Once Upon a Time: Pixar style
Once Upon a Time: Pixar style once upon a time stories

ambermontesdeoc Community member
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Pixar characters are transported to the town of Pixfare, Maine, where they've been stripped of their original memories and identities. On his 28th birthday, Jack-Jack, the youngest son of the Incredibles, is brought to town in the hopes of breaking the curse cast by Syndrome.

Once Upon a Time: Pixar style

Ch. 1 In an upscale restaurant in Boston, Jack, 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 catalog. 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 a 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 with 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?" the girl asked. "Yeah. Who are you?" He looked at her, confused. "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 went into the bathroom and stood against the door, trying to think. 'This kid can't be mine. I never-- Oh, boy.' He felt himself freeze as he suddenly remembered that once he was in a romantic relationship. "Hey, do you have any juice?" Hilary's voice came from the other side of the door, interrupting his thoughts. "Never mind, found some." Later, Jack came out of 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 Hilary." 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, Felix Cutter, 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 bug 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 Jack. "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 and Andrea searched through Hilary's computer. "Smart kid. Cleared her inbox. I'm smart too. a little hard disk recovery utility I like to use. "I'm a bit more old-fashioned, in my techniques. Pounding the pavement, knocking on doors, that sort of thing." "You're on salary; I get paid for delivery. Pounding pavement is not a luxury that I get. Ah, there's a receipt for a website, findyourfamily.org. 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." Soon, 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 homesick 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 by the door. "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 sat 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 away. ----- 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 an 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?" Jack asked. "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. ----- 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 middle-aged woman. The other was Ms. Wood, an elderly woman with short, gray hair. "Jack. What a nice name." Ms. Wood said, making him turn around to face her. "Thanks." "It's all here." Ellen handed the elderly woman a roll of dollar bills. "Thank you." Ms. Wood 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 Ms. 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 all 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.

Ch. 2 The Thing You Love Most The next day, while eating breakfast, Laura Reed noticed that the clock was working again. Jack woke up and looked out the window in his room at the inn. Felix was out walking his dog, as Ms. Wood passed by. Michelle was putting out the sign for the Diner when Ellen arrived carrying groceries. ----- Derek sat in his living room, flipping through Hilary's book. He paused on a page depicting the Incredibles fighting the Omnidroid. When he turned the page, he found that the last several pages had been ripped from the book. In a huff, he shut the book and stormed into Hilary's room as she was getting ready for school. "Where are the missing pages?" He demanded. She shrugged. "Why do you care? Derek turned her around to face him. "I care because you think I'm some supervillain. And that hurts me, Hilary. I'm your father." He touched her cheek. "No, you're not." She turned away from him. "Well, then who is? That man you brought here? I don't like what he and this book are doing to you. Good thing neither are a problem anymore." Hilary looked down at the floor as if disagreeing. "What?" In the distance, the clock tower chimed, causing Derek to turn his head toward the sound, shocked. Hilary ran out of the room while he was distracted. ———– Out in the town square, Derek stood on the sidewalk, looking up at the clock. Felix was out walking Dug when he came up beside Derek and also looked at the clock. "Hey, how about that? Guess those rusty old innards finally straightened themselves out, huh?" Derek turned to face him, about to remark, but then noticed Jack's car parked on the side of the road. "Yes, how about that, indeed." ———– There was a knock at the door and Jack opens it to Derek, standing in the hallway, smiling. "Good morning. I just wanted to offer you a gift. He held up a high tech watch. "I'm sort of an expert with technology. I've always had a knack for making things." "Thanks." Jack watched him carefully as he accepted the watch. "I'm sure you'll use it on your drive home." "Actually, I've decided to stay for a while." "I don't think that's such a good idea. Hilary has enough issues, she doesn't need you confusing her." "All due respect, Mr. Mayor, the fact that you've now threatened me twice in the last twelve hours makes me wanna stay more." "Since when is technology a threat?" "I can read between the lines. Sorry, I just wanna make sure Hilary's okay." "She's fine. Her problems are being taken care of." "What's that supposed to mean?" "It means I have her in therapy. It's all under control. Take my advice, Jack. Only one of us knows what's best for Hilary." "Yeah, I think you're right about that." "It's time for you to go." "Or what?" Derek took a step toward Jack until they were close to each other. "Don't underestimate me. You have no idea what I'm capable of." ----- Derek sat in his lab, working on a new project, when a woman walked up behind him, holding a newspaper with Jack on the front page. "The Droid strikes again!" "You're late." "Sorry. I wanted to bring you the latest edition. I assure you it's one of my better hatchet jobs." Derek turned around to look at the paper, taking it out of her hands. "That's not what I asked for. What'd you find out about him?" "Well, to be honest, there wasn't much. He spent a lot of time in foster homes." Derek scoffed and turned back to his project. The woman kept explaining over his shoulder. "Uh, he got into some trouble when he was a kid, but the details are locked up pretty tight. Since then, he's clean. Bounced around all over. The only thing I really learned was that he doesn't like to sit still." "Well, that seems to have changed." "Did you know that, um, Hilary was born while he was in Phoenix? Huh, how'd she wind up here in Maine?" "So, let me get this straight... you found nothing of value. Which means you have no value, Olga. Do you know what I do with things that hold no value to me? I throw them away." "I-I'll keep looking." She stuttered nervously and then left, while Derek looked at the newspaper again. ———– Jack was seated at the counter of the Diner, reading the newspaper. "Here you go." Michelle placed a mug of hot chocolate, with cinnamon, in front of him. "Thank you, but I didn't order that." "Yeah, I know. You have an admirer." Michelle smiled. Jack turned around to see Sheriff Andrea seated in a booth. He put down the paper and walked over to her. She looked up at her, surprised. "So, you decided to stay." "Very observant for a cop." "That's good news for our tourism business, bad for our local signage." Jack gave her a look. "It's--it's a joke... because you ran over our sign." "Look, the cocoa was a nice gesture, and I'm impressed that you guessed that I like cinnamon in my chocolate, 'cause most people don't, but I'm not here to flirt. So, thank you, but no thank you." He set the mug on the table. Andrea shook her head. "I didn't send it." "I did." Hilary chimed in, seated at another booth. "I like cinnamon, too." She stood up and came over to them. "Don't you have school?" asked Jack "Duh, I'm ten. Walk me." ———– Outside, Jack and Hilary walked down the sidewalk, crossed the street, before reaching the other sidewalk. "So, what's the deal with you and your dad?" "It's not about us, it's about his curse. We have to break it. Luckily, I have a plan. Step one – identification. I call it Operation Cobra." "Cobra? How is that connected to Pixar stories?" "It's not. It's a code name to throw Syndrome off the trail." "So, everyone here is a Pixar character. They just don't know it." "That's the curse. Time's been frozen until you got here." Hilary noticed the watch on Jack's wrist. "Hey! Where'd you get that?" "Your dad gave it to me." Hilary yanked the watch off and threw it on the ground, stomping on it. "What are you doing?" "Haven't you seen the Incredibles movie? Syndrome makes weapons." "O-okay. Uh, all right. What about their pasts?" "They don't know. It's a haze to them. Ask anyone anything. And you'll see." "So, for decades, people have been walking around in a haze, not aging, with screwed up memories, stuck in a cursed town that kept them oblivious." "You got it." Hilary smiled. "That's why we need you. You're the only one who can stop the curse." "Because I'm the son of Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl-'" "Yes. And right now, we have the advantage. My dad doesn't know that." Hilary unzipped her backpack and took out pages from her Disney/Pixar Storybook Collection book and handed them to Jack. "I took out the end. The part with you in it." The pages showed an illustration of Mr. Incredible placing baby Jack-Jack through the door. "See? Your mom is Elastigirl." "Oh, kid." Jack shook his head, speechless. "I know the hero never believes at first. If they did, it wouldn't be a very good story. If you need proof, take them. Read them. But whatever you do, don't let him see these pages. They're dangerous. If he finds out who you are, then it would be bad." They soon reached the outside of the school. "I got to go, but I'll find you later and we can get started. I knew you'd believe me!" Hilary began running to join the other kids. "I never said I did." "Why else would you be here?" Jack watched her go, with a slight smile. Hilary ran to the front steps of the school, past Laura Reed, who turned to see Jack and approached him. "It's good to see her smiling again." "I didn't do anything." "You stayed. So, does the Mayor know you're still here?" "Oh, he knows. What's with him? He's not a great people person. How did he get elected?" "He's been mayor for as long as I can remember. No one's ever been brave enough to run against him. He inspires quite a bit of... well, fear. I think I only made that worse by giving Hilary that book. Now she thinks he's Syndrome." "Who does he think you are?" Laura Reed shook her head, smiling. "Nothing. It's silly." "Try me." "Elastigirl." Jack's