Time passed. Jake's watch had been confiscated, so had Jess'. The clock in the room was out of sight. Marie yawned after several minutes. Then Jake yawned. Then Jess.
"What are the odds that Aliens drink coffee?" Jess asked.
There was a sudden explosive crack, as though the entire sky had erupted into thunder and lightning at the same time. It was powerful enough to shatter the windows, and the sounds from outside became sharper suddenly.
Everyone ducked instinctively, letting out a yelp of shock. The wind howled for a moment, and then settled. There was a very low, slight hum, almost too low for them to notice it.
"What's happening out there?" Jess whispered.
"I don't know if I want to know." Jake admitted.
"Should we just leave you here, then?" A voice asked smugly.
All three of them jumped, nearly levitating off the cot. They dove toward the bars in shock. "Pierce?"
Pierce was standing in the doorway with a pump action shotgun slung across his back, and a strange device in his hand. It took Jake a few moments to realize it was the exact same device they'd found sketched in Eddie Sisko's notes, the same device that his brother had drawn.
Zack pushed past Pierce. He had a baseball bat in one hand, and in the other was the keyring. He came running over. "Come on guys, it's a jailbreak."
"No guards?" Marie asked.
"Zack was right, they don't have enough in here to cover the windows." Pierce shrugged. "I was under house arrest once. The GPS band they put around your ankle is impossible to get out of. They don't need to watch you, just the tracker." He lifted the device. "Of course... we've got a way around that now."
Zack found the right key and quickly got the cell open. Pierce unslung the shotgun and handed it to Zack, who held it awkwardly, but without fear. Nobody who lived any part of their lives in the country had a great fear of guns. Jake had spent a weekend shooting rabbits and birds that found their way into the vegetable gardens with his air rifle before he was ten years old, like most kids born in Curtis Creek.
Pierce beckoned Jess out of the cell and held up the Gizmo. It was the first time any of them had gotten a good look at one. It was a foot long, all chrome-silver and it had buttons on the handle. It was round and stubby, more like the handle of a fishing rod than a weapon.
"Don't tell me it's an actual working lightsaber." Jake deadpanned.
Pierce gestured for Jess to come out of the cell. She did so, and Pierce turned her around. He had her put her hands on the bars, and bend forward, leaning her up against the cell door. "Okay." Pierce said gently. "Now tilt your head over, all the way... that's it." Jess followed his directions, till she was braced against the bars, looking sideways at Jake under her arms. "Now, brace yourself, Jess. This is gonna be a little weird."
"What is it?" Jess demanded, spooked. "What's happening?"
Pierce lifted the Gizmo, and pointed the tip of it at the back of Jess' head. "It's okay, just relax..." He pressed a few buttons, and the low background hum seemed to change pitch slightly. Jake, and Marie hissed, each pinching the bridge of their noses, as though something painful was hitting them, but neither of them felt any pain.
Jess hissed in a breath sharply, and Jake came over closer to her, checking what Pierce was doing. Her left ear was pointed down, and from that ear came a few drops of blood... and a small trickle of something that looked like mercury.
As Jess straightened up, Zack came back from the door and tossed Pierce the shotgun. The footballer caught it expertly and took over guarding the door, passing the device over to Zack on the way. The move was done smoothly and without words, and Jake suddenly realized that they'd done it before.
Zack turned on the metal detector, and waved it over Jess' face. No reaction.
"No Implant." Jess whispered, as though trying to convince herself. "It's gone." She paused for a moment, and then whooped, rubbing her ear. "It's gone! I'm free!"
Zack nodded. "Yup. Now we gotta hurry."
Marie and Jake quickly assumed the position that Jess had, and Zack waved the Gizmo over both of them, pressing the controls.
The feeling was strange. It was like something cold and wet was pressing against my ear, but it was pressing from the inside. I could feel it in my sinuses, the way you do when you go swimming and you get water in your ears.
