Throughout my journey, I’ve had my back pushed to the wall many times, more times than I can count actually. With so many people so desperate to keep their secrets, it’s very easy to end up in such a situation, in need of a good escape. I’ve escaped many dangerous enemies along my journey, but I find that it’s better to come up with a peaceful solution. I’d rather make friends with everybody I meet so I can write as many interesting stories as possible. But I should avoid making enemies, and know when to step back. It’s better to pass up on a story opportunity than it is to do something that could haunt me later.
Evaira was staring down the barrel of a gun and that passage in Liza’s diary was stuck in her head, and she thought of how she should have been more careful to avoid making enemies.
Aiming the gun at her was Jay Briggs, a man she previously helped the police put away after a string of robberies. Briggs swore revenge as he was being taken away, though Evaira never actually expected him to be able to carry out the threat, and at the time, it seemed like an empty threat from a broken man. But now, Briggs seemed to have gotten in significantly better physical and mental shape. He was much faster, stronger, and observant.
Bill was standing next to her, in his human form. She knew Bill’s shapeshifting could help them escape, but only if Bill hadn’t just been soaked with water, rendering him powerless. She saw a large bucket covering Chira’s pot, the pot was shaking with Chira’s futile attempts to remove it, and Alpha, in the RV’s driver’s seat was powered off, and unable to act.
She began to wonder if she should have left Briggs alone, and left the job of stopping and hunting him to the local police. If she had, maybe they wouldn’t be in this mess.
“Revenge is sweet,” Briggs said, pointing the gun at Evaira, a sadistic smile on his face. He didn’t pull the trigger immediately; he apparently enjoyed the look in Evaira’s face.
Evaira thought back on the last six hours, hoping to remember something that could help her stop Briggs. It all started when they parked the RV at the edge of a small park to have some lunch.
“So,” Bill said, “a picnic lunch today.”
“Yeah,” Evaira said, “I thought it would be great for a change of pace, and since we are near a park, Chira can get some fresh air without being seen.”
“Good,” Chira said, climbing out of her pot, “staying in that pot all the time can give me cramps.”
“So,” Bill said, “you made lunch?”
“Just some sandwiches,” Evaira said.
They stepped outside the RV, and into the park. They admired the scenery. The weather was mostly sunny, and there were only enough clouds in the sky to keep it from getting too hot. The trees were tall, and filled with leaves, and there were several flowering bushes around the fields. People were walking through the paths, and children were playing.
Evaira and Bill sat down at a picnic table. While they ate their sandwiches, Chira hid in the park grasses, and wandered around, enjoying nature. Alpha stayed behind and guarded the RV.
“You know,” Bill said, “it really is a nice day. Maybe we could make an afternoon out of it?”
“I don’t think so,” Evaira said, “I thought it would be nice to get some fresh air, but I want to keep moving. We’re not going to find Liza just hanging out in the park.”
“You really should loosen up a bit, Evaira,” Bill suggested, “it sometimes seems like Liza is all you care about.”
Evaira was about to answer Bill, but before she could, she heard a voice from behind her.
“Miss Evaira,” the voice said, “odd running into you out here.”
She looked around, and saw standing next to her was Professor Edgar Payton, the man who gave her Liza’s diary. Standing next to Professor Payton was another man, whom Evaira didn’t recognize. He was short and had short, but unkempt, blonde hair.
“Professor Payton,” Evaira said, “what are you doing out here?”
“I’m helping my friend here with a study,” he said, introducing his companion, “Evaira, this is my associate Professor Gerald Fox.”
“Pleasure,” Professor Fox said.
“Likewise,” Evaira said, “this is my friend, Bill Jones. Bill, this is Professor Edgar Payton. He’s the one who gave me Liza’s diary.”
“Nice to meet you,” Bill said.
“You say your name is Fox,” Evaira said, “I know I’ve heard that name somewhere before.”
Professors Payton and Fox sat down at the picnic table, and joined Evaira and Bill. They discussed their previous adventures and the search for Liza. They also discussed some of Liza’s strange encounters.
“…and that’s what brings us to where we are right now,” Evaira said, “we know lots of places Liza didn’t disappear from, and we have found proof she is alive.”
“Fascinating,” Professor Payton responded.
“So,” Evaira continued, “you never told us what brings you out here.”
“Field research,” Professor Payton said.
“What sort of research,” Evaira asked curiously.
“Sorry,” Payton replied, “I can’t give you the details. The university has strict confidentiality policies about this.”
“I understand,” Evaira said.
At this point, they were interrupted by Chira, who peeked out of the grass at Evaira’s feet, obviously nervous about something.
“Evaira,” she cried, “there was a suspicious man lurking around the RV, and…oops.”
