Someone brought more vodka.
Trust Russians to consider Vodka a necessity to bring in bulk during a crisis. Or maybe it's local.
Ice watched until a few people started leaving, then slipped away quietly. Well, staggered.
"God, how do they drink like that and stay conscious?"
Bob grabbed his elbow and steered him down the street.
Lada snickered. "My father said it's a matter of training your metabolism to deal with it. I think they just get good at operating without their brains working."
"Heh. Just like their Cyborgs . . . sorry Bob."
Bob snickered. "At least I didn't do it voluntarily. But . . . they were getting through a bit, tonight."
Ice nodded. "Might be time for another dose . . . we need to buy some wine . . . and there's something else I maybe able to do, too. I studied glyphs, and I know the Free Cyborg Rebellion uses them."
A squeak from Lada. "Free . . ."
Ice bit his lip. "Lada . . . do you realize that I'm the enemy of the Drei Mächte Bündnis? That even though I'm currently out of touch with my people, I'm still going to do my best to sabotage the Hundred here, whether they're Russian or German?"
She stopped. "Oh. I . . . didn't think."
Ice swung around, didn't quite tip over. "They're the people who make nice fifteen-year-old girls into merchandise to be bought and sold. That puts control chips into the brains of every ordinary kid on his or her eighteenth birthday."
"I . . . hated that, I was afraid, in case my father couldn't protect me. But he couldn't, wouldn't help my friends. I begged him. And in the end, he couldn't even help me." She shivered. "And if they catch me now . . ."
Bob patted her shoulder. "You're safe with us."
"Today . . . and I think I'm on your side?" Big tears.
"Did your father get through the gate?"
"I don't know. It's all happened so fast. Yesterday . . . yesterday I was cheering inside because the Cybernetics Center couldn't take me for months. Even though I knew it was a very brief reprieve. Then Khar got the call from his father to pack and get to the gate . . ."
"And then we happened." Ice nodded. "If you don't want any part of us, just say so. I can stick you in the bag with Khar and let you out before I leave. It's got a ten thousand-to-one time dilation effect."
A wide-eyed jerky shake of her head. "No . . . I want to help. I just never realized it was possible."
Bob grinned. "Unthinkable, wasn't it?"
She nodded, suddenly looking sad. "I hope I never see my father again."
Ice winced. "He cared about you, maybe he can learn to expand that, if he ever leaves this poisonous culture. But now I have to survive two flights of stairs while drunk. But then I can feed you two."
Bob snorted and put a steadying hand in the middle of Ice's back. "I wondered what happened to that food you disappeared. Time dilation effect, eh? I'm sure you could do some interesting things with that."
Ice staggered up the last steps and managed to not fall through the door. "I really tried to not drink too much. Honest."
Lada snickered, and took the key away from him and unlocked the room door. Ice wobbled over to the table and pulled out his handles, opened the bag. Two sandwiches sitting on a head of black hair. Oops! Forgot about the Real Khar.
He pulled out the sandwiches and closed the handles. "Remind me to do some rearranging in there. Tomorrow. When I feel better."
He flopped onto the bed. As the world swirled away he heard Lada's voice. "What a strange man. How did you meet him?"
Some time around noon, Ice got enough water into his system to be able to think coherantly. "First we need to shop."
Lada pointed at the table. Three brown bags.
"Or maybe not. Maybe I should inventory what I have and reshuffle a few things."
They both looked at the table, where he'd left his old "wood carving," and compacted bit of oak firewood he'd whimsically impressed with a few curves. One of Rael's student had sliced it up along the curves and attached a dimensional bubble.
"What? You didn't peek?"
They both grinned.
"I was afraid to, but Bob opened it. Eww! The Real Khar woke up."
"Briefly." Bob put in. "I punched him and we decided to close it back up."
"Well, let's haul him out and see what I can do to get him out of the way, long term." Ice popped the block open. "Bob, hold this side and Lada, the other. That leaves me free to heave this fine gentleman out of there . . ."
Ice dropped Khar on the floor beside the bed, and seeing Lada's red face, grabbed the fancy coat he'd bee wearing yesterday and dropped it over Khar's bare ass. "The jerk needs to work out a bit more, put on some muscles." He started pulling out the little metal bars of the more standard bag handles. "Right, this one has my clothes, and this one is the tools and weapons . . . Bob, can you carry a gun?"
"Only soldiers need more than the laser. It wouldn't do to arm me."
"Lada? How about a concealed pistol? No?"
Bob snorted. "An armed servant girl? The horror!"
"How about a knife?" He pulled out a fifteen centimeter stilletto . . . put it back as they shook their heads. "Well, if I pull out a few extra things to wear . . ."
"Eww! Those are laborers' clothes." Lada's nose wrinkled.
"Huh. Imagine that." Ice started to put the blue jeans back in the bag . . . Then scooped up everything and stuffed it in with the tools, instead. "So there's one empty bag. Now if I dumped all of these," nasty little balls of gene editors, "into here with the rest . . . actually I should keep some handier. Can I have one of those grocery bags? Thank you. A dozen in there and the rest there, and voila! Another empty bag. So Khar? Back in you go."
A rummage back in the tool bag got him tape, and he labeled those handles "Bad Guys" and reloaded everything back into his wood handles. Except the other empty bag.
"This one, we'll use for a safe room. We'll need some lumber . . ." Ice broke off at an authoritative thump on the door.
Bob beat him to it by a step, Lada dived behind the bed.
The man on the other side ignored Bob, looking beyond him at Ice, who wrinkled his forehead and staggered to lean on the wall. Since I haven't cleaned up yet, I shouldn't have any trouble looking hungover.
Tall, gray haired, a skull plate showing under the tidy haircut. Nose raised. "His Lordship Max Afanasiy Berezin invites Nikita Khariton Morozov to join him and a few friends at dinner tonight. Nineteen hundred hours. Room thirty-two."
He looked Ice up-and-down. "One hopes you recover enough to demonstrate some usefulness."
Ice rubbed his face, kept one hand on the wall as he bowed. The personal representative of Lord Berezin. But chipped. Was the bow right or dead wrong? The man turned and left without another word.
Ice looked at his watch, "Uh . . . what time is it locally?"
"Two-thirty in the afternoon."
"Good, we've got a clear four hours for preps."
Four sheets of plywood, eleven wooden lattices, more support boards than he probably needed . . . they wheeled the cart load out to a spot between two trucks and tossed it into the bubble. A quick stop at a grocery for bottled water and non-perishable to add to the bubble, then a bus back to within walking distance of the Little House. He shed his "ordinary face" illusion and laid on an illusion of more appropriate clothing. As they rounded the last corner and headed up to their room.
Where Bob slapped his forehead. "Nails! We didn't get any nails!"
Ice laughed. "If I survive dinner, I'll demonstrate more of my amazing magic building techniques. While I'm gone, if you need to hide, just climb in . . . umm, maybe put the rod over on the floor in a corner, so any searchers just think it's trash?"
Then clean up and don the fancy outfit. "And you two aren't coming."
They both looked up from trying to brush out grime from their outfits.
"You two put me well up verus the younger Hundreds. Tonight? I don't want to brag, or look too uppity." Ice grinned. "Look, I can be very dangerous, if I need to be. I'll be fine."
Double glowers, but they did lock the door behind him.