Inhabitable | Invasion Survivor Book Two | Chapter Three
Paige cringed as the institution crept into their sights all too soon. This time, the infected were on the loose. They were choosing between two dangerous situations, struggling to weigh which one was worse. So far, aliens trumped the infected.
Great, just great, Paige thought, looking at the infected before glancing back at her mother. Angela looked perfectly content now that everyone was doing precisely what she’d wanted.
The patients had found a way to break free, despite her mother’s best intentions. They were practically spilling out of the institute, screaming and clawing their way to what they thought was freedom.
Probably because they still haven’t noticed the big freaking spaceship in the sky, Paige thought sarcastically. That’s going to be a big surprise for the crowd.
On the other hand, it was possible that some of them were already seeing aliens and motherships. If they saw it, it would more than likely serve as proof to them that they hadn’t been crazy in the first place.
Paige looked at her mother again. Had she been pretending all this time? She needed to ask her mother a lot of things, but now wasn’t the right time.
“How screwed up is that?” Dave asked. Paige leaned forward to see what he was referring to.
Several people stood in front of the institution, staring into nothingness as blood dripped from their noses. Others displayed symptoms of stage two of the virus, attacking and biting others.
“Dave, honey, could you drive a bit faster? We really have to get the device” Angela said.
“Um,” Dave started, wanting to say something but unable to find the words.
Paige understood. Her mother had that same effect on a lot of people, Paige included at times. The older woman could be rather intimidating with her bluntness.
“Sure,” he finally managed to choke out.
“Good boy,” her mother said.
Paige turned to look at her mother with concern. Despite everything happening outside with the ship and the infected, what was really freaking her out was her mother’s patience and politeness. That was very out of character for her, and Paige was well aware of that.
“Mom, are you ok?” Paige asked.
Her mother gave her a look that Paige had seen more times than she’d like to admit. “Of course, I am not ok. I only have a half of a clip to defend myself.”
Half of what? Did my mother just say that?
“Do you know if there’s a gun shop close by?” she asked casually, looking through the window. She studied the location as if she didn’t already know the layout of the building like the back of her hand.
She’d made she and her sisters memorize every detail of it as well as the school for reasons just like this.
“You know there isn’t, Mom,” Paige snapped, still unable to believe she was having such a conversation with her mother. But her disbelief didn’t stop there. It could be applied to a lot of things since the day had started.
“Is there one on the way here?” Angela asked.
As they came closer to the institution, Dave slowed the minibus down before turning it around.
Paige’s mother looked up with a mix of anger and confusion. “What are you doing?” Gone was the soccer mom who was all smiles and rainbows.
“There’s no way we can get in and get back out without being noticed. This minibus will stick out like a sore thumb,” Dave replied. “We can’t attempt it with all those people out there. Everyone’s going to want it.”
“I’m sure there are plenty of cars left in the parking lot,” Paige argued back, though she wasn’t exactly sure why she bothered.
I should be on his side, as a voice of reason, right?
“Even if that was true, don’t think like that. Besides,” Dave paused, looking sheepish suddenly, “As a precaution, I may have slashed all the tires on all the cars while getting us this. You never know what stage three will be or if the aliens would want a car when they come down.”
“Good boy,” Paige’s mom complimented.
Paige had to agree. “Smart thinking, but what you’re saying now is that we’re screwed.”
“Pretty much,” Dave said with a shrug.
“But what else is new?” they said at the same time, laughing while her mother scowled.
“No time for love affairs, kids. We need the device, now!”
Being pulled back to the present and the situation they found themselves in sobered them quickly.
“What’s this device? What does it look like?” Paige probed the sooner they found it, the better. If possible, Paige wanted to leave this place, again, before anyone even noticed they were there in the first place.
“You’ll know when you see it,” her mother replied, no help at all.
“Is it big or small?” Dave chipped in.
“Of course, it’s small. What’s the use of a comm device that can’t fit in the palm of your hand?” her mother replied with a shake of her head. “Now let’s go. We’ve wasted too much time on unnecessary chit-chat.”
“Wait, what are we going to do then?” Paige asked, thinking out loud.
“I just told you,” her mother said, obvious irritation in her voice.
“Not about that,” Paige argued back.
“Hide the minibus and proceed on foot,” Dave replied.
Paige immediately hated that idea, but something told her there was no other way. They would just have to find a way to make it work. “Ok, let’s do it.”
