Book 17. Part Two. 4

Bit of a longer section but I wanted to get the Canadian stuff over so I can return to the Mars/Missing Family conundrum.

Bob really does not seem to like the life he was born into. I think he knows that his “legionary career” is not long for the world; even now, he should be in Manitoba but is instead neck-deep in “the family business.” Eloise certainly seems to like him but I’ve never had an Indian (dot-not-feather) in my books before and don’t want to take a month off bringing myself up to speed on their culture. I know that China has broken up into a redo of the “Era of the Warring States,” but I think India has held together somehow. *sighs* A question I’ll have to answer at some point…

Enjoy my content? Buy me a beer! 

“Prince Robert?” The woman called and they turned about.  They both stood and bowed before returning his ID.  “Our apologies.  How may we serve?”

“Satcom link okay, Lieutenant Patel?” he asked her.

“That’s fine, Prince Robert.” Her grin makes me want to punch a woman.

 “Follow me, please,” the woman asked.  Her associate pressed a button, unlocking a door to his left with a buzzing sound.  Along a hall to a bank of three elevators, Eloise was a bit surprised to feel them going down, not up.

“Better shielding and less chance of signal leakage,” Bob said to the look on her face.  From the buttons, she saw they were three floors underground.  The doors opened and their escort led them out and ahead to the only door, about ten feet on.  She scanned her badge and the door opened.

“Shall I announce you, Sire?” she asked.

“I think not.” Kinda cute.  Wish she wouldn’t call me that.  “Let’s keep this informal, please.”

Inside were four banks of telecom computers, two per side in the smallish room.  The first two, left and right, had techs who looked up, shrugged, and returned to their tasks.  The woman waved them in, staying by the door.

“Do you need privacy, Lieutenant?” Bob asked.

“Trust me that much, Robert?” She stayed formal.

“Yes.” That got her.

“Then, no.” She sat at the one on the far right and looked the gear over.  “Similar enough to one of ours.  Anything I shouldn’t touch to accidentally start a war?”

“Besides my pants?” he asked in a whisper, leaning over her to press a few buttons to enable the system.  Louder:  “This, here, will turn on video if you want to show you’ve not been tortured.  Well, again.  We will record this, of course.”

“Depending on who wants to talk to me, I’d bet they will want to see me,” Eloise admitted.  She glanced over her shoulder to the empty chair behind her.  “It might help if an imperial centurion wasn’t right behind me, looking like a guard.”

Bob took two steps to her left and leaned against the wall.  He waved at the gear.   “Your show.”

After keying several frequencies and codes, it took another five minutes as her unusual call raced up the Canadian chain of command.  The gruff voice of an older man finally shouted from the speakers, “Dammit, Patel!  That you?  Got video?”

She leaned forward and pressed a button.

“General Burghy,” she said with a nod of her head.  “My apologies for – ”

“Wereinthehell are you!” The general shouted.  From his angle, Bob could just see a grizzled, old veteran with a little white stubble on his head.  Not demi-human, but having grown up with them, he could tell this man was more concerned than angry.

“I am at a secure facility.  In the heart of the imperium.” The general was opening his mouth to yell, but she raised her right hand.  “As an invited guest.  There were a series of… misfortunate events in these recent days.  I was injured and succored by Russian Army medics.  The next day had me returned to my unit.  I’m sure you have Sergeant McDonald’s report by now.”

“And why the hell are you in the imperium?” he demanded.

“A centurion, assigned to their intelligence, but, as I have found, rather well connected, was concerned for my safety were I to return to Ottawa or Trudeau.  Said something about a dog’s breakfast.” She gave a long blink.  “It is funny here, sir.  You should see the garments in fashion way down south.”

I know “garment” is a code word.  I’d bet my rank “dog’s breakfast” is, too.  Wonder what it means?  Bob thought, seeing the general pause to take that in.

“If I may impose, sir,” Eloise said into that pause, “would you have someone let my team know I am safe and sound?  I’d like to return to them soonest.”

“I’m sure I can pass that on,” Burghy grumbled.  “And when can we expect you, Lieutenant?”

Now she could not stop the tiniest smile from creeping onto her face.

“I was brought to where I am on one of their secret craft, General.  There’s so much for me to see, here!  Nonetheless, I shall return to you at your specific order, sir.”

