"Alright Spine," said Peter II, trying to stifle the slight fear that had begun to build in his stomach, "Uh, why don't you take a seat?" Pete smile as he motioned to the chair on the other side of the desk where he was seated.
"Well, no, I think I'll stand, thanks, aha-ha!" laughed The Spine. The silver automaton took three heavy, clanking steps into the room, stopping behind the offered chair. His long neck twitched as his gears came to rest, his expression shifting and settling on another strange, toothless smile as his green eyes bore into Peter II.
"So, ah, what can I help you with?" asked Peter, trying to wipe the sweat from his palms.
"We had a little problem today, Pete," said The Spine, placing his gleaming hands on the chair in front of him, the smile never leaving his long metallic face, "The Jon went into the kitchen to make his weekly quesadillas, and Rabbit just so happened to be in there drawing a picture. Naturally, it was for Pappy. Rabbit asked The Jon if he'd like ta come with him when he showed it to Pappy, and… well, you can probably guess that things got a little out of hand."
"Oh my God," Peter II sat up in his chair, "What happened, is The Jon – what happened to –"
"I took The Jon down to see HatchWorth with Peter. We explained the situation. Peter was still trying to stop the oil leaking when I left, but we'd managed to calm him down a little, and he understands."
"And what about Rabbit? You didn't –"
"I told you I wasn't goin' ta lie to Rabbit," said The Spine, his pointed fingers digging into the wood of the chair, still smiling, photoreceptors flashing dangerously, "but I didn't tell him. I told him The Jon was confused, that I'd give you the picture for him."
Peter sighed and closed his eyes, allowing himself to relax; it had been a close call, but now that The Jon was in on it, things might actually go a little smoother. He rubbed his eyes and opened them –
The Spine was no longer smiling at him; his angular jaw was set, photoreceptors brighter than Peter had ever seen them before. The chair the mechanical creation was clutching had begun to splinter where his fingers gripped it. The entirety of The Spine's frame seemed to be vibrating as steam jetted from the orifices in his face and down his spine.
"… Spine, I –"
"I think it's about time you fixed this, Pete," every gentlemanly note The Spine's voice usually held had disappeared, leaving behind a bass, hallow rumble that seemed to bounce metallically from his very core. Peter II shrank down in his chair.
"The Spine, I ca –" but before he could complete his sentence, the automaton finally dropped all pretense.
"What you're doing is WRONG, Peter!" boomed The Spine, "You don't understand! I know Rabbit seems alright, but he is NOT alright, and neither are we. HatchWorth, The Jon, me… we're… Peter, we are not ALRIGHT with this! If Pappy were here –"
"Spine, Pappy isn –"
"HE DESERVES TA KNOW, PETER!"
With a great hiss of steam and a deafening grinding of gears The Spine tore the chair off the ground, sending it flying behind him. It connected with the wall, exploding apart. Peter screamed, pushing off the desk and wheeling his chair back until he slammed into the wall, covering his face with his arms.
Peter II sat that way shaking, on the verge of tears, for he knew not how long; he couldn't remember ever being as deeply terrified for his own life as he was in that moment. An image of The Spine tearing his body in half kept crowding his mind over and over again, no matter how many times he tried to block it out; The Spine wouldn't do that, he tried to tell himself, but he suddenly wasn't so sure. The longer he sat there, however, he began to realize that he was still alright; The Spine hadn't touched him, hadn't done anything to him yet. Finally he managed to control his breathing, and slowly, very slowly he brought his arms down from his eyes.
The Spine stood in the middle of the room, his long legs bent as though he were sitting on the air, shoulders slumped and wiry arms hanging slack, almost brushing the ground. He stared at Peter, his long face stretched longer by the forlorn expression that manifested itself across his gleaming features. Now that the rage was gone, Peter saw a great sadness in the bright green receptors, a look of complete loss.
"I'll have ta apologize to ya a second time now, Pete," said The Spine, looking ashamedly at the ground, "I didn't mean ta lose control like that, and I… Gosh, I'm sorry."
"The Spine, what is it," asked Peter, trying to stop his voice from shaking, "Please, tell me what happened."
Without looking up at the son of his creator, The Spine straitened up and stepped forward, reaching into his pocket and handing him a folded piece of paper. The Spine went back to the center of the room and Peter Walter II unfolded the paper; when he saw the image on it, his breath caught in his throat.
It was a self-portrait done by Rabbit, but none of Rabbit's drawings had ever disturbed Peter like this one. The copper automaton's jaw was hanging by one hinge, the artificial teeth completely gone. The green photoreceptor hung out of the metallic skull on a singular red wire. Where the blue receptor should have been was nothing but a gaping hole, seemingly of infinite darkness. Out of this horrible hole, a black stream of what was obviously oil leaked. A great crack split across the top of the robots head, wires spilling out of the crevice, sparks flying. Surrounding this robotic face was black, nothing but darkness that seemed to be completely engulfing the beloved automaton.
"…Rabbit," Peter covered his mouth, fighting the tears brimming in his eyes.
"It's not easy, Pete," said The Spine, his eyes casting a green glow on the drawing done by the elder automaton, "knowing that I'll have ta say goodbye to you, and Alex, and little Mark, and all the other people I'll ever meet. It'll be hard for us, HatchWorth and Jon and all of us, to keep going. But ya see... you humans, the people that love us and are here with us, you allow us to have so much joy and all these good times, and that makes it okay. Ya see, it's a darn terrible thing that no matter how much we like ya, no matter how much we are able to love ya, you gonna have to go away. You can't stay with us, we can't keep you. But forgetting you, as if you were never there in the first place, letting all the good times that we had just go away… well, that's worse, Pete. Gosh, that's a whole lot worse..."
Peter II looked up to see black smudges on The Spines sharp cheeks. Of course…
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, The Spine," said Peter, clutching Rabbit's drawing in his hands, "I'll fix it… I'll fix it."