Dave found a secluded place within easy walking distance that was well hidden and parked the minibus. Paige was aware it wasn’t going to be as easy to leave this time as was the last, but they couldn’t risk losing their means of transportation. Especially since her mother was with them.
Looking at her mother, Paige couldn’t help but think just how fearless she looked. She was the first in line, leading the way. She had an air of authority about her, which seemed impossible to attain while wearing a dirty bathrobe and holding a gun, but she managed.
“Mom, why are you in a bathrobe instead of regular clothes?” Paige asked. While part of her didn’t think it was a good idea to ask such a thing, the curiosity had been killing her. After all, who decided to take on an apocalypse in a bathrobe? “I was in a hurry and thought it was my raincoat,” Paige’s mother whispered back with a shrug. “It turned out ok. This thing has really deep pockets, and my gun fits perfectly.” She grinned.
Not knowing exactly how to respond, Paige remained quiet and continued to follow. They walked slowly toward the institute, using bushes and other foliage for coverage since people had begun to migrate onto the street.
Every time Paige glanced over her shoulder, she got a glimpse of the spaceship hovering in the sky. Each time she had to fight the urge to start rubbing her eyes in hopes it would miraculously disappear, showing her she was imagining things.
It can’t be real.
After a few more moments of sneaking through the bushes, Paige noticed something shiny on the ground. It laid right where her mother’s bags had been before they left.
That damn device must have fallen out of her bags, Paige thought with frustration. Such a tiny, preventable mistake putting them in such danger annoyed her to no end.
Her mother nodded, and they quietly crept their way towards the small circular device. It was small enough that it could fit into the palm of her hand.
“I’ll go get it,” Paige whispered to her companions.
She kept low and steadily moved toward the object. She had almost made it, ready to reach for it, when her mother squealed with delight like a schoolgirl and snatched it first.
So much for keeping a low profile, Paige thought.
Suddenly, Paige was grabbed and spun around to face a crazed man who screamed in her face.
“Aah!” he shouted repeatedly like some broken record.
The whites of his eyes were yellow, and blood poured from his nose. Paige reached for her sword, but she wasn’t fast enough. The man lashed out, punching her in the side of the face. Her cheek started to throb, and she felt disoriented.
That was some hit.
Paige cursed loudly, which somehow helped her to focus her rage. As her eyes adjusted, she saw him reaching for her again.
“Leave her alone!” Dave charged and managed to hit the man, but a woman Paige had seen attack another patient by jumping on his back was now on Dave’s back.
“Dave, she’s a biter!” Paige warned.
He found hard, struggling to get her off his back. “Lady, I’m really not into this kinky stuff,” Dave said as he fought.
Paige didn’t have time to help or watch what unfolded since she had her own infected person to battle. He was dressed like an orderly, but she could see how well he filled out the uniform. The man was nothing but solid muscle. One of his arms was as thick as one of her legs.
Just my luck! Paige thought, preparing herself to experience a lot of pain before this was over. Mom, I really hope that trinket of yours is worth it!
The orderly gripped Paige by the wrist and shook her so violently, she worried he might rip it from her arm. She growled in pain, but didn’t let up. Paige’s eyes happened to notice the absence of the small bracelet she wore on that wrist. In all the struggle, the orderly had ripped it off and had stepped on it. She’d heard the pop and saw the release of the delicate golden glow in the process.
Though her life was in danger, she found her mind more focused on the bracelet than the man threatening her. She shook herself, forcing those thoughts away as she fought harder. Paige tried once again to grab the sword. As soon as her hand wrapped around the handle, she cheered. She’d been ready to attack, but she noticed the man had stopped cold, staring at her. Before she had a chance to wrap her head around what was happening, the man screamed again. “SHE’S THE SEEDLING!” he cried out.
Catching the now confused Paige off guard, the man grabbed her once again and threw her down on the sidewalk. The impact knocked all the air from her lungs, and she coughed as she gasped for air. Stars danced in front of her eyes, and she could barely form a single thought before the man was after her again.
He jumped right on top of her, screaming. “How are you the Seedling!?” he asked, shaking her over and over again. Feeling like a rag doll while being handled so roughly, she screamed, “Let me go!”
