He gave up and stretched out on his bedroll on the ground and slept for a few more hours.
He woke to breakfast preparations in the early dawn, and kids running into the brush to pee. Joined them, washed his hands and munched a cold breakfast.
"Right. Let's get going. We'll switch drivers in a few hours . . . and just keep driving. Ordinarily I'd take two more days, but . . . I'd rather get there exhausted than get caught on the road by anything unpleasant."
Worried nods. They loaded up, counted heads, and headed off again.
Master of the Multiverse
It was a small briefing, a dozen Oners, his sister giving an update on the search for some lost agents.
Xen didn't quite sit in the corner, but he was trying to make it clear that he was just an observer. Must let Lon run the meeting. Otherwise I'll get stuck in an office doing paperwork.
Lon was looking down the table at Q. "So, any luck getting into the Cybernetics Center?"
"Not a chance. That revolt of the conquered populations we all been wanting? It's blown up on Novaya Moskva. Right now, their capital city is a war zone, with a couple million Bunnies, Cyborgs and servants trapped in the city center. The ruins of the CC is a parking lot full of very powerful and pissed off Mentalists."
Ahja, the Director of External Relations, raised his brows. "Ice most have managed to spread a lot of the Gene editors around."
Q shrugged. "Actually rather a lot of the Mentalists can still collect power. But the rumors were enough to kick this off, and there's a pretty good tactician on the rebel side. They managed to isolate most of the Army units, so the government is low on weaponry. Then they took out the power towers, so the Cyborgs can recharge.
"They have a good idea how far away they have to stay to not be takenover mentally. So they may manage to pull it off . . . they just have to kill ten million Mentalist--men, women, and children. and twenty million Halfers, Cyborged or not."
Ahja pinched the bridge of his nose.
Down the table, Ebsa winced. "Foment revolution sounds so benign. But triggering the deaths of thirty million people on every world we help . . . is . . . not good."
And Xen started laughing. Took a deep breath. "Please, please tell me we aren't going to have to rescue the Bad Guys from the Good Guys!"
They all turned to gawp at him. Well, Lon tried hard to glare, and Q started snickering.
"Xen . . . what are you going to do with thirty million bloodthirsty tyrants?"
"Send them to an Empty World to live or die on their own." He sober abruptly. "And they will mostly die, but they'll have a chance."
A long silence. Finally broken by Ajha. "Works for me. I mean, it seems like the least bloody outcome. Because if we leave them in the cities, they'll take a lot of the rebels with them. I wish we could sort the servants and Cyborgs from the Mentalists, but just getting them out of Kiev would lower the body count . . . there."
Ra'd snorted. "They'll probably starve. But it's spring, and they can always hunt. You'll have to spread them out. A lot."
Paer nodded. "And can you dose the servants and Cyborgs with the wine and dissolve the wires?"
"I'll dope their water supply before I shift them." Xen thought it over. "Then put up multiple gates with the end points all over Europe or the equivalent on the Empty World."
Q nodded. "And then do the same for the other cities. There are at least four with sieges underway."
Xen sighed. "And then there are bound to be Bunnies with enough sense to get out of the War Zone and hide, hopefully until the rebels calm down and aren't feeling too murderous."
Home Sweet Home
They got around the city, peering at multiple columns of dark smoke.
Apparently going around was a good idea.
Then they were back on the north highway . . . that narrowed down, and down again. Then they were turned east and drove another twenty miles to the town of Dvina.
Named after a river on the Home World because it was roughly here, and the locals name for the town sounded vaguely like that. This world has had such a different history, just in the last few thousand years.
Of course we killed half the population. Hundreds of millions of people. Enslaved the rest. Two hundred years later, we're still getting nasty looks from the locals up here, were they only have to deal with a dozen powerful Mentalists, and barely learn enough English to pass school and then forget it. Which is easy, with a chip growing into your brain, interfering randomly while deliberately making you vulnerable to any Mentalist around.
There was hasty movement on the street, some away, some toward the line of vehicles, all apprehensive. And relaxing a bit as Rat debarked. He stretched, partly because he need to--the sun was low in the sky and he'd been driving for sixteen hours. But mostly to give the town people a look at the mostly women and children climbing out of the various vehicles.
