That’s the distinct ‘between the lines’ message a got from a RealLife(TM) co-worker today. She’d not seen me since I’d started “Defiant,” and it was easy to see that she thought better of my now that I’m writing again.
I agree complete. I’m not a likeable person to begin with, and not being able to creatively express myself these last few months has made me worse. So, let’s let the cure roll on….
“Defiant” – Episode 5 (part 3)
No longer swept up in the panic of a few moments ago, he let her sit onto his bike while he stowed his rifle and sword. Gil’s lips thinned just a little as he recalled the ribbing he’d got from his platoon-mates the first time he brought it. Corporal Smith had asked, laughing, what the hell he planned to do with that pig-sticker?
Gil walked to within two feet of him; he smiled.
“A raider’s this close to you. Your gun’s jammed.” He let the smile go. “Besides pissing yourself, what do plan to do next?”
Two weeks later, at their next training session, everyone had some kind of bladed weapon.
“Hey, Nichole,” Gil asked, back in the present, turning towards her. “Were you ta—”
She was sitting, but swaying very slightly. At a glance he saw she was still breathing. Shock, exhaustion?
He looked at the top of the arch, more than a hundred feet over his head. Exhaustion, then. He carefully mounted his bike and leaned forward. He reached back and moved her so her head rested in the center of his back. Take it slow, he thought.
He pulled away from where about a half-dozen others were still gazing north. A couple glanced at them – well, her – wondering what all that had been far above. Hell if I know, Gil thought. She got that radio from the Jap ship: was she really acting as a forward observer for them? He slowed as they came to an exit ramp. He considered for a moment going to the dock, but that’s not what he asked of him.
If she really did do what I think she did, we owe her our lives, he thought. New home, it is.
A drive he could make in five minutes took fifteen, as he braked to a halt in front of Stratford House. Her head bumped against his back again.
“Huh?” He heard her barely mutter.
“Uh?” Call that a partial yes.
He stood and looked down at her. She looked completely addled. Her face and eyes drifting this way and that. They wandered to him.
“You… that guy…” That was not nice, he thought. “You saved me…I guess… arigato…uh…thanks, I mean.”
Was she in shock?
A sudden change came into her eyes that surprised him. She jumped off of the dirtbike.
“What…?!” She almost yelled, “what was that?!”
“Ah… which part?” He asked calmly. “It’s been a busy morning.”
The irony was lost on her.
“Just now! I was… was unmade! I was not thinking!” Her eyes got even wider as she stared up at him. Good God, they’re beautiful, he thought. “Did I die just now?!”
Definitely shocky. He took her hand and they moved to sit at bench a few yards away.
“You were exhausted after climbing on the bridge,” he began. “Do you remember that?”
She nodded. Her too-wide eyes still fixed on him.
“Coming back down you seemed to fall the last dozen or so feet. I caught you. You seemed to fall asleep after that, so,” he shrugged, “I brought you home.”
“I fell asleep?”
I don’t sleep!
“It… it was horrible!” She allowed herself to shake a little. “I was at the bridge, now here…!”
“That…that’s no different than non-existence!” She shouted, leaning towards him. “How do you stand it?!”
“What?” He was totally confused by her rambling. Perhaps he should take her to the infirmary….
She finally took in enough of his concern to realize she was talking too much and probably saying things she shouldn’t. She let her face drop.
“Anyway, thanks for bringing me home,” she said quietly. Her head came back up. She looked around. “I wonder if Mrs. Franks is still in her office?”
“I’ll go see!” Nichole said, standing. “I’d like to start my classes as quickly as I can!”
Gil stood, too.
“I’m off, then.” She turned.
“Where?” He gestured about again.
“We are still in something of a crisis here.” Even if I think it was you that fixed it. “I have to report to my militia unit.”
“Oh. Of course.” She smiled. “See ya’!”
He swung his leg over his bike and kicked it to life. There was a hand on his shoulder.
“Thanks,” Nichole said with a little squeeze. She moved off.
“Sure. For what, exactly?”
She tossed her head back for just a second, grinning at him.
“For not looking at my panties, silly!”
He allowed himself to return her smile.
“Maybe next time!” The bike spat gravel as he accelerated away. With that look on her face, he was glad he couldn’t hear her shouted reply and that he was out her grasp. In his side view mirror she was still shouting and waving her fist. Cute girl.
Too… too much stimulus this morning, Nichole thought, getting herself back under control, watching him speed out of her sight. With a ‘humph!’ she turned back to the south and set off.
The school’s grounds were almost deserted, but there was still a guard in the lobby of the Administration building. On the fourth floor, Franks office door was open, but she was not inside. Nichole listened…ah!
She tapped on the door of the man called ‘Henry.’ He and Franks were talking quietly inside. They looked up the noise.
“I’m back!” She said politely with a small bow. “Can we still wrap things up today, Ma’am? I’d like to start my classes!”
Do all humans let their jaws hang open like that when they’re surprised? Should I learn that, too? Franks stood.
“Of…of course, Miss Clarke.” She waved at the door. “After you.”
As Nichole walked out, Franks looked for just an instant at Henry. He nodded imperceptively. Only a few minutes ago, they’d both heard the rumor over the radio about some young madwoman atop the 405 bridge….
Nichole quickly seated herself. Franks did likewise.
“So… where were we?” She asked.
“You were expressing your surprise that I have no Bachelor’s degree….”
Franks clenched tightly at the pen in her hand. What loomed so large this morning seemed so stupid now.
“If the Director of that College has preapproved you, then it’s nothing to worry about.” She said briskly. “Let’s take a look at the classes you’ll be taking…”