Arnold rode the magnetic lift down to the Wilde, and he was surprised to see Blackberry Harvey asleep on the couch, while Bookworm paced back and forth. “Arnold?!” Bookworm exclaimed, and then as Blackberry stirred she lowered her voice as the cat got off of the lift. “It’s good to see you once again.”
“I’m glad to be back, though I wish my return could have happened under more pleasant circumstances. Did everything go okay at City Hall?” Recalling that when he’d left that she had recently disappeared he added, “And when did you get back in town?”
“Back in town? I don’t think I’d ever left town…” Bookworm said with a shake of her head. “As for City Hall…not as well as we could have hoped. We managed to get the crowd to go home using a few of Kimika’s more…’inventive’ crowd dispersing devices…”
Arnold had seen some of those weapons in his time in New Babbage, “The Serpentine?”
“Yes, among a few others,” Book flashed a half grin for a moment, but then it faded, “But while we were dealing with them another group was trying to come up from underneath city hall…” Bookworm shook her head, “We don’t know who, or what they were planning…but it makes me nervous.”
Arnold nodded once, “Seems that things have only gotten worse…did you know that Mariah is actively trying to protect the monster in your shed?”
Bookworm looked at him confused, “Who?”
“Mariah…Lanfier I think her name is,” Arnold said, but he had never actually talked to the woman before and he hadn’t asked her name. “I could be wrong though…I didn’t ask her name.”
“I don’t know anyone by the name of Mariah…perhaps you mean my cook Mrs. Sawyer, or Mrs. Pritchard who keeps house…they have been acting strangely…” She was looking at him concerned, and he was probably giving her a similar look, both wondering if the other was feeling alright.
Looking over at the twitching Mr. Harvey he nodded his head, “So what happened? Why’s he look so exhausted?”
Turning towards him she explained, “Wilde Hospital is full, thanks to all the fights that get out of hand. He’s also understaffed, as all the temporary nurses keep quitting, and there’s no one else available or well enough to help.”
“What do you mean?” Arnold asked, surprised. “What happened to the doctors?”
“Well, Mr. Harvey was left on his own ever since Sonnerstein secluded himself into his home and the others are all missing or indisposed in one way or another…” She paused and looked at him grimly. “I’m glad you and Dr. Maddox have been safe in Mondrago, but I hope you’ve come home to stay…Mr. Harvey really does need your help now.”
“Mondrago?” Had no one heard about what happened with Metier? “No, I never made it out of the city after I talked with Emerson,” Arnold explained slowly. “And why would Sonnerstein do that?”
“You should know…he blamed himself for not being there for Stormy when he went missing, he had been raving in his home at the time…now you can’t get near the man…” Bookworm looked at him confused, “Maybe you should lie down yourself. I don’t think you’re feeling well.”
“I’m fine,” Arnold said softly. He knew that Stormy had gone into hiding, but this wasn’t sound right. “Can you assume that I haven’t been here for the past two months though… how did the city get to this point?”
Bookworm looked him up and down curiously, and after a few moments she sighed softly, “I wish I knew…people started to act weird right after the zombie plague.” She shook her head ruefully, “It took us too long to figure out that the sleepiness and other problems created by the cannisters weren’t side effects of the cure.”
“The writer had told us about the Dark Aether though!” Arnold argued. “I never heard anyone think it was the cure!”
“What’s the writer?” Bookworm asked, and he spluttered.
“The writing automaton that told us we’re all going to die! The one from the future Babbage!”
Bookworm looked at him sadly and made soothing gestures, “Arnold, you really do need to lie down. You’re not feeling well…I think it’ll pass though if you stay here awhile! Arnold!”
He didn’t listen as he made his way to the lift and rode it up. This wasn’t his world, and though he could feel Dr. Maddox in this world, it couldn’t be his Dr. Maddox. The only thing he could think of that would connect him with this Dr. from another world…was that it was still his Dr…except that this was the Dr. Maddox that existed in the world before the writer came back. He had somehow ended up in a world that should no longer exist.