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A Return to the Other New Babbage Part 1 of 3

This occured back in the autumn, just after New Babbage had solved the problem of the Dark Aether.

It was several days after the end of the Dark Aether crisis in New Babbage. It had all, or at least mostly, ended well, with none of the Writer’s dire predictions coming true. There was still a lot of tidying up to do, so Tepic had made himself scarce and was sitting on top of his crate home under the Palasade Wall, playing his flute, when a thought struck him. He’d told himself, the one he’d met in the grey place, all he knew about the Writer, but they hadn’t had that in his world, so maybe it had worked out different? After a bit of thought, he started packing up for a journey, for how could he stand not to know?

It was much easier to get back to the grey place, shortcuts always turned up if you didn’t worry about them too much, and from there, it was just a matter of heading in the same direction his other self had taken….

He stepped round the corner onto what should have been Perdito Street, he could just make out some familiar woodwork in the rubble and half collapsed walls, and he quickly stepped back into the shadows as a group of eye crabs scuttled past. It was clear things had not gone well in this City, and he would have to be especially careful. Remembering what the Writer had said about the final battle, he skulked cautiously from deep shadow to deep shadow, ever closer to the Old Imperial. As he got nearer, he could see the broken remains of Loki’s airship resting on the collapsed building, and carefully approached.

Looking over the upturned hull, he was certain that none of his friends on the ship could have survived, but just in case, he whispered as loudly as he could “Hello?”.
There was no reply, and his shoulders slumped, then he jumped, turning around in the air and landing alert and ready as a groan came from behind him! At first he could see nothing unusual, given that a half demolished town was inherently unusual, but then, as his eyes adjusted to the deeper gloom in a still standing corner of wall, he saw slight movement from under a pile of cloth and rope. With trepidation, he approached, almost certain of what he would find when he flicked a corner of the fabric aside.

“Hello” croaked the Tepic lying beneath the remains of his parachute, dust covered and pale.
“Hello, mate, didn’t go so well then, i guess? Here, have some water..” he replied, crouching down and holding his water bottle to his lips. He took a few sips, then sighed, looking up at himself before coughing.
“Nope,” he said after the fit had passed, “the chute were a good idea, but we was too close, yer see, an the others… well… none of em were takin much notice by the end, an the biguns were worse, fightin each other all the time…”
He tried to help himself into a sitting position, but when he slipped an arm under and lifted, he let out the beginnings of a scream, quickly stifled.
“Ohhhh… best not, i ain’t good, an them crab thingys hear too well. we don’t want em pokin round here….”
He made himself as comfortable as possible without moving him, giving sips of water as he worked. His breathing became more even, and he seemed to settle down, so he sat beside himself quietly, just holding his hand as the darkness deepened around them into night.

He woke, still holding his hand, as the dawn broke weakly through the gloom cast by the Dark Aether, to see himself smiling up at him.
“It don’t hurt no more,” he said, “an i had a dream, yer gotta do somethin, lean close so’s i can tell yer….”
He leant down, ear close to his mouth, and listened to the faint whispering. He moved back and looked down at himself after he had finished. His broken self gripped his hand tightly, and fiercely said “You gotta promise!”
“i promise, if i can do it i will, yer can count on me” he replied. A shudder went through his prone form, and as it subsided, he said, quite clearly “The next adventure!”. A smile formed, then his face relaxed for a final time as a last breath passed his lips. Still holding his hand, he reached forward, closing his eyelids, as he had for many an urchin in the past, a sadness coming over him. He bowed his head, remembering the wonderful time they had when they first met, and the spirit with which he had gone from this world.

Now was a ritual he had done on so many occasions back in his City. He tucked his hand back under the cloth of the parachute, now doing service as a makeshift shroud, covered over his head, and set to work piling bricks and rubble around his body, covering himself with a tomb in keeping with this dismal place. Before he left, he gently laid his own flute on the top, a gift given freely.

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