Which is to say, this morning, my wife is no longer a cyborg: she had her port removed from her upper right chest. That was the mechanism through which she received her chemo back in January. While there is still a shade of doubt about her status, it was deemed healthy enough that her port be removed today. Unlike last time, 15 years ago, this was done under surgical conditions. Only took about 20 min, but the recovery was an hour, then me bringing her home an hour after that. Originally, I’d planned to return to work for half a day, but she was hurt and would be alone.
Screw work. She slept and I checked on her every 20 min. By 1400, she was stable enough for me to go get D&D (daughters and dogs) from the in-laws. By 1600, she was up and about on her own, but still a bit addled. I made Mapu Tofu for an early dinner, and afterwards retired to write what’s below. I think I might edit it, tomorrow.
Oh: belated thanks for all the ‘following’ and ‘likes’. I guess someday I’m going to have to turn this into a real book? Meh. Time be time, mon.
“Defiant” – Episode 26
The two captains rode up the graded and graveled path to the fort. Less than a year old, it was a mix of the 21st and 15th Centuries: steel and ferroconcrete with battlements and firing slits. You fight with the army you have, Muller thought.
“How many men?” He asked his friend.
“Three hundred; half and half.” Blaine replied. So: one hundred and fifty soldiers, the same in non-combatants. But NC’s could shoot, too.
“And at the dam?”
“Too few. Call it one hundred, mixed.”
Muller was shocked.
“That’s all I’ve been given!” Blaine shouted back, then collected himself as they rode into the fort. The steel gate closed behind them. “I know the Mayor says the dam is the priority, but if I put my men there, I may as well rename it ‘Masada!’”
Muller kept his peace and nodded. In the field, no commander would put his men in that kind of danger for so little, politics be-damned. He saw his sergeant run up.
“I need a detachment to bring Clarke and Haven back from the dam before nightfall.” He glanced over his shoulder. The sun was on the west battlements. Damn. “So, I guess that’d be now.”
The sergeant nodded and ran off, yelling: “Brunelli! Get three on you and over to the dam…!”
“That important, huh?” Blaine asked as he dismounted. He handed his mare off to his aide.
“You’ve no idea, Mitch.” Muller did likewise. He waited until they were alone in the middle of the fort’s courtyard. “What I said about her and the Japs is sound: she’s a friend of the Empress. And there’s this rumor…. More than a rumor, really….”
“What?” Blaine asked, turning to start his walk to check the battlements.
Muller spoke quickly and quietly before they went up the concrete steps.
“At the Battle at the Bridge; word is, she commanded the ship that saved us.”
Muller nodded once.
“Shit.” Blaine muttered as he continued up. “What the hell is she?”
Even on the asphalt, slippery as it was, Gil was glad to be at a gallop: no difference than his dirtbike. He hated canter.
“You alive back there?” He yelled over his shoulder. He got a squeeze of her arms across his stomach for that.
“All yelled out? They must have heard you in Richland, for all that!”
Another squeeze. No words. Now he was worried. He slowed them to a trot.
“Need electric power. Danger.” Her voice was hollow, empty; but came with one last tug around him.
His horse kicked slightly as he brought her back to a gallop. I can be so stupid! He thought. The day after I finally know what she is… of course she needs access to power! Ah! The bastion to the dam was just ahead to his right. He saw the helmets and rifles above. He slowed, then stopped.
“Militiaman Gil Haven with injured civilian! I need access now!” He called.
Nothing happened. He was about to repeat his yell when the steel gate creaked open. There were two soldiers inside pointing their rifles at him. He brought his horse in at a walk, stopping between them. The gate was pulled shut.
“We’d word you were coming, but these are dangerous times,” a sergeant said, just to his right. “Open the inner gate!” He yelled.
Gil saluted and kicked his horse forwards. It was only 1000 feet to the fish ladder; the power generation part of the dam began just after that. He pulled up. Nichole slid off behind him. At least she was still standing.
He dismounted, as well. A tech in overalls wandered over, puzzled.
“Hey.” He said. “Can I help you two?”
Gil turned and looked down the six inches into the tech’s thick glasses.
“Tie off my horse as nearby as you can. I need one or two phase power, now! This is an emergency!”
The tech nodded. This was the frontier, after all. He reached into his pocket, producing a jumble of keys. Flipping them, he held one of the out to Gil with his right hand. He pointed with his left.
