Disclaimer: I do not own "Falling Skies" no matter how much I wish I did.

The Cornerstone

After their mother is killed, brothers Hal, Ben, and Matt Mason set out to find their father Tom Mason. Without knowing if their father is alive, in a world invaded by aliens, and as days stretch into months, a simple mission becomes an arduous journey that one brother won't finish.

One: Extra and Ordinary

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." – Proverbs 17:17


If he did it one more time, I was going to kill him. That is if I could, but of course that was a longshot like making an 80-yard shot when your team is seconds away from being squashed like bugs by your arch rivals at regionals. I couldn't pull that kind of miracle moment off if I tried, but he could of course. He even did that exact thing, earning him the praise of the entire student body and half a dozen dates with girls. It was awesome I'll admit, but I won't admit it to him.

Thomas "Hal" Hallam Mason II doesn't need any more compliments to stroke his ego. He already has some girl named Rita, a girl with no morals and even less clothing that our mother would be shame-faced to see him with, taking caring of that department. There it goes again. He tickles her, and like claws running the length of a chalkboard, her shriek of excitement resonates throughout the house. Doesn't he know that eardrums can burst with that kind of raw, heightened frequency? Of course, he doesn't notice or care. His head is probably filled with only one thought anyways.

"She sounds like a pig squealing," Matt announced tiredly, and I burst into laughter as he runs and jumps on the end of my bed, sitting with his crossed legs.

"Shit! Blindlight…ah sorry man! Matt came in…" I instantly stopped laughing as I saw my partner, a six-foot purple-cloaked wizard turn his back on me and cast my ogre-ass into oblivion. I had worked three days on this new game, and it was all ruined before I even reached the Waters of Sun? "Geez Matt why did you come in here? Damn now I'm two levels down!" I roared, ripping off my wireless headphones and exhaling as I double checked my weaponry and power supply then turning in my computer chair to face him.

It was unlike Matt to not fire back some lame comment about me being stupid or my personal favorite buttface when he was yelled at. At least buttface was better than pimple-popper which was his pet name for Hal much to our eldest brother's chagrin and my delight. However, the kid had remained quiet, and seething with annoyance, I turned to find him lying in a ball on the end of my bed with a lacrosse helmet on to ward off Rita's giggles that floated up the stairs.

It was Hal's helmet that Matt had picked up off the floor and was now contaminating my bed with, and I cursed that he was sleeping so soundly. I couldn't yell at him to get the pimple-popper's helmet off my bed when he was so pathetic. It was after midnight and thereby well passed Matt's bedtime; he was eight after all. Besides, we all knew what happened at home between us three when Mom and Dad went out to one of Mom's late-night, swanky fundraisers hosted by her firm did not stay at home if Matt was on the receiving end of the name-calling or elbow-to-the-eye when I or Hal threw an impromptu swing or two at each other. The kid was a blabbermouth.

Sighing, I turned back to my game, finding my ogre avatar twiddling his thumbs at the mouth of the cave doubling as a saving point. I groaned at his puke-orange coloring. I had nearly forgotten that Blindlight had used his enchantments to turn him green in the first place, and he was pissed at me so I was out of luck. Since every other serious gamer that was awake and playing had far surpassed the cave, I gave up. I couldn't go anywhere from this level without a partner unless I wanted to die a fat, orange ogre in a rock cavern filled with dragons. Instead, I sat watching the blank messaging text box on the bottom of the screen, typing letters nonsensically as my ogre shuffled left a step and then right a step out of boredom.

Eventually the game prompted an "Inactivity: If you would like to save your game, click ok." message, but before I could do anything the screen went black. I was nearly up on my feet out of outrage when I realized my bedroom light was off too as a blood curdling scream filled the air. Without hesitation, I flew out of my room, stumbling over Mom's carpet rug that she insisted we couldn't wipe our feet on and nearly launching myself head first down the staircase in the darkness.

"Ow! What the h—" I began, and the lights flicked back on.

The surge of electricity buzzed around us, and the TV in the living room flicked back on as well. Car alarms and dogs barking could be heard filling the neighborhood.

"What'd you do? Did your lame magic game overpower the breaker?" Hal spat, cutting his eyes. He stood staring me down—shirtless and shoeless on yet another area rug Mom would murder us over. Rita stood behind him, facing the fireplace and scrambling to button her shirt, and Hal moved sideways to block my view of her.

"Moron," I laughed, and he stepped forward purposefully. "The whole neighborhood went out! By the way who screamed?"

"Oh…um sorry," Rita shrugged sheepishly as she made a point to grind the toe of her boot into the rug as she zipped it up. Mom wouldn't like this girl one bit, and even Hal sighed slightly in relief when no mark was left. "That was me…I should get going."

