As Officer Cadet Patel explains below, that has become a reality. With my future history’s Maunder Minimum, the snow and ice are coming, putting pressure on the populations of Canada and the Russian Empire. As a nation with reactionless motors and helping to terraform Mars, the Russians have a potential escape route (besides their hegemony over the American west coast); the Canadians have no such thing, hence they occupation of the old American Midwest.
Nice to see Robert getting all “crown prince” at the end of this snippet. Which is also the end of Part II of my MS. I’m getting into part three, about Prince Laszlo, and… oh, boy. I’ve never written a character like this before. I wonder if I’ll fall afoul of the SJWs and their enforcers? The world wonders.
The morning of their second day in Owensboro, Robert was talking with a local customs official when Mitch said, “heads up,” in a legionary tone.
At the south end of the sole bridge spanning the wide Ohio River into the town, there were four trucks headed south. Not commercial, but military.
“Canadians?” Mitch asked.
“Or Russians?” Robert preferred the former to the latter.
“That’s not funny.”
“No. But it’s also just a matter of time before we touch them.”
He and Mitch took a few steps back to let the locals do their job. After nine days, a proclamation of Marquis Webb and the imperium was now fairly common knowledge in this small but important riverside town. Robert was curious as to how the local petty bureaucrats might react.
The flag on the trucks’ sides was Canadian.
“Hey!” the senior of the three men called back to him and Mitch. “You imperials! Can you sort this shit?”
And that is my answer. With a shrug, he walked forward with Mitch at his right. Their rifles were over their shoulders as everyone was friends, right?
“Why, hello, leftenant Donne,” he said with more a wave than a salute. “What brings y’all into the imperium?”
“That rumor.” The officer looked down from the passenger side of his truck. “Private Hardt, was it?”
“Close enough, sir, yes. We’ve ourselves only just heard those there politicians dun decided to join us,” Robert went for the clichéd, northern notion of his homeland. “That’s why y’all’s here? To celebrate?”
“No.” The leftenant looked very unhappy. “I guess we’ll be turning around now…”
“But you-uns came all this way!” Robert exclaimed with a smile. “I bet these good folks of this great town can put y’all up for a night! Ain’t that right, Officer Brown?”
The chief customs officer was a bit at sea at this unorthodox request, but with the recent change of government thought hewing to a legionary’s offer to be safest.
“There’s an open park,” the man began, “about five or six blocks sou-southeast of here. You all would be welcome to spend the night there.”
Robert watched the Canadian officer look at his watch, the sky, and the sideview mirror. He sighed and the prince knew he had won again. He and Mitch stepped aside as Brown waved the four trucks on. In the second…
“Officer Cadet Patel!” Robert yelled with a smile and wave. Startled, she waved back before recognizing him. Once she did, there was a guilty smile before her truck passed.
“She knows she was drunk and you didn’t bang her,” Mitch laughed. “But now, she’s gonna be expecting it! Got any left in you after Bardstown?”
“That was more than a week ago, my friend. If Miss Eloise can walk in the morning then call me a failure!”
“God! Now our camp will stink of sex and curry!” Mitch howled.
Their watch with at the bridge was another two hours; two very interesting hours. The Canadians had already made a customs and excise post at the north end of the bridge, levying a tax on traffic both ways. As it was close to eighty percent north, and the Kentuckians not having paid much in the way of taxes for a generation, this was very unwelcome and Robert and Mitch found themselves hounded by questions from merchants coming south as to “just what the hell is your empire and that new guy in Frankfort gonna do about this!”
Besides vague promises about negotiations, Robert’s best talking point was “this is on the Canadians; the imperium has no plans about taxing y’alls livelihoods.”
Mitch was able to catch a ride on a truck headed the short ways west to their little camp on the grounds of the county courthouse. Robert ignored his friends shouted imprecations as he walked south, then a little east. There was a large treeless open area just adjacent to the local hospital. Undefendable, the Canadian army trucks parked with one each facing a cardinal point. Now in what was technically a foreign country, they actually had two-man patrols about.
“Corporal Darcy,” Robert said with a salute and a smile. “Pleasure to see you again.”
“Private Bart,” he said incorrectly, “fancy seeing you again.”
“It’s Hardt, Corporal. I am obviously meant to be here.” He looked about at their tiny camp. “You are the responsibility of the local authorities but as a legionary I can at least ask if there’s anything I can do for you.”
“Having confirmed the change in governments, we’re just staying the one night, Hardt,” Darcy said a bit rudely. “Getting Cadet Patel drunk again or just spying on us?”
“The Officer Cadet,” he raised his voice, seeing her come around a truck at their conversation, “got herself drunk with no help from me at all. My help was getting her back to her tent.”
“For which,” Patel now spoke walking from the grass to the street where they stood, “I am grateful, hastatus Hardt. I hope we, that is, our nations, can remain friends.”
“And I hope, Officer Cadet,” Robert said while saluting, “our nations remain as good friends as we are!”
Darcy snorted and walked on with his second to the west, only turning left at the second city block.
“I think we scared him off,” Robert smiled. “But I am afraid I’ve brought no whiskey with me this time.”
