Busy weekend. Nearly three hours at DayJob (Saturdays are usually only two) followed by putting the shelve together. After Mass and paying bills on Sunday, I had to haul said shelf and copies of my books to the mall… where they are having a car show. And thus no place to park. I cheat and use my wife’s cripple tag which also makes me have to walk less. Consult with the store owner about where to set up, put out books, decide that sucks, re-arrange books, re-consult with owner, and leave. I still had more to do about the house – putting the toilet overhaul off until Tuesday – so no time to write. As I anticipated that I did not feel guilty. But after nothing over the last two days, today’s installment is a little longer.
More politics. It looks like Aurie is winning and it also looks like she nearly blew it by going too far, too fast. Except for the Canadians, who have played nice with them for nearly three generations of the Change, the good folks of the Northern Federation are a socially conservative, quiet lot. Very wary of change.
General Hartmann looked east at the sun, just recently up. Too nice a day to start a war. Leaving her aides and security detail outside, Aurelia reentered the red brick building from yesterday evening. Coming alone, perhaps I’ll look less threatening? Tapping into the thin stream of signal she did yesterday, she noted a message from her aunt. I’ll leave it to you, the Empress had said. Guess I had better not screw this up.
Back in the conference room, the smaller table had been removed and all twenty were at the oblong. Lochnar, flanked by Hill and Marx on his left and right. The second to last on Hartmann’s right was Filk Jansen, who for once had a neutral expression.
“Thank you for seeing me again, ladies and gentlemen,” she began without a salute. Don’t spook them. “Thank you also for allowing me to enjoy a night in your country.”
She sat at the far end of the table.
“What shall we talk about?”
“We certainly welcome close political and trade relations with your country,” Lochnar began.
“It’s my aunt’s country but do go on.” She couldn’t help herself.
“Ah, yes. We would welcome a commission of yours to sit with a committee of ours to create a legal framework for trade and, say, exchanges of ideas,” the head of their Governing Council continued. “However. A treaty of alliance would require a plebiscite put before all the people of the Northern Federation. We do not object to taking that step but it will take some time.”
In a corner of her mind, Aurelia sent a request to High Command and the Empress for a reactionless motor craft with a team of diplomats to arrive at her current location by mid-afternoon at the latest.
“How long would that take?” she asked. Winning round one, she leaned back in her chair with a pleasant smile.
“It’s something we’ve done several times before,” Hill spoke up, “so I’d guess no more than two to three weeks.”
“So long? We could be in a shooting war with Canada by then.” Time to get them off-balance. “Do y’all need any help? Besides being the best fighters on the planet, my legionaries are also engineers, craftsmen, techs… I could put together a couple of ad hoc cohorts to assist you.”
“Cohorts?” Marx asked.
“About five hundred men.”
“You are asking we let one or two thousand foreign soldiers wander around our country?” Filk asked, likely speaking out of turn.
“Yes,” was her easy reply, still leaning back. “And they would not be ‘wandering around,’ lad. They would be attached to your people for a specific mission. Further, you and your citizenry would get to see legionaries firsthand. Nice, guys, I guarantee. Since we pay in silver, that be a good boost to your economy, too.”
With the word “lad,” Filk Jansen’s neutral expression was gone. Seeing the nervousness at the table, Hartmann backed off.
“That is entirely up to y’all. I’m just offering, trying to be nice,” she said with a smile. “But maybe upsetting the local male population might be a bad idea.”
“Why would they be upset?” a woman about thirty with longer, dish-water blond hair asked from her left.
“Once they make junior centurion, that’s like an E-5 in the old ranks, a legionary is allowed to marry,” Aurelia explained. “After sixteen years of service, he is discharged with a bonus and allotted a plot of land, usually between twenty and a hundred acres, depending on where.”
She leaned forward and carefully placed her palms flat on the table while looking up at the ceiling.
“No such acreage for our off-world colonies, though.”
Her eyes came down and she slowly scanned around the table.
“Fancy your grandkids living in the stars, ladies and gentlemen? It is within your grasp.” She decided to gamble. “You have the word of Princess Aurelia.”
The tension in the room was such to explode. She stood.
“I see I have given you more to discuss. I shall leave it to you,” she said, stepping away from the table. “But know that a diplomatic team, that commission you requested, Councilman Lochnar, will be here at 1300. Are there any airspace rules we should know about? Be a shame to shoot at your new friends.”
“I’ll field that,” Marx said, also standing and coming down the length of the table, gesturing at the door. “If you would please, General Hartmann?”
Just as yesterday evening, the moment the door closed the voices exploded. She smiled and fell in at Tann Marx’s right.