Run & Go With It

(Sequel to Life Is So Wonderful)

Steam Powered Giraffe Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

Late Thursday Morning      

The whole family gathered in the teal parlor--the best space in which everyone could be comfortable as well as see each other face-to-face. Even Norman with his oddly-misshapen body had a special chair made just to accommodate him in this room and he slouched into it with little effort. His Picasso eye blinked disturbingly and his more normal one expressed worry and sadness. His wife patted him lovingly on the head and sat on his knee.

Upgrade and Hatchworth stood near one of two large archways that lead into the room and watched their human friends with worried looks. Peter Walter VI sat as far from his father as he could in an uncomfortable, tiny chair--his arms folded and legs crossed. His right foot tapped the air incessantly. Walter Girl Barbara sat next to him, half-leaning on a divan. Exhaustion painted her face and made her appear much older than her sixty-some-odd-years.

On a plush and fairly threadbare blue velvet couch across from them The Jon sat on one end with Rabbit’s head in his lap. She had not woken since fainting in the basement and was so exhausted that she slept on, even when he had picked her up and carried her upstairs. The Jon stroked her hair carefully with his brass fingertips and his mouth twitched in thought.

Nikola sat on the floor close to them and hugged her knees to her chest. She stared at the antique Afshar Persian carpet’s odd design. It, like the sofa, was old and worn. Usually, Nikola wouldn’t dream of sitting on the floor in shorts, knowing full well the carpets were rarely cleaned, but nothing like that mattered right now. Her father was gone.

 

Peter Walter V took a seat in an intricately carved Victorian chair with green upholstery. Though Rabbit was asleep, he told everyone what they had been doing and what happened the moment Spine disappeared.

His wife, seated beside him, held his left hand. “So, he’s lost in some other dimension somewhere,” she said softly. “And you don’t actually know if he’s...”

“He could well be alive,” he said, extending his right hand and raising a finger for each point. “We have no way of knowing that, no way of communicating with him, and even after more than twenty-four hours of nonstop work we have no way to reopen the exact rift we so succinctly closed. It was our goal to make certain that rifts like that can never open again once sealed and boy, did we do a good job!” said angrily. “I don’t know what to do. I feel terribly responsible.”

“Mr. Walter.” Barbara said. “You can’t do that to yourself. We couldn’t have known this would happen.”

He only sighed in reply.

The room was silent. Most eyes were on Rabbit as she dozed in The Jon’s lap. The automaton’s lips stopped fidgeting and he slowly raised his right arm.

Annie nudged her husband and pointed to the eager robot. Peter raised a brow. “Jon?”

He lowered his arm. “Sir, I have an idea. I think.”

Peter took a deep breath and smiled slightly. “Ok, Jon. Shoot. I’m open to anything right now.” He knew that what came next would be totally crazy, utterly implausible and full-on nutso but right now, he thought maybe he needed the laugh.

“I can go look for him.”

Nikola lifted her head from her knees and pouted at the robot. Hatchworth and Upgrade looked at each other then at The Jon. Peter’s brows came together. “...How?”

“I’ll go and look,” he said, brightly.

Peter put his fingers to his scalp and massaged it a little. “Jon. That’s very nice, but this is very serious.”

Hatchworth took a small step forward. “Sir, he is serious.”

All eyes were now on the brass automaton. He was careful to move only his arms and not disturb Rabbit. “I am. Seriously serious. I want to get The Spine back, and I think I can.”

“Alright,” Peter sighed. “How, Jon?”

            He took in a deep breath. “I’ll send the other Mes out to look while I ping with Tea’s wavelength that I’ll continually broadcast to all of them. If I get resonance, I’ll know where he is and I can go get him.” The Jon blinked his blue photoreceptors a few times and nodded once as if he had just said all that ever needed saying.

            Wanda Walter laughed in a surprised and pleased sort of way. Peter Walter VI raised a brow but said nothing. Annie watched her husband, carefully. Upgrade beamed, proudly and Hatchworth and Norman nodded. Nikola stared at the robot as if his head was on fire.

