by Mara (talitha_shipman at tayloru.edu)
e-mail comments to talitha_shipman at tayloru.edu or at ketch at hotmail.com
TO BE CONTINUED
Three hours later, Big Guy had returned to the Dark Horse, and
promptly came back to Quark as a tired and disheveled looking Dwayne. He
also brought his Pit Crew with him. Garth, Mack, and Joe had immediately
begun to help Dr. Slate in her attempts to unravel the secrets of the probe.
Now that the device was switched off, it was much easier to study. They even
found several unused probelets inside a storage chamber within the larger
sphere. They soon determined that it had been one of the probelets that had
done the work of changing Rusty into a living breathing human. After a scan
of Rustyís brain, Ericka found that one of the tiny devices was attached to
the base of his brain. Rusty, who was now wearing some better-fitting
clothing Ericka had found, was quietly sitting next to Sue Ellen on the
maintenance couch. She had been talking to him for nearly an hour now,
trying to keep him calm and happy. For now, he seemed to be okay.
Ericka was grateful to Sue Ellen for stepping in to help out. She
knew that the young techie must have felt awful when she realized that her
project was to blame for causing such a scare. Ericka didnít blame Sue
Ellen, however. She doubted anything on this planet could have stopped the
probe from completing its mission. The more they learned about the probeís
capabilities, the more chills ran up Erickaís spine. This device was meant
to do incredible things. Things that the whole human race probably wasnít
ready for. It seemed to be built to retrofit technology into organic life.
The alien processing codes alone for such a feat took up most of the
probeletís memory. This information, Dr. Slate had determined, had been the
instruction book for making over Rusty. Soon however, Dr. Slate and the Pit
Crew ran up against a problem. A sort of alien firewall had been installed
in the probeís main memory bank. Any attempt to access information
pertaining to the reasons for the probeís actions were met with failure.
Four hours later, and still far away from an answer, Dr. Donovan
stormed into Dr. Slateís office. This time Jenny was in tow, carefully
perched on Donovanís meticulously pressed Armani suit.
"Just what do you think you're doing, Slate? Well?" Donovan glared at
Ericka. Sue Ellen sniffed at Donovan. Ericka looked back towards Sue
Ellen, giving her an imploring glance. She hoped that Sue Ellen wouldnít
make a bad situation worse by getting into a down and dirty fight with the
"Dr. Donovan, we have a serious situation here," Dr. Slate began.
"I donít care if the whole sky is falling. Where do you get off
requisitioning half the robotics team for some wild goose chase, calling Big
Guy, and messing with an alien space probe project that isnít even yours, and
all without calling me?"
Jenny smirked and then piped up from Donovanís shoulder. "Getting a
little big for our britches, arenít we?"
"Shut up, both of you!" The voice came from across the room, where
Sue Ellen had gotten up from the couch. She flung her arm back toward Rusty,
pointing to him. "Rusty has been turned into a real boy, and this space
probe almost got him killed. Donít you care?"
"Not when itís costing this company truckloads of money." Donovan
folded his arms across his chest. "And youíd better watch your language,
sweetheart, or you might be standing in an unemployment line." He glared at
the young technician. She rewarded him with an ice-cold stare that could
have bored through metal.
Dwayne, placing himself between Dr. Slate and Donovan, spoke up in a
stern tone. "Ericka was acting on the request of Big Guy, Dr. Donovan. You
have no right to blame her for anything."
"And besides, the argument is moot," Jo cut in, sensing trouble.
Dwayneís comment had been tinged with anger, and the last thing they needed
was Dwayne and Donovan to jump into a fight. Even if Jo would have enjoyed
seeing Donovan get the beating he deserved. "The probe is back in your lab
and Rustyís fine, in a manner of speaking."
"Yes." Dr. Donovan looked over to where Rusty was still sitting on
the couch. "Heís completely human?"
"As far as we can tell," Slate replied.
"Well, isnít that just great? What are we going to do with a Boy
Robot turned boy? He certainly canít do his job without his robot
"Yeah," Jenny said. "The only active duty he could qualify for now is
third grade hall monitor."
Rusty hopped down off the table and walked over to Dr. Donovan. "I
can do this," he said in a cheerful tone. Rusty then promptly stomped on
Donovanís Italian leather loafers.
"Owww," Donovan let out a horrendous scream, more out of surprise than
"Ha, serves you right for being mean to Dr. Slate, and you canít do
anything about it. Canít send me to the grinder anymore," Rusty said
"Rusty," an appalled Dr. Slate exclaimed. "Just what do you think
"Why, you little brat," Donovan began.
Rusty, however, didnít stick around to hear the rest of the insult.
He ran out the door, skidding in his new sneakers as he rounded the corner.
"Slate, stop him!" Donovan blurted.
