The Captain went into the city leading the group, which was made up of Marcus, Lenny, Roy, Theodore, Penelli, Nivram, and Arnold. The captain and engineers were all armed, but none of the others were. Penelli was walking beside Baha with a smile, but everyone else was grim and unhappy. The captain set a grueling pace into the city without turning back. Marcus and Nivram were the only ones who couldn’t keep up, but while the cook stumbled the clockwork just walked head down.
While they were walking Penelli purred next to the Captain’s ear and this time Arnold heard, “You know he’s not a cook. He has no idea what he’s doing in the kitchen.” She grinned as the Captains face became angrier. “He’s hiding something from you. He’s taking advantage of you, just like everyone else does.”
Baha increased his pace and put his hand on the dagger on his belt, to the amusement of the woman. Arnold kept silent and followed them till they found a suitable market… which meant that there was a bar at the corner the captain could keep an eye on them from. The cat watched her trail after him and decided he’d tell Sam and the others what he’d overheard later.
The cook finally arrived after Nivram, breathing heavily, a group of urchins running past him on the street. Lenny went up to Marcus and slapped the cook on the back hard causing the bruised man to wince. “Glad you could make it. Now just one thing I want to make clear…if we have to eat another meal that tastes like you pissed in the broth…me, Roy, and Theodore here are going to drown you in it.”
Arnold didn’t hear what Marcus came back with, because at that moment he caught a familiar scent that caught him by surprise. All bickering between the men went out of his mind as he tried desperately to place it. He turned around sniffing to make sure…it smelled like him…there was only a subtle variance that made him wonder…but what would Jimmy Branagh be doing in North Carolina?!
Thinking about it he knew that no one had seen Jimmy in a few weeks…but for him to head to the American south seemed unlikely. He turned about looking for the source and there were several tall boys with blonde hair in the group that had just passed. They were halfway down the street and he was about to run after them when a hand fell on his shoulder. He jumped and turned, claws ready.
Roy didn’t even blink at the cat’s reaction, and he made soothing gestures while whispering, “I think you should know that you scared Richard this morning, and he wanted to pay me and Lenny to take care of you. I wouldn’t be surprised if he went into town early to find someone more willing.”
Arnold twitched slightly and nodded, before he turned back to the children running off and called Jimmy’s name. There wasn’t a response that he noticed, perhaps they were too far down the street. He chased after them and shouted but they had turned a corner and didn’t come back. He gave up the pursuit having barely moved a few feet and turned back. He’d hardly been hidden from sight and Jimmy wouldn’t have run right past him without saying hello. Perhaps his nose was playing tricks on him…home sickness must have gotten to him or something.
He returned to the rest of the group that was still embroiled in their argument about food, while they piled everything onto Theodore and Nivram. When Roy jokingly called the big man a horse he had begun to worry that he’d become a moreau. Arnold was only half way paying attention to their games as he kept looking back to the street and sniffing. It was Jimmy’s scent…but would Jimmy have really run away from New Babbage? Things had gotten pretty bad there…
He wished he had chased him down, if for no other reason than not knowing would bother him at least until he got back home and found out if Jimmy really had left. They found what they were looking for and made their way back to the ship, the captain and Penelli staying in the bar. Just before they passed the last intersection on their way back four men armed with clubs rounded a corner, Richard hiding behind them.
Arnold looked at the clock, and sighed. It was time to call it a night, “I’ve thought about it a lot since then. I could have just imagined him…or maybe that could have been another Jimmy from another realm…odd that he’d have a duplicate that smelled almost exactly like him.” Arnold murmured. “But sometimes I wonder if there’s more to it…he also had that ‘future’ self back here…and it makes me wonder if there’s more to Jimmy’s story.” Arnold shrugged finally. “I don’t know. Maybe there is no connection.”
“It could have just been home sickness…but have you talked to Jimmy about this?” Dr. Maddox asked, as she fought her fatigue.
“No,” Arnold admitted.
“Maybe one day you should…” She said softly. “Can we continue?”
He could see her struggle, she was still adapting to her new condition. “You’re tired. I won’t let you push yourself.”
“But I want to know what happened with the men and Richard! I can’t wait a week for that.”
Arnold shrugged as he assisted her to the room on the airship, “Well, I have to admit that it was the first and only time I’ve ever seen a man pick up an automaton and beat someone with it.”
Food littered the dirty street as Theodore stood over the poor fools, holding a severely damaged Nivram whose right eye was hanging off slightly. He pointed down at the men and said, “No hurt my kitty.”