eyes widened, and he stared at her in absolute shock. If she's Elastigirl, then that means she's my mother. No, it can't be. Th-this whole thing is crazy. "Who does he think you are?" Her voice snapped him out of his thoughts. "I'm not in the book. Can I ask you a favor? Derek mentioned the girl's in therapy. Do you know where I could find the doctor?" ———– Felix was reading in his office when there was a knock on the door. "Hello." Greeted Jack as he entered. "Jack Swan." He stood up, picking up a copy of the newspaper. "I was just, uh, reading about you. Let me guess, you're here for help with a little post-traumatic stress?" He chuckled, setting the paper down. "That diagnosis was free, by the way." "No, I'm actually here about Hilary." "I'm sorry, I-I I really shouldn't..." "I know, I'm sorry. Just tell me something. This Pixar obsession, what's causing it? I mean, she thinks everyone is a character in her book. That's... crazy." "I-I hope you don't talk that way in front of her. The word "crazy" is um... quite damaging. These stories-- they're her language." Felix explained. "She has no idea how to express complex emotions so she's translating as best she can, this is how she communicates. She's using this book to help deal with her problems." "But she got the book a month ago. Has she been seeing you longer than that?" "Um... Yes, she has." "So, it's Derek, isn't it?" "Uh, her father is a... very complicated man, and uh, over the years, he's tried to try and bring Hilary closer, but it's backfired." He walked over to a filing cabinet, opened it, and took out a file. "Why don't you take a look at the file? Um... see what I mean." "Why are you doing this?" Jack wondered. "Well, she talks about you a lot. You're very important to her." "Thank you." "Just uh... see that I get it back, okay?" He opened the door and Jack started to leave. "Just for the sake of the girl, be careful how you handle her belief system. To destroy her imagination would be... would be devastating." Jack left and Felix closed the door. He sat down at a desk and picked up the phone, making a call. "You were right. He was just here." "Did he take the file?" Derek's voice asked on the other end of the line. "Yes. H-how did you know he was gonna come here?" "Because I'm the one who gave him the idea." He replied with a sinister smile on his face. In his room, Jack sat on his bed, reading through Hilary's file when he heard a knock on the door. He opened it to find Sheriff Andrea standing in the hallway. "Hey there. If you're concerned about the 'Do Not Disturb' signs, don't worry; I've left them alone." "Actually, I'm here about Dr. Felix Cutter. He mentioned you got into a bit of a dispute with him earlier?" "What? No." Jack looked at her, shocked. "I'm surprised, too, given your shy, delicate nature. He says you demanded to see Hilary's files and when he refused, you came back and stole them." Jack shook his head. "He gave them to me." "He's telling a different story. May I check your room? Or must I get a search warrant?" Jack opened the door completely, walked over to his bed, and gestured to the files spread on it. "This what you're lookin' for?" Andrea picked up a file and glanced at it. "Well, you're very accommodating. But, I'm afraid you're under arrest. Again." She took out a pair of handcuffs and began to cuff his wrists. "You realize I'm being set up, don't you?" "And who, may I ask, is setting you up?" Outside of Pixfare Elementary, Laura Reed was giving her class a lesson when Derek approached them. He cleared his throat and Laura Reed stood and approached him. "May I speak with my daughter?" "We're in the middle of a lesson. Is it important?" "Do you think I'd be here if it wasn't!?" He walked away from her. She watched curiously as he talked to Hilary, alone "Hilary, hon, I have some bad news. The man who you brought here... he's been arrested. He broke into Dr. Cutter's office and stole his files. He's a con man. He's trying to learn about us in order to take advantage of us. That's why he's sticking around. I'm sorry." "No, you're not." She said in disbelief. "I know you think otherwise, but all I'm doing is trying to protect you. This is gonna be good for us, you'll see. Things will be better." The school bell rang in the background. "I gotta get back to class." She walked away, rejoining the rest of the kids. At Pixfare Sheriff Department, Sheriff Andrea took mugshots of Jack. "You realize the shrink is lying, right?" "To the right, please. Why would he lie?" "The Mayor put him up to this. He's gotta have something on him. He's terrified of him, like everyone else in this town." "To the left." Jack rolled his eyes and turned around. "Derek may be a bit intimidating, but I don't think he'd go as far as a frame job." "How far would he go? What does he have his hands in?" "Well, he's the Mayor. He has his hands in everything." "Including the police force?" "Hey." Hilary came running in, with Laura Reed following behind her. "Hilary, what are you doing here?" Andrea asked. "Her father told her what happened." Laura Reed answered. "Of course he did!" Jack said, glancing at Andrea. He then turned to the girl. "Hilary, I don't know what he said--" "You're a genius!" She interrupted. "What?" "I know what you were up to." Jack looked at her, confused. "You were gathering intel. For Operation Cobra". "I'm sorry, I'm a bit lost." Andrea shook her head. "It's need to know, Sheriff, and all you need to know is that Miss Richards is gonna bail him out." "You are? Why?" Jack asked. "I, uh, trust you." "Well. If you could uncuff me..." Jack extended his cuffed wrists toward Andrea. "I have something to do." Derek sat working at his desk in the Mayor's Office when he heard crashing sounds coming from another room. He rushed into his lab to find Jack destroying his tech with a baseball bat. "What do you think you're doing!?" "Inventing," he replied, dropping the bat. "You're out of your mind!" Derek snarled. "No, you are if you think a shoddy frame job's gonna scare me off. You're gonna have to do better than that. If you come after me one more time, I'm coming back for the rest of this stuff. Because, Mister, you have no idea what I'm capable of. Your move." Jack started walking away. Jack returned to the inn and was about to open the door to his room. "Jack?" A woman's voice called from behind him. He turned around to see Ellen. "Oh my, this is terribly awkward. I need to ask you to leave." Jack looked at her with a confused look on his face. "I'm afraid we have a 'No felons' rule. It turns out it's a city ordinance." "Let me guess: the Mayor's office just called to remind you." Ellen nodded. "You can gather your things, but I need to have your room key back." Jack handed her the key. In his lab, Derek kneeled on the floor next to the table, putting the broken pieces of tech in a box. Sheriff Andrea approached him from behind. "He destroyed private property. I want him arrested." "Again?" "What are you waiting for?" Derek turned to face her. "I don't think arresting him is the right plan." Derek stood up, with a look of disbelief. "And I'm not talking about your tech. We both know he didn't steal those files." "Oh, do we?" "I mean, he looked pretty shocked when I leveled the charges against him." "That's because he doesn't like being caught." He kneeled down on the floor again. "Or because he was set up. And if he was, that means Dr. Cutter was lying. If he's lying that means that someone asked him to." Derek stood up again. "Are we really confident that the man's conscience won't eventually get the best of him?" "I think your schoolgirl crush is clouding your judgment. Remember, I made you Sheriff. And I can take it away just as easily." He said threateningly. "You want me to arrest him again? I will." "Good." He kneeled down again to pick up the mess. "But you two are gonna keep comin' at each other. You'll do whatever it takes to make him leave. And you may succeed." "I will succeed!" Derek shouted angrily, standing up. "She's my daughter! It's what's best for her." "I know that's what you think. But if this gets worse, it seems to me the only one who'll get hurt is Hilary." Outside Ellen's Bed and Breakfast, Jack was walking along the sidewalk when he noticed that his car had a boot on it. His phone then rang. He picked it up and answered it. "Yeah?" "Jack, I'd be happy to continue demonstrating my power," Derek said on the other side. "But I'm guessing your choice to stay is only growing?" "You have no idea." "Well then. I think it's time we made peace. Why don't you drive over to my office." Jack put his jacket in the car and slammed the door. "Or walk—whatever suits you." Jack hung up and rolled his eyes. I do not believe that guy. Derek and Jack were seated in Derek's office, talking. Jack sat on the couch across from Derek, seated in a chair "I'd like to apologize, Jack." "What?" "I just have to accept the fact that you want to be here..." "Yes, I do." "And that you're here to take my daughter from me." "Okay, first of all: I don't want to take her from anyone." "Well then, what are you doing here?" "I know I'm not a father— I think that's pretty clear—but she's my flesh and blood, and I can't help it—she got in my head and I want to make sure she's okay. The more you try to push me out, the more I want to be here, especially after seeing how troubled she is." "You think she's troubled?" "Well, she's in therapy, and I only got through a couple pages of her shrink's notes before you had me arrested. But putting all that aside—she thinks everyone in this town is a Pixar character." "And you don't?" "How can I? The poor kid can't even tell the difference between fantasy and reality and it's only getting worse. It's crazy." "You think I'm crazy?" Jack turned to see Hillary standing in the doorway. "Hilary..." She ran out of the office, hurt. Jack stood up to follow her, then addressed Derek. "How much did she hear? "Just enough." "You knew she would be here." "Did I know that my daughter comes to my office every Thursday at exactly 5 P.M. so I can take her for dinner before her therapy session? Of course, I did. I'm her father." Derek sat back in his chair with a smug grin on his face. "Your move." "You have no soul," Jack said in disgust. "How did you get like this?" Derek didn't answer as Jack exited the office. Laura Reed sat in her apartment, working on needlecraft when there was a knock at the door. She opened the door to find Jack standing in the hallway. "Hey. I just wanted to say thank you and, um," He handed her an envelope. "Pay you back the bail money." Laura Reed took the envelope but just stared at Jack, not saying a word. After an awkward pause, Jack sighed, looking exasperated. "You look like you need to talk." Later, Jack sat at the table, sipping a cup of hot cocoa. "Cinnamon?" Jack wondered. Laura