Beginning of a Long Night
The trip stays silent as Jack continues to drive on to Seth's and Sara's mystery location. It isn't until right before dusk and the sky is beginning to darken into deep blues when Sara looks up hopefully.
"We are here, Jack Bruno," Sara says, looking eagerly into the distance.
"Here?" Jack asks skeptically. "There's nothing here."
They round a bend and then at the bottom of the hill a house comes into view. It looks old, rundown, more like an old shack than a house really. And there are no signs of life. Still, Seth and Sara look at each other with excitement.
Jack pulls up to the house and brings the cab to a stop. "There's somebody expecting you guys, right? It doesn't look like anyone's home."
"Don't worry, Jack Bruno," Sara says, eyes never leaving the house. "We will soon be reunited with relatives."
The way Sara says it, though, and the sadness evident in her voice, Brynn can't help but wonder if there really are relatives in that house. She's heard people talk like that before, those who have crossed Mr. Wolfe and are not expected to live much longer. They get reunited with relatives, but only through death.
Jack starts to tell them how much money they owe for the trip, but Sara and Seth pay him no mind, just giving him all of the cash they have, well over the $720.50, and exit the car. Brynn scrambles to go after them, making sure to grab her messenger bag in her haste. She follows them inside the house, wondering just what it is she is getting herself into but she can't bring herself to leave them now. Not after everything.
Inside the house, everything is trashed with pieces of broken furniture strewn about everywhere. Mess like this doesn't just happen on its own and Brynn starts to get nervous.
"So," she whispers, somehow not able to talk louder than that even though it is just the three of them there. Hopefully. "Why are we here exactly?"
"To complete our mission," Seth says quietly as they move slowly about the room heading towards the back of the house. Apprehension is thick in the air and Brynn is glad she is not the only one with a bad feeling.
"But what is that exactly?"
There's a loud crash somewhere else in the house and they freeze. Seth grabs her arm and pulls her down to hide behind a couch, Sara crouching down next to her.
"I knew we should not have brought you with us," Seth says, his voice still quiet but she can feel the anger and frustration in it.
"And where else was I supposed to go?" she whispers back, her own voice getting annoyed. "When you said I could come with you I thought you were headed to a different city, not the middle of nowhere."
"You could have used the excess money to go wherever you pleased."
"Not happening." She shifts on her heels until she is sitting on the floor. "I'm staying right here. You guys said you needed help, so I'm going to give it. Even if I can't do much."
Seth's jaw clenches. "Just leave. We don't need your help."
"No, I'm not abandoning you."
There's a squeak as the front door opens and closes and they go silent. Footsteps move about the room, getting closer and closer to their hiding spot. Jack comes into view and Seth touches his leg to get his attention. The touch ends up startling Jack and he swings what looks like a broken chair leg at Seth, not realizing who they are at first, but it passes harmlessly right through his shoulder. Brynn already knows Sara can read minds. She wonders what it is Seth can do.
Jack crouches in front of them. "What just happened?"
Seth shushes for him to be quieter and then pulls out the strange device from earlier and starts fiddling with it.
"Jack Bruno, you should not have jeopardized your life by following us," Sara says.
"What sort of trouble are you guys in?" he asks, looking at Brynn.
She shrugs her shoulders. "I have no idea. I know as much as you do."
"I thought you guys were friends. I picked you up together."
Sara says, "She is our friend," at the same time Seth says, "We just met her this morning."
Jack's eyebrows rise in surprise. "You just met these two this morning and you're running around with them without knowing what they're up to?"
"Not the point." Even though Brynn would really like to know what is going on. "Look, it's a long story, but now's not the time."
Seth looks up from what his is doing to glare at Jack. "I suggest you return back to your vehicle. Your services are no longer required."
"Seth, he's just trying to help," Sara insists.
"We don't need any help. Somebody's already been here looking for it." He turns softer, more vulnerable. "We simply cannot trust any of them. Just us, Sara."
The twins stare at each other for a moment but then Sara turns to Jack resolutely. "We appreciate you efforts to assist us, Jack Bruno, but my brother is right. We can involve you no further."
Seth's eyes go to Brynn. "You should leave as well."
"I don't think so," Brynn says. "I promised I would help you and I intend to keep that promise. I'm going to prove to you that humans can be trusted."
