The Heart Versus the Mind
She awakes with a jerk, the last vestiges of a dream fading away until she can't remember what it was about. But the fear she can still feel, making her chest feel tight and her body to shake uncontrollably, a fear that only her father can inflict on her. A soft voice hushes her, gently whispering in her ear, and a hand rubs soothing circles in her back. The fear slowly recedes. Her chest loosens. The shaking stops. She sighs in relief as reality takes a stronger hold. She's never been able to get over a nightmare that fast before. She lifts her head, placing her chin on Seth's chest to look up at him. He still holds her, just like he promised he would. How is it that one boy can make her feel so safe? Like it doesn't matter if Mr. Wolfe ends up finding her again. So long as Seth is with her, she knows she'll be okay. Mr. Wolfe can't even touch her in her dreams.
"Are you alright?" Seth asks, his brow creased with worry.
"I will be," she says, her mouth tilting up in a half-smile. "But if you keep looking at me like that, the look might become permanent."
His eyes shine in amusement. "Stop getting into trouble then so I will not have to worry so much."
"Ah, so you worry about me, huh?" she asks, trying for nonchalant but she really wants to know the answer to this question. She wants to know that, whatever is going on between them, it's not just her. But all traces of amusement fade from his face and a frown tugs at his lips.
"I do worry about you," he says, lifting a hand to trace along the edges of a tender spot on her face where she knows a bruise is. "Perhaps more than I should."
She flinches away from his hand, not at his touch, but at his words. They sting more than the slap to her face did. She sits up, getting off of Seth, and he sits up as well. Suddenly she wants as much space between them as possible. "Why? Is it because I'm human?"
"No. I mean, at first it was. Upon seeing how selfish and cruel humans can be, I vowed never to trust any humans. But you changed my mind on that." He smiles softly, looking at her in a kind of wonderment. "You are a testament to all of the good humans have the potential to be." His smile fades. "But my home is on Sorrel and yours is here, on Earth."
She swallows around the lump forming in her throat. "So you're saying that, once you leave, you'll never come back?"
"I don't know," he says quietly. "But even if I do come back, will this," he gestures with his hand to the two of them, "be fair to either of us? I would never be able to stay for long and you won't be able to come to Sorrel. If we succeed in convincing the government to a scientific solution to our planet's problems, then there will be much work to do, work I must help with. And the unrest in our government and our people from an almost-invasion will make it too dangerous for a human visitor to our planet. The odds of us succeeding in a relationship are greatly against us."
Brynn looks away, feeling tears building in her eyes, but she refuses to cry. She refuses. "So you're saying we should just stay friends?"
He takes in a deep breath and then slowly releases it. "I believe it would be for the best, yes."
"Okay," she whispers, taking her emotions, stuffing them in a box, and shoving them down deep. There's no time to properly deal with this now. Seth doesn't want to try this? Fine. Let him do what he wants. She'll mourn the loss later when she's on her own again and then she'll move on like nothing happened. She gets up, stepping over the still sleeping Junkyard to join Sara at the dinner table. Sara is already awake, sitting up in her seat and sliding over to make room for Brynn to sit next to her. She takes Brynn's hand, squeezes, eyes full of sympathy. Brynn sighs. Looks like this will be another long day.
As time passes they begin to leave the desert behind, the scenery becoming greener and greener until they are surrounded by woods with several mountains looming ahead. It is not long until they are close to the one they want, Witch Mountain. They stop about five miles away, disguise the RV with branches as best they can, make sure to leave plenty of food and water for Junkyard, and then start to make their way on foot using maps thirty years old as their only guide. It's rough terrain going almost constantly uphill, forcing Brynn to focus on her footing and less on her thoughts of Seth, but still they creep in. A part of her understands where Seth is coming from. What if they do try this and they only end up hurting themselves and each other more? And his mission is important. People's lives depend on what he and his sister are doing. She can't, won't, let any feelings get in the way of that.
But a part of her also wishes she could change his mind.
She steps down on a loose stone and it gives way beneath her foot, causing her foot to slide and her to lose her balance. Before she can fall to the ground both Seth and Sara grab her arms on either side of her, helping her to standing again. Her eyes connect with Seth's, his scanning over her to make sure she is alright, and then he lets her go and continues on ahead.
Sara moves her hand to grasp Brynn's and together they continue on as well. "Are you alright, Brynn?" Sara asks with her mind.
"You heard what he said, back in the RV, didn't you? Brynn asks, eyes on her feet.
"Yes, I did."
"Do you…Do you think he was right? Would it be best for us to just leave things as they are?"
"I do not know," she says, voice full of uncertainty. "My brother is a very logical person. He often makes decisions with is mind and not with his heart. Now his mind and heart are clashing. He wants to be with you, Brynn, just as you want to be with him, but all logic tells him it is impossible and that it would be better not to try at all. He has obligations back home that he would have to ignore if he were to follow his heart."
