This was a surprise. I am as curious as y’all are to know if Lefevre was sent by Ottawa, Quebec, or is acting on his own? It also implies that the Catholicism of the imperial family is common knowledge. I do see already that Aurie politely demands he and his entourage be her guests for the evening. Guess Colour is getting kicked out of her VIP tent…
I kid. I’m sure they have have several extra. Hmmm. Was Aurelia an altar server as a kid? Be funny if she, general and princess, helps with Mass. Unlike the Empress, I think Aurie would be happy to. We’ll see.
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Skirting Lakes George and Champlain to the east, six days later had another fort under construction just south of St. Albans City, ten miles to Canada’s legal border. Not used to the sound, an odd mechanical buzzing caught her attention. Colour was startled to see a large propeller-driven drone lift into the sky from the compacted dirt road inside the fort. A smaller whine followed as she watched a four-rotor drone helicopter lift straight up.
“Just a few of the General’s eyes, Ma’am,” Blaise contributed to her obvious confusion. “This close to a border? Cain’t have no’uns sneakin’ up on us.”
“They are not sneaking, hastatus Blaise,” his general said, from behind them. He turned and saluted which Aurelia returned. “In fact, there is a small entourage of automobiles headed our way, just now. They crossed the old border minutes ago so should be here in fifteen minutes. Not army trucks, but cars. I admit to being intrigued. Perhaps a diplomatic mission?”
“Friend Colour?” she abruptly asked. “How tightly does your country police its northern borders? Is something such as this unusual?”
“Traders come and go all the time, General,” Jansen said, staying in character in front of the legionaries. “Burlington, which we passed through this morning, is certainly one of their main stops. Goods are sold there for transport further into the Federation. After… after the Breakup, we are still a bit nervous about large numbers of outsiders wandering about.”
“Like four legions?” Aurelia laughed before looking about. “I could fire up my satcom link and see who’s coming, but as it doesn’t look threatening, I’m in a mood to be surprised. How do I look?”
“Your uniform is muddy and your nice black-purple hair is matted with sweat,” Colour replied in perfect honesty. Blaise suppressed a laugh. “You’ll make quite the impression.”
“You’re right. I will!” She gestured to the man behind her for her helmet and seated it on her head. “In the early days, the empress used to play pretend, letting others assume one of her legates was an army commander while she stayed still and quiet; learning, being older. With the imperium now an active political entity, I need no subterfuge. Come. Follow me to the north gate.”
Walking out of it as the finishing touches were put onto the fort, Colour heard the sound of the cars along the road. With no oil of their own and importation of POL ruinously expensive, there were almost none in the Northern Federation. Even half of their fishing boats were coal-powered. The six sedans slowed and stopped when they came around a corner and saw the legionary fort. Less than a minute later they resumed their drive south. But much slower.
“Startled,” Hartmann said, “but whoever is in charge recovered fast. Quebec plates so I’m going to assume from Montreal. Wonder if they want to join our side?”
“Your side, you mean, General,” Colour corrected.
“You are on my side. I suggest you get used to that,” was her reprimand. “They stopped. Two attractive women at the head of an army to greet them; I’d love to hear what they are saying to each other right now!”
“I’m fifty-two, General.” It was now Colour’s turn to correct. “I’m not – ”
“Yes, you are. Now: hush and watch.”
From the first two sedans came a half-dozen men in suits with pistols obviously under their coats. Security. From the last two came ten more. All fanning out and trying to look everywhere at once. From the middle…
“Well, now,” Colour heard her friend breathe as they saw an older man in a cassock step forth. “Archbishop Lefevre of Montreal. Are you Catholic, Colour?”
“No,” she mouthed back.
Twenty yards apart, the archbishop and general covered the distance between them. Colour was surprised when her young friend dropped to one knee, placed her helmet onto the ground, and waited. Lefevre extended his hand and she kissed his ring.
“Rise, my child,” he said in a strong voice. With her demi-human perception, the princess instantly assessed what she could. Mid-fifties; healthy; a frank smile in his salt-and-pepper beard; politics in his eyes. Doesn’t look like a deviant or freak. She bowed her head again.
“I am General Princess Aurelia Hartmann, of the imperium of Empress Faustina,” she began. “I am humbled that Your Eminence would come to treat with me.”