Replacement Parts

by Mere (mbmincey at hotmail.com)
12/6/01

Disclaimer: Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot are the property of Dark Horse Comics, Dark Horse Entertainment, and Tri-Star Paramount. I make no claims nor claim a profit.

Author's Note: This story takes place directly after "Out of Whack" and before "The Inside Scoop".


Dwayne was sitting outside of Dr. Slate's lab when he checked his watch again. Eleven thirty-two. One minute after the last time he checked his watch. He sighed and leaned back in a chair some techie was nice enough to get for him. When he had flown back to see how the kid was doing he was surprised to hear Rusty was still under repair. From what he could glean from some of the folks that worked here, a good number of Rusty's internal systems needed repair from when his power pack hemorrhaged and was left to fester when the kid didn't tell anyone when he was damaged.

That Rusty was so distrusting of the adults around him.... What kind of place was this for a kid to grow up in? And he was a kid, Dwayne realized, not just a machine. Something that some people hadn't quite put together yet, treating him as if he were a non-person. People like Axel Donovan, who had caused quite a stink at having to replace the nucleo-protonic pump at the last minute until Uncle Sam assured him that he'd foot the bill.

Greedy scientists that dangled the threat of life or death in your face, watching friends get thrown into a grinder... Made his childhood look like a bed of roses in comparison. 'Course he wasn't just a boy, he was a boy robot. The brand spankin' new sidekick he never asked for (courtesy of Quark Industries) and who would've been his replacement if Rusty weren't so... ill-prepared, which was part of the reason Big Guy was re-commissioned -- to give Rusty on-the-job training.

Fine. So the brass wanted a working robot, but that they were so eager to end the BGY program in favor of an experimental prototype they hadn't even seen yet smacked of gross negligence. Were they that itchin' to get rid of him? The whole thing just pissed him off. He'd kept his mouth shut. The whole shebang wasn't about to become exposed. Everyone's jobs were safe. Ten years, and then all of the sudden a quick pat on the butt and it was so long, Dwayne. It wasn't like he had expected a ticker tape parade....

Okay, yeah, a send off would be nice. Something for his crew would be nicer. They didn't get any shiny medals. Yeah, a parade with his crew and he'd pop out of Big Guy and tell the whole world (because naturally all the networks would be broadcasting live), "Your asses owe me!" A nice thought, anyway.

Dwayne checked his watch. Eleven thirty-five. Three minutes after the last time he checked his watch. It was driving him nuts just sitting here. He might as well be sitting on nails.

"But what else have I got to do?" he asked out loud.

"I was wondering the same thing."

Dwayne turned towards the slightly humorous voice to see an elderly Asian man come out of his office. Frail, with pasty skin and large eyes, the guy looked like he'd spent his entire life cooped up in a lab without seeing daylight.

"Are you really so concerned? He is a robot, after all."

Dwayne frowned at the man. "What's your point?"

He fished in his pocket, pulling out a large assortment of keys, and picked out the one he wanted with long, bony fingers. "They could just make another Rusty. He'd be exactly the same as the old one, easily replaced -- if Donovan is willing to give you a decent budget."

"Wow. Even the roboticists don't give a fig. Isn't 'We care.' your company logo?"

"Well, for one thing I'm not a roboticist, and two, they forgot to include 'about money' in the ad campaign." He locked his door and gave Dwayne a sympathetic look. "Such as it is. This company doesn't much care about the little people unless they can produce results right away. If the military hadn't picked up the boy robot, I assure you he'd be placed in cold storage if Slate groveled just right."

Finally the door to Slate's lab opened and Dwayne stood up as one of the engineers came out. He recognized as Dr. Gilder.

"How is the boy?" the older man asked.

"He's rarin' to go," Gilder dully replied, not stopping to chat as two other Quark scientists filed out of the lab, both blurry-eyed and one stifling a yawn. Dwayne was surprised at how happy he was to see the kid when a cheerful Rusty followed them out into the hall, the spring in his step returned. Rusty seemed to actually bounce off each step when he walked, a bundle of energy that was incapable of sitting still or being quiet.

"Thanks for fixing me, guys." Rusty said. "It was real ni-- Hey, Dr. Gilder!" Gilder didn't look back as he rounded a corner and Rusty, seemingly unaware that Gilder chose to ignore him, sighed and shrugged his shoulders. "I guess I'll thank him tomorrow."

"Which is technically almost today," the blond woman said. "So no arguing at power down time. Dr. Slate needs to recharge too, okay?"

"Okay." The woman gave him a pat on the head, which Rusty rewarded with a big smile. Then he thanked the other engineer again.

