((This takes place a little before the destruction of the Vole and the Warrens.))
Lisa was scrubbing the floor outside one hallway of cells when she heard the stairway door open. The click of a cane on the tile floor told her it was Canergak, and she softened the sound of her scrubbing, listening as he went down the other hallway. She heard him tap on one of the cell doors–Moundshroud’, she guessed, judging by how far down the hallway he’d walked. “Can you hear me?” she heard him ask. After a moment or two of silence, she heard him move away… and then heard him pause at the end of the hallway she was in. “Lisa.”
She stopped scrubbing, set down the brush, and stood up, brushing down her skirts. “Sir?”
“Has the subject, Moundshroud, said anything today?” he asked. “His responses and actions need to be documented.”
“I’ve not heard anything, sir,” she replied. “I don’t think Jane has, either. At least, she’s not mentioned anything.” She saw no need to mention that Jane wasn’t around the inmates much right now, preferring to leave that work to Lisa. The other girl was still unsettled by Moundshroud–not that Lisa could blame her. She was unsettled herself.
“Unfortunate,” Canergak said, nodding.
“I’ll be sure to listen carefully if he does say anything.” Lisa would have done that in any case, as she hoped to learn more about the fish-creatures, and why they kept attacking the urchins.
“There is something else to discuss.” Lisa felt the familiar tensing of her mind and body as she waited for him to continue. “I will be setting out this evening,” he said, “to attempt to capture and detain one of the monsters plaguing the city.” Lisa’s eyes widened as he continued, “At my age this is a considerable risk, but it must be done. Hopefully we will learn much when we have it strapped to a table.”
Gulping a little, Lisa said in a small voice, “Yes, sir.” She was definitely afraid now–afraid that if he succeeded, he’d bring the attention of the other fish-creatures to them. Much as she wanted the urchins safe, she hadn’t had this in mind.
Canergak looked toward the other hallway, then back at her. “Do you know why I built this facility?” he asked.
Lisa stammered a little, still trying to deal with her fear, and now deal with this sudden change of topic. “To–to study people, sir,” she finally said.
“That is only part of it,” he replied. “There is a part of me that pities them–some of them. The ones that were forced to become as they are.”
Lisa blinked rapidly, struggling to keep her jaw from dropping in shock at his words. How could he say that, and yet do what he did?
“Lisa, do you hate… well, ‘monsters,’ for lack of a better term?” Canergak looked at her keenly as she struggled to marshal her confused thoughts. “It’s difficult to say, sir,” she finally replied. “Who determines who the monsters are?”
“Ahh, for people can sometimes be monsters to one another? An argument I have heard often,” he said a bit dismissively.
‘Oh, I’m sure you have,’ she thought fervently.
“In this context, though, I mean non-human or mundane creatures. Things that want only to devour everything else around them. And sometimes, wish to use people’s minds for their play things. To break them.” Canergak’s usually impassive face showed a hint of anger.
Lisa pondered his words, wondering what he was looking for. “I would fear them, certainly,” she says slowly. “But those that know nothing else… no, not hate. One might as well hate the cat for devouring the mouse. But those knowingly inflict harm, for no reason than their own pleasure…” She trailed off, not wanting to elaborate on that further, afraid that she might reveal too much.
Canergak nodded. “There is a reason I built this facility and why it will remain open as long as I live. And should my life end–I already know to whom it shall pass. So if I do not return this evening your future employment is not in jeopardy.” He nodded again, this time in dismissal, and moved off, descending the staircase.
Lisa stared after him thoughtfully for a moment, then knelt back to her work. She still could hardly believe that Canergak could feel pity for anyone. But then she considered again his words, and the look he’d directed to the other hallway… to Moundshroud. ‘He pities Moundshroud,’ she realized, ‘because Moundshroud is human–wholly human–who has had something terrible done to him. Who is now, perhaps, under the control of monsters. If the same thing happened to Beryl, or Tepic, or Lilith, he wouldn’t feel pity for them.’
She scrubbed a little more, working her way toward the other hallway. ‘And would he feel pity for me, if he knew what I truly am?’ She considered that a moment, and shook her head. ‘No. The human Lisa, the girl who’s dead, he might pity. But what I am now–a “beast’s” brain in a human body–no, he would consider me a monster. A–” What was the word she’d recently heard, and learned its definition from one of the orderlies? Oh, yes.