Obvious Disclaimer – The characters in this story are from the cartoon "My Life as a Teenage Robot", and spring from the brain of Rob Renzetti. I am a no-good schnook who's just taking his characters and writing my own little stories with them. If anybody at Nickelodeon is reading this, please do not sic the lawyer-bots on me. My sole creation is the character of Drew, a human high school student who was turned into an android by Cluster nanotechnology. It's explained in the stories "Android Scam" and "Some Like It 'Bot" by CoyoteLoon. Although he's really a minor character in this one … this is mainly a Jenny/Brad story, with sort of a Christmas theme. In the spirit of the season, the weatherman would like to warn you that there's a 70% chance of fluff. We'll see what happens.
A "My Life as a Teenage Robot" Fanfic
Chapter One – Video Games Will Rot Your Brain
Brad leaned out the front door of the house, waving to his Mom and Dad as the car pulled out of the driveway. With only a few days left until Christmas, they still had plenty of shopping to do, and they would be out for most of the afternoon. Which was absolutely perfect, thought Brad. The car started heading down the road towards town, and Brad watched it until it was finally out of sight.
"All right, Tuck, they're gone! Commence search operations! Go! Go! Go!"
"I've got the bedrooms!" yelled Tuck. He sprinted upstairs. Brad headed for the hall closet.
Even though their parents were out for more shopping, the brothers knew that some of the presents had already been bought, including some big ones. Secrets didn't keep very long when Tuck was around and presents were involved. Tuck went through his parents' bedroom first. Nothing under the bed. Nothing in the closets. But those would be the first places they'd expect him to look. Mom and Dad truly are a crafty pair, he thought. There could be something in the towel closet. No, nothing there. Maybe they had it stashed up in the attic.
"I found some stuff in the pantry," Brad yelled from downstairs, "but nothing that looks big enough! You having any luck up there?"
"No," Tuck said, a bit annoyed. "And I know I saw Dad sneak it in. I've looked everywhere except our bedrooms, and it sure wouldn't be there ..." Tuck snapped his fingers. That's just what they'd want us to think! He ran into his bedroom and …
"Eureka!" screamed Tuck! "Wrapped in a blanket and hidden under my very own bed! Oh, you really have to give it to Dad. All this time, I was sleeping right on top of it!"
Brad ran in and dropped next to his little brother. They unwrapped the blanket to reveal a black and silver box. The boys just stared with pure joy for a few moments.
"The GameStation 3000X," whispered Brad, in reverent awe. "The ultimate video game experience. State of the art 3-D graphics. High-speed Internet connection. Stereo surround sound. They say it has more raw processing power than five monkey brains."
Tuck caressed the box's cover, like a favorite pet. "There's a warning label for people with heart conditions. O-o-o-oooh, Brad …"
"Let's get this puppy hooked up!" Brad shouted.
Brad and Tuck raced down to the living room and carefully opened the box, saving all the parts so they could re-package it later, before their parents got home. It only took them a few minutes to get everything hooked up to the television in the living room, and they were ready for power-on. The GameStation corporate logo blasted onto the screen in a blizzard of 3D effects and rumbling stereo. Brad could feel his ribcage vibrate from the subwoofer. Tuck stared at the visual effects in a hypnotic gaze. They turned and shared an unspoken thought – coolest present ever!!!
Tuck wiped a tear from his eye. "It's more beautiful than I dared dream."
Brad popped in a game disc, and a few screens later, he and Tuck were blasting away enemy space commandos in video game paradise. "It just doesn't get any better than this, little bro!" he shouted.
Mrs. Wakeman was elated. She hadn't expected this level of success with her latest experiment. And it was all rather invigorating, as well. In fact, she had to fight back mild feelings of vertigo.
She was floating in deep space, surrounded on all sides by softly glowing green doors. There had to be millions of them. There was no air, but she had no trouble breathing. It was cool and dark, but the glowing doors filled the universe with a soft, green ambient light. If she concentrated, she could see green circuitry stretching off to infinity in every direction. It was a striking visual image in its boldness and simplicity, but not particularly useful as a research tool. All right, time to see how well the interface works.
"Very well then – search engine," she called out. This environment is completely disorganized. Sigh, but then again, that hardly comes a surprise. Chaos and teenagers do seem to come as a packaged set.
A floating window popped into existence, just off to her right, and a synthesized voice spoke from it. "Good day, and welcome to Android OS 2000. Please state your query."
"Oh, remarkable! Let's see now … fetch me the engineering schematics for the Cluster nano-probe!"
