Everyone that looks at Nichole, “…a seeming poster girl for Irish Tourism!…” is often taken aback by the fact that, one, of course, she’s a three year old machine, and two, was coded and raised in Japan. Orientals and Asians are not self-loathing as Whites have been taught to be over the past 4-5 generations. Some things obvious to her are total heresy to those about her.
Dialog! At last! Lots and lots of dialog! And while everyone is talking, I set forces in motion that cannot be slowed or stopped. We’ve Teresa firmly in the picture, a glimpse of Mackenzie; I just need Nichole’s love, Gil, back in. Once I’ve everyone in hand, it’s ‘that famous final scene.’
Nichole had to almost drag her friend into the building. The front door was open with two armed men out and two more just in. The one on their left waved the muzzle of his carbine toward the office further left. For once, Nichole knew this was not a time to smile. Once into the Mayor’s receiving room, they were both surprised that the door was kept open behind them.
“I guess we should sit?” Nichole ventured.
Teresa walked around behind the desk. Was she going to sit…? She pulled a bottle with no label and some clear liquid inside out of the credenza behind the desk. The mayor’s daughter fished around with her other hand and came up with two glasses.
“Drink with me.”
Teresa poured each of them a splash of about two fingers. Raising the glass, she paused with a quizzical look. Nichole allowed her face to relax.
“Montrose.” Nichole said.
“Hell, yeah!” she said tossing the entire contents into her mouth at once. Nichole settled for a small sip, hearing someone come into the room behind her.
“Is there anything of mine, daughter, that you don’t presume to take as yours?” Lee Sanchez Johnson wore the uniform of the Special Police, but with no insignia or badge of rank. He not forcibly moved Teresa and retrieved a glass and poured some for himself. And for his daughter who waved her empty at him. He raised his.
This time, Teresa took a much smaller drink, matching her father’s.
“Now,” he began, pulling a flimsy from his back pants pocket, “the bad news – ”
“To answer your question, father?” Teresa cut in. “Everything. Everything of yours will be mine: the office, the power, and, it appears, all of your stupid mistakes!”
No one moved.
“Had Group Leader Brown himself said that to me, I’d have him shot for treason,” he whispered. “Mind your words, my daughter!”
“It is precisely because I am ‘your daughter’ that I cannot!” she hissed right back. “That, in your hand, is a demand from them that we surrender unconditionally! If we do, you, me, mom, and little brother are up against the wall!”
Using cues even a remarkable man and politician such as Johnson could not imagine, Nichole understood that her dear friend was wagering her life on an educated guess.
“I’m not an idiot, you know,” he said, taking another short drink from his glass. “I’ve seen what you’ve been doing these past few months…”
He set the glass down and looked to Nichole.
“Both of you. You, who I can have shot as foreign spy.”
Nichole fed off of Teresa’s boldness. More boldness!
A knock at the still-open door diffused the situation. A messenger, male – Nichole had not seen any women since beginning their drive – handed the mayor another scrap of paper and left.
“Since you seem to know everything else, care to tell me about this one?” he asked flippantly.
It was Nichole’s turn to gamble. He had not expected this.
She watched his flinch, keeping her face still at this barb under his skin.
“Yes,” he agreed. “A delegation from the Nation just appeared outside Fort Reilly and demanded their surrender. Interestingly, they gave them a week. Is that – ”
“Time for their main force to take and secure the City, followed by sending reinforced recon up the river to inform the garrisons and dams of the regime change,” Nichole said with ease.
He threw both papers onto his desk.
“Defeatist! You think we cannot win!”
“Militarily? Not at all.” Nichole was glad that his eyes were on her and that he did not see his daughter’s shudder. “Diplomatically? A man such as you should be able to see all the myriad ways out of this mess!”
Another pause. But, this one not made of hate and fear.
The mayor sat into his chair, setting what little was left in his glass aside. He waved for them to sit, as well.
“Tell me, Miss Clarke. Tell me everything you saw.” Johnson took a great breath and let it out. “Please.”
Nichole was concise as possible without leaving out anything she or a human might deem important. After fifteen minutes Teresa had briefly left. Bathroom? No: five minutes later a platter with pot of coffee with three mugs was brought in and placed on the edge of his large desk. The humans helped themselves.
“I won’t insult you by denying my special orders, but if Bakke knew he was about to be overrun, why did he choose to make things worse? And shell the hill?” Johnson demanded.