My ear itched like crazy, and part of me was worried about whatever the material itself was, and what it might be doing to me. But too much of me was just feeling... free. I never felt the Implant there. It wasn't like a collar around my neck, or handcuffs or anything, but when it was gone, I felt like I could fly.
Zack and Pierce had it all worked out. One of the cars behind the Town Hall had been prepared. The doors were unlocked, and the keys in the ignition, just waiting. The parking lot was behind the Hall, where the Sheriff's Office was, and we went right out the window.
The strange humming sound had become white noise to me. I only noticed it when it started to fade. The further we got from the Town Hall, the quieter it got. The Aurora was still going strong, and it seemed to grow brighter, the motions of the cloud suddenly becoming fierce like a storm around the top of the Clocktower, the highest point in town, and the apex of the Town Hall.
Jess didn't let go of my hand for more than ten seconds during our escape, and I was glad.
"You ever seen anything like this before?" Jess hissed.
"Twice, last year. What? Didn't I tell you about it?" Jake retorted sarcastically.
Curtis Creek was still a ghost town, but now there was sound. The glowing sky had turned angry, the constant humming like a dull roar coming from the air itself.
They were the only vehicle on the road, Zack and Pierce in the front, the other three in the back
Pierce drove at top speed until they were well away from the centre of town. The background hum started to fade a little and Jake couldn't help the look back at the Town Hall. Every light was on, the only lit up building they could see. Small dark figures lurked in every doorway, burning black eyes watching them drive away.
"Where are we going?" Jake asked.
"The Clinic." Pierce reported. "We gotta ditch this car."
They drove without another word for a few minutes, out of the sight of the Town Hall. The sky above looked less savage here, but it didn't make them feel better. Pierce pulled in behind the Clinic, where his Jeep was waiting, door unlocked, keys in the ignition. Zack and Pierce took the driver's cab. Pierce handed the shotgun to Jake, and the two of them traded a curt nod.
It was strange. I still despise Pierce, if only for what he did to Jess... but he had really, truly, honestly saved our lives, and set us free. He had no Implant, he could have kept going, holed up somewhere for the duration. But he came back.
I was so tired I was seeing three of everything, almost having hallucinations, but Pierce got us all moving again. Heroic bastard.
"They're not coming after us." Zack reported. "I think we're safe."
"Safe. Right." Jess said sarcastically.
"We got a few minutes at least. Once they find out we're gone, they'll still have a few streets to search for us now that we're free of the Implants."
"Any ideas on where to go?" Jess asked finally.
"Away from town." Jake said finally. "But stop before you reach the Dead Zone."
That was good enough for everyone else.
"I got a place to go, if you're willing." Pierce piped up. "Because the last two times we were all together on the road with me in the driver's seat we pretty much ran over whatever the Aliens were done with."
"He's right, though." Jess said finally. "Are we done with this town?"
The question was a good one. They all had families, some sleeping, most missing, a town under siege, and no clue when or if they'd be coming back. Those that held the town hostage knew their names and addresses, so it would be safer for them to run.
"Aliens in Curtis Creek." Jake said finally, his voice tired. "God, even when I thought... I was trying to convince the Mayor, but he already knew. And he sounded so... right, when he cut our arguments apart. Even then, even us, we didn't really believe it."
"How did you do it?" Marie asked Zack in awe. "Where'd you get the Gizmo?"
Zack and Pierce traded a proud look, and Pierce began the story. "After Zack broke me out, he told me what Jake saw, and we knew we couldn't go back to Zack's house. It made sense that if Zack and I didn't have Trackers, then they'd have to find us the old fashioned way. So with my dad out turning over rocks looking for us, I figured we had a chance to go back to my house. I know the alarm code, and where the keys are hidden. After that, we had to figure out what to do next. We both wanted to come save your miserable skins, but we didn't know how to get you out with the Implants in you."
Zack took up the story. "Well, that drawing in Eddie's notes, of the Gizmo? After we escaped, I finally showed it to Pierce, and he recognized it."
