Chasing Rabbits

Ideas, really.  But the point’s the same:  they’re hard to catch.  Snares work better.  I’ve made the mistake of chasing ideas down rabbit holes.  I’ve lost track of my own story, dammit.

My wife read the update before this one.  “That was good, but how is this a romance story?”  Oh…yeah.  So, I’ve made some changes to Ep7-1 and now roll out Ep7-2 with the express purpose of getting Joe out of this combat zone as quickly as seems reasonable.  Not to give away below the fold, but the original version of this had Phillip dying, and the HUGE can of worms that opened….

This is a romance story, how?  I’ve explored three of the Four Loves between machines and humans in my two novels.  I wanted to see what I could do with the remaining fourth:  eros.  Guess this means fewer battle scenes…more classes and coffee shops.  More pools and less clothes.

I wonder if Nichole is buoyant?  Have to think about that.  For now, let’s start wrapping up the cluster-eff I made on the Columbia River.  Hope to get everyone back together in Episode 8!

    “Defiant” – Episode 7 (part 2)
    No one moved.  They could not be hearing what they thought.
    Barns pushed his way though the platoon.  “Cover me, dammit,” he muttered.  He walked to the one with the lead and pushed… him? her? down.  He picked up the lead, then the child.  He looked at their lieutenant.
    “Sir, I’m taking her to an aid station.”  Without waiting for a response, he set off.
    Squeals and snarls started from the three prisoners.  Every rifle came up at once.  They subsided.  Visibly sweating now, their officer obviously wondered what to do next.
    “Sir?”  Phillip spoke up.  “Should higher ups know about this…like, now?”
    The LT nodded his head jerkily.  Joe recalled that he was a mason, by trade.  ‘Cannibal army’ was probably nowhere in his world-view.
    “Yeah,” their officer said, finding his voice again.  “You,” he nodded at Phillip,” and you, at Joe, next to him.  “Take them across the bridge to the Brigadier….”
    He trailed off as his gaze fell back onto the three…people.
    “If…”  He licked his lips and started again.  “If they resist or flee, shoot them.  Clear?”
    “Sir!”  They both replied.  Joe stepped forwards, gesturing with his hunting rifle.  “You heard him.  Let’s go…NOW!”
    They flinched slightly at his voice, but rose and began shuffling off before them.  Far ahead, they could see Barns pass from under the bridge’s darkness into light.  He started up the hill to the road.
    Behind them, they heard the rest of their mates moving out to finish the search under the bridge.
    “Hey, Phil!”  Joe whispered.  “What the f—”
    Phillip clicked his tongue at him; he’d a finger over his lips, then pointed at the three.  Yeah, guess I shouldn’t say anything in front of them.
    Their prisoners whined in the sunlight.  They whined up the hill to the road.  Shut up, thought Joe.
    A figure stood from a nearby foxhole.  Ah:  Jimmy; from the university, but in second platoon.  “Hey, guys!”
    He waved, then froze, seeing the prisoners.
    “Who in the hell—”  He began.
    “Zip it,” Joe called, having taken his lesson from his friend.  “POWs.  We’re crossing the river to—”
    “Cough!”  Phillip actually said.  Oh, yeah.  Telling them where they were going would be stupid.  Joe grinned ruefully.  Why wasn’t Phil the officer?
    “What about your guy carrying the little girl?”  Jimmy asked as they passed his position.
    Joe faked it.  “Wounded civilian; to an aid station.”
    “Oh.”  Jimmy seemed at a loss.  “Well, see you guys back at school!”
    The POWs complained about the sun.  The walk.  The wind.  They reminded Joe of the ‘social justice’ losers from his high school before the Breakup:  nothing but balls of hate and envy.
    The general’s tent was now just off the bridge.  They were lucky to see the intel captain there, Brian Hong.  Joe had dated his niece for a while.  It had ended amicably, so this should go well.  Brian waved with a smile, until he saw the three they were escorting.  He and Phillip drew up and saluted.  He returned theirs.  Joe let Phil talk.
    “POW’s, sir.”  He paused slightly.  “There’s more to report…once they’re….”
    Brian took the hint and called for a corporal to take them off.
    “Well?”  He asked curtly.
    “It might just be nothing, sir, but if you’re asking me….”  Phillip said.
    “I am.”
    “A cannibal army; likely tens of thousands of them.”  Phillip’s voice shook, but he held the captain’s eyes.  “Think of it as a new, fanatical religion.  Things like this…things like this can get out of control very quickly.”
    “If there is any way we can, we should talk to British Columbia and see what’s come north across their borders,” Phillip continued.  “If there’s a way to contain them… or kill them, then we’d better do it now.”
    Joe was a little surprised to hear something like that from his rather un-martial friend.  Oops!  The captain was talking to him!
    “…agree with that, Kreeft?”  Brian asked sharply.
    Joe knew that he knew two things:  swimming and civil engineering.  Besides that….
    “Sir!  Phil…er, Private Smith is always right about these things!  Sir!”  He tried very hard not to think about Brian’s niece.  She had the nicest—
    “Huh.”  The captain said with a non-committal tone.  “We’ll interrogate them and see.  And, we’ll try to get some shortwave from up north.”
    “You two have had a big two days, for militia,” he continued.  “You wanna pass outta here?  Back to school?”
    Joe’s innately lazy heart leapt in his chest…!
    “If it’s all the same to you, sir,” Phillip said, “we can’t let our friends down.  We’ll be crossing back, now.”
    “Well said.”  Brian saluted first.  They returned his and began a slow walk north.  Half way across the bridge, Joe used his huge hand to ruffle Phillip’s hair.
    “Dude!  Knock that off!”  Phillip yelled.
    “Sure,” Joe replied.  “Sure.”

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