Van Rook’s Apprentice is the thirteenth chapter of Zak Saturday's Immortal Love Life. It was first published on January 13, 2016.
Well, I discovered something really great today, but I should start from the beginning.
My family and I, with the Hollingers, are searching for a lake monster whose horn has something to do with opening Kur’s tomb.
We were in our sub, and Sarah and Zack were with us. (There wasn’t enough room for their mom and the animals to join us, so they decided to wait on the shore along with Zon.)
Dad gave Komodo a bone to chew, which he liked. He really is like a dog sometimes. Fisk kept making noises with his mouth, like sonar, which was annoying everyone.
“Fiskerton, you know that’s not really how sonar works,” Dad said.
“Dad, pretend sonar is the only thing that keeps him from messing with the real controls,” I said in his defense. “Can you just let him have that?”
He didn’t really like it, but he conceded. He gave Fisk a forced smile. “Sorry I interrupted, Fiskerton. Let me know if sonar picks up anything.”
Fisk gave him a salute and went back to his pretend sonar.
“Any real sonar?” Dad asked me, whispering.
I was looking over it. “Nothing. Are we sure there really is an Alkali Lake Monster?”
“There has to be. It’s all over our piece of the Kur Stone.” Mom pressed a button on the controls and a holographic image of the stone piece appeared. “It says the creature’s horn is one of the keys to opening Kur’s tomb. I only hope Argost didn’t get here before—”
Sarah and Zack groaned and covered their noses.
“What is that smell?” Zack asked.
At first, I didn’t smell anything. But eventually, I did, and the smell was really bad.
“Ah, Fisk,” I said. “Strap on some scuba gear and take it outside next time.”
He looked confused and offended by that.
“We must be close,” Dad said. “The Alkali Lake Monster is known for its pungent smell.”
“Yeah, I can sense it,” Sarah said.
“Well, I guess it’s good to be known for something,” Mom said, covering her nose too.
I heard Komodo growling behind us.
“What, Komodo?” I asked. “You got something?”
I went over to him. He was looking out one of the windows of the sub. I noticed green fumes, but didn’t see anything.
“How can you even see through all that green gunky—”
Something moved in front of the window, and I gasped.
It was the lake monster. He was at least five times the size of our sub. Fiskerton’s pretend sonar went off like crazy and he pointed at the monster.
“Yes, I see it, Fiskerton,” Dad said sarcastically. “Thank you.”
It looked at us through the front window and roared, then it swam away.
We were about to follow it when Sarah and Zack yelled, “Look out!”
Too late. Something hit us and we almost capsized.
When we regained our footing, we looked outside and noticed what hit us, or should I say who.
“Van Rook,” Dad said, a smile appearing on his face. “Rematch.”
Yep. That’s what I thought.
“Van Rook and his apprentice must be back on Argost’s payroll,” Mom said. “We’ve gotta stop them from getting that horn.”
“My pleasure,” Dad said.
He was at the controls with her.
We were following close behind the lake monster, but so were our enemies. They let loose a grappling hook from their sub, grabbed onto the lake monster’s horn, and it snapped off. That had to hurt.
Dad sent out a robotic arm from our sub and grabbed onto their grappling hook.
“I’ll wrestle you for it,” he said.
“Oh, this can’t be good,” Sarah muttered.
She was probably right. It was literally like a tug-of-war.
The lake monster ended it by swimming between us, broke the hook that was holding the horn, and it fell to the bottom of the lake.
“I’ll get the horn,” Mom said. “Just keep Van Rook and that other monster off me.”
I noticed Van Rook’s sidekick was also getting the horn, so I decided to help Mom, and Sarah and Zack joined me. We got suited up in the back, and Mom noticed.
“And what do we think we’re doing?” she asked us.
“Van Rook’s sidekick knows me,” I said. “I can talk to him.”
“Yeah, you really think he’ll listen?”
“Absolutely not,” Dad said, appearing on the video screen. “You haven’t fought him, Zak. He’s ruthless, complete without morals. I don’t want you anywhere near him.”
