How Nice…

…more new characters!  I’m beginning to think my unconscious mind hates the rest of me.

There might be a formal dinner in the next episode.  Politics?  I really need to get Kongo on the way back home.

“Defiant” – Episode 15

“Another ale!”

Joe yelled his request to the air. He knew the manager or one of his assistants would hear it. Across the table from him, next to Nichole, Gil just sighed.

“They would have been by in a little bit; you didn’t have to make an ass out yourself… and us by association,” he said evenly to his friend. Nichole tittered at that.

“Huh?” Joe stopped looking around and looked at the two of them. And why is Gil next to my girl? he thought a little unsteadily.

“Friday evening, just cloudy… Zom’s is packed!” Joe retorted. “If we don’t attract a little attention, we’re done for!”

His face was rather red, Nichole thought. How many has he, and Gil, had before she’d joined them?

“You’ll always have my attention, darling!” With his hand on Joe’s shoulder, the manager, a young man named Nike, placed another pint before Joe.   “I’ll always have room for you!”

Joe’s eyes dropped as he shuddered a bit.

“Do you dislike homosexuals?” Nichole asked Joe, her face filled with curiosity. Nike laughed as he reached over to flip her nose.

“We used to be a protected species, love!” Nike said to Nichole. “These days, we’re back to the ‘bearded-lady-in-the-circus’ level.” He almost lost his smile. “I do understand, though: tens of millions dead tends to do that to a society…. You or Gil need anything?”

They both shook their heads. Nike, in his late twenties, kitted out like a formal waiter but with his ostentatiously bleach-blonde hair, moved to the next table.

“He’s so nice!”   Nichole said to her friends. “And this place is amazing!”

She gestured about at the antique home just two blocks from Stratford House, right next to the urban park.

“Used to be called the ‘Simon Benson House,’” Gil said, taking his eyes from the park to hers.   “The Alumni association was HQ’d here.   At some point during the Breakup, Nike and his friends turned it into this . . . café? Pub?  Whatever.  But Zom’s is about the most popular place on campus, now.”

“Yeah,” Joe contributed, “like it was made in one night. First, it was too weird, and everyone stayed away, but now…” He shrugged. “I guess that’s how traditions start.”

He took another long drink of his ale. Gil had arrived just before she had. I wonder how many he’s had, he thought?

“Ah! So, how was your first full week, love – er – Nichole!”   He took another drink. Gil did, too.

“I am so not carrying you home again,” she heard him barely say. But she’d heard what Joe said as well. Philia!   She wished she could respond to him in koine Greek.

“It’s been so interesting!” She replied brightly, taking a very tiny sip of her ale. “Professor Vincent has put in paperwork for me to be the TA for his class – that will give me wages! – biomechanics seems fun, and I’m helping Professor Bishop and the others in programming to realize that everything they know is wrong!”   She smiled.

Gil couldn’t take it; he dropped his head and started laughing.

“Gil?” She wondered.

“Good to hear that biomechanics is the only non-fail!” He smiled at her. “I was thinking of taking that next semester. Will you be teaching it, by then?”

Her emerald eyes widened and she waved her hands. “No, no!   Professor Murphy is very good!   No, better than that: he’s very clever! Given the opportunity, I shall transmit some of his works home!”

“Home,” Gil said, holding her eyes, less than two feet from his dark gray, “is Japan, your company, or their Navy?”

Why does he provoke me, she wondered? Is he honestly curious? His tone indicates otherwise. Perhaps he grasps that I am not completely forthcoming, and is responding to that?

But, what human is?

“Are you happy?!”   Joe half-yelled at her. She analyzed his breath that reached her:   not just alcohol, but fatigue poisons, and . . . oh! She waved to her right as she watched Joe’s head weave. Nike came over.

“Yes, darling?”

“My first friend,” she gestured with her left hand, “is tired, slightly drunk, and running a low-grade fever of 100.2F I don’t want to cause any trouble, but – ”

Gil made to stand up.

“Crap.   Again.” He muttered. “I’ll get him. Nich-”

Nike pushed him back down. “His place is just around the corner. I’ll have one of mine take him. Gary!”

Another young man, kitted out just like Nike, came from inside. He was very pale, with dark hair and eyes. His face was expressionless.

“Sir?”

“Our dear customer is unwell. Could you see him to the Stratford?” Nike asked with a smile and tilt of his head, while winking at Nichole.

“Sir.”

“Ahm, ph… fine….   Tired…” Joe was barely able to stay upright.

With a heave, Nichole watched Gary easily pick Joe up and place him over his left shoulder.

“Back in a few minutes, sir.”

Nike laughed as they left. He looked at Nichole.

“Mister Kreeft is a regular; loud, sometimes, but a good customer.” He looked harder. “Astute of you to notice he was sick.”

Nichole held his gaze but said nothing.

“Get you anything?”   He asked.

“One more ale for me, please.” Gil said.   “Nichole?”

“I’m fine.”

Nike left them.   The sound of the other students and staff at the café echoed around them. She heard the long intake from breath from Gil to her left. His hand onto her left shoulder was a surprise.

“You use the word, storge, right?” She nodded.   “I looked it up; friendship.”

He finished the last of the pint he had.

“Joe’s in love with you. You get that?”

“Yes.”

“In English . . . American English, my friend loves you. Still with me?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, thanks.”   Another waiter brought him his last pint of ale. No one said anything.

“Are you going to ask me if I love him?” She asked.

He snorted.

“Like I care.”

She sipped at her ale.   I wonder where I can purchase bleach to properly clean myself out?

He set his pint down and looked at her.   Without changing expression, he suddenly moved his left hand towards her throat.

In a blur, she caught it.

“Gil?”

He brought his right around in fist towards her head. She caught and held that.

“Friend Gil? Are you well?” She was now very concerned.

He relaxed and drew back both hands, holding them up.

“Kinda what I thought.   You. That ship. You’re some kind of Jap military. Special Forces, maybe?” He turned back to his ale. “All this about school is just bullshit, right?”

“No!” She did not like being called a liar. “I am not in the military and I am here to study!”

He made one more half swipe at her, which she countered.

“So how is it you do that so easily?” He pivoted his whole body towards her. “How in the hell did you give that ship orders?!”

Secrets were like an onion. Layer by layer.

“Come ON, Gil!”   She laughed. “What Japanese girl doesn’t know martial arts!”

“The ship,” he persisted. Fine.

She quickly ascertained what volume she could use to reply to him. She parted her lips and leaned towards him; at the last moment, she moved her face a fraction to the left towards his right ear.

“I am an agent of the Empress. I am trusting you with my life.”

The second was a gross exaggeration, not a lie. She leaned back and took another tiny sip of her ale.

He said nothing. Took one drink, then another.

“Friends?” He asked without looking at her.

“We are.”

Another drink.

“Okay, then.” He looked at her again. “I’m sorry for doubting you.”

“’Trust, but verify!’”   Nichole said back to him with a smile.

There was a chirp from her handbag. The ship’s radio!

“Speaking of which . . .” She said as she started rummaging.

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