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Inhabitable | Invasion Survivor Book Two | Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Nineteen

I need to run away from them! was the only thought in Paige’s mind.

She needed to get away from them before it was too late. It sucked she’d been discovered, but if she managed to escape, all would not be lost.

Paige turned around and searched for a path she could take to escape, but it was too late. She’d stayed too long, frozen by her fear.

Those creatures from her nightmares started to scream, and the sound was deafening. As the hellish howls surrounded her, Paige tried to run away, but the black wave appeared seemingly out of nowhere and grabbed her legs just like it had before.

“No!” she screamed. This shouldn’t be happening!

Paige panicked. She had the black wave inside of her, which should have made her safe from that thing, but as it turned out, when the aliens gave it a direct order, no one was safe from it.

Just like before, Paige started to fight back against it as it tightened its grip on her legs. Pretty soon, a rather soul crushing fact became clear to her. There was no way she could defeat it, even though she’d been upgraded, so to speak, and had become stronger.

“Get away from me!” Paige yelled at the wave surrounding her. She didn’t know if it could hear her without ears, but she gave it her best. “Leave me alone!” she screamed again, trying to pry the black mass off her body.

Unfortunately, Paige didn’t have any kind of weapon on her, and she cursed herself for not finding something while she was here. The mass took hold of her up to her stomach, then stopped progressing.

“Why don’t you come and fight me yourself, you cowards!” Paige shouted at the Shadow Men, and despite being semi-faceless, Paige could tell that they looked pleased she was so enraged.

There was a void in the middle of the spaceship that was encased by the spiraling narrow stairs. They looked like they were made of glass but were created out of something more advanced but just as clear. The black wave dragged Paige towards it, then above the center of the ship.

The Shadow Men dangled her in the open air like she was some kind of prized possession or a thorn in their sides, she couldn’t quite decide which.

Paige stopped fighting in her current position since it was obvious the drop would kill her if she managed to get loose. She waited and bided her time to see what they would do with her.

“You will not win!” Paige said, continuing to taunt them.

Then it happened. The mass plummeted to the ground with her in tow.

They want to kill me! Paige realized too late.

“Stop! Stop! Stop!” she pleaded to the black mass. She didn’t want to die, not just yet. A lot of people depended on her, so dying like this wasn’t an option.

STOP!” she shouted with all her might, and the mass actually listened.

For a few brief moments, Paige was suspended not more than a couple of inches above the first floor of the spaceship. She was then dropped the last few inches, and she landed with a loud oof! But she was grateful to be alive. It could have been a lot worse, but that damn thing was still wrapped around her.

“Get off,” she tried to say with the same authority as before, but the mass ignored her this time around. To make things even worse, it acted as if it was tired of her constant struggling, so it resumed swallowing her once again.

“No!” Paige couldn’t let that happen.

She felt like a doll surrounded by bubble wrap but a hundred times worse. It restricted her breathing now that it was up to her neck. Paige couldn’t even breathe properly anymore, let alone try to scream.

“I really don’t want to die,” she whispered to no one in particular.

Suddenly, a blue electrical sphere appeared from God only knows where. It knocked the mass away from her, making Paige fall on her ass again. She watched as another sphere took its place. Quickly, she looked up in the direction they appeared to be coming from and saw AJ.

Her breath hitched, and joy overcame her, even though she still couldn’t believe her eyes. He was throwing strange metal disks that turned into blue spheres and was hitting the aliens with it.

The mass advanced again, but with the weapon he was using, AJ was able to keep them at bay. He smiled at Paige, and as she gazed at him back, she never felt so glad to see anyone in her entire life.

Paige’s heart was filled with warmth when she realized how glad she was to see him alive and well again. He was more than that—he was well enough to kick alien ass.

AJ quickly approached Paige and took her by the hand, helping her up.

“AJ,” she breathed before embracing him for a few short moments.

He took her hand again and pulled her away. They attempted to run across the hallway, but the black mass was on the floor, chasing after them and trying to cling to Paige. AJ threw more metal discs as they ran, successfully clearing a path for them.

“I knew these things would come in handy,” he said, grinning.

“Where did you get those?” she had to ask.

“I found a few gadgets,” he explained with a wink.

Paige was fascinated to see how he seemed to know just when to turn or stay on the right path, avoiding people who were enslaved.

He really was telling the truth.

Paige was just about to ask him something when AJ froze in front of her, making her run right into his back.

“Wha...” she started to ask, but then she saw it with her own eyes.

One of the Shadow Men stood right in front of them. This one almost looked like a human without eyes and a mouth. They watched as some kind of weapon grew from the Shadow Man’s hand. It was thicker, more solid looking than the rest of him, and jet black. It looked like a blade.

In one swift move, AJ took something that looked like an ice pick from his bag before dropping it. The ice pick in his hand attracted a piece of the black mass from the wall, coating it and making it bigger and longer. He created a sword-like weapon, and then he charged.

