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Getting the hat (A little Dark Aether)

Arnold left Dagon Hall early in the morning, and ran into Gadget near Emerson’s, who was in the graveyard looking for the hat again.  Arnold shared what he understood, which wasn’t very much.  “All I know is that the hat looks real….but there’s also something not real about it.  Just like when I look at the canisters…it’s just…”  Arnold shook his head.  “Nevermind.  You’re welcome to dig for the hat if you think it will help.  Emerson will mind, but at this point he’ll either understand or I’ll make him understand.”

“You think it mig’ be buried in this graveyard?”  Gadget asked.

“Maybe,” Arnold admitted.  “But I’m probably just being a little petty, even now.”

Gadget asked, “So I can use a spade?”

“I don’t care if you bring one of Nathaniel’s digging machines.”  Arnold said, and then stiffened as Henri suddenly appeared and he hissed and set himself.

“Oh bugger ‘ere ‘e is!”  Gadget cried and then ran up to the ghost despite Arnold’s protest.  “Oi!  Sir!  Where is the damned thing?  Do I ‘ave to dig up this whole bloody graveyard?”

“Oh, well you’re a bit late to start digging here,”  Henri told them.  And then he revealed to them slowly, and with a lot of taunting where the hat might be in the near future but never giving a clear answer.

“Now look ‘ere mister ghostie, your leading us on a right merry dance and I got things to attend to!”  Gadget exclaimed forcefully.  “Tell me where to stick me shovel.”

Henri laughed and showed them to a spot and explained he had always just been showing them where the hat was under the ground the whole time, that it had not once been on the surface.  He then said it would soon pop into the well near Breezy’s in a couple days, however long that was.  Metier laughed at them again, and Gadget rolled his eyes.  “Bloody ghost ‘umour.”

They decided to stake out the well, and the next morning Gadget had an idea.  He was going to climb into the well and retrieve the hat following whatever system would make it leak or flow into there.

“This is probably a bad idea,” Arnold said, understating the obvious.

“Aye.”

“You’re thinking of doing it anyways, of course.”

“Yep.”

Dr. Sonnerstein arrived to speak with them about it, and for a long time they discussed it at the entrance, far from the monster this early in the morning before the sun had truly risen.  He told them that he’d found Dr. Cyberfaustus suffering the other day from moments of madness as well, and that Dr. Sonnerstein had a rough night and still looked very tired and ragged.  It didn’t stop him from musing, “Why would Metier show anyone such….?  This is what I don’t understand of this.”  He rubbed his forehead in thought and concern.

Gadget shruged, “Not sure, It is as if ‘e wants us to get it.”

Arnold then told them about his other encounter with Metier on Saturday night and how he had wondered if it was all a trick…but if so he had continued to play that trick into the first…Dr. Sonnerstein then said if they could bury it today, the second it would work very well.

“Dia de los Muertos.. All Souls Day…The end of Dia de los Muertos, I should say…so, his hat is down that well… but how to retrieve it…”

“Gadget had that brilliant, dangerous, idea.”  Arnold said disparagingly.

“Thats wot I got my diving gear for,”  Gadget replied.

Kristos blinked wide eyed at Gadget. “Diving gear?! A well is so narrow for that though…!”

Gadget wouldn’t budge, “I ‘used to do chimneys, im good at narrow passages.  Trick is to feel about, and you ‘aul me up and down in the bucket.”

“I can’t go near.. That well is too close to a canister..Arnold, would you be able to haul on that much weight?”

Unbidden memories of his ancestors came back to him, and he sighed with his reply, “I’m apparently a lot stronger than I look.”

Kristos smirks. “Strange, I used to be able to function despite madness…Mostly…”

Arnold almost let out another roar of frustration, but he simply said, “Henri doesn’t seem to have a problem…”

“Henri is mad already… Plenty…And if he really is absorbing that dark aether…”  Kristos paused to consider it, and Arnold shared what he and Blackberry had discussed already, about him working with the machines not against them.

“That would indeed be a dangerous thing…There are some nutters trying to open the cracks to the aether world…behind my gaff,” Gadget muttered.

“Wait what?”  Arnold asked, and Kristos’s ears tipped back a bit.

“You know that fellow Moriarty were talking to at the Halloween ball.”  Gadget began and Kristos nodded.

“Stormy mentioned something… We were going to see if you’d come have a look with us at that place behind your freak house.”  Sonnerstein said.

Gadget nodded, “Watch out, that bloke threatened Tepic.”  He went on to say they should take care of them by any means possible.

“I’m surprised you want them all to die then.”  Arnold said, knowing that might not have been what he meant but it needed to be said so he’d know how serious the urchin was taking this.  It took some explaining as he thought, but in the end Gadget did agree.

