A slightly larger installment as I wanted to wrap of the visit and get these two on their way. There are politics on the horizon and Aurie has to “get in character,” so to speak. She knows how to do that as a general and I think is still not entirely sure what to do as regent. Obviously, “not break anything before my aunt gets back” is probably her Item #1.
That might be tricky for someone who loves their berserker-streak. Her grandparents act as if it’s a mental illness. Maybe it is.
Colour knew better than to start an argument and stood, instead.
“I’ll help Grandma with the food. Behave, Friend!” she laughed, going inside. The gentleman had just climbed the three steps.
“Mister Hartmann? I’m Colour Jansen, from Maine.” She put her hand out. “I’m informed I’m one of your granddaughter’s best friends now.”
“I reiterate what I’m sure my wife has already said: be welcome on our land.” His light blue eyes had an edge to them. “Have you known Aurelia long?”
“Just over a month. Seems longer, I admit. Oh, if you’d care to change after work…” She saw him shake his head and indicate for them to sit, he the bench just next to her.
“She told us y’all’s here for a snack then off to Chattanooga, so I washed up a bit at work,” he said, taking an unused glass, filling it, and knocking back all the lemonade at once. “Better! I thought this would surprise you less than beer.”
“I admit I’m more of a wine drinker but am always interested in something new,” she confessed. “A local product?”
“Local?” he laughed once. “It’s mine from right here.”
“Your own homebrew? I’d be honored, Mister Hartmann. Both of my brothers make theirs, as well.”
“On it!” a young voice called from inside just as he was about to stand.
“Being up north, I guess they use lager yeast,” he settled back down. “Here, especially until refrigeration was well re-established, we use ale. Also, for heaven’s sake, call me Leslie.”
“And I’m Colour.”
“If you touch her again, Grandpa, I’m telling Callie,” Aurie announced, setting two mugs of beer down and leaving again. Leslie lifted his.
“Cheers,” he said.
“Cheers.” She lightly touched her mug to his. “My! This is very good! The flavor is much richer than I’ve had before.”
“As much as would enjoy a conversation about brewing, I think we both need to talk about someone else,” Les said after taking down half his mug.
“That’d be me!” the youngest Hartmann there said, setting down another platter, this with some sandwiches. She waved at her grandmother. “We’ll sit here and be quiet. You two talk.”
“Now this is uncomfortable,” Colour muttered, picking up what looked like a cucumber sandwich.
“We,” Leslie sighed, “have had two generations to get used to it. I’m guessing you know all about the princess, here?”
“Maybe,” bright gold eyes, bloody teeth and hands, “more than I should. Leslie.”
He looked across the table at the young woman.
“I had to let myself go to defend my friends. I killed with my hands.” Her head went down as Callie put her arm about her.
“I recall,” the older man said with great care, gripping the mug’s handle almost enough to break it off, “some incidences when you were growing up. Was it like those?”
Her head came back up. Aurelia’s eyes shimmered with tears that didn’t come.
“Yes. I loved it, Grandfather. Every second.”
He tossed back the rest of his ale and slammed it down.
“And now you’re Regent. We all know. How many wars do you plan to start?”
“Les, please,” Callie began.
“That,” he said, standing and stepping away from the bench, “was ambiguous.”
“I shall make a public announcement later tonight,” she explained, “to that effect. The imperium is at peace but will not tolerate any interference in our affairs or those of our Friends and Allies.”
“My other grandchild okay with that?” he asked with a curl to his lip, meaning her co-regent.
“I need another effing beer. Miss Jansen?”
“Huh? Oh, sure.” She gulped down the two-thirds she still had left and handed over her mug.
“Have you been to Confession?” her grandma asked softly. While a believer, her husband was not.
“Just before Mass this morning.”
“They,” Callie’s eyes flicked to Colour’s then back to her granddaughter’s, “the Machines, have warned you about your… taste for violence.”
“You’re scaring my friend, Grandma,” the princess said, not pleased to have her personal problems suddenly out in the open.
“Then,” Colour said just as softly, “perhaps that is why I’m here. Right here; right now. To act as a brake on her.”
“God, let it be so,” the older woman said, standing and taking a few steps to stare at the fallow field to the east.
“Should I ask? It gets me in trouble, I know,” Leslie said, setting down their guest’s beer.
“Like when Fussy, standing just next to where Grandma is now, told you forever ago that she had died four times, had a Machine step-daughter, and was pregnant? I was just over there,” she pointed across the deck, “talking to Alex. I thought it was going to be a murder-suicide!”
“You’re as bad as she was. Is.” He grumbled as he sat.
“If you can’t do good, better do bad well. Hey, Friend. Grab another sandwich, we gotta go.”
“I just got my ale!”
“Grrr. Five minutes.”
“Yes, yes, spoiled little princess,” Colour chided her, “I know how you hate to be late.”
Finally, both of her grandparents allowed themselves to laugh.
“It sounds as if everyone here had things pretty rough,” Colour said after more beer. “Once Boston was over, we kinda settled down and kept to ourselves. The Atlantic seaboard south of us was dead and the Canadians left us alone. I guess we were spoiled.”
“Things have not been that bad, once the Breakup settled down,” Leslie replied, using the old term. “With my son and daughter being altered… No, that’s not right, because Gary, like your Northern Federation, just wanted to be left alone. It was my daughter and now my granddaughter who wanted to play politics and war that makes my family an occasional trial.”
Even Colour could see her friend chafing to respond to that but wanted family harmony more. Jansen pushed another sandwich into her legionary jacket pocket, stood, and thanked her hosts, promising she would do what she could for the Regent.
“What your grandfather said bothered you,” she observed as they drove east back toward Knoxville and the MAGLEV station there.
“Without Faustina, people like us, this area would at best be under Chinese hegemony right now. Maybe just a footnote in military history about a battle between them and the Canadians,” Aurelia said in a sullen tone. “We provide peace and prosperity on this world and off it. Grandpa is from the old time and cannot see that.”