Back in the kitchen everything was under control.
Rat looked over at Four Eighty. "Four? Do you know how many Cyborgs Lord Renatt is taking with him?"
So I'll have four here . . .
He looked over the list added it all up in his head. "Right. Fix up some sandwiches, well, a hundred and fifty. Two in every bag, with drinks, and make sure everyone going to Neu Frankfort has one. Or their personal servant has one for them. Send some extras, in case I'm missing people."
Lula nodded. "I heard on the radio that every lord's trying to leave. There's going to be a huge line at the gate."
Four nodded. "They've announced times for long dimensional gates to Neu Frankfort, Londinium, Amazonia, and back to Siberia. They'll be rotating them all day."
"The city's going to be deserted." Looted. Crap! Are all the Great Lords running away?
I ought to stay . . . who am I kidding? I'm a young mentalist and no one's going to listen to me.
And if there really are any hidden rebel armies out there, well, I suspect we'll find out Real Soon now.
Fuck. I want to take everyone with me. But I won't.
Double-oh-five trotted in, grinning. "Hey, Lord Rat! Looks like I'm going with you."
Twenty years old. One of the boys I was teaching and training . . . and one day he didn't show up for class . . . "Oh, Lord Renatt sent him to the Cybernetics Center."
And I realized that Aria was just two years away from the same fate.
And for all that Cody . . . Double Oh Five . . . had a minimal grow-in and was smarter than most Cyborgs or servants . . . he'd lost that touch of Mentalist Power that I'd been training him to use.
So I've been trying--and failing--to find a way around the laws. Or a way to break the law and get away with it.
If I have another year, I can figure it out. I will.
"Excellent. Make sure the Cys that are going with him get packed and their luggage loaded. Everyone who's going to Arkhangelsk has a few hours more. If they can't help, they need to stay out of the way."
He head snapped around at noise in the hallway . . . the guys were trying to maneuver a huge desk . . .
"No. Back up and take it out through the patio doors and around the path from the garden to the driveway." Rat looked around, "Kirill! Run around the back way and open the patio doors."
By some miracle they got the Lord out just three hours later.
"All right. Every one take a deep breath of relief. Then we'll have dinner and start our own exit in a little better organized fashion.
"First, we know there's plenty of furniture up there. So we won't be packing much.
"Second, I need to leave a few people here. I'd prefer to take everyone, but . . . his lordship said to leave people here. So . . . volunteers or suggestions?"
Luda waved, tentatively. "If, if, the Plagues here, that kill the Mentalist's Power, the people who stay ought to be those who didn't ever have any. "'Cause they'll be immune."
"That's . . . yes, a good point."
Four nodded. "Twenty-four and Ninety-two."
I looked at the two Cyborgs. "Do you have any objections to staying?"
A pained expression on the faces of the children's tutor and Ilari's secretary--a straight laced and disapproving master of keeping accounts. They weren't either of them very happy to have not been taken with Lord Renatt. And Rat asking instead of ordering didn't help.
A couple of snickers and a "Go, Lord Rat!" from the back. Two shaken heads from the Cyborgs.
"Good. Now I'll need a cook, a maid, and an outside man. Mr. Villa, I'd like you to come with the cavalcade. Robert?" A nod, and a glance toward Celia, who beamed. "I can do the cooking for so few!"
And damned if Ivy and Juliette weren't eyeing the Cyborgs.
"Ivy, Juliette? Since neither of you have children, I'd like one or both of you to stay. That will leave six people here, which is surely enough presence. Now let's get a start on packing. Lula? Inventory the kitchen, and see that there's food for six for months, and then three days worth for forty-eight of us, traveling."
I pointed. "Aria, make sure your mother's stuff gets packed."
Fitting forty-eight people into six vehicles was not simple. Uncle Renatt had taken the bus, but left the two extended vans, three trucks, one town car and his own four-wheel drive cross country . . . vehicle.
Rat left the old truck, in case the six here had to leave. The other two trucks did have ventilation, so he had them layer the luggage with soft stuff on top for sitting or lying down on and threw in the older kids. The younger ones rode in the vans with their parents. The women with babies got the town car. Rat figured Four had the intestinal fortitude to deal with screaming babies, and told him to drive. Dave looked horrified, looked at the other options, and rode in front.
The children's tutor, Mr. Fitzsimmons, drove one van. Emilio the other--since he was probably the father of half of the kids.
Double-oh-five and Mr. Villa drove the trucks. Mr. Blackwell, the secretary rode in one, the last man, Antone the gardener rode in the other.
Which left Rat and the four eighteen-year-olds in the four wheeler.
"Remember that you can bail, and ride in the trucks anytime you've had enough." They all just grinned at him and rearranged the luggage in the back so the guys could lounge facing backwards, the canvas and plastic wall rolled up. Aria, in the front seat, looked a little miffed that she didn't get the back.
Apparently all the traffic cops had been pulled for duty at the Dimensional Gate Center. The usual checkpoint was open and unmanned.
So no questions about unchipped eighteen year olds running away.
Most of the traffic was coming the other way. Judging by the quality of the cars, most of the True Men, the people of the Hundred Families were heading for the gate, not the countryside.
He drove steadily for five hours, stopping twice to top off their fuel and let everyone stretch their legs and use the bathroom. Then veering off onto secondary roads to go around Moskva City, which had not been Moskva on this World. When the Russian Families of the Alliance had conquered the World two centuries ago, they'd renamed a lot of places.
Rat spotted a long wide turnout and pulled in to park for the rest of the night. They all parked close together, and found places to sleep, in or out of the vehicles.
The comm system was jammed, the radio news chaotic. There were reports that the dimensional gate wasn't working. That caught everyone's attention.
"Before or after Lord Renatt's group got through? And how long before it's repaired?" Rat chewed a fingernail, made himself stop. "Well, let's eat and sleep, we'll get a better assessment in the morning, and if it's still that crazy, we'll just drive straight to Arkhangelsk tomorrow, with as few stops as possible."
Rat slept poorly. Every time he woke he tried, and failed, to get a connection to anyone. The radio news talked about traffic jams around the Gate Center, and now, about the Gate Maker dying while the gate to Neu Frankfort was open, and five people killed when the gate failed while they were in transit. About a new, almost finished training, Gate Maker Clone being rushed in to . . . fail entirely to open a gate.
And riots. Angry Mentalists lashing out at the Gate Authorities, who lashed back. Angry Natives looting and burning. Abandoned servants fleeing before their masters returned. Or the mob turned on them as "Half Mentalists."
He tried the comm. The usual "no circuits available" automated message.