Ch. 1 In an upscale restaurant in Boston, a blue eyed, light brown-haired man arrived and looked around until he came to a table where a woman was sitting. She stood up and extended her hand. "Jack." "Emily? You look relieved." They both sat down. "Well, it is the Internet. Pictures can be..." "Fake. Out-dated. Stolen from a catalogue. So..." "So... tell me something about yourself, Jack." "Oh... Uh, well, today's my birthday." "And you're spending it with me? What about your friends?" "Kind of a loner." "And... you don't like your family?" "No family to like." "Aw. Come on, everyone has family." "Technically, yeah, but not everyone knows who they are. Ready to run yet?" "Oh, not a chance. You, Jack, are, by far, the most handsome friendless orphan that I have ever met." "Okay! Your turn. No, wait, let me guess. Um... you're beautiful, charming..." "Go on." "The kind of woman who... and now, stop me if I get this wrong, embezzled from your employer, got arrested, and skipped town before they were able to throw yourself in jail. And the worst part of all this is your husband. Your husband loves you so much that he bailed you out, and how do you repay that loyalty? You're on a date." "Who are you?" "The guy who put up the rest of the money." "The bails bondsman." Emily flipped over the table, spilling everything, and ran out of the restaurant. Jack vanished from where he was. Emily ran across the street, while dodging traffic, to her car. She got into her car and stared it, but it didn't move. She opened the door to discover that her car had been booted. Jack reappeared in front of her. "You don't have to do this, okay? I can pay you, I've got money." "No, you don't. And if you did you should give it to your husband and take care of your family." "What do you know about family, huh?" Jack slammed her head against the steering wheel. "Nothing." Later, Jack entered his apartment, carrying a bag. Kicking off his shoes, he placed the bag on the counter. Inside was a box was a cupcake. He took the cupcake out, put a single candle on top, and lit it with his laser vision. He leaned against the counter and stared at it. "Here's to another banner year..." he sighed as he closed his eyes, making a wish, and blew out the candle. Just then, the doorbell rang. Jack opened the door to find a young dark-haired girl standing in the hallway. "Can I help you?" "Are you Jack Swan?" she asked. "Yeah. Who are you?" "My name's Hilary. I'm your daughter." With a look of shock on his face, Jack's eyes widened. Hilary slipped under his arm and walked into the apartment. "Whoa, hey, kid! Kid! I don't have a daughter!" He turned around and followed her back inside. "Where are your parents?" "Ten years ago, a baby was given up for adoption. That was me." "Give me a minute." Jack want into the bathroom and stood against the door. trying to think. "Hey, do you have any juice?" Hilary yelled from the other side of the door. "Never mind, found some." Later, Jack came out the bathroom to see Hilary drinking juice straight from the bottle. "You know, we should get going." "Going where?" "I want you to come home with me." "Okay, kid, I'm calling the cops." He crossed the room, over to the phone. "And I'll tell them you kidnapped me." "And they'll believe you because I'm your birth father." He put down the phone. "Yep." "You're not gonna do that." "Try me." "You're pretty good, but here's the thing. There's not a lot I'm great at in life, but I can tell when anyone's lying, and you, kid, are." "Wait. Please don't call the cops. Please come home with me." "Where's home?" "Pixfare, Maine." "Pixfare? Seriously?" She nodded. "Alright, then. Let's get you back to Pixfare." Soon, Jack was driving Hilary home along a New England Highway. "I'm hungry. Can we stop somewhere?" "This isn't a road trip. We're not stopping for snacks." "Why not?" Hilary whined. "Quit complaining, kid. Remember, I could've put your butt on a bus; I still could." "You know, I have a name? It's Jack then noticed Hilary was reading a book. "What's that?" "I'm not sure you're ready." "Ready for some stories?" "They're not stories. They're true. Every story in this book actually happened." "Of course, they did." "Use your superpower. See if I'm lying." Jack looked at her for a moment. "Just because you believe something doesn't make it true." "That's exactly what makes it true. You should know more than anyone." "Why's that?" "Because you're in this book." "Oh, kid. You've got problems." "Yup. And you're going to fix them." They soon passed by a sign that read 'Welcome to Pixfare' and began to pass the first houses and buildings. There were few cars parked anywhere nearby, and it was late enough that all the shops were closed. The place looked deserted. "Alright, we're here. So, what's the address?" "I'm not telling." Jack slammed on the brakes, stopping the car and angrily stepped out. The moment he set foot on the street, a