Inhabitable | Invasion Survivor Book Two | Chapter Seven
After dropping Judy and Glen off, the small group resumed their journey. Being back on the road, the spaceship became even clearer on the horizon. It still felt surreal to have that massive thing hovering above the ground as if they were living inside some sci-fi novel.
Paige felt like applauding all the writers and filmmakers because they proved to be right on the mark.
The spaceship was so big that it cast a long shadow over the city below. It was perfectly round with a smooth surface. To travel such long distances, the material would have needed to withstand all kinds of sudden temperature changes.
Thinking about all that made Paige shudder. Wanting to forget about it as long as possible, she looked the other way. Over time, as they kept going, their perspective began to change. Originally, she thought there was only one alien ship. Now there were three more that Paige managed to count—so far.
It was possible there were even more of them. Paige was certain they were bound to find out at some point. It was only the beginning, and that didn’t cheer her up.
Paige felt surreal while looking at the spaceship through the window. Her points of reality had shifted so much over the past day that she felt like she was living on a different planet. Staring at a spaceship still sounded a bit funny to her. It didn’t help that they looked like something made up in Hollywood. All special effects, moving like liquid silver even though they stood still, and they were very clean cut.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t a computer program designed for their amusement. Instead, it was the real deal, and that made it a lot more horrifying than any movie.
Dave turned on the radio, hoping to take their minds off everything going on. As soon as he heard the topic, he reached to turn it back off.
“No, no, no,” Paige said. “Leave it on. I want to hear what it says.”
“…Officials are saying to stay inside…”
Dave and Paige both snorted.
“Sure, lady. I’d love to, but I don’t think that’s really possible,” Paige said, and Dave laughed. “Never mind. It’s nothing useful.”
She sat back in her seat, bored.
“Hey!” Dave said with excitement. “I know. What’s the most useless talent you have?”
Paige looked at him curiously. “Me? Uh… Well, I’m immune to brain freeze. I can eat ice cream or drink a milkshake as fast as I want, and nothing happens, but you knew that. Definitely pretty useless.”
“Uh, I beg to differ,” Dave said. “I thought it was awesome. I’d be as big as a house if I could do that. I’d be taking bets all the time! What about your mom?”
“She can slice the top off a champagne bottle. I’d like to say that’s useless, but—”
Dave nodded. “Totally useful. Unlike the two of you, mine truly is useless. Well, unless you really like taking your sweet ass time eating a piece of candy.”
Paige laughed. “Yeah? What is it?”
He sat up straighter in his seat. “I can unwrap a Starburst in my mouth.”
She thought about making a joke, but she was interrupted by Dave.
“We’re almost there,” Dave announced, pushing the minibus to go as fast as possible. Paige was relieved, but that only lasted for a few short seconds. “What the hell?” Dave exclaimed.
Paige leaned over to see what he was referring to, but she couldn’t see anything out her window. Apart from massive spaceships in the sky, that is. So, she stood and made her way toward the front of the bus to look through the windshield.
A plane was descending, and they could even hear the roar of the turbines. She spotted another one in the sky, circling.
Waiting for his turn to land, Paige guessed.
That somehow cheered her up, the notion that planes were landing in Fort Hamilton.
But how long will they stay on the ground?
“Go faster,” Paige urged. “We can’t miss them.”
Dave nodded and urged the minibus to go faster. Paige’s mother was uncharacteristically quiet, but Paige wasn’t about to poke that hornet’s nest without a reason. Nearing the base, Paige started to think about how they were going to get all those people from the base to Maryland.
They had the minibus, so that was a plus, but armed soldiers could prove to be a bit problematic.
Dave stopped the minibus at the base and put it in park. “We’ve arrived at our destination. Please check your seat for your belongings as we won’t be coming back,” Dave announced like some tourist guide as he exited the minibus.
Paige’s Angela gathered her belongings, and Paige grabbed her backpack. The guard from earlier came and waited at the guard box. “IDs,” Officer Riley asked. If he liked their upgrade, he didn’t comment on it.
“All weapons remain outside the base,” he said, spotting Paige’s sword again.
