It was around four o’clock on Saturday that Erehwon had arrived at Emerson Lighthouses home to test out her aetheric containment bottle, to see if the voice commands and a few pressure gauges she had installed would allow her to escape her imprisonment in the bottle when she went inside. She had told him that her hair had turned green, but the sight had still been…surprising.
“It….” Arnold paused for a moment, “Goes with your new skin color, at least.”
“Hello, Mr. Arnold.” Miss Yoshikawa twisted an end of her new hair around her finger, “At least I match, but I was an earth tones girl before this…”
“It does mean you’re getting worse. Come in,” There was enough room for her to put her bottle down and then she appeared to steel herself for what she was about to do next.
“Well, let’s see if this worked.” Erehwon said, though Arnold could almost swear he heard someone ask ‘what could possibly go wrong?’
“I’m ready.” Arnold said, ignoring that feeling as best as he could.
Miss Yoshikawa looked the bottle over, adjusted the gauge, and then stepped onto the carpet and closed her eyes and slowly vanished into the bottle.
Arnold thought that such things might be all well and good in Mondrago, but here she was turning green and he couldn’t shake the feeling that things were about to become much worse than they were now in the near future.
“Hello Mr. Arnold, can you hear me?” A speaker on the bottle stated.
“I can hear you,” Arnold waited for a few moments, hoping that she would come out soon, but nothing happened. At least nothing happened till Erehwon started cursing in another language.
“Sorry, I do make things go wrong sometimes,” Arnold paused for a moment and remembered what he had learned about the nature of that ‘bad luck.’ “Actually that might not be what’s wrong in this case.”
“Would you tell me what the gauge says?” Erehwon requested.
Arnold took a quick glance and told her, “It’s at about 3 or 4 Kg/cm”
“And the relief valve is still venting?”
“At the moment.”
Erehwon didn’t seem to like the sound of that, “Think, Ereh, think, what could be going on…” For a long time neither of them said anything, and then she shouted, “As the the owner of this bottle, I command you to release me!”
“Alright, just let me out then,” Erehwon requested.
Arnold went to pull on the stopper as he had before, but this time it would not budge. He pulled harder but it didn’t seem to do him any good, and then he stopped knowing on some level that he would never be able to let her out as she was now. After the match on the piste Arnold had a theoretical discussion with Erehwon about Djinn’s and wishes and at the time he’d wondered aloud if he could ever be a Djinn’s ‘master’. As a Servitor they had both mused over the likelihood he could ever be the ‘master’ of anything…and this seemed to be proving the point that he could not. Perhaps it only extended to Erehwon’s situation, but he also had a feeling that it was further reaching than that. Perhaps the next time Tenk did get sick he’d let him know there was nothing he could actually do with his blood…
Shaking his head he focused on the present situation. He knew he couldn’t leave the bottle here, one of Emerson’s friends or the man himself would try to smoke out of it, “I could break the damn thing,” Arnold offered.
“That would be very bad for me.” Erehwon told him. “Unless you could find another aetheric container to trap me.”
“It would probably explode,” Arnold said after a moment, agreeing it was a bad idea. “Perhaps I should rub the bottle instead…”
“I suppose you could try, but it shouldn’t make a difference.”
Arnold rubbed, and neither of them were surprised when nothing happened. “I’m still in here.”
“Obviously.” Arnold said in annoyance, “But at least I tried.”
“Okay, I have an idea, but you may not like it….
Arnold shrugged in annoyance, “There is almost nothing I like right now.”
“Can you take the bottle to Clockhaven?”
She must be desperate indeed to want to go there, but he did suppose there was a chance it would force her to return to a more natural state…if it didn’t hurt her or kill her instead, but after a little insistence he took her to the Gangplank and it was a good thing that they were alone this early in the afternoon because she erupted from the bottle as if she’d been thrown out.
Erehwon blinked as she became corporeal again, and stared at Arnold.
“Well at least you didn’t bow this time,” Arnold allowed as he sat down. “Feel any different?”
Miss Yoshikawa gripped her head, “Other than a mind bending, blinding headache?” She moaned, “Bring me some coffee, please. Clockhaven doesn’t like me.”
They moved on to the Cocoa Java soon after, which is when she brought up needing a place to stay and he said that Mr. Harvey was looking to rent the space in the Cocoa Java’s second level for the moment.
