1635: THE CANNON LAW — snippet 96

 

1635: THE CANNON LAW – snippet 96:

 

 

CHAPTER 36

 

 

Rome

 

            The evacuation was rapidly turning into a small slice of hell for Sharon. It was beginning to look like just loading the carriages yesterday and getting while the getting was good would have been the best plan.

 

            Right now, there was a small crowd of would-be evacuees catching a few hours sleep, wrapped in blankets in the embassy ballroom. The carriages and the three carts that the marines had managed to acquire—Sharon decided she really didn't need to know where or how, although they had spent money to get them—were standing idle. The plans to retain remounts for their cavalrymen had pretty much gone up in smoke. There was a pack made up for every horse that was not carrying an armed man. It would take more than a couple of hours to get everything moving again after Sharon had decided, shortly after midnight, that everyone that could should get some rest before they moved out.

 

            This, on top of learning that Frank had decided to stay, and more than likely make some kind of Heroic Last Stand. Ruy had ventured the opinion that if Frank felt his honor and duty called him to it, it would be wrong to argue with him about it. Late last night, when word came back, Sharon had been in no mood or condition to debate the point. Frank might have decided on the life of a subversive, and good luck to him, but Sharon was keenly aware that Stoner, his dad, and Magda, his step mom, were two of her best friends in the world. The last thing Sharon wanted to have to do was send a "deeply regret" letter to either of them. Worse, have to explain to them that he'd stayed in a city about to be invaded because she'd not personally gone down there and dragged him and his wife out.

 

            It had been the first fight she and Ruy had had as a married couple. The mayhem that was the embassy had gotten on her nerves, she'd been tired, she was royally pissed off that this had had to happen on her fucking wedding day and she'd given Ruy both barrels. He'd been visibly hurt, and she'd regretted it instantly. The thing was, she wasn't sure how to go about making it up. She'd apologized, explained that she was stressed over the evacuation and upset by Frank's decision and what it might cost her, and Ruy had been all care and consideration after that.

 

            With a reservation. "Sharon, my heart," he'd said, "I, too, am saddened that Frank may not survive these next few days. But I will not regret—not for one instant— that he has chosen to fulfill the demands of his honor. Without such as he, this new world whose birth you seek to bring about will never come to be."

 

            Hate it though she did, she knew he was right. "Go in the morning," she'd said, "and if he still thinks he can hold on there, at least see if he'll evacuate the women and kids with us. Pregnant women in particular."

 

            And so Ruy was away in the first few moments of quiet that Sharon had had since walking out of the church yesterday. Right when Sharon needed a strong arm to lean on—

 

            "I'd ask if you were okay, honey," came her father's voice from behind her, "but right now I think that would be the dumbest possible question I could ask."

 

            She felt her mouth twitch a little. She almost, but didn't quite, have the energy to smile at the little joke. "I can't escape the feeling that we're all screwed anyway," she said.

 

            "Evacuations are always bad. I was already back home and in college when Saigon fell, but I saw plenty of refugees trying to get out. You saw what they looked like when they got to Grantville, back in the early days—"

 

            "Hell."

 

            "Like hell, yes. Think about what it takes to get people in that kind of condition. Unless we're good and lucky, that's what we're about to go through." Her dad's voice didn't have any of its accustomed warm humor. If anything, it sounded like the tone he had in the operating room, doing trauma work. Describing the injuries in detail to his support team, so they would know what to expect from the coming work. A tone of voice for describing flesh torn, bones broken, and blood leaking away. Or, for the optimistic, a voice enumerating the things that had to be done to save another life. Businesslike or dispassionate, take your pick.

 

            It was a callousness Sharon hadn't yet acquired. She knew her own operating manner was a lot more involved. Which was showing in the way she was handling this godawful mess.

 

            Her dad put his arms around her. "You'll be okay, princess. You're doing fine. Better at this kind of thing than pretty much anyone I know. So long as we start before they get here, we'll be okay. You heard the report, no cavalry worth talking about. So long as we move quicker than guys who keep stopping to loot, we'll be fine. Other than that, it's bandits, and between the Marines and everyone else here who's got a gun, those are going to be some mighty sorry bandits if they try anything."

 

            Sharon chuckled. "Daddy's going to keep me safe," she said, in a little girl's sing song voice.

 

            "Heh. Daddy's going to kick back and let that fiery young Catalan feller do all the hard work."

 

            "Young?" Sharon turned and smiled at him.

 

            "Young. Man's at least two years younger'n I am—maybe even as much as five—and has the attitudes of a teenager to boot. Not like my own august and reserved demeanor, at all." He puffed up his chest and thumbed a lapel.

 

            "Hooey," came Melissa's voice. Sharon was starting to think of the former schoolteacher as her stepmother, in a way she'd never really expected to. She and Melissa had become friends before she'd moved in with her dad, and she’d thought the relationship would stay stayed on that basis. She'd thoroughly approved of her getting together with her father, of course. Mom had been mom, and couldn't ever be replaced, but it was just plain right that dad should be happy again. That it was her friend Melissa, her best friend's old history teacher, was just a happy bonus.

 

            "Really? My dad's claim to be respectable is all just a front?" Sharon caught the ball and ran with it, "Who'd a' thunk it?"

 

            "Really. I woke this morning to the sight of him cleaning his pistol. And him a doctor as well."

 

            "Nothing wrong with drumming up a little trade in a righteous cause," he protested.

 

            "Leave it to the young men, you aging juvenile," Melissa said. "They've got the energy for it."

 

            "Oh, I've not got the energy, have I? That wasn't what you said—"

 

            "Dad!" Adult or not, there were some things Sharon really didn't need to know about. Not, at least, in any detail.

About Eric Flint

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