I mention this in my first novel, “The Fourth Law,” in which the AI’s there, Ai and Henge, specifically, are able to make an unanticipated link from their world, to ours.  All via Dorina, of course.  She deserves her own book, but how do I write a book about someone an order of magnitude smarter than I am?  I’d just make her seem dumb.  I’d rather die than fail her that way.

“Kissing?  This book has kissing?”  From the ‘Princess Bride’.  A wonderful movie; my eldest daughter tells me the book is even better.  Perhaps someday.  Maybe in fifty years someone will say, “‘Defiant’?  The book was soooo much better!”  Whatever.  Kissing below the fold.  Almost have Part 3 wrapped up!

“Defiant” – Episode 31, Part 2

They were just leaving the main road to start up the hill towards the fort. Nichole slowed, then stopped her horse. She looked right at some brush.

“Yes?” She asked.

One of the Hospitallers stood from the shadows.

“Dammit! Again!” Brunelli hissed

“Just seeing everyone home safe, Miss,” the figure muttered, clearly unhappy about being seen. Nichole moved her eyes from him, up.

“Yes.” Softly. “This is one of my homes.”

She touched Toast’s sides with her heels.

Brunelli had let go a huge “Oooiiii!” as they came up, so the main gain was already open. They entered to much confusion. Dismounting and seeing to their horses first, Gil and Nichole looked about to find an officer or NCO who could fill them in.

“We’re leaving in the morning.” Captain Muller, right behind them. Gil heard a small ‘eep!’ from Nichole.

“We that are left,” he continued. “The Brothers are cremating our fallen, and we’ll pick them up for the ride home in the morning. Questions?”

While he was talking, they’d turned and saluted. It was not lost on Muller that her right hand came to rest at her side, just touching the militiaman’s left.

“Haven, it’d be a bother to move your stuff for just one night,” Muller said, faking seriousness. He enjoyed the boy’s reaxion.

Gil’s hand closed around the girl’s rather than jerking away.

“True, sir.” Gil replied. “We’ll get this sorted when back in the City. We’ll… we’ll make no trouble for you and the others.”

Muller grunted and moved off. He heard the call from the gate that the post riders – two, now that things were dangerous – were just arriving.

“I… I’d best go make sure I’m ready to go at first light,” sighed, releasing her hand. “I’ll come and look for you – urk!”

She’d grabbed the front of his vest and pulled his head down to kiss him.

“Fool,” she said in a low, guttural voice. “Without an Order, you’ll never be rid of me!”

She moved off to what he knew was her small room in Officer Country. Odd, he didn’t recall her swinging her hips like that, before. Nice. He turned….

He looked around. Except for a few on the battlements, everyone in the fort was looking at them. Some smiles, a few thumbs-up. A few glares. Letting his eyes slide forward, he chose to ignore them. He stalked back to what was left of the barracks.

Nichole looked about the small VIP room: nothing to pack! Ready to go! She turned at the tap on the open door.

“Miss! The riders brought a letter for you.”

She first touched the man’s hand, only after taking the flimsy from him.

“Enough of this game,” she muttered, shaking her left arm out of its sling. I’ll leave the wrapping on until back home. Will Gil help my repairs? Would that make him hate me?

She wondered. Enough. She looked at the envelope.

From Friend Mackenzie!!!

She tore it open, reading the few paragraphs in Mackenzie’s wonderfully neat, complex handwriting.


Just in case, she re-read it.


What to tell my boyf –

Her eyes flared. Not only did she consider Gil her romantic partner, at the same moment she considered lying to him.

“Guuh!” A sick sound escaped her mouth. She fell to the ground.

Not knowing why, her eyes tracked to the bandages on her left arm and right leg.

“I… am… damaged…”


She slowly climbed up to where Gil waited on the battlements. He noted her sling was gone.

“You okay? You were gone all day?”

She nodded.

“I was. And, I do not think I am okay.” She spoke to the twilight.

He placed his hands onto her shoulders. “Nichole! What can I – ”

Her left index finger was onto his mouth without him seeing it.

“You can listen. Then, you will decide.” Her finger dropped.

A few of the men behind them glanced over their shoulders at the little drama playing out. They shrugged and look forward, but Gil took her hand, leading her to a small open spot on the northeast side. Turning, Mount Hood with the sun now set behind it was just over her shoulder. He laughed once.

“Yes?” She asked. He lifted both of his hands to Heaven.

“I know nothing about you; literally nothing.”

She didn’t move.

