Orphan Again

Part Two

Written by Zelda

                Waking up in the middle of space was an odd feeling. In space there's no concept of sunrise or sunset, light or darkness. Depending on where you were, suns and moons would whirl around you several times in a 24-hour period. It still felt odd to Otto, waking up, looking out of the window, and instead of daylight finding only blackness and stars. Larry never had to deal with that sort of problem, he was never programmed to expect it. Even Tudrussel, an Earth-born human like he was, had gotten used to it, or at least he never mentioned it. Otto yawned and pulled a sheet off of him, frowning a little as  he looked around and didn't recognize where he was. It wasn't his bunk on the satellite… And suddenly, everything came flooding  back to him. Everything, including the nightmare he'd forgotten he had last night. In the dream, he didn't wake up in space, he woke up to the rising sun and chirping birds. But he got the same odd feeling as he looked around his room, and realized that he wasn't on the satellite then either. He was in a very small room, with peeling painted walls and a dirty floor. And there was someone banging on the door, someone yelling very loud. Otto remembered that he had tried to ignore the noise and go back to sleep, when he looked down to find that his pillow was actually his old history book. His book from the orphanage. Everything had connected in that moment, and he woke up crying. Tudrussel was nowhere to be found, and Larry was dead to the world, in the midst of a regeneration cycle. The frightened Otto was left in the darkened guest room alone. Somehow, he was too tired to remember exactly, the boy had gotten himself back to sleep. And now he had awoken again to another unfamiliar environment. But Larry was there, still plugged into the wall. And Tudrussel was in the bunk next to him, snoring loudly like he always did. Otto didn't miss the sunrise a bit.

                With a sigh, he got out of bed, wincing a little as his bare feet touched the cold metal flooring. He found his socks crumpled up by the foot of the bed, and put them on. The room was still dark, and he stood, a little hesitant to leave although he was thirsty. He didn't know where he could find a drink anyway. Otto settled for walking back and sitting on his bed. The mattress squeaked loudly as he did so, and he heard Tudrussel snort and watched as the man's chest hitched in a quick breath. Buck blinked, yawned, and stretched in bed. He seemed to realize slowly that he had fallen asleep in his uniform, and found it rather odd. Then, just like Otto had, he too must have remembered the events of the night before, and he sat up rather quickly.

                "Wha--- oh, hey kid. Awake already?" He asked.

                "Yup." Otto replied, keeping his voice quiet in the stillness of the room.

                Tudrussel checked his watch and sighed. "Look at the time. Wake Larry up for me, will ya kid? We gotta get a move on…" He seemed to drag on those last words, realizing fully what they meant.

                Otto's face was blank as he climbed off of the bed. He went to go give Larry a reactivating tap, but found Tudrussel suddenly beside him, kneeling on the floor to get to his eye level.

                "Hey kid… I'm sorry about yesterday… I don't know what to tell ya."

                Otto found himself at a loss for words, looking back into reddened eyes through Tudrussel's visor. He suddenly felt as tired and helpless as he had last night, as if the sleep hadn't helped him a bit. The urge to cry was like a rising knot in his throat. "I--- I just--- don't wanna go." he spoke quietly. "I don't have a life back there… Why would they make me go?"

                "I can't explain it, kid. Rules are rules, I guess. In the end, there's nothing we can do."

                Otto sniffled dully, staring at the floor.

                Tudrussel straightened up, and gave Larry a light shake.

                The robot's eyes glowed a soft teal as he reactivated, turning around to take his plug out of the wall and roll it back into its proper compartment in the small of his back. "My my… morning already?" he asked. In the dim light of the room, he caught a glimpse of both Otto and Tudrussel's somber faces. His memory seemed to come back to him just as the others' had. "Well… right then." he started. "Put your shoes on, Otto. I think it's time we get going."

                Rubbing his eyes, Otto made no protest as he sat down on the floor and laced his shoes up. By the time he stood again, the door to the entrance of the guest quarters suddenly slid open, and an odd-looking robot wheeled itself inside. It spoke in a very odd noise, like the sound of a modem, apparently to Larry. Leaving the 3000 unit with a rather surprised look on his face, the robot wheeled out as quickly as it had come, and the door shut behind it.

                "What was that all about Larry?" Tudrussel quirked an eyebrow.

                The robot sniffed, offended. "Just a maintenance droid telling us to pick up after ourselves!" he growled. "I wonder how they treat other guests here. The nerve!" And just as Larry finished, the door opened again, and a different robot entered. It made a series of clicking noises and bleeping codes, also leaving in a rush.
                "Now what?" Tudrussel grumbled. "Do we gotta launder the sheets too?"

