Written by: Susanne Beck and Okasha
Disclaimers: In chapter one.
CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR
The motorcycle comes to a purring halt just outside of a well maintained house set well back in the woods. The windows facing the gravel driveway are opened to their fullest and the warm breeze causes the homely checked curtains to rustle pleasantly. Jeans-clad legs come down to rest easily on either side of the bike, balancing it comfortably as the engine is turned off.
A male voice, elderly but still strong, floats out from the house. “I suppose I should warn you that at this very moment there are seven weapons of various gauges pointed directly at you, and wired to all go off at once. If you’re an android, that might not kill you, but I believe it would make your job just a bit harder. And if you’re a human….”
Long, strong hands reach up and remove the black helmet, causing equally black hair to come cascading down in shining waves. “Nice welcome you’ve got there, Judge,” the sultry voice intones. “You have it in needlepoint hanging over your mantelpiece too?”
A moment of shocked silence. Then, “Is it time to get my prescription changed, or is that really Dakota Rivers darkening my doorstep?”
Koda laughs as she hooks her helmet over the motorcycle’s handlebar. “I dunno. Which answer won’t get me ventilated?”
“Ahh,” comes the dry reply. “Your wit, like a poor vintage, goes to vinegar with age, Ms. Rivers.”
“So do your manners, you old curmudgeon,” Dakota mutters, not-quite under her breath.
“I heard that!”
“You were meant to.”
A moment later, “Well? Don’t just stand there propping up that two-wheeled death machine! I haven’t seen a human face in a goodly number of weeks. Yours will, I suppose, be suitable enough.”
“That’s what I like about you, Judge,” Dakota replies, swinging her leg over the cycle and leaning it down on its kickstand. “You’re all charm.”
“Thank you,” comes the prim reply. “I do try.”
Striding down the neatly tended walk, Dakota grasps the doorknob and twists. The door opens easily, and she steps inside, eyeing the impressive armory of shotguns and rifles, all pointing toward the windows. “You weren’t kidding,” she remarks, whistling softly.
“Have you ever known me to kid?”
Without bothering to reply, Koda moves her gaze from the weapons in a casual sweep around the house. It’s the same as she remembered it; the domain of a single, proud man, a lifelong bachelor with only two passions in life: the law—evidenced by the rows and rows of leather-bound tomes that take up residence on the huge floor-to-ceiling bookshelves covering three of the four walls, and birds—or, more accurately, the watching, cataloguing, and photographing of them. Evidence of this passion can be seen on the remaining wall. Beautiful framed photos fill the huge space over the stone fireplace’s mantle.
Drawn to them, as always, her eyes scan the photos, appreciating their beauty, when she notices one sitting on the corner of the mantelpiece itself, and she finds herself smiling. It is a picture she knows well, especially since she is one of the main subjects of it.
It shows a winter field, blanketed in heavy snow. One lone tree stands in the background, adding perspective. In the foreground, Dakota, clad in leather, holds a gauntleted fist out as a swooping Wiyo, massive wings spread out to their widest point, comes to land.
“I remember that day,” the Judge reflects, drawing a finger across a weathered cheek. Fenton Harcourt is a tall man, still strapping despite his advanced age, with a shock of snow-white hair and a face filled with stern lines that only the occasional twinkle in his deep brown eyes seems to belie. “It was colder than a witches’ mammary and twice as harsh.”
Chuckling, Koda draws her finger lightly across the picture, not quite touching the glass that protects the paper from the elements. It was the first time Wiyo had come at her call and landed on her wrist. She can almost feel the deadly strength of those talons on her arm now; a grip so strong, and yet somehow so tender, that she knew at the time that even if she hadn’t been wearing the gauntlet, her skin would not have been pierced.
Dakota turns from the photo finally, meeting the older man’s deep-set eyes. They share a moment of perfect understanding. Judge Harcourt loves Wiyo almost as fiercely as she does. Just as he had loved, and cared for, Wiyo’s brother, who was brought down by a drunken idiot with a penchant for shooting birds. That man would have been dead by Harcourt’s own hand, judge or no judge, if he hadn’t jumped into his pickup truck and promptly driven it into a tree, turning himself into hamburger flambé.
The Judge had mourned the loss of the bird, mourned as he never would for a fellow human. It was as if he had lost a part of himself in the death of the wild one he had helped to raise from a hatchling. And that loss changed him, profoundly and permanently.
