"You and I need to have a little talk, Jon," said Peter, hoisting himself up on the bench next to his father's creation.
"I didn't do it," said The Jon, his eyes frantic and full of innocence. Peter sighed, closing his eyes for a moment; perhaps he shouldn't have started with The Jon. The golden bot wasn't stupid, so comprehension wouldn't be a problem; he was, however, fragile. It wasn't going to be easy.
"No, no one's in trouble, don't worry," said Peter. He took a deep breath, "It's about the Colonel –"
"What, Pappy? Oh yeah, how's he doin'?"
Peter II's heart froze. He looked down, forcing the lump in his throat to disperse. Finally, he made himself look up at The Jon; the automaton's bright blue photo-receptors were locked oh him expectantly, eagerly. Taking another deep breath, Peter II forced the words out of his mouth.
"The Jon… do you know what death is?"
The Jon's faceplates morphed into a frown, "Yeah, but I don't like it."
Neither do I, thought Peter, but he said, "So you know that, when someone or something dies, they go away, and even though we remember them and think about them, we can't see them or talk to them or touch them anymore."
"Yeah, and they can't see or touch or talk to us, neither. It's sorta like sleepin', only they don't ever ever wake up, eh Mr. the Two? Like they stop workin', eh?"
"Yeah, The Jon, it's very much like that," Peter urged himself to go on, "And, uh, this morning, that's what happened to the Colonel. He was in his bed, and he stopped working."
Peter II watched as his words worked their way through The Jon's programming. The blue eyes seemed vacant, as though looking inside of the gold automaton's head or off to some distant place, and the mouth was slightly agape. His arm that was still attached went slack, legs no longer kicking with energy. It was the stillest Peter II had ever seen The Jon. The boiler was still hard at work, and the systems were all firing correctly, but the automaton seemed hallow.
At long last, the photoreceptors flickered as The Jon blinked.
"So…" began The Jon, looking searchingly at Peter II, "Does this mean Pappy won't be takin' us for ice-cream anymore?"
"Yes, The Jon."
"And… he won't be singin' with us or drawin' pictures or making any more brothers and sisters for us to play with?"
"That's right, The Jon. He stopped working."
The Jon looked at the hard metallic floor of the workshop, his left leg swaying slowly and heavily.
"Hey Mr. Pappy the Two?" said The Jon. Peter could see black oil beginning to collect around the edge of his receptors.
"Please could I please have a hug, please?" asked the robot, holding his thin, metallic arm out to Peter II.
"Yes, The Jon," said Peter, and the little golden bot threw himself into Peter II's lap, oil streaming freely. Peter II pulled The Jon close to him, feeling the warm boiler shudder as the robot in his arms wept. He fought back his own tears still, allowing The Jon to cry. You're not the only one who lost a father today, Pete, he told himself, stroking the mechanical man's synthetic hair, slowly rocking him back and forth on the workbench.
Finally The Jon loosened his grip on the son of his Pappy, smiling through the oil that smeared his faceplates.
"At least I still have you to play with, eh? You and me, we can still play," he said, his legs beginning to swing again.
"That's right, The Jon. You and I can still play," said Peter II, smiling with relief; The Jon would be okay. He would miss his father, but he would definitely be okay.
Alex Reed came back into the workshop, holding a pair of ice-creams for himself and The Jon. Peter II took this as his window.
"The Jon, you stay here with Alex, alright? I'm gonna go talk to HatchWorth now."
"Well, okay! I'll see you later! You still owe me three watermelons!"
Peter II walked out of the workshop, shaking his head and not bothering to correct the whimsical automaton; he'd be okay.