Faustina gets fed up with all of her paperwork and tunes out to tune in to her godmother’s sparring ground in the home of tribe Tohsaka. After beating each other with sticks, the demi-human has questions. Pictures being worth what they are, Fausta answers by pushing one of her memories from before Faustina was born into the girl’s mind.
I think more and more that the Faustina we see emerge from this coming 20-month campaign will be a much harder person than the young woman we know now.
PS Mild spoiler warning.
“You do realize,” Fausta asked carefully keeping her wooden katana before her and her opponent, “that the information from the story of when your aunt, Orloff, and I traveled from Texas to Huntsville is slightly older than you are? Hah!”
The last was as she quickly advanced and chopped at the young woman’s head.
“I’m – ” Faustina paused while deflecting the training blade out and down, then swinging her own up at Fausta’s neck, whose quick step back had it pass a quarter-inch from her, “ – aware, godmother. But much of what I saw on the march to Savannah confirms what was already happening so long ago!”
Faustina also took a step back to complete her thought.
“That the races were naturally moving apart from one another, with the curious exception of the reintroduction of slavery in northern former Mississippi…”
She took two quick steps forward and faked an overhead slash. At the last moment, Fausta directed it just so the tip touched her right abdomen rather than next to her heart. They both took a step back.
“Minor wound,” Fausta allowed. “But come, let me show you something…”
The clearing in the forest in the virtual home of tribe Tohsaka seemed to suddenly be engulfed in a fog. When it lifted just as fast as it formed, Faustina found herself standing in a large graveled drive with several prefab buildings and some old wind turbines. No more than a dozen feet before her was a well made wooden cart. Three were on the cart, two women and an old man, and two rather dirty men stood before it.
“What is this…?” she asked, before realizing with a start that it was her Aunt Lily and Orloff sitting in the cart! That meant the one in the cart’s bed…!
Is me, Fausta said to her mind. I share a memory with you. That is very debilitating for humans but I think you are up to it, Namesake!
“What’s you be wantin’?” the shorter of the two called.
Orloff slowly pointed at the windmills. “I’ve got some batteries I need to recharge. Those things work?”
“Pretty much,” the shorter one replied, his eyes sliding to Lily. “But it ain’t free.”
Orloff nodded. “We can pay.”
The taller one spat some tobacco juice into the dusty road.
“How? We ain’t takin’ no paper!” he said.
“Would you take minted silver coins?” Orloff asked. The two looked for a moment at each other.
“That’s a good start,” the short one said, again with a glance at Lily. “Why don’t you bring you’s wagon over here to this building.” He waved at the one just beyond the office.
“Much obliged.” Orloff started their pony, Clyde, forward at a slow walk. As they came abreast of the two men, the taller one exclaimed, “Hey! Another woman! You a slaver or sumthin’?”
“Not at all. That’s my wife; she was taking a break back there. This is my niece, Lily.”
“Pretty,” said the short one from her side. Orloff stopped the wagon where they indicated. Lily had her hand on her pistol while Orloff climbed down, then she followed. Fausta stood and leaped down.
The taller one took a look into the wagon. “Just what is it you gonna charge up?” he asked.
“That,” said Orloff slowly, “is not your concern.”
No one said anything for a few moments, then the taller one laughed.
“That’s fine! You take what you needs on in there,” he said with forced humor, “but since we’s don’t gets many visitors, you can leave your niece out here to chat!”
Sighing, Orloff looked as Fausta brushed at her hair and seemed to stretch.
I had to indicate to Orloff, Fausta explained, that there were more men hidden in the building.
“I think,” he began, “that it’s best that we just move on.”
“And I think, old man,” the shorter one said, “that yous be stayin’. Hey, Zed!”
The door of the office opened again and the other two men came out, their pistols pointed. Fausta grinned, showing her android’s shark-like teeth.
“What in the HELL are you?!” the taller called in fear.
Orloff quickly drew his pistol and shot him in the head. Lily leaped behind Clyde for cover as Fausta charged the two that had just emerged. They’d only time for one shot each, both of which bounced off of her armor. The closer one, she punched with her left hard enough to hear all the facial bones shatter; in another moment, the further man receiving her right.
Blocked by the wagon, Orloff dropped and shot at the shorter’s legs; missed, but distracted him long enough for…
…Fausta jumping over the wagon, firing her revolver as she dropped. Two shots into each shoulder.
“Lily! Cover the door next to us!” Orloff called. She came up over Clyde’s back with her gun pointed. Fausta was already on her way and smashed through the door with her shoulder. Orloff heard a short “I give u – !” before another crunch of bone.
For a moment all was still, the only sound from the short thug screaming in pain. Fausta’s targets were all unconscious.
“Fausta! Check the other building!” Orloff called as he walked around the cart. He took aim….
“What the hell are you doing?!” Lily yelled. Orloff shot the wounded man in the head and looked up at her.
Fausta trotted past him and kicked in the door of the last building.
“Clear!” she called. Orloff turned and walked toward the first two Fausta hit.
“Stop it! I forbid it!” Lily yelled as she stormed after him.
“I’m not a machine that takes your orders, little girl.” He raised his pistol.
“No! NOOO!!! There’s already too much killing in my life! Stop it! PLEASE!” She collapsed into the gravel and dust, crying.
There was a rush and Fausta was between him and the two on the ground.
“Do not, Mister Orloff. Please,” she said. “For Lily.”
“You want me to leave enemies behind us?” he asked. “At some point, we’re likely to come back this way, and these thugs, their friends, their family, will all be gunning for the Chinese girl, old man, and fanged demoness. Better to eliminate the problem now!”
He frowned as he holstered his weapon. “On one condition! You break their legs so as to cripple them. That reduces their threat potential and serves as a warning to others.”
“I agree,” she said simply. She went to Lily and picked her up.
“Don’t do that, Fausta!” Lily cried. She shushed her.
“It will be fine. And no more killing.”
She leaned Lily against the wagon and retrieved the man from inside the building. Laying him next to the other two, she methodically stomped on their knees, crushing them. Lily was crying again. She looked at Orloff.
“Yes. I’ll turn the wagon around. You get in there are see if there’s really a way to charge up.”
Abruptly back in her godmother’s forest clearing, Faustina felt lightheaded and nauseous. She began to fall forward but found herself in Fausta’s strong arms. The warrior of tribe Tohsaka spun the demi-human about and sat them both down in the dirt, with Faustina in her lap.
“I apologize for harming you, Namesake!” Fausta said into Faustina’s ear.
“It…” she swallowed a few times as her nausea receded. “No, it wasn’t just your memory into my mind but also seeing grandfather again. I forget sometimes what a violent man he was.”
“He was much changed by his end,” Fausta replied, rubbing the girl’s shoulders with surprising gentleness. “I was glad to call him a friend.”
“However,” the machine continued, “that was not the point of the sharing. I want you to be under no illusions as to what you might find on your next campaign. Certainly in the last eighteen years, there have been a few towns, mostly along the coast, who have, to some degree or another, recovered technological civilization, but so much of the interior is a blank to us.”
“I understand, Godmother,” Faustina said, raising her hand to hold Fausta’s arm, imagining herself wrapped in the golden coils of a great Chinese dragon, “and I thank you for your gift.”
She felt Fausta kiss the top of her head.
“Time you went home!”
Back at her desk in her legionary fort, Faustina was less than thrilled to see that the mound of paperwork she tried to escape from just then had not gone away. Considering the time, she knew it would be twenty minutes before she would be driven to a venue at the northern edge of the city for a recruiting rally. In the meantime: paper. She picked up a pen with a sigh.