I won’t say “I lied,” because I didn’t. I thought the plot was showing up in this installment. It’s not. In fact, what is happening is redounding to your benefit: at nearly 5800 words, with no end in sight, this is becoming a potential novella, perhaps serving as the core story of a collection, as I did in “Empire’s Agent.”
The reason I decided on this writing project, as I mentioned back in part 1, was to find out what happened to Gil Haven and Mackenzie d’Arcy when Portland fell. Nichole 5 and Mac loved each other as friends (philia) while Nichole 5 and Gil loved each other, often, romantically (eros). This was complicated that Mac was slowly falling for Gil, which Nichole saw, and the android’s fear that she was keeping Gil, someone she loved (agape) from having a family and a future with his own kind. So here at last we get some of that backstory, as well as a little more of their children. That was the entire point of this.
Having said all that to say this: do not worry, I’m still turning it up to eleven, but as long-time readers know, I’m something of a fanatic when it comes to family. We’ll get there. Enjoy dinner until we do.
Mackenzie was just taking the large stewpot from the gas stove and setting it onto a trivet on the dining table as Gil walked out onto the back deck and rang the old ship’s bell there.
“Dinner!” he shouted to his land, seeing none of his kids. He waited a moment.
His eldest, Joe, appeared from around the back of the machine shed Gil had thought he’d heard some metal-on-metal tooling as he put his motorbike away. Smiling, he saw his two little girls, Kara at eleven and Alix at eight, come out of the art shed. They were as dirty with paint as Joe was with grease but all knew to clean up before dinner. There was no sign of Mike or his oldest daughter, Erin. Gil returned inside. There, he saw Erin coming downstairs, her Bible in her hand. She was the only one in the house with Christian faith.
But I doubt my disbelief, Gil thought, having seen an actual miracle: trooper Brunelli finding Nichole’s body in a million square feet of rubble, then her coming back to life after he kissed her dry, lifeless lips.
As the kids made their way in, still no Mike, he let his eyes drift to the mantel over the fireplace. There, resting on a strip of velvet and under a small glass cover was an orange crystal, maybe two inches long and half an inch wide. A gift from her.
Nichole gave me this right before we left the city. She said it was a backup of all of her memories to that point, for me to have in case her body was destroyed. I’d never been handed a copy of someone’s soul, before.
They were all just sitting when he heard and saw Michael on the back deck, just wearing jeans and covered in mud and plant matter.
“I swear that boy thinks he’s a lizard!” Kara exclaimed. It was just dusk so Erin lit a few candles around the table. They all laughed and passed around the food but waited on their reptile before eating.
Most of their table talk was them listening to their father about his short visit on the warship. The boys wanted to know about the weapons, Gil knew nothing, and Erin, astutely, commented on the cutter, Zephyr.
“That’s what, sixty nautical miles, Dad?” she noted. “They must have been in the area. But if they were, why didn’t they spot the Russians earlier?”
Gil had no answer to that but was instead concerned that the geese in the front yard began to honk a moment before the dogs out back added their barks.
“You kids invited anyone over? Overnight student, Mac?” he asked to the table. All shook their head. Now he heard the hooves of at least three horses on their drive.
“Boys? Rifles, front and back. Mac and Erin? Pistols and retire to the cellar with the little ones,” he ordered, standing and clipping his holstered revolver to his belt. “This has been an odd day and it’s not over.”
Everyone moved. Any family which survived the Breakup worked together. Family in motion, Gil looked out his front door.