Damaged Goods

Prologue

by Dr. Seth

Intros and excuses!

Hereís my pathetic attempt at a BG&R fanfic that I hope will be enjoyed. I just felt the need to explain something so people wonít get scared reading it. Eh, I doubt much scares you guys anyways. Iím just saying a character has been altered in a way that some people will find unflattering and uncharacteristic. This is a total 'what if?' situation that explores certain features that we (my friends and I) thought would occur during or would be necessary for the Big Guy Project. I hope I didnít give too much away. ;) To give you a quick overview of my take on the series, I must say that I donít think it takes place in our future at all. If you hear me mention dates or something, they have nothing to do with our time period. Itís a whole other dimension. Also, I write like crap! Nothing really interesting happens in my stories, and itís kind of just meaningless rambles.

Editor's Note: Shyeah, right.

Itís practically a stupid rehashing of some of the episodes. If youíre wondering why sometimes Iíll skip over an episode, itís mostly because it probably turned out the same way, or I donít really like it. I would generally ask anyone to fill in the blanks, but I have projected futures for my version of the characters and I donít want any plans compromised. And if you actually want to read a good fic, I will shamelessly plug my friend Dr. Calvinís wonderful work. Sheís a tough act to follow. Oh, and those who are easily offended...In real life, Iím a practical pottymouth. Ask Dr. Calvin. I didnít bring too many obscenities into this fic, but what Iím saying is, be prepared. Itís mild for some people, and for other people itís too much. Everyone gives Duane a really cute or dramatic/heroic nickname, and I call him...well, youíll just find out, now wonít you?;) I would probably say these are mostly PG - PG 13. Okay, try to enjoy. Thanks.

Dr. Seth


CHAPTER 0: NEW TOY!

Rusty struggled through Quarkís meeting room, which was at present filled with a number of scientists and army personnel, all fresh from his debut and busy discussing his potential and promise. He fought his way through a cluster of scientists ready to probe his positronic brain, and spotted Dr. Slate standing by the ice sculpture in his likeness, talking with another young scientist.

"Dr. Slate!" he cried out, rushing towards her. She let him latch on to her, seeming at least a little bemused. "Dr. Slate, did I do good? I kept my big trap zipped, just like Dr. Donovan said to!" he happily announced, yanking at the ends of her lab coat.

"Yeah. Donovanís a card, all right," she said, patting his head.

"Well, can I go now? I wanna go back to my room and play video games. You said this would be a fun party, but itís just a bunch of stuffy grownups. Itís boring!" he pouted. She rolled her eyes. "Okay," she conceded. "If youíll excuse me, Dr. Patterson," she said to the Quark scientist she had been chatting with. She could see he too had itchy fingers, and she concluded it was just as well that Rusty leave the party; so many of her eager colleagues were leering at him and she was afraid they would soon pop open his head and rifle about in his programming!

As they left the room for the comparatively deserted halls, Rusty caught sight of a lone figure walking in the same direction they were, which was the wrong direction for guests, since it led further into Quark and they didnít need anyone getting themselves into any trouble. She smirked to herself as she noticed the figure was wearing the crisp formal grey uniform of the air force. She detested the fact that the military had to be involved in her project, and had a hard time mustering a polite attitude for those types. Just as she was about to correct the man as to which way the exit was, Rusty zipped over and tapped him on the shoulder, hovering in midair. This caught Erika by surprise, and she hurried over to scold him.

"Hey mister!" Rusty called. "Why are ya leaviní so soon? Doncha wanna stay for cake and soda?" Rusty innocently implored. The man turned around to face him, which startled Rusty into falling back onto Dr. Slate.

"What were they thinking?" The man rubbed his chin as he peered down at the little robot clambering to his feet.

"Size doesnít matter?" Dr. Slate interjected. "Dr. Erika Slate, Rustyís engineer." She coldly extended her hand. He briskly took her fingers with his left hand and gave a quick, firm shake. At first she found it odd that he shook her hand with his left hand, and merely attributed it to the fact he was holding his uniformís hat in his right hand, but on second glance, she saw creeping burn scars all over the top of that hand into his sleeve and deduced he must be self-conscious. In fact, she could see why Rusty had been startled at first -- his face had sustained some sort of damage as well. His left eye drooped a bit at the corner, exposing a peek of under-eye meat, and a dash of his right eyebrow was missing. His nose had been repeatedly broken, and there was a vertical scar bisecting it running into his forehead. Right underneath a twisted curl of his hair on his forehead lay a large goose egg, and thanks to his extremely diminutive stature, she had a good view of it. Heck, if she werenít wearing heels, theyíd probably be eye level, she thought. As she was wondering how this had happened to him, she noticed he was heavily decorated, a Medal of Honor in the center of other notable clusters.

