; the same Kallen you’ve known.”

“No!” I said.  “In your house, minutes ago, you admitted to killing or hurting someone.  The Kallen I know would never do that.”

“This has to do with what I’ve been secretive about—who I’ve been aiming to protect you from,” Kallen said.  “It’s why I turned into who I did.  Marli, I was once like them.  You need to know what we did over there in Greele was necessary, but wrong.”

I wanted to run.  I became so tense that it became hard to breathe.  I didn’t know Kallen was talking about the people in Greele.  He was a monster!  How could I ever trust him again that is if I was allowed to live?

“Marli, please just listen,” Kallen said, placing his hand on my knee.  “I’m not going to hurt you.  Shelie is not going to hurt you.”

“But you’ll hurt someone else,” I said.  “You’ll hurt other humans that are useless to you.  Where are those children Kallen?  Are you going to hurt them too or have you done it already?”

“It was necessary to do what we did in Greele to show we are heading towards our purpose,” Kallen said.  “If it didn’t happen, more of us would be sent down to do the job, my lead position would be taken away, and our troops would carry out the desires of someone else.  Yes, those children are gone.  But we have a plan for them.  We needed to take them.  To train them for their protection.

“Marli, like Lalo, I am Masqysava.  This is Shelie Martinez.  She is also Masqysava.  We are aliens to this world.  We came from a planet in outer space.  I can’t tell you which one, due to security, but I can tell you that you are in the middle of an invasion.  The disappearances all are a sign of our invasion.  Some are meant to show we are ready and nothing more.  Some are to get people to safety.  One, we don’t know who performed.  Others are to use people.  Your blood can be valuable at times to us.”

“Blood!” I said.  “I-I can’t …”

“Yes,” Kallen said.  “We have been invasion mode for more than fifteen years.  There were several waves of Masqysava sent down to Earth.  Most of the early visits were to investigate Earth and its people.  We knew that your planet was much more kind to our bodies.  Our theories become true year by year.  We can only survive on our planet for a certain amount of time.  Then it will be too hazardous for us to live there.  So we have been trained since birth to be able to come here, to Earth, and live.”

“And eliminate us in the process?” I said.  “Move us out of the way so there is space for your kind?”

Lalo’s grip on my hand loosened.  His eyes began to narrow.  His gaze fixed on my table.  It was like he was in a trance.

“At first, no,” Kallen said, taking a peek at Lalo.  “The original idea came from a different emperor.  She believed we could live together.  She almost went as far as to sign a treaty with the United Nations.  But things went sour.  We lost communication with the Masqysava sent to live on Earth.  We searched for but never found them.  And all ideas about peace with humans were destroyed.

“Our emperor still didn’t want to be violent, so she modified our approach. We would sustain our life on Earth but be unknown to others.  The idea didn’t last long.  When she got word of humans tracking Masqysava to capture and run tests on us, her tactic adapted into a violent one.  The humans, at least most humans, would have to go.  Or become our slaves.  We’ve studied all of your history.  We weren’t going to be the ones going down.

“When she stepped down, a more intense leader took her place,” Kallen continued.  “He said humans inherently don’t reason beyond their own needs.  Therefore, all humans other than connectors and their families would die.  That is the order that exists today.  And while the connectors are being saved from death, they would become our property.  If you were connected to evil Masqysava then you would most likely be tortured.”

“Why are you telling me this?” I said.  “If you are going to make most humans extinct and enslave me.”

“Because,” Kallen said.  “I don’t want to kill or own you.  I need you.  We need human allies.  Lalo doesn’t remember.  You may be able to help us with him too.  And, most importantly, we want to stop the invasion.”

“You and I both,” Lalo said.  “I was ready to hunt you down this afternoon when I saw what you did.  So my question is how can we trust you?”

“You can’t,” Shelie said.  “At least not right now.  Not until you remember.”

“Won’t I be lethal when I remember?” Lalo asked.

“It depends on which side you choose,” Kallen said.  “Your memory, what happened that made you come so early, might be able to help you with that.”

“Memory huh?” Lalo said.  “You know something about mine?  You told us who the Masqysava are and why we are here.  But why am I here?”

“You don’t remember having fun, running along the hills, playing in the sands and waters?” Shelie asked.

“No,” Lalo said.

“Good,” she said.  “Because we didn’t.  The water outside our compound was too hot to play in.  There were hills of rocks, but they were also too hot.  Yes, our bodies can adjust to weather changes here, but it gets overwhelmed at home.  If you ever stepped in the sand there, you wouldn’t have lived to tell about it.”

“Okay it was too hot,” Lalo said.  “What does this have to do with me?”

“Everything,” she said.

“So what did we do?” Lalo said.

“Train,” Shelie said.  “And absorb human culture.  I think that’s why our missing don’t return.  They don’t want to be found.”

“That is if they weren’t captured by the government,” Kallen said.  “I, along with other commanders, put together the program where we fit ourselves into society here.  Many of us were everywhere, living lives along with humans, working with them.  Of course we weren’t allowed to choose from too many jobs.  All had to be positions we could use.

“About two years ago, a few of us were very successful and got to the top of the government,” Kallen said.  “Then some got into secret places inside the government.  Then they saw what humans did to us.  That sparked the kill all and invade ideas I spoke of.  But to exterminate all we needed a smart, charismatic alien.  It certainly didn’t hurt that he had a superpower, one where you could vanish at any moment.  He would lead us because of this ability.  The Emperor only knew of one.”

“No,” Lalo said shaking his head.  “I’m not who you say I am.  I’m not a leader.  I don’t want to exterminate humans.”

“You are,” Shelie said.  “Everyone knows you.  You were chosen to lead a team.  Then you were chosen to lead the leaders.  You are our chief Lalo!”

“I wasn’t and I’m not,” Lalo said.

Shelie faced Kallen.  “Maybe this is why he came early.”

“What do you mean?” Lalo asked.

“When did your desire to harm humans dissipate?  After you landed or before you departed?” Shelie said.

Lalo stared at the wall and closed his eyes.  A few seconds later, he opened them.  “I don’t know,” he said.  “But I do know this.  If any of you attempt to hurt Marli, you will pay.”

“We’re on your side Lalo,” Kallen said.  “That is if you want to stop this invasion, and it seems like you do.  Come.  Talk to the others.  They are waiting for you to lead.”

“I won’t,” Lalo said.  “Not until I can remember.  Not until I know for sure.”

“Keep in mind that you need to tread lightly,” Shelie said.  “That’s the reason we wanted to find you first.  Yes, Earth has changed us some.  Our side doesn’t want to be killers.  It would be foolish to think that Earth hasn’t changed others for the worse.  Especially others who don’t want to be found.”

“Point taken,” Lalo said.

“I’m glad you’re safe Lalo,” Shelie said.  “But I have to go.  I told them I was inspecting this area.”

“They let you go alone?” I said.

“No, but my partner understands,” she said.

“How can we find you?” I said.

“Ask for Detective Shelie Martinez,” she said.  “Or have Lalo call me.”

“What do you mean?” Lalo said.

Shelie wrote down some numbers and gave it to Lalo.  “When you remember how to call.  Oh, and Marli, don’t go anywhere without Lalo.”

