It was early the following morning when Liz was standing in front of her mirror putting on her waitress uniform. Once done, she went back to sit down on the edge of her bed, grabbing a notebook and opening it to her biology notes. She was startled when, a moment later, her door suddenly opened without warning and Maria burst in. Liz's friend went right over to the bed, took away Liz's notebook, and sat down facing her. "Is something wrong, Maria?" Liz asked. "Not at all!" Maria told her brightly, "Why do you ask?" Liz looked closely at her friend and grinned. "What's got you in such a good mood?" she asked, "Did you hear from Michael?" "Oh yes," Maria told her mysteriously, "I heard from him, all right." Liz's curiosity was piqued. Her grin broadened. "Spill, Maria," she told her. Maria smiled widely. She was obviously excited. "You'll never believe this," she told her. "Believe what?" Liz asked. "That I slept with Michael last night," Maria told her, ending with a short screech. Liz laughed and leaned forward. "You slept with him?" she asked incredulously. "Well we didn't do the deed," Maria told her, "We kinda just did like what you and Max did. Slept in the same room, not in the same bed." "Tell me what happened," Liz told her friend. Maria shifted her position. "Well," she said, "Michael followed Eric to this place on the east side after he somehow escaped from Sheriff Valenti. He's got this house there. Then Michael came over to my place because he wanted me to know he was OK. And I thought he only cared about himself." Liz grinned. "So Eric got away?" she asked. Maria nodded. "Yeah," she said, "I thought maybe he got Valenti, but there would have been something on the news right now." "There was another murder last night," Liz told her, turning serious. Maria nodded soberly. "Yeah," she said. Liz frowned. "It's strange," she said, "If Eric were the Shifter, why didn't he just kill Valenti? Why let him go, then go after someone else?" Maria shook her head and shrugged. "Who knows the mind of an alien?" she asked philosophically. Liz pursed her lips thoughtfully. "So you say Eric has a house on the east side somewhere?" she asked. Maria nodded. "It was on Shadow drive," she said, "Some big white house with a huge oak tree in the front. Michael says it's hard to miss." Liz nodded, taking in the information. After a short moment, she grinned over at her friend and leaned forward, putting her hands on Maria's shoulders. "Now," she told her firmly, "Tell me everything that happened between you and Michael."
Liz was wiping down the counter in the Crashdown later that day when she looked up to see Mr. Banning enter the restaurant. He spotted her and immediately headed over. Liz stole a glance at Maria, who had also noticed Banning and casually made her way over to Liz. Liz forced a smile onto her face when Banning took a seat on a stool across from her. "Mr. Banning," Liz greeted him, "What a surprise." Banning grinned at her pleasantly. "I thought it was about time I dropped by," he told her. "Would you like to order something?" Banning shook his head. "No, no," he said, "I can't stay long. I was just wondering when you and your friends were going to come back to visit me." Liz glanced at Maria, who just looked back at her blankly. "Um, well," Liz said hesitantly, "We're not sure, exactly. Things have been really busy with school and everything. And our parents get worried about us when we go out at night, and all." Banning nodded slowly. "You should come back soon," he told them, "I have much more to tell your three friends. Things they need to know." Liz nodded. "Well, we'll be sure to let them know," she promised. Banning nodded. "Do that," he said. Liz expected him to leave, but instead Banning leaned over the counter toward her, his expression growing serious, his voice dropping conspiratorially. "I must warn you again about the Shifter, Eric," he advised them, "He may try to gain your sympathies. Do not trust him. He may appear as a friend, but he is your enemy." At that, Banning leaned back and stood, then turned to leave without another word. Liz and Maria watched him go. Then Maria shivered involuntarily. "Am I the only one who got the creeps around that guy?" Liz asked. "You and me both," Maria agreed, "Those were some major creep-vibes he was sending." Liz turned to her friend. "Maria," she said, "I almost forgot, but I have to leave early. There's something I have to do - it's really important. Can you cover for me?" Maria glanced critically at the clock on the wall. "It can't wait an hour?" she asked. Liz shook her head. Maria shrugged. "Fine," she said, "But I expect