Chapter 12
Unhappy Reunion

Vigau, Arielle, Bonaventure

It had been a month since Gally was awakened, which meant that she was finally getting her first paycheck. Actually, she was a little surprised Giger was paying her at all. However, once he took out all the various deductions, fees and penalties, she was left with about ten livres and some change, but it was money she could call her own and she was going to buy something for herself for a change. She had been on the receiving end of enormous generosity from Yugo, but there was a measure of pride that came from paying your own way and at least in this small thing, she could exercise a little independence.
She went to a secondhand shoe store. She had been wanting more comfortable shoes for a while now. Besides the fact that it would take time to break in new shoes, she probably could not afford them anyway, so she had to take her chances and hope that a cast-off pair would still be decent. Giger did not follow her in, instead choosing to read a book while pacing back and forth on the opposite side of the street.
A little bell tinkled as she opened the door and stepped in. The shop was small but tightly packed with six shelves running longways to make three aisles and another shelf along the back wall. There was no one else in the shop but a lone man behind the counter, presumably the shop owner.
"Can I help you, miss?" the shop owner asked.
"I'm looking for some comfortable shoes," she said. "I'm on my feet all day, you see."
"Of course.," the shop owner replied. "If you don't mind, I'd like to take your measurements." He motioned to the little stool at the end of the aisle."Please, have a seat."
Gally went over to the stool and sat down. The shop owner pulled out a strange wooden contraption from under counter and stepped out to approach her.
"Please take off your shoes," he said.
Gally untied her shoes and, with some difficulty, got them off. There was a hole in one of her stockings, so her big toe was sticking out. If she had any talent as a seamstress she would have mended it. Darned the darn stocking.
The shop owner held her foot for a moment, caressing it appreciatively. Gally opted to say nothing. She was a little weirded out by it, but how many people dedicate their life to shoes without having a foot fetish?
"Such delicate little feet," he said. He then put her foot in the contraption, which looked something like a clamp with a ruler for the bar. "Size 32. I think I have just the right thing for you. One moment."
He went down one of the aisles, out of Gally's sight, and came back later with a pair of shoes. They looked a bit worn, with a rounder toe and lower heel than the shoes she was wearing.
"Here we are," the shop owner said, handing her the shoes. "Try these on."
The shoes laced up at the sides rather than the front, which was a little different. The leather was much softer, so much that it was almost like suede. When she stood up in them, she did not feel any pinching in her toes or pressure on her heels.
"Broken in but not not broken down," the shop owner said. "You like?"
"Yes," Gally replied.
"Would you be interested in anything else?"
As tempting as it was to see what else he had, these shoes were as comfortable as she could hope for next to a pair of house slippers, so she had to decline.
"That'll have to be all for today," she said. "I don't have very much money."
"So few of us do. That'll be five livres."
"Five even? That's convenient."
The shop owner smiled.
"Convenience is our business model. Would you like me to wrap them or will you be wearing them out?"
"I think I'll wear them out."
"As you wish."
The shop owner picked up one of her old shoes and examined it for a moment.
"These really are in good condition," he said. "Might you be interested in a trade?"
Gally had no idea how much Yugo paid for the shoes, but five livres probably would not be an even exchange.
"I'd like to hang on to those," she said.
"I see," the shop owner replied. "Then at least allow me to wrap them for you. It would be gauche for a lady to be seen walking about carrying shoes."
The shop owner went to the counter and pulled out a sheet of brown paper and a spool of twine, bundling up Gally's shoes with well-practiced efficiency.
"And now to settle accounts," he said. "Don't worry, the wrapping is gratis."
"Okay," Gally said. "Thank you."
She got her coin purse, picked out five one-livre coins and handed them to the shop owner.
"Here you go."
"Thank you," the shop owner said. "Would you like a receipt for that?"
"No, that's okay."
