It took a week and three days. A full ten days of their precious and dwindling time. But there was so much to do. Joel and Jamie practiced their shooting, then a discussion led to the inclusion of a few select more powerful weapons, just in case, and all four needed practice with these, both shooting and field maintenance. Ammunition needed to be sorted out as well. Supplies, including food, needed to be found and packed.
Craig and Jamie spent much of the time at the airstrip. They had found a well maintained but older Beechcraft Queen Air. This plane offered a few advantages over Jamie's mom's Cessna. Not only did it have more cabin space, but it had a greater range and was faster. However, like everything else, it had been sitting dormant for a year. So it needed work. And Jamie needed practice. The drone of Jamie doing touch-and-go's again and again filled the area around the airport for the last few days. Then the plane needed to be packed, routes planned and airports identified.
A trip was made to Dr. Pollack's research facility. Craig spent most of a day figuring out a half dozen strategies for disabling the superposition field in the other facility. Provided they could get in, and provided the equipment was somewhat similar. And, maybe most importantly, provided Dr. Cornish did not attempt to prevent this from happening for whatever reason. The dull realization of the possible need for some kind of direct violence began to haunt their thoughts.
The good news was that they found both alarm codes and card keys. The card keys were stored in a safe that Andrew and Joel spent half a day trying to break into before finally blowing the door off Mythbusters style using some explosives found at a mine. Probably the most fun either of them had since they had arrived there. Or maybe ever. They both spent five minutes after the explosion dancing around in glee and high fiving each other before bothering to check if the safe had been blown open. They were lucky only five of the card keys had melted. The others had been inside a fireproof safety bag. Joel and Andrew looked at each other with wide eyes once they realized what they had almost done.
Alarm codes were found, much to Craig's amusement, stuck to the edge of a computer monitor written on a sticky note in the facility director's office. Apparently he had thought himself exempt from the tight security procedures.
None of the boys managed more than five or six hours of sleep on any night of the week. They were beginning to feel it.
As the days before leaving passed by, the mood of the group started to change once again. The atmosphere started to become tense and fearful. The knowledge of what would happen if they did not succeed was fresh in their memory. Just as bad, the knowledge of almost certainly having to spend the rest of their lives in that empty world began to weigh heavily as the deadline loomed. Teenage boys just past puberty aren't known for their patience and understanding, so some bickering and harsh words started to become more prevalent. They were under a lot of pressure, and they were all tired. Apologies followed of course, but often the next obstacle in the task at hand became fodder for another conflict. Followed by more apologies. Their nerves were frayed.
They hung onto the faint hope that there must be a few more misplaced stragglers somewhere on the planet.
Meals were eaten standing up and quickly, and consisted entirely of microwaved frozen food from the hospital's freezer. It filled their stomachs, but not much else.
Finally, however, despite all of the obstacles, they were ready.
They had gone to bed early. They wanted to ensure they all had at least a full eight hours of sleep before leaving. And to make the best use of daylight, they wanted to leave as soon after sunrise as possible. Since they were heading west they would have a small advantage, gaining a bit of daylight as they chased the sun.
Craig's alarm went off and he awoke to the heavy bass lines of Y&T's "Rock and Roll's Gonna Save the World." Andrew's choice. He thought it was appropriate.
Craig reached over and pulled Andrew into a hug. Joel had moved into another bedroom with Jamie on the day they arrived. No discussion, he just moved his stuff. Craig hadn't seen any need to argue. "Good morning BB," he said in response to Andrew's hug. Craig had told Andrew the Basketball Boy story a few days ago. The nickname stuck.
Andrew gave Craig a quick closed mouth kiss and pulled away slightly. "Morning Geek Boy." Joel's nickname for Craig had also managed to stick. Craig figured he'd get used to it. Eventually. Maybe.
"Sorry, that's the only kiss you get until we both get our teeth brushed," said Andrew as Craig moved in for another smooch. "Now, let's get going. Big day today and all that."
"Yeah, I seem to remember there's something kind of interesting planned today. Good thing too. I was getting a bit bored around here," came Craig's sarcastic reply.
Craig finished in the bathroom and went downstairs, hammering on Joel and Jamie's door as he passed it. "Get moving guys. We have a plane to catch."
