Not the way it ought to work
Ice had wrangled an invite, and a ride, to the gate center to observe the return of the second party.
Which must have been a disaster, as the gate opened onto a crowd scene, spot lit, lots of uniforms and weapons visible outside a shield barrier.
A few stoic grunts from the Russian watchers, as Lord Matveev leaped clumsily through, screaming.
Where are their protective baggies?
The others following, Aleksandrov next to last, dropping the hands bracing the shield and jumping through. Then Popov grabbed the straps of the beacon and jumped . . . poorly. Thudding down, half through the gate . . .
An explosion of blood and body parts, odors of burnt meat and feces.
The tech ran forward, horrified. "The beacon! Where's the beacon!"
One! It can't possibly be their last one, can it?
"Get me a wedge and two straps." He looked at the open gate. The shield was still holding.
A tech grabbed some strapping. Ice spotted a box and grabbed it. Pointed at Aleksandrov and Rafail. "You two stand there and there, and catch the beacon so I don't get a broken nose cushioning it again." He kicked a lump of meat off the ramp and jumped through.
Was hit with burning, like the worst sunburn he'd ever had, over every inch of his body. He curled up cursing, forced himself to reinforce the shield, and eyed the soldiers surrounding him. "Are you having problems with Cyborgs?"
"You mean your people?"
Ice crawled over to the beacon, tipped it back, and propped the front edge with the box. The view wavered, shifted. Ice staggered up and a bit to the side, and keeping turned away, opened his bag and pulled out a netted bag, set it down near the shield. "These guys are a rival nation, just as bad. Follow the instructions." He staggered back. Knelt to run the new straps through the brackets. Grabbed the ends . . . The gate settled down, no distirtions. He dived, somersaulting tucking the legs in hard, jerking the straps . . . And curl up and remember to cuss in Russian . . .
Rafail handed his side of the beacon the nearest tech, and helped Ice up. "I don't believe you did that!"
"I d,don't believe I s,survived doing th, that." Ice staggered to a wall and propped himself against it.
"Lord Matveev says they're being invaded by an different branch of the Russian Families, and they were spotted within a few minutes. They tried to dodge, lost their gear, but kept the beacon. They've been sitting there inside a shield all day." Rafail glanced back to where the floor was being hosed down like it was just dirt, not human remains.
Ice shuddered. Eyed the German walking toward him.
The man's age showed in his hair and face, not the vigorous movement. "Gott sei Dank für Dummköpfe."
Ice shuddered, and replied in German. "In,d,deed. The way your t,tech reacted, I was afraid that might be your o,only beacon."
A shift in the man's eyes. "We have more, but losing even one is to be avoided at all costs."
"I w,won't say it w,was my pleasure to serve, but . . ." Ice tried to shrug and nearly fell down.
"And I believe I shall start repaying your boldness with a ride home." He turned and snapped out a few orders, and then Rafail steered out a side door and up to a big limo.
Ice stopped and took off his coat and laid it on the seat, clean side down before climbing in and sitting on it. Although my pants probably didn't have Popov's blood all over them.
Sort of remembered a smooth ride, then Rafail helping him out and upstairs. He took a sip of wine, flopped on the bed and passed out.
Woke to broad daylight and the smell of coffee.
"Hey, the Sleeping Princess is awake." Bob looked him up and down.
Ice snorted. "Are you one of the seven Bogatyrs? Because for sure you're not Prince Yelesei."
A sniff from Lada. "We were scared! You slept for three days!"
"Three . . . Oh crap. I didn't think I was that badly hurt."
A head of black hair and worried dark eyes peeked over the edge of the bed. "Scary."
He threw back the sheet and swung his legs over the side . . . clad in what the locals called "sweat" pants. "Guess I was out of it. I feel pretty awake, so hopefully I won't do it again . . . Umm, excuse me." He shuffled quickly into the restroom.
By the time he returned, Lada had a contraption chugging away at producing more coffee, and pointed him at a box of donuts.
"You are all wonderful minions, and I apologize for not mentioning that when injured we do sleep for days and wake just to hit the restroom, eat, and then sleep again. However, I feel quite alert, and will probably not do another round."
He looked around and spotted Animal peeking out from under the bed. "Moved your burrow?"
Bob grinned. "She spent two nights curled up beside you like your faithful dog. Slides under the bed whenever anything happens."
Ice frowned at the sun shining through the window. We're facing west. "It's afternoon? Is anything happening?"
Lada paled, nodded. "They went across again this morning. Rafail is with them."
Bob sighed. "I made him practice that somersault thing. Showed him your old boot and told him to tuck his feet up, if they made him the last man through."
Ice winced. "Dammit. Too late to do anything but wait." He ate another donut, handed one to the creature under the bed. "Any sign of the Mad Bombers?"
"One of the boys came up to me in the street, said they wanted to talk again. Same corner, he said. I told him you were recovering from a trip, and that I didn't know when you could come again."
"Good. I'll wait until the scouts are back, then maybe take a late night stroll."
That netted him three glares. The one from under the bed skirt was accompanied by a growl.
"Hand me those coins. I'll make more charms."
He quit after an hour, and sent Bob and Lada out for food. Handed them a bag of charms. "Take these with you. If someone wants to know when I can come, hand them to him."
Ice looked under the bed. "I'm going to take a shower. Save me a donut, all right?"