As the pair exited the dilapidated building they had spent the night in Ghanis looked up at the clouds scudding across the sky and frowned. It was an overcast morning; not cold but certainly damp.
“It looks like we might be getting wet in an hour or so,” he said.
Jhax did not reply but pushed her way past her him to take up the lead position, trudging through the tall grass towards the road they had left last night.
Ghanis fiddled with the shoulders straps of his backpack as he moved in behind her, trying to find a more comfortable position for them. This was always challenge because the backpack was not designed for people with four arms and the straps ended up digging into the backs of his lower pair of arms unpleasantly. He had the area padded with some old socks hoping to mitigate some of the chafing and ultimately he was able to make due but he really wished he could find something that fit.
Being a muted human certainly had its challenges. Finding acceptable clothing and gear that would work for his unusual frame was always difficult and he resigned himself this fact when he was just a young man. Anything he found would need to be modified to in order to fit.
This requirement was not something that just he had to deal with and he understood this. After all there were mutants everywhere and with all manner of physical irregularities. While he had no bases for the assumption, he thought there must be millions.
While he was thinking about this he considered his traveling companion Jhax who was currently walking about eighteen meters ahead of him. He, Ghanis was at least mostly human; his extra pair of arms being the only real sign he was not of a pure DNA strain, Jhax on the other hand was pretty much half cat and half human.
He honestly didn’t know if she was a mutated panther with some human features, or a mutated human with some panther features and Jhax made it very clear early in their relationship that this subject was off limits and never to be brought up in conversation again. If ever Ghanis was ever in doubt of her feelings on this point he had only to run his fingers along the two inch scar that ran between his left eye and his left ear. A warning that Jhax left with him the last time he tried to bring the subject up.
This did not stop Ghanis from trying to figure it out. He noted that she walked mostly upright, had a human torso, and human arms and legs. She had paws where there should have been feet and hands, but even these appendages seemed to lean more towards a human origin. She was covered from head to toe in short but thick black fur and had rather long tail that gave her as much trouble fitting into trousers as his extra pair of arms caused him fitting into shirts. She would constantly complain about having to either cut a hole in the back of her pants to allow her for her tail, or having to tuck the tail uncomfortably down the back of one of the pant legs.
The road they were following was the same highway Ghanis had traced across the holomap earlier in the morning though calling it a road was giving it far too much credit. It might have been better described as a crumbling concrete path considering its current deteriorated condition. The edges of the road were severely overgrown with grass and moss, and there was often long stretches where the passing years reclaimed the road completely; causing him and Jhax to lose sight of it. When this happened they were forced to use the holomap to be certain they were still moving in the right direction. Effective, but not something Ghanis liked to do often because he worried doing so would run down its battery.
“Have you given much thought in what we are looking for?” Ghanis asked as they walked on.
“Not really,” Jhax signed. “I’m just here to keep you out of trouble. Didn’t Targus tell you what it was?”
“Not really,” Ghanis said. “He just told me that it would be some sort of tech, something he hopes will be able to help our settlement in some way.”
Targus was the leader of their settlement and had been leading that group for almost twenty five years now. The people there liked him and what he has done to help them prosper. He has contacts from all over the wasteland and his information is usually spot on. Ghanis trusted Targus completely. If Targus said there was something of value out here, then there was and that was good enough for him. Ghanis knew that Jhax still had her reservations though. As best he could tell, he was the only person that Jhax fully trusted. He was certain this was because he had risked his own life to save hers fifteen years ago.
He knew his immature humor could get on Jhax’s nerves, but she gave him a hard time in return more often than not as well. It was almost a game for him. He also couldn’t help but admit to himself that there was a deeper feeling there and he suspected the feeling to be mutual. After all, why would she have volunteered to go with him on this crazy mission Targus sent him on?
They reached the river crossing shortly after noon relieved that the bridge was indeed still intact though it looked much worse for the wear. There were plenty of holes in the deck, and much of the sides were either gone completely or stubbornly hanging over the edge by thin pieces of rusted rebar. It looked safe enough to cross, at least in a physical sense; but bridges were a great place to get ambushed so they approached it with caution.