Faustina gets some laps in the pool then a bit of shock about what she is turning into in the city of Knoxville… essentially, her image is outstripping who she really is. The question shall be: does she try to catch up, or go another direction entirely?
Either way, her dad thinks this is all a crock and is worried sick about his little girl.
Faustina pulled herself up out of the two-lane, 25-yard hospital pool, relying mostly upon her left arm to do so. The fracture of her right was not nearly as bad as her brother had been led to believe by Dorina who, honestly, didn’t really get human physical structures all that well. But she still had to favor it.
She looked down at the composite water-resistant cast around her upper right leg: that was definitely fractured. I would be bed-ridden for weeks were it not for Bro’ and Henge coming up with this new material. I suspect Uncle Thaad had a hand in this… among other things. Her eyes drifted to her left foot, also in a partial new cast and missing her two last little toes. Faustina shrugged. No loss.
As she had surfaced as far as possible from her nurse, she tuned out Tamera’s squawking’s, who was pushing the wheelchair to where she was, as best she could. Faustina took a moment to arch her arms over her head in her hospital-supplied, black one-piece suit, and lean side-to-side, to assess for herself her two cracked vertebrae. Not so bad… but if I cannot talk Gary into flying me back it will mean I have to cross the Smokey Mountains in the back of a cart! Me!
I’ll have godmother teach me to fly, first!
Closing her eyes and looking into herself, she confirmed what her brother had told her: she could still have kids (and that her period was due in a few days) and if she tried to re-write her lines it might leave her brain shredded tissue paper. I’ll talk to Dorina about that before I head back to my boys.
Again with strength belying her early-middle-aged frame, her nurse had her up off the pool’s edge and into her wheelchair. Tamera was kind enough to have a towel there for her patient’s wet butt and Faustina thanked her with her eyes and a smile.
She adamantly refuses to see me as ‘Princess’… I’m fine with that – neither does anyone in my family but my niece, still, I wonder why?
“Dinner?” Faustina asked. “I don’t like eating this early.”
“I’m well aware, Miss Hartmann,” she began, pushing toward the locker room, “but as you will be meeting your brother and father in the cafeteria, there will be a scene.”
“I see,” she acknowledged. While enjoying being the center of attention of those she knew, Faustina used ‘fame’ solely as a recruiting tool; she completely internalized her hated grandfather’s maxim of “God; family; friends; nothing else matters.”
She sat on the stool in the shower and allowed Mrs. Keynes to minister to her, lightly rinsing her off in cold water. My boys only have the river and ocean right now; who am I to luxuriate in hot water? She waved her panties away and let Tamera tie her gown behind her. It was one floor up to ground, where the cafeteria was.
“Ready?” Mrs. Keynes asked.
“You forget who I am,” Faustina said, softening it at the last moment before the elevator doors opened, “friend.”
“Huh.” Her nurse observed in a noncommittal fashion as she pushed her patient forward.
The tables in the cafeteria could comfortably seat about one hundred and fifty. They were all taken and people standing along the walls. All were under thirty-five and most much closer to twenty. Young men and women. What was surprising…
“Why did they shave their heads?!” Faustina hissed softly to her nurse.
“You made that one appearance at your window from your room,” Tamera replied in a whisper while leaning down and seeming to adjust her patient’s gown, “your ‘followers’ took it up overnight!”
“Thanks, everyone, for coming to see me! I’m doing so much better and hope to be back with my boys making your lives safer in just a week or so! Until then… oh! Look! I’d like to have dinner with my dad and big brother!” Faustina waved just ahead toward the table where the two sat. One with an astonishingly unpleasant look on his face. “Doesn’t everyone here just love Henge Hartmann, my brother’s wife?”
The cheer in the relatively small room was deafening.
“Thank you! Please don’t cause trouble for the hospital staff! They are trying so hard! I love you all!”
At that, about half made a legionary salute before they began to file out, almost all of them calling out goodwill to Faustina and her family.
“They do like me, you know,” she said to the two men at the table. Gary had already moved a chair aside to allow room for her wheelchair.
“They worship you; that’s totally different!” her father said with distaste, looking at the last of them leaving. “I thought your mother raised a better Catholic than you seem to be!”
“Daddy, please. I do not think for a moment myself as a goddess… thank you!” this last to one of the servers who brought her some ice water unbidden. “But it is not for me to say if I am or am not a living saint.”
