Star knelt on the floor surrounded by pillows peering carefully into a small mirror she’d propped against the bookshelf. She took a hold of a slender, silver handled instrument and carefully, carefully, slid it through the pupil of her mechanical eye. She probed gently, feeling for the soft-spot that Mr. Twig had shown her before he’d released her from his care. When she found it she pressed and twisted and removed the probe. There was a whirring and an uncomfortable buzzing and then the thing sprang-free of the socket and fell amid the pile of pillows in front of her.
She scooped it up and held it up to the light, peering at it with her good eye. She could see that one of the lenses had shifted out of alignment, probably as a result of her fall from Samwise, or maybe thanks to the Imperial doctors deactivating it. She wrapped it up and put it in a padded box along with an apologetic note and nailed the lid shut.
Mr. Twig was going to be so upset that he had to repair it so soon after its instillation. She secured an eyepatch over the now-empty socket. She couldn’t seem to find her glass eye and had a vague memory of Kaylee dashing it against a wall so she wouldn’t be tempted to remove the mechanical one.
At the city’s messenger office she met the usual gaggle of skinny kids, some of them wearing the city colors, some not. They crowded forward, eager to assist but completely inept.
Reliable elbowed them out of her way, easily the eldest of the bunch and, in Star’s opinion, far too thin for a young rabbit of her age, “Afternoon Ms. Macbain, what can we do you for?”
“I need this delivered to Armada, I need it gauranteed and I need it treated with kid gloves, it’s extremely delicate.” She presented the box.
Reliable hefted it and turned to consult a chart that contained all the ships going out of New Babbage for the day and their excess weight allotments, “Hmm…ships have been running heavier than usual with so many people booking passage but…ah…I think we can send it on the midnight transport. It’ll arrive in two days…three at the most, maybe earlier or later, depends on wind, you know.”
Star nodded, “That will be quite fine, thank you.” She dipped a pen into an ink pot and signed her name on a form, with a brief description of what was inside, “I do appreciate it. Can’t trust the postal service to this sort of thing.”
Reliable grinned, “City Messengers never fail.”
“No they don’t.” Star settled the bill, “Will you pass a message along when you’ve confirmed the delivery for me? I’d appreciate it.”
“Of course.” Reliable made a note.
Star made her farewells and went back out into the damp streets of the city. People seemed anxious, moving quickly, hardly stopping to talk. On a wall she noticed that someone had scrawled, “Mayor Tenk unfit for duty!” She shivered and turned a slow circle. It seemed there were fewer urchins, in fact, it seemed there were fewer beggars in general. Everything was even more unsettled than she had left it. Perhaps those leaving the city had a good idea.
“What use am I here, really?” She wondered. There was a flower girl selling a few late-season blooms. There was a stand of lovely roses.
“Care for a flower Miss?” The girl asked hopefully. Star wondered if the demand for frivolous things had evaporated in the wake of all the troubled news.
“Actually, yes, can you deliver them?”
The girl nodded, “Of course, Miss.”
Star took a pair of cards and wrote on one, “Thank you for being the most clever clockwork in existence. The city is certainly safer with you on duty!” And on the other she started several sentences and scratched them all out, she tapped her chin with the end of her pen and finally wrote, “Your voice will always be the sound of hope.”
She signed her name to each, “Now, please see this one to Ms. Avariel Falcon in Clockhaven and this one to Mr. Jonathon Spires in Wheatstone.”
Star watched the girl bundle up the bouquets with a smile, Ah well, the world may be about to end, but at least there will be a little color first. She paid for a third one and carried it home with her, her nose buried in the blossoms.