Just Enough Time

Part 1

by Marajaykettch

That day began as any other day did. I was working on a new microchip design at Quark Industries while Rusty, my robot creation, was playing Death Frog Commandos. It really is a funny little game. You swim around and shoot up mutant frogs while attacking nuclear submarines rain death upon your unprotected head, unless of course, you have health shields.

Rusty could tell you all about it. He loves video games, and he talks endlessly, but that's okay. I designed him that way. He is engineered to have human emotions and appearance. He is also engineered to learn and grow with time. That's why I gave him the temperament of a 10 year old boy. This way he has plenty of time to discover himself and the world around him. Yes, Rusty can be a handful, but he has also become my greatest joy, I think of him as my own child. And he looks up to me.

However, Rusty wasn't engineered to be a friendly little boy robot all of the time. He is also packed with sophisticated armor and weaponry. He was designed for the U.S. military as a last resort defense against all threats to the U.S. foreign and domestic. However, Rusty certainly has a lot of things to learn about being a superhero. That's why he has a teacher. His name is Big Guy, and he is a fifteen-foot-tall machine of destruction.

Big Guy was designed as the first A.I. robot. He too patriotically defends the United States against its enemies. Formally known as BGY-ll, this robot has become Rusty's hero. He looks up to Big Guy, and I'm glad. Big Guy is teaching Rusty a lot about being a good robot, and also about being a good person....

That day started out like any other day. I was working on Big Guy, aligning some destabilized power converters, while the rest of the Pit Crew was taking a break. It was shaping up to be a lazy laid-back Saturday at BGY headquarters, and I was happy and covered in fuel oil and engine grease. I was worn out from my last fight, and quite frankly, wanted a break, even if it was a short one. However, that was not to be. No sooner had I replaced a damaged coupling than the Big Guy signal went off. It filled the hangar with an annoying squealing noise. I sighed. It looked like I wouldn't get that break after all. jumping down off Big Guy's arm and running into the flight prep room, I was greeted by Mack, the senior mechanic on our team.

"Better get suited up, " he said in his distinct gravelly voice. "There's trouble brewing in Neutronic City."

I was already climbing into my flight gear. I grabbed my helmet and ran back out to the bay where Big Guy was stowed.

"What kind of trouble?" I asked as Mack followed me.

"Bomb threat," was his stoic answer.

Great, I thought to myself, just what I need. The Big Guy signal was still blaring, but now it was being piped directly into my ears through my helmet's com system. I winced as I turned the volume down and sighed defeat. It seemed that I hadn't had a vacation in years. Today wouldn't be any different. I climbed up to Big Guy's access port and hopped in, situating myself in the flight chair as I began to prep all of Big Guy's systems. I also brought communications online and immediately saw Mack and the rest of my team of a live feed on the inside shell of Big Guy.

"Be careful," Jo, the flight coordinator said. She smiled at me and checked my systems from her diagnostic panel. "Good luck."

And with that I was off. I pushed the Legend One's flight accelerators to maximum. Just another day in the life of Lt. Dwayne Hunter. A.K.A. The Big Guy.

"It's a living," I said between my teeth.

That day pretty much started out like every other day. I was playing video games, and Dr. Slate was working on a new microcomputer chip. I was really, really, really bored.

I wish that Dr. Slate would play more with me. But she says she doesn't like video games that much. I think she's lying, and just says that so grown-ups like Lt. Dwayne think she's cool.

Anyways, I was doing pretty darn good at Death Frog, when it came -- the BIG GUY signal. So I powered up and blasted off through my access tube in Dr. Slate's lab. I think she yelled something at me as I blasted off, but I couldn't hear her. So I was on my way to help Big Guy.

I love to go on missions with Big Guy. I learn so much from him. He's the coolest robot ever. I want to be just like him when I grow up.

Ya know, it's funny; when I was a kid, I had lots of heroes. My dad was a pilot in the U.S.M., so my sister and I grew up hearing amazing stories about the good old days. My dad was my greatest hero. I wanted to be just like him. My dad, however, always told me to be myself. He didn't want me to choose a life that wasn't for me. He was the wisest man I ever knew, and in the end, I did end up following in his footsteps, but not because I wanted to be just like him. It was for the simple reason that flying was in my blood.

It's like a disease that you just can't get rid of. I loved to fly more than anything else. I had the skills to match my obsession, and soon I was a top notch pilot. My dad was always there for me, supporting my decision, and when I joined the Big Guy project, and my dad would ask me what I was doing, I could only answer 'flying' -- anything else would be considered classified. But as long as he knew I was flying he knew I was happy.