"I don't want him to have to choose between me and helping to save his planet. I understand why he needs to go home. But…."
"But feelings, once felt, cannot be ignored. And they shouldn't be. I know my brother has never felt this way about anyone before. I do not want him to lose this opportunity now."
"Then what should we do?"
"That is not something I can answer. Only time will tell whether the heart or mind will win this battle. You both must decide what it is you want most and what will make you happy."
Sara squeezes her hand one last time and then lets go, leaving her to her thoughts as the group walks in silence. Brynn isn't sure what she wants. She wants to be with Seth. And Sara. The two of them are the first friends she's ever actually had. She doesn't want to lose either of them. She doesn't like to think about them leaving. That this mission they're on, to retrieve their spaceship from Witch Mountain, is only bringing their departure closer and closer to the present. She'll be all alone. Jack and Alex are sure to go their separate ways again. Although, maybe not, since there seems to be inklings of attraction between them. But still, they'll leave Brynn behind for sure. Seth and Sara are the first people to ever truly care about her.
But with her feelings for Seth, the thought of him leaving her behind is almost physically painful. Seth is smart and brave. He's proven to be one of the kindest and most caring people she knows once his coldness melted away. He makes her feel safe when she has every reason to be afraid. He makes her feel happy, even when she is at her lowest. He sees something in her that she has a hard time seeing herself. All she ever sees is how worthless she is. When she decided to leave the life of being Mr. Wolfe's daughter behind, she knew she would be okay on her own. Being with Seth has shown her that she doesn't want to be.
A little over an hour later they come up on the entrance to the government facility, a tunnel leading into the heart of the mountain, but it's surrounded by guards and a high wire fence. There's no way they can sneak through all of that so they back off behind some rocks to come up with another plan.
"If the map is right, there are several service tunnels running outward," Alex suggests. "Worth looking for, right?"
Something sharp stabs into Brynn and she hisses in pain, grabbing at her neck. Before she can find the source of the pain the world starts to go tilty and fuzzy. She hears someone calling her name and then everything goes black.
Brynn groans as she comes back to consciousness. Her head is absolutely pounding. Were they doing ping pong in the cab again? Her memories are kind of fuzzy, and she moves to lift a hand to her head. Only she can't. Her eyes fly open and she lifts her head, looking around frantically for anything familiar. She's in a small concrete room with a single door and no windows. The only things in the room are a metal table and two chairs, one on the opposite side of the table and the one she's sitting in, her hands secured behind the back of the chair. She tugs at her wrists. Feels like handcuffs. With a sigh she hangs her head, trying to contain the panic. Okay, what does she know? They were on their way to Witch Mountain, a secret government facility belonging to the Men in Black cosplayers that have been chasing Seth and Sara the past couple of days. They found the entrance but it was too heavily guarded. Alex suggested another way in when…she felt a sharp pain in her neck. And then she woke up here. The agents must have found them and drugged her. That's why she passed out. Meaning they captured her and she's being held in a cell somewhere inside Witch Mountain. She wonders if anyone else was taken, too. She hopes not. Seth and Sara need to get to their ship and get the device containing the results of the experiment home.
They don't have time for her. They should just leave her behind.
The door to the cell opens and a man in a black suit enters, closing the door behind him. He sits down in the other chair. She doesn't recognize him from Stony Creek or Planet Hollywood, but there have been so many people chasing them lately that they all have started to look alike. "So," he begins, turning on a recording device and setting it on the table, "we know that you are human. It was easy enough to find out with a simple blood test. Agent Burke wanted to get rid of you, but then he decided that you might still be useful."
Brynn gulps, not wanting to know what he means by "get rid of" her.
The agent reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out his phone. He presses a few things on the touch screen and then turns it to face her. She gasps. It's a video of a spaceship, Seth's and Sara's spaceship, a big, round, flying saucer. It's sitting in some kind of hanger, here, if she had to guess, since in the bottom right corner there is a label saying "WM Hanger 2" next to a date and time stamp. It looks to be a live feed from a security camera but since she has no idea how long she was out, the date and time stamp could be long since passed for all she knows. "Tell us how to open the craft," the agent demands.
She tears her eyes away from the screen to look at him in surprise. "What makes you think I know how to do that? I'm human, remember?"
"You've been in close contact with them for the past several days. The odds of you seeing them use some sort of device that could open the ship are pretty high."
Brynn rolls her eyes. For all she knows, Sara opens it with her telekinesis. "Sorry, but I really don't know. How about I ask them the next time I see them?"
"I'm sorry, but that won't be happening." He messes with his phone again and when he turns the screen back to her it is playing a new video feed, this time of Seth and Sara, unconscious, strapped to tables inside a glass room while people in hazmat suits work around them.
Her eyes go wide in horror. "What are you doing to them?"
"Preparing them," he says offhandedly as he puts his phone away, "for dissection. Agent Burke and the higher ups want insights into the aliens' biology right away."
