Bookworm had hardly paid attention to the Fleet Week activities, being more concerned with catching up on what she had missed during her unexpected trip. She spent all of her time either at Militia headquarters, or out on patrol, or out trying to find Moriarty, who was proving as elusive as ever. She didn’t see or hear from Mariah at all, and wondered sometimes if she and Mrs. Pritchard and Mrs. Sawyer had left the city.
She was working at her desk Saturday afternoon when Metier found her. He seemed to be up to his usual tricks, trying to goad her into following him–this time, to the nearby power station. For Bookworm, though, it was a case of “Once nearly-drowned, five times shy,” and she refused to follow him anywhere. She rather welcomed the interruption of the arrival of Dr. Kristos Sonnerstein and Stormy Stillwater, whose own steadfastness in the face of Metier’s goading finally seemed to drive him away.
The two of them asked her about joining the Militia. She’d only just begun telling them the rules when someone else arrived. An elderly woman with a large pack on her back simply walked in and sat down in a nearby chair. It didn’t take much speech from her for Bookworm to realize that this must be Margo December, of whom she’d heard a few things. Seemingly mad as a hatter, she was, but with purpose behind her speech. And when she told them of ticking at the power station, with doom to follow, Bookworm realized that perhaps she should take a look there after all.
Stormy and Dr. Sonnerstein followed. And so, they found the bombs.
There was much discussion between them, and also with someone named The Philosopher, who arrived soon after they did, about what to do with the bombs. This discussion included unhelpful commentary from Metier, and cryptic statements from Miss December. Bookworm, however, felt it best that, before anything was done, the area surrounding the power station should be evacuated, in case something untoward happened.
She left the others to wrangle over the bombs, and hurried back to Militia headquarters to set the evacuation notice in motion. It was also time to get ready for the Uniform Ball, and she did still have her paying obligation–and pleasure–to attend it.
Even as she dressed for the ball, though, she mentally chewed over some of the things Miss December had said, trying to make sense of them.
“They know it you see the truth you see they know it you see… the dark aether knows the light aether… so they send the tick tock tick tock tick tock tock tock tick tickticoktik… tock”
“Without the light, there is no spirit… tick tock tick tock and the spirit light will vanish to nothing and all is dark”
“Time is vital, moments are important, if not now then later, but why?”
“Seething darkness… the aether invades this city, it looks and watches and says things we do not want to hear… what belief have you in what in this life? You all believe in a stone in the floor… what belief does the city have?”
‘What belief does the city have?’ Bookworm mused. ‘According to some, it believes in us, and so it has called us, and kept us here. Is that what she meant? That we really do have the power to stop this?’
She finished dressing, and gathered up her other items in her bag, ready to take them back home. The Militia headquarters were all too close to the power station, and she would take her own recommendation to heart. She would try sleeping at home again; she’d just have to be…careful.
As she returned home after the ball, though, she quickly found that she’d have to sleep in Mariah’s vacated bedroom. The scratching and scrabbling of the crab creatures below were definitely too much for her nerves. And even then, her sleep was constantly interrupted by nightmares.
((To be continued…))