She sat up too quickly and fell back on the soft ground, shaking her head to clear the clutter. Bobbie looked around and wondered where the hell she was. Was she still on Earth? Touching the dirt and examining the flora and fauna, Bobbie decided that it was indeed the same planet, but possibly only the gods know where on it. Easing her body up, she looked around and took in the landscape. Standing in a field of tall grasses and wildflowers, Bobbie Draper realized that wherever she was, it was far from the UN and any pursuers. She reached up to the heavens and smoothly swan dove forward, sweeping her arms back up to complete the sunrise pose. No one was near to mock her yoga moves and they were the most effective at working out the kinks in her back from the jolting trip to, well, wherever this was. Deciding that standing in an open field left her feeling exposed, Bobbie dusted off her uniform and began walking towards the forest.
“Mmmmm. Cows were put on this planet to be cooked, smothered in cheese, and devoured for our enjoyment.” Patrick watched in amusement as Stevie shoveled the quarter pound monstrosity in her mouth and waxed poetic on the pleasures of beef.
“Wow, Stevie. David told me about your, uh, relationship with burgers but I thought he was exaggerating. If anything, he might have undersold your deep, emotional connection.”
As soon as she caught her breath, Stevie looked over at Patrick with a scowl and said, “Okay, Mr. Fitness, I hate to admit this, but I may be realizing that I am slightly out of shape because those dance sessions and rehearsals seriously kicked my ass. And since my burger worship isn’t ending anytime soon, what’s the most efficient way to remedy the situation? With the least amount of pain?”
“After seeing the giant hickey on your collarbone from that random last week, I’d assumed pain wasn’t an issue for you,” Patrick stated casually, smirking as he speared a piece of chicken from his salad. Stevie glared and wagged a fry in Patrick’s direction.
“Listen here, Brewer. You know where, when and why I tolerate discomfort. Exercise is last on that list.”
“Fair enough, fair enough.” Patrick raised his hands in defeat. “Why don’t you try running with Alexis sometime? It’s free and she can give you pointers since she’s been doing it for years.”
Stevie chewed and contemplated Patrick’s sensible yet obviously impossible suggestion. Could she actually run with Alexis? Deciding that it was preferable to just ask Alexis and stop thinking about something she hated as much as exercise, Stevie sighed, rolled her eyes and groaned out, “Fine. I’ll ask her.”
“Thank you so much for the advice, Patrick. I’m lucky you’re my friend,” he deadpanned.
“Don’t push it, Brewer.”
After exploring the wooded paths and finding them pretty but leading to nothing militaristic, Bobbie began to relax. It appeared that the walkway she turned down whilst dodging both the Martian and UNN troops held more surprises than even she expected. “Fucking scientists. Fucking me over again with their fancy fucking tech.” She shook her head in disgust and decided to look for civilization.
Bobby reached a gravel lot leading out to a quiet two lane road. “Here we go,” she muttered and began walking to the left (as that’s where the majority of the tire tracks pointed). She hadn’t seen any planes fly by since arriving, which surprised her. She must have gone farther out than expected. Was this what Holden saw all the time, growing up in the wilderness? Lucky bastard. After walking ahead for several clicks, she finally heard the rumble of an old Earther vehicle. Moving to the shoulder, Bobbie slowed and faced the driver. A dark, faded truck, appearing to be either late 20th or early 21st century model and with a license plate stating ‘Ontario RTY 231’ approached her slowly and thankfully stopped.
Looking at her directly, with a curious tilt to his head, a smiling, bearded Caucasian man in his mid 20s undid his safety harness and cut the engine. Opening his door slowly, he poked his head around saying, “Hey there. Doing okay? You hurt or in an accident?” Uncertain of her feelings about questions from strange men, he remained on his side of the truck and waited for Bobbie’s reply.
“I, um, seem to have gotten lost. On the path. I, uh, came out here for some quiet and must have gotten distracted.”
“Oh, okay, well, you want a ride back to your car?”
“Thanks, but what I really need is a lift to town. I was feeling adventurous and walked here today.”
The man’s eyes grew wide with alarm. “You walked from Schitt’s Creek to the path?” He gave a low whistle and motioned to the passenger side of the truck. “Hop in and I’ll give you a lift.” Bobbie nodded, popped open the truck door and slid into the passenger seat. Reaching for the safety harness, she observed the man extending his right hand across the cab. “Mutt,” he stated, as Bobbie took his hand.
Giving him the firmest handshake of his adult life, she replied, “Bobbie,” and arranged herself in a rigid, upright position.
“Well alright then, let’s go,” Mutt murmured, turning over the engine and heading to Schitt’s Creek.
“Come on, Stevie. Do you wanna get in shape or not?” Alexis chirped at Stevie as they rounded a corner downtown. “We’re not even halfway through our two-mile warm up!”