"Rusty, come back," Ericka yelled as she ran after him. Dwayne ran
after Ericka, hoping to catch up to both of them.
Rusty ran into the cafeteria, just in time to crash into several
surprised diners. Food went flying everywhere; some of it even splattered on
Rusty. The crash slowed him down just enough for Dwayne, who had come
through another door in the cafeteria, to step in front of him and grab him
by the shoulder.
"Let me go," Rusty cried, and squirmed for all he was worth.
Dwayne managed to get his hands on both of Rustyís shoulders and hold
him steady until Dr. Slate caught up with them.
"Whoa, there, partner," Dwayne said, trying to calm Rusty down. "No
one wants to hurt you. Itís okay." Dwayne gave Rusty a reassuring smile.
Rusty seemed to respond to Dwayneís kindly expression and settled down
Ericka arrived and knelt down next to Rusty and looked at him. "Rusty,
are you all right?" she asked, concern evident in her voice.
Rustyís face became indignant. "I donít like Dr. Donovan, and I
especially donít like it when heís mean to you. He deserved for me to step
"But Rusty, that sort of behavior isnít at all like you." Dr. Slate
took Rustyís hand. "The Rusty I know would never hurt someone just because
he didnít like them."
Rusty hung his head. "Iím sorry, Dr. Slate, I just got so angry. I
didnít know what to do."
"Itís all right, Rusty, but you need to apologize to Dr. Donovan."
Ericka lowered her voice. "Even if he did deserve to get his loafers stepped
on." Dr. Slate smiled at Rusty and stood up.
Rusty grabbed her hand and followed her and Dwayne back to the lab,
where Dr. Donovan had calmed down a bit. After all, Jenny had said, having
your loafers stomped on was a good excuse to buy a new pair.
Once Rusty saw Dr. Donovan, he promptly hid behind Ericka.
"Itís all right, Rusty. Go ahead and say what you have to say," she
told him as she pushed the boy out from behind her legs.
"Iím sorry for stomping on your loafers," Rusty said in a small and
yet slightly irreverent voice. "But Iím not sorry for sayiní you had no
right, causeí you didnít." At that, Rusty turned and walked back into his
room, leaving Dr. Donovan wide-eyed and sputtering.
Dwayne caught the sound of Jo and Mack snickering from across the
room. Sue Ellen folded her arms and smiled.
Jenny, never at a loss for words, put her two cents in. "Well, the
new and improved Rusty certainly has no lack of confidence. His head shrunk
and yet his ego grew."
"Jenny," Dr. Donovan sighed, "shut up."
Jenny rolled her eyes at her frustrated boss.
Dr. Donovan turned to address the people gathered in Dr. Slateís lab.
"Fix that probe, and find some way to fix Rusty. I canít afford to lose
another government contract." Dr. Donovan turned and left the lab, mumbling
to himself and Jenny as he went.
As soon as Donovan left, Ericka headed for Rustyís play room. She
wanted to run some more tests and keep an eye on him. He wasnít acting quite
like himself, and she desperately wanted to know why. Her thoughts kept
returning to the probelet still buried in his brains stem. It had to be
causing his irregular behavior and newfound bravado. Dwayne, curious to see
what was up, followed Ericka into the playroom.
Ericka and Dwayne found Rusty sitting on the floor of the playroom,
stacking up blocks to form a wall. He seemed to be doing it just to keep
himself occupied. His eyes were focused on the wall on the other side of the
room. He sighed as they walked in.
"Rusty," Dr. Slate began, "how do you feel?"
Rusty looked up at both adults and furrowed his eyebrows. "I feel
funny, not quite right."
Dwayne and Ericka exchanged glances. Dwayne spoke up. "Thatís to be
expected, son. A lot has happened to you since just last night. Itís gonna
take some time to find a way to change you back."
Rusty looked up and studied Dwayneís face. He cocked his head as if
he were listening to something. "I donít think you will." He looked down
and continued his block wall.
"What, Rusty?" Ericka asked.
"I just mean, it wonít let you change me back. It wants me this way.
Itís better this way."
Ericka stared at Rusty. A strange chill inched its way up her back.
Was the probe communicating with the boy somehow? Perhaps if it was, Rusty
could find out why the probe had retrofitted him.
Dwayne must have been thinking the same thing. "Rusty," he said, "can
you talk to the probe?"
"Sure," Rusty said.
"Whatís it saying to you now, Rusty?" Ericka asked.
Rusty cocked his head and waited a heartbeat before answering. "It
says that it wants to tell me something, but Iím not ready yet. It says Iím
Ericka turned to Dwayne. "What does it mean by Ďnot finishedí?"
Dwayne shrugged his shoulders. "Your guess is as good as mine, Doc.
Right now we have zero information to go on, other than the fact that this
probe has decided to speak through Rusty."
"Yes," Ericka thought, "but why?"
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