            “Jon,” Peter began. “Pretend, for a moment, that I know nothing about dimensional rifts, the space-time continuum or Blue Matter and explain what you just said to me again as if I’m just some rube off the street so I can wrap my brain around it.”

            “Sure, Five!” he agreed. “Right now there are...” he paused and cast his eyes up as if looking to the heavens. “...one hundred and twelve other Mes out there.”

            “Mes? You mean, yous?”

            “Mes, yes.”

            Wanda laughed again, garnering her a wilting look from her nephew. “Wanda, do you know what he’s talking about?”

            She smirked. “Maybe. I wanna hear Jon tell it, though. Go ahead, honey.”

            He smiled back at her. “Ok. I can communicate with these other Mes. A soul’s wavelength is kind of like music. It’s something I can feel and measure and tell which soul is which by what song it sings. Children and parents have bits of their songs that match. Tea’s song and her parents’ song harmonize with each other as do Six’s with Annie’s and Five’s. They resonate no matter where they are in the world in a way that no one else does. This only works with humans, though. We’re made of different stuff so it’s not the same for robots. I can hear the song--receive the signal, sort of, boost it and broadcast it around the world in one, two, three...” The Jon suddenly cast his eyes above again as he counted up. He held very still.

            “Jon?” Peter asked. “What’s he doing?”

            “Shhhhhhh!” Wanda hissed at him. “Give him a few seconds.”

            “...Twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two. Pinged. Thirty-two seconds!” Jon chimed. His smile fell. “No Spine in this world, just Rabbit. But we knew that.”

            Peter’s jaw hung open. “You just pinged the world?” Wanda laughed in delight and Nikola’s expression became more worried. “But how are you going to ping the dimension that Spine might be in?”

            “Oh, that part’s easy. I’ll just hop through them one at a time.”

            Peter rolled his eyes. “I’m a rube, remember?”

            “Oh! Sorry. Um. Hm. Never had to explain this before, Five.” The Jon looked up to his robot siblings as if they could possibly help him out. They both shrugged.

Hatchworth offered the only thing he knew about The Jon’s mysterious ability. “There’s this koi and this hot-dog, you see, and...”

            Peter Walter held up his hand. “Know what? Never mind. I don’t want to know. I’ll just accept that you can do this and move on, how’s that?”

            The Jon shrugged. “Suit yourself. Once one of the Mes finds The Spine, he’ll call me to that world to come pick him up and we can go home!” The Jon put his hand on his chin. “I’ll have to set up a database of worlds so we don’t check the same one twice, though. Should be easy enough.”

            Peter Walter V stood up and paced a few times, thinking this over. “Jon, since when have you been so... together?”

            Wanda suddenly stood up as well and folded her arms. “Since always, ding-ding. When the going gets tough, our automatons get going, right, Jon?”

            “Right, Miss Wanda! Ok. I’ll tell the other Mes right now what’s up and see if the signal works. One moment please,” he said in a sing-song voice and his expression and movement froze in place. Everyone tensed and watched him carefully. Nikola scanned the room and met the eyes of Peter Walter VI who gave her a sympathetic look. She quickly looked away and he wilted. “Done. They pinged their worlds. No Spine. But they are all on board and ready to go. Can I send them?”

            “Can you...?” Peter asked in a daze. “Yes! Yes! Go for it!”

            The Jon beamed and nodded. “They’re off!” He looked down and saw that Rabbit was awake, though only just, and she smiled up at him. “Rabbit,” he said softly. “We’re gonna get him back.”

            “Thank you, Jon,” she said quietly, reached up and put her hand on his golden cheek.

            Nikola closed her eyes for a moment then rocked to her feet. “You said there are one hundred and twelve other versions of you in other dimensions?”

            “Yep.”

            Nikola stretched with her back facing her mother and The Jon. “Given it takes about thirty seconds and there would be some lag time between worlds, say, give about a full minute between each ping, and you can run about eighteen hours before needing rest for about six, that’s, what, about one hundred and twenty thousand worlds a day, give or take?” All three automatons answered at once that her math was correct.

