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Dec. 11 – Conflicts and Plans

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Lisa was stationed downstairs, listening to Miss Bookworm working above, when a moreau child, this one a fox, clambered up the damaged ladder and stood panting. “Don’t go up,” Lisa warned him. “I’m not sure if it’s safe yet.”

The child started making motions with his paw frantically, pointing off somewhere. Lisa frowned a little. “What?” She watched as he tried to draw a shape in the air, but she couldn’t make it out. Finally, he pulled out a book from his jacket and began sketching something in it.

While he was doing that, though, Beryl came panting up the ladder. “What happened?” he asked worriedly.

“Kasa’s been taken by two large metal beings!” Lisa exclaimed.

“What?!” Beryl’s eyes darted toward the entrance, where a soot-stained Bookworm had appeared in the doorway and nodded confirmation. “One was a rabbit clank;” she said, “the other a large, round one with legs.”

“Wait… rabbit?” When Lisa nodded, he continued, “What did they want?”

“They want you,” Lisa replied starkly. “They took her to get to you. They told us to bring you to them–or else.”

“Beryl,” Bookworm added, “the metal rabbit being is connected with PJ. It said it was piloting the ship that took the Man in Blue away after he blew up my home.”

Beryl looked up at the woman incredulously. “You’re focused on that?”

“No,” Bookworm replied, shaking her head. “But… it also said PJ plans to sabotage Victor’s shipment of food for the holidays.”

“Sorry,” he replied shortly. “I’m a little more focused on a child being abducted. I don’t care about Christmas meals missed.”

“I understand that,” Bookworm said, “but–”

“You’ll live.” Beryl cut off her protestations with a sharp gesture. “I’ve got a letter to await, telling me where to turn myself in.”

“Beryl, no! That won’t do any good,” protested Bookworm. The fox child shook his head and quickly sketched a trap in his book.

“Of course not,” Beryl replied. “That’s not the plan.” He growled, then looked at Lisa. “Was she calling me for help?”

“She said you should run,” she replied wryly.

Beryl sighed. Bookworm’s attention, though, was drawn to the fox child, who quickly drew a picture of Kasa, then a bull’s head next to it. Despite her anger and frustration, she almost grinned at that.

“Can you describe them again?” Beryl asked. It took some discussion, but they finally reached the understanding that there had been, in fact, three large clanks in the area: the steam-powered hare; the large round one, with arms and legs, that had assisted it; and, further away, a large raptor-shaped one that the fox-child, who’d now identified himself as Wisp, had seen. Based on the direction she’d seen the others going, Bookworm guessed they’d met up with that last one. Where they’d gone from there, though, was anyone’s guess.

“Well, there’s nothing for it, then,” Beryl declared. “They have the hostage, and there’s three of them.”

“I’ll alert the militia, and we’ll institute a search,” Bookworm said briskly.

“You will do no such thing,” growled Beryl. “Charge them, and they’ll kill Kasa.”

“We’re not just going to give in to their demands!”

“We don’t need to.” Beryl looked beyond Bookworm, to see Lisa quietly dancing in place impatiently, staring at him. “Right,” he said with a nod. “I’m done here. I’ve got someone to talk to–the usual spot.” With that, he brushed past Bookworm and bounded down the ladder, quickly disappearing from view.

Bookworm sighed impatiently, but then her attention was caught by Wisp, who had put his book back in his jacket and had now pulled a chain from his belt. He was trying to use it to lock the doors of the tower. The woman nodded. “Good idea.”

In the meantime, Lisa inched off, quietly climbing down the ladder before Miss Bookworm could turn her attention back to her. She slipped away back to the asylum, knowing Beryl would be waiting there. He was, in fact, waiting outside in the courtyard. “She wasn’t happy with me, was she?” he asked wryly.

“No,” she replied, but quickly dismissed that consideration. “Strifeclaw, the cats can find them. I’m sure of it! They’re so big–there aren’t many places they can hide.”

“Yes–but I can’t tell Bookworm that.”

Lisa nodded. “And the round one–it’s like the one that was in the asylum earlier this year.”

Beryl’s jaw dropped in astonishment. “What? That’s what they were trying to describe–Ray?!”

“I only caught a glimpse of it back then, but I do think it looked like what I saw today.”

Beryl looked furious. “Did every clockwork that has nearly killed me have to resurface now? All I need now is for Henri to rear his head again!”. Beryl paused thoughtfully for a moment. “Actually, that wouldn’t be so terrible. Half of me was a friend to him once.”

“But–how could PJ now be using Dr. Dinosaur’s things?”

“Taken after they’re broken and set to work, perhaps. But…” He paused, thinking. “My nightmares are a little worse, but I’ve not been dreaming of PJ. Just a scaly, dead hand, manipulating hundreds of clockworks.”

“Oh, dear.” Lisa shuddered at the thought of hundreds of those things running around.

“I think that the clockworks are either controlled by Doctor Dinosaur,” Beryl continued, “or worse, they’re controlling themselves and are repurposing clockworks on their own, using the last order he gave them–catch the cat.”

“Well, first things first.” Lisa yowled loudly, calling for any cats in the area to assemble in the courtyard. It was only a matter of a minute before several cats came over the walls, leaping into trees or onto other objects, and so down into the courtyard. She said to them in Feline, “Spread the word to every cat in the city–we’re looking for a friend, and some enemies.” She went on to describe Kasa, and the clockworks, in terms the cats would understand. Then she gestured toward Kasa’s residence. “Go there to pick up the scents you need. Be careful–don’t let yourselves be seen by them. The rabbit-shaped one is armed with fire.”

With their orders clear, the cats scattered, leaping back out of the courtyard to spread out through the city. Lisa looked at Beryl. “What about you?”

“I might try to see if there is any way to come on them unexpected and take the Bunny from them.”

Lisa looked at him with surprise and concern. “What I warned them about applies to you, too.”

“No. They won’t kill me.”

“How do you know that?”

“The little clockworks came alone first,” he explained. “Do you really think they could have killed me?” He shrugged. “They meant to catch me. The larger ones only came because they failed. What they’ll do once they have me, though… I don’t know.”

“But if it’s PJ behind this, instead of Dr. Dinosaur…” Lisa said hesitantly. “He wanted you dead.” She would have said more, but Miss Mollari entered the courtyard at that moment. And as Beryl was explaining the situation to her, Miss Bookworm came running up, panting.

((To be continued…))

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