“What about work?” I asked.

“She needs to be alone at work,” Kallen said.  “They may be able to recognize that she is depending on someone.  And if one of them sees Lalo …”

“Well, don’t go anywhere else without him,” she said.  “But that shouldn’t be too hard, considering we have a travelling ban for a few days.”

Shelie reached out her hand to shake mine and Lalo’s.  Lalo squinted after he let go of her hand.  Then she left.

“Marli,” Kallen said.  “I know it is going to take a long time for you to trust me again.  I want you to know I will continue to protect you and Lalo from everyone.  I only ask that you stop investigating the disappearance.  You are going to run into trouble.”

“You knew about us?” I said.

“I have contacts and spies of my own,” Kallen said.

“Give me a reason to stop,” I said.  “Are we going to find that you were behind it?”

Kallen held up his finger to say, “Shhh” without saying it.

He waited for about five minutes.

“No,” Kallen whispered.

My phone slithered across the side of my thigh as Lalo took it out of my jeans.  Drawing my code, he opened the gallery to a picture of the graffiti we took from the crime scene.  He showed it to Kallen.  “Does this mean anything to you?”

“I’ve seen that sign,” Kallen said.  “It was a while ago.  Some Masqysava followed the clues drawn within it.  We found the Masqysava later.  They couldn’t recall what happened.”

My eyes lit up. 

“Please just stop,” Kallen said.  “I’m not the only one who knows, and I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Does Shelie know?” I said.  “About us investigating.”

“Yes,” Kallen said.  “But she doesn’t care for you as much as I do Marli.  I’m confident that she knows Lalo will be alright and you can lead us to the culprits. 

“Now, this sign is meant for only a few of us, if not one.  The kidnappers want to find the others who believe in whatever they are planning to do.  That’s why it is treacherous for all Masqysava.  Naya, she could help us, but I want her to become accustomed to Earth right now.  I get the impression that they want Lalo the most anyway.  With Lalo, they can be unstoppable.  Look, I trust you in spite of the probability that you are dangerous Lalo.  You and Naya are exactly alike.  I see that you and Naya will do what’s right.”

“If Shelie is right,” Lalo said.  “If Marli can find the culprits, then wouldn’t we want to know who it is?  How can we get rid of them, or disable them, if we don’t know who we are fighting?”

“There are other ways,” Kallen said.  “Safer ones.”

“What are they?” Lalo asked.

“We will figure it out in time,” Kallen said.  “I’m glad I was able to share our secrets, but I must go too.”

“Isn’t it dangerous to stay by yourself?” I asked.

“It always is,” Kallen said, “if they figure out our plan.  They being humans or the rogue Masqysava.  But I have some work to do with our new arrivals.  I’ll see y’all soon.”

Kallen let himself out of my house, but not before Lalo shook his hand.  My mind suggested I was the one being played.  What if those three (Lalo, Kallen, and Shelie) needed me to help them find more information? 

It was a good plan.  Have Kallen get close to me.  Make me watch out for their enemies and feel like it was necessary to protect Lalo.  Then introduce Shelie, an officer, to help me be comfortable with the situation.  Everything was in control.  This could have been their plan all along.

Chapter 13

I had a hard time falling asleep that night.  I kept tossing and turning, questioning trust and if anyone deserved it.  Somewhere in the middle of my rotations my eyes closed.

“Is it really that important to kill him?” the second man asked.  This second man was different—more intimidating than before.  He wore a mask and gave me the chills.  I knew shedding blood made him happy.  He most likely licked the blood clean off of all his victims.  Physically, he was different too.  This man was a few inches shorter than the tall man and had a deeper voice.

“No one kills him,” the tall man said.  “Not now.  First, we find his connector.  He will address the others.  Then I will kill him myself.”  I embraced the tall man’s energy.  He was ruthless.  Different from the prior tall man.  His long, brown hair covered his face.

“And we will finally stop wasting our time,” the second man said, smiling.

“Yes,” the tall man said.  “And no one will know it was us.  It was these horrible humans.”

I woke up gasping with labored breaths.

I expected Lalo to jump up and protect me with one swift move.  He didn’t.  He opened his eyes.  Then I noticed his arm was already around me.

“Bad dream?” he asked.

“I saw them again Lalo,” I said.  “They were different, but it was still the two men.  They want to kill you.”

“I know,” he said.

“How?  What?”

“I saw it too,” he said.  “Through you.  But in my dream one was a woman.  Like you said, the features are unreliable.  But I know it’s true.”

“How?” I said.

“This evening, when we were talking to Shelie and Kallen, I remembered some things,” Lalo said.  “I didn’t want to say anything because I don’t trust them totally.  It was funny that Shelie said I was supposed to be a chief.

“Before I left my home, I had an argument with one of our leaders, Marcus.  He wanted me to leave early.  I told them I was leaving as the Emperor had planned.  I would put our whole operation in jeopardy if I left early with them.  ‘It’s better to go unnoticed,’ I said.  And staying a while longer would allow me to get numerous Masqysava to join our revolution.

“The Emperor would never know,” Lalo continued.  “And when he came down to Earth, thinking he was claiming victory, he would find out it was never his to claim.  And he would never experience what he spent his whole life preparing for—living on Earth.”

“Revolution?  You were planning to overthrow the Emperor?” I said.

“Yes Marli.  I was a leader of the revolution and a leader in the Emperor’s army.”

“It makes sense— the dreams,” I said.  “This is what the dreams were about.”

“Hard to tell,” Lalo said.  “You mentioned that features were blurry.  This dream the personalities changed.  You could be connecting with different Masqysava and think it is one.  It sounds like more than one.  The first two groups would be happy to find me.  The last wants to kill me.”

“The first two had something to do with the kidnapping,” I said.

“Yes,” Lalo said.  “It is likely that this message has served its purpose and now you moved onto another messenger.  Good to know, but I think we have everything under control.”

“We do?”

“Yes, I remember a lot more now.  There were so many aliens who joined our revolution.  They were tired of being the Emperor’s slaves.  We knew that if we claimed this earth, the only thing that would change was our location.  He would figure out another way to control us.”

“I understand why you want to kill him,” I said, “but if this all was successful—all of us humans dead or slaves; the Emperor is killed.  Who takes over?  If no one is in power, won’t another emperor take his place?”

“Thus the problem,” Lalo said.  “It’s clear now— what happened.  I didn’t leave with the main group of our revolution, our power group.  There was no problem there.  However, after that group left, the Emperor accused me of making up a scheme to overthrow him.  Someone, within that revolutionary group, never intended for me to make it to Earth.”

“Wow,” I said.

“Yes, and that is why I came early,” Lalo said.  “The Emperor planned to execute me.  It was a good thing my friend, with visionary powers, warned me before, saying I needed to build a way off our planet.  One month was all I had.  Believing in his gift, I build a spaceship out of the meteor material.  I kept it hidden.  I waited until everything went wrong.

“I can’t remember who told me that my life was in danger.  The Emperor was on his way.  I had five minutes.  I asked them how they knew.  They were too terrified to say.  Anyway, my friends distracted the Emperor.  I guess they were told what would happen too.  I heard them in the lobby.  Then I ran.  The Emperor didn’t get the chance to jail me because I was gone.  And then I found you Marli.  That’s all I can recall.”