She stepped passed Hal and scooped up her purse, making her way to the front door with Hal following like a puppy. I didn't have to follow to know what was happening. I could hear the lip-smacking as clear as I heard Hal's stupid plea for her to stay. I rolled my eyes and turned to go back upstairs, but the TV caught my eye. It was a news channel, and I knew Hal or Rita must have accidentally lain on the remote in order to have that channel blaring. Hal didn't even know what a news channel was probably, and by the look of the screen, neither did the wide-eyed reporter on camera.

She held her finger to her ear like a spy as she nervously shuffled her papers before her. It was weird as the chaotic newsroom of people talking over each other could even be heard on the mic, and the blue screen to the right of the reporter's head that usually posted bullet points or pictures of the news story at hand was blank before it flashed and disappeared. The string of updates and announcements running across the bottom of the screen was the only thing that echoed the professional normalcy associated with a news channel.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the abruptness and confusion of the last few minutes," The woman began, and I wondered who was feeding her lines as they fell from her mouth like Matt used to read when he was younger, sounding more like naming a list of things than reading a sentence. "It appears as we are flooded with reports by phone and on our blog that something indeed has entered Earth's atmosphere. It is yet unclear as to what exactly this unidentified flying object is…excuse me objects are…"

The front door slammed shut, and I blinked, pulling my focus away from the news. Hal huffed back into the room, running a hand through his hair.

"Tough break man," I snickered, and he swatted my head. He missed as I ducked quickly enough.

"Punk," He muttered, flopping onto the couch and then tugging back on his shirt. "What the hell are we watching?"

"The news," I replied, sinking into the recliner and yawning. "You should know. You put it on."

"I…well…maybe," He smiled fondly, and I could see him replay the last hour spent with Rita on the couch after he had stumbled home from his date that Mom and Dad had told him he couldn't go on because he had to stay and watch Matt and me. Hal had bailed thirty minutes after Dad and Mom had disappeared.

Ignoring his daydreaming, I focused on the news. The reporter sounded less robotic now as her speech became even more ludicrous. She babbled about the UFOs, informing me and Hal, who had tuned in because he was too lazy to get up, that the president was about to make an announcement.

"Probably just a military thing," Hal mused, and I silently agreed to not give him the satisfaction of being right. Give him an inch, and Hal would take the whole ruler and chunk it at my head. Of course, it was a two-way street between us as Dad always pointed out.

The woman disappeared, and a video popped onto the screen. It was dark on the video other than the moonlight that illuminated the object that covered the majority of the screen. It wasn't flying like the dart of white light on fuzzy pictures that people swore up and down were UFOs on late night documentaries. This "UFO" wasn't flying at all. It was hovering over the Boston skyline ominously. Hal and I shared a look as we leaned forward on our knees.

"…receiving reports of these UFOs not only in the New England area, but reports are flooding in internationally with objects continuing to enter Earth's atmosphere around the world. What or who this arrival is and whether it is orchestrated domestically or by extraterrestrials is still unknown. As you can see the objects seem to have come without threat…"

The video continued running as it was minimized to the side of the screen as the reporter and some other man begin to have a conversation on the other side of the screen. Yet, I wasn't paying attention. My curiosity was raised, and I ran out of the house, flinging the door open as I stared up at the sky expectantly. Hal was at my heels as we ran down the stone path to the street, and I wondered what Mom and Dad were thinking when we moved here. Seriously, we couldn't see the Boston skyline properly when we lived in a neighborhood practically infested with trees.

"Up the hill?" Hal suggested, and I nodded. Matt was asleep. He wouldn't know, and Hal kept the door unlocked as he shut it.

We ran up the slight hill that our street was on, standing on top of the stone wall that surrounded the church at the street's end. We weren't alone as hoards of neighbors had beaten us to the punch. People grazed on the lawn and stood like pillars on the wall as everyone strained to see the UFOs. Hal and I did too, and a sense of fear flooded me as I saw the UFOs hovering above the city.

I was a geek without a doubt. I didn't need Hal's reminders to inform me of that fact or even Dad's pointless encouraging speeches to be myself after every lacrosse game that I came home from perfectly cool from having taken permanent resident on the bench.

I liked books, video games, movies, and fanfictions. Monsters and wizards, zombies and aliens too—they were like my bread and butter, and I always thought it would be cool to have magical powers or even be bitten by a radioactive spider and scaling skyscrapers. Being anything different, anything unthinkable would be awesome to me, and as I rushed up the hill, a part of me felt like I was finally getting my chance. This was my opportunity to become something great, but looking at the UFOs up close, I didn't feel that great.

Something about the objects produced a fear in me, and I felt stupid for the first time. This should be the best moment of my life, and I was a scared chicken, worrying about little green men lasering me to death and wishing Mom and Dad were home. I wasn't even worthy of the title of "geek." I felt miserable looking at the UFOs and their size and power, stretching above the city. Their size was incredible, and the lines of their crafts looked like they would crush the measly helicopters and jets that hovered around them like moths to a candle, flurrying about wildly around the unlighted, heavy crafts.

Hal and I stood for a while with our shoulders pressed together since it was so crowded, listening to whispers and shouts until Hal suddenly wrenched me off the wall and pulled me halfway down the street.

