I lean against Jack's dead Honda Civic and watch as the occasional car passes us on the freeway. I wish I could run out, flag one down, and run away from all of this, but the man wearing a military uniform twenty feet away might have something to say about it. And if he didn't, the pistol in his hand probably would.
Jenn stands beside me, her hand placed on the gauze covering a minor head wound from earlier in the night. Jack lies on the hood of his busted car and stares up at the stars above us. He nervously glances from side to side each time he thinks he hears something. He's been through a lot tonight. A crazy cult, lizard people, probably losing his job, his car dying, and now the military. I'm surprised he hasn't had some sort of mental break. At least Jenn and I are used to it at this point.
Our military man's buddy is back in their jeep holding a car phone to his ear. No idea who he's talking to, but based on his smile, I'd say he and his buddy just won some sort of jackpot.
"Can we at least drop the kid off at his parent's house on the way back?" I ask in a tired voice. It seems like we can't catch a decent night's rest these days. At least that's one good thing about being hauled back to the military's science bunker. The bunks aren't the best, but at least Jenn and I will finally be able to get some shuteye.
Captain pistol guy doesn't respond. He just stands and points his gun at us like a good little soldier.
I feel Jenn intermingle her fingers with mine. She looks at me with defeat in her eyes. I know how she feels. It's like no matter what we try, the universe won't let us escape this nightmare scenario that we find ourselves trapped in. Either the military dissects us, the cult sacrifices us, the Grey aliens obliterate us (and the separate realities that Jenn and I come from apparently), or the Rask… well, I think the Rask are actually the good guys in this scenario. I wish they would have given us some sort of way of communicating with them. Heck, I'd have taken one of those Star Trek phone-thingy-thingers if they had one. I'd dial them up right now!
Military Man's buddy rejoins us. He brings out his gun and points it at my chest.
"HQ is sending the wagon," he says with a grin. "Major is going to pin medals on us for sure!"
"I don't feel so good," Jenn whines. "I feel nauseous."
I give her my worried look. "I wonder if you're going into shock or something? You might have a concussion."
I catch her as she suddenly doubles over. "Jenn!"
Jack springs up from his position on the hood of his car. "Hey, is she going to be okay?"
"I-I don't know," I stammer as I try to keep my sister from keeling over. I shoot a look at the military men guarding us. "She needs medical attention. Are either of you trained?"
The soldiers look a little unsure of themselves.
"Well, yes… we know basic battlefield first aid," the first one says and looks to his buddy for clarification on how to proceed.
"Then get over here!" I shout. "Your buddy can keep watch just in case we magically think of a way to escape or something."
His buddy nods in agreement. "Yeah, help her out. I'm pretty sure we're supposed to bring them in alive."
"Come on, man!" Jack shouts. "You're a soldier and we're American! I thought your duty was to protect and defend us! Help this poor lady out!"
The soldier nods to himself and helps me lie Jenn on the side of the road. He checks her pulse and briefly shines a tiny light in each of her eyes. He removes his jacket and lays it over top of her.
"She's in shock and she does have a mild concussion," he announces.
Jenn turns her head and vomits all over his shoes. I'm not sure if she did that on purpose or not.
The military man looks uncomfortable.
"Help me get her back into the car," I say and try to lift her up. He and Jack move to help me. We do manage to get her comfortable in Jack's back seat. She's safe and comfortable for now.
The jacketless soldier jams his hands in his pockets and returns to his buddy. I'm actually kind of impressed. Letting her have his jacket like that was a decent thing to do. These aren't bad guys, they're just following bad orders.
An hour passes. Our soldiers have retreated back to their jeep to sit in front of its heater. It's started to get real chilly here in the wee hours of the morning.
Jack and I sit in the front seats of his dead car and shiver. At least Jenn looks comfortable as she softly snores behind us.
"You know…" Jake says quietly. I'm almost positive I can guess at what he's about to propose. I sort of wish he would have offered earlier.
