Speaking to some of the locals, I’ve come up with a rather interesting lead involving a small town called Calmview, which seemingly appeared out of nowhere several years back. There are no records indicating it existed any further back. Several people have claimed to visit it, but said the locals were quite pushy in getting them to leave town and head on their way, almost like they were hiding something. This is definitely a curiosity worth investigating, and I’ll need to go there the next time I’m in the area.
“Calmview,” Bill said, putting down the diary, “nice name.”
“Yes,” Evaira said, “but I get the feeling this town is anything but calm. Liza indicated she was going to visit the town, and she said the townspeople seem to be trying to hide something…”
“How far would they go to protect a secret,” Bill said, “Mayor Valencia of Carlsburn where I’m from would kill to keep our shapeshifting abilities secret. What’s to say these people won’t do the same?”
“But we know Liza’s still alive,” Chira added, peeking out of her pot, “Don’t we?”
“Of course she is! There are plenty of ways you can keep a secret without resorting to murder,” Evaira said, “We will have to investigate this town very carefully.”
“True,” Chira answered.
At this point, the lights in the RV suddenly grew dark, the room only illuminated by the moonlight coming in the windows.
“What just happened?” Bill asked, “Generator blown a fuse?”
“But I just replaced a fuse yesterday!” Evaira complained.
“Besides,” Chira said, “we’ve still got some power. Alpha’s not given us a power warning.”
“Do not worry,” a voice said.
“Who’s there,” Evaira said.
At this point, the image of Liza’s old confidant, friend, and secret alien, Jake “Sulor” Robertson, appeared in the RV. It appeared to be coming from the diary.
“There is nothing wrong with your vehicle,” he said, “do not attempt to adjust the power. I have taken control of the lighting…”
“So you can take us to the outer limits?” Bill asked jokingly.
“…so I can display this hologram and deliver a warning,” the image of Jake continued, ignoring Bill, “Liza, if you are seeing this message, you are approaching the town of Calmview. I hid this message in your diary to display should you ever come this way. I have helped you discover many interesting unusual phenomenon and helped you with stories in the past. In exchange, I would like to request that you stay away from Calmview. Please proceed to your next investigation. That is all.”
At this point, the hologram disappeared, and the lighting in the RV returned to normal.
“Curious,” Evaira said, “so Jake wants us to stay away from Calmview.”
“Why would that be?” Bill asked.
“I don’t know,” Evaira said, “and frankly, I’m a bit curious. Plus, would Liza have listened to Jake’s message?”
“Well,” Chira said, “Jake was her trusted friend and confidant.”
“But I know Liza,” Evaira said, “she’s not one to pass up on an opportunity for a good story. She might have seen the message, gotten curious, and decided to check the place out anyway.”
“She might have disobeyed Jake,” Bill said, “so that means Jake could have something to do with her disappearance after all.”
“Interesting idea,” Evaira said, “it depends how big Calmview’s secret is.”
“I thought we went over this,” Chira said, “We confronted Jake when we went to his house. It’s clear he had nothing to do with her disappearance.”
“This sheds some new light on our investigation of Jake, though,” Evaira said, “I still think it’s worth checking out Calmview, since Liza may have gone there. Jake’s warning is a bit suspicious. Alpha, let’s pull the RV over for the night and we will go to Calmview in the morning.” Evaira turned her head and looked out the window, deep in thought.
“As you request,” Alpha said.
The next morning the RV started off again and went down a lonely road through a hilly wasteland, until they arrived at a small, isolated town. They passed by a sign that said “Welcome to Calmview”, coupled with descriptions of several decidedly unappealing tourist destinations.
“Who’d want to vacation here?” Bill asked.
“It’s a trick,” Evaira said looking at the sign, “advertising places in this way will help keep visitors away. Now, we must figure out why. But we must be discreet.”
Alpha drove the RV into town. As they drove down the street, Evaira looked out the window. The RV was attracting a lot of attention from the locals.
“They look like they’ve never seen an RV before,” Evaira said.
“They know we’re strangers,” Chira said, “Liza said they don’t like strangers.”
“Well,” Evaira said, “we’ve got to figure out why. Alpha, find us a place to park.”
“As you request,” Alpha responded.
Alpha drove the RV to a small parking lot on a side street. Evaira and Bill stepped out of the RV. As they did, they noticed a short brown-haired man approach them. He walked with an unusual limp, and spoke with a strange accent Evaira couldn’t recognize.
“Hello, visitors,” he said, “welcome to Calmview. I am Franklin, the mayor of the town. Why have you stopped here?”
