Jesse watched Clarisse scale the wal up to the apartment. It belonged to one of blood. Her daughters brother in law. A man who grew old with grace, she admired him. Never wanting more out of life that it gave him. He'd set himself up nicely and set about collecting memorabelia. He liked movie posters, not unlike young Clarisse a quarter mile away attached to the side of the building by only a few inches of claws in concrete. Jesse had sold him five of her old posters a month ago hoping Clarisse would take the bait.
She'd actually paid Jerry to take them and hold them for a month, she wanted to capture a thief - he never did know who she was in reality. He'd agreed with little hesitation and even took a short vacation with some of the money to get out of the way. Jesse looked down at the street many floors below, for a brief second she thought about the consequences of Clarisse falling all that space down to her demise. She looked back up at the young woman going steadily up, she wasn't worried, Clarrise had that same assurance about her they all had - that smugness that said they didn't care if it was tough - they were tougher. Besides, Jesse smiled, she could always put her backtogether if it came down to that.
Jesse watched Clarrise go back down, in the second story window she'd left and out through the front door. No problems, no worries. Jesse left her perch and climbing her own way down to another window. The girl was too much like herself to not pass this opportunity up.
Jesse lat in bed, staring at the ceiling. He'd come back to her dreams last night. Thinking about Clarisse and how much she was like her, how much she was like Amy, Jesse's own daughter from so long ago. Amy hated her, had left her when she was seventeen. Left her because of what she was. Amy always had believed that her father died because Jesse didn't help. She died believing that, queitly in her sleep. Jesse squeezed her eyes shut trying to stop tears that rolled out anyway.
Memory, France, 94 years ago.
They'd run like all hell. They'd found Deus and burned his skull with a backlash. Carlos was hit with a shell the size of a volkswagon on his way out of the hackers safe house. It was either a set-up or the botched run of their life. Everything was going wrong. The floor plan was off, the security tighter than expected, the response far beyond anything they'd encountered, even in the US. All over a little microchip that they didn't even know what it did yet. Jesse moved quickly across the broken parking lot and ducked behind a concrete water fountain, it might stop a few rounds. Tony was just behind her, moving fast, the latest speed implants were in him and she liked how they worked - maybe needed a slight adjustment. She shook her head, even in the field she thought like she was in the clinic. Something was wrong, Tony was carrying something big. Someone big. It had to be Hans. She'd watched Jack go down with more than enough fire power to turn him into a stain on the ground. She jumped, grabbing at Hans as Tony collapsed next to her, he wasn't hurt but was out of breath. She'd had her field kit open ready to patch him up and keep moving. She'd slapped a dermal pain killer on before even seeing the wound. And stopped dead, Hans' green eyes stared up at her, slightly vacant. He'd lost to much already. His stomach was ripped open from waste to rib, spilling blood, guts and organ out. She tried to push them back in, she could fix it, she had to fix it. He winced and put a hand on her shoulder she stopped, hands covering his stomach as if touch alone would heal the gaping hole in his body. "Tell Amy goodbye for me." His hand fell. Jesse sat there, hands covered in blood holding in the intenstines of her dead husband. Tears fell free, mingled with the blood. Tony grabbed her, they'd found them again. She didn't say a word. She just moved by insticnt. Her body moved because it knew what to do, her mind was blank inside. Two days past and they were home.
Amy sat up at the soind of noise downstairs. She saw her mothers frame in the doorway and lay back down. "Where's dad?" Nothing.
"He wanted me to say goodbye for him." Jesse said, she was still numb.
"He left?" Amy sat up and glared at her mother, deep blue eyes boring into Jesse.
"He's dead." Jesse moved to the side of the bed.
"Why didn't you save him!" Amy nearly shouted, "You save everyone else!" Amy had Jesse's own temper, coupled with a teenagers lack of control.
Jesse turned her head, "I couldn't." She was crying again.
"LIAR!" Amy screamed. "you could've done something, you always put everyone back together. You always do.. always..." Amy was crying now, Jesse tried to comfort her but she pulled away. Jesse stood, she didn't know what to do. She left the room. Amy left her three years later as the distance between them grew.
It would be a few years before the first of the Sentinals really became what they are now. Jesse was one of the early ones to watch and protect from a far. She let Amy go, but never lost track of her. She would be there to pick up the pieces like she did for everyone else.
She'd spend the next century relieving that scene in her mind over and over wondering what she could have changed.
Memory, New York, 8 years ago
Jesse sat at the bar with a glass in front of her and a bottle next to it. Real bourbon, expensive as hell. The bartender looked skeptical when she'd asked for the whole bottle, but she paid up front. So far she'd drank two glasses in an hour. A man sat next to her, an older gentleman, maybe in his fifties, maybe a little odler. He'd ordered whiskey, another old man buying real booze instead of synthetic or some beer.
"Bourbon? Not many people know what that is anymore." The man smiled. Jesse looked over at him, shots of grey in his haird. She looked half his age but he knew immediately she was older than her apparent thirty-something. The little things give it away, like real bourbon instead of some flashy new drink.
"It kills the pain."
"Medicine Drink." He said sipping his own drink. "Good for both patient and doctor."
"Sterilizes to, in a pinch." She smiled.
"burns like all hell on a wound." He said, with a knowing wink. "So, who's the patient tonight?"
"History." She said, draining the glass and pouring another.
"Ah, they say never to drink when you're down." He looked at his half empty glass, "They don't always know what they're talking about."
"I'm tired of just picking up the pieces." She looked at him, "It never gets put backtogether the way it was before."
"Like a mechanic who puts an engine back together only to find an extra piece leftover." He said, finishing his glass, Jesse noticed grease under his fingernails, "He probably wouldn't have to take it apart if the owner just did some basic maintenance in the first place." He got up, "That's my drink for the night, used to be I could afford a couple." He walked on out of the bar.
Jesse finished the last of her drink, grabbed the bottle and walked out. Maintenance, that's all they needed.
She hears the beeping. "What?" She throws one arm over her eyes as the phone built into her ear is answered with a thought.
"It's Shane. I've got everything ready for your return."
"Why do you have to call me and tell me now?" She was rubbing the sleep out of her eyes now, she had the dream again last night.
"Because Richard just flew in with one of his own."
"Yeah?" It hadn't quite struck her what that meant yet.
"She needs a total body rebuild Jesse. She barely made it." Shane's voice was quiet, even.
"Shit!" Jesse was up on a second, "I'll be there in twenty minutes." she turned the phone off as the shower started.
Jesse was exiting an elevator to talk to Richard as he waited in her waiting room. Her heels clicked on the polished linoleum.
This story is Copyright © 2001 Gordon Feiner.