Higgs on Higgs

Once he'd gotten Zeetha and her wounds to Mama Gkika's good care, he got one of the Jagergirls to help him bandage up the worst of the biggest wound. Years of experience had taught him that torso wraps go on easier with an extra hand, and the girls didn't mind. Fortunately, the Zola-brat had missed most vital organs with that stab. The Knights' training apparently was getting soft.

Plunked in one of Mama's spare rooms with a tumbler of her finest, a packet of suture thread and needle, and a sleeping Zeetha, Higgs made a few repairs and considered the situation.

Getting Miss Zeetha out had been more irritating than he'd planned, and he'd damaged more of der Kastel's rogue clanks than was strictly necessary. Puttin' 'em out of commission while carrying a wounded gal one didn't want to jostle - never mind drop - had been tricky. He felt somewhat guilty about the trail of damage, but consoled himself with taking note which units they were, where, and what work they'd need. Once the Heterodyne girl got her act together, she could get some mechanics to make repairs. He'd help them himself, if he had time. Fortunately, most of the major systems were amenable to persuasion, with or without a damn huge wrench applied 'in a threatenin' manner' as they used to say in the regs.

More than that, he regretted what he'd had to do to Ottilia's mechanics to shut up the Kastel personality inside. That he'd need to see to, if Ottilla wanted to go back to it. But after her time as Von Pinn (how had he missed *that*? That did explain some rather in-ter-est-ing rumors relating to the Jagerkin that had been floating around the fleet), Ottilia might rather keep the body Agatha Heterodyne had suggested. No doubt, with Lucrezia's instruments, young duMedd would be able to put poor Ottilia into it. On the other hand, the Muse probably missed her sisters...

Still and all, it was a good day's - or few days' - work, really. It was kinda amusing shepherding those young sparks around- like herding ducklings. Electric ducklings. More like goslings, in fact, he decided, ruefully rubbing his shoulder and remembering the angry goose. Broken bones didn't leave off aching as soon as they used to when he was younger.

And the end result was Baron Wulfenbach safely deposited, temporarily- but very visibly- helpless, in the Great Hospital. That nasty piece of work, DuPree, likewise- and silenced to boot. Mister Tarvek Stormvarous separated from the dratted Pink Conspiracy of the Knights of Jove, and given a chance to grow up, straighten up, and take himself seriously. Mister Gilgamesh Wulfenbach removed from under his father's thumb, likewise. The Heterodyne lass holed up in der Kastel with both the Wulfenbach and Stormvarous heirs, preparing to revive the Mechanicsburg defenses. The Von Mekkans off their bums, and the Jagerkin filtering in. That vicious bitch Zola removed from der Kastel - regrettably not disposed of- but at least dumped off in the Hospital, so the rest of the kids could get on with their work. Yes, very tidy.

Admittedly, he'd seen with his own eyes the troubles caused by Lucrezia's self-replication. And who knew what Miss Agatha would do next (but then, that was the fun of havin' a Heterodyne around), let alone what she would do with her beaus. Still, they were all three good 'uns at heart, and he doubted the rejected suitor would go off his nut and try to destroy Europe. (If there was a rejected suitor; he wouldn't put it past a Heterodyne to just keep them both. Miss Agatha had Bill's soft heart, and he suspected a touch of Lucrezia's acquisitive habits).

Which left Miss Zeetha. A young-ish warrior-trained Skifandrian princess at large in the wilds of Europa, and clearly with no idea how to get back home. What was she doin' here? What were her mothers thinkin' of, leaving her wander around like that? For that matter, why did she have a look of Klaus Wulfenbach? And what was he going to do with her, and - for that matter- his growing fondness for her?

He wasn't accustomed to feeling this kind of tenderness. How long had it been since he'd gone soft on a girl like this? Or even felt this kind of connection to a human individual? He shunted that question away into the black hole where long-time-enlistees kept their notion of time. And why this girl?

Certainly she was good looking, and well-endowed- but not a candle on Mama's charms, even. It certainly wasn't just giggle-and-grunt. She was a good fighter, and both tough and loyal. Well and good; but so was that Smoke Knight girl with Mister Tarvek. No, there was just something about the scrappy princess that had set its grasp around his (metaphorical) heart and made him breathe hard when he thought about her.

On the other hand, like all the rest of that bloody Children's Crusade traipsing around der Kastel, she was prone to get above herself. Though, bein' a princess, she probably had a Mama who'd filled her mind with uppitiness, and needed to work it off. Not having anybody up to her level to train with, he could see, had dulled her skills and added to her few weaknesses. Needed to learn to work with other fighters, for one. And not to underestimate the opposition.

Ah, she was stirring. Mama Gkika had agreed that a short shot of Battle-draught probably wouldn't harm her much, and do her wounds a sight of good. As he expected, she didn't like it a bit. Good sign- those as liked the battle-draught generally came to a bad, and quick, end. He'd been more worried about her than he liked to admit.

Of course, Miss Zeetha was fussing over Miss Agatha. She looked so miserable, and so vulnerable- he couldn't stand that. He wanted to take her up and comfort her, but that would do neither of them any good, and besides, this wasn't the time. Instead, a quick dose of reality, and something to get her blood up and distract her... Ah, a challenge. Yes, he would enjoy a little sparring with her. He could teach her a trick or two, he smiled to himself.

Ya, he thought, pushing away the feel of her where he had brushed her face- this could become a habit...