“We’re looking for a friend,” Bill said, “she is…”
“She is not here,” Franklin interrupted, “you can find her elsewhere.”
Evaira thought about how abrupt the mayor’s response was. They didn’t even say what Liza looked like. Plus, Evaira was suspicious why someone as important as the mayor would personally greet some strangers that just drove into town.
“How do you know our friend isn’t here?” Evaira asked.
“No other people like you are currently in Calmview,” Franklin explained. We have no missing people here. Visitors in Calmview are rare, so I greet them to ensure they are satisfied and leave in peace.”
“You have a strange way of talking,” Bill said, “We definitely get the idea we are not wanted.”
“Do you?” Franklin asked, “Well, my manner of speech is not important. Shall I suggest a route out of town for you?”
“Actually,” Evaira said, “we need to stay for a little bit. We’re on a long journey, and a bit short on supplies.”
“Very well,” Franklin said, “do you have a list of the supplies you require? Give it to me, and I shall help you acquire them.”
“Hold on,” Evaira said, “I will prepare a list.”
Evaira and Bill stepped back into the RV.
“Didn’t we just get supplies in the last town?” Bill asked.
“We need an excuse to stick around for a bit,” Evaira said, “Alpha, prepare a list of supplies that we could need, but be sure to include a couple items that would be very difficult to find in a place like this. That should keep them busy.”
“As you request,” Alpha said.
A couple minutes later, Alpha stepped forward from the driver’s seat and handed Evaira a printed list. Evaira read it closely.
“This will do,” she said, “thanks.”
Evaira and Bill stepped out of the RV, and handed the list to Franklin.
“These items,” he said, “we shall help you acquire them. Then, you shall leave?”
“Assuming we didn’t forget anything,” Evaira said.
“Very good,” Franklin said, walking away.
“So how do we find out if Liza’s here?” Bill asked.
“We first need to figure out their secret,” Evaira said, “I’ll explore the town and pretend to shop for supplies. Can you find a way to discretely watch the mayor?”
“With my shapeshifting,” Bill said, “I should be able to follow Franklin without being noticed.”
Bill shapeshifted into a bird and flew off in Franklin’s direction.
“Alpha, Chira!” Evaira called into the RV, “Keep an eye on the RV while we’re visiting the town. We don’t know if anybody will pay us a visit, or try anything. But considering how pushy the mayor was being, we’d better play this one carefully.”
“Right,” Chira said.
“As you request,” Alpha said.
And so, Evaira started to walk around Calmview. As she walked, she pretended to shop for supplies; she noticed the townspeople all seemed to be looking at her, as if they knew she was a stranger and wanted to keep an eye on her. With everyone watching her so closely, she knew it would be difficult to discover what the town was hiding.
Bill, on the other hand, remained undetected, thanks to his transformation. The townspeople didn’t think twice about a bird flying by. He followed Franklin from the air, until the mayor walked into a large building in the center of town. Bill then changed into a fly, and entered the building through the door when Franklin opened it. He followed Franklin through the cold stone corridors inside the building, until Franklin arrived at a small office-like room.
Franklin sat down at the desk in the office, and picked up a telephone off the desk. He struggled to dial a number, apparently misdialing and needed to start over several times. One time when he finally dialed a complete number, he asked to speak to “The boss”, only to learn it was a wrong number. Eventually, he got through to his boss.
“Boss,” Franklin said, “I do not comprehend why you’re making me use the phone system for our communications. It’s insecure. Also, it’s inefficient and difficult.”
Bill could hear the murmurings of the boss’s response, but couldn’t make out the words through the phone.
“Naturally,” Franklin said, “it is just a standard complaint. I also do not understand why you want us to conduct all of these conversations in English. We both are able to…”
There was another pause as the boss answered.
“Understood,” Franklin said, “I comprehend. Anyway, I need to call in order to report that we have some visitors.”
The boss spoke again.
“They said they need supplies and I requested a list of items,” Franklin said, “Items nineteen, six, and two on that list may be unreasonable to acquire. I suspect they are attempting to stall.”
The boss answered.
“You wish for me to eliminate the threat,” Franklin asked.
The boss answered again.
“I comprehend, boss,” Franklin said, “I will do so.”
The boss replied once more.
“That is all,” Franklin said, “farewell.”
Franklin hung up, and then walked out of the room. Bill flew back outside the building, the words “eliminate the threat” echoing in his mind. From his experiences back in Carlsburn with Mayor Valencia, he knew what those words implied. The townspeople would try to kill them.
Bill and Evaira met up once more, outside the RV.
