He whistled to round up the kids, counted heads and added "his four" to the kids in the trucks so he could talk to Kalev.
It was only ten miles but the road was badly in need of grading. So there was plenty of time to talk.
"Why aren't you riding, Kalev? Did his Lordship actually sell that many horses this year?"
Kalev scowled. "Yes. Three weeks ago. Everything broke to ride, the older mares, that young stallion he had so much hope for. Three-fourths of the cattle as well. People were wondering if he was broke."
"Huh." Rat bit his lip, and drew blood when he hit a pothole. "Ouch. He's been in a foul mood, and listening to the news about the spread of the plague. He must have wanted his assets in cash."
For all the good it's doing him now.
He looked back at Kalev. "How about the old stallion?" Midnight Wind.
"Too old for a twenty mile ride. I'm glad his lordship didn't want him sold."
"Indeed. Pure Akele Tek from the Home World. Nothing like them here."
Kalev nodded. "Well, I'm thinking there won't be a lot of endurance races this year."
"Or any other kind of race, either. Strange, so many books and movies about revolutions and disasters . . . somehow you never think it'll actually happen." Rat eyed the old man. "You need to be ready to move your people away."
A quirk of a smile on the old man's face.
"Ah, I see I'm wasting my breath talking to a man who's run ahead of me."
"Only by a few days. This took me by surprise. We thought the talk of a mentalist plague was just wishful thinking. The reality . . . is more violent than I'd ever dreamed." The old man shrugged. "But we still remember the old ways, and the young men all want to take the herds to high pastures."
"Not much of that around here, but getting further from a known home of a Mentalist is probably a good idea."
"The wheat fields are planted, the gardens tilled and ready for the seedlings in the glass house. The trees are blooming."
"Waiting for the mares to foal?"
Gird grinned. "Exactly. Will you keep us here?"
"No. Getting a head start, in case it gets worse, is a good idea." Rat grinned at him. "And if his lordship turns up, I'll say I ordered you to get the stock out of danger."
The old man laughed. "I am glad it is you who came."
Rat turned and bumped over a cattle grate. "Home sweet home. I think I'll sleep for a week."
"Ha! Like I believe that! I'll send meat and fresh greens to your cook for tonight, and see you in the barns after breakfast."
The big house was empty and echoing, but once they flipped the breaker switches, it stopped being dark, and dust covers started coming off . . .
"No, leave the formal rooms wrapped up. I'm the only mentalist here, and I'll try really hard to not be too snooty."
That got him laughs as they all fumbled around with sleepy or grumpy small children, whiny teenagers and sleep deprived adults. But everyone got fed, and moved in, and in the backroom turned on the screen to see if there was any new news.
Standoffs in many cities, massacres of Natives in some, massacres of Mentalists in others.
Kiev, seat of the Government and location of the Dimensional gate facilities got most of the attention. It was a stand off, with the attackers staying back a hundred feet or more from the barricades to stay out of mentalist range, but the Mentalists were sitting tight, as they tried to get the gate working.
"I wonder how long they can hold out?"
I don't give a damn about Uncle Renatt, but Ilari and Martin are stuck in there with him. And Cousin Rafail, too. Maybe. He was sent off hours before the rest. If any of them got through before it collapsed, he'll be one of them.
And where is the Army?
"Well. I'm going to bed. I'll see you guys in the morning." Rat climbed a flight of stairs and walked out to the end of the wing . . . to find his bed made, his clothing hung . . .
"Dave? Did you get dinner?"
"Yes, my lord."
"No, stop it. I refuse to be treated like Uncle Renatt. Go away and take care of yourself. Right now."
Dave gave him a hurt look of reproof, but did leave.
Rat got most of his clothes off before he gave up and crawled into bed and let it all go.
And in the morning he soaked in a hot bath, and came out to find fresh clothes laid out . . . He laughed when he saw that Dave had laid out the sort of things he'd wear out to the barns. "Right," he called out, "you can't pretend you don't know me well enough to think I'm a proper Mentalist. Maybe in nine more years I'll get stuffy and mean."
"I highly doubt that 'Lord Rat.' I have informed Lula that you are up and will no doubt be breakfasting in the back room watching the news and ruining your appetite."
Rat stomped into the left boot and headed down the long hallway and down the stairs.
A fair number of people were watching the screen.
And they'd moved the furniture and brought in a pretty little table, suitable for a lord to eat at, since he wasn't sensible enough to use the formal dining room and sit at a table sized for two dozen, to eat alone.
Probably afraid I'd eat in the kitchen with the servants.
"I hope this isn't Lady Eliza's makeup table." His Lordship's widowed daughter, almost as big a disappointment to him as the three sons who died facing their challenges.
Tizzy, usually one of the upstairs maids, looked innocent as she slid a plate in front of him. "We'd never borrow such a thing!"
Rat snorted and dug in, looking at the screen. "What's new since last night?"
Double-oh-five looked around. "They're calling themselves the rebellion, and they've got some old heavy weaponry. When they saw that, the Old Lords suddenly remembered why they were on top and went over the barricades early this morning and turned them into junk. They'll reshow the wrecks in a minute."
"If they've got artillery, they can pound us from a safe distance." Rat winced. "For some definition of 'us,' dammit."
He looked down at his plate. "I sent our group off with a couple of sandwiches each. It's been two and a half days. The rebellion will starve them out in a week. Less, if they've cut off their water."
"Except, if they surrender, they'll be killed. There must be a million people in there." Ivan Blackwell had tears in his eyes.
He grew up a couple of hubs higher than we are. Identifies with us, despite what we did to him. Hell, with an executive plate he's still got his intelligence and any Mentalist abilities he was born with. The sort of things one of my plans for Alia involved. Saving as much of my monthly stipend from Father's trust that I could . . . I could afford that for two youngsters. And she would have been devastated to be one of those two, at the cost of two of her friends being turned into brain damaged servants.
In the unlikely event that my uncle would agree.
Rat stood up and stared at the screen. "What. Is. Going. On?" A faint blossom of hope. "Have they got the Gate working, or has Siberia Max Hub opened a Gate to here?"
They stared at the people running to get in their cars, the crush at a point they were disappearing . . . as the helicopter swung around the cameraman caught a different point the car were disappearing into, and then a third.
"Holy God. I wouldn't have thought Siberia cared."
Mind you, there will be a bill. Probably most of their Cyborgs and a goodly number of servants.
They stayed glued to the screen for over an hour.
The rebellion finally realized their former masters were escaping their planned revenge and attacked. The Cyborgs shot back, holding them for a critical additional hour, then turning and running.
Judging from the helicopter shots, most of them made it through one gate or another.
Then the gates closed.
But there were plenty of bodies left behind on the ground. And they were all definitely dead by the time the Rebels were done with them.