In the morning he went hunting with his father, taking Eighty-seven four and Forty-nine along. Lord klim's limp was more a matter of stiff scarring, than pain, and didn't slow him down. Nor interfere with his aim.
They field dressed the nice little yearling buck and veered off to follow the scent of a campfire. A tidy camp, a well built shelter, lots of work space. A woman plucking a goose, a man stretching a hide . . . Khar?
Damn, the man looks to be doing pretty well, from his bare naked start.
They talked to Khar, who bloody well introduced one of the Mikhailov servants as his wife. Benedikt steamed silently as his father played along. Swapped a leg of the deer they'd bagged for one of the geese Khar had netted.
On the way home, his Father talked about accepting the new reality. "There are barely two thousand people on this World. And only eight hundred of them are female. And that includes old women, like your grandmother, like your mother who is past child bearing. Many of you younger bunch are going to be marrying servants, with or without chips. At least for your first wives. Later, you can marry True, as the younger girls mature, and more are born.
"Which is a long winded way of saying that I am not about to antagonize a neighbor over the child of a servant, who, by her looks is probably Volya's child in any case."
"Oh." Good God! I will not marry a servant! His stomach clenched at the very idea of bedding a woman without a chip. What if she had the power? What if she influenced me in my sleep?
"So, let's test this idea of yours and send some logs downstream."
Benedikt jumped on the idea, glad to have something else to think about.
They picked their way downstream, looking for trees near the bank with straight trunks and bare of limbs for a good height. "No reason to make more work for ourselves, until we see if this plan will work." Father grinned and pointed.
A slight curve in the river was undermining the bank. Three tall pines right on the brink.
Benedikt grinned back.
Is father happy? Why? Or does he prefer pioneering over the political stew back on Neu Frankfort? And it was worse on Novaya Moskva. But I always thought he wanted to move up, not . . . out . . . or maybe back home you either climb or get climbed on. And he finds himself free of that, here.
Forty-nine boosted them all up the near vertical bank and looked around for a way to get himself up. It was only about ten feet high, but the crumbling sandy soil gave no handholds.
Benedikt grinned down at the irritating creature. "You might as well stay down there. We'll be right back to trim the trees." He reached to mentally poke him . . . and hit a shield.
What the hell?
The Cyborg walked downstream to below where Father was examining the first tree.
"It's leaning enough that a simple cut will send it down to the river. Don't get crushed." Father stepped back, right hand raised and the tree started leaning.
The Cyborg scrambled out of the way, and the tree crashed clear across the river.
Almost a pity. I hate that thing. But then I suppose Father would loan me Twenty-two, and stupid is more infuriating than stubborn and disobedient.
Benedikt crunched through brush to the next tree. "Clear below?"
He gathered power and sliced the tree . . . almost through. He stepped around and finished the cut. It fell with a satisfying crash.
He father call back, "We'd better get these two into the river, before we wind up with nothing but a big tangle!"
They cut the boles where they thinned to about eight inches, sliced the few branches that started below that point, and between the Cyborgs pushing a bit of levitation, got them both in the river. The green wood rode low in the water, and grounded themselves within twenty feet.
They pried them loose, and once a side stream joined up, the water was deep enough to get them all the way to just past home before they ran into a sandbank at a faint curve of the river.
They gave up for the day then and walked back home to clean up. They'd dropped the three quarters of a deer and the goose on the way past, and inhaled the sent of roasting goose as they headed for the cars and clean clothes.
Forty-nine, who'd gotten wetter and muddier than the rest of them mother-henning his lord, finally quit and veered of to wherever he slept.
Leonti's horse was munching grass, and looked a whole lot better. Clean, for one thing. "What did you do? Give him a bath? And what are you doing to my car? Is that a solar cell?"
"Yep. I'm charging your battery. Father's sedan is fully charged, so you guys can chase your logs as far as you can drive. And yes, Donny got a sponge bath."
"Huh. Now that is useful. The battery charge, not the horse's bath."
Leonti snickered. "He's still pretty sore. But I figure by next week, I can ride him." He reached and grabbed a length of wood . . . a long handled paddle. "I'll make a couple of these, and maybe a raft? Because you're probably going to be chasing your logs all over that lake. If you can even find them."
"Umm, thanks." Benedict blinked. "I guess maybe you're not quite as big of a nuisance as you used to be."
Leonti snickered. "Growing up. I suppose it's inevitable that I'll have to start acting like an adult. Pity."
Benedikt snorted. "So, how badly was Father hurt? Forty-nine was hovering over him like he expected him to collapse any minute."
"He was mauled all down his right leg, There was a big bite, teeth marks on both sides of his hip bone, and he lost a lot of blood." The boy hunched his shoulders. "I thought he was going to die."
"Oh." Anatoly walked up. "Everyone just skates over the details. Can you tell us what happened? I guess, you didn't see anything."
Leonti looked away, then back. "We heard screams and shots. Lord Ivan came running into camp with a boar closing in on him. Forty-nine hit with a laser and killed it. Then ran up the path. Lord Ivan collapsed. Heart attack, probably. I sent Eighty-seven four and On-oh-three . . . Then I wondered if they had any charge left, I asked Thirteen, and he didn't so I got him a rifle and sent him, got one for myself, and prowled around.
"One oh three brought the bad news. Forty-nine and Eighty-seven rigged up a stretcher and brought Father back."
The kid shivered.
"There wasn't anyone else to . . . do what needed to be done. So I had to go . . . It wasn't very far, less than half a mile, where the path turns to the right? They weren't ready for trouble, so close to home. They walked around the corner and there were these big boars. Five dead ones, the rest ran off, I guess. We . . . picked up Lord Volya and brought him home. And Ninety-eight. We . . . found all the pieces."
He looked over at Anatoly. "There was no way to wait for you to return." He got up and walked around to a little shaded glen. "I told about their lives, put in some of those old stories they were always telling."
"It was a good send off." Anuska walked up and stared down at the graves. The bare rocks some one had hauled up from the river. "They were such good friends. I wish we could carve their names on the rocks, though. Dad's on the left, Ivan on the right."
Anatoly hugged her. "Damn. I really miss him . . . if only . . ."
Benedikt nodded. "Yeah."