So, I’m not dead. Yet. Was a little addled and completely unable to think to write Thursday and just hurt to much to try on Friday. Better now; and, not writing was starting to make my mind break down. It really is a borderline mental illness.
This may be the most humble I have ever seen our Princess. Why do I think she deliberately creates these situations?
“There is a diplomatic team to answer any questions anyone – politician or otherwise – in the Northern Federation may have about the imperium and Friend and Ally status,” Aurelia ignored that laugh. “They arrived there a few minutes after leaving Knoxville. Do you understand the technical implication of what I just said to you, your Excellency?”
“Not… entirely, Princess,” he admitted, opening his hands. “But obviously some of your planes are very fast.”
“They are aerospace craft,” she gently corrected with another sip of her water. She poured a little more for her three guests. “At home in the air and between worlds. Our Polar Allies, the Russians and Japanese, have regular freighters to Mars. Destroyer prototypes, even. We have our Tee-Fours. Fancy a trip to Mars, sir? I can get you there in a week.”
“As a boy, that took more than a year,” he breathed, lowering his hands and head. “So much change. Do…”
He raised his eyes to her.
“Do you swear before Almighty God you desire peace, Princess?” he demanded.
Aurelia stood from her chair and came about, once again taking a knee to kiss his ring.
“Smells like dinner’s about ready,” she announced. “Hope you have low expectations. I’d like to have you and your party on your way at first light. We all have much to do, your Excellency.”
“Indeed we do.” He stood as well. “And we’ve been known to survive on bread and wine for quite some time, Princess.”
With the rest of the Archbishop’s party seen to, there were some trays of meats and cheeses – and some bread and wine – brought in and set onto the command planning table. Plates, like the cups, were a collection of whatever wood, aluminum, or plastic they had scrounged before their march north. Colour’s eyebrows went up when her friend poured a little wine for all four of them.
“I thought you said…” she began.
“Politics. Imperial tradition considers any meeting which does not begin with a drink to be hostile.” Hartmann gave a small shrug. “I’m playing with that a little but the record shall show I drank with Archbishop Lefevre, offering the hospitality of the entire imperium.”
“Pax. Peace,” the older man said, raising his glass. They all took a sip and the young woman’s moue was obvious.
“Hate alcohol that much, do you?” he asked, reaching for some bread and cheese.
“All of our kind do. Our entire nervous systems are better than you people and alcohol interferes with how we think and act maybe twenty-times worse than it does to you humans,” Aurelia said a little more rudely than she planned, hating the taste in her mouth and feeling in her stomach.
“Flattered you still consider us people,” Lefevre said, breaking some warm, crusty bread.
“We have a precedent!” Now she smiled. “We both know someone, a certain Person, who is fully God and fully Man! So few Thinking Machines evince an interest in our affairs; it is thus demis who must shoulder the burden of nurturing, protecting, and leading all biologics and this world, and beyond.”
“Say it in that order for a reason, Friend?” Colour finally spoke up, already on her second glass of wine.
“Of course. I am so pleased you are my friend to know that.”
Small talk took the place of politics. Mostly. Aurelia spoke guardedly about her family. Colour about minor domestic matters in the NorFed (“coal for our fishing fleet is getting more expensive”) and the Archbishop confined himself to the illness of the Pope in Madrid and where another Conclave might be held, with Rome overrun by Islamists. Hartmann knelt a third time for a blessing before bed. The moment Lefevre and his aide were out the tent, she gave a sigh and stripped off her uniform jacket and marching boots. Colour watched her limp a little to the private portion of her tent, further in.
“Frie… Aurelia?” she asked in concern. “Did you hurt yourself? The stupid wine…?”
Hartmann chuckled and shook her head. She turned herself about and drew to full attention as if a cadet before her centurion. Confused more, Jansen began with her head and looked down her friend to where…
To where her left leg was nearly an inch shorter than her right.
“Demi-human does not mean perfect, Colour,” Aurelia relaxed her left down to the compacted dirt. “My mother’s creation was flawed. My brother and I carry some of those flaws. I’ve worn special shoes and boots since I could walk to not wreck my spine. Does that make you feel better?”
In two steps, the older woman had her hands on both of General Hartmann’s soft cheeks.
“How dare you think I want to see you humbled or hurt! What’s this?”
Her two hands were suddenly wet, so quick did Aurelia’s tears come.
“I was stupid. I apologize. Let’s go to sleep.”