"...we'll both be warm if we sit together and share body heat."
Yep! Called it! I'll give this kid credit - he got there in the end. Hopefully, he'll learn to be a little more brave in the future. He's let me freeze for the last hour!
I give him a little smile and nod my head.
He gets a big smile on his face. He opens his door to run around to my side of the car. The military men shout at him thinking he's trying to escape, but he ignores them. Seems a young man finds his courage when he's about to cuddle a lady.
He opens my door and I attempt to sit sideways as best I can. He presses into me and struggles to shut the car door behind him. He's basically on top of me, so I think it best to quickly define this situation.
"Okay, we can cuddle," I say quietly, "but as for more kissing, I don't think we're there yet, okay, Jack?"
He looks a little confused, but relents to my stipulations. I do let him wrap his arms around me and hold me close though. He's a little on the scrawny side… but he's warm. Fabulously warm. Before I know it, I'm resting my head on his shoulder and smelling his neck. I won't lie and say I'm not enjoying this. It's been way, way too long since I let a man hold me. Jenn is going to be so jealous when I tell her later!
I can tell that Jack's having a wonderful time too. His body says he'd like to do a lot more than just cuddle - I'm grateful that he's being a good guy and holding himself back. Apparently, I'm surrounded by good guys tonight. Based on previous experience, this is something of a rare situation.
A pair of headlights come to a stop behind the army jeep behind us. I guess this is our ride.
"Awww you gotta be kidding me," Jack mumbles. "Just when I got comfortable with my girl too."
I blink several times. Did he just call me his 'girl'? Should I correct his assumptions right here and now, or should I wait and see if we ever actually run across each other again?
Two extra lights briefly flash. Bluish in color. Very un-car-headlight-like. What was that?
Two large humanoids suddenly open our passenger side door. Jack practically falls out of his car.
"Aw man, what the heck?" he protests.
"Are you alright, Jennifer Smith?" a familiar voice asks.
My eyes open large. "Xander!" I practically shout. "I'm Amber, but whatever. I'm so glad to see you!"
Jenn comes-to with a snort. I guess I just woke her up.
I recognize the alien standing with Xander as being from the Rask's ship control room. He helps me exit the vehicle, then leans into the backseat and begins examining my sister.
"Who are you guys?" Jack asks as he struggles to his feet. "More aliens?"
Xander shoots me a look. I nod and shrug my shoulders.
"This is Jack," I say. "He's a friend."
"I'm her boyfriend!" Jack boldly announces.
"He's a friend," I repeat loudly without looking at him. I hope he picks up what I just dropped.
"Boy… Friend!" he repeats defiantly.
I sigh. This is going to be messy later, I can already tell. Maybe he thinks I owe him something because his car got wrecked and he almost died?
The other alien presses something to Jenn's neck and it makes a soft hissing sound. Her eyes suddenly bolt open and she becomes a mass of flailing arms and legs.
"Wowie wowie wowie wowie wowie!" she shouts as she scrambles out of the back seat. She begins jumping up and down and running around the broken Civic.
"What did you just do to my sister?" I demand of the other alien.
Xander intercedes. "A mild stimulant to kick-start her system," he says. "Its effects will only be temporary."
Jenn continues to run, shout, and flail her arms in the air like a crazy person. I wish I had some way of recording this moment.
"Jenn?" I call out to her. "Are you okay, babe?"
She vigorously nods her head as she begins leaping into the air. "I feel amazing!" she screams. "Like my body is exploding with energy!"
She suddenly runs over to me, wraps her arms around my torso, and starts jumping up and down for the both of us.
"Ack!" I shout as I feel her body crush into mine. "Okay, okay, okay, I get it. Let go of me! Let go!"
All at once, the energy drains from her and she slumps at my feet.
I give Xander the stink-eye. He better not have broken my sister somehow!
She reaches up toward me. I grasp her hands and help her to her feet. She feels her forehead, then removes the bandage and tosses it in the back of Jack's car.
