September 11th, 2021

_Fall of Empire_ part 24

Murphy forced himself to shrug again. “Siberia Max has a labor shortage. If they can do any sort of work at all, we can probably use them.”

The Inquisitor nodded. “True. How many Cyborgs are we talking about, here?”

“Seventy-four that no one considers salvageable.” The general looked over his shoulder at an aide. “We’d be delighted to get them out of here . . . it bothers the troops to total prisoners.”

Well, yeah, like a car after a wreck, pieced out to recover some of the insurance payout. Except there no insurance, no pay out, and you kill the unusable part. We don’t like knowing our owners don’t see Cyborgs as people.

“Deak, get him a price quote for the remaining prisoners.”

Deak eyed Murphy. But brought up a page of surplused captured equipment.

“Got any vehicles we can haul them away in?”

“Sure. Umm, for seventy-four of them . . . how about this bus?”

“Internal combustion engine? That’ll work.”

“And seventy-four damaged Cyborgs . . .” He gave Murph a dubious glance. “Thumbprint?”

Murph shrugged, and planted his thumb on the reader. It flashed green.

“And all paid for.”

Hard to say which of them was more surprised.

Out of what account?

Holy crap, is this more Agent of the 300 stuff?

Meanwhile the rest of the meeting was breaking up in cordial hand shakes.

Relieved that we aren’t reversing the liege-vassal relationship, which technically we could. Even if we have no way to enforce it.

Deak looked around. “I told them to load the prisoners and you can pick them up at this location . . .”

Damn. I hope Axel’s Rehab Center can deal with a crowd!

The Inquisitor and Forty-four were both grinning as they dropped him off at the bombed out wreckage that had been turned into a very substandard temporary prisoner holding area. Which appeared to be packing up as the prisoners were loaded onto a bus full of broken windows.

Murphy looked it over. “It was advertised as in running order. How much fuel has it got?”

Four Cyborgs limped past. With one working arm apiece they were carrying an unconscious  cyborg on a stretcher. Shit. I’d better stop for wine on the way to the Portal.

“Quarter of a tank.”

“And is there anywhere between here and the Siberia Max portal to fuel up?”

Shaken heads. Sneers.

That was the last of the . . . totaled Cyborgs, so he followed them aboard.

Switched to German. “When we go through the Portal, you need to duck down. Then we’re heading for the Rehab center. When was the last time any of you ate? Drank?”

Lots of sullen glares . . . and empty stares.

One of the stretcher carriers eased  down onto the front seat. “Ration bar six hours ago, drink of water half an hour ago.” Meat arm in a sling, completely wrapped, blood leaking through here and there. Familiar accent.

Switch to English. “You sound like you’re from New Texas.”

The Cyborg straightened in surprise. “Yeah . . .”

“Well, Cowboy, you just fell into a heap of good luck. Relax, remember to duck, we’ll stop for medical and food on the other side.”

Good thing my light duty uniform is spatter cloth . . . because the shirt’s going to have to go over my head.

He gassed up at a place next door to a liquor store, and called Natasha.

“Hey Murphy, what’s up?”

“I’m hauling seventy-four injured Cyborgs out to the Rehab center. They’re going to need some sort of shelter. Do you have any idea what happened to all the tents at the fairgrounds? Or would your cop boyfriend know?”

“Probably. I’ll call him. Seventy-four? Good god, what did Dr. Vadik say?”

“Haven’t called him yet.”

“Yikes. I will call him, locate shelter, and bring food and cooking stuff. Have a good trip!”

“Thanks.” He heaved a sigh of relief, paid for the gas and drove to the liquor store. The clerk didn’t bat an eye over eight boxes of cheap red wine and a hundred plastic cups.

He anointed the boxes, and started passing out cups half full, instructions to dribble a few drops into the unconscious .
. .
And drove on, with a bus load of happily drunk Cyborgs singing songs in three languages. A lot in English.

He didn’t speed, mainly for lack of confidence in the bus, and two trucks passed him. Var and Dimitri waved from the passenger sides, and he wondered who was driving the second truck . . . Turned out to be a Police Cyborg, Forty-one, who worked with the boyfriend cop.

The people at the Rehab center, staff and patients alike, had turned out to mow a huge swath of the grass lands and were busy erecting tents. Tables were being hauled out from the center, and food . . .

To call the Cyborgs stunned was an understatement.

And also in a lot better health than when they’d started the trip.

The three unconscious men were stirring a bit and Dr. Vadik said they’d move them to the clinic as soon as he’d checked everyone . . .

“But what are they going to do with us long term?” The cowboy asked.

Toli heard that and laughed. “Nothing you don’t want. Six months ago I was Six-twelve. Now all the parts are gone, and,” he pulled his shirt carefully off his left shoulder. “Stem cell rebuilding. My shoulder’s recovered and see this weird stuff? Those five bumps are finger buds. Maybe the arm will regrow normally, maybe it won’t. It’ll take another two years to find out. But right now? I’m Toli Smirnov, again.”

Silence as the Cyborgs thought that over.

Dr. Vadik walked up. “And if you want to stay a Cyborg, we’ll fix up your body, and then see where to send you for repairs to the rest. It. Is. Your. Choice. Yours!

He looked around. “And dammit, we need chairs!”

That broke the silence with laughter, and they went back to medical exams, then one truck was sent off with a list, and the other transported six Cy . . . six people to the clinic for the night. The rest drifted off to the tents, not that there were beds or anything, but most of them were asleep before the sun was down.

Murphy caught a ride back to town with the second (rented) truck and got dropped off at Gorbachev House to report to the Inquisitor, who seemed quite pleased to hear that “his” troops were settled for the night.

“I, I don’t think they’re mine.” Murphy could hear the whimper in his voice.

The inquisitor just grinned and told someone to get out a car and driver to take him Up Top.

Which happened fast enough that he only got in a single hug and kiss from Minako.

Too damned efficient!