“I have no idea. My supposition is that, being mestizo, he was intellectually unable to grasp what was happening and had poor impulse control to make it stop.” Nichole replied, wondering why the other two at the desk looked at her as they did.
“That’s one of the most racist – ” Teresa began.
“Race realist, you mean. I am not a West European or North American to hate myself unto death,” their guest from over the seas said, confounding them.
The mayor shook his hand. “And after?”
She spoke of the meeting with Rhun and Tessmer. Her ride south. Friend Joe choosing to stay and hold the bridge for his friends. At that, the mayor nodded.
“That’s what we’ll do: hold them at the old I-Five bridges. We can mass our forces there…”
“I’ve already ordered Militia B north,” his daughter contributed.
“While they cross with a hundred little boats where you are not looking…” Nichole countered, wondering if she was right.
Into the silence, she tried again.
“Mayor Johnson? Negotiate! And, while negotiating…”
Another knock at the door. Another message. One Nichole could not read besides the look on the mayor’s face: despair.
“Our men, not knowing the full situation, have allowed a squad of riders from the Nation all the way to the north end of the bridge. Thankfully, Major Hong was informed…” Johnson said looking at Nichole, “and would not let them pass. It says they are here to demand…”
He looked about and found the last finger of spirits in the glass he’d set aside. He drank it and set it back down.
“They are here to demand our surrender.”
“’Our’?” Nichole countered, her mind ever on her friends. “Specifically?”
“They demand the City surrender.”
Nichole was not sure why this was getting to him so badly. In her pause, Teresa spoke.
“And if we do not?”
Her father tossed the piece of paper to her.
“They’ll burn it.” He looked to Nichole. “What was that about ‘while I’m negotiating?’”
“Blow the bridges.”
“You’re not kidding.”
“Not at all. Major Hong said it could be done in perhaps twenty-four hours. Can you use your comm room,” she waved to her right, “and get the engineers and their equipment in motion right now?”
“And just what negotiations – ”
“Shouldn’t you contact the engineers, first?” Teresa interrupted.
“Fine!” He glared at her. “As we may be here awhile, make arrangements for food!”
He stood just as another man came to the door.
“Sorry to interrupt, sir. Group Leader Brown is on the phone. Urgent.”
“Transfer it here,” Johnson replied, indicating the phone on his left.
It didn’t ring, but one of the lights flashed red. They watched him pick it up. Brown’s voice was just too faint for Nichole to hear.
“Jim? What’s up? They did? And it… oh.”
He stared at the top of his desk for a moment.
“I guess I can understand why… what’s that? Of course, you’ve not heard! Our gambit failed, big time. No. No, leave all units in place about the city; once word gets out there will likely be panic and riots. No, thank you, Jim.”
He carefully replaced the receiver.
“Besides the call for surrender for me, the horsemen had another message, for the Group Leader.”
Nichole resisted her urge to shout, ‘go on!’
“A small parcel. It was Bakke’s head.” He stood. “I do not think they are in a listening mood, Miss Clarke, but I will try to delay them as long as I can.”
With their door and the door to the command and control room both open, they heard his initial yell: “get every engineer unit we have moving to the I-five bridges! If I’m not talking to Captain Smith in sixty seconds you’re all shot!”
“Dear God, what have we done?” Teresa muttered. She was shocked when Miss Perfect looked over at her with a smile.
“We are starting to right this world! Now, our most precious resources are time and you.” With the mayor temporarily gone, Nichole relaxed backward into the chair to try to put her friend at ease. “Every minute will see the wrath of the Nation cool before reason: the reason that putting this city to the torch will keep them poor and primitive; at the mercy of anyone stronger nearby… the British Columbians, for instance.”
“You… you really expect me to marry…” Teresa could not quite bring herself to say it.
They heard the door to the C&C room close.
“If Rhun can think of the long-term, it’s a perfect solution for both peoples. But!” Nichole raised her right index finger. “As I said: the Nation is White and completely homogenous from what I have seen. It may be that you are taken as mistress or concubine, and allowed to rule here in his name.”
“Do… do you really think…”
“I think quite a bit,” Nichole smiled, standing. “And I’d best go do some next door while you try to find a bite to eat! I’d like for you and I to personally reply to the Nation’s representatives at the north end of the bridge in less than an hour!”