The story of the Roman Ninth Legion Hispana (second century A.D.) which disappeared without a trace after a battle in Roman-occupied Britain--here retold with brickwork characters who exchange alien Drury repartee. Centurion Justin, arrived at the Eburacum Fortress (now York) to take over the Eighth Legion (he will later lead the Ninth), is not happy: ""I haven't seen such a piss poor example of the Emperor's service in my life. And I've been around."" But he hops to his shape-up program like the good soldier he is, his spirits raised by friendship with the Legion's surgeon and marriage to the lovely Gwytha, an Iceni slave (his mother in Rome ""will have a fit""). Also looming large in Justin's career is the noble Vortrix, High King of the Brigantes (one of the colonial tribes), who takes a dim view of imperial tactics and Rome's mission to civilize the colonies: ""Has it ever struck you, Centurion, that some of them prefer to remain uncivilized?"" The two will, on separate occasions, attempt to save each other's life, and both will expire together in the final battle . . . To her credit, first-novelist Cockrell provides careful battle scenes and correct Latin names for the many places and things here; but a Hadrian's wall of anachronisms -- which may work on Masterpiece Theatre (e.g., I, Claudius) but not on the page -- blocks out any historical sense. Hic haec hooey.