I had my helmet on, so I pretended that I didn’t hear, and even gestured that I didn’t, but he’s not stupid.
“You have communication systems in the helmet,” he said.
“Did you really think he was gonna fall for that?” Sarah said to me.
“Umm . . .” I said. “I’ll be careful. Bye, Fisk.”
I opened the door to get outside, and me, Mom, Sarah, and Zack went in, the door closing behind us.
We exited out of the sub and into the water. We swam to the bottom of the lake.
“You should be fine with the lake monster,” Dad said through the intercom. “It doesn’t seem to be interested in any of us right now.”
I saw what he meant. The lake monster was just swimming in circles near the surface.
“Do you think it’s gonna be alright without its horn?” I asked.
“It came off so easily,” Dad said. “I suspect it’s like a shark’s tooth. And there’s likely another horn growing up from underneath right—fascinating.”
Vines were coming out of the spot where the horn use to be on the lake monster. The vines wrapped around our sub.
“Dad!” I called.
“Doc!” Mom called.
“I’ll go help him,” Sarah said.
She summoned Vaporeon out of her Poké ball and they swam up to go help my dad.
Just then, slimy blue sticky stuff shot at us out of no where and glued Mom to the rock right beside us by her arm. I turned and noticed Van Rook’s sidekick with a kind of gun in his hand.
“Don’t even think about it,” he warned me and Zack.
“I never do,” I said.
I tried to grab the claw, but he shot at my hand, which glued me to a rock as well.
Zack tried to use his powers, but Van Rook’s sidekick was quick and shot him in the chest, landing right between me and Mom. The impact caused a lot of dust to float around.
“Oh, that’s foal,” Van Rook’s sidekick said.
“I didn’t think you had a problem working with slim,” I said.
He aimed his slim gun at me. “You want a mouth full of that stuff? Keep talking.”
“Go ahead, act like a bad guy. But you saved my life the last time we met. I knew you wouldn’t really hurt—ow!”
He shot at my mouth, but it didn’t really cover it, thanks to my helmet.
“Well, looks like you don’t know anything about me,” he said.
“Yeah, and you don’t know anything about the horn you’re looking for,” I countered. “Do you even know what Argost is after? The Kur Stone? Ultimate power? Armies of cryptids in the streets? The guy wants to rule the world. Maybe even destroy it. And you’re gonna help him do that?”
“I don’t ask questions from the guy with the money.”
“Yeah, well, maybe you should.”
He picked up the horn, but Mom suddenly was free and kicked him in the chest, and he fell to the ground.
“Mom, no,” I said. “I think I was getting through to him.”
She and Van Rook’s sidekick started fighting over who gets the horn. One of them would grab it, but the other one would just take it back, and ex cetera.
I had to get myself out of this sticky goo. I noticed the claw lying right beside me, so I grabbed it, slingshot it at a boulder in front of me, and wrapped around the top of it. I pressed the button to retract it and pulled myself free.
“Uh, a little help here,” Zack called.
He was still glued against the rock. I used my sword and cut the goo from him.
“Thanks,” he said.
“Don’t mention it,” I replied.
I sheathed my sword, then I turned toward my mom and Van Rook’s sidekick, who lost his mask somehow, and noticed him take the horn out of Mom’s hands and swam away with. Mom looked shell-shocked to even notice.
“Mom! Mom!” I called.
“Wha—what?” she asked, looking confused.
“Are you ok? You went all weird there for a second. And then you just let him go.”
“I won’t lose him again.”
She swam after him toward the surface. I didn’t know what she meant, and even Zack looked just as confused, but we followed her.
When we got to the surface, we found Dad in combat with Van Rook’s sidekick, and Fiskerton had the horn.
Mom ran toward Dad. “Doc, stop!”
“What? Why?” he asked.
“Because . . . I think he’s my brother.”
That surprised all of us.
“What?” Van Rook’s sidekick asked.
“Him?” Dad asked.
