More zombies. Strange birds. Something called aetherspore.

—Della.

—Birdies, said Anton.

—Good evening, Doctor Henrickson, I said.

He did not look up at me, but held up a hand and beckoned me forward.

I inhaled briefly, as I always did, when trying to prepare myself for the next few moments. These were always the hardest.

—I was right, you know, he said. Terribly right. And I’m sorry for that.

—For? I asked.

—Birdies, insisted Anton.

—There was a problem, continued the Doctor. There is a problem, I should say. You see, they don’t know I can see them, of course, and I’ve deduced that they do not understand our language in the least. Though I imagine it won’t take long. They are remarkably smart!

He still did not look up at me, and instead flipped one of the pages he was reading, then slid the glass magnifier over it to both weigh it down and make it easier for him to read.

Now I could see what he was looking at: a book on optics. That made sense of course, this being the Celestial Collection. Astronomy was at the heart of such studies and with it, the acquisition of better and more powerful lenses.

—You see, of course, I was right in my thinking as, you know, I most always am.

He did look up now, and his gaze slipped quickly from me to Anton who said:

—Birdies.

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