Run & Go With It

(Sequel to Life Is So Wonderful)

Steam Powered Giraffe Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

            When Rabbit arrived at the fire door, Hatchworth had already been allowed in and The Jon and Upgrade stood in front of it, guarding it. Rabbit launched into a barrage of questions she knew they could not answer and tried to convince them to let her through. “Come on, guys, I used to be a robot, tell me what’s happening!”

            “We don’t know,” Upgrade hissed, brows raised, sympathetically. “Proto-”

            “Protocol Seven, I know, I know,” she spat and waved her hands, manically. “Radio silence, no info, keep everyone away from the danger until further notice. What danger? Where’s Spine? Is he down there? What’s happened!” she tried to push her way past them and The Jon slid in front of her and held her back.

            “I’m sorry, Rabbit,” he said, meekly. “No one can go down there, not even us.”

            “Jon,” she cried. “Please! My husband is down there, Jon, your brother, please, Jon!” She struggled in his arms, but he held her tight and did not budge.

            By this time, Annie Walter, her son Peter A. Walter VI and Wanda Walter had all gathered together in the grim hallway. Annie trembled and hugged her son tightly. He glowered at the two robots guarding the door behind which his father and friends were quarantined. Norman Becile watched the front door of the manor and Nikola sulked in her room, unaware of the drama unfolding in the basement. Rabbit bawled into The Jon’s shoulder and he hugged her tightly, his face strained, lip trembling, trying to keep it together for her sake.

 

.x.

 

            Thursday Morning

            Rabbit was quiet as she followed Wanda to the elevator down the hall then up to the kitchen. She seated herself at a small island in the center of the large room and unwrapped a bag of wheat bread.

            “I’m sorry, again, Rabbit. I know you just want everything to be smooth sailing, but families aren’t always happy with each other, you know.”

            “I know,” she said quietly. “Remember how Spine and me used ta’ fight?”

            Wanda laughed. “Boy, do I ever! Even back then, you were merciless!”

            Rabbit sat at attention. “I was?”

            “Are you kidding? I know you’ve forgotten some of that old stuff, but you teased the ever-loving daylights out of The Spine.” Wanda paused her rummaging in the fridge. “Makes me wonder if you were in love with him back then, too.”

            “I was not in love with him... back then.” Rabbit said, folding her arms tightly. “I loved him but that’s different.”

            Wanda laughed. “Sure, sure. Here, make some ham ones, I’ll make some cucs.” She passed her packages of ham and cheese slices and pushed a jar of mayonnaise and head of lettuce toward her that they could both use them then turned back to get the mustard.

            “I just wish that...” Rabbit started and shook her head, trying to hold it together. “I wish that Nikki would find happiness and if that happiness is somewhere else what am I gonna do to stop her from going?”

            Wanda sighed. “Rabbit, she’s not going anywhere...”

            “She’s going to school and she’ll be eighteen soon and then she can do whatever she wants so maybe then she’ll go find something somewhere that’ll put a smile back on her face and maybe she’ll send me a picture so I can see it again.” Tears fell on the piece of bread she’d been smearing the same bit of mayo onto for a good minute. “Crap,” she hissed and pushed the bread away. The knife skidded across the table and spun in place for a second. “Crap! I want to stop crying now!” Rabbit shouted. “But I can’t! I just can’t! The love of my life may be dead or maybe not but I just want to know and my daughter hates me and there’s nothing I can do or say to change either of those things!”

            In a move that would be considered out-of-character in any other circumstance, Wanda Walter grasped Rabbit’s left arm and pulled her forcibly into a tight hug.

            “What did I do?” Rabbit cried. “What didn’t I do? What can I do?”

            “Wait,” Wanda said. “She’s a Walter. Sometimes, it’s hard to acknowledge that the family only wants what’s best for you, because it’s more than just living in a house full of weirdoes and creepy stuff that other people can’t possibly understand. It’s our birthright and almost our duty and it can weigh heavy on us. I know. I went through it myself. Christ, I’ve been through it all and I’m still here. I still love everyone and I know how much they love me and I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.”

