They’d found his razors and wire hidden in his hat during their search, and not once had anyone told him what gall meant while he was led to his fellow prisoners deep in the vessel’s brig. One was a black haired scottish man wearing a dark maroon shirt and some worn looking trousers. He appeared to be in good shape and sported an unkept beard and mustache of someone who had not been allowed to shave for a month. The other was red headed and sported a Romanchurian accent while wearing brown travelers tunics.
Theodore used his key and locked Tepic into his own cell alone. There was only a bunk, a blanket, and a wooden cup. Each of them were kept far out of arms reach of one another. Tepic tried calling out to the others, but they didn’t respond before the metal man showed up again and sent Theodore away. He was wearing yet another new skin and face. This time he even had some wrinkles. “We’ll be underway, just as soon as I send off another letter and get our last collection for the evening. Now that you’re here I have the proper bait to bring in the cat.”
“…you’re gonna put me on a hook to catch Beryl?”
“That was always a small part of my overall plan.” The man replied dismissively. “So was making you too scared to conduct your business until I could devise a real trap for you.”
“Watcha gonna do with me mate?”
“First I have to deliver him to my current employer. He wants to gloat…again.” He sounded annoyed and turned to look at the other men in their cells. “When he’s done I will either sell them to their worst enemies, or kill him with my own hands.” the man replied. “I found a buyer for Bookworm possibly, but after I question him I will likely be killing the cat.”
“Ha! Good luck with that, better blokes than yer have tried, ain’t worked yet!”
The man didn’t respond as he tested to make sure the gate was locked, satisfied he continued, “If you are thinking of escaping still that will only make me target Gadget and the others that much faster.”
“Gadget?” Tepic asked, that tickled his memory and he looked at the metal man with sudden remembrance.
“You have Gadget to thank for my creation.” The man confirmed as he hit his metal body.
“He made yer?” Tepic asked incredulously.
“He might as well have, he provided the notes to the Van Creed.”
“Oh……yeah….” Tepic said uncomfortably. “I remembers how well that went……looks like it ain’t much better this time.” While the man was talking he tried to rile him up one more time, “Yer a right twonark, ain’t yer….were yer as twisted before they stuffed yer in that metal box, or were it down ter that?”
“When I was no older than you I was asking Eddison to let me throw the switch on those dogs.” The man confessed sounding wistful again. “But eventually we all grow up and find we have better ways of using our time. Now I have a purpose.” He turned towards the other gentlemen in the nearby cells as he said that. They didn’t respond.
“Yep, twisted, we gets em like that in the City sometimes….”
That was when the man reached to his head and removed the hair that he was wearing while Tepic watched in surprise. His surprised turned to slight disgust as the man started to remove the flesh covering their head, the fox shouting “Ewwww!”
“Anyone, anything. Gadget, Jimmy, none of them will ever see me coming.” The man warned. “So abandon all thought of escape. You and your friends would have to suspect every adult you met for the rest of your lives.”
The man replaced the skin and made his way to the exit, leaving him alone with the others for the first time. That’s when the men approached the bars and looked at the young fox.
“Billy Mudfoot,” the hunter said as he nodded at the fox child. “Sorry we chain’t meetin uner better strays.”
“Jim Doohan.” The scot in the maroon said. “At yer service young man.”
“‘m Tepic, New Babbage is me City, an this lot is messin with it!” he responded, “Dunno what they wants with me, but they’s a right persistent lot, no mistake.” Now they were properly introduced, Tepic asked them if they knew what P.J. was planning for the urchins.
“He toll’ us.” Billy snorted, “Wants ch’all the dregs of the city tabbe reduced ta finchers en muggers this winter.”
“Rich toff’s have insurance, lad, but thieves and beggars?” Doohan clarified. “They cannae report to anyone or get back what they’s lost. They cannae ge’ back ‘cept ta steal or beg again. And they can only take it froms those that live in the city.”
“Cor! So he wants all us robbin’ ourselves?”
“Increased theft is just the start lad. He’s eventually going to target the factories come winter, ships carrying food, and even the train tracks.” Billy continued darkly. “He wants ta triple the price of food in yer city knowing yer chain’t pay.”
Doohan concluded, “He want to use Babbage ta test if people really are ‘only three meals away from a revolution’.”