The trio headed out on two Diesel motorcycles that had been lifted before they were born from an army base. Biodiesel made from algae, in large vats supplied the community with fuel for trucks, tractors and other vehicles. Hydropower from the two remaining turbines at Dworshak dam provided nearly limitless power for the small towns needs. Including the alien shield generators that provided protection for the town; even if half of them didn’t work anymore. Despite the end of the world, New Jamestown was a beacon of technology. Manny wasn’t sure why Jess wanted to leave their home so bad but he wasn’t about to break the promise he made to her grandfather, a man who he respected and had learned so much from.
The roads to Spokane were supposedly clear, it had been a source of scavenged supplies for years but none of the trio had been old enough to go on scavenge missions.
The gate guard, James, the son of the town’s namesake had nearly stopped them from leaving, until Jess and Scruffy remotely entered his mind and removed the last few minutes from his memory. If their plan worked nobody would realize they were gone for at least twenty four hours.
With everything strapped on the motorcycles, including a tank bag, handlebar bags, panniers, rifle scabbards, spare tires, and a couple of small gas cans they looked like strange two wheeled hobos, but the bikes were solid runners. The smaller military fuel tanks had been swapped at some point for larger ones from consumer Kawasaki motorcycles, to give them longer range.
Scruffy held onto Jessica’s handlebars, he rode sitting in a half zipped up tank bag. Just like a dog he loved to feel the wind in his face pushing back his fur. He was glad to be out on the road, adventure and excitement would be at every turn. There would be new things to smell, and creatures to scan; maybe they might bump into some other humans or aliens? He had made up his mind and was glad that Jess had decided to take this trip.
The winding mountain roads were beautiful. The trio drove through trees, past mountains and long since abandoned farms and ranches. Occasionally they would ride past rusting cars that had been pushed aside by the scavenge teams. Jess could only imagine what it would have been like in the early days of New Jamestown. What sort of adventures did those early teams have? She always sat mesmerized listening to the elders telling about their lives early on after the event. The danger and deaths had scared her but she knew she could handle anything the world could throw at her.
The weather was about perfect, being late May they didn’t have to worry about any snow on these lower mountain roads. Up ahead was a green sign that her mother had called a “gas station” where trucks came and dropped fuel off for people to buy. Jess didn’t know where those trucks would come from, nobody ever really explained it. It would offer a good place to stop for a moment, since they had been riding for about an hour and she wanted to walk around for a bit.
She felt for Manny riding on the second motorcycle and popped into his thoughts. “Hey Manny, let’s stop at the gas station up on the right.”
“Okay.” He replied then she popped out of his thoughts. Radios were completely unnecessary when you were a Psi-mage.
They stopped at the station, a rusty old van with flat tires sat underneath the fuel pumps. Spray painted on the side of the white car were faded black letters “AFS EY+2.5.”
“So what’s that supposed to mean?” Jess asked as she climbed off the motorcycle and lifted up her goggles.
Ma-ne-ah shut off his bike to conserve fuel, and flipped up his visor. “Your grandfather told me one time, in case I ever was on a scavenge team. ‘All Fuel Siphoned, in Event Year plus two, fifth month.’ So that future teams wouldn’t waste their time trying to get at the fuel that wasn’t there.”
“Oh, I wonder why he never told me.” Then it hit her, Grandpa Marty hadn’t wanted her to be in harm’s way so why would he have bothered? She loved him but sometimes didn’t understand why he had been so over protective.
She looked over at the little store a piece of plywood covered a broken window, in the same paint were the letters “NFH EY+2.5”
“So let me guess, ‘No Food Here’?”
Scruffy scratched behind his ear, found something crawling in his fur and ate it.
“Scruffy gross!” Jess complained, the Furball just shrugged and continued looking for bugs.
After a couple of minutes rest, a little water, and some beef jerky they hopped back on their bikes and went down the road a short distance until they came to a T intersection, with a couple of faded green signs.
The arrow on the Moscow sign had been painted over with runny orange fluorescent paint. “What’s the bright orange mean?” She asked.
