Another meeting but it also offers readers a peek into the neo-feudalistic structure of the imperium. If some of the NPCs in the story have trouble wrapping their heads around it, I expect my readers to, as well. But I’ve never been one for huge blocks of exposition. I’m sure more will come out in some conversation in the future.
If I have to explain things, well, that like having to read the instructions to a game; by definition, that’s a failed game.
The Capital Building of former Kentucky was constructed much along the lines of the old national building in what had once been Washington. That city was an open-air ghost town and moment to human overreach and hubris. His mother had to be talked out of pulverizing everything and sowing the ground with salt. The office they found themselves in was on the third floor and looked northeast, to the now-empty and slightly dilapidated Governor’s Mansion.
One on side of a long, oval table sat the Mayor of Frankfort with an aide to his left and Deke Webb, no formal title, to his right. One male and one female secretary were in chairs along the wood-paneled wall behind them. Opposite, Centurion Hill took the center – again, mission, not rank mattered in the legions – with the Tribune to his right and Rockford to his left. Robert was at Jimmy’s left. Only one non-combatant took notes to their rear. They had just finished greetings and had sat down.
There was no Canadian present.
“Word is, you’d like to be Governor, Mister Webb,” Hill led off. Boldness, boldness, and more boldness, as their Empress demanded of her boys.
“Now where…” Webb began with a depreciating smile, only to be cut off.
“Personally? I think you’re setting your sights too low!” Hill continued, with more boldness. “If you are voted in, you’ll be voted out, right? The Empress does not like a government which only looks to the next election; she demands anyone associated with the imperium look to the next generation. At least.”
Webb’s political smile never wavered, even at Hill’s rudeness.
“And just how can I, some hayseed from Winchester, aspire to be a part of the aristocracy of your imperium, Centurion Hill? And, just how is it you are speaking and not the decorated Tribune, here, who, I am told, has your empress’s ear?” Webb came right back, trying to force Hill into explaining himself.
“Mister Webb!” Hill now smiled as he opened his arms. “In a world where a little girl can conquer the entire Old South, anything is possible! Such as your being Marquis Webb. If you do not recall our aristocratic ranks, that’s just below duke. And we’ve only one of those.”
In Webb’s hesitation, the Mayor spoke up.
“If he’s a marquis, that means Kentucky is no longer independent,” he pointed out. “We’d belong to you.”
“Not at all. You would be a baron and responsible to the marquis, here, who is in turn personally responsible to the Empress,” Hill clarified. “In the imperium, loyalty is personal, not to an abstract of dirt or lines on a map.”
Robert saw Webb had not moved but that the Mayor was having trouble digesting that concept, alien as it was to those lost in the old ways of the US.
“What,” Webb spoke clearly to make his point, “about you all making Old Man Carlyle a count,” he let his smile fade. “Least wise, that’s what I hear. Or, any other barons and counts you plan to sprinkle about?”
“All have their primary loyalty to the marquis,” Hill dropped his hands and looked puzzled. “Be that you or some other man, I suppose? Any region not under barons and counts would be that man’s responsibility. It would take a great man to step up to that plate, I think. I sure wouldn’t want that on my back.”
“Are we,” Webb tried again, “talking about all of former Kentucky? Not to be limited by lines on a map, after all.”
Hill didn’t hesitate and pointed left.
“Hardt is my intel guy and has interesting connexions,” Hill explained. “He cannot make a treaty but he can certainly outline things better than I can.”
After a lifetime of being put on the spot by his family, this was nothing. Robert nodded politely at Webb then the Mayor.
“Very roughly, the realm of this new peer would be from Huntington, southwest to Somerset, west to what was Kentucky Lake – now just a vast swamp since the dams failed – north to the Ohio River, which would form the northern reach of his land,” Robert outlined.
“Paducah and the far west?” Webb probed.
“No. The confluence of the two rivers would be held by a special commissioner of Her Majesty,” he replied with only a tiny shake of his head.
“The Canadian Army already holds everything just south of Cincinnati,” the Mayor pointed out. Robert was pleased they were already discussing details as that begged the greater decision.
“The Empress,” Tribune Atkinson said softly, seeming having some difficulty breathing, “has cared for Kentucky for a generation now. I think she cares for it so much she will not let a foot of it fall to some foreign invader.”
Nearly half a minute passed before Webb spoke up.
“I think that is a good place to pause,” he announced, standing. “I’ll have coffee and some light snacks brought in. Toilets are out the door and down the hall on the left. Say, about twenty minutes? Um…”
The legionaries paused as they stood.
“I think,” Deke Webb said with great care, “this has been a very productive beginning.”
“I agree, sir,” Hill said, leaning to extend his hand across the table. Webb took it.