The Old Hundred
Lord Max Afanasiy Berezin, Lord Vitaly Vasiliev, and Lord Evgeny Dryagin were in a triangle discussion on the far side of the small dining room.
Shields lower, glowing with power. They turned their heads and studied Ice as he walked across to them.
Only four other men in the room. Benedikt frowned when he turned to see who the older men were looking at. His three followers, Cousin Anatoly, Rodion, and Svyatoslav stiffened in offense.
Two tables one with three chairs, one with five. Guess we're all here.
Ice bowed deeply. "My Lords. Bol'shoye spasibo za priglasheniye."
"We like to take an interest in promising young men." Berezin studied him. "So you had sense enough to leave your entourage behind."
A statement, not a question, but Ice answered anyway. "I am not attempting to show off to the younger set tonight. I am a bit surprised that you have no attendents."
"We don't need them." He glowed for a moment, painfully bright to the inner senses.
Ice closed up tight and bowed again. Oh shit.
Vasilev smiled thinnly, no doubt having felt Ice's fast retreat behind shields. "So, what do you see as the best method of taking over here?"
"The problem, sir, will be the local Cyborgs. In a straight up confrontation, we will need to control especially the Mentalist officers. I don't know enough about our people here to know if that's even possible. A diplomatic and social integration first, collecting any disaffected younger German Mentalists might, in the long run be a better road to take."
Lord Dryagin snoorted. He was the only one of the trio who actually looked old.
Which means he's probably the youngest and hasn't gotten their life extension therapy, whatever it is. Jaejong Chou was nearly a thousand years old, so it's probably genetic . . . but not inherited? So maybe epigenic?
Berezin nodded. "Our small numbers are indeed the problem. And too few of us brought our wives. We need to marry into the power structure, as well as acquireing local halfbreeds and raise a large generation of loyal Russians."
Ice raised his eyebrows. "I had heard that Chancellor von Bismarck was in poor health. Is there time for that method?"
Dryagin growled. "They have no regen therapy here! He's eighty-eight, and dying of old age. The fool should have come to us."
Ice nodded. "But they have a gate maker? If we could get home--we could promise him treatment . . ."
Triple glares. "The Plague has taken Novaya Moskva. We few appear to have escaped the contagion. There is no return."
Ice nodded. "So . . . other worlds. But to buy the regen or raid and steal it? And if it's a Russian World, could we recruit?"
"Bah, our funds are all lost to us. And where would we find enough Mentalists?" Dryagin looked angry.
Ice raised his brows. "Among the almost eighteen-year-olds slated for control chips. And the sons who are nearly strong enough to be presented."
Berezin narrowed his eyes. "Lower our standards?"
Ice smiled. "Oh, they'd never really be up to par, but could we train them up to control three or four Cyborgs?"
"Ha!" Vasilev grinned. "How about we raid the Cybernetic Center for actual Cyborged Mentalists. Replacement officers, loyal to us."
"Surely not here? That would set off the war before we're ready." Benedikt strolled up, and eyed Vasilev.
Uh . . . not very diplomatic, Benedikt.
"Of course not. Durak." Glare.
Ice scratched his chin. "So we need to investigate other Worlds. No doubt they already are, as they import a lot of cybernetics. If they see us as a problem, they might be delighted for us to look for someplace else to move." He gave them a bright smile. "I'd love to scout out everything we need. Regen, cybernetics, young prospects . . ."
Benedikt looked down his nose. "Yourself?"
Ice grinned. "I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty, to reach a highly valuable goal."
"An interesting mind set, Nikita Khariton. We'll think about this and talk after dinner." Berezin turned away and stepped to the table for three as servants scurried through the door with loaded trays.
Ice bowed out of the group and walked to the far side of the other table. Recieved glares from the young set, but watched the oldermen, and waited until they sat, to sit himself.
Benedikt turned his chair slightly, to keep the older men in sight, but turned his head to glare at Ice. "So you're volunteering to be the errand boy?"
"I'm aiming for the more difficult tasks." Ice shrugged. "But you can think of me as Lord Berezin's errand boy, if you wish."
A growl. "You're not there, yet." Benedikt turned away.
Ice subdued a smile. Yes. I ought to check out a few dozen worlds, especially the water supply systems of any that are under the sway of the Drei Mächte Bündnis.
He ignored the four, and kept an eye on the three old men, talking little, but he could feel an undercurrent of telepathic thought he dare not try to tap.
And after dinner . . .
"I like the way you think, youngster. I will be back in touch." Berezin turned and walked out, leaving Ice wondering at the tone.
I don't think that was too ominous. Really.