One thing about Machines is, whether android or AI, they think faster than humans do. There have been many occasions in my writing when the “normies,” including me, are trying to understand just what someone like Nichole or even a gentle soul like Ai is getting at. So here, having appeared from nowhere, Clarke immediately upends the plans of Teresa.
Teresa is a little harder than I remember her from “Foes and Rivals,” and she was pretty damn hard there. That sudden term of affection, below, was another surprise.
The next few sections will be tricky for me: while Teresa just now knows what Nichole is, I don’t want to cover all that exposition, as I AM SURE everyone has already read her two books and even some of her appearances in my short story collection, so her backstory, nature, and now serving in the Japanese Space Navy is familiar to all you, right? RIGHT?
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With Nichole already having seen Mackenzie and introduced herself to his kids, Gil took time to see his entire family buzzing about the kitchen, dining table, foyer, and outside deck like demented bees, Gil spared a kiss for Mac and told Erin to change into something frumpy when and if the king showed up. After that, he pointedly took his two female guests out back and for a walk. A walk that took them first toward a certain UFO.
“You’ve not changed. At all, Nichole,” Teresa immediately accused.
“How could I?” she asked with a smile. She stood between them. After hugs on the deck, she would not let go of Gil’s right nor Teresa’s left hand. “I am a machine.”
“The fuc…” Teresa coughed. “You’re a what?”
“I am an android, Friend. That you could not recognize that back when we plotted revolution shows your dedication to our plan.” She squeezed Gil’s hand just a little more. “Only five in Portland knew what I am. and two live here.”
“So the whole thing, the whole ‘trying to save the world,’ was just a goddam lie? Just you performing for your Jap masters?” Teresa jerked her hand down and away.
“No, my friend.” Even after twenty years, Gil recognized when Nichole was sad. “Yes, my empress told me to help all of you, as best I could, but, as you know, all I wanted was to make friends.”
“Damn you to hell!” Teresa said, taking Nichole into her arms away from Gil and holding her as if she was life itself. “I never doubted you! I trusted you then and I still…”
She leaned away and choked a little.
“And I trust and love you now.” A huge breath from the concubine and ruler of Portland. “Where do we start? Why are you here, now, after all these years?”
“The Russians,” Nichole said. Gil saw Teresa’s face harden. “There are no such things as coincidences, Friend Teresa. When Gil got picked up, data sent to St. Petersburg, traded in Tokyo, my dispatch here was inevitable. Oh!”
Nichole’s head tilted left like a dog hearing an odd sound.
“Your King, Rhun, was to come to this house.” Her head came back up and her arms to Teresa’s shoulders. “That is not a good idea with me here. Radio him that the Russian warship is on its way to Astoria. For, um, diplomatic reasons. He should ride there immediately.”
Teresa’s hand went to her belt and the radio a hundred times better than Gil’s family’s walkie-talkies.
“Truth?” the king’s concubine asked.
She jerked the transceiver up.
“This is Teresa Johnson for the king, authentication…” she read off some alphanumerics. “Great Lord? Dinner at the Haven’s is off. I have hard intel that the Russian ship, perhaps not alone, is making for Astoria, not points south. Yes, Sire. No, I think we need to stop them before they get into the Columbia River. Exactly, Sire: these are Russians; they’ll try to claim it if they do. Yes. No, I’m fine. As you know, I knew Haven back in the day. Yes, Sire, I’ll catch up with you tomorrow; maybe morning, but I’ll let you know.”
She suddenly stiffened and Gil wondered if they were all going to be killed.
“I… I love you, too, Sire.” Teresa rehooked the radio to her belt.
“That was a surprise,” Gil said drolly.
“I said concubine, so fuck you, Haven.” Teresa turned to face Nichole and waved at the flying saucer. “Putting the lies aside, just who and what are you, Ni…”
Her voice caught again, thinking of all they went through.
“Nichole. My friend.”