Buttercup

Typed a little during the week.  Spent most of my off-work time drunk.  Beginning to wonder is that pain under my right ribcage is at all related to that?  Dog still dead, fam still gone… one of those two should be back Wednesday or Thursday.  Three weeks to Matsuricon.

WTF is going on in Nichole’s Part Two?

three months prior

 

As a special treat to mark Mackenzie’s new part-time job, Nichole sprung for the fee to use the elevator to Overton’s Pub. Before the Breakup called the Portland City Grill, it had the best view in town, for those willing to pay to maintain the only elevator or not and brave the thirty flights of stairs.

As they’d walked from campus just after Mac’s last class, it was a bit late for lunch. Nichole’s friend waved off Isabella’s, the proprietress, concern, saying any leftovers would be fine. After taking their order for some lemonade, she said she would see what she could find in the kitchen.

Mackenzie is so much older at being able to speak with others, Nichole thought, recalling the gangway onto Kongo. I think that’s always been in her; she just needed a little push!

“Shall we sit where we did before?” Mackenzie asked, recalling the almost year ago when the Japanese guided missile destroyer was still at harbor in the Willamette River.

“Certainly!” Nichole replied, walking next to her over to an outdoor table on the northeast side.

“A lot has changed…” Nicole began as they sat, “in these many months.”

Mackenzie looked out at the river and largely deserted city beyond before coming back to her friend’s emerald eyes.

“I… I’m glad you came here. And are my friend!”

“Excuse me!”

Mackenzie turned scarlet and fixed her eyes to the table while Isabella set down their glasses along with a platter of mixed, re-heated appetizers.

“And I you!” Nicole smiled. She wondered at the sound of automobile engines on the road far below. Besides trucks and motorbikes, there was only one group that –

Her enhanced hearing heard the boots as they got off the elevator, far inside the building. Nichole shifted her chair to her left in case she needed to move suddenly. Noting her change of position, and knowing her friend did nothing without a reason, Mackenzie asked.

“Is something up?”

A team of six men – special, that is, political, police – came out onto the Pub’s open area overlooking the town. Being late afternoon, there were only about a dozen patrons, but they all looked and froze.

One man, Nichole didn’t recognize the badge of rank, looked about, pointed at her and her friend, while muttering to his subordinate.

“Move those two.” She heard.

So, we are not the objective. Nichole watched the special policeman stomp over. She recalled the word that Joe had learned from his dead friend and later passed onto her: checkist.

“Yes, officer?” she asked pleasantly, considering what would be necessary to toss them all over the building’s edge if they threatened her friend.

“Sorry, miss,” at least he was trying to fake politeness, “but you two must move. Now.”

He waved vaguely at the rest of the rooftop.

“Of course.” She stood, picking up her drink and the platter. “Friend?”

Mackenzie stood as well, but shook a little.

“How about over there?” Nichole nodded to a table just a little south.

“There’s that one way over there…” Mackenzie pointed to the furthest away, in the southwest corner.

“Hmmm. No.” She set out to the table she wanted. I don’t know who’s coming, but I want to be close enough to hear.

Red again, Mackenzie shuffled past the policeman after her friend. She did note that Nichole reseated herself to be facing back to where they had been. Was this all a part of her role to play as First?

Nichole saw the lead checkist speak into a radio. ‘Rooftop secured,’ indeed! Make yourself sound a hero for bossing two girls around!

Mackenzie was relaxed to see a smile start on her friend’s face, but scared again as the smile dropped and her friends eye’s narrowed. Trying to be subtle, she glanced over her right shoulder.

Two men of mixed race – the Mayor’s men – escorted three in beaten, torn pants with homespun shirts. The three were White, but likely had not a haircut nor bath in months. Or longer. They walked with a looping gait to their legs, typical for those who spent all their time on horseback. Huns.

Mac moved her shaking head back to Nichole.

“H… Hu…!” she tried.

“Horsemen from beyond the City’s control,” Nichole agreed softly, having met and fought them face-to-face at The Dalles dam five months ago. What were they doing here?

As they sat, one of their minders from the Mayor’s office gave a laugh. It was cut off when his eyes met Nichole’s across the rooftop.

Armando Bakke.

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