Back to the Present

Forgot my blood pressure meds last night.  As it was cooler this AM, I made coffee around noon.  Not being a total idiot, it was 50/50 decaf.  Halfway through my second cup, I wondered why I felt so tanjed awful.  I moved to the other side of the formal dining table (where I write) and picked up the BP machine.

164/90.  I then recalled my missed med.  Which I took immediately.  By dinner, and after several glasses of wine, I checked again.  150/90.

Dammit!  I took a third half-pill and reached for the whiskey.  At least I was able to wrap up Part 2 today! Be a shame to die before I complete part 3 and the book!  For those that are new or do not recall, the very last section, called “present day,” hearkens back to this.

There will be a break of a few days as I have to see the unfolding of the joint campaign of the Nation and the City’s Regular Army & Militia A against the cannibals.  Only once they are defeated can I allow things to go to hell.  Halloween comes fast; must make haste slowly.

Teresa let herself out, closing Mackenzie’s door behind her. Not wanting to hear anymore of Nichole’s cries she moved quickly to the stairwell. Stepping out into the lobby, she cast her eyes on the guy behind the counter.

Cute! She thought. After listening to Miss Perfect, I’m more than a little horny right now…

“Hi there!” Teresa sat onto the desk and glanced once at the rifle. “Nice gun! How big’s your bore?”

She was just folding the piece of paper with his, Steven’s, she recalled, contact info into her pocket when Nichole trotted happily down the stairs.

“Done already?” she asked with a leer. Nichole just smiled.

“I’m much older about pleasing a man in bed!” she replied, taking Teresa’s arm and walking toward the front door. “And am better at controlling the tempo of things!”

“Sheesh,” her friend muttered as they went down the stoop to the street. The Lincoln was parked a block north. “I think I liked you better as a virgin!”

“You… did?”

Teresa looked over at her sad tone.

“Kidding! Why don’t you get ‘kidding’?!”

“Oh. Okay!”

Two men stood from the car’s front doors, waiting for them.

“You’re certainly looking about like a dog on its first drive!” Teresa noted Nichole looking this way and that as the car drove up into the hills.

“The last time I was on this route it was dark. I want to know the way in case I have to come here on my own,” she replied with a quick flip of her left index finger to the tip of Teresa’s nose. “And you’re the mutt here!”

“Ah. That’s right,” her friend breathed, ignoring her nose. “I read that report: how you got sucked into the L and C Bridge battle…”

She looked up and out at the cloudy sky.

“Let’s hope nothing like that happens…”

“But if it does, I have you with me!”

Teresa glanced right.

“Doesn’t anything curb your enthusiasm?”

“Lots of things!” Nichole continued to smile. “But not right now!”

The long, black car pulled up and stopped about ten yards from the old red-brick house. Nichole allowed the man from the front passenger seat to open her door. Standing, she seemed to take in the view of the City below them. Nine men in the open; thirteen more with cover and concealment. Assume as many more that are not in my field of view.

“Ready?” Teresa asked, coming to stand next to her.

“Yepper!” Nichole took her left hand as they started to the main entrance. As there were troops everywhere there was no one at the door. Still, it opened just as they approached. Miss Kennedy, the mayor’s aid, from the last time she was here.

“Please come in. Always a pleasure to see you, Miss Johnson,” she welcomed them.

“You as well, Mary. Thank you.” They paused for a moment in the foyer. “Is your son over his cold?”

“Yes,” she blinked gratefully. “Thank you for remembering him.”

“And… if I recall from the invitation, your marriage is next month?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Now she dipped her head. “It was protocol that I sent it to you; I understand how busy you are…!”

“Oh, pooh!” Teresa rejoined. “You support my family! Of course we shall support yours!”

The aide nodded a thanks without saying more. She opened the door that led to the office on the left.

My friend has come so far! Not only in politics, but speaking the language of feudalism with ease!

Inside and to the right Mayor Johnson sat behind his desk which, this time, was awash in papers. Nichole looked back, expecting the aide to follow them in. Kennedy gave a tiny shake of her head and closed the door.

Still holding hands, and as heir-presumptive, Teresa led them to two paces off the left of his desk. They waited.

“Please sit,” he waved at the two chairs without looking up. “You can scoot them closer together if you think you have to keep touching one another.”

Teresa gave the tiniest conspiratorial squeeze before letting go. She leaned back indolently in hers, one leg crossed over the other, swinging her running shoe-clad foot back and forth. Nichole sat as always: on the edge, knees pressed together, hands in her lap. Her gaze fixed on the man before them.

Just as Teresa ostentatiously looked at her watch, he put down his pen and sat up.

“Miss Clarke. Daughter.” He smiled without meaning it.

“Mayor.”

“Father.”