to be recompensed for my trouble." "Thanks, Maria." Liz glanced at the door that Banning had left from moments before, then headed up to her room to change. Maria was taking an order right before the end of her shift when Michael walked into the restaurant. They made brief eye contact before he took a seat at the counter. Maria quickly placed the order, then went to stand across from him. "You won't guess who just paid us a visit," Maria told him. "Who, Eric?" he asked. Maria shook her head. "Banning," she told him. "What did he want?" "He wanted to know when we'd be stopping by again," she told him, "And gave us this really intense warning to stay away from Eric again. He says he has more to tell you guys." Michael nodded. "So what should we do?" Maria asked, "I mean, there's still all this confusion about who's the real Shifter. Do we trust Banning, or what?" Michael looked up at her with a small grin. "I think I have a plan that will prove once and for all who's the real Shifter," he told her. She narrowed her eyes at him distrustfully. "And what's the plan?" she asked. He leaned in closer. "I say we split into two teams and stake out both their houses," he said, "If one of them leaves, we follow. Then we'll be able to find out which one's the killer." Maria frowned and shook her head. "I don't know," she said, "It sounds dangerous." "You don't have to come if you don't want to," he told her. Maria hesitated, then leaned down over the counter toward him. "I'll go," she said, then added, "Just as long you'll be with me." He looked at her and smiled slowly. "That's a deal," he agreed. They smiled at each other for a moment before a voice from the kitchen interrupted. Maria's order was up. She stood and turned to leave, then stopped and glanced back at him. "Oh," she said, "You'll have to count out Liz. She's off running some errand." Liz glanced at the street sign, then crossed the street and hit the sidewalk. She was walking through a residential area on the west side of town, in a more run-down neighborhood. It was a place her parents probably wouldn't want her to be walking through at any time of the day, let alone as the sun was going down. But she was determined to put her mind at ease, once and for all. It wasn't long before she saw it. A tall, imposing white house standing in the middle of a yellow lawn and several overgrown bushes. A very big oak tree stood in the front yard, just off to the right. There was no car in the driveway, but Liz knew someone was home. There was a big picture window on the front of the house, most likely in the living room. She could see a light on through that, toward the back of the house. She glanced around quickly before making her way around the side of the house. She found a window at shoulder level and peered through. Fortunately the curtains were partially pulled aside. Liz could now see what was part of the kitchen, where the light was coming from. A moment later, Eric walked into view. He was carrying a tall glass of water - probably mineral water. He set it on the counter, then took a salt container out of the cupboard and poured the entire contents into the glass. Liz made a face when he lifted the glass to drink. She watched him for a few more seconds, until he walked out of view. She waited, but he didn't return. So Liz decided to try another window. She moved quietly toward the back of the house, peering around the corner into the backyard. The back lawn was also yellow and dead, with its contents being only an old, rusted barbecue and a rotted wooden ladder lying on the ground. Liz took a step forward. "Liz?" Liz jumped at the voice behind her, and turned quickly to see Eric standing there, not five feet away, still holding his glass of salt-water. His expression was a mixture of amusement and surprise. "Um, hi," she stammered, embarrassed at being caught sneaking around. "What are you doing here?" he asked quizzically, "I thought your friends would disapprove." "No one knows I'm here," she told him, "I, um, came here because I wanted to see you. To talk." "Talk about what?" he asked. Liz took a step toward him. "I know you're not the bad guy, Eric," she told him, "I want to know more about the Shifter. More about you." Eric regarded her for a moment before responding. "Come on in," he invited. He turned to lead her into his house. After a short moment of hesitation, Liz moved to follow him. Isabel sighed in boredom and leaned her head back against the headrest. In the driver's seat, Alex glanced at her quickly before turning his attention back to his steering wheel. He began tapping on it idly, as if playing the drums. After a few