Call Me Bunny
Steam Powered Giraffe Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah

Chapter Three

The atmosphere in lab AA was tense as The Spine and Hatchworth watched Peter Walter VI examine Rabbit. The young man sighed, pushed a pair of headphones down around his neck and unplugged the tool he was listening through from Rabbit’s chest. The other devices around him whirred, buzzed and pulsed, but the bot’s frame was leaden.

“Rabbit was built in 1896,” Walter stated and picked up a worn, leather-bound journal. Flipping through the pages he skimmed the content written in a fine, nineteenth century hand. “He’s always been a little off—always had malfunctions and glitches.” He closed the book with a firm gesture. “Perhaps it’s time.”

Hatchworth took a staggering step backwards. The Spine stepped forward and grimaced. “Time for what?”

Peter Walter’s face was dark. “Time to let him go.”

“No!” both bots shouted. “No, please, sir,” The Spine corrected. “Don’t. He’s our friend. Surely something can be done?” He gestured to the bank of devices steadily making noise.

Walter shook his head. “Spine, these are just diagnostics, you know that. They’re watching, not doing. And they’ve not detected a thing in three days. There’s nothing left,” he said and started pulling the wires and powering down the testing machines.

“No...” Hatchworth muttered over and over and started walking in a tight circle. “This isn’t happening.”

“Guys, it’s happened. I’m sorry. I’ll look into waking another bot for SPG soon.”

“We don’t want another robot!” The Spine shouted indignantly. “We want Rabbit! Can’t you just pour more Blue Matter in and...”

“No, I can’t!” Walter shouted. Both robots grew still and stared at him. “Do you think this is a decision I’ve come to lightly? I’ve not slept for three days!” He saw the shocked, hurt looks on their faces, ran a hand over his head, and calmed down. “It’s not that easy. Blue Matter is... It’s more than just fuel. It’s special, and after one hundred years or more it doesn’t just propel you, it is you.” He touched Rabbit’s chest just over his repaired but vacant power core. “When it’s gone, it’s gone.”

“Gone to robot heaven,” Hatchworth said at a whisper. The Spine folded his arms around himself and shook his head.

Walter was about to argue with them that there was no such place when the double doors to the lab burst open in an explosive clatter and the two Walter Girls and their charge practically fell in.

“Paige! Brianna! What on Earth is going on?” Walter shouted and ran to assist them.

“Sir!” Brianna pleaded with him. “We need to get her to Rabbit, quickly!” Bunny groaned as another loud heartbeat sounded. The blue glow was much brighter this time. “The Blue Matter’s going critical!”

“Spine! Hatch! Get out of the way!” Peter Walter shouted and effortlessly lifted the now semi-conscious Bunny into his arms. The robots stepped back. He rushed to Rabbit’s suspended body and looked around, confused. “I’m not sure what we should do, er...” He put her feet on the ground and draped her arm over his shoulder. One of her arms brushed Rabbit’s body and an arc of blue energy snapped between the two. “Ah! That’ll do. Girls, help me, we’re going to sort of...” They rushed over and together laced Bunny’s arms around Rabbit’s neck. “That’s it. Now, you two are the only ones who can handle her. Make sure she doesn’t slip off.”

Brianna raised a brow. “Are you sure this is enough?” she asked over her shoulder, holding the woman’s right arm in place.

“Hope so. Better that nothing!” Walter said with a lopsided smile.

Paige held Bunny’s waist with her right arm and held her left hand in hers. Her heart beat irregularly and she drew heaving breaths. “Paige, looks like this is it,” she gasped and squeezed her hand. “Guys...” Bunny whispered. “I’m sorry I c-c-caused such a fuss,” she panted. “Spine? Next time I say… I don’t need maintenance… smack me, ok?” She smiled.

            The two bots gawked at the brunette. “Rabbit...?” The Spine asked, his voice cracking. Paige buried her face in Bunny’s hair and hugged her tightly.

            Another heartbeat sounded. “Let go!” Walter shouted and his girls let her go and jumped back. Bunny winced. The blue glow was replaced with a huge arc of blue energy that cracked like lightning, blowing the lab lights out. Bunny screamed as light shot out of her body, breaking it apart like a jigsaw puzzle.

            “My stars...” Walter gasped and squinted to see. Brianna hugged Paige as she screamed in agony. The light suddenly seemed to flow backwards toward where the woman’s heart had been and became a single, intense point of light. Then everything went dark.

            The Walter Girls sank to the floor and sobbed and the humans were left in the pitch darkness. Only the robots could see anything and they stared, hard. “Come on,” Hatchworth breathed. “Come back.”

            A soft, humming sound was their first indication. Then, a warm, green glow as the metal man on the wall lifted his head and opened his eyes. The lab lights kicked back on and everyone held their breath.

            Mr. Walter approached his great-grandfather’s automaton. “Rabbit?” he asked.

            “Hiya, pops,” Rabbit’s voice squeaked. “I guess I’m grounded, huh?”

            The room exploded with cries of joy.

 

.x.

Epilogue

Three days later, the Walter Girls finally finished the report on “the First National Bank Incident” as it was officially called. Peter Walter V had interrogated the two assistants on every detail of what happened. He neglected to do this individually, however, so their stories were straight. They reported that the suicide-woman had woken and been uncooperative and silent. Three days later the Blue Matter suddenly went critical. He was unhappy that they had not kept good vital records on the last of the three days, but they begged ignorance; their expertise was in mechanics, not medicine.

The case was closed and Paige breathed a sigh of relief. It appeared that Peter Walter VI hadn’t realized she took “Bunny” off the manor grounds and Rabbit hadn’t spilled the beans, either. It was over, but something still haunted her conscious. Paige gave up trying to sleep around three o’clock, put on her robe and slippers and descended from her fifth-floor room to the second floor.