If this turns out to be the only thing she can really do to help them, to help Seth, proving that humans can be trusted, well, at least it'll be something.
He looks ready to argue with her more but then the device in his hands beeps and he looks down at it. "Got it."
"Let's go," Sara says and together the three of them move further into the house, stopping in the kitchen in front of the refrigerator. Seth opens the door and then places the device on the fridge's side.
"What is that?" Jack asks, apparently deciding to not listen to Seth's and Sara's warning.
No one answers him. After Seth presses a few buttons the device beeps again and the entire inside of the fridge backs up and moves away to create a doorway into a tunnel. They head inside into what looks like some sort of storage space. Seth puts the device on the back wall and, just like with the fridge, a section of the wall lifts away to reveal another doorway leading to another tunnel, this one made of stone and not seeming to be part of the actual house. On the other end of the tunnel, Brynn sees that it's a massive cave. And inside that cave is some sort of small underground forest. She looks around, wide-eyed and mouth open slightly in awe. It's straight out of a Jules Verne novel. There are trees and bushes and ferns everywhere and dotting between them are these glowing pods hanging down from the ceiling by what looks like some kind of crystal pillars. They head inside, following Seth's device. As far as Brynn can tell, they're looking for something. But what could be hidden inside this little jungle?
Brynn's foot catches on a root and she stumbles, landing hard on the compact dirt. Fresh pain blossoms across her chest and she bites down on her lip to keep from crying out. She's done well so far to ignore the bruises on her ribs her father gave her a few days ago, but they were made worse when they were attacked on the road. Now the fall has brought it to the forefront of her mind, forcing her to take slow, even breaths in order to push it back again.
"Are you alright?" Sara asks, holding out a helping hand. Brynn takes it, allowing Sara to help pull her to her feet. She tries not to show any sign that she's in pain but she winces a little. Sara notices. "Are you hurt?"
Seth, who had been waiting impatiently for them staring at his device, snaps his head to them. "What is wrong?"
"I'm fine," Brynn grinds out, teeth clenched. She presses a hand to her ribs, trying to will the pain away.
"She appears to have sustained injuries to her ribs," Sara answers for her. "They are bruised."
Mind reading. Not so cool anymore.
Brynn lowers her hand and forces on a smile. "I told you, I'm fine."
"You're in pain," Seth says in frustration, eyes darting to the plants around them. "You told us you only sustained scrapes in the accident. Why did you not tell us you had further injuries?"
Brynn averts her eyes from them. "I didn't get these from the accident. I got them before."
Neither of the twins say anything, but Sara takes Brynn's hand and squeezes it gently.
"Here it is." Seth picks a few leaves from one of the plants and hands them to Brynn. "Eat these."
She wrinkles her nose in disgust. "Seriously? Why?"
"It is a plant from our planet. Its leaves, when ingested, are an effective pain reliever."
Sara gives her a nod of encouragement, so Brynn takes a deep breath and puts the leaves in her mouth. When she takes the first bite the taste almost makes her gag. "Oh my gosh this is gross."
"Chew." Seth orders and she does as she's told. "Now swallow."
She swallows the horrid gunk down and wipes at her mouth. "That is the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted."
Seth smirks. Not quite a smile, but it's close. "Good medicine never tastes good."
She laughs. "Well, that's something both our planets have in common. Though that stuff was way nastier than what I took when I had strep throat in third grade." A cold, numbing tingling starts to spread through her body, especially at her ribs, and she sighs in relief. "But at least this stuff is fast-acting so I guess that makes up for it. Thank you."
The smirk disappears and the serious face is back. But there is an earnestness in his eyes. "Thank me by telling us when you are hurting next time." He then continues on into the jungle.
Jack's voice sounds from somewhere behind them as he tries to find them and Brynn looks back, wondering if she should call out to him, but the amused look on Sara's face distracts her. "What?" she asks.
"Nothing," Sara says simply, going after her brother with a smile and taking Brynn's hand as she passes. "I just heard the beginnings of something I thought I would never hear."
"What was it?"
"Oh, you will find out soon enough."