“It’s a lot to take in,” I said.

“Yeah.  Now, there are three sides.  One: the invasion.  Two: The Revolution. And three: Kallen and Shelie’s idea of freedom.  I know what I’m choosing.”

“I hope it’s freedom,” I said.

Lalo yawned.  “I would love to be able to lie here and not have to worry about protecting you.  That would be nice, but I have to go to sleep.  Being invisible is draining.”

“Goodnight,” I said.

“Oh, and Marli.”

“What?”

“When the time comes, I have to make a choice.  It may not be clear whose side I’m on.  Please know it’s for the best.”

“The best for humans?” I said.

Lalo didn’t answer.  He was knocked out.  But when I pulled to move his arm off my chest, he tensed up.  “It’s for safety,” he mumbled.

Chapter 14

The next morning, I talked to Ren and Ashley on the phone.  They made it through the night without hearing any strange things.  I was going to tell them that I talked to Kallen, but he already called them the night before.  His explanation was that he went to visit one of his cousins in the city.  There wasn’t a good phone signal there.  He didn’t know about Greele.

We talked a little longer about work.  Ashley said she had another premonition.  About thirty minutes out of town there would be a meteor shower.  These meteorites could be the clue.  The contents of the meteorite may reveal what was driving the animals out of their natural habitat.  Well, that and aliens.

“What if the meteorites have something to do with aliens?” Ashley said.

By the way Ren was talking he didn’t accept that Ashley had the visions.  He treated her as he did with Kallen and his alien ideas.  I couldn’t help to think of why Ashley linked the aliens to meteorites and why she kept discussing them.  She was getting worse than Kallen was.  At least he was an actual alien.  So was she one too?  Was she attempting to figure out if we knew about her?  Did she have something to do with the first disappearance of people in Dallas?

“Hey, do y’all think the Dallas disappearance has something to do with this one in Greele?” I asked.

“I think it’s the same people,” Ren said.  “They got more vicious.”

“There has to be a large group of them,” I said.  “To take down that many people there had to be.  So they kidnapped the people then broke into groups to hide.  Don’t you think?”

“Several small groups,” Ashley said.  “That would have been easiest way to attack.  And then they hid after going back to a major town.  They wouldn’t stay here.  We would find them.”

“True,” I said.

“You’re so quiet Ren,” Ashley said.

“You two are becoming detectives,” he said.

“Well, who knows,” I said, “we could be next.”

“Thanks for reminding me to be terrified,” Ashley said.

She had to be reminded?

—-

Lalo and I spent the rest of the day watching the news and their ongoing discussion of Greele.  We didn’t see any meteorites or clues in the news footage.  That crime site was so disturbing that we both agreed to not investigate it.

Inside I had the urge to forget the travel ban.  I had to get to the lab to compare the meteorites although I knew it was a bad move.  Yes, we knew that Kallen was part responsible for the Greele attack, and he said he wouldn’t hurt me, but there had to be many others.  If they found us, we would probably be dead too.  It was too much—sitting, watching, and waiting for something bad to happen.  Getting to the lab would at least give us some direction.

In the evening, Lalo spent his time writing down notes.  He noticed me watching and told me they were plans for each method of attack.  He left the notebook on the table to go to another room a few minutes later.  I was so curious, I flipped through the pages.  Some pages were full of lines; others had drawings of buildings and houses.  Nothing else.

It wasn’t fair.  It wasn’t fair that I was stuck in that situation with no human I could trust.  Lalo lied about leaving the house when I asked.  He admitted to leaving at least twice.  I didn’t think he had any reason to be truthful.  Perhaps that’s why Ashley was reaching out to me.  Did she experience a similar situation and see me in this misery?  She could have been extending a hand the best way she could, without being detected, so I could talk to her.  But then again she could be in the race to find Lalo.

I could count on trusting myself and no one else.  And I wasn’t that extremely skillful or powerful.  If only I could strengthen my connector abilities, I would have a hand in that game.  Since I had no idea on how to accomplish that, I directed my attention to the TV.  I put on a movie, lie back in the couch, and pretended none of it was happening.

—-

The next morning I woke up and found pieces from Lalo’s meteorite sitting on my coffee table.  Lalo was still sleeping.  I scanned for anything I could use as a weapon.  A fork was on the kitchen table, so I grabbed it and slowly walked toward my kitchen.  My house was small, so either the perpetrator was hiding behind the bar and was in my kitchen, or they were in the bathroom.

I listened for breathing sounds but heard no one.  It must be an alien, I thought.  I raised my fork to chest level as I made an effort to wake Lalo up, using my mind.  Instead of curling around the bar, I widened my curve, ready to attack when I saw them.  There was no one there.

“Marli,” Lalo said.

I screamed and dropped my fork.

“What are you doing?” he said, tousling his hair.

“Shhh, there’s someone here,” I mouthed and pointed to the meteorites.  “The rocks.”

“Oh, I put those out there this morning,” he said.

I sighed.  “Lalo, you can’t do this to me.  I’m human.  I get scared, especially with all of this stuff going on.”

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “I took the meteorites out because I thought they could tell me something before you got to go to the lab.  They certainly don’t look like they were used to build a ship.  They are more like alien cherished mementos.”

“So whoever did this had to be alien?” I said.  “Like Kallen told us.”

“Not necessarily,” Lalo said.  “Like any other, this rock could have fallen from outer space.  The reason why it was so similar to mine is because we use this kind of rock to build part of our meteorite simulating ships.  But this rock couldn’t have been used.  You’ll be able to see the differences microscopically if you want to know for sure.  My ship will have specific patterns.  This rock will contain random ones.”

“So this could be work done by humans?” I said.  “That widens the list.  It could be the government looking for you. The sector who knows about the aliens would be able to replicate it.”

Lalo nodded.  “You know, just looking at it without the alien knowledge, the rock also appears to be a human’s token.  So, to throw off humans, aliens could have used this rock.  If scientists happened to find it, there would be no difference between this meteorite and the others that are found every year.  There is no way to have an absolute answer unless we find the kidnapper. 

“And those signs,” I said.  “They could be from the aliens or humans who knew about them.”

Lalo nodded.

Frustrated with not being able to find answers, I suggested we go through our list of suspects.  The ones we actually knew of.  Maybe we could eliminate them or see who had a motive or alien connections.

“It’s basically everyone you know out here,” Lalo said.  “Kallen, Ashley, Ren, Marcus, Shelie, Dr. Stevenson, and me.”

“I didn’t say that,” I said.  “I didn’t say you.”

“Let’s be honest,” Lalo said.  “You met me a few days ago.  I’m an alien.  The night I come the homeless disappear.  Then another attack happens led by aliens of my kind.  One of them is your friend.  I’m supposed to be their leader.  And, I have amnesia.  What if I’m like Kallen?  What if something causes me to transition while you are sleep and do these things?  What if I staged all of this?  That’s what I’m afraid of.”

“I don’t think you would,” I said, examining his eyes.  I felt bad for him.  I was wrong.  He had been torturing himself too.  “Why don’t we get to work on the other suspects.  We can at least try to get their background information to see if there are any abnormalities.”

