I have to remember to thank Jake for this lead. It’s clear that he’s become my most trusted ally. All the leads he’s given me as to unusual phenomenon and urban legends have turned out to be genuinely fascinating phenomenon, most of which I’ve already written a book about, and the rest are in the planning phase. The guy definitely knows how to find interesting story material. I have to admit that I would not be where I am today without the advice of old Jake Robertson. It’s no wonder that I phone him regularly, and pay him a visit every time I’m in the Chicago area.
“If this Jake guy really is as much of a trusted adviser as Liza says she is,” Evaira said, putting down the diary, “then he’s definitely somebody worth paying a visit. We’re not far from Chicago right now, correct, Alpha?”
“Correct,” Alpha replied.
“But do we have his address?” Bill asked, “The diary entry doesn’t mention it.”
“We do,” Evaira said, “Liza wrote his address and phone number down in another entry. Sadly, I can’t see the last few digits of the phone number.”
“We’ve actually been meaning to pay him a visit for a while,” Chira said, “one of the entries states that he’s aware of the existence of grounders, so it’ll be good to step out of the RV for a while.”
“Does he know about shapeshifters?” Bill asked.
“I don’t know,” Evaira said, “the way Evaira talks about this guy, he seems to know about a lot of unexplained phenomenon around the country. Liza even wrote notes about a few events occurring outside the US Jake mentioned, that she says she’ll investigate if she ever decides to go international.”
“How does he know all this,” Bill asked.
“I don’t know,” Evaira said, “Liza may never have figured it out, or she may have been written it in one of the destroyed diary entries.”
“Or perhaps she figured it out after writing the diary,” Bill suggested, “and this led to her disappearance.”
“So you’re suggesting this Jake person might have been using her?” Evaira said, “It’s certainly worth looking into. When we visit him, we should probably try to figure out his story, so we’ll know for certain, but discretely.”
“I can do discrete,” Bill said, “I’ll just use the restroom, then change into a fly, and buzz around.”
“Just watch out for bug zappers,” Evaira said.
“When I shapeshift,” Bill said, “I retain my human brain and senses. I can’t be affected by conventional bug traps.”
“Come on, Bill,” Evaira said, “lighten up.”
So, the RV drove to a small suburb outside Chicago, and parked outside a small one-story house, isolated at the end of a cul-de-sac. Despite being small, the house had a very large, and surprisingly empty yard except for two large trees. Evaira picked up Chira, and everybody walked to the front door. Evaira nervously looked at the door, and then knocked.
“Who is it,” a deep masculine voice cried from the other side.
“It’s Evaira,” Evaira replied.
“Evaira?” the voice said, “any relation to Liza Evaira?”
“I’m her sister,” Evaira said.
“I’ve been wondering when you’d come by here,” the voice said, “I heard of your journey. Come in!”
With that, the door opened. On the other side of the door was a tall, and rather handsome, brown-haired man.
“Jake Robertson,” he said, holding out his hand, “nice to meet you.”
“Likewise,” Evaira said, “my sister mentioned a lot about you in her diary. Sadly, a lot of the pages aren’t readable.”
“Then maybe I can help clear up some things, I heard she is missing and I’d like to help as much as possible,” Jake said, “please come in.”
Evaira walked in. Bill and Alpha followed. They walked into Jake’s living room, a somewhat medium-sized room, that consisted of three large couches arranged in a U-shape, with two end tables sitting at the corners. The tables had lamps on them. The room also contained two doors on the far side of the room, and one other one close to the entrance.
“And I see you have a grounder friend,” Jake said, looking at Chira, “really a fascinating race, aren’t they?”
‘Yes, let me introduce Chira, and my friends Bill and Alpha,” Evaira replied.
“How do you know about grounders?” Chira asked, “Shurr and the other grounder leaders go through a lot of trouble to keep our existence a secret.”
“I have my ways,” Jake mysteriously answered, “anyway, go ahead, take a seat.”
“Thanks,” Evaira said.
