"HatchWorth?" called Peter II, knocking on the door to the vault.
He'd walked down to the basement, taking his time, preparing for what was to come. What are you going to do about this? Alex Reed had asked. He'd been talking about The Jon, but it had made Peter Walter II think of something else; what WAS he going to do? He was talented, yes, but he was not the inventor his father was. He'd never brought anything to life, created existence out of metal and gears. Once, he'd asked his father about the Blue Matter, the force that kept the mechanical creations alive, and his father had tried, truly tried to explain, but it might as well have been white noise.
And then there was HatchWorth.
The Colonel had been devising a way to mend the rip in Hatchworth's makings when he'd fallen ill. Peter II couldn't even understand what was wrong with the bespecked bot in the first place, much less how to repair him. He had realized, as he was making his way to the basement, that he was more or less sentencing HatchWorth to the vault for an indeterminable about of years. Indeed, it could be generations before someone came up with a way to mend the rip in HatchWorth's insides.
"HatchWorth, it's me, Pete," he called again, knocking harder. At long last, Peter II heard movement through the thick door of the vault.
"Oh, MIS-ter Walter the SECond, fan-CY hearing YOU here," answered HatchWorth, the fluctuations in his odd mechanical voice almost making Peter smile, "How ARE the re-PAIRS com-ing, old chum?"
Peter II found himself thanking his stars that he couldn't see the robot's face. With the Blue Matter leaking from HatchWorth like it was, the Colonel had explained to everyone that the vault door should always be kept shut; it simply wasn't safe to be exposed to. Still, he could imagine the expression on the robot's face well enough; the questions in HatchWorth's photoreceptors, questions that Peter could hardly bare to answer.
"Well, that's why I'm here, Hatchy. See," Peter cleared his throat, "something… something happened… with the Colonel…."
"Iz my PAPpy al-RIGHT?" asked HatchWorth.
Peter leaned against the vault door and let himself sink to the floor.
"HatchWorth… no. He's not. I'm sorry… he died. He died this morning," Peter choked out. There was silence from the vault, until-
"Yes, HatchWorth, he died. In his sleep. He stopped working, and we can't repair him."
"Yes, iiiiiiiii un-DER-stand," answered the automaton, his words slightly muffled as the oil rose to his receptors. The two sat in silence.
"AM I AL-so dead?"
Peter shook his head, startled. Like most of HatchWorth's questions, there was little emotion in his voice, but Peter thought he had heard a hint of fear.
"HatchWorth, no. What do you mean?"
"I am BRO-ken, like MY PAPpy was BRO-ken. You COULD not re-PAIR him. He IZ dead. AM I AL-so dead?"
"No," Peter heard himself say firmly, "No, HatchWorth, you are not dead. We will fix you, you haven't stopped working, you are alive. Do you understand?" Peter waited for the robot to answer, his hands clutching the giant wheel that kept the vault locked
"YEEEes," answered the automaton finally, and Peter II sighed in relief. The two sat in silence again.
"Walter the SECond?"
"I MISS my PAPpy."
Peter II blinked back his tears, once again rejecting them. The urge to open the heavy vault door nearly overwhelmed him. He wanted to see his father's mustachioed creation, be near to him, let him know that even though his Pappy was gone, he wasn't alone in this world. Peter II stared at his hands which grasped the turn wheel, feeling his muscles tighten, prepared to swing the door wide open. But the the vault remained shut; Peter II knew what had to happen. He let his hands drop to the floor where he sat, his heart sinking for his dear friend on the other side of the door.
"I miss him too, Hatchy. Now, try to go into stasis, alright? I'm going to The Hall of Wires. I'll be back down tomorrow?"
"Okay, I will TALK to you LATE-er, my friend," said HatchWorth, and Peter II listened to the sounds of the automaton shutting himself down.
Peter II slowly stood from the floor, using the vault door for support. With a heavy sigh he began making his way up the long, winding steps to ground level of the Walter Mansion, thinking of his next challenge. When he'd made it halfway up the stairs he stopped. After a moment, Peter turned around and looked down the stairs, gazing at the vault that held one of his father's living mechanical creations.
"I'm sorry, Hatchy," he said quietly, and once again he made his way up the steps.