“I couldn’t get anything,” Evaira said, “The townspeople knew I was a stranger. They were very cautious when I was around.”
“I got something,” Bill said, “and it’s not good. I overheard Franklin talking with somebody on the phone. It sounds like they haven’t bought our story AND they want to kill us.”
“Kill us? Did he really say that?” Evaira said. She felt Bill might be exaggerating.
“The boss told him to eliminate the threat,” Bill said, “which means kill.”
“It doesn’t necessarily mean kill but it still doesn’t sound good,” Evaira said. “I don’t think Liza is here. But there is a reason Jake tried to keep us away and the mayor definitely doesn’t want us around and I would like to know what it is. It makes me wonder whether we can trust Jake.”
“True,” Bill said.
“But Jake’s message got me a bit suspicious,” Evaira said, “How is he connected to this town?”
“Maybe they’re aalasians?” Bill suggested, “like Jake.”
“If they are aalasians,” Evaira said, “the fact that they settled a whole town like this on earth, and are trying to keep it a secret, suggests they may not be a friendly people like Jake has indicated. Would they try to conquer the world in order to find their “source”? Etherium is quite valuable to them.”
“Or maybe the whole story about the source was just a red herring?” Bill suggested.
“That seems unlikely,” Evaira said, “Many of the events we have investigated appear to be connected, and Jake has always provided good leads for Liza. I believe his search for the source is real, but still, it could be only one of his objectives.”
“Are you questioning Jake’s motives again?” Chira said, now standing in the entrance to the RV.
“Well,” Evaira said, “this is rather suspicious. He’s involved in helping to hide this town, the locals in town will go to drastic action to keep their secret, and…”
“Is this all from Bill’s information?” Chira asked.
“Not entirely,” Evaira said, “Bill overheard the mayor threaten us.”
“Remember,” Chira said, “Bill’s information was the reason we confronted Jake the last time. It turned out to be nothing. Bill was able to get only part of a message.”
“So you’re saying I’m giving bad information?” Bill angrily replied.
“I’m just saying we should verify this,” Chira said.
“Sorry, Chira,” Evaira said, “but I have to trust what Bill says. I think he learned the need to get the whole story from last time.”
“Then what do we do?” Bill asked.
“For now,” Evaira said, “we leave town. We can set up the RV somewhere just outside of town and continue investigating this place more discretely from there. I’m certain you, with your shapeshifting abilities, can eventually figure out what they’re trying to hide, along with their connection to Jake.”
“But won’t they get suspicious that we leave without the supplies we requested?” Bill asked.
“If they haven’t fully bought our story already,” Evaira said, “it really won’t matter.”
“Then let’s go,” Bill said.
He and Evaira walked onto the RV. Evaira was about to give Alpha the order to drive the RV out of town, but then, Evaira peeked out the window, and noticed Franklin was standing outside with several more townspeople.
“Hold on,” Evaira said, “Franklin’s here and he has brought some company.”
“Then let’s get out of here!” Bill cried.
“If we flee now,” Evaira said, “they’ll know we know what they’re up to, and things will really start to get messy. They’ve got us outnumbered, and may very well be trained for things like this. We should try to avoid a confrontation if we can.”
“How?” Bill said.
“Careful planning,” Evaira said, “and we have to make him think we are willing to leave on our own.”
Evaira approached the front door, and opened it. She did not get off the RV, but spoke from inside, at the top of the steps in the doorway.
“Come,” Franklin said, “we shall escort you out of town.”
“What about the supplies we need?” Evaira said.
“We are unable to locate all of them,” Franklin said, “and you will not find all of them if you continue to remain here.”
Evaira knew she had to make Franklin go away. She wanted Franklin to think they were willing to leave town on their own. She couldn’t trust Franklin to lead them anywhere since he knew they had tried to stall.
“Then can you tell us what other nearby town might have the supplies? Evaira said, “Unfortunately, we won’t get very far without at least some of them.”
“For some reason,” Franklin said, “I disbelieve you.”
Franklin stepped towards the RV.
“Stop!” Evaira said, “This is private property. Alpha close the doors.”
Franklin tried to stop the doors from closing. He struggled for a couple moments before they heard a loud voice cry “Enough!”
They both looked back and saw Jake was standing in front of the other townspeople.
“Sulor!” Franklin cried, “Sir!”
“Jake?” Evaira said, unsure as to whether she should be happy to see him, or be ready for a fight.
“Leave them to me, Zeelor,” Jake said, “They are not a threat, but I’ll take care of them.”
“Yes, sir,” Franklin said.