"But you can't do that! You'll kill them!"
"In the path to discovery, sacrifices must be made." He shrugs. "Now, tell me, how do we open the ship?"
Her jaw clenches and her eyes go hard in a way that would rival even Seth. "No."
"How do we open the ship?"
"No! Even if I did know what you want, I'm not telling you anything!" How in the world can they even expect her to know how to open the ship? It's not like she's seen them do it before.
Realization begins to dawn on her as she thinks back to the GPS device Seth has, the one he used to lead them to the shack. He used that device to open things, like the fridge and the storage room wall. Could it be used to open the ship as well?
He sighs in exasperation. "I was hoping we could do this the easy way, but if you insist on lying to me." He reaches into his jacket again, this time taking out a capped syringe and a small glass bottle filled with a yellow liquid. He uncaps the syringe, sticks the needle through the top of the bottle, and pulls back the plunger, sucking the yellow liquid into the needle. "This is an experimental drug our scientists have been working on. A type of truth serum, if you will. It's mostly for the military, for interrogations and the sort. Torture can be an effective means of securing information, but if a subject dies before the needed information is extracted, well, there's nothing to be done. With this, however," he holds the full syringe out, pushing the plunger slightly to make some of the liquid squirt out, "we can make anyone talk."
Brynn struggles against the handcuffs, trying to squirm away as the agent approaches her with the syringe. She can't let him stick her with it that thing. If she's right and the GPS device can be used to open up more than just refrigerators, then they will be able to get what they want from her. They would have taken the device from Seth when they captured him. And they can learn what to do with it from her.
The agent grabs her by her hair and yanks her head to the side, exposing her neck. "Don't worry," he tells her, "this will only pinch a bit."
A siren suddenly goes off, making both of them jump in surprise. He lets her go, pressing a finger to his ear piece as he listens to what's going on. Brynn smiles triumphantly. It must be Jack and Alex, or maybe Seth and Sara were able to escape on their own. Either way, now the twins can get away, they can get to their ship and get home. But they have to move fast, before they're caught again. They don't have time to rescue her, and she prays that they don't. She's not worth it. Saving Sorrel and Earth, that's more important than saving her. Or whatever feelings for Seth she may have.
"What do you mean, some sort of cyborg?" the agent says into his receiver and Brynn's face drains of color.
The agent sets the syringe down on the table, pulls out his gun, and goes to the door.
"No, don't!" Brynn warns, but he doesn't listen, opening the door. She can see a concrete hallway with pipes running along the ceiling and storage crates stacked every so often. Agents dressed in tactical gear use the crates as cover, and on the far side of the hallway is the Siphon. The agents fire at him but if they hit him the bullets aren't penetrating his armor at all. His laser gun is very effective though as he blasts at the men, the explosions from the hits sending them flying. They are no match for this. "Close the door!"
The agent who had been questioning her doesn't move. Just stares there staring in horror.
And then the Siphon fires in their direction.
Brynn isn't sure what he hits, just sees the bright flash of light accompanied by a loud explosion that knocks her in her chair to the ground. She lands hard on her shoulder, crying out in pain. Dust fills the air, and from her vantage point on the floor all she can see are the upturned table and chair. Heavy stomps from boots get closer. She holds her breath. She can't see the doorway leading out into the hall but she prays the table is hiding her from view. The Siphon's steps get closer, then pause. She closes her eyes tight, just waiting. And then the steps start to move again, getting softer and farther away as the Siphon rounds the corner and continues on. She sighs in relief.
Okay, so the Siphon is here to destroy the experiment and kill Seth and Sara. Brynn has no idea where Jack and Alex are. She may be the only chance Seth and Sara have of getting away. And she plans on doing all that she can.
Her legs aren't restrained so Brynn manages to rock herself onto her knees and then stands, staying bent over so that the chair doesn't touch the ground. The handcuffs dig into her wrists from the weight of the chair. They must be threaded through the bars of the back of the chair. She needs to find the keys to these cuffs. Glancing around, she sees the agent lying on the ground in the doorway, unmoving. For one sickening moment she thinks he's dead but then she sees his chest rise with an inhale. Just unconscious. With careful maneuvering Brynn gets back down on the floor next to the agent, facing away from him so that her hands can search through his pockets. She's pretty sure she hits him in the face a few times with the chair, but oh well. She may not want him dead, but that's what he gets for what he and his friends have put them through.
"Ah ha!" she whispers, finding a small key in his pants pocket. Blindly, she tries the key on the handcuffs and after a few moments she gets them unlocked. She stands, rubbing her sore wrists. She's free, but now what? She has no idea where to find the others. A glint in the corner of the room catches her eye and she steps closer to get a better look. An evil grin spreads across her face as she picks up the syringe with the truth serum, completely intact. She glares down at the agent. "I think it's time for me to get my own answers."