moments, Isabel turned to look at him. He glanced at her, then stopped his drumming. "Sorry," he said. Isabel just turned away, stealing a quick glance at the house across the street. The lights were on, but still no movement. They had been waiting for almost an hour already, but Eric still hadn't shown himself. Isabel hated just sitting in a car, doing nothing. Especially when it was across the street from someone who may or may not be a killer who was probably responsible for killing her real parents and stranding her, Max and Michael on Earth. A killer who was mostly likely after them. In an effort to break the silence, Alex moved his hand to the radio and the turned the knob. "Music?" he asked. Instead of music, all that came from the measly speakers in Alex's car was static. He glanced up at Isabel apologetically. "The, uh, radio's been acting up lately," he explained. She made no comment. Alex sat back in his seat and twiddled his thumbs. There was another short moment of silence before Isabel spoke up. "This is so lame," she said, "Why did I let Michael talk me into this?" "Because you want to know the truth as much as he does?" Alex suggested. She turned to him, then leaned her head back again and closed her eyes. "I can't believe we're even in this situation," she said, "This is so crazy." Alex nodded. "Yeah," he agreed, "It is a little, uh, extraordinary." "I just wish it weren't so confusing," she said, "I wish we knew the truth, so we would know who to trust and who to stay away from." "We'll find out," he assured her, "No one's going to get hurt." "Tell that to the half dozen people the Shifter's already killed," she told him. Alex sighed and nodded. He turned to look at her. "I'm not going to let anything happen to you, Isabel," he promised, "That Shifter will have to go through me first." She opened her eyes and turned to look back at him. "You'd do that?" she asked. He smiled nervously and nodded. "Yeah, of course," he said, "I mean you're, you're you." She just looked at him, a smile tugging at her lips. Alex gazed at her for a moment, before quickly leaning in to kiss her very briefly on the lips. He pulled back immediately, looking very embarrassed. "Uh, that was, that was to take your mind off things," he told her, "To-to make you feel better." She just looked at him. He stole a glance at her. "Did it?" he asked. She shook her head. "No," she replied. Then she suddenly reached out put her hand behind his neck, pulled him toward her and kissed him fully. This kiss was much deeper, much longer than the first. When she finally pulled away, they were both out of breath. "That made me feel better," she said. Alex smiled dreamily, his eyes still half-closed. Isabel smiled also, then leaned back in her seat. She glanced out her window at the house they were staking out. Then she frowned. "Alex," she said. He turned to her. "What is it?" She kept staring at the house, at the picture window in the front. Alex followed her gaze. "I saw two people walk past the window," she told him. "Two?" he asked, "There's someone with him?" Isabel nodded, then turned to him. "And that someone is a woman." Max crossed his arms and slouched down in the backseat of Maria's VW. He was not in a good mood. He had spent the past hour wondering where Liz was and if she was OK and it was driving him nuts. She should be there with him, not out who-knows-where all by herself. It wasn't like her to take off without telling anyone where she was going. Not only that, but the sun had already gone down, and darkness was falling. Which meant the streets of Roswell were no longer safe. Which meant Liz was no longer safe. He debated whether or not he should go after her, but then realized that even if he went looking for her, he'd have no idea where to look. She wasn't home - Maria had called only five minutes ago to check. But Maria didn't seem worried about Liz. In fact, Maria seemed much more worried about them sitting in a car outside Banning's house. Not that she thought Banning was the Shifter. In fact, she admitted she didn't know what to think. Max himself was starting to have his doubts. He was beginning to wonder if maybe Liz had been right all along… A sharp giggle from the front seat pulled Max from his thoughts. He groaned inwardly as Maria tried to stifle her reaction to Michael's whispered comments. She wasn't doing a very good job. Max knew Michael was only doing it to make Maria relax, but he wished they would stop being so cuddly while he was sitting right behind them. He didn't like being a third wheel. He should have been sitting in the back seat with Liz, sitting close to her and