Exposition in Winchester

Was at my DayJob the last four days then off the last two. The pollen here in central Ohio has irritated my throat so I could only record three chapters of “Foes and Rivals.” I will certainly not be done with that by our vacation departure the first week of June.

But will there be a vacation? Some false-flag pipeline BS in the SE US. Closing of the I-40 bridge over the Mississippi – with the possibility of that impacting ship traffic on the river which forms the backbone of America. The Covid political madness still in place. Maybe we will make it to south Utah. Maybe we’ll make it back. If things fall apart – and trust me, I know that can, FAST – then I’ll have to go full Mad Max to retrieve Daughter #1 from her internship.

In the meantime, in a story I’m not writing which is at 25k words, the intel team of which Prince Robert is just a cog starts off toward their first town of investigation.

I’ve also signed up with a new service and shall try to embed the link here. I’m not terribly good at these things.

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/machciv

Moving out at 0700 the next morning, Hill had them use the road which paralleled the old highway.  It turned northwest toward Old Lexington and they wanted to go northeast in the direction of Winchester.  Less than an hour later had them stop at the two-lane bridge over the Kentucky River.  For military reasons and for “hearts and minds” of the locals, a legionary engineering detachment had restored it eight years ago and they were curious to see their colleagues’ work.

“Looks sturdy enough,” Mitch opined before looking about at the heavily wooded hills.  “Might take my next leave up here!  The hunting’s gotta be great!”

“Just clear it with the locals,” Hill replied, pointing left to the small quarry and processing plant.  “What we’ve already seen is an economy quite steady on its feet after the Change.  No reason to come barging in here swinging our dicks!”

He didn’t notice the glance that echoed around his men.

“Right,” their centurion continued, turning back to the lead truck.  “Winchester is just a half-hour ahead.  I’ll talk politics with the sheriff while y’all see if the locals have any opinions about our new neighbors to the north.  Hardt?  In my truck, please.

Robert climbed up first and squeezed into the tiny bench behind the driver and passenger seats.  Hill swung the door closed any they immediately moved out.

“Need something from me, sir?” he asked.

“Two things,” Hill replied, looking about as they rolled over the bridge then began to climb out of the low river valley.  “One:  I’m planning on making a change of plans.  Unless we hear something to the contrary, I see no reason to start up into the hill country around Morehead. After Mount Sterling, I’d rather strike north to Flemingsburg.  They’re only about a dozen miles from the Ohio River and might have a better feel what’s north.  As my G-2, how’s that sound?”

“As you said, sir, conditional on no bad news in Mount Sterling, I think that’s fine.  What was your second item?”

“Just why are you and my men acting so damn smug this morning?” the centurion demanded.

“Just pleased to be on a mission in the service of her Majesty, Centurion,” Robert lied with the open, frank look he had learned from the rest of family.  The imperial family.

“Uh, huh.” He was sure Hill didn’t believe him but also didn’t want to make an issue.

So as not to be too obvious, the three military trucks parked on the one-way street on the north side of the Clark County Courthouse.  As about every other shop seemed occupied, Hill’s observation about the local economy seemed true.  With their CO off to chat with the sheriff and one of their team detailed to security with the three drivers, that left six of them to form two-man teams to nose about.

Robert was with Rockford.  Only a few months senior to me in the legions, he already has a reputation as a scrounger.  That means he can read people like my demi family.  If I want to stay anonymous, I must be cautious.

With a few locals stopping to ask why legionaries were in town – there was no base closer than that in Richmond – the two laughed and asked where the good bars and hot girls were.  Part of their job; not quite part of their job.

A few blocks to the northeast had the populated core of the little town drop off sharply.  Less than two hundred feet ahead were a pair of railroad tracks, running north-south.

“Pre-Change,” Robert noted, pointing, “tracks often served as dividing lines between local communities.  White or blue collar.  Or even different races.”

“Hmmm.  Not thought of that.  What with so few in the imperium,” Rockford said.  Robert caught that his buddy used the more complicated term, rather than just “empire.”

“One of our projects in my Brotherhood,” the other carried on, “was how ‘diversity plus proximity equals war’ in the old US.  God!  Those people must have been willfully blind to reality!”

“It… seems that way,” Robert agreed.

“Thank God the Empress does go for that crap!” Rockford laughed before looking about.  “Even if, well, you know…”

He casually rubbed his right fingers onto the back of his left hand.

“Yes.  She is half Min Chinese.  I guess it’s in our favor that she doesn’t look it!”

Min Chinese?” Rockford echoed quietly.  “That’s a little detail I didn’t know!  Where did you hear that?”

Crap.

“One of my Brotherhood projects was a survey of the imperial family.” Time for some very careful truth.  “I even got to talk to Princess Elizabeth once.  Well, it was a video call for all twelve of us, though.”

“Back when she was still on Earth?” They had turned south, passing through a close-in residential area.  The houses were well over a hundred years old.  They turned right again, back west toward the courthouse.  “I don’t think she likes it here much!”

The politics disgust her and her mind is that of an engineer, not a general or diplomat.  If mother handed her firstborn the crown she would drop it and walk away.

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