Reed brought a plate of cookies to the table. "Oh, I'm sorry. I should have asked. It's a little quirk of mine. Do you mind?" "Not at all." She offered him a cookie, but he refused. "When you bailed me out, you said.. that you trusted me. Why?" "It's weird, but—ever since you came here, I've had the strangest feeling, like we've met before. I mean, I know it's crazy." "I'm starting to reevaluate my definition of crazy." "For what it's worth, I think you're innocent." "Of breaking and entering, or just in general?" "Whichever makes you feel better." "Doesn't really matter what anyone thinks I did. I'm leaving. Thank you for everything, but I think it's for the best. If I stay, Hilary's only gonna keep getting hurt." "What happens if you go?" Jack didn't say anything. "I think the very fact that you want to leave is why you have to stay. You care about her. Who will protect Hilary if you won't?" In Felix Cutter's office, Hilary sat on the couch during a therapy session. "Are you sure you don't want to talk about it?" Felix asked. Hilary didn't answer, only fiddled with a rock. "You know, that rock is kind of my good luck charm." Hilary still remained silent. "Is that why you think I'm Flik?" "I don't think you're anyone." She set the rock down on the table. Jack, holding the storybook pages, opened the office door. "Jack." Felix stood up and came over to him. "Look, I can explain. The Mayor forced me--" "I know. Don't worry about it. I get it." Jack interrupted and then turned to Hilary. "Hilary, I'm sorry." "I don't want to talk to you." "Jack, if he knew you were here--" "So what?" He sat in the chair across from Hilary. "Hilary, the reason I stayed here is you. I wanted to get to know you." "You think I'm crazy!" "No, I think the Curse is crazy, and it is. But that doesn't mean that it isn't true. It's a lot to ask anyone to believe in, but there are a lot of crazy things in this world. So, what do I know? Maybe it is true." "But you told my dad--" "--what he needed to hear. What I do know... is that if the Curse is real, the only way to break it is by tricking Syndrome..." Hilary turned to look at him. "into thinking that we're nonbelievers. 'Cause, that way, he's not on to us. Is that what Operation Cobra was all about? Throwing him off the trail?" "Brilliant!" Hilary smiled and leaned closer to him. "I read the pages, and you're right—they're dangerous. There's only one way to make sure that he never sees them." Jack stood up and takes and put the pages in the fireplace, burning them. "Now we have the advantage." Hilary got up from the couch and hugged Jack. "I knew you were here to help me!" "That's right, kid. I am." He broke the embrace and looked at her. "And nothing, not even a curse, is gonna stop that." They hug again. Jack and Hilary left Dr. Cutter's office building together and walked down the street, smiling at each other. Derek was tending to the broken tech in his lab when Ms. Wood entered. "What a mess." "Not for long. What can I do for you, Ms. Wood?" "I was just in the neighborhood, thought I'd stop by. You're in a good mood." "Well, it's been a good day." Derek chuckled. "The town's now free of an unwanted pest." "Jack Swan? Really?" "Yes. I bet he's halfway to Boston by now." "Oh, I wouldn't bet on that. I just saw him strolling down the street with your girl. Thick as thieves, they looked." "What?" "Perhaps you should have come to me. If Jack is a problem you can't fix, I can help, for a price, of course." "I'm not making deals with you anymore." Derek scoffed, turning his back to her, returning to the broken pile. "Which deal would that be?" Derek turned and looked at her. "You know what deal." "Oh, right, yeah. The girl I obtained for you. Hilary. Did I ever tell you what a lovely name that was?" Derek turned back to face her. "Did you want him to come to town? You wanted all this to happen, didn't you? You didn't find Hilary by accident, did you?" "Whatever do you mean?" "Where did you get her?" Ms. Wood remained silent, with a slight smirk. "Do you know something?" "I don't know what you mean." "I think you do. Who is that man, her father, that... Jack Swan?" "I would say you think you know exactly who he is." Derek stared at her, stunned. "I really must be going." She turned around to leave, but he blocked her way. "Tell me what you know about him." "I'm not gonna answer you, dear, so I suggest you excuse me." He said nothing and didn't move. "Please." She walked away, while Derek turned and watched her go, stunned.

Ch. 3 Elastic Snaps Dr. Whale and Laura Reed were on a date at Ellen's Diner. "So, um, where were we?" "You'll meet my class tomorrow." He nodded in understanding, and then as she continued to speak, his gaze drifted to behind her. Michelle was clearing tables, scantily clad in a white shirt showing her midriff with a green mini-skirt and high heels. "They're coming to the hospital as part of the Volunteer Outreach Program." "Oh, yeah. That's a great program." Dr. Whale quickly shifted his eyes back in time to respond. He tried to remain focused as she talked but kept quickly glancing back at Michelle. "I mean, not that I don't want kids. I do." He soon lost interest in the conversation, and his gaze was fixed on what was behind Laura Reed. "I want kids, marriage, true love. I want it all. But that of course is…" She noticed he wasn't paying attention to her. Slowly, she turned her head to see him ogling Michelle, who has finished cleaning the table and carried a tray as she passed them. "…wildly inappropriate for me to discuss on a first date. Michelle?" Michelle stopped and turned back while holding the tray in the air with one hand. "Yes?" "Check, please." She looked down, sadly. Soon after, Laura Reed was walking down the street after her disaster of a date. She stopped and stared ahead. She approached a car and found Jack inside, reading the newspaper with a flashlight. "Hey. You okay?" Jack turned off the flashlight and looked at her. "Out of all the tight spots I've been in, staying in my car doesn't even rank in the top ten." "You're sleeping here?" "Till I find a place." "You decided to stay for Hilary." she smiled. "Yeah, I guess." Jack stepped out of his car and shut the door. "This town doesn't have any vacancies. Is that normal?" "Must be the curse." "Why are you out so late?" "Well, I'm a teacher, not a nun. I had a date." "Looks like it went well." "As well as they ever do. I guess if love was easy, we'd all have it. You know, if you'd like, I do have a spare room." "Thanks, but I'm not really the roommate type. It's just not my thing. I do better on my own." "Well, goodnight. Good luck with Hilary." "Yeah." Jack gazed at Laura Reed as she walked away. ----------- The next day at the town hospital, the kids from Laura Reed's class were around, hanging decorations. She noticed Hilary was walking around as if looking for something. Hilary found a door marked 'Exit' and focused on it. She saw through it and into the downstairs psychiatric ward. There was a corridor with several doors on each side. She saw into one room and the resident inside, a muscular, blond-haired man with blue eyes. Laura Reed came over to her. "There you are, Hilary. We could really use your help with the decorations." "There's someone down there." "That's a restricted area. You shouldn't be near there." She warned her. "Some of the people in there could be dangerous." "But-" "No buts." She began to lead her away. "Come on. " Hilary glanced back at the door as they walked back. ----------- "I found your father-Mr. Incredible." Hilary showed Jack her storybook open to the Incredibles story. They sat on the top platform of her clubhouse near the shore. Jack looked at her, speechless. "He's locked up in the hospital's psych ward. Don't you see? The curse is keeping them apart. Now they're stuck without each other. We have to tell Ms. Richards we found her husband." "Okay, kid. Telling someone their... soul mate is locked up is probably not helpful. Not having a happy ending is painful enough, but giving someone unrealistic hope is far worse." "But what if I'm right? We know who they are. Now they have to know." "And how do you plan to make that happen?" "By reminding him. We have to get them together. Then, maybe, he'll remember who he is." Jack leaned in closer as if to say something, but thought for a moment. "Okay. But we'll do it my way. Let me ask her." ----------- Later at her apartment, Laura Reed made two cups of cocoa with cinnamon. "Let me get this straight. You want me to free a patient who's in the psych ward?" She gave one cup to Jack, looking at him, unsure. "Yup. Hilary thinks him seeing you will help him remember who he was." "And, who does she think he was?" "Mr. Incredible." Laura Reed looked shocked for a minute. "And if I'm Elastigirl, she thinks... me and him." "She has a very active imagination, which is the point. I can't talk her out of her beliefs, so we need to show her. Play along, do what she says and then maybe, just maybe-" "She'll see that stories are just that. She'll see reality." "Something like that." Laura Reed took a sip of her cocoa and then nodded. "Well... sadly, this plan is rather genius. We get her to the truth without hurting her." "I told her that we'll all meet tomorrow for breakfast at Ellen's. And you'll give a full report." "Well, I suppose I'll get ready for my date." ----------- That night, at the town hospital, Hilary led Laura Reed to a door labeled 'Exit'. Using her super strength, Hilary forced the door open. They walked down a hallway and stopped at the unmarked door. Hilary unlocked the door and looked in at the man inside. "Come with us." She extended her hand to him. "Who are you?" He and Laura Reed looked into each other's eyes and they felt a zing. "Let's go. Before someone catches us." Hilary interrupted. "Why are you doing this?" the man asked. "No time to explain. Now go. Go." The man took one more look at Laura Reed and then took off down the hallway. "That was weird..." she thought to herself, slightly dazed. ----------- The next day, Jack was sitting in a booth at the diner, when Hilary and Laura Reed arrived. "How did it go?" Jack asked. "We looked at each other, and there was this feeling. Almost like… a zing." Laura Reed explained. "See. I knew it." Hilary smiled. "He's remembering! We have to go back. You have to see him again." "Wait, wait, what?" "If I got through to him, if we made a connection..." "You don't believe..." "That he's Mr. Incredible? Of course not. Somehow, someway, I touched him." ----------- The three had just arrived at the hospital when they noticed that Derek was by the open 'Exit' door. He saw them and approached them. "What are you doing here?" Derek asked, looking at Jack. "And you–" He angrily grabbed Hilary's arm, pulling her away. "I thought you were at the arcade. Now you're lying