Ma-ne-ah watched helplessly as the aircraft took off and gained altitude. He watched it through his binoculars as long as he could. The plane headed off to the west, but he knew that a couple of course changes could take them anywhere. As the airplane finally vanished in the distance he shouldered his rifle and picked Scruffy up. The poor little guy was having trouble walking it was a miracle he hadn’t been killed.
“We’ll find her, I promise.” He said to his little furry friend as he walked out onto the runway. He retrieved Jessica’s rifle and Scruffy’s weapons.
“No little buddy, it’s not your fault.” The Thii-Ru man said with a heavy heart. “I’m as much to blame. I shouldn’t have let her run out there.”
“I know.” He said with a sigh as he headed back to town.
Back at the bank he scrounged supplies and siphoned fuel from her bike and headed down the highway hoping somehow to find where the plane went. Barely a mile down the road a shadow of an airplane passed over them.
He looked up and recognized the amphibian Cessna Caravan flying overhead.
“Scruffy! That’s our plane! Is Sarah onboard?”
Moments later he replied, “Yes!”
“Tell them to land at the airport, oh and warn them about possible Fast Claws in the area.”
Ma-ne-ah turned his motorcycle around and headed back to the airport.
“Manny where’s Jessica?” Sarah messaged to him directly.
His only reply was, “I’m sorry.”
A few moments later she was able to glean some of what had happened from his surface thoughts. “Damn it! Tell us everything when we land.”
A few minutes later they waited on the Tarmac for the overgrown Cessna to land. Scruffy whispered to his companion as they waited for the plane to taxi over to where they were waiting. “We dead.”
The first person off the plane was Sarah, she ran to where Ma-ne-ah was standing. He looked down at his feet as she approached.
“Thank God we found you.” She said as she threw her arms around him.
Tears streamed down their cheeks as they embraced. After a few moments she pushed him away. “Now Manny, Scruffy, tell us everything.”
He couldn’t look his father in the eye. He knew if there weren’t other people around his dad would be kicking his ass about now.
Furball had become more cantankerous in his old age. His fur was longer and streaked with gray and he had little patience for Scruffy and his excuses. He bit his son on the ear hard enough to draw blood to put him in his place.
Inside the airport lounge they finished relating the events of the last few days. Ma-ne-ah stood waiting for questions from the assembled crew.
Sam rubbed his beard. “What did they mean by ‘the Ohio?’ That’s not exactly a regular way of talking about the state.”
Ma-ne-ah shrugged, “I don’t know, it doesn’t make sense.”
“Why would they fly west if they were headed back east?” Luke asked.
Amaya put her damaged hand in a jacket pocket. Even after all these years she was a bit self conscious about her hand that didn’t quite work right. It had been crushed when their UH-60 had been shot down and crashed. “They weren’t talking about the state of Ohio. They were talking about ‘The Ohio’ a submarine.”
Everyone in the room looked at her and she shrugged, “What, I had a cousin who served on the… wait he might still be alive!”
Sam’s eyes widened, “Well if that’s the case we might just get an opportunity to resolve this little problem without spilling blood.”
Sarah shook her head, “No someone kidnapped my daughter so they could have breeding stock. There will be blood.”
The little airplane rolled down the runway and leapt into the air. The little but heavily armed New Jamestown posse was now on the pursuit.
Jess wanted to cry but she didn’t want to show any weakness. The young man was full of fear, excitement, pain, and hormones. She could tell he was hoping that his leaders would let him have the first chance with her. She felt dirty; these guys saw women as baby factories. The New Jamestown leadership recommended that each family have as many children as possible but these Ohioans, were downright fascistic about it.
The older Hispanic man flying the plane, his thoughts mostly centered on keeping the Beechcraft flying also held grief for the man who had died. Jess cursed her luck that she was separated from Scruffy. Without their telepathic link she couldn’t use any of her “active” abilities. Maybe she could do a thought nudge or suggestion but outright remote control was impossible.
What she really wanted to do was sleep, which would dramatically increase the range that she could message Scruffy. Had they returned to New Jamestown to get the Calvary, or was he chasing this plane on a motorcycle?
She noticed David watching her, which was his job, since he was riding in a rear facing seat he would naturally look at her but she still didn’t like it. She looked out the window down at the ground below to avoid looking at him. She had only flown a couple of short flights before and the mountains and fields below did look beautiful but she couldn’t suppress her uneasy feelings. She was off to a place where they would rape her and force her to have children to “repopulate the earth.”
“Hey.” The young man had been working up the courage for a while to talk to her.
