While the pulse did not damage anything physically, the internal damage to the station was devastating. All electrical equipment had been fried in one powerful burst that also ‘shorted’ the aetheric creatures trapped in the station and beyond. Bookworm was unable to stir Loki or Tepic, and Beryl was similarly unconscious. She did not know what happened but assumed they would wake later.
The heroine could not carry everyone on their own, nor did she intend to try. She instead made her way back to the hanger taking her time to recruit Jeffrey and Yang, who she hoped still survived. The lad was standing unharmed enjoying one of his last two cigars in celebration. She had been expecting a struggle, but he surprised her, “I told them the bridge was out.”
She smirked and asked for the lads help in carrying her friends to safety, once it was clear that Yang could not. The giants soon emerged from below with the Builders. There were horror stories to share with her about foul toxins in the air, but there would be time to swap tales later. Captain Dekkar soon organized a mass exodus from the destroyed facility. Prisoners locked below in the Menagerie had guards who would be relieved before nightfall. The wounded would be carried by Shores-men roughly.
“What about Doctor Falcon?” Bookworm asked respectfully. She indicated the poor remains of the clockwork unicorn. Close inspection left little illusions to the extent of the damage as there was no spine throughout the neck to speak of, and her horn crystal was completely shattered. It no longer glowed with any kind of light, but the heroine hoped her friend might be rebuilt one day.
“Isn’t she just a machine?” Dekkar asked bluntly. “We can leave her for those ‘Dean’s’ to send repairmen.”
“She is more than just a clockwork, Mr. Mayor,” Bookworm corrected him, standing up for her fellow Babbager and friend.
She expected the large man to scoff, but he shrugged his shoulders. “As you say. If that’s the case we’ll carry Doctor Falcon back with the rest of us.”
Book was surprised with how quickly she had turned from a machine to Dr. Falcon. Dekkar made good on that promise and the people of Wuldram Shores departed the station heading towards their home. The lonesome structure of Aquila IX was a melted ruin soon to be completely abandoned once the prisoners could be moved.
The Shores-men expected an attack throughout their journey home, but nothing disturbed their return. They arrived back in the city with everyone that set out. The destroyed Cathedral was a devastating blow to the monks, but also to those who needed their medical stores. At the order of Dekkar, City Hall soon became the refuge for the displaced and injured. There were losses to consider, but for now they worked to restore and recover what remained.
Bookworm spent that evening sitting near her friends, who took up one small office by themselves. She sat beside Mariah near the entrance and across from her Tepic had been expertly treated by Sister Pankirst. She hid most of his personal items and taken his clothes to be washed, which would then be hidden in several different locations. Bookworm was not pleased to learn how the lad got away from the sister, pulling a gun on Pankirst. They would have to have a talk when he woke.
Wright’s leg would be fit for a cast later that evening, and was resting in the next bed in the room with nobody opposite him. Avariel was deposited in a workmans shed where the scientists would attempt repairs. There was not much hope. Yang had been taken to another room since his affliction could be contagious. Beryl and Loki were located at the two windows on makeshift cots laying peacefully.
Bookworm fell asleep in the chair exhausted from the ordeal, she had gotten little sleep the past few nights. She was roused when Mayor Dekkar and Doctor Resh joined her late in the evening. Her companions were still asleep. They informed her that Progress left behind most of their work in their haste to escape without their flagship.
Jeffrey also told everyone at the debriefing that Captain ‘Earworm confronted Dupyre, and though he escaped he could not take the science and secrets kept by Aquila IX. Bookworm took heart in that knowledge, but she still wished she captured Dupyre himself.
Mariah was the first to wake from her slumber halfway through that talk, blinking away the dreams she was having and rose carefully. Her muscles ached in protest at any movement, but after a brief hesitation she sat up in the bed. “Seems that your mission to stop the Doctor went well, despite him getting away. You should be used to that by now though.”
Book gave her a level stare and asked her what happened at the reactor. The pirate had nothing to hide from her friend. She readily confessed to pushing Beryl into the adjacent pod. Mariah noted Book’s reaction was more surprised at what Mariah did to the cat, and not that it worked. “You neglected to mention they were capable of such an unusual feat.”
“I did not know they could do that either,” Bookworm admitted. “But I know more about Beryl than I should already.”
The pirate soon continued her story with what happened when the angel was free until she threw her knife. Bookworm gasped horrified at Mariah’s foolish action. Her friend never possessed a healthy respect for supernatural forces, but Bookworm intended to lecture her until she did. The Captain droned on even after Mariah hit her with a pillow, and tried to bury her own under one.
When Bookworm learned that Doctor Resh worked for Icarus Research she was less than pleased having him free and working with patients. Especially when that patient was Yang Moreau. The news that Icarus was owned secretly by Philip Johnson was a shock to the scientist. Book would leave that investigation for later.