Evaira, Bill, and Alpha all sat down in the center couch, and Jake sat down on one of the side couches, right next to Evaira.
“Mind if I take a look at that diary?” Jake asked, “Maybe I can fill in some missing pieces for you.”
“I’ve got it right here,” Evaira said, taking it out of her bag, “by the way, what do you know about Liza’s disappearance.”
“Probably no more than you do,” Jake said, “but I may be able to help narrow down where she was before she disappeared based on what she told me.”
“What did she tell you?” Evaira asked.
“When she came,” Jake said, “we usually talked quite a bit. She’d tell me about some of her recent adventures, and I’d tell her of some things I hear of that I think might make good stories. She tells me if she thinks they’d be of interest to her, and later tells me the story.”
“But how do you get so many good tips,” Evaira asked, “I mean, in the diary, Liza said that all of the tips you gave her turned out to be genuine unusual phenomenon, and have produced good stories.
Jake paused for a moment when Evaira asked this question, before he ambiguously responded “I have my ways.”
This got Evaira a bit suspicious. Then, they heard a ringing noise.
“Excuse me,” Jake said, “I have to get that.”
Jake got up, and walked out one of the doors on the far side of the room.
“Well,” Evaira said to Alpha, “what do you think? Was he telling us the truth?”
“I cannot tell,” Alpha replied, “something about his facial movements were different from any person I have analyzed before. I do not know if he is lying or telling the truth?”
“But he’s definitely being a bit secretive,” Bill added, “no question about that.”
“Of course,” Evaira said, “he could also have a legitimate reason for being secretive. Perhaps he has sources who don’t want their names to be revealed.”
“Or maybe he has some kind of ulterior motive,” Bill suggested, “he has been in regular contact with Liza, so perhaps he’s somehow involved in her disappearance.”
“True,” Evaira said, “Perhaps we could take a look around while he’s on the phone. Maybe we can find something.”
“Good idea,” Bill responded.
He stood up, and walked over to the door adjacent to the one Jake had left through. He reached for the knob, but was stopped when he heard Jake’s voice.
“Where are you going?” Jake asked.
Bill turned around, and noticed that Jake had just stepped out of the side room. Apparently, he’d just finished his phone call.
“I need the restroom,” Bill responded.
“The restroom is over there,” Jake said, pointing to the door next to the entrance.
“Thanks,” Bill said.
He winked at Evaira, and then walked into the restroom. Evaira nodded, acknowledging that Bill was ready to go ahead with their plan.
Jake then turned to the couch, and sat back down.
“Sorry about that,” he said, “now, I was going to look at the diary, yes?”
“Right,” Evaira said.
Evaira handed Jake the physical diary. She was a little reluctant considering Jake’s evasiveness, but realized that Alpha has already recorded the entire diary into his brain equivalent.
Jake looked at the diary, and began to page through it. As he paged through it, he made some comments.
“The Children of Athelias may be worth visiting,” Jake explained, “but I wouldn’t waste time searching for the Scorpion of Bayville. We proved that one to be a hoax.”
“That whole idea sounded a bit farfetched to me anyway,” Chira said.
“Indeed,” Jake said, “by the way, I have yet to encounter a grounder who could speak English, at least, aside from poor attempts to imitate it. I didn’t realize that was possible. May I ask how you learned?”
“Years of secretly observing humans,” Chira explained, “it wasn’t easy.”
While the others discussed Liza, Bill had turned into a fly, and flew out of the bathroom through a crack in the door. He flew through the living room, and straight to one of the doors on the other side of the room, the same door that Jake stopped him from entering earlier.
There was enough of a crack under the door for him to crawl under while in the form of a fly. Once he had gotten past the door, he reverted to his usual human form.
Bill paused and looked around the room. This room looked nothing like he had ever seen before. It was filled with various bizarre-looking machines and devices that Bill had not seen before. Bill looked around at these machines, trying to figure out what they did, but he couldn’t understand them at all. Then, he was startled by something.
