The yellow lines on the highway sped by in a blur, and we flew through the night, and we felt free. But we weren't, and we knew it. We were running away from something, and running away was never the path to freedom. I thought about telling John to turn back. I thought about suggesting we turn ourselves in, but what good would that do? I thought about us running still, getting lost, wearing ourselves out, running nonetheless… Not my favorite idea. I'd been running too much lately. I was tired.
“Do you want to stop for the night?” I asked when I realized he was starting to take the curves a little too sharp.
“Sure,” John replied, squeezing the steering wheel tightly as he turned off the highway.
We stopped at a small, rundown motel. I didn't like it at all. Just the flickering sign reading ‘Sunny Side Motel’ gave me thoughts of bedbugs and crappy TV. Ugh. But unfortunately, this was all we had to call home for the night. It was either that or sleep in the car, and it was far too cold to sleep there without heat, and risking running out of gas or killing the battery was not an option. So Sunny Side it was.
“How much for a night?” I asked the lady at the counter. She blew a puff of cigarette smoke in my face without looking up from her magazine and replied with “nineteen bucks.” John and I pooled our money and came up with twenty and change. The lady put a key down on the counter; ‘Room 235.’
“Free continental breakfast,” she said, gesturing vaguely over towards the dining area. John thanked her and we headed upstairs to our room.
Once inside, I flopped down on the bed, happy to lie down on something so soft. John didn't sit down, though. He started pacing the room anxiously. I sat up, worried. He usually wasn't like this.
“You alright, Cap?” I said, knocking him out of his thoughts. He stopped pacing for a second and looked at me.
“I'm fine,” he muttered, and continued pacing.
“You don't seem so fine,” I replied.
“I'm.. fine, Lieutenant,” he said, sounding tenser now.
“Can I help?” I asked.
“I don't know,” he said. “Tell me if you know how we're supposed to get away from them.”
“Well, uhm…” I paused to consider the pros and cons of saying this. “I don't personally think that running like this is our best option.” He stopped pacing again.
“And what do you think we should do?”
“I-I don't know,” I said. “I just think we should consider our options here, and uh… maybe not run away from them.”
“...Are you saying we should turn ourselves in?”
“What? No, no! I'm just saying we can't keep running from them. We have to come up with a plan.”
“Yeah, it's called running.”
“No! Captain, with all due respect-”
“Don't bother calling me that.”
“Look, I'm just trying to say running isn't always-”
“We have no other options, Lieutenant! We have nowhere to go!”
“Captain, if I could just-”
“I said not to call me that!”
I fell silent.
“I… I'm sorry, sir,” I said quietly.
“It's not- You didn't do anything. I should be apologizing. I'm just… What are we supposed to do? We can't go back home; we can't keep running; we can't just stay here.” He sighed shakily and sat down on his bed. “I'm a terrible captain.”
“You're not a terrible captain,” I said. “You're a wonderful captain, as well as a wonderful person. You're just stressed right now. And I am too. I'm stressed and scared and confused…”
“...What now?” He asked, sounding hopeless. I thought for a minute.
“We could fight,” I suggested. John snickered.
“The two of us. Against a whole army?”
“How do you know they're gonna have an army?”
“They're gonna have an army,” he said.
“Well, uh…” I thought again. “Hey Ca-... John. What kind of ships can you fly?”
“Most of them,” he replied. “Why?”
“Well, I figure if they're coming for us, they'll want to take us back with them. So they'll probably have a ship or two. And if they're coming to fight, those ships will be unattended…”
“Well… But how am I supposed to get there?”
“I fight, you run.” John looked at me.
“You'd be able to take all of them?”
“I don't have to,” I replied. “Just enough for you to get to the ship, start it, and pick me up.”
“...I'll be quick then.”
“Don't worry about me. I'll be fine.” He looked like he was going to say something else, but we were both cut off by a knock on the door.
“Uh- Who is it?” John called.
“Housekeeping,” the voice replied. We both looked at each other. The room was perfectly clean; we'd just gotten here.
“Go tell them something,” I said, shrugging. John got up and went over to the door as I flicked on the TV. I was right; the channels were crappy. Suddenly, there was a muffled cry from the door, and when I looked over, John was gone.
I dashed out of the door, looking over the balcony and seeing John being pulled out of the building by someone. I couldn't see who it was, but that didn't matter. I had to help. I flew down the stairs, through the lobby, and out of the door. I looked around in the parking lot- and saw John being taken into a ship. It looked almost like an airplane… I'd never seen anything like it before. I only prayed John had.
I tried running into the ship, but someone grabbed me from behind. I turned around, facing someone that looked almost exactly like me, but taller. Tougher looking.
“So you're the one who's been causing all this trouble,” he muttered. “Just a runt. You should have been dead years ago; what are you still doing alive?”
“Nope, I'm alive and kicking,” I replied, kicking at his shin. He didn't even flinch. Oh boy.
“The Alliance can't do anything right, can they?” He continued, reaching into his pocket. “Do I have to do everything here?” I pretended I didn't see the quick gleam of the blade he'd pulled out. It was small, but definitely sharp.
“Look, buddy, you can just take me back to The Alliance, and they can sort this all out for us, can't they?” I said, trying to stall.
“Why should I? If they can't kill some weakling like you, why should I trust them to do it now?”
“R-really, don't you think this is a little rushed? If you can just wait a little longer…”
“For what?” His grip on me loosened. That was my cue. That fraction of a second was my chance to get away. And boy, did I run. I ran like my life depended on it. Well, it did. From behind me, I heard the guy shout something at me, and then I felt a pain in my back.
Shit, shit, shit, I thought. Just a little bit further to the ship… But of course, as soon as I thought that, the doors closed and the thing started moving. I yelled out, and still kept running. Through the window, I noticed John there. He'd taken over the ship? How the hell did he do that? It was then he saw me too, and he opened the doors again.
“Get in!” He shouted.
“No, I'll just keep running next to you!” I replied sarcastically. I got as close as I could to the door, the ship already starting to lift up, and I jumped.
And I missed.
Something grabbed me. I looked up. John was kneeling by the door, holding my arm. I'd never been so happy to see that idiotic grin of his.
“Gimme your other hand,” he told me, and I swung it up for him to grab onto. He hoisted me up, and I was safe. We were both safe.
I plopped down in the co-pilot’s chair. It wasn't as soft as the bed, but it was soft enough. I was way too tired. It was only then I seemed to remember the knife in my back.
“Uh- Captain, could you just pull that out for me?” I said, turning to show him.
“What the- Where did you get that?”
“Some jackass threw it at me,” I replied, wincing as John tugged on it. “Th-thought he was being funny. For Christ sakes, John, just yank it out-!”
“I don't wanna hurt you!” He said.
“Doesn't matter!” I replied. “It'll hurt less if you just take it out.”
“O-okay..” He replied, pulling it all out in one go. I groaned, and he panicked a little.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry…”
“It's fine,” I said. “You didn't do anything, okay? Now, do you think they've got any bandages on this ship?”