Then he visited a public library and checked his mailbox at "The Recovery Center." Daily reports from Mr. Solovsky, amounting to a steady success rate with the seven day treatment. "Not just the dissolving of the Zivvy, but overall health and energy levels are improved. Even appearance. The test subjects look about ten years younger than their calendar age." And asking if the treatment had known rejuv properties. The last report had a note hoping Axel was expecting Old Fedya to plant an orchard, because it was progressing daily as the old man's energy levels jumped.
He sent back, "Have only identified half the spells in the mixture. But skin tighteners is one that I spotted. So I suspect it's only cosmetic. And an orchard is a good thing."
The basement below the building was storage space, barely used. The area directly under the Portal was solid concrete, to bear the weight of the traffic above. Two empty strips beside that, one running directly under the control room. A few holes to run the helmet wires from above, a concealed entrance . . . shifting the disorganized . . . stuff to cover up the ventilation and sanitary requirements . . . Some desks and computers, the Squadies still recovering from the battle trying hard to look like harmless clerks . . .
It wasn't quite as easy in the other two portal facilities, but not too much original construction was needed. The managers and tech gave him looks of slepticism.
"Betcha. All right. Tell you what. If I'm wrong I will personnally pay out a thousand ruble bonus to each and every staffer here. Two months from now." He looked at his watch. "Good grief. Is it really a week until Christmas?"
The Manager shook his head. "Do you live under a rock? How do you avoid the ads?"
"Umm, too busy, I guess?" Note to self, candy, ganes, and books for all the kids. Yeah, even Andre's and Nikoli's. Christmas trees . . . talk to the family about whether they want the usual big one in the Grand Hall. Might be a nice return toward normal for everyone.
Big stuff for the Rangers. They all need "upper class exec" suits. Concealable weaponry . . . Maybe a really good sniper rifle for Dimitri . . .
But what am I going to get Dina?
Good, Bad, and Worse
After the second comment about finally getting laid, Vlad got his grin under control.
Because it had been a great date, and topped off with kiss, but he wasn't fool enough to try and get a girl into bed on the first date.
Not that I didn't wish I lived alone, or she did, but . . .
But dammit, she's property and even though she felt free to date . . . it took her awhile to answer . . . did she go ask Axel?
He kicked himself mentally. And if she'd been a legitimate daughter of the Family, I'd have started by asking her father if I could date his daughter and probably been shown the door. Unlesss Axel was her father, in case . . . I don't know.
But it had been a great date.
He was probably smiling again as he got to his desk . . . and sobered as he spotted Forty-one sitting there . . . wiping a tissue under his skull plate. Staring at the floor and not responding to the people glancing his way.
"Oh, shit. When did this start?" A cold lump formed in his stomach.
The old Cyborg sighed. "A few weeks ago. The antibiotics have stopped working. I figured I owed it to you to say goodbye. Before I talked to the chief."
Vlad swallowed. "Come with me. Right now."
"There's nothing to be done." But he got up. "I know I ought to talk to your Dad. But I can't face saying goodbye to little Dina."
"Yeah." Vlad trotted back down the stairs, tapped in a request for a car.
"You'll have to get another Cyborg to drive you around and occasionally save your ass."
"Vlad there isn't anything that can . . . are you thinking about Lord Axel's cow medicine?"
"Yep. What did he call it? A hodgepodge of healing spells?"
"And he specifically said for me to not come in contact with it." He glared at Vlad when he headed for the driver's side.
Vlad smiled a bit and walked to the other side.
"Nope. Home. I'm going to dose you up with Dina's medicine."
Forty-one eyed him. "Dina got dosed with the Cow meds?"
"Dina snuck a sip of something Axel was analyzing. And after she started improving, they went over and begged for more. Seven days in a row . . . and she's getting back to normal fast. Still improving, a month later."
"But . . ." Forty-one started the car and headed out. "I went back, out of curiosity, and checked on the cows. They're spread out all over, just munching away. The winter's pretty mild, out there, they're doing fine. And, umm, seem to be unimpared reproductively."
"Right. So. Might as well try it yourself, right?"
Forty-one snickered. "So long as I don't run around humping cows like those bulls were."
"You never impressed me as the beastiality sort." Vlad snickered. "But then I've never seen you around cows . . . again . . ."
They were both still grinning as they pulled in the driveway and parked.
Vlad sobered. "It's just . . . judging by Dina, it may remove zivvy wires."
"So . . . Dina got one dose, and started improving, then sank again. So for you . . . maybe one dose for all those healing spells, but no more so you don't lose control of the arm?"
Forty-one nodded. "We'll have to, you know, experiment. Just a little."
Vlad nodded. "So . . . let's go see if there's any left, or if Dina drank it all."