Yesterday was the county library’s Local Author Fair. of which I was a part. There were less authors than last year and also less attendees; I warned them about scheduling this opposite an Ohio State football game, but librarians are stupid.
While I was there I made a page and half of notes on Faustina’s book. Below the fold is merely the transition to the start of the notes I made. This is going to be a very long novel.
Gary didn’t understand what she was referring to it and chose to put off that matter for now.
“What do you think we should do for her dinner?” he asked instead.
Henge swung her head back to her husband, still able to be surprised by his detachment and focus on the matter at hand.
“I was thinking more soup and some soft cheeses. After that there is a local tea that has no caffeine, so that should help her sleep while Dorina looks into her,” she replied.
“That sounds good,” Gary nodded. “Please put that together. Even so, I’ll administer a mild sedative. It would be a disaster if she woke up with signal on.”
“Of course. See you!” Henge hooded her eyes and tilted her head back. Only once she received her kiss did walk quickly down the hall toward the stairs. Gary took a few steps in the opposite direction to the office that also served as his drug prep room and he and his wife’s bedroom. Surveying the medications arrayed neatly along the back of a countertop and thinking of his sister’s current condition, he decided on a single tab of promethazine after he dinner. With that decision made, he pulled his personal notebook to himself and flipped to the most recent entry, from this morning. He unclipped the pen.
F’s condition continues to improve rapidly. I suspect outside influences there but to-date Dorina has told us of none. If tonight’s analysis goes well I shall move we fly her back to the City for physical therapy and rehabilitation. It will be…
He paused a moment. ‘Outside influences.’
It will be at least a month before she will be able to function as a typical girl her age. Another month, perhaps two, before she can resume her role as legionary commander.
It almost hurt him to write those last two words. Still, they were the truth: his little sister, at sixteen years old, led nearly 12,000 men into a battle over four hundred miles from their home, defeating a professional army and taking a deep-water port from one of the world’s remaining great powers.
How they must hate you, little sister! To use kinetic bombardment against their own investment! It was fortunate the first rod fell just off-target to the east and that my beloved’s father personally took control of the Hou Yi III to stop any more.
“Otherwise, you would be nothing more than ashes right now, Fussy.” Gary closed his eyes against how his body wanted to express what he thought of that. He returned to his notebook.
There is no aviation fuel where we are now. We would be landing on fumes if I departed with what’s now in the tanks. No matter F’s prognosis we must await a delivery from downriver. Days? Unknown. In the mean time it will be up to me and H to keep F out of trouble.
Gary closed the notebook and re-clipped the pen. He closed his eyes again; this time for a cat nap.
The hand on his shoulder awoke him a moment before Henge pressed her lips to his. As she settled herself into his lap a moment later, still carrying on, he concluded that all was well at that moment. She finally leaned back just as he was toying with the idea of picking her up and moving to their cot.
“Dinner for my sister?” he asked. Business first.
“Of course!” she smiled at him, her golden eyes molten with pleasure at their contact. She rubbed his shoulders. “More lentil soup but with small chunks of fish from Lake Keowee, just here. I maintained operational security but did let slip it was for a wounded legate of the legions.”
He watched her laugh, never once regretting she was better at human emotions than he was.
“They wouldn’t let me pay at first! Silly! I made them older about honor and obligations, a little, I think! Oh! I also got some cheese! From a place just east of Greenville!”
“That,” Gary said with some displeasure, “is over ten miles away, beloved!”
“S’okay,” she kissed him before standing from his lap. “I ran the whole way there and back!”
He watched as she stretched and twisted this way and that. Her leonine eyes never left his.
“My body may have been fragile when I was first made, those years ago, but between your father’s martial training and the rigors of bringing Aurelia into the world, I am in fine shape, husband!”
She got an odd gleam in her already bright eyes before straddling and dropping back onto him on the little rolling stool.
“And Aurelia needs siblings, Gary!” she purred, nuzzling him. “Tonight; again, please?”
“That will,” he was not at all immune to her advances, “be up to your aunt. But I hope so.”
“Good!” she stood. “Let’s see if my sister is awake before I heat everything up.”
Gary nodded and followed his wife out the door and the short steps to Faustina’s room.
“Already awake, big brother, so don’t ask!” she called as they tried to creep in quietly.
Without a word Henge pivoted about to go back out and next door to where she had placed the food next to the scrounged microwave oven. Gary looked first at his sister’s vitals on the screen – good – then to the nurse. A curt nod.
“And how do you think you feel, dear little sister?” he asked with only a deliberate hint of condescension, which she caught.
“I’m well enough to lead an army!” she first yelled at him, coming up off her pillow a few inches. She fell back. “In a day or two…”
“And just where, little general,” he leaned down to lightly kiss her forehead, “do you plan on going next? Now that Knoxville has a port, we are at peace, you know.”
Unable to reach up and push the little bit of hair she still had out of her right eye, she blew at it with her mouth. Gary moved it away, ignoring the not-quite-contemptuous look from the broken girl in a hospital bed.
“Savannah is just the beginning for me; for us,” she winced slightly. Seeing her brother about to issue an order to the nurse, she cut in. “And, NO, Brother! No narcotics! I’ll deal with pain as best I can! I can’t… can’t have them clouding my mind any longer…”
The nurse looked a question. Gary politely dismissed him. So as not to be looming above her he again rolled the little stool over and sat.
“I once,” he began softly, hoping it would calm her down, “told the then-First Councilman, MacRae, that all we wanted was peace; to be let alone.”
“You’re an idiot,” he sister said politely, blinking away the tears of her pain. “There’s no such thing. I’m going to remake the world.”
“Given that – ” he began.
“Dinner!” Faustina cried as Henge came back into the room with a tray. “Thank you, sister! Go away and do doctor things somewhere else, brother! Let my sister feed me!”
Gary stood without a word and took the medical clipboard from the foot of her bed. When his eyes met Henge’s they both understood: both each other and his little sister’s unlimited desire to remake the world. He paused just as he passed his wife.
“Dorina will need to assess you again this night,” he said flatly, taking the tablet from his coat’s breast pocket and placing onto the tray held by his beloved. “This is promethazine, to help you sleep. If you wake up with signal, you most likely will die again. I won’t have that.”
He paused in the doorway.
“I won’t have that, little sister.” He was gone.
Henge watched Faustina suppress a sigh.
“He loves you so much,” Henge said, placing the tray on the mobile table and getting ready to feed her.
“He’s blind to the future,” Faustina replied.
“You speak as if there is only one,” her sister-in-law replied. “My family knows that is not true.”
“There is only one. For me.” Faustina declared. “What did you bring me this time?”
Henge explained. She broke off a little piece of the cheese and popped it into Faustina’s mouth.
“How’s that?” she asked.
“Gut!” she mumbled.
“With my husband out of the room,” Henge looked sly, “would you like to tell your next story while you eat? I promise not to judge you!”
She watched Faustina laugh on and on.
“You guys are the best! So much better than humans!” she crowed.
Henge ignored the slight.
“Where were we? Oh! Breaking camp! My first real battle!” Faustina said, her eyes almost glowing as Henge put a spoonful of soup into her sister’s mouth.