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June 8 – Working the Mind

The sound of the opening door between the asylum and the hospital gave Lisa Fargazer warning that someone was coming. From her position on the floor, scrubbing the tiles, she snuck a look under her arm, and saw the diminutive figure of Canergak entering. She continued her work, hoping he’s simply walk by, but…

“Lisa.”

His voice never failed to set her teeth on edge, but she hid that reaction, as she always did. She looked up to see him standing by, just out of splashing range. Setting down her brush, she stood up, brushing her skirt smooth. “Sir.”

“I will be departing again soon.” He studied her up and down for a moment, and Lisa squirmed inwardly. “Where did you say you had been employed?”

She swallowed down a rising nervousness, and said, “Manette’s Greengrocers, sir.”

“Where are they located?”

Was that information in the memories she’d kept from the human Lisa? She closed her eyes, desperately pounding on that door in her mind, and quickly opened them again. “In… New York City, sir.”

Canergak nodded. “I will be going to the America’s soon for unrelated reasons, but I should be able to locate your previous employers. While I am gone your duties remain the same as before.”

Lisa paled a little. Ever since she’d let slip that bit of information about being used to hard work, she’d been afraid that the man might take it into his head to follow up on it. And now he was. Despite the sinking in her stomach, though, she managed to say calmly enough, “I see, sir.”

“Now,” he continued, “I want to work your mind. Follow me.” He went back through the connecting door, Lisa close behind, and went through the main room of the hospital and out the door. As she stepped outside, he peered at her. “What is the first thing you think when you walk out this door?”

She looked around curiously. She’d heard others saying that the recent work in the Wheatstone district had really changed some things, but she’d not had a chance to see it for herself until now. She looked around at the now-narrow sidewalk, with only a short fence between it and a drop into the canal. Finally, she said, “That this is no longer the best place for the front door, sir.”

“Direct observation,” Canergak said wryly, “and the truth. This facility, and the asylum, have fallen behind in some ways. Constant renovations are not enough. What should be done?”

Frowning, Lisa thought the question over. “Ownership of more of the surrounding area might help,” she said tentatively. “But I don’t know if you can do that.”

“I considered this approach, and recently the plot I had my eye on was taken. But the owners of the plot across from here wish to sell.” He paused. “I believe that I can make this facility work for my needs, and those of everyone else. The question is, what do you think?” He studied her closely.

Lisa felt and, she was sure, looked startled at being asked her opinion. “Well, a facility like this is certainly needed here,” she said, not at all sure if this was the sort of thing he was looking for.

“There is a need. I was asking merely what you would do if you were in charge here,” he replied, a little impatiently. “Do you not wonder why I want you here?”

She stared at him keenly, wondering if she might actually get an answer to that very question. “Yes, sir, I do,” she said, nodding slowly.

“I already know my own mind and what I intend to do. I grow stronger through adversity and differing points of view–contention. I want you to work here because you see the world differently than me.”

Was that a veiled reference to what she truly was? She wasn’t sure, so she carefully tested the waters. “Doesn’t everyone? After all, we’re all different in some way.”

“Yes, but you will notice that there is no one employed here that thinks and believes as I do. I have such people I could have called upon. Rance Vartanian is the closest I have found to thinking as I do, but we still differ with some opinions.”

“I see, sir.” Could that really be the only reason? Had her staunch defense of Rasend been the only impetus to Canergak’s decision to keep her working here? If so, that would certainly be a load off her mind…

“Your work is about to become more difficult,” he continued after a moment’s quiet.

“In what way, sir?”

“The facilities will have to be joined in a way they were not before. I will be returning with plans from sanitariums from around the world to work with. Facilities meant to house hundreds. We will soon be in need.”

Lisa inhaled a bit sharply, but quickly calmed herself. “It will all need to be cleaned, then?”

“Yes.” He fixed her with a hard stare. “The first group arrives soon. Be ready.”

“I will, sir,” she replied, though she wasn’t at all sure she would be. She followed him back inside. “Will that be all, sir?”

“For the evening.”

“Yes, sir.” She quickly scurried back to the asylum side, and knelt beside the water bucket again, her mind spinning. She was already stretched to the limit with chores; any expansion would be extremely difficult on her… and something on the scale Canergak had said would be impossible. She would need help, for sure.

A sudden thought made her pause in her scrubbing. Perhaps she could convince one or two of the urchins to take up the additional work–urchins who just might be sympathetic to her need to spy on Canergak, to find out what his ultimate goals were. But could she find such girls–and convince Canergak of the need? She leaned forward into the brush again, scrubbing hard as she thought.

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