to me?" "What's going on?" Jack wondered. "One of the psych patients is missing." said Andrea. "Why the mayor is here?" "I'm here because I'm his emergency contact." replied Derek "You know him?" "I brought him here years ago. He was experiencing a deep depression and some pretty self-destructive behavior. I saved his life." "Will he be okay?" Laura Reed asked, concerned. "Okay? The man's been in solitary confinement for years on constant supervision." Dr. Whale explained. "He needs to get back here right away or, quite honestly, "okay" might be a pipe dream." "Well, then, let's quit yapping and start looking." Jack suggested and then turned around to leave. "That's what we're doing?" Derek replied. Jack turned back to face him, rolling his eyes. "Just stay out of this. And since I clearly can't keep you away from my daughter... I guess I'm just going to have to keep my daughter away from you." Derek took Hilary's hand and began walking away. He turned to face Andrea. "Sheriff, find him. You heard Dr. Whale. Time is precious." He then left with Hilary. "Doctor, how long between your rounds since you last saw him?" Andrea asked. "Twelve hours or so." "Then that's what we need to account for." ----------- Soon, everyone headed to the security room, where four hospital security guards were watching the screens. "You guys were on the floor last night, and you saw nothing." Andrea asked the guards. "Not a thing." Audrey, a woman with a pixie cut hairstyle and blue eyes, shook her head. "Did anyone walk by?" Jack asked. "I didn't see anything." Mindy, a chubby bespectacled woman with shoulder-length dark hair and blue eyes, replied sadly. "Miss Richards, was there anything unusual you saw during your trip with your class?" Andrea asked Laura Reed. "I don't think so." She shook her head. Jack looked harder at the security monitors. "We're looking at the wrong tape." He came closer and pointed to the screen. "This is the ward where Hilary's class put up decorations. If this was really the tape from last night, we'd see the banners the kids hung." "Tch, you were too busy hiding again." Lewis, a short redheaded man, said angrily to Freddy, a lanky man with a long nose, and curled hair. "You selling me out?" He cried nervously. "I ain't getting fired for this." "At least we don't drink on the job." Nadia, a slender woman, with pink makeup, shoulder-length dark hair, long dark eyelashes, and green eyes, snapped at Lewis. "Guys, enough." Andrea broke up their fight. "Where's the real tape?" The guards soon switched to the right tape, which showed saw the man walk out the door. "He walked out alone. He's okay." Laura Reed sighed, relieved. "Four hours ago." Jack noticed. "Where does this door lead?" "The woods." Freddy answered, scared. ----------- Andrea led Jack and Laura Reed as they trekked through the woods, searching for the missing patient. She knelt down and touched a spot on the ground. "What is it?" Jack asked. "The trail runs out here." "You sure? Because I thought tracking was one of your skills." "Just give me a second. This is my world. I got it." Andrea went ahead of them. "Right. Sorry." "What does she mean, 'her world'?" Laura Reed asked Jack, curiously. "Isn't finding people your thing, too?" "Sure. Just... people I find usually run places like Vegas. Not a lot hit the woods." "That's an interesting job – finding people. How'd you fall into it?" "Looking for people is just what I've done... as long as I can remember." "What made you start? Your parents? Hilary told me that your- that you were from a similar situation to her own. Did you ever find them?" "Depends who you ask." They heard a branch snap behind them and turned around to see Hilary running down a hill towards them. "Hilary!" they both cried. "Did you find him yet?" "No, not yet. You shouldn't be here." Jack scolded. "I can help. I know where he's going." "And where's that?" Laura Reed asked "He's looking for you." She said, looking at Laura Reed. The group walked through the darkened woods, carrying flashlights. "You're the one he locked eyes with." Hilary explained to Laura Reed. "You're the last one he saw. He wants to find you." "Hilary, it's not about me. I just… I think he's lost and confused. He's been locked up a long time." "But he loves you. You need to stop chasing him and let him find you." "Kid, you need to go home." Jack suggested. "Where's your dad? He's going to kill me and then you and then me again." "He dropped me at the house. Then went right out." "Well, we need to get you back immediately." "No!" "Guys!" Andrea shouted. Jack, Laura Reed, and Hilary ran over to her. She showed them the man's bloody hospital bracelet. "Is that…" Laura Reed asked, scared. "Blood." Jack "Oh, gosh. Where is he? Can you see him?" Laura Reed asked as they came up to a stream. "The trail ends at the waterline." Andrea pointed out. Using her flashlight, Laura Reed spotted the man lying in the water. "Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!" She cried and ran over to him. "I need an ambulance at the old Toll Bridge, as soon as possible." Andrea called on her radio. Hilary watched as Andrea, Jack, and Laura Reed dragged him to the shore. "No, no, no, no, no!" Laura Reed cried frantically. "No, no, no! I found you!" "It's going to be okay." Jack assured. Andrea got off her cell phone. "Help's coming." "Is he okay?" Hilary wondered. Jack turned Hilary away so she wasn't looking at the scene. "Hilary, don't look. Okay? Don't look." "Come back to us. Come back to me." Laura Reed started to do CPR. When she put her mouth on his, he started breathing again and coughed up water. "You saved me." "She did it." Hilary smiled. Yeah, kid. She did." Jack nodded in agreement. The man opened his eyes and looked up at Laura Reed. "Thank you." "Who are you?" "I don't know." "It's okay. You're going to be okay." ----------- Later, the man was brought into the hospital for recovery. "Watch your back. Coming through!" A nurse shouted. Dr. Whale stepped in to take over. "Thanks, guys. We got it from here." The four watched through the outside glass door as he was being treated by doctors. Evelyn, a white-haired, blue-eyed woman, burst into the room where John Doe was being treated and rushed to his side. "Clark! Clark, is that you?" Dr. Whale stopped her. "Excuse me, ma'am?" "Oh, my god…" "Ma'am, you can't be in here. Please, you can't be here right now." "Clark…" "You can't be here, Ma'am." Dr. Whale pulled her away. "Can you wait over here for a second, okay?" "Who is that?" Laura Reed wondered. Derek stood behind them. "His wife." He replied with a smug look on his face. Jack and Laura Reed stared at him, shocked. "His name is Clark Grimm, and that's his wife, Evelyn." Derek explained. "And the joy on her face, well, it's put me in quite the forgiving mood." He turned to face Hilary. "We'll talk about your disobedience later." Evelyn exited the ICU room. "Thank you. Thank you for finding my Clark." "Um, I-I don't understand." Laura Reed stuttered, "You didn't…you didn't know that he was here?" "A few years ago, Clark and I weren't getting along. It was my fault, I know that now. I was difficult and unsupportive. I told him if he didn't like things, he could leave. And he did. And I didn't stop him. It was the worst mistake I ever made." "You didn't go look for him?" Jack asked. "I assumed he'd left town all this time. And now I know why I never heard from him. Now I get to do what I've wanted to do forever – say I'm sorry. Now we get a second chance." "That's... wonderful." Laura Reed smiled, trying to hide her feelings. Dr. Whale stepped out of the room, joining the group. "Well, it's something of a miracle." "He's okay?" Evelyn asked, concerned. "Physically, he's on the mend. Um, his memory is another issue. It may take time, if at all." "What brought him back?" Laura Reed asked, curious. "That's the thing. There's no explanation. Something just clicked in him." "He just got out and decided to go for a stroll?" Jack asked in disbelief. "He escaped and he was delirious and his first instinct was to go find something, I guess." "Someone." Hilary corrected him. "Can I see him?" asked Evelyn "Yeah, of course." Dr. Whale opened the door and let Evelyn go back into the room. "Hilary, let's go." Derek ordered. Hilary got up from her chair and began to follow him. "Wait, my backpack." She went back to grab her backpack and whispered to Laura Reed "Don't believe them. You're the one he was looking for." "Hilary…" "He was going to the woods. It's like in the story. You belong together." "Hilary." Derek repeated. He and Hilary started to leave. Jack thought about Evelyn's story for a moment, and something didn't make sense. "Mr. Mayor?" He ran to catch up to Derek and Hilary, who were at the entrance of the hospital. "Wait by the car." Derek instructed. Hilary went ahead, leaving the two alone. "Jack, I let you off the hook back there. Don't press it." "I'm sorry, but Mrs. Grimm- Kinda feels like her story is totally fake." Derek looked at him, not understanding. "All this time, there's a man locked up in the psych ward and nobody puts it in the news, nobody goes looking. Something's not right here." "Well, what else would make sense to you? Why would Mrs. Grimm lie? Do you think I put a spell on her?" "I think it's weird you've been his emergency contact all these years and you only found her now." "Well, this town is bigger than you know. It's possible to get lost here. It's possible for bad things to happen." "And just when it's convenient you manage to solve the mystery?" "Thanks to you. That tape you found- that was genius. So, we went back and looked at past tapes. Turns out he's been calling out for an 'Evelyn'. After that, it wasn't hard to put the pieces together. And here I thought you and Laura Reed would be happy. True love won out. So, enjoy this moment. If it weren't for you two, they would have lived their lives completely alone. That's why I'm willing to forgive your rudeness. Because... all this has reminded me of something very important... How grateful I am to have Hilary. Because not having someone... Well... that's the worst curse imaginable." Laura Reed watched as Clark and Evelyn hugged in his room. Although, Clark turned his gaze towards Laura Reed, and couldn't keep his eyes off her. She sadly looked down at her hand and distractedly fiddled with her ring. ----------- Later that night, Laura Reed sat on the staircase in her apartment, still heartbroken and in tears. 'How could this happen?' She kept asking herself. 'There was something between us. I thought we zinged, but I guess it was only me.' Her thoughts were soon interrupted by a knock on the door. She composed herself and answered the door. "Jack." "Sorry to bother you so late. Is that... spare room still available?" Laura Reed nodded, smiling, and let Jack inside.

