Faustina continues her tour of the POW camp and meets someone unexpected. Afterward she and her legates head north to take a look at the Port of Savannah but find that to be too dangerous in the evening. Time for bed.
Over 3000 words this weekend! And it’s only 1300 on Sunday! A total of 51k so far! Where is this story going? Won’t someone tell me?
This tent seemed to be mostly administration and drug storage. Uniformed PLA personnel moved briskly about using a conversational volume rather than the typical Chinese yell. She again looked to her guide but with a raised eyebrow.
“The wounded are this way,” he indicated the exit at the back of their tent. She waited for him to precede her.
“No one is saluting,” she observed quietly.
“The business here is tending to the injured not to the perks of rank,” he replied over his shoulder.
Into the next tent were those badly wounded but not so much as to warrant a room in the hospital. Mostly broken bones and burns. There were lots of burns.
“I would like to apologize – ” she began.
“From the looks of your left arm and that side of your neck,” Zhou spoke over her, “it is obvious that your people lack a burn treatment facility. If the General suffers, it is of little surprise the men do, too.”
Faustina held her tongue that had such tech existed in Knoxville she would have forgone it for any of her boys. I must be aware of these yawning cultural gaps.
“Ah,” he spoke again, waving for a woman to come to them. “Here is Chief Nurse Wei; I doubt you recall her. She was on my airplane you wrecked just before this world exploded.”
She was? Faustina searched her memory and did not recall this woman at all. She must have been on the far side of the wreck before they dove into the ditch.
“Chief Nurse,” he continued once she stood before them. The look in her eyes was respectful but she obviously wanted to return to her patients. “I would like to congratulate you: this is the patient you treated who nearly died when we were on the airfield.”
Faustina saw the surprise and shock in Wei’s face. While she rattled off something in Mandarin, Faustina gave her a formal bow.
“She says she is very surprised to see you here, alive and so soon,” Zhou translated.
“Please tell her that I owe her my life and will discharge that debt, one way or another,” Faustina spoke with what she hoped was a polite smile. “Tell Nurse Wei she has the word of a demi-human and commanding general of the legions who took Savannah.”
She felt the general’s pause before passing her statement on. The shock went to disbelief and anger. Faustina waited while the two PLA’s had it out. There was a pause while Wei seemed to be thinking of something.
“Hartmann,” she said in accented English, “saving you my job. But this hard news.”
Faustina extended both of her hands to the nurse and waited. With a quick look to her officer, Wei took them.
“Politics made us enemies. That is behind us.” Faustina blinked shyly. “I would have us be friends, now. May I see you again later?”
This was too much for Wei’s English. Zhou translated. After a pause, Faustina understood just enough of his next statement: <Say ‘yes’; learn what you can about her.>
“I will like that, General Hartmann.”
“Good! And from now on you will call me Faustina!” She dropped her hands and continued to Zhou. “Please continue with your tour!”
Leaving that tent, Faustina was aware that they were now aware who she was. The rumor was spreading faster than her godmother thought.
Back with her legates and the SUV about forty-five minutes after the sun had set, she told them to head for the main wharves of the Port of Savannah next.
“After all” she yawned at them, “that is the whole point of this mission!”
“And here I thought it was just you showing off,” Owens said.
“Be grateful I have such a sense of humor, legate,” she said, looking about at the parts of the town which were illuminated for their drive toward the north, “but since the best humor is always based upon truth… you are quite right!”
Exiting off a highway onto Main Street, they turned right again into the Port Authority proper. To her eyes it was only about ten percent full, if that. They will never be at one hundred percent; those old days are gone forever. Someday I shall steal the secret of reactionless motors and the trade of my lands and people shall be up, not out.
The driver crawled along as they came to their first guard post. Seeing their entire upper command in one vehicle was enough for the three legionaries to snap their backs they came to attention so quickly. Of course none of them saluted: a sentry’s rifle was his salute.
“It… the Port… at night…!” the maniple commander could not seem to calm down.
“Please! I just wanted to assess how things are here! If, extrapolating from your stutters, it is that dangerous for us here, we’ll come back tomorrow!” she smiled with what salute she could manage inside the vehicle. “Thank you!”
She watched him relax.
“Thank you, Princess,” he managed, still sweating. “There is a strict curfew and we have broad discretion as to when to shoot. There… there’s just too much that could go wrong for y’all in the dark.”
“That’s good work, Jimmy,” Gibson said, speaking out of his backseat window. “We’ll turn around here.”
“Of course, sir,” Jimmy said, taking a few steps back. “God keep you all!”
Once they had turned about, the driver waited for orders as to their next stop.
“I’d liiiiiaaaaak…” Faustina said around another yawn, “to see the reports of all commendable actions. The recognition of my boys and presentations of awards as always been a little ad hoc before and I want to smarten that up after a… aaahhhhh…!”
“Bob?” Owens spoke to the driver, “let’s take the Princess to her quarters. That’s enough for today.”
“Earlier was funny,” her voice was suddenly awake and cold. “Do not presume to tell me what to do next.”
“I did no such thing,” he replied, not being bullied by his CO. “But we all know you. You are going to push yourself for twenty-four to forty-eight hours at which point I have explain to your brother why you died again. Not happening. You are to your quarters and we to ours – not smart to keep command all in one place – and if you want to wander the streets of Savannah in the dark mostly asleep, that’s on you.”
Her quiet was his win. The SUV moved out. After another minute, Owens continued.
“Your billet and that of your staff is less than a mile west of here, back at the airport. Mine’s in Blackshear Park just the other side of the town,” he went on, “and Gibson’s is just north of the Army Airfield and the POWs. You can see the details when we get you to your place.”
“Signal?” she asked, the excitement in her voice obvious.
“Yes,” Gibson said with a sigh. “And we both have notes from your brother and your Aunt Dorina that if you abuse it we will turn it off. Please behave, Miss.”
“I’ll… I’ll just look at the cohort dispositions tonight… and maybe check in with my other family. Thank you both. Not for today. For,” she waved at the blackness beyond her window, “all of this.”
“I was making a living as an electrician, as you well know,” Owens snorted while they slowed for a check point at the airport, “and now I lead a legion. Thank you, Princess!”
Thirty minutes later, after being reunited with her staff, she sat on the edge of a cot which must have been a hundred years old. If they had given me a read bed I’d have fired them all… and they know it. She looked up at the flicking green lights of the small wifi unit.
Aunt Dorina? Can you assess me?
I was doing that the moment you were in signal range, silly one. Look at your maps and spreadsheets. When I think you have had enough I’ll tell you. If you do not listen I will fry that little broadcaster you are looking at.
Deal. Thank you, Dorina.
Do you… forgive me for a personal question, but do you really know what you are doing, Faustina? Because of your lines there are parts of your mind even I cannot see.
Fussy smiled in the darkness.
“Yes,” she said aloud and in her mind. I cannot make a new heaven but I shall make a new earth!
As fast as her injured nervous system would allow, Faustina was older about her boys, the Port, the city and its civilians, and even a smattering of information about the surrounding area. She broke contact and lay down on the cot, pulling a scratchy blanket over her shoulders.
I’ll review this with my legates tomorrow and have a meeting with all senior centurions the day after. Her eyes closed and she was asleep.