“Well, this just got interesting,” Raylee said.
“Cool,” I said.
Then we got blasted. Van Rook was shooting at us.
Fiskerton and Komodo ran across the shore out of panic. About halfway across, Fisk dropped the horn. Mom and Dad were right behind them along with Raylee and the animals, while Sarah, Zack, and I stayed where we were.
I looked at the horn on the ground. Van Rook stopped shooting for a moment, so I took the opportunity to get the horn and ran to it. Van Rook started shooting me, but stopped when I reached the horn.
I picked it up, threw it into the air, and whistled. Zon came out of no where, caught it in her mouth, and flew toward the airship.
Van Rook came onto the shore with his sub/car, a door opened on the side of it, Van Rook’s sidekick entered in it with one last look at us, and the door closed behind him.
The car rolled back into the water and they were gone.
Back at home, Mom was checking through the database to see if that guy really was her brother, while I was getting Zon a fish.
Once I got it, I went to the room where everybody was and walked over to Zon, who still had the horn in her mouth. I held up the fish. She dropped the horn, I threw the fish at her, and she caught it in her mouth. Then she flew away.
I picked up the horn and handed it to Dad.
“You think my secret uncle would teach me how to use those concussion grenades?” I asked. Then a thought came to mind. “Wait. He’s missed eleven birthdays. He should give me some concussion grenades.”
“Ok, first, no,” Mom said. “And second, I’m not a hundred percent sure he is your uncle. I mean, I always hoped . . . but, I—I don’t know how it’s possible.”
“Drew, I know how much you miss your family,” Dad said. “But if this is your brother, and he’s working for Van Rook, helping Argost, are you sure you want to know that?”
“I have to know, Doc. I—I can’t explain it, but when that mask came off it was like I was looking at my dad’s face again.”
“Aww, that’s so sweet,” Raylee said.
“You honestly think that’s sweet?” Amber asked, sounding surprised.
“Shut up. No family’s perfect. Everybody’s different.”
“Do you have any brothers, Raylee?” Mom asked.
“Yes,” she replied, not looking like she really wanted to answer that question. “Three to be exact.”
“Have any of them done anything criminal?” Zack asked.
“Two of them. But I’m not going to tell you what, so don’t ask.”
“You’ve never mentioned that you have brothers before,” Sarah noted.
“I had brothers,” Raylee corrected. “They’re all probably dead by now. And as you can probably tell, I didn’t like any of them since I didn’t keep any of them alive. But it’s not because they were criminals.”
“Then why didn’t you like them?”
“No comment. But, Drew, if you believe that he’s your brother, then you should find out.”
Mom nodded. “Thank you, Raylee.”
And with that, we left Mom by herself.
After a long while, I decided to make her some hot chocolate and Sarah and Fisk helped me. When we finished making it, we poured it into a cup and took it to Mom. When we got there, she looked kind of tired.
It was pretty late, and she’s been studying for hours. Fiskerton handed her the cup, and she took it.
“Thanks, Fiskerton,” she said.
She seemed a little reluctant about drinking it, and I think I knew why.
“I made it,” I assured her.
That satisfied her and she took a sip of it.
“So, do I have an uncle apprentice?” I asked her.
“His name is Doyle,” she said. “And I think so. They changed his last name somewhere along the line, but everything else fits.”
“How come I never heard about him before now? What happened?”
“Well, it’s not a happy memory, kiddo. To be honest, there’s not much of a memory at all. The mind can block out a lot of things it doesn’t like. We were such a happy family. We went everywhere together, saw just about the whole world. We were in the Himalayas when it happened. It was all . . . so fast. And then my parents were gone.”
“That’s really sad,” Sarah said. “I’m so sorry, Drew.”
Mom nodded in agreement. “I tried to find Doyle for years. The Tibetan Monks who took me in, the ones who gave me my fire sword, they all tried. I thought I was hopeless—”
Alarms went off, and we noticed a video call was on the screen next to us. Mom answered it, and a guy appeared on the screen.
“Doyle?” Mom asked.
