As you might expect, parts of this were shown to me at church back on December 11th. Always should check in with the Lord whenever you can. He’s still arrogant but I think Robert a bit more humble than his gifted brothers and sisters. It was and is Aurie is fond of Jimmy but that does not means she’s not an egotistical jerk.
That’s something surprising: how comfortable demi-humans seem to be in their own skin. Putting aside Empress’ Fussy’s occasional “normies” comment, none of them appear to look down on humans or act like narcissists. I wonder if it has something to do with how they think, faster and a bit different from us? I’m sure I’ll find out some day.
As an illustration of how all these stories touch, Panck Hill, below, was Robert’s CO in part 2 of “Obligations of Rank,” and after one too many coincidence, twigged as to who Bob Hardt really was. And was both wise and kind enough to ignore it.
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As promised, at eleven-thirty the boat pulled up to the small launch. The town was entirely landward and didn’t even know the river was there. As the legionaries were talking amongst themselves, Jimmy spoke up.
“You guys just occupy the old fort from a couple of hundred years back?” he asked with a smile.
“No,” Hardt replied. Is he the only one allowed to talk to me? “Our cohort fort is just ahead. The tech has changed in those couple of hundred years, rocket guy.”
Two ahead, Hardt and Burns, five behind, they came up to a small fortress. A hodgepodge of wood, breezeblocks, steel plates, all about four meters tall and behind a ditch two deep. If I am here for good, I guess I better start thinking in the old English measurements, Jimmy thought. The gate, wooden beams reinforced by steel, was open and they entered without a word. At the precise center a few moments later, a tall bear of a man in his late twenties with black hair just a little long walked out of a tent. Hardt and his men drew up and tossed their hands in the air. The salute of the legions.
“Mission, to date, accomplished, sir,” the not-a-crown prince announced, lowering his hand. “Is transport ready?”
“Yes,” the officer of what rank Jimmy did not know, said. “One Hummer, one MRAP. It’s only a hundred miles and our speculatores say it looks clear. Take thirty for lunch then move out, Centurion.”
The man smiled and took two steps.
“I don’t know why you got dragged into this shit, but we appreciate your help.” He put his hand out.
“Thank you, Centurion Hill,” he replied, clasping it. “You’re a long way from home, Panck.”
“As are you!” He looked over his subordinate’s shoulder. “That’s the guy? Really?”
Well, that’s effing rude, Jimmy thought.
“She likes him. No clue why.” Even ruder! “Deus vult, Senior Centurion.”
“Fall out for twenty minutes,” Hardt called, turning to his men. “We’ll regroup at the west gate and move out then.”
The other six men scattered. Jimmy watched the presumed commander walk back into his tent while Robert ambled to one diagonally across the compacted dirt of the fort’s pathway. No one is paying me any attention. Are they that confident? From what he had seen, he concluded they had right to be. Nothing else to do, he followed the crown prince, who had just stepped into another tent.
It was dark inside, so Jimmy held the flap open for a moment. Chairs. A table at the far end with two crosses on it. A candle burning in between them. Hardt… Hartmann was on his knees in the dirt, resting his head on the chair before him.
This is uncomfortable. Rather than retreating, Jimmy sat in a chair two to his rescuer’s left.
“Catholic?” Robert suddenly asked.
“Christian?” Now there was an edge to his voice. I didn’t think the imperium had an official religion.
“Not really anything. My folks were Presbyterian; at least they were twice a year, at Christmas and Easter.”
“Kinda describes my dad.” As his face was still down, resting on the back of the chair, Burns had to force himself to listen. “Mom wanted him to become Catholic but he resisted. Told her it’d be hypocritical to profess something he didn’t believe. Grandpa’s the same way, I guess, like you: doesn’t really believe anything.”
Robert raised his head to look at the candle between the cross and crucifix.
“After what he has seen, how is that even possible?” he asked in a whisper. “Were mom and my brothers and sisters not anchored to God, the only thing stopping them would be Reina. There would have been a unified planetary empire by the time I was a teen.”
He raised his hands to rest his head into them.
“James Burns? If you aspire to my family, then whether it is through research and prayer or on the road to Damascus, you must come to Christ.”
The crown prince stood.
“Let’s get some food. Time is short,” he announced, leaving the tent-church.