Ma-ne-ah shrugged, “I’m not sure, maybe it’s showing the way to Spokane? Speaking of Spokane, where are we going anyway?”
Jess shrugged, “I don’t know, I really just wanted to get out of town and see what’s out here. I was so tired of being behind walls, shields, and parents.” She thought about it for a few moments. “I’d really like to see the ocean.”
“The ocean? Isn’t that a bit far?” Manny replied his voice echoing through his helmet.
“Why? I looked at a bunch of different routes; it shouldn’t be much farther than five hundred miles or so. Don’t these bikes get about one hundred miles per gallon?” She asked.
“Umm I’m not sure, but with all the extra weight, and running bio instead of petroleum diesel I don’t think they’ll get that mileage. Plus these bikes are getting old. You know how insane we are to even be out here?”
“I know, isn’t it fun?”
Scruffy looked back from his perch on the tank bag. “Jess, adventure has? Go back?”
“Our adventure hasn’t even started yet. Wow we rode through some mountains and saw a scavenged gas station… wow. Are you both such big na-ah-te’s? I’m not stopping, but you can if you want to run back to mamma.”
Jess hit the accelerator and turned toward Moscow. Moments later Ma-ne-ah followed, he had the strangest feeling that this girl was going to get him killed, or seriously maimed.
The two lane highway had long since been cleared by the scavenge teams. Rusted out cars and trucks occasionally littered the sides of the road. Gasoline vehicles had all been pushed aside but when the teams found a Diesel vehicle if they could get it running they would bring it back to town, for parts or to put it in service.
Jess remembered watching the teams come in through the front gate bringing their spoils. They brought canned goods, firearms, trucks, clothing, and tools back to the town in pickups and the Deuce and Five ton military trucks. She remembered helping sort shoes, pants and shirts when she was younger. The classrooms of the lower Jamestown elementary school had been used to store all kinds of things. The hiking boots she was wearing had been brought in over ten years ago and stored out of the elements.
They passed a section of road where a massive tree had fallen and ended up blocking both lanes. It had been cut with a chainsaw and the massive rounds had been rolled off to the shoulder. The cut sections were gray it had been a while since the work had been done.
“You don’t think we’re going to run into trees like that are you?” She asked Manny.
“I hope not, the roads around here should have been cleared regularly by the scavenge teams but…” His train of thought trailed off.
They continued down the road taking the turns a bit more cautiously just in case there were other windblown barricades. The miles flew by as they headed down the road. Farm houses and a couple of tiny towns lay in the picturesque valley. Occasionally they would see deer, and wooly rhinos. The massive alien herbivores had prospered on earth. The scavenge teams sometimes would bring back one of the beasts and the town would have a feast. The meat was a little tough but it tasted good. They would make steaks, hamburgers, and stew meat from those beasts.
One thing bothered Manny, Abominations hunted the wooly rhinos. These massive monsters were thirty feet of muscle teeth and bad attitudes, just one more present from our friends the “Masters.” Smaller caliber weapons would bounce off their bony armor plating. As far as they knew an Abomination had only ever been killed by multiple hits from vehicle mounted .50 caliber machineguns. In the School gymnasium they had the skull of one of the beasts mounted on the wall. Manny remembered staring up at the giant teeth and hollow eye sockets; he hoped they wouldn’t run into one of those demons in the flesh.
An hour before sunset they reached Moscow, Jess had been told the town had been some sort of school. She didn’t really understand what a university was for. She had learned at home, and at the Jamestown Academy, where people with different skills would come in and teach everything from pre-event history, first aid, wilderness survival, farming, metalworking, etc. Any skill that could be useful they had been exposed to. She had spent many long hours working with the old man she called Uncle Jerry. His passing had been almost as hard as her Grandfathers.
Jess had taken an interest in engines and didn’t mind being covered in grease up to the elbows. She also learned how to play the guitar. Her mother insisted that all children of New Jamestown would learn to play some sort of instrument so that live music wouldn’t disappear from off the face of the earth. She had hated practicing but Jess had to admit she could make some beautiful music with her old Gibson Acoustic. It was too bad she couldn’t fit it on the motorcycle.
