Reveal

I’m going to take a few days off.  I need to think about where this is going.  It’d be easy if it were a visual novel:  it’s going everywhere!

But it’s not, so I cannot.  Tanj.

Fret not:  I’ll come up with something.  If not, I’ll die.

“Defiant” – Episode 19

            “<Politics?>” Nichole had echoed back to Togame. Her Majesty nodded.

            “<Without radical demographic change, there will be no Japan in three generations. We all know it, but no one had dared to speak of it.>” She put her tea cup down sharply. “<Until I did, of course!>”

            Nichole was still very young, and spent most of her time learning. But, very little of that learning was current events. Only after the summons to the Imperial Household had she – at the prompting of sister Caroline – begun to understand the nation of Japan. Somi was her creator; she knew her little family; what else was there?

            She’d quickly come to realize: there was quite a bit more.

            “We don’t know everything,” elder brother Shirou had said, with his quick eyes and blank face, “but we know what we know.”

            “<Yes,>” Nichole said, reseating herself. “<Japan is depopulating. But the most recent data…!>”

            “<Eighteen months,>” Togame shook her head, “<versus fifty years, is just an anomaly! I am already exhorting my subjects, and leading by example…!”

            Nichole knew of the Crown Prince, born just a year ago….

            “<But will they follow me?! So many of the Household say I’m crazy; and of course, there’s those that say I shouldn’t be here at all…!>”

            She was almost shouting. Nichole slid out of her chair and had her arms around her faster than her two aides could see.

            “<You are such a nice person!>” Nichole whispered into Togame’s ear. “<Why do you doubt yourself?>”

            Togame retuned Nichole’s grasp for just a moment, then pushed her back to look into her eyes.

            “<Will you, and your family, support me?>”   The Empress asked.

            There was truth in what she asked. There were also layers of deception in her tone that Nichole did not know were possible for rational creatures. She replied with what truth she had.

            “<I shall serve you, my Empress. But my family are all unique. As Somi Corporation is growing older quickly…>” She lowered her head, then glanced sharply up under her brows, “<it is better to persuade than Order!>”

            Togame’s face fell, then she leaned back, laughing!

            “<How neatly you turn the tables on me!>” She used her left hand to wipe the tears of laughter from her eyes. “<Anyone else would have been groveling on the floor, but here you tell me to have House Yamato beg your Family for assistance! Ah…!>”

            She collected herself and picked up her teacup.

            “<You really are something different, aren’t you?>”

            Nichole just dipped her head.

            Togame poured some more tea for herself. She saw no reason to make cleanup more difficult for her new ‘friend.’

            “What do you know about America?”

            What? Nichole thought. That was unexpected, and, in English.

            “I know the basic history of that nation, and the fundamentals of their current travails,” Nichole replied in the same language. Togame nodded.

            “Good. Since the Black Ships, for good or ill – sometimes very ill – the fate of our two nations have been tied together. Even with their horrid economic implosion, what with the Dollar no longer being the World’s reserve currency, I, myself, still think that there is a connexion between my nation, and theirs.”

            “Do you?” Nichole said, carefully. She’d never been younger in such a complicated conversation.

            “I do,” Togame continued easily. “There is only one city facing Japan that has not killed itself: Portland, in what they call the State of Oregon. There is some ship trade, and intermittent satellite signals from them.”

            “I see.” Nichole added, reservedly.

            Togame sighed, took a breath and Nichole’s hands at the same time.

            “I want you to be my personal agent in the city of Portland; teaching them, defending them. I want you to make them into a Friend and Ally of the Japanese Empire.” She tightened her grip. “One of my ships, Kongo, leaves in three weeks on a ‘goodwill’ mission. I want you on it!”

            Nichole thought very fast.

            My home! My friends! My family!

            But Tomoe-sensei said….

            “I obey.” She replied. “But…?”

            “<Yes?>” Togame was enjoying being talked back to.

            “<May I… may I make as many new friends as I can, there?>”

            The Empress shook her head in silent laughter.

            “<Friend Nichole! Why do you think I’m sending you there?>”

 

The patter from outside was random: leaves shedding their rain, and more rain. Nichole thought about her friends: her new friends.

“Oooo! My head!”

She thought about her friend before her, in her bed. Mackenzie’d survived the night. Nichole had monitored her temperature and breathing, at the same time allowing herself to engage in what she called ‘dreaming.’ Not knowing what is was like for humans, she considered her recollections of her past to be basically the same thing.

Mackenzie slowly moved her head. Her eyes opened.

“Uhhh…?”

“You’re in my room, friend Mackenzie! You fell asleep after dinner on the ship! Do you remember?”

“Oooo! Head hurts!”

Hangover.

“You need to drinks lots of water! And take a shower right now, to clean out your skin!” Nichole said. “Let me help you to your room!”

“My room…?” Mackenzie pushed herself up to a sitting position and tried to look around. It was obvious she was not all there. Her head lolled about, coming to a sudden stop when she looked at Nichole.

“Uh.”

“Yes, friend Mackenzie?”

Nichole watched, fascinated, as clarity entered her friend’s face. Mackenzie held up her left hand, pointing.

“What’s that there for?”

She was just barely pointing to Nichole’s right. Did I leave my radio headset on again…?

Uh, oh.

Mackenzie looked at the cord that went from the back of Nichole’s neck, over her shoulder, across the floor, and into the wall outlet next to the bed she was in. Her eye reversed their trace and ended back in Nichole’s. Anxiously, she pulled the sheet up to cover herself.

“What… what are you?!” Mackenzie cried.

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