It was not a place she liked to go. Usually, when the elevator doors opened it was like stepping out into a warzone of crazy antics, music blaring and hundred-year-old metal men behaving like small children. Tonight, time was on her side. At three, the hall was silent. She passed four doors. Two were unmarked and padlocked, one was marked with a galvanized metal sign that read “The Spine” and another had an intricately riveted sign made up of cleverly layered gears and spare watch parts that made up the name “Hatchworth”. The last door was more worn than the others and did not have proper writing on it. Currently, there was only a stylized drawing of a rabbit wearing goggles tacked to the wood with brass upholstery tacks.

Paige stopped in front of Rabbit’s door and took a deep breath. She held her fist up to knock but hesitated, made a face and lowered the hand. She shifted her weight and folded her arms around herself. Her hair was braided for the night and she stopped hugging herself and played with the end of the braid nervously. She shook her head, raised the fist again, then lowered it again. The Walter Girl let out another, heavier sigh and was raising the fist a third time when the door swung open fast enough to flutter her robe in its wake. She shouted in alarm and put a hand to her chest and Rabbit mirrored her sound and motion.

            “You scared me to death!” Paige cried. “How long have you been standing there?”
            “How long have you been standing there?” Rabbit shot back. He was dressed down without his trademark hat or vest.

            She frowned, but knew he had a point. “Sorry,” she said, glancing down from his green eyes that stared unblinking into hers. “Can I come in?”

            That made him blink. Rabbit stepped back and made a sweeping gesture with this hand, allowing her to pass.

            His room was about fourteen by fourteen feet square and had two windows on only the far wall. These were covered by dusty red velvet drapes. A single table lamp shone behind him, giving the room a cavernous look. A tattered, green velvet-covered Victorian settee sat on the left side and as it was the only thing not covered with toys or instruments (or clothes or other unidentifiable objects as was practically everything else in the room) Paige decided to sit on that. The springs were shot and she sank down into the cushions but did her best not to look flustered. Rabbit sat cross-legged on the floor in front of her.

            “Can’t sleep?” he asked.

            “Not so well, no.”

            “Yeah.” He nodded as if he could have similar problems.

            Paige fidgeted and played with the end of her braid. “Rabbit, I wanted to talk to you about...”

            “I know,” he said, quietly. “You can. It’s ok.” The soft, sympathetic look on his face made her shiver involuntarily.

            “Ok. Good,” she said, straightening and folding her hands in her lap. “The Walters didn’t know it was you. They...” she started. “Originally, when Brianna first brought you in, the Fifth looked you over.”

            “The Fifth did?” Rabbit repeated, sitting up at attention.

            “Yes. He worked on you for about a half an hour.” Something in the way his eyes stared at her made her stomach flip-flop so she trained them on her hands, took a deep breath and went for it. “While Brianna tended to the woman, I was with the Fifth. He tried like hell to get you started again, but soon realized that the Blue Matter was gone. When Brianna reported that it was most likely all absorbed by the woman’s body as she died, he stopped trying. He assigned the Sixth to make certain that your automaton had no vitals for three days. We were assigned to watch the woman and alert them when she went critical. We were supposed to keep her sedated, but...” Paige looked up and stifled a gasp as she saw that Rabbit was still smiling sweetly and compassionately at her. “I just couldn’t. As soon as I figured out that you were in there I couldn’t keep you locked up until... I just wanted to give you a little happiness before...” Tears came to her eyes.

            “Aw, Paige, it’s ok. I’m fine, see?” Rabbit exclaimed, popping up to his feet in one flowing, effortless movement. Once standing his body cracked and hissed, bending at the waist. “Well, as ok as I ever am...” he grumbled, straightening back up.

            “I know,” the Walter Girl said, quickly wiping her eyes. “But you had a heart attack and I knew it was going to happen and I didn’t tell you and you were so scared and then you screamed and the Blue Matter destroyed you and...” she cried, her voice becoming more high pitched as the tears spilled down.

            Rabbit took two steps toward her and went down on his knees. He caught her hands up in his metal ones and held them. “Paige, Paige! You’re leakin’ all over the place. D-d-d-don’t cry! Aw, come on, now, don’t! I know why you did what you did and I’m thankful, I tell ya!” He cocked his head to the side, the tails of the bandana that covered his skull swished to the left with the movement. “I got to be human for a day. I got to feel grass under my feet and sun on my skin. I got to eat yummy food and taste it, too! I know what ice cream actually tastes like! I got to breathe and get winded. I had a sugar high! And, yes, I got to feel pain, and fear and sadness, but I also felt joy and happiness.” He gently lifted her chin with his curved right index finger. “Paige, I got to do the whole thing—the whole human thing. It was wonderful.”

            Paige sniffled. “You’re just saying that to make me feel better.”

            “I am not,” Rabbit said, testily, lowering his hand and rocking back up to his feet. “I don’t lie. I don’t think I know how to lie. Not about th-th-things like that, anyhow.” His frown softened. “Really, Paige. Thank you. You did good.”

            The Walter Girl pursed her lips and sniffled, wiping her nose on the sleeve of her robe. “Thanks, Rabbit.” He helped her get out of the dilapidated settee and to her feet. For a tense moment, they stood facing each other. Paige’s eyes were on their feet—her own blue slippers and his shiny leather boots.

“If you want,” Rabbit said. “You can still call me Bunny.”

            She looked up and smiled back at him. “Ok.”

            The automaton showed her to the door, stepping over piles of clothes and kicking a small keyboard out of the way as he went. “Goodnight, Paige. Sleep well, now,” he said, bowing to her.

            “You, too.” Paige nodded and grinned. Goodnight, Bunny.”

END


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