Wife and girls were up an out to a swim meet at 0630. It was an outdoor meet, so drukken old man got to sleep in: I’ve only two colors: pasty white and lobster red. Did some automobile repair work and went hunting (at Kroger).
It’s late, and everyone else is headed for bed, too…
“Defiant” – Episode 18
Even with her enhanced perception, she was unable to detect the signal that came fifty-five minutes after dinner had been served. The officers, starting with the most junior, stood, made their apologies, and departed. Nichole knew the invisible hand of the captain was at work. Not wanting to be subjected to a barrage of questions by the other civilians once left alone, she used the pretext of her unsteady friend as an excuse to leave immediately.
“How are you, friend Mackenzie?” She asked, hopefully.
“Hmmm…uuhhh?” Could be better.
Tired. Plus, early in the meal, Nichole had heard her mutter at her plate: “never had sake before…” Nichole was wondering if she’d ever had any alcohol before.
As Teresa was almost yelling at her father, no one really noticed their departure. She pushed her friend up the one ship’s ladder to the level of the main deck, then wrapped her left arm about her. She was steady enough to the gangway, but Nichole wondered about the walk home. It would be dark – and curfew – very soon. Defending herself was simplicity itself. But an unconscious girl? Ah. Two midshipmen on duty; or rather, she guessed that Sasaki found a reason to be there.
“<Miss! A surprise to see you one last time!>”
She could play, too.
“<What a pleasant surprise! Forgive me for my unsteady friend, but…>” She leaned forwards just enough to brush his cheek with her lips. “<You’ve been such a friend to me! I hate to impose further, but we are two girls going home alone in the twilight…?>”
His nails bit into his palms. There was no way he could leave the ship, but to let them go alone, after the video they’d seen of what was north (hopefully still north!) of the river….
“<I need two Marine volunteers to escort these ladies back to their home!>” He called out.
There were at least ten replies. No surprise, there. Not knowing what they were sailing into when they left Japan, the Marine contingent had been doubled. There were plenty lingering topside in the twilight.
“<Who’s senior and not on duty!?>” He called again. Nichole laughed silently as she listened to them argue amongst themselves. But time was fleeting.
“<I guess we’ll be going, then…!>” She called, pitched to carry the length of the ship. She’d one foot onto the gangway when Sergeant Makita appeared with Lance Corporal Itami.
“<Miss!>” The sergeant said sharply. “<We are prepared to escort you home!>” Itami nodded as he grinned.
“Uhhh…. Ummm?” Mackenzie was almost totally out at this point. Nichole bent down.
“<Could one of you please place her onto my back?>” She asked.
“<It’d be no problem for me to carry – >” Itami began. She shook her head at him.
“<She’s my friend, and at the captain’s orders, my responsibility. Thank you, though!>”
Itami leaned the local girl onto her back. She was just snoring slightly. Nichole reached back and grasped Mackenzie’s legs with her hands. She stood.
She’d have loved to jump from the deck to the pier, but that would upset her friend. She plodded down. Once there, Makita-san took point – with his rifle – with Itami behind. She saw Makita-san trying to look everywhere at once. So nice!
“<Did you have a good dinner, miss?>” Itami asked.
“Mmm! <Left in two blocks, sergeant!> She said. “<Yes, I did! Have you two heard the good news about Her Majesty?”
Makita looked back at her.
“<Thank the gods, the Buddha, Christ… I don’t care: Her Majesty is going to save Japan!>” He turned back forward.
Interesting, she thought. From one of the SDF’s professional soldiers. She would have to report this, when she could.
“<And you, Itami-chan?>” She asked.
“<Before…>” He was a little reluctant to talk; maybe just shy. “<Under the last Emperor, my older sister boasted about how she was never going to have children. She and her husband had already filed papers for a divorce. Now…>” He smiled at her, “<she’s due in three months. And they tore up the paperwork!>”
Definitely have to report this.
They continued in silence. Though it was not quite dusk, a block shy of her home, they were challenged by a group of six local militia. She showed her PSU badge and explained the other three. Rumor had done its work well: the moment she’d said “Japanese Marines” they’d lowered their rifles and were thanking them profusely for saving their city.
She hoped there wasn’t a too serious break in morale once Kongo left in the morning.
At the steps up to the Stratford’s entrance, they bowed and turned away.
“<Wait! Please!>” The two turned back. Even with her friend on her back, she shambled forwards and put a hand onto each of their chests.
“<When you leave tomorrow, I’ll be the only Japanese here…>” Her voice caught slightly. “<Please reiterate what I told the crew today: I shall miss each one of you!>”
She bowed deeply enough that Mackenzie groaned somewhat.
They bowed just as much.
“<Please take care of yourself, miss!>” Makita-san said brokenly. To leave a girl alone in a place like this! But orders were orders.
They were gone. She turned and was up the few stairs and into her home. The guy – yet another one! – behind the desk was a little surprised, but waved them on. Up four flights of stairs, she came to a halt in front of Mackenzie’s door.
Do I rummage through her purse for a key? I could just kick the door down…? She wondered where in processors that stupidity came from…. No, simplest was best.
She unlocked her own door and went in, balancing only for a moment to get her shoes off. With her right hand she swept what clothes she’d laid out on the bed off along with the top sheet. She pivoted and sat. Another deft turn, and her friend was on her back in her bed. Snoring slightly.
“At least someone gets to use it,” Nichole muttered. She walked away, preparing to sit in the chair close to the kitchenette.
“…SNORK! *cough!* …so many people…”
She whirled back as Mackenzie coughed and muttered. Hmmm. If she vomited in her sleep, she might choke to death…. Nichole unplugged her charger from the kitchen socket and picked up her chair. There was another socket just next to the bed. Her chair went two feet from that, to observe her friend. She removed all of her clothes, folded into a neat pile on the floor next to her. With her left and right arms and hands, she plugged herself in.
“What a good day!” She said very quietly. She’d been so happy to see Teresa! But, then… Teresa and her father: politics.