The local sheriff was the first to approach. A barely modified position common to the Natives of most of Eurasia, it was a combination of police, judge, jailer, and very rarely, executioner. A lot of the northern edge people had remained rural, and often nomadic.
The centers of civilization here had shifted with "the Dark Ages" two centuries of a deep drop in temperatures after a series of huge volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Russia had disappeared, along with most other high latitude nations. After the freeze, it had been repopulated from all sides. The people up here looked more like the pictures of Aleuts than anything else Rat had ever found in books.
Sheriff Taneli's gaze swept over the kids and he visibly relaxed. "So, Lord Rat, I see you are . . ."
Rat grinned. "Running away like a rat abandoning a sinking ship? Pretty much. Lord Renatt took most of the rest of his household to Neu Frankfort, or tried to. I have not been able to get through to anyone in Keiv. The radio news is . . . lagging, I think." He heard his own voice and realized he'd automatically fallen into the local mishmash of languages.
I grew up here. It's my second language . . . and almost my first.
"Have you any news?"
"Eh, lots of pictures on the screen. Fires, looting, lines of limos waiting for a gate that's not opening." He eyed Rat cautiously. "Some of them are claiming there's a rebel army."
Rat shrugged. "We'll find out eventually. I always liked the tales about the hidden army of the old civilization. If true to any extent, they'll have to take the cities first. We'll be the last on their list of people to kill, up here. Well, I'll be. I hope all the Herch, the Part True Men, will be spared."
The Sheriff bit his lip, then waved him in the direction of the local lock up. "The angry words I hear are that we should kill all of you, so that there is never again a Mentalist."
Rat nodded. "I can understand the desire. And I can't honestly say we don't deserve it." He spotted a familiar face approaching nervously. "Kalev, good afternoon. Are you and yours well?"
"Yes, and glad to see you, my Lord." A glance down the road, as if looking from more vehicles.
"I don't know where Lord Renatt is. He intended to go through the dimensional gate to Neu Frankfort. I cannot contact him."
"Ah. We all hope that he and the rest of your household is safe, somewhere."
Preferably far away.
"Indeed." Rat glanced at the Sheriff. "I need to talk to Sheriff Teneli for a moment, but we'll leave soon. May I offer you a ride?"
Kalev laughed. "Always so polite! Yes, save my poor old feet another ten miles. I shall gossip with Four and find out all the details."
Walking? I know all the mares will be heavy with foal, but surely Uncle Renatt hasn't sold all the riding horses!
His uncle's horsemaster headed across the street. And Rat turned back to the sheriff. "So, may I hope this desire to kill all of the True Men is something you've heard from afar, or is local sentiment all for it."
He sighed. "Even the hotheads stop and say, well, perhaps not Lord Rat . . . I don't think the locals would harm anyone but you and the Cyborgs."
"But get their blood up, add in some semi-militia from elsewhere . . ." Rat nodded. "And it could rebound on your town. Definitely on Kalev's clan. Send us a warning if you can, and we'll try to slip away and keep the violence further from here, although if it's gone that far, I doubt we'll be able to dodge it for long."
They'd walked into the station by then. A screen on the wall was showing a city in flames. Nice spectacular closeups. Hopefully not representative of the whole city. He recognized a few places, winced to see the Main Library's smoke stained, gutted facade. Shots of barricaded streets and grim lines of Cyborgs ready to repulse assaults.
A helicopter shot showed the extend of the barricaded area. It enclosed The Governor's Mansion, the Hall of Justice, the Dimensional Gate Center, The Council Hall, the Imperial Administration building, new Cybernetics Center, and more. It was packed solid with cars, trucks . . . a sweeping view too fast to even try to recognize his family's vehicles.
"Well, if the attackers take that, they'll probably kill half the Mentalists on this side of the divide."
The sheriff cleared his throat. "There have been pictures from other parts of the World."
Rat nodded. "I doubt the Plague was natural. Someone designed it to take our power. And as a saying from the home world runs, as you sow, so do you reap. We've planted murder and rape on every world we lusted for." He shook his head. "Sheriff. I hope I have not just brought grief upon your people. Do not fight to defend us."
How can I hide these children? They don't look like the locals. Their True ancestors show in their faces, their coloring. I could clothe them like locals, bleach or dye their hair to match that red-brown . . . but their thin faces, their noses, the shape of their eyes.
What am I going to do?