Inhabitable | Invasion Survivor Book Two | Chapter Eighteen
AJ looked around himself and sighed. Maybe this wasn’t such a hot idea.
Getting on the spaceship was easy, but now everyone was treating him like he was one of the captured humans, and he couldn’t break away. Also, Mrs. Moon, Willow, and Dave weren’t there, so it was a complete bust.
Everywhere he looked, AJ could see people being transported away so they could be turned into slaves, and he definitely didn’t want to end up like that. He needed to act and fast. He couldn’t understand what was going on. The black wave stayed away from him on the streets, and that remained true here, but it was like the other awakened people didn’t know he was one of them.
He rubbed the back of his head in search of inspiration when it literally scratched him. He looked at the bracelet Willow made him wear. On impulse, he took it off and stashed it inside his pocket.
The thing didn’t have any effect on the connection he shared with Francis, but maybe it did something else. Better safe than sorry.
Since finding Angela and sister was a priority, he started taking the easiest routes toward the place he hoped they were being held.
Just as he tried to explain to Paige, he knew exactly where to go, even though he’d never actually laid his eyes on this place before.
He wanted to jog, but everyone was moving across the moving floor. Not wanting to draw unnecessary attention to himself, AJ followed suit. He was amazed at how the whole thing functioned and how no one ever collided with anyone else. The entire floor didn’t move in one direction but rather only a small path beneath him carried him around.
Suddenly, he passed something that caught his eye, and he wished the thing beneath his feet to slow down. On command, it did. Upon closer inspection, he discovered he found a place where the evacuation ships were, and he stashed that knowledge for later. AJ was certain it would prove useful before resuming onward.
Once he was certain he’d arrived at the desired destination, he simply stopped. The metal door in front of him didn’t have a handle, but it still opened when he approached it. Once he was through, he sighed in relief because Willow and Mrs. Moon were there. They were in a cell that was surrounded by a force-field.
“AJ,” Willow exclaimed when she spotted him, but Mrs. Moon scowled in return.
“I knew you were the enemy. Why are you here? To gloat?” she yelled at him, but then her expression morphed when she thought of something else. “Where is Paige?” she demanded. “What have you done with her?”
“Paige is safe,” he replied ignoring all the rest. “She sent me here to get you out of this.”
“I don’t believe you,” Mrs. Moon huffed, shooting daggers at him. He was certain if she had a piece available to her, she would shoot him then and there without any problem.
“Mom,” Willow snapped back. “You need to listen to him. He’s on our side,” she said, defending him.
AJ was grateful.
Without further discussion, AJ rushed toward some kind of dashboard and pressed his palm against it, turning it on. Not being fully aware of what he was doing, he entered a series of symbols, and the field disappeared, freeing them from their prison.
“You are making a big mistake!” Francis warned.
“Stay out of it,” AJ snapped back.
The alien had stayed pretty quiet during this journey, probably pouting, and AJ didn’t appreciate him trying to butt in now. He really tried to fortify his mental shields and block him as much as possible.
“Come on, Mom, we have to go,” Willow urged. She quickly left the cell, but Mrs. Moon lingered.
“I’m not going anywhere with him. It’s a trap,” Angela replied stubbornly, trying to make Willow return to the cell as well, but she rebelled.
“No!” she yelled. “I’m not a kid you can boss around anymore, and neither is Paige. If she trusts him, then so do I.”
Mrs. Moon looked confused by this sudden outburst, but eventually gave a slight nod, much to AJ’s relief.
“Ok, what did you have in mind?” Mrs. Moon asked.
AJ went to stand beside them, sharing his plan. “I want to take you to the evacuation pods, then go search for Dave.” He’d promised Paige he would. “If I’m not back in thirty minutes, go without me.”
They both nodded in agreement.
“Let’s go,” AJ commented, but then he remembered something important.
“Their glow,” Francis told AJ.
He took the bracelet from his pocket. “I only have one,” he said apologetically. Mrs. Moon took it and placed it around Willow’s wrist. “Just stay close behind me and don’t say a word,” AJ advised.
They left the room and rushed to the other part of the ship. AJ made sure they stayed inconspicuous. After showing them how to operate the space capsule, he left them in search of Dave.
AJ was certain Dave had ended up in one of the rooms with the pods, but everywhere he looked, he couldn’t find him. After a while, he got frustrated, feeling like he was only wasting time.
He started backtracking his steps to make sure he didn’t miss anything when he stumbled upon an unfamiliar room. He grinned as he stepped inside.
It was filled with all kinds of gadgets and things that could certainly be of use to him along the way. He lingered for a few minutes and looked around.
While exiting the room, he felt something he’d felt only once before. It was a certain pull, as if the pieces of the dark mass inside him wanted to return to its original source.
Francis was trying to tell him something, but AJ refused to let him. AJ still couldn’t figure out how that worked. At times, he had no trouble dealing with the alien voice inside his head, but there were other times when he felt like Francis was more in control, like when he’d fallen asleep in the wardrobe.
