Where Miss Jansen once again brushes up against the determination of the imperium to protect itself. In “A Texas Naval Affair,” I have Ryland Rigo tell her boyfriend about the empress, “never challenge her specialness. It won’t end well.” That seems true for Aurie, as well.
A quick march back and the army is ordered to move out at first light.
It was a gentle rocking of her shoulders that awoke Colour. All was still dark except for two golden dots on her friend’s face.
“It’s oh-five-hundred,” the young woman smiled. “Piss, then we move out in ten!”
The moment she stood from the tent, a legionary collapsed it. Perhaps in their haste, they made a bit more noise than last night but with only a hint of color on the eastern horizon, she wondered how they didn’t stumble over one another. Standing from her squat in the marsh, a legionary she didn’t recognize took her left hand and led her to Senior Centurion Brown.
“Mornin’, Ma’am,” she barely heard. “General is taking us, Second Cohort, all the way to the water, past the old airport. Fourth will drop out behind us, unit by unit, to make sure our withdrawal route stays open. Please stay next to me until the princess comes for you.”
“Of course, Centurion,” she whispered back. No more than a minute later, they all began to march south.
After an hour and a half of quick marching, Colour stood at Aurelia’s left, staring south from LoPresti Park at the silent skyscrapers of former Boston.
“What a tremendous waste,” the princess muttered, looking through her field glasses. “Such human capital squandered. For nothing.”
“We will not permit that,” she announced, lowering them.
“We…?” Colour prompted.
“Demis and Thinking Machines,” Aurelia clarified. “My aunt’s imperium, Reina in Russia, tribe Tohsaka and the androids in Japan, Aqua on Mars, and the quiet assistance tribe Arpeggio has lent to the Habsburg Empire. The past hundred and fifty years have been a record of why humans must not possess self-rule.”
“And you include my country in that?” Colour asked.
“Yours is a small, out-of-the-way place. You have been fortunate to not draw the attention of the great powers.” Aurelia turned to smile at her. “Until now, of course. Your time of isolation is at an end.”
“Would… would you really attack us? Occupy us?”
“Yes.” The princess took her older friend into her arms. “I would. And I would hate doing it.”
“It’s family lore,” Aurelia went on, turning to look south again, “that great grandpa was a distant relation of John Adams. A Boston man. He was said to be ‘obnoxious and disliked,’ so I lean toward thinking that story true. After all, why would a southern family claim a Yankee?”
“Your great grandpa?” Colour echoed, still in fear for her homeland.
“I cannot say with precision,” Hartmann’s voice lowered, “that he killed as many as your mother. But he did so with amazing cruelty and precision. He saved Texas. And that gave us to their east time to recover.”
“Come!” Aurelia said so all about could hear, slapping both hands onto the rusted safety rail. “Let’s get back to the fort! I want to hear your Council’s official response. Either way, we’re moving out in the morning!”
“We… you are?” Colour managed.
“You said my Fifth Legion’s location might spook them,” the young general explained, walking quickly north. “I’ll move my entire army to the northwest. Perhaps to see what’s up in Quebec. If the Russians can peel off some of Canada’s western provinces, then why cannot I do the same, here? Come on! Keep up, Colour!”