I think that there’s not much happening in Mount Sterling. First contact with a similar team of scouts from the Canadian army should happen in Flemingsburg. At some point I want to flesh out Centurion Hill’s character, as he’s the grandson of a man in a story which, while canonical, does not appear in the American Imperium trilogy.
If I can hack some of this pollen out of my throat, I’m hoping to record several “Foes & Rivals” chapters this weekend. If not, I’m back with Prince Robert and his story. I win either way.
“Dang, Jim! Didn’t know I’m a VIP!” Robert quipped.
“You’re just a baby out here, Hardt,” Rockford knew they were performing for the local. “Here ya’ go, Tom. All the way from Texas!”
He poured a splash into all three glasses.
“Texas! Well, I guess after this moon and Mars talk, I’ll have to believe this, too. Cheers, lads!”
“Her Majesty,” the two legionaries rejoined. They saw Webb note that.
“So y’all don’t toast your country no more?” he asked.
“The empress is our country,” Robert explained. “She and the land are one. She is the mother of the nation.”
Not understanding, Webb took another sip.
“Not too bad,” he allowed. “Nothing like our good local bourbon, though!”
“One of the reasons it has such a high tariff on it, Tom,” Robert said, very pleased to be drinking on duty. “Can’t have your better product displacing our industries.”
“You admit it’s better?” he asked, suddenly leaning forward.
“Personally? Yes. On the record? Well…”
Tom laughed as he stubbed out the last of what was left of his cigar. When he took out another, Rockford immediately poured them all more.
“It’s not just us that are new around here,” Robert said, rocking his chair a little and failing to blow smoke rings. “Heard there are new folks up north. Across the river.”
“Canadians!” Tom almost spit some of his drink onto Robert. “What in the hell are they doing down heres!”
The young prince knew that now was not the time to discuss the Maunder Minimum.
“Well,” Robert began slowly, “it is not as if there was anyone to stop them. Sure, there were plenty of farmers in the Midwest who survived, just like here, but the Canadian Army is intact, so…”
“They was Americans, too!” Was just one glass affecting Webb or was he really upset? He would have to ask Rockford later. “We trade north just like we did with you-uns! Those people have no business up there!”
Robert noted that Rockford had recorked the bottle after the second pour, so he tried to wrap up.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he spoke as devil’s advocate, “like you said, Kentucky also trades north. This should just open up more opportunities. Instead of just the Midwest farmers – ”
“Them farmers never said nothin’ about makin’ us a part of their country!” Tom concluded, tossing the rest of his drink back before bringing the glass down hard on the deck’s wood rail.
“You’ve heard that yourself? Or is that another rumor, like our spaceships?” Rockford asked into the silence.
“Well, it was from my nephew, Deke,” Tom admitted. “But he lives and works in Frankfort. For the government. You boys can ask him yourselves!”
“We… may just do that, Tom,” Robert agreed. “So far as a private like me knows, the empire is happy with the way things are. What’s Deke’s last name?”
“Same as mine, Webb. He’s my brother’s boy. Smart as a whip and didn’t want to hang around a town like Winchester,” Tom went on to explain. “Don’t rightly know what his job is but he told me all this last Christmas.”
“We appreciate that, Tom,” Robert then Jimmy stood. Handshakes all around. “And I’m really glad I got to meet you.”
They had made their way to the street to go back to their trucks when the old man yelled out to them.
“Y’alls weren’t kiddin’ about them spaceships, were ya?”
“They’re as real as Empress Faustina!” the young prince, who had cause to know, shouted back, waving.
Panck Hill was already getting a quick briefing from the other two teams who beat them back. He looked at them and sniffed loudly.
“Drinking on duty is a flogging offense,” he said easily.
“Drinking in the course of our assignment and getting some very interesting intel from a local certainly is not,” Rockford countered.
Robert stayed quiet while his mate filled in their centurion with the bare details.
“Well, then,” Hill said, looking west toward the lowering sun. “Looks as if we’ll be headed to Frankfort after Mount Sterling and Flemingsburg. With that settled, let’s get a camp set up at an unused primary school just east of here. After that, more talking to locals, then dinner. Hardt and Rockford? Since y’all have started dinner early, you two get the first watch on our camp and can get the tents set up. Questions?”
With things set up and little else to do, Rockford was already trying to scrounge things off of the locals who came by to talk. Robert found a quiet place where he could still observe their little camp and took out his tablet. A message box immediately appeared.
Homesick already, child? FH
No, mother. I’m fine. I wanted to get some more information about the Canadian occupation force. But thanks for checking in.
Know that I’m watching over you, Little Legionary! FH
The box closed and he set about doing what he had wanted to, first looking at the official reports from Ottawa and Trudeau, then at the imperium’s intelligence reports on the units and their TOE within one hundred miles of the Ohio River.
Odd how the center of gravity seems to be north of Evansville rather than Cincinnati or even Louisville. That puts the core of their army in striking distance of Louisville if they move east or the Mississippi River if west.
“But where? Why? St. Louis is a smoking, irradiated crater from ten years ago.” He sighed and turned the tablet off. “Needs more thought. Even for a slow human like me.”
His radio chirped. He and Rockford were summoned to join the others about a quarter-mile back toward the town center to a place called Wildcat Whiskey.
“I hope it is!”