AJ didn’t have to sleep anymore, so the only explanation he could think of was that Francis had done something to him. He just couldn’t figure out why. He didn’t know how to prevent that from happening in the future, and that scared him.
AJ ran, throwing caution to the wind. He wanted to cover as much ground as possible to look for Dave.
* * *
A loud ping sound of the machine announced the transformation was over. Like a fully baked turkey in an oven.
The chilly, cloudy, heavy mass of black nothingness had filled Paige’s body. It now raced through her veins, and Paige could feel it slowly spreading toward her hands and feet. The thing she feared the most completely filled her now and was changing her.
On one hand, Paige felt entirely different. It was as if she’d been overloaded and upgraded somehow. On the other, she was still the same old Paige.
AJ mentioned he heard a voice inside his head. She wondered if she had one, too.
Hello? Is anybody there? Paige inquired, feeling like a lunatic while doing so, but no one replied to her.
Her mind was still her own. That comforted her.
I need to get out of here, Paige thought, starting to look about. Since she wasn’t panicking anymore, she could now assess her surroundings much better and find a way out. She started slowly, meticulously touching the inside of the pod.
There, she mentally exclaimed.
Paige quickly calculated the pressure needed to open the pod door. Then, taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and concentrated as hard as possible.
I need to do this. I need to do this, she repeated like a mantra.
The weakest spot of the pod was the door. Paige pressed her palms against it and used all her strength to push. The door popped off, which both delighted and amazed her.
Jumping out, Paige looked around and caught one of the workers who had put them in the pods in the first-place staring at her. He was dumbstruck, to say the least, and that made Paige smile.
Without a doubt, she knew that man would alert every one of her miraculous escape. Knowing she didn’t have much time, Paige charged at him.
The black mass that once held her legs stayed away from her, and Paige could move freely. It seemed to move away from her.
There’s nothing that can stop me now. Paige was free to walk toward the worker who was still looking at her, his expression still portraying only surprise.
Without overexertion, Paige easily picked up speed and ran straight at him, knocking him over with a single punch.
Wow! Paige was shocked at her new strength.
It took only one punch to the face for the worker to collapse on the floor.
This is unbelievable! Paige thought. She looked at her hands with new appreciation and grinned. She felt content with herself, despite having the black mass inside of her.
Who knew that the black mass would have such a beneficial effect on me? It must be because of the bracelet. She didn’t care. She’d survived and felt better than ever. It’s not the bracelet. It’s the thing that’s inside of me that makes me glow.
She couldn’t wait to tell AJ or Willow about it.
Her grin faded as the realization of what happened hit her. That darkness was inside her now. They’re doing this, Paige reminded herself. Maybe she was at the driver’s seat, but they’d built the machine she was driving now.
She couldn’t even stop to think of what her mother would say if she knew about this. Would she scream at her and call her a traitor like she did to AJ?
Not wanting to dwell on it, Paige looked around for the exit. Looking down, she realized she was still very much naked. Her hands instinctively moved to cover her body, but at the same time, Paige noticed she no longer felt hot or cold.
There’s nothing here!
Inspiration struck her, and Paige turned back to look at the worker she punched earlier. He was approximately her height and body type. In some other place and time, she might have considered him attractive. He had chin-length black hair and matching dark eyes, but all Paige could see now was that he was an enemy.
“Why not?” Paige mumbled.
She hurried toward him and stripped him of his uniform. It was time-consuming, and feeling like every second counted irked her. She needed to get to her mother and Willow, and then try to find the rest of their gang.
Dave, Peter, and Tilley need her help as well, and she couldn’t count on AJ doing his part.
What if he’s captured, too?
Paige got the uniform from the Host and quickly dressed. When she was done, Paige started to leave but was stopped by the sound of the pod doors being opened one by one.
The people inside the pods were naked, just like Paige had been, but they didn’t appear to be as enthusiastic as she was getting out. They seemed more indifferent to their surroundings.
It was like they didn’t care what was happening around them. Paige knew the same black substance coursed through their veins as hers now, but looking at them, she guessed they were unable to control themselves or their abilities–unlike her.
It saddened her to look at them and know that, very soon, they would be sent back to Earth to infiltrate the humans who hadn’t yet been rounded up. They would lure them in and end this invasion that much quicker.
Paige gulped. I’m so glad I’m not one of them, she thought to herself, once again sending that man who had distracted the worker a silent thank you.
That same man that was now standing in front of her.
Paige hoped she would continue to be herself. She wanted to be able to control her actions like AJ could. Even though these people were in an apathetic state, Paige knew they would fully wake soon, and she didn’t want to know what would happen once they did. She didn’t have any desire to find out how they would treat her once fully functioning. She needed to leave this room—now.
Not looking back, Paige ran out of the room and found herself in a small hallway. Glancing around, she took note that the black mass was everywhere, as a part of the ship, but now it moved away from her.
