It had been a few days since Lisa first went to Kasa’s house; she decided to take a little time to go over there, and see if Kasa had any news or information. After winding a scarf around her neck, she jammed on hat and gloves and hurried out into the chill air.
When she reached Kasa’s large building, she frowned. The ladders leading up to the door looked like they’d been damaged, though she thought she could still climb them. She scrambled up carefully, entered the dwelling, and went up in the hoist. As she stepped out of it, she froze, hearing sounds and voices from above.
“We are in a wooden building,” said a strange, metallic voice. “Wood burns.” There was a scrabble of steps above, then a “whoosh!” and a cry from a voice Lisa recognized as belonging to Kasa. “Foolish,” said the same voice. “Now your backpack will burn–maybe you.”
Lisa inched toward the ladder and carefully climbed up it. Peeking over the floor, her eyes widened at the sight–two large metallic beings, one shaped like a hare, the other simply a large round body with arms and legs, hemming in Kasa between them. “Kasa!” she cried.
“Surrender, or next time we shall break a leg, or an arm,” said the same metallic voice, which Lisa could now see came from the metal hare. “Or maybe I’ll burn this building down.” It glanced behind it, straight at Lisa. “Or your friend.”
Kasa lunged at the hare, a dagger in her hand, trying to jam it into any gear she could see. The hare simply pushed her back, sending her stumbling to the floor. She looked at Lisa, despair in her eyes. “Lisa, run!”
Lisa bit her lip, looking on wide-eyed. She realized there was no chance she could do anything to help Kasa, not by herself. There was only one thing she could do–get help. She threw herself down the ladder and dashed for the hoist, sending it down as fast as she dared.
Pausing in the doorway, she wondered where to go. Militia headquarters? City Hall? She realized she was looking west, and suddenly realized that Miss Bookworm lived that way, not far off. Beryl had warned her about the woman just a few days ago, but now was not the time to worry about that. She rattled down the ladders and dashed beside the canals; building up speed, she leaped out onto one of the frozen canals, sliding nearly all the way across.
It was only a matter of a few more seconds before she was at the door of Miss Bookworm’s new home. She pounded on the door. “Miss Book! Miss Book!” In a few seconds, the door was thrown open. “Lisa!” Miss Bookworm exclaimed. “What is it?”
“Kasa…” Lisa gasped out, panting. “Metal things…”
Bookworm laid a calming hand on her shoulder. “Lisa. Take a breath, and slow down.”
Lisa followed the woman’s instructions, knowing that was the only way to be able to explain. “At Kasa’s house, there are two large metal beings. They’re fighting Kasa–they want to take her!”
Bookworm exclaimed once, and reached inside, grabbing a rifle and slinging it over her shoulder. Still only in her indoor clothing, she followed Lisa toward the tall home and urchin hideout.
Lisa skidded on the snow by the ladder. “Up here,” she said, leading the way to the first outdoor landing, Bookworm close on her heels. She was about to go up the second ladder, but fell back with a gasp, seeing the large round one standing at the top, gripping Kasa in its hands. Bookworm stepped forward, bringing her rifle forward.
“Interference is futile,” the metal thing said. “The bunny will not be harmed, merely kept for a short duration of time.”
The metal rabbit now stepped forward, looking down. “Ahh. Bookworm Hienrichs. Didn’t you learn when we blew up your home?”
“What?!” Bookworm gasped.
“I was piloting the vessel carrying the men that destroyed it. Do you want me to burn this place down, too?”
Bookworm glowered and aimed her rifle upward. “Drop her–now!”
The round one clanked and whurred. “Drop her? Very well.” He held Kasa up and out, over the steep drop from the tower’s entrance to the canal many feet below. “If you continue your assault I will be forced to ‘drop her’.” Kasa squeaked and started to squirm.
“Allow us passage, and your rabbit will be returned when we get the cat.”
Lisa heard Bookworm cursing softly, and then, amazed, watched as the woman lowered her rifle. “What are you doing?!” she hissed.
“Wise choice.” The round clank tightened its grip on Kasa, stomping down the ladder, the metal hare close behind. Kasa craned her neck up to look at Lisa and Bookworm. “Tell the cat to run!” she said emphatically, then bit her lip as the clank holding her tightened its grip.
“Bring us the cat,” the metal hare said as it and its counterpart neared their level, “or else.” Bookworm backed away, shoving Lisa behind her, giving the two of them room. The one holding Kasa whurred and clanked to itself as it stomped down the second ladder to the ground, breaking several steps in the process. The hare, though, paused, staring at Bookworm. “I should be killing you both,” it said with steely menace. Bookworm hissed in a breath, ready to draw her rifle again. “But,” it continued, “I have a new primary function.” With that, it, too, went down the ladder.
Bookworm let out a noisy breath, and looked behind her at Lisa. “I’m sorry, Lisa–I had no choice,” she said with regret clear in her voice. “But if they were anything like the Man in Blue, my rifle wasn’t going to be any good against them.”
A voice suddenly drifted up to them from below. “I have one more message to give. It’s a bit late.”
Bookworm moved to the edge, glaring down at the metal hare. “Aren’t they always?”
“P.J. intends to destroy Victor Mornington’s food shipments for Christmas dinners. But it’s a little late to stop that.” With that, it walked ponderously off, leaving a black trail of oil spots behind it.
Lisa heard Bookworm muttering to herself, but that stopped when she suddenly raised her head and sniffed the air. Lisa sniffed, too, and caught the whiff of smoke coming from above. Bookworm grimaced. “Stay here, Lisa, and keep people out of here. I need to go back and get my firefighting equipment.”
Lisa nodded–that suited her, anyway. She waited until Miss Bookworm was out of sight, and sent out a call in Feline, asking cats to spread the word that Strifeclaw was needed immediately at Kasa’s house–which she described as ‘the tall tree where the rabbit lives.’ As she spotted Miss Bookworm returning, well laden, she heard the cat yowls spread out across the city.
((To be continued…))