The alien and AJ engaged in some kind of weird swordplay, but it wasn’t a play at all. AJ tried to slash the Shadow, but every time he did, the sword went right through it. Paige still silently cheered as she heard the thing hiss in pain with every one of AJ’s strikes.

How do you defeat a Shadow? Paige wondered.

After another unsuccessful attempt to disarm him, it was the Shadow’s turn to advance. With a grace Paige wouldn’t believe possible, it twirled forward like a whirlwind and slashed AJ across his hand, causing him to drop the sword.

In the next moment, the Shadow’s blade was pointed at AJ’s forehead. It pressed against him, causing a cut to form. The Shadow’s blade forced the mass inside the small wound. By the look on AJ’s face, it became pretty obvious that the Shadow Man was doing something other than just causing physical pain to AJ.

“I can’t,” AJ managed to choke out.

Without thinking, Paige simply acted. She took the discs from AJ’s bag, and even though she didn’t have the slightest idea how they worked, she threw one in the Shadow’s general direction.

It opened, and the bright blue sphere appeared, but her aim was too far off. Still, she was pleased it was that simple.

She tried again, but that moment of distraction had done something to the mental connection between the Shadow and AJ. Gritting his teeth, AJ suddenly broke free from his stupor and started throwing metal discs on his own once again.

His aim was much better than hers, though it didn’t take much aim on his part since the creature was standing right in front of him.

The Shadow Man staggered backward then collapsed on the ground, becoming less and less corporeal by the second.

“Let’s go,” AJ said before running in the opposite direction. He didn’t even bother to check if Francis the Shadow Man was still alive or dead.

After Paige was relatively sure that they were safe for the moment, she decided to return to the topic that was on her mind before the appearance of that alien.

“AJ?” Paige asked, as she ran across the hall. She was one step behind him, but she still held his hand. “Where are my mother and sister?”

She was beyond afraid he was going to tell her something bad had happened since he came to her rescue all alone, but she needed to know.

“Don’t worry, Paige. They’re safe,” he replied instantly, glancing at her over his shoulder. She instantly felt better. “I’ll tell you more after we get off this spaceship. It’ll blow up soon,” he informed her.

That startled her. “It’ll blow up?” Paige repeated, filled with horror.

I’ll blow it up,” he corrected.

She’d never seen that expression on his face before. “But, AJ, you can’t!” Paige protested, forcing him to stop for a second. She didn’t care if they were being chased around. This was too important to ignore.

“Why?” he countered, frowning as they stopped.

“Because there are innocent people on this spaceship. How can you blow up the ship and kill all the people who haven’t done anything bad?” she asked him. “Dave, his little brother, and Tilley are on this ship as well,” she added, trying to make him see.

“Come on, Paige,” he snapped back. “You know that once the black mass is in them, they’re already dead. They can’t take it out. So, there’s no point in trying to save them.”

“How can you be so sure?” Paige challenged.

He gave her a knowing look. “I just am, ok?”

But it wasn’t ok. Paige felt sick at the thought of all of them dying. Paige was terrified that if he thought that way about them, it would mean he would think of her in the same fashion.

Am I already dead, too? Is this the way he really thinks about me now?

“Am I dead now, too, AJ?” she asked.

“That’s different, Paige, and you know it.”

She did. It was because of her bracelet. The one Willow gave her. The one Brooke had brought for her.

Despite logic, she was still mad at him.  “AJ, what about you?” Paige asked suddenly. “Are you dead?”

He jerked as if she’d slapped him. “No. I’ve been reprogrammed,” he replied matter-of-factly.

“What does that mean?” Paige asked, her tone accusatory.

It was obvious that questioning him in the middle of a hostile alien ship irked him. It should bother her as well that she was wasting precious time on chit chat, but she was too mad for that.

“I’ll tell you more when we’re safe, Paige. Enough for now. We don’t have much time.” AJ was adamant, and to prove his point, he took her hand again and forced her to move without giving her the chance to reply.

But she wasn’t about to let this slide.

“No,” she rebelled, jerking her hand away.

“Paige, what are you doing?”

“I’m staying,” she told him, already moving away. “I’ll find the rest of our gang, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”

“Paige, be reasonable,” he said.

“AJ, stop. You can either come with me or get out of my way,” she snapped.

AJ frowned, obviously frustrated with her. He was trying to figure out a way to persuade her to come with him, but she wasn’t backing down.

To prove her point, she left him standing there in the middle of a corridor. She wanted to return to the pod rooms. She thought that was a good place to start the search.

She was at least twenty feet away when she heard a voice behind her.

“Paige, wait,” AJ called out after her. “I’m coming, too.” He wasn’t happy about it, but Paige didn’t need him to be. “So, do you have a plan? Or are you just planning to search every spot on this huge spaceship until you find them?”

She shrugged. “If that’s what it takes.”

“God, you’re stubborn,” he grumbled.

“If you have a better idea, please, do tell,” she countered. Honestly, she was getting tired of his attitude, and a part of her wished she was on her own to search for her friends.

“Paige, stop,” AJ held her by the hand, forcing her to stop and face him.

“We don’t have time for this.”

