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Dec. 13 – A Loosening of the Leash

As Bookworm stepped inside Militia headquarters, she stopped short at the sight of the diminutive man standing there. “Mr. Canergak,” she said. “Good day.”

“Hello again, Captain,” the Asylum director replied. “We have much to discuss.”

Bookworm nodded. “Please, step into my office.” She led the way in, and sat down behind her desk. “What do you wish to discuss first?”

Canergak settled into a chair opposite her, sighing. “Lisa. Last time we spoke, we had discussed her probation.”

“Yes, you spoke of lessening it.”

He fixed her with a somewhat hard stare. “Have you given any thought on that since then and my proposal of the end of our animosity?”

“I have…” Bookworm hid a wince.

“And what are your conclusions?”

She sighed. “I still do not agree with much of what you are doing–what I can understand of it, at least. But if I’m going to convince you to do things otherwise, I need to understand more. And to do that… well, we would need to… have a closer association.” It pained her to say that – she still couldn’t help but feel as if she was making a deal with the devil – but, at least for Lisa’s sake, it needed to be done.

“That would be wise,” Canergak replied, looking pleased. “I am certain that we will be able to help one another better now.”

“I do still reserve the right to intervene on behalf of my friends, though. I do not want to see another situation like Tepic’s.”

“Indeed?” Canergak’s look turned sardonic. “Would you care to speculate, then, about an experiment that the Professor is going to undertake soon?”

“And what is that?” Bookworm asked, going still.

“I have no idea as to the specifics as of yet. The Professor intends to take the cat in my possession and experiment on it, using methods that the other cat, the one known as Beryl, suggested to him.”

She blinked, surprised that Beryl would offer any such suggestions in this matter, as Canergak continued, “There is much that could be learned, as the study is attempting to reach the broken mind of the cat and see if there is a way to reach it. I must admit that this experiment intrigues me.”

“Well, if that works, it could indeed be beneficial,” she mused.

“I have a vested interest in this kind of research. It could help many who have lost or broken minds through… unnatural means.” Bookworm heard an undercurrent in his voice, and nodded thoughtfully. “As for the specimen itself, if it is lost through the experimentation I will not be sorry to see that. As it is, there has been nothing to prove to me the creature is anything more than a monster that nearly killed my forewoman. But if this experiment works, and helps it, that will undoubtedly please everyone else as well.”

“Well, I wish him success,” Bookworm replied, though she couldn’t keep her face from reflecting her conflicting emotions. Canergak, of course, saw that, and asked, “You are troubled?”

She sighed. “I admit, a part of me wishes that creature away from here, if only for Lisa’s sake. She’s too wrapped up in it, to my mind. On the other hand, if it can be made better, that would make her happy, as well as Beryl.”

Canergak nodded. “I admit that I find Lisa’s fascination unhealthy, but I do not think I or you will ever be able to change how she sees that part of the world.”

“True,” replied Bookworm wryly. Then, turning the conversation back to its original goal, she asked, “What are the specifics of her lessened probation?”

“She will only be required to come back at night. Her days will be hers when she isn’t working, and she can request for nights away, as long as we know where she is going. I will even pay her backpay for what I have been withholding all this time.” He paused. “There is only one thing I insist remain the same.”

“And that is?”

“That she continue to assist me in my underground laboratory.”

“I see.” Bookworm grimaced inwardly. “Well, she is your employee. You can assign her her tasks as you see fit.”

“You will find me a very odd employer, Captain Hienrichs. I truly never would have employed Lisa if she had never tried to resist me.” He stood up, but arrested himself before turning fully toward the door. “By the way, I heard about your issues last month with the fire fighting equipment.”

Bookworm winced. “Yes, I’m afraid it was rather neglected during our stretch of strangely fire-free time.”

“That will not do,” stated Canergak reprovingly. “My facilities, and anyone else’s, are at risk in these conditions. I’ll be donating to the brigade in the near future. You can expect new equipment soon.”

Her jaw hung open for a second, before she gathered herself and said, with a gracious nod of her head, “Thank you.”

“You seem surprised.”

“A little. I hadn’t expected such… civic-mindedness. Most in New Babbage tend to look to their own properties.”

“Selfish fools often do. A scientist should know that their discoveries are for the benefit of the world, not themselves alone.” He inclined his head. “I shall send Lisa here presently. Good evening.”

“And to you.” Bookworm watched him go, then turned her attention to various items of paperwork. She was interrupted not much later by a tap at the door, heralding the arrival of Lisa. Bookworm smiled, invited her in, and told the girl the new conditions of her probation, with their added freedoms. She smiled to see Lisa’s eyes light up, and dismissed her cheerily, though she did hope that, one day soon, the girl would have complete freedom from Canergak. But only time would tell.

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