Fae Apoc, Post apoc by a generation
Yoshi was loitering.
He was leaning on a fence, looking at the new Addergoole graduates, a little surprised and a little relieved not to see his mother here. He’d heard she’d quit – but then again, you heard all sorts of things. He remembered coming home one time to find a new Kept who was absolutely certain that Yoshi’s mom was a serial killer and he was her latest victim.
Yoshi might have trolled that one a bit, although he’d never admit it to anyone who asked. But he had gotten the boy to get a new vegetable patch dug…
Today, he was here for his own Kept, although he had to rely on luck, since he didn’t have his mother’s ability to Find just the right person. He was looking for someone with spark but not too much anger, pretty but not too delicate, the sort of girl he could keep around for a couple years. He was looking for a companion who happened to be collared, not a pet. The last time he’d had a Kept, she’d ended up being more of a pet. Neither of them had been all that happy with that arrangement, and it had led to bad feelings and, eventually, finding her someplace safe to be.
As luck would have it, a girl who looked to be just his type was just pausing nearby – to look at him? to look at his motorcycle? to look off into space?
“Wondering what to do next?” He pitched his voice so that it would cut across her thoughts. She looked straight at him but didn’t, yet, say anything. “I remember that feeling.”
His mother had picked him up. She had picked him up every summer. But there had been a point where he’d been staring off into space wondering what he was going to do next. It had just come a little later.
“Yeah? I just.” She gestured towards the outside. “I thought maybe the people that raised me would come get me. But I don’t think I really ever thought that.”
“That sucks.” He didn’t have to fake the sympathy, even though his mother had never failed to get him or his brother. “So, you don’t really know where you’re going and you don’t really know what you’re doing next?”
“Pretty much.” She looked him up and down. “Why? You a recruiter?”
He snorted. “Me? No. I’m not organized enough for that. Besides, Luke’d kick me off campus if I was a recruiter. As it is, he only tolerates me because, uh. Well,” Yoshi shrugged, realizing he’d put his foot in his mouth. “He kinda knows my mom.”
“If you’re an Addergoole kid, Luke knows all of our moms.” She smirked at him. “So if you’re not a recruiter…”
“I’m more of what you might call an independent agent. I’m here to see if you might wanna come with me for a couple years – say, uh, three, on contract.” He gestured at his bike. “Travel around, see the world, be under my protection, maybe figure out where you want to be in the long run?”
She hesitated. He almost had her hooked, he could tell. Luck was – unsurprisingly – on his side. “My kids…”
“My mother’s a Queen and my dad’s a King. Separate nations. I could, hrm.” Mom was probably the better choice for this. Dad’s place tended to be weird about fae. “My Mom can find you a foster-family to watch your kids while we travel, we can visit them on some sort of reasonable schedule, and then you can have a house and a place if you want them when we’re, uh. When our contract is up.”
“…You’re offering me a house. And a foster place for my kids?”
“I did say my mom was a Queen, didn’t I? It comes with some perks. And she likes kids. But look, if you really don’t want to do the whole thing, come with me, be mine for a few years, I can just get you the place in Cloverleaf, get you and your kids there. It’ll be safe, you can raise them or find someone to help you raise them…”
“You’re not telling me I should want my kids?”
“I went to Addergoole, too, remember?” He gave her a crooked smile and gestured back in the direction of the school. “I did okay. I got along with the mothers of my kids, and the mothers of my grandkids, and with my kids. I didn’t have it all that bad, which was partially because we came in as a family, so I try to make sure my kids came in as a family, too.” He gave her a thoughtful look. “Raise your kids in Cloverleaf, and they can go to Doomsday first. Meet people, go into school as a crew if they’re lucky. The more backing you have, the better it goes.”
“I didn’t even have a half-sib. My dad raised me, and he didn’t get either of the others. I mean, I assume there’s my dad’s other kid and my mother’s other kid?” She shrugged, looking more than a bit bitter. “You got raised by your parents?”
“Mom, with dad sometimes. Spend more time with Dad after everything ended, after I was out of school, actually.” Yoshi smiled at her and didn’t do the math, hoped she wasn’t doing the math. His kids were out of school; he already had all his grandkids.
“So you want… company? Or company?” Her hand gestures were vague but her tone of voice conveyed her meaning. “And I mean, you have a bike… thing… what do you do when it rains?”
“Sometimes I get wet.” He liked her. He hoped he could convince her. “Sometimes I find a place to hole up until the rain stops. Mostly, though, I tend to not get stuck in bad rain. And when I do, I have raincoats.” He smiled at her, a little self-deprecating, a little cheerful. “I’m pretty good at not getting into bad trouble.”
“But what do you do? I mean, travelling around, that’s not a way to make money, even if your mother is really a Queen and your father is a King and so on.”
“Mostly? Deliver messages, carry gossip, that sort of thing. I mean, some times I settle down for a few months and help out a town or some group of people with something. One time I ran with a a gang of soldiers for a while, but that got boring.”
Oh, no, he was losing her. How did his mom do this?
“Not so much rootless as um. I have really deep roots and I get to be the branch that waves around and finds out all the new air? Look,” he shifted gears, “how about this. We take the slightly-long rout to Cloverleaf, three days instead of a long one day or a really slow six days. I talk to my Mom, you can see the city, and her teleporter can come here and pick up your kids with you. No strings attached. If you want a house in Cloverleaf and a job there, Mom can set you up. If you decide you want to come with me, Mom can help you with that.”
“Your mother sounds – uh. Rich? Helpful?”
“I have a theory,” he confided, “that my mother got rich just so she could help more people. It’s kind of what she does. And look, an Addergoole grad, she’ll be all over helping you. It’s like her secondary mission in life, cleaning up the pieces Addergoole misses.”
Damnit, that wasn’t a good way to put things at all. He cringed.
She didn’t seem to mind. “So, that’s your mom. What about you? Mr. Messenger. What’s your aim in life?”
Ouch. He ducked his head. “Urm. I suppose the best I manage most days is helping out people, like my – uh. Like my brother’s dad. Or spreading the luck around. I don’t really have an aim, you know?” He tried a bright smile. “Maybe the two of us can figure that out together?”
She cleared her throat and looked away for a minute. “Well. Uh. I guess I’d have to figure out my own, too. But you’re… you’re really serious. Do people really walk up to you and bribe you to be their Kept? In the real world?”
“Well, uh. The way I look at it, the real world kind of blew up when I was still in elementary – still a kid,” he amended. “Everything since then is just like something out of a movie or a book. So the book that I’ve got says ‘be excellent to one another’ but it also says ‘having a Kept is nice.’” He shrugged a little bit. “What do you say?”
“My mother would hang me upside down from a flagpole for a week if I didn’t get a real contract. She was cy’Drake,” he added. He didn’t really need to. “So yeah. I have something drafted, but if we go up to Cloverleaf, we can discuss the details there.”
“And a foster place for my kids?” Something about her voice made it sound like that was the part she doubted the most.
“Cross my heart. A safe place for your kids, with an education. Cloverleaf’s good.” He was proud of mom, so what? So was Uncle Leo, after all.
“Then yeah. Your bike can handle my luggage?”
She had two bags. “Yeah, easy. It’s bigger on the inside.” He swung open one of the hard-sided saddlebags to show a compartment he’d napped in more than once. “I had a friend who folds space. They owed me a favor – and voila, here we are. Camper bike.”
She dropped her bags in there with a smirk. “You’re quite interesting, you know that, son-of-a-Queen-and-a-King.”
“Black Prince.” He offered her a hand onto the bike and swung on in front of her. “But my friends call me Yoshi.”