He noticed Jake was standing in the back of the room, staring at him. Bill quickly turned back into a fly, hoping to get away, though he remained completely unsure as to how Jake got into the room. Then, he noticed something: Jake was completely motionless. Bill turned back to his human form, and approached the motionless Jake. It wasn’t breathing. It was apparently some kind of statue, though it was surprisingly lifelike, in a creepy, uncanny valley sort of way. Bill looked at it for a moment, uncertain as to why Jake would keep such a thing, then he continued searching the room.
The next thing he saw was a monitor in the side of the room, attached to some kind of computer. There appeared to be some text displayed on the monitor. Bill approached it to take a look, hoping whatever was written there would explain some things. However, when he got up close, he noticed that whatever was written on it was in some other language. The alphabet was completely foreign to him. He hoped to find some way to print the message, only to notice the computer had no keyboard, mouse, or other input device.
Then, he looked at his arm. He pulled up his sleeve, and concentrated on the symbols, shapeshifting his skin in that place to change color in the exact pattern of the symbols. He was unable to fit the entire message onto his arm, but was sure to write it small, so he got enough of it to hopefully get the gist of the message. He wondered if Alpha had some kind of way to translate it.
He then returned to the fly form, and flew back to the restroom. He left the restroom while Jake was still studying the diary.
“…this one is also worth investigating,” Jake explained, “but be very careful, those people are notoriously untrusting of outsiders. If you go there, you had better be extra careful.”
Bill sat down next to Evaira.
“You know, Evaira,” Bill said, thinking of an excuse to get them away from Jake, “Alpha has been able to recover several of the burned pages. Should we show those pages to Jake too?”
“Good idea,” Evaira said, realizing what Bill was doing, “aren’t they still in the RV?”
“Yeah,” Bill said, “but I don’t know where you put them.”
“Alright,” Evaira said, “We’ll be right back, Jake.”
“More pages from the diary can always help,” Jake said, “I’ll just keep looking at this.”
Evaira grabbed Chira, and stepped outside with Bill, then proceeded to enter the RV. Alpha followed.
“So,” Evaira said, “what did you find?”
“That room,” Bill said, “there were machines in there unlike nothing I’ve seen before. I had no idea what most of them were. Jake also has very strange taste in home décor. There was a lifelike statue of him, just standing there in the side of the room. It was so realistic that for a moment I thought he had somehow gotten inside the room.”
“Creepy,” Evaira said, “but hardly incriminating. Find anything else?”
“There was a computer,” Bill said, “It was displaying a message in some strange language or code. I was able to make a copy.”
He pulled up his sleeve revealing his shapeshifted tattoo.
“Alpha,” he said, “can you translate this?”
“As you request,” Alpha said.
He stared at the writing on Bill’s arm.
“The name of this language is unknown,” Alpha explained, “however, I do have some records of it, and I believe I can translate it.”
“How can you know the language,” Evaira said, “without knowing what it’s called?”
“I do not know, Miss Evaira,” Alpha said.
“So,” Bill said, “what’s it say?”
“It’s an electronic communication,” Alpha said, “labeled communication number 1962, from somebody named Zed.”
“Zed?” Evaira said.
“Yes,” Alpha said, “the message reads as follows. ‘Hello, Sulor,’.”
“Sulor?” Bill said, “I thought this message was to Jake?”
“It might be some kind of code name,” Evaira said.
“True,” Bill said, “Alpha, keep reading.”
“As you request,” Alpha said, “‘I am glad to see you are well, and my people are studying the information you’ve provided us. You’ve given us some good leads. I understand that you are a bit uneasy about the situation with Liza. Please, Sulor, do not concern yourself with it. Her ability to expose us always has been a liability. Remember, we must look forward, and not back. The source is still out there, and we must ensure that nobody gets in our way of acquiring it. Liza knew about the source, so with her out of the picture, we have one less possible threat. I know Liza was…’”
“He knows Liza was what?” Evaira asked.
“That is the end of the message,” Alpha said.
“I couldn’t get the whole thing,” Bill said, “not enough room on my arm.”
“Still,” Evaira said, “it sounds like he’s involved.”