“I’m sure our leftenant will spare us a little,” she said, taking another step closer to him, “for diplomatic reasons.”
She waved for him to walk into their camp and, following protocol, Robert asked to speak with Donne first, to not cause a row.
“Much has changed since we last saw one another,” she said first.
“Indeed. After a generation of benign neglect our empress finds herself saddled with a new province to incorporate into the imperium.” He lowered his voice. “Rumor is, she thinks it a bother. She is much more concerned with what we’re doing off-world.”
“On the space stations and the Moon? Yeah, I can see that being a high-level concern,” Patel agreed.
Again, is Mars so shrouded in secrecy?
“I joked with a friend of mine on the bridge, when we first saw your trucks, that I hoped it was your army and not the Russians,” he continued in his quiet voice.
“Damn them!” she spat. Yep: still angry. She stomped over to the truck facing south and asked the young man moving boxes around in the back for two cups with one hundred fifty mL’s of whiskey, each. Robert did the math.
“I’ve had to carry you once,” he lowered his voice, “Eloise. Let’s add a little water to this, okay?”
She looked at him oddly as they moved to the next truck to top off their plastic cups with water.
“I thought you liked me, Bob,” she said, taking a drink with no preamble.
“The Empress,” Robert raised his glass then sipped. This is awful! I might not use this to degrease our engines! “I do, El, but you are a foreign officer in what is now a province protected by legionaries. Like me.”
He took another sip and tried to not gag.
“Don’t you have diplomacy classes way up there in the frozen north?” he smiled.
Her smiled slipped again as she tossed her head for them to go for a walk.
“Because of the waters of the Saint Lawrence seaway,” she began as they walked slow and close, “it is what’s keeping Quebec City alive. Two hundred klicks west, if you use binoculars from a tall building in Montreal or Ottawa, you can see the ice. It never melts and comes further south every winter.”
She took a gulp of her drink. Robert suppressed a shudder.
“My family immigrated to Toronto in the late Twentieth century. I wonder if on my next leave I’ll go home to find my parents and little brothers frozen in their house.” Her tone was spiteful.
“No point at getting mad at the weather, El,” he tried. “If they have to move, they move. Isn’t that why your army is just across the river?”
“I said you could call me Eloise. I don’t recall ‘El’ being a part of that.”
“Imperial privilege.” A personal joke. She snorted.
“We can see the ice with our own eyes and no one, not one politician has said a single word about it!” Another drink. At a city intersection, he had them turn left and south. Some of the locals look askance at their uniforms. “What… what if it just keeps coming?”
“Our astronomers, as well as some friends of ours,” no reason to mention the Machines’ analysis, “say this is a cooling period for maybe one or two hundred years. While I cannot say your family home will be safe, it should not come further south.”
“Listen to mister intelligence specialist!” she said in an unhappy tone. “Your Empress call you up on your phone to tell you that, hastatus?”
“Information flows freer in the imperium, El,” he tried. “We’re not divided by racial and cultural differences which tend to isolate groups, and thus facts, from one another.”
She took another drink and shook her head. Robert saw hers was half empty while he’d barely touched his battery acid.
“So the ice might stop,” Eloise Patel whispered. “What about the Russians?”
“They do look frightening on the map, don’t they, El?” he laughed, hoping she would. She didn’t. “Like all of the Polar Alliance, they’ve turned around their demographic catastrophe, but you’ll find that on the North American continent, there are only old locals under their control. The Russian Army is not quite an occupying force, but some would call it that.”
“And this is the view of some *hic!* ranker from the legions, Bob?” she asked.
Getting her passed out, outside of line-of-sight of her team would also be a diplomatic incident. He turned them left again.
“Who controls Russia, Eloise?” He used her full name to help her focus.
“Well,” she blinked, “their emperor, Alexei…”
“Wrong, Officer Cadet Patel! Try again.”
She shied away from him at the reprimand. But then took another drink before taking his right hand with her left.
“That machine. Reina.”
“Much better.” He leaned to just touch his lips to her hair. “And that Machine has no Laws and no breaks to stop her from whatever she wants. It was only the wild, uncontrolled behavior of our Empress and her step-daughter which allowed our people the secret of reactionless motors. You Canadians worry about ice; we worry about air on the Moon and Mars.”
“That’s it,” Patel said, tossing the last of her whiskey onto the asphalt, followed by the plastic cup. She pivoted and used her free hand to take his other, around his cup, which he was thankful to drop, now standing right in front of him. “That’s in no news feed. You are a liar, Bob.”
“That’s true. My centurion says I am a very bad one.”
“Any other sooper *hic!* super secret things I should put into my report from interrorg… intergate… talking to some legionaries in Owensboro?”
Buzzed but not drunk. And now, a useful backchannel conveyance of intelligence to the Canadian Army. Robert leaned forward and kissed her mouth.
“Tell your generals the imperium knows your country will fall apart in less than a generation.” He ignored her shocked look and pressed on. “If you don’t want to be speaking Russian, y’all had better play nice with your new southern neighbor.”
He put his face right to hers. She didn’t move. He kissed her again.
“I can be your best friend; I can be your worst enemy.” Robert looked about. “Let’s take you back to camp, El.”
“No hotel?” she sighed.