Ch. 4 Lightning Strikes The bell of the clock tower rang as Jack and Hilary walked down the street. "Are you sure we can be seen out in the open?" Hilary asked. "Enough sneaking around." Jack scoffed. "If your dad has a problem with me walking you to a school bus, I'm more than happy to have that chat." "You're brave. You'll need that for Operation Cobra. Speaking of, do you think we need code names?" "Isn't 'Cobra' our code name?" "That's the mission. I mean us. I need something to call you." "Oh, um... well, I don't-- you can just call me 'Jack' for now." "Okay, well I'll see you later, Jack." she boarded the school bus, which soon drove away. As Jack turned to walk down the street, Sheriff Andrea pulled in front of him in a police car, blaring the siren. "What's with the siren?" "It's so hard to get your attention." She stepped out of the car. "Alright, well, you got it. Are you arresting me again?" "I'm thanking you for your help finding that patient. We all owe you a debt of gratitude." "Well, what do I get? A commendation? Key to the city?" He joked "How about a job? I could use a deputy." "Thank you, but I have a job." "As a bail bondsman? There's not much of that going on here." "I don't see a lot of sheriffing going on around here either." "Well, here's your chance to see it up close. There's dental. Why don't you think about it and stay awhile." She gave him one of her information cards. -------- In Ellen's Diner, Jack was reading the newspaper when Michelle brought him a cup of hot cocoa. She set the cup on the table and walked away. Just then, Derek entered the diner and sat across from Jack. "How was your walk with Hilary? That's right I know everything. But it's ok, I don't mind." "You don't?" "No. Because I'm not worried about you anymore. You see, I did a little digging into who you are, and what I found out was quite reassuring. It all comes down to the number seven." "Seven?" "It's the number of addresses you've had in the last decade. Your longest stint anywhere was two years. Really, what did you enjoy so much about Tallahassee?" "For your information, I did find a place here in town." "I know, with Ms. Richards. How long is your lease? Oh, wait. You don't have one. You see my point? In order for something to grow, it needs roots, and you don't have any. People don't change, they only fool themselves into believing they can." "You don't know me." "No, I think I do. All I ask as you carry on your transient life, you think about Hilary and what's best for her. Perhaps consider a clean break. It's going to happen anyway. Enjoy your cocoa." Derek stood up and left. As Jack stood up, the cup of cocoa spilled on his lap. "Ugh, really?" "Och!" Michelle rushed over with a towel. "Do you have a laundry room I can use?" "Mm-hmm" Jack angrily walked in the back to the laundry room, put his shirt in the washer, and took one off of the clothesline. "Darn it!" shouted Ray, a man with red hair and blue eyes, as he pulled a shirt from the dryer. "You okay?" Ray held up the shirt with faded stains on it. "It didn't get those oil stains off." "You try bleach?" "I've been a racer for so many years, and never had one crash. Until now. But I think I came close to fixing the car." "That's great." "It's just that, now everyone's telling me it's time to retire. Maybe they're right." Jack started the washer and turned around to face Ray. "Don't listen to them. Look, people like to tell you what to do. But in the end, it's up to you." "It's not exactly that easy." "It never is. People are going to tell you who you are your whole life. You just gotta punch back and say, 'No, this is who I am.' You want people to look at you differently? Make them. You want to keep doing what you love to do, then go and do it." -------- That night, Ms. Wood walked up to her shop door and changed the sign from open to closed, shut the lights off, and left, locking the door behind her. After she was gone, Ray approached the front door of the shop, bashed in the bottom left window pane of the door with a brick, and entered the store. He came up to a painting on the wall, which he revealed was covering a safe. "Ray, what are you doing?" Ms. Wood asked, appearing behind him. "I decide when I'm done." He sprayed her in the face with pepper spray. She screamed and fell to the ground. Ray removed a key from her and used it to open the safe. -------- The next morning, in her loft, Laura Reed brought two plates of food to the table. Jack was unpacking his recently arrived belongings. "I'm so glad my stuff is here. Oh, thanks." he accepted the plate she offered to him. "So, that's all your stuff? Is the rest in storage? "No, this is all of it. I'm... not sentimental." "Well, it must make things easier when you have to move." There was a knock on the door, and Laura opened it to see Ms. Wood. "Ms. Richards, is Jack here?" Jack walked up to them. "Hi, I'm Ms. Wood. We met briefly when you first arrived." "Yeah, I remember." He nodded. "Good. I have a proposition for you, Jack. I need your help. I'm looking for someone." "Really?" "You know what? I'm going to jump in the bath." Laura Reed walked away, leaving them alone. Ms. Wood came into the apartment. "I have a photo." She handed Jack a security camera picture. "His name is Ray Saetta. He's a former race car driver, and he's taken something quite valuable of mine." "So why don't you just call the police?" "Because uh... he's a confused young man. I don't want to ruin his life, but I just want my property returned." "And what is it?" "Well, one advantage of you not being the police is discretion. Let's just say it's a precious object and leave it at that." "When did you last see him?" "Last night. That's how I got this." She showed him the gash on her forehead. "It's so unlike him. He was quite wound up, rambling on and on about deciding when he's done. I have no idea what got into him. Jack, please, just help me find him. My only other choice is the police, and I don't think anyone wants to see that car impounded, now do they." "No, of course not." "So, you'll help me then?" "I'll help him." "Good." The door opened and Hilary entered the apartment. "Hey, Jack, I was thinking we..." She stopped in her tracks when she saw Ms. Wood. "Hey, Hilary, how are you?" "Okay." "Good. Give my regards to your father, and um, good luck, Jack." She left the apartment. "Do you know who that is?" Hilary asked Jack. "Yeah, of course, I do." "Who? Cause I'm still trying to figure it out." "Oh, I meant in reality." "Is that all you brought?" "Hilary, what are you doing here?" "My dad's gone till 5:00. I thought we could hang out." "Aw, kid I wish I could, but there's something I gotta do." -------- Soon, Jack and Hilary were walking down the street. "Please, let me help." Hilary pleaded. "No. It could be dangerous." "The racer man is dangerous?" "He attacked Ms. Wood." "Cool." "This isn't a game. He's desperate." "Well, then let's find him." "Oh no. There's no 'let's'. You can't come with me." 'Then I'll look for him myself." "Then I'll find you and I'll bring you back." "Then you wouldn't be helping that man." "I'm just trying to be responsible here." "And I'm just trying to spend time with you." Hilary climbed into Jack's car. "Oh, that's really not fair." He also got in the car. "So the racer-- what's his story?" -------- Outside Ellen's Bed and Breakfast, Jack and Hilary were questioning Michelle about Ray's disappearance. A tow truck sat on the street, slowly putting down Michelle's car. "So, this girlfriend of his-- you don't think she was involved in his disappearance?" asked Jack. "Uh, that would mean that she was involved with him at all, which she isn't," Michelle explained. "She left him right after his big crash. Hasn't spoken to him since. Like I said, she's a--" the tow truck suddenly dropped her car. "Hey, hey, hey! Matt, be careful. You almost shattered my bear thing. It's good luck." "Sorry, Michelle," the mechanic apologized in a thick rural Southern accent. "But, look, it's okay." "Michelle, does he have any family or friends?" Jack asked. "Oh, um, he does, but after the crash, he was too embarrassed to talk to them. They even served as his pit crew." "Wait a minute," Hilary interrupted. "Pit crew, a crash, and he's a racer?" "Hilary, not now." "Look, I don't know what you've heard, but it's wrong. Everyone thinks he should give up racing, but he wants to get back into it. Can you understand that?" "I think so." "Look, maybe you should just stay out of it," Michelle suggested. "He's been through enough already." "I can help him." "Then try his ex." "Where can I find her?" "She lives with her dad." -------- A car pulled into the garage of a house, as Jack knocked on the front door. A woman with blue streaked hair and blue eyes answered. "Can I help you?" "Sarah Hudson?" "Yeah." "I'm Jack. I'm looking for Ray Saetta. He's in trouble. I just thought maybe he came to