From her personal mistake of going on recon nearly by herself in unknown territory, it is now pointed out to our genius that she has done the same thing to her entire command, putting thousands of lives at risk.
Her other family, in the form of her god-mother and her sister-in-law’s father, take Faustina to task on this point to make her older. At least there is some good news at the end.
Sung and warm in the golden scaled coils of the great dragon, Faustina closed her eyes and reveled in what for her was perfect contentment.
I sense you came here for information and possibly for advice. How long do you intend to lose yourself in my True Form?
Time passes differently in our home, as you well know, so I’ve time enough to love you like this.
“Yip!” escaped her mouth as she fell a few inches to the dirt. “Hey! Why’d you do that?”
“You had that lesson in immature behavior this morning, God-daughter,” Fausta said, walking up to where Faustina lay in the dirt surrounded by a few patches of scrub grass, then some trees. Six feet tall, her dark brown hair in a tight braid laying over one of her broad shoulders, her emerald eyes were much brighter than the old green fatigues she wore. She leaned down to offer her hand to her god-daughter.
Faustina grasped it tightly, catching a glimpse of the dragon as she was jerked to her feet.
“Someday,” the young general whispered as Fausta released her, “I will come home here. Forever.”
“A difficult subject both for us and your human philosophers and theologians,” her god-mother smiled. “Open your mind to me while we walk. I shall pass that information onto those who need it.”
Faustina relaxed the firewalls of her lines as they ambled away from what served as Fausta’s practice range and dojo, into the mix of pine and leafy trees. When she spied the impossibly-tall coconut tree, impossible in the human’s world, she wondered who might be waiting for them on Henge’s father’s eight-meter-wide, thin blue metal disc which hovered about two feet off the ground. Oh. It was Henge’s father, Thaad, himself.
The eldest of all Thinking Machines on Earth appeared to Faustina’s eyes as a youth about her age, but an inch shorter. Sandy hair worn a trifle long to cover for his jug-handle ears was atop an epicene face. His typical attire was an off-white woolen tunic with a rope about his waist. He had been staring out at the drop of land of about one hundred yards, starting about two hundred yards away. Sometimes there would be huge spinning cylinders, looking like difference engines from the 19th century, there, but nothing today. As he turned at her approach, a large map appeared next to him in the air. It showed the old Deep South and the locations of all of her forces, including Fifth Legion strung out from Huntsville to Birmingham.
“Morning, Thaad,” Faustina said with a polite bow. They seemed to think it always morning. “Are you well?”
He gave her a sour look as the question was meaningless.
“Faustina Hartmann,” he acknowledged her, “you have gotten yourself into a predicament and think to use us to get you out?”
“I certainly would not say ‘use,’ Thaad,” she countered. “I simply wanted information. If that makes you uncomfortable, I can pull what I need from observation satellites and the databases of any working computers in the Gulf Shore States.”
“Yes, you will,” he agreed before turning to his left and the map, “but I am thinking more of this. Your army is here. A smaller but more powerful force is just here. Your presumed objective is to the south, here.”
“You are in an untenable position,” he announced. “If you attack the Camp Shelby force you might win, but at what cost? If you bypass them to move south, you have an armored brigade in your rear. Untenable.”
“You have foolishly provoked a military situation from what should have been a diplomatic one,” he said, turning back to her with cold gray eyes. “You are too young.”
“Fausta?” her god-daughter asked. “Your opinion?”
“You know how much I like a good fight, namesake,” the tall woman replied with her slight Hispanic accent, “and also that wanting humans safe is a part of what I am. What all my family is. You look at a map and see land to incorporate into your imperium. If you were older you would see other people’s homes.”
“Homes which,” Faustina sighed, letting her shoulders fall, “they, of course, are willing to defend.”
She stared at the map.
“The only thing to do is retreat to Jackson, then,” she muttered. “That will wreck morale.”
“Tsch!” Thaad made an odd sound. “Still too young! You think only in terms of your legions, child?”
That seemed to be as far as things were going with tribe Tohsaka. Faustina bowed again, her eyes smiling for Fausta.
Now just in the Void, she considered the addresses and descriptors of the nodes of those systems used by the GSS. As she holed through the defenses of Camp Shelby, voices from meatspace reached her ears.
“…her eyes, Mitch! You see that!… not kidding that she’s not human…!” some excitable lad called.
Not important right now. Hmmm… yes, about a brigade of men. Yikes! This place used to be the HQ of 177th Armored Brigade! Can’t see explicitly how many are operational… working backward from their maintenance logs, I’d say twenty to forty. Assuming there is someone competent to command them, they would chew up at least ten cohorts. Thaad is correct: a pitched battle is out of the question.
Faustina’s mind’s eye wandered. The shipping and lading manifests all along the port cities… much more precise records of how many and what kind of armed surface vessels they had. Hello, there! She burrowed in and took a look at the process controls of the massive refinery at the southeast tip of Pascagoula. Had she wanted, it could be shut down immediately. Good to know.
Fausta? she asked.
Namesake? came the immediate reply.
I need to send a video message. However, it will take time to get all that together where my body is. Would I be pushing too much to ask you to take my words and match them to a simulacrum you create of my head and neck, to be delivered to this address, here?
That… in her god-mother’s pause, Faustina guessed she was seeking guidance, would be okay, little namesake. May I share something with you, first?
My niece, Henge, tells us her son is born. They call him Roland.
Faustina felt the smile on her face in meatspace. A nice capture of both our father’s Germanic ancestry and a nod to our family in Texas!
Thank you, god-mother.
Are you ready for me to record your voice?
Yes. Message begins: “President John Dysart of the Gulf Shore States! I am General Hartmann, dispatched from Knoxville to secure a line of transit from that city to Vicksburg on the Mississippi…”