Ah.  She wants yet another code word that she’s safe to go home.  Dammit, El!  I told you your life is in danger!

“That…” It seemed the General leaned back as Bob could no longer see him on the screen.  “That might take a day or two.  Why don’t you do your nation a favor and keep your eyes and ears open, Lieutenant?  And, if your palms get itchy, maybe grab some of those secret plans.”

That was enough that the two techs at the far end of the room first froze, then looked over.  Nothing, short of shooting one of my family, would guarantee a war than that.

“I’ll see what I can do, General.  Shall I check in with you at this time, tomorrow?” She asked.

“Yes.  Burghy out.”

Eloise reached to first kill the video feed, then press button after button, breaking the connexion.  She took a deep breath, turning left to Bob.

“Comments?” she asked.

“I’m just a lowly centurion,” he said without any emotion.  “This is beyond me.  Let’s go back up and find you some guest quarters, as the Regent ordered me.”

That, also, had the attention of the other three in the room.  Eloise stood and Bob waved her to the door.  Their escort had a rather odd look on her face.

“Lowly centurion, indeed, Bob,” she said, elbowing his ribs under a streetlight once back up and out.  “That woman knows who you are now and likely is telling everyone else.”

“She’d better keep her mouth shut about it unless she wants to find herself on the labor crew rebuilding the Tennessee and Cumberland dams,” he replied.  “Gossip about our family is fine.  Giving away our locations?  Not smart.”

“Hold up a sec, El,” he said, taking out a smartphone.  “One of my fam would do this with their heads.  A normie like me… Hi, there!  This is Centurion Bob Hardt.  The Regent has me escorting a VIP and she needs to bed down… Which building?  We’re by the Comm Building.  Okay.  Okay.  Thanks!”

He hooked his arm with hers once more.

“Let’s go…” he began.

“What about that nightcap which might be in the cafeteria?”

“Are you ever not thinking about your next drink, El?” he laughed, turning instead in the other direction.

“Sometimes I think about you,” she whispered.

The whiskey from nearby Lynchburg was available.  The cook behind the counter had poured a couple of fingers into each highball glass and handed them over, muttering something about “…those fucking Canucks…” when Bob threw his into the man’s face.

“She is a guest of the Regent.  Get me another or get on report.  Now.” For a moment, to Eloise, he seemed a completely different man.

“Yes, Centurion,” he apologized, pouring twice as much this time.  “Sorry, Centurion.”

“Bob…?” she tried, only to have him take her elbow and move her outside to one of the wooden tables there.  Bats chased bugs in the electric light above them.

“Didn’t mean to lose my temper, there, El,” he said, pouring some of his excess into her glass.  “Long before the imperium, long before the Breakup, honor meant something here.  I just needed to remind that guy.”

“Thank you, Bob,” she smiled.  Before taking a huge gulp.

“Don’t be too smug,” he smiled at her.  “I’d have done the same for any of you fucking Canucks.”

“Bob!” she exclaimed before dissolving into laughter, he along with her.

Halfway down her glass, she tried again.


“No.  I will not sleep with you, El.”

“Dammit!” She pounded the aged wood of the table so hard he heard the crack.  “Why not!  What are you, gay?”

“You mean deviant or homosexual?  We don’t mince words down here, El.” He took another drink, thinking about his older brother.  Who had been.  “Consider that meeting you were in when we landed.  My family, the Empress herself, is potentially in mortal danger.  I am not about to complicate things by taking you to bed.”

“Ever?” The tremor in her voice was obvious.  He sighed and finished his drink.  For once, before she did.

“I am very fond of you, El, even with the national and genetic complications.” Lost her, there.  “Let’s get Mom and Big Bro’ back safe, then you and I can take a vacation.  Just us.”

“Where?” she muttered darkly in her frustrated lust, tossing back the last of her whiskey.

“Sergei said his home was in southern Russia – yikes!”

Eloise threw her empty glass against the outer wall of the cafeteria, shattering it.

“Okay!  Bad joke!” Bob leaned in, took her hands, and kissed her lips.  “The Moon.  I’ll take you to the moon.”

“Unther lie, Bob,” she slurred a bit.  He kissed her again before coming around and pulling her up.

“I swear before God, El.” Hey!  That’s funny!  “Let’s get you to quarters.”

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