for Jeff from Rochita
There was a jeff in the ventilation pipe.
It was the first time Christine and Mary Ann had seen one up close. Mandy, the building supervisor, insisted that jeffs were dangerous and the walls had been sprayed with repellant to keep the creatures away.
But here was one, and it lay there fast asleep. A sweet round violet ball of fluffy jeff.
"What do we do?"Christine asked.
She kept her voice at whisper pitch. Mandy’s admonitions rang in her memory and while the jeff looked harmless, she was afraid that it would wake up and prove to be everything Mandy said it was.
Mary Ann tapped at the screen in her hand, and looking over her shoulder, Christine caught sight of images flashing by before it settled onto an entry with a jeff that was the exact same color and shape of their sleeping jeff.
"It’s a spock," Mary Ann said. "According to this entry, the jeff spock is harmless unless provoked. Then, it turns into one of the fiercest fighters in the south quadrant."
Christine bit her lip and looked at the jeff. Would it be provoked by their presence? Would it uncurl and turn into a fierce ball of fighting claws and sharp teeth? She tried to imagine the cute ball of fluff turning into a horrible rampaging beast.
Mary Ann gave the screen a satisfied tap.
"Found it," she said.
"What did you find?" Christine asked. She couldn’t take her eyes off of the jeff.
"Identification for our jeff," Mary Ann said. "Apparently, this jeff belonged to the First Mandate."
Christine tore her gaze from the jeff and looked at her sister. The First Mandate was in-charge of the south quadrant. She was a cold woman whom they’d sometimes called the ice queen. Christine couldn’t imagine such an austere woman keeping something like the jeff.
"It’s tame," Mary Ann said. "We can keep it if we want because the Mandate released it. There’s a notice on the Mandate’s website. Whoever finds the jeff gets to keep it."
"Won’t it be expensive?" Christine asked.
Mary Ann shook her head.
"Nope. It comes with supply rations for life. Plus, according to this entry, it’s an excellent watchdog."
"But Mandy. . .," Christine’s protest died away when she saw the smirk on Mary Ann’s face.
"Mandy can’t ban this one," Mary Ann said.
"But we don’t know how to care for a jeff. We’ve never had one before," Christine said.
"Instructions are in the document," Mary Ann said.
It was only because she was attuned to Mary Ann that she caught the screen when her sister tossed it.
"You. . .," Christine swallowed her words. She wanted to tell off Mary Ann for her carelessness. If she hadn’t caught the unit, it would have broken and a broken unit meant months of scrimping and saving until they could afford another one.
She stared down at the words on the screen. There were illustrations as well. She touched the screen and the page slid away to reveal another.
Mary Ann had hitched herself up over the lip of the vent. She was making a high crooning sound that made the hairs on Christine’s neck stand up.
"Krrr. . .," the jeff said.
It uncurled at Mary Ann’s touch. It stretched out and yawned and Christine glimpsed the pink cavity of its mouth. It had sharp teeth, Christine thought. She could easily imagine the damage those teeth could do. Then a pair of bright blue eyes peered out through the fluff and blinked at them.
"Come," Mary Ann said.
Christine squealed when Mary Ann reached out and placed her hand on the jeff’s middle. She waited for the jeff to attack.
But instead, the creature crept up and curled around Mary Ann’s forearm.
"Aw," Mary Ann said. "You’re a sweet little creature, aren’t you?"
The jeff looked up and blinked. It bared its teeth in a feral grin.
"You’re ours now," Mary Ann continued. "We’ll protect you."
The jeff let out the most curious sound Christine had ever heard. It sounded like a cross between a purr and a bark. Then, it curled itself around Mary Ann’s arm and went back to sleep.
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