Six stirred. "So, Pauli? You and me belong to the Inquistion?"
Pauli shrugged. "I messed with all sorts of ownership records, to keep the Stuttgartians from taking everything he owned. Never got around to switching things back. And if Axel registered the change of ownership, I'll bet he used one of the shell compamies. I'll, uh, go find out what's going on . . ."
Ark looked around. "You can use Dad's computers. They've got good security, Uncle Axel worked them over."
"Good." Pauli's attention jerked back to the TV . . . where the portal had disappeared, and the area was nearly empty. The business suited guy ran out of the building and over to the bodies . . . and suddenly the "dead" cyborgs were getting up.
"You know, growing up in Vinogradov house, he was the nice lord, but also a layabout not doing any of the tasks the lords were always busy at, disppearing for days, and coming back with a casual wave and a tale about going somewhere with some woman he met in a bar . . . And then he turned fifty and suddenly . . . Igor showed through. I think I'm still suffering from whiplash." Pauli sighed.
Ark frowned. "He told me once that the Inquisitors were aware of a few misdeeds of his, which was dangerous but also useful. He said that if they hauled him off to the highest power, he probably be pretty close to my father."
His mother looked around. "I . . . think of him as that nice young collegue of Grigory's. I keep forgetting that his job is mostly being dangerous."
Arseny nodded. "He was always Igor to us, Up Top. I didn't realize his hair was dyed. It was weird seeing him as a redhead. And a lord! He just wasn't snobby enough to be a lord. But you know what? Igor always wins."
Pauli nodded. But he only has to lose once.
He'd only been here twice. Axel blinked around. It hadn't changed noticably in the twenty-seven years since he'd come briefly, to swear an oath and accept a job. Before that, when I was twelve year old . . . thirty-nine years since my ailing great-grandfather brought me here, and gave me a tour.
Ivan the Founder. Funny, how out in Tier Five we credit him with building Siberia Max, and forget that he was already four hundred years old, retired from the 300, from the leadership of the 300. We forget that he'd founded the Citadel as a place to move the zivvy manufacture to, and also to build a suitable home for the three hundred men serving the Alliance as their leader. To get them away from political interference and influence. Well, that didn't work for long.
He was a legend two hundred years before he decided to retire and establish a small research world.
I wonder how he is remembered here, now?
He was shoved, and limped forward on burning feet. Staggered as someone snatched the spattercloth sheet away. Really? "Really? Naked to meet the Head of the Inquisition?"
A harder shove. And he was marched across, not to the Palace, but to a steel office building to the left. Hot dry air, white-hot sun, hot road on already painful feet . . .
Everything steel. All clean lines and smooth curves. "Modern" they used to call it, a thousand years ago. Unlike Vinogradov House that's all ornate glass.
I don't know if Great-grandfather was a horible architect . . . or an award-winning one. Not that I've ever made a definitive study, but I think the former is a requirement for the later.
He followed the servant ahead, was shoved by the man behind . . . the Cyborgs peeled off after we crossed, and I'm not seeing any standing guard or anything. There were a dozen or so with the Executioner . . . do they not have very many?
In fact this place has a bit of a ghost town feel to it.
"Why not the Citadel? Is it still contaminated?" That got him another shove.
"What did you do? Weld the doors shut?"
The blow from the side knocked him flat, the kicked rolled him.
"We had no choice!" A young man in black, Junior Executioner, stood back.
Axel climbed to his feet, trying to ape "stiff, sore, bruised." It didn't take much acting.
They mounted steps, limping, in his case, and passed through electronically controlled doors.
Of the four types of Cyborgs, two are vulnerable to control, and two are not. I ought to have looked harder. I didn't particularly notice any police types, who are nearly impossible to control mentally. Hard to tell with the soldiers, the leader types aren't physically different. It's behavior--or mentalist actions--that give them away.
Civilian Guards carry lower power lasers . . . didn't notice any smaller lasers.
So are they worried about enemies grabbing control of their Cyborgs?
But maybe I'm looking at it the wrong way.
What happened here, when the 300--and any other mentalists--lost their power? What did the servants and Cyborgs do?
How many people died?
They led him past the elevator bank and through an antechamber and into a large office, where his captor was reporting in.
" . . . Duerr, Executioner for the Alliance, delivering the man called Igor."
The man on the other side of the desk looked past him, at Axel.
"I'm am Grand Executioner Vladik Orlov. Whether you live or die is entirely up to me. And your only value is the possibility that you can energize the precursor chemicals into zhivyye provoda." The man's cold gray eyes looked as soulless as a shark's. "Clean him up, dress him, feed him. Then we'll find out if he was worth the bother."
The Cyborg who led him away was a police model--impossible to mentally influence--with an odd collar. Axel eyed it and didn't ask if it shocked or exploded.
And definitely a Ghost Town.
The Cyborg unlocked a door. "I will return and escort you in one hour."
Axel walked in, and the door closed behind him. He heard the click of the lock, but his attention was on a timid servant girl. And what looked like a small apartment.
Hard to blame her wide-eyed terror; large man, naked, muscular, a bit battered looking.
"I think a bath first. Are there any clothes?"
"Yes, Master!" She rushed through a doorway. He limped after to find a bedroom, the girl frantically throwing clothes out of drawers on to the bed.
"Stop. I'll hunt for stuff . . . Umm, go fix something for me to eat in . . . half an hour."
She eyed the space she had to dodge past him and out the door. He limped on into the bathroom and left her to figure out she wasn't going to be immediately ravished.
Or at all, but she probably wouldn't believe that.
Luke warm water felt good on all his portal scorched parts. He floated and applied health boosting impressions, anti-inflamitories, and antibiotics, just on general principles. Then soaped down and hauled himself out to hunt for clothes that might fit.
Well, short and loose was better than nothing, and the shoes in the closet weren't a bad fit at all.