Real Boy

Part 6

by Mara (talitha_shipman at tayloru.edu)
10/3/01

Dr. Slate had left Rusty alone in the small room. She had told him to get more sleep. But Rusty wasn’t sleepy. He hopped down off the bed and headed towards the door. As he opened the door he scanned the hallway on both sides. No one came walking along the corridor, so he scooted out and walked on bare feet towards the main hangar bay: the bay that Big Guy was stowed in. Rusty had often talked to the larger robot when he was feeling down or angry. Even if Big Guy couldn’t hear him, he always felt better just by talking to his hero. Rusty had had long one-sided conversations many times with Big Guy, chatting and telling the crime fighting behemoth all that had happened to him that day. Now he suddenly seemed nervous as he approached Big Guy. He wondered if Big Guy would still care about him as much now that he was a human. Besides, robots like Big Guy had little use for a sidekick who couldn’t even shoot nucleo-protons. However, Rusty was hoping to explain to Big Guy why being a human would be better for him. Now he had a real mom, and someday, he would grow and get bigger. Those were two things that would have never happened to the old Rusty. He padded up to Big Guy and rested his small hand on the giant robot’s foot. The metal was smooth and cool to the touch.

"Hi, Big Guy." Rusty looked up at the silent form towering above him. "I just wanted to say I hope you don’t mind if I stay human. I like it better, and that’s funny, cause I never wanted to be a real boy before. I thought being a robot was so cool." Rusty cocked his head. "I was wrong."

Rusty propped himself up on Big Guy’s foot and sat Indian style. His small shoulders slumped as he considered his next words. "I wish you could understand, but you don’t have an emotion grid. But, sometimes it feels like you do. I don’t know how to tell you how I feel. It’s like before, when I was a robot, I had all these abilities, but I didn’t know what I was missing." Rusty sighed and furrowed his eyebrows. "That’s not a very good description." Then he smiled as his eyes lit up. "I know, it’s kind of like that camera that Mom gave me." Rusty smiled as he used the word ‘Mom’. "At first the picture would be really fuzzy, and you had to focus it to see what was really there. Then you could take a good picture. Before I felt all fuzzy. Now things are so much clearer. I understand so much more. I feel so much more."

"And," Rusty added in a whisper, "The voice says I’ll grow up to be just like Lt. Dwayne. I hope the voice is right."

A scuffling noise made Rusty whirl and jump at the same time. "Are you sure that voice isn’t just telling you things?" It was Lt. Dwayne.

"How long have you been there?" Rusty asked with a suspicious look on his face.

"Long enough to be amazed by your intelligence."

Rusty frowned. "Oh."

Dwayne sighed and sat down of Big Guy’s foot next to Rusty.

"Son," he said, "there’s something we need to talk about. It has to do with the Big Guy."

Suddenly the secret seemed to float to the front of Dwayne’s mind. Rusty could almost read it.

"I’d better show you instead of trying to explain."

Dwayne walked up the metal stairs that led to a maintenance platform surrounding the Big Guy. Rusty followed, curious as to what Dwayne meant. Dwayne walked up to the Big Guy and pushed a series of numbers into a code-locked keypad on Big Guy’s upper back. At this, the hissing noise of hydraulics releasing was accompanied by Big Guy’s whole back opening up to reveal a pilot’s couch and various screens and controls.

"Rusty, Big Guy isn’t...." Dwayne began.

"A real robot," Rusty finished the thought. His expression changed from shock to dismay. "But how can that be?"

Rusty looked back at Dwayne as the truth began to pour into his mind. Dwayne was a pilot, and Dwayne was Big Guy’s pilot. The mechanic story was just a cover for his real duty. For all intents and purposes, Dwayne was Big Guy. Rusty stared at Dwayne, not knowing what to say. All of this time he had spent worshiping his idol, and Big Guy was nothing more than a man in a fancy suit. Hot tears began to burn in Rusty’s bright green eyes as his cheeks turned red. He felt as if someone had punched him in the gut. It had all been a lie, a cleverly crafted lie. And he had been stupid enough to fall for it.

Rusty stared up into Lt. Dwayne’s eyes. "Why?" he croaked. "Why would you lie to me?" He was on the verge of running away from Dwayne. He didn’t want to be anywhere near the Lieutenant.

Dwayne squatted down in front of Rusty. "I’m gonna give you straight answers, Rusty. Reason number one; the Big Guy Project was classified from the beginning. Me and only a handful of people in the world know the truth. Reason number two, Dr. Slate thought it best not to tell you. She was worried about your human emotion grid crashing if you knew the truth. Reason number three, my protection -- the fewer people that know about the Big Guy’s secret; the fewer people can try to knock me off. General Thorton was worried that if you knew, and you were ever captured, all someone would have to do is shut you off, download your brain, and find out all about the Big Guy operation. We didn’t want to put you and me in that sort of position."

