The courtyard of the asylum was teeming with activity, as several Militia members joined Bookworm by the door. All were well-armed, both with conventional weaponry and the tranquilizer dart guns. The commotion had evidently attracted the attention of those inside, as Mr. Canergak appeared at the door. “Good evening, Captain,” he said in his usual dry, didactic tone.
“I don’t think I’d call it that,” replied Bookworm somewhat absently, as she directed the militia members to their positions.
“Is there a reason for this madness tonight?” Canergak looked around at the yard, full of moving bodies and spoken commands.
Bookworm stared at him, rather startled. “Did you not get my note? Prometheus’s gang is coming here tonight, to get Kuga.”
Canergak tapped the side of his face, near his goggles. “I have difficulty reading lines on a paper.” ‘*Now* he tells me,’ Bookworm thought with dismay, as he continued, “I often have someone read them to me, but tonight I was busy. I heard something about evacuation?”
“That would be best. We should get the noncombatants out of the way. Do you have someplace safe to which they could be moved?”
Canergak shrugged a little. “Their cells appear to be safe enough.”
“These beings are strong and determined,” countered Bookworm sternly. “We’ll do our best to keep them out, but there are no guarantees. It’d be safer to get them away.”
“The ones that can’t defend themselves, I’ll grant you,” mused Canergak, “they can be moved. The third floor denizens, and my own specimens, should not be moved.”
Bookworm shook her head. “That really isn’t wise.”
“They are dangerous, and it will do us no good to let them escape.” Canergak’s tone was final. “The facility will manage as long as you have the courage to fight.”
“If you insist.” Bookworm sighed angrily.
“I have a number of redundancies and protections in place. Everything will be fine.”
“Famous last words,” Bookworm muttered, as she turned her attention back toward the militia gathering.
“You do not think very highly of my decision,” Canergak said dryly. “Then allow my facility to prove itself. I shall arm and be on the third floor myself.” Bookworm heard his cane clicking on the tile floor, and the door shut behind him.
Bookworm’s attention was suddenly grabbed by the gate suddenly opening. She raised her rifle, then lowered it as the opened gates revealed clearly the two forms of the Cabbits Zaros and Kea, both armed with crossbows. “What’s all this I’ve heard about the militia storming in?” Zaros asked, looking around. “Has something happened?”
‘Trust the New Babbage rumor mill to spread this around,’ thought Bookworm wryly. “We have word that Prometheus’s gang is coming here tonight.”
Zaros nodded, sheathing her crossbow and dipping her hand into her pocket. She pulled out a single, small vial, similar to those she’d created for the tranquilizers. “Here, this is a trans-formative stabilizer. It *should* force the were who receives it to remain in their current form, getting rid of any possible ability to transform.” The Cabbit tossed it toward Book, who caught it neatly. She inspected it, seeing that it would also fit her dart gun. “Don’t use it if they’re in were form, however,” warned Zaros. “That would be bad. Very bad.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Bookworm tucked the bullet into an accessible pocket, as Zaros and Kea came onto the steps next to her. “So. One bear to stop, I take it?” Zaros asked.
“One bear, and whoever else he brings. Very probably one very quick fox. At least a few wolves…”
“Maybe we should have brought some bones along with us,” said Kea quietly.
Bookworm’s attention, though, was caught by another figure entering the gate. She quickly recognized Mr. Wright, though, and relaxed marginally. “Mr. Wright. I’m glad to see you.”
“I came as fast as I could, Captain.” He also took his place among the group, resting a paw tentatively on the hilt of an old cavalry saber.
Several minutes passed, and Bookworm drummed her fingers on her ammo belt. Mr. Wright checked both his pistols, his rifle and his ammo.
“So what is your source for information of this attack?” asked Zaros. “Beryl? Speaking of… why isn’t he with us?”
“Yes, Beryl, who got it from the fox.” Bookworm frowned worriedly. “And I don’t know where he is. He did say that if he died, I should take care of the asylum. And the urchins.” She smiled a little wryly. “Not that that would be an easy task.”
Zaros smiled back, nodding. “Someone has to. They mean well, but they are far too hasty.”
Bookworm nodded, a little absently. “I don’t suppose any of you have seen Tepic today?”
Both Zaros and Mr. Wright indicated they hadn’t. Whatever Bookworm might have continued with, though, was interrupted by a sound that rapidly grew louder – the drone of something in the air. And then came a shout –
“This, once again, is because of your hubris, ‘Captain’!”
((To be continued…))