"Very well then," the shop owner said as he deposited the coins in the cash box. When he was done with that, he gave her a deferential nod and said, "Thank you for your business. Please come again."
"I will."
Taking the bundle of her old shoes, Gally exited the shop. She had to wait for a carriage to pass before crossing the street to get to Giger.
"Giger, I'm ready to go," she said.
Giger looked up from his book and sighed, "Women and their shoes. Got what you wanted?"
"Anything else you want to do to waste my time?"
"I think I've pushed your generosity as far as it'll go."
Giger nodded.
"You're quite right. Let's get a move on."
They took a different route home for a change. In this neighborhood, there were houses on two levels. There was an overpass where the upper level crossed the lower level. They passed underneath. The path itself was clear enough, but there was a lot of trash clogging the gutters to the sides. You could just barely see a pedestal up above, the kind they used to prop up the bronze statues. Only that pedestal did not have a statue, or rather, not a whole one. It had been snapped off around the ankles. The broken pieces of the rest of the statue were all mixed in with the trash. Was that just a statue or was it a person like her?
Something about the remnants of the statue caught her eye, so she went over to get a closer look. Giger kept walking a bit before he realized that she was no longer following him.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
Gally did not answer him. Her attention was wholly fixed on a particular piece of the statue. She set aside the bundle with her shoes and reached into the trash to pull out the statue's head. It was a young man with delicate features and long hair that could almost pass for a woman.
Iro'otoko, she thought, and smiled.
Suddenly, a shock went through her and her chest squeezed. She stared at the bronze face and her vision started to blur.
"No..." a voice said distantly. "It can't be... Shu...?"
It was her voice, but it seemed like someone else was speaking.
"What is it?" Giger asked.
"Oh my God..." the voice that was her but not her said. "No... Shu..."
"You recognize him or something?"
"No, Shu!" she screamed. "Shu!"
"Quiet down!" Giger hissed.
Still holding the head, Gally turned to Giger. Her head was swimming. She could not string two thoughts together, but her voice seemed to speak of its own accord.
"You can, you can help him. Giger, please. You have to help him. Change him back like you did with me."
Gally could feel the tears streaming down her cheeks. Those were her tears, were they not? Still she could not think straight, but she was brimming with this great sense of fearful hope. Giger could help her. Even without fully understanding what was going on or what she was even saying, she believed that Giger would help.
"I can't," he replied.
She started to feel dizzy. This was not what he was supposed to say.
"Why... why not? Giger, why not?"
"It took me three hours to perform the spell on you," Giger replied. "The Witch-hunters are out in force now. There's no way I could get away with it a second time."
Desperation covered her like a shadow. Giger was the candle in the darkness. He was her only hope.
"Giger, you have to try," she told him. "Please, Giger, I'll do whatever you ask. Shu, you've got to save him. Save him, Giger!"
"I told you to be quiet. You want to know the truth? If I changed him back, he'd come back just like that. Is that what you want?"
Gally looked back at the bronze head in her hands and for an instant she imagined it being turned to flesh. It was too terrible to remain in her head for more than an instant, though.
"No... You can put the statue back together. You can fix him."
Giger could not be moved.
"You're asking the impossible," he said. "All the pieces aren't even there."
Like that, her hope died within her and all she could do was cry.

* * *

The last thing Giger expected was for Gally to break down into complete hysterics in the middle of the street. Thank whatever god was looking out for him that it happened somewhere the foot traffic was light. He had to pry the statue head out of her hands and drag her crying and screaming several blocks before she settled down to just quietly sob the rest of the way back to the cottage.
He very nearly forgot to do the knock before going inside. Prissy came prancing down the stairs the moment he stepped in, still dragging Gally along.
"Welcome home, Giger!" the feline familiar piped happily.
"Not now, Prissy," Giger said as he continued to pull the sobbing Gally along.
"What's goin' on, Giger?" Prissy asked.
"I said not now."