“So,” he says finally, breaking the silence between them, “I assume there’s a purpose for this visit beyond assuring yourself of my current state of liveliness?”
Koda snorts. “You’re too evil to die, old man.”
Harcourt tries to look offended, but the glitter in his eyes once again belies the stern, craggy lines of his face. “Alas, you’ve discovered my secret. Whatever will the Society of Crazed and Evil Immortals (you’ll notice the particular emphasis on certain words there) think? We’re the only group to have survived this latest human debacle intact, you know,” he adds in a mockingly conspiratorial stage whisper.
Koda rolls her eyes, then turns serious. “I need your help.”
The Judge’s bushy eyebrows raise, like two white caterpillars perched atop his glasses. “My help? Whatever for? In case you haven’t noticed, Ms. Rivers, I’m rapidly approaching 80. I’m afraid my days of heroic derring-do are long over.”
“I’m not asking for heroism, I’m asking for help,” Koda bites off as she breaks his gaze and looks out into the springtime day. “Look. I’ve moved down to the base to try and help take care of this mess. Women are being kept in prisons all over this country, raped repeatedly, and forced to bear children for reasons we haven’t figured out yet. We’ve managed to survive another android skirmish, and the survivors are coming through the gates in a never-ending stream.” She sighs, slipping her hands into her pockets. “At first, we just had the usual ‘settling in’ problems, but lately things have been getting worse, in a big way.”
“Yea, verily, I say unto you,” Harcourt’s dry voice intrudes, “wherever two or more are gathered, they’ll spend their time bashing the stuffing out of one another.”
Koda’s smile is faint, and disappears quickly. “That’s becoming the size of it, yeah.”
“I’m failing to see the problem here,” Harcourt remarks. “Surely there are enough military types still alive on that base to adjudicate their own affairs with reasonable swiftness and accuracy.” He holds up one arthritis humped finger. “You’ll notice my use of the word ‘reasonable’, here. I, myself, wouldn’t trust a military court to judge whether my shoes were tied or not. However, it is their domain, is it not?”
Cutting her gaze from the window, she eyes him evenly. His eyebrows go up again. “I’m missing something, I presume.”
“Did you ever hear a state of war or emergency declared?” she asks simply.
He ponders for a moment. “I don’t believe so, no.”
She continues to stare at him until his eyes finally widen in comprehension. “No. No, my dear, and no again. I will not be a party to a pitiful and doomed attempt to prolong the last gasp of a species who should have become extinct before they were allowed to breed. Humankind has finally heard the Judgement Trumpet blown, and I say it’s about damn time.”
“No, Dakota. No. The body of Man is getting exactly what it deserves. And I, for one, fully intend to enjoy what is left of my life here on this planet in a state of peaceful relaxation, free from the petty concerns of a dying society. I have my books. I have my birds—I spotted a Cassin’s Sparrow just yesterday, by the way. Only the second sighting in this area, I’ll have you know. Too bad there’s no longer anyone around who gives a whit. No, I’m quite afraid you’ll have to find someone else to aid you with the postmortem. I’ve retired from the species.”
Dakota’s gaze goes far away, and Harcourt feels a sense of disquiet niggling its way into his hardened heart.
“Wa Uspewicakiyapi is dead. He was caught in an illegal trap, and attacked by predators. I noticed his mate first. She was looking for help and a couple of drunk assholes were taking potshots at her for shits and giggles. I was able to rescue her. She was starving, bleeding, and had obviously dropped an early litter. When I found the pups, all were dead save one. Wiyo led me to Wa Uspewicakiyapi. There was…nothing I could do for him. His life was….” Pulling her hands out of her pockets, she stares at them as if they are foreign objects. “I killed him.”
Harcourt’s eyes close in sympathy, his face set and grim.
Koda’s jaw clenches, the muscles in her face pronounced. “And now he’s locked up in a freezer on the base…for evidence.” The word comes out like evacuated poison.
“Evidence? For what?”
“Manny and a friend killed the trapper. He’d snared several other animals in his illegal traps. They were rescuing them when he found them and drew a bead on them. They acted in self-defense, and Tacoma believes that Wa Uspewicakiyapi’s body is needed to prove their innocence.”
Such is her state of agitation that she doesn’t see or hear the Judge move, and stiffens slightly as a large, warm hand is placed on her shoulder in a gesture of support. “I need your help, Fenton. Humanity might be dying out, but it’s taking a lot of others as it goes. Innocents who don’t deserve what’s being done to them. I need someone I can respect and trust, and that someone is you.” She turns fully to him, feeling his hand slide away. “Please. Help me.”