Dwayne carefully studied Rusty’s features, gauging the boy’s reaction. He hoped he had said the right words. Rusty still didn’t look very happy, though.

"So you did it to protect me?" Rusty seemed incredulous. His voice was barely a whisper.

"Yes, adults are supposed to protect kids from some things, Rusty. But some things I can’t protect you from. The truth about Big Guy is one of those things now. It was time that you knew. You deserve to know." Dwayne swallowed, hoping Rusty would understand what he was getting at.

"And you were inside Big Guy the whole time?" Rusty peered at Dwayne, the tears drying on his rosy cheeks.

"Yup."

"So when I was talking to Big Guy, I was really talking to you?"

"Sure as shootin’." Dwayne smiled.

"I don’t believe it. You’re nothing like him."

Dwayne plastered a mock serious look on his face. "For the love of Mike, son, where’s your faith in the American way?"

Rusty’s eyes widened as he recognized Big Guy in Dwayne’s impression. "It really is you, its just that the voice makes you sound so much, well...."

"Bigger," Dwayne finished. "Well, that’s all part of the disguise." Rusty walked up to the cockpit and looked inside. "Why’d you tell Dr. Slate about the Big Guy if you didn’t tell me?" All anger in his voice had been replaced by curiosity. Dwayne was relieved to know that Rusty was taking things so well.

"Um, Ericka found out on her own," Dwayne said as he rubbed the back of his neck. "She says that you were web surfing one night and accidentally got onto a government secured site pertaining to the BGY Project. She sent you off to do target practice...."

"Oh, I remember that." Rusty’s eyes lit up. You were sending pictures of each other over the Internet. You had a love connection." Rusty’s face suddenly became mischievous.

"Uh, ah, nothing like that, Rusty." Dwayne did not like the turn this conversation was taking. He hadn’t realized Rusty had thought of him and Ericka in that way. "She just realized what the site was about and confronted me. I had little choice but to tell her." Dwayne lowered his voice to a conspiratory whisper. "Your mom can be a bit pushy sometimes." He gave Rusty a lopsided grin and ruffled the boy’s hair.

Rusty smiled as well. "I still think she like’s you. And I know you like her, ‘cause you think she smells good. And ‘cause you’re thinking that you like her right now."

Dwayne rolled his eyes. "Uggh, Rusty, what am I going to do with you?" Dwayne looked down at the smiling boy and was amazed to see so much of himself in Rusty’s bright and childish features. "Can we make that our little secret?"

Rusty gave Dwayne a nonchalant shrug. "Sure, if you want." Rusty looked up to Dwayne. "If, maybe, I could sit in the cockpit?"

Dwayne smiled at Rusty’s wheeling and dealing and picked up the boy under the arms and plunked him down in the pilot’s seat. Rusty’s feet stuck out from the seat and Dwayne couldn’t help but laugh.

"What’s so funny? Rusty said.

"Nothing Rusty, you look like you were born to sit in that chair." Dwayne covered his mouth so as to hide his laughter.

"Born there?" Rusty gave Dwayne a perplexed look.

"Never mind." Dwayne pulled Rusty out of the pilot couch and set him down on the metal grating once again. Dwayne gave an inward sigh now that the truth had been told to Rusty. Now all he had to do was inform his commander, General Thorton, that Rusty was in the know. He wondered how much of a dressing down he would get. Ah, well, it was worth it for Rusty.

The probe analyzed the human bonding. Rusty certainly was doing very well for only being ‘real’ for a day and a half. The Lieutenant was being very kind and understanding. Most of all, the Lieutenant was being honest. This impressed the probe greatly. Few creatures it had met were as kind or as noble as the humans it had encountered during its brief time on the planet Earth. It had indeed picked the right world. The creators would be very pleased. The probe could sense them coming now, and it worked even harder to be prepared for their arrival. It has so longed to be among its own kind, and soon, they would come to relieve the loneliness that had dominated the probe’s programming for so many millennia. The creators would also be pleased with the chosen host. Rusty was fearless, and had a sort of innocence that touched the probe deep in its programming. Rusty had also proven himself to be trustworthy. Even though he had slipped and accidentally revealed his secret ability to Hunter, he had not done so on purpose. He was simply being a human child. The probe could hardly blame him for that. Now the probe was happy that some humans were aware of Rusty’s ability to read minds. It would soften the shock to come.

On to Part 7!

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