"And you care for the friends you've condemned. Good." The Executioner held out a hand and a Cyborg stepped up and handed him a pistol. A distinct red, so it wouldn't be mistaken . . .
"Please . . ."
Pointed at Murphy, a radio frequency code, harmless to anyone but a Military Leader Cyborg, the only Cyborgs allowed to keep their Mentalist Talents, and so designed with a kill switch . . . The Executioner pulled the trigger.
A death flash.
Murphy hit the ground with limp finality. Even the glow of basic life fading.
Then Ape, sidling away, appalled . . . Flash. Thump . . . fade.
Axel covered his face and bent forward to the ground.
"All your money, property, and possessions are forfeitted to the Alliance."
Rustles among the entourage, computers being weilded. Bank and brokerage accounts. His house . . . servants. I know he owns those four Execs . . . dammit all . . .
"The codes to your car."
Which he left parked here. Well, it's the least that he'll care about.
Axel stripped off his watch and held it out. A Cyborg took it and walked away.
"Stand up. Strip."
One last humiliation.
Axel stood and undressed. A servant scooped it all up and Axel just stood there. Utterly neutral. Eyes closed.
The workers put their computers away. Cash taken, the cliff house and servants turned straight over to brokers, no doubt.
I can at least grab the servants. I owe Axel that much, even if he got Murph and Ape killed.
Are they done? No. What . . .
The trio advanced, two Cyborgs flanking them . . .
The control room . . . what are they going to do . . .
Michail turned to follow and weapons pointed his way. He froze. A single shot, loud. A weak flash.
The trio walked back out, headed straight for him. Stopped in front of him.
The Executioned studied him. "There will be no experimental portals. Get your charge in order. Your replacement will be be sent. You will retire and take no positions of power."
Michail Rasputin bowed low. And stayed there while they walked away. The Cyborgs collected Axel on the way.
Servants turned and walked through the Portal, the trio slipped into the limo which turned for the portal. At least they tossed a sheet of spattercloth on Axel as he was shoved through. The last of the servants, then the Cyborgs marched though and the portal shrank and disappeared.
Michail sagged. Turned and walked to the Control Room, to see who else was dead.
They were all on their feet, the coffin open, empty.
"I told you there was no one in there!"
"But the flash? Did someone fake it?"
He stumbled back and most ran to Murphy, so limp, but eyes blinking.
"Are they gone? I can't move." A bare whisper.
Michail reached, but the odd energy shield was already fading and the numbing impression low on the Cyborg's neck snapped.
"Oh damn, did they take Igor?"
And on the other side, Ape was rolling over and wobbling as he tried to stand.
"Yes," Michail blinked watering eyes, and had a bit of trouble getting up himself.
"It looks like Igor saved everyone but himself."
Murphy grinned. "Oh . . . I really doubt he's done, yet." The Cyborg shoved up to his feet and walked over to where Axel had knelt.
Michail stepped over and stared at the faint blood smear. Sn 12 h
Murphy grunted. "Sunday at noon. Home? That's a rather large territory, and I'm pretty sure Igor didn't have a beacon shoved up his ass."
Michail grinned. "But the Quads are pretty good at finding where they've been before."
Murphy raised his head. "Of course. Gorbachev House, on Home. Five days from now."
Ape wobbled over. "And if he doesn't come out, I'm going over. I want a word with Igor about getting me killed like that!"
Pauli rolled down the window. The big Cyborg was eyeing the battle limo, then frowning at Pauli.
"Special delivery from Lord Axel Vino . . ." He stopped as the guard stepped back and the gate opened. Guess I said the magic words!
He cruised up a driveway that curved around to the entrance of a mansion, and pulled well past it before stopping.
"Hang on a bit, Guys, I need to drop something off and then we'll find out what's going on Up Top." He opened the door and stepped out, around to the trunk and popped it open.
He had an audience of Guards, looming, the Free Portalists getting out of the car, servants looking out windows and the front doors wide open, a dignified butler advancing . . .
He snatched the bars, stepped back and opened them, looped the slab, the frame, and stepped across as Ark leaped out, grinning.
"Home! Yes!" Ark homed in on the most ominous looking Cyborg. "Eight? Any word from Dad? Dammit. We had to get out of Regulus because everyone was trying to figure out to threaten us to control Dad, who I think is either on Home or the Citadel. And Uncle Axel Presented me and . . . Where is Uncle Axel?"
Pauli grinning at the spate of words, sobered. "He stayed Up Top, something was going on and he wanted you and some other people out of there." He waved everyone away, and the limos backed out, all the guards who'd started relaxing as Ark babbled, snapped to and saluted Lady Ariadna as she stepped out.
"Oh, don't be silly! I haven't been gone that long and, and," She swallowed and braced her shoulders. "And I am sure Lord Grigory will be back soon."
A stir at the back. "Oh my lady! There something on the TV. Trouble Up Top . . ."
A mass rush back through the big doors and into a room with a full wall TV.
A shakey shot from a drone camera keeping a safe distance. With a damn good camera as it zoomed in on the area in front of the portal building.
The edge-on glow of a portal out in the open. Lots of people standing in an arc, as if around an imaginary circle.
In the circle, a naked man, Axel by the red hair, standing facing away from the building. Two bodies in black armor sprawled to either side. A man in a business suit who he thought was the director standing, looking inside, several Cyborgs facing him, but not actively threatening.
A low murmur of comentary from a female newsie. "We don't have any audio but this looks very much like an Executioner has come to judge the redhaired man standing there.
"He must have been stripped of all possessions, as they took even the clothes he was wearing. Two members of our fast Reaction Teams have been killed or stunned and . . . the Executioner is returning from inside Up Top's experimental portal facility . . . and is addressing one man, and now they appear to be leaving . . . taking the naked man with them.
"We have a ground crew on the way and hope to get some explanation . . .
"I have a note that the redhead has been tentatively identified as Lord Axel Vinogradov, rumored to be the Team Mentalist code named Igor, the near mythical hero who bulldozed his way through the Stuttgart Army just months ago."
"We should have stayed with him!" Henrik's fists clenched.
Pauli swiped moisture on his cheeks. "No, they'd have killed all four of you. That's why he was so frantic to get you out of there."