She watched her brother roll his eyes as he sat back in his chair.
“How is my niece and nephew-to-be?” Faustina continued before her father said something else contentious.
“Aurelia is well and wants to see you. Perhaps Henge will bring her by tomorrow.” Gary looked at his sister’s legs. “Maybe you two can swim together now that both of your feet are so similar.”
“Losing two toes won’t slow me down, bro’. Nor with her left leg have a similar effect on Aurie.” She looked up to another kitchen worker. “Just some yogurt… is that okay, Tam – er, Mrs. Keynes?”
A nod from her nurse. She too left to get something to eat.
“Gary,” her father spoke into the pause, “told me more about your medical condition then and now. He also apologized for keeping me and your mother in the dark.”
“I see,” Faustina replied, trying hard to be nice.
“Honestly, besides the blast damage – trauma I get – this whole ‘ES virus’… what was that?” he asked.
“Ah. When I used my lines to break the Wall of the PLA electronics in Savannah, it was protected by an advanced system I’d never seen before,” she said easily now that they were on her ground of expertise, “and so may have been a little more cavalier than I should have been. When I allowed it to assess me, so I could do the same to it, it somehow got into my nervous system. Any clue on that, Bro? I’ve nothing from our other family.”
“If they have information they have yet to pass it onto me,” Gary replied, pausing before taking a piece of dried meat from his plate. “I… suspect they know and are not sure about how and when to interfere in human affairs.”
“Interfere in human affairs!” their father spat, looking at his two children modified by the machines without his consent.
“Thankfully,” Gary said, knowing what his father meant, “tribe Tohsaka takes a rather hands-off approach, preferring personal connexions with humans. I appreciate that rather than being like the new Russian imperial court: a subsidiary of Reina and tribe Mendrovovitch.”
“Gary? Brother?” Her seriousness focused him completely onto her. “Are my lines strong enough to talk with my other family in their home?”
“One sentence or two, at most,” he said leaning until his forehead touched hers. “I have warned you and am not kidding. You will burn them out if you push!”
“Fine!” her pupils dilated for just a second as there was a ring of turquoise fire about them. “Thank you!”
Was that for the small bowl of yogurt placed before her or what she just learned?
“It was your wife’s father,” Faustina said, taking a small scoop and swallowing. She was blinking more than usual. “It wasn’t me; it was her.”
“What? For what?” their father asked, confused. He paused when his son placed his right hand onto his left forearm while tilting his head just a fraction.
“I see, now,” Gary said to Leslie Hartmann. “The Chinese have several orbital bombardment platforms. The Hou Yi II had already been repositioned in orbit to obliterate everything within twenty miles of Savannah. Thaad took control of it. Took it away from the Chinese.”
“I… Henge has… I do not want to break her confidence, but it seems her father has a history of such,” Gary said, reaching to take a drink of water to steady himself. He looked to his little sister. “He stopped it to save his daughter who was just then being flown into the area, by me. Not to save you or me, Fussy. Thaad interfered for his immediate family.”
“Even I didn’t count,” Gary muttered, putting the glass down.
Faustina and Gary weren’t entire sure what their father muttered beyond it was very hateful. A p-kid and demi-human could read his fury easily.
“I’m for home,” Leslie announced. “But before I go, what good news can I tell your mother when I drop all this into her lap. Like a rod from orbit.”
The last was in a tone of hate, not mirth.
Brother! Please speak for me! I don’t trust myself right now!
“Faustina will be in hospital for at least one more week,” Gary began, taking her hand but looking at their father. “After that she will be able enough to leave on her own. I would rather be the one who personally escorts her back to Savannah to keep a medical and personal eye on her. I know nothing of military affairs so cannot speak to when she or I will be back. Sister?”
“I have several ideas of what I want to do but first talk to my legates, centurions, and those heroes deserving decorations,” she replied calmly, also looking to her father. “When it comes to lands and a colony, that will take months. I, however, will be back in Knoxville in four weeks. That is my promise to you, Daddy.”
“Good. I’ll tell your mother, who will likely come to see you tomorrow,” he said standing. Gary did as well. “Good night, son. Take care of her!”
“Of course – FUSSY!” Gary shouted. Nurse Keynes, who had been putting together a salad, let it fall to the floor and came running.
Tears in her eyes, Faustina used her more-human-than-human nervous system to push her broken body to its feet and open her arms.
“I love you, Dad!”