Katie Mah tapped out the combination on her temperature controlled locker outside the science building. She swapped things needed for the last two classes of the day before grabbing the lunch pouch. It was a Friday, which meant there wasn't any sort of on-campus club meeting she needed to go to so she went to her usual spot. It was a low concrete wall next to the Arts and PE building facing the quad where her friends started to gather.
The wall surrounded a big old tree giving shade under the hot winter sun of Southern California. The smell of ashes wafted in the air. She ate her sandwich and shared snacks while listening to her friends talk about plans to go somewhere fun, to parties, or hang out with their boyfriends. Instead of talking she just doodled things like centaurs, dragons and mermaids in her sketchbook. She never told anyone about it. Who would believe her? Nothing else about her was all that important or exciting to tell the others. She was average academically and so were her friends. Some were friend of a friend she did not share any classes with but joined the group anyway. Some of them didn’t feel comfortable in any of the other peer groups so they joined hers. Everyone was just nice to each other and everyone went off to do their own thing once the second lunch bell rang.
After school, she was dropped off at the local hospital to do community service hours she signed up for on Monday. She already clocked enough hours to graduate but she needed to do more to look good on her college applications. She didn’t mind it but things like this got in the way of hanging out with her friends or even getting a boyfriend. It has been like this ever since she came back from Alpha Centauri. Five years had passed, she doubt she would ever see any of them again but she held out hope all the same.
Katie sat on the ground in an empty basement classroom prepping bundles for an upcoming event. The fluorescent lightbulbs flickered but she didn't notice at first. She was daydreaming and thinking about the SAT test prep class tomorrow and Chinese school on Sunday. Even when the room went dark she wasn't worried. It must be a power outage from all the air conditioning units running. It was a very hot winter in Southern California. With all the vegetation burning, everyone was staying inside. The backup generators should be up and running anytime soon. Then she saw colorful ethereal lights shining through the small windows of the double doors to her room. Strange time to start having a dance party. She got up to open the door to ask the hospital staff outside to turn the lights back on. Standing in-between the elevators, stairwell, and her was a portal opening up.
“Holy smokes! What could this be? “ she said out loud. Her mind raced thinking of all the horrible things that could be coming after her and finish the job of wiping out all of planet Earth.
Three centaurs in soldier spacesuits came through the portal with some sort of futuristic weapon pointed and ready to fire. Katie raised her arms showing she was unarmed. The centaurs withdrew their weapons, before moving to take off their helmets.
“What's going on? What are you doing here?” she said.
“We’ve come to find you!” said the female palomino that got her helmet off first.
“Batya!!!” The two of them squealed and hugged.
“Don’t forget me!!!” smiled a now grown-up painted female centaur.
”Petal!!! You’ve grown up!”
The three girls squealed and hugged as best friends do after not seeing each other for a long time.
“I’ve missed you all!”
“I had always hoped to see you again!”
It was the familiar yet deeper sound of Baku’s voice.
“Baku?!” she said barely recognizing the face with the light of the portal behind him.
The portal closed behind them and the fluorescent lights to the basement came back on. It was him, but much older with stress lines, cuts, bruises, scars, and burned off fur framing his hollowed eyes. She was sad to see what he had become. They hugged each other as hard as they could almost trying to squeeze the air out of each other.
“What happened to you all?” said Katie seeing the equally disheveled state of the others as the two hugged, both afraid the other would vanish again.
“We are at war with the dragons.” said Batya.
“We did our best to hold down the peace with the friendship you helped us establish with the dragons.” said Petal.
“Is Zeba ok?”
“She’s fine, she is herd leader now.”
“How did you get here?”
“This portal is on Proxima, the dragon’s planet, we fought our way to get a hold of it. You know Zan, right?
“He’s a clan leader now. You know him better than any of us. He liked you, he may still like you and hear you out. We need you to talk to him to negotiate peace so that we can stop all this fighting.
“Ok, I can come with you. This planet is trashed anyway. Let me grab my stuff.”
The four of them walked back thru the portal opened by a device on Baku’s arm. Katie carried a backpack full of the latest technologies she could get her hands on.