Now that someone looks up to me -- by that I mean Rusty -- I'm realizing how important my dad was to me. I can only hope that Rusty can make decisions based on his own dreams and ideas, not based on his desire to be just like Big Guy.

I got there just after Big Guy. There was a big crowd and lots of police. When they saw Big Guy, they cheered. Big Guy told me that he wanted me to stay behind for now, cause I had no experience defusing a bomb. So I stayed. He went inside to find the bomb.

Over my com I could hear Dr. Slate talking, I think to Big Guy -- she was telling him that the bomb looked like a fusion distortion bomb. Whatever that means. She told him to be careful. Big Guy said he would.

Just then a huge explosion rocked the building. The whole thing fell in on top of Big Guy.

I could hear Dr. Slate yelling in my com. "What happened?" she said.

I told her the bomb blew. At this point I was really worried. Big Guy wasn't transmitting. What if he was damaged? Or worse?

I flew towards the debris, but a police officer said the building wasn't stable. I might get squashed if I went in. I went in anyways, as the police officer yelled at me. Big Guy needed me, no matter what the danger.

I was trapped. As I came to (I think I was unconscious), I realized with sudden gravity that I was pinned in place by Big Guy. His outer shell had squished in like a stepped-on tin can, and I had little hope of escaping. What's more, I soon discovered two other problems. I was bleeding from a head wound that I couldn't reach to treat, and the power core was leaking. It made a low whining noise that told me core material was slowly venting. Soon it would cascade into a blast that would wipe out the whole city block near me!

"No good, " I told myself. I was in real trouble. First things first, however. I tried to bring my communications back online. No good again. They were out. In fact, I had no power whatsoever. Next, I tried to move my arms, but only got a few inches before being stopped by Big Guy's damaged shell. Then, I craned my neck back towards the acess hatch. With any luck that would still be intact. It was, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Now all I had to do was find a way to dislodge myself from the flight chair. This wouldn't be easy.

A sudden increase in the frequency of the whining noise reminded me that I had an unstable power core to deal with. It would only be a few minutes before it blew. My vision turned fuzzy as I moved in my seat. I probably had a concussion.

Suddenly, all of Dwayne's communications relays went out. That's about the time I knew something was wrong. I contacted Rusty and he informed me that the bomb had gone off with Big Guy in close proximity. At first I was stunned. Big Guy had done nothing to set it off. Mack, Garth, and Jo were shouting simultaneously at me and Dwayne from their end of the com, but none of it was seeming to make any sense.

"Rusty," I said as I forced myself to calm down and focus, "do you know if Big Guy is still operational?"

"No, Dr. Slate," came the panicked reply. "He's down, and I'm going in."

"Wait, Rusty, " I said, but it was no use; he was already flying into the debris.

I finally made it to where Big Guy was burried. The whole building was a jumble of brick, concrete, and glass. I could hear it shifting and groaning under its own weight. Big Guy was pinned down under a huge beam, and it looked like part of him was squished.

"Big Guy," I yelled, but he didn't answer. His power core must have been damaged. And then I heard it. The high pitched noise of a power core meltdown. I'd heard that noise before, and I realized that Big Guy was in real trouble. His core would blow and literally blast him into microscopic bits.

"Rusty," Dr. Slate said over my com. "What kind of shape is Big Guy in?" I had almost forgotten that Dr. Slate was still listening to me.

"His power core is going to go," I said. I flew close to him and landed on his shoulder. I tried to hold back the fear I was feeling.

I tried to hold back the fear I was feeling. If that power core blew, it would destroy Big Guy, Rusty, Dwayne, and many more people. I swallowed and spoke into my com to Rusty.

"Rusty, I need you to stabilize that core now. Can you do it?"

"Sure," came the shakey reply, I'll just turn off the...hey!"

"What is it, Rusty?" I asked.

"There's a clunking noise coming from inside Big Guy!"

"That would be Dwayne," I thought to myself. "Just ignore it, Rusty. Right now you need to get that core stabilized stat."

"Okay," Rusty said. "I'm gonna move to the core insertion port." I heard him grunt as he tried to pull the core out. "Oh, no," I heard him say, "it's jammed."

I stopped thunking on the shell when I realized Rusty was just outside. I could hear his voice. He was talking to Dr. Slate. Boy, what I wouldn't have done to hear her voice right then. Any comfort would have been good.

Then I heard Rusty say the core was jammed. It needed to be disengaged from the inside. To do that Big Guy would need some power. Which was something I didn't have. Now my vision was getting really fuzzy. I didn't know how long I had till I passed out, and if I did that, I probably wouldn't wake up ever again. So I fought the urge to close my eyes -- passing out wasn't an option -- and I told myself that over and over again as I searched around the cabin for something with electrical power.