Stevie slumped against the side of the café and began her litany of breathy curses. “Fucking...Patrick. Smug...little…CrossFit bastard. Jesus…fucking…Mary and Joseph.” Sweating from every possible pore in her body, Stevie leaned against the wall until her breathing returned to normal. “Why don’t you just go on without me? Or get a smoothie? Or run into a tractor trailer?”
“Ugh, fine, Stevie. I hope you never need to escape from a Sheikh’s hotel during a blackout, because honestly, you’d never make it.” With a shake of her ponytail, Alexis put in her earbuds and jogged away.
Stevie sauntered into the café and found Moira and Johnny eating breakfast. “Ah, Stevie! Out for a morning constitutional?” asked Johnny, beaming at her.
“Hi, Mr. Rose. Your daughter was just, uh, showing me some jogging tips. Think I’m gonna rest for a minute now. Enjoy your breakfast,” Stevie replied with a small, tired smile. Ambling purposefully towards the back booth, Stevie ignored any and all greetings until she slid into the booth and hid behind the giant menu. As soon as she stopped sweating, she was going to let Patrick know exactly what she thought of his little suggestion. First, however, an omelette would be necessary.
“Morning, Stevie! What can I get for you today?” Twyla asked with her typical bright demeanor.
“Western omelette, hash browns on the side, coffee…please.” Grateful for the impending food, Stevie folded the menu and passed it over to Twyla.
“You got it, Stevie,” Twyla replied, winking and bouncing towards the kitchen. Stevie recognized that if she was going to keep eating like this and wanted to survive to middle age, then some other form of exercise would need to stick. Running, however, would not do. As she pondered this, Mutt walked in and Stevie’s jaw became slightly unhinged. How did Mutt know the most striking woman this side of Moira Rose?
Thankfully, Mutt understood the value of companionable silence and left Bobbie to her thoughts on the drive. Striving for casual, Bobbie glanced around the truck for clues on her location. She definitely wasn’t in the 24th century anymore, it was just a question of how far back she’d gone. Mutt’s communication device began buzzing and lighting up, quieting after he pushed a raised button on the side. Before the screen darkened, she caught the date on the screen ‘June 5, 2019.’ Alright, at least now she could work backward and make sense of everything with a date and location name. Ontario, which country was that in? Rubbing her hands on her thighs, Bobbie looked at the papers and clothing scattered on the floorboard and in the middle console. Toeing over a hat, Bobbie breathed a sigh of relief at seeing the red maple leaf. Canada, of course.
“Oh, sorry for the clutter. This is my dad’s truck and he’s not what anyone would consider clean.”
“No problem. I appreciate the lift.” Bobbie’s brain raced as she tried to remember 21st century Earth history, especially for this part of the globe. When was the first Earth president elected? Bobbie thanked her lucky stars that this Mutt person was a quiet guy who didn’t want to give her any trouble. Not that she couldn’t deal with that if she had to, but she wanted her mental abilities ready for townies full of questions.
“So, that accent. Are you from Australia? Long way from home.”
Bobbie thought through her conversations with her grandmother, grateful now for all of those stories she insisted on sharing about Earth in the years prior to Mars colonization. “New Zealand, but I’ve been on my own, moving around for a while now. Prefer to stay near more natural areas.”
“Hmm, I get that,” Mutt grunted in reply.
“Listen, I appreciate the lift, but I’m not really a chatty person and I’m pretty tired from that walk. Okay if we ride in silence?” Bobbie asked.
“Hey, sure thing. No worries,” Mutt replied.
Bobbie ran through everything she remembered about Canada, Ontario, New Zealand and 21st century Earth, hoping that no one pressed her for details until she had time to do research. Somehow.
They stopped in a tiny town, in front of an older building bearing a large mural and the name, “Café Tropical.” “I’m going to get some coffee and whatever Twy is passing for breakfast this morning. You’ve had a rough time. Can I get you some food? No strings attached, I swear.”
As she had no clue what monetary system to refer to here, Bobbie nodded and added, “Thanks. Happy to pay you back when I get to my stuff.”
Mutt put up a hand and said, “Don’t worry about it. You may change your mind after you eat anyway.” Laughing to himself, Mutt held open the café door for Bobbie and followed her inside. “This’ll be interesting,” he muttered to himself, knowing Schitt’s Creek residents wouldn’t be as silently patient with a newcomer as he had been.
Bobbie scanned the café for an empty spot facing the door, her military instincts never very far away. As she zeroed in on the back of the building, Bobbie’s eyes paused on a raven-haired woman, staring directly at her, with a look that could only be described as piercing.
“Oh, don’t mind Stevie. She doesn’t bite. Unless you like that sort of thing.” After receiving an intense and withering glare from Bobbie, Mutt walked towards a table in the middle of the café.
A biter, huh? Bobbie thought. Perhaps this is a place of interest.