Harcourt’s eyes are sad. “Dakota….”
“You won’t have to move there, Fenton. We’ll set something up so it’ll be like the old west. Have all the cases lumped together once or twice a month. I’ll even have a driver come down and pick you up and drop you off back home.” She’s perfectly aware that she’s begging, but knows as well that this is much more important than her pride.
The sudden silence is long and sharp as a shadow-blade dividing the space between them. Dakota relaxes, knowing she’s done the best she can and can only accept his decision, whatever it might be.
His hands clench in tightly made fists, but a reluctant nod is pulled from him, like a confession pulled from a lawbreaker when he realizes the consequences of remaining silent.
“I have conditions,” he remarks in a soft voice.
“I’ll reserve that right until I set my eyes upon this new Xanadu, if you don’t mind.”
He nods again. “Store that death trap of yours behind the house. We’ll leave in my truck.”
“Thank you, Fenton,” she says with real emotion.
“Save those for my final decision. Now let’s go.”
“It reminds me of the Warsaw ghetto.”
Maggie, sitting beside her in the back of the APC, raises a quizzical eyebrow, and Kirsten falls silent. The convoy of armored vehicles moves slowly through the streets of Rapid City, strung out the length of a city block to allow maneuvering room in the event of attack. Their shadows, spiked with the bristling shapes of automatic weapons, glide along the asphalt beside the trucks, sharp-edged as spilled paint in the noon sun. After a moment Kirsten adds, “I don’t mean the buildings are similar. I mean. . .” she pauses again, searching for the precise word. “They feel. . .robbed.”
Maggie, her hand resting on the M-16 in her lap, does not reply immediately. Then she says, “It’s not just the emptiness. It’s the devastation.”
The weeks she has spent on the Base have spoiled her, Kirsten reflects. Even in the first days of the uprising, with bodies frozen or rotting where they lay at the whim of the weather, she has seen nothing
like the urban landscape that scrolls across the small rectangle of the vehicle’s armored glass. Houses still stand, for the most part, though here and there blackened beams thrust up out of yet-unmelted snow covering the burnt-
out rubble. Some, their windows boarded up, might have been purposefully abandoned when the inhabitants fled. Like others suddenly emptied, though, their doors stand open on broken hinges, odd bits of furniture and clothing
scattered across dead lawns sodden with snowmelt. Brightly painted ceramic shards litter the sidewalk where the convoy pauses to turn, the wire frame of a lampshade jammed into the hollow of a tree root; the remains of sofa
cushions tumble across a porch where a washing machine lies toppled beside them. Shards of glass cling to the frame of broken-out windows. Here and there a line of holes in splintered siding or gouged brick testifies to
automatic weapons fire. There is no way to tell how much of the damage has been done by androids, how much by the looters and two-footed predators who have followed in their wake.
As they move toward the center of the city, signs of life begin to appear. In the abandoned parking lot of an apartment complex, a pair of ten-year-old boys and a cocker spaniel are chasing a Frisbee under the watchful eye of a grey-haired woman with pistol strapped to her hip. Above them, laundry festoons a cobweb of ropes strung between balconies, children’s sweaters in bright pink and yellow, work shirts, a woman’s nightgown in faded black satin and lace. Across the side of one of the buildings, red paint proclaims, JESUS IS COMING BACK!! under a crudely drawn image of a bearded man in a robe. The figure brandishes a sword with one hand, an open book in the other.
“You know, the fanatics scare me as badly as the androids,” Maggie says softly. “The damned metalheads might push us back to the Middle Ages, but it’ll be the schizos who hear God talking to them from the toaster that’ll keep us there.”
“They’re beginning to dig in. We may have to fight them, too.”
“Ironic, isn’t it? First we put down the slave rebellion; next we’re going to have to feed the fanatics and the self-appointed prophets to the lions.”
“Poor lions.” Kirsten’s mouth quirks up in an involuntary smile. “You know Dakota would never let us do that to innocent animals.”
“Or Tacoma. He’s the one with the affinity for cats.” Maggie leans forward and taps the driver on the shoulder. “We’re getting to people. Start the tape.”