She’d had to kill a lot of crazed men that day, and she knew she only needed to focus to take this one down, too. Others had stopped and now gave Paige their full attention, worrying her even more. Paige tried to scream again and kick him off, but she hadn’t fully recovered from the initial fall she’d taken. She was still fighting to breathe. Looking over, Paige saw that her sword was too far for her to reach. Just perfect! she thought.
Concentrating, she stretched out her hand in hopes of reaching it, but it was too far away. That realization hit her hard, adrenaline racing through her as the knowledge that her only superior form of defense couldn’t be used settled in her mind.
“Let go! Stop!” she said, panicking.
As she continued to kick and punch the man, trying to roll away from him, a loud bang sounded that made her ears hurt. A fine red mist filled the air and covered Paige’s entire face and upper body. The front of the orderly’s head had all but exploded all over her. Bone, blood, and brain matter splattered on her and her clothing as a chunk of his head disappeared. The scent of the fresh coppery blood made her want to throw up.
Paige pushed his heavy body off of her, and she turned to see her mother standing a couple of steps away, grinning from ear to ear with the gun still raised.
Though the woman had just saved Paige’s life, there was still nothing more disturbing to her than seeing her mother grinning while holding a gun.
Still, she was grateful. “Thanks,” Paige managed to choke out as she rolled over onto her stomach, trying not to taste what she knew without a doubt was all over her face and mouth. She felt like submerging herself in a cleaning solution.
“I never did like him,” her mother said calmly before she turned and quickly ran into the institution. She ran past the various infected people like they were simply obstacles on the road.
Paige jumped up, trying to chase after her mother while wiping the orderly’s blood off her face with a sleeve. “Mom, why are you going back into the institution? Don’t you have what you need?”
Before they ran through the entrance, Paige spared a glance behind herself but couldn’t see Dave anywhere.
“Dave!” Paige called out, but there was no reply. “Dave?” she tried again, getting the same result.
She didn’t have time to investigate. She could only hope he would be able to save himself while she fetched her mother. Dave is smart. He’ll be ok, she reasoned with herself, trying not to feel too guilty about leaving him behind.
Paige couldn’t fathom what compelled her mother to go inside, but she guessed that would be revealed soon enough.
She grabbed the Samurai sword as she headed into the institution, gripping it tightly as she prepared for anything. No more getting caught off guard, Paige encouraged herself.
In the hallway, she could see that a lot of people were still inside.
“She’s glowing,” an elderly woman said in wonder. She was dressed completely in rags. Her hospital gown had been destroyed in the chaos that had erupted with the virus.
Paige continued forward.
“Glowing… like them.” Whispers came from all around, making her pick up her pace, though she was careful not to move fast enough to alert them.
“She’s got to be…” The voices continued to echo around her, through the corridor, and Paige held her breath while waiting for the rest.
Paige just knew someone would call her that again as soon as she’d heard them whispering and chattering about her. Without knowing what it meant, she felt growing anxiety and irritation at the possibilities.
* * *
“Should we call my sister?” Willow asked, but AJ shook his head before she’d even finished that sentence. He knew she meant Paige and not Brooke.
“Everything is cool here, right? So, it’s better not to bother her while she’s trying to get your mom out,” AJ told her straight.
He always hated when grown-ups were condescending with children, so he vowed never to be like that no matter what.
“But what if she’s in trouble?” Willow pressed.
“She would call,” he said—or so he hoped. Willow didn’t look convinced either. “Look, I’m sure she’s fine. She managed to get here without a problem. Besides, she’s not alone.”
Though he was relieved and even happy that she had backup, AJ still wished he was the one to be helping.
“The small human is right to worry,” Francis said telepathically in a critical tone.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” AJ demanded.
“She’s a Seedling. If you won’t get her for me, someone else will.”
“Is that a threat?” AJ shouted, but there was no reply. “Francis?! Talk to me!” Still, he was met with only silence.
“You did that on purpose,” AJ realized. It had just been to rattle him up.
“I guess,” Willow eventually replied.
“You know what?” AJ said, trying to calm both of them. “If they don’t return in a couple of hours, we’ll call, ok?”
Even while saying it, he wondered if it would be enough. He wondered if maybe he needed look for her instead.
Even though the alien inside his head remained quiet, he felt pleased with that idea, which only made AJ doubt it in return. He promised Paige and Dave he would look after their siblings. So, even though every part of his being rebelled, he knew he had to stay put and wait.
“Ok,” Willow agreed.
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