Rome
An Owl In A Thornbush

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We're On A Mission From Caesar

Down in the camp, the "outriders" have finally realized that something's up, now that more than a dozen screaming horsemen are practically on top of them. We get our first look at these "soldiers," most of whom can't be a day over fourteen. It's like a middle-school field trip with gladiator costumes. And if you got to this page by Googling that phrase, please step away slowly now. The FBI is on its way. The chaperons try to order their charges to form up and mount a defense, but the boys tail and run while Pullo and his men ride into the camp unhindered. I keep expecting Pullo to call them off when he realizes that they're attacking kids, but even if he cared, he would have to see more than their backs for that to happen, and there's clearly little chance of that. One of the chaperons mounts a horse and makes his escape alone in the commotion.

And then he goes straight to Pompey in Rome, who begins the scene by repeating the news he just heard rather than letting the poor guy have a line on camera: "Caesar's scouts are thirty miles from Rome?" A bunch of Senators are also there, Cato among them, who also repeats the news. Who knows how many times this fact bounced around the room before we joined them? Pompey admits that Caesar's a speedy cuss, although having only one legion with him means that he can move faster. Fewer rest area stops, you see. Should have thought of that before, maybe. Pompey complains, "It is highly irregular. Unethical, even. Gods, it is not even the war season." And I bet Caesar doesn't have a treason license, either. Cicero doubts that Caesar plans to attack Rome directly, but Pompey figures that's exactly what Caesar will do. Which is a problem for Pompey and his supporters, because right now there are only three legions ready to defend Rome. Cicero thinks three against one puts the odds in their favor, but Pompey points out that most of their three legions are either untested Pompey Youth like the ones Pullo scattered like a flock of geese, or veterans of the Gaul campaign who are probably loyal to Caesar. Pompey says that his own regular legions are mustering as they speak, but won't be ready for another four days. That sounds like more than enough time for Caesar to cover thirty miles. And indeed, Cicero confirms that "Caesar is two days away." "You touch it with a needle," Pompey allows. Is that Roman for "no shit, Sherlock"? Pompey declares that they'll simply make a tactical retreat from the city. Cato is not entirely on board with this plan. In fact, he screams at Pompey, "Juno's cunt, do you run mad?" Pompey mildly advises Cato to moderate his tone, and says that they'll rally his troops at Corfinium (wherever that is) and retake the city from Caesar at their leisure. "So, in fact, this is not a humiliating defeat at all, but a rare species of victory?" Cato sneers. Pompey tells Cato that he's done everything correct all along in the military sense. Well, okay, but that doesn't always work if your opponent is doing everything wrong. And anyway, maybe it would have been a good idea to start mustering the troops a little sooner -- say, right after that fiasco in the Forum that you knew would provoke Caesar into attacking? Like me, Cato's not impressed, although he uses fewer words: "You've lost Rome without unsheathing your sword," he roars, squinting at Pompey through one apoplectic eye. "You have lost Rrrrrome!" And you, Cato, have lost your ssssshit!

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Rome

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