spark came the overhead telephone cables. "Look, I'm not in the mood for this, ok. It's been a long night, and it's almost-" He looked up at the clocktower. "1:13?" "That clock hasn't moved my whole life. Time's frozen here." "What?" "Syndrome did it with his superpowers." Hilary explained. "He sent everyone from the Pixar world here, and now they're trapped." "That's crazy. People stuck in a town that's frozen in time." "It's true!" "So why can't they just leave?" "They can't. If they try, bad things happen." Nearby, a bespectacled man was walking his dog, when he spotted Hilary and approached her. "Hilary! What are you doing here? Is everything all right?" "I'm fine, Felix." "Who's this?" "Just someone trying to give him a ride home." replied Jack. "He's my dad, Felix." "Oh. I see." "You know where she lives?" asked Jack. "Yeah, sure. Just, uh, right up on Mifflin street." Felix pointed down the street. "The Mayor's house is the biggest one on the block." "You're the mayor's kid?" "Uh. Maybe?" "Hey, where were you today, Hilary? Because you missed your session." "Oh, yeah. I forgot to tell you. I went on a field trip." "Hilary, what have I told you about lying?" She crouched to get face-to-face with her. "Giving in to one's dark side never accomplishes anything." "O-kay!" Jack gave a strange look. "Well, I really should be getting her home." "Yeah. Sure. Well, listen, have a good day, and you be good, Hilary." He walked away from them. "So that's your shrink." "I'm not crazy." "Didn't say that. Just—he doesn't seem cursed to me. Maybe he's just trying to help you." "He's the one who needs help. Because he doesn't know." "That he's a Pixar character." "None of them do. They don't remember who they are." "Figures. All right. I'll play along. So, who's he supposed to be?" "Flik." "Right, the bugs thing. Thought I saw little antennae on your head." "I'm not an ant!" "'Course you're not. 'Because that would be ridiculous." They soon got back into the car and drove off. Jack and Hilary walked up the garden path that led to the Mayor's house. He looked back to see that she had stopped in her tracks. "Please don't take me back there." Hilary pleaded. "I have to. I'm sure your parents are worried sick about you." "I don't have parents. I just have a dad, and he's-evil." "Evil. That's a bit extreme, isn't it?" "Trust me, he is. He doesn't love me; he only pretends to." "Oh, come on, kid. I think you're exaggerating." The door beside them opened and Derek Brodie, a freckled, redheaded man with blue eyes, and Andrea Galore, a blonde-haired woman with green eyes stepped out. "Hilary!" Derek ran out and hugged her. "Are you okay? Where have you been? What happened?" "I found my real dad!" Hilary ran into the house. "You're Hilary 's birth father?" he looked at Jack, who half smiled. "I'll just go check her. Make sure she's okay." Andrea went back into the house. "How about a glass of mimosa?" Derek offered. "Got anything stronger?" Inside the house, Jack stood in the foyer. Derek soon entered holding two glasses. "How did she find me?" asked Jack. "No idea. When I adopted her, she was only three weeks old. Records were sealed, I was told the birth parents didn't want to have any contact. Do I need to be worried about the mother?" "No. I lost touch with her years ago." "Do I need to be worried about you, Jack?" "Absolutely not." "Mr. Mayor, you can relax." Andrea said, coming down the stairs. "Hilary's fine, she's just tired." "Thank you, Sheriff." Derek and Jack went into the living room. "I'm sorry she dragged you out of your life. I really don't know what's gotten into her." "She's having a rough time. It happens." Jack shrugged. "You have to understand. Ever since I became mayor, balancing things has been tricky. I assume you have a job?" "Uh, I keep busy. Yeah." "Imagine having another one on top of it. That's being a single dad. So, I push forward. Am I strict? Maybe. But I do it for her own good. I want Hilary to excel in life. I don't think that makes me evil, do you?" "I'm sure she's just saying that because of that book." "What book?" "Oh, you know, her book. How she thinks everyone's a Pixar character. Like her shrink is Flik the ant." "I'm sorry, I really don't know what you're talking about." Jack shook his head. "You know what, it's none of my business. She's your kid. And I really should be heading back." "Of course." Derek let Jack out. As Jack walked down the walkway to his car, he turned around looked up to see Hilary watching him from the second story window. She closed the curtain and turned off the light. Soon, Jack was driving out of the town when he noticed Hilary's book on the seat next to him. "Sneaky kid." Looking up, Jack saw a bear standing in the road. He screamed and the car spun out of control, crashing into the 'Welcome to Pixfare' sign. Jack's head hit the steering wheel and he fell unconscious. The next morning, Jack slowly woke