One tale or two tails?

As usual, tired from DayJob.  Still managed to get an idea across.  Things will be picking up rather quickly after this; having covered her first trip up the Columbia, I can gloss the second.  The interesting parts will be the interaxions with the Special Police followed by the Horsemen.

Please note the Special Guest Appearance by a book from the Award Winning, Amazon Best Seller, Jon Del Arroz, the leading Hispanic voice in SF… when he’s not mowing lawns.

After Gil left, Nichole was still for three hours while she charged. Not wanting to expend any power at all she kept her eyes shut and ignored the letter on the table before her. She stuffed it into a pocket as she unplugged and made for her door at three minutes before midnight.

Seeing Jeffery off with a smile and a wave to his sleepy yawn, she sat herself behind the desk in the foyer of the Stratford Residence Hall. As she was in so many things in the City, the only woman who stood a watch. Nichole smiled at the memory of the greatest objections: the other females on her floor and above didn’t think she’d be able to provide proper security. A talk from her boyfriend – after which she demonstrated on him how she’d stop an intruder – vaguely discussing her help at the battle of The Dalles Dam seemed to allay their fears.

She expected another boring night. Only Friday and Saturday nights would have students, both men and women, coming home late after drinking. What couples there were seemed to be in a relationship and not just a hookup. Nichole took the paper from the mayor’s office out.

Hmmm, she thought. No mention of Johnson himself. Just to present myself at the Laurelhurst at oh eight hundred. Dang, that will interfere with my coding class!

She refolded the letter into her pocket and idly wondered if Bakke was involved in this.

As she had before on her night watches, Nichole resisted the temptation to run to her room and get her recharging cord. All it would take was one cramming student to suddenly stumble in to unmask her. Her nature was already too wide-spread, unavoidably so, but still… she did not want any more exposure.

Outside is was a little less dark in the east. The mostly continuous rain was now a mostly continuous quiet. That would make her run to the mayor’s mansion, just an administrative building now, easier without an umbrella. At 0550, Scott, in his tee shirt, faded jeans, and fuzzy, thick, woolen socks, padded down the stairs.

“M’n’n,” he managed around his coffee mug.

I am older to mute my enthusiasm!

“Morning, Scott!” she said quietly. “No one in or out on my watch!”

She stood and stepped aside for him.

“Uh.” He took the chair she was in. Was the coffee enough to keep him awake until…?

He pulled a paperback from his back pocket. Nichole caught the title: “For Steam and Country.” A bestseller in the US some years before the Breakup. She’d never seen the movie made of it.

“You’re relieved,” he muttered, pulling on his bookmark.

“Thank you!”

She ran for the stairs and her room. Once there, she pulled her hair ties out and rearranged her twin-tails into a pony-tail. It was feeling warmer today, so a lighter skirt with a blouse and sweater, she thought. I’ll carry my umbrella.

She finished changing and stepped into the hall opposite Mackenzie.

“Oh!” her friend exclaimed. “Back to your pony-tail?”

“Twin tails for love; single for business!”

“I… didn’t know.” Mackenzie blinked and looked to Nichole’s eyes. “Does… your boyfriend like twin-tails?”

“Mmm!”

“Oh. Well, I’m off, friend.”

“Me, too! Let’s go together!”

Nichole was pleased that in the time she’d been friends with her dorm-mate, she’d seen her evolve from a dull plodding to a lively step.   When she wanted to. That now saw them quickly down to the ground floor. With a wave to Scott, they went outside.

“Hey?” Mac called as Nichole turned toward the northeast. “You aren’t going to class?”

Nichole paused and called back over her shoulder.

“Meeting at the mayor’s office! See you later!” she looked back into Mackenzie’s eyes. “I promise!”

“Okay!”

Not wanting to scare anyone, Nichole ran at a reasonable trot, rather than all-out. She crossed the Willamette River over the rusting Burnside Bridge and kept on the street of the same name. The Mayor’s Mansion had once been just that: where the city mayor resided. Late in the 20th Century it had been sold and turned into a Bed and Breakfast: an ideal location, nestled up in the northwest corner of Laurelhurst Park.

Teresa told me that her father really liked it; she didn’t know why. With the owners fled or dead in the Breakup, he and his staff had assumed ownership and turned it into City offices.

The urban houses she ran past were no more than twenty percent occupied. Again: the Breakup. In a hybrid environment of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, supporting such an urban population was both expensive and dangerous.

She turned south on a small side road then left onto Ankeny. Already in the early morning bulldozers were burning precious fuel to clear away the houses to the north, opposite the building. Just before her first meeting with Johnson she’d heard about that. The large, red brick building was just ahead on her right. She paused.

“It is pretty.”

She walked to the front door. A Special policeman with a machine pistol stood at what came close to attention, but she noted what she would have called slovenly behavior in his stance.

“And you are?” he asked.

“Nichole Clarke.” She slowly produced the letter and held it up. “I’ve been invited.”

His demeanor changed completely, standing straighter while at the same time nodding his head to her. His hands had never left his weapon.

“Of course, ma’am. You are expected.”

By who, she wondered.

She nodded and stepped past him, opening the door herself. Immediately inside the foyer was a desk with a young woman in their uniform, but White, which was unusual. She glanced at the windup clock to her left.

“You’d be Miss Clarke?” she asked, standing. “The Group Leader is expecting you. Please follow me.”

Without a look back, expecting to be obeyed, she turned and walked down the hall that extended right through the house. At the far end were two French doors. She opened one and waved her forward.

“He’s just there,” she said.

Stepping onto the brick-paved patio, she noted a bear of a man just to her left at a table covered by a tarp. He was surrounded by thick file folders. His uniform said what he was, but not who. Nichole moved out before coming left, thereby approaching him straight on.

He looked up at her. Black, but some White somewhere in his genes.

“Miss Clarke.”

“Group Leader Brown.”

He indicated the chair in front of him with a wave of his huge hand.

“Please.”

“Thank you,” as she sat down.

“I need your help,” he rumbled.

That’s a surprise.

“Doing…?”

“I need you to scare the hell out of the horsemen,” he answered.

Oh. A part of her felt amusement.

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