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Inhabitable | Invasion Survivor Book Two | Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Sixteen

AJ waited until Paige was fast asleep to act. He knew she would be pissed at him, but despite her protests and arguments, this was something he needed to do alone.

This wasn’t some ego trip on his part. AJ had no interest in playing lone hero. However, looking at all the facts laid out before him, he knew this was the right decision. Going alone to the mothership would give them the best chance of leaving it as well.

You’re making a mistake,” Francis warned.

Shut the hell up. I’m not in the mood!” AJ snapped back.

Making sure not to make any noises, he tiptoed out of the storage room and out of the store altogether. Just as his feet hit the pavement outside, something made him pause.

He couldn’t just leave her like that. He worried she might assume he was taken and come looking for him. AJ couldn’t take that chance. He was about to turn back and leave her a note when something caught his eye.

A nearby sports store was broken into during the virus outbreak, but he still hoped something worth taking remained. After a few minutes of rummaging about, he was glad to be right.

“Sweet,” he murmured, looking at a brand-new, aluminum baseball bat.

It was super light, which meant Paige would have no problems using it. He hoped she’d smash some alien’s head with it. There was only one, so he left it for Paige behind the counter. After adding a personal note, he left for good this time.

AJ really hoped she would listen to him and stay, but if he learned anything from the last day he’d spent with her, you could never tell. Paige was wildly unpredictable, especially when someone was in danger. That only made him like her even more.

He made sure he stayed hidden while approaching the spaceship. It was still pretty dark outside, and the captured people were being transported up to the ship.

He could feel Francis trying to break in. It was like an annoying tingling sensation in the back of his head, but AJ’s mental walls were strong, especially now that he was a man on a mission.

Sorry Francis, but this peeping tom show is closed for good.

AJ told Paige he knew how to get on the ship undetected, and that much was true. However, slowly approaching it, staying clear of the black wave and looking out for Shadow Men made him rethink his actions.

Maybe he should just go as one of the captured. That way, AJ wouldn’t be closely monitored if he was just one of the faceless slaves, harvested for further use. Besides, if he simply let them beam him up, he would end up in the same place as Willow and Mrs. Moon were. At least, he hoped so.

The remaining people trapped inside the protective circle were too freaked out to notice a single guy walking inside, even if the black wave parted for him like the red sea.

Call me Moses from now on, he joked to himself.

AJ felt sorry for all those people because he knew what was about to happen to them. Still, he couldn’t dwell on it since he had more pressing matters. He reminded himself that he couldn’t save everyone. Paige was another story altogether, and that was what motivated him to keep going.

Ok, phase one completed and on to phase two, AJ thought to himself, waiting for the bright light to start pulling people up again. When it did, he made sure he was directly underneath it.

AJ hoped he wasn’t too late and that Angela, Willow, and Dave would still be human once he found them.

 

***

    “Let go of me!” Dave struggled as one of the mindless, enslaved humans pushed him forward.

There was no mistaking where he was. Everywhere he looked reminded him of some sci-fi movie, but unfortunately, this wasn’t some fantasy. It was his real life. The corridor he was led through was definitely not made in Hollywood.

After he was beamed up to the ship, he couldn’t see Willow or Mrs. Moon anywhere, not that he’d had a chance to roam about. They were all closely monitored.

The corridor ended up in a vast circular space, and Dave was blown away by the sheer size of it. He couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed, impressed even, like he was just sightseeing and not being held against his will.

The architecture was just spectacular, and the dome above was incredibly beautiful and reticulated with some kind of black web that he felt compelled to stop and appreciate for a moment.

The humans who were still human were all huddled together in that vast room, crying out and begging for someone to help them, but then they came for them again. Dave noticed that those who struggled the most and tried to run away were immediately captured and then injected with something.

The Host approached and started pushing him again. He turned to the drone that shoved him along and punched him in the face with all his might. That didn’t even make him stumble. On the other hand, the hit Dave received in return knocked him straight to the ground, and his ears rang from the hard impact.

“Damn,” he mumbled, shaking his head slightly as he tried to restore balance.

While he was too busy impersonating a cartoon character, counting the birds around his head, the guy picked him up like he weighed nothing and put him back on his feet.

