Lisa was running an errand for Professor Vartanian when she saw figures moving below her in the frozen canal. She couldn’t see who they were, but their outlines told her they were Moreau-folk, and they were holding signs. Curious, she discreetly followed their progress from the road above, then hung back as they climbed up to street level and headed for the Port Babbage district. Trailing along in the shadows, she watches as they gathered in front of a building.
“No more testing on Moreau!” shouted one figure, a cabbit-type. “No more testing on animals!”
That certainly got Lisa’s attention, and she drew closer as others among the group shouted, drowning out the man who had stepped out from the building.
“We want – nay, demand – an end to the cruelties being done in this foul place,” said a rabbit figure.
“No animal testing!” shouted the lone human among them, a woman. “Animals have rights, too!”
As Lisa came closer, trying to hear the man who had exited the building, she heard the cabbit shout, “Lies! Cats and Moreau disappearing everywhere!”
“Well, it might be someone else,” the man said. “Not like there aren’t plenty of folk hereabout doing odd things.”
“And the Militia do nothing,” the rabbit female said.
“Save our furry friends!” yelled the woman. A bear roared wordlessly at that.
“I have nothing but the best intentions for you mammal types,” the man said. “You don’t mind insect testing, do you?”
“Us mammal types?” the rabbit said indignantly. “See how he segregates us from the humans!”
“Look, you have all kinds of rights to be here,” replied the man. “Just stay orderly, eh?”
But even as he said that, the cabbit stepped forward and threw a bottle through the window. “Oh, do windows even count?” she said sweetly. But then, as a crackling sound and flickering light came from the broken window, she stared. “I did not do that!” she yelled. “Seriously! Fire!”
All was chaos at that, with several of the protesters shouting to save the kittens, while the man kept insisting there were none inside. Lisa, hoping the chaos would mask her own actions, darted to the side of the building and yowled as loud as she could. She didn’t hear any Feline cries in reply, but she wasn’t sure she would be able to hear any over the shouting of the others nearby.
After a few minutes of watching a few people ineffectually throwing snow on the growling blaze, Lisa turned at the commotion of several people arriving with firefighting equipment. Most set up hoses and began spraying the building with water, while others attempted to keep the growing crowd of onlookers back. Even Lisa could see, though, that the water was having little effect against the fire as it continued to eat into the building’s walls and roof. Several people speculated on what strange combination of chemicals might have been houses in there, while the protesters complained that they should let the building burn.
Despite the efforts of the fire brigade, the building eventually disintegrated – first the roof collapsed, then the walls. It took many more minutes before the fire was finally declared out. Lisa watched as the brigade members, including Beryl and Miss Hienrichs, gathered together, making plans to close off the scene for investigation.
Miss Hienrichs, indeed, soon shed her persona of fire brigade member for that of Militia captain, and began questioning those around about what had happened. Lisa did her best to stay small, but the captain soon focused her attention on the protesters, though Lisa noticed that the one who had thrown the bottle had disappeared. She listened as the discussion grew more and more heated; it ended with Miss Hienrichs threatening to put all the protesters in jail if they held another demonstration.
At that point, Lisa slipped away, knowing she’d best complete her errand and get back to the asylum. She thought about beckoning Beryl over, but the cat, along with the rest of the brigade members, looked very wet and bedraggled, and she rather guessed they’d be wanting to rest soon.
The next day, as she was mopping the entranceway floor, Beryl came inside. Lisa set aside her mop and looked at him sternly. “Tell me – was that place why my Folk were disappearing?”
“Some of them, yes,” Beryl replied, nodding sadly. “And I’m not that sorry it’s gone.” He looked up at her. “What did you see?”
She told him about following the protesters, the argument with the man, and Hally throwing the bottle through the window.
“Was the bottle on fire?” Beryl asked.
“I don’t think so,” replied Lisa thoughtfully, “but I’m not sure.”
He sighed a little. “Hally’s own house burned down. Sounds like she may be getting revenge for the fire that destroyed her own home, in some way.” He paused. “Are you going to tell Miss Bookworm about what you saw?”
Lisa thought a moment, then shook her head. Though she did like the woman, this… was something she knew they wouldn’t agree on. The building owners had gotten what they deserved, so far as she was concerned, and she wasn’t going to help the militia catch who had carried out that revenge.
“I haven’t heard of cats disappearing from around there recently, but there had been enough awhile ago. Despite his protests it was just ‘one.’” As Lisa’s mouth set in a thin, angry line, he continued, “I’m not that upset it burned. Maybe people will stop testing on cats now.” He shrugged. “What do you believe, Lisa?”
“I don’t know. We seem to be so… convenient.”
“Cats? For humans, we seem to be.” Beryl sighed. “Hally, for all of her other problems, is part cat, and the other Moreau and some humans gathered to stop the actions. They aren’t very organized or really know what they’re doing, as Tepic said. But the point is that we fight back. Maybe some day they’ll learn that.”
“Perhaps.” Lisa was dubious about that, though.
“How are things going with Myn?” Beryl asked, their conversation having brought the captive cat to mind.
Lisa brightened. “Better, actually.We freed her from her prison – or, perhaps, the first one. We’ll see what our next trip to the Dreamfields brings us.” She detailed how they had freed Myn from the first cage, and how she’d been carried away by the whirlwind.
“That sound very familiar…” Beryl mused. He looked at her soberly. “Be careful, Lisa. The next stage might be worse than before.”
Lisa nodded. “Professor Vartanian said it would probably get worse before it gets better.”
“He’s probably right.” Beryl reached up and opened the front door, letting in a draft of cold, wet air. “Have a good day.”
“You, too.” She quickly closed the door behind him and retrieved her mop, wishing she could scrub away her questions as easily as she did the melted snow.