“You know my name,” he said. “So it’s true then.”
“I don’t know what to believe. But everything I’ve seen points to—”
“Yeah, sorry to interrupt, but we’re gonna have to play catch-up later. If you really are my sister, I could use some help. I think I got myself into trouble.”
He ran from the screen and we noticed shots in the background, and the screen turned fuzzy.
We all gathered together and Mom told them what happened while she was preparing to go help her long-lost brother. But Dad didn’t like it.
“He wants you to meet him?” he said. “And he chose the location? In the middle of the night?”
“He said he was in trouble,” Mom said.
“And that doesn’t make you suspicious?”
“Of course it does. I’ve set traps less obvious than that, but I need to know for myself.”
“I’m coming with you.”
“Me too,” I said.
Fisk also chimed in.
“No, no,” Mom said. “If it’s a trap, we’d all be walking into it.”
“Doyle’s family, right?” I said. “So shouldn’t we trust him?”
Raylee snorted. “Oh, if only you’ve met the families I’ve dealt with. And that includes my own. Not this one. Family is overrated, and honestly, doesn’t mean much anymore.”
“It’s not that simple, Zak,” Dad said. “Whether he’s your uncle or not, he’s still Van Rook’s apprentice. But I do trust your mother.”
She put her hand on his chest.
He grabbed it and placed a video phone in it. “Take this video phone. If you suspect anything, don’t try to be a hero.”
Mom smiled and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “When have I ever done anything rash or irresponsible?”
“I keep a list. It’s alphabetized. Do you want me to start with the Algerian Sea Centipede, or the Zara Australian Pit of Darkness?”
Raylee laughed. “Even though I have no idea what those things are, you have got to tell me about them and what Drew did.”
Mom smiled. “I’ll be back soon.”
She gave me a kiss on the forehead and the same with Fiskerton. Then she left.
I didn’t want her to go by herself. I grabbed Sarah’s hand and pulled her gently with me into another room, then I ran for the airship, pulling her harder behind me.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“To help my mom,” I replied.
She sighed. “Why did I even ask, since you obviously get your stubbornness from your mom.”
I laughed. “Come on.”
“Fine. But if anybody asks, you took me hostage.”
We got into the airship and headed to the supply closet.
I was about to close the door when Sarah said, “Komodo’s coming.”
Sure enough he appeared, getting halfway through the door before I tried to push him out.
“Stay with Dad, Komodo,” I told him.
But he forced himself in.
“Alright, you can come,” I conceded. “Just keep it quiet, ok?”
I tried closing the door again, but someone stopped it.
“Now Fiskerton,” Sarah said.
I looked out, and saw that it was Fiskerton.
He wagged his index finger at me, clearly telling me I shouldn’t do this.
“You can tattle, or you can come along,” I told him.
He pondered that for a moment, then came into the closet. I closed the door, and not a second later did I hear a knocking sound on it.
“And that’s Zon,” Sarah said.
I sighed and let her in.
I closed the door again and turned to Sarah. “Any one else coming?”
In response to my question, I heard the door open behind me.
“Yes,” Zack said, entering the closet, and closed the door behind him.
“Anyone else?” I asked them, getting very annoyed.
They both shook their head, trying to hide their smiles. “No.”
It was way too cramped in that closet, but I was able to move toward Sarah who was in the corner. I sat down next to her. She moved over to me and sat down on my lap. I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her close.
A few minutes later, I felt the airship take flight. After a while, Fisk turned to me, looking uneasy, and I knew why.
“There will be no potty breaks,” I told him.
He didn’t bother me anymore for the rest of the flight.
I felt the airship land not too long later. We decided to wait a couple minutes before coming out of the closet, but we only waited half that long.
“We should probably get out of here right now,” Sarah said insistently.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I’m sensing something’s wrong.”
“Yeah, I can sense it too,” Zack said.
I didn’t ask anymore questions. I got up and we all left the closet.