He stopped struggling with the door and stepped away from the RV.
“Zeelor?” Evaira said.
“His aalasian name,” Jake said.
“Then this is an aalasian settlement,” Evaira said.
“It is,” Jake said, “Mind if I step inside?”
Bill gestured Evaira not to let Jake inside, but something about Jake’s tone of voice made Evaira feel she could trust him.
“Sure,” Evaira said, stepping aside.
“Thank you,” Jake said, stepping into the RV.
“Zeelor,” Jake said to Franklin, “you may go.”
Franklin nodded, and walked off with the others. Jake finished entering the RV and sat down on a couch,
“I should apologize for them,” Jake said, “they were only acting under instructions to try to get visitors to leave town as soon as possible. By making this settlement look like an ordinary town, we can avoid immediate suspicion, but we can only keep up the façade so long. We can’t allow visitors to stay here for too long, so we can keep our secret. Sadly, they never were very good with your language’s mannerisms or etiquette. This, in itself, could make people suspicious.”
“Then I guess this mystery is solved,” Evaira said..
“Why didn’t you listen to my warning?” Jake asked, obvious anger in his voice, “I asked you and Liza not to come here.”
“Liza is missing,” Evaira replied, “and when I saw your message, I got worried. I know she’s always been very curious, so she might not have listened to your warning, and…”
“I see your point,” Jake said, calming down a bit, “but I trust you see mine.”
“What do you mean?” Evaira asked.
“The source is important to us,” Jake said, “I would never be sent solo on such an important mission, and forced to struggle working only with earth people and earth technologies to complete my mission. We built Calmview as a base of operations. I have all the aalasians and aalasian technology I might need to do whatever it takes to find the source.”
“But building a settlement on Earth?” Bill said.
“Probably not the best idea,” Jake said, “it’s practically an act of war, building our settlement secretly on your territory on your planet. It makes it look like we’re preparing an invasion force. Unfortunately, we didn’t really have much of a choice if we wanted to find the source. That is why I instructed Liza not to visit Calmview. It would be better if she didn’t know the details. Unfortunately, now you know, but I can assure you that all we want is the source. We have no interest in invading. Regardless, if people do find out about this settlement, they’ll probably think otherwise.”
“That’s what I figured,” Chira said, “Liza trusted you, and from what I know about her, I know she’s very perceptive. If you had been planning more, surely she’d have found something.”
“It does make sense,” Evaira said, “what we saw in Calmview did make me suspicious, but Liza did trust you, and I really haven’t been considering that as strongly as I should have. I should have trusted your warning, but Liza is missing and that changes things. It makes us suspicious of everyone. Then Bill overheard the mayor making threats.”
“I see,” Jake said, “Unfortunately, Franklin learned a lot of his English from watching gangster movies.”
“Figures,” Chira said.
“Regardless,” Jake said, “Considering how most aalasians can’t speak good English, you should be a little more careful before jumping to conclusions, you’ve almost lost me as an ally more than once already.”
“I know,” Bill said with a sigh.
“Anyway,” Jake said, changing the subject, “Since we’re here, shall we discuss Liza?”
“Alright,” Evaira said, “I suppose I should tell you about my recent conversation with her?”
“You spoke with her?” Jake asked, “How?”
“A shared unconscious,” Evaira said.
“Interesting,” Jake said, “that means she’s definitely still alive, and it is rather impressive that she was able to set up something like that.”
“She didn’t do it that well,” Chira said, “we had to break it, or we risked losing both sisters.”
“I see,” Jake said, “When you spoke, did she give you any clues?”
“Well,” Evaira said, “she confirmed what you told me, about many of the different things we’ve been investigating being connected…”
Jake and Evaira traded stories for a while, and Jake gave them some more tips. After talking for a few more hours, Jake left the RV, and, on Evaira’s orders, Alpha drove the RV out of Calmview.
Author’s Notes (may contain spoilers):
This was a difficult one to write. It’s important to the plot as I introduce the Aalasian presence on Earth, but it was still tough to write. At times, I was concerned I was repeating too much from The Confidant Phenomenon, and its themes about trusting Jake, and the idea of secret-keeping from The Shapeshifter Phenomenon. However, trust and keeping secrets are two major themes of the series, and I’ll surely be using them a lot.
Can Jake be trusted, or can’t he? The Source is important to him and his people. I don’t exactly want him to seem entirely trustworthy. He does keep secrets, and I definitely want to touch again on the fact that he is still keeping secrets from Evaira. Of course, when I bring these themes up again, I have to find other, more subtle ways.