Lalo joined me as we sat in front of my computer at the kitchen table.  In the middle of typing the first name I hesitated.

“What?” Lalo said.

“They could be watching,” I said.  “My IP address.  Why didn’t I think of this before?”  I palmed my face.  “We searched for Aquasa.  What if we were and are being recorded?  Oh no!”  I popped up.  “They can hear us.  I know they can hack into my web camera that’s why the tape is covering it, but what if they could also reverse the auditory device to be a microphone?  They already know.”

My mouth was wide open as I twisted to Lalo.  “What are we going to do?”

Why are you so calm?

“That’s one of the first things I thought about,” Lalo said.  “It was a good thing I didn’t forget about covering tracks.  Your computer is, and has been, virtually invisible.  I protected it the moment you left for work.  It will take them months to untangle that code.  That is if they know where to find it.”

“Good,” I said, holding back tears.  Lalo rubbed my back and had a slight smirk across his face.

Lalo and I researched everyone’s name.  We collected general information—birthplaces, schools they attended, degrees they had, credit history, financial information, medical history, achievements, facts about their life, criminal records, and places they had lived thanks to regular searches and Lalo’s hacking skills. 

The data wasn’t out of the ordinary until we compared Kallen and Shelie’s information to the rest of the group.  Similar to those two, Ashley and Ren had a gap of information.  The odd thing was Ashley and Ren’s gap began when Kallen and Shelie began to exist on Earth.  We defined existing as being able to see where they lived, activity on social networks, financial activity, articles in newspapers, pictures, etc.  To add to the oddities, Dr. Stevenson showed up to our town two years after Kallen did, and Ashley and Ren’s whereabouts reappeared that year.

“And look at this,” Lalo said.  “What do these birth places have in common: Chicago, Illinois; Las Vegas, Nevada; Austin, Texas; San Diego, California; Denver, Colorado; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Washington, D.C., and Dallas, Texas?”

“Other than them being the places these people and I were born?” I said and shrugged.

“And I was born,” Lalo said.  “I landed near Dallas.”

“Major cities,” I said.  “I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“Latitudes,” Lalo said.  “Almost all are within 10 degrees of Northern latitudes, from 30 to 39.”

Our notes, simplifying the latitudes and longitudes:

Marcus: Washington, District of Columbia 38 North, 77 West

Ashley: Las Vegas, Nevada 36 North, 115 West

Ren: Chicago, Illinois 41 North, 87 West

Dr. Stevenson: Denver, Colorado 39 North, 104 West

Kallen: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 35 North, 97 West

Shelie: San Diego, California 32 North, 117 West

Lalo: Dallas, Texas 32 North, 96 West

Marli: Austin, Texas 30 North, 97 West

How was I supposed to know that?

“Then,” he continued, “a few of us are also connected by longitudes, from 90 to 97.”

“So,” I said.

“The Masqysava make up birthplaces according to a pattern.  We know Kallen and Shelie are alien.  Let’s look for a pattern.”

“There’s no use,” I said.  “We all are similar.  Kallen, you, and I are connected by longitudes.  What about Shelie?  Does this mean something is wrong because she’s not in our longitude range?  Is Ren excused from committing the crime because he isn’t within these pinpoints?”

Lalo was disappointed.  “You’re right.  And there is no other clue we can explore online.  The meteorite will tell us if it is aliens, nothing more.”

“And if it’s true that the meteorite is from aliens, does it mean the meteorite was part of someone’s ship?” I said.

“Could be,” Lalo said.  “They would have needed to hold onto their ship.”

“Or a part of it,” I said.  “And if they came to Earth in a ‘meteor,’ wouldn’t there be a record of it?  I’m sure data about the location and the year the meteors came to Earth exists.”

Lalo caught me off guard, giving me an unexpected hug.  “That’s why I love you Marli!”  His excitement was reignited as he studied the birthplaces and meteorite occurrences.  The coincidences we found were with Shelie, Kallen, Ashley, and Dr. Stevenson’s birthplaces.

I sighed.

“What?” Lalo said.

“I thought Marcus committed the crime,” I said.  “He affected me.”

“Marli, let’s review this data first.  The fact that a meteor didn’t land in Marcus’ birthplace doesn’t automatically mean he isn’t alien.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

We found that a meteorite landed eight years after Shelie was “born” in her birthplace.  Five years separated Kallen’s birth and his meteorite landing.  Twelve years was the amount of time connected to Ashley’s birth, and one was for Dr. Stevenson.  We also found that two years was the difference between Marcus’ birth and a meteor seen over Washington, D.C. that landed in Baltimore, Maryland.  All meteorites were found after the births.

“Seeing a pattern?” Lalo said.

“Not really.  Meteors seen or meteorites were found ten years within everyone’s birthday other than Ashley.  Meaning everyone is an alien other than Ashley.  If that is what you’re referring to.”

“Yes, that alone is a difference.  However, the pattern that it led me to is more mathematical of a solution.  Check out at the latitude position of their birthplace.  All are within 10 degrees of each other up to 40.  If you subtract Shelie’s birthplace, 32, from 40, it gives you eight.  The pattern continues with Kallen, 35 from 40 is five.  For Marcus, 38 from 40 is two.  Dr. Stevenson, 39 from 40 is one.  I threw Ashley out because 36 from 40 is four and not equal to 12.”

“So why is Marcus different?” I said.

“They decided they need to hide the information better,” Lalo said.

“Or he isn’t an alien at all,” I said.  “I have a hard time believing that Dr. Stevenson is an alien.  He did like hearing Kallen’s alien stories, yet, he dismissed them.  You know we could be making up these correlations.”

“We could,” Lalo said.  “But this means we need to ask Kallen.”

The doorbell rang, making me nearly jump out of my seat.

Chapter 15

“Police!” the woman said.  “We are here to inspect your house.  We will come in if you don’t answer the door!”

I turned to Lalo.  It could have been our enemies.  I crept to the door and slid the blind next to it up.  The police knocked again, and I opened the door.  If I didn’t know that something was wrong, I would have known then.  There were eight people, four were police.  The others were FBI.  I assumed at least a few of them were also members of that secret government group who dealt with the Masqysava.

They let us know they were going from house to house to investigate.  My heart raced when they asked to come in the house and wanted to see both Lalo and my IDs.  One of my nightmares was coming true.  The police and FBI were going to take Lalo away.  There were too many for me to take on myself.  He had no proof of anything.  He would be blamed for it all.

“Ma’am,” the woman said.  “Your identification.”

“Sorry,” I said, shuffling to my room to find my purse.

I overheard Lalo talking to the police, asking if they found anything.  Perhaps Lalo had a plan to escape his arrest.  Why didn’t he convert to his invisible form instead of altering his appearance though?

When I returned, I showed them my ID.  They stared a good while at it then visually examined me.

“Okay, we are going to take a look around your house if you don’t mind,” a police man said.

“Go ahead,” I said.

Did they even check for Lalo’s ID?

The team dispersed throughout my house, exploring everything.  One picked up the meteorites then put them back down.  Phew!  They rejoined close to my door.