Jess did the sensible thing and ignored him.
Jess would have liked to toss him out of the plane but figured that wouldn’t bode well with his companion. “I do have a name.”
“Oh sorry, Jess…”
She cut him off without looking at him. “Frankly, ‘Captor number two’ I don’t really feel like talking to you, so why don’t you just leave me the hell alone.”
He sat quietly for a moment; she could tell he was uneasy. She really didn’t want to go any deeper that surface thoughts. What she was picking up passively was bad enough.
“Jess I… I know that these circumstances aren’t great. But we must follow the directive.”
“Yes your wonderful directive.” She locked eyes with the young man. “Your directive requires you to take women against their will so that you can rape them until you get the unfortunate woman pregnant so you can ‘perpetuate’ the human race right?”
“Uhh it’s not like that at all.”
“Oh so I’m mistaken and this is a noble endeavor then?”
“Yes… we’re trying to keep the human race from dying out. If you hadn’t noticed there aren’t that many of us left anymore.” He protested.
“Well guess what you’ve really done?” Jess asked, but he didn’t answer. “You’ve stolen me from my own people, which is going to make it that much harder for our ‘village’ to continue to according to your directive to ‘propagate’ so you’ve started a war between our two settlements. That should be good for the human population when we start killing each other.”
“Well your people would have to be stupid to fight us, we’ve got cruise missiles!”
“Dave shut the hell up!” Carlos shouted from the cockpit. “While you’re at it why don’t you tell her how many armed men we have ‘eh, pendejo?”
“Just shut up.”
Cruise missiles? Jessica wasn’t exactly sure what a cruise missile was but it sounded dangerous.
An awkward silence filled the cabin. Silence was a relative term as Jess listened to the wind and propellers roar. This airplane was old before the event, but somehow these guys kept it flying. She wondered what they used for fuel, was it bio diesel like they grew at New Jamestown or something else? She tried to sleep again but it was useless. She would have to wait until they landed. What would happen when they arrived at this Ohio place anyway? Would rough men be waiting for her and… she didn’t want to think about it.
She closed her eyes and began a meditation routine that the Matriarch had taught her when she was little. She tried to empty her mind and concentrate on just her breathing. The physical world would melt away allowing her to “see” the thoughts of the surrounding people and animals. As the noise of the engines faded she felt something on the ground. She reached for a weak distant thought wave.
Her eyes snapped open, “Masters on the ground!”
Jess pushed toward the cockpit “They’re going to shoot us!”
“Dave restrain her!” The pilot yelled as he looked back over his shoulder.
“No they’ve got one of their large guns aimed right at us!”
They struggled for a moment but David was able to push Jess back into her seat. He grabbed a small bundle of parachute cord and moved to tie her hands. “How would you know if there were…”
He was cut off as tracer rounds zipped by the windows.
“Holy shit!” Carlos yelled as he jerked the yoke banking the plane wildly. Jess held on to her seat as her captor fell into the side of the plane.
As the plane pitched, rolled and jerked more coil gun rounds zipped toward them. A series of loud bangs filled the cabin, and smoke began pouring from one of the engines. Jess screamed as she struggled to buckle her seatbelt. This was it, she was going to die in a fiery plane crash after being shot down by an alien auto cannon. “I’m sorry momma.” She said as the plane plummeted toward the ground. “I didn’t go on this trip to get killed.”
David was bleeding from a gash on his head, he grabbed onto Jessica’s ankles to keep himself from flopping around the cabin. She thought about kicking him in the face but was too paralyzed with the fear of dying to do anything but hold on.
The ground was getting closer; a river winding through a green valley stretched out below, it was rushing up to meet the struggling plane. She looked out the window, the smoking engine’s propeller had stopped, but the second one was still working.
The plane leveled out and the river didn’t swallow them. Carlos pulled on the fire suppression lever repeatedly until the engine quit smoking. Jess sighed; she might actually live through this.
“We’re not out of the woods yet. We’re leaking fuel like a sieve. Dave are you okay?”
He grunted, “No I’m bleeding pretty bad.”
“You girl, there’s a first aid kit in the back of the plane…”
“I need you to put some gauze on his head lets go.”
“Why should I help my captors?”
“Because you want to end up on the ground in one piece.”
Jess unbuckled her seatbelt and stepped lightly past the dead man and found the first aid kit hanging on the wall. It was full of pre event medical items. She unhooked it and spread it out on the floor. As she did she looked at the Glock on her patients belt. Could she use it to gain her freedom?
