Finally, Peter Walter II reached the third floor of the Walter Mansion and made his way down the hall towards the drawing room; literally, the room where people in the household went to draw. His head was bent as he mulled over the warning The Spine had given him. He knew Rabbit would take it hard, they all would, but why would The Spine single Rabbit out?
Rabbit was the first automaton his father had created. He'd been around longer than The Spine or any of them, and LONG before the Walter children had been born. He'd seen battle and death before, gone to war with his fellow automatons. Sure, Rabbit had malfunctions every once in a while, and he was a little more worse for wear compared to the other bots, but he was tough.
Peter II had reached the doorway of the drawing room; he paused and leaned against the doorframe, gazing at exactly what he'd expected to find; Rabbit was sprawled out on the deep carpet, propped up on his pointed elbows as he lorded over a large piece of paper spattered with color. His legs were in the air, creaking as they rocked back and forth as the automaton committed his focus to his work.
Peter watched Rabbit, remembering growing up with the automaton. If The Spine had been like his older brother, Rabbit had definitely been his best friend. Of course Peter II loved The Jon and HatchWorth, but something about he and Rabbit had clicked from the beginning. While Peter III would head off with HatchWorth and The Jon, Rabbit and Peter II would spend hours together drawing, or dancing, or playing games and having adventures that were invisible to everyone but the two of them. They'd spent countless afternoons watching movies, chattering away about nonsense, telling each other stories. Yes, Peter II loved all of his father's creations equally, but there was something special about Rabbit.
As Peter II stood musing in the doorway, the copper robot at long last lifted his duel-colored photoreceptors from his drawing. Spying Peter, his jaw nearly disconnected in a grin.
"Oh, hi ya Petes! C'mon in, OH, and take a look! I dre-drew a picture of tha Moon!"
The robot sprang up and ran to the doorway. Rabbit wrapped his spindly fingers around Peter II's arm, pulling him with great enthusiasm to the middle of the room. The robot's legs folded under him and he pulled Peter down beside him. Bending forward, Rabbit delicately picked up the large piece of paper he'd been laboring over and tilted it toward his friend to give him a better look at it.
"See, that right there? That's tha Moon. And there's me on tha Moon with my-my-my helmet of awesome, saying 'I win tha Moon.' And there's Th' Spine with a little flag that says, 'Rabbit wins the Moon," but he doesn't have an awe-awesome helmet, because only I can have one, cuz I'm awesome like that. And there's Tha Jon, and he's falling off tha Moon because the wizard broke his jetpack. And way back in the distance is the earth, and ya kinda hafta squint but if you look REAL hard you ca-ca-can see Hatchy on the earth, because we didn't have enough jetpacks. And there's the hippopotamus."
Rabbit handed Peter II the drawing proudly, "I got your message on the Wifi, but I got all bored waiting. Do you think Pap-Pappy'll like it?"
Peter smiled at the cartoonish, though highly detailed drawing in front of him. To his dismay, he felt the burning in his eyes again; he hurriedly blinked it away.
"You okay, Petes?" Rabbit had concern in his voice. He looked from Peter II to his drawing, "It's not that bad, is it?"
Peter smiled sadly at the drawing as he handed it back to Rabbit.
"It's wonderful, Rabbit, and I'm sure Pappy would've loved it," he paused, trying to think of how to proceed.
"Would have?" asked Rabbit, leaning away from Peter, his eyebrows creaking up his forehead.
"Rabbit... See, something happened this morning, Rabbit. Something not very good involving Pappy," Peter cleared his throat, remembering The Spine's warning before he went on.
"See, your Pappy loved you very much, but he was old, and… well, Pappy went to sleep last night, and this morning… this morning, he didn't wake up."
"Lo-loved me? Why can't you wake hi-him up? Ih-is he sick?" Rabbit asked, blinking rapidly.
"No, Rabbit," Peter II said, placing his hand on the shoulder of his father's first creation, "no, he passed away, he… he died."
Rabbit's photoreceptors flashed blindingly for a moment, his drawing fluttering out of his hands and floating to the floor, "He die-died?" stuttered the automaton, his head jerking violently.
"Yes, last night, in his sleep."
"My-my-my p-p-p-p-Pap-Pappy die-die-die-die-die-die-die," Rabbit's head had begun jerking back and forth uncontrollably. Peter scrambled away from the robot, and just in time; Rabbit's spindly arms were contorting sporadically around his thin metal frame. Peter watched horrified as oil began to fly from the robot's mouth and eyes, steam jetting from the sides of his face, all the while stuck saying, "die-die-die," over and over again. Peter II could do nothing but stare with his mouth hanging open, praying for it to stop.
Suddenly, Rabbit went rigid; his metal arms snapped to his side, his eyes starting forward. With a loud pang, Rabbit's photoreceptors went completely dark and his head fell with a heavy clunk onto his chest.
Peter II let out a moan and rushed to the automaton. He took hold of Rabbit and held him in to his chest; the boiler was silent. In the quiet of the room, with his arms wrapped around the beloved robot, Peter Walter II cried. His father, Colonel Peter A. Walter, the brilliant inventor who had brought joy and wonder to the world and all the people in his life, the man who had given everyone the miracle of his mechanical creations, was gone. And here was his son, Peter A. Walter II, in a mansion full of robots and people who were now totally lost. He could do nothing to help them, had no idea where to begin. He missed having the assurance that, no matter what broke or fell apart or went wrong, someone would fix it. He missed knowing that if he failed, someone would be there to help him pick up the pieces. Sitting helpless in the middle of the room, rocking the cold automaton back and forth, he missed his Pappy.
Peter II stayed there with Rabbit for what seemed like hours. Finally he had completely exhausted his lamentations, and now he was hoping with all he had that Rabbit would begin to function again. Peter II closed his eyes, whispering against Rabbit's shoulder, asking him that he wake up, please. Countless minutes passed, and to his astonishment, Peter II heard the insides of his father's clockwork creation begin turning again. In his relief, Peter II let his tears flow anew and silent into the automaton's shoulder.
"Why-why are you s-s-s-s-S-S-SO sad, Pappy?"
Peter II's eyes snapped open, his whole body stiffening.
"What was that, Rabbit?" he asked, slowing maneuvering himself so he could look at the copper robot, holding him at arm's length.
"I know it's n-not all that great, but my drawing isn't THAT ba-bad, is it Pappy?" asked Rabbit, examining his picture of the Moon.
Peter Walter II opened his mouth to correct Rabbit, but instead he said, "Oh, no, Rabbit, I'm not sad! These are JOY tears. It's a wonderful drawing; it'll go on the Walter fridge for sure."
"Whoo-hoo-HOO!" cried the copper automaton, "I'll finish it ri-right up for ya, Pappy!"
"That… that's my boy," said Peter Walter II, standing up as Rabbit bent over his drawing again. He turned slowly and exited the room.
"I lo-love you, Pappy," called Rabbit as Peter II reached the doorway into the hall.
"I love you too, Rabbit," he said, without stopping or turning around to look at the grinning robot.
Yes, I do love you, Rabbit, thought Peter II, remembering The Spine, which is why I'll never tell you the truth.