For those who’ve not been following along, this is a continuation of yesterday’s post and the latest story of Faustina’s recollections about building her private army. Many things going on… when this becomes a novel it will likely take two chapters to unpack.
You’re the one that did it, Bro: flying off and leaving Carell and his men behind… No! Don’t you DARE start complaining! In the name of the God I still believe in, even after finally getting your gf a physical body, marrying her, and banging her until she’s pregnant, you still have absolutely NO sense of humor, do you?
Where was I? Oh. You were flying overhead of us in Kingsport, back to the City, to make your official report. You’d told me enough on the radio and, believe it or not, Big Brother, I can add two plus two: the recon force Knoxville had sent to the munitions plant just outside Radford, former Virginia, was taken into custody by unknown troops. Militia from Roanoke? Maybe all the way from Richmond? No one wanted to make the worst guess: that the old imperial Capitol of DC was finally reasserting itself into the surrounding countryside.
It was a worse guess because none of us – even me! tuned-in me! – wanted to believe that half a generation after the Breakup, that somehow the socialists and deviants who made up the old national capitol were capable of organizing anything more than child-rape and cannibalism; yet, here you were, reporting that our men had been seized.
As you well know, I was outside of the Holston Ammunitions Plant, the backbone of both of our armies – not a word, brother! You knew full-well that I trained my men first with short swords, then spears, before I issued them rifles. So there we were: those six hundred men, me, my legate, Gibson. Contrary to what rumors might have reached you through your ears or lines, I have never been romantically involved with my command, Brother! Paul Newsom I’d pushed into the Society by that point and anything I needed to Confess with him I already have, so you, too, dear freak sister-in-law, can keep your rolling eyes to yourself!
Rifles! That’s right! We had three day’s rations and no idea what might be to the northeast. I did my usual and found a high place to stand; this time, on the second floor of an abandoned middle school, to tell them all what was coming next!
“Just got word, boys!” I shouted, pitching my voice not only to carry sound but emotion, “that one of the City’s best, John Carell, was taken by some scouts about one hundred miles northeast, up into what our parents called ‘Virginia.’ I don’t know about you boys, but I don’t like my elders being taken into custody by losers! I, boys, feel like violating this ‘Virginia!’ Tomorrow, in fact! Anyone here fancy a run?!”
Gary noted that just as before, the more she told stories, the stronger her vitals, her body, became. He nodded to himself before speaking.
“And that’s what you did,” he agreed with his kid sister. “I was worried sick about you, I’ll have you know.”
“Piss on your worry, Big Brother!” she laughed once until realizing it hurt too much to continue. “You worry too much to be a good commander!”
“One hundred miles!” I shouted to them. “And I’m going to cover it in three days, expecting to fight the afternoon of the third! Are there any men here that can keep that pace!?” Their reply was obvious and deafening. I ran downstairs, giving orders to Gibson to give to the centurions, back in the late afternoon sunlight, I saw they had already mustered and had begun packing their tents, anticipating me. Such good boys! I ran to get my kit together while using my lines to listen to you talk to the Ephors – sorry! Council of Five! – I felt your emotion when I told you that Sixth Cohort was marching up old I-81 in thirty minutes! No! Not a word, Brother! Just know that I love you, too!
You know that from what Ventidio taught me, we would make a fortified camp every night. That first night we stopped at the empty little town of Abingdon. Trench, palisades and gate. Except for those on watch the rest slept like the dead; they knew they’d better: I would be expecting over sixty miles the next day! Being able to re-write my own lines – something even you cannot do, Brother, but I suspect stupid-sister can – I was wide awake at 0400. I woke the one hundred and sixty non-combatants first, to prep for travel and make breakfast. An hour before dawn broke, I was leading my Cohort up the road. Toward the enemy!
Gary knew much of this story; especially the end. He did not know how much more his wife, from her first family, knew. He did suspect, though.
On the old Interstate, and I really don’t get what that means, bro, we made eighty miles. Eighty miles! In one day! Not even Caesar Dictator in the Gallic Wars managed that! Okay, okay! He wasn’t marching up an old superhighway! I get it! Still, brother Gary, praise my troops! They are such good boys!
Too tired and too late to get into the Radford Ammo Plant that night, we made another marching camp in the empty burg of Draper, with some hills screening our sounds and lights to the northeast. The next day would be a big one, so while everyone else was digging I summoned my centurions. No, Brother! Centurions! My forces are not the Society! Not the City forces! So tired now! Let’s argue later! Anyway, I told them that just beyond the ‘Plant was old Virginia Tech Uni; was that why the enemy was there? Was it the munitions plant itself? We doubted that: our long-range scouts found it empty months ago. And, a mere twenty miles on, was Roanoke. Even after the Breakup there were either survivors or survivors with new colonists: that town was the gateway, all the way downhill, to Richmond and the old imperial capitol.
‘We have one day of food left on our backs,’ I told them. ‘You know I don’t allow motorized transport and this time, we don’t even have mules. My horse scouts are out now and will back to me by 0300. While I do not expect to find our people in Roanoke, I do expect to find a fight there. Allow my men their breakfast. It will be twenty miles to that town and I’ll be able to make troop dispositions once my scouts are back.’
I looked around my little tent at all of them. Riddle me this, big brother: why were they hanging on my every word? No answer? Try looking up dignitas and auctoritas.
I told my top four centurions to return to me at 0400. I went to sleep.
“Was so tirrrreeed!” was drawn out of his sister’s mouth. Gary watched her head loll to the right side. Heavy breathing but no snoring. A quick look up to her vitals – he saw Henge do the same, only faster – and he came forward from leaning next to the window.
Aware that her hearing was as sharp as ever, he took a nearly empty notepad from his white coat pocket and jotted a note.
‘I’ll call a nurse; we eat; must talk’
Henge rose carefully and silently, as only she, a demi-human, could. Her husband, in the hall, had waved over the next nurse. He quickly and quietly briefed him that they would be gone for no more than an hour. They walked on about ten paces before speaking to one another.
“You never said how our daughter, Aurelia, was doing,” Gary said with only a little reproach.
“She told me she is well and misses us both, but wants us to heal her aunt soonest,” Henge replied, looking away, not in deceit, but fear.
Gary felt that.
“Why?” he demanded.
“Gary… Gary, my beloved, for whom I became mortal! I… I am so afraid!”
“What did our daughter see?” They were only beginning to learn and suspect what their human/demi-human child could see and do.
“Crusade,” Henge whispered.