Run & Go With It

(Sequel to Life Is So Wonderful)

Steam Powered Giraffe Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah

 

CHAPTER SIX

 

10 AM, Friday, June 20th, 2003

Six hours and over three hundred more worlds later, The Jon started to notice that Nikola looked much worse for the wear. He had rested in the previous Walter Manor while Nikola talked to that world’s Spine Walter for a short while and didn’t feel the stress on his systems that was creeping up as badly as he could have had he gone without. When he asked her if she was alright, did she need to get some sleep, she would shake her head and demand to jump again. If she’d been wounded or in some kind of danger, only then would he be able to override the orders of a human member of the Walter family. Until then, his programming was obliged to go along with what she said, no matter what he felt about it.

 

They appeared in the hallway of Walter Manor for the fourth time and The Jon quickly pulled Nikola with him around a corner into a parlor as he heard footsteps approaching. Nikola tripped over her own feet and stumbled into the room, falling against The Jon and muttered an apology.

“Tea?” he asked, alarmed to notice her disorientation. “Hang in there...”

“Who’s there?” a stern, female voice asked. “Pi? Ether?”

The Jon winced as he counted up in his head. A woman in a teal boucle suit came around the corner and her jaw fell open as she took in the gold robot and teenage girl trying to hide in her parlor. “Jon?” the young woman asked. Her light blue hair was pinned up on her head and a pair of small, rimless glasses were perched on her nose. “Jon, is it really you?” Her stern look melted into a relieved, inquisitive smile.

The automaton laughed sheepishly. “Uh, no. Probably not. Fifteen, Sixteen...” Nikola slumped against him and he gave an alarmed shout. “Tea! Hey, Tea, come on! Twenty-three, Twenty-four...” He put an arm under hers and propped her up.

“He here?” Nikola asked softly.

“Thirty-one, Thirty-two. Pinged. No.”

“Let’s go.” Nikola whispered, defeated.

“Um, I don’t think that’s such a hot idea, Tea.”

The woman took a step towards him “Jon, what’s going on?”

“Uh...” The Jon looked from his charge to the woman and around the room, trying to evaluate the safety of this world. This woman knew him, or a version of him. Something was off, though. The way she said his name and arched her brows held a deep sadness that disturbed him. Before he could answer, Nikola lost consciousness and became dead weight in his arms. “Tea! Tea, hang in there!”

The woman frowned and touched a hand to a sizable gold earring in her left ear. “Pi, Ether, I need medical assistance, STAT.” From somewhere in the manor The Jon could hear a thudding sound which shortly resolved itself into the pounding footsteps of a pair of automatons as they bounded toward them.

“Are you alright, Miss Deelia?” a small, bluish colored robot wearing jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt that read ‘Property of San Diego Zoo’ and a pair of Converse shoes asked. His counterpart, a tall grey-metal robot with a ghostly, blank faceplate carried a bag with a red cross on it. He wore grey coveralls with a logo made up of an interlocked M, W and A on the right breast.

“It’s not for me. See to this girl. She’s fainted.”

“Yes ma’am,” Pi chimed. The Jon was hesitant but could detect no malice from either robot.

“It’s alright, Jon. They’ll take good care of her. Medicine is their job.”

“Leave it to us, friend.” Ether, the grey robot said in a hollow, echoing sort of voice.

“What’s her name, please?” Pi, the bluish robot asked.

The Jon watched them as they carefully picked Nikola up and laid her down on a nearby sofa. “Nikola Tea Tambourine Walter. Tea for short.”

“Walter?” Deelia asked. She crossed to a wingback chair and motioned for The Jon to take a seat across from her, which he did as he could still see what the robots were doing to Nikola from that vantage point. Ether took her temperature with a device that rested in the ear. Pi took her pulse, blood pressure and a blood sample, handing this last item to his partner who opened a compartment in his chest, revealing a sort of mini-lab.

“Jon,” Deelia asked again. “She’s a Walter? What’s going on? Why are you... how are you...?”

The Jon made a face. “I’m not your Jon, Miss Deelia. Tea and I are from another dimension and we’re searching for her father. He’s not here, though. I just pinged this world and came up empty.”

“Pinged? You’re bouncing some sort of signal?”

“Her spirit wavelength. It resonates with his if he’s present. If not, we jump again.”

“Miss Deelia?” Pi asked, drawing their attention. “She’s dehydrated, her sugar is low and she’s suffering from exhaustion. Other than that, vitals are normal. We recommend a saline drip and rest, followed by nutrition.”

Deelia let her features relax a little. “Excellent. You’ll be our guest until she’s recovered.”

The Jon sighed. “She kept pushing me; didn’t want to stop. She’s anxious to find her dad,” he said. “I thank you for your hospitality.”

She gave him a small, wistful smile. “Pi, when you’re done, please bring us some water. Welcome to Moreau-Walter Amalgamated, The Jon. My name is Deelia Moreau-Walter, vice-president of operations.”

