Risha and Jeana talking about battle plans at the end of the story. Yes, this is jumping way ahead. For all I know I’ll never use this scene. I wrote it for a few reasons:
I wanted to see Risha and Jeana acting like Elizabeth and Walsingham.
I wanted to see Risha acting like a queen, where her criminal genius background came into play.
I wanted to write a scene that passed the Bechdel test.
Artillery explosions rumbled in the distance. A smear of fire glowed over the lip of the horizon, like early sunrise. The city and the enemy positions burned. Risha heard a hiss, then a clatter of falling bombs. Air strike. She considered having coffee. Someone had left a pot of it by the map deck.
Risha looked up. Jeana walked in, looking strangely calm. “Don’t you get tired?” Risha asked.
“Battle meditation. I know how to relax myself so I can sleep.”
“I wish I could do that.”
“You’re doing fine so far. I’ll teach you a few techniques when we have a moment.” She looked at the coffee pot. “You need sleep more than caffeine.”
“I couldn’t sleep. Better to just keep busy than lay there fighting it.”
Jeana nodded toward the map. “What are you thinking about?”
“The fucking Fels. We need them to attack, in force, from the north. Otherwise in a week we’ll be up to our britches in Ro’s troops. The problem is they’re known for their patience, not their ferocity. They’ll fight when it suits them. Let someone else do the bleeding.”
Risha rubbed her eyes. She yawned. She couldn’t see, but Jeana smiled at it. “I have two ideas on that. First, sweeten the deal. Soften up the enemy position so they can get a decisive victory. They’ll have something to crow about and I’ll pretend I’m impressed.
“Second, bring the battle to them. Hit Ro to the west so that they retreat east. It’ll drive them into Fel. Better to fight Fel than us. Fel outnumbers them two to one. They’ll still win but it’ll be bloody.”
“Fel will be bleeding rather than us.”
“That’s it. “
“Play it out for me.”
“We’re in the end game. Everyone knows it. No one’s worried about the win, or justice. They’re thinking ahead to the next move.
“Fel wants to keep Staven’s lands. We don’t have enough power to force them to give it back. They earned them with blood, but we fought this war for freedom, not conquest.
“I want Ro. I want to put him on trial and make his end a symbol for the planet’s new beginning. I’ll take his head, too. Either one works.
“The worst case for me is that Ro escapes to Fel and they grant him safe haven. No trial, nothing. It’s a mockery of what we fought for. Fel holds him as revenge because I didn’t give them Staven lands.
Jeana waited. Risha folded her arms. “Rekkish Fel is a chess player. He already has what he wants. All he has to do is sit still, leave his armies where they are, and wait for the game to end. If he gets his hands on Ro, he has leverage on me to validate his claim on Staven lands.”
“What if you don’t?”
“Then I’ve made an enemy.” Risha smiled. “Which he already is, anyway. So nothing lost there. Nobody else in the aristocracy wants Fel to have those lands. They’ll stand behind me. The Fels leave Staven and I’m stuck with rebuilding the country. The citizens of Staven, and even Ro, are grateful to me for not letting them be wrung out by Fel.”
Jeana nodded. “Ro is only a symbol. Like that crown Merritt was so worried about.”
“I still want his head.” And she did. People craved symbols. And the bastard had tried to kill her three times. Justice mattered.
Risha brushed her finger along the troop positions on the map. She tapped the citadel in the center. Ro’s palace. A dangerous, daring idea was taking shape in her head.
“What is it?” Jeana asked.
“If Ro is gone, his inner council will crumble. Ro’s army surrenders.” Risha pressed her finger on the citadel. “One more lightning strike. Could we do it?”
Jeana laughed. She stopped. “You’re serious?”
“General Tsavo told me today that he has a division of paratroops that are itching to assault the citadel just to have a chance at taking the bastard alive. I told him no. The cost in lives is too great.”
“I’m guessing 25% casualties at least.”
“I did a bank heist on Ularov once. We started a fire in the building next door. We arrived disguised among the fire company—they were cut in for half—and we worked on the safe while they took their time with the fire. We blew a power feed to cover our tracks on the way out. Worked like a charm.” Risha drew a circle around one of Ro’s units on the eastern flank. “That’s our fire company.”
Jeana’s eyes widened. “Are you sure?”
“They’ve already parleyed with us on a prisoner exchange. Their commander would have been shot for treason if Ro knew.”
“If Jaesa can get close enough, she can give us a sense of whether or not they’ll help us.”
Risha laughed. She leaned on the table. Risha hung her head, still smiling. “I feel like a ten-kilo weight just came off my head.”
“It must be have been your crown.”
“Maybe. Thanks, Je. On that note, I’m going to bed.” Jeana bowed. “Knock it off. I’m still just Risha to you.”