By that much!

Looks like I’m getting rid of Kongo after the episode after this.  Even if they leave at night, there’s no way to hide the fact once they’re gone.  And I’m sure that trans-Columbia cannibal army has sympathizers in Portland; cannibalism – like vampirism – is socially akin to Progressivism:  they all end in mass death.

It’s rather fun to write about characters in a bar while I’m sitting here drinking.  ‘Brings it home,’ as it were.  Teresa was a surprise!  Looks like there’s a lot going on with that young woman!  A little ominous about her father, though.  Wonder where that world’s going?

Please pour yourselves a drink and read on!

“Defiant” – Ep 16

Gil watched her take the headset out and put it on. She winked at him as her left hand moved, likely toggling it, he thought.

“Hai, hai! Nichole desu ga!” She said happily, still holding his eyes with hers.

“<Miss Clarke,>” she heard Midshipman’s Sasaki’s voice echo metallically through the encryption, “<how are you?>”

“<I’m fine! I’m at a café with a friend!>”

“<Can you talk?>” She grasped what he was asking. She slid her eyes away from Gil and casually looked around.

“<Nothing too important,>” she replied easily. “<Okay?>”

“<Of course. You are, I’m sure, aware of our departure on Monday?>”

“<Yes.>” She sighed just a little. “<I shall miss all of you.>”

“<And we you.>” He cleared his throat with a metallic cough. “<Captain’s compliments, miss: he requests you join us at the Officer’s Mess for dinner tomorrow at 1800. There will be a small reception with other civilians at 1700.>”

“<Two questions!>”

“<Please…?>”

“<May I arrive early? To say goodbye to the rest of the crew?>” There was a brief pause; she imagined him relaying that on to whatever officer was planning this.

“<Of course. And the second question?>”

From the corner of her left eye, she regarded Gil. Obviously listening and curious. Just as obviously clueless as to what she was saying.

“<May I bring a friend?>”

There was another pause. The pause became a wait. From inside the café, she heard some woman raise her voice. There was a “…love, please!” in reply from Nike. She smiled a little at that. Still no answer. Signal loss?

“…uh… <are you still…?>”

“<So sorry for the delay, Miss Clarke,>” Sasaki said. “<Your request needed… clarification.>”

She could very well guess how far her unorthodox request went up the ladder.

“<And the answer is, yes. Provided that you are aware you are fully responsible for your guest.>” Another tiny pause. “<And the word was ‘fully.’>”

Unaware she did it, she bowed slightly in her chair.

“Youkai!” Gil heard her yell sharply into the air in front of her. He took the second to last drink of his ale. Sounded serious.

“Hai… hai…iie… Hai!” Guess I know one word, he thought. Her left hand moved again as she swept the headset off with her right, quickly and easily stowing it away into her bag. Graceful.

He thought of her catching his hands. Strong.

Her swimming lesson. Clever.

He finished his ale. Who in the hell are you, girl?

“Good news?” He asked.

“Yes and no,” she replied. To judge by her smile, it must be more yes than no. “Kongo is leaving soon, but I’m allowed to go say goodbye to everyone tomorrow!” She stared at him as if there were more.

“I’d imagine you’d have friends on board?” She nodded. Yeah, there was more. “What – ”

“Give me back my goddam wine, you Athenian rent-boy!” The woman that had raised her voice earlier inside was now doing it outside. That voice! Nichole was turning to her right just as Nike set a large, but half empty wine glass onto the table opposite her and Gil.

“Women drinking alone are trouble to themselves and others, including my place.” Nike said with his typical cheer. “Come sit here, lovely! Behave, and I’ll bring the rest of the bottle!” He smiled at Nichole and winked at Gil. Nichole knew from that voice –

Teresa Johnson stood in front of them, making no move to sit. Her angry face seemed to get just a little worse when she saw miss-effing-genius give her a small wave. And she was already with a hot guy! That made her angry enough to sit down with a crash and take two huge of gulps of red from her glass.

“What?!” Teresa asked heatedly. And get that stupid grin off your face, she wanted to yell.

“I’m happy to see you again, friend Teresa!”

“I ain’t your goddam friend, classmate!” She said sharply. Even Gil could see Nichole wilt at that. Who was this bitch, he thought?

There was a bang as Nike sharply dropped the open wine bottle onto the table.

“Manners?” He was still smiling, but his eyes and voice were not. He moved off.

“Sorry.” Teresa muttered darkly. Another drink of wine. “We can try… being friendly….”

