Getting some of my main characters back together, even if only for a little while.  I need things in one direxion to be political and in the other, personal.  I wish it would be Mackenzie that somehow get’s ahold of Gil, who deserts and rides back to PSU once Nichole is finished with her talk with the Mayor, but Mac and Gil have no radios…

Or.  Did he just recently give her something that he and the other’s at Ludlum Electric put together?  Not so much a radio as a ‘panic button’?  Hmmm.  I’ll ponder that one.  I admit, it’s kinda lame, but it get’s Gil to Mac moments before Nichole comes busting in with her Iliad of Woes from the North.  N5 has talked the Mayor into trying to talk his way out of this… but what if Rhun and his people refuse to listen?

She paused for information from the company at the south end, enjoying the thought: while his command was on the north side, all of his men and heavy weapons were concealed on the south. So much for propaganda!

Militia B was also called up. That meant the economy of the City must be at a standstill right now. Nichole was frozen in place, assembling and re-assembling mosaics of possible futures. The men around her were both curious and fearful at her immobility and oddly bright eyes that stared off into a future they could not see.


“Does anyone know where the Mayor is?!” she shouted to the sky. All about her flinched and belatedly covered their ears.

One, two…

“Ma’am!” came a youthful shout from her right.

“Yes?” she called.

“Last I heard was from his CP up in the West Hills! Oops! Sorry!”

The latter was to his CO, annoyed, at his breach of comm discipline.

It was… Thursday morning. Teresa and Mackenzie would both be going to their City jobs; she knew their location. The hapless private gave her the mayor’s. All she needed was Gil’s… and him being mounted – her thighs flexed slightly at the thought, missing him – meant he could come to her as fast as she could to him.

About to apologize for his man’s security breach, the corporal felt a breeze where the cute young woman had just stood.

Thursday! That meant Mackenzie was at the City offices rather than at the Port’s. I’ll be able to retrieve them both at the same time! In returning a wave as she streaked past, a thought crept in: what if they react like Joe? What if they choose to stay at their posts?

Do I incapacitate them? Would that not be depriving a human of their free will?

You’ve already killed humans! And now you worry about their will?!

Please, friends! she ran on. Please listen to me…!

Nichole drew up in front of the City building moments later. Two Chekists – she didn’t even care anymore – were there with carbines.

“I’m here at the summons of Teresa Johnson.”

The one on the right waved her in. Nichole knew her friend’s office was on the fourth floor and she flew up the stairs, nearly knocking some south Asian mix male over as she did. She grabbed the handle to her office and opened the door.

“For once,” Teresa said, looking up from the sea of paperwork on her desk, “the rumors got here faster than you did.”

Nichole closed the door behind her.

“Rumors?” she asked, looking about the room as to how easy it would be to knock her friend out and toss her over her shoulder.

“Rumors: the horsemen beat the cannibals then betrayed and turned on us. I’ve already ordered the bulk of Militia B north to reinforce the bridges!” Johnson said, waving a copy of written orders that Nichole’s eyes could barely track.

“Not quite.”

“Not quite what?” Teresa said, obviously more comfortable in a role of telling others what to do.

“Your father gave secret orders to the Chekists to seize the women and children of the Nation; given his chance, Armando Bakke took it and first corralled then shelled their position.”

Her friend’s mutt-skinned face was ashen as she half stood from her chair.

“Bakke… did what?”

“Shelled women and children,” Nichole repeated to devastating effect. “Among the casualties are the daughter and son of the leader of the Nation, Rhun.”

She watched her friend fall back into her chair, both of them dying inside. Teresa’s right hand came to her mouth, her eyes crying.

“I didn’t know! Didn’t know…!”

“Tessmer is injured and captured. This war is over…” Nichole took three steps and slammed her hands down onto the desk of the one upon whom she had staked everything. “… and they are coming!”

Teresa flung herself back sharply.

“They know the Mayor betrayed them,” Nichole said, her voice pitched to kill. “The will find everyone who is an accomplice – ”

Teresa opened her mouth…

“- or any who they suspect to be. Or any remotely connected to him. Tell me, Princess? Have you ever been gang raped?”

“Wh… WHAT?!” Teresa shouted, kicking her chair back a bit.

Tone to ice.

“Unless you come with me. Right now. You will die.” Nichole allowed a blink. “Horribly.”

Teresa’s jaw shook as her eyes shed tears.

“My… my father…!” she tried, standing and walking around the desk. Nichole took her hand tightly.

“After a brief stop, that’s where we’re going next. Now!” Teresa jerked at the imperative. “Where is Mackenzie d’Arcy?!”

“S… second floor… accounting, I think?”

With a sharp tug they were out the door. Down to flights, with no time, Nichole was about to yell, but felt the tug on her hand. Of course: Teresa had to maintain a semblance of power.

“We need Mackenzie d’Arcy here! NOW!” Her voice echoed up and down the corridor. Less than ten seconds later, three other mice pushed Nichole’s dorm-friend out of a door and into the main corridor.

“N… Nichole!” Mac cried, giving a little wave. “What’s…?”

Nichole stomped forward, took her hand with her empty, and dragged her two friends down the last two flights of stairs and outside.

Under the Sky, Nichole thought.

No matter how fast she could run, they could not.

“Princ – err, Miss Johnson!” Nichole said to be heard. “We need emergency motorized transport! Us to the Mayor! Your personal aide back to PSU!”

Thankfully, she saw, Teresa was up to the task. Just as she’d hoped…

“You heard her!” Teresa said, rounding on the two guards at the entrance. “You, summon one car! You! The other! Now, before I have both of you shot!”

They disappeared to follow her orders. Nichole felt a tiny tug at her left.

“What’s…?” Mac tried.

“No.” Nichole’s denial was absolute. “Not now. I am sending you home to your flat. Pack light: only what you can carry, but also as if you are never coming back!”

“Not com – !”

Nichole whirled on her, their noses almost touching.

“You know! Who I am! What I am! This world is ending!” She shouted with an emerald flash, followed by both hands onto each side of the grey ghost’s face. “I can save you! Let me!”

As her artsy friend cried, Nichole retook Teresa’s hand. I must make no mistakes here. One of the armed guards returned.

“Two cars will be here in less than three minutes, Miss.”

Nichole could care less who he was addressing. Right after, and sooner than said, two cars appeared: a little Fiat and a Lincoln.

“I can just guess,” Teresa said, recovering her mental balance, “which car is for who!”

Nichole gave Mac a quick hug, promising she would be back by nightfall, before she and the mayor’s daughter dropped into the sedan, the doors closing next to them with solid *thunks!*

A few miles passed. They just began their climb into the West Hills.

“Raped to death, huh?” Teresa allowed.

“Yes. Unless Rhun can control his people and the City and dams stay intact.”

“What? Are you kid – ”

“And if their mass does not demand retribution…”

Teresa was not sure if Nichole’s cadaverous smile or her hollow laugh was worse.

“But, if they do, then, following Ruin, they ‘will make a desolation and call it peace!’”

Nearly to the CP, Teresa didn’t care who was listening.

“What are we to do?!” she hissed.

The large car slowed and stopped in the gravel.

“We must sacrifice your father and marry you to Rhun,” Nichole said, opening the door and stepping out into the morning’s cool air. “Though, being a mix, I do not think he’ll have you.”

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