                "No no, that was one of the Council's droids!" Larry replied, sounding a little stunned. "It said that we have a meeting with the Council in less than an hour!"

                "Pheh, what do they want with us this time?" Tudrussel snarled. There was a look of tired apathy on his face that seemed strangely alien. "Don't they think they've put the kid through enough? Oh, no I bet it's our 'punishment'."

                Otto looked up suddenly. "They're gonna punish you?"

                Tudrussel looked at him, and his face softened. "Naw, I dunno kid. You know, lectures, scolding, all of the usual stuff. They don't know how to do it right, you should have heard some of my officers at the Academy! Now they were pros."

                The light attempt at humor apparently did nothing to lift Otto's mood. He blinked back at Tudrussel, a little confused. "They shouldn't punish you." he started, frowning slightly. "You didn't do anything wrong, really. All of this happened 'cause I was there---"

                "Now see here young man." Larry shook his head. "I won't have any talk like that. Nobody did anything wrong here, nobody at all. But I suppose that we did break the rules. It's not your fault at all, Otto. If anything, we should be thanking you. You've taught me more than any program could have." The robot gave the boy a pat on the shoulder.

                Otto blinked, nodded slightly, and looked up at Tudrussel.

                "You know the same goes for me, kid. Where would we be without you?"

                Otto sighed. "Probably where I'd be, without you." He paused for a moment, then closed his eyes. "I really am gonna miss you guys…" And as he trailed off, his voice faded and tears slipped down his face.

                Tudrussel looked a little like a deer in headlights at the situation. Sure, the kid had gone off the handle the night before after the Council meeting, but here he was really crying, not out of some burst of emotion. This was real from the kid. He wasn't sure what to say.

                "Come now Otto, please don't cry?" Larry started. "We can't have any of this." He looked around, trying to find something to distract the child. "You haven't had any breakfast yet, you know. Are you hungry?"

                "No." the boy replied, his voice turning stubborn.

                "Well hungry or not, you're not going anywhere without a good meal." Larry folded his metallic arms. "Let's see what the cafeteria has this morning. Their cooking robots aren't half as interested in being chefs as I am." he sniffed. "So don't expect any five-star cuisine."

                Tudrussel elbowed Otto, again attempting some humor. "At least we won't be getting any of them fluffy suzie-whatchamacallits."

                "That's soufflé, you cretin." Larry growled back, although there was no real anger in his voice. The robot realized halfway through speaking that it was nice to argue about normal things for a change. Otto was shooed out into the hall, where the lights were far brighter and all three had to squint and adjust for a moment. "Come on, this way." Larry pushed Otto ahead of him, down the hall.

                Tudrussel tailed the group, eyes darting rather suspiciously down other halls and rooms that they passed as they went. The last thing he wanted this morning was to run into Sheila. He still couldn't believe that she was responsible for this mess. Not like he planned on ducking Central Command forever, but this was just plain mean. Otto never deserved to be put through this. They were in the door to the cafeteria before he realized it. The room was relatively empty due to the early hour, with just a robot or two sweeping up, and another behind the counter.

                "Go on and get something, I'll find somewhere to sit." Larry told Otto, as if he had to find good seat in the empty cafeteria.

                "Okay, you want anything Tudrussel?" Otto blinked up at him.

                "Do me a big favor, get me a cup of black coffee?" he asked.

                "No prob." And Otto was off, picking his way through the long rows of tables and chairs to get to the counter.

                Larry scooted to the very back corner of the room, sitting as if he wished to avoid the prying eyes of the two droids sweeping up. The two robots clicked their gears in something that sounded like a whispered chuckle. Gossip apparently spread fast around the satellite. He slumped into his chair and let out a heavy sigh. "Why does it feel like I never went through that recharge cycle?" he asked.

                "You gotta try coffee too man. They should digitize caffeine, at least that wouldn't short your circuits." Tudrussel noted dully, sitting across from him.

                Larry didn't answer for a moment, staring at the tabletop. "I can't believe this is all happening." he started quietly.

                Tudrussel clicked his teeth, frowning at him. "You think I like this anymore than you do? Just havin' ta sit here why they put the kid back in that nuthouse? What kinda life do you think he's gonna grow up and lead anyway Larry? The Council's full of it, saying he has to go back to his time and place like he's got some future. I hate it."