"I feel much better now," she says with a smile. "My headache is totally gone!"
"Come," the other alien commands. "You two are no longer wearing your cloaking suits for some reason. We are vulnerable to attack out here in the open."
"Vulnerable to what?" Jack shouts. "To lizard people? Yeah, thanks, man, but we've already had that ride tonight. Between them and those cultist dudes, my wheels are completely dead!"
I scrunch up my face and turn to Xander. "He's right. The Grey's bounty-hunters already paid us a visit tonight and almost killed Jack. He knows almost everything. We should probably take him with us."
"And isn't the military on the way right now too?" Jenn asks.
Xander looks back toward the army jeep. Both soldiers sit slumped in their seats.
"Momentarily out of commission. They will recover in time," he says. "We have been monitoring the local communication channels and intercepting them when need be. We are the only ones that will respond to their report."
I shiver in the early morning air. "Come on, let's get back to your…"
I trail off as a familiar object drops out of the sky in front of us. The Smoker's ship baths us in brilliant blue light.
Xander shouts some sort of obscenity in alien. "Get to the car!" he roars.
He and the other Rask produce rayguns and open fire on the partially cloaked ship in front of us.
"Come on!" I scream at Jack and motion for him to follow me and Jenn.
We all pile into the back of one of the Rask's fleet of Lincoln Continentals. Xander manages to climb into the driver's seat, but his buddy is hit by return fire from the Smoker's ship. He tries to scream, but quickly turns to dust right before our eyes.
Xander screams something in alien, but quickly returns his focus to the situation at hand.
"Hold on!" he shouts.
We race back onto the highway and attempt to speed away. The car sways back and forth with every hit that the alien ship continues to score on us.
Jack is screaming like a baby. Jenn and I are handling things a little better having been on this ride before.
And just as before, Xander quickly flips all the switches on the car's dashboard and a pair of mini laser cannons begin automatically firing on the Smoker's ship.
"You know that won't work!" I shout from the backseat.
"It doesn't have to!" he shouts back. "All I need to do is distract them long enough!"
The lizard people score a direct hit and the car shakes violently. Jack ends up on top of me. He must really be freaked out. He's not even smiling right now.
"What do you mean, 'distract them long enough'?" Jenn shouts.
We take another direct hit and sparks fill the front cabin.
"There!" Xander shouts and points out the side window.
At least a dozen headlights suddenly illuminate. It seems the Rask planned a little welcoming party for our smoking lizard friends.
Several of the Lincoln Continentals begin firing on the Smoker craft. It's shields appear to have a little more difficulty coping with the new barrage of laser fire. Several of the other cars fire some sort of funky blue ray. It appears to latch onto the spacecraft and hold it steady. If this was Star Trek, I'd say it was some sort of tractor beam.
Green sparks suddenly announce that Mr. and Mrs. Smoking Lizard have teleported out of their ship. Several Rask dressed in combat armor exit their town cars and move to engage the two bounty hunters.
"They've probably set their ship to self-destruct!" Xander roars. He holds a square box up to his face and shouts into it in his alien language. One of the other cars launches a metal ball covered in blinking lights. It lodges itself into the side of the lizard's ship. It's blue lights quickly begin to go out. When the last one does, the alien ship appears to 'turn off'. It falls out of the sky with a loud thud.
I look down at Jack. He's curled up beside me with his head on my chest. He whimpers like a small child. I gently stroke his hair and whisper that it's over and that everything is fine.
Outside, the Smokers are fighting for their lives. The Rask warriors are proving to be a difficult challenge. Smoking Man is finally disarmed and restrained. Smoking Woman attempts to escape on foot, but several Rask fire their weapons and she drops.
Smoking Man manages to wriggle out of the long jacket that he wore. His lizard features are plainly visible as he leaps over his captors and presses his belt buckle. It briefly flashes bright red, then explodes in a ball of fire.