“Thank you,” one of the women said.  “We will continue to update you on the status of the travel ban through the news.  It should be modified soon.”

I nodded, deciding not to ask questions.  I didn’t want to make them more suspicious of me.  A few seconds later, they were out the door.  Wanting to watch them drive away, I reached out to lift a blind.  Lalo blocked my hand.

“No,” he whispered.

The cars cranked and the tires dug across the dirt road before I got to peek outside.  Kallen apparently passed the test too.  He was on his porch, watching them leave.

To calm down my heart, I took time to breathe and closed my eyes.  “Lalo, how did you?  What did you—?”

“Oh,” Lalo said.  “Kallen gave the ID to me when he was over here.”

“I didn’t see him do that,” I said.

“I know,” Lalo said.

What?

“We need to talk to him,” I said.

“Tomorrow,” Lalo said.  “We don’t want to alert the police.”

“How would talking to my neighbor be alerting?” I asked.

“Just trust me,” he said.

Chapter 16

Another day on lock down, I stared at the TV with Lalo by my side, anxious for him to give me the okay to talk to Kallen.

According to the news, our little cluster of towns remained devastated when the police and FBI couldn’t find the offenders.  After being cooped up with little left to eat, some people ventured out of their house.  Of course there were live shots of these people on the news.

The ban was lifted only to be reduced into a warning.  Dr. Stevenson said that we still wouldn’t work in those conditions.  Our work called for us to be exposed out in the middle of the country with no help close by.  We also had a greater chance that we would run into the criminals.

About an hour after that phone call, Ashley and Ren got me on three-way again.  Ashley wouldn’t stop dropping hints to speak to Kallen until I got him on the line.  Ashley was one of the people who had to get out of the house.  Her justification was to see if there was a meteorite shower.  Her previous prediction was wrong by a few days.

“The shower happened last night instead,” Ashley said.  “We can take a few minutes to go see.  The ban has dropped down into a warning.”

The other two scientists who stayed with Ashley and Ren were on board.  Kallen said it was a bad idea and wasn’t going.  I said that Kallen was right.  Out there alone gave us a good chance to be attacked.  We stated our cases back and forth for a little while, but Kallen and I finally got them to agree to stay at home.  As soon as I got off my phone, Kallen was standing at my door along with Shelie.

We all sat at my table again.

Lalo must have remembered to trust Shelie and Kallen because he told them about how he came to Earth, The Revolution, and that he was betrayed.

“And I thought your amnesia came from your ride,” Shelie said.  “This is worse than we knew.”

“We need new plans,” Kallen said.

“This is what we do,” Lalo said.  “First, we have to make the aliens who don’t know of The Revolution choose sides.  Not in the open of course.  If there is a spy, we will make them work for us.  Second, we will offer the humans the opportunity to help us save themselves.  Third, we fight.”

“What about using the Emperor to wipe out The Revolution?” Shelie said.  “He would do it and we would get more power.”

“The Emperor has chosen his side,” Lalo said.  “If any group is alike it is the Emperor and The Revolution.  Both want humans dead.  On top of that, if either of them find out about us, it is more likely that they team up to eliminate us first.  The humans would be next.  Then they would have their fight.

“If I am who you say I am will you follow me?” Lalo said.

“Of course,” Kallen said.  “As long as you are not playing both sides for your benefit.”

“I have nothing to do with The Revolution now,” Lalo said.

“Marli seems comfortable around you, but is that due to threats?” Kallen said.

“No,” I said.

“Knowing that The Revolution exists makes me not sure if I can totally trust you Lalo,” Kallen said.  “How do you give up on power like that?”

“I have no power to lose,” Lalo said.  “Both the Emperor and a Revolution decision maker wanted me lifeless.  But at least the Emperor can’t kill me now.  According to you, everyone knows I’m here and still thinks I’m the leader.”

“They do,” Kallen said.  “We didn’t receive any changes in leadership.  I’m going to keep my eye on you Lalo, but I’ll trust you for now.”

“Good,” Lalo said.

There was an awkward pause for a few minutes.

“So, are you going to take out The Revolution first?” I asked.

“We can’t,” Shelie said.  “They’re most likely too deep.  We need an idea of who it is.”

“Will this help?” Lalo said, laying my phone, opened to the graffiti, on the table in front of Shelie.  He checked to see if Kallen reacted.  Kallen lifted his brow and put his fist to his mouth as he leaned onto my table.

“It definitely is a combination of styles that I’ve seen before,” Shelie said.  “This is from the kidnapping site?”

Lalo confirmed.

“Whoever did this was deliberately throwing off the police,” Shelie said.  “Kallen told you about the Masqysava forgetting after they followed a similar sign?”

“Yes,” Lalo said.  “Those people, aliens, whatever they were could be the same beings who did this.”

“I agree,” Shelie said.  I think they are.  That’s why we took precaution in investigating this case.  We followed their scent but were too late.  It either dissipated or there are some chemists who made a solution to cover up their whereabouts.

“The only problem is people in my field are starting to speculate,” Shelie continued.  “Could this be a supernatural attack, they say.  You two have to be cautious in your investigating.  If they catch you—I certainly don’t have that high of a clearance.  We’re not sure if the Masqysava who do are on our side.”

“I understand,” Lalo said.

“That being said, the crime happened on the night you came Lalo,” Shelie said.  “They knew you were coming.  Solving the case may lead you to your betrayer.  And we can take care of them before the invasion gets any worse.”

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Lalo said as Shelie stood to leave.

“I think we can do it if I can get in the lab without anyone knowing,” I said.  “To check the rocks.”

“You found meteorites?!” Kallen said.  “It is definitely someone from The Revolution that you speak of.  I visited the crime site.  I didn’t see any meteorites.”

“Neither did I,” Shelie said.  “They were made exclusively for Lalo to see.”

I didn’t mention that I saw them on the TV too.

“So inspecting the rocks in the lab won’t help?” I said.

“No, quite opposite,” Kallen said.  “They can narrow the suspected.  Different divisions of Masqysava design the rocks according to the way they were taught.  Therefore, looking for a pattern can help.”

“Do y’all have an idea of who it is?” I asked.

Lalo grabbed my hand under the table.  I thought he trusted them.  I guess not one hundred percent.

“No,” Kallen said.  “But I do have reason to believe one or more Masqysava are hiding in your work team Marli.”

And I had reason to believe it could be Kallen.  I brought up the meteorites to see his reaction.  The way he reacted made me a little nervous.

“Listen, I have to go,” Shelie said.  “My team will get anxious if I’m missing too long.”

“Don’t tell anyone I can remember,” Lalo said.  “That’s our best plan for attack.”

Shelie nodded and left.

“So,” Kallen said.  “Do you have any ideas about who it is?”

“I think it’s Marcus,” I said, ignoring Lalo’s warning.  Kallen had the ability to help us although he could be the one we were looking for.  “He fits the timing.  Marcus had to arrive to Texas prior to the kidnapping to begin his work in Millsee.  Moving to Texas for a job was the perfect opportunity to cover up.”

“Hmm,” Kallen said and nodded.

