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Oct. 22 – Fireside Chat

A scratching and mrowling at the door caught the attention of Mrs. Pritchard. When she opened the door, she saw a familiar feline form and smiled. “Hello, Master Beryl.”

“Hello,” Beryl replied, stepping inside. “Is Bookworm available?”

Mrs. Prichard glanced toward the stairs, and saw the woman in question hurrying down the stairs. Smiling, she stepped aside, going into the kitchen to discuss dinner preparations with Mrs. Sawyer.

“Hello, Beryl,” Bookworm said, smiling. Beryl took off his hat. “It’s been a while,” he replied.

She nodded, and led him into the library. “Please, have a seat. How have you been?”

“I’ve been… well,” he replied, settling gingerly into a chair near the fireplace. The weather had taken a chilly turn, and the warmth of the fire was welcome to them both. “There have been setbacks. But at least there’s no sign of zombie flu.”

“Yes, thank goodness for *that* favor,” said Bookworm, rolling her eyes and thinking of all the troubles of past years.

“There is one thing, though. My… ‘nemesis’ is back.”

Bookworm sat up a little straighter. “Dr. Dinosaur?” He nodded, and she sighed. “They say cats have nine lives, but I think Villains must at least match that.”

“I wasn’t sure if you would remember him, considering you weren’t here for the first time. But you probably recall his attempt to catch me last year.” At her nod, he continued, “He’s not hiding, though. He’s located here in Wheatstone with a giant sign of his building.”

She looked at him in surprise, then shook her head. “I’ve been away – I haven’t had the chance to catch up yet.”

“It was only unveiled last weekend. You have not missed much.”

“Not often one can say that of Babbage,” she replied, smiling wryly.

“Were you here for the Air Kraken Festival?” When Bookworm shook her head, Beryl replied dryly, “Be grateful.”

Bookworm chuckled. “Yes, I do prefer to avoid them when possible.”

Beryl smiled back, and let his eyes drift across the bookshelves. “It’s been a year, hasn’t it? Did you get all your books replaced?”

“Most. There are some I’ve been having difficulty in tracking down.” She still lamented the loss of her old home, and so many books. On the other hand, though, it was fun finding new volumes to put in her library.

“I’ve been spending time in a new… home.”

“Oh?” Bookworm raised an eyebrow inquisivitely.

“Yes, I should be safely hidden from Dr. Dinosaur.”

“You think he’ll come after you again, then?” she half-asked, half-stated.

“I don’t intend to confront him or go near him, even if he did just want to build mechanical workers and sell them now,” Beryl replied. “I intend to avoid him, and trouble, completely, if I can at all.”

She nodded a little, though she wondered how he’d do that if Dr. Dinosaur truly decided to go after him. “Well, please let me know if anything happens. I can certainly help you if he oversteps himself.”

“Do you know,” Beryl said abruptly, toying with a bit of string, “the reason Tepic first thought I was a hero was because Arnold would stop at nothing to stop Dr. Dinosaur? Throwing himself into danger he had already escaped, just to defeat him?”

“I can believe that,” replied Bookworm, smiling a little. She knew she was guilty of similar actions herself.

“I barely can,” he replied. “The rage and frustration and hate might as well have been some other cat.”

“Well, tempering that is certainly no bad thing.”

Beryl dropped the piece of string, looking at her in surprise. “Tempering it? I’m saying that piece of me is gone. I don’t think I would have stopped Dr. Dinosaur last time if I had been then who I am now.” He shrugged. “And I have no real issue with that, because I was doing it for all the wrong reasons.”

“It sounds like you’ve done a great deal of thinking about this.”

“I’ve had a few years to dwell on it. To do something like that again… would take something else entirely. Not just because I’m upset and fed up and determined to make him bleed.”

Bookworm nodded slowly, watching as he rose from his seat. “Next time I visit,” he said, “maybe we could just talk about your favorite books.”

“Certainly.” She smiled. “I’ll think of some recommendations for you.”

A purr rose from Beryl’s throat as she led him to the door. “I have a lot of reading time now.”

Bookworm opened the front door, letting him out. He paused on the threshold, though, and looked up at her. “Oh, one other thing. Someone approached me the other day mentioning something about wanting to hold a protest or riot. I don’t know if they intend to go through with it, but I thought I should mention it.”

“Protest?” She was startled. “Against what? Or whom?”

“Disappearing cats.” With that cryptic reply, Beryl was on his way down the lane. Bookworm almost tried to call him back, but then she shrugged and stepped back inside. ‘Perhaps Mariah can find something out,’ she thought as she went upstairs to change for dinner.

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