In a plain brown wig, and casual exercise gear--winter variety--no one looked twice at him as he marched up the street. Weights in hand, arms pumping as he kept up a brisk pace. Reached out mentally to the Cyborg on the corner and sent him into a foggy state of memory loop that would last for hours. Marched past and did the same with the two at the gate.
Around the block, up the alley, and found the fourth Stutt Cyborg intimidating a maid at the back door. Axel made him back away and sit down and sent him off to dream land for a few hours.
The maid hovered, ready to run.
"Sissy, isn't it?" Axel grinned as she suddenly recognized him. "Please tell Lady Lilia that the camping vehicle will be here in the alley in a few minutes."
"Yes, sir!" She scampered off, and Axel double-timed it back to the ATV.
They had the back loaded in minutes, mainly because the lady's car was ready to go. One cook, one maid, one tutor, three cyborg guards. The lady rode in her car with most of the staff. The head of the guard detachment and all three kids rode in the ATV with the well known "Uncle Axel."
Who was actually not a relative at all, but a frequent visitor . . . they hung over the front seat taking it all in as Axel explained the comm gear Pauli had installed.
Frequency shifting burst transmissions if they had to call out. Passive pickup of TV and radio so they could stay abreast of the situation in the city.
"And watch our favorite shows!"
"Yay! That's the only thing about camping I hate!"
"There are several places I used to camp when I was a kid. All the researcher's families have been doing it for centuries. And we planted trees every time we went." Axel shrugged. "Well, we stuck seeds in the ground. Pecans, walnuts, apple and cherry seeds . . . even some acorns and pine nuts that people brought back when they went across on vacation. Mind you, there's still a whole lots of nothing but grass out here, because there aren't any bees to pollenate the trees."
He turned off the road to a power plant and watched carefully to make sure the limo was following. "This is the road that goes all the way to the Atlantic . . . Michail's never mentioned fishing . . ."
"Dad loves to fish, when we go back to Regulous on vacation." Tatyana was the oldest, at sixteen.
"I thought it was gross." Anzhelina was twelve.
Ten year old Nikita grinned. "I caught the biggest one, last year."
"Ugg! Boys!" Anzhelina wrinkled her nose.
"And no cute ones where we're going?" Tatyana sighed. "Momma barely lets me talk to boys any more."
"Huh. Only one boy and I'm probably going to take him away with me. Unless Fifty-fifty wants a sniper. I take some talented kids up here, or to one of the other spots, for shooting practice, rather frequently.
"Any how, tell your Dad that a mere one thousand five hundred miles of washed out, poorly maintained roads will get him to the finest fishing in the Alliance." Axel grinned. "We're only going about two hundred and fifty miles, then we turn off and drive another fifty to a place where few people have ever been."
"But there are trees?" Nikita peered around the endless grasslands.
"Yep. The pine trees are wind pollenated, so they're spreading out nicely. Might even have an actual forest in another century or two." Axel glanced at Fifty-fifty. "There are a couple hundred tree clusters. No reason for anyone to pay any particular attention to this one, but it does have a nice steep tall hill between it and the road and the city, that gives a good view of trouble coming your way."
The Cyborg grinned. "The Boss has mentioned that you're a planning fanatic."
"There's a time for winging it and inspiration, but prep and planning, not to mention training, are much to be preferred. Hence the electronics. I'll be leaving the ATV with you. I can take back the limo if you want, or leave it. One of my guys is delivering a bunch of stuff, and setting up camp, so I can also ride back with him."
"Will they spot us on satellite?" Nikita was rather adicted to spy movies.
"Doubtful. However, one of my crew is an outstanding hacker and he's into the satellite feeds. he's got some good loops, so no one's going to see us driving and he'll let me know if the vehicles and tents are insufficiently hidden before I leave. You'll need to be a little careful about lights and fires at night. But I've got a baffle, as well as Pauli on the sat feeds."
Fifty-five nodded approval. "Redundency. I like it."
"So long as Pauli doesn't get too busy."
The campsight was hit. Probably a hundred acres of mixed woods. A small meadow surrounded by tall trees that didn't quite meet in the middle. Tents in among the trees, a rock ring for a fire, with a metal hood. A water well, with a solar powered pump, a freezer box, a cold box . . .
"And best of all a really cute guy."
Dimitri glanced back in alarm. Lady Lilia with resignation.
Dimitri, for the first time ever, lifted his hair. "See exec plate. Not even close to being in your class, so, so, flirt all you want if you need the practice, but that's all it going to be."
Axel glanced over at Lady Lilia.
"What can be more irresistable than a man who's determined to be indifferent? Where ever did you find him?"
"He's one of my cousin's bastards. And dammit, if I'd turned fifty before he and couple of others turned eighteen, I'd have tried to buy them from my uncle and I'd have damn well Presented them."
"Really?" She eyed the boy. "But with an executive chip he's still got power and brains, eh? Very useful."
"Yes. I just wish he was free."
"Axel, dear, with you he is."
"Not legally and I hate that. So . . . Do you like the camp? What did I miss? We were a bit more used to roughing it than I assume you are, but I don't actually know."
Nikita snickered. "Momma stayed home after the first time we went backpacking."
Lady Lilia grinned. "I like hiking, and I love camping. Combining the two, which involves packs of horrendous weight? No. This, on the other hand, is quite good, and with the things I've brought along, will be excellent."
Fifty-fifty, who'd taken off to check the hill top, trotted back into camp. "I want your sniper."
"Oh dear." Lady Lilia glanced over to where Dimitri was setting up a picnic table in the shade, Tatyana supervising.
"Indeed." Axel looked around. "I'll be taking the truck back, I need it for my next plan. If you need to return to town, just leave everything here."
At the sound of the loud voices, Axel paused. Held up a hand to stop Henrik and company, then walked the rest of the way up the stairs to listen carefully, from almost out of sight.
The Boss was yelling, a man in a Stuttgart military uniform was yelling, the Inquisitor strode into view from the direction of the main building, his entourage behind him . . .
"Both gates are down and I want to know what you've done to them!" The Boss was definitely pissed, and the Miltary guy looked pissed. They passed out of sight, heading for the control room.
The Boss's voice trailed from out of sight. "Have you finished the upgrade? When can you test . . . What do you mean you can't!"
The next several minutes were filled with incomprehsible multiple voices, at full volume, the anger and shock was clear.
". . . fucking thieves!" The Boss was back striding angrily across the portal room toward the exit. "I told the Council not to let you lot in, and I swear once I get rid of you lot I'll personally shoot every single one of them who voted for it! Stealing our best portalmaker!"
"We did not . . ."
The Boss spun and poked him with a finger. "I'm going to check the other two portals, and our portalmakers had better be right where they belong!"
The officer stalked after him punching at his phone.
The Inquisitor stepped out and watched them walk away. Threw out his hands. "Bring my car around to the front entrance. Two in the Morning? Why can't we have a crisis at a decent time of the day?"
Axel stepped back and grinned. "You heard the man, we'll use the back entrance."
Henrik looked around. "I would have sworn he said front."
"Yep, and the others are at the Portal door, so we'll go the third way. Where, as it happens, my minions will be moving the cars and meeting us there."