This little addition will conclude what will be part two of “Empress’ Crusade.” As I mentioned last time, I need to collate and overhaul my notes before I write one more word. That is going to take a few days. Sorry.
In an interesting tangent to my works, yet another person today told me that “I like you ideas but have no time to read. Do you have audiobooks?” Once I finish “EC” I shall take a break from writing and bring myself fully up to speed on creating said audiobooks. It seems I’m missing out on more than have of my market. Time to fix that.
On their march back to their fort outside of Yazoo, the first few cases of contagion were reported. As something similar had happened during the latter part of their first journey from Huntsville to Vicksburg, Faustina and her medics were ready. The ill men were quickly isolated from the others in covered wagons. It was unfortunate that those wagons were in the middle of the column with the artillery, but they would have been too exposed anywhere else.
So long as we keep strict discipline as to who is in proximity to the sick, we’ll be fine, she thought, currently walking at the head of the column. All these communities have been so isolated for a generation that what is a cold in Tupelo acts like a flu for men from Knoxville. At least my legions will have a strong herd immunity once their service is over. Hmmm. We may need to go into quarantine when I march them home.
The walls of the Yazoo fort were still erect but the trench was now a moat, not unexpected given the swampy ground. Her three legions set about with a vengeance to get things in order so they could eat and rest for their last leg to their destination tomorrow.
A tomorrow that had them at an easy pace for the last thirty miles to Vicksburg. Faustina was pleased to see the masonry walls of the permanent fort at the apex and center of what had been the historic military park. It was not that she didn’t appreciate history but more that she needed the land right now for her legionaries. Not yet complete, they continued to the City Park where the heavily reinforced marching fort had been built about a thousand yards from the rail bridge over the river.
She took the time to pause at the main gate and shout encouragement to her boys as they filed into the fort, allowed to be weary at last. The wagons with the ill were diverted to a different location. With a handful of her staff and her two guests, Faustina made for the river and the quay there.
“Well, now!” she allowed, coming to the west end of the small bluff of Navy Circle, looking at the river. “That is good work for a week, Colonel Rigó!”
No tracks, and still terribly dangerous for anyone but the engineers, there was the thinnest webbing of steel from the Texas side of the Mississippi to the imperium side. Even in the late afternoon sun, she could pick out the sparks of the welding crews.
“The majority of the Field Force’s Corps of Engineers are drawn from reservists who work the oil fields and refineries,” her uncle explained, “and, as you can see, are very good at what they do. Of course, being here means those sectors of our economy are taking a hit right now…”
“But,” he turned to look at his niece, “a bridge over the great river is worth it, in the long run.”
“As Empress, I shall write my thanks to the Corps and your government,” Faustina replied.
“Sheesh!” a thoroughly marched-out Ryland couldn’t help herself. “Can we just go home, now?”
“Given that gunboat two-thirds of the way across, I’d call that a yes, my cousin,” Faustina now stepped around Arpad to take the young girl’s hands. “My friend!”
Only her father and the demi-human saw her hold back tears.
“Come!” Faustina cried. “Let’s go down to the dock – oh, and it looks finished now! – and meet the boat and see you two off!”
Her men had cut through the trees and grated a dirt path down to where the quay was built. Leading her relatives, she also made sure to acknowledge every “welcome back, Empress” with a smile, wave, or salute. The Texan gunboat, with a ma-duce mounted on the foredeck, was just easing in as some sailors tossed lines to those ashore. Faustina was about to wish her uncle bon voyage when she saw one of their soldiers take a running leap to shore, look about, and sprint toward Arpad.
“Doesn’t look like good news,” she muttered, her lines aching, wishing the cell tower to her left had power.