“Why don’t we lay out exactly what we know?” asked Monsieur L’Horloge, taking out a pen and notebook.
The brasserie they sat in would ordinarily have been too loud to have a decent conversation. Business was honestly quite brisk and the rest of the place was filled with customers. Silent, frozen customers.
They found an empty table and sat. Since table service was not available, Maxi recommended they take meals off tables that had just been served or were on their way from the kitchen.
There was some debate over the morality of this. Arpin and Unexpected suggested that they leave money to cover the bill. Maxi pointed out that if they put time back on track, a meal was the least they could do in return if they restarted time and if they couldn’t, it hardly mattered. L’Horloge pointed out that this was the least of their problems. The subject was then tabled.
“First, time has been locked in place with the exception of us,” said the watchmaker.
“Obviously,” remarked Maxi.
“Perhaps, but these details are important, even if they do seem obvious,” added Arpin.
“I agree,” piped in Unexpected.
Maxi made a ‘get on with it’ gesture.
“Additionally, the following beings are unaffected by the event. Firstly, cats.”
A golden bobtail sat on a nearby table nibbling a roast chicken that sat in front of a pair of bohemians.
“Unexpected,” mused Arpin, “But then, perhaps not. They do have many unusual… qualities.”
“Between us, I think they’re as surprised as we are though they’ll never admit it,” said Maxi.
The golden bobtail gave no indication that she heard what was said or at the very least, did not acknowledge it.
“Ghosts too,” said Nikita who had arrived with the cat.
“Spirits are exempt as well,” said Monsieur L’Horloge as he made jotted down what was discussed.
“And you’re quite certain that they will not be of help?” asked Arpin.
Nikita sighed, an action that made the hair on the back of ones neck stand up, though it was clearly unintentional.
“I wouldn’t count on it, they’re too busy arguing with each other.”
“Shame, I can think of any number of uses for a squad of ghosts,” said Unexpected with a grin.
“And finally, the Repairperson,” said Monsieur L’Horloge, underlining that name.
“Cats and spirits have unique qualities that might allow them to avoid being stuck in time, but why the Repairperson?” asked Unexpected.
“So too do the members of League of Spiders,” said Arpin who explained the glyphs inscribed on their skeletons.
Monsieur L’Horloge turned pale, Maxi just stared at him, Nikita disappeared for a minute or so and Unexpected flung a croissant at the wall where it embedded itself.
“Are you saying that the League of Spiders is immune from all this?” asked L’Horloge rather louder than he intended.
“Let them come,” said Unexpected, “I have more than a few surprises for them!”
Maxi said nothing but her eyes darted about the room.
“I doubt that’s the case, if it were, we would not be enjoying this meal or these drinks,” said Arpin.
That settled the others mood or at the very least kept them from doing anything rash.
“So we only have one preternaturally strong foe to deal with?” asked Maxi.
“As far as I can tell,” replied Arpin, “Let’s have another bottle, agreed?”
They did. Unexpected took a beaujolais and cracked the bottle lengthwise. Once the bottle was removed, the wine stood unperturbed and they could scoop it into their glasses. It was a little chewy at first but it then became liquid the longer it was in their mouths. An odd sensation but given everything, perhaps not the oddest.
“So, we have one foe with extraordinary strength and the ability to ignore pain,” said L’Horloge, making further notes. This is a redundant line if said this way. It sounds virtually identical to the one Maxi says just a bit earlier.
“Is that really an asset?” asked Maxi.
“I’ve another list of what we have arrayed against us.”
Maxi looked at what he wrote.
“Well, given we cannot farm or produce more food or other necessities than those we can find, eventually we will starve to death,” replied the clockmaker.
“How long do you think this will take?” she asked.
“I have no idea. Maybe a day, maybe forever.”
“Perhaps you’re getting ahead of yourself,” said Arpin.
“Do not give into despair clockmaker,” added Unexpected, “Let me cut you some more wine.”
“Let’s get back to the Repairperson and why was she not frozen? Why weren’t we?” mused Arpin.
“She did have the key to the device,” Maxi said snapping her fingers.
“Yes!” said L’Horloge, “A bespoke variable key made specifically for the Penultimate Device, crafted by The Huygens’ own hands! Of course, it has other properties.”
“That’s quite a property,” said Maxi with a smile.
“Well, given all the things that can go wrong when you mess about with time, it makes sense to have some safety measures,” observed Nikita.
Everyone stared at her.
“I’m dead, I’m not an idiot,” she said with some indignity.
“Pardon mademoiselle,” said Arpin with a nod of his head, “After all, you are working with Detective Durand, a very talented colleague of mine.”
“I was, before…”
“Think of it as a long weekend,” said Maxi.
“Yes, I think I will,” replied the spirit.
“Also, you discovered something very important,” said Arpin.
“Oh yes! We know where the League of Spider’s headquarters is!”
“We do?” asked L’Horloge.
“Well, the Sergeant and I do,” said Nikita.
“How did you find it?” inquired Maxi.
“Okay, I was flying above the financial quarter in early evening when I spotted-
“And why are we only now just being told this?” interrupted Unexpected with concern.
“What do you think your Marshal would’ve done with that intelligence?” Arpin asked the Chevalier.
“She would’ve taken direct and forceful action, an attack, or a siege if necessary. Of course, she would have worked with the Gendarmerie and civil authorities.”
“I have no doubt. And given what you saw of the gifts of the League of Spiders, what would be the cost of lives, assuming victory?”
Unexpected paused, then answered, “I cannot say.”
“Not even a rough estimate? Fifty percent, sixty, seventy-five? Just keeping it in round numbers,” asked the Gendarme Sergeant.
“Impossible to say,” replied the Chevalier.
“That is why I did not share that with the Marshal. Fighting an unknown number of powerful, fearless zealots who give death no thought is not an option I will consider. I do not wish to be the one responsible for the death of Coterie du Honor, to say nothing of the causalities of Gendarmes, and those innocents that are in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Silence reigned as Arpin’s words settled on them like ash from a burning sky.
“Forgive me my friends, that was the darkest possible outcome I could foresee.”
“The darkest?” whispered L’Horloge, “That was one where the League lost. What if- “
“We have eluded that fate, let us not dwell on it. We are alive and mobile, and each of us has unique gifts that will be of great use in our…”
Arpin paused, looked directly at the Chevalier and asked, “Would you call this a quest?”
She smiled and said, “Perhaps the most important quest ever undertaken!”
“I never thought I’d be on a quest,” said L’Horloge.
“Neither did I,” added Maxi.
“This is very cool,” said Nikita.
“Then raise your glasses and toast to our success!”
All of them stood and held their glasses that held odd shaped nuggets of wine.
“We are now bound by common cause, to awaken the peoples of the Arrondissement and to restore time to its rightful pace. To victory!”
They echoed his declaration and chewed their wine. The golden bobtail, who had had her fill of chicken, at least for now, meowed loudly at them.
“Yes, of course we could not succeed without you,” answered Maxi, “In fact, I have a message for you to deliver to the Clowder.”