Colour me Skeptical

Nearly eight years ago, when writing my first novel, I was aware and commented that Maine & New Hampshire had formed something called the Northern Alliance or Northern Federation to protect themselves against attacks from the dying central Federal government. I do not know many details but I do know that Boston, already starving, was razed to the ground by this new local state.

Last night, in a fog of bourbon, I recalled that a contentious boss of mine is relocating her family to Maine in a few months. And, to use my worn cliche of how I’m given these stories, the film in the theater of my mind started rolling.

I’d already been thinking about Princess Aurelia and her role in Machine Civilization. Looks like it’s time to tell her story.

In an area with no signal, General Hartmann instead surveyed the maps on the table before her rather than assessing them with the lines in her head.

Cohorts of Legion Seven are spooled out to our rear, down to the broken naval base in New Haven, she thought.  Five, Six, and Eight stretch from where I am now, on the old Massachusetts coast, inland nearly a hundred miles to the Hudson River.  While this land is de facto Northern Federation, they have not annexed it.  Thus our pause, as they politely requested I do not enter their land.

“It’s like the pomerium in the old Roman Republic,” Aurelia Hartmann laughed, making her look even younger than her twenty-five years.

“What’s that, General?” one of her aides asked.

“It was a sacred border.  No royal was allowed to cross it,” she explained.  “They were terrified it would pollute their sacred Republic.  I think that’s what I see here:  while possibly more socially conservative than our imperium – and that’s a laugh! – the Northern Federation seems dogmatically republican in their politics.”

“Republics.  Democracies,” the man on the other side of the table spat.  Her legate of Legion Five, Tal Paras.  A little young to lead a legion but Aurelia had liked him at their introduction and was older to trust her instincts.  “Thank God for the Empress.  And your family, too, of course.”

“I appreciate the mention, Tal,” she smiled, being niece to the ruler of their imperium.  “Was there anything else you needed to tell me about our supply lines?”

“We’ve covered it, General.” Paras stood and saluted, his right arm straight up, fingers just parted.  “May I return to my men?”

“Of course,” she agreed, sketching a salute with her palm raised to her shoulder.  What’s the point of being in the imperial family if we don’t take some liberties?

With her legate gone, she walked out of the front of her command tent.  It stood in the precise center of their marching fort.  One thousand feet on a side, a twelve-foot wooden wall was already up with an eight-foot ditch before it.  The legions all carried modern weapons but such nightly construction efforts focused the attention of the locals and gave her boys a sense of peace when they slept.

Just northwest of the tiny town of Ipswich, she let her golden eyes track out to the Atlantic Ocean.

“I was expecting to find ‘horrors beyond my imagining’ here,” she sighed to herself.  “Disappointed again.”

“General!” a junior centurion came running from their north gate and saluted.  “There is a delegation from the Northern Feds, come to see you!”

Perhaps I spoke too soon?

“How many?” Six, she was told.  “Have something tossed together for dinner in an hour.  But for now, escort them to my tent.”

With her legionary running back north, she took a moment to look down at herself.  Dusty, slightly rumpled field gray legionary uniform.  No signs of rank at all.  Certainly not like my aunt’s gold circlet.  But she’s empress; I’m a humble general of her armies.  Back at the command tent, she asked another aide about her hair.

“If ‘rat’s nest’ is your style, it’s fine, General!” he laughed.  Aurelia laughed right back.

“Can’t be helped, then,” she shrugged, hearing the snorting of horses being escorted to the heart of her camp.  Four men, two women.  The woman in the lead looked about constantly with something of a dire look on her face.  She resents my being here.

Exercising her demi-human nature, Aurelia took in cues from that woman that no human could ever see.  Surprisingly fit and there’s something from the East in her skin.  Aurelia’s father was half-Min Chinese.  But her eyes are old… old.  She’s seen more than she wanted to.  All the back to the Breakup, maybe?

Not like her aunt to deliberately put people off, she took a few steps and this time gave a proper legionary salute.

“I am Princess Aurelia!  Commanding General of the Legions of Her Imperial Majesty, Faustina Hartmann!  Be welcome in our camp!  May I ask your name?” she called clearly.

Hearing the royal title, the woman’s face went from a frown to a scowl.

“My name is Colour Jannsen.  I have been asked by my government to treat with you and determine why you have brought an army to our borders,” she answered in a surprisingly resonant voice.  Definitely older than she looks.

“Why you?” Aurelia laughed, borrowing some of her aunt’s insulting behavior.

“Word is,” Colour replied, “you were a part of nuking St. Louis.”

“I helped plan it, yes.  I’m rather deedy at that sort of thing.  Your point?”

“I helped plan the razing of Boston.”

Aurelia took the last five steps between them and looked up the one inch to this human’s eyes.  She let her own blaze gold.  And she smiled.

“We’re going to get along just fine!” the princess said, taking the surprised other into a hug.

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