Looking left and right, Paige was faced with seemingly endless corridors and closed doors that probably held more pods or future Hosts. There were no windows, no way of telling if the ship was still at the same place over the city. As she noticed before, the walls looked like they were constantly in flux.
Paige had a sudden strong desire to touch it. “No!” she snapped at herself.
The black mass ignored her now, and she wanted to keep it that way.
At least that was one good thing about this damn thing inside of me, she thought to herself. She was grateful she would never have to feel that thing pressing against her.
Paige ran from one location to the next. At times, she entered the same section twice because the spaceship was so large. It was impossible for Paige to remember which areas she’d been in and which ones she hadn’t.
Luckily, she didn’t encounter anyone during her reconnaissance, or she would be in a world of trouble. It frustrated her that, despite having a black mass inside of her, she still couldn’t read or understand the alien language. If she could learn how to read any of the signs, she would be able to find her people that much easier.
This felt like finding a needle in a very large haystack. A haystack that was made out of humans with aliens inside of them.
She was very focused on finding everyone. She found it odd that it was her who had to find everyone.
If only AJ had waited for her to go in the morning, then everything would have been much easier. She stressed, checking her surroundings and realizing she already passed her current location twice.
Because AJ wanted to do the selfless thing, Paige now had to find all of them on her own. It freaked her out to no end knowing she was all alone and surrounded by Seedling-seeking aliens who wanted to destroy her or do other things to her. Things Paige didn’t even want to imagine.
I need to remain as invisible as possible, Paige reminded herself as she finally stumbled into some people. She quickly moved to hide inside a vast room.
It was identical to the pod room she’d escaped from, but this one was completely empty. Satisfied the threat had passed, she resumed her search.
If I was an alien super-race and had captured the only thing that could destroy me, where would I stash it? Paige wondered.
Suddenly, a large number of people started to come out of various rooms. Paige didn’t have another choice this time. She had to try to blend in and act as if she was one of them, just a worker and nothing more.
A very indifferent alien worker, Paige reminded herself, adjusting her expression and straightening her green uniform.
It was her only choice. The only way to stay safe and find her loved ones was to join the flow of naked people.
What if Mom, Willow, Dave, Tilley, Peter, or even AJ were among them? she wondered as she searched through the new people, but only unknown faces greeted her back.
There was a small comfort in that.
Paige made her way up to other floors of the spaceship. Naked people surrounded her. There were so many of them, she felt like she was at some kind of nudist colony or something, but she reminded herself to be calm. Walking with the flow meant being slightly pushed here and there, but it helped to avoid drawing attention to herself, even though she was the only one with clothes on.
There’s no way back, she realized. She couldn’t turn around.
Suddenly, she thought she saw a familiar figure.
“Dave?” Unable to help herself, she called out for him, but the person in question ignored her—just like the rest of them.
Paige pushed forward, trying to get to him, but she lost him again, despite moving as fast as possible throughout the sea of bodies.
“Dave?” she said again quietly.
Paige looked around but couldn’t find him again.
Was it even him in the first place? She started to doubt herself. Still, that didn’t stop her from moving along with the crowd and continuing to look for him.
Eventually, Paige made it to the top of the spaceship. The flights of stairs were so narrow, only one person could take them at a time. She wanted to know if there was an elevator or something to avoid that whole mess again. If she could find it, there was a slim chance she could make it work.
Others were pushing from all directions, and Paige had to stop and press her back against round metallic doors, waiting to find a good time to start making her way back down.
She wanted to go back down a couple of levels since she didn’t get the chance to search them completely while being swept up in the sea of bodies.
While she stood there like an ornament, as the former humans walked past her as if she wasn’t even there, the doors behind her started to open.
For some unexplained reason, Paige couldn’t move away as doors parted. She was rooted in place. She didn’t know what or who she would find behind it, but her gut warned her of danger.
Still, Paige held hope it would be her mom, Willow, Dave, or AJ. She wanted to find all of them together, but she doubted that would happen.
When the doors were fully open, Paige looked in and couldn’t believe her eyes. Dread filled her like it had many times before, but in her new state, it all felt heightened somehow.
Inside were black forms of swirling mass without human bodies. They were like the ones Paige had seen when they first arrived—tall, scary aliens with holes instead of eyes and a gaping void in place of a mouth. It was the most horrifying thing she had ever witnessed in her life. They were her constant nightmare while growing up, and now they’d proven they were real.
This room was completely different than the rest of the rooms she had seen thus far. It was filled with different images and all kinds of data. It was gibberish to her as it moved along wide screens. The aliens were standing at computer stations. Paige guessed this was where the pilots worked. It was the essentially the cockpit.
Paige’s heart raced as panic rose in her chest.
The creatures at their stations slowly turned around to look at her. Looking back, Paige was sure they knew she was a Seedling who stood before them in a worker’s uniform. A Seedling they needed to capture and destroy.
Even though the black mass was inside of her, Paige was certain it wouldn’t matter to them—she was the enemy. Paige was still frozen, horrified as she gazed right back into their eyeless stares, waiting for the worst to happen.
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