Kirsten knows what to expect, but the sound of her own amplified voice is still a shock. The truck’s external speakers sputter and crackle for a moment, then boom out, “Attention! Attention please! This is Kirsten King, speaking for the United States Government. A census will be taken today and tomorrow at the City Auditorium. All citizens are asked to cooperate in determining the needs of the civilian population and in the re-establishment of civil institutions. Thank you for your assistance.” The recording plays over and over again.
As they approach the intersection of suburbia and the business district, signs of habitation become more common. Here and there they pass a pedestrian or a bicyclist. A man on a mule, a double pannier of winter apples suspended across its withers, becomes an unofficial roadblock when his mount halts suddenly in the middle of an intersection, apparently frightened by the strange, square metal things bearing down on it. The lead driver manages to swerve in time, and for an instant Kirsten finds herself face to face with a wall-eyed, bucking beast, its braying clearly audible even through the bulletproof glass and steel walls of the APC. Then her convoy sweeps past, leaving the rider tugging frantically at the creature’s reins.
“There’s a prophecy for you,” Maggie observes wryly. “The Jeep of the future.”
Their route carries them past the block-long remains of a Wal-Mart. The store itself stands back from the street, its massive bulk dark through the steel frames of shattered doors. Its parking lot, though, has been transformed into an open marketplace, with a hundred or so booths of timber studs and plywood crowded onto the asphalt. Many of them stand empty, and Kirsten takes that as a hopeful sign that the proprietors have reported as requested to the City Auditorium to be counted and identified. Others are still open for business. A pen on one side holds animal with long, shaggy coats, whether sheep or wool goats she cannot be sure. Another offers stacks of canned goods, looted from the Wal-Mart itself or other grocery chains; still a third displays a double rank of bicycles, a heavy chain run through their rear wheels into a staple pounded into the pavement at each end of the line. Under a sign that proclaims the occupant a “Taylor,” a woman sits at an old-fashioned treadle sewing machine, steadily feeding a garment of plaid flannel under the needle while a man, evidently her customer, stands by in his pants and undershirt. He holds a chicken firmly tucked under one arm. No prices are posted anywhere.
Kirsten has seen marketplaces like this in North Africa and in parts of Latin America.
Most were at least in part tourist traps, designed to bring in American dollars and German d-marks, attracting local business only incidentally and in small volume. And here, in a deserted parking lot, is the wealthiest, most vigorous economy in the history of the world, reduced to trading eggs for a stolen blanket or the mending of a torn sleeve.
A cold lump of fear congeals in her stomach. With it comes the realization that until now she has acknowledged only two possibilities: either they would all die, which has seemed by far the more likely outcome; or they would survive, pass through a rough patch of perhaps a year or so, until society could be restored to something like normality. Of course, some things would be different, with the numbers of men drastically reduced for a generation or two. Power balances would shift. But she has never truly doubted that enough technology, and the technicians to run it, could survive to make the world a reasonably comfortable place once again.
And the cold grows more frigid still, a burning inside her. She—she, Kirsten King-- is the duly constituted governor of these people, responsible for their safety and welfare in a world where safety is nonexistent and welfare is sufficient firewood to cook a bartered chicken or keep a family from freezing to death overnight. She may not have atomic warheads under her hand, but the burden of others’ lives is no less for that.
My God, how did Clinton do it? Or Kennedy? How did any of them do it who had any sense of obligation to their people?
In the last few blocks before the Auditorium, they encounter actual traffic, and the convoy slows to a crawl. There are pickups from the country side; more bicycles; horses; a wagon or two. Salvaged from the recesses of a barn or an historic home, a nineteenth-century buggy with a folded-down leather top passes them at a smart clip, followed by a teenager on a skateboard. Most folk, though, travel on foot, some carrying small children, almost all carrying a long gun or pistol strapped to a hip or under an arm. All must run a gauntlet of heavily armed and armored MP’s stationed at a temporary gate of pipe and hurricane fencing. They wave through the personal weapons, for the most part, though no one passes without baring his throat or submitting to a metal scan.
The line of APC’s passes through one vehicle at a time, troops and drivers checked as thoroughly as the civilians. Kirsten had argued at length with the Light Colonel commanding the MP’s over that, and finally had had to order him to treat her convoy exactly as he would civilian transport. If she was to lead these people—and the thought of it had kept her awake most of the night—she had to lead by example. She had to be the first and most visible to honor the law. Maggie, sitting beside her, had sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, and had laid her life at hazard to do it. It had never occurred to Kirsten when she took the same oath as the most junior member of Hilary Clinton’s Cabinet, that she would ever be asked to do the same.