            Rabbit clutched her aunt tightly and soon her sobbing calmed and she released her to blow her nose loudly into a paper napkin. “You’re right, of course. It’s just so hard.”

            “Well,” Wanda scoffed and released her. “Just because she’s goin’ through some tough stuff, doesn’t mean Nikki’s gotta be mean to you. You’re doing your best and she’s got to know and respect that. And you,” she said sharply, “you’re exhausted. Promise me after you eat you sleep for a little while. We’ll wake you as soon as anything happens.”

            Rabbit nodded and they went back to working on making sandwiches for everyone.

In the hallway to the Kitchen, Nikola wiped her face with her t-shirt and slowly walked away.

 

.x.

            Not a half an hour after Rabbit finished her sandwich and was being urged again to sleep, her daughter slowly descended the stairs to lower level five once more.

            “Nikki...” Rabbit said softly.

            Much to her mother’s surprise she sat down next to her. “No news?” the teen asked in her deep, womanly-sounding voice.

            Rabbit shook her head. She wanted to reach out and grab her hand and squeeze it. She wanted to pull her head into her lap and stroke her silky black hair, so much like her father’s and tell her it was going to be alright. She wanted to be able to be her mother again, to be needed and loved again by her only child. Just as she had made her mind up to gently try to hold Nikola’s hand, the sound of footsteps coming from the stairwell to level six had everyone scrambling to their feet.

            “Protocol Seven cancelled.” Upgrade and The Jon said as they came back online. The Jon blinked a few times, noticing Rabbit and Nikola holding on to each other and staring past him at the fire door. It opened and Annie Walter let out a wail of relief as she saw her husband, looking worn and tired, emerge from the lower basement. He gave her a soft look that wasn’t quite a smile as she hugged him tightly. His son, however, stood a few feet away, and although it was clear he was relieved to see him alive, he frowned, deeply.

            Hatchworth helped Barbara up the stairs--a sprained left ankle taped up. He greeted his robot siblings who exhaled steamy sighs of relief.

            Quickly, Peter Walter V gently pushed his wife away and stepped toward Rabbit. Annie gasped as she noticed that Spine was not with them. “Rabbit,” he said. “I-I’m sorry.”

            For once, Rabbit did not burst into tears. She did not flail and scream and beat whatever was nearby with her small fists. She squeezed her daughter tighter for a moment then went limp as she fainted dead away.

 

.x.

            Yesterday

            Spine Walter cried out as the energy coursed through his veins. He thought how strange it was that something he was supposedly acclimated to should hurt so badly. He noticed his body felt light, weightless almost, and wondered if perhaps he’d died. No, his body was moving and he was moving with it. “Sorry, Pete,” he said. No one heard him.

 

            He awoke curled on his left side in a field. Everything ached as if all his muscles had been strained at once. He sat up slowly and looked around. The field was quite large. The sun was just rising and small inconsequential clouds were dispersing around it. To the east were more fields and rolling hills as far as the eye could see. To the west were taller hills, fairly close by, five, maybe ten miles away. To the north, a small pond, some swamp, and a few trees. To the south, a forest interspersed with patches of bedrock.

            Spine groaned as he stood up, the memory of what had happened coming back to him. “Great. Just where the heck am I, a National Park or something?” he wondered, staring at the mountains. He touched the communicator on his wrist. “Pete? You there? Barb?” Only static and a null-set displaying no signal answered. “Great.” He squinted at the mountains. “Huh, looks just like...”

If he had any color to lose from his pallid face, he would have done as his heart flipped and he spun around to the north and stared at the pond. “No way...” He looked down at his feet then all around, to the sky and the points of the compass. “Oh no.” Spine checked his communicator again, shouting into it, but it was as good as useless. “I didn’t go anywhere. The manor should be right here! There should be planes in the sky and noise from the highway.” He strained in the direction of the nearest major road and heard only bird song and the wind through the distant trees. “Nothing. I got sucked through the rift and this world is empty.” Spine sank to his knees in the tall grass and tried to process this fact. “Rabbit,” he whispered. “Nikola. Pete, everyone. I’m so sorry.”