Run & Go With It

(Sequel to Life Is So Wonderful)

Steam Powered Giraffe Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

            The Jon took a long draft from a clear glass of water and puffed steam from his vents. He and Deelia Moreau-Walter had exchanged stories and tales-of-woe all morning and the robot clearly became exhausted. He reminded her that she needed to give him a lock of hair so that he could return with Spine Walter’s notes on how Hatchworth was repaired and brought back to life. Fishing in her huge desk, Deelia found a pair of shears, an envelope and two rubber bands. She unpinned her long, blue hair, braided a lock a few inches behind her ear, tied it on either end with the rubber bands and snipped it off. Sealing this in the envelope, she handed it to The Jon. “There. Will that work?”

            “Oh yes. It will echo your wavelength enough for me to lock on to this world for a few years.”

            “Astounding,” she said and stood. “That mysterious nature of yours always boggled our minds. We miss you, Rabbit and Spine very much.” Deelia smiled wistfully then put her hair back up. The Jon nodded slowly. He seemed to be sinking into the leather chair he sat in. “Now, you need rest as well, little man.”

            The robot perked up a little and hefted himself out of the chair. “Little man? That’s what Pappy used to call me!”

            “I guess that was handed down from great-grandfather to me,” she said. “I just wish I had been old enough when you were... that I could have saved you.” The Jon gave her a huge hug and held her as the stoic, business-like woman at last broke down and cried on his shoulder. Once she’d composed herself, she showed him back to the parlor where Nikola dozed on the sofa so that he could get some rest, himself.

 

            Nikola slept for eight hours with The Jon powered down by her side and woke to a sumptuous dinner prepared by the Moreau-Walter staff. Deelia wished them luck and fully recharged, they set off once more.

 

.x.

            Nine PM, Friday, June 20th, 2003

Not a day and a half after leaving home and only a few hours after leaving Deelia Moreau-Walter’s hospitality, they found themselves in the fifth version of Walter Manor which was dark and shadowy in a way utterly unlike the previous four. Dim light was cast from a few wall sconces, many which were burnt out and standing only inches from The Jon was an automaton that looked a little like Rabbit in appearance but his teeth were sharpened to points. The Jon pushed Nikola behind him and stretched out his arms defensively. “One, two, three...” he counted up quietly.

The shock of seeing the two travelers appear before him lasted only a second and the Rabbit-like robot laughed. “Get a load of this, Skull! One a’ them Walter bots is back from the friggin’ dead!”

Another automaton in all black was walking toward them from further down the hall--his face the shape of a ghastly skull. “Hare, you been in the good stuff again?” he chastised.

“Six, seven, eight...” The Jon whispered.

“Jon...” Nikola clutched his backpack and stared at the menacing robots. Acrid air, heavy with smell of burning coal made her cough.

Hare sneered. “Nope. It’s him alright. Stinks of Blue Matter, he does. Brought a pretty little goth-girl with him, too.”

“Jon, jump!” Nikola urged, trying not panic.

“Not yet. I’ll protect you, don’t worry,” he hissed. “Fourteen, fifteen...”

Skull sneered at them as he saw around his brother’s shoulder. “Oh? Last time I checked this piece of trash and his simpering siblings were in a half-dozen garbage bags in the basement somewhere.”

“Worry not, Skull old buddy,” Hare replied and raised his left arm. A buzzsaw unfolded and spun with a sickening whirr. “The good news is we get to take him apart again! How ‘bout the other ones? They comin’ back too, Jonny?”

“Did you see a human one come through here? Twenty five, twenty six...”

Human one? Yeah, right!” Skull laughed darkly.

“Well, if they’re not coming back then I guess you better get ready to see ‘em again!” Hare shouted and brought the buzz saw down, gouging into The Jon’s shoulder, aiming to cut him stem to stern. Nikola screamed as sparks and bits of cloth flew and she felt the vibration of the blade chewing through his steel rib cage.

The Jon did not cry out. He spread his feet apart and braced himself, arms still stretched wide to keep the enemies away from his human charge. Four, perhaps five seconds passed and he gnashed his teeth and hissed “...thirty-one, thirty-two no Spine!” Then and only then did they make the jump.

 

.x.

Entering the next world, it was pitch dark and for a moment Nikola swooned, but her grip on The Jon’s backpack kept her up. The ice-water feeling told her they had jumped and the evil robots were gone. She shuddered and came to her senses as The Jon crashed to the floor with his legs folded under him.

“Jon!” There was no time for panicking and no running away. This was serious. They were alone, in the dark and The Jon needed her help. It had been three years since she last worked on any of the robots, but having been raised a Walter and trained by Peter Walter V and her father in robotics, engineering, math and even chemistry at a very young age, Nikola Walter was more than capable. Her endorphins surged and putting aside her fear and confusion, she pulled his pack off his back and manically dug through it, looking for a flashlight she knew she’d seen in there at one point. Fortunately, the mag-lite was easily identifiable to the touch and she turned it on, swept the hall with it to be sure nothing was waiting for them and scrambled around to face him. “Oh God, Jon!”

His shoulder was shredded open and oil and hydraulic fluid ran down in pulsing rivulets from the wound on his left side. “Tis’ but a scratch,” he joked quietly.

“Can you hold this?” she asked, pushing the mag-lite toward his right hand. He nodded and shone the light for her as she pulled what was left of his suspenders down and ripped his shirt away. Nikola cursed, pulled the heavy pack toward her and rummaged in it for the tool kit. “I gotta staunch the broken lines quick,” she said. “I hope you had the sense to pack... Ah! Good! Clamps.” With pliers in one hand and tiny clamps in the other she methodically pinched off the broken lines.

