When she wants to, Aurie and the rest of her fam can get down to business very quickly. Humans usually struggle to keep up but anyone who makes it to archbishop is already a political operator.
A bit of a longer installment. Officially over 20k words, though! I’ve “minor surgery” tomorrow at 0700, a ganglion cyst on my left wrist. I think the odds of dying are low but it is right over one of the two arteries which supply that hand. As a writer, I’m a bit freaked over that. If the next post is from my wife, I’m dead. I hope not; I’ve such stories to tell…
“Have you said Mass already today, your Eminence?” Aurelia asked.
“This morning, before setting out.” He arched his eyebrows at her. “Seemed safer that way.”
“Morning, then, if that’s okay with you,” she suggested. “I used to be an Altar Girl. May I help?”
“That… that would be most welcome, Princess,” the archbishop agreed while looking around at what was a tent city surrounded by walls. Of more soldiers than he thought Quebec had. “Novus Ordo or Tridentine?”
“Tridentine!” Aurelia said, now with a real smile. “I am so pleased you are not a heretic!”
“In these times we find ourselves in, Princess Aurelia, we all try to consider the past and future,” he replied.
They stopped at where the two great compacted dirt paths crossed right in the middle of the fort.
“That,” Hartmann pointed right, “is the VIP tent. Colour? They already moved what little you had to mine. That’s for you, your Eminence. The tent next to it and directly across is for your men. Are any other priests? Or just security?”
“Security. It appears I do not rate the same level of bodyguards you do, Princess.”
She laughed again. And chose to be honest.
“I really like you! Smart and clever! Please call me Aurelia from now on!”
“Then,” he stroked at his sparse beard once, “I guess I’m Henri.”
“<Do you speak French?> he asked in a hard Quebec dialect.
“<Enough to get by,>” Aurelia replied. “<I can make myself older tonight if that language is easier for you.>”
“That’s fine,” he replied, not really understanding. “We shall stay in English.”
“I do also know Russian, Japanese, and a little German. How about you, Colour?”
Once again caught off guard, it took the older woman a moment.
“A little French, sure,” she said. “We value our friends to our north. But nothing else.”
“If you’re going to be a freighter pilot, you’ve gotta learn Martian, too!” Aurelia laughed.
“What?” both the archbishop and her friend said at the same time.
“I kid, I kid.” All emotion dropped from Hartmann’s face. “Archbishop? May you and I speak alone for a bit? We have lives to save.”
“May I have one of my men there as a secretary, to take notes?” he asked.
“Absolutely! And that gives me a reason to have my friend with me!” She saw the look in his eyes. “I have perfect recall, being what I am, but I like to show off sometimes.”
“And what is that you are,” the archbishop asked, following her wave to proceed him into the command tent. “Besides a general and princess?”
Colour suppressed a sigh, knowing what was coming.
“Demi-human. We and the Thinking Machines are the sole beings fit to rule in the world of the Change,” Aurelia announced. “May I get you some water? We’ve probably some wine around here somewhere. I don’t drink nor let my army do so.”
Choosing to ignore that, Lefevre indicated the man who followed them in.
“This is Mister Bastiat. Also an ordained deacon,” he said. “He’ll act as my secretary.”
Aurelia introduced herself and her friend before waving them to sit. She pushed the maps out of the way and set out four cups of water.
“Do you intend to invade our country?” The archbishop got right to the point.
“It is not my intention at this moment,” the princess replied. “However, I and the high command of the imperium are well known to change our minds quickly.”
“We have done nothing to deserve being threatened in this manner,” he said in a harder tone.
“We? We who? I asked you before: Canada or Quebec? Or just Montreal?” Aurelia countered. “Between the summer capitol of Ottawa and the winter of Trudeau, with the Russian Empire eating your west, the imperium to the south, and me here and now, it strikes me, Archbishop Lefevre, your nation has a death wish.”
“The snow and ice of the Maunder Minimum can be seen from the tall buildings of your northern cities,” she carried on before he could reply. “Winnipeg and Edmonton are under the ice; dead. While Canada can put more men into the field than we can, they have no fusion weapons and no reactionless motors.”
“Canada is dead,” the empress’ niece concluded. “Your idiot politicians just don’t know it yet. It is our job to stop any bloodshed when they realize that.”
No one spoke for nearly a minute.
“Our job?” Lefevre asked.
“Yes. You are meant to be here with me. Quebec must be a free and independent nation, affiliated with the imperium, of course, but that’s some time in the future,” Aurelia pronounced. “Depending on what I hear from the Northern Federation tomorrow…”
She leaned left to brush Colour’s cheek with her left hand.
“Shall dictate what I will say to the Maritime Provinces in just a few days. I’m sure I can come to some agreement with them, as well,” the princess concluded. She sat back and took a drink of water from a cracked plastic cup.
“You ask me to betray my country?” he asked, still in his hard tone.
“No one said any such thing,” she rejoined easily. “I implore you to help me keep peace.”
“Peace,” he said slowly. “Under you people.”
“With us. Would you prefer the Russians? They have two brigades coming east, you know?”
Another hush over the table.
“I will have to have time to speak with many people, Princess,” Lefevre allowed.
“And I told you I have no current plans for one of my men to take a step further north.” She grinned a little ferally. “I may play tourist in Nova Scotia, though. But as Aurie Hardt; just a girl from parts south!”
Colour could no longer take it and burst out laughing.