After all the good-byes, Rusty finally turned his attention to him. "Hi, Lieutenant Hunter. Did Big Guy send you here to check on me?"

"That's right, son. We were--" Dwayne looked back at where the old man had been but he had quietly left when his curiosity was satisfied. "Um, so how do you feel?"

"Fine. Got a new power pack and everything. Wanna see?"

"Sure."

Rusty's chest parted, revealing the green glow of nucleo-protons in their compact, but very combustible container. Rusty seemed fascinated by his own inner workings as he watched the pack blink on and off. "I needed a new pair of everything. Guess old man Donovan is gonna be pretty mad."

"I wouldn't worry about Donovan, kid. You got friends in high places."

Rusty brightened, looking up at him earnestly. "Friends like Big Guy, right?"

If the kid didn't know how to find a guy's soft spot.... "Right."

"Do you think I could get 'im to sign my poster?" Rusty asked, closing his containment hatch.

"Your poster...?"

"In my room. C'mon, I'll show you." Rusty grabbed his hand before he could say anything, leading him through Slate's lab to another room that his engineer must've cleared out to make his bedroom. It was filled with all kinds of toys, books, a desk, and some sort of cubby for Rusty to 'sleep' in. Rusty let go of his hand and walked up to an old Big Guy propaganda poster on the far wall. "Dr. Slate says itís a collector's item."

"It should be. It's one of the first they made." Dwayne said, eyeing his alter ego a bit warily. Rusty had all sorts of Big Guy toys in here. It had occurred to him that kids thought he was-- scratch that... that Big Guy was some sort of super hero, but Rusty's adulation went even further. He wanted to grow up to be just like Big Guy. Wasn't that a kick in the head?

"So will you ask him?" Rusty asked.

"Um...sure. Why not? I bet he'd be happy to sign it for you."

"Cool! Thanks, Lt. Hunter."

"It's Dwayne, kid."

"Oh. Well, thanks, Lieutenant Dwayne. I'll never sell it in a gajillion years!"

Dwayne smirked at his enthusiasm. "Can I ask you something?"

"Shoot."

"Why do you like Big Guy so much?"

Rusty seemed taken aback by the question, as if the answer was so completely obvious to everyone. "He's only the coolest robot ever!"

"How's that?"

Rusty shook his head, counting the reasons off with his fingers. "One, he's BIG! Two, he saves the world almost every stinkin' day. And three, he's one of the few smart robots that isn't trying to kill humans all the time. The only smart robots I know who are nice to people is Big Guy and...." Rusty trailed off, his cherubic face suddenly washed over in anguish. "...XL-103...." Oh hell. That must've been his buddy. "He malfunctioned...so I guess it's just Big Guy."

Dwayne paused, unsure how to respond. He was never any good with this sort of thing, but not saying anything to Rusty didn't feel right.

"I'm sorry about your friend." Another pause. "I've lost some friends too." Rusty silently nodded. "Tell you what, sport. If it means that much to ya, I suppose you could pay Big Guy a visit now and then."

Rusty's jaw dropped, that bubbly enthusiasm slowly returning. "No way. Really?"

"So long as," Dwayne held up a finger, "you get clearance first."

"Clearance?" Rusty asked uncertainly.

"You have to tell one of us you're there. It's the rules."

"Gosh, you bet! Can I visit tomorrow?"

"Sure."

"Wow! Didja hear that, Dr. Slate? I get to see Big Guy tomorrow!"

Dwayne turned around to see Slate in the doorway. Just how long had she been standing there? Slate faintly smiled. Her steady gaze was capable of making him feel transparent. Like now.

"Cool."

"If thatís all right with you, of course," Dwayne shrugged.

Slate looked at Rusty, the boy robot giving her a pleading expression and her smile grew. "I have no problem with that."

Rusty beamed, clearly excited at the prospect of visiting his role model. "Great! We'll finally have time to talk about robot stuff."

Dwayne grinned, quirking an eyebrow at that. "What kind of robot stuff?"

"Y'know, stuff." Rusty said evasively.

"Oh. That stuff."

"Sorry, but only robots would understand."

"You'd be surprised." Dwayne winked at the kid, something which Rusty wasn't sure how to interpret. "It's late, so I'll see you tomorrow, then."

"Okay," Rusty said, and Dwayne nodded at Slate.

"Ma'am."

"Thank you for dropping by, Lieutenant." The weight of her words suggested that wasn't entirely what she was thanking him for.

"Don't mention it."

The next day Rusty showed his power pack to Big Guy for the second time.

THE END


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