“We should get back in there and confront him,” Bill said.
“I don’t know,” Chira commented, “Bill didn’t get the whole message, so we may have only a piece of the story. Besides, it’s clear from the message that Jake was worried about Liza.”
“If you pretended to be someone’s friend,” Evaira said, “wouldn’t you start to get some real feelings for them eventually?”
“Yeah,” Bill said, “You know, I bet Chira is just taking Jake’s side because she’s thankful to have another human she doesn’t have to hide from.”
“Hey,” Chira said, “I never said I’m taking Jake’s side, just that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions! We don’t have the full message!”
“We may finally have a real lead,” Evaira said, getting excited by the prospect, “it’s time we have another little talk with Jake, or Sulor, or whatever his name is.”
“We lost Evaira again,” Chira sighed.
With that, Evaira picked up the recovered diary pages, and picked up Chira. She, Alpha, and Bill marched back into Jake’s house.
“Alright,” Evaira said, confronting Jake, “what did you do to her?”
“Excuse me,” Jake said, apparently confused by Evaira’s question.
“You heard me,” Evaira said, “you’ve been hiding things from us, and we know why: you know what happened to Liza!”
“What?” Jake said, seemingly surprised by the accusation, “I don’t know what you’re talking about! I’m looking for Liza just as much as you are!”
“I was in your secret room,” Bill said, “I saw your message, all but confirming that you know what became of Liza!”
“How did you get in there?” Jake asked, disturbed, “And how do you know how to read Aalasian?”
“So that’s what it’s called,” Bill said, “I thought it was some obscure dialect of Korean or Japanese, or something like that.”
“If it was an obscure dialect,” Alpha explained, “I would have identified it.”
“Regardless,” Bill said, pulling up his sleeve, showing the message, “this proves you have something to do with her disappearance!”
Jake looked at Bill’s arm.
“So you’re a shapeshifter,” he said, “that’s how you got into my workroom.”
“Enough,” Evaira said, “just start talking! Where is Liza?”
“You know,” Jake said, “before you make an accusation, you should be sure you have all the evidence. That message you wrote is not complete, and I believe the rest of the message will shed some light on things. I wanted to keep this a secret, but you forced my hand.”
“Why should we trust you?,” Evaira asked.
“Just listen to him,” Chira said, “what have we got to lose, and Bill didn’t see any traps back there.”
“Alright,” Evaira said, “but your explanation had better be a good one!”
Jake opened the door to the room Bill had investigated.
“You already know where that message is,” Jake said.
Evaira and Chira looked at the various machines throughout the room, and got momentarily freaked out by Jake’s body double. Then, everybody gathered around the monitor with the message.
“Read the rest of the message, Alpha,” Evaira said.
“As you request,” Alpha replied. He paused to find where the message continued, “’I know Liza was a valuable asset, and I am thankful for what she did for you, but remember, she is not an Aalasian. She could have turned on us eventually, and taken the source for herself. Remember, previous encounters with humans have been less than friendly. Remember Roswell? However, if you really are that concerned about Liza, you could focus on finding her. Her disappearance may have some connection to the source. Remember, she was investigating Etherium occurrences for us.’”
“Wait,” Evaira said, “Aalasian? Roswell? Are you some kind of alien?”
“Yes,” Jake explained, “and Sulor is my real name, but I go by Jake to fit in with humans better. This body is just a disguise. That one over there is a spare.”
“An alien?” Bill said.
“And Liza knew this?” Evaira asked.
“The only human who did…til now,” Jake said, “I insisted it remain in complete confidence. She couldn’t tell anybody, or even write it down in her diary. I only told her because I had to, just as I am only telling you because I have to. This information must never be shared with anybody!”
“I see,” Evaira said.
“And it looks like I was right about Jake,” Chira said, “he may have been hiding something, but he’s not our enemy.”
“I guess we owe you an apology, Jake,” Evaira said, “you too, Chira.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Jake said, “given the situation, I should have anticipated you would treat me as a suspect. Rest assured, I know nothing about the cause of Liza’s disappearance. I’d like to find her just as much as you would.”