“Wasn’t my sense,” The Jon said. “Upgrade unpacked my rubber chicken and put that stuff in.”

“Good damn thing,” Nikola said with an exasperated laugh that was short lived as she reached the end of what she was able to do with the emergency tool kit. “Jon, we gotta get you down to the lab. Can you make it?”

“Gonna have to, right?” he said weakly.

“Kinda.” Nikola picked up the tool box, turned her back to him, eased her shoulder under his right arm and tried to help the heavy robot to stand. “Leave the pack for now. I’ll take the kit in case we need it.”

Slowly, they made their way down the hall toward the stairs. Nikola tried a switch and learned that this manor was not only empty, it was abandoned as no lights sprang to life. The good news was that they both knew they could look for a repair lab on the first level of the basement, so only one flight of stairs stood between them and help. Just around the corner from the stairwell, Nikola crossed her fingers and punched in the code to the first lab door and breathed a sigh as it gaped before her. “There’s gotta be a BM light in here somewhere, I’m going to look for it. Can you get on the table?”
            The Jon was starting to glitch and badly trying to hide it. His eyes were half open and cast their blue glow on the table then slowly back to her.

“Never mind, just lie on the floor and don’t move.” Nikola scanned the room with the mag-lite and she heard him hiss and clank as he got prone. She found tools, supplies, and most fortunately, a Blue-Matter-powered emergency light in an unlocked cabinet. She powered this on, pointed the light at The Jon’s shoulder and winced. “Jesus Christ, Jon. I’ll do my best but... I mean...” In all her years of being taught robotics, she’d never seen damage like this. His brass chassis was shredded down to the steel frame which was intact, but damaged and some of the softer metal was twisted into the hydraulics of his shoulder and pectoral actuators. The bellows on his left side tried to accordion in and out as he breathed but was punctured and bits of shredded metal were tangled up in the folds. Thankfully, the ever-mysterious and unique area around his power core was untouched. If the robot called Hare had torn another version of The Jon apart, Nikola thought, he must have known that to mess with that would have had a horrific outcome. “Does it hurt?”

“Only when I... Um. Yes, actually.”

“Let me block your left,” she ordered.

“But I...”

“Jon, there’s really no time to argue. It’s either block or insane pain, but it’s also safer for me to work if you can’t flail while I’m pulling chunks of your exo- out of your insides.”

He couldn’t really argue with that. As much as it disturbed him to be even partially powerless, he had only one working arm as it was, making it so that Nikola had to work on him. “Ok,” he agreed and after Nikola flipped a series of switches inside his chest cavity, his left side became motionless. “Zish gooh?” he said through half of his mouth.

“Perfect. Bear with it.” In a flash she dove in and was soldering and clamping, tweezing brass bits out from in between gears, inserting new lines and wires she found in the lab and doing her best to get him functional and pain-free.

“Chea?” The Jon said. “‘M shorry. Din’ mean t’ shcare you.”

“Not scared. Too busy to be scared. Kinda angry though. Why the hell didn’t you jump? You were in danger and you knew it,” she muttered as fished for another clamp and oil spurted on her cheek.

“Had t’ perteck you an’ had t’ fin’ t’ Spine,” he said simply. The Jon smiled with the right side of his face. “You guysh go firsh, alwaysh.”

Nikola looked up from her task and wiped her eyes with the back of her left hand. “Idiot. No more talking. I gotta concentrate.”

“Ohkheh, Chea.”

Shut it.”

“Mmm hmm.”

 

Nikola worked for a good twenty minutes in uninterrupted silence. She strained as she carefully bent back a curved length of metal that had laced into the now still left-side bellows pump. “Everything else is looking stable,” she mumbled. “But I don’t know if I have what I need to get your bellows patched up. Once I clear the shrapnel it can at least move freely. I’ll have to look for some duct tape, I guess.”

The Jon chuckled. “Fife haytch tha’ shtuff.”

“Yeah, I know he does. If this was his lab we probably won’t find any. Maybe there’s a replacement bellows though. Or...” she said and wiped her brow. The basement room was not air-conditioned and the air was dusty and stale. “We could get you functional and beg service from a friendly world.”

“Shoun’s gooh.” The Jon gave her the thumbs-up with his right hand.

Nikola smiled at him softly for a brief moment and went back to work. There wasn’t any duct tape, but she found a tough-looking roll of grey gaffer’s tape that fit the bill. Nikola ripped a section of this to the right size and did her best to get it to adhere to the torn section of bellows. With nothing else she could do to help him, she brought The Jon’s left side back online, taped over his chest where the saw had cut into him and asked him to sit up.

The Jon winced as he sat and she could see the pained expression on his face before he hid it in the cool glow of the BM light. “Just like new!” he chimed.

“You’re a crappy liar.”

“And you are amazing under pressure.” He tipped his hat to her. “Let’s get back up to the hall and get a move on.”

            She nodded. “I’ll leave you with the pack and go up and look for a new shirt for you,” Nikola said, flicking her hand at the remnants of the one he wore. “This one is toast.” Secretly, she wanted to take a little more time before the next jump. The fear of another awful encounter made her stomach turn. How many more Walter Manors would be ghost towns? How many were overrun with evil robots? Nikola hoped as they climbed the stairs back to the main hallway that this experience would be the most traumatic, emotionally-draining one that she would have to endure. She would be disappointed.

 

NOTE: Skull and Hare belong to Surge - divinator.tumblr.com