In the published novel, this will be the start of chapter two of Part III. It hearkens back to what happened at the very end of Part II, where, as Arpad and Ryland were about to return to the Texas-controlled side of the Mississippi, he received a note of some kind. We know is was significant, otherwise, why is Faustina’s young cousin travelling with them into another battle zone?
I’ve seen what happens right after this memory and am writing it now. This is a very productive weekend!
“Doesn’t look like good news,” Faustina muttered, but where Arpad Rigó could hear her.
“As your legates pointed out in Yazoo City,” he replied just before the messenger got to him, “the only thing worse than running is walking!”
He took the sealed envelope with this left while returning the man’s salute with his right. Her eyes were just good enough to see that the wax seal was from the Department of State, not War. Which could be good or bad, too. As her uncle broke the seal, she stepped away to her left to be diplomatically polite but still noted the message was two typed pages.
While her father read, Ryland stared across the river with a sigh.
“Missing home?” Faustina asked to pass the time while Arpad read.
“A little. Don’t get me wrong: this little adventure was worth every minute of my time!” she explained. “It’s just… I want to get back to my studies in Galveston, at the Naval Academy.”
“I imagine you’ll complete that faster than a normie would, too?”
“I am a ‘normie,’ cousin!” Ryland snarked back. “But you are probably correct. In fact – ”
“Crap,” her father said softly. Silence fell as they all waited. He looked up and around.
“Leave me with my family for a moment, please,” their Empress directed. Her men drew off.
“What’s left of Louisiana, really just the cities and land around New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette, while independent of the Texas Republic is something of a dependency. In exchange for their autonomy and policing themselves, we’ve kept an eye on their landward side and, once we started buying then building a green-water navy, their Gulf-ward side.”
“This,” he held up the papers, “informs me that the Gulf Shore States, a collection of cities the two hundred miles from Gulfport to Panama City, are now intercepting ships coming in and out of New Orleans. If they cannot pay a transit fee in hard currency then goods are seized.”
“Pirates,” Faustina said instantly. “Have they done this before?”
“A little. Nothing on this scale,” he replied.
“Have they taken action against Texan shipping?” she followed up.
“Not when I had left and not according to this report,” Arpad replied. “While we do not know the precise makeup of their fleets, it might not be in their best interests to do so.”
“Does your navy have the strength to defend themselves and take action against these pirates?”
Shooting a look to his daughter who was opening her mouth, Arpad replied, “While very pleased at the close cooperation of our two countries, I am afraid I cannot discuss details such as that.”
She nodded as he continued.
“I also have a question: do you consider the region I just described to be within your imperium?” he asked.
“We planned for it to be,” she replied. “The deep-water port of Mobile is necessary to us. We understand what you are saying, Mister Rigó: it would appear we shall bring them into our fold sooner than later.”
The two watched her grow still for a moment as her eyes sparkled turquoise fire.
“Please be on your way across the river,” she said in a dreamy voice, issuing streams of orders to her army with her mind. “I shall keep Texas apprised of what action I take.”
“Understood, General,” Colonel Rigó said with a salute. “Come on, Ryland.”
“I want to stay,” the fourteen-year-old girl announced.
“What?” her father barked.
“General Hartmann has an army and this will likely be a land-based war,” she began, justifying her request to her very displeased father, “but it is clear to me that there will be both brown- and green-water elements.”
“Unless she can power up that,” she pointed her arm at the under-construction cell tower, “and download naval tactics from the last hundred years, that makes me the only semi-expert from here to the Gulf of Mexico.”
“She won’t admit it,” Ryland drew herself up and stared up to her father’s smoldering eyes, “but she needs me, Colonel Rigó.”
Faustina, through her enhanced perception, was aware how poorly her uncle was taking this. But she was also aware of the pride and humor in his eyes that only a demi-human could see.
“If, if mind you!” he yelled at his daughter, “you are rendering military advice, you are no longer an observer but a combatant! You may have noted from last week’s campaign in the north that even Empress Faustina does not recognize the Laws of War! This could go very badly for you!”
“While I have the utmost respect for my nation’s Field Forces,” Ryland countered, perfectly still, “do you not think the safest place for the world for me is by General Hartmann’s side in the heart of her army?”
“Dammit!” he whispered, shaking his head. “Hemmed in again!”
Faustina was not sure what Arpad meant by that but as she perceived her cousin’s blood pressure going down a bit, it must mean Ryland won. Ah! Perfect timing!
“Down here, legate!” Faustina turned to wave at a man up by the pillbox construction. “Please join us!”
Tapscott of Third Legion was a little curious as to why those three were standing close and the legionaries at a short distance. From his time with his commander, the situation looked tense but not dire. He trotted down the path to where they stood.
“General,” he said, raising his arm.
“I need you right now as a witness. In a few moments after we have much to do,” she explained, turning back to Colonel Rigó. “Please.”
“Seaman Third-class Ryland Rigó! You are hereby seconded to General Faustina Hartmann of the Imperial Army! You will obey her orders or any of her subordinates as so directed. Do you understand and comply?” he addressed her in a voice of command.
“I do!” she said, saluting him. He returned the salute before facing Faustina and lowering his voice.
“Please take care of her.”
He saluted. She returned it. Arpad turned on his heel and went to the boat without a look back. Faustina allowed her head to tilt right to regard her young cousin with what she hoped was an unpleasant smile.
“Welcome to imperial service, Seaman Rigó,” she said in a voice a cat might use to a mouse. “Let’s see about getting you a proper uniform!”