the_spine: (Necktie)

Title: The First Time…
Fandom: Steam Powered Giraffe
Characters: P.A. Walter I, Thadeus Becile, mention of robots & Delilah
Prompt: 001 Beginnings
Word Count: 418
Rating: G
Summary: The beginning of it all?
Author's Notes: I don’t know why I wrote this backwards, it just seemed to fit.

The first time the steam-powered automatons heard their creator sing, the sound stirred something uneasy deep in their blue matter cores, as if the temperature had dropped several sudden degrees. It was sudden and unexpected. The musical note rose and fell in a keening wail. When they peered at Peter Walter, at his desk in the lab, his head was in his hands.
-But this was not the beginning.

The first time blue matter’s glow illuminated the eye sockets in the copper face he’d made, Peter Walter felt a surge of excitement and pride. This success would be only the first of many, just the start of a project to win the heart of the brilliant and lovely Delilah Moreau. Beside the waking automaton lay plans for an entire steam-powered band.
-But this was not the beginning.

The first time she walked into the lecture room, both men were lost. Perhaps it should have been a surprise to no one that two men so closely aligned would fall in love with the same woman. The competition for her affections started friendly, but the Cavalcadium held few fools, and their fellow members were not shocked to see the contest go sour. Thadeus Becile was first to take a step too far, running green matter experiments his colleagues warned against. Peter Walter took up the challenge with a vengeance, as the battle escalated into one that would shake the foundations of the entire Cavalcadium and end in ruins, while Delilah’s heart was lost forever to anyone.
-But this was not the beginning.

The first time Peter Walter stepped into the Cavalcadium was the first time he felt like he’d come home. His moment of awe was only interrupted by a heavyset man close to his own age struggling with an armload of books and blueprints. The sound of them hitting the floor was accompanied by, “Sorry! I’m new here, and I was just trying to bring in some ideas…”
Peter Walter helped the other man gather up his dropped plans, and what caught his eye grabbed his interest even more than the Cavalcadium itself. “I’m new, too. Is this… let’s go to a lab together…” He couldn’t wait to hear more about the blueprint he’d just picked up.
The stocky man smiled, tried to offer a handshake under the books, and dropped another. “Thadeus Becile-oops…”
Both men laughed, guessing at the beginning of a friendship that would, in the future, inspire them both to ever greater heights of scientific wonders.

Title: Michael in the Middle
Fandom: Steam Powered Giraffe
Characters: Michael Reed, Rabbit, The Spine
Prompt: 002 Middles
Word Count: 450
Rating: G
Summary: Michael gets in the middle of an argument.

“-Well you’re just a great, big, g-g-gawky dummins… kn-n-now nothing!” Rabbit’s stammering voice carried, echoing up the halls.
“You’re a clanking rust-heap!” The Spine’s usual bass tended to rise in pitch when he was truly aggravated.
Michael sighed and put down the guitar to go see what they were arguing about this time.
After more than a century of shared history, the two oldest automatons understood each other as few other people could. While The Jon and Hatchworth might have been nearly as old, there was some extra level of kinship between The Spine and Rabbit. P.A. Walter I had fathered more than one set of twins. For all that they shared, his first two creations were also as different as night and day; a prankster and a straight man. They were polar opposites, and knowing each other so well meant knowing all the right (or wrong) buttons to push, when they got into an argument… and argue they did. The Spine’s quiet yearning to be human, in particular, was a sore point with Rabbit. Rabbit’s devotion to their creator’s vision, on the other hand, rubbed The Spine the wrong way as it grew increasingly impractical with the passage of time. Usually these topics were carefully avoided in the name of peace in an always-chaotic household. Once in a while the tensions mounted, though, and when it snapped, things could turn ugly fast.
With all of this in mind, Michael approached the fight as if he were stepping into a landmine. Some days, the fragility of human flesh was the only thing that could stop two aging, walking metal tanks from coming to blows. Gritting his teeth, Michael stepped between them. “Take it easy guys! The whole mansion can hear you…” This may or may not have been true, but the absence of any other humans present to break it up meant nothing. Often nobody wanted to get in the middle of something like this, and thus everyone made themselves scarce.
They paused, both glaring. The Spine steamed quietly. Mismatched eyes narrowed, in Rabbit’s oxidized face.
“He said-d cowboys’re better ‘n pir-r-rates!” Rabbit blurted out with vehemence.
“All I said-d was-“ The Spine began to yell right back.
“Wait, that’s what you’re arguing about? Cowboys and pirates? That’s IT??!” Michael gaped.
Both automatons nodded, sullen and resentful still.
“…But …but everyone knows ninjas are the best!” With a manic gleam on his eye, Michael bolted from the room, leaving both robots sputtering. It would take them a moment to recover and give chase, and nobody made of that much metal ran fast. It was another argument successfully defused, and Michael would make good on his assertion by escaping any repercussions.

