Rye and coffee, but you get it. I’d originally planned to make this one big scene, but 1) I don’t write that way, and 2) my precedent from Part 1 broke the battle into sub-sections, too. I’m going to do that here, as well.
Oh: ten quatloos to the first one who guesses the title of my next post. The clue is the last word, below.
“Defiant” – Episode 28, Part 1
Behind and below them, the steel gate was opening to admit the garrison captain and his aide. Nichole gave Gil’s arm a small squeeze then jumped the thirty feet from the battlement to the courtyard. Another trooper was leading Toast out to her. She walked quickly to Blaine and spoke with him.
Gil stared and strained his ears to no avail; he couldn’t make out what they were saying. She was still smiling, but he’d already come to know that meant lots of different things. He watched as she mounted her horse. Wait. Where was she…?
She saluted Blaine smartly and trotted out the gate. Alone. It began to close behind her.
Screw the militia and the Regulars!
“Where in the hell is she going?!” Gil shouted down into the courtyard. Captain Blaine looked up slowly, holding Gil’s eyes with his.
“Trust your mates, trooper!” The officer called. “Or we’re all dead! Return to your post!”
Gil wanted to yell, rage, follow her…!
“Sir!” He made it a curse and turned about, looking east. Bastard!
Nichole rode down the path from the fort, across the old interstate, towards the much smaller guard house at the southern edge of the dam. This time she paid much closer attention to the layers of defenses that they’d installed. Ah. Not nearly as helpless as they appeared, she thought. Her nearly all-night conversation with Blaine over the past ten hours had been quite revealing. Even a frontier detachment such as this ran their intelligence in layers. She was older now in that being at the tip of the spear, it was probably where secrets should be closest kept. She waved to the men above the gate. They smiled back and called down for the door to be opened. Just before entering, she glanced over her right shoulder. The sun was up ten degrees and that thin stream of smoke was still there. A signal of some kind.
100,000 would be a problem she thought, waving and smiling as she continued towards the dam at a trot. She didn’t believe it, though: if they’d numbers like that, they would have come along at least three attack axes towards the City and without warning. So, less than that.
But how many less?
She smirked just a little as she rode on past the door she’d taken when close to shutdown. She wanted the central control building, further ahead, just before the ninety degree turn of the spillway. Coming closer, she saw the dishes and antennae.
She thought of that odd drawing Mackenzie made of her: the Winged Victory of Samothrace, with her electromagnetic wings. Time to make that a reality, she thought. From her overnight talk with Blaine, there was a trooper there to take Toast somewhere safe. She slid off her mount and patted her neck.
“Back soon, with a treat! I promise!” A smile to the trooper and she went inside the main control building.
Up the stairwell to the third and top floor, she looked about the hallway. The captain had said most of the executive offices were to the right. Empty now; the State and Federal bureaucracy they answered to were long gone. The issue now was survival, not paperwork. She rapped smartly on the first door she came to. No answer. Opening it, a plastic desk with a faux-leather chair, eaten at by mice. Files and binders still filled the bookshelves along the wall, abandoned and unwanted. She moved around the desk. Ah!
Power and a hard-signal point. She returned to the door for just a moment, shutting and locking it. She pushed the old chair aside, seating herself onto the floor as she took the cords out of her bag.
I wish Gil was here; I’m glad he’s not. She was older how close quantum reasoning was to human thought. She was dexterous enough to insert both plugs at once into the back of her neck. For a timeslice, she smiled, thinking of Kathy in the locker room.
She saw and heard the world around her through every speaker and camera that was still active within twenty five miles. For a moment she paused to consider the Goodle Information Center, so close. Her mind saw it as a sea of mercury, the size of one of the Great Lakes. Information. Treasure.
Later, she thought.
She watched as the men at the hanger at the Columbia Gorge Airport – just across the river – jumped as she started the motors of the two drones. She ‘saw’ the black patch of encryption in Hess Park where Blaine kept his hole card. She climbed the Wall, but did nothing. Yes: she would leave that in his hands… as long as she could.
She changed the azimuth of some of the dishes. Satellite connexion established! She thought of home…!
A pleasant, green meadow. Some insects buzzed here and there. Birds chirped. Nichole sat on a wooden bench. She looked down at herself: a yukata with some light blue floral pattern. Abruptly, a slightly older woman sat next to her, in a white and red kimono. Her hair done up in a formal, classical Japanese type. She did not turn to look at Nichole.
“Thank you for coming to see me, Hajime.” Nichole said, softly.
“Before, you were the eyes of a warship.” The woman made no movement, staring out at the field. “Now, you are to be CIC in the middle of a battle.”
“Hundreds. Thousands may die.”
The bugs moved about, leaving them alone.
“Do you like it?”
Nichole clenched her hands into the fabric of her yukata.
“I hate it!”
The other, Hajime, gave a tiny nod.
“Imagine: what if one of us comes to like it?”
In the second silence, a dragonfly came to land on Nichole’s head. She knew nothing of religion, transcendence, faith. But, for just a moment, it was as if the ground split open at her feet and she’d a glimpse of Hell.
The image passed.
“Thank you for speaking with me, Hajime,” Nichole said.
The other nodded.
She was back in the office – and perceiving all she could. No, I won’t like this at all.
She moved the two drones out onto the tarmac, ready for take-off. She ‘looked’ further down-river. There they were! Late! As she called the lead vessel, she knew they would not make The Dalles until late afternoon.
She thought of the scarred, tattooed horseman. I wonder who will be here to greet them?
The drones were airborne. She looked through their optics. Oh, my.
“Twenty thousand mounted,” she spoke aloud to the empty office, her voice also carrying over the radios of both Captains Muller and Blaine. “And about ten thousand slave auxiliary.”
Against their barely five hundred.
Quite unintentionally, she murmured the word, “Thermopylae.”