“Moreau... like Miss Delilah?”

Deelia nodded. “She was my great-grandmother.”

The Jon’s attention turned back to Nikola as the robots set up a saline drip right there in the parlor. Nikola winced as the needle went into the skin of her left hand and she blearily came to. “Tea!” The Jon cried and ran to her side. Deelia frowned from her seat across the room. “Tea, it’s ok, you just fainted. These guys will patch you up. Don’t worry.”

“We gotta get going and find dad,” she said softly.

“No,” he said firmly. At last, she was in sufficient danger that he was able to contradict her. “We’ve got to wait here until you’re better. Why didn’t you didn’t say anything to me about how you were feeling?” The gold automaton pouted. “Don’t scare me like that again, please? I was worried about you. I mean, imagine what Rabbit and Spine would do to me if something happened to you!” he laughed nervously.

Deelia Moreau-Walter stood up suddenly. “Rabbit and Spine? They’re alive, too?”

“Alive?” The Jon asked and took in the pained look on the young woman’s face. “Oh. That’s why I’m not here. Something happened to us.”

Her one-word answer said it all. “Becile.”

Nikola turned her head outwards and her brows came together as she took the young woman in. “Becile...?” she repeated.

The Jon put his hand on her shoulder and gave it a light squeeze. “Ah. I see,” he said. “I’m sorry to hear that.” He sat down with his back to the sofa that Nikola lay upon, close enough that she could touch him if she wanted to and faced Deelia.

The woman took another seat closer to him and sighed. “You’re not like my Jon,” Deelia said. “You’re far too composed and articulate.”

The Jon laughed lightly and a little nervously. “I’m not usually, I just kind of have to be. So...!” he said, looking to the medical robots who had packed up their supplies and bowed to their mistress before quietly leaving the room. “You have different automatons now, huh? We made a little sister for me and Hatchy called Upgrade. Do you have one of her, too? I haven’t come across another one, yet.”

Deelia gasped. “Hatchworth is active? How did you repair his power core without unleashing a firestorm of spontaneous rift activity?”

“Oh, The Spine did that. He’s super smart. I don’t know how he did it, though.”

Deelia deflated a little.

“But hey, I have an idea! Give me a lock of your hair.”

“Excuse me?” Deelia blushed and sat up straight in her chair.

“If I have a piece of you I can come back to this world once we’re done and bring you Spine’s notes. I don’t think Rabbit will let me take Spine himself...”

Nikola suddenly turned back to face them again and with tears in her eyes she shouted “neither will I!” She struggled to sit up. “Come on, Jon. Let’s go!”

The Jon spun around into a standing position in one, fluid movement and pushed her by her shoulders back down on the sofa. “Absolutely not!” he shouted back. “Nikola Tea, your mother told me to take care of you and that’s what I’m going to do! You’re going to get some rest and something to eat and not until these guys say so am I going to jump with you again!”

The teenager and the robot stared each other down, both with minds completely set--one selfish the other, selfless. The Jon’s brows arched pathetically as he struggled with being the responsible one--the one now yelling at the girl to whom he used to give wild piggy-back rides through the halls of Walter Manor. “Please, Tea. Rest.” he begged her.

Tears poured down either side of her face. Nikola tried her best to hold them back. “I guess I am a little like my mom, huh?”

The Jon smiled sympathetically. “You mean stubborn as hell and incredibly emotional? Yeah, maybe a little. It’s part of you.” He squatted back down and pulled a handkerchief out of a pocket of his backpack. “But you’re also like your dad so you always feel like you’ve got to keep it all on an even keel. Nothing wrong with that, just don’t let yourself get so worked up about stuff. Sometimes it’s ok to let it out.”

Nikola blew her nose and nodded. “I think I need to sleep.”

The Jon nodded, patted her shoulder, stood up and let Deelia lead him from the parlor so the girl could sleep in peace.

Once he knew they were out of hearing range, The Jon exhaled a huge plume of steam and slumped his shoulders. “That was close,” he said quietly.

Deelia raised a brow as she showed him into her office, one of the larger of the libraries on the first floor. “What was close?”

He closed the door behind him and leaned against it. “Well, you see...”

 

.x.

Twenty-four hours had passed since The Jon and Nikola left home on their quest. Back in their home-dimension, Rabbit Walter awoke in her old bedroom. She refused to sleep in the room she had shared with her husband for over twenty years because even the particular smell of the place brought tears to her eyes. She had slept for a good, solid, six hours but woke confused to be in the old room. Rabbit sat up and blinked in the dim light coming from a crack in the curtains covering the tall windows across the room. A familiar, comforting sound drew her attention to the left where two robots sat on a worn, red velvet Victorian settee, powered down and dozing, the sound of their quieted boilers humming clearly in the stillness.

