Real Boy

Part 1

by Mara (talitha_shipman at tayloru.edu)
9/18/01

e-mail comments to talitha_shipman at tayloru.edu or at ketch at hotmail.com

Chapter One

The tiny craft rocketed through the void of space hundreds of times faster than the speed of light. It was looking for something. In fact, it had been looking for centuries. Traveling through long-forgotten spacelanes, skimming the atmospheres of countless uninhabited worlds, it had come up emptyhanded. Not one of the planets it had visited had met its needs. Now the craft was getting tired. It was reaching the end of its programmed life. It feared that it would never complete its mission. Space was so empty. It was sure its creators had never guessed how lonely it would be on the long voyage. After all, it was just a machine.

Ahead lay one last stop, a small blue-green world that the machineís creators had listed as devoid of intelligent life. Making a judgment call, the machine calculated its trajectory and rushed towards the planet as fast as its engines would let it go. Perhaps the creators had been wrong. Perhaps at last, after hundreds of thousands of years, it would complete its mission.

* * * * *

Rusty the boy robot was playing video games on a bright and sunny Saturday morning when he noticed a commotion going on outside Dr. Slateís lab door. Dr. Donovan was out there, and he was quite sure he could pick up three unfamiliar voices as well. Curious as always, Rusty paused his game of Battle Dragon Space Cadets to go see what was up.

Rusty stopped just inside the lab doorway to view the scene unfolding before him. Dr. Donovan, Dr. Slateís boss and the CEO of Quark Industries, along with three people in dark colored suits, were arguing. Jenny the monkey, Donovanís sarcastic and snippy talking monkey, was nowhere to be seen. That surprised Rusty. Usually, Jenny was always sitting on one of Dr. Donovanís shoulders, spouting rude remarks to anyone in earshot. The other three people, Rusty soon realized, were part of Quarkís Board of Directors. Rusty had heard Dr. Slate talking about them. They were the ones that made all of the decisions around Quark. Rarely seen, but often felt, they were part of the driving force behind Quarkís success. The other part was probably Jennyís marketing ploys, but of course, Dr. Donovan would never admit to that.

"I donít care how much it takes to develop it, itís worth the cost," Dr. Donovan fumed. "I already have buyers lined up." Donovan folded his arms over his chest in an indignant show of bravado.

"Itís not viable," a dark-skinned older woman spat back. "Who knows what it can do? Itís alien technology. I cannot afford another one of your mistakes, Dr. Donovan." The woman leaned forward as she emphasized the word 'mistakes.' "Iím sure you remember your failure with the nurds."

"And that unfortunate incident with the robo-gel gone crazed partycrasher," the second Director put in. He was tall and had white hair, just like the man standing next to him.

The third Director held up his hands to calm his colleagues. Added to his tall stature was a grizzled appearance that couldnít be completely hidden by the tailored suit he wore. He turned to Dr. Donovan and spoke in a cultured voice that possessed a bit of an accent Rusty couldnít identify. "How long do you estimate will it take to develop the new technology into something we can actually use?"

Donovan rubbed his hands together as he glanced at the angry woman Director. "Iíd say five months. That would give us plenty of time to come up with all kinds of practical applications for the device."

"Very well," the third director said. "Iíll give you ten million to work with, and if you go over the five month trial period, the project is canceled. Pick your tech team and send daily reports to my office in Berlin."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," Dr. Donovan said.

The third director turned on his heel and walked away, the other board members in tow. Dr. Donovan thought Ms. Shriff looked decidedly unhappy as she stalked away behind Dr. Culver. The old hag had always hated him for some reason. She probably thought he was too reckless, too much of a risk-taker.

"Oh, well, thatís how we pay the bills, sister," he said quietly to her receding back. As far as Donovan was concerned, Quark had bloomed since he had taken over the day-to-day operation of the company. And no one could convince him otherwise. Certainly Ms. Shriff couldnít.

Rusty cocked his head as Donovan walked away. The grumpy lady had said something about alien technology. Rusty wanted to see it. He quietly followed Dr. Donovan to see if he was going to look at this new technology.

Dr. Donovan was indeed going to see the alien technology. He made a beeline for a top security lab where several technicians were working on decoding the secrets of the small space probe that had fallen to Earth several weeks ago. So far they had been unsuccessful in retrieving any data stored in the strange probeís network. Rusty sneaked in past the heavy vault door just as it was closing behind Donovan. He hid behind a crate to get a look at the probe.

The probe itself was small and round, about the size of a ping-pong ball. It was black and shiny silver at the same time. In fact, the color seemed to be almost moving across the surface of the object in shimmering waves of alternating pitch black and metal. Rusty thought it was awful pretty. Dr. Donovan, on the other hand, was awfully annoyed.

"Okay, people, we only have five months starting today to develop this, so chop chop." Donovan walked out the door again, never noticing Rusty hiding behind the crate.

"Chop chop," a freckled female lab technician sarcastically mimicked as she stuck her nose in the air.

"Yeah, whatís his problem anyways?" a man wearing data goggles said. "Weíre trying our best." This thing just doesnít want to be cracked." He bonked the probe with a hammer and smiled. As he did so the probeís color swirled around the spot the hammer had just landed.

"Well, Iím taking a coffee break," the woman said to her coworkers. Anyone wanna come with?" She walked over to the probe and turned on a forcefield that would keep anyone from tampering with the alien device.

"Sure." The lab techs put down their tools and left through another vault door and headed towards the cafeteria laughing and talking.

Rusty came out from his hiding place to view the probe close up. It hovered in the static force field above a lab table.

"Wow," he said. "This sure is neat!"

The probe began to spin at his remark.

"Huh?" Rusty backed up a few steps as the probe began to bang against the sides of its containment field.

"It must want out," Rusty said to himself.

Almost as if the probe could understand Rusty, it began to circle inside its cage even more. It slammed against the wall of the field at incredibly high speeds.

"No," Rusty said, "Iím sorry, probe, but I canít. The last time I took something that wasnít mine I ended up sticking my friend Jeffyís mom in the wall of her house. Iím not supposed to play with things that defy the known laws of physics."

The probe stopped immediately and began to hover again.

"Thatís better," Rusty said.

Rusty turned to leave. As he did so he heard a high-pitched humming noise coming from the probe. He whirled around just in time to see the probe build up an energy charge and short out the containment field. The probe circled on its axis several times and then opened up several small ports near its center. Out came even smaller black and silver balls.

These balls, however, did not just hover. They came straight for Rusty. One hit him square in the head. Before he even had time to react, the probelet had burrowed right through his titanium armor and into his brain. Rusty had barely enough time to realize that he was shutting down before he hit the floor with a thump.

>On to Part 2!

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