“But, I love you, Nichole.”

She nodded, saying nothing; what she’d originally planned to say to him now filed for later.  She watched doubt creep into his eyes. He opened his mouth to ask….

“Joe just got home. Mackenzie told me in her letter.”

Gil closed his mouth. His eyes went from hers to the fading light, behind her. Was I too late?

“Is… is he okay?”

“I surmise. My dorm-girl-friend is not good with medical matters. However, for all of his weight loss, she did use the word ‘remission.’”

“I… see.”

He turned away from her, gazing into the emptiness of the East.

“Will you… and he… try again?” His words made small clouds of vapor before his face. They vanished quickly.

Nothing. He waited a bit more. Nothing. He nodded to himself once.

“I – ” He’d just begun when she wrapped her arms tightly around him from behind.

“Guuuhhh!” There was an odd cry from her. He wanted to turn, but could not. He felt her head rhythmically pound into is back with her words. Metallic words.

“I. Love. You. Gil. Haven!”

He heard his ribs crack slightly as she tightened her grip.

“Guuhhh!” That sound, again.

“Can’t… breath!” The pressure was gone. He knew he’d one chance against this girl unlike any other. He whirled about, his hands on her cheeks.

“What were those fancy Greek words about love?” He watched her blink quickly, but no tears came.

“Storge! Philia! Eros! Agape!” She called. “All of them! And in American English, I love you, Gil!”

Her hands came up to hold his, but she waited. Of course. He nodded again, but smiled this time.

He kissed her, and she, him. Neither thinking for a moment that they held the same thought: across a divide unimaginable – human and machine – a bridge had been built.

After a few minutes, a sergeant coughed as he passed them. They were unashamed. Holding one another, they moved away from the battlement and watched the unexpected meteor shower above their heads.

“What now?” He’d asked.

She pulled a piece of paper from her back pocket.

“May… may I read you Mackenzie’s letter? I…” Nichole smiled. “Come, I shall conceal nothing from you!”

He slid down against a retaining column. She sat into his lap, snuggling her back into his chest. Her mind processed old data in new ways. She shuddered slightly.

“Cold?” He found that hard to believe.

“No.” Her voice soft. “In love.”


She held the letter. It was far too dark to read, so Gil knew she recited from memory.

As she said, his best friend was back. A bit worse for wear, but alive, and apparently likely to stay that way for awhile. He found some of the mousy girl’s sentences to be a bit circumloquacious, but artists were generally better with their hands, not mouths. Gil thought her closing was a little over the top about how much she missed Nichole. He said so. She became still, the back of her head against his sternum.

“She is a loving person who has lost someone very close and dear to her.” She looked up and right into his eyes. The faintest green glow. “We are all growing older together. Can we not love each other, too?”

He leaned his forehead down to hers.

“Of course.” He chose to play a little. “And you make me older about the word ‘love’!”

She looked back in to the darkness, her butt rolling in his crotch for a moment.

“Humph! Just wait and see! Now!” She flipped the paper as he tried to regain his concentration. “There’s both of them, and this older man she mentioned that helped Friend Joe on the trip back! What are we to do?”

“Field trip. Picnic.” Gil said easily, knowing she was feeling his reaxion to her gyrations.

“Picnic?” She moved some more, making a small sound as she did. “When? Where?”

“Multnomah Falls. I remember you telling me that you’ve already told Mac about it in a letter. It’s….” He put his hands onto her hips for her to stop a moment. “It’s a place all of us friends can gather; a place of hope.”

“Hmmm.” She considered. “Given the current state of emergency ‘cause of the horselord’s attack, I bet coming upriver that far is off limits to civilians right now.”

She tilted her head back up again.

“I want to ask you a question, but kiss me, first.”


The question was rather long in coming.

“Whew!” She exclaimed. “Processors hot! So I should try to get permission from the Mayor for Friends Mackenzie and Joe, and Joe’s new Friend…” She trailed off, feeling his head shake in the night.

“Not the Mayor.” His voice was filled with mischievousness. “We’re going over his head.”

This was so new that she sat up and half turned to him. What political power-structure had she failed to note?

“Then, who?”

Gil leaned forwards to kiss her. And kiss her. She pushed him off.


“You’re going to need to send a message… hey! this meteor shower is pretty!”

He felt her hands almost around his neck; two harsh, emerald coals just before him.


“Nike.” He relented, kissing her again. Cold, non-human skin. He didn’t care.

“Get a message to Nike.”

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