Peter Walter VI stared at her as if he was seeing her for the first time. For three years she’d been quiet. She’d gone to the public school while he remained homeschooled, too afraid of people’s scrutiny of his family to brave it, himself. His few encounters with children his own age had not been happy ones. Nikola had since shot up a good foot to tower over him at at least 5’8” tall. She dressed differently, acted differently and rarely smiled or spoke to anyone in the house. He had forgotten that she was smart, and to hear her work through this problem rationally and calmly in a way that it hadn’t dawned on him was fairly shocking. She was very much her missing father’s daughter. The heavy frown on Peter VI’s face melted away in awe of the girl of his dreams.

“So,” she continued.  “If there were one hundred and thirteen of you doing it, you’d clear another thousand per day. Why aren’t you going, too?”

            All eyes were on Nikola as she turned to face The Jon.

            “Because I need to be pretty close to you to broadcast the signal so if I went...”

            “You’ll take me with you,” Nikola asserted.

            Rabbit’s eyes widened and she sat up and stared at her daughter. “No.”

            Nikola ignored her. “Is it possible, Jon?”

            “It is, but...” he said, nervously, watching Rabbit start to shake.

            “No!” Rabbit shouted. “No, not my daughter, too!”
            “I can help, Mom.”

            “You can help by staying right here!”

            “When I was little Jon told us all about the other worlds he’d been to. Some of them are terrible! What if it takes weeks to find Dad and he’s somewhere dangerous or cold or something? He could be somewhere where there’re dinosaurs or murderers or there’s no food or shelter, Mom!” she cried. “I can help, and if I don’t and something happens to him because we didn’t get to him in time I’ll never forgive anyone!”

            Rabbit recoiled as if the words hurt her physically. She hugged herself and shook with fear. The Jon’s hand on her shoulder stopped the shaking almost instantly.

            “Rabbit. She’s got a point. I promise I’ll take care of her.”

            “Jon...” Rabbit pouted and looked to be on the verge of tears again. Nikola squatted down in front of her mother who was now sitting up on the couch.

            “Please let me do this, Mom. I’ll bring Dad home.”

            Rabbit leaned forward, clenched her own hands together and pressed these into her lips. She looked from The Jon to Nikola and back again a few times before nodding and whispering her ‘ok’. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief to feel the tension lift. Wanda Walter put her hands on her hips and smiled. “Ok, kids. Let’s get you some sandwiches, granola bars maybe and water and send you off proper!”

            Hatchworth waved jazz-hands. “Hero quest! So cool!” he exclaimed.

 

Noon

            About an hour later, Rabbit was done fussing over Nikola and The Jon and everyone assembled in the main hall at the base of the stairs on the first floor to send them off. Nikola had changed into a pair of black jeans, converse sneakers and a black t-shirt with a white circle and a sort of cubist face in profile on it. Over this she had a grey, zippered, hooded sweatshirt and her messenger bag was slung across her chest over her right shoulder. This was stuffed with power bars and a few bottles of water. The Jon had a backpack full of bottled water on his back. He was pleased that the straps were red and didn’t mind that they covered his suspenders. He adjusted the heavy weight easily and gave Wanda the thumbs-up.

            “Be safe,” Rabbit said to both of them and gave them hugs. “Come home soon.”

            Peter Walter VI wanted to rush forward and kiss her and tell her he’d be waiting for her, but he didn’t. It sounded good in his head, but would be more than awkward in real-life, he thought. And if she didn’t return his feelings he’d feel awful until he saw her again. Instead, he nodded his head to her when her eyes looked his way. She dipped her head back and the teen they called ‘Six’ thought his heart would burst.

            “If we don’t find him in one week,” The Jon said. “We’ll come back for a day or two then head out again.”

            Nikola pouted and hugged her mother. “I’ll bring him home,” she repeated. “I love you, Mom.”

            Tears came to Rabbit again, but she smiled proudly. “I love you, too, Nikola. See you soon!”

            The Jon stuck out his hand and Nikola took a deep breath, grasped it tightly and in a twinkling they were gone--a swirl of blue and white confetti drifted to the floor then vanished in their wake.