So the vote was a “no.” But only barely. That means both sides will have to negotiate. Good. Gives me room to maneuver.
We’ll be moving into another “informal” part of the story, here. “Aurie Hardt,” indeed. What will they make of her up there in New Brunswick? Tourism is virtually unknown and even before the Change, who went to the Maritime Provinces? Fishermen?
Amazing how loose the legionary command structure is. Better for adaptivity, I suppose.
The Mass, as the eastern sky showed only the faintest color, was quick and efficient. While a believer in many things at once, Colour never considered herself Christian, so politely stood off to a side. A random sampling of ten Catholic legionaries were in attendance. Besides the deacon, Bastiat, only a certain princess in her blank uniform assisted the Archbishop. Their sole interruption was when, with more of the dawn, Lefevre noticed the seventy-five-yard gray flying saucer, a few feet off the ground in the fort, to his right. His Altar Girl said nothing but Colour saw the little twinkle in her eyes. With the example of their general kneeling to receive Christ to their mouths, her ten men did likewise.
Seeing His Excellency and his men out the north gate and to their cars, Aurelia was quickly back to her command tent. Not knowing what else to do, Jansen tagged along, trying to not stare at the mystery ship, hovering silently.
Inside, Tal Paras, of Fifth, she recognized. She had met Bloom of Seventh and seen Foss of Sixth. The other man…
“Is Teej Wright, legate of Eighth,” the general informed her, reading her again. “Gentlemen? Word from our diplomatic team is that the NorFed plebiscite was a ‘no.’ Friend and Ally is thus off the table for right now. However, their Council does wish to pursue negotiations with us…”
She took a drink of water and laughed.
“’Prolly ‘cause the vote was only fifty-two percent against! They can see how the wind is blowing! And it blows south, to the imperium!” Aurelia set the cup down. “And with our newest friend, the Archbishop of Montreal, about to make waves to our north, this is no time to start trouble, no matter what my aunt’s precedence.”
“Bored soldiers are trouble, General,” Foss stated.
“I’m aware,” Hartmann said in a dismissive tone. “I’m dispersing the army for a week or so. Paras? Take Fifth right up to St. Johnsbury in former Vermont, de facto Northern Federation land. Just want them to know I’m watching. Foss, you stay right here, so the Canucks know the same thing. Wright? Back to Burlington. Have the men do what they can for infrastructure.”
“Leaving Seventh, Miss?” Bloom asked.
“South a bit to Ticonderoga and Saratoga. Wargame the legionaries in two teams: British and Americans. I want to see it won from both sides and I want to know why,” she curtly explained.
“That does leave Sixth at a bit of loose ends, Miss,” Foss said. “Per my original point.”
“Exercise your creativity and surprise me. And that’s an order.”
“Yes, General.” At the short end of the stick, he had little to lose. “And you will be…?”
“Field trip.” She paused to smile at her command. “I’m taking a page from the Empress’ initial Gulf Shore States campaign and going to personally sound those in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. I also want to see the spaceport in Canso. Not of importance to our imperium, of course, but perhaps still to our future Maritime Provinces.”
“Always thinking ahead,” Colour barely breathed at her friend’s impetuosity.
“Of course,” Aurelia replied, hearing her perfectly. “And you’re coming along.”
“What? When?” the older woman asked.
“Less than one hour. Now hush.” She looked about the tent. “Questions, my legates?”
“That little adventure of the Empress,” Paras said carefully, “nearly resulted in her capture and a near-mutiny of her legates.”
“I have her example before me as to what not to do. If two of you object, I will not go.”
“Given politics at this moment, I do, General Princess Hartmann,” Paras said formally.
“Noted.” She looked around again. Nothing. Aurelia walked around the table to unprofessionally place her right hand onto the uniform jacket of the legate of Fifth. “I shall take the utmost care and return no more than seven days from now. We shall assess the situation in Maine, then begin the withdrawal of the army, barring Canadian stupidity. Dismissed.”
A few aides remained in the tent for clerical work for what they discussed. Otherwise, they were alone.
“To be in command is to be alone, my friend,” Aurelia said, her shoulders sagging a bit. “Command is the loneliest place on earth.”
Colour crossed the tent to her, putting a hand on her shoulder.
“You are not alone.”
“We’ll see.” Hartmann’s head stayed down. “Get your kit. Meet me at the saucer in fifteen minutes.”