Sorry about the title; I cannot stop, it seems.
It seems Aurie really does want to get to know this new person better. But that new person pulls the discussion back to politics then challenges a demi’s command of information. Aurelia’s parents are lovely, quiet people. Unfortunately their daughter seems to take after her aunt.
Passing through the outer part of the command tent, Aurelia held the flap to her personal quarters behind her for her guest. Realizing the human could not see in the low light, she called back for a single oil lantern. With that in hand, Colour was unable to hear the general’s next soft order to one of her men.
“Uh…” the older woman began.
“I told them to bring another cot,” the girl smiled in the dim. “So, no: I’m going to molest you!”
“After all,” Aurelia went on, pointing to the chair while she sat onto her cot, “you’re what? Twice my age? That’s too creepy to even think about.”
“Most people get my age wrong,” Colour tried, sitting. “Perhaps because of my blood.”
“Malay?” Aurelia guessed.
“Filipino. A mix.”
“We are all. Besides that star-stuff I just mentioned, my dad’s half Chinese.” She stared at the little flame. “Tricky to run an ethnostate when you’re a mutt. But my aunt’s subjects seem to trust us.”
“What was that term you used? Demi…?” Jansen tried.
“Demi-human. Our brains and nervous systems are jacked up.” Aurelia smiled. “No super powers or bullshit like that. We just think faster and better than humans do. And, we can see into the Void. What would take you hours on a computer I can touch in milliseconds.”
“Like, seeing my age, for instance.” It was the first time Aurelia saw the hint of a smile on her guest’s face.
“Except around your eyes, you look thirty-five. And, since we’re friends now, I’m twenty-five,” she said.
“Commanding an army, so young!”
“Please. Faustina did this when she was eighteen and was empress a year later.” The demi-human sighed. “I feel I’ve barely made par.”
“How many, of your kind, are there?” Colour asked while looking at the little desk. Sensing her need, General Hartmann called for a pitcher of water and two cups.
“Enough,” she replied with a smile. “And, as my cousin discovered recently, we sometimes show up where we’re not expected!”
The older woman didn’t know what to say to that and remained silent while that pitcher and cracked plastic cups were brought in.
“I’d have thought a princess – ” Jansen began.
“The boys, the legionaries, always come first,” the princess corrected. “We make do.”
“And now, your legionaries are on our border,” Colour said, losing what little smile she had.
“You want to get into that now? Fine.” Aurelia stood and poured water for them both before reseating herself on the edge of her cot. “When you leave for home tomorrow, after breakfast, tell your masters the imperium proposes to make your Northern Federation a Friend and Ally. A mutual defense pact and re-negotiated trade deals.”
“I didn’t know we had any trade deals,” was Jansen’s reply. She also raised her hand to speak more. “And, suppose we get a better deal from the Canadians?”
“You’re more than welcome to try,” was the princess’ easy reply. “But do keep in mind that my family will be in power for generations and the Canadian government will fall to pieces in less than twenty years. Likely much sooner.”
“You…” Colour was shocked to hear that about their peaceful northern neighbor. “You know this?”
“We know what we know. And we know this.” Another sigh. “Picking up the pieces of their Midwestern occupation will fall to the next empress or emperor. I’d rather that not be me.”
“You’re at the head of an army. Friend.” Colour spoke carefully. “You must have ambition.”
“I want to marry and raise my family,” Aurelia’s golden eyes flared in the low light, startling her guest. “And I want to do it as the anointed sovereign, queen, of Mars.”
That was finally too much. Colour Jansen burst into laughter.
“It’s a dead planet!” she cried. “There’s nothing…”
“The entire northern hemisphere is water, human,” General Hartmann snapped at her. “You do not know what you do not know.”
Another silence fell.
“You are telling the truth?” Jansen asked.
Colour raised her head and let her eyes drift up to the top of the tent.
“I… everyone has heard of the new ships. The bases of yours, the Russians, the Japs, on the Moon. I’ve never…” she trailed off.
Cousin Laszlo was right: we never planned to keep this so secret but it seems no one wants to believe it.
“You have now,” Aurelia said, standing and moving as another cot was brought in and opened at ninety degrees from the first. What was her guest’s small bag was dropped onto it. She thanked her men as they withdrew.