"On Siberia Max, rather than being wanted criminals, you will . . . well, I suppose by right of theft, be mine. While I do not approve of anyone being property, I'm as trapped by the laws as you are. But I will find you a place to live and you can work as you like."
He eyed the women. "It beats being a wanted criminal here. I think. Go or stay. It really is entirely up to you."
And I need to get back to disabling Portals, and get home before everything goes hot back home.
I hope it's not too late already.
The Cyborgs were quite thoroughly dead.
"They grabbed the cashier, when she said they had to pay, and just, just, hit her, and then they ripped her panties and were going to rape her right there . . . well, something just snapped and . . . then everyone . . ."
Vlad looked around the sporting goods store. Bad place to demonstrate that you can do anything you feel like. Looks like everything from bats, several golf clubs, an oar, and that weight bar with hundred and fifty pounds on it . . . has persuaded you that you were wrong. Or might have, had either of you survived.
Forty-one was standing back, eyeing the unrepetant crowd uneasily.
Vlad looked around and spotted an empty crate. Turned it upside down and stepped up on it. "It has always been a tenant of our society that we had a right, and a duty, to protect ourseves, and to come to the assistence of anyone being vicitmized. Unfortunately our . . . invaders from Stuttgart come from a society with different rights. And priviledges.
"Which we will not allow them to import.
"I suggest though, that you only 'defend yourself' when there is an actual crime in progress, in case you wind up in court. But we, the City Poilice, do realize that due to extenuating circumstances it may not be possible for you to stick around until the police arrive to get your report." He glanced back at Forty-one. "And do not attack City Police Cyborgs. Now move along, please, it's unseemly to stand and gawk."
He stepped off the crate and pulled out his phone. Called the people who were were dealing with "the special cases" that were cropping up all over the city.
Forty-one shook his head. "I really thought the Stuttgard guys were just being controlled. But I swear they must be Cyborging all the violent criminal they can find--and sending them out to terrorize their conquests. They brag about the women they rape."
'Well, this makes eleven men they've lost, and we managed to cover up all but one, once we realized that everyone is going to fight back and we needed to dispose of evidence." Vlad walked back to the manager.
"At least this time they didn't write 'Igor' on the wall in blood."
The store manager's eyes widened.
Vlad nodded. "If anyone . . . threatens you, tell them a redheaded guy dressed all in black, told the Cyborgs he was Igor, and then he beat them to death."
They stuck around until the cleanup crew was done, and then headed back toward headquarters. Vlad stared up at the Malta massif. Almost thirty miles long, running northwest to southeast, the city wrapped around the southeastern end, and spread westward for about a third of the chunk of stone, and out over the valley floor for another five miles, to Long Lake.
"Only two vehicular entries. I wonder how long the seige will last."
Forty-one snorted. "They don't want to risk damaging the zivvy, otherwise they'd have brought in tanks already."
"Much safer to starve them out, I suppose. I wish Axel would contact us."
"Dina still thinks he's Across?"
"Yep. So . . . are there any decent men among the Stutties?"
"Three out of the first twenty. One out of the second. The bad ones are starting to clump and not mix in. We don't want them, and they don't want us. They grab every convicted rapists and violent criminal and have them Cyborged for their invasion units."
"Ouch. So ten percent might be reliable." Vlad shook his head. "And . . . how are you feeling after that three day bender?"
"Fantastic." Forty-one gave him a quick glance. Held out his hand and squeezed down a bright handful of power.
His phone chimed with a message. Orders to attend a conference between Governor Berezin, Chief of Police Naoumov, a representative from the Research Center, and Colonel Lehr.
The plaza in front of City Hall was not quite surrounded by the Stuttgart army, but their presence was thick on the ground.
"Park facing in, between posts. I'll slice most of the way through a link as I step over. You stay with the car and . . . hopefully there will be no need for you to come fetch me."
Forty-one scowled, nodded.
The graceful drape of the thick chain between the stone posts looked reasonably decorative. Every year or so, someone learned they were hardened steel and very well anchored.
As Vlad stepped across the chain, he steadied himself with a hand on the last link of the chain at the ring bolt set in the post, and sliced through it. He strode across the plaza, and a Stut Cyborg moved to intercept him.
"I'm Senior Detective Gargaran."
"You are on the list." He looked disappointed as he turned away.
Shit. Those things really worry me. What the hell is Stuttgart doing to the men they Cyborg?
Vlad reached the steps , but turned to look upward.
A high pitched whistle and a military aircar braked and dropped. A hatch lowered and Director Rasputin stalked down the ramp, eyed Vlad.
"Senior Detective Gargaran, sir."
A nod, and the man strode up the steps, his Exec following, his right arm showing a wrap under the classy cuffs of a high priced suit.
The ramp rose and the aircar lifted off.
Vlad followed them into a high energy environment.
Definitely a meeting of mentalists.
Rasputin stopped to survey the playing field. The Governor and Chief of Police were shoulder to shoulder, a raft of flunkies behind them. The Colonel was flanked by a quartet of men with lots of metals and ribbons, tough looking Cyborgs behind them.
Rasputin with a single Exec was a bit thin on entourage, even if Vlad probably looked like he was part of it, having arrived on his heels.
A dignified young man in an expensive suit stepped out of the shadows to the right. "Do you need another assistent today, sir?"
Good . . . is that Barf?
Vlad breathed. "Take him."
"Come along then . . ."
"Mr. Var, sir."
So Director Rasputin had a three man backup crew as he stepped up to form the third point in an equilateral triangle.
Colonel Lehr took a step forward. "Gentlemen. At the moment we stand on the brink of a war that will destroy this city. You need to admit that you lost the war before it started."
"Colonel," Rasputin sounded pretty chilly. "You have already loosed upon this city a horde of violent soldiers with zero respect for the law, or even decent behavior. We assisted you when you were attacked--important citizens kidnapped and replaced--by Budapest Reborn. You have repaid this with a--so far--minimally damaging invasion. Go away before we demonstrate what sort of research we carry out Up Top."
"You have such a nice family." The Colonel smiled nastily.
"Did I say something about zero respect for the law, or even decent behavior?"Rasputin looked toward the Governor. "I agree with you, that a war would be horrible, the death toll high. But what will the toll be if we hand power over to a monster like this?"
The Colonel shook his head. "Rasputin, you are a trouble maker. You see, the problem we have here is a matter of numbers. If I were to kill you, I would destroy half the command structure of 'Up Top.' In the unlikely event you could kill me?"
A casualy wave over his shoulder. "And all three of them. You would have destroyed less than ten percent my little command's officers, and we're all easily replaced. How quickly can you be replaced, Rasputin?"
"Instantly. Like you, I have a chain of command, and . . . Up Top is a bit more complex than you seem to envision. Now why don't stop with the personal threats and discuss your withdrawl. If at any time you wish to leave, we can call a ceasefire if you start waving large white flags and cease hostilities. Then you can withdraw to your beacon and wait for a gate."
Rasputin shook his head. "Don't look amused. I'm giving you an out, for when you realize you need it."
"I'm not giving you an out. I think you'll be the next example. Since I've got you out of your aerie. Pity I don't have any zivvy, I'll just have to kill you. Or maybe just cripple you."
Rasputin flicked his galnce toward the Governor and Chief. "You two need to retreat, right now."
Vlad felt the air cooling and stepped far enough away to collect some power himself. Shit this could get nasty because everyone here is stronger than me. Except maybe Mr. Mateev.