"Working," said the search window. Less than one second later, Mrs. Wakeman watched one of the small green doors rocket towards her at impossible speed, then stop two feet from her face. Unfazed, she reached forward and tapped the door, and it disappeared into nothing. Then she walked through.
On the other side of the door was another universe, wallpapered with mathematical equations floating in mid-air. Directly in front of Mrs. Wakeman hovered a giant ball-and-pipe structure, glowing various colors, with floating labels pointing to various locations. Other schematics and images floated off into the distance, showing the same structure from different distances and angles.
"Heavens to Einstein! This is extraordinary!" shouted Mrs. Wakeman. "The complete engineering blueprints for the most advanced nanotechnology in the Cluster arsenal! Oh my stars and garters, I must figure out a way to bring a notepad and a pencil in here."
Suddenly the entire universe twitched, just a bit. It was a bit disorienting, but nothing to seriously worry about. Still, this was the first time that she'd tried this experiment, and things had already gone better than she would have predicted. So even though she'd only been in here for ten minutes, Mrs. Wakeman decided it was time to leave and analyze the results of this test run.
She left the room and walked back out into the empty infinity of hovering green doors. The floating window was waiting for her. "That's quite enough for today. Show me the exit port, please," she asked. A different green pinprick rushed towards her from the edge of the universe and stopped three feet from her nose. Mrs. Wakeman tapped on the door, and walked through, into a brilliant white light.
Mrs. Wakeman sure did come up with some pretty strange ideas now and then, but this one was right up there. They were both sitting in Mrs. Wakeman's laboratory. Drew waved his arm in front of her face, trying to get her attention. She was slumped back in her chair, and seemed to be unresponsive. "Doc? Doc! Can you hear me, Doc? Are you okay?"
Mrs. Wakeman was wearing a bizarre-looking helmet on her head, with a visor that dropped down over her eyes. It was covered with strange electronics and glowing tubes. In the back of the helmet, a thick black cable came out and ran down to the floor. At the other end, ten feet away, the connector was plugged into Drew's gray, metal chest.
Suddenly she flung a pair of triumphant fists into the air. "Fantastic! Simply fantastic! Oh, I must record my findings while they are still fresh in my mind!" She took off the helmet, and started rummaging in her desk for a pencil.
"Phew," gasped Drew, "you gave me a little bit of a scare there, Doc."
Mrs. Wakeman was still a bit euphoric, and a little dizzy. She started jotting down notes. "Complete and total sensory immersion! Full interaction with the virtual environment! Seamless interface with the host operating system! Could have used a thermostat though, it was a bit chilly in there …"
"Dr. Wakeman!" Drew finally got her attention. "Could you please tell me what just happened?"
"I have been working on this virtual reality helmet for three years now, and have never gotten it to operate satisfactorily," she explained. "But the unique nature of your synthetic body afforded me an opportunity to test it on a completely different kind of information network. And it works, by Jove! It works!"
Drew blinked a few times. "Okay, remember, high school freshman, here."
"Augh, what are they teaching teenagers in science class these days?" she huffed. "Andrew, your android body is made up of trillions of nanobots. It takes a quite a bit to control that many little machines, and scattered throughout your body are tiny molecular supercomputers. Hundreds of millions of them. That's why you do not have a brain. Your brain is spread throughout your entire body."
"Wow, that's … freaky," Drew managed to mutter. "Sort of like … millions of tiny chocolate chips in a big bowl of cookie dough."
"Not exactly the analogy I might have used, but yes," she said, rolling her eyes. "Those computers are programmed to be highly adaptive and responsive. So when I plugged the helmet into your chest, your body created an interface. And the helmet worked perfectly! I could visualize your databanks, move about, talk to the OS … it was as if I was literally inside of your body's computer network."
"So you … you were zipping around inside my mind? No offense, Doc, but I'm not sure if I like the sound of that."
"Oh please, relax. I wasn't looking for anything embarrassing." She folded her arms. "I'm a scientist. There may be large amounts of Cluster information in your brain that could prove useful in forestalling any aggressive actions on their part in the future. Something to think about in a future session, but for now, I think we'll take a little break. I want to go over the data from the helmet, and grab a snippet of lunch. And perhaps a scone with blackberry marmalade! I do feel like celebrating a bit. The virtual reality helmet is a smashing success!!! That will be all, Andrew."
Mrs. Wakeman grabbed a stack of paper readouts and headed for the kitchen. Drew hadn't known the doctor for long, but he could tell when she wanted company and when she didn't. I think she sees me as more of a petri dish than a house guest, anyway. Eh – scientists. Whaddaya gonna do? Drew let himself out of the Wakeman house, wondering how to kill the rest of the afternoon. Jenny was off on some emergency call downtown. Maybe Brad and Tuck were up to something.
