Event Year + 26
Jessica was tired of the confines of New Jamestown. Sure this place was her home but there was so much of the world that she wanted to see. Her parents always talked about the world before that day, and she wanted to see it. Yesterday was her eighteenth birthday, and nobody was going to stop her, not even Mother, or the new Matriarch.
She pulled her shoulder length blond hair into a ponytail and stuffed it through her camo patrol cap. She looked at the gear spread out all over her bunk; in the middle was her rifle, a red stocked, Russian SKS Carbine. She looked at the dust cover and ran her fingers over the numbers 1954. How old did that make it? Over eighty? It had been old even before she was born but it still worked well and she could hit a man sized target out to about two hundred yards with it. The stock was dinged up but it worked fine, this long after the event only having a tough firearm was important.
She had plenty of ammo loaded on ten round stripper clips, probably more than she would need but Grandpa Marty always told her to be prepared. She double checked her first aid pouch, flashlight, batteries, flat bread, beef jerky, bag of rice, canteen, mini alcohol stove and her Browning Hi-Power 9mm pistol. Everything was in order.
“Jess what doing?” Her Psi companion asked her mentally, even though he already knew. She had been planning on running away for months now.
Jessica closed her eyes, “Don’t try and stop me Scruffy.” She replied as she fought to reign in wayward thoughts.
“Scruffy no stop. Scruffy go Jess.” The little Alien Furball replied as he climbed in through a window of the farm house.
The young woman didn’t have to look; she could feel exactly where he was. The “Furballs” as her Grandfather had named them all those years ago looked like a cross between a monkey and a feline. They were enslaved by the “Masters” evil reptilian humanoids who had forever changed the world. In an instant anyone not shielded from their pulse vanished without a trace. They had also dumped all kinds of vicious alien animals on the planet. Grandpa died hating the masters to his grave. New Jamestown accepted all people no matter what race, be they Human, Furball, or Thii-Ru. But on his death bed he made the council swear to never allow a “Master” to live among them.
Jessica hadn’t ever seen a Master even though she seen pictures. Much of her weapons training growing up involved how to fight them. She always thought Grandpa was a bit paranoid, but his stories and scars gave him reason to be paranoid. Some of his stories were so crazy Jessica didn’t believe them until one day she dove into his mind without his permission and found out he was telling the truth. That little episode had frightened her so much it was nearly a year before she would try and use her abilities on another human mind.
She turned to the little Furball who had climbed up on her desk and asked, “So why do you want to come with me anyway?”
Scruffy turned his head sideways and held his black and white ringed tail in his paws. “Jess need Scruffy.”
She didn’t deny it. Most of her more… interesting Psi-mage powers required her mind to be linked to another Psi-mage. And Scruffy was her companion; she would be foolish to leave him behind. “Alright, but if you slow me down…”
“Scruffy faster, Jess!” He replied his thoughts seemed almost offended.
Jessica gathered up all her gear and began stuffing it in her three day bag. Her Furry Companion pulled back the blankets on the upper bunk and pulled down his own little backpack. It had originally been a backpack for a child in the first years of school which made it almost perfect for the small statured Alien.
“Scruffy done!” He proudly proclaimed.
“Wait a minute you’ve already packed to leave before I did?” She asked.
“Jess no thoughts hide Scruffy.”
It was true; since they had grown up together they hadn’t been apart for more than a couple of days at a time. She would feel incomplete without her little space cat monkey thing. She looked up at her mostly black furry companion, his face was mottled white and grey, and the tip of his tail was stark white. He opened his little backpack and checked his gear.
Scruffy loved Jess, he would die to protect her, like all human and Firu-tU companionships they were close. Their linking ability only worked if he could get his thoughts in tune with the girl. Humans had such erratic thought patterns that it would be difficult if he wasn’t exposed to them all the time.
Right now he could tell just from the thoughts floating off of her mind that she was very agitated. He didn’t even need to probe beneath the surface to know that she was extremely worried about leaving their settlement, but determined to go. Scruffy admitted that he was also hesitant to leave. They didn’t really know what was outside the security fences. Any time the humans and Thii-Ru left the compound they did with a convoy of vehicles and machine guns. How Jess thought they could go by themselves and not get killed was beyond him.
Scruffy pulled his weapons out of the bag. He checked the chamber on his old but serviceable Ruger MkII pistol. It was small and didn’t recoil hardly at all which was good for someone his size. He loaded the magazine up with .22 long rifle ammo and inserted it into the weapon. He had a leather chest harness made for it that kept it out of the way while climbing but made it easy to get to in an emergency.
He pulled out his Randall Made sword, to the humans it was a knife but to scruffy it was more like a short sword. Some thought the big bowie knife was overkill but he figured if he ever needed it the more steel he could shove into the enemy the better.
There was a knock on the door, Jessica looked up, there wouldn’t be enough time to hide her gear, she wondered who it was? She reached out and felt for the presence on the other side. It was Ma-ne-ah, a Thii-Ru man not much older than her.
“Manny leave me alone I’m busy.” She said.
“Yes I know you’re busy packing to leave.” He said in perfect English, unlike his parents who still spoke with thick alien accents, he had grown up learning English first.
Jessica shot the Furball an evil look, “Did you tell the whole town?”
Scruffy clicked his teeth together, “No, half only.”
“Well I’m not going anywhere so why don’t you go find a pack of Fast Claws to play with hmm? I’m sure they’d enjoy your company before eating you.”
Ma-ne-ah sighed, he knew Jessica too well they had grown up next door from one another since… well forever. “Jess, for a Psi-Mage you’re a bad liar, let me in.”
“No… you’re not allowed in my room anyway. Go away.” She tried to get rid of him again.
