Canergak started to reply, but stopped and stood still. Then, he said, “It’s coming.”
Lisa paled. “Tepic, I… I think we’d better go.”
Tepic took one look at her face and nodded. “Maybe Lisa an’ me should go find help?” he said to the two men, who were both concentrating on the large weapon-looking thing that Mr. Footman had dragged out of a nearby storage area. “Err… good luck, gents! C’mon, Lisa,” he continued in an undertone. “Quick!” The two of them slipped through the door and bolted for the stairs.
After scrambling down the flights, Tepic immediately went for the front door. Lisa, though, skidded to a stop, her eye caught by something up above. She looked up, and fell back a step. “What is… that?” she breathed, staring wide-eyed. Several green tentacles seemed to be growing straight out of the wall, waving their tips in mid-air. Still staring, Lisa thought she heard something–not with her ears, but with her mind. She couldn’t make out what it was, though; the cat part of her hybrid mind couldn’t understand it, and the human part shied away from it. She was still trying to make some sense of it all, when suddenly the tentacles started wavering down toward her. Frightened, she dashed for the door and flung it open.
She took one step outside and pulled up, stunned by the profusion of tentacles sprouting out of the ground outside. She heard a shout from Tepic, and saw him waving to her from outside the yard of the observatory. A whisper of motion brought her gaze up, where she saw more of them reaching out from above the door.
Now, between the panic she felt at the sight of the horrible tentacles, and the way her human mind shrank back from the touch of whatever was sending these out, her cat instincts came to the fore. And having lived with the human body for a few years, those instincts knew how to use that body. She bolted forward, dodging, leaping, spinning, rolling, fighting her way through the maze of hungry, green tentacles without letting even one of them touch her. As she slipped past the last of them, she heard Tepic shout, “Lisa! Up here, quick!” A wild look around showed her a few urchin bodies waving to her from the canal embankment. She scrambled up the stairs, panting, nodding a greeting to them–Tepic, Jimmy, Myrtil, and Stormy.
Turning around, she gasped in horror at the sight of the huge set of octopus-like tentacles rising from the sea, reaching out, threatening to tear the observatory down. As she and the others watched, though, they saw lights flash down, followed by explosions. For a few minutes, they watched the fireworks, and the monster, in silence.
“If it starts comin’ this way, head fer the Bucket of Blood,” Tepic finally said.
“Why there?” asked Myrtil.
“Cuz I reckons Mr. Underpa–by knows stuff ‘bout them creatures, an’ they’ll steer clear of him.”
Myrtil looked dubious, but before she could argue, Lisa leaned forward, squinting. Had the water below the observatory turned red? “I–is it gone?”
“Dunno,” replied Jimmy, peering into the smoke created by the fireworks.
Myrtil, too, gazed closely. “Ooooooh, yes! It’s gone! Err… mostly.” She pointed to a few green tentacles that were still outside the observatory.
“Maybe somethin’ snuck through,” said Stormy.
Tepic asked, “Yer think that Canergak bloke an’ Mr. Footman are all right?”
“I don’t know,” Lisa replied worriedly.
“Don’ care…” muttered Stormy.
“We can go see.” Myrtil led the way, going closer to the Observatory. As they approached, trying to keep clear of the tentacles, Myrtil pointed to the door. “Here’s Mr. Footman!”
Mr. Footman looked around, frowning. “The portal’s mostly closed. I’d have thought they’d be gone as well.”
“They should be soon,” came the voice of Canergak behind him. “But I’d rather not wait. Get a torch and burn them off.”
“Oooohh!” exclaimed Tepic eagerly. “Shall I try me lime?” He hefted a loosely-sewn bag.
“Yes, Tepic, try it!” said Myrtil. Mr. Footman shrugged and added, “Why not?”
“Stay back!” With that, Tepic tossed the bag at the nearest clump of tentacles. A cloud of white powder blossomed around them, settling to the ground, falling into puddles left over from a recent rain. As the powder touched the water, it flared up, burning into the tentacles, which soon crumbled into dust.
“Thet works,” Jimmy said, as Tepic grinned with satisfaction.
“Get the others!” cried Myrtil. Tepic tossed a second bag at another grouping, which also crumbled away.
“They appear to be rather unstable,” observed Canergak. “Without the gathered energy from the portal, they are dissipating.”
“Still some behind.” Myrtil pointed out one last group.
“Oh.” Tepic looked sheepish. “Err… only had two bags. Sorry.”
As they all looked at each other, Mr. Footman ducked inside, and quickly reappeared in the doorway, wearing a large pack connected to a weapon, which he fired at the remaining tentacles. They shriveled away, leaving the area clear.
“Thet worked, too.” Jimmy grinned.
“Closest thing to a flamethrower on hand,” said Mr. Footman.
((To be continued…))