After a small display of how demis talk to one another, the army gets ready to move out. Not against the NorFeds. Yet.
I’m a little surprised Colour puts up with being bossed around by Aurie. Was she just bored living alone at home? I suppose she’ll tell me at some point.
A hard and fast twenty miles later had them back at their temporary home. Jansen was unsure if her back hurt more than her feet. A rider had intercepted them about halfway with news for the general. Colour noted her friend didn’t share but didn’t look particularly put out. Then again, she was older that people such as her could mask emotions perfectly. Please, please, she thought, let there not be a war. I have to tell the Council what I’ve seen here…
The rumble of a diesel-powered generator in the center of the fort caught her attention. Besides some battery-powered comm devices, she had not seen the legionaries use any higher tech gear at all. Thinking it important, and with no one to hinder her, Colour made her way toward where the command tent was.
The small generator was immediately next to some sort of satellite communications device. Two parabolic dishes, each about a foot across, were motionless, pointed at the ground.
“Don’t fret, it gets better,” Aurelia said, suddenly taking her right hand and pulling her along with her. The general looked about to her men. “Everything ready?”
“Sit here.” Aurelia pushed her down into the metal of the satellite cart before pushing in next to her. “Watch, but be quiet.”
Colour listened to her young friend take a great breath before letting it out slow. Aurelia’s pupils were completely dilated and surrounded by gold fire. As she moved her head this way and that, the two parabolic dishes now tracked her motion perfectly.
“Steel is our souls; fire our minds,” she barely heard the princess say. She froze, staring blankly to the south, eyes about twenty degrees above the horizon. “Hello, Empress…”
Still and silent for nearly two minutes, the general stood with another deep breath.
“Right! High command is now fully up to date on our situation here,” she explained to those about her. “Let’s talk to my legate about what your Council said, Miss Jansen.”
A polite push to Colour’s shoulder had her proceed the general into her tent. Her legate, Paras, saluted.
“Plebiscite is on for ten days hence,” he began without preamble. “And no, they do not want our help.”
“No surprise,” Aurelia rolled her eyes. “Anything else?”
“They asked, not demanded, that in that time we withdraw from those lands, quote, affiliated with the Northern Federation, unquote,” Paras added. “What they control but don’t legally claim.”
“Bold of them,” Hartmann quipped, “but I see it as bargaining. I’ve already been informed that Fifth’s presence, where we are now, might be distressing our potential new friends to the north, so had planned to move anyway. Unfortunately, if I do that now, it looks as if I’m giving in. That’s not acceptable.”
She turned to look at Jansen.
“Uh…” Colour did not want to either betray her people or her new friend. Difficult. She took two steps to the table. One of the maps she pulled closer. “You mentioned that the Hudson River might be a demarcation line. And, you want to lean on Canada. Why not take your army west, then north, to Lake Champlain, here? That puts you twenty miles from Montreal and about one hundred and thirty to Ottawa. That should get their attention.”
“Good. Paras? Radio Bloom and tell his Seventh to pull together and move northwest toward Albany beginning at oh-four-hundred,” Hartmann began ordering. “We’ll move out at five hundred and pick up Sixth and Eighth on the way. Unless whistled off by the Empress, and taking it easy on the men, I want us on the northern border in nine days.”
“About thirty miles per day? Aggressive but doable, General,” Paras agreed. “I’ll send orders out now.”
Jansen relaxed a little, knowing she could go home tomorrow.
“No, you’re not,” Aurelia contradicted her. “You’re staying with me as my local expert. And go get us some soup for dinner. We’ll eat in here.”
“You cannot just order – !”
“I can and just did.” Aurelia tilted her head right. “Where’s my soup?”