A world existed in which she was Lady Fionna nic Brath, cultured daughter of Imperial society and niece of His Imperial Wisdom, the Lord mac Brath. That world would hardly recognize the redhead in dusky fatigues carrying a Parhan 172-bore semi-automatic rifle over her shoulder. The jacket she wore would have identified her to them as an anonymous member of Brath House security, the organization which she, in fact, led.
She was still young and attractive. When dressed in civilian clothing, she turned many a head. She still had an honest chance of marrying an aristocrat and returning to the social world… but she liked it here, in the world of grit and adventure. She loved it even on a day like this, when the weather looked as miserable as it could be. She peered out of the tunnel-like entranceway of an Auman transport tower as rain streamed in sheets across the abandoned ruins of an alien city. Behind her, horses and troops nickered and complained, but the walls of the tower were impossibly thick, so the entranceway easily sheltered their entire number.
They didn’t have the luxury of continuing to shelter here, though.
“Meadhbh,” she called over her shoulder. A young half-Gireidil girl, who had been standing with her horse several yards behind, tossed her head in acknowledgment and moved forward.
“Lady Fionna,” the girl greeted her as she approached.
She was slender and light-skinned, at odds with normal Gireid looks, but she had the gray eyes of her Gireidil side. And the hair. A luxurious pile of loosely-braided dark hair, thick enough to incite the deep envy of any Osril woman, lay over her shoulder opposite the rifle she carried. She also had the height, standing a hand taller than Fionna despite her tender age of fifteen.
“Tha’ alien network o’ yours, can it reach Granduncle agin?”
“I attempted once we arrived, Lady Fionna. I have no reception here. It seems the local environment is heavily jammed.”
Fionna sighed and pursed her lips. It would have been nice to send an acknowledgement to the man that had summoned them, to tell him that they were now in-world.
“Once we’re movin’, we’ll hae ye keep tryin’ ’til ye ge’ thru.”
“Of course, m’lady.”
Captain Koursh, a grizzled veteran, Caucasian like Fionna but older and with a mane of pure white that was braided in the same manner as Meadhbh’s hair, had joined them. He spoke up now, in good English but with a thick, harsh accent that she often had to concentrate to understand.
“So we will be traveling in this weather?” he asked.
“Would be better we kenned whether Granduncle were movin’,” she admitted. “As it is, we cannae assume he’s stayin’ put. We best be on our way.”
“Lord Brath is on foot though. Hard going in weather like this, with a prisoner.”
“Captain, you ought call Granduncle ‘Rogan’. ‘Sir Rogan’ at most. He hates bein’ called ‘Lord’.”
Koursh made no reply to that, other than a disapproving scowl. Instead, he turned to the rest. “Rain ponchos. Seal your bags and put condoms over your rifle muzzles. We’ll be taking a shower, today.”
Koursh’s company were all Orosjoese, but he had brought only ones who spoke English on this mission. If Koursh had brought his whole mercenary company rather than a selection of first-rate veterans, he would have switched to Orosjoese, a language she did not speak, despite it being her grandmother’s native tongue.
She smiled at some of the comments in that language that came back. She may not know the tongue, but her navy-veteran grandmother often used words that she had recognized just now. Sailor speech was the same no matter what the language.
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