She was also concerned that he was one of the scientists who created Itsy, the spider who inadvertently served as the catalyst to this journey. Yes, she had words planned for Resh, but it would wait until her companions recovered. She rehearsed her words and took solace in there being no transport out of the city.
Resh was unaware of his impending talking to as he gave Book a sad prognosis, “Mr. Moreau has early onset pneumonia and it’s been grievously aggravated,” Dr. Resh informed Bookworm late on the second day. “I will do everything I can to help him. We had our medical supplies shipped here, but I wish I had my personal effects.”
“That’s fine Doctor,” Bookworm said but she was not pleased about it. She had to turn her good ear to hear the softer speaking doctor. It had not improved in the time since her encounter with Decagon’s shock mace. Unfortunately, she would have to forgo a return to New Babbage and travel to America for surgery.
A departure would take time as Progress and the angel destroyed all transportation routes currently. With all the air vessels inoperable, radios fried, and the railroads destroyed the only way would be the treacherous frozen sea. It was still only the first week of February but she doubted she would breathe Babbage air or see her home again before April.
It took nearly a week but the slumber that overcame her friends was lifting. Wright was the first, feeling his cast and asking how long he had been unconscious. He practically coughed up a lung learning he had been out almost a week. Beryl, Tepic, and Loki woke the next day feeling groggy and hungry.
There were many stories to share that day about their separate adventures. Wright downplayed his transformation, but readily told the story of confronting Doctor Hartschlägel and the arena. He was less enthusiastic to share his final encounter with Dupyre’s clockwork. Bookworm shared her own tale, as did Loki about driving a mobile cannon and Progress airship. Beryl interrupted whenever the lad got close to a subject that made them uncomfortable.
Many had their personal secrets from one another and most avoided revealing anothers secret they learned. Tepic told the story of what happened in the generator chamber excitedly, though he tried to avoid mentioning how Beryl communicated with the entity. When he finished his tale, ending when he was attacked, all eyes turned to Loki. The lad completed the tale as he understood it, that Tepic’s flute soothed the creature’s soul hearing its song.
“Yer played the song!?” Tepic spluttered in surprise. Was there anything the inventive genius could not do, the fox boy wondered to himself impressed.
“Yep! I kin do it now!” Loki rolled over the side of his bed and picked up the flute they wrongfully determined to be his. He played six notes on it as he did before and the group grabbed their ears in dismay. Book was suddenly glad she was half deaf.
“Criminey! Is that what yer played?!” Tepic winced as he covered his ears. “Yer lucky it didn’t zap yer outta existence!”
“It…sounded better in thu chamber…” Loki lowered his head rather embarrassed by his poor showing. Tepic sensing his discouragement tried to make him feel better, “Errr…guess yer don’t know what yer can do till an angel is lookin’ death at yer!”
They were interrupted as Doctor Resh and Gammis entered the room together bearing a box. They had good news that some of their equipment was salvaged from their initial wreck by Progress and left in the cave they just cleared. “Some of your items will be returned to you, and at least one instrument, a violin.” Beryl brightened significantly learning that their gift remained intact. “Sadly two of the strings snapped.”
The cat sighed knowing how hard it would be to replace strings not made with animal intestine. Gammis did not noticed this as he presented the box next to Tepic’s bed. Bookworm moved closer curiously. “What’s in the box, doctor?”
“Some good news we hope,” Gammis said timidly. His stutter was still there, but it faded as the threat of Progress returning diminished. “We found your smallest companion, the clockwork bunny described in Avariel’s transmissions, within Aquila IX.”
The companions looked closely as he started to open the package, “Unfortunately, the pressure wave we are still studying knocked out its internal systems, lighting, everything. We opened it up to try to repair it again, but it was complex. Just today it began to work again, but sadly it may not be the same clockwork that you rememb-”
As the box opened, the terrified clockwork jumped out of the box and wrapped its legs around Tepics face, re-crushing his nose. “GAHH! GERROFF ME!”
Bookworm watched the display for a moment and turned back to Gammis, “No, I think it’s functioning perfectly again.”
Beryl assisted the doctors in treating Yang Moreau and the other patients acting as their nurse. Yangs health was stable but not improving swiftly. Wright and Tepic were getting restless in the bed and pushing themselves out more often. The wolf felt the need to return to Babbage soon fearing that things may have gone sour without their combined presence at the asylum.
Sister Pankirst and Bookworm saw to it that they stayed in the beds, mostly because both of them truly were injured and their recovery was slower than normal. John was relieved when the Carpathia lumbered into port on February nineteenth with great difficulty. They had been forced to repair the ship and gather emergency supplies from far away, and nearly three weeks later was barely been enough to get them tentatively airborne. Wright indicated that he would return to Babbage with them, and make his recovery from there.
