They came just after midnight. The moon, just past full, high and bright.
Forty-nine was coaching Leonti in scanning for humans. "Like hunting, but the prey shows up more brightly."
"There's . . . an awful lot of people on the road!"
Forty-nine nodded. "I'm counting twenty-three. Can you reach further? I think all the Ignatove women are still in camp, and that's just Ignatov with the menservants and Cyborgs standing at the end of our driveway. I think the larger group's from a different camp."
"So . . . are they joining Inno, or fighting him?" Lord Klim sounded like he'd mostly gotten over a Cyborg regaining mentalist powers. No doubt the fallout would be interesting. Later.
"They aren't set up for a fight. So . . . looking around . . . "
"South of here, at the Krupin Camp." Leonti sounded upset. "They're halfway here."
Lord Klim growled. "Cutting log for shelters my ass. I ought to have paid more attention."
Forty-nine checked the road again. "It looks like the larger group is passing Ignatov. Probably to come up the river bed."
"Hitting us from three directions at once." Klim sounded grim.
And us with just seven cyborgs, and Lord Klim and Leonti trained to shoot. And the Lord can't protect himself from a mental attack.
He stood up and picked up the cord with the three charms. He'd taken it off so he could scan. He bit his lip then turned and held it out to Klim. "Granny charms, but better than nothing. And I'll bet Krupin's shields can't take a round from that elephant gun of yours."
Lord Klim eyed the dangling charms, then reached and took them. "I'll deal with him then, and you and Eighty-seven four cover the driveway and river. I'll bet Inno's going to start it, to keep us from noticing the two larger groups until they're in the camp."
He ground his teeth. "If you take out the mentalists, any servants or Cyborgs will probably retreat."
Forty-nine nodded. "Pity Krupin and Naoumov have so many young Mentalists." A quiet whistle from below. "They've started up the driveway."
Eighty-seven four turned. "Thirteen you say with Lord Klim, Forty-nine head for the river, with Twenty-two, Six and Ten. One-oh-three, let's go deal with Ignatov."
Ignatov, of all people. Two weeks since he was sick and helpless from a disease that simple camp hygiene would have prevented, and he thinks he can get away with a raid?What the hell is he thinking?
The other two Lords? Naoumov's lost half of what he was bringing to Neu Frankfort when the gate from Novaya Moskva collapsed, apparently leaving him without any servants. He thinks a raid will net him some. Stupid fool. Krupin, on the other hand, brought a lot of menservants. I have a nasty feeling they're trained to fight.
Eighty-seven had better clear the driveway quickly, and get back to Klim!
He didn't even have to close his eyes to feel the men sneaking up the river, and forming a line to charge up the river bank.
The radio transmitter in his head plate would have made communications with the other Cyborgs easy--except that they were all Civilian Guard models. No radios in their skull plates. And even though he'd given them all a dose of that healing potion to shrink their wires, they'd still be more than ordinarily vulnerable to mental control.
But they all have the charms. So they should be at least difficult to take quickly.
He skirted their hasty fortification. All the women and children were inside a double ring of vehicles, with all their firewood packed under and in. Hopefully enough wood to stop any bullets that came their way. He wished to hell he had another Cyborg to guard the women and children. And one to scout out into the forest, in case someone's circled wide to take them from behind.
Leonti's watching that direction, and his father has the elephant gun. I really doubt Ignatov will have shields strong enough for that!
The fifteen adult male servants were armed with clubs and spears. But only Ev, Mick, and Rudolf had any idea what to do with them. The women and older children were armed, too, and God help any man who faced Head Cook Ludmilla and her carving knife.
But they were all backup, if the Cyborgs fell.
Or were taken by a Mentalist. At least all the front line guys have the charms.
Except me. And I've been practicing lots of things, for weeks now.
He caught the challenge from Eighty-seven four, barely finished before the firing started. A quickly doubled and was silenced, as Naouvakov sent his Young Mentalists over the riverbank . . . No by God, the old man wasn't there.
Twenty-two, Six, and Ten opened fire. Knocking them down but they were getting up. Well enough trained to hold a physical shield.
Forty-nine, shot the sole Cyborg in the leg and brought him down. The Cyborg raise a gun and Forty-nine killed him.
Then lifted his left arm, hand down and out of the way, and fired the laser three times.
Screaming and two men rolling on the ground. The third wasn't moving.
More people scrambling up the river bank. Smaller. God, has he brought the teenagers?
For them, the stun spell, but they were shooting wildly and Twenty-Two, Six and Ten were shooting back . . .and the attackers were throwing themselves back down the river bank, and running.
"Ten, take all the weapons from the injured. Twenty-two and Six, come with me." Forty-nine dashed back across the camp, to where the roar of the big gun had ceased, and men were running out of the forest . . . A flash of light as they flew through the air . . . a man running up and looking down the path through the trees, a blazing fireball rolling off his hands and down the path . . .
And the fight was over.
Leonti standing up, lowering his rifle. "Wow, Khar. I always thought fireballs were a wate of energy."
The tattooed man looked around with a grin. "It depends on how close together your targets are and how much energy you put into it. My wife Marta was worried about her mother, when we saw this attack shaping up."
Kamilla raised her head above the cars. "That runaway servant girl? You tell her to get her ass back here!"
Lord Klim grunted and shoved himself to his feet. "Thank you, Lord Khar. Your fireballs were very timely. Please assure Lady Marta that her mother is well, and that she, and you, are welcome to visit anytime."