I think Aurie has become comfortable enough with the idea of Bob and Kali handling the Martian rescue that she can relax and play a little, even if it might start a war.
Speaking of, this concludes this arc of Part Three. Next will see Aurie and Colour, along with an increasingly bewildered Eloise, on their way west. There is still that matter of Edward’s wife, Livia, being detained in Texas. I need to get that resolved before I see Miss Patel back home.
Enjoy my content? Buy me a beer!
“General Burghy,” she said, sitting up just a little more to get her salute correct, even though she was in civilian clothes. “Have you thought more about my return?”
“It’s still a bit of a dog’s breakfast here,” he replied, drawing a tiny snort from Aurelia. She knows our code words? Of course she does. “How many of those secret plans have you stuffed into your pants, Patel?”
That push. A skosh. Eloise moved just enough to let Aurelia into the camera’s view.
“Holy shit!” Burghy exploded. They were suddenly looking at the back of his head. “Out! Everyone out, right now!”
He turned back.
“Regent Hartmann, I take it?” he asked.
“Regent Princess Aurelia Hartmann, Demi-human, Mistress of Life and Death in the imperium, pro tem, of course.” Only a hint of a smile. “We are pleased to speak with you General, even if you would have us shoot the leftenant for espionage, in the process.”
Does everyone want to shoot me? Where he could not see, Aurelia gently rested her right hand onto her left thigh.
“I was essaying a joke, Regent Hartmann…”
“We know this is being recorded and shall be reviewed by various and sundry organs of your government,” she said over him. “You are the only member of said government we have spoken to. However, we do find Archbishop Lefevre of Montreal to be a subtle man.”
“I bet you did.”
“We do. Present tense.”
“And what can a humble civil servant such as I do for your illustrious self?” he asked, seeming to catch onto the game.
“Miss Patel is not yet at leave to return to her native land. We have such more sights to show her, General. Perhaps the Moon? We can call you from there, next time.” While he coughed and tried to recover, the little Regent pressed on. “But before that, if she keeps her eyes open for you. You, Burghy. May we borrow her a bit longer? We would like to try her family curry recipe. Much better than a dog’s breakfast, we hear?”
While those two stared at one another, Eloise began to sweat. What if he says “no?”
“Our great nations…” he began.
“Yours is not a Great Power.”
“Our nations have had such little cultural contact, for being neighbors.” Eloise saw him unconsciously wipe some of his sweat from his forehead after the sharp rebuke. “Perhaps Lieutenant Patel should enjoy your offer of hospitality a bit longer. Questions, Patel?”
“No!” She jerked slightly. “No, Sir. It shall be as you say: my eyes and ears open in service to my country.”
“Your country!” Aurelia laughed once, a harsh bark. That got a glare from Burghy. “What if she marries out of her country?”
“What’s that?” The general didn’t understand and looked on in shock as this dangerous woman turned his junior officer’s head to kiss her lips.
“Demi-humans are very odd, General Burghy. The imperial family has a liking for Patel. She might not be the same when we send her home.”
Eloise could almost see the ice form on the screen.
“Just see that you do! Lieutenant? Check in no later than every three days. Or we shall all,” his eyes slid to the Regent’s, surprised to see hers flash gold, “shall not like the next steps. Was that all, Regent Hartmann?”
“We dismiss you,” she said with a small motion, still entirely too close to Eloise.
The screen was dark. Eloise’s head was down into her hands.
“What did you…? Why did you?” Head back up, successfully fighting tears. “My death? My country’s? It’s all a game?”
“Asked and answered. And I hate kissing women on the lips; disgusting and degenerate. But it is a game.”
Back outside, the sun was at the tops of the trees in the west. From the warmth of her afternoon nap, Eloise shuddered.
“Another one of you damned Canadians,” Aurelia breathed, absently returning salutes. “This wind. Straight off the ice sheet, across the Midwest plains, and into my aunt’s country. We should consider it an attack.”
“Haven’t you teased me enough today, Aurelia?”
“No. Your borrowed things are packed. Your uniform is in your satchel. Meet me at the office building in fifteen minutes. Enough time to pee or something. Don’t you dare get a drink, soldier-girl. I’ve got plans for you.”
“If I did, I’d kiss your mouth right back!” Angry.
Aurelia burst out laughing, making many around them smile, too. If the Regent was so happy, all must be well with the Empress, right? She abruptly turned right and went on her way, still chuckling.