Author's Note: There's a video trailer for anyone who's interested: just hop onto youtube and type in "The 4400: Stars So Bright" and enjoy.


Chapter One

Black... it was all black... nothingness.

No color.

No light.

No sound.

When consciousness next touched me, there was nothing before my eyes.

Only endless darkness.

I couldn't hear, I couldn't see... but I could feel.

I could feel myself floating weightlessly, could feel the warmth of living flesh on either side of me, in front of me, and even behind me... pressed in close, and yet strangely unmoving. The next thing I became aware of was that I couldn't move a muscle.

I was still frozen, arm clamped to the strap of my bag, head tilted back, body incapable of doing anything. Standing upright, I was like a living statue. Remembering anything was still hard, and it felt as though I were swimming to the surface of an underground river, but the air above was as black and airless as the water below.

I had been drifting in the darkness for a long time.

It took me a moment to remember that my own name was Mayumi Yamamura. Then I remembered what had happened a few minutes ago and I felt wide awake. I wanted to move, to call for Fumiko, for my mother, and I was scared.

I vaguely recalled seeing the light above me, and I wondered for a moment if I was dead.

The thought terrified me and I suddenly wanted to see where I was, why everything was so dark... why I felt like there were people all around me, who it was that was pressed against my limbs in such stillness. Then... the darkness suddenly cracked like a pane of glass.

I would have flinched, but I still couldn't move.

More cracks soon jolted through the dark, jagged lines and odd fissures.

My heart thumped and an inexplicable horror built up inside me.

And just like that... the darkness shattered and the world exploded.

My eyes squeezed shut of their own accord and I flinched, lowering my head with my shoulders flying up to my ears. It occurred to me that I could move, and hear, but what I was hearing didn't make any sense. The sounds, the smells, the feeling of the air, everything was all wrong.

Instead of being refreshing and carrying the scent of sea salt and oil, the air suddenly felt humid and moist, and all I could smell was mud and pine.

The soft murmuring of other people had replaced the gentle thrushing noise of the ocean. The rattle of something metal instead of the cherry trees and the crickets. I knew that something was wrong even before I opened my eyes, but I honestly didn't know what to think after I did.

I stared, slack-jawed, head whipping around.

I was surrounded in a sea of foreign people wearing strange clothing. I clutched my bag, shoulders hunched, stiffly staring at everyone with a stunned expression, trying to make sense of what I was seeing, but there was no explanation.

No answer.

Everyone around me was slowly looking around.

They all seemed to be just as baffled and confused as me, and others even looked more afraid than I felt on the inside. My eyes drifted higher, and I gasped: the sky was full of stars, and all around us were mountains covered in evergreen pine trees.

A young blonde woman wearing clothes I remembered seeing in a fashion magazine bumped my arm, grey eyes lost. In a fit of terror, I tapped her arm, and she looked down at me. Her nose wrinkled slightly when I clutched my bag, swallowing hard.

I didn't know if she spoke Japanese, but there was no harm in trying.

"Um, do you know what's going on?" I asked faintly. "How... how did we get here?"

She stared at me blankly, then said something in English, something I didn't understand.

I bit my lip, feeling like I was about to burst into tears at any second, I was so confused, I didn't know what was happening, and she couldn't understand me. Her eyes widened in horror and she hesitantly put a single hand on my shoulder, patting me with no real strength.

She looked reluctant to touch me.

Her eyes drifted around and she muttered something, then her hand left me and she slowly wandered away, looking just as lost as I felt. Then, one at a time, people began to cry, to yell, and confused panic slowly spread through everyone around me.

Someone suddenly pushed me from behind and I went flying forward, landing in the mud on my hands and knees. I couldn't make my legs move after that. I was too frightened, all alone in a strange place, with no idea how I'd gotten there, and it began to hit me all at once.

I sank back on my knees as people began to scream in English, and other languages I'd never heard, some that I recognized but didn't understand. I hugged my school bag, staring at everyone through blurry vision with my whole body shaking like a leaf, unable to stop.

"Fumiko-chan!" I wailed, looking around at all of the unfamiliar faces. "MOTHER! FUMIKO-CHAN!"

Nobody even looked my way. They were too busy with their own confused panic.

"MOTHER!" I screeched, burying my face in my bag and bursting into tears. "MOTHER! MOTHER! HELP ME!

"Who is speaking Japanese?!"

My heart lurched and I looked up, tears flying off my lashes.

I'd barely heard it over the sound of the panic around me, b

"I am!" I cried, shakily standing up and looking around. "Where are we?!"

