Bookworm looked eagerly out of the small porthole of the airship. Such small windows were all the third-class berth passengers had access to for viewing the outside world, but it was enough for her to see the city spread below them. There were no signs of smoking ruins. ‘Whatever’s going to happen hasn’t happened yet,’ she thought thankfully.
She was among the last to disembark, still in her guise of elderly widow. At the airship platform, she looked around as unobtrusively as possible, wondering if Mariah would be there. But there was no sign of her, so Bookworm made her halting way to the trolley track, caught a trolley, and went south to the end of its line. Along the way, once she’d lost her fellow passengers, she took off the hat with its veil, and stuffed it into the bag Captain Haviland had given her, which was now quite full.
She took a deep breath as she stepped off the trolley, marveling at how much the sooty air of New Babbage had come to mean home to her. Glad to be back to herself, she hurried away west, crossing canal after canal, until she reached the door of her own home. Sighing, she opened the door and stepped inside.
A noise from the living room area brought her in there, in time to see Mariah turn around and stare at her over the back of the sofa with an stern glare. Bookworm matched it, though, with a look just as stony. And before Mariah could say anything, she got in first. “Do *not* do that again.”
“I was trying to *protect* you,” Mariah said angrily. “Metier nearly got you *killed,* after all!”
“I know,” Bookworm replied, trying to keep her own anger under control. “And I do thank you for saving me. But this is my home now, and like it or not, my fate is tied with its own.” She placed her hands on her hips, glaring at Mariah. “As a member of the militia, it is my duty to stay here and help in whatever way I can. And it is even more so my duty as a Heroine.”
“But don’t you understand?” Mariah asked, almost pleading. “If this is a fight that cannot be won, why stay here to die needlessly? Why not go where it’s safe, and live to fight another day?”
“I don’t believe things are as hopeless as all that,” Bookworm said stoutly, trying to quash her own doubts on that score. “And who knows who’ll have the key to ending this nightmare? Perhaps it will be me…or perhaps I’ll help or protect the one who does. I’m not going to take the chance that my absence may tip the scales the wrong way.” With that said, she turned and began climbing the stairs to the bedroom level.
“Where are you going?” Mariah got up from the couch and called up the stairs to her. She paused at the top, and looked back down at Mariah. “I’m going to change,” she replied. “Then I am going to City Hall to see if the Writer has any new pages, and then I will continue my search for Moriarty.”
“Moriarty!” Mariah exclaimed, following her up the stairs. “What is this obsession of yours with Moriarty? What makes you so sure he’s connected with any of this?”
“His connection with the Van Creed, for one. He’s worked in the past on processes and power such as we’re seeing now.” Bookworm began rooting in her wardrobe for her militia uniform. “And he’s displayed such powers as was ascribed to the man at the end of the Writer account.”
“But have *you* ever seen him do such things?”
“No, I haven’t actually even met the man,” Bookworm replied, a little slowly, as she removed the black dress. “But I’ve seen some of his handiwork.” She shivered, remembering the charred body she’d caught a glimpse of, years ago, when she’d first started visiting the city.
“But if you didn’t see it yourself, how do you know he was responsible?” Mariah pressed.
“Because others of this city have witnessed his deeds–Jimmy, Myrtil, Breezy, Beq, many others.” She began pulling down a shirt over her head. “Or are you going to say they’re all lying?”
A significant silence from Mariah caused Bookworm to jerk the shirt down quickly. One look at Mariah told her she was thinking exactly that. “Oh, come now,” Bookworm said impatiently. “What possible reason could they all have for lying?”
“To protect themselves–or someone else? Who knows? But this whole situation is rotten, Bookworm–rotten to the core. It would be better if you were out of it!”
Bookworm finished buttoning up her jacket. “No.”
Mariah looked as if she wanted to say something, but all that came out was an exasperated sound. She left Bookworm’s bedroom, hurled herself down the stairs, and stormed out the door, slamming it behind her.
Bookworm paused for a moment, then went back to her wardrobe and pulled out a carpetbag, stuffing some toiletries into it. She rather thought it might be wise to spend her nights at the Militia headquarters, rather than come back here.