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Aquila IX – The Choice

  “Dr. Dupyre?”  Bookworm tested the name and then slowly she grinned.  “Tell me more about this Dr. Dupyre.”  She felt like things were about to shift in her favor soon.  “Would you say he is a villain?”

  “I would say the man is theatrically flamboyant,” Father Walstrand said behind the Captain, reminding her he was in the room. “Flamboyant, but resourceful and surrounded with dangerous allies.”  He gripped the wheels of his chair and moved to join them.  His cassock did little to hide his atrophied legs.  “I do not know why they provoked New Babbage, but we have already assisted the Shores-men prepare a counter-strike.  You may assist in that if you wish, but we do not need brash actions foiling our designs.”

   “I understand, Father,” Bookworm replied respectfully as her mouth thinned at his presumption.   “I would like to volunteer my assistance in any way I can, though I won’t speak for the others.”  

  “We shall pass along your message,” the priest breathed.  “It is not I coordinating this resistance.  Our…’militia’ may refuse.”

  “What reason could they possibly have to deny aid?”  She understood pride, but the army clearly possessed superior firepower with their mobile cannons.

  “Shores-men and women do not always respond with logic or reason.  It is unwise to assume what they will or will not do.” He gestured to his paralyzed legs and his grotesque face.

  She frowned at his implication.  Satisfied she comprehended he requested for Dr. Gammis to take him ‘below’.  The excited fellow nodded rushing to the Father’s side.  “I shall return with an answer.  I suggest you find out how many are willing to risk their lives, their freedom, or a state comparable to my own.”

  Bookworm winced at the last more than the other possibilities, though she tried to hide it.  She took her leave and crossed the quiet hallways disturbed at the missing clergy within these halls.  She hoped they were ‘below’ with Father Walstrand rather than the alternatives.  When she returned to the kitchen she found her friends fed and full of questions.  She forestalled their inquiries and told them everything she had learned about Progress, Dr. Gammis’s betrayal, and Dr. Dupyre.

  As the companions listened their smiles faded, some even began to snarl.  Wright’s ears tilted back as he growled deeply, unaware his claws were close to ripping his favorite duster.  Mariah and Sister Pankirst watched Wright carefully as they gripped their different protections.

  “Bloomin scientists!  Can’t trust none of ‘em!”  With a glance at Dr. Falcon he added, “Err…Present company excepted, of course, Miss Avariel.”  

  “This is academic treachery!” The Professor dug at the ground fitfully with her right hoof briefly,  “The Lovelace Institute will be launching a full investigation into the connection between Icarus Research and this so called ‘Progress’!”  She peeked at Beryl who was tracing grooves in the table. “Are you sure you don’t know anything about them, kitty?”

  “No,” Beryl replied quietly from the floor, their legs tucked underneath their body.  “Nothing about a company by that name.  I’ve heard the phrase in New Babbage and other places, but it is a popular saying.”  

  Bookworm realized that was true, but she suspected that Beryl was hiding something from them.  “If you think of anything important you will tell us though, yes?”  After Beryl agreed, Bookworm felt it was time to address a concern she had been pondering since the cave.

  Clasping her hands she spoke to the Babbagers candidly, “Father Walstrand is talking to the local militia about our involvement.  I am going to fight Dr. Dupyre, but I did not volunteer you in this battle.  You agreed to a rescue mission which we have accomplished so that contract is over.  No one expected you to be soldiers.”  With a sidelong glance at Beryl she added coyly, “Or heroes.”  They scowled at her and the captain got to her point, “So if they accept our help, there is no shame if you step back.  Are there any among you who would join me?”

  “Do you even have to ask?” Mariah said as she, Avariel, and Wright stepped forth.  Mariah grinned to Bookworm appearing as eager as the captain was herself.  Despite the danger both of them were looking forward to confronting Dr. Dupyre.  

 “After what they put us through,”  Wright growled as he recalled the morning blitz, his dip into the sea, and being hounded by hunters.  He bared his teeth and snarled, “I’ve been wanting to taste their blood.”  Sister Pankirst narrowed her eyes at him as did Mariah.  He realized his error as soon as he spoke, but there was no taking the words back now.  He stepped aside to regain his composure.

  Tepic looked at Mr. Wright curiously, and then added his voice, “So we’s gonna be fightin’ against overwehlmin’, well armed, dangerous people in a hopeless uprising then?”  The lad clapped his hands together happily.  “Yer can count on me!  Viva la Revolution!”

  Bookworm appreciated his enthusiasm, but she did not want him to get his hopes up, “Sorry, but I don’t think their militia will accept someone your age.”   Loki and Tepic looked as if Boxing Day just canceled.  

  “But oi’s kin ‘elp!  Been itchin’ ter get me ands on them mobile cannons!”  Loki hid the design he had been drawing on a napkin quickly.  The town might be reluctant to allow it if they knew what he wanted to construct.

  “That is not my decision to make,”  Bookworm turned to Yang and Beryl and waited for their decisions.  They both took longer to respond than the others but the chef replied first.

  “If they take me, I would volunteer to help,” Mr. Moreau said through his cracked voice.  “But what use could I be in my state?”

  “If you were healthy you could be a tree scout.” Beryl offered which made Mr. Moreau smile.  Book waited patiently for Beryl to make their own decision.  They shrugged, “I’m not a soldier, and I have never called myself a hero.  I will not join this, or any militia, but I trained as a nurse.  If they will let me I can help that way.”

 “I am sure that would be appreciated.”  Bookworm was confident that their services would be accepted even if they were kept out of the fight.  Book sat down to enjoy her meal of cold stew.

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