This will end in a chapter break. I know there is some talk among the legionaries the next morning – we have to find out what happened at that dinner – however I think they are on the road soon after, their objective is the old and still functioning capital of Frankfort. Somewhere around dead Lexington (I shed a tear at the thought of those closed Liquor Barn stores) somehow they run across Skylarzim, an annoying girl much in the vein of young Faustina. And I think there’s another surprise at The Dragon Pub in Frankfort… but that is thousands of words from now.
Officer Cadet Eloise Patel wandered into this story for a reason which I know not, however I am sure we’ll see her again.
By the time their tents were set up and firepits for dinner prepped, the first two-man legionary team came back after making a circuit of the close-in perimeter. All the imperials took silent note that the Canadians had done nothing of the sort. Following his nap, Hill took Hardt aside.
“Two things, before I’m off to this little soirée,” he told his underling. “First, don’t say anything you shouldn’t; and don’t try to deny you are pretending. Second…”
His CO gave a small snort.
“Taking a woman on a mission like this? Geez. I know not to underestimate any potential adversaries but I’d no idea they were this stupid,” he gave a hard grin. “And don’t even get me started on race.”
“Yes, sir. You are at least a quarter Amerind, after all,” Robert deadpanned. “What was your second point?”
“Without starting a war,” Hill said, now not nearly as happy, “pump her for what you can. Intel, I mean.”
“I’m off for this dinner,” Hill stood and shuddered at a cold wind blowing from north to south. “Rockford is my second but I am now counting on you, too, Hardt.”
Canadian army rations paled before what their legionary scrounger had done in less than an hour. Besides the meat, there were local fresh vegetables as well as moonshine. Rockford let loose a little of the beer they brought with them but none of the whiskey. By an hour after dinner, the two camps were trying to teach each other marching songs.
“Why are all of your songs about that woman, your Empreth, Empress,” Officer Cadet Patel asked. Robert wondered how much she had drunk. He had had some beer, anticipating a moment such as this. Perhaps life in the imperial family is good for something?
“As I told a local south of here,” he replied, aware she had just swayed and bumped against his right arm before recovering, “she is the mother of the nation. She built the imperium from nothing but her own will. We love and respect that, especially in the legions.”
“She’s not really human, right? That’s what I learned even before joining tharmy… the army.”
“The Empress uses the term demi-human.” He turned to Patel to steady her little epicycles she seemed to be describing. “She loves us, her people. How could we not love her? And so praise in songs?”
“Don’t get it…” she murmured.
“Of course not.” He looked over her shoulder, far into the north. “Canada, like the old US, is a racial mish-mash, pretending to hold itself together by civic nationalism. Even before the Change, just as the Irish defined themselves at ‘not English,’ once the English left, they died off, so to your country defined itself as ‘not the United States.’ I’m surprised y’all held together as long as you have. Not that the western provinces have stuck around.”
She hissed at him and weaved more at the same time. Thinking it might help, he put his right arm under her left and guided her into a slow walk about the city park.
“The Russians!” she hissed again before coughing a little. He hoped she didn’t get sick. “Britith Columbia was one thing! But then Alberta and Suth… Sus… Saskatchewan! At least we bloodied their noses when they tried to probe toward Winnipeg!”
She was loud enough that several of both parties noted them on their slow walk around the edge of the fires. If I took her back to my tent now, it would be a diplomatic incident. Dang.
“You did say you’d been out west?” He could still get into her another way.
“Just… just sheen the wrecks of the meeting engagement alound Brandon,” she was getting increasingly weavy and leaned to rest her head onto his shoulder. “Heeeey, Bob? Can you thee, ack! See me back to my tent? I’m tired.”
“Of course, Officer Cadet.” He had them make a slow course correction to make sure she stayed on her feet.
“It’s Eloise, Bob.” To prevent her dropping as quickly as her voice, he put his arm about her. Less than a minute later, in full view of everyone, he knelt down and loaded her into her tent as best he could. Looking about, his eyes found those of Corporal Darcy. With a nod, he walked away to the legionary side of their little camp.
“Gonna go rub one off, Bobbie?” Mitch called, having watched like everyone else. Robert ignored him and went to where Jimmy was stowing the alcohol. He took a bottle of moonshine out of his hand, slugged back two great mouthfuls, tried not be sick, and staggered toward his tent.
“Thasss a sin, Mich,” he managed. “Goin’ t’bed.”