I think I was somewhere around eight years old the morning I woke up and realized I had no clear memory of the day before.
It was summer, and I was lying on the grass. It was early morning, and a little cold. I was wearing a pink sundress, and
no shoes; my dress was torn and dirty.
The sound that had awoken me was the sound of motorcycles. I had awoken in a small town that didn't look at all familiar
to me. I didn't know how I had gotten there, or how long I had been there before that morning. I begged for food that morning,
and wandered around the town, hoping to see a familiar face ... or hoping someone would find me.
I remember sitting on a bench with an empty wrapper of the only pre-pack I could afford and an empty belly. A woman dressed
all in leather came up to me and we started talking. She introduced herself as Firefly; she asked about my family, and what
I was doing there, and she gave me some food.
She had probably noticed me wandering around the town. Anyway, nomads are pretty decent about lost children. So, they took
me in, Firefly's clan, the Dawn Runners, and Firefly raised me. She gave me my legal name, Jade Harris, so I could get legal
work if I wanted, and gave me her last name.
When I was about ten or eleven, judging by the size of the girls in the clan who knew how old they were, and when they had
been born, I had a formal coming of age ceremony for my first bleeding. That became the day I celebrated instead of my birthday,
March 3rd, since no one knew when I was born.
Firefly is one of the pack shamans, so she led the ceremony. Because our clan is more than two-thirds African and African-American
women, our spiritual leaders tend to go for the spirituality we left behind in Africa, only half-remembered, and mixed with
things like Santerķa and Voudoun, which came to us from the slaves taken to America. I chose my handle, Zee, during that ceremony,
because I liked the way it sounded.
I tagged along after the techs, because I was interested in what they did, putting things together from scrap, fixing long-dead
engines ... it seemed like magic.
But mostly, I loved the vehicles. I got my own bike when I was around fifteen or so, four years after coming of age, for
losing my virginity. His name is Link, and I thought he was gorgeous. He's a netrunner for a pack we're allied with, the
Stone Dogs. We slept together a few times, but I didn't want to settle down, I wanted to be as free as I could, and besides,
he wouldn't have left his pack for me even if I had wanted to be his partner.
It turned out to be a disaster. He wanted a partner, and he thought he was in love with me. I slept around, and about six
months after I'd lost my virginity to him, he cracked.
I originally thought that if I gave him time to calm down, it would be okay. But it's been several years, and whenever I
know my pack and his are going to be in the same area, I take off and fly solo for a while, because he does his level best
to make my life a living hell whenever the two of us are in the same place.
I made a good friend the next year, five years after my coming of age. Switch joined the pack. He's a techie and he was
willing to show me a few things, every now and then.
I had a lot of jobs that year, running goods, smuggling illegals, but whenever I was with the pack, Switch was always willing
to show me something new.
After a little while, Switch and I started to get involved. I still went on solo jobs, but I'd spend as much time with him
as I could, and he occasionally came on my jobs with me.
Link proved to be a problem. When he found out about Switch, he went from being the biggest pain in the ass in the world
to wanting to kill Switch. It was messed up, too, because he'd had lovers since we'd broken up.
Switch and I even talked about having a kid once or twice. We both felt the same way about marriage - antiquated custom,
and all that, but we were at a really good place, and we were thinking things could work out.
But then Link had to bust in, and he beat the shit out of Switch, nearly killing him, and we separated after that. I left
for a while, did a lot of solo jobs. 'Cuz you see, I still love Switch, and I don't know how he feels about me.
I was away from the pack near full-time for about a year. Had my seventh coming of age alone. I had mostly solo jobs and
a few teamed up, but there were inevitable personality clashes. They were mostly statics, and couldn't take the traveling.
Anyway, one night, after I finished a job, solo and legal, I went to a bar for a drink and possibly some fun. There's this
hot guy sitting at one end of the bar, and he seems pretty interested. So I get myself a drink and sit down.
We're chatting for a few minutes, and his girlfriend comes up and starts accusing me of making a pass at her
'Scuse me ...
Anyway, I steer clear of them for the rest of the night, and when I leave (all alone), the happy couple is nowhere to be found.
As soon as I walk out of the bar, however, that bitch jumps me! I'm ashamed to say that she kicked my ass, and I'm pretty
lucky that MedTech was in the right place at the right time, or else my ass would have been grass.
Anyway, I think it's pretty safe to say that if we cross paths again, one of us is going down, and I sure as hell don't mean
it to be me.
When I got back to the pack, I found out that Link had been killed ... by his lover's ex-lover. I would have laughed if Switch
had been around, but apparently, he had taken off while I was away. Word was, he wasn't gone for good, but no one was sure
when he was coming back.
But, of course, he had left before Link got killed, so he didn't know about it. And I still don't know how he feels