"Not without the pilot you don't," came Jamie's grumbled reply, but Craig heard them start to move.
After a scrumptious breakfast of toaster waffles and fresh apples they herded the dogs into the truck and squeezed in themselves. Craig took a long look at the house as they pulled away.
They arrived at the airfield and spent fifteen minutes sorting out last minute details and then they were airborne. Jamie turned the aircraft west and they gained altitude.
"Why do you guys look so tired?" asked Andrew, speaking to Jamie and Joel. "We finally had a good eight hours last night."
Jamie didn't answer, just kept looking straight ahead with his mouth set. Joel seemed to smirk slightly before gaining control of himself and also staring blankly out the window.
Andrew looked back and forth between them. His eyes widened. "No way! You didn't!"
Jamie blushed ever so slightly. Craig giggled after watching their expressions for a couple of seconds. That seemed to be the trigger they needed. Jamie and Joel both laughed and turned red. Very red.
"And all we did was sleep! Well, almost all." Craig said. "I thought we were supposed to be the gay boys in this group. What the hell?"
"Hey. Give us a break here. We were horny. And all we did was jack off. Well, jack each other I guess. And then a little, umm, well, sucking. A bit. At the end." said Joel, looking both embarrassed and pleased. "Besides, we were worried it might be the last chance ever, so we just decided, 'what the hell.'"
That statement brought the mood down a bit. It was an hour before anybody ventured any more conversation.
Finally Jamie spoke. "So how do you want to do this? Fly over first and check the place out? Land on the highway next to it if there's room?"
Craig shook his head, though Jamie couldn't see it. "No. We still don't know what's going on for sure. We don't know how Dr. Cornish is going to react if he's there. If it comes to the worst case scenario I'm thinking it would be better if we had a chance to scope things out a bit before he knows we're there. The airport in town makes the most sense. The lab is twenty miles northeast of town, so we can land, find a truck, and figure our next move. If we drive within a mile or so and leave the dogs at the truck then maybe we can walk up and see what we can see without Dr. Cornish hearing us."
"Ok, I guess," said Jamie. "Sounds like a bunch of spy novel stuff though. What if Dr. Cornish is just sitting there waiting and hoping someone will come along to give him a hand with turning it off or something?"
"Well, I hope that's true. But, well, I've learned a long time ago that a few precautions can go a long, long way." said Craig. Joel nodded his agreement.
"Ok, but listen, I'm wondering if we should maybe spend the night near the airport first. It's going to be late when we get there. We'll need to eat, feed and exercise the dogs, and we probably want to be rested ourselves before we go."
Craig thought about this. "Well, you're right. Ok, but what about this? I'm just worried, 'cause it's been a week and a half. Just in case shit starts happening I'd rather be closer to the lab, so we can get there in a few minutes and maybe try something to disrupt the field real quick if we absolutely have to. Let's find something there, closer to the lab."
Joel was nodding. "That makes sense."
Andrew said, "Maybe something two or three miles away? Should be far enough that Cornish won't hear us."
Craig nodded, though he noticed Andrew's use of Dr. Cornish's name without the honorific. "Um, BB?" He squeezed Andrew's hand lightly.
"Yeah?" Andrew looked at Craig, hearing the hesitation.
"Well, you almost sound like you're ready to think of Dr. Cornish as the bad guy. We haven't even got there yet. Maybe we're wrong about that? I think we still need to be careful, but..."
Andrew looked down at his lap, then back at Craig. "You're right Craig. Sorry. Too many James Bond movies."
Craig smiled and leaned forward for a kiss. "No problem. Thanks."
A few hours later they landed. Emdy hid under a seat, and Karma and Rabble ran to the back of the plane and curled up tightly in a corner together. Craig, Joel, and Andrew made exaggerated gestures of pain and teased Jamie mercilessly about the hard landing. Jamie just grinned and said, "Hey, Mom says any landing where you can use the plane again afterwards is a good one. So deal. I'm just not used to all this extra weight."
They taxied near the terminal building and the boys began scanning for dangers while Jamie shut down the plane's engines.
Craig checked his weapons and peered out one more time. "You guys ready?" he asked.
The others checked their own firearms and gathered near the door. They nodded. The dogs understood they had arrived and were waiting by the door themselves.
"Let's go." said Craig, and he opened the door.