"I did." Pierce confirmed. "I thought it looked a lot like a toy that I played with as a kid, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I only had one memory of the thing."
"Your father." Jake said, still sounding exhausted.
Pierce blinked. "That's right. How'd you know?"
Jake waved a hand vaguely. "Because it's the only thing that makes sense." He said. "Your father agreed to cooperate, as long as he could guarantee you were safe."
Pierce nodded. "When I was a kid, I think about five years old, my dad brought the Gizmo into my room and played checkers with me while he had it. I remember because my nose started bleeding a lot during the game." He tapped the sketch of the device in his hand. "I never saw it again, before or after that."
"That's why you don't have an Implant." Jake said. "Because your dad got it out of you that day when you were a kid, just like you did for us tonight."
"It also explains why my dad tested me with the metal detector after the Plane." Pierce nodded. "He was checking to make sure they hadn't put it back." For a moment, it almost looked like he was going to laugh. "Ever since we did the X-Rays, I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out why I was the only one on the plane that was left alone."
"Jake, what does that mean for my dad?" Zack called to the backseat. "I don't have an Implant. Is my dad working for them too?"
"Could be, but I don't think so." Jake assured him. "Mayor Grady said that the Greys had 'quotas to meet'. My guess is they want a fixed number of us for something, and once they've got that number, they don't much care about whoever gets left over."
Jess got them back on topic. "So?" She pressed. "You remembered the thing in the drawing, and then...?"
"Well, there are only two or three places my dad actually hides anything." Pierce said. "He's the Sheriff, so he has criminal records, guns, things nobody else should get to. I didn't know what was in them, but I knew he had lock-boxes in his office, and his private office at the house."
"So you went looking." Marie guessed.
"Two locked cabinets in the house, one in the Sheriff's Office, right next to the jail cells. We played the odds and tried the house. Took a while to get into them." Pierce nodded. "I honestly couldn't believe it when we found the Gizmo in my dad's locked desk. It was in the house all this time. All that work, and we had the proof two doors down from my bedroom!"
"You and me both." Jake commented darkly.
Zack picked it up from there. "We didn't know how it worked, and all we knew of it was Pierce's ten year old memory." He took a breath. "So we... experimented."
"Do we want to know?"
Pierce took that one. "Probably not, but Zack will no doubt tell you anyway."
Zack piped up. "We agreed that if we made it to Tracy's house and didn't have anything from another world waiting for us when we got there, then it was probably safe to hold onto the Gizmo."
"Makes sense." Marie offered. "If the Implant is a tracking device, then that's what it's meant for, but we don't put tracking devices into all our toys."
"Tracy's house. You went straight there, huh?" Jess commented. No venom, no anger, just confirming the fact.
Pierce met her gaze seriously. "I wasn't going to test the thing on you." He waved the Gizmo. "We were learning how to use this damn thing by pushing buttons and seeing what happened, and... Tracy was the only one in town I knew who would let me in her bedroom window at three in the morning."
Jess made a sound of disgust, but didn't push it.
"What happened then?" Marie asked, moving it along.
"I tried it out, pushed a button at random, and... Tracy started sleepwalking."
Jess turned instantly and sent a look at Jake. He nodded. It wasn't a coincidence that their entire town was walking in their sleep a few days before. The Greys had been testing.
"Which means that everyone who was sleepwalking that night had an Implant." Jake nodded. "Another mystery down."
"Not so much. Why didn't we sleepwalk?" Jess demanded. "We were assuming it was because we were still awake when it happened, but if Tracy let them in, she was awake."
"I think the Gizmo is used to control the Implants themselves, up close and personal." Pierce offered. "The difference between having a light on and pointing a high-powered torch. We spent a few minutes pushing buttons, and the people with Implants in Tracy's street started to sleepwalk. This is a pretty freaky little toy. I sent Tracy walking into the walls, face first, for ten minutes until we found the right buttons." Pierce explained. "Then her ears started bleeding mercury, and she just... woke up."