“I get headaches in Clockhaven too,” Arnold explained as the conversation moved back to the subject, “But mine aren’t very bad, in fact I always discounted them.”
A sudden shout caught Erehwon’s attention however and she changed the subject again, “Who said that?”
Arnold shrugged, “There’s a celebration at Brunel Hall at the moment I think, it could have been anyone there. I was going to go there till you asked for my help.”
Miss Yoshikawa looked down at her clothing, “I could try to see if I could conjure something a little more formal, but first I wanted to see about those canisters.”
Arnold wondered if she was just trying to keep thinking and moving in order to get over her headaches, the way she was jumping around like this.
“There is one behind Brunel Hall, in a graveyard,”
She asked him to lead her that way, and he did as they passed the celebration going on nearby and ending across the street from the graveyard, which Erehwon entered without pause.
“Too close!” Arnold shouted again, “That’s where Miss Ginsburg was stainding when she went out of control!”
Erehwon didn’t hear Arnold’s warning however, and he shook his head, they never did listen.
Erehwon Yoshikawa began to shed sparks, and reached out to touch the canister.
Arnold did not like the thought of that at all, “I don’t think you should do that!”
Erehwon frowned and spoke quietly, though Arnold heard her anyways thanks to his ears, “Tell me your secrets, machine.”
“You’ve never seen it when it’s not a machine!” Arnold shouted, “It WON’T! Believe me! Right now there’s an eye staring right at you!”
“I don’t see an eye.” Erehwon said, but Arnold was shaking his head when she turned back, his eyes having once again turned orange while he screamed that.
“Of course you don’t!” There wasn’t one right now, obviously, and he didn’t know why he’d said that. “Get away from it!:
She came back and tried to get answers from him, or rather Id, but was disappointed as she continued to shed sparks, “I know this is a bit odd, but this is the Lady’s way of letting me try to talk to those contraptions.”
“You should not attempt that again.” Arnold said, his eyes again flaring orange as Id spoke and he grimaced and resisted the urge to run away from that thing in the graveyard.
“I could not figure out what was that machine,” Erehwon said, though it was obvious she wanted to keep trying by her demeanor. Arnold hoped she wouldn’t go near one of them again, but he soon departed for the party and distanced himself from the situation again.
This sabatical of his wasn’t quite turning out as he’d hoped.
Things didn’t improve much for Arnold after the weekend, it was on Monday, after reading the book, that Arnold ran into Jimmy and a man named Orpheus…
“Hoy Mr. Arnold!”
“Hello.” “How are you today, Jimmy.”
“Foine thenks! You? Anythin’ ‘appenin’?”
Arnold shrugged, “What isn’t happening around town? More canisters appearing, I read that book today, and Emerson Lighthouse’s transport crashed at sea.”
“Oy ‘eard some people in th’ Bucket but kids aren’t allowed in there so’s Oy dunno ‘oo fsor sure, an yeh, Oy ‘eard ’bout thet too. Oy’m worried. Too much ta worry ’bout lately.”
Arnold nodded, “I have to agree. I actually wanted to talk to Nathaniel Lorefield about that.”
“Ain’t seen Nat is a bit. ‘ee moight be out on th’ Vernian testin’ somethin’. SOmetoimes ‘ee’s out there faw dyes.”
Arnold nodded, “That’s why I want to see him.” He then explained about the request he wanted to make.
“Mmhmm. Not a bad oydea, thet. Not sure Oy can do thet meself, though.”
“I didn’t think that you would, for some reason.”
“Crazy Oy guess …” Jimmy Branagh chuckled.
“There should be escapes at the ready for anyone and everyone looking for one if things start to look like that book.”
“Ifn it is Moriarty, best ta get everyone out, some of us ‘ave fought ‘im before, even some of ht’ urchins. But ‘ee can be a myte surprisin’ ta those thet don’t know ’bout ‘im.”
“Bullets don’t work on him, I heard,” Arnold nodded dismissively, “I lost my gun anyways. I’ve got my claws, but against someone who according to Gadget and Sonnerstein and a few others can apparently shoot lightning…let’s just say I’m not inclined to repeat my previous experience.”
“Aye, Noir faire. We awl pumped probly a hundred bullets inta ‘im one toime. Nothin’. ‘ee wos aLycan too, but Oy dunno ifn ‘is new body will do thet.”
