Run & Go With It
(Sequel to Life Is So Wonderful)
Steam Powered Giraffe Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah
Nine PM, Thursday, June 19th 2003
They stopped a few times for Nikola to snack on power bars or relieve herself and for The Jon to take in water from the bottles in his backpack but otherwise they hadn’t properly rested in about twelve hours of searching. Among all The Jons currently on the move, they’d cleared over eighty-thousand worlds with no trace of Nikola’s father, Spine Walter. It was early yet, The Jon reassured her when the teen asked for the current numbers. Only a half a day. Chin up. His optimistic smiles were met with a perturbed pout or worse, a turn of the head. He blew steam off, shrugged and jumped again and again and again.
After about eighteen hours of searching, they arrived at Walter Manor number three at three in the morning on Friday. This one was eerily similar to home, but certain things were off. The smell was slightly different, dustier, if that were possible. The photos and oil paintings on the walls around them indicated a similar Walter Family inhabited this manor but with not-quite-the-same placement and subjects. Footsteps sounded as someone slowly walked down the hall on the second floor, approaching the grand stairs just in front of them. By the sound of them, they were not the heavy footfalls of an automaton. The Jon clenched his jaw and stepped between one photo on the wall to his left and Nikola as he began counting up. In this image behind him, Rabbit, Hatchworth and a human with light brown curls stood in a brotherly embrace, mugging for the camera. “Nine, ten, eleven...” he whispered. “Don’t wander off, Tea,” he said as the footsteps touched the carpeted stairs and someone with long legs came down them.
Nikola Walter took a step forward and gaped as Walterman Spine came into full view. His hair was blue, his skin was white and he had been buttoning his white lab coat as he went, muttering “well if I can’t sleep might as well work on that...” He stopped walking and talking to himself quite suddenly as he caught sight of the two in the hallway below.
“Tea, wait!” The Jon shouted, “Eighteen, nineteen...”
Tears streamed down her face as she bounded up the six or seven steps to meet him and threw her arms around him. “Daddy!!” she cried and bawled into his chest.
Spine straightened and held his arms out. He cast a surprised, questioning glance at The Jon then back to the teen hugging him so tightly. “I’m sorry, Miss. I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else,” he said gently, put his hands on her shoulders and tried to pry her off of him. “I don’t have a daughter.” The confusion melted into a soft, sad expression on his face.
“...Thirty-one, thirty-two. It’s not him, Tea,” The Jon said softly.
Nikola gasped and released him. For a beat she stared up into his green eyes, shook her head quickly then ran past him, up the stairs and down the second floor hallway. In a moment, a door slammed and the house was still again.
Spine turned back to the automaton staring up at him. “Jon?” he asked, arching his brows.
The Jon sighed steam and dropped his backpack onto the floor. “We’re from another dimension. Her father, you, are missing and we’re looking for him. I mean you. But not you. I believe she’s run to what is her room in our manor. Fourth door on the left.”
The Walterman stepped down the stairs slowly and marveled at him. “An unused guest room,” he agreed. “She’s my daughter?”
The Jon raised a mechanical brow. “You don’t have one here?”
Spine shook his head. “Nor do we have an automaton Jon. You and I were transformed into humans back in seventy-nine.” He pointed to the photo of Rabbit, Hatchworth and a young man that The Jon had been hiding from Nikola. His human self beamed a huge grin back at him and The Jon cocked his head to one side as he took it in. "The three of you are in Washington playing a gig this weekend."
The Jon nodded. “In our world it was you and Rabbit,” he said quietly as the two men came face to face. “Spine, it’s important that you don’t tell her that. Her parents haven’t let her know yet and she’s going through such a hard time as it is.”
Spine Walter agreed and raised a brow. “Sure, sure. Jon, you’re awfully coherent, are you...?”
Quickly, The Jon held his index finger to his own lips. “Don’t tell her that, either.”
Spine frowned. “Goodness gracious, Jon...!”
“It’s ok. It’s by choice.” He smiled briefly. “And now that she’s too far from me, I can’t boost the signal so the search for her father is effectively halted. That will upset her, too.” He made a face and ran his hands up and down his suspenders in worry.
“I’ll go talk to her,” Spine offered, hopefully. “That is, if that’s alright?”
The Jon brightened. “I think that would be good. Just, er, ixnay on the obotsray.”
The guest room was similar to her own bedroom in layout only. The wallpaper was old, probably from the 1930’s and a large brass bed that had gone to meet its maker when she was about ten or so still stood against the southern wall. Two windows looked out onto the mountains to the west. Nikola Walter sat against the northern wall with her long legs bent and head resting on her knees. She stiffened when she heard the knock at the door.
