I’m still trying to think my way out of the box I’ve written myself into here with “Tillamook.” To tide things over, here’s a tactical glimpse of the backstory of how Gil Haven and Mackenzie d’Arcy ended up where they they are. From the last chapter of “Foes and Rivals.”
“Come on,” Nichole announced, turning west. “We need to be out of the city and through the tunnels before complete darkness.”
Without further word, her friends followed. Out of campus and along Montgomery Street, Gil only spoke when, just at the highway that plunged under the West Hills, Nichole abruptly turned left onto a residential street winding sharply up.
“There’s something I want to see. You two can wait here if you don’t want to climb with me.”
Gil heard Mac’s little sigh and held out his hand to help her. She took it.
Just above the tunnel’s mouth, Nichole stopped and looked north and east. Besides the continuing small-arms fire, she heard the occasional crump of mortars. Many buildings along the city’s northern edge were on fire.
“I am so sorry…” Gil just caught from her.
Leaping from rock to rock and bracing herself against trees when she had to, Nichole made the descent down the hillside to the road and tunnel look easier than it was. Both Gil and Mac had several slips and scrapes before standing next to her. There was still electric power, but only one light every hundred feet or so in the tunnel was on.
“S… spooky!” Mackenzie shuddered, still next to Gil after her last near-fall.
“You will be fine, dear friend!” Nichole could tell her eyes were back to normal, as there was no moisture on her face to match the raging sorrow in her processors. “After all, you have him, now! No! Do not speak!”
She took two steps and touched their chests. With her right hand she fingered the memory crystal in Gil’s pocket.
“I love you. I might even be a soul. But, I am not human. You must find a mate of your own kind.”
She pressed a little more into Mackenzie, who could properly cry.
“Please take care of each other!”
“Ni…” Gil began.
“…chole!” Mac sputtered.
Her shadow vanished into the blackness as Nichole ran away west.