"Fill it in", he said.

I stared at him as if he'd just grown a new head. In the awful silence, Dudley Simcoe reached in the small container held by his Marine guard and scooped out a handful of pellets. Kneeling over the edge of the pond, he trailed his hand in the water.  A world champion butterfly koi gave a finny welcome as it picked small pellets out of his hand.

"It's two hundred kilometers wide at that point, Dudley.  One hundred twenty million litres of water flow from west to east there every day!"

"That's your problem, Joe. I said fill it in, you fill it in."   Perhaps Dudley had grown another head.

This was not my first indication that Dudley Simcoe, the Scourge of the North, was not operating with a full deck.    Six weeks before, he had told me to build a sea level canal from Washington, DC to Prince Rupert so that he could go visit his grandmother by barge.

Let's take a step back, now.   The Great Canal is a reality to everyone; and I built it.  God damn me, I built it.  This was 2090, remember.  Simcoe had just finished his conquest of the "Southern Empire" whose demonization had been his principal talent. The fires around Houston were burning even as Simcoe made his lunatic demand of me.  I knew I had to find a way to do it.

It was one of those colossal ironies of life that had put my name right next to Dudley Simcoe in alphabetical order during our first year at university.   The trivial fact of my sharing a dormitory room with Dudley had spared the Mid-Atlantic and myself from the fate of the rest of the Empire, and put me in the position I was in: Lord of the Seaboard, Chief Engineer of the Empire.  Laugh if you want when you hear that; everybody else did, then.

So for six weeks I and my senior team of engineers worked on a preliminary design for the project. It had only been by constantly popping Surial and keeping a steady disconnect from reality that we were able to make any progress.

At the end, our design had been elegant.   The Great Canal would nearly follow a great-circle route 5,000 kilometers from the Great Falls of the Potomac to Queen Charlotte Sound.  A slight diversion would take it right by Lake Simcoe in Ontario; that was a touch the Surial told me Dudley would appreciate.  Somebody shoot me now; tomorrow's not soon enough.

And here I was in the room with Dudley and his koi, and Dudley was telling me the plan's fatal flaw:  The canal would have to cross Lake Ontario and such a wide expanse of water would be boring to cross by barge.   The koi were probably grateful to be in the pond and not up where I was.

So, "Fill it in", said Dudley Simcoe, and so it was.  Another six weeks of Surial and two dead engineers later and we had our solution.  We didn't have to fill in the entire lake, only a mile or so around the canal.  There would be plenty of material blasted out of the Rocky Mountains and the Canadian Shield for that.  Dudley wouldn't mind as long as the causeway had things that entertained or flattered him along the way.    Beneath the causeway, where Dudley couldn't see them, would be huge penstock tunnels allowing the Lake to flow underneath.

Look now, I'm not trying to justify the things I did to serve Dudley Simcoe's whims.  Nor am I trying to claim I didn't know it was wrong.   I knew how evil it was, even then. At least when I let the Surial level in my brain drop too low.

Labor was certainly no problem.  Millions of starving Southern refugees would be all-too willing to undertake this madness.

By the fall of 2091 the route had been prepared, and a railroad had been built the entire length of the route.   We had ten teams, all digging different segments of the canal.   The eastern terminus was doing quite well; by 2093 digging had made it to Altoona.

The Western sectors had had hard going blasting mile-deep cuts through the Rocky Mountains. 500 men had been lost during the summer alone,  and your estimate of 20,000 dead the following winter is appallingly conservative. The winter of 2091-2092 was one of the coldest on record.

I, of course, was too terrified to tell Dudley we were behind schedule; I sent one of my senior engineers to tell him.  I heard later that Dudley made the engineer into little pellets and fed him to his koi.

That was when we decided to speed up the process by detonating old nuclear warheads.  And tomorrow, fallout-ravaged Europe will have a small measure of justice for that.

By 2096 the western end of the Canal had reached Dawson Creek.  Fortunately, we, thought, we were about 20 km to the north of it; Dudley would have forced us into another diversion because his grandparents had given him a favorite piece of candy there during a trip to Edmonton one year.  The other segments had been completed a year before; it only remained for the entertainments and adornments to be installed.

On a sunny May day in 2098, the Canal was officially opened as Dudley Simcoe began his first progress by barge from Washington.  Everything went as planned;  Dudley was as reasonably distracted by the koi pond in his barge as the gardens we had planted and the monuments we had raised to his honor along the path.   He never realized that he was crossing Lake Ontario; cunningly-planted vegetation hid the edge of the causeway.

Then, of course, the Earth we had ravaged for so long caught up to us.   Not in any dramatic way, of course, no global catastrophe.  I imagine Mother Nature regarded Dudley Simcoe as catastrophe enough.   As our barge passed a mile-high bas-relief of the Battle of Cleveland carved in a blasted mountainside by Lake Nipigon, his champion butterfly koi bit him on the finger.  An infection resistant to all antibiotics raged through the Scourge of the North and killed him within two days.

So here I stand on the eve of my execution.   A vagary of spelling and the wish to survive brought me here.  No, that sounds too much like rationalization. I do not deny the people their right to justice.

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