An ironic smile touches her mouth. Last and least, and the only one left alive that can do what must be done.
At the doors, her escort form a cordon around her, rifles at the ready, eyes scanning the crowd that turns to stare. Maggie, walking just behind, keeps her own weapon at her side, not openly threatening, but prepared nonetheless. Odd, how that might make her uncomfortable if it were anyone but Maggie. She has never before in her life poached anyone’s lover—has hardly thought of having one of her own, much less taking someone else’s—but she trusts Maggie literally with her life, and not just for Dakota’s sake.
The crowd murmurs as they pass through, and she catches fleeting snatches of their comments:
“. . .Look, son, that’s the commander from the Cheyenne. . .”
“. . .our President now. . .”
“. . . cyborg egghead . . .”
“. . . I thought she’d be taller. . .”
From the door comes a snatch of song, and Kirsten puts up a hand to halt her entourage. A man sits beside the entrance on a folding stool, a guitar propped across his knees and a fold of denim where the rest of his left leg should be. His long, graying hair is tied at the nape with a thong of leather; sunglasses hide his eyes. The melody is an old one, a ballad from the feud-ridden Anglo-Scottish border in the days of the first Elizabeth, but the words are new:
All along the bridge she ran
Swifter than any deer;
A grenade launcher in her hand,
And in her heart no fear.
All along the bridge she ran,
Swifter than any doe;
Behind her her two fastest friends,
Great-hearted, ran also.
There are several more stanzas, detailing the destruction of the android army on the far bank of the Cheyenne, praising Dakota’s valor, Maggie’s, Tacoma’s, her own. The cold around her heart is back, glacial cold, and with it panic. Only the prospect of disgrace in Maggie’s eyes and Dakota’s keeps her rooted to the concrete floor of the auditorium, a smile on her face that seems to her as rigid as a corpse’s.
God help me, these people think I’m a hero. A real one, like Dakota and Maggie. What will I do? How can I ever measure up to that?
After what seems like an eternity, the song comes to an end.
God prosper now our President,
Our lives and safeties all.
And her companions in the fight
Let honor bright befall.
Kirsten claps with the rest of the crowd, her face burning. “Harry,” someone cries, “do you know who you’re singin’ to?”
“I’m singin’ to you, you bastard!” the musician rejoins; “Only you’re too cheap to stand me to a beer, Todd Rico!”
“This should stand you to a beer or two.” The soft voice is Maggie’s, behind her, and Kirsten watches as she removes the bobcat earcuff and drops it into the hat on the floor beside Harry. Kirsten’s heart clinches; she has no jewelry, and money is useless. The only thing she has of value is the gun she is wearing underneath her jacket. Slowly she unstraps it and lays it, too, at the singer’s feet. “Thank you for a fine song, Harry,” she says. “Perhaps you can sing it again when Dakota Rivers can hear it, too.”
The singer’s head comes sharply round. “Wait. I know your voice.”
She makes a small, deprecatory gesture, halted abruptly. What was not evident before is now; the man cannot see. “Probably not,” she says quietly.
“You’re King,” he says, equally quietly. “I’ve heard you on the TV.”
She nods, then, feeling foolish, “You have a good ear. That must have been months ago.”
“Nah, I remember voices. I lost my sight back in ’03, in Baghdad, along with my leg. Implants wouldn’t take.”
She wants to stop and talk to him, to ask whether he has always been a singer and how he survived the uprising, but the Captain at her elbow is urging her forward, into the huge emptiness of the auditorium. “Ma’am. The people are lining up.”
Instead she thanks Harry again, shaking his hand, and moves on. Behind her she hears the sound of small items dropping into his hat; he has earned his beer and more this afternoon. She says, “That was generous of you, Maggie. I know that cuff means a lot to you.”
Maggie just shrugs. “I have another; I never wear the pair. That gun, though, should feed him for a month or more—way more, if he throws in the story of how he got it. You’re becoming a legend.”
“You, too,” Kirsten retorts. “And I don’t think you like it any better than I do. Dakota will be—“ She pauses, searching for a word. “Embarrassed,” she finishes lamely.
“Try ‘really pissed’,” says Maggie.