see you." Paul Hudson exited his car and approached the front door. "My daughter doesn't have anything to do with that boy anymore, so whatever trouble he's in, there's nothing we can do to help you." "You're the reason she broke up with him." "Absolutely. I'm not gonna let my girl throw away her entire life over a mistake." "So you just told her to leave him?" "Well, what are they going to do, drive around in a wrecked car?" "Some people only have a car." "Well, they're to be pitied. I'm not letting that happen to my daughter." He walked past them, into the house. "Daddy, maybe we should help him look." "It's a waste, Sarah." "Sarah, if you want to come, come." Jack whispered to her. "Stop letting other people make decisions for you. If Ray runs away with his car, he's gonna be in some serious trouble." "He's running away with the car?" "Yes." "Sarah, inside. Now." Sarah went back into the house. Paul began speaking to Jack. "Look, believe me... if I knew where he was, I would tell you. I went to a lot of trouble to get him that deal." "Deal? What are you talking about?" "You don't know? Ray agreed to give up the car, and he's being paid very well to do so." "He sold the car?" "Oh, you make it sound so crass. I found someone who's going to give that car to a professional racer." "And who are you to judge whether Ray is capable of being that?" "Look at him. He's a rookie, and he's never shown any evidence of being responsible. How could he possibly know how to be a racer?" "Maybe he's going after what he wants to do." "Everybody says that. Now, look, I found someone who's going to pay Ray extremely well, someone who's going to see to it that everybody's happy." "Ms. Wood." "Well, isn't that why you were hired, to bring her the car?" -------- Jack and Hilary were driving down the road in his car. "You can't make her double-cross Wood." Hilary pleaded. "No one's ever broken a deal with her." "Happy to be the first. If Ray wants to be a racer, he should do it. Anyone who wants to live their dream should be allowed to." He pulled the car up to Ellen's Diner, and the two entered. "Why didn't you tell me he sold the car?" Jack asked Michelle at the counter. "Because I didn't think it was important." "Really, considering that's why he's running away?" "Look, Ray's a nice guy. I don't like the idea of people judging him." "Michelle, where is he? You didn't send me to Sarah to find him, you sent me there to give him a head start." "Look, I'm only trying to help him." "Yeah, so am I. Ray's in more trouble than you know. Where is he? Don't make his deal with Wood without me." "I can't talk in front of her." She pointed to Hilary. "She's the mayor's kid." "Hey, I'm on your side." "Hilary, I need to find this man," Jack whispered to her. "And in order to do that, I need you to go home, okay? So please listen to me, seriously. She's not gonna tell me anything if you're around." "Okay." Hilary nodded and left the diner. "Thank you." "He left town," Michelle explained. "Said he was gonna try Boston. Thought he could disappear there." "How long ago did he leave?" "About a half an hour." -------- Jack was driving his car to Boston to look for Ray. Suddenly, Hilary sat up in the back seat. "What did she tell you?" "Hilary!" Jack shouted, surprised. "I'm going to Boston. You can't come with me." "You can't go to Boston. He can't leave. Bad things happen to anyone that does." "I don't have time to argue with you over the curse. I've got to get you home." "We have to stop him before he gets hurt. We're wasting time. If you drop me off, you'll never catch up to him." "Hilary..." "Then Ms. Wood will call the police, and she'll have him sent to jail." Jack closed his eyes and sighed. "Buckle up. Ray, what did you get yourself into?" "I told you. That's the car." Hilary pointed to Ray's car broken down just before the Pixfare border. They pulled up beside it. "Ray?!" Jack ran over to the car but found it was empty. "Jack? Is that you?" Ray came from behind the bushes, holding a cell phone. "Am I glad to see you. I couldn't get a signal." "Don't worry. The tow truck is on its way." Jack assured Ray. "No, no, no, no. Take me to Boston. I can't go back there. She's gonna take my car. I don't want to retire." "I won't let that happen, but are you sure this is what you want to do?" "Yes. I want to keep racing." -------- Later, Jack and Hilary sat in the auto repair shop's waiting room. "You know Jack, you're different." "How?" "You're the only one who can do it." "Break the curse? Yes, I know. You keep telling me that." "No, leave. You're the only one who can leave Pixfare." "You left and came and found me in Boston." "But I came back. I'm ten. I had no choice, but if anyone else tried to go, bad things would happen." "Anyone except... me?" "You're the savior. You can do whatever you want. You can go." The mechanic soon approached them. "Jack, the car has been repaired, and it's running just fine." "What great news." Ms. Wood said as she entered. "Excellent work, Jack. Thank you for bringing me my merchandise." Jack turned around to face her. "A car was your merchandise? Why didn't you tell me?" "Well, because at the time you didn't need to know." "Really? Or you thought I wouldn't take the job?" "On the contrary, I thought it would be more effective if you found out yourself. After seeing Ray's hard life, I thought it would make sense... to you. I mean if anyone could understand the reasons behind giving something up, I assumed it would be you." "You're not getting that car." "Actually, we have an agreement. And my agreements are always honored. If not, I'm going to have to involve the police, and that car is going to end up in the pound, and that would be a pity." "That's not gonna happen." "I like your confidence. Incredible, but all I have to do is press charges. He did, after all, break into my shop." "Let me guess, to steal a contract." "Who knows what he was after." "You know, no jury in the world will put a man in jail whose only reason for breaking an entering was to keep his car. I'm willing to roll the dice that contract doesn't stand up. Are you? Not to mention what might come out about you in the process. Somehow I suspect there is more to you than a simple woodworker. You really want to start that fight?" "I like you, Jack. You're not afraid of me, and that's either cocky or presumptuous. Either way, I'd rather have you on my side." "So, he can keep the car?" "Not just yet. There's still the matter of my agreement with Ray." "Tear it up." "That's not what I do. You see, contracts, deals, well they're the very foundation of all civilized existence, so I put it to you now. If you want Ray to have his career, are you willing to make a deal with me? "What do you want?" "Oh, I don't know just yet. You'll owe me a favor." "Deal." -------- Soon, Jack and Hilary came into the garage where Ray was admiring his newly repaired car. "Hey. Car looks great." "Thanks for bringing me here." "Ms. Wood was outside. I took care of it. You can keep being a racer." "I can? But what did you do?" "Made a deal with her." "Thank you." Ray smiled, shaking Jack's hand. He smiled back and then noticed the time. "Oh, hey kid, it's almost 5:00. You gotta get home." They rushed out of the garage. -------- Jack and Hilary were driving in his car. "'Speed'. My codename. I was thinking in honor of Lightning McQueen-- 'Speed.'" Hilary shook her head. "You got a better one in mind?" "Yep. But I'm not sure you're ready yet." They soon arrived at Derek's house, and Hilary got out of the car. "Hilary!" She stopped and turned back. "About what you said at the garage, about me being able to leave..." "Yeah?" "See you tomorrow." They smiled at each other, and Hilary super sped into the house and upstairs just as Derek was pulling in. She accidentally dropped a toy car on the stairs. "Hilary?" Derek called as he walked in the front door. She reached her room and pretended to be casually reading, as Derek entered the room. "Hilary? What did I tell you? Do not... leave your toys lying around on the stairs. Someone could get hurt." He set the toy car on the shelf and left the room. Hilary sighed in relief. -------- At the garage, Sarah walked up to Ray and saw the newly restored car. "Wow. It looks just like new." "Sarah." "I'm sorry. I never should have left you." "You're back?" "Yeah. What do you say we take a drive?" The two got into the car and kissed. "You know what would look good on this thing? Stickers." Sarah suggested. -------- Jack leaned against the side of his car. He took out the card Andrea gave him and called her. "Hello?" "Andrea, it's Jack. I was thinking... maybe some roots wouldn't be so bad. That deputy job still open?" "Absolutely." "Then I'm in. Derek gonna be okay with this?" "I don't care, it's my department. I'll see you Monday morning." "I'll see ya." He hung up the phone and glanced at Hilary through her window.

