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Lisa knew–she couldn’t help but know, considering all the shouting and loud discussion that had taken place–that Canergak had gone hunting fish-creatures again, and that he’d destroyed one, and captured another, which was now atop the observatory next door. Curiosity about what the creature was, and what Canergak was planning, ate at her all day. So in the early evening, when most everyone was eating, she slipped out of the asylum and trotted over to the observatory. Quietly opening the front door, which was kept unlocked, she slipped inside.
There wasn’t much to see on the ground floor, so she immediately went to the staircase that curved around the wall and climbed up. On that level, she saw a strange model of balls circling around each other. There were pictures and strange rocks around the walls, things she wouldn’t mind taking a closer look at… later. For now, she found another staircase and ascended it.
She now found herself in what looked like an office or laboratory, with a ceiling that was open in the middle of the room. Walking forward, she peered upward and saw a large machine. She’d heard that the observatory housed something called a telescope, and wondered if this was it. A faint noise, though, caught her attention, a low, guttural cry. She looked around, spotted a door, and crept up to it noiselessly, putting her ear to it.
Suddenly, something–a living thing–crashed against a wall. Lisa reared back from the door a little in surprise, then leaned forward again to listen. There was silence for a few seconds, and then she heard a familiar voice say, “You may as well come out. I can see you.”
She started, nearly bumping her head against the door. ‘So… his strange eyes can see through walls, too,’ she thought sheepishly, filing that information away. She opened the door and stepped outside. She found herself on a balcony that ran around the observatory. On the side they stood, it overlooked the sea. To her right was a large metal box; standing by that was her employer.
“Good evening, Lisa,” Canergak said.
“Good evening, sir,” she said curtseying a little. He had, however, already turned back to the metal box, looking it over carefully. From inside came another cry of “Grrraaasccckkk!”
“Is that where… it is?” Lisa asked nervously.
“And you… still intend to keep it? Despite what Mr. Moundshroud said before…” She stopped, gulping and looking a little nauseated. The creature punctuated her aborted question with a louder cry.
“Whether I keep it or not is irrelevant now,” Canergak replied. “The aetheric beast that considers this creature its child would not forgive. They never forgive.”
Lisa stared at him, and then suddenly shivered. “Then we’re in danger–all of us at the asylum.”
Canergak turned away from the metal box and walked to the edge of the balcony, staring out across the water. “Lisa, have you ever heard of the Greeks?”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. She heard the door open, and was surprised to see Tepic step outside. He glanced around and spotted her. “‘Ello,” he said with a grin. She nodded a quick greeting at him and turned her attention back to Canergak, who paid no apparent heed to Tepic’s arrival.
“The Greeks believed that the ‘gods’ lived on Mt. Olympus,” he said, “and that no mortal could ever go there, no living creature.” Beside her, Lisa saw Tepic nod in agreement as he sat down on the floor. “They also barred creatures, living creatures, from learning how to harness fire. Do you know what they did to those that defied them?”
“They strapped the being that gave fire to man to a rock, and let him die anew each day. And when someone tried to go to Olympus they blinded that man. What, then, do you think a so-called ‘god’ would do to a man that captured one of their children, or killed one? An immortal being, like themselves? Do you think they would forgive?”
“Beings like you have described? I doubt it, sir.”
“They would not,” he replied musingly. “And have not.”
Almost, *almost,* she felt sorry for him. She softly asked, “ What do you intend to do, sir?”
“All aetheric beasts are my enemy. I will never, while I live, allow them to harm another,” he said with a note of urgency. “I will dissect this creature, learns its weaknesses, and ways to combat it.”
“Do you really think you’ll have time?” she asked dubiously. “I don’t think the… ‘parent’ of this being will sit back and wait.”
Still looking out to sea, Canergak shrugged. “If our plan works, we will survive another day. If it does not, I am here with the creature. Perhaps my life, and Dr. Grendel’s unlife, will be enough, along with recovering this child, to send it back. But I doubt it.” He turned to face Lisa. “The ‘cat’ you speak to is such a creature.”
Lisa froze, wondering, with some panic, what he meant by that. But he continued, “The ‘girl’. That ‘doctor’. Even that thing beside you.”
Relief washed over her–he’d meant Beryl, not any of her cat family, or even Lord Firefoot, as she’d wondered for one awful second. That relief, though, was quickly washed away in anger. “No. Just because they’re different, that doesn’t make them evil.”
“They are not living creatures as we are. You trust them if you wish,” he said coldly. “I despise them.”
Lisa’s mind latched onto his first sentence. Did that mean–did he truly believe she was fully human? She was rather tempted to reveal her true nature, just to rub his nose in that mistake, but she still wasn’t sure he wasn’t trying to trap her into just such a confession. His eyes, after all, saw so much that most human eyes couldn’t. So instead, she replied just as coldly, “I will trust them. They’re the only ones, often, who actually work to save this city.”
“And do you think I have not?”
Her coldness flashed in an instant to hot anger. “You have *brought* danger to us. Opened the door and invited it in for tea!”
“GRRRRAAAAALLLL!!” cried the thing inside the metal cage.
“Blimey!” Tepic cried, wide-eyed. “What’s that?!”
“One of the creatures I invited,” Canergak replied ironically, “despite not knowing they were here when they first appeared. We also slayed one. Now, the master of the creatures is coming.”
“Err…and that ain’t good, I guess?”
“No. But I do have a plan. Though ultimately, it may not work.”
“Yer knocked one of ‘em off–couldn’t yer do the same thing ter the bigger one?”
“Not alone. I would have required a month to prepare. The other option is the bomb, but that is a last resort.”
“Bomb?” Lisa asked with trepidation.
“Do not worry yourself. A clockwork is prepared to set it off, if things go awry.”
Lisa wanted to pursue that further, but the door beside her opened again. When she saw the being that strode it, she shrank back, staring at the mask, the metal parts.
“Watcha, Mr. Footman,” Tepic said cheerfully. Then he looked aside at her. “LIsa, yer met Mr. Footman yet?”
“N-no,” she stammered.
“He invents things,” Tepic continued admiringly.
“Among other things,” Mr. Footman said, and nodded a greeting to Lisa.
“Hello, Dr. Footman,” Canergak said. Anything else he might have said was drowned out by an echoing cry of “GRRRRAAAAAVCCCCK!” from the fish-creature.
“I see the fish is here,” Mr. Footman said. “Any problems hauling the cell up?”
Canergak started to reply, but stopped and stood still. Then, he said, “It’s coming.”
((To be continued…))