Bookworm thanked him for his effort, but she would not be leaving yet nor would the others. She still had not properly confronted the scientists. She made it her duty to inform the Captain of the vessel about the sacrifice Doctor Falcon made. Her name rested upon the list of the confirmed deceased.
It had been a shock to Bookworm and her team she still could hardly believe, but there was nothing in the clockworks head that resembled her brain and her crystal shattered. Avariel Falcon, Dean of Aquila III and XIII, had not survived her trip to the frozen north.
The total number of those lost were recorded, and the bill was higher than Bookworm would have liked. One of the few names she recognized was Father Walstrand, who had orchestrated their escape plan. His broken body had been recovered from the ruins of the Cathedral. Services would be conducted by the Brother who led the monks alongside Bookworm in their counter attack.
What had set the others into a frenzy, especially Tepic and Loki, was seeing ‘The cloud angel’ on the list of the deceased.
“How can yer know it croaked!?” Tepic demanded suspicously. Bookworm added, “Couldn’t it have flown off after the eruption?” Gammis assured them that he was certain. He refused to go into details however as he quickly left the room.
Bookworm and the Babbagers confronted the scientists about the dangers of the cloud angel, but found resistance to her chastisements. They had not created the angel, and its actions upon release verified to them their own fears and beliefs.
“Whatever your companions did to soothe it,” Resh counter-argued, “If we released it any time before we would not have had that defense. There would not be Tesla stations or New Babbage for you to judge us.”
The Captain would not surrender that point yet, but the scientists outnumbered her even with other Babbagers present. Wright did not speak, only listened while leaning on his crutch and stared menacingly at the crowd. He appeared to intimidate everyone but Doctor Resh who then became their unofficial spokesman ahead of the nervous Dr. Gammis. Tepic was unsatisfied with the direction of the conversation. He told them they were a bunch of thoughtless numpty-headed pinheads, but they did not take the childs insults credibly.
Bookworm tabled that discussion. There would be an investigation into Icarus Research and Progress by the Dean’s. She had sent a detailed letter as well as the mayor and these scientists themselves. Bookworm tried a different approach as she changed the subject, “Fine, that is not our place to judge you. That is for the Academics to punish you. But when you sent ‘Itsy’ to New Babbage that became my jurisdiction.”
“Right!” Tepic shouted in agreement, grandstanding very gingerly on his still healing side. “Goin’ around making spiders ter capture yer some more cloud angels!”
“Itsy was not created to capture cloud angels, nor did we send them to New Babbage intentionally.” Resh explained as he had told Wright below in Itsy’s home where she was destined and the truth behind her creation. “I let my own children play with her.”
Tepic and Loki met Sarah and Tommis Resh, but had not known they played with the spiders. “Why would yer do a daft thing like that!?”
“Because she was not dangerous,” Resh insisted with folded arms. “Not until Hartschlägel took over the Menagerie. He was the one who taught her the world was only ‘victims’ or ‘killers’. I found out too late to do anything but sneak her out.”
This answer did not satisfy the Babbagers, but Book prepared more questions. “What ‘is’ she then? How could her webs have possibly possessed the abilities that they did? You’ve seen cloud angels! How can you have created something that could contain that?!”
“By accident,” Resh admitted with a long sigh. He then detailed how their experiments to see how the Koudra controlled other animals had been going. “It was one of the traitors though we didn’t know it at the time, that snuck in cells from the captive angel into the experiment that created Itsy.”
“She was created from the Cloud angel?!” Beryl shouted with Bookworm who could barely stutter out her shock while Tepic similarly blustered in outrage.
“In part,” Resh confessed as he sighed and looked to his assistants and colleagues. “But as you could see she was not a cloud angel in a new form. She was something else entirely.” He paused, but Bookworm waited for him to continue while the urchin seethed quietly. “If the Cloud Angels are aetheric entities that creates limitless power, then Itsy was the opposite. An aetheric entity that takes it away and imprisons them.”
Bookworm closed her eyes seeing the pieces fall into place. If those that gave power were angels, “Demon. You created an aetheric demon.”
“I’m not a religious man, Captain,” Resh shrugged slightly setting the accusation aside. “Dr. Gammis and the others called her that or similar after her webs held the Bondi Svell even better than the old device.”
“The Bondi Svell?” It was late in the evening to throw new names at her, but there was something that rang a bell in Bookworms memory. Snow falling around them in the trees, a log cabin, an apparition that had tried to freeze them to death while searching for a husband. The Kona Snaer. The Snow Wife. On a hunch Book asked, “That wouldn’t happen to be the Snow Husband would it?”