“No Jess, I’m not going anywhere until you talk to me.” He said as he tried the door knob. Locked.
She knew he wasn’t going to leave so she felt the door knob and concentrated. A few moments later it was unlocked. “Fine come in then.”
The young Thii-Ru man opened the door and stood in the doorway of her bedroom, his skin had a slight green tint to it. He had come of age a couple years ago and his people had recently begun covering his skin with their strange red angular vengeance tattoos. As far as his people were concerned the fight against the Masters wasn’t over even now and the next generation, were charged with continuing the fight. He had just gotten a new section of tattoos that covered his forehead and temple above the right eye, it looked swollen and painful.
He was wearing a rolled up long sleeve flannel shirt, work boots, well worn jeans, and a faded Tri Cities Farm and Tractor baseball cap. On his hip he wore a stainless Smith and Wesson .44 magnum. He looked like your typical alien farm boy. “So were you planning on leaving without giving me a good bye kiss?”
Jessica rolled her eyes, like most young men his age, sexual thoughts rolled off his mind in an almost steady stream. It was obvious that he was attracted to her physically, but she would have to dig deeper in his mind to see if that’s as far as it went. She pushed his thoughts out of the way. “So you’re here to convince me to stay?”
“Actually, I’d like to join you.” He said.
She hadn’t felt that thought, perhaps it was because it was hard to spot beneath all the thoughts of kissing and… other things. “What? You don’t even know where I’m going.”
“Neither do you.” He said as he stepped into the room, and looked down on the shorter woman. He looked over at the Furball, “Hey Scruffy, is Jess nuts to run off by herself?”
“See your Psi-companion agrees with me. The outside world isn’t safe.”
Jessica picked up her Russian rifle, pulled back the handle on the bolt carrier until it locked back, loaded ten rounds of soft point ammo from a stripper clip and eased the handle forward. She flipped the safety on, and slung the rifle over one shoulder. “That’s why I’ve got this.”
“Which would just pah-nee a Wooly Rhino, or Abomination.”
“Well you’re starting to pah-nee me.” She said as she tried to walk past him.
He didn’t move. “Come on Jessica. If you’re going to leave at least let me fulfill the promise I made to your grandfather.”
That stopped her, “What promise?”
“Just so you know that I’m not lying go find it yourself.”
“Manny, when did you make this promise?” She asked.
Ma-ne-ah crossed his arms in front of his chest. “The day before he joined the spirits.”
She remembered that day like it had happened last week and not over five years ago. “Sit down, you’re too tall for me.” She said as she leaned the rifle up against the bed.
Scruffy hung upside down from the top bunk his claws gripping the railing as he watched his companion work; he knew she would be a Grand Psi-Mage soon. She was the youngest adept in the village to have earned the rank of Guardian. The former matriarch had personally instructed the girl not long after she had stopped suckling.
Jessica placed her hands on either side of the Thii-Ru man’s head and concentrated. After a few moments she brushed aside his surface thoughts and pushed into where memories lived. She had practiced diving into many different minds, each one felt different than the last, but few had so many memories of herself. It made sense since they had played together ever since they were old enough to crawl. She found the memory when she had broken her arm on the monkey bars and Manny ran off to get their mothers. That had been a bad day.
She skipped past the memory when they both were little huddled together in the basement as the town was shelled by the Masters. It still occasionally gave her nightmares. Thankfully the shields held, giving the defenders enough time to find and destroy the Mortar team.
She saw many dinners around the tables in each other’s family home. Breaking bread with his parents, Ma-na-han and Ra-ha-ma. She saw when they played with their younger brothers and sisters, sometimes she had been mean to the younger kids. Being able to feel thoughts gave her ammo on how to be mean and get what she wanted. Had she really been that cruel sometimes? The older the memories the more faded and sepia toned they became.
Memories of extreme pain and loss were sharp, etched into the mind like they had been recorded with too much contrast. She skipped past years of growing up until she found the gathering around Grandpa Marty’s death bed.
She took a deep breath and played back the memory. She saw tears roll down her thirteen year old cheeks as she held her grandfathers hand. He smiled at her and it made things worse. Her mother Sarah was there, pregnant with her youngest brother Benjamin. Tears rolled freely down her cheeks as well. Grandma Kat was sitting in a chair nearby her eyes dry from too much crying. Furball, Fuzzy, and Scruffy were there to say goodbye as well.
Her grandfather pale and sick used the last bit of his strength to sit up and kiss Jessica on the forehead. He said his last words to her, “Jess don’t be sad, love knows no boundary. Even death cannot stop my love for you. Be strong and listen to your mother.” He smiled weakly and lay back down in the bed.
Manny’s memory became blurry, and she realized that he had been crying. Moments later Jess had been ushered out of the room. And grandpa waved for Ma-ne-ah to come forward. He slowly crept up to the side of the bed. “Manny?”
“Yes sir?” He replied, as he wiped a tear from his eye.
“Promise me you’ll take care of Jess when I’m gone. Protect her, and watch out for her.” He took a ragged breath. “Can you do that?”
“Yes sir… I… will.” He managed between tears.
“Good… now go. I want to be alone with my wife and daughter.”
Jess pulled out of his memory and returned to the real world. She realized she was crying, as she staggered and sat down on the bed to keep from falling over. She looked over at Manny, his eyes were wet as well.
“I haven’t broken that promise yet and I don’t plan on starting today.”
“Alright I guess that means you’re coming too.” She said as she pulled a handkerchief out of a pocket. “We leave in twenty minutes. So hurry up and pack.”
Manny stood up went out of the room for and returned moments later carrying a backpack and a scoped Romanian PSL rifle. “I’m already packed.”