"Shhh. Quiet," Jackson whispers and puts a finger to his lips. He points to the terrible shadow moving under the door to the storage room. "It sounds like a seeker; do you hear its high-pitched screeching? It's trying to locate us."
Melissa slowly nods as she attempts to stifle her sobbing. Tears run down her cheeks as she clutches her dead fiancé to her bosom. She runs her fingers through his hair, careful to avoid the gaping hole in the side of his face. "He didn't even…" her words trail off. "Why did they have to come today?"
Jackson puts a hand on her shoulder, and shakes his head. "I don't know."
"Oh. Oh, this is very good. Super good!" Melissa smiles at her reflection as she twirls from side to side. Her long, designer wedding dress makes a pleasant hissing sound as the fabric swirls around her fit figure. "Mr. Herald, you are a lucky, lucky man," she murmurs, and tosses a little wink to the woman in the mirror.
A soft tap on the door brings another smile to her face. "Hey gorgeous, what are you doing in there?"
She smiles a little bigger still. "Never you mind what I'm doing in here, mister! You're early."
"So, it turns out I just can't seem to get enough of the woman I'm marrying tomorrow. Have you seen her around?"
"I might have. What does she look like?"
There's a slight pause before the answer comes. "She looks like Christmas morning."
Melissa laughs as she struggles to wiggle out of her wedding garment. "I'll have to write that one down. That was a good one!"
"Can I come in?" Tom asks.
"No! I'm changing!"
"Then I'm definitely coming in!"
"You'd better not! It would be a shame if you had a black eye in our wedding pictures!" she laughs.
"Is Jackson here, yet?"
"Yeah, he's talking to your mother about her list of last-minute 'must haves'," he pauses for a moment before continuing. "You know how every married couple likes to whine that they should have just eloped?"
She groans loudly. "I know. Believe me I know – but mom's been working on this for four months now, so we're doing this. Come hell or high water, this is happening!"
Tom knocks on the door again. "Seriously, we've got rehearsal in like thirty minutes. Hurry up!"
"I know, I know!" comes the answer.
A black SUV comes to a stop in front of the small home. Two men with ear pieces exit the vehicle and knock on the front door. Melissa's mother answers. "Yes? Oh goodness, you boys look quite serious in your suits and sunglasses. Are you from the government?"
"Is Jackson Mann here, ma'am?"
Jackson appears behind the small, elderly woman with a concerned look on his face. "You know I'm on leave, right?"
One of the men nods. "This way, please, commander."
The men escort him into the SUV and the vehicle drives away.
"Did Jackson leave?" Tom asks as he enters the main entrance way. "Is he off to the wedding venue already?"
"OK, I'm ready, Freddy!" Melissa chirps as she bounces into the room. "Shall we be off?" Her smile fades as she notes the worried look on her mother's face.
Tom and Melissa are all smiles as their pastor walks them through all the details of the next day's wedding ceremony. All of the groomsmen and bridesmaids are in attendance, except the best man.
"I can't believe he's not here. I thought you said he was reliable," Melissa whispers through her teeth, as she smiles through the mock ceremony.
Tom nods, and gives a little shrug. "He's a war hero. He's always Johnny on the spot. This is very unlike him," he whispers back. "I hope nothing's wrong."
"Well he'd better be here tomorr–…" She is cut off as a shadow appears in the church doorway and calls to her fiancé.
"Tom! I'm sorry everyone. Apologies, Father, but I need Tom right away. I'm sorry, but it can't wait."
The old pastor gives a loud huff as Tom let's go of Melissa's hand and runs to his best man. "What is this? What's going on?"
"Not here. We're needed in the office. Now!"
"Tom?" Melissa calls out, as the men sprint out the door.
"Well, at least he didn't run out on you, tomorrow," her bratty little brother quips.
Her mother shoots him a look and slaps the top of his head.