whispering in her ear. Max glanced out the window at Banning's house. It was dark and quiet. They hadn't seen any sign of the man since they'd arrived earlier that evening, and assumed he was already in bed. Max was usually patient, but he was growing more and more fidgety by the minute. It didn't help that Liz was still unaccounted for. Max leaned forward in his seat. "Try Liz again," he said. Maria sighed. "I just called, like, six minutes ago," she reminded him, "Besides, she's not the one staking out someone we think might possibly be out to kill us all." Max leaned back. Michael glanced at him. "Ease up, Max," he advised, "Liz is a big girl." "It's just not safe for her to be out all alone," he told them. "You said that already," Michael said. Maria turned in her seat. "Max," she told him, "Liz isn't the one you should be worrying about right now. I mean, out of all of us, she's probably the safest. You should be more worried about Alex and Isabel." Max wasn't convinced. He sat back in his seat, shoulders slumped. After a short moment of silence, he sat forward again, putting his hand on the door handle. "I'm going out to look for her," he told them. Before they could argue, Maria's cell phone interrupted. "Hold that thought," Maria told him. Max waited as Maria answered her phone. "Hello?" she replied, "Isabel…?" Michael and Max watched as Maria listened to Isabel on the other end of the line. Maria's expression grew perplexed. A moment later she looked up at the guys. "Is Eric moving?" Michael asked. Maria shook her head. "No, he's home," she told them, "Isabel said she thought she saw someone in there with them. A girl, like, our age." Michael frowned. Immediately Max's stomach dropped. "Did she see who it was?" Michael asked. Again Maria shook her head. "What girl would possibly go in there?" she asked aloud. Max turned to Maria. "Maria," he asked her, "When Liz told you she was leaving, did she say where she was going?" Maria frowned and shook her head. "Did you tell her where Eric lives?" Maria nodded. Then her eyes widened. "You don't think…?" Max opened his door. "I'm going over there," he told them, "Tell Isabel I'm on my way and to keep an eye on things." At that, Max fled from the car and ran quickly toward Eric's house. Maria and Michael watched as he disappeared, worry creeping up on them both. Liz shifted on the couch and lifted her mug to take a sip of water. Plain water. Across from her, sitting in a wooden rocking chair, Eric was on his third glass of salt-water. They sat in Eric's living room, which was slightly less sparse than Banning's. "What are your people called again?" she asked. "Helpers," he reminded her, "Many, many years ago, Isabel, Max and Michael's people thrived on a planet many galaxies away. But the Shifters came and destroyed that planet. They almost destroyed its inhabitants, but my people help them to escape and rebuild a new home. Since then we've given them protection against the Shifters." "So you were sent here to catch the Shifter?" she asked him. Eric nodded. "Catch or destroy," he amended. "Right," she said, "So why now? I mean, why didn't you come when the ship crashed back in 1947? Why wait all these years?" Eric sighed and rested his glass on the arm of his chair. "A little bit politics, a little bit opportunity," he told her, "When your friends' ship was sent, it was sent in secret. At least, it was supposed to be. But apparently one of their own people betrayed them to the Shifters. It was hard work, getting that ship past them. The Shifters were blocking all transports from leaving the galaxy. After your friends' ship got away, they doubled their efforts. It was impossible to get another ship past them without provoking a battle." "But what about your people?" Liz asked, "Couldn't you help?" Eric hesitated. "My people are not permitted to interfere with people on planets not within our coalition," he explained, "Disobeying that rule would have meant banishment." "But their people crashed landed on Earth," Liz told him, "Not to mention that Shifter, who's been killing people ever since. I would think you'd come to get them all just to stop the interference." Eric nodded. "True," he said, "But a rescue mission was out of the question, since it was assumed that all passengers of the ship, save the Shifter, perished in the crash. As far as the Shifter was concerned, we knew he would cause problems here on Earth, but there's another side of it. My people are not conscripted to help others. It must be a free will choice. No one wanted to come to Earth, regardless of the consequences." "Why?" Eric sighed. "Because not only are the