Hazel paced the small room despite the lack of floorspace. Most of the room was filled with chairs for those waiting. There was a small table with magazines, but she couldn't even bring herself to pick one up to rifle through for appearance sake. She could only pace. And wait.
The cheerful young woman at the receptionist desk watched her now and then. Hazel had caught the occasional disconcerted look on her face, but she made no move to break the silence. She wondered how many others had paced the floor she tread. Or was she the first to fill that space with worried wonderings and dwindling hope?
Finally the woman in the labcoat from earlier appeared. "Miss Rhodes?"
Hazel tried not to pounce on the woman, but she knew she didn't sound calm when she voiced her query. "Yes? Is everything alright?"
"I'm sorry, Miss Rhodes. But there's nothing more we can do."
Even though it was the news she was expecting, Hazel felt her heart tighten painfully. "But...but just last month-" She got out.
"Miss Rhodes, it's just a matter of old age. I'm sorry."
"Can I...go in and see?"
The woman seemed a little taken back by her words, but she nodded. "I suppose you can come in. But under the circumstances, I should remind you that with memory failing-"
Hazel raised her hand to cut her off. "I understand. I just want to see for myself."
The woman opened the door to let her inside. "It's the second hallway on the right. Last door on the left."
Hazel meant to say 'Thank-you', but the words wouldn't come. She moved up the hallway, her heels clicking on the linoleum flooring. The walk seemed to take too long, and she resisted the urge to run. To draw attention to herself. Finally the door was in front of her. She took a deep breath before reaching out to grasp the handle and enter.
Wires led from different machines, connecting to his head and arms. Fragile. That's what came to mind. He looked fragile. For a moment there was no response. Than something whirred and clicked, and flickering lights came on inside the robotic eyes.
"Unit Hazel." The voice was staticy. There'd been a time it had been crystal clear. The best money could buy.
Hazel came over, eyes taking in dents in the once flawless metal. Was that a hint of rust on the metal treads? "Zain, how do you feel?"
"Many of my mechanisms do not seem to be running correctly." The robot confessed. "I asked the specialist if the parts were replaceable, but she did not respond to the question."
Hazel forced a smile, reaching out a hand to rest on the mechanical digits that was Zain's version of a hand. "Of course they are. You'll get some shiny new parts. You're sure to love them. But they're going to have to shut down your power for awhile first. Alright?"
"Unit Hazel is lying."
She bit her lip, trying to reign in her emotions. "Of-of course I'm not lying."
"My parts are too old to be replaced. Unit Zane will be taken permanently off-line. Correct?"
Tears sprang to her eyes, and she leaned her head down to rest on Zane's metal torso. "Oh, Zain, I'm so sorry. There's nothing more that can be done. Even if we transferred you to a new body..."
"My..."Brain" is failing. Yes?"
There was fancy words for it. But she'd always used brain. The fact that he used it now only worsened the burning sensation in her eyes. "Yes..."
Hazel was crying in earnest now. Zain had been hers since she was a teenager. A gift from her parents. The best money could buy. While others traded their robots in for newer models year after year, all she'd ever done was bought improvements for Zain. The robot had been her companion for nearly twenty years. And now she was going to lose him - forever.
"Unit Hazel, do not leak water. It is bad for your mechanisms as well."
Hazel gave a small laugh, semi-hysterical in nature. "Oh, Zain. What am I going to do without you?"
For that Zain had no reply, and silence reigned in the room. Hazel slowly got the tears under control and raised her head off Zain, wiping at the drops she could see on his metal.
"Will Unit Hazel remember Unit Zain?"
"Oh, yes. Unit Hazel will most definitely remember Unit Zain. Always and always." Hazel took in a shaky breath, fighting more tears.
There was a knock on the door, and the woman in the labcoat entered. "Are you all done Miss Rhodes?"
Hazel took the mechanical digits in her hand, squeezing softly. She felt the tiniest of pressures back. "I wanted to stay."
The woman only nodded as she sat down at a computer to one side, typing something into it. Hazel watched as the light in the robotic eyes flickered. The digits holding hers squeezed down tightly for a moment, making her fingers throb. Then they released, and the light went out. A familiar whispery sound stopped, and she realized that it was part of Zain's motors. She'd grown so accustomed to the noise, she only noted it because of it's absence.
The woman stood up, watching her. "Miss Rhodes?"
Hazel only turned from the room and ran. She ran out the door onto the street, tears spilling down her cheeks and not caring one bit who saw them.