General Hartmann gets some human intelligence back and is told that for the safety of her army, she needs more. Time to get back to the scifi elements of my future history. It’s just been difficult to do in her current low-tech environment.
Thirty minutes later, now inside the ruined house, stood the General and her three legates and Chesney about a table with maps. Behind them were the senior centurions of the first cohort of each legion. Behind them, along the walls, were staffers. Outside was clouding up again as pop-up thunderstorms followed in the wake of the fast-moving hurricane.
“This town is sorta their northwest frontier,” Chesney explained, “and only a part of the GSS for the last two years. President Dysart promised and delivered on patrolling the Pearl with gunboats and the hinterland with troops from the old National Guard base, just outside Hattiesburg. As I said, they’ve about a brigade – or legion – but with Bradley’s and MRAPs, so they can move fast if they need to or want to.”
“And potentially overwhelm what few anti-armor tubes we have with us. Not good news,” Gibson huffed.
“Anything else military we need right now?” Faustina asked Chesney.
“As you saw yourself, they send out foot patrols. Just ‘cause they have fuel doesn’t mean they are a-wash in it. We didn’t speak with any of the soldiers directly; seemed risky,” he concluded.
“If that was the case I’d have thought you would have made it a point to!” she teased. “Okay. Politics?”
“Like I said, northwest frontier,” Chesney said with a nod while pointing at the larger map. “They are on a friendly down-river trading basis with New Orleans – or they were – and have some carts go as far as McComb for rail access. Bigger picture? Hattiesburg is no bigger than Columbia… the Breakup hit it hard. It seems that the whole area exists to support the brigade in Camp Shelby. Since we didn’t hear a thing passing from Meridian to Jackson, I guess they haven’t pressed north at all. I’d call them the landward shield for the GSS center of gravity from Mobile to Gulfport.”
“And, what you just touched on: any word of us?” Owens asked.
“Yep, but only rumors,” sixth’s cohort centurion grinned. “From that McComb and New Orleans trade, the locals here think there’s been some army from an unknown point way north that has taken Vicksburg and parts of former-Mississippi. Most are inclined to think it is some Texan expeditionary force. Posing as scouts for Vicksburg tradesmen, I did not disabuse them of that notion.”
“There was one old codger, though,” Chesney grew reflective and a little quieter, “down on the wooden docks they’ve built. After a couple of beers, he did lean over to whisper a question to me: “Did you see her? They say she’s not human!””
“It would seem, Empress,” he concluded drolly, “word of mouth proceeds you.”
“Good!” a flash and rumble highlighted her feral grin. “And I take this as a sign for what to do next! All of you squeeze what else you can out of this troublemaker! I’m running up north to fire up the insulated generator while we’ve some covering noise! I’ll be back with more intel as soon as I can. Carry on!”
She saluted and was out the door as they were still just lifting their arms. Were it not for their sudden, unexpected harassment of Louisiana, I think it would have been simple negotiation to bring the Gulf Shore States, GSS, indeed! into the imperium. We would hold their northern flank and save them the cost of maintaining an army, freeing up more naval and merchant resources. I hope my other family has some insight into this.
The rain was just coming down when she slowed her dash to not startle the century at the now semi-buried building. The sat-com system, centered around its half-meter diameter dish was still in the cart with cords leading inside. Under cover from the rain, the wireless router was carefully perched next to it. Faustina asked them to fire up the generator then turn the system on while sitting in the cart next to it. A muffled rumble from the building was matched with a louder one from the sky.
“Ah!” she exclaimed.
One of the rankers looked at her and took a step back, having never seen his General like this before: dilated, jet-black pupils surrounded by a bright ring of turquoise fire. When she moved her head up and left to right, the metal dish matched the motions of her head perfectly. Faustina lowered her gaze as she adjusted skew, azimuth, and elevation… hunting for a satellite she could – there!
The ranker continued to stare, amazed. One more flash then he could just make out the words from her lips: “Hello, God-mother!”