Independence Day

Technically, that would be July 2nd, when the Second Continental Congress adopted Virginia’s Resolution for Independence.  It was two days later, on the 4th, that Jefferson’s document, the Declaration, was approved by Congress.  Traditions are funny things:  how they start and evolve.

I’m planning to wrap of the next few episodes of this third segment in no more than a couple of weeks – I hope!  My final illustrations for my children’s book, “Henge’s Big Day!” have come in, and I need to add the text to the body, title to the cover, legal stuff to the legal page… and then self-publish everything.  Since I don’t do squat without a deadline, I’m setting September 30th as my publish date.

So, having mentioned the Declaration, how about Nichole has one, as well?

“Defiant” – Episode 25

Friend Mackenzie! We stopped in Mosier! I guess we’d moseyed along enough for this day. Hah! I hope you laughed, too! The morning was fine, but the sky opened on us just after noon. Had it rained all day, we might have stopped in Hood River – that little town seems to be doing okay, but, then, I don’t know how it was before the Breakup. I think the captain wanted to go further on, but there is a slightly flat area to the south that raiders might exploit, so he wanted a full report. It is very pretty here: they even grow grapes for wine! The locals gave me a bottle! I know now you don’t like to drink, so I’ll give it to someone else.

Her pen twirled violently back and forth in her right hand. In the dark. Their camp was just east of Mosier Creek. In the twilight Nichole had walked across the old interstate to a spit of land jutting out a little into the river. She spied a few wooden benches and tables. She’d sat, taking out paper and pen for her next letter. After her first paragraph, it was already dark.

There’s much here of interest that I saw, but cannot tell you now. I’m sure you understand! While Gil and his friends were setting up, I had to accompany the Captain on rounds of… local stuff.

 

She’d ridden south along Dry Creek with Captain Muller, scout Reilly, and the local militia leader, Moseby. Nichole, taught well by Reilly, looked around constantly. Both men and women working the vines and fields had their rifles across their backs or stacked in 3’s or 4’s very close by.

“We’re actually not doing to bad for ourselves, now,” the militia leader was saying to the captain. “Since we got those remote sensors from the City, that’s allowed us to cut our mounted patrols by more than half.”

He gestured about. “And that means more than fifty percent more laborers, feeding themselves and their families.

“You may want to take note of that, Miss Clarke,” the captain said to her. “Those sensors being used here… and other places, were developed at PSU. They’re being made by a little company just south of the City. We’d love to have fifty times as many…but…” He shrugged. “Resources and raw materials? What can we do?”

“Trade more, obviously.” She looked at Moseby. “As soon as you can, I would like six bottles of each of your best wines on the way to the Mayor’s office.” She held up her left hand as he opened his mouth. “It’s not for him, nor anyone else in the City.” She’d learned to pronounce that with a capital “C” as well. “I want that, along with anything else that’s exotic and trade-worthy – fruits, local crafts – ready for when Her Majesty’s freighters begin to arrive.”

“Her… who’s?” Moseby was lost. The captain flicked his eyes to Nichole for only a moment. Had he not already spent time with her, he would not have seen the tiny nod.

“Miss Clarke, is a, er, personal representative of the new Empress of Japan. While here primarily as a student, she can conduct trade deals,” his voice tapered off. “It seems.”

Moseby stared at her. Reading his face was almost not worth the exercise, she thought. ‘This little girl is…!’ Tiresome.

“Someone is sending freighters again? That’s fantastic!” He took out a walkie-talkie. “Bill, copy? Good. Call a Code Baker for tomorrow; regular time and place. Thanks!”

Wonderfully vague, both Nichole and the captain thought. Good comm discipline.

Moseby looked at them. “I’m calling a general meeting of the town leaders for tomorrow evening. We’ll get that shipment together for you soonest, Miss Clarke!”

She smiled as she bowed to him from her saddle.

“Thank you very much!”

The captain cleared his throat. “If we could return to defense matters…?”

 

Nichole wanted to tell Mackenzie the whole story, but it was threaded with too much material that could end up in the wrong hands. She thought of the worst case: the courier dead; her letter being read by an enemy….

They tell me this town is something of a turning point: raiders have hit it four times; only once since y’all have retaken The Dalles. Punch back twice as hard! That’s what I was told when I was very young!

Her pen froze.

I mean, generally. Not against you humans… er… dang IT!

She banged her pen against the paper.

Sorry! Sorry. You made me promise to try to not talk like that: ‘us; them.’ ‘We’re all people,’ you said. I cannot make tears, but you know I was crying when you told that to me, friend Mackenzie. I’d never known such fear and sadness, five months ago, the day that Kongo left, that I’d lose you, too. I’m so glad that our feelings for one another transcended what we are.

Even on the pine needles, she heard the slow, long stride of Gil’s boots towards where she sat.

“You’re the most social loner I’ve ever known,” he said.

“That’s something,” she replied, “coming from Mister Lone-wolf!”

He came around to her table as she continued.

“I read once: we awake alone, we live alone, we die alone; cherish the time you have with others.”

“I’ve heard that!” Gil said with what from him was mild enthusiasm. He sat. “The actor, Yul Brenner, said it. But I remember it as ‘born alone,’ not ‘awake.’”

“I was paraphrasing,” she said, throwing him another mental breadcrumb.

He turned to look at the river. “Just out to enjoy the view?”

“That’s one thing.” She tapped her pen. “I am also writing another letter to Mackenzie.”

“Are you?” He kept staring off at the Columbia. “In the dark?”

“Mmmm.”

“Neat trick, that,” he replied evenly.

Excuse me just a moment, friend! I’m going to change my world again! She wrote.

“Friend Gil?” He looked back towards her. She briefly changed her appearance.

For a split second, he saw two emerald points flare no more than a foot from his face. Where her eyes would be. Before, he’d told himself he’d been imagining it. Not this time. They both waited quietly in the dark. Waves lapped softly around them.

She saw him extend his right hand to her. She reached with her left to hold his. More time passed.

“You skin is… cool.”

“True.”

“The rest of you?”

She leaned forwards and kissed his lips, hers just parted. She leaned back.

“The same.”

When he caught his breath, he played with her fingers. She analyzed his seemingly random pattern and played back; their hands dancing.

“You really are something, Five.” She heard his smile.

“That’s true. I am.”

“But… you’re scared to say what.” That was astute of him.

“No,” she almost whispered. “Not to say what, but to say what and lose you.”

“You’re the smartest stupid android I’ve ever met,” he said, echoing what he said to her just before he sat down. He stopped his fingers and held hers.

“There’s no getting rid of me, Nichole.”

She lifted her hand to place his alongside her left cheek, so he could feel her nod her head.

“Thank you, friend Gil.” She returned their hands to the table, fingers together. “I’ve just a bit more for Mackenzie. After that, may be go back to our camp, together?”

“Sure.”

I did it! You are now not the only what to know what I am; but more importantly, both of you are still my friends! Getting older is so scary, sometimes! I’ve finished this too late for the courier, so I’ll send it tomorrow, once we’ve made it to The Dalles. Three days there, then I’ll be coming home. The captain says he’s not expecting anything much to happen, so I may have lots of time on my hands for more letters. I miss everyone so much!

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