While I had a little time to type while on vacation, it was still a vacation and I didn’t. However, that did not mean the movies didn’t keep playing into my mind. I’ll be playing catch-up for a week, interspersed with going into the basement for the audio recording of “Foes and Rivals.” It’s been nearly three weeks since I voiced those characters! I hope I remember what they sound like!
Below the fold, Robert and his centurion… well, they do not come clean with one another, but they are willing to be a little more truthful.
And I’ll let a small, pure white cat out of the bag: there’s a very interesting new secondary character making their debut in the next update. In the meantime, why not buy me a beer?
With their trucks clearly visible from the pub’s windows, even the drivers accompanied the others in. Robert noted the building was from the 19th century and had likely been repurposed many times over its long life. The menu was a chalk board along the back wall.
“I’m going to take Mister Connell at his word,” their centurion announced, “and get me some of that Bluegrass Shrimp! We’ve an easy drive ahead of us and a cohort has a fort outside of Frankfort – what that our third truck with diesel and other supplied is for – so I think I can allow two pints per man. Don’t prove me wrong, lads.”
When it turned out everyone wanted shrimp, an embarrassed and apologetic manager came out to explain they only had enough for ten. Robert immediately changed his order to pulled venison. After a pause, so did Mitch. But Rockford also stood to have a private word with the local. Cutting another deal, no doubt.
As their meals were being prepared, Rockford gently guided the manager back to the staff’s table.
“I want to apologize again – ” he tried.
“Don’t, unless this ale is awful,” Hill spoke over him, taking a long drink. “It’s not! Now, if you want to bring down the full might of the imperial legions onto this town, I suggest you don’t run out of this!”
Said with a smile, the manager did not shit himself and begin to cry.
“Now,” their CO continued, “sit for a moment please and tell me: this town is the last before all the hills between here and the Ohio River. Seen many Canadians coming south?”
That went on for a quarter hour until the food was rushed out. Out of his left eye Robert took in the excitement of the staff, knowing they were going to be paid in silver coins. From his right, the tiny group gathering to see why legionary trucks were in town. The manager was dismissed and Robert and Jimmy split their lunches; the scrounger always wanted a frame of reference for what he was trading.
“Right,” Centurion Hill said, after noting the shrimp from landlocked Kentucky were pretty good, “it sounds if they’ve Canadian patrols just like ours over the last year. Just not with our touch!”
A nod to their scrounger as he finished his first ale and waved for another.
“What I want from my second and my intel, who gave us a name in Frankfort – meant to happen, of course,” no coincidences was an article of faith in the legions, “is how are these people gonna role? If we had been one or two days later, they’d own the Flemingsburg valley. They’ve done grip-and-grin here. Further west? We’ve yet to see.”
“I think, sir, that is their center of gravity,” Robert spoke up. At their pause, he went on. “They have a brigade of infantry backed up by about a company of armor about thirty miles north of Evansville. That’s an hour to Louisville or, oddly, two to three hours to former St. Louis. And, if they cross the river at Louisville, no more than another hour to Frankfort.”
“You saw my short report about that officer cadet,” Robert said, picking up the last of his barbequed venison with a fork. “She admitted to knowing almost nothing about the imperium but nearly obsessing about the Russian Empire.”
“I don’t think their army and their civilian masters understand each other,” he concluded, taking the bite.
“Democracy!” Hill said under his breath. “A plague! Amazing the Breakup and Change took so long to happen!”
“The coming of the Machines was a prerequisite, sir,” Robert contributed, giving a smile to the waiter who brought his second ale. At that look again, he added, “you said I am a lousy liar, sir.”
Robert also saw how Rockford was following their exchange.
“Five minutes!” Hill called to the room. “Why did I get stuck with you, Hardt?”
It was an odd question for the very early afternoon. Robert knew some of his CO’s genetics, and their propensity toward alcoholism, but that did not mean twenty ounces of ale gets you drunk. Playing defense means losing.
“Your grandfather was a baron,” the prince began in a low conversational tone, “but with Memphis regulated, I read Viscount Hill – that name again! – controls the lands from Lake Sardis to the outskirts of Memphis. Special Commander Smythe sees to that city, correct?”
Centurion Hill tossed back his last six ounces.
“The viscount is my uncle.”
“I am in the presence of nobility!” Crown Prince Robert said, setting his glass down. “I had no idea, sire!”
“Fuck you, liar.”
That was just loud enough to carry to another table. The other nine legionaries looked first at one another then about. All drinks were finished in a second.
Hill stood, not at all unstable.
“Mount up. We’re to Frankfort. Hardt? With me.”
Their unit streamed out of the pub, to waves from those newly enriched within to some shy greetings from those locals without.
“Empress Faustina!” Their centurion called loud. “Wants all of y’all to know how much she loves you! And wants everyone to live their lives in peace!”
He waved for Robert to get on first, who did, squeezing into the back bench. The door slammed and the motor was turned over.
“As I recall, sir, the cohort base proper is where the old US Army guard was, just north of their tiny airstrip,” he began, “but given relaxed discipline, our men are kinda scattered all over the town. Contributing to the, ah, local fertility rate.”
“Firstly, Hardt, I am glad you stopped lying. Grant?” he addressed their driver. “Unless you want to spend the rest of your life on a garbage scow between here and the moon, keep your mouth shut about what comes next! Hardt? You’re an aristocrat.”
It was a statement not a question.
“You didn’t want life on a platter so you pissed off your family to join the legions.”
“The fact that you’re still here seems to me that you pulled that shit off, correct?”
“Damn,” Hill seemed to sag forward as they bumped over some broken asphalt on the road from Georgetown to Frankfort. Rain began to pelt the front window. “That’s what I did, too.”