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Playing With Firebugs

After sighting and tracking the Hare to its vessel and capturing an image for
investigative purposes, I lost sight of it leaving southward, of course. I then
went for a walk to shake off the tension and decided to head round the Horn to
visit Ruby’s for a quiet sip of rum. Arriving in Canals however, I again heard
the now familiar distinctive hiss of a Steam Hare.

Rounding carefully to stay behind it, I glimpsed the smoke and
saw it standing in front of someone—an urchin. My hair stood up and reflex sent
me in immediately. Marching straight up to the creature, I saw young Lilith
nervously having a confused conversation with the beast.

It didn’t seem to recognize me when I greeted it, which I
thought would help the situation, and may even suggest that it was becoming
erratic. It began asking about Tepic, and Lilith denied any knowledge of his
existence. I interjected that there was no Tepic. This put the machine off
guard while I motioned to Lilith to get behind me, which she did gradually,

Still focused on solidifying the Tepic notion, it kept asking
where he was, to which I responded that the Man in Blue was Tepic. This
redirected its logic into refuting the claim. “The young fox child is Tepic.”

Seeking a slip-up giving any hints as to who had sent it, I
asked, “Who told you that?”

This seemed to cause the desired logic skip I was hoping would
allow us to trick it into a mistake, but it went nowhere, and seemed to release
its aggression keys. It began behaving oddly, twirling and becoming agitated.
It ignited its burner appendage.

 “Tepic. Where is he?”

“Tepic is gone. He will not be found,” I asserted.

Turning to the wall of bushes surrounding Steampunk Park, it
announced acceptance of the No Tepic argument thusly: “If Tepic cannot be
found, then initiating next phase of plan,” and began burning the wall. “Burn.”

Trying not to panic, I suggested that it might start with its
boat. Agitated, it turned on Lilith and shot a blast of burning oil at her. I
stood in shock as I feared the worst, but her reflexes allowed her to jump and
only get mildly singed as she tumbled backward out of the flames.

Turning to flee, I shouted at her to “RUN!” as it turned toward
me and hesitatingly shot a burst just short of me. My resolve was gone. Lilith
was in flight and seemed safe, it now came after me and left her alone. All my
training evaporated as I panicked. That may be what saved my life. I’ve never
run so fast.

I ran around the approaching tram and tricked the Hare into following me and the tram clobbered it from behind. Our glee was short-lived, however, as it emerged from the collision more-or-less intact, though it was twirling almost continuously and seemed unsure of which direction to go in.

Diving into convenient cover, I nearly landed on Lilith
crouched, snarling, ready to go out fighting. The machine was veering off its
logic patterns, and seemed to be having motor control problems. We tried to
follow as it seemed to leave, then found it talking to itself beside the docks:
“Ship… Ship…”

I couldn’t resist again trying to trick it into a mistake: “You
need no ship. You can swim, just jump in.”

Leon had joined us, and I advised them to run if it did jump in,
as the boiler explosion would be quite violent and there would be spray.

I kept it twirling by arguing with it as its logic guidance
shredded itself. As we whispered back and forth trying to figure out how to
stop the thing it ran past us and headed north at full speed. Struggling to
keep up I shouted to Leon to check on Lilith and she shouted back that she was
fine. I wasn’t so sure, but Leon agreed that she was alright and followed me.

Following the trail of oil leaks to the docks by the Welcome
Centre, we dove into cover behind some crates and watched the Hare board its
vessel and prepare for sea. We watched helplessly as it again set out to the
south and disappeared.

To be continued…



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