…which is not the same thing as back on rails (to make an RPG reference). I’d seen most of this yesterday evening, but as important writing is, family – even just day to day family stuff – always comes first.
I also realized that my episodes were getting unwieldy in size, so I’m trying to pare that back, too. There’s more on the roof next time. Maybe the walk back to campus in a light rain after that. Does Mackenzie explode under the attention? Joe develop PTSD? Gil confront Nichole about her connexion to Kongo?
I’ve no clue; but, I’m having so much fun!
“Defiant” – Episode 8
By his third ale, Joe was just beginning to be able to forget some of the horrible things of the past three days. As had happened the last few times they’d been called up in an emergency, the militia was discharged as quickly as possible. Composed, as it was, of men and women that otherwise had day jobs that kept the city alive, the local economy ground to a halt every time they were mobilized.
Gil sat across from him at their table on the roof of Overton’s Pub. It’d once been the swanky Portland City Grill, but everything was small-scale, now. Still, the snacks were good, ale cool, and the view over the city superb. After a few perfunctory questions about what happened north of the bridge, Gil had quickly relented. It was obviously worse than they’d been told.
“And you guys!” Joe said loudly, gesturing at Gil with his mug. “You just hung out as reserves? Damn! Must be nice!”
He took another long drink of his ale. Gil knew his boisterous friend needed to let off steam.
“Mostly,” he replied evenly. “Our cavalry scouts did follow on down route 26 to make sure the raiders were headed back.” He, too, took a drink. “For now, they did.”
Joe’s face fell as he grunted at the ‘for now.’ He smiled again.
“But now, we’ve got them!” His left hand pointed to the northeast, where Kongo lay at port. As Joe was anything but quiet, several others on the roof who’d had no choice but to follow his conversation, clapped in agreement. Nothing official, but everyone in the city knew by now what the Japanese warship had done in the crisis.
And I may be the only one in the city that knows what really happened, Gil thought to himself. Then again, do I really? He stared down into his half empty mug.
“This way, please!” He heard the rich voice of Isabella, the owner’s wife, showing someone to a table.
“May we sit there?” That voice…. “That’d be best for you to draw, wouldn’t it, friend Mackenzie?”
Gil sat up as Joe whirled about.
“Nichole!” They both exclaimed. She did not appear at all startled as she paused. Something that looked like a solid shadow moved so Nichole was between it and them. She gave a huge smile and wave from just yards away.
“First Friends! How are you!” She strode quickly over, leaving her solid shadow behind. She have Joe a hug about his neck, then leaned back.
“That’s for being a hero! You saved us!”
Joe was sputtering as she turned to Gil who got the same treatment.
“I like it more when you’re armed, but thanks for all your help!”
She suddenly stepped away from the table, a look of confusion and surprise on her face. She pressed both hands to her cheeks while her mouth made an “oh!” Much, much later, Joe realized that was the moment he’d fallen for her.
Her right hand dropped while she gestured with her left.
“This is my dorm friend, Mackenzie!” The shadow moved closer, but not by much. “She’s an amazing artist! And so nice!”
The young men rose, but the shadow retreated. They froze in confusion, but Joe smiled.
“Hi there! Name’s Joe!” He waved with his huge right hand as he patted Nichole’s shoulder with his left. “Thanks for looking after the new girl, here! You’re at the Stratford, too, right?”
She nodded. With her dark, mousy hair, gray sweater and long skirt, she’d be invisible on a typical rainy day.
“I’m Gil,” he said, thinking it time to speak up. “We won’t bother you anymore; please enjoy your evening.” He nodded at her, then made a glance to Joe that even he understood. They sat.
“Uh…?” Nichole was not sure what to do next. I… I can’t get all my new friends together? Why not? There was a social dynamic here she did not understand, tensions she could not grasp. Until she could, she would defer to local customs. She walked over to Mackenzie and bumped her hands with hers.
They seated themselves next to the edge of the roof. Immediately, Mackenzie grew restless, but said nothing.
“Should I move, friend?” Nichole asked.
“It’d… it’d be better if you sat there and I here,” she replied softly. They moved again. Isabella took their order of two lemonades and departed. Mackenzie opened her large sketchbook and took a set of pencils from her drab bag. Nichole realized something.
“You wanted Kongo behind me!” Mackenzie nodded. “May I ask why?”
“It…you…” Nichole held her smile, even if she didn’t want to. “You two are connected…somehow….”
She trailed off.
Nichole was shocked. Does… does this person know what I am? How!?
“What makes you say that?” She asked as politely as she could.
Her friend shrugged. She picked up a broad pencil and starting making bold strokes across the paper.
A connexion between me and the ship… she allowed her smile to narrow to a grin. Over Mackenzie’s left shoulder she caught Gil’s eye. She winked at him.