Wherein we learn a little more about how the Canadians have begun to meddle in the economy of Kentucky. I think Robert is a little smitten by Sky – he admitted a while ago he’s a xenophile – but she’s made a point to mention her boyfriend, so that’s either a dead-end or source of potential conflict. We shall see!
“Geez,” she muttered, disappointing him by lowering her eyes, “you sound like him! Anyway. Gramma and Granpa tell me there’s new fee…? Tariff! That’s the word! A tariff for all goods going across the Ohio River. And Rol – a guy I know, tells me that they have troops on our side! In Kentucky, can you believe it! In the, what was the word? In the sail-ee-ant up by Cincinnati!”
Her eyes came back up and he unconsciously drew her closer. Realizing it, he relaxed his arm but the girl still grinned at him. Her teeth were stained and a little crooked, but not bad for the low-tech northern march.
“You imperials are pretty smooth, you know?” she almost purred at him. Robert was instantly reminded of being played like a fiddle by his big sister Liz when he was little, and on guard. “What Gram and Gran say, y’all always make a good deal, but one just a little better for you!”
“Halfway point, sir,” the driver said to Hill, who took that moment to finally turn about and join the conversation.
“Miss Sky?” he said with a smile which got bigger when he saw how close she was to his hastatus, “you should always suspect someone who gives you a deal that seems, mind you, better for you. And, I’m Centurion Panck Hill, by the way. In charge of this little jaunt. What!”
The last was when Sky took her eyes from Robert’s to Hill’s. It was very obvious she was used to using it to put people off guard.
“What is it with you people and albinos?” she asked. To Robert’s ears, after seventeen years of demi-human half-lies, hers was just another. “I’m just a little girl!”
Hill’s eyes flicked to Robert’s and back to hers. He knew what he saw there, the same thing he thought: demi? No, sir, she’s not.
“But, little miss, I thought the Canadians were just about the most polite folks on this green Earth…” Hill fished.
Behind him, out the front windshield, the storm was breaking up as quickly as it had come upon them. Rays of sunshine were already piercing the dark gray clouds. The trucks accelerated.
“Were they? A lot changed in the Change, boss man,” she said with real anger, sitting up away from Robert. “I read a lot as a kid and can see that my home is just a plaything for the north and south! Doesn’t mean I have to like it!”
She just said Change. Not even a third of the imperium uses that recent term, recognizing the new reality they live in. Robert really wanted to know more about –
“Sir?” the driver said, slowing. “City checkpoint just ahead.”
“This is where the north and south forks of Elkhorn Creek come together,” their passenger informed them, “so it makes a good stop for traffic.”
Robert could see a breezeblock and cement guard post ahead and to his left. The long metal pole which could stretch across the road was up. Three men he could see were in the livery of the Frankfort Guard. They were accompanied by two legionaries. Their truck rolled to a halt and Hill opened his door and climbed down.
“Can you pass me back my shirt?” Sky asked the driver, who did. It was still damp.
“We could give you – ” Robert began, turning away as she shed the blanket.
“S’okay,” she said to his right. “Yeee! That’s cold! I appreciate the ride but I’m not a leech or charity case, Bob!”
He turned back as she slid around the centurion’s seat and climbed down, as well. Robert followed.
“…best way to your fort is to go south and take the East-West Connector – son of a bitch! Skylar!” the likely leader of the Guard exclaimed. “Now you’re bumming rides from the imperials!”
“They stopped to pick me up, Andy, and unless you want us to call in your bar tab, can you shut up and get me a ride to my place?” the girl replied coolly.
“Andy” turned around and back to his post, cursing, as Sky turned back to Robert. She put out her hand.
“Good to meetcha, Bob,” she said with a real smile, “even if you started by groping me! Do you think we’ll see each other again?”
“Miss Sky? If I am sure of anything, it is that there are no such things as coincidences,” he replied, taking her hand and loving her eyes. “I’m looking forward to it!”