"I am an Agent of the 300."
The goons growled.
Ark gestured the Cyborg after him, as he circled around Uncle Axel, and spotted Pauli pulling up to the curb.
The goons shifted, and Axel moved to stay between them and Ark.
"Not that Ark needs my help. I was quite impressed with the lad. Now you two trot off, and report in before you do anything silly."
Glares, but Pauli was out, with the doors open and stepping to where he could cover their withdrawal.
"C'mon, get in."
The Cyborg looked back. "I could . . . "
"Get me in trouble, because my Cyborg hurt someone?"
"Oh . . . " The Cyborg ducked in and slid across to the far side.
Ark was right after him, with Axel and Pauli moving together, their doors slaming simultaneously and then they were moving away and leaving that bit of trouble behind.
"So . . . I'm Arkhip Gorbachev. What's your name?"
"Thirteen." He bent and twisted his head a bit, organic hand to his head.
"Nineteen-fourteen-thirteen, if you want to be formal . . . which I suppose you do, for a short time . . . Master."
Ark flushed as he realized he'd forced his very important uncle to ride backwards . . . not the Uncle Axel seemed to care. He opened the lid of the cooler and pulled out a little bottle of red wine. Unscrewed the top and then handed it to Ark. "Hold this a second." He unsealed his fancy coat and reached in to pull out a tiny capsule, smaller than most medical caps. He snapped it and dripped a little liquid into the bottle, then handed it to Thirteen.
"It's a pain killer with healing impressions. We'll start there, then get fancier if necessary. I'm a Master Mentalist and have researched a wide variety of non-standard medicines."
Thirteen shivered. "I think I'm too far gone . . ."
Yeah, there's a sort of disgusting smell . . .
"Then enjoy the pain killer."
Thirteen shrugged and took a sip . . . sat up straighter and took another. "Whoa! Yeaaaah thas a goood pain kkkkkilller!"
"Drink it all. Then umm, wipe . . ."
The horrible smell intensified and was not improved by the addition of the smell of the alcohol wipes Uncle Axel pulled out of a secret compartment . . .
Then they pulled into the driveway of the Novikov mansion and Mother was rushing out . . . "I can't believe you didn't tell me . . ."
And Uncle Axel, "I'll deal with Thirteen . . ." And raising his voice. "May I introduce LORD Arkhip Ingolf Gorbachev!"
And then it was Party Central, with all the local youths he'd met at the local college invited for a sudden party with food deliveries and drinks and music and . . .
He popped out to the battle limo once to find Thirteen deeply asleep in the back and Pauli on his computer in the front. The Exec stepped out, grinning.
"Not to worry, the Boss has been sneaking us party food. I think Thirteen just needs to sleep now. Congratulations, by the way. Axel said you did great, and then managed to save your opponent as well."
"Well, I don't think I can take credit for that last. Those guys at the exit? I think they were Alliance Bureau Agents, and Uncle Axel thinks they influenced the judges so my advancement could be challenged."
Pauli whistled. "Well, I'm glad you saved Thirteen. Did you realize he was a military leader type? Got brain fever from the installation. He's only about a month older than you are."
"Whoa! He threw a fireball . . . I ought to have realized . . . "
"And we'll take on new problems when they crop up. Axel was muttering something about wanting to get you guys all back to Siberia Max, where you'd be safer, and he could go find out what's happening to your dad."
Ark swallowed, a sudden wave of homesickness washing over him. "I want to go home so bad! Mom . . . her sister, Lady Feodosiya, is her only family. I mean, apart from us kids, but she also got the nieces and nephews here . . . well, maybe she'll see the sense in getting home so Axel's free to act."
"Heh! If I'd known you were going to get the boy his own Cyborg as a Presentation present, I'd have sold you Six-twelve!"
Axel looked over at Lord Demyon. "You actually want to sell him? I mean, bad disposition, but he's a damned good sparring partner for training. The kids know he'll really hit them."
"Ha!" Demyon shook his head. "Can't stand his attitude, myself! Let's talk money here . . ."
And Six is the best research subject I've come across, yet . . . A Cyborg who might just volunteer to try long term dosing with zivvy remover and see what happens to a Cyborg without Dr. Heath to nudge things along.
Ariadna rolled her eyes. But as the wife of a rich and well placed man, adding another Cyborg to the collection had not been a problem, other than where to stash him for now.
She sighed. "You're right though, it's time to head home. I've waited here for Grigory long enough!" She glanced over at the girls. "I'm going to miss my nieces, though. I'll keep my eyes open for husband prospects, especially for Katyusha. The Research Center is stuffed with High Lord Doctors who truly need wives to straighten out their home lives."
Demyon raised his brows. "Really?"
Axel looked over. "Good Lord, yes. Kratsov and Borodin. Or if she doesn't mind him being older, Dr. Mikhailov. Filthy rich. He's from Tier Two Trotsky, owns more property there than on Siberia Max. Widowed, no children."
Feodosiya perked up. "Really? And perhaps he'd like an estate here as well?" A toothy smile. "You know, Ariadna, you should take her with you, introduce her around."
The sisters stepped away, heads together.
Axel swapped looks of manly forbearance with Demyon, and dropped his voice. "We might as well stay out of it. They wouldn't believe us if we pointed out that with only one eligable young lady here the eligible men will start competeing for her, instead of the two ladies fighting over the same man, and getting nowhere."
Demyon nodded. "Makes sense."
"And they'll think it's all their idea. We can praise their wisdom, and then go sample this wonderful single malt I picked up . . ." and never mention that Katyusha's got a double glow and needs to be out of sight long enough for Ariadna and Feodososiya to manufacture a husband and a sad accident . . .
"Sorry, got distracted. Did you say something about selling a Cyborg? I could use a chauffeur, stop using my Exec for that. Looks bad at meetings, for my secretary to have to catch up after parking the car, you know . . ."
And it'll take them two days to organize and pack, so I can work on my other project . . .