We went to the control room first, but Mom wasn’t there. I looked outside and saw her with Doyle, but they weren’t alone. Argost was there, and he had them tied up in blood sucking vines. I think they were called blackflies.
We ran outside. I jumped onto Zon, her flying me toward him, Fisk running right behind us, and I kicked Argost away, knocking him to the ground. Fisk went to deal with him while I jumped off of Zon, landing right in front of Mom and Doyle.
“I told you to stay home,” she said to me. “What are you doing here?”
“Backup?” I suggested.
Komodo came over and cut the vines from around Mom with his claws. She picked up her fire sword, which was lying on the ground next to her.
“And?” Doyle asked.
Mom turned to him, holding her sword at him. “If you knew anything about this . . .”
“Does it look like it?” The vines were closing around his throat.
“Mom,” I said.
She finally cut the vines from around him.
Argost stood up from the ground, then he opened up his cape and a lot of bugs came out of it. Everyone was quick. Zon flew up, I grabbed her foot, then Mom’s hand, and we flew up onto the bridge above us. Everyone else either climbed or flew.
Argost followed us up there as well.
“Now, children,” he said. “Didn’t mother warn you? You play with fire, you get fire cracker beetles.”
He opened his cape again and more bugs came out of it. Once they got near us, they did start cracking like fire crackers. It hurt and all the smoke coming from them made us cough. I climbed onto Zon’s back and she went airborne.
Fiskerton was able to get over to Argost and was now, I guess, wrestling with him.
“Get me in there, Zon,” I said.
Unfortunately, before she was able to do that, more fire cracker beetles came out of Argost’s cape and came at us. Zon flew away from them.
I noticed a blue burst of light, probably my mom’s fire sword, and it destroyed half of the beetles when it came in contact with them, along with the bridge. But the beetles were still following me and Zon.
We weren’t paying attention to where we were flying, and by the time we realized it, the bridge was collapsed. Zon made a tight turn just in time before the rocks landed on us, and we fell to the ground.
The beetles still came at us. They were about to reach us when all of a sudden, I felt something jump in front of us, and the beetles disappeared.
Komodo became visible, and that’s when I realized that he ate them when he licked his lips. I could see the beetles buzzing in his stomach.
“I don’t know if I should be impressed or disgusted,” I said.
I’ll say both.
I focused back on the situation and looked for my mom. She, Sarah, Zack, and Doyle were fighting Argost, but it wasn’t going so well. He somehow managed to knock them all to the ground.
Zon took flight, grabbed onto the back of my shirt with her talons, and we flew toward Argost.
“Leave my family alone!” I said.
He didn’t have time to notice us before Zon tackled him and carried him into the sky. We were flying a little too high.
“Zon, down!” I told her, but she wasn’t listening. “No. Down!”
She kept on flying.
I heard something behind us, and I noticed Doyle flying next to us on his jet pack. He grabbed Argost and dropped him to the ground. But before he hit the ground, he expanded his cape and landed safely.
We flew down to where Mom and the others were and landed.
“So, believe me now?” Doyle asked Mom.
In response, he got a kick in the chest from her.
“Mom!” I said to her, completely surprised by what she just did.
“This was all just a diversion?” she asked Doyle. “Just part of the job? You lied to me. You put my whole family in danger.”
Doyle didn’t seem to have any idea what she was talking about, and neither did I.
“Mom, what ever you think happened—” I tried, but Mom interrupted.
“In the airship, Zak,” she said. “Now.”
I decided not to argue anymore.
Sarah grabbed my arm and pulled me gently toward the airship, along with every one else. As soon as we got in, I turned toward Sarah and Zack.
“What happened?” I asked them.
“Your mom got a video call from your dad, and he said that this was a setup so that they could get the horn,” Sarah said.
“And you don’t really believe that, do you?”
Sarah and Zack exchanged looks.
“We believe it was a setup,” Zack said.
“But we don’t believe that Doyle was apart of it,” Sarah finished.
“Argost made it look like he was, though.”
“And my mom believes it,” I said.
