Reaching Power

The few times I was out of cosplay as Elias Ainsworth, I tried to take pictures of the other fantastic outfits at Matsuricon.  Those moments, honestly, were few and far between.  About every thirty minutes I had to take the mask off – too hot! – but it got to the point others would see my clothes and the head and say, “Oh my gosh!  Can I take your picture?!” and back on the head went.

If you’re curious and on Instagram, try my account, @machciv, along with #Matsuricon.

In other news, I realized as I was waking up this morning, that, so far from a power source, Nichole would need to carry some with her.  The rest of this scene wrote itself.

Nichole made her way to where she’d left the pile that was her tent and bedroll. The smell from the horses all about was strong, but she was still surprised to see Ortega and Elison putting her tent up. A Mesoamerican and Black working in cooperation. The mayor’s Special Police had an odd social dynamic. Based, ultimately, of course, on ‘us versus them.’

“Thank you two, so much!” she said, coming ‘round and allowing her hand to touch both of their shoulders. “Now I’ve time to see to Toast before bedtime!”

She disappeared out of the single candlelight just as quickly as she entered it. Her mare was happy for the quick brushing, but she was there for another reason: the battery pack from one of her saddlebags. Nichole had brought six and to-date exhausted one. It was a long, long way back to The Dalles, and she economized every motion.

Battery in hand, looking a bit like a detachable rifle magazine in the dark, she stepped the few yards back to her tent. Those that set it up had moved on, she still heard orders being shouted about tightening their lines, so she dropped to her knees and shuffled in. A quick movement of her USB cable, now under a small blanket, and she felt life flowing back into her.

It would be very unfortunate if I had to suddenly leave Bakke’s command, Nichole thought. For multiple reasons.

She was perfectly still. She ‘dreamed’ the moment before her departure.

 

The three were just down from the Stratford’s verandah. She held crying Mackenzie with her left arm while looking right to her love for help.

“Hey, Mac,” Gil tried, raising hands she wouldn’t see from her eyes down and tears, “she did say a week or two – ”

“At minimum.”

Nichole saw the meaning in his glare: “you’re not helping!”

“But home to you – both of you – as soon as I can!”

Mackenzie said nothing but kept crying. Nichole decided to try something she’d learning from Ha-kun. For humans, movement feels like progress.

Not wanting to get anywhere near Nike at this time, she carefully led her friend east and northeast. Slowly. Gil followed.

“What!” Mackenzie sobbed and tried again. “What if… you get tired?!”

Older as First, Mac knew that she must not state the obvious where they could be overheard. Nichole rummaged for a handkerchief and pressed it to her friend’s face, who honked productively.

“I’ll be taking provisions,” she replied with a look over her shoulder at one of the two centers of her life. “In my saddlebags, under lock and key!”

Her high-capacity batteries were for worse-case escape-and-evasion. The one’s Gil had help make at Ludlum’s Electric were bread-and-butter.

Still, she thought, to think he loves me so much, to make my life support…!

“Oh.” Mackenzie relented. Nichole began to circle them back west to their dorm.

“Do you think,” she tried in a deliberately light voice, “that painting of yours will be finished when I get back? The City will owe me a favor, and I’ll make them give me satellite comm time to send the image to my family!”

The tears stopped and her posture improved. How serious about her art! Were all artists such? The historical record indicated otherwise, but it was written by historians, not artists!

“If… you promise to come back, I promise I’ll be finished,” Mackenzie agreed.

She did not say she would show it to me! Interesting!

“She said before…” Gil began. Nichole beckoned to him with her right hand.

He came around and took it with his left. She took a step back, forming a triangle.

“Friends!” she said.

A little sheepishly, Gil and Mackenzie hooked fingers.

“I am coming back! If I must break this world, I will never leave you!”

Nichole pulled her hands away and looked right to the quickening dawn.

“I must go.”

With a tiny breeze, she was gone. With her quick, artist’s eyes, Mackenzie saw a blur to the northeast. She also noted her friends boyfriend taking out his wallet.

“Here,” he said, passing her some of the City’s script. “If you need to get a-hold of me quick, use this to send a runner.”

He pushed the money into her hand and turned to the northwest.

“She told me to check in on you every-other day. I think that’s insulting. I’ll come by when I’ve the time.”

He took one step but looked back.

“We share the greatest thing in the world, Miss d’Arcy.”

“We…” she found her voice. “We do! Thank you for looking after me!”

 

Back in his flat, Gil slammed the door behind him. He sat on the edge of his bed with his head in his hands. For just a moment he looked back at the crumpled sheets.

Any other girl I was missing, I could smell her; remember her. But Nichole…

“God!” he shouted to someone he didn’t think he believed in. “What am I doing?!”

I believe what she said: if she had to kill everyone between here and the Snake River to make it back home, she’d do it. Much of our pillow talk has been about these ‘Laws’ that the Jap companies making AI’s are on about. Her makers, Somi Corporation, has them only following Orders.

Gil stood and went to his fridge. Only four beers left. The sun was just up. Shit. He took one out and opened the bottle.

I was pulled into the Militia after the Breakup, but even after that and our trip upriver, he thought, taking a long pull off the bottle, it would take what? A company of…

Let’s be honest here, he thought.

Those androids to bring this city, and any other they wanted, to their knees.

Gil had heard the rumors through shortwave about Japan’s new Empress; the naval rebuild; their own nuclear weapons…

“Why her!” he yelled to his little room. “Why did I fall in love with her?!”

His tossed empty bottle didn’t make it to the trash can, but at least it didn’t shatter.

He needed to get ready for class.

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