Lalo asked Kallen about the birthplaces of Masqysava, how they were chosen due to meteorite landings.  Kallen confirmed that it was a practice of the Masqysava to create them in the same manner that we guessed.  In addition, Kallen said newer aliens disguised their birthplace in a similar fashion to Marcus’.

“Marcus fits by birthplace too,” Lalo said, “which means he is Masqysava and would know the symbol and have access to alien manipulated rock if he didn’t tamper with it himself.”

“He also made me uncomfortable when I met him,” I said.

And he fit the description from the psychic and the tall man figure in my dreams.

“I’ll keep an eye out on him,” Kallen said.

And we’ll keep an eye out on you.

Chapter 17

Around 10 a.m. the next morning I got a call from Kallen, saying it would be a good time to go to the lab.  Ashley, Ren, and their group decided to go find the meteorites after all.  I would at least have thirty minutes.

Lalo and I left immediately.  As we took off, he shifted to simulate someone else.

“How am I supposed to keep up with you?” I asked.

“Don’t,” Lalo said.  “And if anyone asks my name is Dr. Andy Young.”  He pulled out an ID card with his info on it.

“How did you get that?” I said.

“Kallen dropped it on the floor yesterday,” he said.

Great!  They were communicating in secrecy around me again!

The parking lot was empty at the lab.  I considered going around to the back to park, where we could be hidden, but decided I’d rather face punishment by Dr. Stevenson than be caught by violent aliens.  At least in the front people would see us being attacked from the highway.  They could call for help.

As Lalo and I approached the building, I sought out a solution to open the front door.  What a surprise!  It wasn’t on lockdown.  My card opened it right up.  Happy about the finding but anxious that we were being watched, I tip toed into the building.  Lalo followed me close behind, paying a high level of attention to our surroundings.  We made it past the offices and into the lab with no problems.  Everyone at least took heed to the warnings to stay away from work.

I ran over to the microscopes and began examining Lalo’s meteorite.  Then observed the one we found at the crime scene.  They were similar but slightly different.  Lalo took a peek.

“This is exactly what I expected to find,” Lalo said.

“And what was that?” another voice asked.

I jolted my head up to see Marcus approaching us.  How did he get in the door without us hearing?

“Aren’t you supposed to be at home Marli?” Marcus asked.  “And who is this?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” I said.  I swallowed, pushing down the fear that he would attack us.  Be brave!  The one good thing we had going was that he didn’t know Dr. Young was Lalo.

“If you must know, I had a feeling you were hiding something,” Marcus said.  “Well, you, Ashley, and Ren.  So I camped out here, in the lab.”  His eyes caught a glimpse of the rocks.  “Those are the meteorites aren’t they?  The ones you found today.  Ashley invited me too.  I declined.”

So he didn’t know they were from the crime scene?

“Yes,” I said.

I tensed and backed up as Marcus came to my side to see the meteorite through the microscope.  “Nothing extraord—” Marcus said, lifting his head.

He froze when he saw Lalo’s rock.  “Where did you get this?” Marcus asked, picking up Lalo’s rock as if he knew it was alien without using the microscope.  He put it back on the counter.  “Lalo?” he asked as he directed his attention to Lalo.

“I don’t know what—” Lalo said.

“You are!” Marcus said.

How did he know?

“You’re alive!”  Marcus grabbed Lalo and hugged him.  Lalo remained expressionless and motionless.  “It worked!”

“It worked?”  He had to be referring to the signs he used to find Lalo.  Marcus was in charge of the kidnapping.  He was our suspect.  Just like I thought.  It wouldn’t be a good idea to let him know we knew what he was up to.  We could be in danger.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Marli, I knew it,” Marcus said.  “I knew you were the one that connected to Lalo when I shook your hand over at the lake.  I sensed him.”  Marcus paused when we didn’t respond.  “Don’t do this to me.  I’m on your side.  We heard that the alien, who goes by the name of August, wanted you to be executed Lalo.  This is the same alien who overthrew me when I was the leader of The Revolution.  I sent a message back home to let the others know so they could save you.  Lalo, there’s so much to tell you.  Everything changed!  August tried to execute me and a few others who didn’t want to be under his reign.”

“Didn’t you want the same things?” Lalo said.  “You wanted all humans dead.”

No!  Why did you reveal yourself Lalo?  He wants you dead!

“Lalo, I looked up to you,” Marcus said.  “So I thought about what you said when we got to Earth, how killing humans was wrong.  And at first I didn’t agree.  We, The Revolution, had plans to go after what we wanted: the humans dead and control over the Masqysava Empire.  But things changed.

“We had to put ourselves into the society,” Marcus continued.  “We saw that all humans weren’t the evil ones that the Emperor made them out to be.  We changed our minds.  We would go after our freedom and freedom alone. 

“But a small group didn’t agree.  They still wanted to destroy all humans.  None of my advisors knew how strong this group was.  Before those of us who simply wanted freedom knew what was happening, August became The Revolution’s leader.  He sent soldiers to kill me, and we went on the run.

“However, I have spies within The Revolution.  My secret advisers.  They gave me August’s plans.  That’s how I found out he wanted you dead.  But there is hope!  The aliens still in The Revolution are waiting for you.  August is a temporary leader.  That’s why he wanted to assassinate you—to get rid of the competition.  You can still influence them Lalo.  That’s why everyone is trying to find you.”

“Where are the rest of your followers?” Lalo said.

“In hiding,” Marcus said.  “We discuss this every week, but we don’t know what to do exactly.  We can’t tell the government an attack is coming.  They will imprison us.  We don’t have the power to take back control of The Revolution.  We don’t have contact with the new aliens coming down.  We’re lost.”

“You kidnapped the homeless though,” I said.  “Why didn’t you figure out how to find Lalo another way?”

“No,” Marcus said, shaking his head.  “That wasn’t me.  I was on a plane from New York to Dallas.  And it wasn’t my idea to move here; Dr. Stevenson found and hired me.  It had to be another seeking you Lalo.  It must have been August.  Although August and his followers hide, they have the technology to track meteors.  And they have spies back at home, among the Masqysava, in high positions.  When you escaped, they were the first to know. I couldn’t depend on their information until I saw you though.  I’m so glad you’re here!”

“So what does August look like?” I asked.  “Is he tall?  Strong built?”

“I don’t know,” Marcus said.  “I never saw him.”

“You said you have spies within The Revolution,” I said.  “They never described him to you?”

“No,” Marcus said.  “They’ve never seen him either.  That’s why he is so powerful.  No one knows who he is.”

I squinted.  “Then how do you know he was in charge of the kidnapping?  And how do you know it is a ‘he’ you are talking about?”

Marcus chuckled.  “Let’s not be ridiculous.  I highly doubt this is a female we are talking about here.”

“You do know of Naya don’t you?” Lalo said.

“She is one of a kind,” Marcus said.  “And she hadn’t arrived yet.”

“Marcus,” Lalo said, “I want to believe you, but you match the description of the kidnappers.  And I have concluded that these kidnappers also want me dead.”

“Please Lalo, you’re like a brother to me,” Marcus said.  “I wouldn’t lie to you.  And I wouldn’t hurt you.”

“You are violent,” Lalo said.

“Not anymore,” Marcus said.  “I’ve learned how to change here on Earth.  I can control my anger now.  I wouldn’t have hurt other people to find you.”