Then I spotted it, a little blinking light to my left. It was the com battery from my helmet. It must have fallen off in the blast. I had just enough reach to grab it and hold it in my left hand. Now I had to hotwire it into the power supply for the core disengagement mechanism. This would be really tricky to do with one hand, but I had no choice, so I got to work. All the while, the whine of the core was getting louder.

I pulled and pulled on Big Guy's core, but it wouldn't budge. The whine of the overloading core was growing more highpitched, and I was running out of time. Then I realized if I could get inside Big Guy, maybe I could upload some power into his fried network, giving him the chance to disengage the core himself. I had to try it. I flew down to his back and searched for the access panel. But it was locked.

"Dr. Slate," I said, "I need the code for Big Guy's access panel."

"Rusty," Dr. Slate said, "I don't have that code. You'll have to find another way to power up Big Guy."

Darn, what was I going to do? Big Guy didn't have any power access points on the outside.

I don't think I have ever worked so fast in my life. My fingers flew to pull the casing off of that battery in record time. Now I had two exposed contacts on the battery. I plugged them into my control panel.

"This had better work," I thought as pain lanced through my head. Just then, power once again flared into my systems board, if only for a second. I punched the core release button and at the same time yelled, "Rusty, go," into the overhead pickup that makes my voice sould like Big Guy's. Rusty got the message. As my power once again flickered into extinction, I heard the core disengage as Rusty slid it out. I closed my eyes and winced as I fell into unconciousness.

"Don't worry, Big Guy," I said, "I'll fly this core out of here." I zipped up and away as the core began to overload. I flew at hypersonic speeds and was soon over the ocean. I dropped the core into the water, just as it reached critical mass. The next second, a huge, blinding explosion rocked me as a shock wave from the core blasted me high into the air. I spun around until I finally stabilized. Below me, the water was bubbling. I did it! I made it! Big Guy and Neutronic City were safe!

I fell into my chair and let out a breath I didn't know I had been holding. Rusty was hooting and hollering in the com pickup. He had saved the day. Dwayne and Big Guy were safe. I stood up on limp legs and headed for the door of my lab. I needed to get downtown and help with Big Guy's recovery. I hoped and prayed that Dwayne was okay.

I woke up in St. Lucia's Hospital the next day. I suppose I was in pretty bad shape, or so they tell me. That morning, Dr. Slate came in to see me. She looked relieved to see me awake again, and recounted the events that had taken place after I passed out. Apparently, Rusty had destroyed the core, and Big Guy had been removed intact. He just needed some major body work.

I had been pulled from the wreckage and flown to St.Lucia's. According to Dr. Slate, I had looked terrible. I thought I glimpsed some worry in her eyes when she mentioned my head injury. It felt nice to know that she was worrying about me. I liked the rare display of attention. Thankfully most of my injuries were minor, excluding the concussion, from which I was still recovering.

Mack came in, too, and said that I finally would get that vacation I had coming. I dryly reminded him that this was not my idea of a good vacation.

He turned on the overhead T.V. and handed me the remote. "Sure it is," he said. "You get to watch T.V. in bed. Now that's a vacation." He smiled and walked out of my room. I was left to my own thoughts and the news, which was about Big Guy and Rusty, and how they had saved the city once again.

I smiled to myself as I watched the news. It was Rusty, really, who had saved the city, and after so many disappointing mistakes, the little robot was finally coming into his own. I felt proud to be the one who had trained Rusty, and as the feeling welled up inside of me like a balloon, my dad's smiling face flashed through my mind.

I remembered words he had spoken to me right before his death. "If you ever have kids, Dwayne," he had said, "remember to give them time, time to grow, to learn, to be themselves. If you do that, then they will become the best people they can be, all because you will have given them time."

As I fell asleep that night, my head was filled with possibilities, and I knew that I had all the time in the world to think about them.

Yes, Rusty certainly has grown since he was activated two years ago. He has become his own robot, not always needing adult guidance. I have Dwayne to thank for much of Rusty's development. He has always been kind and fair to Rusty, even if Rusty has been a bit trying. Most importantly, Dwayne has given Rusty the chance to learn the hard way if necessary. They have become a team that works incredibly well together. And even if Rusty doesn't know that Big Guy is really Dwayne, Dwayne is still plugging away at Rusty. He's teaching him not to be a good robot, but rather a good human.

It will take time to see how far Rusty can develop. How human he can become. Will he ever feel the hurt or experience the joys that we do? I don't really know. But I'm thankful to Dwayne for taking the time to find out just how far Rusty can go.

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