“What?” Angela huffed in outrage. “We need these to protect ourselves!” She pulled her gun from her robe pocket, and the soldier didn’t look pleased. That made two of them. If Paige had learned anything from today, it was that one could easily adapt to anything and accept even an armed mother in a pink bathrobe as a new normal.
“Ma’am,” Officer Riley started, but Paige cut him off. She really didn’t need this to turn into a scene.
“Mom, let’s just listen to him,” she pleaded in a calm voice.
Although she agreed with her mother, Paige felt very naked and vulnerable without her katana safely nestled inside her a side pocket on her backpack, with the handle sticking out ready for her. It had been the key to their survival, so far. Even though she would never admit it out loud, she kind of liked having it. She wished she’d gone to a martial arts school and learned how to properly fight with it.
All that aside, however, her sister was far more important to her than a sword. So, if the nice soldier guy asked her to lose the blade, she was going to do just that.
Still a bit irked, her mother complied, but their drama wasn’t finished yet. Officer Riley started going through her mother’s bag, pulling some strange things out of it in the process. While they were on the road, Paige had warned her mother she could only bring one bag inside the base, but maybe she should have been more specific.
“Did you really need to bring all this random stuff?” Paige asked in exasperation.
“They are not random!” Paige’s mother argued. “We will need it all!”
Somehow, Paige highly doubted that.
Her mother snatched the bag of dirt out of the guard’s hand and held it up protectively. “Be careful with that. It traveled through space to get here,” she said, inspecting it. “That’s for my daughter.” Her grip on the teddy tightened.
Willow hadn’t had or needed a teddy bear for years, and Paige still couldn’t believe her mother had dashed back to her room while the institution was overrun with crazy, infected people to get it.
The officer looked at Paige, and she shrugged. Her meaning was clear—she couldn’t deal with her either.
Sighing, Officer Riley motioned for them to pass. Dave went through first after he got his bracelet, but when Paige and her mother stepped up, the officer narrowed his eyes. “I’ll be watching you two,” he warned, putting the same blue bracelets on their wrists as before.
They both nodded in unison, and followed the next guard. As they walked, Paige noticed that a group of kids were lined up and getting on planes while another group of kids were sent away and headed towards them.
“Why aren’t those kids getting on the plane?” Paige asked the guard, scanning his name tag. Briggs.
“Because their parents aren’t rich enough,” Briggs snorted.
“Sorry, sweetie. We aren’t rich enough either,” Angela admitted.
We’re going to have find another way to get on one of those planes. Paige thought.
“Is there an extra few free seats?” Paige asked sweetly.
Briggs laughed. “You’re not going anywhere with those blue bracelets on. Those are visitor bracelets, and unless you’ve got a few hundred grands to pay for the seats, you’re not going anywhere.”
“I wish we had a few hundred grands.” Paige said.
“Me, too!” Briggs replied nodding.
Briggs was way chattier than the other guards, so Paige decided to get as much information out of him as possible. Knowing what she was doing, Angela and Dave stayed quiet. “What do the red bracelets mean?”
“It means those kids’ school covered the costs of their rescue here. But getting on the planes is an additional fee. If your name’s not on the list, you’re not getting in, or in your case, not on the plane. The kids who have red bracelets and aren’t on the list have to wait on either their parents or the school to get them so they can leave the barracks. They’re under our security now,” Briggs explained.
Paige knew her mom wouldn’t be able to sign Willow out because her records stated she was in a mental institution. All parental rights were with her dad.
Dave might have a problem getting Peter out. Paige wasn’t even sure how he’d managed to sneak himself in in the first place. AJ’s parents were in England. Getting out wouldn’t be a walk in the park.
Briggs opened the door then proceeded to show them to the same room where Willow and the rest of the gang were being held.
“Thanks, Briggs.” He’d been more helpful than he knew.
Once inside, Paige stood beside her mother. “What’s with the teddy, Mom?” she asked in a hushed voice.
Angela looked at her with confusion. “What? Can’t a mother give her daughter a gift?”