"Lieutenant Duane Hunter, Big Guyís, uh... chief mechanic," he introduced himself. "No offense," he grunted "but whatís the use of sending this..." A flippant gesture with his hand. "...toy to do a manís job?"

"Rusty may not look like much," she regretted saying, "but heís equal to, if not better than, the Big Guy."

"And Ďsides, Iím not a toy, Iím a boy robot!" Rusty said proudly peering from his hiding space behind Dr. Slateís legs. "And Big Guyís not a man, heís a robot, too! The bestest darned robot ever! And Iím gonna sure as shootiní try my best to be just like him when I grow up!"

"'Sure as shootiní?!'" The dimples his condescending smirk produced did nothing for his scarred face. "This is nothing but a test marketed bundle of catchphrases! I canít believe weíd decommission the Big Guy for Donovanís trash!" His words stung both Dr. Slate and Rusty. She squeezed the robotís hand to reassure him. "Big Guy may not have been cute or cuddly," he continued, "but he got the job done with a minimum of drivel!"

"Excuse me, but Big Guy was also chock full of these catchphrases -- drivel, in your terms -- and used primitive weaponry and the most basic artificial intelligence. Rusty is one hundred percent state-of-the-art, completely efficient, biologically friendly, can sustain greater damage, not to mention he fits into a lot of places much easier. That Big Guy of yours was always crashing through walls and blowing up the street because he couldnít fit into the sewers and what-not. Traffic was killer." She shook her head recalling all of the times she was late for work while waiting as construction crews repaired some monster-battle-induced road damage. Lt. Hunter seemed a bit offended, as he pursed his lips and furrowed his brow. "Also, his super-advanced human emotion grid will help him better serve mankind, and is a definite improvement from his purely robotic predecessor." She held her ground with a lie she felt no conviction of but which had everyone else persuaded.

"Yeah, the human emotion grid." Again, the smirk.

"You have a problem with it?" she coolly asked.

"A human emotion grid is the last thing any robot going into this line of work needs. Shit, if Big Guy had an emotion grid, heíd probably be a suicidal maniac whoíd never be able to sleep." The cocky smirk evolved into a cocky grin, exposing a few chipped teeth, one incisor missing.

"You said a bad word, mister," Rusty squeaked, retreating further into Dr. Slateís protective embrace.

"Oh? And what makes a word bad or good? Whatíd that word ever do to you, huh, kid?" Lt. Hunter leaned in closer to Rustyís face, almost completely obscured by Dr. Slateís lab coat. Rusty gripped Dr. Slateís hand and quiveringly looked up at her.

"Dr. Slate!" he whimpered. She set her jaw.

"You- youíre just confusing him to be cruel!" She glared at Lt. Hunter.

"Thatís exactly what Iím talking about!" He angled a small, yet broad hand at Rusty. "If a stupid army grunt like myself can confuse him, heís gonna have a damn difficult time dealing with the regular catastrophes that threaten New Tronic, not to mention the United States of America!"

In the silence his outburst produced, Dr. Slate realized she could feel her blood boiling and her face was most likely flushed a deep crimson. She certainly didnít look like the winning end of this argument. She had never been so infuriated in her life, and she wanted nothing more than to argue him into the ground, but Rusty called for retreat.

"Dr. Slate," he whined, "letís go, I want to go now." He pleadingly tugged at her coat.

"All right, Rusty." She exhaled deeply. "Goodbye, Lieutenant. Oh, and the exit is the other way, around the right," she said tersely.

As she turned away, she heard him call her name.

"Dr. Slate!" She swore there was a bit of remorse present. "Look, uh, I... respect your work. I was really impressed by your artificial intelligence project, and of course, by Rusty, and the human emotion grid. I know, though, his place isnít in battle, but I imagine you didnít have a choice."

She hated to admit it was true. Every word of it. There were other things she didnít need to say that she might have suspected he knew -- the loosening of the Three Laws, of course the test-marketing, the consumer reports, the other Rusties -- the ones not outfitted with a nucleo-protonic arsenal. Some times she was damn sorry she agreed to this compromise -- half weapon, half artificially intelligent robot equipped with experimental emotions. Right now she was most certainly sorry she had to make him so curious -- he just had to go and bother the most infuriating, not to mention the most unfortunately perceptive, military puppet on the face of the earth! She continued her derogative monologue in her head as she walked on without acknowledging his statements. He sighed, a bit sheepishly, then replaced his hat, turned towards the exit, and left.

