They were all still up, when Ice felt the pain and horror leaking through a shaky shield. Coming from the other side of the building, below them, moving.
Ice bolted out the door and down the steps, spotted the official car stopped in front of the hotel, people getting out . . . pulling a man out wavering and . . . Ice got there in time to catch Rafail as his "colleagues" decided they brought him far enough.
They were bloody damn well laughing as they piled back in the car and departed.
Ice got one of Rafail's arms around his neck and tried the assess the damage . . . pretty clear, even on the dark street. The boy was standing on one foot because the other was gone.
Ice could feel him trembling, pain and shock, no doubt.
Bob trotted out and assessed the situation with a glance. He got Rafail's other arm around his neck. "Easier to carry him?"
"Yeah." Ice leaned and grabbed Rafail's injured leg, as Bob grabbed the other.
Lada held the door, followed them up the stairs, squeezing around them to open the third floor door. She darted down to Rafail's room . . . Ice reached out mentally and tripped the lock.
"Lada, is any of that wine where you can reach it?"
She darted off. Rafail whimpered. "Bathroom please? I was afraid I was going to manage the final humiliation on the drive back."
"Bah, that's just part of your whole body response. There's no humiliation in being injured doing the most dangerous job."
They maneuvered him awkwardly into the bathroom, got half a glass of wine into him before they stripped him, dressed him in shorts and t-shirt and into bed.
Ice eyed the loose gauze dressing. "Did the doctor do much?"
Snort. "Sprayed it with who-knows-what and acted like he hated wasting the bandages."
Ice touched his shin above the taped down gauze. Sent a muscle relaxant spell in the spasming muscles . . . "Lost four or five cems of the tibia and fibila. So long as you don't go and die of shock, I can make a prosthetic foot. Not that you won't always limp." . . . I wonder if he'll grow a new foot?
"They . . . they were joking about what a shame there weren't any Cyborg parts available."
Ice snorted. "I suspect they didn't want to give you just a cyborg foot?"
"No. They were speculating about what a wimpy Cyborg I'd make." He swallowed. "I . . . asked which one of them was going to be the beacon man, next trip? That's when they threw me out of the car."
Ice snorted, then stepped to the window and applied his magic screen. And turned a leftover bit of lumber into a short, lightweight bat.
"If, when, you need to get up, or more pain killer, bang on the wall above your head. My bed's just on the other side. We'll bring you breakfast. Or haul you over to our room for breakfast."
"Khar . . ."
Ice snorted. "I know. It's a bit odd, caring about people. Try to sleep. We'll see you in the morning."
An early morning wall thump from Rafail, then he fetched breakfast for the others. Showered, dressed, and headed for the Paradies to catch up on all the news and gossip.
"Steam engines." Svyatoslav Matveev snorted. "Barely any electricity. Waste of time, my father said."
Artem grinned. "Only good thing is we're rid of that weakling Rafail Zarkov."
An uneasy stir through the group.
They know that any sign of weakness and they'll be the next "weakling" to be bullied.
"Are they going to keep trying?" Ice put in.
"They have to. The Germans can't even make brain chips, let alone Cyborg parts." Benedikt shrugged. "So they'll keep urging us Russians to keep searching, but if we find a good world, like as not they will be the ones taking it."
A snort from Aleksandrov as he strolled by. "We take the risk--they hope to scoop the prize."
Ice looked over at him. "What would be ideal?"
A sharp grin. "A newly conquered world, with at least one Cybernetics manufacturing facility in operation. Other than that? A very high tech world that could switch to manufacturing cybernetics."
Ice bit his lip. "But why not build a cybernetics factory here? Do we not have the skill set, the plans? Perhaps we need to think about raiding for the machines to make what we need?"
They looked at him, appalled.
"Better than starting a war with our own side that we can't win." Ice looked around at the appalled faces. "Honor is all well and good, but has it occurred to you that the German's reaction to almost losing a beacon was a bit extreme . . . unless that was their last beacon?"
Expressions slid from appalled to horrified.
"We need a source, very soon." Ice drummed his fingers. "If only we knew if this plague had burned itself out on Novaya Moskva. We could go back, and if they're powerless, take their manufacturing plants apart, and bit by bit bring them here."
Benedikt grinned. "We could establish a cordon around a plant, minimize contact. Wasn't there a new plant out in the middle of nowhere, west of Topegda?"
"NO!" Lord Berezin's angry tones. He shoved through the crowd. "WE. Will. Never. Return. That way is the death of our power. We will go on." He glared around.
Focused on Aleksandrov. "You will lead a team to a new World tomorrow night. Assemble a team if you can find anyone with the nerve to return the beacon."
Aleksandrov bowed stiffly as Berezin stalked away.
He straightened and looked straight at Ice.
Ice felt his lips peel back from his teeth. "Of course I will go, and handle the retrieval of the beacon." And we'll just see how many worlds I can Drei proof.