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It took three rounds of surgery–one to implant the device, two to adjust it to Dr. Miller’s exacting standards–and two weeks of recovery at his complex, before he finally removed the stitches from the surgeries and performed the hearing tests on Bookworm that would tell her what she had recovered. To Bookworm, it seemed to take forever for him to complete the tests–and twice as long as that to finish his calculations. She tried to school herself to patience, though her jiggling foot betrayed her nerves. Finally, Dr. Miller looked up from his notes.
“Well,” he said. “Assuming, again, that your hearing was originally average, the implant has restored your left ear to about 85% of that level. Which is not bad at all, if I do say so myself.” He smiled, looking quite satisfied.
Bookworm felt quite satisfied herself. It could, after all, have been quite a bit worse. “And my right ear?”
“It’s healed to about 80% of normal. It’s likely there will be more improvement over the next several days, though whether it will return completely to normal isn’t something I can predict at this time. However, I believe I can safely say that overall, while you will notice the loss of hearing, it shouldn’t be enough to impact most of your activities.” His wry smile acknowledged her work as a Heroine, which certainly could be impacted.
Bookworm smiled and stood, holding out her hand. “Thank you very much, doctor,” she said warmly as he shook her hand. “I am forever grateful for your help.”
“You’re welcome,” he replied, a startled yet pleased smile lighting his face. “If I do manage to improve the performance of this type of implant, I’ll be sure to let you know.”
Bookworm and Mariah took their leave of Dr. Miller, promising to keep in touch and let him know how things went. As they began their hansom cab journey back to the elder Hienrichs’ house, Bookworm rubbed lightly at the place where the stitches had been. It itched a little.
“Well,” she said, “now that this is done, and I’m not longer quite so handicapped, it’s time to return to Babbage. It seems like things have been quiet there, but who knows how long that will last?” Before she’d left, she’d sent for one of the urchins, Susan, who she knew to be an intelligent and reasonably literate girl. She’d paid Susan handsomely to send her regular messages about whatever might be happening in New Babbage–especially anything relating to the Man in Blue.
Mariah, however, had paid Susan even more handsomely to keep any such information from Bookworm, and send it to her instead. The letters were sent to another address, where Mrs. Sawyer, who had accompanied them to Boston, picked them up. At this point, Mariah had heard that Tepic and Beryl had disappeared, but knew nothing of their fate. She shifted uneasily a little and asked, “Must we go now?”
“We’ve been away a long time as it is. I would like to return… though I’ve no idea where we’ll stay…” Seeing the expression on Mariah’s face, she continued, “All right–what have you planned?”
“Well, it was going to be a surprise for when we returned, but I suppose I may as well tell you now. Mrs. Pritchard didn’t go to visit family–she stayed behind in Babbage to supervise the building of our new house.” She smiled as Bookworm’s eyes lit up. “I was hoping it would be finished by now, but there have been some delays. If you can wait a little while longer, it should at least be habitable when we return, if not completely done.”
“We can wait, then,” Bookworm replied, “so long as we return for the opening of the Piermont Landing Ball season.” She smiled wryly. “This will give me time to find a gown for it.” She was silent for a moment, and then sighed. “I just wish I knew if it was safe.”
‘As do I,’ thought Mariah. But when they reached the home of Bookworm’s parents, Mrs. Sawyer was there, a look of suppressed intensity in her eyes that made Mariah take her aside immediately. Mrs. Sawyer handed her a note, which she quickly perused. Reaching the end, she sighed with relief. “Well, that’s some good news, anyway,” she said softly.
“What is?” Before Mariah could react, Bookworm got a close look at the note. “That’s from–” She broke off, looking at Mariah. “You got to her, didn’t you?” she said more than asked, her tone both amused and exasperated.
“I didn’t want you worrying about anything while you were healing,” Mariah said firmly. “And as you can see from this, we apparently don’t have as much to worry about now.” She handed over the note.
Bookworm frowned darkly as she read about how Tepic and Beryl had disappeared–that they had, in fact, been captured by the Man in Blue. Susan continued the letter with a brief account of finding them again, and Beryl explaining a bit of how they’d escaped from the submarine. She also mentioned that Tepic had been wounded, though she didn’t say how, and had left the city to seek healing. Her account wrapped up with Beryl’s inclination that things in the city were safer now for those who had been the targets of the Man in Blue.
“Well,” Bookworm finally said. “There’s much more I’d like to know, but at least there doesn’t seem to be an immediate need for me. We can spend some time shopping for clothing–and books.” She smiled at that, a smile more carefree than Mariah had seen for weeks. “And make arrangements to return by the 27th.”
“I’ll let Mrs. Pritchard know our plans,” Mariah replied, smiling.
For the next several days, they visited store after store, replenishing what the bomb had robbed them of. Bookworm found and bought a new camera, rather like the one she’d bought last summer and lost to the buffalo stampede. Much of what they bought had to be stored until it could be sent for, but Mariah had no difficulty in finding a place for that.
And finally, it was time. After an affectionate farewell to her family, Bookworm boarded the train to New York, and found the cabin Mariah had reserved for them. Several suitcases and trunks took up a great deal of the space, but they managed to squeeze into their seats. She was more than ready to go home, no matter what condition it might still be in.