Drew couldn't turn his head from the amazing picture that the GameStation 3000X was putting on the television. It looked just like an authentic fortress! The backgrounds were almost photo-realistic! The trees looked real! When the space commandos ran, the motion was so fluid. And the explosions – you could almost feel the blast when one of the characters was flung into the air!
"Watch this!" shouted Brad. His character was standing on top of burning truck. Brad mashed a series of buttons on his game controller, and his 'commando' somersaulted into the air, firing a rocket gun at a group of enemy fighters. They blew up – in a really cool way. Pictures hanging on the wall of the living room vibrated as the explosions rumbled from the speakers.
"Hey," whined Tuck, "I was gonna do that! I was luring them into a false sense of security!"
"Too slow, Marine! The legend of the Brad-inator grows. High score!"
Tuck turned his controller over in his hands. "I think some of the buttons are sticking on this."
"Now, now, Tuck, it's a poor musician who blames his instrument. Drew, check out the water effects on this river over here. If you jump in, the waves are totally realistic. And watch the branches on this tree when I blow it up. They swing back and forth like the real thing. And check out how the laser gun glows when you fire it. It's the most realistic game machine ever made."
Drew stared lustfully at the GameStation. "Oo-o-o-oh … It's like … if God played video games, this is what he would have in his living room. Dude, I call next!"
"No way," laughed Brad, "we just got this thing open! I need to teach my little brother a lesson in sibling seniority. Now, see how Tuck believes he's hidden in that factory over there. Apparently under cover and well protected. That might be true, were it not for … the Omega Bomb! Mwa, ha, ha, ha!"
Tuck jumped in his seat. "What?!? There's not an Omega Bomb on this world!"
"There is if you turned them on at the start of the game, m'lad. Voila!" Brad's space commando pulled a huge bazooka cannon from behind his back, and fired a missile into the air. It circled for a few seconds, then came down right on top of Tuck, with a wall-shaking explosion.
"AIIGHHH!!!" screamed Tuck. "You blew me up! Your own brother!"
Suddenly the front door of the house flew off its hinges with a blam.
The boys nearly fell to the floor as Jenny roared into the living room, with a blast of icy wind behind her. She landed, poised for action.
"Guys, I heard explosions! Is everyone okay?!?"
Drew got up to his knees. "Well, I was before that heart attack."
Tuck frowned. "Jenny, there is a doorbell."
Brad leaned back in the sofa. "I am much more than okay, which is more than I can say for my little soldier of misfortune here, next to me. Dear Mom and Dad, the Space Marines regret to inform you that your son, Tuck, done got himself blowed up real good!"
"Only because your older, dopier son is a big cheater!" added Tuck.
Jenny glanced around the living room. There were no scorch marks, no debris, no damage … nothing except a bag of potato chips spilled onto the floor. It didn't make any sense … until she looked at the lasers and plasma rays blasting away on the television.
She smacked her forehead. "Are you telling me that I rushed over here because of a stupid video game?!? I don't believe you guys! I could hear the explosions from five hundred feet in the air!"
"Wow! Five hundred feet?" Drew and Brad bumped fists. "Swee-e-eet!"
"A beautiful winter afternoon, and you boys are all sitting around a television set playing make believe war games," Jenny huffed. "Well, I'm finally done with the latest crisis downtown. There's fresh snow falling outside. I thought it might be fun to go sledding on the big hill by the pond. I saw a whole bunch of kids over there, while I was flying home."
Brad was staring at the TV. "Eh … we went sledding last week. I've got a record score going here, and I don't want to lose it."
"But it's snowing right now," Jenny said, a little surprised at Brad's answer. "Brad, last week you said that fresh snow was the best snow for sledding. I bet we can break our speed record today!"
"It'll snow again sometime." Zap! Blam! Kaboom!
"I don't believe this! You can play that stupid video game anytime!"
Tuck gasped. "She speaks ill of the game! Blasphemy!"
"We'll forgive her this time," chuckled Brad. "Now prepare for another taste of defeat, short stuff."
"Can you at least look at me when you're talking to me?" said Jenny. She was getting a little angry. "I realize I'm not as interesting as your big laser battle game, but maybe you could tear your attention away for five seconds?!?"
Brad finally hit the pause button, and turned around. "Jenny, what's the big problem? Tuck and I wanted to try out our new GameStation. When our parents get back, we won't be able to play it again until after Christmas. You can play with us if you want to. We'll go sledding some other time. There's three more months of winter, y'know."
