((Continued from http://cityofnewbabbage.online/reader/node/9232))
“Very well. Do you want to see at least the ringleader of this little band?”
Bookworm nodded, and laid a hand on Snow’s shoulder, saying softly, “I’ll be back – don’t worry.” Exiting the first cell, she went to the next one, where Canergak was standing by the door, ready to unlock it. She drew her tranquilizer gun again, though she had a feeling she wasn’t going to need it.
Canergak unlocked the door, and slowly opened it. They both peered inside, and Bookworm heard the soft whirring of Canergak’s eyes adjusting, as they stared at the figure sitting in there. The large bear looked up and growled – a somehow-welcoming growl.
“This is not Prometheus,” Bookworm said.
“It is not even a Moreau, as far as I can see. It is a bear.”
Bookworm thought back, trying to remember why the bear seemed a bit familiar. “Yes. He was one of those in the crowd at one of the fires. Last fall.” She holstered the tranq gun again.
“I see. So he may know something more, if he could speak.”
“Possibly. But I don’t believe he can speak. And he’s certainly done nothing to warrant being here.” She purposely left out her suspicions that the bear had been more involved in the fires than she was saying, preferring to let that go, in light of the larger dangers that they were facing.
“Today has been a very disappointing day indeed,” Canergak commented sourly. “I will leave you both to deal with this.” With that, he left down the hallway, and Bookworm and Vartanian heard the elevator going down.
“I’ll see to his release after we’re done here,” Professor Vartanian said, nodding at the bear.
“Thank you,” she replied as she went back to Snow’s cell.
“Are you certain you’ll be able to handle him?” The professor still sounded skeptical about the boy. Bookworm ignored that, and asked Snow, “Do you think you can walk?”
“I… think I can,” he nodded. “My kind… since you know now… are tough.”
“I’ll manage, professor,” she said, stepping inside and helping Snow to his feet. “Thank you.”
She fiddled with the buckles and straps, grimacing a bit at the condition of the straightjacket, and finally removed it. Underneath, reddened bandages gave mute testimony to the fierce fight he’d been in. She glanced at Vartanian, the jacket dangling in her hand.
“You can leave it there. I’ll take care of getting it laundered after I finish the paperwork for his release.”
Bookworm nodded, thankfully dropping the things and carefully escorting Snow out of the cell. They detoured into the professor’s office, where she signed the release papers. As she led Snow toward the elevator, the professor called out, “Keep him out of trouble if you can.”
“He’s still a Babbage urchin,” she called back, over her shoulder, grinning. “That’s likely a losing proposition.” They took the elevator down, and left the asylum quickly.
As they exited the gate, they saw Beryl and Tepic in close conversation across the street. “Snow!” cried Tepic. “Heard yer were back in town. Good ter see yer!”
“You weren’t where we were supposed to meet last night,” Beryl added. “I was worried about you.”
Snow nodded. “He moved… took a different route… was a trap.”
Bookworm told the other two briefly what had happened. Snow added some information about the one he’d been following. “It was a fox… Good at getting in places he should not… but also it the one bringing notes between them all. If… he is caught… then it could cause a lot of… disruption.”
Beryl gave Tepic a significant look. “You and I should talk.”
But Bookworm, too, leveled her gaze at Tepic. “Don’t you and the urchins go after these three yourselves. They’re too dangerous.”
“Course they’s dangerous,” he replied scornfully. “We ain’t goin’ after ‘em – it’s you lot as is pussyfootin’ around!” He reached into his pocket and drew out a bullet. “Yer might want ter try this.” As she reached for it, he added, “Careful, it’s sharp! Them blades on the front’ll cut through fur. I got the idea when I was stroppin’ me razor.”
Bookworm carefully took it between two fingers. “I see…” She carefully wrapped it in a handkerchief and slipped it into her pocket, though she had no idea how she was supposed to fire the thing.
“Got another idea,” Tepic added, “but I gotta talk ter Sir Sir Emerson first.”
Bookworm raised an eyebrow and softly said, “Oh, Lord.” But she saw Snow swaying on his feet, and decided it was more important to get him to the hospital first. Glancing back, she saw Beryl and Tepic heading the opposite way, deep in discussion again.
It didn’t take them long to get to the hospital, despite Snow’s slow pace. Thankfully, Dr. Sonnerstein was there, and Bookworm was able to put Snow in his care right away. She hoped the boy would be able to heal soon, as she rather hoped to have him use his tracking skills again – though this time, under Militia supervision. She hurried away, though, leaving Dr. Sonnerstein to his work, planning to give some Militia members a few lessons in wildlife identification.
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