I’ll never forget the first day I met Jack Westerson. Being taken in by a Jack is something most Jills remember pretty well, but mine was particularly memorable.

She was everything you expect in a Jack. Tall and mysterious, her features more striking than attractive. She sat in the corner of the bar, her feet up on the table. She had two Jills with her already — a boy and a girl, both almost old enough to be Jacks themselves. I was only a twelve-year-old girl, and felt very small at the moment.

“Master Jack,” my mother said, nodding her head. “This is my daughter, the one I told you about.” She pushed me forward. The Jack looked at her for a minute, then she finally sat up and looked at me.

“What do you two think?” she asked.

The boy leaned forward, looking me up and down. “She’s a bit short,” he said. He had a very serious face framed by short, black hair. His bandanna was around his neck, and his goggles up on his forehead, but the lines of dirt on his face showed where they usually sat.

“Taller than you were when you started,” the girl laughed. “She looks like she’s still got another growth spurt or two left in her.” She was dark-skinned, and unlike any Jill I had ever heard about. Her hair was long and clean, and she was wearing normal clothes, rather than the leather climbing gear the others still wore.

“You got a name?” the Jack asked.

“Massachusetts, sir,” I said. My dad’s family had developed a habit of naming their children after the old places. “Most people call me Massie,” I added.

“You any good with oldtech, Massie?”

“Yes, sir,” I said. “My dad was a runner, and I used to help him fix the things he brought back.” I saw the two Jills exchange glances, and the girl mouthed the word “was” at him. I did my best not to notice. Pity wouldn’t help me get the job.

“How about climbing? The giants are tall, and most of the fixing happens up top. A Jill who’s afraid of heights is dead weight.”

I puffed out my chest, trying to look more confident than I felt. “There’s a climbing tree near my house. None of the kids could go half as high as I could.”

Just then, a soldier burst into the bar. “Master Jack!” he called out, squinting into the dim light. The entire bar went silent. “Jack Westerson? You in here?”

She stood up, and crossed the room in a few paces. The Jills scrambled after her. My mother indicated with her head that I should follow them.

“What happened?” Westerson demanded.

“Quixotes,” he said. “Small pack. We took ‘em down before they killed more than six or seven folk. They came from the north.”

“Shit. Morrison must be dead then.”

“We’re preparing to sweep up to the giants up there. Make sure it was just those few. I’m to bring you and your Jills up behind them so you can fix whichever giant broke.”

Westerson looked at her Jills. “Let’s go.” The soldier readied his weapon, a gleaming piece of black oldtech, and the two teenagers fell in behind him, the Jack bringing up the rear. She stopped, right as they were leaving, looking back at me.

“You coming or not?” she asked.

Too stunned to speak, I just nodded and hurried after them.

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