Tony pulled into Van Buren State Park and parked where they had on their last trip to Palisades Nuclear Power Plant. He looked at his watch. “We have two hours to find the central computers and Sarah.”
Professor Dillon coughed up a large gob of sputum into his saturated handkerchief and wiped his mouth.
“If we’re not sick now, we all will be by the time this is over,” Jack said, turning his head toward the window. He did not want to breathe in any of the professor’s moist exhalations.
The professor blew his nose and placed the soiled linen cloth into his breast pocket. “Jack’s right. So even though you may not be feeling sick right now, you could all be contagious so don’t forget to cough and breathe on the aliens.”
“I don’t think I want to get that close,” Jack said. His breath placed a temporary patch of steam on the glass.
“Maybe you could kiss a woman half-breed,” Willis said, laughing.
“I don’t think so,” Jack said. He looked back at Willis. “But if duty calls I’ll do what’s necessary.”
Tony turned off the van’s headlights. “Are you able to get over the perimeter fence, Jack?”
“No way, we’ll all have to go in through the main entrance like you and Clare did last time.”
“I hope the gate’s open,” Tony said, flexing his biceps. “Last time they weren’t expecting us, but this time they have Sarah so they may be waiting for us.”
Clare rubbed the swollen glands in her throat and turned back toward Father and Willis sitting in the rearmost seat. “At the risk of sounding religious, I think Father should pray or something.”
“I guess it won’t hurt,” Jack said. “But I don’t think God has ever helped me in my life.”
Father smiled and nodded. “I think a prayer to Saint Michael would be appropriate at this time.”
The van was quiet as Father bowed his head and said, “Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell, Satan and all the evil spirits, who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”
Only Willis did the Sign of the Cross with Father, the rest wasted no time reviewing the map that Max had given Jack. After deciding on the best way to hide so that they could find the computers and Sarah, they left the van and walked together over the tree-covered dunes toward the power plant. When they reached the final summit, next to the perimeter fence, they crouched down.
Straight ahead and below them was the facility; to the right was Lake Michigan. A distant muffled thunderclap was heard over the waves as they slapped against the sandy shoreline. Flashes of lightning lit the horizon.
Tony looked through his binoculars at a box truck driving into the facility. “The gate’s open, looks like they’re still bringing in bodies.”
Willis looked through the scope on his thirty-thirty. “Which building is Mom in?”
Jack looked at the various structures. Security lights cast a white glow along walls and paths while other areas were cast in shadow. The 189-foot tall circular building containing the nuclear fission process of splitting uranium atoms and radioactivity seemed ominous, like a rocket ready to ignite and carry astronauts into space. He turned his attention to a building close-by. “Probably that two-story building over by where they’re packing in the cocoons.”
Clare looked back at the professor. “I hope you’re well enough to run because we’re going to be moving quickly.”
The professor nodded, his eyebrows raised and eyes wide open. “Don’t worry, I’ll be keeping up.”
“Shit,” Jack said, looking through his binoculars. “I see a couple people with assault rifles.”
“AK47s,” Tony added.
“I think we can still get in without them seeing us,” Clare said. “They look like they’re preoccupied with cocoons, and there are plenty of shadows.”
“Once we get inside we’ll split up,” Tony said. “Professor, you come with Clare and me to find the computers. The rest of you follow Jack and find Sarah.”
The group descended the hill toward the entrance where another box truck had just entered. They ran through the open gate then split up. Jack’s group crouched and moved through the shadows of vehicles in the parking lot toward the two-story building. The final row of cars was not far from the building. The approaching storm illuminated the steam rising from the mechanical draft cooling towers as the billowing vapor floated skyward.
Jack motioned for everyone to stay low and come toward him. He pointed toward the back of the building. After making one final look around he tried to run as if he were a Jedi Knight that could float through the air. Instead, the stones scratched the cement below his feet as he ran between the concrete block barriers and across the parking lot to the back door of the building. It was obvious he did not have the Force with him.
While everyone caught up and cuddled behind Jack, he tried the door, but it would not open.
“How are we getting in,” Willis whispered.
“I don’t know,” Jack said, examining the metal door’s lock.
“We could shoot out the lock,” Father said. “My gun has a silencer.”