“Lovely,” Arnold said, and then turned to a man who walked up behind them. “Hello.”
Jimmy greeted the newcomer, “ello Mr. Orpheus.”
Orpheus tipped his hat, “Hello.”
“Keepin’ your oyes open, sir?”
“Yes, I have been investigating these canisters. I hear they’re popping up everywhere!”
“Yeh, they’re awl over. Some of th’ kids sye there’s monster’s in ’em; Oy ain’t seen ’em yet meself. An Oy ‘ear they myke some koinda gas.”
Arnold nodded, “Even when it just looks like a canister it does that.”
“An’ in th’ book there’s gas…”
Arnold, who had just read the book that morning nodded, “The book said that the city surrendered to the Dark Aether. I had been wondering if it was the same element as the ‘gas’ we see, but again, I’ve got no idea.”
Orpheus nodded, “I had the same thought myself.” He then turned to the boy and said very intently, “Jimmy, if we don’t stop this, and things loop around again, you tell Victor there is no way in hell you’re getting in that ship!”
“Well, I dunno…” Jimmy began, and Arnold also doubted that things would loop precisely as written.
“Thet ship th’ Writer wrote about isn’t th’ same ship th’ old guy had at City Hall.”
“It wasn’t?” Orpheus asked…
“No it wasn’t, the ship in th’ book ha a propellor top thing, and fins…ifn th’ old guy is me loike Dr. Kristos says, then Oy did somethin’ between gettin’ on Mr. Vic’s ship an’ comin back ‘ere.”
“The problem we’re having now is that Jimmy DID come back. This is exactly why you arent supposed to cross your own time stream!”
Arnold shrugged. A month ago he would have probably run off by now or at best humored such a discussion, but he supposed he had to accept the possibility now.
“Th’ ship th’ old guy came in looked loike … well, it looked loike me thopter, but rebuilt funny.”
“Ahh, I wasn’t at the meeting… only saw videographic evidence archived in a library many years from now,”
Arnold stared at Orpheus, “Many years from now?” He waited for only a second before shaking his head. “…nevermind. I don’t care. If Jimmy can travel in time and come out and stop history in it’s tracks, why can’t you.”
“Oy better go. Oy was ‘eaded ta th’ loibrary ta check somethin’.” Jimmy said.
“What’s at the library?” Orpheus inquired, though it was apparent he had been about to answer Arnold before Jimmy had spoken.
“Just somethin’ in th’ back of me ‘ead, sir.” Jimmy chuckled.
Mr. Orpheous turned to Arnold and finally replied, “I make sure to never cross my own timestream. Time travel isn’t the problem, its that for a brief period we had two Jimmys.”
That hadn’t been what Arnold had meant, but Jimmy continued, “Yeh Oy read about thet paradox, but it seems mybee it doesn’t apply,” He then stopped talking very suddenly and waved goodbye. “Gotta run! ‘ave a good evenin’!”
“Take care Arnold, I too have other matters to attend to.” Orpheus said.
Arnold shook his head. Time streams, time travel, visiting libraries to learn of events from ‘history’ books. A bunch of nonsense in the end really it seemed to him, even if he did allow for the possibility like he was at least for the moment, and far more trouble than it could ever be worth. He never imagined that he’d view crystal balls or Id as something more reliable than…well anything else in existence as he still distrusted such ‘future’ gazing, but at the moment it seemed far more useful than this lots prattle.
Arnold was about to move on and went in the same direction that Jimmy had gone, and as he looked at the boy running off something occurred to him. Orpheus had said that if events were to loop back for him not to get in the machine again, and Arnold had pointed out that the book had come back and had obviously changed the course of the lives of everyone who read it already…but that included this Moriarty who Gadget had claimed the other day had also read the book. If he was seeing his plans succeeding, or whoever it was that was in the book saw their plans succeeding since it was open to the general public, then they of their impending success and knew that only through this time thing would they have originally been thwarted even slightly…well if Arnold was the man behind these future events he’d have made killing Victor, Jimmy, the mayor, and everyone still alive on the final pages an added priority to handle before they could make that time machine. He hoped older ‘Jimmy’ hadn’t gotten ‘himself’ and several other people who had been going to survive killed…