Following close on yesterday, Faustina takes the PLA commander for a walk away from the secret police. This is a little short but a good bridge to the person who enters the next scene.
I’m not sure if I’ll get anything down before 2nd shift DayJob tomorrow but I’ve high hopes for this weekend!
“There were what, about six thousand of them here?” she asked.
“Five thousand or so soldiers,” Owens replied, “about another five hundred techs to run the port.”
“Are they here, too?” she asked.
“Yes. We offered to pay for their help to reopen the Port but no takers.”
“Imagine that,” she said softly. “I’ll ask the general myself.”
“Who should be,” Gibson said with a wave to his right, “in that complex of tents with temporary housing just to the north.”
“You built the officers’ houses, you round-eyed devil?” she asked with a turquoise twinkle in her eyes.
“Only the best for officers, General Hartmann,” he said, eyes from her scars to her stubble.
“As I’m such a tiny, little girl,” she heard Owens’s snort, “please proceed me to their commander’s place. I’ll present myself there.”
The two legates exchanged a look as they stepped ahead of her. Another one of her entrances…
At the largest of the recently constructed buildings, Owens rapped twice on the wooden door. Some enlisted man with a grasp of English opened the door and waved them into a room like a little parlor. There was no glass in the windows but her boys had scrounged up some curtains and a carpet for the floor from somewhere.
“Commanders,” she heard Zhou’s voice past her men as he came into the room. He must not know the word legate. “What can I do for – ”
“Ahem,” she said softly. Her two men stepped aside.
She enjoyed seeing shock, surprise, and just a hint of relief chase each other across his face, which then quickly returned to an impassive mask. He raised his hand to his head in a traditional salute.
“General Hartmann,” he said with no tone. “You survived.”
She first gave a legionary salute then allowed her hand to drift down to touch above her right eye.
“General Zhou. I apologize for my absence. I hope that my men have been able to see to all the needs of you and your men?” she asked, lowering her hand. Hidden in his eyes she saw his questions.
“Our last meeting was very abrupt,” she said, stepping between her legate and offering her hand. “Might we, as two professionals, take a short walk of your very temporary home here? Just you and I?”
His eyes flicked to the man who opened the door and back to hers.
“My English is not so good,” he began. “Perhaps Sergeant Yang can – ”
“Oh, pooh!” she said, taking his arm with hers and pulling him to the door. “Your English is just fine! And I’m sure you are a gentleman! See ya’!”
The last was for her legates who watched the door shut. Gibson sighed to Owens’s smile.
Out amongst his men, she immediately dropped his arm but stayed close to his left. It was very doubtful that anyone in their POW camp would have the slightest idea who the za-jiao with their general might be. Perhaps a friend for the night?
“You’re laughing, General Hartmann?” he asked after seating his military hat upon his head, returning what salutes came his way.
“Apologies, General Zhou. While demi-human I am still an eighteen-year-old girl and some things strike me as funny.” She took a breath and tried again. “I’m guessing the sergeant is MSS and doesn’t like you out of his sight?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” he replied.
“We’ve been fortunate, we of greater Knoxville, to have avoided secret police. I doubt you would know this but my grandfather ran the Chekist organization in the early Republic of Texas,” she casually noted.
“I have read about some of their actions,” Zhou said, looking down at her in wonder. “A bad thing, even by our standards.”
“By anyone’s really. But maybe not ours,” she tossed her head and turned to resume their walk.
“Is that where you derive your organizational ability? Leading three brigades when just a young gir- young woman is a remarkable feat,” he said, stepping so she was just a half-step behind him. I’ll allow that.
“Not at all. But before we get into that, I do want to know: is there anything we have been amiss in providing for you?” Faustina asked, turning to look into his eyes. “We are admittedly at the end of a very long, thin supply line, but we are not barbarians.”
“No one said you were,” he whispered first, lost in her magical blue eyes. She watched him shudder. “Not at all. There have been questions about communication but I understand why your men have denied us access.”
“Your food? Medical needs? My legate told me he sent some of your men to Wilmington for treatment,” she pressed.
She watched him mouth the word legate.
“We are fine. Thank you, General Hartmann.”
“I saw some of your boys in the hospital here; that’s where I went first, once I had returned. May I see your medical conditions here? With my own eyes?”
“Do you not trust your… legates, General?” he let his eyes smile if not his mouth.
“With my life,” she replied, “but I also like to see things for myself. Especially the brave wounded.”
She heard him mutter something in Mandarin while indicating they should head further on then left to their field hospital. Faustina knew a little of that language and chewed on in until they stood outside of a complex of large tents, all marked with a red cross on the sides and tops.
“<Hurt on us?>” she tried just before they entered. She watched him freeze and look completely around before leaning to her ear.
Ah. The rod. These men will be in danger of being disappeared once home! I must speak with my other family about this! This is a First and Fourth Law matter!
They passed inside.