Jenny balled her fists, and stomped her feet. "Fine! Play your stupid Lame-Station! I couldn't care less!" And with that, she clanked heavily out the front door.
Brad, Tuck, and Drew looked at each other silently for a few moments.
"I didn't realize that she liked sledding that much," said Drew.
"It's not that," groaned Brad. "She's been acting kind of moody like that for the past week or so. I can't figure out why. I asked her if there was anything wrong, or if she was fighting with her mom – well, more than usual – and she says there's nothing wrong, and then gets all mad. Go figure." He rolled his eyes. "I think I have an easier time understanding the robot part than I do the girl part."
"Yeah, yeah, enough with the soap opera," interrupted Tuck. "Are we gonna play or what?"
"You're on," laughed Brad, un-pausing the game.
The mayhem continued, as once more the living room was filled with the zaps, booms, and rumbles of plasma fire and shock grenades. "Check it out," said Brad. "If you use up all your weapons, you can fight in hand-to-hand combat. Of course, it's a little hard to control with this game pad." Brad experimented with his space commando, who clumsily swung in the wrong direction and got knocked on his back by an enemy fighter.
"Ha, ha! Your commando fights like a girl," laughed Tuck. "Didn't I hear somebody say something once about 'it's a poor musician who blames his instrument'?"
"Well the controls totally don't make any sense for using your fists. Where are the instructions?"
"You know, I saw these things on a GameStation TV commercial called Senso-Gloves," said Tuck. "You wear them like normal gloves, and they plug right into the GameStation. And you control your character with your own hands! Maybe Mom and Dad bought them too!"
A flash of inspiration struck Drew. He grinned at Brad and Tuck.
"Gentlemen, I believe I can do better than that."
"What do you mean?" asked Brad.
"I'll see your Senso-Gloves and raise you … one Virtual Reality Helmet."
Brad's eyes nearly popped out of his head, and he grinned like a hyena. "Tell me more."
Jenny stood in her front yard, alone, staring across the street. Big, fat snowflakes were drifting lazily through the air. A few flakes stuck to her cheek, and after a few seconds, a thin layer of slush started to form on her face, shoulders, and pigtails. She didn't bother wiping it off.
She was watching a family, out hanging Christmas decorations on their front porch. The father looked like he had spent the day stringing lights all over the house, and the children had built a family of snowmen on the front yard. The mother was hanging a large wreath on the front door.
"Mmmm … I just love the smell of fresh pine branches," said the mother. Jenny was a bit ashamed to be eavesdropping, but it was easy to do with super robot hearing.
"I love the smell of that pumpkin pie!" laughed the little girl. "Can I have a piece before dinner?"
"Come on, everyone," said the father. "Get inside and I'll get a fire going. Nothing feels better than a crackling fire on a cold winter night."
The little girl and her brother ran inside with a squeal, and the father wrapped his arms around his wife's waist. He laughed, and pointed to the top of the door, where he'd just hung a sprig of mistletoe. They gave each other a quick, playful kiss, and disappeared into their happy home, unaware that Jenny was even watching them.
Jenny sighed, and a small tear froze in the corner of her eye. Then she heard a voice from behind her.
"Uh … Jen? H'lo?" Drew had walked out of Brad's house, and was waving to get her attention.
"Oh. Hey, Drew." How long was he standing there?
"I'm just heading over to your mom's lab for a second and …" Drew looked a bit concerned. "Are you just going to … stand out here in the cold? We figured you were heading over to the sledding hill."
"No, I thought I'd just stand here and let the snow cover me," she said sarcastically. "How to make a snow robot, the easy way."
"Uh … all right, then. Sorry to bother you." Drew slunk away.
"Wait a minute," Jenny groaned, and slumped her shoulders. "I'm sorry. I might as well go inside too, everybody else is." She slowly trudged a few steps, then stopped. "Drew, can I ask you a silly question?"
"You might get a silly answer. Fire away."
"Does it feel cold out to you?"
That did seem like a silly question. "Well I guess so. I mean, it's … I'd call it twenty-six and a half degrees. I'd say that's cold."
"It's twenty-six point four degrees. Your sensors need to be tuned up," she chuckled softly. "But do you feel cold?"
Drew wasn't sure where this was going. "Well, no, I don't. I suppose I really don't ever feel hot or cold anymore, ever since my overhaul," he joked, referring to his transformation into an android.
"Do you miss it?"
He shrugged. "It's not really something I've given a lot of thought, to be honest. It's actually kind of nice not to have to worry about getting cold."
