Yes, you just missed another bunny with a pancake on its head.
There’s a lot going on here but this is a writing exercise, not a proper short story in an anthology. Someday, it likely shall be. I try to resolve the Russian-Nation political dilemma with Nichole, as Togame’s friend, placing herself and her ship – literally – in the middle. Rhun is dealt with off-screen then we have a lovely little domestic scene.
Fifty bucks says Nichole sleeps with Gil’s son in the next six months. Japanese morals are different. Machine morals? Good luck with that.
What had once been the Astoria-Megler Bridge, stretching from Oregon’s Astoria north to what had been the State of Washington, was something of a ruin now. Nearly three miles long, only the portion closest to the town of Astoria was tall enough to permit commercial ship traffic. The rest was no more than a long mole with a road on top which had nearly a generation’s of accumulated silt from downriver against it; broken through at several points. But the City of Portland and later the Kingdom of Columbia, knowing their prosperity depended on trade, found ways to keep the narrow ship channel open.
The ship there now, just west of the tall section of the bridge, was keeping station. As dawn broke down the river valley, there was an odd, gray craft, almost a saucer, about fifty meters across, just under the bridge. Motionless and silent.
The ship a mile away, having paused its journey up the great river, was the IRN Golitsyn. Communications from that ship to shore had yielded no clarification as to just what the hell was in their way and who it belonged to. It was only when Lieutenant Grammatikov came onto the radio that Gil told Nichole, “that’s who I talked to. Their XO.”
“This is Nichole 5 Clarke, commanding the Imperial Japanese Spaceship Rahab, requesting clarification as to Golitsyn’s destination and intentions,” she sent in the clear to all listening.
“That will have them shit themselves,” Teresa laughed.
She, Gil, and Nichole were in a tiny cabin designated the ship’s mess. Climbing guy lines into her ship in the darkness before dawn, Gil and Teresa had slid across the interior deck for only a few minutes before Nichole announced through the speakers they were at their destination. Teresa was then allowed to communicate with Rhun, in Astoria, and let him know what the Japanese Empire was planning to tell their allies.
“What do you mean, they can have Seattle!” Gil had heard the king shout through the speakers as he spoke with his concubine. “That city cost me my goddam leg! Tell the Russians to send a brigade if they want it!”
“Don’t tempt them, Sire,” was Teresa’s cool response. “And once something like that is here, it will come south.”
Those two continued for another twenty minutes as Gil discovered there was nothing besides potable water on his former lover’s ship. He wished he’d eaten more of Mackenzie’s breakfast.
With no guns at the old Fort Stevens and only four cutters, Rhun finally relented to Teresa to wait on the shore and watch and listen to what this envoy from Imperial Japan had to say.
At no point had anyone told him it was Nichole.
“It’s a can of worms that would take an hour to untangle,” Teresa said, looking at the monitors showing the guided missile destroyer slowing. “If Miss Perfect wasn’t lying, the king will know in a few minutes, anyway.”
“With what repercussions to you, Trees?” Gil asked.
“Hopefully nothing worse than a spanking.” She gave him her awful grin. “We do both like those, you know. Shit, after all the noise last night, I’m still trying to imagine what you and mousy girl didn’t do!”
“It is showtime, as they say,” Nichole announced. “Please follow me. We will be on the upper hull and I’ve corrected the tilt for you humans but it will be a bit of a drop into cold water if you lose your footing.”
Gil thought it out of character for his once-girl to say “humans.” He suspected she was nervous about her mission.
In the time it took them to leave the mess and climb a short ladder to the partly cloudy sky above, Rahab was now only fifty feet to the prow of the Russian warship. It was a little breezy but the two humans did not feel threatened by their ride as it slowly drifted just a little closer.
“Do both of you have your earbuds in?” Nichole asked with a glance over her shoulder. They nodded. She took four quick steps…
Thirty-five feet out and twenty-five down to the deck of Golitsyn. An armed party of four quickly came out of the ship’s superstructure to point their rifles at her.
“I am Nichole 5 Clarke, leftenant of the Imperial Japanese AeroSpace Force and personal minister plenipotentiary of Her Majesty, Empress Togame,” Gil and Teresa heard in their right ears, and on the shore, presumably King Rhun, as well. They heard English though she was undoubtedly talking Russian. “I would care to discuss our alliance. Is Captain Volkov or Executive Officer Grammatikov available?”
It was less than a minute before Gil recognized his former host emerge from a hatch and walk carefully to stand and salute Nichole.
“Minister Plenipotentiary.” His voice was odd, metallic, in Gil’s right ear. She must be translating his Russian to English and faking his accent as best she can. “We are on a goodwill mission to visit our neighbors of the northern Pacific rim. What is that brings an agent of your Empress to this windswept river mouth?”
“Politics, of course.” While programmed by the Japanese, Nichole never did have much of a ‘diplomacy plug-in.’ “You have entered the Salish Sea and given terms to those of Victoria and Vancouver. The Chrysanthemum Throne confesses little interest in the Puget Sound. However…”
Her voice grew harsh in his ear.
“I, who you have acknowledged, have an interest in the Columbia River and the City of Portland. Russian and allied tradesmen are allowed. Your warships are not.”
“That flies in the face of the accords of the Polar Alliance,” Grammatikov said.
“You are mistaken,” Nichole began, but softened it, “but I do not assume an excellent mid-level officer such as yourself to be privy to the full extent of that treaty. If you care to return your ship outside the twelve-mile limit to seek clarification, I shall be pleased to wait here.”
“And those two? Starting to shiver in the wind on the deck of your… vessel?” Grammatikov asked.
“Neutral observers from the City of Portland and the State of Oregon.” Gil was astonished at the latter lie. Oregon exists at the Nation’s whim! “We shall drink tea to warm up, depending on how long you take.”
Another man came from the same hatch Grammatikov did and handed him a slip of paper. Even Gil could see his grimace.
“Minister Plenipotentiary,” he began again. “We shall be withdrawing immediately and returning to Puget Sound. The Russian Empire and Navy thank you for your dedicated service to the Empress of Japan.”
“What the fuck just happened?” Teresa asked to the cold wind about them.
“So when,” Nichole laughed loud, sitting on the Haven’s old couch with her sock-clad feet up on the worn coffee table. She leaned back with Gil under her right arm and Mackenzie under her left. Joe sat on the floor, looking up at them; well, her. What with Nichole’s jumpsuit unzipped almost to her navel, “I told all this to King Rhun, minutes later, he nearly had a seizure, what with me giving away about a quarter of his realm to the Russians!”
“And he recognized you?” Gil asked, leaning forward out of her arm to pick up a glass of the local beer.
“Of course! He was clever enough to keep his shock and questions for later, but still wanted to know how a single Japanese officer could do what I did.” Nichole made a sigh and leaned left to gently kiss Mac’s hair. “We must stop their expansion but no one can sustain a war right now. What is the term? ‘Half a loaf, and all that?’”
Gil leaned back, suppressing his smile that his eldest son’s eyes never left their guest’s exposed cleavage.
“I’ve delayed them at least a year, and in that time we shall send ships and military advisors,” Nichole went on. “There will be no formal treaty with the Nation; nor the City or State. We shall hold the Bear’s nose while we distract their attention elsewhere.”
“Where is that, Officer Clarke?” Joe asked.
She tilted her head back, seemingly looking through the ceiling, upper floor, and roof of their home.
Her head came back down, her eyes lingering for only a moment on the old copy of her soul above their mantle.
“Another early night! Joe Haven! You are with me at oh-four-hundred tomorrow!” Now she leaned to kiss Gil’s head. “This is going to be fun!”