"Shit! It's Mom and Dad's car!" He yelled as we sped down the hill, ducking behind a tree as the lights of our dad's four-door washed over us.

"They'll see us at the front door!" I panicked.

"Back door! Back door!" Hal said in the same urgent tone we used for our made-up reports over walkie-talkies when we were kids playing cops.

Following in his wake, I sprinted to catch up, loping down the sidewalk and cutting around the Rossmans' patio and sneaking around their garage. With more stealth than when we were kids, Hal and I shimmied over the fence at the lower end and rolled into our backyard. Hal went for the door, and we cringed as we realized it was locked. We were screwed as we heard the purr of the engine turn off in the garage and the scuffle of our parents' feet into the house.

"Boys!" Dad called as Mom instantly began talking a-mile-a-minute in the background.

"Boys!" It was Mom calling this time which meant we were even more screwed. "Boys!"

Hal and I jumped backward, darting around the house to the unlocked front door, slipping in before our parents could spot us. However, our timing was shot to hell as Matt came rushing down the stairs, looking like he did years ago when he still came into the bedroom I shared with Hal and begged us to let him sleep in the bean bag chair because the monster was in his closet again. The bean bag had a permanent shape to it—perfect for fitting a four-year-old comfortably.

"You left me by myself!" He cried half-way down the stairs.

"You what?" My mom shrieked accusingly at us as our parents emerged from the kitchen, rushing to Matt like he was bleeding.

"Hal, Ben what's going on?" Dad asked with his hands on his hips. That gesture was only comical when Hal was the one in trouble.

"Um…" Hal gulped. "We stepped outside to see the craft?" I wanted nothing better to hit Hal as his voice quavered too much, and I suddenly knew why as I spotted the offending garment gracing the floor just a few steps from Dad's foot and leaning carelessly on the edge of Mom's rug in the living room. It was pink and lacy, and Hal was a dead man walking if he shifted his eyes anymore nervously.

"Funny we didn't see you outside," Dad crossed his arms now as Mom was done assessing Matt for cuts, bruises, cigarette burns, or any other signs of torture.

"We must have come back inside," I suggested.

"And then gone back outside?" His eyebrows were raised now.

I shrugged, "Yes?"

"Oh we saw you two run with your tails between your legs all the way down the street!" Mom shrieked, tugging Matt down the stairs behind her, and he smirked triumphantly behind her evening gown.

"Sorry," I mumbled, watching Dad's gaze flit towards Hal's nervous face aimed at the bra on our living room floor.

"Sorry! Sorry? You went half-way down the street, leaving your little brother alone in an unlocked house! For goodness sake's Hal, you didn't even wear shoes!" Everyone looked down to Hal's socked feet, and Dad suppressed a laugh behind Mom. "You're going to catch a cold! And the kitchen! I left a cardboard pizza and a bottle of coke for dinner! It's not rocket science boys! There's a trash can a foot away from the counter!"

She had gone over the ledge like she always does, and the further she went over the ledge, the more punishment we were going to swallow regardless of the fact that the plate of pizza I knew she was referring to was Matt's. He was the baby, the angel, and thereby perfect, guiltless one, managing to squirm in and get what he wanted after Hal and I had knocked each other out of the ring. He had more wins under our belt than Hal and I could count.

"We'll clean it up," Hal offered immediately.

"Good," She nodded and proclaimed it loudly enough for the neighbors to hear if they weren't down the street staring at UFOs. Mom pulled Matt behind her as she ascended the staircase, "I'm putting Matt to bed. The kitchen and anything else that was messed up should be spotless by the time I'm downstairs again!"

"Geez," Hal exhaled as she disappeared, and I stood rooted to my spot.

Dad walked straight to the bra on the floor and held it up and whispered, "This! We'll talk about this later!"

Hal nodded as Dad shoved the bra into Hal's lacrosse bag that was tossed in the corner. After that he did much like Hal and I had done, stopping to watch the news channel with interest. The president was occupying the screen, talking about making contact with the aliens and calling in the National Guard. All armed forces were being put on high alert.

"What do you think is going to happen?" Hal asked, staring at the screen and turning to Dad. I did too. He knew all the answers, being a tenured professor of American History at Boston University and freelance writer for various scholarly journals. It was even funnier to think of Hal, Dad Jr., who was only about a million steps behind where Dad was at his age.

"Nothing good," Dad said, staring at the TV screen.

I looked at Hal only to find him looking at me as Dad's gaze stayed transfixed on the screen. Dad was not a man of few words. He spoke eloquently, piecing together a puzzle logically by starting at the corners and working his way in. His words had purpose and fluidity that coupled together seamlessly. For his chosen words to be so simple wasn't a good sign.

"You think there're really aliens in there?" I asked, looking at the craft and wondering what was inside the quiet ships. A part of me was eager yet scared to see the ships whirl to life and watch bright lights beam from the crafts.

Hal snorted, "Yeah, it's your biological family coming to take you home freak."