“Yea!” Nichole yelled. Gil thought the bitch almost threw up in her mouth when she heard that. He started laughing. Teresa glared at him.

“Your boyfriend gotta name?” She asked, waving her glass in his general direction.

“He’s not my boyfriend!” Nichole cried as she leaned left to give him a huge hug. There was an odd *crack!* from his ribs or spine. “But he’s super-special to me! He’s a hero, too!”

“Hero, huh?” Teresa said. She rubbed her hand on her tawny shirt a couple of times then extended it. “Teresa Johnson, computer engineering.”

For just a moment, Gil was wondering what Nichole had broken. He put his hand out.

“Gil Haven, mechanical engineering.” So, I’m not her boyfriend, either. “A pleasure.”

“What makes you a hero?”

He shrugged.

“She’s mistaken.”

“That’s not true!” Nichole’s voice was going up again. “Without you, how could I’ve – ”

“Are you going to tell her everything?” He glared at Nichole. “Everything?!”

Ah. Once again, her enthusiasm had outstripped her processors.

“I guess not.”

“Heh, heh, heh!” They turned to look as Teresa laughed flatly. She drained the rest of glass and refilled it before speaking.

“We’ve all secrets. Good!” Another big drink. “Shit, maybe we will get along!”

Nichole raised her glass to that; seeing Gil’s was empty she poured some of her ale to his. She nodded to Teresa.

“Cheers! Kampai!” She said. The other young woman nodded.

“Cheers.”

Guessing he’d be there a little longer, Gil managed to catch the eye of one of the staff for another drink. Teresa really seemed to be knocking hers back, but after the Breakup, everyone had a reason to drink, and no one ever asked about it.

“Why are drinking so much, Teresa?” Nichole asked. He hung his head.

Teresa just stared across the table. Little foreigner didn’t know shit. She sighed.

“My old man is making me do something tomorrow. Honestly,” another drink, “I’d rather be working on that braid theory problem you showed us…”

“Yes?” Nichole asked. Teresa seemed very unhappy.

“We ain’t all rich, smart foreign exchange students, ya’ know? Someone’s gotta pay for all this!” She waved about.

Nichole understood. An adult, but Teresa was still beholden to her family for funds.

“Maybe you could work here, for mister Nike…?”

Teresa didn’t hear her: head was back as she gulped down the last of her wine. The glass came down with a thunk.

“Old asshole killed my Mom.”

Gil and Nichole froze. Just in case she was about to say something stupid, Gil tapped her foot with his and shook his head a tiny fraction.

“See ya’ Monday, effing genius,” Teresa said, getting to her feet steadier than they expected. She flipped her hand. “Later, hot-guy-something.”

She loped off to the east.

“That was interesting,” Gil said softly.

They settled their bill. Nike kissed them both, much to Gil’s discomfort. After a block, he waved goodbye. Nichole quickened her pace. There was someone back at Stratford she needed to see!

She breezed quickly through the lobby, only to halt at the call of the man, Steven? behind the desk. He held up a small envelope for her.

“From Admin for you; came in late this afternoon!”

“Thank you!”

Opening it, she regarded her permanent badge with her smiling face looking back at her. She unclipped her first, temporary one and held it out.

“Could you throw this away for me, please?” She was surprised when he shook his head.

“A PSU badge? Even a temp? Too much black market value. You’ll need to return that to Admin next week, Miss Clarke.”

She was older.

“Thank you!” She trotted up the steps. Down her hall, she turned directly opposite her room and rapped on Mackenzie’s door. She heard the ruffle of papers; she tried not to smile when she heard the box of pencils fall onto the floor.

“Yes?” Her friend asked softly. The door was still closed and locked.

“Friend Mackenzie, may I please ask you something?”

“Sure.”

The door stayed shut.

“It’s important…?”

The lock scraped and she opened her door. “Come in.” She went to the same corner she stood in the last time Nichole had come over.

This was going to be a tough one, Nichole thought. Hasten slowly.

“That second picture you made of me, Kongo was in the background. Even far away, your level of detail was amazing!”

“Who was in the background? I didn’t draw anyone there.”

Kongo.” Mackenzie sailed on serenely with her blank look.

“The ship.” Nichole tried again.

“Oh! Yes! It’s very pretty!”

My win, Nichole thought.

“Mackenzie, my dorm-girl-friend, I am invited aboard Kongo tomorrow evening!” She bowed very low, using all of her under/overtones, “please join me as my guest!”

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