8: Alterations

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When Powder and Mint got back to Base the only doll to be seen was Pop, who was wearing the same slacks and white shirt he'd been in since the first time Powder had met him.

"You two better head down to the sewing room," he said, lifting a stack of sketch papers from one of the shelves to the table. "The Monstress is planning costumes for the next production."

Mint peeked into the office.

"Did she send for everyone?"

"No, Licorice took the ones who weren't called down to the Lower Levels. That room with the pool tables. I guess someone saw quite a few protos down there. I think they're going to board it up. It's a bit risky being out of our usual territory but it's a good chance to trap a bunch of protos at once."

"You mean board the protos inside?" asked Powder. "What about making them angry? Bourbon was worried about that."

"Kind of depends on the strength of the protos." Pop ran his hand through his hair and caught his fingers in a tangle. "I'm hoping these ones are pretty weak or incapacitated. I bet they're the same bunch Scotch and Bubblegum took on a little while ago when they scored all those legs that were practically in perfect condition."

"I guess we should go down before Madame becomes irritated," Mint said.

They went the same route to the core as before: left down the hall and then the metal stairwell. Powder felt braver this time knowing what to expect about the Globe, but her last memory of the area had a proto lurching around in it.

Bittersweet was the only one in the dressing room. He was wearing an aubergine tailcoat and black pants with large cuffs at the bottoms and pins like a costume in progress. When he saw Mint and Powder he pointed casually down a corridor. Mint nodded and they went that way.

"How come Bittersweet helps the M?" Powder whispered.

"We'd all like to know the answer to that."

"Is she minding him at all?"

"Not that I've ever seen. He actively helps her outside of her range to control him."

They passed a headless golden cherub mounted on the wall with hundreds of pearl strands dripping from its neck.

"I assume you've all tried getting him on your side?"

"There's no changing a mind like his."

Mint brought Powder into the sewing room. It was jammed with dolls.

At the far end of the sewing room was a glass cabinet wide and deep enough to comfortably sleep three people on its shelves. The back of it was a mirror. Inside were scattered jewels and bowls of shining ornaments that could not be identified from where Powder was standing. A lot of the tables and dressers had been pushed to the sides of the room, and down the middle was an aisle lined with three-legged stools. The dolls sat on them facing across from each other, some holding small bundles of fabric.

The dolls were all in chattering conversation, but reduced it to whispering when Powder stepped into the room. Some offered a quiet "hello" or a nod of the head in her direction. Powder nodded back, looking for a vacant stool. Mint sat down on the first stool on the left, which was probably empty because the door threatened to knock anyone off who sat there when it opened. Powder walked down the aisle. She kept her eyes low but it was impossible to ignore the stares. Something clattered behind her and she turned to see Sours patting an empty seat next to him.

"You can sit next to me, Powdered Sugar." He was grinning.

A snickering from the others alerted Powder to scan the floor behind the stool. A doll who had been introduced earlier to her as Raspberry was on his back, legs curled up so far over his head that his knees were on the floor. He rolled forward and glared at Sours before striking out his foot and knocking the offender's stool out from under him. Sours managed to hop off before falling, causing some applause from the other dolls.

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