On a fresh page of her notebook, Erehwon wrote out a list of the current matters:
- What happened to Mondrago?
- What is Mr. Canergak doing?
- Assist in restoring Mr. Arnold to his previous condition.
- Who shot Bianca and why?
- Convince Miss Jed to condemn the aslyum.
She paused, and added another item between the first two:
1a. Help Dr. Maddox with her new abilities.
“Madmoiselle Erehwon!” Miss Drummond, her housekeeper, exclaimed, “You cannot be seen in that deportment!”
Erehwon was laying on the daybed, at least from the waist up, the rest of her blured into a plume of aether trailing into the ornate glass and brass bottle on the floor.
“Yes, if a particularly dedicated resident of Raglan Shire stood on their roof, with a pair of birder’s glasses, when the light was good.”
“Still,” protested Miss Drummond, “it’s not, well it is not seemly for a woman of your station.”
“Most women of my station are not weakened to the point of sleeping for days after a visit to New Babbage. Doing this revitalizes me so I can continue working, instead of laying about in bed while you fetch me pots of coffee and tins of biscuits.”
“I still fetch you pots of coffee, Madmoiselle.”
“And I thank you for that.”
“Yes, Madmoiselle, you are welcome.” As she set the fresh tray of coffee and biscuits on the table beside her.
Erehwon poured coffee into a cup and sipped.
“Miss Drummond, the butcher’s son, Gerard. I believe you fancy him, do you not?”
Drummond blinked, “Madmoiselle, is correct, but I am puzzled by your interest in my fancies.”
“I am interested in the tools of your fancy’s trade.”
“You wish to take up butchery?”
“No, but I am facinated by the gauntlets he wears when he saws a side of beef into cuts, they are fine steel mesh, and I want to know who makes them.”
Later in the day, a fully materialized Erehwon enters the shop floor of a small, busy Caledonian manufactory.
A foreman steps up, “Miss, you’ll be wanting to be careful, lots of machinery.”
She points to the goggles on head, with one hand, clad in a soft, grey fingerless glove.
“I’ve worked with less safe equipment, sir. However, I’m interested in the gauntlets you make for butchers.”
“Yes, yes, our patent Steel Fist!”
The previous day, Erehwon met Dr. Lionheart in Babbage. After her first meeting with Bea, the addled doormouse who built the aslyum, she realized that even after prolonged exposure to the mystery element Canergak specified in its construction, she may not had been harmed in the same way as Mr. Arnold.
“I want to see if she still has a soul.”
Maddox walked briskly through the sooty afternoon air, setting a pace Erehwon struggled to keep up with. “How do you do that?”
Erehwon pointed at her goggles.
They found Bea in the basement of the Academy, standing on her hands.
“She’s been doing this for several days now, since you, Doctor Kristos, and I met with her.”
“You’re not going to steal my soles, are you, Miss?” Asked a nervous Bea, who maintained a precarious balance.
“No,” Erehwon pulled her goggles down, setting the diopters for the Aetheric Sensitivity filter, she examined Bea, who appeared to have a healthy aura, like any other ensouled person.
“But I am curious,” she looked at Maddox and young Tepic who had joined them, and saw the expected extended nimbus of aether radiating from them. “if you were issued any special protective equipment while you worked on the aslyum?”
“Our hard hats, leather aprons, and my boots.” Bea wiggled her feet, which were clad in heavy, steel toed boots.
Erehwon noticed that there was no aetheric leakage from the boots.
“Steel and brass, so you don’t drop heavy things on them.”
Erehwon turned to Maddox, “Brass, which focuses and reflects aetheric energies. If she was running ’round the structural beams, the boots would had kept the material from leeching away her soul.”
“Um, do I have to keep standing on my hands? All the blood’s gone to my head.”
“No,” Maddox reassured her, “your soles are safe now.”
“Thank goodness for that,” said Bea, as she tried standing upright for the first time in days.
Walking back to the CocoaJava, Erehwon noticed that Maddox’s arm was not in a sling.
“Doctor, you’ve healed remarkably fast.”
“I’ve been trying to heal myself.” Maddox winced, and her forearm reddened. “But the City does not agree with my efforts.”
At the coffee house, Maddox put the sling back on.
“How do I learn to use my new abilities,” she asked Erehwon. “How do I know what to do?”
Erehwon described how she found she had an extra intuition about how things worked and fit together as she stood at her workbench.
She paused, and looked at her gloves, which were stitched through with brass thread.
Erehwon took off one of her gloves and showed it to the shop foreman.
“I need a pair of these, for a ladies hands, made like your butcher’s gauntlets. How fine can you pull brass wire?”