"Where is she now?" Jake asked.
"We made another copy of the photos and showed her. She flipped, and told us to leave. Last we saw her, she was packing. I think she was planning to wake her parents and get them all moving. We told her to come with us, and she found that to be hilarious."
"She didn't want to come with us, so we made a run to all our houses and grabbed some stuff, then we came back to the station. The rest you know." Zack finished.
Zack's comment made Jake suddenly aware that the Jeep was packed. In the back were five backpacks, all stuffed full enough that they were bulging. Jake recognized them on sight. Zack had packed a bag for each of them. "You went to our houses?" Jake repeated. "Are they..."
"We grabbed food, some clothes... I don't know how long we'll be in hiding, but I know we can't go home until this is over." Pierce said. "There was nobody at any of them. I'm sorry guys, there's no sign of any of our families at home."
Zack slugged Pierce's shoulder, and Pierce sighed. "Fine. We found my dad hanging around Zack's place. We tried to drive away... He took a shot at our tires and..." He looked to Zack, seeking help.
Zack sighed, looking miserable. "It was my fault. I was driving. I saw him shoot and I just reacted."
"You ran him down?" Marie exclaimed.
Zack squeezed his eyes shut. "I think I killed him."
"Well, that explains a few things." Jess nodded.
Pierce reacted. "What do you mean?" He demanded, his voice cold and hollow.
Jake answered him. "Pierce, your dad's okay. He and the Mayor came back to our cell, breathing hellfire and demanding to know what happened to the Gizmo. Your dad was seeing stars, but he was walking and talking."
Zack sagged in relief. "He's okay."
Pierce was smiling too. "My dad's alive."
Marie looked to Zack. "He was waiting at your house?" She questioned.
Zack nodded. And looked at his shoes. "The house was empty except for Tanner." He whispered. "My dad's bed was empty. I don't know where he is."
Sympathetic silence. Of the five of them, four were now missing their entire family, and Pierce's only relative in town was a willing servant of the ones that hunted them.
Jake bit his lip. "Ben knew. My kid brother's been out with the Greys every night since before Doug Gunn came back." Pierce met his eyes in the rear-view mirror. Pierce and Jake were the only people they knew with collaborators in their family.
"We just have to make it to dawn." Zack said finally.
They drove for the better part of an hour, doing the best they could to be away from everyone in town. They spoke a little, sorting out ideas and plans. The only one who didn't was Jake. He was dead silent.
"What are you thinking, Jake?" Jess asked finally.
"It saw me." Jake said finally. "I saw its eyes. It saw me, and they were waiting at my house." His hands were shaking. "I don't know what's scarier. The idea that these things exist at all, the fact that out of billions of light years they came to Curtis Creek... or the fact that they know my name!"
"They know all our names, now." Pierce said quietly.
Well outside town, at the edge of the widest, deepest part of The Creek, really more of a river at that point, there was a small one room shack. It was about the size of Jake's bedroom, with small windows made from salvaged car windows. There was one door, and the walls were made of wooden panels.
There were empty places for mounting fishing rods on the walls.
"What is this place?" Marie asked.
"Old fishing shack." Pierce said. "Me and a couple of seniors used to come here years ago, but they left town long before..." He hesitated. "Well, before. I was a junior then, so..."
"I wonder if they made it out." Zack wondered.
"They left years ago." Pierce shook his head.
"Right. After flying a billion light years and putting tracking devices in all our heads for more than ten years, I'm sure that moving two hundred miles to the left would make them safe." Marie shot back.
"Well, I honestly don't know if anyone in town even remembers it's here." Pierce shrugged. "It seemed as good a hiding place as any."
The shack was rectangular, and had fishing rods leaning against the narrow back wall, with bunk beds on the longer walls, each bunk long enough to accommodate one person. Two bunks along each wall, and little room for anything else.
"Four bunks, five of us." Jake said. "Which works out. One person should keep watch at all times."
"Agreed." The others chorused.
