Bookworm rubbed her face tiredly, allowing herself the indulgence of a heart-felt sigh since she was currently alone. Yesterday had been a bad day indeed. She’d been diverted across New Babbage on urgent calls that turned out to be not-so-urgent, and while she was gone, the hospital had been attacked. Three Militia members dead, with at least one uniform gone, and Kasa’s notes on the Bear gang, and the urchin Snow, stolen. Only the efforts of other volunteers had kept the situation from being worse. At least Beryl, and Leon, who was now recovering at the hospital after his escape from Prometheus’s gang, were still safe.
And one more of the Bear gang was now off the streets. As Bookworm left her room and entered the reception room, she heard Kasa telling Tepic all about it, and the capture of Percival. The fox-boy listened avidly as he held two halves of what looked like a broken cane. “So that’s another one of the Gang we got?” he asked. When Kasa nodded, he exclaimed, “Cor! Gonna need a bigger asylum.”
As Bookworm approached the two, Tepic greeted her, unslinging a red bag from his shoulder. “Miss Book, yer might want these.”
She took the bag from him, hefting it a little. It felt quite light. “What it is?”
“Bullets. Special ones, like. Should fit yer rifle casings–” He broke off as she started undoing the strap holding it shut. “Oh, Miss Book… only open it in a low-ceilinged room. An’ don’t open it too wide. They’s sorta… light. An’ yer gonna hafta aim low.”
Bookworm looked from the bag to Tepic, frowning in confusion. “What are these?”
“Err…” Tepic shifted his feet a little. “Bear bullets filled with cavorite.”
“Cavorite?! How did you–” She broke off, her tone changing from astonishment to one of trying very hard to hold on to patience. “No. Never mind. I don’t want to know.” She shook the bag, hearing the shells rattle against each other. “Do you think just one bullet will affect one of them? Or how many would be needed?”
“Dunno. There’s a dozen there, an’ they’s fer the bear. Should make ‘im a bit light-footed, an’ if we get enough in ‘im, ‘e should sorta… float away.”
Bookworm nodded, though she rather thought Tepic didn’t sound all that sure of what would happen.
Kasa, though, grinned. “That’s pretty good. I am working on an alternate tranquilizer that might be a bit easier, and can be used on others, not just the Bear gang. It can be quickly counteracted if the wrong person is hit.”
“That would be useful, Kasa.” Bookworm smiled warmly at the nurse, though her heart still twisted, remembering what had happened to Snow.
“Have you talked to Leon at all since Vi released him to us?” Kasa asked Bookworm.
“Not yet. Has he said anything to you?”
Kasa shook her head. “He says he wants to talk to you first. I can see if he is awake now.”
The three of them went upstairs, into a room opposite Beryl’s room. Leon turned his head, and smiled when he recognized them. “Hey, everyone.”
“Watcha, Leon!” exclaimed Tepic cheerily.
“Hello, Leon. I’m glad to see you back.”
Leon nodded at Bookworm’s words. “It’s good to be back. Is… is it true? The whispers I heard… Lilith visited the asylum?”
“So I have heard,” replied Bookworm, remembering the message brought to her just before she’d left her room. “I’ll be going there soon to get more details.”
Leon sighed. “I hope she’s okay. They… she was not herself when I was on the ship. She looked like a bloody zombie.”
“Been givin’ her them drugs,” said Tepic sagely. “When we catch ‘er, we’ll make ‘er better.”
“Yeah, but she looked… different. She was in her other form, like how the gang goes, but she did not look like she used to. Bigger. More feral.”
Now Tepic was looking worried. “Did yer work out how many of ‘em there are?”
Leon shook his head. “Freya, and then Lucas, were my guards. I could hear others about the ship, but the only other one I saw was Prometheus.” Leon shook his head. “He’s strong… too strong. He punched those iron bars like I’d punch parchment.
“He… he was grooming Lilith to be like him. When I fled… before I did… she spoke almost like he does. She told me… she was gonna shove me off the ship to swim with the wiggyfishes.”
“That don’ sound too bad,” commented Tepic. “Long as it ain’t mating season.”
((To be continued…))
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