“Ice Husband actually,” Resh said impressed. “They used it to create horrific ice storms. How did you know?”
“Lucky guess,” She said bitterly. The scientists of old had created another monster with their actions. “A spider that could capture clockworks, ghosts, and cloud angels. A demonic creature indeed, Doctor Resh.”
“Even if you believe that we actually did create an ‘aetheric demon’, which is unproven hearsay,” Resh ignored Tepics attempts to interrupt him, “I do not see how this changes anything. Itsy is free now, leave her and her ilk be.”
Bookworms mouth set in a line, and Tepic muttered ominously that Itsy would return, but Loki disagreed with the other Babbagers. He had listened to the angel and Itsy, and heard that haunting phrase from both. Loki found no difference between Itsy or the Cloud Angel. Both were tormented by Progress and turned into killers that took one of his friends away from him. Itsy had taken Ben, the angel took Doctor Falcon.
The arguments continued for hours, ending when Resh pointed out she could talk to Mayor Dekkar about extradition if she wanted to press the issue before leaving. Gammis and the others followed his lead feeling more timid and subdued than the man who had stepped forward to defend them. Bookworm would have to be satisfied with their abashed gazes, the Mayor had already said they would be extradited over his cold dead body. She took heart that the Academic Deans would sort them after their own investigation.
Wright departed the next day with Avariel Falcon’s broken form being shipped to the Academic Dean’s. John promised that he would keep mum about Progress and the station until Bookworm returned. Doohan and Theodore both approached her in the passing weeks with more information about Philip Johnson, Icarus Research, and Progress. They had coordinated a counter-attack, so the less said in New Babbage the better.
The wolf agreed to let people think he had been sent home ‘early’ with a broken leg. Feeling the strange effect of the cloud angel he figured he would have a once in a lifetime opportunity back home. A chance to divert attention from his true affliction. He still felt like he was aging, though slower and slower every day. He may even miss February’s little three day ‘adventure’,though he didn’t count on it.
John lit a cigar and waved farewell with his free hand to Book and the others as he returned to the city.
The recovery was going well for everyone, which Mayor Dekkar accounted to clean mountain air, a statement Loki scoffed at after the man left the room. “Yer cain’t trus’ air yer cain’t see!”
The companions knew when they would be leaving the Frozen North individually. Mariah and Bookworm would head to the America’s privately. Book had tried to hide her lack of hearing in one ear, but her friends noticed her behavior. Yang would travel to Mondrago for dry air on Beryl’s recommendation where he would lay low for a few months.
Beryl convinced Tepic and Loki to remain in Wuldram Shores with them until March twenty-fourth. The lads were reluctant to wait that long in the foreign city. The adventure was over to Tepic long before this, but their friend insisted that they had a special surprise.
They had plenty of distractions to occupy their time and Tepic’s full recovery. Tepic had to find his hidden possessions, and the Sister had made some rather challenging. Jeffrey and the other lads also kept the urchins entertained, Tepic especially enjoyed the large lads humor. It was not just fun and games though, the scientists found more secrets in the abandoned flagship. Progress secrets that Tepic intended to peek at before he left. Loki was determined to build a Tesla Mobile Cannon since the moment he saw the initial vehicle. The lad did not know how to do that. He didn’t even know how to properly fashion a tesla rifle, but these details did not deter him.
He only ever managed to make them explode.
Yang was sent south on the first vessel to offer passage to Marikesh, now that the weather stablized. Their captive ice spirit no longer powered the horrible storms combined with the cloud angel. Doohan and Theodore left with a small force to launch the counter-attack, and the companions wished them well. Bookworm and Mariah departed soon after leaving only the urchins and the familiar.
Eventually March twenty-fourth came to pass and Beryl, Tepic, and Loki went deep into the forest avoiding the Koudra and other creatures and arrived near the destroyed Aquila IX one morning. They held a picnic and waited until night while Tepic and Loki wondered what the surprise would be. Beryl insisted it was something they dreamed. Twilight came with no sudden revelation. The strange aurora that formerly lit up the sky had not returned after the destruction of the station.
Beryl told Tepic to take out their flute and play the song of the angels, as a final farewell to the creature. The urchin considered that and took the deed as a solemn task. He played the melody quietly to mourn the lost creature. It reverberated on the mountains and filled the air with its beautiful resonance.
He had not expected a song to answer him back. Tepic and Loki stopped, staring into the sky as the aurora returned to Wuldram Shores, and he could see a tiny hairless infant floating in the sky above. He could see through their skin as they were surrounded with a glowing orb of light.
They did not know why Beryl hid this from the others, though Tepic suspected the scientists could not be trusted. But now deep in the urchins hearts they knew that the angel had not died. It shed its shell.