The black mass came out to play with him again, and he was once again sucked inside of it. Not long after, it was game over. He was injected with some kind of drug that left him feeling completely paralyzed.

Nice move, jackass, he chastised himself for the sheer stupidity of his actions.

The floor under his feet started to move, and he was carried away. He was perfectly still with no sensations inside his body.

The whole spaceship looked alive, as if it wasn’t completely inorganic. Pretty quickly, Dave realized he was being transported to another part of the ship. It was even bigger than it looked from the ground.

He could hear people screaming but couldn’t find the source. As he was dragged along, he finally saw the source and wished he hadn’t.

In a series of rooms across from him were some kind of pods, and people were literally drowned in them.

When his alien escort dropped him, Dave knew his time on this Earth came to an end.

 

***

 

Paige groaned. She really needed to stop waking up like this. Her whole body ached and protested. She’d fallen asleep on the cold stone floor while her backpack acted as a pillow. Now every part of her that she tried to move popped and cracked like she was eighty years old.

She stretched a little, releasing some of the knots from her body, and she no longer felt like an old woman.

“AJ?” she called out, noting that she was alone in the storage room.

He didn’t answer.

“AJ,” she called out again, suddenly feeling uneasy. The worry almost seemed to crawl all over her and crept inside her heart.

He wouldn’t...

As it turned out, he most definitely would because she was alone. AJ was gone.

“Damn!” she cursed, equally angry at him for leaving her as she was at herself for trusting him not to.

 I shouldn’t have slept while he was on watch. I shouldn’t have trusted him.

Despite everything, he chose to go without her. How could he?

Fuming, Paige picked up her backpack, threw it over her shoulders, and moved as quick as she could. She made her way upstairs to see what was going on outside, and relief washed over her. The morning light beamed through the windows.

The spaceship still hovered in the distance. It was a bittersweet moment.  She still had the chance to sneak in, and she was happy for that, but she hated that she hadn’t dreamed the last twenty-four hours.

As she focused on her happiness to see the sun, she remembered what AJ said the night before. That sobered her up. The aliens had Hosts. There was no escape from them this time, not even in the light.

Looking around the store, Paige searched for a weapon or anything that could be used as one. Losing her sword and gun left her feeling vulnerable, so she needed to find something suitable. Paige quickly discovered she was standing inside a low-end convenience store. All they had were snacks. No knives, no swords, no guns.

If an infected person came at her, she couldn’t defend herself with a bag of beef jerky. Who knew, maybe she could distract them with it like they were a pack of wild animals.

Thinking about the virus made her pause. She didn’t see a single infected person after the black wave.

What’s up with that? Did the aliens take care of them? That made her shudder.

Continuing with her useless search, Paige looked behind the counter, hoping the store owner might have had a gun to protect him or her against potential robberies. Instead of a gun, she found a note.

 <<Gone to get your Mom, sister, and Dave. Stay here, and I’ll come back for you. Don’t leave. You have everything you need right here right inside the store.>>

Great. She was right. That bastard left without her. Even though I told him yesterday I’d go with him, he went without me.

Paige took a deep breath as worry built in the pit of her stomach.

Will he be all right? What if something happened to him? Paige panicked.

What if the Shadow Men realized he was working against them? Thinking about AJ going all alone inside of a lion’s den, even if he was supposed to be their cub, made her heart race.

Despite everything, she still cared for him. Even though she told him last night she needed to go with him because her family was there, that was only partially true. She needed to be by his side, so they could have each other’s backs and make sure they all survived.

Paige wanted him to be safe. After all, he did everything he could to keep her safe, and that was why he left without her.

Maybe he did have a point. The Shadow Men would capture her, even if he was by her side. His presence wouldn’t protect Paige if they found her since she didn’t have the black mass inside of her.

I’m the golden child. Paige chuckled at her own joke as the image of Eddie Murphy popped into her head. Paige did enjoy the old classic movies. Most of her friends only knew Eddie Murphy from Dr. Dolittle.  

Still, just because AJ’s actions were logical didn’t make them right. Paige could have helped him if he would have allowed her to.

She sat on the counter and grabbed the nearest candy to her, a Butterfinger. She unwrapped it and ate it without actually tasting it.

