We learn a little more about the cultural differences between the Northern Federation and the imperium. My suspicion is that besides their Boston campaign, the NF has been in “glorious isolation” since the Breakup and learned to keep to themselves. I’m trying to imagine what the shock of Aurie’s army must be to the one’s who run their country.
Hmm. Who does run the NF? Who sent Colour and her team? Well, now; guess I had better figure that our before I go much further.
“Are you the only woman here?” Jansen asked.
“In this army? Yes,” the general replied, sitting back down. “Only safe and secure back home are females permitted non-combatant roles. Never at the tip of the spear.”
“Even in our militia units,” Colour bridled slightly, “plenty serve well and honorably alongside…”
“Your country; your rules,” Hartmann cut her off. “After the Change, human female breeders cannot be put at hazard.”
To add to her words, Aurelia stood and moved Colour’s satchel to the dirt floor and unfolded and fluffed the aged, scratchy blanket as best she could.
“Speaking of which,” she turned and leaned just a little into her new friend’s personal space, “you’ve never had children. So I shall acquit your stupid statement to being uninformed.”
“How… how did…?” Colour was too surprised to remember to be offended.
“Your smell. All women smell different once they’re no longer virgins,” was the demi-human’s easy reply, “and those who have been pregnant different again. You’re not wearing a ring, so I guess you’re not a widow. Most keep them. So, divorced?”
“Yes.” She stood and moved from the chair to her cot.
Being a Hartmann and a Barrett, Aurelia pushed.
“Because you’re barren?”
“Sure it wasn’t your ex?” she asked. “My great-grandpa was sterile. My mom only had enough eggs for me and my brother after her incomplete formation. It happens.”
“N… no. My ex-husband had a son with his new wife less than a year after we…”
“After he tossed you out like yesterday’s trash?”
Her new friend shook, putting her right hand to her eyes. Once again, I go too far. My legionaries are tough. My family tougher. I forget how to play with humans.
“I am sorry,” Aurelia said, sitting next to Colour and putting her right arm about her shoulders. “My dad’s a brilliant doctor, specializing in people like me, but at your age, I don’t think there’s anything to be done.”
“It,” Jansen took a shuddering breath and lifted her head, “it’s fine. I play with my two brothers’ kids. We have fun. Even with snow on the ground eight months out of the year.”
Aurie knew now was not the time to talk about the Maunder Minimum. She gave another half-hug, instead.
“It’s getting late, newest friend,” she announced. “Unless you wanted to resume our political discussion? I keep odd sleep hours.”
“While it was not a very long ride to get here,” Colour said, “I think you have surprised me enough for one evening. Friend.”
“Is there a latrine I can visit before bed?” she asked.
“Yep!” Hartmann stood next to her and moved to the tent flap. “There is one thing, though.”
“This is a marching camp. We don’t waste time on building shitters. The best I can offer is a well-drained cut in the ground, at the low end of the camp, just to the east,” the general explained. “But… here!”
Colour was handed what looked and felt a bit like a paper towel.
“Toilet paper! I admit my rank does have a few privileges!” she crowed.
“Thank you,” Jansen almost smiled again, pausing just as she brushed next to this odd young woman. “Is there really…? Are you people really colonizing Mars?”
“Don’t doubt me, human!” Aurelia said, once again letting her eyes flash gold. “I’ll show you a couple of pictures before we say our prayers and go to sleep.”
“You, someone like you, pray?” The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them.
“I am a child of a miracle, who herself is a child of a miracle,” the princess said, standing onto her toes to brush her lips to Colour’s cheek. “Rather churlish of me to not thank God for all that, isn’t it? Here, let me lead you; a non-legionary would be arrested before you made it ten feet.”
Colour Jansen let the other take her left hand and pull her out into the camp’s torchlight, her mind lost in the events of the last few hours.