It seemed that one of them had some sort of sensor to detect her movements because they both started back up at the same time. Upgrade blinked her eyes and grinned at her. “You slept?” she asked. Rabbit nodded sleepily. “Oh good!”

“So glad,” Hatchworth agreed. “You were looking a bit like an old shoe.”

“Thanks, Hatchy,” she groaned and flopped back down. “Maybe I’ll go back to sleep until Nikola comes home.”

“No breakfast?” Upgrade frowned. “It’s the most important meal of the day.”

She sighed melodramatically and looked at the clock on the nightstand. “It’s past noon, already, Up. Ya know, I wish I was still a robot in times like this? I wouldn’t have ta eat or sleep and I could just stew in the corner for days until my boiler ran down and then Spine would have ta... Oh. Guess that wouldn’t work, huh?”

Hatchworth made a face and his mustache twitched. “Rabbit, do you really wish you were still a robot?”

She rolled over and faced them, curling up in the covers as she did so. “Nah, I mean, I loved my life back then and I love my life now, it’s just really hard at the moment.” The robots nodded appreciatively at her. “When I became human, the first thing I thought was ‘oh, I can die now’ and I thought of Pappy and all those who had died and I thought I’m gonna join them in the cemetery one day. It was really hard to think about! So I just kinda figured I should run and go with it and focus on all the good things instead--and there are so many good things, so it was easy. But, right now, when I think that maybe Spine didn’t make it--that he died when this happened and I’ll never know that or see him again...” She curled tighter as tears came.

Rabbit felt the bed move as Upgrade sat down above her head and put a thin hand on her shoulder. “I am worried about them, too. But I am sure that they will be coming home--all three of them. Isn’t that right, Hatchworth?”

He nodded several times. “Can’t keep those Walters down, no sir.”

She sniffed and stretched back out, looking up at the pretty little robot who was looking on her with such affection. Sitting up, she put her arms around Upgrade and they hugged. “You guys are the best. Thanks for staying with me.”

“No trouble at all,” Upgrade said. “Hm. I can’t imagine you being a robot. You’re so soft!” she chimed and gave her a light squeeze.

Rabbit laughed. “Ya wouldn’t’a recognized me, right Hatchy?”

“Not at all. Very tall, rusty.”

Rusty!” Rabbit cried, indignantly. “I’ll have you know I was patina’d!”

Upgrade chuckled. “I haven’t seen a picture of you when you were a robot in such a very long time, I can’t recall a patina.”

“Well, we hid all tha pictures because...” Rabbit released her robot friend and sat bolt upright. “We... oh. Oh no.” She leapt out of bed, wearing only one of Spine’s long, button-down shirts and hurried to the door then turned on her heel and returned to the bed then back again before spinning around to face her friends and putting her hands in her hair. “She’s gonna find out. Oh, she’s totally gonna find out, if what Jon said’s true, if there’s a hundred an’ thirteen a him then how many a me are there, ya suppose?”

Hatchworth shrugged. “At least that many?”

Rabbit groaned and fell onto the bed, her legs sticking out comically. No one laughed. “If I thought she hated us before...”

Upgrade folded her arms and opened her mouth to say something derogatory about Nikola but Hatchworth quickly silenced her over the wifi. “It won’t help. Don’t say it.”

“You don’t know what I was going to say.”

“I can imagine. Rabbit needs our support right now and throwing her daughter under the bus (ever how obnoxious she’s been) is not going to help.”

“I was going to say that it’s about time she knew, anyway. She should be proud to have parents who love each other and their daughter as much as Spine and Rabbit do.”

“Ok, admittedly, that is not what I thought you were going to say...”
            “Ha!”

“But! For now we should be nothing but supportive. Agreed?”

“Hmph.”Upgrade turned her head away from Hatchworth as she dismissed him over the wireless network. “Nikola Tambourine does not hate you. She is just growing.” She shot a weird look at Hatchworth as if to say ‘there, happy?’.

“Upgrade is right, Rabbit,” Hatchworth said, awkwardly getting up out of the dilapidated settee. It creaked and cracked under his weight as he leaned on its arm. “I am sure she does not harbor ill will toward you. When she finds out the truth, if she stumbles upon a robot-you or if she returns oblivious and you tell her yourself, she will have to learn to accept that truth, but I’m sure she will. Perhaps she’ll even find a new respect for you!”

Rabbit looked up at him from her prone position and chuckled. She extended her hands and he pulled her up into a standing position. “Right!” she said sarcastically. “Because none a those pictures we stashed away contain me doing anything remotely embarrassing!”

“But Rabbit, what about that one time when...”

She smacked Hatchworth’s arm and made a face. “I mean all of the pics, Hatchy.”

“Oh, that makes sense.”

Upgrade rolled her eyes as she stood and crossed to the door. “You are hopeless. Shall we get breakfast? My sensors indicate Wanda is bumping around in the kitchen.”

Rabbit nodded, smiled, tugged on a pair of Spine’s pajama pants and followed them downstairs.