Ch. 5 Ants Fight Back Felix sat in his office writing during a session with Hilary. "You used to be an ant." "I used to... Oh, right. Because I'm... because you think I'm Flik. Why--Why do you-- Why do you think that Hilary?" "It's just because of who you are." "And who am I?" "You're an inventor. You want to make a difference." "So, all of the ants in Pixfare--" "There aren't any bugs here. Listen." Hilary went to the window and listened. All they heard was an owl hooting, but no insects. "Maybe it isn't late enough." "There's never been bugs here. You've just never noticed." She sat back down on the couch. "So, you think that's proof that there's a curse?" "Yes, but I know it's not enough. I'm looking for more." "So, Hilary, look, I asked you this once before and you said you'd think about it. Why do you think it is so important that this is real?" "It... It just is." "Alright, well... Keep thinking about that answer, Hilary, because I think there's something buried there." -------- At the Pixfare Sheriff Department, Jack and Andrea discussed his uniform and his new position as deputy sheriff. "So, you think you can get people to do what you want in that red coat?" "I'm getting you to do what I want right now." "Well, at least wear the badge." She held it out to him, but he was hesitant. "Go on. Take it. If you really want to be a part of this community, you have to make it official." The minute Jack clipped the badge to his belt, a loud tremor shook the office. Car alarms were heard going off outside and all of the telephones began to ring. -------- Outside, a crowd was gathered around to see what appeared to be a mine collapse. Derek got out of his car and approached the crowd as a police car arrived. "Everyone, step back, please." "Is that a crater?" Michelle wondered. "No. There were tunnels, uh, old mines. Something collapsed." Ed replied. "Be careful, step back." Derek instructed. Andrea and Jack approached the site. "Sheriff, set up a police perimeter. Ed, why don't you help with the fire department? Jack, this is now official town business. You're free to go." "Well, actually, I work for the town now." Derek gave Andrea a look. "He's my new deputy." She explained. "They say the mayor's always last to know." "It's in my budget." "Indeed." He gave Andrea another look, then addressed Jack. "Deputy, why don't you make yourself useful and help with crowd control?" Derek turned to speak to the crowd. "People of Pixfare, don't be alarmed. We've always known this area was honeycombed with old mining tunnels, but fear not. I'm going to undertake a project to make this area safe, to rehabilitate it to city use. We will bulldoze it, collapse it, pave it." As he spoke, Hilary and Dr. Cutter arrived. Hilary stepped out from the crowd. "Pave it? What if there's something down there?" "Hilary, what are you doing here?" Derek whispered. "What's down there?" "Nothing. Now step back. In fact, everyone please, please step back. Thank you." Derek picked up a piece of metal with a worried look and Hilary noticed. "What was that?" Hilary asked Jack. "Hilary, enough. Listen, this is a safety issue. Wait in the car." He turned to Andrea and Jack. "Deputy Swan, Sheriff, cordon off the area." Hilary looked around, then got out of Derek's car and motioned to Felix. "Hey, Felix. Over here." Both Jack and Felix approached her beside the police car. "This requires all of Operation Cobra... both of you." "I didn't realize I was in Operation Cobra." "Of course, you are. You know everything. We can't let him do this. What if there's something down there?" "They're just some old tunnels." Jack shrugged. "That just happens to collapse right after you get here? You're changing things. You're weakening the Curse." "That's not what's happening." "Yes, it is. Did you do anything different today? 'Cause something made this happen." Jack touched his badge. "Hilary, I told you to wait in the car." She turned to see Derek behind her. "Deputy, do your job." Jack and Felix started walking away. "Dr. Cutter, a word please?" He approached Derek. "Okay, we're done with this." "Uh, excuse me?" "My daughter. We need a new treatment plan. Everything I do she thinks is part of some horrible plot. I can't cover up a safety hazard without her thinking I'm hiding something. How am I hiding something terrible in an old mine? How is any of this logical to her?" "She's got an amazing imagination." "Yes, that you let run rampant." "Well, I think it would be wrong to rip away the world she's constructed. I'd rather use it to try and get--" "Sometimes I think you've forgotten. You work for me. You're an employee, and I can fire you. This is my town. You will lose your office, lose your house. I can cut you down to size until you're a tiny, shrunken little creature, and you won't have a roof over your head." "What would you have me do?" "You take that delusion out of my daughter's head, and you crush it." Felix sat in his office, thinking, when Danielle, a young girl wearing pigtails, and entered with an elderly woman. "Hey, Felix." "Danielle, what are you two doing here?" She motioned to her mouth. "Oh, lunch. I'm sorry. I forgot. I've got another patient. Another time?" "Oh, ok." Hilary then came up beside her. "Hi, Hilary." She greeted her and then left. "Are you recruiting the Queen and Dot for Operation Cobra?" Hilary asked. "You think Danielle and Patty are Dot and the Queen?" "Sure. They're Flik's friends, and they're yours." "Hilary, look. We--we really need to talk about this, okay?" "I know you're not convinced, but I know where I can get proof." She opened up her backpack, and Felix looked at the contents inside. "What is this? A flashlight? And candy bars? Oh, wait. Hilary, you don't want to go down there." "Jack's here, and stuff's happening. I have to look at it." "Hilary." He grabbed her shoulders and sat her on the couch. "Hilary, stop. Stop. There is no proof. Look all of this, all of this is a delusion. Do you know what a delusion is?" "I-I think so." "It's something that's not real and-- and not healthy, and-- and I thought you'd outgrow this, but Hilary, you know... know it's turned into a psychosis. Do you know what a psychosis is? That's-- that's when you can no longer tell what's real, and if that continues, then-- then I have to lock you away. Hilary, look, this has to stop for your own good. You gotta wake up. This nonsense must end." Hilary stared at him angrily, and then stood up and stormed out of the office. Felix bowed his head, feeling guilty about what he said. -------- At Pixfare General Hospital, Laura Reed was playing hangman with Clark, which currently read _AU_A _EE_. "I don't know. 'R'"? She guessed. "Mh-hmm. Two of them." He wrote a letter "r" on the fourth and sixth space. "Get it yet?" She laughed, covering her face with her hands in embarrassment. "Yes, and I'm such an idiot. I almost hanged on my own name." "Don't worry, I would never have let you hang. I would've added toes and a hat, maybe a horse." "Is this a game you played a lot before?" "I don't know." "It'll come back. They're sending you home in a week. They have to think you're progressing, don't they?" "Physically." "Well, you're making new memories just fine." "Maybe I'll like these better." She smiled, touched. "Okay, play again?" Evelyn soon entered, carrying a box of photos. "Can I guess, too?" "Mrs. Grimm. I thought..." She stuttered nervously. "Oh, it's noon already. I didn't realize. I should go." "Good day, Miss Richards." Evelyn sat beside Clark. "Honey, I brought more pictures. Maybe they'll jog something." Clark watched Laura Reed leave as Evelyn began showing him pictures. "I am the worst person in the world." Laura Reed told Jack as they made s'mores in the kitchen. "Really? In the whole world?" "If Evelyn was horrible, it would be easier, but she's so... nice." "And what exactly would be easier?" "Nothing." "Nothing's a good idea. You're smart. You know not to get involved with someone who's married. It's not worth the heartache. Trust me." They heard a knock at the door. Jack went to answer it. "I'll get it." Upon opening it, he saw Hilary, crying. "Kid, what happened? Come in." -------- Felix sat in his office with his dog Dug, when he heard pounding at the door. "Felix! Felix!" Jack shouted angrily on the other side of the door. He entered the office. "What did you do? You told me not to take the fantasy away. You told me it would devastate her." "When a course of therapy stops working, you adjust it." "Is it him? Did he threaten you? What could be strong enough to drown out your own conscience?" "I don't need to defend my professional decisions to you, okay?" Jack's cell phone began to ring, and he answers it. "Hello, Mr. Mayor. Nice work. "You with him?" Derek asked through the phone. "Yes, I'm with Dr. Cutter, and guess what? You left your fingerprints all over him when you--" "Is Hilary with you?" "I dropped her off at your office an hour ago." "Well, she's not here." Jack was now shocked. "I don't know where she is." "I do." Felix spoke up. -------- Hilary stood in front of the mines where the tunnel collapse occurred earlier. She took a deep breath and entered. "Hilary! Hilary!" Jack called as he and Felix searched the front of the mines. "Hilary!" Dug came running to the entrance into the mines, sniffing. "What you got there, Dug?" "I don't think she's here." "I think she is." Felix picked up a candy bar. "Candy bar. She had these with her." -------- Inside the mines, Hilary, with a flashlight in hand, explored the area when she found a mysterious piece of metal among the stones. She picked it up and examined it when all of a sudden, she heard the gravel rustling. She looked up to see an avalanche of rocks, and ran. Jack, Felix, and Dug felt the shaking effects of the avalanche. "Hilary!" Felix headed for the entrance. "Hilary! It's not safe!" He climbed into the collapsing mine, just before more rocks fell and blocked the entrance. "Felix?! Hilary!" Jack shouted. Felix lit a match and proceeded through the mine to look for Hilary, calling her name. "Felix! You're here to help me!" She suddenly came out with the flashlight shining on him. "No, listen. We gotta get out of here, okay." "So, you're still against me." "Hilary, there's no time for that. Come on, Hilary, come on!" She started backing away from him. "You don't believe me? You'll see. You'll see." She turned and ran away. "Hilary! Hilary, come back!" Felix turned to look towards the exit, then turned back and chased after her. "Hilary!" He saw a light in front and found Hilary shining the flashlight at a gap on the ground. "Hilary. You gotta slow down." "There's something shiny down there." "Hilary, this is seriously dangerous. We gotta get out of here." "It could be something." "Will you look at me?! Look at me! I'm scared for you, Hilary!" "Because you think that I'm