As if he had read her mind Carlos reached his hand back from the pilots seat, “Dave, give me your handgun.”
Her opportunity gone Jess began dabbing at the gash on her young captors head. He winced when she applied pressure to his bloody forehead. She smiled, if she couldn’t get her freedom, at least she could cause him a bit of pain.
“Hold onto the gauze yourself, you big baby!” Jess said as she grabbed some tape from the kit, “Can we make it to an airport?” She asked Captor number one.
“I don’t know, we’re losing fuel fast. And we’ve got a headwind. We’re about fifty miles away from the Pasco airport. You’d better strap in this flight might end up a bit bumpy.”
Jess helped Captor number two into his seat and even buckled his seatbelt for him. “Thanks.” He said.
“I’m only helping you because I want to make it to the ground alive.”
The dying airplane approached the runway flying over hills and former farmer’s fields. The second engine sputtered and died as it became starved for fuel. Carlos gripped the yoke tighter and began reciting a prayer in Spanish.
Jess could feel the fear dripping off the pilot; just when she thought today couldn’t get any worse.
The plane hit the ground short of the runway; it was still paved but not as smooth. It jerked violently as it bounced back into the air. Something made a horrible grinding noise. The plane touched down again the grinding noise came much louder this time, the plane pitched and banked out of control. A wing tip struck the runway; Jess knew the old plane would rip itself apart and spill them out on the ground.
The pilot changed from praying to swearing, David was white knuckled gripping the armrests eyes closed wishing the plane would come to a stop. Jess screamed as the plane struck the ground a third time. Something made a loud pop and the plane began sliding on its belly at a strange angle. The noise was deafening like nails on a chalkboard mixed with someone running an angle grinder, while shaking a paint can full of bolts. Sparks shot from the bottom of the plane and pieces of the wings stripped off and littered the runway.
At least they shouldn’t burn up Jess thought as they crossed the runway and slid into the tall grass that grew on either side of the tarmac. The plane bounced shuddered and groaned as the ground tried to rip it apart.
Finally it came to a stop and silence rushed in to fill where the deafening noise had been. Jess wasn’t sure how long they sat there listening to nothing, smelling the burnt engines and heated aluminum. She unbuckled her seatbelt and stood on shaky feet.
Carlos moaned from the cockpit, “Everyone okay back there?”
Jess took a few deep breaths then giggled uncontrollably, she couldn’t speak. David grunted something non committal.
A while later Jess became aware of lying on the grass staring up at white fluffy clouds breathing heavily. She had no memory of crawling out of the dead airplane, but she was alive, and right now that was all that mattered.
Hard Scale grunted in happiness as he saw smoke pour from the Pink Skin’s primitive airship. He watched it fall from the sky and waited for it to impact the ground. He was disappointed when it didn’t. The right choice had been made when he decided to scavenge the medium coil gun from their ship all those years ago.
This alien world was his home now and Hard Scale accepted it. Some of the others hadn’t adjusted so well and ended up getting themselves killed in some gruesome manner or another. He watched the airship until it disappeared over the hills, he made note of where it had gone. It would crash or be forced to land. The primitive craft the Pinks used were not unlike the ones he had studied in the history books about the Third Great Age when he was just a little molt. They needed a long strip of flat ground to land.
He yelled at two of the Earthborn Shak’te, they dismantled the coilgun and hauled it toward the shelter. Most of their weapons had fallen into disrepair. Parts couldn’t be scavenged on this world. For the most part his people had began using Pink Skin weaponry. It took some getting accustomed to using such primitive weapons that burned solid powder. Their fathers had done so before they had crossed the black so they weren’t that different from the weapons he had seen in the Halls of History back home.
He picked up the brown long gun and slung it over his shoulder. Hard Scale liked the telescope mounted on this weapon. It was one of the first Pink Skin’s weapons he had encountered back before; the Thii-Ru-Duun had come. The Pink that had carried it killed two of his Operations Pack before Hard Scale managed to kill him. That was the first time they had learned that the pulse attack hadn’t been completely successful at clearing the plante. He had taken it as a trophy, in those days he never would have thought he would end up using such a primitive metal thrower, but things were different now. He pulled the handle up then back and checked the cartridge hole, it was empty.
“Fast Foot!” He yelled.
The young Earthborn male scurried up to him and bowed his head. “Yes Elder?”
“Prepare six of the four legs for travel.”
What Hard Scale would have given for an operational skiff. Riding animals was something his ancestors had done when they hunted with spears. Oh how they had fallen on this alien world. But he could hardly wait to hunt the Pinks again.