Jess swept a hand over her bunk, kicking up a cloud of dust, and tossing aside a handful of cigarette butts, two empty beer bottles, several dead matches, and a few condoms. "Pierce, what the hell did you guys get up to in here?"
Pierce looked back innocently. "Well, obviously those things got here after I stopped coming to this place."
Jess made a face at him, and everyone started picking a bunk.
"I'll take the first watch." Jake said. "I couldn't sleep anyway."
I couldn't believe it when I cracked open the backpack full of stuff Pierce had grabbed for me, and I found my journal inside. He's a bully, but recent events have proven I may have misjudged him. A little.
The first thing I thought when I started writing a Journal years ago? I was scared that I wouldn't be able to think of anything to write in it. I really wish I had that problem tonight.
In all the movies, the school football team grabs some weapons and goes driving back into town, gunning down the bug-eyed monsters until they've saved the world. And as much as I'd like to think we could do that, I know there's no chance. I don't even know where my brother is.
The others have been pretending to sleep for a few hours, while I found a seat on the front doorstep and wrote down everything that happened since this morning.
Jake reacted to the sound of footsteps, and jerked around, coming to full wakefulness. His hand went automatically to the shotgun across his knees, but the steps were coming from inside the shack. "Hello?"
Zack stuck his head out the door. "Don't shoot." He said lightly. "It's been an hour, and Jess figures that you must be dead on your feet. I'll take the second watch."
"Has it been that long?" Jake checked his watch, provided by Pierce to replace the one his father had taken. "Huh. Some guard I am."
"You've got a lot on your mind." Zack said forgivingly.
Jake rose from the step and stretched with a groan. He passed the wristwatch and the shotgun to Zack. "If you feel like you're gonna fall asleep, come get one of us."
"I will." Zack promised.
Jake headed back inside and paused. "Zack?" He said quietly. "Thanks for saving my life tonight."
"You'd do it for me." Zack said immediately, and the two best friends shook hands, making their way to their respective posts.
Jake came into the fishing shack and found everyone asleep. The bunks were almost all occupied. The one Zack had used was the lower one on the left. Jake limped toward it, so tired he was seeing three of everything.
The bunk opposite him shifted as he sat down. Jess was the only one awake. She looked at him silently, and he met her eyes, patting the space next to him on the bunk.
Jess rose and slipped over to join him. "Are you okay?" She whispered, mindful of his ex-girlfriend sleeping opposite, and her ex-boyfriend sleeping less than six inches above.
Jake yawned. "Nope."
Jess nodded. "I should have taken the first watch." She said apologetically. "I should have let you sleep after everything you've been through."
"You went through it too."
"He wasn't my brother." Jess whispered, putting her arms around him, hugging him sideways as they sat side by side.
Her arms were warm and soft, and Jake was so exhausted he could barely move. Her arms alone were lulling him to a rest he hadn't felt in days. "How does this end, Jess?"
"I don't know." Jess admitted.
"We can't hide here. No matter what Pierce says, you can't keep a secret in Curtis Creek... well, unless you're the Town Council. Someone in town must know about this shack." Jake yawned, trying to think. "We'll have to move again soon."
"We will." Jess promised.
"Pierce will want to go back for his dad." Jake yawned. "The Sheriff is dangerous, so don't let Pierce leave without us."
"Already taken care of." She told him.
"We figured it was... what? Two thirds with Implants? The other third... The Greys will move on them..." His voice was drifting.
"Shh." She shushed him. "Just for now, just..." She stroked his hair, gently pushing him to lay down. She sat at the head of the bunk, and shifted, laying his head down in her lap. She sat back against the wall of the cabin, holding him as he finally gave in, eyes drifting shut helplessly.
"I'm so tired." Jake whispered miserably.
She bent down to lay a soft kiss on his lips. "I know. Just rest, Jake." She crooned to him quietly. "Sleep now. Dream of the moon. Just sleep."
Jake gave in to her sweet, gentle warmth and let himself fall into oblivion.