The talk about MacRae, one of the secondary antagonists from “World Without End,” is background to when-and-if Colour ever tries to pin Aurie down on the imperium’s racial policies. Things might start to move too fast in few thousand words for that to come about.
Just because she’s 52 and sterile does not mean Colour has no physical desires (my wife just yelled “don’t write about me!”). The two men in Nova Scotia and now Aurie’s grandfather are more than enough to get her juices flowing again. Aurie, of course, cannot help but tease. Jansen should smack her.
“It’s too nice a day to be looking like that, friend,” Colour scolded the imperium’s regent.
Aurelia took her eyes from the sheets drying on the clotheslines up to the partly cloudy sky of not quite sixty-five degrees. She reached forward to the glass of fresh lemonade resting on the weather-beaten table. If anything more than my folk’s house, I feel safest in the world here. Colour is right; I’m being churlish. And damn me if she doesn’t look younger. I was right.
“The meeting with MacRae put my teeth on edge,” she admitted, hearing her grandma cut something in the kitchen, inside. Her grandpa, even in his sixties, still worked at the Oak Ridge reactors and wouldn’t be home for maybe another fifteen minutes. Our family makes time for each other.
“I didn’t think it was church or the visit to that huge fort.” General Hartmann watched her shudder. “Masonry and steel walls, a mile on a side? Guns and artillery emplacements…”
“All for show and mostly just used as a storage depot,” Aurie countered, finishing her drink. “Any Great Power and the Chinese or Indians could rod it from orbit. The empress likes to use it as a tourist stop for visiting dignitaries, such as yourself, to get them thinking: if these Southern rubes can do shit like this… Get you more?”
The princess stood and nodded to Colour’s glass.
“That would be…”
“Something I do, not my granddaughter!” the older Chinese woman said, coming out through the open French door with a pitcher in hand. “Sandwiches and snacks are ready but I think we can wait on my husband just a few minutes more.”
Not angelic like her friend’s mother, Colour was still a bit surprised at how well-preserved Callie Hartmann was. More shedding? About five-seven with her long, black hair just streaked with silver and back from her face with a headband. Aurelia had told her a few of her grandparent’s adventures in and just after the leading edge of the Change; how they were a part of the teams who pushed back against another dark age.
While her host went down the three steps from the deck to the ground and began retrieving the sheets, Jansen returned to her topic.
“MacRae?” she asked, pouring them both more lemonade.
“Clever politician but typical short-sighted human,” Aurelia said, frowning again. “He thought to make a racially pure city-state, beginning with the expulsion of my grandparents and their kids. He detained Daddy and nearly…”
Now she smiled and laughed.
“…and nearly had his head handed to him when Henge blacked out the entire region. She was still a Machine then. And had been in love with my dad for ten years.” Another laugh, but with an edge. “Daddy told MacRae if he ever threatened our family again, he would ‘make a desolation and call it peace.’ That’s from Tacitus, by the way.”
Aurelia could tell her friend didn’t get the reference.
“And today, over, what, nearly thirty years on?” Colour asked, her stomach grumbling.
“Dad may have forgiven him but Fussy never did. Any chance she had to beat him down or make fun of him, publically, she did.” Aurelia stood again. “MacRae had learned his lesson and shut up and took it. He’s still in power here and Faustina is his empress. Neither ever forgets that. I wanted to remind him while she’s on this trip. Grandpa’s late; I’m getting the snacks.”
Callie was just coming up the steps, folded sheets in her arms, as her granddaughter set down a tray.
“You are too impatient, young lady,” she scolded her.
Aurie dipped some celery in cream cheese and stuffed it into her mouth.
“Wor ‘tharving!” she tried.
About to open her mouth to say more, they paused to hear the hum of the CNG car in the driveway. The front door unused in a generation, a few moments later had Colour take in a tall man in gray overalls and work boots. His hair was more white than its original blonde and the stubble on his face similar, but her breath caught nonetheless. Aurelia coughed a laugh so hard she spat out her half-chewed celery.
“That’s my grandpa, Colour! His wife is right here!” she cried. “Can you not be so horny, please!”