But Ice got him cleaned up, into a dead Cyborg's pants and helped him one-leg-hobble to a clean stretch of grass and lay down.
Ice grabbed a beer and walked back to hand it to Yuri. "Keep drinking. The nano repair things run on alcohol."
Gior frowned. "Is that why you bought so much beer and wine? I figured you were an alkie."
"Nope. I just like an occasional beer--but the stuff they make in the DMB? Horrible. But a beer every other day will keep these guys on the right track, health-wise."
The Cyborgs all exchanged glances, and grabbed beers.
Including Bob. "I like beer too. Even If I didn't get that . . . magic potion of yours."
Ice made a mental note to note let the wine get loose in the camp. A worse place to have an orgy is hard to imagine.
The kids had made a good job of smoking the meat from the bull, so several days of extra chewy meals were taken care of.
Ice eyed a stand of tall straight pines and decided to get started on a wall. Half the camp followed him, with Gior helping to slice off the branches of the trees he felled, then grabbing a bubble and making the long logs disappear.
They laid them out around the camp, and argued about how much space they needed inside and many logs they needed to make it high enough.
Gior threw a bubble every morning, and Ice stepping through to check his comm for a connection. Never found one. But if they were on a Drei Mächte Bündnis world, he'd make a quick trip to any water towers in sight for a quick treatment.
The kids only crossed when they needed something. Laundry soap and a big basin. Pipes with one way and hot spells. A small wooden shed for a shower room . . .
Cutting more trees . . .
It was a busy three weeks, getting the camp in really great shape.
And every morning, meditation and magic lessons.
They all sourced from heat. Bob was pretty good already. Ten--the gate maker clone--picked it up quickly, the other three Cyborgs were slower, but they were all part Drei and had the genes for magic. The kids were also part Drei, but younger and completely inexperienced. The Mentalist, Yuri looked on, touching the chain around his neck, and looking away.
He's going to be dangerous, if I let him loose.
None of the kids will be very strong, but maybe they can do enough to slip under the notice of anyone stronger . . . although . . . I'll most likely take them all home with me.
Which . . . will be interesting to try to explain to Keiq.
Bob and Ten, Ivan, would be strong, if they didn't have their heads wired up.
"How do they choose who's the Master and who gets his head drilled?" Ice looked at the Cyborgs, the kids, and then Yuri.
Who snorted. "You have to have the right Daddy. And then you have to kiss his ass while displaying strong magic. For eighteen years. Every Mentalist can bring a son to the local council and claim him as an Heir. And then they test him. If you pass, you're on the lowest rung of the ladder of government. If you fail, you either die in the attempt, or get turned into whatever your daddy wants now."
His eyes strayed over to Bob. "My half-brother wasn't very good at ass kissing. A deca before my birthday, our mutual father asked me if I wanted . . . Bob . . . wired up as a pleasure boy."
"I said no. I said I was surprised he wasn't also to be presented." Yuri hunched his shoulders. "He laughed and said you had no drive to conquer and control. Then he said, did I want you for my guard, and I said yes. He said 'Good You'll have him back in three days."
A hiss from Bob.
Yuri nodded. "That's when I realized . . . what he meant. And I had the choice of accepting that . . . or joining you."
Bob scowled, nodded. "I did understand that. But did you have to be such an insufferable prick?"
"Yes. That was . . . the moment I decided to join them, to join the fight." He flicked a glance at Gior. "Capturing you would have been my first step up the ladder. While defending my Empire. A win all around."
A growl from Gior.
Yuri looked around. "If it weren't for the state of my hip, I'd say this was not a bad outcome. Until they find us."
Bob nodded. "Until they find us, or Ice's luck gives out."
The Snobby Mentalist
Ice's luck gave out four weeks and twenty worlds later.
At least I got one last water tower doped. And Gior closed the gate from the far side, this time. Two words of warning, then she got to the gate and away. Thank the One all of the kids dived through before her.
And from two blocks away Bob and I were just two more gawkers.
"So, Boss? Just how much trouble are we in?"
"Gior will probably open another gate. If she can find the same World. Ten miles south was the standard second pick up spot, a day after losing contact. So why don't you and I wander off southward, before someone notices all my illusions."
"Yeah we ought to buy you some fancy duds." Bob looked down at himself. "And you aren't keeping your guard's uniform up to the usual standards, either."
"We'll have to find a place to live, keep a low profile until I hear Gior . . ." Ice cast a look back and cut down an alley. So we'll just stroll over to the next busy street and lose ourselves in the crowd . . ."
A girl rounded the corner at a dead run and knocked him flat.