inhabitants of Earth inferior to most other races in the coalition," Eric replied, "no insult intended, but your people are also a race that many others disapprove of." "Oh," she said, "So, you mean the way we treat each other?" "It is a crime to betray one's own race," Eric told her, "to war against one's own people. And you of course know that the people of Earth are constantly at war with one another." Liz nodded mutely. "So they didn't think we were worth the effort?" Liz asked. Eric shook his head. "So back to my original question," Liz persisted, "Why come now?" "I'm the only one who was willing to come here to stop the Shifter," Eric told her, "But up until a short time ago, I was not mature enough for the mission. Now I am." "Why is it important to you?" Eric hesitated. "In order to sneak on board the ship and journey to Earth," he told her, "the Shifter had to assume the identity of one of its passengers. He chose the captain, whom he killed before he could take his place. The captain of the ship was my father." She looked at him in sympathy. "Oh," she said, "So your coming here to kill the Shifter is a means of revenge for him killing your father?" "More or less," Eric admitted, "But I also do not wish to see him kill any others, human or otherwise." Liz nodded. Eric leaned forward. "I need to find the Shifter soon," he told her, "He plans to destroy your friends. And he will kill others too, for as long as he is here." Liz looked up at him hesitantly. A moment later she nodded decisively. "He calls himself Mr. Banning," she told him, "He came to our school as the assistant librarian. He's been telling us all along that you were the Shifter, and that he was here to help us." Eric's eyes bored into her. He leaned forward a little more. "Where is he, Liz?" Liz didn't hesitate to reply this time. "He lives on-" She was interrupted by the front door suddenly bursting open. A second later, Max appeared in the doorway, breathing heavily. As soon as he saw them, he rushed into the living room. Both Liz and Eric stood in surprise. Max went to Liz, his expression confused and betrayed. He also kept an eye on Eric, wary of an attack. "Liz," he said, grabbing her arm, "What are you doing here?" Liz looked up at Max apologetically. Her mouth opened, but no words came out. "You promised," Max reminded her, his voice betraying his hurt feelings, "You promised you'd stay away from him." "I'm sorry, Max," she told him, "But Eric isn't the Shifter. I know that for sure now." Max ignored her statement. He pulled on her arm. "We're getting out of here," he told her, casting a glare at Eric, who was watching them calmly. Liz resisted, pulling away from him. Max looked down at her, shaking his head in befuddlement. "What's going on with you?" he asked. "I just want to help, Max," she told him. He frowned, becoming angry. "Conspiring with the enemy is not helping!" he told her, raising his voice a little. Eric stepped forward. "Max," he said. Max turned his head quickly to look at Eric. His expression was unwelcoming. "I can assure you that I'm not responsible for the deaths of your parents," Eric told him, "Nor am I responsible for the killings that have been plaguing Roswell." Max just stared at him. Eric turned to Liz. "Liz?" he asked. Max looked down at her. Liz glanced up at him reluctantly, then looked back at Eric. "Maple Street," she told him, "345 Maple Street." Eric grinned slightly. "Thank-you," he told her. Without another word, Eric quickly left through the front door, just as Alex and Isabel were walking in. The two teens gave Eric a wide berth as he passed. They looked at Max and Liz in confusion. "What just happened?" Isabel asked. Max looked down at Liz. She looked up to see his disappointed expression. "Ask Liz," he said. He turned and left without another word. Isabel glanced at him, then at Liz, then followed her brother out. Alex hesitated, looking at Liz, who hadn't moved. "You coming, Liz?" he asked. Liz looked up at him, then nodded. "Yeah," she said. She walked past him out the door, and Alex followed. The four teens crammed into Alex's car. "I think we lost Eric," Alex told them. "We know where he's going," Max told him, casting a glance at Liz beside him. Isabel turned to look at him. "Where?" she asked. "He's going to Banning's," Liz told them. Isabel frowned. "How does he know where Banning lives?" "I told him," she replied. Isabel stared at her for a moment, then turned back in her seat. "To Banning's it is," Alex said. No one said a word as Alex pulled out onto the street and started driving to Mr. Banning's house.
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