“I know, and I’m sorry.” She could see in his eyes that he meant it. That calmed her temper quite a bit. “I do have an idea,” he added.

“What is it?” Paige prompted.

“Well, I’ve been thinking. There’s a limited number of pods, but the aliens harvested a lot of people. They can’t turn them all at once,” AJ said.

“Ok,” Paige interjected. “So?”

“So,” he continued, “after beaming people up, I think there’s a chamber where they keep all the humans who are waiting to become Hosts.”

That sounds logical, Paige thought.

“Do you know where it is?” questioned.

AJ shook his head. “Not exactly, but I can find out. I just need a screen.”

“We can’t go back to the main deck,” Paige said with a shake of her head. The Shadow Men were there, and she wasn’t looking for another round with them.

“We don’t have to,” AJ reassured her. “They’re scattered all over the place. You just have to know where to look. Come on,” he said.

Once they encountered the first random door, AJ paused. He tapped the wall next to it, and the black mass parted, revealing a small tablet with a bunch of alien symbols moving across the screen.

“That’s so unfair,” she grumbled, and AJ chuckled in return.

“I got it,” he announced after one minute of search. “Let’s go.”

Paige was glad they had a specific destination in front of them because, despite her previous words, she really wasn’t looking forward to trying to find a needle in the middle of an alien haystack. This plan was much better.

After the ruckus they’d caused and probably killing one of the Shadow Men, it was imperative for them to be as inconspicuous as possible. Paige’s uniform went a long way to help with that.

As they made their way through the halls, they saw another worker coming their direction. There was no way for AJ and Paige to avoid him.

“What are we going to do?” Paige inquired under her breath.

“Just act normal, and push me forward,” AJ instructed.

That was exactly what she did. Paige kept her face neutral and gave AJ a push every once in a while. She acted like she didn’t appreciate him trying to slack off. Her heart pounded like crazy, and she was certain everybody could hear it.

The worker, a cute African American lady, didn’t even spare them a glance as she walked past. Paige was relieved when they lost sight of her.

“That was intense,” Paige confessed.

“Only because you’re such a bad liar,” AJ teased, and she pushed him again out of embarrassment. He laughed quietly at her reaction.

With AJ knowing the way, they quickly reached the room he believed the humans were being held in. They busted inside, and sure enough, it was filled with people. Paige couldn’t help but gasp when seeing such a vast number of them.

“Oh my God,” she breathed.

“Let’s not waste time,” AJ reminded her, and she nodded, snapping out of her stupor.

She quickly looked for Dave, Tilley, and Peter, which proved to be extremely difficult since the people inside were scared, and she was wearing a green uniform. She didn’t have time to reassure them that she was one of the good guys.

“Dave! Tilley! Peter!” she called out to her friends.

“Tilley! Dave! Peter!” AJ joined in.

“Paige?” She suddenly heard a very unsure voice behind her. She turned, and someone hugged her with all their might.

“Tilley, thank God,” Paige sighed in relief, hugging the girl back.

“Paige, I can’t believe you’re here. We were so scared,” she practically cried out.

“Everything will be fine now,” Paige tried to reassure her, hoping she wasn’t lying.

“Where is Peter?”

“I told him to hide, when we heard that a worker entered,” Tilley explained, pointing behind herself.

“Good thinking,” Paige praised.

“Hey, buddy,” AJ said as Peter appeared.

The little boy rushed to give Paige a hug, too.

“I’m so glad we found you,” Paige confessed, “but we need to get going now.” She didn’t know how long they had until the Shadow Men discovered them, but she wasn’t lingering around to find out.

“Where’s my brother?” Peter asked.

“We’re still looking for him,” Paige said, deciding the truth was best.

“We have to leave now, Paige,” AJ warned.

She really wanted to, but how could she leave all those people?

“You can’t save everyone,” AJ warned, accurately guessing her thoughts.

“We have to at least try,” she argued.

AJ was about to tell her something else when the massive double doors opened, and a dozen workers entered.

“They’re here to move them to the pods,” AJ said. “We have to go—now!”

Luckily for them, the chamber had a few smaller exits, and AJ started to push Paige toward one of them as Peter and Tilley clung to her.

She felt terrible for leaving.

“There’s nothing we can do,” AJ said. “Unless you want to be captured again.” His final statement worked. His words forced Paige to realize the very real situation they were in.

They snuck out and ran toward their way out. As they ran, Paige spotted Willow and her mother standing at the end of the corridor, waiting for them. She barely stopped herself from calling out to them. They already had enough on their plate. She didn’t need to add to their problems by drawing unnecessary attention.

She couldn’t help but tear up when she saw them. Only a few hours ago, Paige thought she’d lost all hope of ever seeing them again, and now they were all back together, alive, even if they weren’t out of the woods yet.

Not all together, she amended, remembering that Dave was still somewhere on the spaceship.

With her family by her side, and most of her gang intact, Paige was positive she would find a way to get him back as well.

Only if I manage to stop AJ from blowing the ship up before I can...

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