"I have no idea!" the voice, unmistakably male, called back. "Keep yelling!"

"Over here?!" I shouted, waving my arms. "This way!"

"Louder!"

I obliged without question and screamed, "I'M OVER HERE!"

I kept waving my arms and yelling until a rather tall boy wearing a strange-looking uniform shouldered his way through the panicking throng. I blinked when his sharp eyes locked on me, the sweep of his black hair covering his left eye. I dropped my arms, holding my bag close.

He looked at my school uniform with something akin to a disbelieving sneer.

"What are you wearing?"

His question was spoken with a layer of contempt I hadn't been expecting.

I stared at him, finding it completely strange that his first question would be about my clothing. And what was with his attitude?! We were stuck among an entire crowd of people who couldn't speak Japanese, in the middle of nowhere, with no idea how we'd gotten here.

"It's... it's my school uniform," I stammered, swallowing hard before I trotted up. "Do you know where we are? How did we get here?!"

"Hell if I know," he muttered, frowning. "The last thing I remember is hanging out on the school rooftop during the lunch hour... then there was this strange light, and the next thing I knew I was standing right here."

"You saw a light, too?" I asked, feeling alarmed. "Could that be how we got here?"

"I have no idea." he said, giving me a look. "What do you remember?"

"Well, I was getting ready to go down to the beach with my little sister," I mumbled, speaking over the yelling all around us, "then, there was a bright light, and I suddenly couldn't move... even it when everything got dark. The next thing I knew, we were all right here."

I swallowed hard, but I fought to keep my feelings buried inside me.

"Look," he said lowly, pointing at something. "Over there."

I followed his finger and stared, since there were strange looking cars pulling up along the trees off in the distance. A lot of people wearing what seemed like police uniforms were already leading the panicked crowd to the giant automobiles, which had giant doors built into the back.

I watched as the people around me began to make their way for the trees. The officers in blue directed them to the vans, soothing and placating the rowdier people, but many others, however, grew angry and resisted.

I flinched and unthinkingly clutched the Japanese boy's arm when someone tried to attack one of the policemen. He let out a shout and dropped to the ground in a heap when something latched onto his arm, jerking and screaming before he fell still, cowering in a little ball.

"What was that?!" I stammered, shivering violently. "What did they do to him?"

The Japanese boy was silent.

I glanced up at him, but he wasn't looking at me, he was staring off at a group of Foreign police officers who were now approaching us and many other people who were all still fearfully huddled together and conversing with in frantic tones all around us.

One of them and looked right at me.

I swallowed hard when he walked right up to the two of us and said something in English.

I didn't understand, but after a moment he frowned and said something a little more harshly.

My mouth began to tremble and my knees felt rubbery all over again.

"I don't understand," I whimpered, fighting back tears. "What is he saying?"

"I don't speak Gaijin," the boy beside me snorted.

The officer pulled a small black box out of his pocket and said something into it, then waited; I jumped when a static-filled voice came out, much like a radio. The man said something else, and the box responded in turn. With a nod, the man put it back in his pocket. Then he stalked forward, grabbing the boy's arm and snatching my own.

"Oi!" the boy barked, struggling to pull away when the two of us were forcibly dragged towards the vehicles. "Let go of me! Get your filthy hands off of me!"

The officer ignored him, walking at such a quick pace that I had trouble keeping up with him. I stumbled, on the verge of losing my balance, but he didn't slow down. My heart pounded up my throat when he stopped in front of one of the vehicles I'd seen earlier..

"Stop!" I cried, kicking my legs in terror when another officer grabbed me by the arms and lifted me into the back of the van. "LET GO! HELP! HELP!"

But nobody even looked our way: there were about ten people already sitting on a bench in the back of the automobile I'd just been put in. An old English woman sitting near the edge patted the seat and said something in a sweet tone, and while I didn't understand it, I got the message.

Jerkily, I flopped down on the bench, holding my bag close to my chest.

Not long after, the boy I'd been talking to sat down beside me and grumbled.

"You," he muttered, poking my arm, "what's your name?"

I barely even heard him. I had gone completely numb. I had to be dreaming.

"Yamamura Mayumi," I said blankly, staring off into space. "And you?"

"Hiroto Yusuke," he grunted.

That made me look at him funny, since his name was a rather unusual one, but before anything else could be said between the two of us, they slammed the doors and everyone inside the van, not just us two, jumped and looked at each other with expressions of fear on their faces.

I drew my knees up to my chin when the sound of an engine filled the van.

I could feel the vibrations.

I didn't know what was going on yet, but at some point, I was sure we would find out.

All I really wanted right then was to go home.