Melissa looks out the window of her mother's tiny home and sighs as the vehicle she heard continues on its way down the road. Her mother reaches for her hand. "Come away from the window, dear. You know what they say about a watched pot."
"Where are they? Why haven't they called at least? He always calls me," Melissa asks in a hushed tone, her face permanently twisted into a look of worry.
Her mother tries to be strong for her. "Come on, let's have a sit on the couch. Let me make you your favorite tea."
"I don't want tea, mother. I want Tom."
The elderly woman smiles and nods as she manages to get her daughter off her feet. "I'm going to make it anyway. We've got to take your mind off of…" Mother is cut off by a loud humming sound that suddenly fills the air. "What on earth…!?"
Something sparks in the middle of the room. An instant later, Tom stands before them. "It worked. I feel fine," he says into his wrist watch. "Copy that. See you tomorrow," a familiar voice replies through the tiny watch speakers.
He turns to see his future wife and mother-in-law staring at him with their mouths open. "I can explain."
Melissa continues to stare at him. "OK…?"
Tom takes a deep breath, pauses, then lets it out slowly. "No, I lied. I can't explain. Not until we're actually married and you get proper security clearance. Sorry."
"Was that Jackson speaking from your watch?" Melissa asks, still slightly in shock.
"I need that tea," her mother mutters, and hurries into the kitchen.
"Mother…" Melissa calls after her. "We need something stronger than tea."
Jackson is all smiles as he shakes hands with Tom in front of the community church. Both men look quite dapper in their rented tuxedos. "Are you ready for this, Tommy?"
Tom manages a little smile as he nods. "I think so. Yeah. I'm good."
"How did things go last night? Were they home when you appeared?"
Tom's face clouds over. "Yeah. They were sitting on the couch. I tried to tell them as much as I could but, you know. There isn't much that they're actually cleared to know."
Jackson gives him a knowing nod and slaps a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "It was necessary. Hopefully it won't be necessary today, though."
Tom looks up at the sky and searches the clouds. "Yeah…"
Guests fill the air with idle chatter as Tom nervously stands with the pastor and his best men. He gives a little smile and wink to the cluster of bridesmaids lined up opposite him. They all giggle and smile back in return. Organ music fills the air and everyone stands.
"OK. Here we go," he breathes. All eyes move to the rear chapel doors.
The doors open to reveal Melissa in all her glory. The morning sun shines through the windows directly behind her and illuminates her dress.
Tom swallows hard.
The organ blares its marching tune as the bride slowly makes her way down the aisle. The only thing brighter than the smile on her face is the smile on her father's face beside her. The tall, regal looking man carefully leads his little girl toward the altar. His freshly waxed mustache barely twitches as he lifts his daughter's veil and shuffles in beside her mother. The elderly woman manages a smile for him as she scoots as far away as she can.
The pastor begins his preamble. Tom's eyes dart from Melissa's to the windows all around the chapel and back again.
Melissa gently squeezes his hands and locks her gaze with his. He smiles and gives his head a little shake.
The pastor calls for the rings and Tom's infant nephew waddles forward with a large cushion. Tom ruffles the young child's crazy blonde hair as he unties the wedding bands from the large ribbon wrapped around the cushion.
Melissa looks as though she will explode with happiness as he slips a ring on her finger. Tears begin to well up in her eyes as Tom repeats the vows as the pastor gives them.
She takes the other ring and prepares to slip it on his finger. A shadow momentarily crosses in front of the sunlight at the rear of the church. Tom pulls his hand away and begins scanning all the windows.
"Tom?" Melissa asks softly. "What…"
"Shhhh," comes his reply. He looks to Jackson.
Jackson begins breathing faster. "Movement!"
A dozen more shadows begin blocking out the sun, as high-pitched screeching begins to fill the air.
Worried expressions begin painting themselves across the faces of the guests as they all begin chattering nervously and staring out the windows.
"Execute Motel!" Jackson shouts into his wrist watch. Melissa's mother gives a start, and then disappears into thin air.