“This will open any door! All the offices have single-phase; dual is – ”
Gil snatched them out of his hand. Turning in a circle, in one swoop, he scooped up Nichole. He started running.
“Thanks!” He called. He saw the sun was almost at the hill line. Would they be cut off here? Never mind! He ran to the first door and jammed the key in and turned it.
An empty hallway. A light about every one hundred feet. The first door was on the right, fifty feet down.
“Gil? I can still walk.”
His tone was unmistakable. Nichole stopped talking.
The next door was locked. He tried the key. That sumbitch had better….
The door opened. An abandoned office. He saw two single phase plugs on the wall. He went to the closest, just to his left, and gently set her down.
“What do I do?” He asked. She shook her head just a bit.
“I’ll be fine, now.” She looked up to his eyes. “Watch, and do not hate me.” The same hollow tone she’d had, earlier.
He kneeled next to her as she took a cord out of her courier bag. It was no different than a computer cable, he thought. She plugged it into the wall then reached both hands behind her back to her neck.
She paused. She looked right into his eyes.
He saw her fear.
“I’ll keep you safe,” he said, lightly holding her shoulders. She nodded.
Still looking right at him, she did something to the back of her neck and slid the other end of the cord into herself. Her eyes flared slightly.
It’s one thing to say what she is, he thought, not letting go of her, but another to watch it unfold in front of me. She reached up and held his arms.
“Thank you.” She said, quietly.
“Open the goddam gate, goddammit!” Corporal Brunelli was not known for his verbal sophistication. Fortunately, everyone in the area was used to that. The gate to the dam was pushed open.
“Whadda want, Brunelli?” The sergeant asked, looking at the sky. “It’s late.”
“Captains want those two back before nightfall; the militia guy and the hot girl.”
Leave it to Brunelli to paint an effective picture, the sergeant thought. He waved behind.
“They’re somewhere on the dam. Good luck, in the dark.” The sun was just below the horizon. Brunelli knew he’d less than thirty minutes before he was a private. Again. He kicked his mount forwards. His three men followed.
Just past the fish ladder, there was a door leading into the power station. No one was about, so they dismounted and hobbled their horses. Trying the handle, nothing happened. He kicked it open.
They sat close together, facing one another. Their hands together, forming four layers. She withheld nothing from Mackenzie. She chose to withhold nothing from Gil. Although, she thought without smiling, his questions were very, very different!
“Actually, yes! I am capable of sexual intercourse. In fact, recall what I said back in Mosier? There is, in fact, one part of me that has an internal heater! I still need an external lubri –”
Gil jerked his hands away.
“Would you stop that!” He was really angry, she thought. “I was asking about how you and your family feel emotions! How in the Hell did you go off on that tangent?!”
It made her sad she’d made such a mistake. She needed to dramatically revise what Kathy had taught her in the Rec Center locker room. She dropped her head.
“I’m sorry. I did not mean to offend nor hurt you.” She paused for a moment. “In so many ways, I am so young in your home!”
There seemed to be some odd thump somewhere in the distance. Gil ignored it. You idiot, he thought to himself. Wasn’t ‘intelligence’ and ‘wisdom’ always two different values on the RPG’s you used to play? He took her hands back and put his forehead to hers.
“No, that was stupid of me; and my misunderstanding.”
The door to their room was kicked open.
“Nobody move!” Brunelli yelled. Oh. Hot Nichole was holding hands with the militia puke. Screw that!
“Miss! We’re here to rescue you!” He glared at the puke while
holding his hand out. Wait. Was that a cord…?
“Out, out, OUT!” Before he knew what was happening, he and his men had been pushed out by that guy… that CIVILIAN! Brunelli snarled and was about to kick the door open again –
“Please give a girl a minute, you guys!” He heard her call cutely from inside. Wait. Was she and the college guy a thing? Brunelli lapsed into a funk.
The door opened. Nichole took two steps and kissed him on both cheeks. He raised his head and looked straight across into her eyes. So bright green!
“Thank you so much for coming to rescue us!” She gave him a hug. “Please escort us back to the fort!”
He forgot what he’d been thinking about.
“Yeah…. Of course!”
Just behind her, Gil made sure to keep his face down, revising what he just thought. Sure: they’ve gaps when it comes to playing human; but they can fill them in very fast, it seems.
Her skin and lips were cold, he recalled.