At that moment, Mom appeared, looking really hurt. She sat down at the controls and we took off, no one saying anything along the way.
Once we got home, we noticed Van Rook and Munya fighting Dad, Raylee, and the animals, who were completely covered in webs. Raylee was a little beat up and panting hard, but Dad looked even worse.
Van Rook had the horn in his hands, and Munya decided to throw Dad over the cliff to the ocean below.
I sent Zon outside. She caught him in her talons and carried him back up. Van Rook and Munya left in their own warship and got away.
“You know, darling,” Mom said to Dad through the intercom. “I really think you’ve got this rescue concept backwards.”
He managed a smile.
We all gathered in the living room, enjoying some Chinese food while Mom was working on Dad’s injuries.
“I hope you don’t mind I ordered take out,” Dad said to Mom. “I know it’s my night to cook, but—”
“You don’t have to avoid the subject,” Mom interrupted. “You can say ‘I told you so.’ Argost has the Alkali horn. He’s even closer to finding Kur now, and it’s my fault for trusting—”
“I’m sorry your brother wasn’t who you thought he was.”
Mom gave him a comforted smile.
Just then, Doyle appeared right in front of the window, flying on his jetpack. I went over to it, opened it, and let him inside.
“Uncle Doyle,” I said.
Fiskerton and Komodo growled at him.
“Zak,” Dad called, wincing. “Get over here.”
“I thought I was pretty clear with you,” Mom told Doyle.
He held up his helmet. “See this helmet? Van Rook gave it to me. Never mentioned this feature.” He pulled out a small communicator from it. “He’s been bugging all my communications. That’s how Argost knew that I’d be with you and that Doc would be here alone.”
Mom shook her head. “Oh, please. You came all the way here to try that lame excuse?”
“You know what? Forget it.”
He tossed aside his helmet, and was about to leave out the open window, but I stopped him.
“Come on, Doyle,” I said.
“Zak, get away from him,” Mom said.
“Give him another chance. We’ve all made mistakes, but we have to forgive each other. That’s part of being a family.”
“I didn’t come here to make excuses,” Doyle said. “I came here because I thought you might want to know why Argost was after me in the first place.”
He had a satchel with him. He opened it and dropped whatever was inside it on to the floor. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes.
“Wait. Is that—” I started.
“Another piece of the Kur Stone?” Mom finished. She looked at Doyle. “You took this from Argost?”
“I decided to do some research on the guy who was paying me,” he replied. “Turns out he’s got a few ideas I’m not so big on.”
I picked up the stone piece. “Hey, Dad, didn’t you guys need, like, fifty Secret Scientists to break into Weird World last time?”
He groaned. “You know, there were two pieces we didn’t have.”
“Things got . . . hectic,” Doyle said.
“He got one piece,” Raylee said. “You gotta give him credit for that.”
“I can’t believe you beat Argost,” I said to Doyle.
“I escaped Argost,” he corrected. “But I’ll take that for now.”
“Dad always had a flare for the dramatic, too,” Mom said. She gave him a hug. “It’s—it’s good to have you back.”
He hugged her back.
“Aww, that’s so cute,” Raylee said. “I always imagine something like that happening between Sarah and Zack if they ever got separated from each other for so long, but with more emotion.”
Sarah and Zack exchanged looks, then shrugged. “Maybe.”
Sarah wrapped her arms around him tightly.
“Can’t—breathe,” he said.
“Oh, sorry,” Sarah said, unwrapping her arms from around him.
Zack smirked. “I was kidding.”
She slapped his arm. They shared a laugh.
“So, if you’re looking for help stopping Argost, I’m available,” Doyle said. “For a reasonable hourly rate. I’m kind of out of a job.”
“You expect us to pay you?” Dad asked.
“And I need a place to crash.”
“You can stay in my room,” I offered. “Come on. I’ll show you where to put your stuff.”
I grabbed his hand and led him to my room.
So I got a new uncle today, and he was so cool. I really hope he stays with us for a long time.
The end of the next chapter is going to be good.
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