"Mother!?" Melissa gasps.
"Everyone down! NOW!" Jackson commands.
An insect looking creature smashes through the rear church window and fires an energy weapon toward the altar.
Melissa kisses Tom's good cheek as Jackson pulls her to her feet. "Come on. We've got to get back to the bench your mother was sitting on," he whispers in a harsh tone.
"What did you do to my mother?!" she hisses through her tears. "Did you vaporize her or something?"
He shakes his head and holds up a hand to signal her to be quiet. Another insectoid shadow passes under the door to the storage room. He turns to her with a stern look in his eye. "Emergency teleport. Tom knew you'd want your mom to be safe if we had visitors. It was keyed to her position on the church pew."
Melissa feels another wave of emotion spilling to the surface as she looks back to her dead fiancé. "Oh, Tom…" she whimpers.
Jackson yanks her arm and snaps her back to reality. "We'll grieve him later. Right now my priority is to get you to safety. It's the only thing Tom would want right now."
"What about my Daddy?" she blubbers.
Jackson looks down and shakes his head.
More tears stream down her face.
A light turns on in Jackson's head. He releases Melissa and sinks back into the shadows. "That's good. Let it all out. As loud as you can!"
Melissa's emotions boil to the surface and she sinks to her knees. A moment later, she screams with anguish.
The door bursts open and an alien insectoid enters the room. It points an energy weapon at the screaming woman.
Jackson bursts from the shadows and tackles the bug. Its energy weapon discharges and a moment later, Jackson stands with it in his hand.
Melissa continues her meltdown. "The pastor didn't finish! He didn't declare us married! WE WEREN'T EVEN MARRIED!"
Jackson aims the energy weapon out the storage room door and vaporizes a handful of insectoids. "More! You're drawing them right to me!"
She screams again and again. "My father is dead! My mother is missing! My soul mate is dead! DEAD! I might as well be dead too! What are these insects?! What do they want?! My dress is covered in my dead fiancé's blood!"
Jackson barks more orders into his wrist watch as he fires the energy weapon like a mad man. "Delta team, prepare for secondary transport on my mark! Melissa, get to your mother's church pew. NOW!"
The broken woman runs screaming from the storage room. The site of her slaughtered wedding guests doesn't even register as she makes her way to the front of the chapel. Bits of insectoid rain down on her as Jackson follows behind and clears the air above.
Maybe she caught one as if fell from above, maybe she stopped for a moment to pick one up off the floor – Melissa suddenly finds herself with one of the alien weapons in her hand. "DIE! DIE, ALL OF YOU! DIE!" she screams, as she begins discharging the weapon around the room in a wild fashion.
Jackson dives behind an overturned pew as bolts of alien energy wiz past his head. "Melissa! Stop it! Just get to your mother's seat! Stop…"
A bolt of energy from Melissa's weapon hits him square in the chest. His body grows cold as it falls to the floor.
"What's the situation, Lieutenant?" the CO asks as he jumps down from his armored personnel vehicle.
His subordinate smartly salutes. "Sir. Commander Jackson is radio silent for the last fifteen minutes, sir!"
"Any bugs left in the area?"
"No, sir! Delta team has plowed the road, sir!"
"The bride's mother is confirmed to be safe in her home sir! Energy weapon discharges have kept us from penetrating the church until this point, sir!"
"We've got at least two men in there. Move in Lieutenant!"
"Sir, yes sir! Delta team, storm the castle!"
Uniformed military personnel burst open the chapel doors. Melissa stands with an alien energy weapon in each hand while breathing heavily and staring at the floor in front of her. Her once white wedding dress is tattered and splattered with a combination of human and alien blood.
"Drop your weapons, lady! Get on the ground! Do it now!" shouts one of the forward infantry.
Melissa slowly looks up at the company of men in front of her. A wild look crosses her face as the crazy glint in her eye triggers a troubling smile.
Melissa opens fire again.