… I don’t think they’re going to attack. I could be wrong: it might be a huge loss of face for their chieftain to suddenly call this off, but there are ways. Knowing you’re about to break the tip of your spear is a great reason to call off a battle. Just how barbaric are they? I’ve no idea. But I suspect something else. We’ll see.
This episode was a pleasure to write! I hope I can keep it up for a bit until I can find a stop-point to Part III, allowing me to work on my kid’s book. I refuse to rush either.
“Defiant” – Episode 27
The sun was low on the southeast horizon. It might have been a bad example for an officer to be resting his chin onto his hands as he stared off the battlements east into barbarism, but Muller didn’t much care. He reckoned he’d six hours sleep in the last forty-eight, so some exhibition of tiredness was acceptable.
“Captain? You look like shit.” His sergeant said, passing him a mug of coffee. So much for inspiring the troops. “You really should rest.”
Muller pushed himself to his feet, taking the mug.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” He looked over the rim of the mug. “And that won’t be any time soon. Report?”
He listened to his NCO fill him in on the little details he didn’t already know. Two nights and days had gone by without any sight of the raiders. So: either they were really waiting three days to attack, or their political had scared them off. He took another drink of his coffee. Indonesian. Some trade ships were already arriving, escorted two thirds of the way by the Imperial Navy, the last third by the Canadians. Who were learning what a putative transit fee was. Eh?
His sergeant was scanning the horizon with his field glasses.
“I guess we should expect them today,” Muller said quietly.
“100,000 would be a problem.” The NCO said evenly, looking about. He lowered his glasses and looked at Muller. A smile.
“Yes. Normally.” There was a girlish cry from the courtyard in the midst of the fort, behind them. “But we do have the luck.”
“Sir.” His NCO went back to studying the horizon, quite deliberately ignoring the antics between the men and that young woman below. He allowed himself a moment of freedom to turn and look at her.
Her aged jump boots. Torn, old olive fatigue pants that ended at her knees. Her flak vest over a commercial tank-top almost faded to brown. Her sole piece of modernity was her helmet. From somewhere she’s found pink paper and fashioned a three pointed sakura bloom she’d stuck into the outer band. She’d no personal weapon, but he’d heard she was wicked with a Henry.
And her voice, he thought to himself. He drank more coffee.
I wonder if they really are coming, the raiders. That many? I doubt it. Enough to take this fort and the dam?
He took a last drink.
Blaine was on his way back to the fort as dawn broke. He did not like keeping secrets from his old friend, but whom amongst his old friend’s men were sympathizers? His secret would remain his and that of just a few of his men until they were needed.
He looked just ahead to Fort Reilly. Ironic that he’d be bringing that man’s son just when we’re told we’re all going to die.
Little tattooed shit, he thought. That witch scared the shit out of you! But then, she scared the shit out me, too. What did the Mayor and Muller think, bringing her out here?! And just when they got that ultimatum! How was this a coincidence?
She might a cute little thing, but her voice… it made him think of some novels he’d read just after college; using sonics to manipulate emotions. Rod seemed fine with her, but just maybe….
“Captain Blaine!” His corporal called, pulling up and pointing. “Sir?”
Off to the northeast, the otherwise dark sky was red. Someone was burning something. Tomorrow was day three, huh?
“Just barbarians, Blake. We’ll kill then all, tomorrow.”
His corporal looked back, first behind them, to where they just were, then to his captain’s eyes.
They stood next to one another in the southeast turret of the fort, looking at the sunrise. The Regulars had their jobs to do and left them alone, even as they kept casting looks at the one who’s strawberry-blond hair spilled out from under her helmet. She’d been there since before the sunrise. Gil had joined her just some moments before.
“You’re cool.” He said.
“That sounds better in Japanese.” She replied.
She leaned slightly onto him.
“Big day.” She said.
“Plans within plans,” she said. That made Gil curious.
“Should I ask?” He felt her head shake against his chest. He did not want to die.
“How bad is this going to be?” He asked.
“A known unknown.” Is all she would say.
“What if,” he started, “I Ordered you to get to safety?”
“Fine.” She said easily. “And could I ever meet your eyes again? Or that of any other, once told to be a deserter?”
“No.” He sighed. “Let’s face this together.”
She laughed as she took his right hand with her left.
“But not alone!” She cried.
“What does that – ”
“Movement on the horizon!” A lookout shouted.
“’Steel is my body; fire is my blood!’” Nichole intoned.
“What’s that?” Gil asked, lost.
When she looked up to him, her emerald eyes were a wilderness of power.
“Watch what we can do for those whom we love!” She said in a frightening, guttural voice.