Giger did not bother taking off his shoes first. Instead, he continued to drag Gally along with single-minded focus down into the basement. In his haste, he snapped the cord to the key around his neck to unlock the physical lock to the door to his lab. He then placed his hand on the door and quickly chanted to release the magical locks as well.
He yanked Gally inside the lab. This was the moment he had been waiting for. If she was able to recognize one of the statues, then it meant her memory was coming back. At long last, the knowledge of the Ancients would be his.
The walls of his lab were lined with shelves and there were three worktables with all manner of pieces of Lost Technology he had gathered over the years.
He picked up the one black box he received the day before he brought Gally back and held it up for her.
"You know," he said. "You know what these things are. You can tell me what they do."
After all her screaming and crying, Gally now looked entirely spent, in a daze.
"Why are you doing this to me?" she asked weakly.
Her thoroughly drained mental state meant nothing to Giger, though. He took hold of her by the shoulders and shook her, not hard, just enough to get her attention.
"I brought you here for a reason. You have to remember. Help me unlock the secrets of the Lost Technology."
Gally's eyes strayed to the table as she said, "This... This junk... What do you even want me to do with this?"
"Make it work."
Something came over Gally. The distant, weary look on her face slowly changed to anger.
Breaking Giger's hold on her, she screamed, furiously "It's been three hundred years, you fucking idiot! What do you expect me to do!?" She snatched up a random piece of Lost Technology and held it up in Giger's face. "All this, this shit, it's garbage! All of it!"
She threw the piece of Lost Technology into the wall, then grabbed Giger by his cloak.
"How many people are out there," she demanded, "statues like I was? Hundreds? Thousands? And all you care about is this trash! Damn you!"
She swept her hand across the table, knocking all manner of items onto the floor with a great clatter. This did nothing to soothe her anger, though. She glared at him with tears pouring out of her eyes.
"Why'd you even bother bringing me back!?"
Giger had had enough of her tantrum and shouted back, "Knock it off, dammit!"
"Or what?" she challenged him. "You're a goddamned carnival sideshow! You coward! Huddled up here with all your damned pets, scamming a quick buck off of anyone who thinks you can help him! What can you do!? You fake! You phony! You--!"
Giger's hand shot out, grabbing Gally by the forehead. Before she could fight back, he said a few words of power and she immediately went limp as a boned fish. Giger upset the table further trying to catch her before she fell to the floor. Awkwardly, he dragged her out of the lab and deposited her in the chair of his study.
As he was putting her in the chair, Prissy hurried down the stairs, asking him, "Giger, what happened?"
Ramstein called to him from upstairs, "Master Falkner, what was all that commotion?"
Giger did not answer them, instead shouting, "Happy, Happy!"
Happy poked his head in through the door at the top of the staircase.
"Yes, Giger?" he said.
"Happy, transform."
Happy did so, taking on his human form and coming down the stairs.
"What is it?" he asked.
Giger motioned to Gally.
"Take her to bed."
"To bed?" Happy asked.
"Yes," Giger said. "Stay in there with her and guard the door. There's no telling what she'll do."
"She can't stay in your bed, Giger!" Prissy complained.
"Prissy, quiet."
Prissy promptly quieted down. She knew when he was in no mood for an argument and this was one such time.
Happy went over to the chair and picked up Gally, then carried her up the stairs. Giger and Prissy followed after him. Once they were in the living room, Happy looked back to Giger and asked, "What are you going to do?"
"I'm going out," Giger said, straightening his cloak.
"Giger, you can't!" Prissy objected.
"I said quiet, Prissy."
From his perch, Ramstein started to ask, "Master Falkner, is it really wise to--"
"Not now, Old Bird," Giger said curtly.
Too much had happened. Too much had gone wrong. He needed to clear his head. He would deal with consequences of the day's fiasco later.
Without another word, he stepped out of his cottage and headed to the nearest tavern. He had never needed a drink more in all his life.