When all this was over, and they reunited with their father and going to the spaceship, Paige planned to find a nice corner just for herself. She wanted to sleep for a week or two. Nobody could judge her for it after the day she’d had.
Looking around the room, Paige noticed there were drastically fewer children here compared to before they left. Luckily, AJ was sitting in the corner with Willow and Peter.
Thank God, Paige sighed in relief. Paige couldn’t help but feel relieved, lighter somehow, seeing the three of them together and safe. Dave had a similar reaction next to her.
“I started to freak out there for a moment,” Dave told her quietly. She understood what he meant completely.
“Me, too,” she replied in the same manner. “But they’re still here.”
That moment of bliss didn’t last long before her mother began to freak out, yelling across the room. “Get away from her!”
Who? What? Paige was confused.
Before Paige or anyone else could stop her, Angela screamed and ran toward AJ, Willow, and Peter in the corner.
“Get away from her!” Angela repeated, screaming at the top of her lungs as she lunged at AJ.
AJ looked terrified and obviously didn’t know what to do. That wasn’t how Paige wanted those two to meet.
A guard inside the room managed to subdue her before Paige could. She yelled at Paige for not being able to control her mother.
“Ma’am calm down, or I’ll be forced to restrain you,” the guard warned.
Paige didn’t want that to happen, so she tried as well. “Mom, what’s going on? Calm down. They’re going to kick us out if you don’t stop.” She spoke quickly, hoping some of it stuck.
Angela was still trying to reach AJ, and Willow still standing wide-eyed next to him only agitated her more.
“He’s a Shadow! He’s a Shadow!” Angela repeated over and over. “Get away from my daughter!”
Paige looked at AJ for clarification, but he looked just as confused as the rest of them.
“See!” Angela continued with her rant. “He wants you, Paige! He wants you!”
Mortified to no end, Paige blushed and felt her cheeks burn. At that moment, she wished someone would just bite her, so she could die in peace.
This is so not the reunion I had imagined, she thought to herself. But her life usually didn’t go her way.
“GET AWAY FROM US!” Angela yelled. She struggled with such force, even the guard had difficulties controlling her.
Paige knew she needed to calm her mother down and fast, or they were all screwed. If the guards locked them up some place, they could never leave.
“Mom. Mom,” Paige called out until Angela focused on her daughter. She still glanced at AJ, as if she expected him to attack, but she mostly looked at Paige.
“AJ will help us get out of here,” Paige said.
The guard gave Paige a strange look, and she wanted to bite her tongue for making a slip-up. The damage was already done, so she continued as if everything she said was for no other reason than to placate her mother.
Even during this strange commotion, Paige noticed how much the female guard looked like her mother. They couldn’t pass for twins, but they were the same height and body type.
And that was a very strange thought to have in those moments, but Paige stored that knowledge in her mental vault, refocusing on the new disaster at hand.
“He’s on our side,” Paige tried again. “Look, he’s been watching Willow and Dave’s brother Peter this whole time while we were out getting you.”
The whole gang nodded, including AJ, confirming her words were true but her mother was not so easily swayed. As usual, that was unfortunate for Paige.
“Paige, we can’t trust him. He’s one of them,” Angela insisted.
“No. I’m not,” AJ interjected surprising both of them. “I could never harm Paige,” he added sincerely.
Paige’s heart did a little dance.
“But the Shadow Man...” her mother argued back, but AJ interjected.
“You mean this guy?” he asked, tapping his head. “He doesn’t control me. I turned him around.”
* * *
“So, you think I’m turned around?” Francis asked a bit amused.
“Sure, you are. You’re like a kitten, gently purring inside my head,” AJ joked. He loved teasing the alien.
“Be careful, AJ. Kittens have claws.”
“Aw, that’s adorable. You’re trying to be funny. Keep up the good work, though, and maybe someday you’ll be a real boy.”
“Stay away from that woman. She is dangerous,” the alien said.
“Sorry, Francis. You’re breaking up. Bad connection,” AJ thought, banishing the annoying voice to the back so he couldn’t hear him anymore.
AJ knew that wouldn’t last long. He always returned, but for now, he needed to focus on the here and now.
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