The past week had been a holding pattern for Bookworm, for the most part. Lilith and Leon were still in the hands of Prometheus; Kuga was still at the asylum; Kasa, Dr. Sonnerstein, and the Cabbits were still working hard on trying to recreate, but in safer forms, the medicines Kuga and Lilith utilized. Beryl was missing, and had been for some days, despite the intensive search for him. Mr. Wright had let Bookworm know the information he’d – somehow – received about the airship Prometheus’s gang was using, and she had Militia members trying to track down if and when it might have used any of the docks around the city.
Bookworm herself was still living at the hospital, coordinating everything from there, including the guard details at and inside the asylum. She’d now met all the hospital workers, including one Mr. Hyde, who apparently worked with Dr. Jekyll. There was something about that man that made her a bit uneasy, but Dr. Jekyll vouched for him, so she held her peace.
This evening, though, brought the sound of running footsteps, and one of Tepic’s urchin friends came panting in the door of the hospital. “Miss Book,” he gasped. “You’re wanted… at Sonnerstein’s.”
She nodded once, not wasting words, but snatched up rifle and dart gun and trotted off north, keeping eyes moving and ears pricked for any danger. All was quiet, though, as she made her way through the Gut and up the small hill to Dr. Sonnerstein’s home. She went inside and toward the back, hearing voices coming from there.
As she entered the parlour, she came to a halt, stiffening, as she saw the fox, Freya, shrink behind the sofa, growling suspiciously. Dr. Sonnerstein, bent over the sofa, straightened, turning his sightless eyes toward her. “Ms. Book!”
“Freya brought Beryl in. Beryl’s been injured.”
“Been… is fairly accurate,” came Beryl’s faint voice from the sofa. “It’s… been a while.”
“Do you know? Or who?”
Dr. Sonnerstein sighed softly. “Unfortunately, by Snow.” He looked down at the fox. “Freya has been trying to help Beryl. It’s her brothers that are causing trouble. I believe she’s a very reluctant participant.”
Bookworm looked consideringly at Freya, who was eyeing her uneasily in return. She knew how fast the fox was, but if she’d truly helped Beryl, that deserved a show of trust in return. So she carefully holstered her dart gun and stepped forward a little, showing her hands to be empty of weapons. She looked down, over the back of the sofa, to see Beryl lying there, looking rather fevered. “What happened? She heard Freya growl again, and looked askance at her, but kept her hands empty for the moment.
“Snow was trying to kill Freya…” Beryl’s voice trailed off, and Dr. Sonnerstein took over. “Snow clawed Beryl. He’s gone feral-minded – the wolf has taken over, though I’m not sure how much.”
Bookworm shook her head, looking grim. “Can we stop Snow, somehow? I wanted his help, true, but not like this!”
“Of course! Tepic will have a plan for that.” Beryl sounded rather less lucid than before. “He always does.”
Bookworm frowned, and looked at Dr. Sonnerstein. “Is Beryl going to be all right?” She noticed that Freya was regarding the doctor hopefully.
“I dearly hope so. She’s fighting the virus Snow infected her with. I’ve given her a colloidal silver suspension to drink – she’ll need it a few times a day for a while. It’ll help kill off the virus. Lycanthropy can’t survive when it encounters silver. And it’s a low dose, so the dead cells won’t accumulate too quickly for her body to dispose of.” He sighed. “Unfortunately, it’s because of the silver in his system from Kuga’s claws, combined with the effects of the tranquilizer darts, that set Snow off like this. They damaged him.”
Bookworm winced at that, remembering the mistaken Militia attack on Snow and Baird. Dr. Sonnerstein nodded, his expression sympathetic, but turning serious. “I’m not sure what to do for him at this point, Book.”
“Can the cabbits help?”
“Freya is not free from her brothers, or their creator,” he mused. “And my formula would take too long to get right for the fox variation. But the cabbits may have something that could help.”
“Cabbits… help… Freya,” Beryl mumbled. That, though, was greeted with a loud, angry growl from the fox, and Bookworm let her hand drift down a little toward the dart gun.
“She doesn’t trust the Cabbits, though,” Dr. Sonnerstein said. “Can’t say I blame her entirely. Though I didn’t exactly do anything to check their dart formula either. If I had, perhaps some of this could have been prevented…”
Bookworm looked down at Freya. Perhaps in the fox’s slightly more receptive state, she could say something that would stick. “Freya. I don’t want to fight you. Or your brothers. I never did. But Lilith deserves the chance to live as *she* chooses. And so do you.” Freya’s ears lowered, and she looked both sad and sulky, but it didn’t seem as if she was rejecting Book’s words outright.
Dr. Sonnerstein addressed Freya also. “How close is Lilith to being under the full influence of the mind-control formula?”
Freya growled and yipped. “Book,” Beryl said, somewhat dazedly. “Fox says she never had it… she’s going to master.”
Dr. Sonnerstein frowned. “That isn’t good. It must be more fast-acting for it…” He trailed off, and Bookworm suddenly realized that he could understand Freya directly. ‘An interesting talent,” she thought.
Freya whined at the doctor, and he replied, “If you can tell me more about it, I could, though! It wouldn’t be ready for you this time, but soon…” The fox shook her head violently, and suddenly leaped past them, dashing out the front door.
((To be continued…))