"Sara, it's here!" Seth calls out and the two girls, along with Jack, join him at one of the pods, this one coming out of the ground. Sara takes off her necklace and places it on one of the bubbles in the pod. It beeps and then Sara sticks her hand into the bubble, reaching around in the slimy thing until she finds what she's looking for and pulls it out. It's another strange device, similar to the one Seth holds but smaller and without a screen. Sara smiles happily.
"What is it?" Jack asks.
Sara turns to him excitedly. "It is what we came for, Jack Bruno."
"Really? Is anyone else looking for it?" Seth and Sara look at each other, worry replacing excitement. "Say, the person who trashed everything upstairs?"
"We think so," Seth says. "It is very valuable, which is why it was so vital we locate it first."
"What makes you so sure that whoever else wanted it isn't still looking for it?"
A loud noise echoes throughout the jungle and they're all instantly on high alert. They stay silent, listening for it again, but when they hear nothing Jack urges them back towards the tunnel. Twigs and branches snap. The sound of heavy footsteps on fallen leaves. They back up slowly, Jack putting himself between the three of them and the noise, but it seems to come from everywhere. They form a circle, backs pressed together, and wait for whatever it is coming for them. There's a loud crash and Jack yells for them to run.
They take off, losing Jack almost as soon as they start running, but they do not stop, afraid that they will be found. Jack suddenly goes flying out in front of them and Brynn pulls the other two down to hide behind some bushes. The stomping of boots gets closer as Jack hides too, and then they can see what it is that's chasing them. A man covered in some sort of black armor. Definitely not human. A gun pops out of the top of his right arm and he fires at one of the hanging pods. The pod explodes into blue flames on impact, the fire spreading to other pods, setting off a chain reaction of explosions, and they run towards the tunnel again. The jungle catches fire and there are explosions all around them and fear is exploding inside of her and Brynn never thought she'd die for almost complete strangers she just met this morning.
But they're her friends.
A pod explodes right next to them and they are sent flying through the air, knocking to the ground with a hard thud. They quickly get their feet back under them and continue to run. The smoke starts to become thick and they pause, searching both for Jack and the way out. The armored man suddenly comes out of the smoke behind Sara, knocking the device she retrieved from the pod out of her hand. Seth tries to help her but he is shoved to the side. The man reaches down to pick up the device but Brynn dives for it, grabbing it first. He backhands her, a blow that is ten times stronger than when her father does it, and as her body soars through the air again from the impact, the darkness snatches her away.
Sound drifts back to her consciousness. First only muffled noises and murmurs, but then something distinct. Her name. Brynn can hear someone calling her name. It must be Sara. She tries to tell Sara to go away, she wants to sleep more, but her mouth won't work. Huh. That's odd. It was working before. She tries to decide whether or not she should try to tell Sara she wants to sleep or just go back to sleep anyway when she hears her name again. Only this time she can tell that it's not Sara. The voice is too masculine to be Sara. She thinks maybe it's Jack, but Jack's voice is a lot deeper than this voice. Seth. It's Seth's voice. Why is Seth saying her name? He's never said it before. Then she remembers. Oh, yeah. She got smacked upside the head by a weird robot guy in black armor. And with that thought comes the pain. She aches absolutely everywhere, but especially her head. She groans, and it actually feels like the sound reaches her vocal cords this time.
"Brynn?" Seth asks, voice full of concern, which is really weird for him. Even when he was concerned before it didn't sound quite like this. This is more sincere. More real. Like she's finally touched something he's been trying to keep at a distance from her. "Brynn, can you hear me?"
"Did we win?" she asks, her voice barely above a whisper but at least it works.
Jack snorts. "If by win you mean get away from the mini Transformer? Yeah, we won. That guy's long gone."
"Awesome." She forces her eyes open. She's propped up in the back seat of the cab between Seth and Sara, Jack behind the wheel taking them far away from the danger as fast as he can. "So, besides me feeling like I really did get run over by one of those SUVs from earlier, are we all in one piece?"
"Everyone else is well," Sara says with a small smile but it does not reach her eyes.
Brynn frowns. "Then why do you look like someone stole your cookie?"
"We lost the device," Seth says somberly, looking emptily into his hands sitting in his lap. "We failed our mission."
"Oh, please." Brynn pushes herself up to sit straighter in her seat. Everything feels kind of sore but the more she moves the more it lessens, the medicine she took still in her system and keeping it at bay. "Did you really think I'd risk my neck against Megatron just to come out empty-handed?" She reaches behind her and goes beneath her shirt to pull the device out from the waistband of her jeans.
