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Dec. 15 – A Difficult Decision (Dark Aether)

Well before dawn, a slight figure slipped quietly out of the Imperial Theatre.  Though the moon was up, and only a little past full, its light was well dimmed by the haze prevalent in the skies above New Babbage.  The figure moved in shadows, with a care for where it placed its feet, making no noise even on areas of well-packed snow.  Only occasionally did light from one of the streetlamps flash off of red hair.

Felisa had decided she needed to avoid Gadget for now.  She was still angry with him for losing Ambrose’s notebook to the Van Creed, but it seemed as if he would not–or could not–understand the depth of her distress.  To stay around him would only end up provoking her, sooner or later.  So she continued to stay in the Imperial Theater, instead of the safe house Gadget and several of the others had moved to.  It made for a longer trek to the Van Creed building, but she didn’t mind.

A few times a week, she sneaked into the abandoned building, looking for signs that it was abandoned no longer.  The last time she’d been there, it had seemed as if a few things had been shifted around–definitely a troubling sign.  She was anxious to see if there had been further changes in the intervening time…

Slowly, pausing after every step to look and listen, she neared the entrance to the Van Creed building.  When she could finally make it out through the gloom of the night, she stopped dead in her tracks.  Instead of an inexpertly boarded-up entrance, there was now a solid door.  She inched her way forward and up the steps.  Holding her breath, she pressed her ear to the door…

And Felisa heard, and even felt, the low hum of machinery.

Hissing silently in agitation, she backed up a step.  She took a deep, though tremulous, breath, knowing she couldn’t give in to her distress yet.  As calmly as she could, she retraced her silent way down the alley, away from the building, until she judged she was far enough away.  Then she took to her heels, running through the empty, quiet streets, her pounding feet sparking echoes that swirled around her.  She ran nearly across the city, until she reached the courtyard of the power station.  After a moment spent catching her breath, she let out a piercing yowl, as close to the alarm call of a cat as her human vocal cords could manage.

Several cats appeared immediately, having obviously been taking advantage of the shelter the complex offered, even as she had done last winter.  She ignored their questions, though, waiting for any of the Elders to come.

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before three of the Elders, headed by Crooktail, arrived on the run.  Felisa sank to her knees, heedless of the snow, and Crooktail skidded to a stop in front of her, placing his paws on her legs.  “Felisa!  What is it?”

“You have to leave,” she said urgently.  “You all have to leave.  Now!”

Crooktail’s ears swept back in dismay.  “Why?”

“That building where the bad M’an-folk were,” she said.  “They’ve returned, and they’ve built something in there.  That’s the something that’s going to start the destruction of the city–I’m sure of it!”

Hisses of dismay and agitation rose from the assembled cats.  “You’re right,” Crooktail said.  “We’ve done what little we can; it’s time to leave while we still have life.”  He crisply gave instructions to the others, telling them to spread the word of the evacuation as fast as they could.  Then he turned back to Felisa.  “Are you coming with us?”

“I–” She paused, and then sighed.  “I don’t know.”

Crooktail looked at her with a shrewd eye, but said nothing as he left to do his own part in spreading the word.

Felisa stood up and wandered west, trying to think.  Eventually, she found herself standing by the gate in the city wall, huddling in its shelter as a nearly imperceptible change of light heralded the start of sunrise.  A few cats went by her from time to time, giving her a greeting or encouraging word as they passed.  She knew most, though, would be leaving through the smaller, hidden cracks in the walls, which were mostly unknown to the M’an-folk.

Should she stay, or should she go?  The cats were her Folk, but the humans–some of them, at least–were also her Folk.  There wouldn’t be anything she could do outside the city to help the cats–and, indeed, she’d be at a distinct disadvantage there, being unable to hunt, or eat what others might bring her.  But if she stayed, what could she do here to help?  The only thing she’d ever been able to offer was utilizing the skills of the cats, and she’d just negated whatever advantage that was by sending them away.  Part of her wanted to go, but part of her wanted to stay–and she honestly could not tell which part of her wanted which action.

But then a thought captured her attention.  If the Van Creed were back in the building…would they have Ambrose’s notebook with them?  Did she dare to think she might be able to sneak in and get it?  Oh, if she could rectify that mistake, it would all be worth it!

A peremptory meow startled her.  Looking down, she saw her siblings gathered around her feet, along with a few other cats–some of those she’d rescued from Ambrose’s traps last winter.  “You’re staying, aren’t you?” her sister Tealla asked.

Felisa nodded.  “I am.  I wasn’t sure before, but now there’s something I might be able to do to help our Folk by staying.”

“Then we’re staying with you,” Tealla replied firmly.

Felisa smiled a little, knowing immediately that it was useless to try to argue.  “All right.  But let’s find a place to rest and talk.  We’ll probably have a long few days ahead of us.”

