These next two will wrap up getting Colour Jansen up to speed on things south. I know Aurie could just use overhead imagery to see the old Boston harbor but like any good commander, she prefers personal recon.
Rainy day here, thankfully, so my honey-do list is halved and I have time to write. Daughter #1 will be down for the night from uni for a doctor’s appt tomorrow. Pondering what to make for dinner.
At that, she picked up her pace and made it her point to have a word with all of her men as she went toward the front of the line.
“A pleasure, Ma’am,” Habe began. “Please let me know how I can help you.”
Not so much sealing wax and kings, Jansen and Habe did talk recent history. Colour knew the basics of what had been going on in the old Deep South but not the details. Both the Gulf Shore States and the fact that the empress’ last enemy had been another demi-human was news to her. Which raised a point.
“You talk about your empress in such a tone,” she said to the young NCO. “My country is a loose republic so I admit I find that a little odd.”
“The Empress, Ma’am,” Habe replied, “is the Mother of the Nation. We’uns all knows she’s difernt, like ours Princess, here, but she and her family have saved us all. Dad told me we’s was just holding on by our fingertips in Knoxville. Sure, pushing out a little to Chattanooga and Huntsville, but then the Chinks show up in Savannah and Wilmington? Either thems or one mounted raid from outside would have wrecked everything.”
“Empress dun changed that, once and for all. My great uncle,” he turned and spat, “says we’uns gave up our liberty to some freak. Liberty? What’n the hell is that? We are at peace to live our lives. And callin’ her a ‘freak,’ well, he and I don’t talk no more.”
From both of her parents, Colour was taught to read early and had done so voraciously as a child and teen. She knew what a cult of personality was but this sounded different.
“Have you ever met her?” Colour asked.
“Me? Hah! I’m nobody!” he laughed. “Dad has. He was a cohort commander in St. Louis and Washington. Personally decorated by the Empress! Here!”
He fished around in one of his uniform pockets until pulling out an old, creased photo. Jansen recognized Faustina. Shaking the hand of someone who looked like an older version of the boy before her.
“He must be very proud of you,” she allowed, passing the photo back.
“I’s…” He stowed the picture away and leaned in to whisper. “I’s put in for a transfer. Legion Eleven. Mars! Empress says she’ll lead us there, in person!”
I’m walking down a road through the ruins of a great city of one of the world’s superpowers and a teenage boy tells me he’s going to Mars, she thought. This must be a dream.
“Nope!” Aurelia called, suddenly next to her. “And yes, demis can read humans nearly like telepathy, so don’t fret. The Second Inundation is later this year but colonists will not ship out for another five, at least. And Habe? I already approved your request. Just now.”
“Princess!” His voice caught. “I… I’s means…”
“The sun is westering,” she ignored him, “I’ve told the forward centuries we’re ghosting tonight, just to the east. I’ll put my eyes on the harbor tomorrow morning then we’ll hot-foot it back to camp.”
“Understood,” Habe said, watching her let the column move around her as she passed the order to the next centurion.
“Ghosting?” Colour asked.
“No fort. We’ll find someplace she’s happy with and go to ground there. Silent and invisible,” he explained. Making his point, fourth cohort left the road to the east, headed for what looked like a marsh. Habe sighed. “Mosquito heaven.”