“Umm… if she’s bringin’ medicine, it’s a mission of mercy. Yer can’t trap someone on one of them.” Bookworm heard those words from Tepic as she approached the spot where he had his new shack. Looking beyond the boy, she saw Beryl, Zaros, and Kea.
“Captain? We had some trouble today,” Beryl said, alerting Tepic to her presence. The boy turned around, a look of innocence on his face that didn’t fool Bookworm one bit. “‘Ello, Miss Book! Fancy a drop ter drink?”
“I’ll… pass, thank you, Tepic,” replied Bookworm wryly. “What kind of trouble, Beryl?”
“Well, for one, Tepic got a letter from our friend PJ. And for another, Kuga is dying. And for another, the fox just left.”
“She weren’t no problem this time, though,” Tepic put in. “An’ we might get the medicine fer the big cat.”
“Where did she go?” Bookworm asked, looking around sharply.
“Toward Wheatstone, to find Prometheus,” Beryl replied.
“Lovely.” Bookworm peered west for a moment, then brought her attention back to Beryl and Tepic. “And what’s this about medicine?”
“The stuff that they inject into themselves is also the stuff that keeps them alive. Like Lilith,” Beryl said. “Remember how she used to get nosebleeds? And she was getting sick again, recently, from worry and not taking it.”
At the same time, Tepic was saying, “Well, she said if the big cat croaks, she an’ the bear will off me. But I thought that were their plan anyhows, so no change there…”
“Wait,” Bookworm broke in, holding up a hand for silence. “Start at the beginning.”
“Which beginning?” Amusement was definitely clear in Beryl’s voice.
“Kuga. And the fox. I also got a letter from PJ. We… have time.” Bookworm waved her hand a bit, as if dismissing him.
“I admire your confidence, Captain,” Zaros said with a smile.
“Hardly that. Just trying to cope with one thing at a time.”
“Umm…” Tepic was staring behind her. As Bookworm turned around, she caught a flash of movement. Even before she could raise her dart gun, the red fox was in front of her, though several feet away. She dropped something from her mouth, then dashed off, out of sight in an instant. Zaros made a move to chase after her, but stopped after only a few steps.
“That were the Vixen,” Tepic said, moving toward the spot where she’d been. “Handsome, ain’t she?”
“She didn’t look like that a few minutes ago,” Beryl interjected. “She had a Moreau form. That was a full fox, and a rather large one for her age.”
“Good lookin’ tail,” Tepic added. As Bookworm coughed back what might have been a laugh, or an exclamation, he continued, “Not as good as some of us have, of course, but good…” He picked up her delivery, a wrapped package, and handed it to her. After holstering her dart gun, she took it, staring at it for a moment before looking back at Tepic. “This is the medicine fer the big cat,” he explained, “so he don’t die, and they don’t knock me off.”
Bookworm looked from him to Beryl. “I spoke with Kuga a few days ago. You’re saying he’s worse now?”
Beryl nodded. “His fever has made him delirious.”
((To be continued…))