The door to the apartment opened quietly, spilling the hallway light into the dim apartment. Sarah Jones hesitated there, listening, eyes and ears straining for the slightest sound; her hand on the butt of her Nakjama Laser Pistol. She heard nothing but the sound of her own breathing. Quickly she stepped into her home and shut the door, locking it in triplicate. She moved from room to room flipping light switches, dispelling the darkness until she came to her bedroom. The Lord Commander had ordered a deployment to Boomerang Base and she had to grab her custom neurohelmet and gear from her bedroom closet. In the unlit bedroom she could see the pulsing light of her comm terminal. A shiver of panic sped up her spine from bottom to top. A spike of adrenaline sent her heart palpitating and instantly sucked the moisture from her mouth. Edwin’s family was as much a clan of downhome bumpkins who loved unconditionally as it was an interstellar mob trading in unlicensed mercenaries, and criminal activities. She had never had her comm connected to public networks, preferring to work off storage disk, and avoid leaving traces of her presence. The Jones’s would know she was on Zathras and as much as she had enjoyed the comradery and closeness of her husband’s family; she also feared their grudges and thirst for country justice.
Sarah took a deep breath, reached into the room and flipped the light switch. There was no one visible. She scanned the room intently and noticed a small metal cylinder placed upon her bed, propped against the pillows with a small cream colored card at its base. In florid script it read:
Vid message first, please.
With a shaking hand she reached out and toggled her comm to play the waiting video. The screen leapt to life and she found herself face to face with her mother in law, Tabitha Jones.
“Sarah, I know that you have been hiding from me… hiding from the family. Daughter, please know that you need not hide from us. When you first met my boy, you were both in the dark below, lost in the mines. You saved him; you saved my Edwin and brought him light where none existed. Then he married you and brought your light to our family. Daughter, that alone makes you worthy of the name Jones.” Mother Jones had become visibly upset and tears welled at her eyes.
“As we both know he never really left the darkness and was forced to do terrible things, and was broken. THOSE BASTARDS BROKE MY BOY!” The tears flowed freely now.
“I know what happened on Zathras, I know that you put an end to my boy.” The tears were gone now; Mother Jones had turned deadly serious in the blink of an eye. Sarah involuntarily stepped back from the Comm as if it were radioactive. The woman seemed to look straight through her.
“There is something that us Jones’ women know to be true: WE are the heads of this family. When someone harms, or maligns the family, or loses their light it is by our will that we set things to right.” Mother Jones was rubbing the Church of Light pendant around her neck that signified her rank as a high cleric of the order. She had partially quoted a church scripture about divine justice. Sarah glanced at the cylinder on her bed nervously.
“Sometimes that means ending those who harmed us, but sometimes it means that we bring the light to those who have gone astray. My Edwin lost his light. He was lost; and yet you found him. By all accounts you brought him back to the light; again. I am eternally grateful to you for this Daughter. I have had to do the same with 2 husbands, 1 brother and an uncle. It is a hard task; but we, the Jones’ women, are always up to it. You will always be my Daughter, and we will keep the family’s eyes and ears upon you, wherever you may be to see to your well-being.” Mother Jones smiled and Sarah felt that familial warmth she had left behind on New Abilene.
“Sarah, please tell the Lord Commander that we accept his offer and that I will send Edwin’s cousin Zebulon to his foreman. He does us an honor in Edwin’s name.” Sarah’s sense of unease flooded back; the connection was live. Her mother-in-law was on Zathras.
“Oh, don’t look at me like that Daughter. I couldn’t very well leave you to this dangerous world without a husband to fight at your side. Blood is blood after all.” Sarah nodded, her throat sticking so that her answer came out as a croak.
“Yes, Ma’am.” Mother Jones nodded back approvingly.
“Good, take that cylinder with you. It has the family’s contact info. If things get terrible, or you need us, just call. We can fight or help you and your friends flee.” Sarah nodded again.
“Go with the light daughter, be the rising sun against the darkness.” Mother Jones smiled beatifically. Sarah smiled back.
“Oh, one last thing; that Mason is a handsome man…. is he… single?”
“Yes, Mother, I think so.”
Mother Jones chuckled conspiratorially and then her image dissolved to static, the transmission ended. Sarah grabbed her gear in a hurry, shoving the cylinder with the comm codes into her cooling vest pocket. She had to move fast or she would get an earful from Talon for holding up the Sanjuro. As she ran out of her apartment to the waiting hovercar in the street below she wondered at how strange the universe really was.