As I now have a pretty good idea how to wrap up this “short” story – hopefully this weekend – I do no want to let Nichole’s last line, below, turn into a huge drag of exposition. I’m thinking to paint with words; that is, just as you can cover a lot of ground in a montage in a movie or visual episode, I’ll talk about Gil and Mac talking about what happened to them after they escaped Portland.
This still leaves me about three weeks of Lenten content I’ll need to generate. Another short story? Something else? The world wonders.
“So,” Teresa said rudely around a piece of fish, “if you’re not here to cheer your allies, the Russians, on, what gives?”
‘This situation is a bit more complicated than it seems, Friend.” With Joe finally coming back out, Nichole extravagantly licked her lips and used a subsonic while he took a piece of fish, nearly dropping another plate. “How good is the map in your head, Teresa? With the Russians just across the bay at Vladivostok, they now stretch in an arc across the northern Pacific. Can Rhun and his horsemen stop them? Of course not. And Northern California is even emptier.”
“Yes, Teresa, they are our allies. But it is not good policy to let an ally entwine about you like an anaconda,” Nichole said, lowering her voice, what with her “minders” still in the front yard with the horses. “Gil’s involvement was enough for me to speak to Her Majesty and get approval for this mission.”
“You talk to the Japanese Empress?” Erin asked, amazed.
“Togame-chan and I have been friends for a very long time,” Nichole turned to smile at her former boyfriend’s eldest daughter. “She has supported me when I have been at my worst and she has my perfect love and loyalty.”
“And what is your mission?” Teresa, the politician and concubine, steered the conversation back to where it must stay. “Or, can you not tell a foreign national like me?”
Nichole leaned back a little. The sun had just broken through the ubiquitous cloud cover and a ray came onto the Haven’s land, lighting up her face and her bright green eyes. She stared into the sun without blinking.
“A long time ago,” she began, “Group Leader Brown of the Special Police asked me to travel up the Columbia River. To put fear into the horsemen of the Nation. It worked. But I was too young then to know that the real enemy of civilization was his boss, your father, not the Huns.”
The light faded and her eyes came down to Teresa’s.
“I am older now.” A blink. “And that is all I shall say of my mission. You will know more tomorrow, Teresa.”
Nichole turned quite deliberately toward Gil and Mac.
“I want to hear of your lives these past score years, please.”