Her mind shifted from AJ to the people in her life who were captured. She wondered what was happening to them right now. They were in the spaceship, that much was obvious since she’d watched them taken last night, but then what?

What are the aliens doing to them now? Has AJ gotten to them already, or was he somewhere else?

Paige sighed loudly.

“What should I do now?” she asked out loud.

Should I leave? Paige wondered, but that didn’t sit right with her.

If she left, then AJ, Mom, Willow, and Dave wouldn’t be able to find her, so she needed to stay. On the other hand, if Paige stayed, how could she be sure they would come back? On and on she went, going around in circles with what she should do.

Confused by her thoughts, Paige glanced around, hoping something in the store would bring her much needed clarity. It was then that she noticed a brand-new baseball bat under the counter. She couldn’t help but smile like a kid on a Christmas morning.

Paige grabbed it and walked toward the doorway of the store to watch outside. Other people began to emerge from buildings as well. They were still in a daze by the night’s events. The evidence was all over their faces. Paige was shocked to see that none of them looked sick.

Where were the infected ones? she wondered. Maybe the infected ones already died? Stupid aliens! How she hated them all!

Most of the people were staring up at the sky. Paige followed their gazes and looked up to see the spaceship still there, hovering above the city. She concluded that it was probably the same one that took her mother and sister. Gaping at it, she questioned if they were still there.

People on the streets looked confused and scared. They watched one another, seeking answers. They looked like they had no idea what to do or where to go.

The horrifying fact was that the spaceship over the city wasn’t the only one. There were more of them hovering in the distance. They were everywhere. That meant that what happened here last night had happened all around the world.

Humans were literally trapped, and it was only a matter of time until the aliens got all of them.

Unable to withstand it anymore, Paige moved back away from the window and deeper into the store to turn on the TV by the counter. She subconsciously did it in a vain attempt to get the latest news, but the attempt was pointless.

The power is out, she remembered.

Dave said yesterday that they must have sent out an EMP wave or something that knocked out any form of communication.

That made her frown. She didn’t know how to get in touch with anyone, including her father. Still, Paige checked her phone, just in case, but it was also dead.

What am I going to do? How can I reach my Dad?

Paige really hoped he was ok. They’d spoken briefly on the phone while she was on the plane, but that was right before everything went to hell. She hoped they hadn’t taken him, too. If only he could have come to them. He would have known what to do. Maybe, they’d all be safe with him now, maybe even traveling to another safer place.

Still very hungry, she grabbed another chocolate bar from the shelf and tore it open. It felt like such a long time since Paige had eaten anything significant that she couldn’t even remember when her last meal was.

Oh, yeah, Mc D’s. Dave had made it for her.

Thinking about him made her heart tug in return, and she promised to find a way to get to him as well. She would behave like a Marine, leaving no one behind.

When Paige finished, she reached for more snacks, but this time it was a bag of potato chips. The bell over the door of the store rang, and Paige jumped down from the counter, rushing to see who it was and remembering to bring the bat with her.

She’d hoped it was AJ, her mother, Willow, Dave, or all the above together. To her disappointment, however, it wasn’t a familiar face that greeted her. 

It was a police officer with a gun on his belt. He was surprisingly young with sandy brown hair, tall and broad-shouldered. It struck Paige as odd that his uniform was clean and looked new.

That could be easily explained if he was staying in some bomb-shelter with other survivors up until now.

Do we still have those? she thought at random.

Two kids walked up behind him. Tilley and Peter. Paige was disappointed it wasn’t anyone in her family but also relieved to learn she wasn’t the only one who was left behind.

“Paige!” Peter squeaked and rushed into her arms. She hugged him, messing his hair. “Good to see you, Peter. Both of you,” she corrected herself, looking at Tilley.

She still felt a bit guilty for kidnapping her, but by the look on the president’s daughter’s face, she long forgave her.

“Where is Dave?” Peter asked, looking around.

Paige made a face. She really didn’t want to lie, but she felt like the truth would be just as harmful.

“Well,” Paige started.

“He’s gone, isn’t he,” Peter guessed, and Paige simply nodded in return.

“I’m sorry, but we’ll get him back,” she promised. She meant every word.

“Paige, your mom and Willow were taken as well,” Tilley said.

