Lisa was hurrying to finish scrubbing the hallway outside the dining room when she heard steps approaching. Looking up, she saw Beatrixe Rouse approaching. Bea’s appearance had changed much since earlier that year; she now had an artificial leg, arm, ear, and eye. But her ebullient personality seemed unchanged. “Hello, Bea!” Lisa exclaimed, standing up.
“Hello!” she replied. “What are you doing here?”
“Cleaning. As always.” Lisa might have more freedom for her leisure times now, but that didn’t mean she actually had more leisure time. Work continued as usual for all the staff.
“I prefer construction to cleaning. Always dust everywhere.” Beatrixe then cocked her head. “Why are you cleaning here again?”
“It’s what Canergak requires me to do.”
“Oh, the boss makes you clean this spot every day? That must be rather boring.”
Lisa couldn’t help but smile. “Well, not just this particular place.”
Bea nodded, glancing around. “You’ve got a lot of hands clean around here. Anyway, I thought I should tell you that I’m feeling pretty good now with my new leg. Not falling over all the time. Forget it’s there half the time!” She paused. “And then I fall over.”
“I’m sure you’ll get used to it completely,” replied Lisa reassuringly.
Bea looked down at the bucket of water, then back at Lisa, a confused expression suddenly on her face. “But I thought you didn’t have to work for the Boss anymore because I’m not sick now…”
“No, that was Tepic.”
“Ohh, right! That one.” Bea looked thoughtful. “I think he saved me from the raven. If you see him, could you thank him for me?”
“I will,” Lisa replied. “I hope I will see him soon.”
Smiling, Bea said, “Well, back to building!” She skipped down the hallway, back to the front door. Lisa quickly finished her work, put the bucket and brush back with the other cleaning supplies, and rode the elevator up to the third level. Standing in the doorway of Professor Vartanian’s office, she saw him at his desk, bent over some paperwork. “You wanted to see me, sir?”
The professor glanced up. “Did I?” he asked, momentarily confused. Then remembrance dawned on his face. “Oh, yes, that cat. Lisa, what can you tell me about it?”
She wasn’t sure what he was looking for. “She is scared, sir. Scared and angry.”
“More than that, I would wager,” he replied dryly. “Has it said anything to you?”
“She is still… reluctant to say much, sir. Even to me.” Lisa kept herself steady under his gaze. “Though she still insists her people did not attack first.” She moved a few steps closer, needing to know something, but unsure how to broach the subject. Professor Vartanian lifted an eyebrow. “Is there something you wanted to ask?”
“Mr. Canergak said Beryl told you something that will help you?” she said hesitantly.
“Something of the sort. More precisely, he convinced me it would be worthwhile to look into.” He slid open a desk drawer, pocketed something from it, and stood up.
“Do… do you know why Beryl did that?” She was desperate to understand why Beryl would give these men any information that would help them in their experiments.
“Beryl seems convinced that his people are broken, and somehow he was fixed. So he believes that this one is fixable too. Whether it can or not, having two diametrically-opposed individuals gives a fair basis of comparison to see between them what went right and what went wrong, if I can pick out enough information from its mind, and from Beryl’s.”
Lisa was confused by the professor’s later words, but she understood the first sentences well enough. Beryl must think that he could help after all – and if Beryl did, she would trust in that, too.
“Canergak told me to let you come down with me and watch. I suppose it can’t be avoided. Come on.” He led the way back to the elevator, and they took it down to the basement, and into Canergak’s lab. The cat, Myn, was already strapped down onto a table, and looked lethargically around at the sound of their steps. She growled a little, though without much emotion behind it. Lisa went to her side and quickly whispered in Feline, “Shh. It’s all right.”
“Hmm,” the professor said. “I’ll need a chair.”
Lisa looked around and spotted a chair at the other side of the lab. She hurried over and began dragging it back. As she did so, she saw Professor Vartanian take something from his pocket and slip it into the back of the cat’s jacket. “Thank you,” he said, nodding at the foot of the table. “You can set it there.” As she did so, he picked up two prepared syringes, checking their contents. He pulled up a sleeve, placing one syringe against Myn’s shoulder. “Lisa, are you aware of the concept of dream walking?”
As the cat protested loudly at the pain of the injection, Lisa blurted out, “What do you know of that?!” She immediately reddened, realizing that despite Myn’s noise, the professor had heard her. He looked up at her, raising a brow. “You do know of it, then,” he said. “Good. That will make any explanations much simpler.”
Myn’s protests lessened, and she fell unconscious. Lisa, held by Vartanian’s gaze, said hesitantly, “I’ve… I’ve heard of it.”
The professor sat down at the foot of the table, rolling up his own sleeve. “Mr. Canergak probably won’t see this as a very scientific approach, but I have had some effectiveness with it before.” He wiped his shoulder with an alcohol swab and, as Lisa’s eyes widened, injected himself with the other needle. “Just make sure the cat remains asleep. If we can’t reach it from the waking world, we’ll see if I can reach it through its dreams. And Lisa…”
He fixed her with a stern stare. “Don’t tell anyone of this.”
“Yes, sir.” She watched as he settled himself more comfortably in the chair and closed his eyes. It took only a few moments before his breathing slowed and deepened, indicating that he’d fallen asleep. Lisa looked from one sleeping form to the other, thinking hard. Should she? Did she dare?
She shrugged. “In for a penny, in for a pound,” she whispered. She wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, but she’d heard other urchins use the expression in similar situations. Curling up on the floor by Myn’s table, she closed her eyes and immediately fell asleep. She entered the Dreamfields, changing to her cat form, and caught a trace that felt like Professor Vartanian. She followed it, letting him lead her to Myn.
((To be continued…))
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