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16 Comments

  1. Avariel Falcon Avariel Falcon December 15, 2011

    A dark horse like figure stood on top of the great wall, watching as the cats left the city…

  2. Gadget Starsider Gadget Starsider December 15, 2011

    Inside the containment lab Gadget layed out the sterilised instruments. Like a shiny metal army on parade, neat rows of scalpels, forceps, clamps, swabs and the bone saw. Next to them lay objects that would be unfamiliar to any surgeon; the medulla shunt, cortex relay and inhibitor, superior colliculus bypass and the primary bio-electrical interface. Everything was ready…..

  3. Jimmy Branagh Jimmy Branagh December 15, 2011

    In a dark basement somewhere deep in the city, a small blond-haired boy begins strapping on as many weapons and cartridges as he can comfortably carry and checking the fit while pressurizing the old steampack that has served him many years in preparation for … what?

    He knows not what role he may play in the inexorably approaching doom, but the City and its people are all he has.  If they fall, he too will fall as one of them.

    He turns from his thoughts, and begins sorting through the crate of Aether Corps equipment he secreted here.

     

  4. Avariel Falcon Avariel Falcon December 15, 2011
    At the power station a large clunky clockwork works on a shoulder cannon, carefully making components out of melted down bits of Church blunderbuss. The clockwork picks up an engraving tool and carefully engraves a secret word on each component in type so fine that no human eye could read it…
  5. Cyan Rayna Cyan Rayna December 15, 2011

    Cyan pulled out his Dapper Zapper after watching a family of cats leave through the cracks of the outer wall of the city. He fliped the zapper in his hand and continued practicing as he had been every day since he had gotten it. He had only used a sword a few times and a pistol once but this felt natural to him.

    Cyan wasn’t sure what he was going to do but he knew he would not leave the city again for some time because as many times as he’s traveled, this felt most like home. He’s going to stay and fight as much as he can.

    ((also does this feel like the end of a movie where you see all the good guys getting ready in a montage XD))

    • Bookworm Hienrichs Bookworm Hienrichs December 15, 2011

      ((*laugh*  You almost ended up owing me a new monitor for that, Cyan.))

    • Bookworm Hienrichs Bookworm Hienrichs December 15, 2011

      ((If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire…

      The NB-Team.))

      • Cyan Rayna Cyan Rayna December 15, 2011

        (( XD That is so what I was thinking too.))

        • Bookworm Hienrichs Bookworm Hienrichs December 15, 2011

          ((Heh–hoist by my own petard.  I’ve had the theme song running through my head ever since. *laugh*))

  6. Tepic Harlequin Tepic Harlequin December 15, 2011

    Tepic read the latest pages the Writer had inscribed… so… it was tomorrow, if the mention of the party was correct. Well, there wasn’t much else he could do to prepare, he had his armour on, a parachute stuffed in the top, his gun, with his last four bullets, strapped under the pillows, the eel zapper in hand, and a supply of vole jerky handy. He’d stashed things he might need around the City, using the Book to give hints as to what he would need and where. Nothing much else to do, cept play some music, and wait…..

  7. Avariel Falcon Avariel Falcon December 15, 2011

    Avariel Falcon stood still as Unit #6 attached the new shoulder cannon…

    There was no time for a proper test, Avariel would have to instead trust to faith, and a large woolly sheep from a dream…

    Unit #6 took his position at the portal controls, he would stand ready to open portals around the city if quick transport was required. Unfortunatly there had been no repeat of the solar flare so the portals still only worked within the city, and even then they were not terribly reliable with the increasing intensity of the dark aether…

    With everything as ready as it was going to be the clockwork unicorn stood in the snow… waiting for the end… 

  8. Mr. Arnold Mr. Arnold December 15, 2011

    Arnold could feel something in the air around him…he didn’t know what to call it but it was time he took out that blunderbuss he’d gotten months ago, figured out how it worked, and did something with it…

    The last thing he had to do was find the time to pack Maddox in a box and send her to Abu Dahbi…errr…Mondrago.

  9. Queer Hermit Queer Hermit December 16, 2011

    [img_assist|nid=4355|title=The Resting place|desc=|link=popup|align=left|width=640|height=480]The mikos finally found the grave that the waking dream had shown them.  Odd, it was nearby the place where Metier had passed Miss Hermit the connection to the spirit of Babbage.  Queer decided to stay near the grave as the time for this event grew closer.  She had no real idea if a formal invocation would work but she knew that she had to try.  Queer also knew that no matter if  he liked it or not, Daniel was going to have to help somehow.

    The mikos returned to their dojo in Nevermoor to prepare and make plans…and to wonder who Margo December was.

  10. The Undertaker The Undertaker December 16, 2011

    The cemeteries in New Babbage seemed to be enjoying more tourism than would be expected during the cold months, with small groups gathering to doing furtive rituals and Builder-knows-what-else around the graves.  All the undertaker could do was watch calmly and patiently, as was his habit.

    The city was on edge.  He could feel it.

    Weapons. Creatures. Clockwork. Anxiety.  It was almost palpable.

    As he walked through the Port on his way toward Babbage Square, he smirked to himself as a thought crossed his mind.

    Perhaps it will be a busy season.

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