They rolled up in front of a large domed building. Jess noticed there were a lot more cars in this area than normal. All the grassy areas that once had been nicely manicured lawns were full of waist high grass, shrubs and trees. They stopped in front of a sign that read, “Welcome to the University of Idaho.” Spray painted over the top in blue and orange were the words, “Vandals Suck!”
“What’s the big dome building?” Jess asked. “Whatever it is, it looks important. Let’s check it out.”
Manny shrugged, “I don’t know, maybe it’s some kind of aircraft hangar? You know like the ones at the Orofino airport.”
They rode up to the entrance and climbed off their bikes. Jess unzipped her leather jacket and pulled out her Hi-Power pistol. She racked the slide and re holstered the weapon. Manny checked the cylinder on his .44 magnum after hanging his helmet on the handlebars.
“Jess do you feel anything inside there?”
She swapped her helmet for her well warn camouflage cap, tucking her blonde ponytail out the back, “Umm I don’t think so. What about you Scruffy?”
The short alien dropped off the motorcycle, careful to avoid singing his fur on the hot engine. “Empty, feels.”
Manny inserted a magazine into his Romanian PSL rifle, an overgrown cousin of the AK-47, and chambered a round. “Not that I doubt you guys but, Marty always told us to be prepared.” It really wasn’t a good weapon for clearing buildings with its long barrel, but the full power round it fired could put down anything smaller than an Abomination quickly.
The interior of the dome was dark, they could tell from the windows, most of which were surprisingly still intact. Snow and ice were merciless on glass. The double doors weren’t locked; Manny opened the door and shined his weapon light into the interior. A little bit further in was another set of doors. The trio made their way inside. The air was stale; the beams from their flashlights illuminated the dust that they kicked up. It was a good sign that the interior of the building probably hadn’t been compromised.
They made their way inside a cavernous room. Their lights could hardly make it to the other side. “Manny?”
“What is this place?” She asked as they took a step down toward the green field. “The floor looks like grass but how could it grow in the dark? Well I guess not total darkness.” She pointed at one end of the dome that had windows letting light in from the setting sun.”
“I don’t know, but look at the markings, 50, 40, 30. They must be some kind of distance markings.” He said as they made it to the bottom of the stairs.
“It’s a football field.” Jess said as she looked at the large yellow “I” at the center of the field. “Grandpa Marty said it was one of his favorite pre event games.”
“Run on grass!” Scruffy said as he leaped over the railing and scampered down toward the field.
A few minutes later the other two had found a place to safely climb down. The sides of the field were littered with strange looking helmets and body armor. In the middle of the ‘grass’ were two poles connected by a chain, and a brown leather ball lay just past one of the poles.
The stands were littered with garbage and signs devoted to two different teams. Scruffy scampered up to the football and picked it up. “None air.” He said as he tossed the ball toward Jess it fell short of where she stood.
“I’ve got a crazy idea.” Jess announced. “Let’s camp out on this fake grass tonight. It’s getting dark, and we can get the bikes inside those doors.”
A while later their bedrolls were spread out at the fifty yard line. Their rifles lay within easy reach. Sleeping bags had filled an entire classroom in the school.
Scruffy was curled up against Jessica’s chest and she listened to him breathe. When she knew he was asleep she whispered to her friend. “Ma-ne-ah are you awake.”
His bag stirred, “Yeah. What is it Jess?”
“Coming with me.” She paused for a while before continuing. “I really thought I could do this trip on my own, I wasn’t even going to bring my little Furball.”
“But I know now that I would be a fool to brave the wilds alone without someone to watch my back.”
They lay in silence for a while, as the moonlight began to filter in through the windows. “Jess?”
“Why did you call me by my Thii-Ru name earlier?”
Jess smiled in the dark, “Manny is the name of the little boy I used to play with when we were kids. I can tell that you’ve left that boy behind a long time ago. Good night, Ma-ne-ah.”
“Good night Jessica.”