Paige nodded. “I know. Where are your secret service agents?”

“They got taken—because of me.”

More good news, Paige thought to herself.

There was a moment of silence, but the police officer broke it. “We’re leaving the city, and you need to come with us,” he ordered. “I’m rounding everyone up, so hurry.”

“I can’t come,” Paige countered immediately. “I’m waiting for someone, so I have to stay here.”

“No, you have to come with me,” he insisted. “It’s not my request, but the president’s.”

“The president’s?” Paige asked, her eyes widening in surprise.

There were moments when Paige wondered what the government had done since this invasion started, and this was the first time she’d heard mention of them. What he said made her pause.

How has he been able to communicate with the president if all the networks were dead?

“How did you get an order from the president?” Paige asked.

He looked sternly into her eyes, as if her nosiness irked him. Well, tough shit. She wasn’t about to go anywhere with some stranger, even if he was wearing a uniform.

“We need to leave immediately, and we’re wasting time on empty talk,” he repeated, his tone sharp. “You need to come with us.”

He marched towards Paige, and she pushed Peter behind her. “I’m sorry, but I’m not going anywhere,” Paige countered. She sensed that he was about to grab her, so she lifted her bat and swung it at him.

“Tilley, Peter, run! Run away from him!” Paige shouted, taking a step back.

Peter complied, immediately hiding between the isles, but Tilley stayed put.

“Tilley, you need to stay with me,” the police officer said, trying to coax her. “Don’t listen to this girl. You must stay with me. Your father has ordered me to take you to him. He’s waiting for you.”

Even though he was saying all the right things, Paige was certain he was full of shit. “Stop lying!” Paige warned, raising her bat again.

Tilley didn’t know what to do. She just stood there, looking at Paige with frightened eyes before looking at herself, trying to figure out where to run.

“Tilley, run!” Paige screamed again at the top of her lungs, trying to force her to act.

The police officer grabbed Paige’s arm. “You, stupid girl!” he seethed.

She tried to fight him off. She started wiggling and shaking the baseball bat in hopes of breaking free, but he was strong. On the other hand, so was Paige. They continued to do this strange dance, like two dogs fighting over the same bone.

The obviously fake police officer lost his patience and released the bat, causing Paige to stumble a little before recovering.

He reached for his gun, but Paige acted fast and hit him on the hand. The police officer growled and came at her again. Paige swung again, but her aim was off. In one swift move, the officer managed to take her bat and throw it away.

“No!” Paige yelled in desperation, charging at him with as much force as she could manage.

She hit him in the face, and it felt like hitting a concrete wall, but she didn’t stop there. Paige hit him again, but he was ready for her the third time and ducked, pushing her away with such force that she smacked against one of the shelves. The whole row shook, and all kinds of goods fell to the ground.

The hit knocked the wind out of Paige’s lungs, and she needed a second to recover, a second, she didn’t have.

The police officer reached for his gun again, and it took a lot of energy, but Paige managed to jump on him and grab hold of it. They wrestled for a bit over the weapon, but Paige remembered she had a slight advantage over him and hit him between the legs with all her might.

He doubled over in pain, releasing the gun instantly, and Paige pointed it at him. Now Paige stood between the police officer and Tilley.

“Peter, you can come out now,” Paige called out, and the boy ran to stand beside her.

Paige never took her eyes off the officer, and her hands were steady as she aimed. She was cool as a cucumber. The officer smiled slyly, making her shiver. Then he took a step toward her.

Based on his behavior, Paige was now sure he was one of them, which meant he would probably recover if she shot him. Just like AJ recovered from his cuts last night.

He kept grinning and kept coming toward them. Without another thought, Paige fired the gun. The time for thinking had passed. It was him or the three of them. He jolted back with substantial force but still stood.

Well, damn!

Paige shot him again. This time, the force dropped him to his knees. When the gun clicked in her hands, the magazine empty, she quit pulling the trigger.

He was lying on the ground but was unfortunately still alive. Paige watched as the blood pooled around him.

There was no time to hesitate, she reminded herself.

Paige grabbed a frightened Tilley by the arm and, stashing the now empty gun, reached for Peter’s hand as well. They ran out of the store, across the street, and away from the police officer.

***

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