As she noticed the two unfamiliar professors, she smiled and ducked her head back in the ground, hiding herself from view. Everyone went silent for a moment.
“I see you have a grounder friend,” Payton remarked, smiling at where Chira was, “such fascinating creatures, aren’t they?” Evaira was pleased that the professors seemed to know about grounders.
“Though this one can clearly speak English,” Professor Fox added, “I didn’t realize that was possible.”
“It is,” Payton added, “but it’s very difficult for them to learn. I’ve had a couple run-ins with another English-speaking grounder.”
Evaira figured he was talking about Shurr, the only other grounder she knew to be able to speak English. She had to ask the professor about his knowledge of the grounders.
“How do you know about grounders?” Evaira asked.
“We’ve come across them in our research a couple times,” Payton said, “they really are amazing: a species of human-level intelligence whose existence has remained undetected for millennia. Of course, we dare not make their existence public yet, not until we have all the facts.”
“And you mentioned another English-speaking grounder,” Evaira asked, “are you talking about Shurr?”
“I don’t know the grounder’s name,” Payton said, “and I really can’t talk more about it. University policy and all.”
Knowing that the professors were aware of her existence, Chira peeked her head back out of the ground and resumed her concerns to Evaira.
“What about that suspicious man by the RV,” she asked.
“What did he look like?” Evaira asked.
“I didn’t see his face,” Chira commented, “he had on a black hoodie. But I did hear him muttering something. I didn’t figure out everything he said, but he mentioned your name, and there seemed to be strong anger in his voice.”
“Somebody you know,” Payton asked.
“I don’t know who’d be out to get us,” Evaira said, “Liza’s diary recommended against making enemies, so we’ve been careful. I can’t think of anybody who…”
“I’ll tell you who,” Bill said, “Mayor Valencia.”
“The mayor of Carlsburn?” Chira asked.
“He’d go to great lengths to keep his secret,” Bill said, “and I know he’ll never forgive me for betraying him when I helped you out of town.”
“It’s a thought,” Evaira said, “but if we were dealing with a shapeshifter, surely they’d have been a lot more subtle going after us. They’d have a much better disguise than a black hoodie.”
“He may not have known Chira was there,” Bill said, “she doesn’t exactly stand out.”
“But why risk it?” Evaira asked, “No, I don’t think it’s Valencia.”
“Then who could it be,” Bill asked.
“Regardless,” Evaira said, “it may be a good idea if we left. If somebody is out to get us, we should get away as quickly as we can.”
“I understand,” Payton said, “it’s a shame we didn’t get more time to chat. It was interesting talking with you about your adventures and to meet your grounder friend.”
“Indeed,” Professor Fox agreed.
“Hopefully we’ll run into each other again,” Payton said.
“Yeah,” Evaira said, “well, see you later.”
After briefly trading their goodbyes, Evaira, Bill, and Chira returned to the RV. Chira rushed back into her pot, while Bill and Evaira stepped into the living area.
“Alpha,” Evaira said, “time to go.”
Alpha was sitting in the driver’s seat but didn’t move or respond.
“Um, Alpha,” Evaira said.
“Are his batteries dead?” Bill asked.
“If his batteries were low,” Evaira said, “he would have recharged them before this point.”
“Something’s not right,” Bill said.
But before anybody could say or do anything more, a man with a black hoodie rushed onto the RV. He moved fast, far faster than a person should be able to, and faster than Evaira, Bill, or Chira could react. He grabbed a bucket from behind the driver’s seat, and poured the water in it on Bill. Then, he placed the bucket face-down over Chira’s pot. Chira began pounding on the bucket, trying to get it loose, but it was to no avail. Finally, he drew a gun and pointed it at Evaira.
“Evaira,” he said, “we meet again.”
“Who are you?” Evaira asked.
“You don’t remember,” the assailant said, “you ruined my life!”
He took off his hood, revealing his face. Evaira recognized him immediately from when she helped the police have him arrested for several robberies.
“Jay Briggs!” Evaira said, “But you’re supposed to be in jail!”
“I got out early,” Briggs said, “now your robot’s deactivated, your little rodent is trapped, and your shapeshifter is waterlogged. I believe this is checkmate.”
Evaira looked at the gun and gulped. When he saw her face, Briggs smiled with delight.
Bill, who was standing on Brigg’s left side, noticed that he was distracted by Evaira, and not paying attention to him. He may not be able to shapeshift when wet, but he could still fight – a fact that Briggs had apparently not considered.
Bill quickly reached for Briggs’s gun, and prepared to try and take it away from him, but Briggs noticed almost immediately. Before Bill was able to lay a finger on the gun, Briggs effortlessly knocked him over with a seemingly slight tap from his other hand. Bill fell right next to where Evaira was standing, putting both of them in the path of Briggs’s gun.
