"What do you mean all the Cyborgs are sick?"
Vlad looked over at the Chief Detective. "Sick! What the hell? Bad food?"
CD Bychkov clicked his phone off and glared. "You get along with them, go find out! It started three days ago, and it's spreading."
Vlad hustled across the big parking lot to the mess hall. The four Cyborg barracks on the right, the five servant's barracks to the left. Cooks, maids, cleaning crew, and the mechanics who kept the fleet running.
The mess was a mess. Dirty plates everywhere, and only a few women even trying to reduce the chaos. Lots of groaning bodies, some limp. Vlad bent over one . . . retreated hastily and call the station physician.
"I know, bring them in." the irritated voice on the other end sounded put out.
"There's too many of them. Load up your crew with anti-alcohol and get down here." Vlad snapped right back.
"They're Cyborgs, who gives a damn."
Vlad stomped on a desire to go kick him.
"They are very valuable . . . property . . . of the police force. Worth a quarter million apiece. Do you know how pissed the people in charge are going to be if they have to replace millions of rubles worth of . . . equipment . . . because you didn't do your job?"
"Grab all your anti-alcohol and get down here. With all of your staff."
A fast hunt found everyone alive, however a lot of them seemed to not be appreciating that. He finally found Forty-one in the woman's barracks, snoring in the arms of one of the cooks and . . . decided to leave him there.
A couple of hours later they managed to get a half shift out on the streets, and enough of the servants functional to get everything cleaned up.
Fortunately very little cooking was needed. Toast and tea were the special of the day.
And every bit of alcohol in the barracks was confiscated. A minor amount compared to how much had been drunk, judging by the trash bags full of empty bottles hauled away.
Vlad spend the rest of the day peacefully writing reports and actually caught up on them, on his mail, and even got in a bit of reading before Agent Schweiger turned up.
"Axel Vinogradov did, as you said, grow up, up there. All the elderly scientists remember him learning everything, always underfoot, but usually helping. On the other hand, the Fast Response people just look blank when I ask about him."
"Ah, it's these nicknames. Call signs, whatever. Most of them probably don't know his actual name. Ask about Igor . . . umm . . ."
"They aren't going to happy when they learn he was illegally chipped."
"Why the hell would anyone think that it was illegal?"
"Because not enough time passed for even an arraingment, let alone a trial. Did you bring in an Executioner to judge 29 Vinogradov?" Vlad shook his head. "Your people chose their showcase victim very poorly."
Glare. "What the hell do you mean by that?"
"Socially prominent. The highest will look at that as a threat. If the oldest descendant of Ivan the Founder isn't safe from you lot, no one is safe. Popular with the scientific staff, as you noticed. Well respected and liked by the Teams. He's who they look up to. The Mentalists all want to grow up to be as powerful as Igor. The Cyborgs love working with him."
Vlad leaned back. "And 'Igor' is a local ledgend, with the lower classes. It's like you chipped the Three Bogatirs.
"And so blatently illegal. My recommendation is you shut up and slink away before everyone finds out."
A disdainful snort. "We no longer care about the 300. And what happened to all your Cyborgs?"
"Well, either someone wanted them all sick for who knows what reason." Vlad sat back and eyed the Stuttgartian Agent. "Or they all pooled all their funds with all the maids and kitchen staff for booze and they were all so drunk they got careless with keeping the food refrigerated and are now suffering from hangovers and food poisoning.
"But since nothing horrible happened while they were mostly . . . out sick . . . I tend to believe that's what it actually was."
Schweiger glared. "We're here to help you."
"No. You're here to help yourself, and showed your cards much, much to soon."
"Did you hide Vinogradov?"
"No. But then I'm an honest cop." He snorted. "Plus I suspect I have a dozen people who know where I was at what was probably the critical time. That is to say, you and you gang of . . . searchers at Vinogradov House. When was Lord Axel last seen, at the Cybernetic's Center, and when was he discovered to be missing?"
"At nine in the evening, Dr. Petukhou escorted Lord Michail Rasputin to view the patient."
"The Director in Imperial Intel here?"
"Fortunately for Lord Michail, they were yelling loud enough to bring the guards in closer, so we know that Dr. Petukhov was alive after Lord Michail left."
"Oh . . . Please, please, do not be stupid enough to threaten him."
Schweirger snorted. "The Colonel is speaking to the Governor about reining him in."
"You should cultivate him. He's one of the few non-founding family descendants that the scientists Up Top will take advice from." Vlad pinched the bridge of his nose. "Please. Go read the charter. You're making my head hurt."
If there was another glare he didn't look up to see it.
I wonder how it works on Stuttgart? Do they think their Council, or whatever they call it, and their president, can order an Imperial Official around? And obviously they have nothing like the Research Center, whose rather fluid leadership outranks the civilian authority. If they get pushy with the scientists up here, they're going to find out in an unpleasant fashion what sorts of things get researched Up Top.
Do they not realize that this is an Authorized Research World? That everything. Everything! Is subordinate to that?
Not in their eyes, apparently.
The Director of Research, who may or may not be Rasputin, or might be Inquisitor Gorbachev . . . or someone not named publicly . . . one of the scientists, perhaps?
It couldn't possibly be the great grandson of both Ivan the Founder and Dr. von Ricter.
He signed a plain car out and drove home first--where his mother and sister appeared to be washing everything in the house-- and found his father out on the patio staying out of the way.
"It's practically a ritual cleansing, getting the aura of those Stutts out of the house."
Vlad grinned. "Probably needed. All right, I just thought I'd check on everyone. I'll hit the streets, now, tracking down some gangs. You'd think with chips we wouldn't have them, wouldn't you?"
His dad nodded. "I guess there's always someone that no one wants. They're mostly ferals. Either minimal grow-ins who can avoid being controlled, and minimally functional bad grow-ins whose . . . owners can't care for them, and can't afford a good care company."
"Yep. I ought to be home for dinner."
"Unless the ferals eat you."
"There is that." He grabbed a sample of Dina's medicine, and headed out. Hit six stores for wine splits, so he didn't look too much like a wino, and doped them all, sloshing a bit of wine back into his "starter set."
Demonstrated the effects at two charity hospitals that cared for Cyborgs with brain fever.
And spent the rest of the afternoon handing little bottles out to the homeless people living on the streets.
"I got it from Igor" was all he told any of them.
Don't know that it'll do a bit of good, but it's the only good I can do right now.