Between the cheap wine, caffeine tabs, and lisinopril, I’m keeping at it every night this week.  As I was finishing this up, I was, thank God, allowed to see that a brigade of the Nation is already closing on the flimsy position the City has north of the bridge.  This will allow me to avoid any prolonged battle and instead precipitate the domino-like collapse of first Portland’s armed defense followed by its civil collapse.

In the mean time, let’s wrap things up with the Mayor.

Nichole walked out and was crossing the hall to the other room when one of the armed men stepped in front of it.

“No admittance, witch!”

Her facial control was perfect. Her smile remained unchanged.

“Would you, then, please announce me and my request for admittance?”

She saw him look over her shoulder at the other for an instant. He opened the door and went inside.

“What an odd day!” she mused just enough to be heard.

“Tell me about it…!” was the other’s muttered reply. The door reopened.

“Go on,” the more hostile of the two said.

“Thank you!” Nichole closed the door behind her, taking in a scene far too reminiscent of what happened before the Lewis & Clarke Bridge battle. Johnson had a landline phone in each hand with the left up to his head.

“I don’t care where you’ve stored the high explosives, captain, but you have sixteen hours to drop the spans – don’t you contradict me! At the very least with holes large enough that will keep men and horses from crossing while you finish the job!”

She watched as he dropped that phone and raised the one in his right.

“Mahan! Sorry about all that! No, no. Your three gunboats are ready to sortie in how long? An hour?! I’m glad someone here can do their job! Expect a promotion for this! Not at all; thank you!”

He passed both phones to aides. Unlike the L&C crisis, there were no women here, either. Does he suspect a bad end to all this?

“What do you want?” he demanded of her.

“The location and orders of Militia B.”

“Your boyfriend,” he shot back.

“Yes, and greater awareness of your tactical defenses before your heir and I speak to the horsemen just across the river.”

His hesitation was enough to spread for a moment to everyone else. In the sudden silence they returned to their tasks with a vengeance.

“Yes.” He said, looking at a far off point. “I’ll be the ‘great and powerful Oz,’ too dangerous to see. But I shall also be a kind and generous god, allowing one of my children as a sacrifice, if need be.”

Your daughter, Nichole’s face still had not changed, is not the sacrifice, here.

He turned abruptly to the map table. The blue hexagonal block with a B on top was positioned on a point reading ‘Clackamas.’

“I need the current position of B!” he called.

“A moment, sir,” someone said right back.

While they waited, she watched as a few pieces were moved. Ah. Engineering units getting underway. The Special Police units were flipped over, their designations now red rather than white. She looked her question.

“It means ‘weapons free,’” he replied seeing her gaze in his periphery.

Against who? Nichole feared the answer to that question. Instead she leaned close and rolled the dice on her inhuman whisper.

“Mayor? The man who announced me? He is an agent for the Nation.”

He tensed but did not move.

“He called me ‘witch;’ something only one of them would do.”

“Sergeant Beaumont!” he said, taking a few quick steps to a man in the corner who was not on a phone or computer. A few words and that man excused himself. He was returning to the map table, when his reply as to the militia came back.

“Militia B is on their trucks and their lead elements will be at the bridges in thirty minutes, sir!”

“Thank you. Miss Clarke? Come with me, please.”

She followed Johnson out and back into his office. Teresa had just set down a tray with sliced meats and cheeses. She and Nichole remained standing while he sat. With one hand he pulled a piece of paper to him and with the other grabbed some meat and shoved it into his mouth.

“I am,” he said, taking a pen and talking with his mouth full, “making a brief non-response to their surrender demand. It helps that Ruin’s name wasn’t at the bottom, so I can call the whole thing a hoax or misunderstanding.”

“Rhun,” Nichole corrected.

“What?” he asked glancing up. “And you two sit down and eat; you’re leaving in a few minutes.”

They sat. With a peculiar look, Teresa put a single piece of meat and cheese, each, onto a small dish and set it before her friend. She quickly tossed two pieces of roast beef into her own mouth and chased it down with water from a pitcher.

“R-H-U-N. The Great Chief of that Nation has adopted that name,” Nichole finally answered.

Johnson looked up again.

“So it’s become a title, not a name! Interesting.” His head went back down as he scribbled on.

Such flashes of brilliance! Nichole thought. Yet, why was he so stupid to think granting them foederati status, and then attacking them, was a good idea?!

“Here.” He abruptly pushed the paper to his daughter. She started reading it.

“Gimme your pen,” she said.

Nichole watched her make four marks. She handed it back to her father, who looked at what she had written.

“Fine.” Johnson slapped the desk twice with his left hand. A man appeared in the doorway.

“These two; by car; north end of the bridge. Now.”

“Sir,” he said, running out.

Teresa and Nichole stood.

“How do I get in touch with you?” his daughter asked.

“Use Hong’s radio, but assume it’s compromised. Otherwise…” he leaned back in his chair, “I’ll be here for a while.”

Nichole and Teresa had just stepped outside toward the Lincoln when there were sharp cracks of two rifles and one pistol only yards from their left. Freezing and looking, they saw sergeant Beaumont with two rankers of the Special Police lower their weapons. The body five yards in front of them was the informer for the Nation.

“What…?!” Teresa started to ask.

“Later. Let’s go.” Nichole said, now dragging her back to the car. And another human is dead by my words. Can I ever go home?

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