“I didn’t forget you, shapeshifter,” Briggs said, “I know you’re not totally helpless when wet. If you try something like that again, I won’t be so gentle.”
“How did you get so strong?” Bill asked.
“A lot has happened since you ruined me,” Briggs smiled.
He kept the gun pointed at Evaira, enjoying her fear. Bill knew that if he tried anything more, Briggs would shoot him. So, Bill and Evaira just stood there, helpless and terrified, watching Briggs hold his gun, enjoying their reactions. They noticed Chira was still struggling against the bucket, and while they hoped she’d be able to get out, they doubted she was strong enough to move the bucket. Plus, even if she could, they weren’t sure what she could do against Briggs.
Things seemed hopeless. Then, they saw something: the two professors were quietly entering the RV. Briggs didn’t notice their arrival. He did, however, immediately notice the look on Evaira’s face change when she saw them.
“Why are you not afraid,” Briggs asked, “I am going to kill you, you should be afraid!”
Briggs was clearly very frustrated.
“Well, whatever,” he sighed, “if I can’t enjoy that look of terror anymore, I might as well just end this now.”
But while Briggs was complaining, Professor Fox had somehow reactivated Alpha. Alpha got up and walked behind Briggs. But before Briggs could pull the trigger, Alpha touched him, and released a burst of electricity into his body, stunning him. Briggs dropped the gun. Evaira reached down and grabbed it. She pointed it at Briggs.
Alpha lowered his arm. Briggs looked at the gun, Alpha’s attack froze him in place and prevented him from moving as he had before. Evaira looked at the gun she held. She had to stop Briggs, but her finger hesitated to pull the trigger. She had never fired a gun before, and especially never killed anyone before. Briggs noticed her reluctance and smiled as Alpha’s attack began to wear off.
Briggs, moving quickly again, approached Evaira to take back the gun, but didn’t see Bill’s leg which he had stuck out in front of Briggs, and tripped over it. Then, Alpha struck Briggs in the back of the head, knocking him out cold.
“We did it,” Evaira cried, “thanks, Professors, for your help.”
“It’s no problem,” Payton said, “we thought it suspicious that your RV took so long to leave, so we had to investigate.”
“It’s a good thing I worked with Dr. Harding on a project before,” Professor Fox said, “and I know how to turn on his robots.”
“You did save us,” Evaira said, “We owe you one.”
“No trouble,” Professor Fox said, “anyway, I’ll get this guy out of here for you.”
Professor Fox grabbed the unconscious Briggs by the shoulders, and dragged him out of the RV. Evaira removed the bucket from atop Chira’s pot and looked at her face. She was obviously very relieved to be out from under that bucket.
“So who was that?” Payton asked.
“Jay Briggs,” Evaira said, “he was the invisible robber we told you about.”
“I see,” Professor Payton said, “but what happened to him? He definitely didn’t quite seem the way you described him. He was superfast., it’s almost like he was some sort of superman.”
“I don’t know,” Evaira said, “though he was definitely somehow enhanced. Alpha, do you have anything for us?”
“I will run an analysis,” Alpha said.
There was a brief pause as Alpha did his analysis of Jay Briggs and the situation.
“So,” Professor Payton asked, “any thoughts?”
“I did some research and found a news article,” Alpha explained, “I found that Jay Briggs was in a prison transport vehicle that was destroyed when it caught fire. The cause of the fire was unknown. There were no survivors. The bodies of the driver, the guards, and all twenty prisoners were apparently accounted for. Officially, Jay Briggs died three weeks ago.”
“How did you find that article?” Payton asked, “There’s no wireless signal out here.”
“Alpha’s got half the internet downloaded into his brain equivalent,” Evaira said, “and he downloads any updates when we have a signal.”
“Half the internet?” Payton asked.
“Yes,” Evaira said, “the half that is not used for pornography.”
“I see,” Payton said.
“But if the bodies were recovered,” Bill asked, “he didn’t survive the fire? Does that mean he was a g-g-g…?”
“Doubtful,” Evaira said, “if he was a ghost, we wouldn’t have been able to knock him out.”
“That’s a relief,” Bill replied.
Everybody paused for a moment, trying to think of a better explanation.
“Maybe the accident was staged,” Chira suggested, “it’s possible that the prisoners were removed from the bus and replaced with other corpses.”
“It seems a bit farfetched,” Bill said, “but it’s really the only logical explanation.”
“Agreed,” Payton added.
“But who would do something like this?” Evaira asked, “And why?”
