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“Do excuse the rude people, ” the Professor crooned to the fish, holding it close enough that his beard whiskers brushed against its scales. “They are but cogs and pawns and the whistling wind, and know not what they do.” He kissed the fish’s snout – drawing a hiss of disgust from Jil and an exclamation of “Dude! That is just nasty!” from Troy – and purred, “There my lovely, wake and sing for us, there’s a good girl.”

Caitlin’s sight was temporarily obscured as both Feid and Troy threw themselves in front of her, arms held wide, feet planted as firmly as they could manage, given that the wooden planks were still vibrating, as if announcing an oncoming train. In the heat of the moment, Caitlin couldn’t decide whether to be amused, or profoundly annoyed.

“What if it comes from behind us?” she yelled, as another thunder-roll shook the walls.

What remained of the ceiling lay in pieces around them, slabs of drywall jutting at odd angles amidst clouds of settling white dust and broken roof timbers. The Professor sat in the middle of a pile of rubble with a stunned look on his face, still holding one delicate, intact teacup. It steamed faintly.

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