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Despite the muggy and hazy heat which blanketed the city, the inside of the Cathedral of the Builder was damp and cool. Rather like a batcave, Stargirl Macbain thought, with a shiver running through her. She stepped onto the stone of the archway, her new metal foot ringing out much more loudly than she had been anticipated, and she jumped slightly despite herself.
Three figures at the opposite end of the cathedral turned to look her way. Her new clockwork eye focused in, and recognized one as the woman who had officiated in her attempt to adopt Skyler… that seemed like a lifetime ago now, though not even a full year had passed. The other two were all too well known to her. She pressed her lips into a fine line, steeled herself and stepped forward into the cathedral.
The two priests turned her way as she approached them, Miss Foehammer stood to the side, but did not leave. “Fathers,” Stargirl said. “I wonder if I might be able to have a moment of your time.”
Father Pizzaro spoke: “Certainly Miss Macbain, we always have time to speak with followers of the church.” She could see him searching her hairline for traces of strange ears as he spoke. Behind him, Moonwall merely stared at her grimly.
“I have reason to believe that someone in Babbage is not exactly what they claim to be.”
Foehammer snorted. Moonwall turned to her, and with a blink she finally moved away silently. Moonwall turned back to Stargirl. “Many are not what they claim to be, but that is hardly a matter for the Church.” he said, in his usual scratchy clipped voice.
Pizzaro looked at Moonwall for a moment, then turned back to Stargirl. “Can you elaborate, Miss Macbain?”
“I can.” she replied. “It has come to my attention that the assistant of Mr Underby, Pippin Jollygoodfellow, is not human as he claims to be.”
“Not human?” Pizzaro asked, though he did not seem surprised.
“I believe he is some form of sprite, or house elf.” she said. There, it was out.
“Hmm.” said Pizzaro. “That is indeed troubling. Something we should well look in to.”
Moonwall moved forward, “You might have admitted this months ago, girl, when we were questioning you about the matter in your house. Any fool can see that the little freak is no human.”
“Ora,” Pizzaro mildly. “That kind of talk is not necessary.”
Moonwall sniffed derisively. “I hold my respect for those who conform to the laws of nature and physics. Underby’s assistant conforms to neither.”
Pizzaro nodded slowly, then turned back to Stargirl. “What have you seen him do which would cause you to think he is anything other than human?”
“A number of things,” she said. “I have seem him materialize in front of my own eyes, float in the air, change into horrible shapes, scratch on the insides of walls, probably more if I were to give it time to think of each instance.”
“You shall, child.” Moonwall said, with a sneer. “We will go through it slowly and deliberately. I want each instance laid with a charge. The more the better. Have you other eye witnesses to this behavior?”
Stargirl swallowed quickly, having not counted on this question. “I… I might. I can see.”
“Do see.” said Moonwall, frowning. Pizzaro nodded. “Yes, do.”
For a moment, nobody said anything. Finally, Pizzaro said, “You may go, Miss Macbain, we will come find you for further questioning.”
This idea was not pleasant, and she felt a heavy rock in the pit of her stomach. “Could we not get it over with now?” she asked.
“We have paths we must tread, Miss Macbain.” Father Moonwall said. “We do things according to our clock. Not yours.”
She could think of no other response which would further her cause, apart from a nod, and so she nodded. Pizzaro smiled slightly. Or, was that a smirk?
As she walked away she heard one of the fathers say “And then we shall deal with Underby himself.”, but she was unable to decide which voice it was, she had never noticed that they sounded so much alike before.