Cam is dipping a grilled cheese sandwich into a bowl of tomato soup when he feels the summons. He goes ahead and grabs it. Doesn't even drop the sandwich.
"Flying is great. But because I combust in sunlight, I'm often inconveniently stuck indoors. Practicing my Memni helps me avoid frustration and relax. That and books. Books are wonderful."
"Books are lovely. It'll be nice to have access to an entire new set. I usually do summoning work in exchange for lists of books and music and so on to conjure at home but it's slow going finding anything really good that way."
"I'll be happy to direct you to some of my favorite books in the card catalog."
"Would you prefer fiction or nonfiction?"
"Nonfiction to start with, get my bearings."
"This is my nonfiction library. What subject would you be most interested in? I maintain a large section on the state of the medical art, but I also have smaller ones for other scientific works, biographies and so on that interest me."
"I want to say history, overview maybe, but if you've got major historical figures whose lives make a good vantage point from which to observe what-all else I'll take those too."
"Here we are. 'A Short History of Hastum and the Lands Therein, Being the Heart of Civilization.' Pretentious and opiniated, but at least broadly factual, and a decent read. I have the distinct impression Marcus S. wishes Lupinia never fell."
She offers the book with one hand, while her eyes scan the shelf for another.
"And... here, something more contemporary to give you a handle on the current political situation. 'An Empire of Brothers and an Empire of Sons', by T. H. Kaita." She offers the book: the cover depicts a man with a bayonetted rifle astride a warhorse, pointing the muzzle at an elegant serpent that coils through the sky above him.
"Excellent, this should keep me busy for a couple hours."
"Would you like anything more, or are those two enough for you?"
"May as well load me up with a whole stack."
"Hmm. Hmm. Yes, this. And this. Alright."
She alights, cradling an unsteady stack of four thick volumes under one arm.
"Here we are. 'Breaking the Pack: The Fall of Lupinia.' As you would expect from the title, about how the old Lupine empire finally collapsed. 'One Sun, One Heart.' A theological and cultural history of Grand Victoria. 'City of Light, City of Darkness.' About the failed attempts to colonize Ulvenwald, and the rise of the free city-state of Eyesocket. 'An Account of Tribal Customs', by Leon Zaya - the most plausible-seeming book I've ever been able to find on the shamanistic practices and customs of the New Lupinians and Ulvenwalders, though it is far more a travelogue than a historical study."
"Yes, Eyesocket. It has a much more respectable formal name, which came along later - I believe 'Illumine' or some such - but the frontier town was founded on the site of a successful direwolf slaughter, in a small circular valley that may have been a dried-up lakebed. Hence the original name. It's really quite an interesting story: the colony was founded in large part by scientists and innovators hoping to be free of Victorian strictures, particularly the indictment of any form of autopsy as desecrating remains... but scientific skills do not a survivalist make. The colony foundered, and 'Illumine' is not worth addressing by that title anymore. Hence the common lapse back to the name of the original frontier town."
"Is autopsy illegal hereabouts today, still?"
"Not anymore, thankfully. There has been significant progress on multiple social fronts since the Empress Hikari took power. That said, people will find you distasteful at best if you admit to cutting up corpses." There's a wry twist to her voice.
"I hope they're practicing decent hygiene. Corpses are very informative things but sometimes people who die turn out to have been sick."
"And the people who perform autopies become sick as a result. Yes. We have at least noticed that link, though we don't know exactly why it occurs. Of course, the traditionalists insist that it's because we're desecrating the dead and thereby incurring their wrath, but if that were truly the case, why would they so consistently curse us with the thing that killed them? And only when it was a particular sort of disease? Clearly, it's no more blasphemy than associating with those who are sick but alive."
"Does this place have germ theory yet?"
"I have only ever heard of germ in the context of wheat. Enlighten me."
"Okay. Most diseases, all contagious diseases but not the ones that just run in families because that's not contagious, are composed of organisms too small to see parasitizing the infected person. A lot of the common symptoms like fever are the body trying to fight them off. Vaccines work because they teach the immune system what a disease looks like without being strong enough to make you sick all by itself - the immune system is mostly some specialized cells in the blood which can sometimes make mistakes about what's a disease, and cause allergies."
"Slow down a second and let me think. Animalcules cause diseases by parasitizing the infected? That sounds... vaguely reasonable."
She pauses significantly.
"So... assuming your knowledge holds, most transmissible diseases are caused by the movement of tiny parasites from one person to another. Let me guess - boiling kills these parasites? They cannot withstand heat, and that's why the body fights them with fevers?"
"Boiling kills 'em, they don't love heat but fevers are actually not that effective so it's safe to take symptom-reducing medications. There are two meaningfully different kinds of 'animalcule's that are most often operative, bacteria and viruses. Bacteria can be killed by a class of drugs called antibiotics, because they are alive in a fairly conventional way. Viruses are not alive in a conventional way and need different, more advanced drugs, or just symptom control and vaccinations. Some infections are instead caused by prions or protozoans or fungi or multicelluar parasites, the former of which are less alive and the latter several of which are normal amounts of alive but which you should identify so you don't try to kill them with something specialized for bacteria."
She steeples her hands.
"... I've been following an alleged ritual practice of the New Lupinians by washing my instruments in purified alcohol and then water between surgeries. It appears to work, so far as I can tell. Does that also kill the animalcules, or have I just been lucky?"