"What are they building down there? Why didn't they want a lakefront site?"
Anatoly snickered. "That is a bunch of servants building a restaurant. We'll take the camel down there and let them butcher it properly."
Svya's grows rose. "So . . . you're going to own a restaurant? Does your father's secretary have experience in running a business?"
Benedikt and Anatoly Looked at him, then each other and burst out laughing.
Benedikt cleared his throat. "I'd forgotten how much has changed, here. The servants are building it themselves and they'll own it, manage it, and operate it themselves. Guys? There no more zivvy, no chips, no surgeons. Zero, zip. Marry a chipped woman, while they last, because everyone is free now. We're . . . adapting to it."
Anatoly nodded. "And you guys are fighting it. May the best side of the lake win!"
"Benedikt! Anatoly? You're kidding, right?"
They laughed. "C'mon down, We'll show you our houses, and send you home with a bunch of camel meat."
"Camel?" Rudolf shrugged. "We'll cook it up and find out what it tastes like."
Benedikt hauled the big cat out. "Check out the teeth. This guy was only about five miles from here. Hey, Tatyana, what do you think? Living room rug?"
She bounced up and gawked. "Oh yeah! Or on our bed if it gets really cold. Should we leave the head on or try some taxidermy so you can put it on the wall?"
He grinned, "Like a proper hunting lodge? Any how, Dimi bagged the camel, so he get's half Is anyone in need? I'd like to send some home with Rodian and Svya."
They all looked at the hulking remains.
Dimi cleared his throat. "I don't actually want half, maybe just a big haunch to pit roast?"
"You got it. And two big chunks for you two lords to take around the lake? And we'll split the rest up for delivery." Rudolf looked at the cat. "We know we'll have to try it."
Benedikt nodded. "Just, well, lets cook some up, and give it a taste before we distribute much. Same with the camel, actually. I'll leave it to you and show these poor fellows how the Southsiders live. In fact I'll leave the truck and you can load it back up and I'll deliver."
They all packed into the estate car, and were looking a little dubious as Benedikt pointed at things. "Khar has the far east Claim. Then four for the families that lost their Mentalists."
"Why didn't you just take them in and take all the servants and Cyborgs?"
"Why? Take on the care of two crotchey old ladies and three kids to gain six menservants? A widow, two young ladies, three more little kids to gain five servants? And the Naoumov lot just abandoned fourteen kids." Benedikt grinned at their expressions. "Much easier to set them up in a house all their own."
"Twenty kids? True, or are we back to servants again?"
"True. All of them. That little house is my grandmother's, then the Main House, and that's my sister Vita's house."
"Widowed, two kids, right?"
"Right. Thirty years old. Next we have Lady Anuska's House, twenty-four years old, widowed, baby girl." Anatoly grinned. "She comes with a house! And then my house and Benedikt's."
"Pull up at mine, over there."Benedikt pointed. "All the houses are about the same, some bigger, some smaller. The big back doors are so we can add on to the back."
He raised the latch and put his shoulder to the door. "I'd kill for real hinges."
"Leather, pegged onto the door and frame? Good idea."
"Well, it works." Benedikt waved at the house. "It's mostly one big room with a fireplace, with a oven box, and a flat spot for a pan or kettle. Two small rooms on that side--a pantry and bedroom for a couple of servants-- and my bedroom on this side."
"You've got glass windows!" Rodian walked across to tap on them.
"And a good view." Svya eyed him. "So. That pretty Tatyana kept saying 'our' this and that. Really? Living with a servant?"
"It's cozy. And she looks like Lord Ivan, so I don't feel like I'm bedding my sister." He waved at the smaller bedroom. "And Yuli and Niki are older, but they know how to do everything."
Rodian sighed. "Damn, I envy you . . . that can't be a well? Our servants have to haul water up from the lake . . ."
"Yep. A well and nice big wash tub. We're working on how to make pipes and fixtures for indoor bathrooms."
"Damn. I'm sharing a bedroom with a cousin, and walk down stairs and outside to the slit trench. For a simple flushing toilet, even I might be seduced to your heretical lifestyle. I could probably tame a servant or two."
"No you couldn't. They are all Mentalists. Even the women. Look at my floor, the fireplace. Grandmother Magda did most of it, the kids did the climbing ladders to make the chimney part."
Svya knelt and felt the floor. "Damn."
"Yeah. That's why you want to be on the old retiree's good side. They learned how to do things like this when they were younger." Benedikt grinned. "C'mon outside. I'll show you a few things."
They could move water, but molding rock was beyond them.
Then it was back to the restaurant, where they sampled camel and cat.
"A long soak in brine will be necessary for the camel. The cat? I don't think anything can save it."
Ev nodded. "We'll take the rest out and bury it."
Svya shook his head. "I'll take it. We've got hounds to feed."
So they loaded the estate wagon and Benedikt followed them out to the road but fell behind as they dropped off meat at every house, recommending brineing, and mentioning the big feline predator. Then drove back the other way to the far claim where Khar laughed and promised to brine the meat. Then the abandoned women's house where the old women looked dubious, but an even older servant woman took it with a nod of thanks.
"Don't worry child, I know what to do with gamey meat."
Ludmilla, at the main house waved it away. "Nik brought some by. I've got it soaking in the crock already."
So he took the rest home and turned it over to Niki and Tatyana, and the truck back to be parked facing south and the little charger plugged in.
He joined his father, gazing at the clouds to the north. "I think we might be about to get our first winter storm."