************************************************

Two hours after what would have been considered a decent power-down time, Erika had finally wrangled Rusty down. She decided to hook him up to the nucleo-protons while he was "asleep" since trying to refuel him while he was awake and wiggly was a mess. This gave her about 30 minutes for reflection upon the dayís events. As she basked in the glow of the nucleo-protonic umbilical, she noted that his unveiling had gone rather well, even if it was rather hectic and nerve-racking. She let a harsh sigh whistle through her teeth hoping to expel all of todayís accumulated stress. It had been a long day, and Rusty had done his part to make it longer. The problem was, she couldnít decide if his sudden invention of a "bogeyman" lurking about in his room was just a delay tactic to let him stay up later, or a genuine phobia created in what she hoped was his imagination. This most definitely would be an interesting development. In the brief month heíd been activated, sheíd seen him draw and play with his toys in ways that would suggest he was capable of creating fanciful situations, but now he had created an unseen enemy, as most children do, and she wondered how this would affect him in the long run, especially considering his function!

Again, she sighed. She pivoted away from Rusty, bunching her fists deep within her lab coatís pockets. He was right, he was right, he was right! The endless tickertape of her mind stretched on and on with the single phrase that had been jammed into her head since her meeting with that officer in the hall. Rusty hadnít even fought one single monster and already he was scared of a little thing like the dark. She struggled with the intense, hot desire to yank out his little emotion grid and end his fears and worries, and she so regretted that the decision wasnít hers anymore.

Rusty was a mutt -- not wholly belonging to science, not entirely another military weapon. Donovan, in his infinitely flawed wisdom, sought to kill two very different birds with one stone. Thusly, she was forced to satisfy both of his outrageous and premature demands and produce an emotion grid for a fully functioning artificially intelligent robot for the scientific community, and also suit the military and publicís desires for what they thought would be a better, more efficient protector. And since Donovan was all about money, he decided to cut funds to her emotion grid research and instead combine it with the new project for Big Guyís replacement, and he sold the idea to everyone too early. Technically, Rusty was still a prototype, and instead of teaching him everything, as she had originally intended to do in her emotion grid project, she had to cheat a little, and upload all sorts of combat, language, and basic social skills information into him. That idiot was right -- this was going to produce a suicidal insomniac.

That Lt. Hunter, unfortunately, was the only one who probably realized the implication this held -- and yet, understanding this he still taunted Rusty, quite harshly, in fact -- in fact, perhaps to prove his point, he sought to produce these results! How did she know that Rustyís bogeyman wasnít just a figment, and was perhaps just the lingering image of that jerk? She hated to say it, but the man had been deformed acutely -- though it was not debilitating -- probably in some sort of war-hero-type action, judging by his many medals. Rusty had never seen a human with such physical distortion. That coupled with his cruel teasing, had perhaps scared Rusty so badly he was haunted by his image. Dr. Slate knew better than to judge literature by its exterior, and it was mostly his actions that fueled her anger. She couldnít help thinking, though, that his face was rather interesting and she would probably long to stare at it and study it indefinitely if the man it belonged to didnít make her want to break that crooked nose all over again.

That crooked nose...she leaned up against the wall in Rustyís room that was covered with most of the Big Guy propaganda posters and tried to piece his face together again....That crooked nose, flanked by two of the most gorgeous green eyes she had ever seen, except the eyelids on the left one drooped terribly, with a little pink pocket exposed. He had that scar that ran from the tip of his nose straight up into his dark, brown hair that was all flecked with grey, thinning a bit on the sides. It was molded into a perfect curl, probably to cover up that huge knot on his forehead. There was also that eyebrow with all the patches missing. On one side of his strong jawline, his right ear perched, rather gnarled, also missing some chunks. And nestled within that pockmarked, scarred skin lay his jack-o-lantern grin, all chipped with one glaring gap, a little scar curling his lip upward slightly.

Pow! Her imaginary knuckles crumpled that crooked nose. That was for Rusty! she thought gleefully, imagining tears blossoming in his exposed eye meat. This oneís for me! Again her hands flew out to inflict damage on the helpless lieutenant. And this....This oneís all for you, handsome.

She narrowed her eyes at her own pitiful fantasy, thinking it rather callous and low on her part. He was the only one who seemed to understand, at least a little, but heíd still been rude. With any luck, this would be the last time sheíd ever see him.

"Jerk," she still felt the need to say aloud.

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On to Chapter 1!

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