Back when we used to give presentations about how to make visual novels, a question that often came up was “what motivates you to write?” My glib, but honest, answer, was the title of this post.
Since being diagnosed with hypertension and placed onto Metoprolol, coffee has been rare in my life. But, at a mild impasse in “Defiant,” it was time to reach for the big guns: a cup of Café Busto with a shot of rye whiskey. About five minutes later, I ‘saw’ the answer I needed. I quick glance and Bing Images to make sure I got the description correct, and I typed what I saw, below the fold. I’ve seen Ep 18, too, but those steaks aren’t going to cook themselves. Perhaps tomorrow!
[EDIT: for some reason, WordPress ate several of my sentences. I think it has to do with my use of these: <>. They’re back in now, in red.
“Defiant” – Episode 17 (part 3)
The VIPs – which included Nichole and Mackenzie – were at two tables for six each in the Mess. There had once been a separate Officer’s Mess, but at the ship’s last major refit a few years back, that space was repurposed for more computing power: an early quantum computer. Nichole thought of it as a human might think of a monkey: a primitive ancestor.
She considered the others around the table, as the stewards made their way around giving each two small cups of sake. Something was up, but she knew not what.
Mackenzie was to her left, and Suragawa-san, one of the diplomats, in a dark charcoal suit, to her right. They faced the wall. Across from them, with the better view, was Teresa across from Mackenzie, some man in his early middle age but still quite fit. He wore a light gray business suit with an interesting pin on his lapel: two crossed flags: the offset blue-and-gold cross on a field of green for the City of Portland, and the Rising Sun. Another diplomat, perhaps? Her eyes scanned quickly from his face to Teresa; the same interesting genetic markers. This man must her father.
To his left was Keito-san, the only other female on the voyage over and Suragawa’s superior. She wore a light blue suit coat that matched her skirt. At the behest of Lt. Kirita, they’d all just sat down. The other VIP table was four locals and the other two diplomats. Mackenzie hung her face over her place setting while Teresa slurped loudly at her cup of sake. Good manners cost nothing. She rose slightly and extended her hand to Teresa’s father.
“Good evening! My name’s Nichole Clarke!” She said with her typical exuberance. She heard a couple of the officers chuckle to hear her voice. “I’m so happy to meet you!”
He clasped her hand with a broad grin. That did not reach his eyes at all, she saw. Interesting.
“My pleasure, miss! I’ve already heard a little about you – ” Teresa snorted. “My name’s – ”
Just then Kirita sharply tapped the bell on the presider’s table. Silence fell. Nichole released the man’s hand and sat, turning to her left to give her full attention. For the first time that day, she saw the ship’s captain. His face was its usual unreadable rock.
“<I shall not take up our honored guest’s time more than I must.>” Kirita said. To her right, she heard Keito-san translating for the man next to her. “<It has been our pleasure to get to know the beauty, industriousness, and good people of this city. Thank you, Mayor Johnson.>” He bowed in the direction of their table.
That answers that, Nichole thought.
“<While so much remains… uncertain about our future, please know that we hope you see Japan as a valuable ally.>” Interesting! Keito-san used the word ‘friend,’ instead. Much was going on Nichole did not understand. He raised the first small cup. “<To our future!>” “Kampai!” Rang out through the Mess. Nichole drank all of hers: it was only an ounce, and self-sterilizing. She abhorred the thought of something growing in her. That did leave the other little cup, though….
“<The captain has one message to pass on, prior to dinner. Thank you.>” Kirita moved and bowed to his superior officer.
The captain took a slip of paper from his pocket. He re-read what Nichole suspected what he’d read a dozen times already. So methodical! And they call us machines! His voice was low, but it carried in the utter silence.
“<A message, from the Imperial Household.>” Nichole’s mouth twitched a little, thinking of her friend there. “<Her Imperial Majesty announces she is pregnant, with the second heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne, due at the end of this year.>”
Ah. They waited until sure the child was viable!
Captain Gunzo raised his hands.
“Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!” They all cheered, Nichole along with them. Everyone took their second toast. The officers stood and hugged one another, shaking hands; some had tossed their caps. As Keito-san remained seated, translating and talking to the Mayor, she was the only female to join in the little celebration. She’d leapt from her chair and hugged each and everyone there. By the time she’d made it to the presider’s table, the captain was gone. She bowed down, then rose, grinning hugely at Lt. Kirita.
“<Wonderful news!>” She cried.
“<Yes, it is, Miss Clarke.>” He made a motion at the chief steward and the food was brought in to what was now a celebration. She returned to her seat. Keito-san was just finishing what she was saying to the Mayor.
“…a model to her people about demographic change.” She laughed slightly. “Palace talk is that she wants a dozen children….”
He turned to look at Nichole and extend his hand again.
“Sorry about that! We were interrupted! I’m Lee Johnson, mayor of this fair city!” She clasped his hand.
“My pleasure!” She tilted her head left. “This is my dear friend, Mackenzie!”
Nichole made two, good-faith attempts to bring Mackenzie into the conversations at the rest of the table. A complete failure, but she tried. Pushing her food around her plate, she remembered.
She walked slowly next to the Empress, maintaining a slight bow in her yellow-cream colored suit the entire time.
“<Doesn’t that hurt your back?>” She’d asked with a smile.
“<Of course not.>” Nichole replied easily. “<I cannot actually ‘hurt.’ My receptors exist so that my mind may react appropriately.>”
“<Oh. Then please stand up.>” She sighed. “<Having people groveling all the time is depressing.>” They kept on through the garden in the midst of the palace grounds.
“<Is it a problem,>” she asked, “<that I’ve taken you away from those other two?>”
Nichole shook her head.
“<Tomoe-sensei might have a problem with it, but she worries too much!>” She paused for just a moment. “<I admit I’m curious about what you said: being isolated?>”
The Empress stopped her walk and sighed.
“<The court ceremonial is bad enough, but I’ve since learned that when one takes… difficult command decisions, no one wants to be around, for fear of the repercussions.>”
“<I’m sorry,>” Nichole said. “<But I don’t understand.>” She gave a start. “<Your Majesty!>” She added.
The Empress looked up the half-inch between their eyes. “<Why don’t you just call me Togame!>” She smiled.
Tomoe-sensei had Ordered her to treat her Majesty with the utmost respect. But, what she just heard was an Order, too. She reached forwards and took the woman’s hands. She heard the gasps from the two retainers, but ignored them.
“<Of course, Togame-chan!>” Nichole beamed at her. “<I’m so happy we could be friends!>”
A minute’s walk had them seated at a small, round wrought iron table. A different servant brought tea, then vanished. The other two, one man, one woman, Western suits like Nichole, stood just within earshot. With a nod to her Majes – to her friend, she took a sip of her tea. Togame smiled a little.
“<Yes?>” Nichole wondered.
“<You can drink tea. Can you eat food, as well?”> She seemed genuinely curious.
“<Only a little. And cleanup afterwards, especially for solids, is always a bother!>”
Togame laughed a little at that.
“<So you don’t use the toilet?>” Nichole shook her head.
“<The access for food and drink storage is here,>” she pointed to about where a human’s appendix would be. “<But I also have to sterilize my ‘throat’ as well; swallowing some isopropyl alcohol or a bleach solution works fine.>”
Togame considered this.
“<May I see?>”
“<See what?>” Her drink bleach?
“<Your access, as you termed it.>”
Nichole stood and quickly took off her business skirt. She pulled her panties down and her shirt up. The Empress’s aides stared at her, each other, the Empress. Who looked on with amusement in her eyes.
“<It appears just like a scar from a bikini incision,>” she said. “<How do you…?>”
Nichole let go of her panties and shirt. She used her left hand to pull the ‘scar’ open, revealing the gray flexible composite material underneath, and her right hand to make yet another opening, out of which she pulled a small, black plastic bag. A flexible tube led back into her.
“<How interesting!> She waved slightly. “<Please get dressed. May we keep talking while you do?>”
“<Of course!>” Nichole was rearranging her insides as she replied. “<What about?!>”
Togame’s smile drifted away.