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Lisa was taking a moment of rest in her busy day, sitting by the fireplace in Dr. Solsen’s office, when she heard the front door open and the padding of familiar feet. Looking around, she saw Arnold in the doorway of the office. “Hello, Lisa,” he said to her.
“Hello, Arnold,” she replied, unsure if there were others nearby. Arnold looked around, then came closer. “That’s not the name,” he said firmly.
Lisa couldn’t help but smile, remembering her own naming troubles in the first months of her life as a cat. “How have your dreams been, Strifeclaw?” she asked, saying his Feline name deliberately
“They have been… enlightening,” he said with an air of wonder, sitting down in the chair next to her and staring into the fire. “Something happened–something good.”
Lisa peered at him keenly. There certainly was a change about him–he seemed less nervy and erratic in his movements. There was a calmness to his face, and a confidence in his bearing, that she’d never seen before. “What is it?”
“I know who and what I am.” He grinned tiredly for a moment, and then turned fully towards her, adding as an afterthought, “It wasn’t easy.”
“I can imagine,” she replied a little wryly. Nothing ever was for him.
“I’m sorry about everything. Not being here to help you most of all.”
Lisa leaned over and put her hand in his arm in reassurance. “It’s all right. You’ve had much to deal with.”
So intent were they on their conversation, neither heard the footsteps approaching the office door. Canergak’s voice startled them both. “Lisa.”
She scrambled from her seat. “Sir.”
Canergak looked past her at Arnold, still sitting in the rocking chair. “You shouldn’t spend so much time with that thing,” he said dispassionately. “It will only end in misery.”
Having heard that before from Canergak, Lisa kept silent, though her eyes narrowed a bit. Behind her, Arnold mumbled loudly, “Now I remember why I don’t like you much…”
Canergak ignored him, turning his attention back to Lisa. “How long have you been running my errands now? One month?”
“About that, sir.” Lisa always made sure she was polite to the man, but never, ever forthcoming with her answers to him. She didn’t trust him at all.
“You are persistent, I will give you that,” he continued, though there was no warmth in the complement. “I expected you to collapse from overwork.”
“I am used to work, sir.” She’d said this before, to others, and it had always satisfied them. But now, it backfired. “Are you, now?” Canergak asked, looking at her keenly. “Who were your previous employers?”
Lisa froze, dread clenching an icy fist in the pit of her stomach. She certainly couldn’t tell Canergak that life as a feral cat in New Babbage was harder work than many humans ever experienced. But what *could* she say that would satisfy him?
Suddenly, a hidden memory rose from the back of her mind, like a wiggyfish rising in one of the canals, unseen until it was nearly at the surface. She had not often received such memories since the spirit of the human Lisa had moved on last spring, but they did still sometimes come. And this one came as a blessing, as she experienced, in a flash, a part of the human girl’s past–weeks of hard work, saving money for her passage to New Babbage after the deaths of her parents.
“I worked at a greengrocer’s place back in my hometown,” Lisa said glibly. “Manette Greengrocers.” She held herself still under the old man’s gaze.
“I will look into that, I suppose,” he finally said. “It is of little consequence now. I do want you to be aware that we are going to be receiving another specimen.”
“I see,” Lisa said through her apprehension. “Who is this one?”
“I have not received all the details. My services were requested, as they were for the specimens above us now.”
Arnold sat up in the rocking chair and asked incredulously, “They requested you?”
Before Canergak could reply, they all heard the front door open again. Lisa looked past Canergak and saw Dr. Maddox Lionheart approaching the office entranceway. “Hello, Dr. Lionheart,” she said. Canergak also looked around and said, “Good evening, Dr. Maddox.”
Dr. Lionheart smiled tiredly. “Hello, Lisa.” She contented herself with a nod at Canergak as she stepped past them to the desk where she sat down.
“I was informing Lisa, and your pet, about a new specimen,” Canergak informed her.
“Oh? That’s lovely,” Dr. Maddox said absently as she took out a ledger and reached for a pen. “I am glad you found the room for a new patient.”
“There is a patient that they want me to examine while we are there,” Canergak continued, “so if you are merely concerned with a body count then you will have two bodies upstairs.”
“I am concerned with crowding these patients in like cattle.” Dr. Maddox continued to scribble in her ledger. “But since we’ve made room, I suppose that two more won’t hurt.”
“Are the cells unsatisfactory? Then they shall be rebuilt,” he said firmly. Dr. Maddox looked up abruptly, saying, “They’re fine,” but he continued, “Cat, get Miss Beatrixe to draw something up.” His gaze finally came back to Lisa. “Lisa, we shall speak of your role here in private.” He gestured for her to follow up. She looked back at Arnold and Dr. Maddox, a mute appeal in her eyes, but then turned and followed Canergak out of the office.