Well, short and loose was better than nothing, and the shoes in the closet weren't a bad fit at all. I'd thank my host for the loan, but I suspect he's dead.
The girl had laid out a minor feast. Small servings of various things on a dozen little dishes, three glasses holding different colored liquids.
He thanked her and sat. The crispy fried thing was stuffed with cream cheese and crab. He finished one and sampled the drinks. Drank the fruit juice, and left the two wines.
Whatever was on the next plate was delicious and vegetably.
He looked over at the girl. "So, what happened, here. All I ever heard was that the Enemy had attacked and the 300 had all lost their mentalist abilities."
She hunched her shoulders. "There was a lot of shooting. I hid."
Axel shoved a couple of plates her direction. "Sit. Eat." She looked so horified, he added, "I can't eat it all, and I hate to see good food go to waste."
"Yes, Master." Big-eyed, scared.
"Don't call me that."
"Yes, Mas . . ." She froze, eyes looking for a place to run to.
"Boss. You may call me Boss."
Was I just fooling the Executioner, or were those the Impressions that helped?
Axel tossed the anti-parasite impressions, the bullet remover, all the health and healing spells at the girl. She just sat there, frightened.
Chipped, she wouldn't feel any of it anyway. We'll see if it does any good.
"So . . . who was shooting who?" He ate all the excellent blinis.
And ooo, stuffed grape leaves . . . I suppose they import all their food. Desert world, after all.
She shrunk down a bit. "It was mostly Cyborgs, shooting their officers, and the mentalists, even the Inquisitors! And the servants, they grabbed anything they could and were hitting the supervisors. Mostly the men servants but Miss Apple had a big knife . . . The Chem workers came out, but most of them ran back inside and locked the doors so no one could shoot them."
She hunched down in her seat, eyes huge with remembered horror. "I heard that when some of the Three Hundred ran outside and realized they'd lost their power . . . the Cyborgs turned on them.
"Finally Grand Executioner Orlov and his people grabbed control and started killing the Cyborgs and servants doing the killing and . . . it finally stopped." She sank lower. "I didn't see very much, that's just what everyone says."
Axel whistled. I think you saw rather a lot, little girl. "And then Orlov ordered the Portals closed for one Year?"
"I think that was the Grand Inquisitor, before Executioner Orlov killed him."
Axel took one last dolmade. Then topped it off with all the sweets available. For the energy. Now I just have to decide if I want to make zivvy.
And aren't I just the egotist. May be I'd better take a look at the precursor chems and find out if I can do it first and decide if, later.
"Did you cook all this? I'm a bit surprised the Citadel didn't run out of food in a year."
She blinked. "Oh, no, we have green houses, to hold in the humidity, and with slats to block some of the sun. Deep wells. And lots of frozen food. And vinyards. So, so dolmades are easy. And the chickens and goats get the weeds and clippings and, and . . . "
"That's rather impressive. I'm currently trying to import dairy cattle to my world."
"We have goat milk. And cheese."
Axel looked over at the clicking of the door lock. "See you later. Probably. Um, what's your name?"
"Meadow." She shot a panicked look toward the door, and scrambled for the kitchen to huddle out of sight.
Yeah, you know first hand about how out-of-control the situation was.
Axel walked to the door, and as it swung open, nodded to the Cyborg. "So, where are we headed?" He stepped out, pulling the door shut behind him.
"The Training Room." The Cyborg smiled . . . not nicely. "You'll have ten tries to make zivvy, then they'll kill you. You won't get the option of living without mentalist abilities."
Axel frowned. "Why in God's name would anyone want to deliberately dose a high Mentalist with the plague?"
"To get them out of the way, so the next on the list can try."
"They could just retire."
A snort of contempt.
Alex shrugged. "So you're up to twenty-nine now? In all families or . . ."
"No, you're getting the special treatment." A toothy grin. "Traitor. But you got mentioned, so here you are."
"Gorbachev, I'll bet. Man always did hate me. Did you get to kill him?"
"Heh. Coward chose the plague. We threw him out of here last week."
I really ought not kill all these people. Now matter how much I really want to.
Orlov was waiting outside a small room. He waved Axel in. "The precuror is in the chest. It is cold, frozen but not as cold as the zivvy needs to be stored. It is cold so that its temperature can be dropped even further, quickly. Tell me what you think it is."
Axel walked up to the chest, looked at the tempurature reading on a small control panel and decided he really didn't need to actually touch the material.
He folded down to sit cross-legged in front of the chest and put his hands out to touch the chest.
A fine powder inside . . . he relaxed and looked "larger" magnifying, focusing on a tiny bit, down further . . . the chemical structure, spirialing ribbons and kinked wires . . . "They look almost like enzymes . . . that's a peptide, except . . . they've all got copper atoms out on the . . . no, that's gold."
He looked deeper, trying to see if there were active areas . . . "But it's all dead, isn't it. I've read work from scientists looking at abiogenisis . . . where complex carbon chemistry crosses a threshold into life . . . you need a metabolism, oxidation, energy absoption and use."
He gathered power in his hand and tried feeding it into a single ribbon . . . atomic bonds snapped and the ribbon dismantled itself.
"Well . . . that's not how it works. Maybe a lack of energy? Get it down as close to zero vibration . . ." it shattered in his mental grip. "All right. Not that either. So a delicate touch . . ."
That it ignored. And several other things.
He finally sat back and rubbed his temples. "I think that's all I can do today. Do you have a library? I need to look at any research papers that might give me a hint . . ."
Orlov nodded. "I'll send you a computer with a library link. That was . . . a very interesting session. I see why Gorbachev said you could probably do it." He turned and walked away.
Axel rested his head in his hands and reached out mentally, away from Orlov, a sweep as far as he could reach, and felt nothing like the silver slithering of zivvy, anywhere. Tried to feel cold areas. Nothing.
So, where's the hoard of zivvy?
There is a hoard, isn't there?