“Go away, Jon,” she called.
“It’s Spine, uh...” his voice came muffled through the door and Nikola’s head shot up. “I know I’m not your real dad, but I wondered if I could talk to you for bit?”
She frowned. What was more embarrassing? Having displayed such a show of emotion to someone who didn’t know her from Adam, or being asked to speak to said person. It hardly mattered, now, she thought. Just one more layer of weird and embarrassing things to add to her already perplexing life. “I guess,” she said and a chill ran over her skin as her father’s doppelganger poked his head into the room. He met her eyes, making sure it was indeed alright to enter and gave a small smile before letting himself in. To her surprise, Spine put his back against the wall next to her and slid down to sit at her side.
“What’s your name, again? I think The Jon called you ‘Tee?’”
She huffed. “He calls me that. I’m Nikola.”
“Nikola.” He repeated and turned his head to look on her with a kindly smile, his brows raised in wonder. “I have to admit your existence is really incredible to me,” he said. “It would appear that you resemble me, as well.”
“Yeah,” she said, turning her gaze back to the round edge of the red wool carpet in front of her. “I do. Where’s mom?” Nikola asked with a lilt of sass in her voice.
“Mom would be...?”
Spine succeeded in keeping his shock to himself, having been warned by The Jon to be tight-lipped about her father's former state, but not informed that his robot older brother was not only female, but his wife. “Away for the weekend with the others,” he said simply. “Rabbit. Huh,” he commented, nonchalantly. “The Jon told me you’re searching for your father. What happened?”
Nikola sighed heavily and stretched her arms out to touch her toes. “Pete, Barbara and he were wrangling a rift. Pete came up with this half-cocked idea that he could seal rifts with a positron collider and I guess by the sound of it, the rift didn’t like it. Dad got sucked in just as Pete sealed it. Permanently.”
“Yeah. So we know the rift led to an alternate earth, but no idea which one. Jon won’t tell me how many worlds there are, I think it’s because he doesn’t know but he figures the number is insanely high. I don’t know when we’ll ever find him...” Her voice grew soft and tears came to the corners of her eyes but she fought them back.
“You’ll find him,” Spine reassured her. “You’re a Walter, aren’t you? By the sound of it, you’re a pretty rational girl, which isn’t surprising considering you're my daughter, but there’s a certain aspect of the unknown, of, dare I say ‘magic’ that influences the lives of the Walters. Luck and serendipity has often played us a winning hand when science has failed us. I have nothing but confidence in your ability and am sure that with luck, you’ll find him sooner than later.”
Nikola looked back up at the Walterman smiling down on her with her father’s kind face and gave in to her tears.
“Nikola, I didn’t hug you back earlier because you surprised me, but I feel compelled at the moment to return it.”
She fell against him and allowed Spine to hug her tightly as she sobbed quietly into his lab coat. When she’d calmed down, he released her and helped her to stand.
“I’m curious to know, how many worlds have you visited so far?” he asked.
She wiped her face with her t-shirt. “Well, it’s not just us looking. There are one hundred and thirteen Jons out there and... Oh crap,” she said, her eyes darting from him to the door and back again. “If I’m not in proximity none of them can search!”
“I see. But I think you needed to have this rest, regardless. You need to remember to take care of yourself.”
“I don’t care about myself!” she shouted. “I just want to find you and go home!”
Spine pursed his lips and nodded. He couldn’t argue with that sentiment. If he had a daughter and she were missing he’d run himself ragged searching for her as well and no one could tell him to do it differently. “Then let’s find Jon and get you going again,” he said and opened the guest room door. Sitting with his legs splayed out just a few feet away, The Jon sat in the hall against the wall, his head bowed and photoreceptors dimmed indicating he was in standby and hadn’t been eavesdropping on them but close enough to Nikola to broadcast to the other Jons. Spine tapped him on the shoulder, waking him.
“Time to go, Jon. It was nice seeing you.”
The Jon smiled and took his hand as the Walterman pulled him to his feet. “Same here. Looking forward to seeing you again soon!” He turned to Nikola and noted her red-rimmed eyes. She looked away and he puffed a steamy sigh. “Let’s go, Tea.”
Spine put his hand on her shoulder. “Take care of yourself,” he said. “I’ll be rooting for you.”
She swallowed hard, nodded, stepped away from him and waved as she took hold of The Jon’s pack and they disappeared in a flutter of blue-and-white confetti.