Renatt Vlad Zarkov forced himself to look mildly curious and unhurried. Not at all like he run half the length of the mansion when a servant finally ran him to ground in the library.
I thought I'd have all morning for last minute inspiration . . .
His two brothers barely glanced his way. Ilari's mouth might have twitched a bit. A settled and secure Mentalist, he could afford to relax his guard a bit. Martin had just passed the half century mark and was still pretty stiff.
Nine more years before they stop calling me a "Young" Mentalist. When I was a naive eighteen year old, staggering victorious out of the Place of Challenge, I thought all my worries were over.
Twenty-three years of apprenticeship in all but name. Running errands for my uncle. Getting minimal Mentalist training . . . hence the amount of time I spend in the library doing research on everything from modern Mentalist theory to practical applications of brute mental power. And even granny magic.
He eyed his Uncle and namesake.
Lord Renatt Maxmillian Zarkov was a tall man, looking half his two centuries. His rejuv treatment had been successful, unlike too many Mentalists who waited too long.
Father's was successful. He even retained a bit of fertility . . . if you want to call two miscarries and me in thirty years "fertile."
At least he lived long enough to Present me. If he'd crashed his car a year earlier . . . I don't think Lord Renatt would have, and I'd be another Cyborged guard. Valuable, instead of an irritant.
He shut down his thoughts and paid attention.
"With rumors of the Plague having reached us here on Novaya Moskva, I am going to cross to Neu Frankfort with essential staff to ride out the contagion. I sent Rafail ahead to scout out likely housing, and I'll depart in a few hours."
Poor Rafail! Like me, orphaned shortly after his presentation. And very dependent on his uncle, because his eighteen older sisters all needed dowries . . .
"Ilari, Martin? You will be accompanying me. Pack quickly." The Old Mentalist's gaze shifted to Renatt. "Rat. You will take some of the servants to Arkhangelsk and fort up. No one in or out for . . . months. Leave quickly before anyone is further exposed."
The nickname from Hell, and even I think anyone asking for Renatt is looking for my uncle, not me.
The old man waved them out. "Hurry."
His brothers bolted for their quarters. Rat headed the other way, running for the kitchen. The servants were in a complete tizzy, as expected.
If I hadn't been hiding in the library, I could have got this organized a lot earlier.
He put his fingers to his mouth and whistled.
:: Calm. Quiet. Take a deep breath. :: Just a faint whisper of Mentalist influence, and the stress level in the room dropped.
"Lord Renatt will be shifting his base to Neu Frankfort for a few months. So," he pointed at two of the more sensible laborers, "get the two newest trucks and back them up to the south doors." He spotted the wine steward. "Jacques, get your assistants to the wine cellar, quickly. His Lordship will need a six month supply of reds, whites and vodka. You and you. Get up to his Lordships chambers and ask Mr. Klemint what furniture his Lordship wishes to take with him."
He added quickly, "then bring it to the south door to be loaded. Do not load it until a supervisor orders it.
He picked out four more to go to his brothers, and added, "And their wives as well."
"Dear God, I'd better get another couple of trucks out of the far lot. Actually, I'd better get all four, and the bus. The four wheeler as well. Good thing the town cars are all here!"
"Now, do any of you know who is going with them."
"I have the list." A loud dull voice, instantly recognizable. Four Eighty was the oldest Cyborg the Lord owned. More of an organizer than a guard anymore.
Rat took the list and started sorting them out. He pointed out six servants who weren't on the list. "Can you all drive? Get the keys from Mr. Villa and go get all four trucks, the bus, and the four-wheeler."
Then inside servants . . .
"Three cooks, four kitchen staff." Good Lord, how many people is he taking? He called out their names. His wine steward, of course, and five fellows to do the heavy work, and run errands. He turned to the housekeeper. "The ladies will be taking their maids, add four more for laundry and general cleaning . . . women without children, I think."
Lots of worried looks.
"I'll be going up to Arkhangelsk. I'll take all the children and leave a very small staff here."
Horrible thought. "Has anyone been sent to the Cybernetics Center?" No, no, no . . . I should have another week, but Lord Renatt would not consult me . . .
"No, sir, Lord Renatt tried to get ours in fast, but they had another delay." The housekeeper, Lula, was the head of the female staff. She gave him a worried look. "How long are we going to be in Arkhangelsk? We have four children who have already turned eighteen." Her hands clutched her apron.
Including your daughter. Whom I've tried so hard to keep safe. And so far I've failed altogether to find out how to.
"Well, there's no time now, the Lord wants us out of town quickly." He swallowed. "I'll be right back." He bolted out the room and up three flights of stairs. He didn't knock, just barged in, taking in the scene.
The girl looked up from the knife. Pale, big brown eyes sad and resolute.
"We're leaving town."
"We can't run. We both know what they'd do to you. This way it saves one of us."
"Lord Renatt has ordered me to Arkhangelsk. With everyone. Almost everyone. He's going to Neu Frankfort, and a small staff will stay here."
The sadness ebbed a bit, her spine straightened.
"So start packing. I'm organizing the mess downstairs." He looked back out the door at all the kids. "All of you, pack. We're heading out quickly."
A hug from behind. "Thank you, Dad."
Back down stairs, a detour to his private suite to vomit in terror. Drop his drawers for a diarrhea attack.
"I always thought that was just a stupid literary exaggeration."
"Sir?" His personal manservant, a foggy minded oldster.
"Dave, we're going to Arkhangelsk. Pack everything but the furniture. Oh, leave my writing kit. I need to update some paperwork. And don't bother with that box of electronics."
My last ditch attempt to save Aria and her pals, the children she grew up with. Well . . . I just might finally have the nerve to try it.
He ignored Dave's moan. Poor city gent. He hates the Family Section. The Russian Hundred Families had the computer split the desirable real estate up in a hundred pieces, and then handed them out randomly. We're just lucky we can drive to ours. And that this is a hot World, with no ice caps. We're lucky that Arkhangelsk actually has a nice climate.
Not that the land is exactly where Arkhangelsk is on the home world. Here that area's half underwater. In any case, a thousand miles in a straight line and double that in actual road miles. Three days, unless we do relays of drivers.