I realized the timing is little off for these. Instead of “two months prior” and “one month prior” it should be 2-4 weeks later in both cases as these events take place not only after Faustina’s march on Savannah, but also after Gary and Henge come to save her life. That’s fine: these very rough manuscript drafts are for that purpose: for me to see that needs to be changed, revised, expanded, cut for a commercial novel release.
Below the fold Faustina makes her first public speech. There is A LOT going on in my head about the politics of this that I simply did not want to be bothered with right now. The important thing was answering the question of “chi l’oro?” Which I think I did, in a surprising and funny way.
two months prior
As there had not been a formal football game for a generation, the grass and weeds in the stadium that once served the University of Tennessee was rather high. Not as high and overgrown as it could be: there were plenty of pick-up games and other groups who would use the huge, deserted amphitheater for many different purposes. Having surveyed it the week before with the First Councilman, Faustina had detailed her least experienced cohort to cut the grass and clean up what they could.
Now, standing along the long axis of the field and facing southwest, she stood with First Legion behind her right and Second Legion behind her left, facing the platform upon which stood all five of the council. General Scott, she saw, was noticeably absent. MacRae was nearing the conclusion of his speech about “the defense of Knoxville and their allies”… why did all wars have be defensive? It puzzled her and Ventidio, both.
“And that is why,” the First Councilman shouted into the microphone, “that we are formally adopting this force as a legitimate arm of our defense! At service to our city and allies! I ask those before me to repeat after me – ”
At that Faustina unveiled one of many surprises for the First Councilman. She wanted no doubt that, oath or no, these were her boys. As she had planned, she shot her right arm straight up, palm forward, fingers just open, toward the platform. A second later 10,240 legionaries with 2,560 non-combatant men raised theirs. MacRae verbally stumbled for a moment but kept on.
“…to protect and defend the legitimate government…” he said.
“…to protect and defend the legitimate government and our commander…” they said. Faustina saw he almost stopped at that one.
“…so help me, God!” her men echoed the last line. It was then the chant began.
“Princess! Princess! Princess!” Even those twenty thousand or so of the city who found time to watch such an unusual spectacle as this seemed to get caught up in it, as well. Not planned was the surprising shove into the middle of her back from the First Centurion of the Sixth Cohort. Faustina partially turned, surprised and a little angry only to see his eyes flick from hers to the platform. Of course.
Deliberately but without haste she made her way to the recently built steps on the side and bounded up them. It was clear that the First Councilman was not pleased with this development, either. She gave a short bow followed by another legionary salute.
“Permission to address my men and the City,” she asked very softly. If he said no, it gave them both plausible deniability.
Faustina watched the wheels turning in his mind. If he refuses me he knows the oath is for naught. If he agrees, he fears it will make him look weak. I must help him.
She took two steps back and bowed ninety degrees from her waist, as she had been taught by her aunt and godmother. For so many people, the stadium was completely silent.
“Let’s hear her!” someone yelled from the stands. Similar cries and applause followed. The men on the field were still and quiet.
“Get up!” MacRae hissed at her, putting his hand out, all the same. When she took his he guided her to the microphone he had been speaking into.
The young girl, kitted out like a ranker, stood perfectly still, waiting for calm and silence to fall.
“My people!” she began with a shout, throwing her arms wide as if to embrace them all. “Today is a turning point of history!”
“It is no small thing to make a new world,” Faustina said, lowering her arms and voice, drawing her audience in. “What you, men and women of the City, see on the field before you is a first step into that new world. These are the rough sons of the toughest men and women who not only survived the Breakup, but went on to thrive in its aftermath!”
A smattering of applause came from the stands. She knew not to make this too long or too cerebral.
“Under the wise guidance of our First Councilman we shall continue to thrive. But I have the impatience of youth! I want to do more than thrive! I want to excel! Most of you know who I am – and what I am! The men I have trained are not just for the defense of our City and its surrounds, but also for the suppression of any who would turn their hands against us!”
That was, she thought, ambiguous enough to threaten everyone. Time to wrap up.
“We do not march on cities, lands, or people! We march on the future! We march into history!” she shouted, stepping back and saluting her two silent legions. Who were suddenly not silent.