“But what’s this Etherium?” Evaira said, “You say she was investigating Etherium.”
“It’s what I used to find unusual phenomenon,” Jake said, “I came to this planet looking for this mysterious substance called Etherium, something extremely valuable to my people. I soon found that in locations where Etherium is in great abundance here on Earth, unusual events occur – exactly the kind of events that Liza was searching for. Thus, we formed a partnership. I would give her leads, and in exchange, she would tell me all about what she found in that area.”
“So this Etherium somehow causes strange things to happen?” Evaira asked.
“No,” Jake explained, “Liza has been to plenty of unusual events where there wasn’t a trace of Etherium around. Plus, many other planets where I found Etherium, had no unusual events. I’m still trying to figure out why this is. I do, however, know one thing: Etherium is being produced on this planet and my people are trying to track down the source.”
“You think Liza’s disappearance is connected with the source?” Evaira asked.
“I don’t,” Jake said, “she only investigated individual events. We never really got close to the source, so I think that’s just wishful thinking on Zed’s part.”
“Well,” Evaira said, “I don’t know about this Etherium or the source, but it looks like you’re not responsible for Liza’s disappearance.
“Once again,” Bill said, “we’re sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Jake said, “I was being evasive, and thus, I invited such investigations. I don’t hold it against you. I’m still more than willing to help you find Liza. She was my friend too.”
“What can you do?” Evaira asked.
“I’ll make a deal with you,” Jake said, “I’ll give you a list of the leads I gave Liza on her most recent visit here, there were a lot of them, so I bet it will help you quite a bit. All I ask is that you tell me what you found on each of these leads, to help with my own investigation.”
“Sounds good,” Evaira said.
The next morning, they returned to the RV, and continued their journey. Evaira began studying a large list of unusual events Jake had given them. While she did, Bill spoke with Alpha.
“Alpha,” Bill said, “that alien language, how did you know it?”
“It was included in my original database,” Alpha said, “From when I was first activated, before I downloaded half the Internet. I do not know the reason.”
“So Dr. Harding might be somehow connected with the Aalasians?” Bill suggested.
“Possibly,” Evaira said, “but I think it goes much deeper than that. Based on what Jake told us: the Etherium appearing at the site of unusual events and it;s source, I’m beginning to suspect that many of these events we’ve been investigating are somehow connected.”
“But how can they be connected,” Bill said, “We’ve encountered everything from robots to invisible men to ghosts to aliens to green-haired rodents! It seems insane that all of these things, even me, came from the same place!”
“Green-haired rodent?” Chira said, a little insulted by the term.
“I know,” Evaira said, “the idea seems a little out there, but we have to consider the possibility.”
“I don’t know,” Bill said, a bit skeptic.
“Well,” Evaira said, “we’ll find more proof in time, and eventually, we’ll know for sure.”
Author’s Notes (may contain spoilers):
This story took a while. I’m going to be blunt, it was a pain to write. I struggled with many of the details, and it probably took me the longest to finish this story compared to any other story I’ve posted here yet (unless you count the full text of The Cromm Conspiracy, even though I only posted the prologue). If it wasn’t for the fact that it contains several key plot elements in Evaira’s overarching mystery, I may have put it off until my next batch of Evaira stories.
But you’re not here to listen to my whining. This story introduces Jake, and through him, I hoped to bring up the issue of trust. Was Liza’s trust misplaced when she trusted Jake? Should Evaira trust him? He’s definitely keeping a secret, but what? Are Evaira and Bill overreacting when they find the “evidence”? I’m a bit concerned these themes may not have ended up as prevalent as I’d intended, but still, it ends up as a good story.
What was difficult was how to put the order of events together. What does Bill find that gets him suspicious, but is really innocuous. I had a number of other ideas before I settled on him not getting the complete note. Ultimately, though, the note worked perfectly – nothing else compared. Anyway, be back next week for the exciting conclusion of Evaira Volume 1.