"You've got the device!" Sara says, happiness and relief flowing over her as she takes the device from Brynn and holds it tightly in her hands.
"We did it, Sara," Seth says with a big grin, the first real smile Brynn's seen from him. "We've retrieved it. Our mission is almost complete." He turns that smile to her and it does funny things to her stomach. "Thank you, Brynn. You do not even know what this device is, yet you risked your life to save it."
"Is it going to blow up the planet?" Brynn asks.
Seth and Sara exchange confused glances. "Uh, no," Sara says. "It will do quite the opposite. It will help us save your planet."
"Then I'm good." She smiles at them. "You guys have already saved me a bunch of times in just one day. It was about time I returned the favor, even if I can't do a whole lot to help you guys. Besides, you're my friends. My only friends actually. You can tell me everything that's going on when you're ready."
Jack slams on the brakes, startling them, and pulls off to the side of the road. He turns in his seat to scowl at them. "Well I am not good. Here's the deal: the cab doesn't move until your mouths do. So start talking."
Seth scowls right back. "The information you are seeking is not within your grasp of understanding."
"We are dealing with issues outside the realm of…your world," Sara adds.
"Hey, I'm a cab driver, okay?" Jack says, sounding slightly insulted. "I have had plenty of worldly exper…experiences." Jack's gaze is looking out the back window of the car and the others turn to look. There is a light coming towards them in the fog. And it is too high to be the headlights of a car.
Brynn squints at the object coming towards them, afraid to ask but she does anyway. "Is that a flying saucer?"
"Sara, we have to go!" Seth yells and Sara shoves her hand forward, palm out. The cab starts to accelerate at top speed and Jack scrambles to take the wheel. Something shoots out from the saucer and explodes way too close to the cab for comfort, some sort of laser beam. Jack dodges the blasts, sending them off-road and down the slope of the hill onto railroad tracks. The fog is thick down here and they can barely see anything, but the saucer appears to be gone. Jack turns off the headlights and cautiously continues down the tracks until they get to a small tunnel where he parks.
"We can't let him destroy it, Sara," Seth says quietly.
"Who is 'he'?" Jack asks. "And this time I need real answers."
"It's a Siphon," Sara says.
"He's an assassin," Seth says, "trained to pursue his target until his mission is completed."
"And his mission is…?"
Blue lights shine down just outside the tunnel in front of them.
"Us," Sara finishes for him and they watch in silent horror as the lights get closer and closer. Brynn doesn't need to be an alien to know that once that light shines on them the Siphon will know where they are. Jack's hand reaches towards the ignition, ready to turn the car on if they are caught, but then the lights stop short and the Siphon moves on. There is a collective sigh of relief. Everyone finally takes in a deep breath again and Jack restarts the car to keep moving along the tracks.
"Is there a safer route, Jack Bruno?" Sara asks as they move alongside a cliff.
"Not unless you know how to fly," Jack answers.
Something moves out in the fog over the cliff, catching Brynn's eye. "Uh, guys? I think there's something out there."
Sure enough, the saucer rises up out of the fog, firing at the back of the cab. Jack steps on it, taking them into a narrow tunnel, but the saucer follows after them even though it is such a tight fit. Then, at the other end of the tunnel there is a loud horn and a single light heading straight for them.
"Oh, come on!" Jack says.
"Faster!" Seth yells.
"It won't go any faster!"
"Make it go faster!" Brynn yells back as the train gets closer and so does the Siphon.
Sara throws her hand out in front of her again and the car suddenly gains speed. Brynn holds her breath and barely, just barely, with the cab getting scraped by the train as they pass, they make it out of the tunnel and off of the tracks. The Siphon and train aren't so lucky though as they collide, the train ripping off of the tracks. Jack keeps them going as fast as he can, narrowly missing train compartments as they fly through the air.
They find the road again and keep going until smoke starts to leak from the hood of the cab, forcing Jack to pull over to check out the state of the engine.
"So now what?" Brynn asks.
"We must convince Jack Bruno to take us to our next destination," Sara answers.
"No," Seth says firmly. "We cannot trust him."
"I know we can. We must."