Title: The Face in the Mirror
Fandom: Steam Powered Giraffe
Characters: The Spine, P.A. Walter V & VI, mentions of others
Prompt: 005 Outsides
Word Count: 1,050
Rating: G
Summary: The Spine’s changes in appearance over time.
Author's Notes: A latex rubber mask attached to servos underneath always seemed to me like the best explanation for the older make-up, where The Spine’s face is all silver. I prefer the new look, but I can see the advantages of a solid mask for a robot who always wanted to look human.

Of all the Walter automatons, none had received more upgrades than The Spine. When he was new and young, overheating issues had prompted their creator to fit him with a row of smokestacks down his back, a feature that set him apart from the first automaton, Rabbit, and earned him his name. Later additions for battle were shared by the rest of his brethren, and were later removed, so he preferred not to count those. Even back home in peacetime, however, his patience and stoic demeanor made him well suited to sitting still in the lab while Colonel Walter I used him as a testing ground for newer features, only some of which proved worth carrying out on the others.
Then in 1955, their original creator over a decade in the ground, the U.S. Government visited the manor with new roboticists, and new ideas for the big silver robot who had already proven himself in two world wars. P.A. Walters II and III were wary, and so was The Spine himself, but the family could use the money. There was also the fact that it was made quietly clear saying ‘No’ would have repercussions. Because The Spine felt responsible for his family, and because he was, as the men from the government reminded him, an item of property, he went quietly with no objections. The government scientists did not ask his opinions, or chat with him as they worked, the way the Walters had always done. He was, repeatedly without warning, and for days at a time, turned off.
When they were finished, The Spine was allowed to view the upgrades in a big mirror, and was astonished to discover he liked what he saw. The new titanium alloy spine that allowed him to detach from the rest of his chassis was strange, but something he would grow used to in time. That feature paled in comparison to what the mirror showed. Filled out, smokestacks gone, his new silhouette showed almost human proportions. Most striking of all was his face. It was still silver, but smooth, solid, a latex-rubber mask that covered all the way down his neck so the edge was covered by clothes. They had given him hair. It was only a wig, of course, but the overall effect left him staring. The mask, they told him, could be changed for one of flesh tones, or covered with make-up. The idea was, if needed, he could pass for an ordinary human being.
When The Spine returned home, Rabbit in particular was horrified, declaring it a crime against Pappy’s work. They did not speak to each other for a week. The rest of them seemed startled, possibly disturbed by the drastic change, but were too kind to say so to his new, more human face. The Spine was enchanted with his new appearance, and everyone could tell.
Ultimately the government’s dreams of using him for spy work fell through, which was probably for the best. Events in Vietnam sent all the automatons home in crates, and reconstruction left The Spine not quite the same, body stripped down slightly again. Still, over the years he snuck in make-up, practiced his old spy programming, and slipped out to play at being human once in a while. Every time that smooth, pale pink face looked back at him in the mirror, it soothed some strange yearning deep in his core.
The decades turned, and the band moved from playing at Balboa Park for change to concerts in small venues, then a lengthy stint at the zoo two summers in a row. It was this last that took a toll on The Spine’s good looks. The molds for his latex masks were getting old, but the servos beneath that let him show expressions tended to stretch the material out over time, and heat only made it degrade faster. The second summer at the zoo, it was very hot. Some days between shows all three robots simply sat, guzzling water and recovering for the next set. The Spine began to go through masks at an alarming rate, his own steam helping to melt them from the inside. His spinal clamps, too, which connected his detachable self to his chassis, began to act up and give him trouble. He was not, as automatons go, new. When the chaos of bringing Hatchworth out of the vault, and seeing The Jon off died down, P.A. Walters V and VI suggested it was well past time The Spine get a serious upgrade.
He was tired, and that morning his face in the mirror had been a sagging silver mess. They went down to the lab, and The Spine let them turn him off (They always asked him, first), and he knew in his core that when he came back online the face he knew would be gone.
They let him dress, as both father and son explained his upgrades. His spinal clamps had been retuned, and Mr. Walter V warned they might become a problem again just due to their design, but for now they felt fine. He was putting on his vest when they finally brought over a mirror, and he stopped, and stared.
Silver face plates showed dark seams between them, and his cheeks were adjustable vents, to help him let out steam. It was… robotic, and yet. The sculpted, Walter family nose was there. His black rubber lips were pliable, expressive. His eyebrows, thick and black as ever, arched and slid up and down independent of each other. He still had a black wig, hairline high, but distinguished. Freed from thick latex rubber, his face was more emotive than ever, and somehow very much his.
The metal plates harkened back to his original design, with every modern improvement he could hope for. The Spine was a new man.
“…If the overheating issues continue, we might add heat sinks along your back, later…” P.A. Walter VI continued after the description of changes.
His father nudged him, and nodded at the big silver robot, who was making faces at himself in the mirror, in between dazed smiles.
“We’ll… er, just leave you to it, then…?” The younger man waited for a response briefly before giving up.
The Spine was too busy looking at himself to even notice.
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The Spine

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