“For such a demur young woman, how is it you’re sleeping with both my daughter and that young man from the militia?” Johnson asked. “I wonder who else?”

“I told you before: I was sent here to make friends and allies,” she began while Teresa was still taking in air to scream at her old man. “That so many have welcomed me is, I think, a testament to how well this land is governed!”

Father and daughter stared at her.

“I am very glad you are a foreign national and forbidden to run for office!” he said. His eyes didn’t smile but Nichole could see she got a barb into him. “Otherwise we could just call you my successor!”

“Not at all,” Nichole replied, dipping her head before bringing it up and left, her eyes on his daughter. “Portland is already served by a better family.”

She turned quickly back to him.

“You summoned me? How may I serve you?” she asked, still leading the conversation.

“Group Leader Brown,” Johnson said a trifle too loud, knowing what was going on, “told me of your thoughts about the Nation. I find it troubling that you think this alliance I have so carefully built is, in fact, to our disadvantage.”

“I am older that your background includes service in the former US military. As such, you surely understand that numbers do not translate to power,” she presumed to lecture the dictator of the City. “The willingness to use it is utmost. And what I saw is that they are more than willing to use it.”

“You think I have a lack of resolve…?” he began, dangerously.

“Not at all; you, however, are hedged ‘round by parliamentary procedures. The Nation, while comprised also of former Americans, seem to have embraced tribalism,” she deflected. “If their chief of chiefs changes his mind it will happen overnight. Here? Days if not weeks.”

She watched him sit back, getting her point.

“So we should hit them first?” Teresa asked.

Her position must be more secure than I imagined, to speak up in such a way! Nichole desired to reply but it was not her place.

“And be at war with the horsemen and cannibals, now united? I think not!” Johnson spat, with a look to his daughter.

She held her father’s gaze, but Nichole guestimated her blood pressure at 160/90. To her credit, she’s not sweating.

“Then what’s your bright idea, before you start taking advice from a foreign bisexual?” Teresa advanced.

The mayor lowered his head and seemed to clench his hands. Nichole knew it an act and hoped his daughter did, too.

“As you know, Miss Clarke, I try to listen to everyone,” he said through gritted teeth. “While in these last few months, my daughter has tried to assist my administration…”

He looked up at Nichole.

“And who did prompt her to do that?” He continued: “Once again, you have seen several of my cards and I nothing of yours!”

He leaned forward and tented his fingers before his face.

“What would a foreign agent such as yourself advise?”

“While,” Nichole began carefully, not looking at Teresa, “I do not know your full plan for the Nation, for now, it is best to stay with your original plan; to use them to eradicate the cannibals. They do not know that you now know of their perception of you and the City.”

Nichole shifted her hips and shoulders from right to left.

“That puts you inside their OODA.” She concluded.

A minute passed with no one speaking.

“Thank you for coming on such short notice, Miss Clarke,” Johnson said, standing with his hand out. Nichole took it and bowed her head.

“Mister Mayor,” she said.

He released her hand. Teresa stood.

“There is one more thing,” he said. Nichole heard her friend’s molars grind together.

“Of course, sir. What may I do for our homelands?”

That at least brought another twitch to his face.

“From the reports from Bakke that you delivered to Brown, they are moving early. I’d like you to be part of the liaison team that takes them across the Columbia and into the Centralia Valley.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?!” Teresa finally exploded. “You cannot send a girl on a mission like that!”

“My staff?” Nichole asked without concern to her friend.

“Three. Regular Army.”

“May I choose them?”

“Subject to General Tessmer’s approval, yes.”

Nichole bowed from the waist and came back up.

“I agree. Sir.”

Both Johnsons caught the dismissive gesture Nichole made to Teresa with her left hand.

Nichole stepped away and back from her chair, beckoning to her friend.

“Come, beloved friend. We go.”

Shaking and sputtering with rage, Teresa tossed her father a killing sidelong glance as she tightly grabbed Nichole’s hand with hers. Walking to the car, Nichole pretended to kiss her.

“No talking until home!” was her inhuman whisper.

 

present time

“Thank you, Rhun, but I have a mate back in the City.” Nichole met his eyes and did not smile. “As any couple, we’ve no idea how long we might be together. Yet, for now, he is mine and I am his.”

Nichole could still feel the waves of terror and consternation not only from his men but Reilly as well. Lucky that John is off on patrol, she thought. He’d start a war right now!

Rhun let his eyes move about his tent. All of his men found reason to suddenly be doing something else. Secure in that, she saw him nod only a few millimeters.

“Well said, Nichole.” He again tossed back the rest of the wine in his cup. His smile returned.

“Nonetheless, we’ve some weeks yet! I shall convince you!”

“Great Lord Rhun!” Nichole tried his title for only the second time, shifting her body as if affected by his words. “I look forward to it!”

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