Eloise thinks it is high time for her to have a word with her boss. She realizes she might be scaring him with her report, but also knows that he and the rest of high command should be at least concerned, if not scared, by what she has seen. Canada has a larger population and vastly more territory, all of which means nothing to the Hartmann family and the power they control.
The Empress’ second husband, much like her first, seems a very likeable guy. For a self-centered, stuck-up snot, Fussy seems to have luck picking men.
Enjoy my content? Buy me a beer!
Fifteen minutes had them back amongst all of the various buildings and to the one Bob had taken her to before. Jimmy excused himself, saying he thought they would see one another at dinner. Two different people, now both men, were behind the front desk. Seeing Johnston, they stood and saluted. It took another phone call to get Eloise back on the elevator down.
Now familiar with their equipment, she was able to key in the codes she needed and wait for a reply. Like Bob, Stephen asked if he should leave. Not in a uniform, she replied for him to sit in the empty chair behind her. He still scooted it off to the side, just like Bob leaning on the wall. Are they considerate or just that devious? she wondered. I know so little of these people and this family is so very strange…
“Asking if the General is available, Lieutenant,” the tech in Ottawa said to her query. “Please wait a few minutes.”
“Thank you, I shall.” She pushed Mute and leaned back. “They know where I am, in general, and I bet there are many, many factions who want to know what I’ve seen over the past few days.”
“Our motors or our politics?” Johnston smiled. He smiled more when the door to the little communications room opened with his son’s hands wrapped around three glasses of iced tea. “Thank you, Jules. Here, Miss Eloise.”
“Ugh!” The glass came right back down from her mouth. “How much sugar do you people drink!”
“Sweet tea a signature of the South. It’s a State Secret that my wife hates it.”
“Is it, now? Perhaps in this report, I should…”
“I kid, I kid, Stephen. I’m sure when I see Bob’s men again I have to keep my mouth shut about who he is, so mentioning tea is out, too,” she said. There was a flashing red light on the screen. “Looks as if I’m on.”
“Then get in character, leftenant,” he said, leaning back.
She pushed a button to the right of the screen and nodded sharply.
“General Burghy. Eloise Patel, reporting. Do you like my garments?” He has to know immediately that I am telling the truth.
“About what I’d expect to see you wearing in Saint Mike’s Basilica, not that you’re Catholic,” Burghy rumbled, lifting a mug of, presumed, coffee to his lips. “Or even Notre Dame, in Montreal.”
Not getting the reference, but certainly getting the look in his eyes, Eloise was on guard.
“There have been,” she picked her words slowly and with great care, “some developments here. I remain free to leave whenever I so desire. However, I think I can be useful here, for some weeks more, for our nation, General.”
“We…” he was being just as careful, “have heard their empress is now off-planet. And that girl who was just on our border, Aurelia, is now running things. Can you speak to that, leftenant?”
“Yes, sir, I can.” Deep breath. Who else is listening? “I’ve been in two meetings with her. As a demi-human, I think they say, she is not like anything we can imagine. When speaking with her husband – ”
“Well, aren’t you the social butterfly,” Burghy groused, but with kindness in his eyes. Thank you, sir.
“ – she killed thirty pirates, by hand, sir, in Nova Scotia…”
“I’ve seen the report.”
“And there are many, many more like that here. Most of her family, in fact. We…” Another deep breath. “We must not get on their bad side, sir. St. Louis is a warning.”
“I understand. Please continue.”
“Their space tech is amazing.” She waited for Johnston to shush her; when he didn’t, she went on. “They can get a ship to Mars in five days…”
“That takes a freaking year!” Burghy exploded.
“Five. Days. Sir.”
“Okay. Five days.”
“They have scout ships in the Belt and gas giant moons. More demi-humans. And with android allies.”
“Are you trying to scare me, leftenant?” he asked.
Yes, dammit! And anyone else listening! We cannot go to war with these people!
“Of course not, sir.” A very slow blink. “I just want command fully informed. You asked me to look around. I am.”
“Understood.” He set down his coffee mug with an audible thud. “What else?”
“You… you mentioned the Empress being off-planet? May, may I show you something?” she asked.
“Patel, the more you show me the more I wished I retired last year, but sure.”
Eloise looked a question to her left. Johnston nodded, making a tiny motion to his young son. They crowded into the display on either side of her.
“This is Prince Consort Stephen Johnston and his son, Crown Prince Julian; husband and son, respectively, of Empress Faustina,” she explained. “Per your orders, Sir, I have kept my eyes open and tried to make new friends.”
“…my God…” they just barely heard from Burghy.
The silence was palpable.
“El… no, Lieutenant Patel? I find your present course to be of great service to our country.” She watched him swallow. Hard. “Please continue on it for the time being. May I ask you to check in in two days?”
“Of course, Sir. I am a guest, after all.”
“Was there anything else?” he asked.
Where do I start? A prophet of God? Time travel?
“Not at this time, sir.”
“Burghy out.” He leaned forward and the signal was lost.