5: Designs and Details

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"What should we tell the M when she asks where Powder is?" Fizz looked a little alarmed, staring at Powder while he talked to Scotch as though hoping for her intervention.

"You can tell her," said Scotch, "that you don't know where she is and that you thought she was with the M. Or that Butterscotch took her somewhere." He beckoned Powder to follow him. She stood up from her chair, pausing to tense as her skin flamed up.

Fizz was wrapping and unwrapping his fingers together, looking around him. "Scotch, aren't you even the least worried about..." he stopped himself.

"About...?" Scotch asked, turning to look as he was walking away.

"You know what," said Mint. He stepped in front of Powder, obscuring her view of their faces. "Do we even have to count all the times?"

"We have few opportunities like this to ever spite the M," said Scotch.

"Yes, but is it really worth..." Mint put his hand behind his neck.

"I'm not granting her the privilege of controlling me when she's not around as well." Scotch looked at Powder and inclined his head for her to follow him. The others watched quietly as she passed by.

"Why are you moving me?" Powder asked once they'd started up a twisting iron staircase.

"Are you in a condition to be thrown around in someone else's sporadic imagination?"

"No."

"The M doesn't care if it hurts you. If you're fit enough to walk, you're fit enough for the Globe. If she sent you into the production now with that fresh embroidery, you could tear your fabric or injure yourself."

Powder thought it was odd that Scotch gave her a different reason than he had to the others, and she said so. Scotch stopped on the stairs and turned to look back at her. He then looked out into nothing and back at her again as though he would say something but thought better of it. He resumed walking. "Also," he added, "I want to observe her reaction to you being missing."

They said nothing else as Scotch led her back through the halls to Base where the rest of the dolls were all filing out on their way to the Core. Scotch mumbled something about "no distractions" and pulled Powder into a side hall, standing in front and keeping her from view as the dolls walked past. Some greeted Scotch with salutes which he returned. Bourbon and Licorice followed up in the rear, each with their arms resting across the shoulders of and talking supportively to a white-haired doll who looked troubled. When Base was empty Scotch led Powder inside and told her to wait in the office for everyone's return.

"Won't the Monstress come looking for me here?" Powder asked.

"Maybe," said Scotch. "Since it's not possible to keep you away forever, the point now is to make it difficult and frustrating for her."

"You mean your point. Fizz and Mint didn't agree."

Scotch looked at her a moment and by the end of it Powder was sure he was withholding a smile.

"Yes, my point," said Scotch. "No one likes to be punished here and that's exactly what will happen to me when she finds out I've hid you."

"Then why...?"

"Because it's better than hiding and hating myself." Scotch stood close to Powder's face. "Punishments last a finite amount of time, but your conscience will never leave you alone." He went to the door and opened it. "Don't worry, your playtime in the Globe will come soon enough." The door clicked shut behind him.

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