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“Hello, Tepic,” Bookworm said as she stepped inside the hospital and saw Tepic drinking at the water fountain. He stepped back, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “‘Ello, Miss,” he replied. “Yer wanted ter meet me here?”
She nodded. “We do need to wait for someone else, though. And please… try not to be too rude. Or run away. This… is necessary.”
Almost before her words were out, a voice from the hallway said, “Ah, there you are.” And Canergak stepped out into the reception room.
“Wot’s he doing here!” Tepic cried. His right hand slipped into a pocket, and came out adorned with brass knuckles He backed up, adopting a fighting stance. Canergak raised an eyebrow.
“Tepic, please.” Bookworm held up a hand. “You need to hear this.”
“‘E’s got us trapped!” Tepic kept his fists up.
“Put those away,” Canergak said impatiently. “I am far better armed than you, and you don’t even know it.” Bookworm shot a look at him, but he continued, “Besides, this is not a trap.”
“I’m supposed ter believe yer?” Tepic said skeptically.
“Would Miss Hienrichs lead you into a trap?”
“Err… no?” He looked pleadingly at Bookworm. “Miss Book?”
She shook her head. “It’s not a trap, Tepic.” Which was, more or less, the truth. Certainly, it wasn’t the sort of trap Tepic was thinking of… “Mr. Canergak has something he needs to discuss with you.”
Tepic hesitated, then slipped the brass knuckles back into his pocket, though he remained tensed.
“We are going upstairs to see Beatrixe Rouse and the condition you have left her in. It has deteriorated.”
“What?!” Tepic shouted. “Where is she?”
“This way.” Canergak led the three of them to the elevator and took them up a floor. Bookworm kept close to Tepic, keeping a close eye on him. He led them by several beds and down a hallway, into a room at the end. Inside were two large round metal chambers, which Bookworm recognized as iron lungs. Within one rested the unconscious form of Beatrixe.
“What yer done ter her, yer monster!” Tepic scowled at the administrator.
“Saved her life,” the man replied.
“Like yer done them other poor creatures in yer torcher chamber?” scoffed Tepic. Bookworm put a hand on his shoulder, trying to reassure him.
“Is that what you think I’m doing?
“Yes!” Bookworm could feel Tepic trembling under her hand.
“Take Miss Book an’ Mr. Tenk down there an’ turn on that machine, sees what they says,” growled Tepic.
“Very well, I shall.” As Bookworm stared at him, he continued, “On the matter of Beatrixe Rouse, however, we come to a problem, and that is that she can no longer breathe on her own.”
“Is… is… she gonna be all right?” Tepic asked plaintively.
“Keeping her alive is no longer cost effective.” At Tepic’s confused stare, Canergak added, “That means that it will not be funded.” Tepic still looked confused. “By the end of the week, they will remove her from this apparatus and she will no longer be able to breathe.”
Tepic looked back at Bookworm, and though it nearly broke her heart, she said, “If money isn’t found to pay for this, she’ll be removed… and she’ll die.”
((To be continued…))