“All of Gaul is divided into three parts…”

Is the impression I’m getting when I let stories sit too long and I have to break them up.  I’ve seen part three:  the dinner and flashback, but thought why not go ahead and post this, part 2.  Might die in my sleep, after all.

I’m already thinking about the possibility of a spinoff, where Teresa has her own story.  It’s just a question of time.  (And money; give me a few grand, and trust me, she gets her own story!)

“Defiant” – Episode 17 (part 2)

“My feet!” Mackenzie cried as she plopped next to Nichole. She eased her shoes off and began rubbing at her feet. They were towards the back of the ship, two decks up. The large, white cylinder of the CIWS was just behind them, its Gatling gun pointed out and up.

“Careful there,” Nichole said, glancing at the partly cloudy sky. “The deck can get real hot real fast; I don’t want you to burn your feet!”

“I felt like I just walked ten miles!” Her friend complained, rubbing.

“No, just over two,” Nichole said, checking her internal data. “There were lots of ups and downs, though!”

Ships-ladders had been new to Mackenzie. A chore to walk up, and a horror to walk down. After the first, Nichole had simply hooked her feet and slid down in two seconds, then turned and waited for her friend to slowly descend.

Still rubbing, Mackenzie looked over at Nichole. “When we came aboard, I thought they were going to give us a guide.” She stared. “I’d not known that you belong here.”

Nichole shook her head.

“I don’t. This was my home while we crossed the Pacific to yours – my new home.” Nichole easily held her stare. “It was so much fun getting to know everyone, I wanted to say goodbye before they left.”

Mackenzie grunted at that. As part of Nichole’s ‘farewell tour,’ she’d learned the ship was leaving tomorrow. Not exactly a secret, but not something to talk about, either. She looked aft and pointed.

“Is all this a part of that, too?”

On the helicopter deck about two score people milled about. Roughly three quarters were local civilians in suits and dresses, the rest officers and men from the ship. Nichole was aware that there was a diplomatic contingent aboard, but had no idea as to what their assignment was. On their voyage over, the Second Officer (CIC), Lt. Kirita, had explained the idea of ‘compartmentalization’ to her: how ships survived was used to keep diplomacy and intelligence alive, too.

“Oooo!” Mackenzie muttered. “They’ve a table with snacks and drinks! After you dragging me around this ship, I’m hungry!”

“Our dinner’s in fifteen minutes. I bet they start encouraging this lot to… leave…” She trailed off, staring down and right, to where her friend had been looking at the refreshment table.

“What is it?” Mackenzie asked, sitting up and putting her shoes back on.

At the refreshment table a young woman shook her cup at the crewman stationed there. They exchanged words. With a slight bow, Nichole watched as he refilled her cup with sake. She wore a shoulder-less dress that went to just below her knees, glittering silver in the cloudy light of a Portland late afternoon. Fit build, and her oddly wavy hair teased out like a lion’s mane. Is that…?

The figure looked left then right, as if seeking escape. She started forward, apparently to get away from everyone else. When she tilted her head back to take a drink –

“Friend Teresa!” Nichole exclaimed, standing. She wanted to yell and wave, but that would have attracted everyone’s attention. She could be down there in moments, but then Mackenzie would be trapped up here, lost as to how to get down…?

We’re not one/zero, big brother Shirou had told her. Nor are we either/or. He tried to smile at her, but had never learned how. We’re more like both/and!

“Mackenzie! Up!” Her friend stood as she took her by the hand and led her to the port side of the deck. About fifteen feet down to the next, then another fifteen to the main deck. Easy for her; her friend, not so much.

“Arms around my neck!” She cried as she scooped the mousy girl into her arms. Mackenzie had just managed to cry, “What?!” when she jumped down the first level. Holding her friend, she trotted right towards the ladder. Teresa passed by just below. She jumped again.

At least the goddam booze at this goddam party is free, Teresa thought, walking on. Maybe there’s a quiet corner up here I can get away from these assholes…. There was a very solid *thunk!* behind her. She turned in surprise.

“You! Again?!”

Nichole stood before her with some cute but obviously frightened girl in her arms. What the hell? Was she a kidnapper or some superhero? She watched as her annoying proto-friend eased the girl’s legs to the ground, but still protectively held her shoulder.

“Friend Teresa!” Nichole called. “What are you doing here?”

She gripped her cup tighter.

“Drinking, and trying to be left alone!” She couldn’t take it, though. “Whatinthehell are you doing here?!”

“Saying goodbye to my friends! Oh!” That’s right, she would not know that! “Kongo is how I came to your land, my new home!” She gestured wide with her free left arm.

Teresa hunched her shoulders forwards.

“Wait. You came…” She shook her head. “But my Dad said…” She stopped , obviously confused. Nichole was about to ask when two bells sounded three times though the speakers.

“Please for all guests to prepare to depart the ship,” she recognized Minata’s passable English.

“Oh! Does this mean you have to leave now?” Nichole cried.

“Shit, no.” What?

“There’s some effing VIP dinner after this, and I have to be there….” There were footfalls behind Nichole. She turned.

She was surprised to see the Chief himself. He was just as surprised to see her.

“<Miss Clarke! How nice to see you one more time! Please excuse me!>” He looked past her. “Miss! Dinner! You father waiting! Please!”

Nichole took this in. There are other VIPs for dinner. Teresa is one of them. And, her father.

Her father. Old asshole killed my Mom!

She tightened her grip, slightly, on Mackenzie’s shoulder. She surprisingly needed someone to hold onto.

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