crazy?" "No! No. Because we're trapped underground in an abandoned mine, and there's no way out." She looked at him, slightly scared. -------- Outside at the entrance of the mine, Dug was barking. Derek, Jack, Andrea, Patty, and Michelle gathered around as workers tried to open the entrance. "Felix is smart. He'll keep her safe until we get to them." Patty assured them. "Watch out!" Michelle shouted as the ground suddenly shook. Derek ran towards Jack and the workers. "Stop! Stop! You're making it worse." "I'm trying to save her. You know why she wouldn't have gone in the first place, don't you? Because you made her feel like she had something to prove!" "And why does she think she has anything to prove? Who's encouraging her?" "Do not put this on me." "Oh, please! Lecture me until the oxygen has run out!" Derek turned and walked away. Hilary and Felix headed in the direction of the barking sound. "Hilary, do you hear that?" "It's Dug!" "Follow the noise." "We have to stop this." Jack decided to call a truce. "Arguing won't accomplish anything." "No, it won't." Derek turned around, knowing he was right. "What do you want me to do?" "Help me." Jack nodded in agreement, as Dug continued barking. "It's loudest over here." Felix removed a large sheet of metal labeled 'Danger'. "What's this?" Hilary asked. "Looks like... an old elevator." "We need to find some way to... punch through the ground. We need something big." "Like what?" Jack shrugged. "Explosives." Patty suggested. Derek and Jack both considered the idea. Felix walked towards the elevator. "It's to get the mine workers in or out. Goes all the way to the top. That's why we can hear Dug." "Can we make it work?" "Let's give it a shot." He and Hilary climbed into the elevator. Everyone stood back and hid as the explosives were ready. "Okay, we're all clear." Jack announced. Felix and Hilary tried to turn the wheel of the elevator, and it started to move a bit. "Blow it." Derek ordered as everyone ducked for cover. One of the workers pressed the button, setting an explosion. Felix held Hilary tight, as the elevator shook and dropped a bit. Jack ran into the smoke caused by the explosion, and then came back out after a few minutes. "Did it work?" asked Derek. "It didn't open." "Then what did it do?" -------- Laura Reed was leaving the hospital, saying goodbye to the other staff, when Clark approached her. "Hey, where you going?" "Home. I'm done for the day. Shouldn't you be resting?" "Actually, Dr. Whale wants me to get some exercise. I'm supposed to walk thirty minutes a day with an escort. But they're kinda short on personnel because of that thing that happened in the mine." "Oh." "So... maybe there's a volunteer willing to help?" They smiled at each other. Later, Clark and Laura Reed were walking near a lake. "I try to remember this place. It's like... it's like I woke up on some strange land." "Is there anything coming back?" Laura Reed asked, and then paused for a while. "What about when you're with her?" "Yeah, I lied." He confessed. "You did?" "She's just so loving, you know? I didn't want to disappoint her... but none of it feels right, you know? None of it makes sense. None of it... feels real." "That sounds so lonely." "Actually, one thing does feel real. You." Laura Reed looked shocked for a moment, remembering Hilary's theory. Maybe it was true that they really did belong together. She shook off the thought, deciding to play along. "What?" "I know it's crazy, but I swear, you're the only thing in this whole place that feels... that feels right." Laura Reed smiled and they started getting closer to each other before Clark pulled away. "Evelyn." She lowered her head. "Right." Clark walked past Laura Reed. "Evelyn, uh, wh--" She also turned to see Evelyn arrive. "You're here." "I know it's outside of visiting hours, but, uh... I needed to see you." Evelyn handed him a basket. "I made some cranberry muffins. They used to be your favorite." Laura Reed looked between the two of them and could tell the silence was getting awkward with her there. "Well, I should leave you two." She began walking away. Clark chased after her. "Wait, Laura Reed. See you tomorrow?" She turned back then smiled and continued walking away. -------- Outside at the mine entrance, Derek ran to the workers. "What was that? You said you could do this." Jack tried to calm him down. "Mr. Mayor." "They could have killed my daughter." "I know. But this isn't helping." "If we knew exactly where they were, we could drill down to them." Patty suggested. Dug's barking caught Jack's attention and he ran towards the fire truck he was in. "Maybe... maybe make something to bring them back up." "But drill where?" Andrea wondered. "What do you think we..." Derek started. Jack opened the fire truck's door and let Dug out. "Come on buddy. It's Felix's dog." They all watched as Dug sniffed the ground. "He's found something. Look, this is where they must be. What is it?" Jack held Dug by his collar as Patty and Andrea removed a metal covering and found a hole blocked by grate bars. "What is that?" asked Jack. "It's an air shaft." Andrea replied. "I'm... really... really... really sorry." Hilary slipped her backpack off and sat on the floor with Felix. "It's alright." "I just wanted to find proof." "No, it's really alright, Hilary. I mean, I'm sorry, too. Look, I-I don't think you're crazy. I-I just-- I just think that you've got a very strong father who's got a clear idea of a path that he wants you to be on, and when you step off that, he... he gets scared, and, you know, that's natural, but it's also natural for you to be able to be free to think the things that you want to think. So... anyway, I-I didn't mean those things I just said, and I-I never should have said them." "Then... why did you?" "I guess I'm still not a very good person. I'm not the man I want to be." The elevator suddenly began to shake. Using the pulley from Matt's tow truck, the workers removed the metal grate. Jack, Derek, and Andrea looked down to the deep shaft. "So? What's next?" Derek asked. "I think you can be him. I think you can be a good person. I mean, you're Flik. "Hilary, Flik was a, uh, he was an ant, okay, and he helped his colony, and--and I hardly think that's me." "But before you said he was a guy who took a long time to figure out the right thing to do." Felix paused for a moment and nodded. "He kinda sounds like me." "Now it's harder for you, because of the curse, to care for the voice inside of you, to be who you wanna be." The elevator began shaking again. "We need to lower someone straight down, or the line would collapse with the sides of the shaft." Patty instructed to Derek and Jack. Andrea came over with a harness. Derek offered to go down into the shaft. "Oh, no way. I'm going." Jack argued. "She's my daughter." "She's mine too. You've been sitting behind your desk for ten years. I can do this." Derek sighed, knowing there was no point in arguing. He took a step toward Jack. "Just bring her to me." Felix noticed a few stones drop to the elevator. "Hey, can I ask you again?" "Ask what?" "Why do you think it's so important that your-- your Pixar theory is true?" Hilary shrugged. "I don't know." "Give it a shot." Hilary handed Felix a chocolate bar from her backpack. "'Cause... this can't be all there is." "I understand." He nodded with a smile. "I thought if I've found proof... But I didn't find anything." "Well, that's not true. I was lost when you found me, right?" He handed her a piece of chocolate. "You mean, you remember?" "No, I-I don't remember. But I-I do remember the kind of person I want to be. I just gotta listen harder." More gravel suddenly started falling from the top. They both looked up to see a light and a shadow. "What's that?" Hilary wondered. "I think it's a rescue." They stood up to see Jack being lowered from the top of the shaft. "Are you guys okay?" "Yeah, we're-- we're okay." "Hang on, Hilary. Okay, that's good. Stop." Jack said into the walkie-talkie on his shoulder. He removed the roof of the elevator. Felix lifted Hilary up and she grabbed Jack's hand as he pulled her out. More gravel began to fall as the elevator started to rattle, with Felix still inside. The elevator soon fell to the ground with a crash. "Felix!" Jack and Hilary shouted, scared. They were relieved however to see Felix was holding onto a carabiner on Jack's harness. The crowd all clapped and cheered as the workers pulled Jack, Hilary, and Felix out of the shaft. Derek hugged Hilary and pulled her away, while Andrea stopped Jack from following and took off the harness. Patty and Felix hugged each other, laughing with joy. Jack came over to Hilary, smiling. "Are you okay?" Derek shoved Jack away. "Deputy, you can clear the crowd away." Jack watched unwillingly as Derek sent Hilary away. Derek came up to Felix, who was talking with Patty. "Thank you, Dr. Cutter." "I, uh, I have something to say." Patty left them alone. Felix stepped off to the side with Derek following. "I'm gonna continue to treat Hilary, and I'm gonna do it my own way." Derek looked at him, surprised. "My relief at her safety hasn't changed a thing, Dr. Cutter. You will do as I say, or you..." "Or what? You'll ruin my life? You'll do your worse? Because I will always do my best. " "Don't test me." "Oh, I don't need to, because you're gonna leave me alone, and let me do my work in peace." "Really? Why is that?" "Because someday, Mr. Mayor, you may find yourself in a custody battle. And you know how a court determines who's a fit parent? They consult an expert, particularly one who has treated the child. So, I suggest that you think about that and you'll allow me to do my work and let me do it my inventive way." Felix walked away, leaving Derek with an angry look on his face. -------- Soon, it had gotten dark outside. Jack watched curiously Felix and Patty as they chatted happily. "Is that Felix's mother?" He asked Hilary. They both sat on the edge of where the mine had collapsed. "No. They're just old friends." Jack took hold of Hilary's hand. "You really scared me." "I'm sorry." Patty and Felix walked over to them, ready to go. Jack smiled at them and then turned to Hilary. "Well, come on. Your dad wants to take you home." "Hey! Look!" Hilary looked down and saw a line of ants crawling on the ground. Felix also looked down. "Ants." "They're back." Hilary smiled and turned to Jack. "Things are changing." -------- At the hospital, Laura Reed put her letter of resignation into the mailbox at the counter. -------- Outside the mine, the worker and the crowd chatted and drank to celebrate. Standing off to the side, Derek took out the piece of metal he picked up earlier that day and threw it down to an air shaft. The piece of metal kept falling until it hit the ground near the remains of a broken robot.

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