They argued that him tipping the beacon would render it inoperative, and why did they have to climb up on the planter.
"Because it'll keep you from accidentally kicking the beacon and collapsing the gate when you're halfway through. And I practiced before I got kicked out of the store. This way works much better."
A sneer from Popov.
Aleksanderov glanced at his watch. Popped the little door on the side open and pushed the button. Shut the door. "Just get dressed. They all grabbed the baggies and put them on. Stood around in public. Looking like . . . well, not nearly as spiffy as the spacemen in themovie, but . . .
"There! It's started!" Popov stepped up on the planter, rocking on his feet, ready to leap. The rest scrambled up, Aleksandrov bringing up the rear, this time. Ice laid out the straps . . . Popov leaped. The rest crowded after. Ice put up a shield over the beacon so they didn't step on it. Grabbed the straps. Dropped the shield as Aleksanderov stepped up and jumped.
Pulled up Speed. Dive through, landing on his fists and somersaulting, tuck legs as his shoulders hit, jerked hard, up and toward him. A stinging pain in his right foot then the beacon smashed into his face and he grabbed it and rolled down the ramp with it, to a sprawling stop. Set it down and dared to look at his foot . . . The boot toe was sliced off . . . he wiggled his toes. All there, just lost a little skin off the big one.
He wiped blood off his face as a medic trotted up. The medic jerked his boot off, peeled off the sock, snorted. "That's nothing." He sprayed something, then stepped up to feel Ice's nose. "Meh, won't even mess up that ugly tattoo." He walked off, and the techs grabbed the beacon.
Ice wiggled out of the bloody remains of the baggie, picked up his boot and sock and limped over to where Aleksandrov was talking to Berezin, Vasiliev, and Dryagin.
". . . interesting test run, but I need to change things with the team."
Dryagin nodded. "Well, however nice it would have been to hit a gold mine first off . . . relax tomorrow, we'll talk and perhaps try the second target the day after."
Ice stopped, well back from the foursome, with the others.
Popov looked him up and down. "We'll need a new man for the beacon."
Aleksander looked around. "All right, you can do it."
He turned away, leaving Popov gawping like a stranded fish.
They crammed back into the van, cursing. At least they dropped Ice off in front of his hotel. He limped in, careful of his toes, and took his time getting up the stairs.
Lada and Bob were in the hallway, facing a young man. Who looked a bit hopeful, and not at all aggressive.
"If you need any . . ." he trailed off as he spotted Ice.
Lada and Boob turned. Lada yeeped and rushed up, stopping and afraid to touch.
"Broken nose and skinned my toes. No big deal." Ice grinned, which probably didn't look very reassuring."
He limped on, with Lada fluttering over him and Bob shaking his head. And nodding at the young man. "Rafail Rudolph Zarkov, our next door neighbor. Not a bad kid."
Ice nodded. "Pleased to meet you. Nikita Khariton Morozov. Call me Khar."
By the time he was cleaned up and in fresh clothes, Rafail had fetched a chair from his room and the the table was pulled up to the corner of the bed so Ice could relax.
The kid looked a little perplexed as Bob joined them and Lada produced sandwiches and drinks from the imbiss. "We bought a whole bunch at lunch . . . I'm not real sure about being out after dark."
"Probably a good idea, all the Mentalists about."
Poor Rafail looked even more confused, but when Ice told an edited and embroidered story about his trip, the youngster laughed right along with the girl and the Cyborg.
Ice kicked him and his chair out at midnight, and slept till almost noon.
Stood in the shower, nice and hot, thanks to a hot spell. His nose looked horrible, bruised and swollen, but basically straight. I'll wait another day before I use the wine, so no one thinks I'm healing too fast.
"Good thing I bought shoes. Not that any sensible Russian Mentalist would be caught dead in these things."
Bob snickered and offered him a pastry of some sort. "I played escort while Lord Rafail and his little sister had a nice breakfast out. We get take out. How about, the next world, I'll be the lord and you'll be the Cyborg?"
Lada clapped her hands over her mouth, snorting
Ice snickered. "Someone will find us, sooner or later."
He limped down to the Paradies Hotel, his entourage following. He took a careful turn through the public room and found Aleksandrov arguing with . . . pretty much everyone. He thought unnoticeable thoughts and eased to the side.
"We had a succession of near disasters with us being arrogant, speaking Russian, and just not fitting in. No money and no way to get it--other than Khar having thought to bring gold, and selling it." Aleksandrov flapped his arms in irritation. "And he's the one you don't want to send?"
Popov scowled at him. "He's a low class thief, and you know it. How he ever survived his presentation I have no idea."
Federov and Matveev both nodded.
Aleksandrov 's jaw muscles stood out for a moment. "At least cut down the size of the expedition. Twelve of us made a noticeable group."
Popov snorted. "We'll split up, this time. We can collect a lot more information that way."
Some gray heads nodded.
"Get into more trouble." Aleksandrov glared at Popov, who sneered back.
What's that Ra'd says? Never interrupt while the enemy is making mistakes? Something like that. I'm not going to teach this random assortment of ill-chosen forward scouts how to do it right.
He slipped back out of the room and kept exploring the ground floor of the Paradies Gerfunden Hotel. Found a locked door, several actually, but this one led to the basement.