The creaking of the door ceased our conversation.  We whipped our heads to look.  Dr. Stevenson slid into the room.

Ashley must have called him.

Lalo snuck his meteorites into his pocket.

“To what do I owe this great pleasure?” Dr. Stevenson said.  “Dr. Young, associating with my team.  I thought you already left for California.”

“I was wrapping up a project,” Lalo said.  “I called these two in.  I thought I could use their expertise, being that they are an integral part of your team.”

Dr. Stevenson approached us.  “Aren’t they?” he said, full of happiness.  “Marli was one of the best hires I ever had.  Marcus as well.  They both led me to you, Lalo.”

“Who’s that?” I asked.

“Aww, now don’t go lying to me Marli,” Dr. Stevenson said.  “Lalo is standing next to you.  I knew you would find your connector once you came, Lalo.  All I had to do was find the connector first.  Then you would come to me.”

[_Dr. Stevenson used me? _] My mouth was wide open.

“It was one of the most exhausting projects I took on,” Dr. Stevenson continued.  “I had been searching for five years before I found Marli.  I scoured every job that I thought she would work in.  I knew of every psychic, physics major, astronaut wanna be, counselor, and the like who graduated in the past five years.  I searched so much, and then it came to me.  What if she didn’t know of her abilities?

“Well, it took me about six months, and then I found you Marli.  Everything was perfect from your age to your birthplace.  Those longitudes and latitudes lined right up.  The bonus was that you were also an ecologist. 

“When you came to Millsee, I stuck Kallen on you because he is obsessed with aliens.  I didn’t get the impression that Kallen recognized you as harmful.  So I found out he didn’t have the abilities that I believed he possessed.  Not willing to let you go yet, I thought about it and searched again.  And I found Marcus.  Who would have known?  One of our leading ecologists.  When he paused, shaking your hand, I knew you were the one.  I simply had to sit back and watch.  I almost thought your ex-boyfriend coming to town would ruin it all, but alas, Lalo found you!  And together you and I, Lalo, we will rule over the world!”  A huge grin spread across Dr. Stevenson’s face.

“It was you!” Marcus said, pointing to Dr. Stevenson.  “You set up the kidnapping!”

“And y’all saw the sign, found my rocks, and are here,” Dr. Stevenson said.  “Lalo, I agree.  They are very integral to my success.  I never would have known I found you if it wasn’t for Marli and Marcus.  So integral, yes indeed!”

“You were honored by the President!” I said.  “And you’re a kidnapper!  You hurt those people!”

“Marli,” Dr. Stevenson said.  “Save the dramatics for later.  Those people are safe.  Safer than you’ll be when the invasion takes place if you don’t do as I say.

“Come now Dr. Young, since that’s what you want to be called,” Dr. Stevenson continued.  “I’m afraid we don’t have time to spare.  I never planned for August to exist.  We need a strategy for his destruction, fast.  We need to let the others know you are here.  And that I will lead with your council.”

Dr. Stevenson extended his hand and rounded the table we were standing behind, trying to get close to Lalo.

Marcus positioned himself to fight.  “We’re not going anywhere with you.”

“Really?” Dr. Stevenson said.  The words amused him.  “You think you can take me on?  One alien verses two humans and a weak alien.  Allow me to give you a proper education.”

Dr. Stevenson sprang toward us.  My vision went hazy for a couple of seconds.  The next thing I knew Lalo and I were squatting in the corner of the room.  One of his hands was wrapped around my back.  The other covered my head.

I looked for Marcus.  Dr. Stevenson threw unsuccessful jabs at him, missing every single time.  Marcus was too swift.  Marcus’ punch connected and Dr. Stevenson was sent spinning in the air.  Unfortunately, Dr. Stevenson regained his balance mid-air and landed firmly on the ground.  He squinted.  “Huh.  Never thought you would be an alien too Marcus.  Never crossed my mind that you too are on August’s kill list.  Consider my offer, co-lead.”

“Never,” Marcus said.  “You are too concerned with power to lead.”

“Au contraire.” On the contrary.  “I do kind of lead multiple important programs in the human society,” Dr. Stevenson said, “thus giving me a lot of power and connections.  I don’t fail at that.  You may want to reconsider.  I couldn’t imagine being hunted by both humans and aliens at the same time.”

“No!” Marcus said.

“Step out of the way then,” Dr. Stevenson said.  “You and I both know the clock is ticking.”

Marcus motioned for Dr. Stevenson to come and fight him.  Dr. Stevenson ran at Marcus with speed and performed a few quick moves, jumping to the wall, to land behind Marcus and pound him in his back.  Then he swept Marcus’ legs, making him fall forward.  Marcus broke the fall with his arms but was too weak to get up.  He cried out.

Dr. Stevenson laughed then he directed his attention to us in the corner.  “Now, for my prize.”

Lalo and I stood up.  I held my arms up.  Though Dr. Stevenson was an alien, I was going to give him the best fight I could.  He wasn’t going to take Lalo away from me.  He wouldn’t have his chance to kill him.

“Isn’t that sweet?” Dr. Stevenson said.

“What’s going on?” I heard Ashley say.

We spotted Ashley, Ren, Alessandro, and Sahar at the door.  Sahar held meteorites in a clear bag.

“You brought goodies?” Dr. Stevenson said.  “Come right in.”

“What are you doing?” Ren said as they advanced into the room.  “Why are they in the corner?”

“Part of a project,” Dr. Stevenson said, curving to face them.  “Listen, we are all going to Florida for a few weeks.  They found some other animals that migrated in a similar pattern.  We’re leaving tomorrow.  Why don’t you all go home, get your things packed, and we’ll meet here to leave together at 9 a.m.”

“Dr. Stevenson, are you alright?” Ashley asked.

“Go now,” Dr. Stevenson said.  “While there is still daylight.  Who knows if there will be another attack?  All of you.”  He motioned for Lalo and me to go too, but we stood our ground.

Ashley and the rest of the group didn’t move either.  Dr. Stevenson strolled towards them.  “Go,” he said.

Marcus stood up, still in pain.

“Marcus!” Ren said.  “What did you do to him?”

“Stop right there!” Dr. Stevenson yelled as Ren moved to get closer to Marcus.  Ren mouthed the word “what” as he squinted.

“I called myself letting y’all off the hook,” Dr. Stevenson said.  “This has nothing to do with you.  But since you don’t want to go, you’ll just have to reap the consequences.”

“No, you will,” Ashley said, and whipped out some sort of compact, high tech gun.

“That’s not going to stop me,” Dr. Stevenson said.

Ren pulled out a matching gun and aimed it at Dr. Stevenson too.

“This is pretty hilarious,” Dr. Stevenson said.  “I must have been so engaged in finding Marli that I didn’t realize I hired police too.”  He shrugged.  “My bad.”

“You’re coming with us,” Ren said.

“For what?” Dr. Stevenson said.  “You have nothing on me.  So excuse me.”

Dr. Stevenson made a move to leap towards Lalo and me.  As soon as he landed, he stumbled back, as if he was drunk.  In his arm was a dart like object.  He pulled it out.  A few second later he was back to normal.

