They are driving, but that’s a quote from a Thomas Dolby song. If that dates me, well, fine.
With the raw MS for part one, Edward, complete, we’re now over to Robert. Seventeen years old, a “normie” unlike most of his family, enlisted in the legions under a fake name – picked up by his mother, the Empress, immediately, of course, who allowed it – he is not angry about who and what he is, but he wants to make his own way. I think this will be a remarkably “contrarian” story, with him at every turn thinking “what does the imperium need? what does my mother want? what should I do?” I am very, very looking forward to the movies I am shown for this!
And after all the lovey-dovey stuff with Ed and Liv, I’m hoping for some bloodshed in this one.
Just as they cleared the last of the hills of southeast Kentucky, their three-truck convoy slowed, then stopped. The third military truck held supplies for the garrison troops in Frankfort. The second a mix of goods that might be useful for trade or bribes, depending upon who they encountered and what they wanted. Only in the first were the eight of the intelligence expedition team, commanded by Centurion Hill, who took time from their stop to climb down and walk forward a bit to look through his binoculars at the little town just ahead.
“Berea,” his junior, Bob Hardt said, just behind his boss and to his left. “Was something of what was called an ‘arts community’ before the Change. Lost half their population but they, along with Somerset, have rebounded as trade posts once the imperium came.”
Basic information, Robert knew, but also his superior had only been confirmed in his new assignment two months ago. Further, Hill’s family was from around northern Mississippi Province and not fully up to speed on matters of the imperial marches on the north. The more his boss knew, the better things would be for all of them.
And the less likely I get exposed, the young prince thought.
“It’s only just after noon,” his centurion noted, lowering his glasses. “We should make the old Depot, ten miles ahead, with no problem, assuming the locals are still friendly!”
At just over six feet, Panck Hill looked down to his aide, Hardt, who just made five-ten, a product of his mother’s Min Chinese genes. His skin and face were more from his father, a Prussian, so his appearance didn’t set off alarm bells when anyone looked at him. Besides his height, Hill also bulked over two hundred pounds and his black, Amerind hair was already technically too long for legionary standards. On this odd mission, no one cared.
“Any reports about dissension have been from much closer to the Ohio River,” Hardt noted. “There has been no reported incidences of hostility to any of our garrisons or any of our movements through the marches.”
The northern marches was imperial shorthand for what had once been the State of Kentucky. It was not claimed by Empress Faustina but she made sure that no one else did. When the snow and ice didn’t melt ten years ago, per the expected Maunder Minimum, the Canadians who had survived the Breakup of the United States began to pack up and move south into the empty tier of States which had once been counted as the Midwest. As their population first stabilized then began to grow from unnecessary immigration, some of that government, with their Summer Capital in Ottawa and the new Winter Capital of Trudeau, formerly called Fort Wayne, wanted to push even further south. The shock of a fusion weapon used on St. Louis focused their attention for some time, but now it seemed they still desired to meddle.
And thus why I am here, Robert thought, going round to sit in the back of the deuce-and-a-half truck. Mother resents that meddling and wants the status quo held while we get more and more of ours off-planet. The Canadians know they cannot win an open conflict against the legions… and they have more than enough land to survive the cold… why are they being so stupid?
With a glance to the other legionaries around him, Robert closed his eyes as the truck jerked as they resumed their drive north.
If I cannot come up with an answer to that question, there will be a war. I must stop that.
What had once been the sprawling grounds of the Bluegrass Army Depot, one of the largest collections of chemical munitions of the former US, was now not more than a hundred acres of a little legionary encampment. The deadly weapons were half disposed of before the Change and what remained – that the imperium could account for – were incinerated just before he was born. “Nukes are cleaner,” his mother once told him, with a twisted smile.
“Bob? You okay?” his mate to his left on the truck’s bench, Mitch, asked.
“Yeah. Sorry. Just an old memory,” he replied.
While a part of the imperial family, he was still ‘Bob Hardt’ to his brothers in the legions who for now didn’t know. Overshadowed for so long by his demi-human relations, Robert Hartmann – Robert Wade, he thought to himself – wanted to make his own way in the world, without rank, privilege, preferment. At seventeen he knew now that was impossible in the long run, but would run what short course he could for himself. Including this mission.
“I’ve heard,” Mitch went on, “that Kentucky girls are easy! Hungry for a legionary to hook up for a stake of land or a good trade! Guess we’ll get to try a bunch out on this trip!”
There were laughs and grins from the other six in the back of the truck. Sure, legionaries were the most dangerous soldiers on the North American continent, but they were also plumbers, electricians, railroaders, civil engineers, net analysts… the world needs ditch diggers, too, but that was the legionary non-combatants. Joining up at sixteen, serving for sixteen, and getting your pick of women and land from first the interior and now the periphery of the imperium had been a huge recruiting tool which Faustina, once fully aware of it, had exploited ruthlessly.
“Mebbe even get you hooked up with someone, Bobby!” Mitch laughed, pushing his shoulder into Hardt’s.
“I’m not interested in settling down,” Robert replied in a low voice. “So’s y’all’s can just have my sloppy seconds from them girls left over!”
The laughter carried on as the trucks went on down the road.