Brynn feels an argument coming on and she's stuck in the middle of it. So if she's already in the middle of it she might as well jump in. "I'm with Sara on this one. I'm not the only trustworthy human out there."
Seth glares at her. She was hoping the glares were over with now. "It is too dangerous."
She looks at him challengingly. "Do you know how to drive a car?"
He falters, glancing at his sister. "No. But it does not appear to be too difficult."
"I tried it once about a year ago when it became abundantly clear my father isn't going to let me learn. I tried to teach myself. And crashed. Into a tree." Her father still won't teach her how to drive, though she knows it has nothing to do with her crashing. He doesn't want to give her any potential for freedom. But that doesn't matter now. She's already free from him and maybe she can try learning again. Hopefully without any crashing this time.
Sara frowns. "Your father does not sound like a very nice man."
Brynn cringes slightly, raising a hand to her ribs subconsciously. "No, he's not."
Seth's hands clench into fists. "If humans have the capacity to torture their own children, then that just further proves that they cannot be trusted."
"Alright, fine!" she snaps, her stomach turning sour at his words. She doesn't like to acknowledge what's happened to her but he just shoves it in her face like that. If he wants to start pulling skeletons out of the closet, fine. "Yes, my father abuses me. That's why I left. Humans do have the capacity to do some pretty horrible things, but your people are no different if they're okay with sending that Siphon thing to kill a couple of kids." He has nothing to say to that but at least he has the decency to look a little guilty. She takes a deep breath, calming herself. "Look, Seth, I know you don't like Jack, but right now, you do need him if you're going to finish this thing. But he's only going to help you if you tell him the truth."
Jack slams the hood of the car back down angrily and gets back in the car.
Sara tries to talk to him first, "We know you're frustrated Jack-"
"No." He turns to face them. "No more 'Jack Bruno' this, 'Jack Bruno' that. I've been asking for answers-
"You already know the answers, Jack Bruno." She takes a deep breath and take the plunge. "My brother and I are indeed not from your planet."
Jack lets out an almost manic laugh. "So that's it? Mystery solved! You two want me to believe that you're both aliens."
"It is the truth," Seth says.
"Really?" Jack says condescendingly. "Well, you don't look like aliens."
Sara's brow furrows in confusion. "Well, what does an alien look like, Jack Bruno?"
"You know what aliens look like. They look like-like little green people, with antennas an-and laser guns and 'Take me to your leader, Earthlings.'" He makes a strange noise and it's Brynn's turn to laugh.
"Is that really what you think, Jack?" Brynn asks. "You've been transporting people to and from the alien convention for too long. Have you ever actually seen an alien?"
"Well, none of them probably have either. No one has ever really known what aliens look like. Why is it so impossible to believe that they look just like us?"
"Because for all I know you're pulling my leg. For all I know, you're going to tell me you're an alien too."
"What? Don't be ridiculous! I'm human. I told you, I only met them this morning."
"He requires some sort of proof," Sara says. "He thinks we are insulting his intelligence."
"You think?" Jack says. "You can't just drop the 'We're aliens' bomb just like that on somebody. Now, I know I've seen some pretty weird things today, but you can't expect me to believe that…." Jack falls silent as Sara raises her hand in front of her and objects all around the cab begin to float up in the air.
Brynn pokes at a flying CD and it gently floats further away from her. "That is so cool."
"I have the ability to move objects with my mind," Sara answers Jack's unspoken question.
"That's impossible," he says with wide eyes, even with the evidence all around them.
"No, it's quite possible. On our planet as well as yours. You don't do it because you have not learned to use your full brain capacity."
"No, I don't do it cause it's kinda creepy," he says with a small voice, "and I really would like you to stop now."
Sara motions her hand down and all of the objects fall. Then, a bright light appears out of the fog, too high for the headlights of a car.
"Jack Bruno!" Sara warns and Jack turns to see that the alien saucer is back. He goes for the keys, turning them in the ignition, but the car just gives a pitiful wining noise, refusing to start.
"Come on, come on!" Jack pleads, but the car doesn't start and the lights get closer.
Then the lights pass them along with the semi-truck they're attached to. They breathe a collective sigh of relief, Jack tries the car again, and it starts right up. They continue on down the road, not sure of where they're going, but they do know one thing:
It's been a long night and it's not even over yet.