“Clearly they did something to him to enhance his abilities,” Bill said, “he certainly wasn’t the same Jay Briggs we encountered earlier. It’s almost like he was somehow enhanced, made stronger, faster…”
“You’re right,” Evaira said, “Not to mention, he seemed to be aware of Chira’s existence, a way to deactivate Alpha, and your shapeshifting abilities and how you can’t use them when wet. He didn’t know these things before. But who could do something like this?”
“I don’t know,” Payton said, “I’ll let you know if I come up with any ideas, but I really should get back to my research.”
“Okay,” Evaira said, “see you.”
“Until next time,” Payton said, leaving the RV.
“We should go, then,” Evaira said, “Alpha, start the engine, and let’s go.”
“As you request,” Alpha said.
He started the RV.
“I can’t help but wonder,” Evaira said, thinking about the attack, “If we hadn’t set up a trap and helped get him arrested, we might have been able to avoid this incident. Maybe we should have just told the police and left it at that. Liza did recommend against making enemies, and when we helped get him arrested…”
“You may have a point,” Bill said.
Chira peeked out of her pot.
“Not really,” Chira said, “do you think the police really could have dealt with Briggs on their own? Remember, he had the blank stone, which made him invisible.”
“Right,” Evaira said, “but still, it was a police matter. Plus, he really wasn’t doing that much damage aside from some simple robberies.”
“But can you imagine what somebody really could do with the power of invisibility,” Chira said, “sure he was only robbing people, but I’d imagine if he remained uncaptured, he’d eventually realize how much more he could do with it, move onto something bigger, that could cause much more damage.”
“Good point,” Evaira said.
“We did do a good thing back then,” Bill said, reflecting on Chira’s words.
“Besides,” Chira added, “as much as I didn’t like being stuck under that bucket, if it wasn’t for our encounter with Briggs today, we wouldn’t have learned about that interesting prison transport incident. Clearly there’s something big going on there…”
Meanwhile, Jay Briggs woke up. He looked around. He was standing in a glass cube, which was entirely transparent except for the number “0419623” painted on one side, in a large laboratory room. He noticed Axel was standing right outside.
“You!” he cried, remembering his last meeting with Axel “you’re the one who sold me those clothes! You started all this!”
Axel didn’t respond. Hoping to get a response, Briggs started pounding angrily on the glass cube, crying “Let me out!”
However, the cage was soundproofed. Axel couldn’t hear a thing, and was getting tired of watching Briggs pound against the walls of his prison. He simply turned and left the room. Outside, Professor Fox was waiting for him.
“Well,” Professor Fox asked, “how is he?”
“Clearly disturbed,” Axel said, “not taking his recapture well.”
“Though the experiments we did enhanced his physical strength and abilities as we expected,” Professor Fox explained, “his emotions were significantly intensified by the experiment. His desire for revenge turned into an obsession, and he almost Luna Evaira. We’ll have to keep him contained for the moment.”
“But the woman is a threat,” Axel said, “why don’t we just leave her to him.”
“She’s more useful to us alive,” Professor Fox replied, “at least, for now.”
“But she’s looking into our attack on the prison transport,” Axel stated, “It will lead her right to us!”
“Yes,” Professor Fox said, “that is a concern, but it does not make her a threat yet. I’ve already got a plan in place to make sure she doesn’t follow that lead back to us.”
“Are you certain?” Axel asked, “I’ve been following her for a while. She’s proven quite resourceful. She could very easily follow that lead.”
“I’ve been monitoring her too,” Professor Fox replied, “I know how resourceful she is. My plan accounts for that.”
“I’m not sure,” Axel said.
“Are you questioning me?” Professor Fox asked, getting annoyed.
“No, sir,” Axel replied, frightened.
“Good,” Professor Fox answered.
“So what should I do then, sir?” Axel asked.
“Bring me one of the guards from the prison transport,” Professor Fox said, “we’ll retry this experiment on him. The guards will most likely have greater emotional control than the convicts did.”
Author’s Notes (may contain spoilers):
So this will be the last Evaira story for a while. I’ll continue posting the rest of Volume 2 in the Spring.
And we have The Vendetta Phenomenon, and the return of an old foe: Jay Briggs (remember him from The Unseen Phenomenon). I wanted to pose the idea of actions having consequences, and wanted to revisit what happened after one of the previous adventures. Plus, I always had intended Jay Briggs to be a recurring foe. What if they hadn’t helped the police so much in capturing Briggs the last time? They would have avoided this encounter, but things would have been different in other ways too.
It’s an idea I explored much more deeply in a short story I previously posted: Choices. But I didn’t focus on it too strongly here, because I also wanted to introduce Professor Fox, and give a little more insight into Axel and the people who are following Evaira, and bring in another lead. This will be continued in the next story, in the Spring.