Largely back up and running. Not writing for nearly a week was horrible. There are still a few s/w sets I need to reload onto Rory (the new machine’s name) but I can at least type.
Getting back to the story, things, as you will read, and changing rapidly. Aurie is about to get a baptism of fire in international power politics, where who you think is a friend or rival could surprise you. Faustina had the advantage of putting together the imperium in something of a power vacuum. Aurelia is in it now, up to her neck.
“Should I send you to the VIP quarters?” Aurelia asked. “Just kidding! You have a room across from mine. A real bed! Sheets! Toilet paper! You are a princess now!”
“Please. I’m tired,” Colour said, “and you threatened to show me off tomorrow.”
Colour walked toward the building her friend indicated, saying someone would show her to her room. But Jansen paused.
“Up late?” she asked over her shoulder. “Regent stuff?”
“A little. Cousin Ed let me know – oh, stop with that look! You know we all speak mind-to-mind – that he’s something secure to say to me. Verbal only.”
“So,” Colour stayed still, “it’s possible to, what, listen in on y’all’s thoughts?”
“A Machine can. We think it’s possible for a demi, too, but so far as we know, none have been trained.”
“And, except for that Russian princess, it’s all your family, right?” she concluded.
“Kira was a surprise,” Aurie admitted. “What other surprises are out there?”
Too much for her older, human, friend, Colour continued to the three-story building in the legionary fort.
Co-regent Aurelia stood still for a few moments in the growing darkness. I don’t want her fretting over me. It’s already obvious I accidentally activated her never-used maternal instincts. I cannot let a friend turn into some clucking stepmom. She walked quickly to the same building, pulled open the door, and went to an office on the ground floor. Per the instructions she sent earlier in the day, all classified dispatches were in a neat pile on her left as she sat at the metal desk. Hartmann picked up the one on top, set it before her, and opened it.
A report from the southwest marches: Vicksburg to Louisiana. The latter a polite fiction and really a dependency of the Republic of Texas. For how long? She made a notation about the amount of uranium at the Grand Gulf Fission Power Plant, signed it, and took the next folder with her left as she set that to her right.
Thirty minutes before nearing the end, she heard Edward tell her the MAGLEV train was due in presently. I’ll be there soonest, he thought. Why? Aurelia worried. No indication of family concerns, to be expected. Ed was completely infatuated with his new wife, Livia, and doted on her completely. His childhood infatuation with Livia’s mother had nearly killed her and him, once his mother was done with him, but he’d been loyal to the family, since.
Time enough, the next file had to do with Legion Ten, scattered about the new Kentucky Province. That demanded close attention to detail as the Canadian Army was right across the Ohio River. Armies in contact are never good.
Princess Aurelia closed the file and stood. Later. Instead, she walked to the small couch on the wall with the coffee table before it. She sat. Ed will be here in three minutes. I know he misses his new wife. I miss Jimmy. Perhaps…
The door opened.
Only two years younger than her, Edward possessed the rugged good looks of his now-deceased father, blended perfectly with the Empress’ Sino-Prussian blood. Fussy couldn’t make an ugly child if she stood on her head during sex. Which I’m sure she has done.
“You’re thinking something weird,” Ed said with a smile. He came around the low table and they held one another. He asked another question with his eyes.
“As secure as anything can be, these days,” his cousin answered him, curious why, even touching, he did not speak to her mind.
“Mother has ordered me to Japan. She and I must go to Mars,” he said without preamble, still holding her. “We’ll be gone two weeks, minimum. You are now the imperium, Aurie.”
She had never felt faint in her life but was unsure how she was suddenly seated again. Her hands were in his.
“W…why?” she managed.
“Reina. Politics. Terraforming.” He reached up to push a strand of her black-purple hair off the side of her face. “Aqua has moved up the schedule of the Second Inundation and I have to be there.”
“Why? You’re not an engineer…”
“Did you not hear ‘politics’?” He shook his head. “Reina has concerns and wants me as surety. We’re the smallest stakeholders of this project and there’s no way Mother could back down. Don’t do that!”
Aurelia was just reaching into the Void, her eyes flashing gold when he barked at her to stop. Once, his eyes were scarlet. Before the Empress burned them out.
“Why not?” she demanded.
“The Empress and a Crown Prince off planet at the same time? It’s not something we can keep secret but we sure as hell need to take care how we let this out, Aurie!” he said with force.
“I… I get that.” She smiled and leaned forward to kiss his cheek. “Does your wife know?”
“That’s next. My duty to the imperium comes first.” He sat back and shook his head. “A month apart? I hate the thought of that but we ask more of our legionaries, so I cannot complain.”
“Will you be able to see – ”
“No. I leave on a scout ship to Japan in forty-five minutes. Can…” he leaned to pat her head, “can I rely on you to keep an eye on Livia for me?”
“Of course. My life is hers” Typical for the imperial family. “Speaking of, where is your older brother? If he’s in the Belt with Minny he might be able to rendezvous with you two…”
She trailed off as her cousin shook his head.
“Too far out: Europa,” he explained. “And a sudden change of plans will telegraph panic. We cannot have that. So: in the next thirty minutes, what can I do to help you? We all know you’re mom’s fav, but this is a lot in your lap, fast.”
With only a little sparkle in her eyes, Aurelia stood and opened the door. Edward stood to behold a sleepy, older human female in a nightshirt and panties.
Friend of yours? he asked.
Best friend. “Colour? This is my cousin and former co-regent, Edward Hartmann. He’s been reassigned and I will need your help more than I anticipated. Can our imperium count on you?”
“Huh?” The human didn’t seem all there but recovered quickly. Not at all self-conscious about her dress, she took a few steps and put her hand out to the Crown Prince. “Colour Jansen. Northern Federation. I’m sort of the princess’ pet.”
“Colour!” Aurie yelled.
“My pleasure, Miss Jansen,” Ed laughed, taking in a thousand details a human could not. “Having met you, I think my pushy cousin will be just fine for the next few weeks. And, Regent, I do need to be on my way.”
Aurelia threw herself onto him as he stepped toward the door.
“You take care!” she nearly shouted. “And take care of your mother! If that Russian bitch harms either of you, there won’t be a planet for you to return to!”
“Calm down, Aurie. See, Miss Jansen?” he smiled at her. “This is why I’m counting on you! Deus vult!”