“Bet you didn’t know that would happen!” Dr. Stevenson said.

Ren and Ashley shot at Dr. Stevenson several more times but missed more than half of the time.  When he got hit, he pulled the daggers out and he was back to normal again.

“Seems like after all those years of experimentation on us, the government still can’t get it right,” Dr. Stevenson said.  “You know what.  I feel like I’m a nice guy.  We all had some history together.  So even though you keep attempting to kill or paralyze me, I don’t want to hurt you.  But I can’t let you be free, so it looks like all of you will be coming with me.  Guys!”

Dr. Stevenson paused as if he was waiting for something to happen.

“Guys!” he said in a more frustrated tone.  “Now!”

The door busted open and people dressed in a police like uniforms filed into the room after Kallen.  “Freeze!”

“Oh now they’ve got the backup police on me,” Dr. Stevenson said.  “And Kallen, what are you doing?”

“They contacted me,” Kallen said.

“Shoot him!” Ren ordered.

Dr. Stevenson maneuvered the same way he previously did with Ren and Ashley, but a shooter, with a much bigger gun, connected directly with his shoulder.  Dr. Stevenson struggled to pull the dagger out, taking a few steps forward before he sat down.  The “police” ran to restrain him.

“I didn’t do anything,” Dr. Stevenson said.

Ashley walked over to him, holding up the bag of meteorites.  “We found this in your home Dr. Stevenson.  It matches the out of place rocks found at the crime scene.”

“How did you know about that?” Dr. Stevenson said.  “They were created for one to see.  One has that ability.  I didn’t leave them out in the open.  How did you see that?”

“We also found plans to attack the government,” Ashley said.

“I didn’t have plans,” he said.  “I’m being framed!”

“We’ll see about that,” Ashley said.  “You’re under arrest.”  Ashley read him his rights.

“Are you sure aliens have these rights too?” Dr. Stevenson said and chuckled.

“Take him into the station and find out where the kidnapped people are,” Ren said.

“Ren, you can’t do this,” Dr. Stevenson said, switching his demeanor to a more concerned one.  “You are putting them in danger.  They are safe where they are.”

Was this the ramblings of a lunatic or did he really did bring them to a safer place?

Ren didn’t say anything as the police took Dr. Stevenson into custody.  Ren waited until the team was gone to address us.

“Aliens?” Sahar said.  She and Alessandro were in shock.  Dr. Young, Marcus, and I pretended to be too.

“Dr. Young, Marcus, Marli, Alessandro, Sahar,” Ren said, “what you witnessed doesn’t leave this room.”  Ren and Ashley revealed a badge that stated that they were members of the FBI.  “This is part of an ongoing investigation.  Discussing it will put you in danger.  We don’t have all the answers yet.”

“Is this related to the incident in Greele?” Sahar asked.

“We believe so,” Ren said. “However, we have other reasons to believe it is due to another entity.”

“Human entities?” Alessandro asked.

“Yes,” Ren said.

“So what do we do?” I asked.  “Is our job finished?”

“No,” Ren said.  “We will continue.  Instead of working for Dr. Stevenson, you will work for us.  And as part of your work it is important to keep Ashley and my affiliations unknown.  Revealing our identities will also put you in danger due to our relationship with you all.  Besides, it is against the law to reveal us.  Marcus, Marli, and Dr. Young, we will contact you later tonight for questioning. Does everyone understand?”

“Yes,” we said, preserved in our confusion, wondering if the showdown really did happen.

“Good,” Ren said.  “When the city is declared safe again, we will call and give you information on where to meet us.”

“Get some rest,” Ashley said.  “Dr. Stevenson was right about one thing.  This is the beginning.”

Lalo and I made our way to Kallen who didn’t say anything except that he would follow us home.  Outside, my colleagues and I said goodbye to each other.  I lingered around, talking to Dr. Young as the others got into their cars.  Interestingly enough there was an extra car, one that didn’t belong to Dr. Stevenson, parked in the lot.  A woman hung her head out of the window and called for Dr. Young.

It was Shelie.  I could tell that Lalo wanted to go with me but knew it would be strange if he got into my car.  Who knew if someone was watching?

I drove alone with Kallen trailing me.  Inside my house, I paced for about forty minutes while Kallen tried to reassure me that Lalo was fine.  “She probably took him to see the other Masqysava,” Kallen said.  Finally, Shelie and Lalo arrived.

I ran to Lalo and hugged him.

“Don’t give me that look Marli,” Shelie said once inside the closed door.  “We had to go out of the way.  The last thing you need is those FBI or police investigating you.”

“I thought you were the police,” I said, sitting down at the table.

“I’m not that kind,” she said.  “That’s the government’s secret.  They are higher than me.  They are the ones that allegedly hunt our kind.”

“And now I work for them,” I said.

“You do,” Shelie said.

“And you’ll be our little secret,” Lalo said, bending down to cup my ears and kiss me on my forehead.  “You’ll help me lead one of the greatest attacks of all time.”

Hi,

I hope you enjoyed Marli and Lalo’s story.  If so, feel free to give it a review online.  It helps others see if they might like this story too. 

Thanks for your awesome help,

Mia

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Check out the next/in between story of the Fallen Invasion Series

Naya’s Invasion

Fallen Invasion Series Story #2

A Fallen Invasion Romance

Other Titles from Mia Mitns

Tea Leaf: What Hides Beneath

The Baconaces: A Short Story

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Acknowledgements

Thank you for checking out this book!  Thanks to everyone who helped me produce Marli and Lalo’s story!

About the Author

During school, Mia dreamed the idea for her first novel, Tea Leaf: What Hides Beneath, an urban fantasy story. After school, she returned to writing to complete the story and found out she had more. When Mia is not writing or reading, she enjoys listening to music, going to concerts, art, and trying to play guitar. 


Fallen + Marli & Lalo

A Fallen Alien? Marli has a few problems. For starters Lalo, an alien, fell from the sky into her yard. An alien! These things haven’t scientifically been proven to exist yet. How could she communicate with Lalo without making him upset? Fortunately for Marli, Lalo is kind. When Marli uncovers a better way to talk to Lalo, she finds out he has a problem— amnesia, he can't remember why he is on Earth. Lalo only knows he needs to protect Marli. On the other hand, Marli feels she needs to shield Lalo from humans. Too bad her neighbor, Kallen, becomes very suspicious the morning after Lalo arrives. The news story of a possible kidnapping makes Kallen even more anxious about strange things occurring. To find answers to Lalo's memory loss, Marli and Lalo become wrapped up in solving the kidnapping mystery. But after Lalo starts to remember and rediscover his abilities, will Marli find out that Lalo has secrets of his own? Suggested reading order: 1. Fallen (or) 2. Naya's Invasion 3. Marli and Lalo: A Fallen Mystery Notes: 1. This story continues from "Fallen" 2. This story stands alone from Naya's Invasion. However, if Naya's Invasion is read first, the story is a little richer *****Slight Spoiler***** 3. The main mystery is solved, but the story will continue

  • ISBN: 9781311807045
  • Author: Mia Mitns
  • Published: 2016-03-07 06:20:13
  • Words: 39623
Fallen + Marli & Lalo Fallen + Marli & Lalo