Completed my research after a few hours of DayJob on Saturday (hey, that wine won’t pay for itself) and made notes. Following Mass the next morning, I set about things. Nearly 2200 words. Made several mistakes as I was typing and thought of how I could clean up the aftermath a bit better. I’ll work on that right after this.
This is likely the last conversation Jimmy has with Aurie Hardt.
After they all laughed, Burns pointed ahead where there had been a small windfarm of six turbines. Only two still stood and neither operational.
“Wind power is a net loss, even at our current level of technology,” Aurie said with a click of her tongue. “Insane politics driven by the monumental stupidity of insane people.”
“Do tell us how you really feel, Aurie,” he laughed. “Oof!”
She grabbed his balls.
“I would personally have killed everyone associated with any project such as this. With my bare hands if necessary.” Her voice made the air in the cab seem cold. She crossed her arms over her chest. “All such projects were anti-life. Demonic.”
After last night, Jimmy Burns never suspected he would be afraid of that same girl.
“You…” he tried. Swallowed hard. “You seem pretty angry about that, Aurie.”
“I am and I should not be in front of either of you. I’m sorry.” She leaned right then left, kissing both of their cheeks. “Tell us about the spaceport.”
Construction had begun only months before the Breakup, making parts and supplies from their neighbor to the south impossible to get. Desperate for cash to continue to bribe the invited invading hoards from MENA, Canada bought nearly a quarter of the equipment from the ESA’s launch facility in French Guiana, bringing it to Halifax in two freighters escorted by a frigate. But the collapse of the West also meant no customers. The Russians, Chinese, Japanese, and Indians were protective of their own industries. Australia was too far away.
“Which meant,” Jimmy tried to reach a conclusion on the bumpy road skirting Publicover Lake, a glorified pond, as the road bent east, “our main customer became the Habsburg Empire, in central Europe, of all places.”
“The Imperial Danubian Federation,” Aurie clarified for Colour. “It was the Visegrad Four, pre-Change, but with Western Europe dying, several other states joined. Recognizing the insanity of democracy, it was decided to pop an Habsburg back onto the throne, for stability.”
Seeing a four-meter chainlink fence with razorwire ahead, they slowed. Coming to a locked gate, Jimmy stopped.
“You have the same hate in your voice for democracy that you did for windmills,” he said, getting out and grabbing some keys off the dashboard. “Even I know Texas is a republic, Aurie. And so are we.”
“I’ve nothing against small-scale democracy; cities and the like,” she replied. “Scale it up and it fails. And Texas’ situation is in flux.”
About to take a step to unlock the gate, he froze.
“What does that mean?” That shrug and smile when I know she’s not telling me the truth. Gate unlocked, he drove them through before stopping and just propping it shut. “The rest of the teams will be coming in over the next hour. It’s common for whoever gets here first to open it up.”
“Ring Station Four,” he pointed off to their right, “is one of the four radar tracking stations for launch. If anything looks squirrelly during boost, we blow it up and let it fall into the ocean.”
“Has that happened, Jimmy?” Colour asked.
“Twice. Just once since I’ve been here,” he admitted with a shake of his head, hating the memory. “Sure, they’re insured, but it makes us look like amateurs.”
“You’re certainly not in bed,” Aurie kissed his cheek again, “so I bet you do fine here.”
“Look ahead,” he tried to distract her. They saw a tall building and a gantry, both maybe fifteen stories tall, separated by a thousand feet. By the building were several more, low to the ground, looking like reinforced bunkers.
“Assembly building and launch pad,” Aurie observed.
“You do know everything, don’t you?” he said in resignation.
“Nope,” Colour answered first. “She just knows what she knows.”
“Keep up that kind of cleverness and maybe I’ll sleep with you tonight,” Hardt laughed.
“We’ve been sleeping together under the stars for a month now, Aurelia, don’t be weird. Whups!”
The truck jerked to a halt, nearly tossing them into the windshield.
“That’s your name? Aurelia?” Burns demanded.
“My given, legal name, yes,” she said in perfect calm. “I would guess it is James on your birth certificate?”
“Oh, well, yes.” He drove slowly to a bunker with a pole. The maple leaf flag flew on it. “It’s… it’s really pretty, Aurie.”
“It means golden,” she allowed as they coasted to a halt.
“Like your eyes?”
“Like my eyes.”
He put his hand to open the door but paused.
“If I ask, and you know what, you won’t tell me, will you.” There was sadness that after all they did, she wouldn’t trust him.
“I will. I swear. But not today,” she tried to add love to those eyes of hers but there was still something lacking. “We all getting out?”