Sometimes I reference other books. Sometimes, such as here, I call back to what I wrote a few chapters before. Sometimes it is completely off-the-wall; I mean, seriously: did NO ONE get the “Broadsword to Danny Boy” reference? I worry about y’all sometimes.
This segment accomplishes two things: we now have the beginnings of a diplomatic buffer between the imperium and Canada. They are small but I do not think either power wants to rile up the Northern Federation. Second, Robert puts Jimmy on notice: just what the effing hell do you think you are to Aurie now? What will you be in a month? A year? We know from waaaay back at the start of this story that Aurie’s had a couple of guys prior. No matter what she may think of Jimmy at this moment, he needs to step up.
Several tents away had something like a kitchen. Hardt got some bean and bacon soup and a piece of bread for them both. “Typical legionary fare,” he said. “Get used to it. Aurie, like mom, can’t cook for shit.” He had them sit down on the ground and started shoveling the thick soup into his mouth.
“Ten minutes,” he said around the bread. “Eat, idiot.”
“For someone,” Jimmy said after several shovels, “who might be the empress’ heir’s husband, you sure run your mouth to me.”
Robert rolled his eyes, using the last of his bread to get the soup out of his tin.
“Dad was officially ‘prince consort.’ Zero political power,” he muttered. “Besides being a sperm donor to my cousin, I suggest you find a hobby. His was mayor of Huntsville, then, once retired, hunting and fishing.”
“So that’s all I’ll be to her,” Jimmy said, setting his bowl on the ground. A thing.
“Pretty much,” the crown prince agreed, standing. “Dad never put up with mom’s shit-testing and she loved him for it. What about you, human? We have our own fishermen. Rockets? Fuck that; you’ve seen what we have.”
He reached down and pulled Jimmy up with a strength his smaller frame had not shown.
“We’re on the road, all together, this afternoon. You say shit about me and I shoot you,” this violent Hartmann said with a small smile. “Take some time to figure out what you are going to do with my cousin.”
He took one step away, paused.
“Or she’ll ditch you in weeks,” he warned over his shoulder.
To the west gate and the two vehicles, Hardt was plainly surprised to see the Senior Centurion, standing with a man also about Jimmy’s age, in civilian riding clothes, muddy from a presumed trip on horseback.
“Just came up, Bob,” the base commander said, indicating the man on his left. “Councilman Filk Jansen, Northern Federation, just got here. His paperwork says he’s some kind of diplomat to calm down the Canucks, once they find out we’ve got this guy, here.”
“Jansen?” Jimmy recalled the name. “Are you…?”
“She’s my aunt,” the somewhat weedy man said through a clenched jaw. “Who is now showing off in places she sure as hell has no business being!”
Burns had no idea what that meant. When they came to Nova Scotia?
“Anyway,” the NorFed went on, glancing at a small paper notebook, “I know you have to leave soon but need about twenty minutes. I have to have an idea of everything which has happened to you since you first met this Hartmann gal.”
“Hey, now,” Hardt growled. “That’s Regent, foreigner.”
“Jesus, not another correction,” this Jansen said. “Fine! Sorry, Regent Hartmann.”
“If y’all need a tent…?” Hill made a motion with his right
“Here is fine. Unless you’ve got secrets to keep, Burns?” he said, pulling a pen out of a pocket.
My entire life seems to be an open book to all and sundry, Jimmy thought. “I’ve had to do this a couple of times already, so here’s the short version…”
Jimmy kept to the important parts. Just because he could, he deliberately talked about the sex with the crown prince’s cousin, now Regent. A few legionaries laughed. Hardt rested his hand on the butt of his pistol. The pirates turned a few heads. He summed up with Halifax, the crash landing in Montreal, then being intercepted by this team of soldiers.
“Right,” Jansen said, closing the notebook. “After what she said, I think this falls loosely under ‘refugee status.’”
“Centurion?” he asked. “You did offer a boat up the lake. Is there room for my horse?”
Hill looked to Hardt who shook his head.
“Crap. I’ll have to beg or buy a mount there,” he complained. “Whatever. The archbishop is expecting me tonight. Permission to leave, Centurion?”
That seeming to be over, Hardt’s men and their cargo climbed up as the motors turned over.
On the former highway which now seemed more holes than pavement, the armed MRAP ahead of them had some of Hardt’s men. He and three others, plus Jimmy, were behind them, in the Hummer. The centurion was looking at a tablet. I could swear that is her voice…
“Here,” Bob abruptly said, handing it over with a smirk. “This is what that Filk Jansen character was on about. Looks as if you two are official now. I swear she’s trying to provoke a war.”
A video, paused. He backed it up and tapped play. He smiled to see Aurelia again. Up on a small platform, outside somewhere. That’s her friend, that older woman, Colour, Filk’s aunt, behind her left. The politics was a little boring until she suddenly said, “After all: my boyfriend is a rocketeer there. I don’t want him to think I forgot about him! The Empress has been badgering me to find a man; I didn’t suspect I’d have to go to the edge of the world to get him!”
As the tablet slipped from his hands after another hard jolt from the road, Hardt leaned quick to catch it.
“Who…” Jimmy tried. “Who saw this?”
“Everyone on earth who matters,” Bob replied, stuffing the electronic aside. He reached up to tug at his cropped hair. “Congratulations, Prince James.”
The other three laughed.
“If the Canucks come at you now, the Regent will have a reason to kill all of them.” Hardt’s smirk fell. “You just made my job that much harder, asshole.”
“I’ve only known her for two days…” he tried.
“And lore is the Empress just met her man once, before taking him to bed a few months later,” Bob said, skirting his alias. “Things happen sudden in the imperium, Prince.”
“Don’t call me that,” Burns said, meaning it.
“I’m just a legionary. This,” he pointed to the tablet, “is official. Unless you are diseased, deviant, or dead, you will be in the imperial family. Pretty fucking stupid for a nobody like me to piss you off, right?”
The others in the Hummer now looked at him a little differently.
I spent one night with her! I don’t get any of this! Demi-human, demon, wars, politics, “Ouch!” The last as they hit a bump which bounced all their heads off of the vehicle’s ceiling.
“I don’t know nothin’,” the crown prince lied. “I suggest you shut your yap and start thinking about what happens in the next few days.”
Robert gave an extremely unpleasant smile. “Prince James.”