“Victor!” Darren called softly. “Someone’s walking around downstairs!”
Dr. Fleming exercised his great self-control and merely grunted, “Our door’s locked, so I don’t care. Put a chair against it if you like.”
“It’s three in the morning.”
“The acute senses of a jungle savage and the ability to comprehend the crucial ‘big hand-little hand’ distinction! Excellent, Darren; by breakfast you may have evolved past needing a tail.”
“There is someone—”
“It’s Antonin. I don’t know whether he’s really a sleepwalker or an insomniac out for exercise, but he does that sometimes. It can’t be Lassiter, because he’d make a din like an exploding boiler factory getting out of the infirmary. And it can’t be his ghoulish friends, or your hackles would be up and your tail bushy. Go back to sleep—or at least let me do so.”
The next morning found everyone up bright and early. Dvorak, armed with enthusiasm and a continental breakfast, invited his guests to experience Antonin’s culinary skills while he had some time alone with his new tool. He let himself into his workroom and locked the door behind him. Darren decided to fetch Lassiter from the infirmary, and Dr. Fleming and Antonin paused by the workroom to examine an intricate gadget that Dvorak would soon seek to replicate purely by punch cards.
That was when they heard the shout, which was abruptly cut off.
Antonin was the first inside since he had a key and the security system’s permission to enter unmolested. But the moment the door was open, the scene was both clear and inconceivable: Dvorak, spattered with blood, lay crumpled on the floor with some small object beside him.
The mechanical artisan continued swiftly and silently fashioning its artifact, oblivious to the horror and outcry.
Next: Light in the Darkness