                "I suppose the only thing we can do is think positively." Larry shook his head. "From the Council's point of view, they want to send him back because it won't cause any disruptions in the flow of time and history---"

                "Blah blah blah, I know that already Larry." Tudrussel snorted. "That don't make it right by me."

                "But that's not the only reason." the robot continued. "What if he goes back to the orphanage and gets adopted, hm? He'll have a real family, a real life. He'll get to go to school and play with children his age, it's really the only chance he has of being a normal child, Tudrussel."

                The man scowled a bit at the robot, knowing fully that he was right. "Yeah, well I never heard the kid complainin' when he was with us. He said it himself Larry, he doesn't wanna go anywhere."

                "Because he's afraid of what will happen if he has to stay as he was." Larry nodded. "I'm not going to disagree with you, that orphanage is no place for a boy like him. But what if he ends up in a better place because of it?"

                "That orphanage ain't fit for rats, it ain't! He's only eight, Lar. What kinda kid deserves that?" Tudrussel snorted.

                "Don't you remember our mission with George Washington a while back?" Larry continued, ignoring him, lowering his voice to an insistent whisper. "When Washington wanted to adopt him, hm?"

                "Wanted to steal him, was more like it." Buck huffed.

                "Buck, Otto wanted to stay. You know he did, he said it to you." Larry shook his head. "He wants a family, Tudrussel. Going back to the orphanage is the only way he can have that in his life."

                Fidgeting with the fake wood veneer of the tabletop, Tudrussel shot Larry a suspicious glare. "And when did ideas like that get put into your programming?" he muttered. "How would you know what the kid's thinkin'?"

                "Better than your judgment, I'd say." Larry frowned back. "I don't want him to go back either Tudrussel. I liked having him with us, and you know as much as I do that we need him. But you have to stop denying that there's something right in the Council's decision!"

                "What were you guys saying?" Otto suddenly broke in, startling both the officer and the robot as he held out a tray. One large cup of black coffee, and a bowl of cereal with milk were pushed onto the table.

                "Err, nothin' kid. Have a seat and eat up." Tudrussel took his cup and slugged half of it down at once.

                Otto scrambled up into a chair, picked up a spoon, and paused with a sigh as he stared down into his bowl. The last thing he wanted to do was eat. He glanced up at Larry, then Tudrussel, neither of whom were making eye contact with each other or him. He sighed again and turned back to his cereal bowl, wondering how long it would take for his food to get too soggy to enjoy. Not that he would enjoy it anyway. To busy himself, he took a few bites, munching slowly. After he swallowed, he paused again and thought aloud. "So… are you guys gonna come and visit me?"

                The question took both of his companions by surprise. "Visit?" Tudrussel asked.

                "Yeah, I mean…" Otto thought for a moment. "I know you guys don't time travel unless there's a mission, but I figure one day, maybe you'll get a mission back in my time. Maybe, you'd come visit me?"

                "Well of course." Larry replied with a slight smile. "And let me say that I hope there are quite a few history-dodging criminals back then!"

                Otto nodded dully back, as if he were half reassured and half disappointed by Larry's reply. He didn't feel like eating at all anymore. He pushed his tray away and rested a set of knuckles against his cheek, leaning on the table.

                Larry raised his arm to check his watch, and his eyes widened. "Goodness, we're due before the Council in a matter of minutes! How did that time go so quickly? We should get going."

                "Come on then, kid." Tudrussel stood and drained the last of his cup before setting it back on the table, and motioning for Otto to follow.

                Purposefully slow, Otto placed his spoon back beside his bowl on the tray, stood, and paced beside the two.

                With a deep breath, Tudrussel started out of the room.

                Fully assembled, the Council looked no less intimidating before the three, even in the early hour.

                "Officer Beauregard Tudrussel, robot unit Larry 3000, and non-officer Otto Osworth, are you all present?" a Councilwoman asked.

                "We're all here, sir." Tudrussel answered for the group.

                "Very well." she continued, picking up a stack of papers to read them better. "The Council recognizes that it is highly irregular to call you back before us after our meeting last night. However, we wish to make some addendums to our decision before you carry it out. We have not included all proper bounds in our previous statements."

                Otto looked up to see Tudrussel cringing slightly. He frowned, wondering how the Council was going to punish his friends. They'd done nothing wrong, why should they be punished!? Whatever it was, it had to be bad, to make Tudrussel flinch.

                A robot continued after the woman had finished. "It has come to the attention of the Council that there were additional circumstances that were not included in our meeting last night. Thanks to a statement from one of your fellow officers, we believe to have more data to input into our decision.

