Cyborgs and Servants
Forty-nine looked over the servants' encampment with approval.
A combination of age and guile had him in defacto leadership of the servants, and only two other Cyborgs had official authority above him.
The three combined households had twenty-seven servants. Eight upper class manservants, the personal attendants of the men and secretaries of the three older men. Six ladies' maids. Two tutors for the older children, because a boy should be taught by a man, but a girl should never be left alone in the presence of a man. A nanny for Vita's pair.
The rest were kitchen and serving staff, cleaning staff, and outside laborers. Eight women, two men.
Eight Cyborg guards.
And the thirty-nine children of the servants. Who stood of proof of the dangers of a woman being alone around a man. None of the serving women were allowed to refuse their "betters" which made long term attachments to men who loved them difficult.
And we all have wires in our brains, chips that automatically make us obedient to our owners. Quite apart from direct manipulation.
Well, the children aren't chipped. Lord Klim was called to expand the "Diplomatic Presence" the Russian Families always kept here, after we sold the world to them. We didn't want the older children chipped by the Germans, in case they could insert something that let them control the young adults. So I assisted his secretary in preparing the paperwork for his household and we lied three years off the older children's ages.
So we have some older boys who could be quite useful.
I think I'll wait a week or two, see if the plague really does work. Then I can try the wine that is supposed to remove the wires on the servants. And if taken for long enough, will even disable the chips.
Us Cyborgs? We'll have to be careful. I want the wires out of my brain, but I need the arm.
He turned and walked away. The guards didn't have a camp of their own, they stayed near their owners and kept their eyes open for predators, whether four legged or two.
Eighty-seven-four summonded him with a wave. Lord Klim's "Captain of the Guard." Ha! All four of us, including him.
"Where have you been?"
"Checking that the servant's camp is keeping to hygienic standards."
A snort from Ninety-eight. "Good. We don't need dysentery."
Lord Ivan's captain--of his other Cyborg.
But Forty-nine just nodded, as if accepting their authority. "I'm more worried about predators. We need to rotate a night watch, at least one of us awake at all times."
Lord Klim looked over his shoulder. "We're also going to have to keep an eye on the other Families."
Forty-nine turned to him. "Benedict has a solid relationship with his pals Rodion Victorov and Svyatoslav Mateev."
Lord Ivan frowned at him. "That's Lord Rodion and Lord Svyatoslav to you, Forty-nine."
From the glare he might have sent a mental slap, so Forty-nine winced. And continued. "And he knows the younger Ivanov and Smirnov boys. I wonder where they're camped? Perhaps we should invite them to move up here."
Lord Klim's eyes narrowed. "Making our group four Families strong."
"And then there's Khar Morozov. We don't want him turning thief. Kill him, or bring him in closer?"
Loed Volya and Lord Ivan exchanged glances. Lord Volya shrugged. "That's why Klim keeps him. He's mouthy, but he's got political savvy."
Lord Klim snorted. "And that would makes us an alliance of five Families, if Morozov was ever recognized. And we'd either be powerful enough to get respect . . . or to be a threat. You're right, though. I'll talk to Benedikt tonight. He and his friends are out scouting the region, this afternoon." He waved them away and turned back to the other lords.
The Cyborgs withdrew leaving their Masters alone.
Eighty-seven-four eyed him. "You had that all thought out."
"Yes. Lord Berezin call for peace among the Families. And I hope he's able to make it stick. But over the next month we're all going to exhaust everything we've brought with us, and if everyone is not at least bringing in meat regularly, it's going to get very, very, dangerous around here."
"I see. So why don't you take a nap, Old Man. You and Twenty-two can stay up and keep watch tonight."
Forty-nine looked around and spotted the young Cy, just watching the little kids running about. He strolled down and watched, with him. Almost twenty of them. The older girls would be helping with the food, and the oldest boys were elsewhere. But this group . . .
"How many of you kids have canvas bags?" Forty-nine leaned down and picked up an acorn. "How about a contest? Who can collect the most acorns?"
The kids galloped off to get their bags, stooping to grab acorns on the way.
Twenty-two grinned. "We like you. Good stories."
Forty-nine nodded. "And I like all of you." He heaved a sigh. "Even though I can't really help anyone."
Like I couldn't help you. I suggested that you'd be a good secretary, but no, the Lord just had to have another Cy. And it was a bad grow-in.
I wonder if that clever young man can be retrieved?
Might be about time to find out.
"Where are the older boys?"
"Ah. Well, you and I are going to stay awake tonight, on guard. So it's time for a nap."
Twenty-two wandered off. Probably to where his mother, the cook, has staked out her territory. And like as not a couple of the younger kids will curl up and nap by him. Yes. I think I'll start with Twenty-two.
He walked back up the gentle slope of the camp past the cars of the gentry and up to the crude lean-to he'd built for his Magda. It wouldn't keep the rain off, but it gave an impression of privacy, of being her private bower. She spent the last two days there, sitting in the sun, curling up to sleep. Masha had joined her, and they were both busy weaving baskets. They both grinned at him, and he stepped to the side, to the nest in the roots of a huge oak he'd been using as a combined bed and watch post. Pretty much everything in camp was in view, although the servants were behind a few trees.
Those teenage servant boys. I need to teach them, as well as Leon and Vlasiy, to hunt.
Could use a bit of a refresher there, myself.
He looked at his arm. The laser. Three shots and the battery will be dead. And no broadcast power. I'd better save it for desperate need. And make a spear. He frowned at the metal arm. Easily twice as strong as the other. I wonder if I can throw a spear . . . and hit what I'm aiming at?
He looked at his right hand. And magic. I used to spy on the young Lords, being taught to develop their abilities. I used to practice in private, and think I could impress the Lord, who was probably my father.
Who beat the crap out of me when I asked to be presented. And I woke up dull and . . . a Cyborg, unable to do magic at all. If the wires are completely gone . . . can I do magic again, or is the damage done?