Wherein Faustina shows just a little of the iron in her otherwise sweet little girl persona. I know I mention a dinner and another meeting but I think those will happen in the background and be alluded to by her while she frantically recruits and trains another 12,000 men.
Also below the fold is a poor map of what her world looks like, right now. The red areas are the city-states that survived the Breakup or, in the case of Huntsville, were rebooted shortly after. The blue region is what Faustina conquered in “Princess Crusade” (available soon!) and is under her personal dominion. The blue arrows will probably be her main axis of attack toward Vicksburg. But there will be many, many marches and counter-marches to bring the locals of the old Deep South under her control.
It was only with MacRae and Chinon coming out of the stairwell near the elevator that Faustina’s father saw her pupils contract to normal and the blue fire fade.
“I am older about uranium ore,” she whispered, then smiled. “Let’s wrap this up, together, Daddy!”
Back in the meeting room, Faustina poured herself some water and sat still while the men filed in and took their seats. Starting with Greene, she moved her eyes from Councilman to Councilman, working her way up the table to meet MacRae’s just as he sat.
“For our final item,” he began, “I’ll turn things over to Manager Chinon.”
Not much of a public speaker outside of the Labs, she noted his discomfort next to her. On a completely unnecessary notepad, she jotted ‘shall I record this for Dorina?’ He saw it but ignored her.
“This is a matter you have heard me touch on before,” Chinon began, “so I’ll get right to the point without preamble. At long last, we are running out of fuel for the fission reactors. I thought we had three to four years left but our recent growth and hooking more of the region to our grid has me revise that down to two.”
He paused and looked about.
“We will be out of fuel in two years. The lights will go out.” He grimly concluded.
“We knew this was coming,” Klimt sighed into the still of the room. “We just hoped not so soon.”
From her new trove of information of a few minutes ago, Faustina wanted to speak but knew it best to let the human politicians have their say first.
“On this continent,” the First Councilman began, “the only mining and processing locations are central Canada, the middle Rocky Mountains, and southern Texas. Overseas, there’s South Africa and Australia. South Africa is obviously out – that operation is controlled by the Chinese – so perhaps we should reach out to the Aussies, now that we have our deepwater port.”
Faustina acknowledged the compliment with her eyes but continued to wait.
“Closer, there are proven reserves just to our north and southeast,” Chinon added. “Former Virginia and Florida. However, those are just proven reserves. We don’t have the expertise or equipment to mine and process anything.”
“And Canada and the Rockies are far enough away to effectively be on the dark side of the Moon,” they heard Greene mutter.
“As is Texas,” Van Dyke echoed, depressed.
“Is it?” Klimt asked. Everyone first looked to his bulk in surprise then followed his eyes across and down the table to the young woman there. “Is it too far for you, General?”
“I can,” she began, sitting up perfectly straight with her palms flat on the table, “assemble four legions, with necessary cavalry, muster them in Huntsville and lead them to Vicksburg on the Mississippi, establishing operational contact with the Texans.”
“When?” Klimt shot.
“Four months. The campaign itself will take no more than a year to subdue whatever remains of the Breakup population. Regulation of them,” which sounded ominous coming from Butcher Barrett’s granddaughter, “should take no more than half a year. During which time the necessary rail lines will be repaired.”
“That’s what? Around four hundred miles?” Klimt asked. “Why stop there?”
“As you well know, all road and rail bridges south of St. Louis are down. I do not want to cross the great river by boat until my new lands are pacified,” she again scared them. “It will be the responsibility of the Texans to take and hold the corridor from Shreveport on their eastern border to my bridgehead.”
“Are the Texans aware of your demands?” Klimt laughed around a piece of candy.
“I contacted my uncle, a Colonel in their Field Forces as well as a senior diplomat, a few minutes ago. He shall try to speak with his high command later today.” She smiled at the Councilman. “Sir.”
“You,” Faustina now slowly raised her right hand to place onto Chinon’s left forearm, “said two years. The first rail wagons should be arriving at your facility for enrichment in twenty months. Is that enough time?”
Imitating her, they all him stare off at data only he could see.
“Yes. Barely.” He concluded.
“Barely is not good enough for my administration,” MacRae rumbled, getting back into the conversation. “I shall be contacting the Australians regardless. Whether as a stop-gap or as a backup supply. I will not let the lights go out on our people!”
There was polite applause from everyone before Klimt again raised his voice.
“Twenty months, Hartmann?” he asked again. “We know precious little about what’s going on once past Huntsville. Things could get very dicey for you and your men. Our First Councilman mentioned Savannah. Why not just have the Texans ship their ore to us by sea?”
“Good Lord, yes!” Greene agreed. “That’s bound to be cheaper!”
“Cheaper?” Faustina finally let a bit of her condescending tone into her voice. “Once they know how badly we need the uranium their price will make up for any reduced transport cost! And, you are proposing to turn our backs on tens of thousands of square miles of uncontrolled territory. When someone unites them – as happened in the Pacific Northwest – they will ride their horses into downtown Knoxville a week later and burn it to the ground!”
She pushed herself out of her chair.
“Once the Texans see what I can do, they’ll know not to rape us on price! Once the tribes and communities of the former Deep South are under my domination with my men ruling them in my name, then we can all breathe a sigh of relief and worry about things such as costs!” Faustina not quite yelled at him.
There were enough threats in her little address for everyone to pause. MacRae cleared his throat.
“As much as I hate to waste everyone’s time,” he began, also standing, “I ask we all meet here again tomorrow. Say at ten o’clock? Thank you. Oh. Councilman Klimt and General Hartmann? May I impose upon you two to join me for dinner?”
And if that doesn’t signal to everyone which way the wind is blowing, nothing would, she thought, nodding to him before taking her seat, already sending messages to her centurions and quartermasters. I am, she realized, actually going to start actively recruiting to get that many men that fast!
“In that case, gentlemen, and lady, this meeting his adjourned,” he concluded.
Faustina spun about in her chair and grabbed her father’s hand as she stood. The additional load down her right leg made her wince in pain. She ignored it and pulled him out into the hall and moved to the right down the corridor for some privacy.
“Are you okay,” he asked, seeing his daughter was hurting.
“Nothing like one of your forced marches, Daddy!” she said, pushing the wince away with a smile for him. “It looks like I’m gonna be real busy the next few weeks but I promise I’ll make time for you and Mom! Before I go!”
He turned to stare out the window looking north.
“Almost four hundred miles. No real supply line. Wide-open flanks.” He shook his head. “And I thought I was worried about your last campaign! I’m guessing you are already thinking about your main route?”
“By roads, Huntsville to Tupelo, to Jackson, to Vicksburg is the best. But that’s not true of rail lines,” she said to his back, wishing her would turn around to her. “In former Mississippi, they are almost all north-south. I might need to take and hold Birmingham; needs further planning.”
“If you’re planning on holding territory as you advance, you’ll be lucky to arrive at the river with a legion,” he said, still not looking to her.
“I’m keeping my army together, father,” she lowered her voice, surprised he would think her so stupid. “I am very young in this effort but am learning fast, right now!”
“Yes,” he agreed, finally turning around, “if you have shown us anything, it’s that you’re a fast learner.”
He took her into his arms.
“Take care of yourself, little daughter,” he whispered.
“Well,” he said, letting her go, “I need to get back to my boss and you have a minefield of a dinner ahead of you. Good luck!”
She waited until he turned back to look at her just before going down the stairwell. Faustina smiled and waved.