“Princess! Princess! Princess!” came their great shouts a second time. Faustina heard the Councilmen behind her making nervous applause while she tried to make eye contact with as many of her boys as she could, pointing and waving as she did. A quick glace back and toss of her head had MacRae to her side.
“Take my left hand,” she whispered through a smile, “and raise my arm. Show we are together in this!”
With a fantastic fake smile he did as she asked. Now the civilians in the stands stood and cheered as well.
“What do you think you are doing?” he asked through his teeth, still waving with his left.
“Just what I said: I’m going to change this world! Hang on a sec’,” she replied, leaning to the microphone. “Centurions! Return my men to barracks! Parade march!”
She returned their salute as her boys, cohort by cohort and back in complete silence exited the field. Those in the stands continued to cheer them.
They cheer for my boys! This is more than I had hoped, she thought.
As the last were marching off the field she heard Klimt’s bulk collapse into a chair.
“One thing that’s never been made clear to me,” he asked, trying to catch his breath from standing for so long, “is how you pay for them? Yes, yes… we all know about your connexions to the Machines, but so far as I’ve heard, there’s never been a case where they flat-out give money away. It’s too disabling to local economies.”
He paused to gulp down some water from a glass his aid handed to him.
“I forget who – I’m sure you know – but someone said ‘let no man call himself rich unless he can support an army.’ The rest of your family has done everything they can to stay out of the public eye,” Klimt continued but with a glance to MacRae, who had once made a mistake with Gary Hartmann. “So what is it? Who’s paying”
“The Chinese,” Faustina said with a sly smile for the morbidly obese old man. She was pleased to see the water dribble down his chin as his mouth shook in shock.
“What did you just say?!” the First Councilman yelled, pulling away from her. “You are in their pay?! What is all this, then? Your occupation force?!”
“You are still so stupid when it comes to race, Councilman MacRae!” Faustina’s smile never slipped. “You don’t trust me or my brother because we’re half Chinese. And I’m sure you keep yourself awake at night thinking about my stupid sister-in-law! The hole is your mind is the same one I punched through with the Chicoms: they thought they could buy me because I had their blood!”
Faustina arched her back with her hands over her head to stretch, giddy at being the center of attention of such powerful men. Her arms came down.
“Fools!” The men were not exactly sure who she meant. “The Chinese thought I considered myself one of them! I don’t even consider myself human!”
Faustina took few steps to stand before Councilman Klimt.
“So there’s your answer. I not only have a line of credit but a stash of silver coins! All for my boys! All for my legions! And in just over a month my so-called paymasters are in for a rude shock when I take Savannah off them!” she lectured him before leaning back to laugh. “Dear God, but I would love to see the faces in Beijing when they hear what I’ve done!”
“And when they send forces to retake that city?” MacRae asked.
“They won’t,” she replied turning left to look at him. “Their neo-colonial experiment in Africa is bleeding them. They don’t see what I see: their economy is on a knife’s edge. Ria or no, they have none of us to speak for them; to lead them.”
“Who’s ‘us’?” Klimt asked.
“My kind,” Faustina tapped her sternum with her right thumb. “The next phase of human evolution. I need to see to my boys. Later, everyone!”
No one spoke as she jumped off the platform and ran for the southeast exit. Looking all the world like a normal, seventeen-year-old girl.
Klimt struggled to his feet, wiping the water off of his chin.
“We are going to wake up one morning and find ourselves under a rule we cannot even imagine right now,” he said, accepting a handkerchief from his aid. “I pray to God I’m dead by then.”
With a man on each side of him he carefully went down the steps. Greene slowly moved next to the First Councilman who was still looking to where the girl had departed the stadium.
“Her men call her “princess,”” he observed. “Not good for your plans, is it?”
“Um,” was the only response.
“Suppose,” Greene continued, musing, “there was an accident…”
“I have to side with Klimt on this one,” MacRae sighed. “We don’t know how she thinks. We don’t even know what she is. She could have pulled us down this morning and be ruling as a queen right now. I… I don’t know what she wants, but it is bigger – much bigger – than Knoxville!”
Taking a deep breath, the First Councilman seemed to come back to himself. He looked about with a smile.
“Let’s head back to the office! Lots of work to do!” he said. Greene wondered if he really meant it.