                Tudrussel's gaze transformed instantly, from flinching to curious and a little confused. A fellow officer's statement? Who would testify in a case like this?

                "The Council has direct evidence to state that the young Otto Osworth has contributed influence to your unit that has helped you to complete several missions. The Council has examined the data and determined that your unit would not have been able to complete these missions without his input factor. It is then safe to assume that your unit is insufficiently operating in its current state."

                Back to flinching again. Tudrussel was now more confused than ever. Did this mean a reassignment? More training? A new partner? A desk job?

                The man in one of the center chairs cleared his throat. "We have found that your unit is in need of additional training and mission experience before you can be allowed to continue with your duties. However, we see the addition of a new officer, or taking you both out for reprogramming and training to be inefficient and detrimental to Time Squad as a whole. We cannot spare to have either of your unit take a training leave. Therefore it is the decision of the Council that a new officer will be added to your unit, who is well-trained in the areas where both of you are lacking."

                Now Larry flinched as well. Inadequate? Did he forget an upgrade somewhere along the line? At least they weren't replacing him with a newer model…

                "Unfortunately," The woman picked up the statement again. "Our current class of training graduates does not contain an officer that fits your unit's required parameters. We have decided that a new recruit will be trained when he becomes the right age, to be the third member of your unit." The woman looked down. "Otto Osworth?"

                Otto snapped to. "Erm, yes?" he started.

                "Will you agree to accept training from the Time Squad Academy to become this said officer?"

                "What?" Otto raised an eyebrow. "I—I don't understand."

                "Based on field evidence from your missions and statements from another Time Squad officer, the Council has decided that you are of an optimal personality makeup to be the third officer to join the unit in question." a robot explained. "Once you reach the required age of thirteen Earth-years, you are to undergo training at the Time Squad Academy."

                "Until that time." the man in one of the central chairs declared. "You will continue to reside with the officers of the unit in question aboard their satellite as a means of assistance to them during missions. Time Squad will not be held accountable for any incidents or harm that you may encounter, since you are not yet an officer or undergoing official training."

                "So… so this means I get to stay?" Otto sorted things out.

                "Then I agree!" he laughed, a smile sprouting quickly on his face. "Of course I'll do it!"

                "Very well. This Council's decision has been amended and is now considered final. This case is closed." the man nodded. And with that, the entire Council stood and exited the room in a bustle.

                "Yeehaw!" Otto jumped up and punched the air. "Did you guys hear that? I get to stay!"

                "Indeed you do!" Larry smiled. "I'm very surprised the Council changed its decision like that, I can't remember the last time they have."

                "But I don't get it guys." Otto started. "Who was that other officer that testified?"

                "I think I know." Tudrussel smirked. "It was Sheila, and I'll be dipped that she did it too."

                "Sheila?" Larry frowned. "What did she have to do in all of this?"

                "Eh, I'll tell ya later man." Buck waved him off with a tired-looking grin. "It's a long story."

                Otto skipped in place for a moment, watching the robot and man. They both seemed to be thinking to themselves, and the smiles were fading from their faces. Otto paused a moment, seeing that. "What's wrong…?" he asked. "Aren't you happy? Now everything can go back to being normal again!"

                "Of course we're happy Otto." Larry smiled at him, kneeling to his eye level. "But frankly, we know that you don't exactly win out with this decision."

                To Otto's confused face, Tudrussel nodded. "We, uh, know you've wanted to have a family kid. If you stay on the satellite with us, that's not really possible."

                Otto grinned from ear to ear. "Are you guys kidding? Why would you think like that? You guys are my family!"

                "We---we are?" Larry was frankly surprised.

                "Sure! You're like a mom, dad, and siblings all rolled into one! Or, erm, two…" Otto chuckled. "Think about it! I mean, we've been together for quite a while now. Where would we be without each other?"

                "You know, the kid's got a point." Tudrussel beamed.

                "I wouldn't choose any parents over you guys." Otto declared with a grin. "Well, maybe the Washingtons…"

                "Hey!" Tudrussel snapped.

                "Psyche!" Otto stuck out his tongue and razzed the older officer.

                "Aww, no fair, c'mere you little squirt!" Buck charged off, chasing a scuttling Otto clean out of the room.

                Larry dusted off his metallic hips as he stood, a smile spread across his frame. Normality was an odd word when those in question worked for Time Squad. But it was certainly welcome after all of this.

The End

Time Squad and all associated characters are property of Cartoon Network and Time Warner Inc. I make no profit off of my stories, although I wouldn't mind doing so! Don't sue me, pretty please?