Inside, the room has been cordoned into aisles with rope and stanchions. Huge signs with letters march across the walls: A-B, C-E, all the way to XYZ at the opposite side. Uniformed soldiers, all officers from the bean-counting division, sit behind long tables with stacks of legal pads and note cards. Slowly the people sifting in find their initials and form into lines, all talking at once, many pointing at Kirsten where she stands with Maggie and Boudreaux, back in his normal incarnation, at the front of the room. There must be, she estimates, a couple thousand actually on the floor, with more outside.
“Are you going to talk to them?” Boudreaux asks.
“No, I hadn’t planned—“
“You really should, you know.” Maggie says. “Call it winning hearts and minds. We’ll get a lot better cooperation if the folks think they’re doing their President a personal favor.”
She shoots Maggie a withering glare, but accepts the bullhorn from Boudreaux. “All right. Clear me a spot on the table. They all thought I’d be taller.”
Slowly the crowd quiets. From her perch on the center table, Kirsten can make out faces watchful, eager, annoyed. One young mother bounces her crying baby; a man with a bored expression slaps his hat impatiently against his thigh. Hearts and minds.
“Good afternoon,” she says, her voice echoing from the high walls, distorted and tinny in her own ears. “As most of you know, I’m Kirsten King, and as far as we know, I’m the only survivor from the President’s Cabinet in Washington.
“I need your help. We’ve fought off a major attack by the androids and their allies, but we haven’t defeated them yet. There’s lots more out there where those came from, and there’s humans cooperating with them. We still don’t know what they want or who is responsible for the uprising. Those are things we’re going to have to deal with.
“The people of Rapid City and the troops of Ellsworth Air Base shed their blood at the Cheyenne to keep us alive and free. Our duty now is to keep our laws and our Constitution alive and free, too, to make sure we don’t fall into anarchy or the rule of force. That means we need to do such things as have elections for Mayor and Council of Rapid City. It means we need lawyers and judges. We need free commerce, with fair prices, and we need peace officers to make sure that it doesn’t become profiteering. If you have special skills, if you’d like to serve in office, please let the census-takers know.”
Kirsten pauses, and the quiet lies thick about her. Not a word, not a shuffling foot breaks
the silence. The faces turned to her are serious, some clearly worried, all resolute. Hearts and minds.
“You are the free people of the United States. You live in a country founded on law and the idea that every person is valuable. The need for law has never been greater; each person has never been more valuable. I ask today for your help in restoring our nation. We can never go back to what we had; too much has been lost. Too many have been lost.
But we can begin today to reaffirm our Constitution and our laws. And with them, we can be a nation again that can stand against any enemy.
“I ask for your help in that work. Long live freedom! And long live the free people of the United States!”
She lowers the bullhorn, looking out over the sea of faces, dazed. My God, where did that come from? She barely has time for the thought before the wave of sound breaks over her, shouts of “Free-dom! Free-dom! FREE-DOM!” mixed with “Kir-sten!” and “Ells-worth!” tumbling over her in a roar. Then, from amid the shouting, she hears the clear chords of blind Harry’s twelve-string, strumming out a rhythm. Gradually the crowd quiets, and he begins to sing.
As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me the endless skyway.
I saw below me a golden valley.
This land was made for you and me.
As he goes into the chorus, the crowd joins him, clapping and stomping.
This land is your land, this land is my land,
From California to the New York Island,
From the redwood forest, to the Gulf Stream water,
This land was made for you and me.
The verses go on and on, to end with:
Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my Freedom Highway.
Nobody living can make me turn back,
This land was made for you and me.
The last chorus ends with a crescendo of whoops and rebel yells, the pounding of hands and feet shaking the floor like an earthquake. As the music fades Kirsten stands for a moment silent, then turns to step down. Her knees shake so hard she nearly falls as she escapes the crowd of admiring officers, all talking at once. It is too much. The noise of the cheering crowd batters at her, at her ears, at her mind.
Brushing past the officers and her startled guard, she makes for the emergency exit and the privacy of the open air.
And there you have it. The end of yet another chapter in the lives of Kirsten, Koda and friends. There is a bit of a Star Trek (the original) homage in this. It’ll be interesting if anyone “gets” it, or if we’re the only two remaining (original) Star Trek fans left standing. <G> Hint: The homage has nothing to do with any particular scene, and it appears, for the first time, quite early in the episode. Got it yet? <G> Yes, we know, K and K weren’t together in this ep. Next one, though, and the one after that, and so on and so on and so on. We’re loving all the wonderful feedback you guy have been so generous in giving us. If you’d like to drop a line, as always, please feel free. email@example.com. Until next week, bye!
Continued - Chapter 25
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