“Well if it comes to it, if you knew what I knew about what they is trying to do and ‘ave read yer own obituary in that book…its…….war…”  Dr. Sonnerstein patted Gadgets shoulder softly and then the boy added, “I aint in the business of killing fer killings sake, but I dont think this lot is gonna throw up their arms either.”

Arnold nodded and the group soon turned their attention to the well.  They were going to go forward with the plan after all…at least they were until Metier appeared through the ground near the well, or so it looked like to Arnold.

“Bugger! ‘es ‘ere”  Gadget cried, but the apparition just chuckled and gestured to the well.

“My hat’s surfacing.  Take it.”  He then let himself disappear back into the ground, laughing manically.

Gadget ran up beside the well and cried out, “It’s ‘ere!  The ‘at!”  He tried to reach for it and suddenly Metier came up from behind the boy again!

“Behind you!”  Arnold cried, and Sonnerstein yelled, “Be careful, Gadget!”

Gadget jumped as Henri scared him and the boy almost fell into the well, Sonnerstein and Arnold came up but this just made Henri laugh, “Couldn’t resist!”

“Bloody ‘ell!”  Gadget said stepping back after regaining his balance.  Both Sonnerstein and Arnold were growling deep in the throats.

No one moved for a few moments, and then chuckled and encouraged them, “Go ahead, take the hat.  It’s harmless.”

Gadget reached inside quickly and got the hat in his hands, it was waterlogged and ruined, but he had it, “I ‘ave it!”

“Why are you bothering to help us, Metier?”  Sonnerstein asked, and then added, “Not to look a gift horse in the mouth…”  Metier just vanished again and when the Dr wasn’t answered he rubbed his ears and muttered.  “Come on…let’s get out of here.”
 
They moved back and Gadget held the ruined relic in his hands triumphantly, “Its in a sorry state, but I got it!”

“It makes me wonder though…why give us his hat… why allow us to have it at all?”

“I’ve been wondering about it for some time…this has to be a trick…I just don’t know how.”  Arnold mused for a moment and then added, “I mean, we never even would have known it was there without him since it was never in the graveyard, it was always underground in some stream…and he was just showing it to us.”  The image of that hat had always been as it had looked last in life, the ruined hat in Gadgets hand had the look of months of damage.  “He let us see it…otherwise we’d have never known about it and Breezy might have just thrown it away when it was discovered…at least…if we believe he was just showing us when it was and where.”

“So I better find Tepic and find out what we should do with this,” Gadget said, as resolute as ever.

“Tell him to talk to us before he buries it…”  Arnold suggested and Kristos nodded.

“Maybe we should arrange a meeting…” Gadget began, but Arnold continued his train of thought.

“I’d hate for this to somehow be what the man wants…but that’s what it must be…”  It was the only explanation Arnold could think of for showing them the hat…

“Must be what he wants?” Kristos mused, but then Metier arrived yet again for a third time behind them!

Gadget scowls, and Arnold let out another hiss as the man chuckled,  “So, when’s this funeral going to be then?  After all, I was never given a proper send off!”

“No, you weren’t.  And that’s part of the problem.” Kristos then tried a new approach. “Are you helping us because you wish to be at rest? Or is there something more to it?”

“Problem is it?”  Henri chuckled.  “Dr. Sonnerstein, I don’t think you have ever understood me! And I doubt you ever shall!”

“Likely not.” Sonnerstein admitted.

Henri moved again slightly and then continued to taunt them, “Be careful what you do with that hat. It is a curse to you in many ways.”  

Gadget narrowed his eyes and watched the apparition, while Arnold’s growl got louder.  Henri just giggled at them once again until finally Gadget asked, “What drives you?”

“Drives me?” Herni asked, and Arnold could practically feel the grin he could not see.  “I drive me.  I just take a lot of suggestions!”

“This isnt about that feud any more is it..”  Gadget ventured and Henri was immediately dismissive.

“Oh that is long done, and settled!”

“Then why?”

“That would be telling.”  Henri replied and then started to walk past them towards the canals.  “I’ll wait to see what you can do with the hat to tell you!”

With that he walked off, and this time he did not return.

“I don’t trust ‘im farther than I can spit.” Gadget turned back to Arnold and Sonnerstein, the doctor at least musing about whose suggestions Henri was taking now.  “I vote we make a meeting with all interested for tonight, then if it needs burying we do it on this day.”

The meeting time was set for 12 pm at the graveyard behind the Mechanix where the urchin was buried, and they all went to tell everyone who might have an interest in Metier’s fate.

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