Jack smiled. “You dog, good idea, but I don’t think your handgun is powerful enough. Besides, there are people, half-breeds, aliens, whatever the heck they are; on the other side of the building guarding the front entrance and I think they’ll be able to hear the impact.” Jack paused, and then said, “You can shoot the half-breeds in the head when we get inside.”
“What about my thirty-thirty?” Willis asked.
“Sarah’s shotgun might work, but we don’t have it,” Jack replied. “I’ll try it first with my Kimber then you can use your rifle.”
“It’ll be loud without a silencer,” Father said.
“We need a distraction,” Willis said. “I could set off a car alarm.”
“What if there isn’t a car alarm?” Father asked.
“I’ll just break in and set the horn off,” Willis said.
“And how do you know how to break into a car?” Father asked.
“Don’t ask,” Willis replied.
“The distraction has to be something that won’t alert them to intruders and rather just be something that looks natural,” Jack said.
“Like what?” Willis asked.
“Maybe the car alarm could be caused by something natural.” Father shrugged.
“There are security cameras,” Jack said.
“They haven’t seen us yet,” Willis emphasized.
“He has a point,” Father said.
“I’m sure the cameras are working, but there just isn’t enough staff to man them,” Jack said.
“Where are the cameras?” Willis asked.
Jack looked around. “That pole looks like it has one.”
“Let’s just shoot it out,” Willis said.
“We need silence,” Jack reminded him.
The storm’s headwind blew a cold gush of wind over them. They turned their backs to the pelting sand as thunder cracked, and lightning momentarily blinded them.
“Time the shots with the thunder,” Willis said. “Besides, they’ll be running for cover when it starts pouring.”
“That’ll work.” Jack motioned for Willis and Father to move toward the corner of the building to avoid ricocheting shot and metal. Lightning flashed and just as thunder clapped, Jack shot at the lock. The echo of the shot reverberated with the thunder’s peal. He ran up to the door but was still unable to get in.
“Let me try,” Willis said, walking toward the door.
“Don’t stand so close,” Jack said, motioning for Willis to back up.
Willis backed away, adjusted his scope, and pulled the trigger as another round of thunder echoed through the complex. The explosive sound made it seem as though the nuclear reactor had been hit by lightning and was going to explode.
Jack ran to the door and pulled the handle. The door budged. He used his shirt to shake the hot metal pieces loose. The door rattled open with a firm tug.
“I’m a good shot,” Willis said, pulling back his shoulders and raising his chin.
“I loosened it for you,” Jack said with a wink.
The door opened into the back stairwell. There were stairs leading up to the second floor and down to the basement. Jack could see the central corridor through the small window in the door straight ahead. The guards would most likely seek shelter in that corridor when the rain begins.
Jack turned to the left and slowly went up the stairs, Willis and Father right behind him. When he reached the landing for the second floor, he looked through the hall door’s tempered glass porthole. He saw a half-breed leave a room halfway down the hall on the right. He stood still, waiting to see if anyone else exited the room. No one did.
Jack turned and whispered. “Be alert, I just saw an alien leave a room.”
They nodded and followed Jack into the hallway, quietly closing the stairwell door behind them. Jack gently turned the knob of the first door; it was locked. He walked to the next room, and it too was locked. They approached the room the half-breed had exited. Jack mouthed and motioned to them this was the room that the alien had left. Father and Willis raised their weapons as Jack put his hand on the doorknob; it turned. He slowly pushed the door open.
The ambiance of the room was subdued. Candles throughout the space were barely flickering as their flames burned low. A table of uneaten food and unused place settings seemed out of place. In the far corner was a bed, the bed Sarah was in.
Jack motioned for Willis and Father to stand guard at the door while he approached the bed and pushed aside the sheer canopy drape. Sarah was still, her eyes closed. He noticed drinks on the bedside table and that her shoulders were bare as they peeked through the top of a white satin sheet. He was drawn to the form of her breasts and her rhythmical breathing that slowly heaved them up and down. She seemed peaceful and in a deep sleep, reminding Jack of the fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty.
He gently lifted the shiny material away from her smooth skin. His hunch was correct; she was naked. He knew she had been violated, and he hated them for it. The soft curves of her body had to be ignored as he grabbed her clothes from the chair beside the bed. He nudged her shoulder.
“Sarah,” Jack said softly. “Sarah, wake up.”
She did not move.
“Someone’s coming,” Father said in a loud whisper.