They canned until they ran out of jars, the late fruits got pureed and poured into old wine bottles, steamed and corked.
They'd cut hay and started baling it before the government showed up.
Fortunately while Rat and Villa were working over a recalcitrant connection in the farm yard, so the Cyborgs made it into the hay barn before the car was close enough to see any details, and Mr. Blackwell bolted down into the cellar.
Rat stayed where he was--under the tractor hitch--until the two cars had turned into the driveway.
The three men who approached were looking around and nodding.
No one I know, thank God!
Two other men headed for the barns.
Rat squirmed out from under the machinery. "That should do. Give it a try." Kirill climbed up on the tractor and started it. The baler made all the right noises, and Kirill drove off.
Rat turned to the visitors who were all smiling.
The lead man looked Rat up-and-down. "I always like to see competence in a worker. We need the hay down in Vologda."
Rat curled a lip. "Not goin' back ta Na'tuka?" He spat to the side. "Not that anyone even remembers what they called this place."
"The Commision has names changes on the agenda. But rather a lot of emergency measures to deal with first. Starting with keeping the food supply chain working. So we are requisitioning cattle feed."
"Reck . . . how much you payin' fer it?" he eyed the man suspiciously.
"Nothing. It was the property of the Family Zarkov and is now the property of the government."
"Well . . . yeah, we did the work. What's that pay?"
"Get it from a Zarkov, if you can find one before the Army tracks the last one down."
Rat brightened. "So . . . you guys kill that mean son-of-a . . . the old Lord Renatt?"
Lips tighened. "No, but he's run off rather than face his crimes. Damn those stupid Disco Mentalists. We should kill them too!"
"Dis . . . what?"
"Oh, you stupid Hicks. They're rescuing the Mentalists under the guise of saving those of us who'd bee killed if the war continues."
Rat laughed. "Ha! Had me going there, for a bit. So sure, come git the hay, or pay me to take it somewhere."
"Pay you! Not likely. You'll do as you're ordered."
Rat smirked. "Or what? We got rid of the wires in our heads, and yer not a Mentalist. You can't crawl inside our heads an force us to do shit. Go bugger yerself."
The man reddened, and two behind him were looking pretty aggressive.
"You think you'll be the next bosses? Runnin' around giving orders and killin' anyone you want? Thought we'd finally got done with that shit." He pointed at the mansion. "Why don't you just move inta the Big House? Why don't I?"
"Because it's too far north. The Commission is removing everyone above sixty degrees north, down to where they can be taken care of."
"Sixty . . . that whole villages, up here! You can't do that." Rat didn't have to feign shock. Dvina? They're one of the smaller villages. They're going to turn them into refugees . . . so they can control them?
"Watch us. And you Zigeurs? You'll settle down where we tell you to settle down and don't give us any lip or the Army will deal with you."
"And where's that going to be? And the government's going to feed us? For free? It don't work that way. Somebody's got to work."
"There will be work parties."
The other two men strode up. "Approximately two thousand bales, four cows, a dozen laying hens, two cocks." Sneer. "One old horse."
The other one looked at the hay field. "That should double the hay in storage."
The man smirked. "I'll be back to tell you exactly where to deliver the hay." He turned and the others followed him back to the cars.
"Move everyone living above sixty degrees north? Are they insane?" Dave shook his head. "How can they look at this garden, and the hay fields, and not realize how things grow with eighteen hours of daylight in the summer?"
Good God! Even my city-bred manservant can see it--now that the wires are out of his brain.
Emillio snickered. "I'd like to see them try to shift Kalev down south."
"No kidding. But we'll take advantage of it. As we pick up the hay---stuff the tribes houses with it. Then we'll see how much we can carry with us. We'll take the two trailers, half hay, half livestock. We'll have to cross the river at Dvina, it's the only bridge in five hundred miles, and I don't want to wait for the the river to freeze . . . we'll go through Dvina at night, and be well down the road before daybreak. Three hundred miles and we'll look for side roads and find a place to hunker down for the winter. They've been lumbering to the west, so maybe there will be logging roads and we can get really lost."
Dave squinted. "Yes, that ought to get us below Sixty north. Maybe they won't bother us."
Emilio snorted. "Maybe all the rest of the refugees will follow us."