Rat looked down at his congealed breakfast. "I think I'll step outside for a bit.
Four patted his shoulder. "Your brothers are strong, they'll have been safe."
Rat nodded. "But I really wish I hadn't left anyone at the mansion."
He walked out the back door, and past the gardens, to stare out over the plains. Nothing but spring grass and subtle highs and lows, the ripples the wind sent through the grass.
The clomp of unshod hooves and he looked around to see his favorite horse. "Polunochnyy veter. Midnight Wind. I remember when my father imported him. I was sixteen. A black yearling built like a greyhound. He looked like he he could outrun time. Twenty-six years old now. I suppose Uncle Renatt didn't sell him because he's ours, not his. Or perhaps the price of horse meat was low."
The old fellow wuffed a bit and shoved at him.
"Oh, you say you don't feel a day over five and you're ready to tackle any race at any distance?"
Kalev handed over the lead line. "We take him out for a good long walk everyday. Go find some peace."
And sanity. Horses are good for that.
He walked, trying to not think, and failing at that. But clear headed enough to plan a bit for the future. We need to pre-position grain for the horses. The mares will need it, feeding foals. Even if they don't go far in a day, they will be walking every day. So. We need low profile boxes, painted green.
And perhaps we should plant oats, instead of buying, all the time. Or . . . I'll have to check the growing season, temperature requirements . . . We could take the tractor and equipment and stash them . . .
We could become nomads . . . He snickered at the thought of Dave or Mr. Blackwell living in a tent and moving regularly . . . All right, some people may prefer to take their chances in a civilized setting. But surely I can send some of my group away.
He shivered. And face the mob alone.
Xen watched with a combination of amusement and respect as Ice slid right into the language and culture, apparently without noticing. Poor man. Marooned for months. Back for three days and they throw him right back in the field.
"Yeah, the Russian Bunnies on Novaya Moskva, be dumped on an Empty World--a World without intelligent life--at least all the ones we could find. Going to be fun, two thousand strong Cyborg army, all male, all alone in the wilderness."
"Thou sent the Halfers too?"
"The Revolution is determined to remove all the mentalist genes. We're trying to dose everyone with that wine, so the Cyborgs and Servants will at least not be mentally handicapped, and might be able to escape any Mentalists who still have power. I'm really glad thou are being more sensible about it."
President Michael Paxton shrugged. "They've only been here for thirty-five years. The Halfers haven't lost touch with their parents and grandparents. We won't exile them, but we be dosing the hell out of them with thy magic wine." He looked over to include Xen. "Thank Thou for all thee have done."
"It was easy here. We'll come back in a few months to see if there is anything you need us to do." Xen sighed. "Now that we've got Ice and Gior back, we're trying to back-track them through all the Worlds they dosed and, God Help us, saving the Mentalists from their just deserts."
The President grinned. "How many Worlds was that, Ice?"
"Ninety-Eight. Just because we were lost for a few months, didn't seem like a good enough reason to stop fighting the DMB, or the Alliance, or whatever name they use. And once we've, umm, minimized the blood shed, no doubt we'll get back to our chemical sabotage, a little slower this time, so we can stay on top of the violence."
Xen nodded. "We still haven't firmly identified their Home World, but we--well Ice and friends--did find, and poison, one that might have been where the Three Hundred meet. Steel City, we've been calling it. We'll see. And keep knocking them off every conquered world we find."
Hands were shaken, the military fellows saluted, then they ducked back through their gate to Embassy.
Lon was waiting. "Q says New Texas has nuked four cities with high True Men populations plus five army bases."
Xen shook his head. "I'll give them points for being thorough. Let's go see who needs to be rescued from whom."
A Peaceful Summer
The news slowly turned from violence to rebuilding. And Rat joined all the workers in planting a huge garden. Delivering foals, and working with them and the yearlings. The two-year-olds to introduce to the concept of saddles and bridles, and a light-weight youth upon their backs.
And growing a beard. Letting his hair get shaggy. He didn't think it made him look like a local, but he certainly didn't look like an immaculate Young Mentalist. Dave was horrified . . . then copied him. Ivan Blackwell was the only one who refused.
The long days produced enthusiastic growth in the gardens and pastures alike and Kalev and his extended family took the horses and the cattle out to far pastures, leaving behind only two milk cows, two young bulls and Midnight Wind.
And Rat developed a plan.
Peg, gimping around on a short leg, bleached her dark red hair enough to look local, and dressed like it. With her deep tan she was closer to being able to pass than any of them. "If anyone comes, you'll talk to them. The young Lord came and stayed for a couple of weeks, then they packed up and left. The workers here, took the cattle and horses off.
"And you and your friends, who are often hired for the harvest, thought it would be a shame for this tasty little garden to go to waste. And moved in."
They drilled, the Cyborgs and Blackwell getting out of sight in the hay barn, while the women attracted attention as they ran to snatched up children and retreat, while the nine bearded men stood back a bit, unarmed but belligerent looking.
They baled hay and put all the vehicles but one truck in the biggest barn and stacked hay all around and over them. With a secret entrance.
Some rough tents back a ways, the truck painted imaginatively in the available colors . . .
I hope to hell we don't need to pretend to be wandering day laborers. Not that this world has Rom, but they have something pretty close to Gypsies, and . . . maybe we can pass.
The teenagers researched Zigeur clothing in the library and got busy in the sewing room. Pretty soon the were all decked out in clothing they previously never been caught dead in.
The kids got a few riding lessons. Wind was happy to indulge the children, and even produced a little zip for the teenagers.
Yuri Fitzsimmons hauled the kids in for school for three hours a day, and Ivan Blackwell, at a loss for something to do, took over the teenagers' math classes and started in on book keeping and proper report writing.
Rat put on more ordinary peasant clothes and slipped into Dvina twice to get gossip from Taneli. Who found his beard amusing.
The second trip, Taneli looked worried. "The Government's created an Army, now. And they're looking for 'hidden mentalists' all over. Even the servants that are part mentalist. They want to cleanse the genes of the taint of the Invaders, they say."