up, lying on a cot. He looked around and realized that he was in a jail cell. Another prisoner, with a mustache, thick black eyebrows, and a bowler hat was in the cell next to him. "What are you lookin' at?" he asked in a Brooklyn-accent. "Hey, Bart! Manners! We have a guest!" snapped Ed, an elderly white-haired man wearing thick black square frame glasses. "So, you're Hilary's father. How nice for her to have you back in her life." "Actually, I was just dropping her off." "Tch. Don't blame ya." Bart scoffed. "They're all brats; who needs 'em." "Well, I'd give anything for one. My wife and I, we tried for years, but it wasn't meant to be." "Oh, cry me a river." Sheriff Andrea soon entered and unlocked Bart's cell. "Bart! If I'm going to let you out, you need to behave. Smile and stay out of trouble." Bart smiled sarcastically and left the room. "Seriously?" Jack looked at her, "Derek's drinks are a little stronger than we thought." "I wasn't drunk. There was a bear, standing in the middle of the road." "A bear. Right." "Andrea? Hilary run away again, we have to-" Derek called as he entered the room. "What is he doing here?" he turned to Jack. "Do you know where she is?" "Dude, I haven't seen her since I dropped her at your house, and-" he gestured the prison bars. "–pretty good alibi." "Yeah, well, she wasn't in her room this morning." "Did you try her friends?" "She doesn't really have any. Kind of a loner." "Every kid has friends. Did you check her computer? If she was close to someone she'd be emailing them." "And you know this how?" "Finding people's what I do. Here's an idea; how 'bout you guys let me out, and I'll help you find her." The three of them were soon gathered in Hilary's room. Derek watched as Jack searched through Hilary's computer. "Smart kid. Cleared her inbox. I'm smart too. a little hard disk recovery utility I like to use. Ah, there's a receipt for a website, . It's expensive. She has a credit card?" "She's ten." "Well, she used one. Let's pull up a transaction record. Who's 'Laura Reed Richards'?" "Hilary's teacher." At Pixfare Elementary School, Laura Reed Richards, a woman with short auburn hair, and brown eyes, stood in front of a class of younger kids. "When you pull a rubber band. the molecules uncoil and align themselves closer together as they straighten out." She demonstrated, holding a rubber band in her hand. "When you release the rubber band, the molecules that have been straightened recoil back into their original position. The molecules returning to their original position causes the rubber band to fly through the air." The bell rang, and the class rose from their seats. "We'll pick this up after recess. No running!" The kids filed out of the classroom, while Derek shoved his way through them with Jack trailing behind. "Mr. Brodie, what are you doing here?" "Where's my daughter?" "Hilary? I thought she was home sick with you." "You think I'd be here if she was? Did you give her your credit card so she can find him?" He gestured toward Jack, who stood just inside the / "I'm sorry, who are you?" "The man who gave her up for adoption." "You don't know anything about this do you?" asked Jack. "No, unfortunately not." Laura looked through her wallet and noticed that her credit card was missing. "Clever girl… I should never have given her that book." "What is this book I keep hearing about?" Derek shouted. "Just some stories I gave her. As you well know, Hilary is a special girl. So smart, so creative, and as you might be aware, lonely. She needed it." "What she needs is a dose of reality. This is a waste of time. Have a nice trip back to Boston." Derek turned and walked out in a huff, knocking over a stack of books. Jack helped Laura pick them up. "Sorry to bother you." "No, it's… It's okay. I hear this is partially my fault." "How's the book supposed to help?" "What do you think stories are for? They're a way for us to deal with our world. A world that doesn't always make sense. See, Hilary hasn't had the easiest life." They left the classroom, walking down the hallway. "Yeah, he's kind of a tough." "No, it's more than him. She's like any adopted child. She wrestles with that most basic question they all face – why would anyone give me away?" She then looked horrified, realizing what she just said. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean in any way to judge you." "It's okay." "Look, I gave her the book because I wanted Hilary to have the most important thing anyone can have. Hope. Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing." "You know where she is, don't you?" "You might want to check her clubhouse." Hilary is sitting alone on her clubhouse, a wooden house-shaped slide at a playground along the shore. Jack walked up behind her, carrying her book. "You left this in my car." He gave her the book and sat beside her. They looked across to the clock tower. "Still hasn't moved, huh?" "I was hoping that when I brought you back, things would change here. That the final battle would begin." "I'm not fighting any battles, kid." "Yes, you are. Because it's your destiny. You're going to save the town." "Will you cut it with the book already!" "You don't have to be hostile. I know you like me, I can tell. You're just pushing me away because I make you feel guilty. It's okay. I know why you gave me away. You wanted to give me my best chance." "How do you know that?" "Because it's the same reason Elastigirl gave you away." "Listen to me, kid. I'm not in any book. I'm a real person. And I'm no savior. You were right about one thing, though. I wanted you to have your best chance. But it's not with me. Come on, let's go." "Please don't take me back there! Just stay with me for one week, that's all I ask! One week, and you'll see I'm not crazy." "I have to get you back to your dad." "You don't know what it's like with him. My life stinks!" "Oh, you want to talk about stinks? Try being left abandoned on the side of a freeway. My parents didn't even bother to drop me off at a hospital." Jack began to break down. "I ended up in the foster system and I had a family until I was three, but then they had their own so then they sent me back." He stopped for a moment to collect himself. "Look, your dad is trying his best. I know it's hard and I know sometimes you think he doesn't love you, but at least he wants you." "Your parents didn't leave you on the side of a freeway. That's just where you came through." "What?" "The door. When you went through the door, you appeared in the street. Your parents were trying to save you from the curse." "Sure, they were. Come on." He took her hand and they walked / Derek opened the front door of his house to find Jack escorting Hilary home. She looked at him and ran inside. "She seems to like you." "You know it seems kind of crazy." Jack said with a smile. "Yesterday was my birthday. And when I blew out the candle on this cupcake I bought myself, I actually made a wish that I didn't have to be alone on my birthday. And then Hilary showed up..." "I hope there's no misunderstanding here." Derek interrupted. "What" "Don't think that this is invitation back into her life. You made a decision ten years ago. And while you've been who knows that, I've changed every diaper, soothed every fever, endured every tantrum. You may be biological, but she's my daughter." "I wasn't-" "No. You don't get to speak. You don't get to do anything. You gave up that right when you tossed her away. Do you know what a closed adoption is? It's what you asked for. You have no legal right to Hilary, and you're going to be held to that. So, I suggest you get in your car, and you leave this town. Because if you don't, I will destroy you if it is the last thing I do. Goodbye, Jack." He began to head back to the house. "Do you love her?" "What?" "Hilary. Do you love her?" "Of course, I love her." Derek turned around and went back into the house. He snuck into Hilary's room, where she laid on her bed with her back to the door and took her book without her noticing. While volunteering at Pixfare General Hospital, Laura placed vases of flowers next to patients' beds. She put one next to a comatose patient in the ICU with a wristband that read 'John Doe' and held his hand. Hilary looked out her bedroom window at the Clock Tower, which still read 1:13. Jack walked into the Bed and Breakfast, where Ellen, a brown-haired woman was in the midst of a heated argument with Michelle, a young girl with long curly red hair. Both spoke with a brogue. "You're out all night, and now you're going out again." "I should have moved to Boston." "I'm sorry that my heart attack prevented you from sleeping your way along the Eastern Seaboard!" Jack cleared his throat, getting Ellen's attention. "Excuse me? I'd like a room." "Yes, of course!" Ellen went over to the counter and took out a book. "And what's your name, sir?" "Swan. Jack Swan." Two women had entered the inn and stood behind him, unnoticed. One was a tan skinned, black-haired young woman. The other was an elderly woman with short, gray hair. "Jack. What a nice name." the older woman said, making him turn around to face her. "Thanks." She watched him curiously, then walked up to the "It's all here." Ellen handed the woman a roll of "Thank you." The woman took it, and then smiled again at Jack. "Nice to meet you, Jack. Enjoy your stay." Both women turned and walked out the door. "Who are they?" asked Jack. "That was Mrs. Cordwain," Ellen said. "She runs the shoe store." "And Ms. Wood. She owns this place." added Michelle. "The inn?" "No, the town. Here's your key." Ellen took a key from the wall and handed it to Jack. "How long will you be staying with us?" "Just a week," Jack said. That was what he needed, to make sure Hilary was okay. "Great. Welcome to Pixfare." From Hilary's bedroom, she smiled as she saw the clock turn to 1:14.