"You don't miss the feeling of a cool breeze on your cheek? Or a snowflake melting on your tongue?"
"Like I said, never really thought about it."
"That stupid Brad," she grumbled. "He can come out here and enjoy the taste of the snow, and the feel of the wind, anytime he wants. He doesn't know how lucky he is. And he doesn't even care! He and his dumb brother would rather rot their brains playing video games."
Drew arched an eyebrow, a little mystified. "Jenny, is something wrong?"
"I'm fine," Jenny harrumphed, and then changed the subject. "Let's just get inside. Why are you heading over to my mom's lab, anyway?"
"Wha? Oh, I'm going to borrow a little something we were testing together this afternoon. Your mom invented a cool virtual reality helmet. I think I can get it hooked up to Brad's new GameStation."
"Arghhhh," groaned Jenny, as she and Drew walked in the Wakeman house. I don't know which I hate worse, that silly video game or that stupid helmet. "Is my mom trying to get that thing working again?"
"You know about the helmet?" asked Drew.
"Know about it? At one time, she wanted to install a receiver for that stupid helmet inside of me," Jenny explained. "She never got it to work, so she put in the video screen that unfolds from my chest. You think it's a drag to have your mother pop out of your chest and embarrass you in front of everybody? Imagine having her pop into your brain."
"Well, I figured we might give this baby a little field test." Drew lifted the helmet and tucked it under his arm.
"Knock yourselves out," said Jenny. "Get back to your fellow space commandos, or whatever."
"All righty, then. See you later." Drew left the house and sprinted excitedly back to Brad's place, eager to hook that stupid helmet up to that stupid game. Boys and their toys.
Well, good riddance to them. She was in a mood to be alone right now, anyway. Jenny clunked her way upstairs towards her bedroom. I suppose I'll just listen to some music for the afternoon. As long as it doesn't have anything to do with Christmas.
Why did she feel that way? Why did she feel worse and worse the closer it got to Christmas? She stopped at the top of the steps and looked out a window, back at the house across the street. Everybody always seemed so busy and happy this time of year. Everybody went to parties and gave each other presents. Everything was decorated with bright colors and blinking lights. It all seemed so wonderful. Everybody seemed to feel wonderful. I suppose it really does feel wonderful. I wouldn't know.
Smoke started to drift out of the chimney. Apparently, the father had gotten that crackling fire started in the fireplace. I wonder if it feels warm.
I wonder what 'warm' feels like.
She lost track of time, and finally realized that she'd been staring out the window for fifteen minutes. Jenny sighed, and dragged her feet towards her room.
Then she heard a soft moan coming from down the hall. It was coming from her mother's bedroom. Hmmm, Mom's usually in the lab this time of day.
Jenny peeked into her mother's bedroom. Mrs. Wakeman was lying on the bed, with an icepack covering her forehead. She moaned again, and started rubbing her temples.
"Mom? Are you all right?" asked Jenny, suddenly a little concerned.
Mrs. Wakeman was a bit startled, but waved her in. "Oh, hello there, XJ-9 – I assume everything went well with the eggnog tanker spill on the bridge downtown? I'll be all right in a few minutes. I just have a rather nasty headache, that's all. Nothing a little ibuprofen won't clear up. Ohhhhhh." She shifted the icepack on her head, covering her eyes.
"You need to learn how to mellow out, Mom. You're probably just working too hard."
"One of us has to, young lady," grumbled Mrs. Wakeman. "I just need to take a break from my virtual reality helmet experiment."
"Oh," said Jenny, playing dumb. "You're working on that thing again. Did you get it to work?"
"Work? I should say so. In fact, the confounded contraption works too well."
Something about that didn't sound good. "How can it work too well?"
Mrs. Wakeman took off the icepack so she could look at Jenny while she spoke. "I was testing it on your friend Andrew, and the helmet made a perfect connection to his internal network. So perfect, in fact, that all of my brain's sensory input was redirected from my own body to the helmet's connection. It was all very enthralling, to say the least. Ohhhhhh. But I suppose I'm paying for it now with this headache. It just came over me a few minutes after I ended the session."
"Wow. How long did you have it on?"
"Oh, perhaps ten minutes."
"Ten minutes?!? What would happen if you wore it for an hour or two?"
Mrs. Wakeman actually laughed, then winced in pain. "Oh, for heaven's sake. If I had left that helmet on for two hours, my brain would have become permanently connected to the virtual reality signal, and permanently disconnected from my own nervous system! Ohhhhhh. That helmet could turn somebody into a drooling, mindless vegetable if they weren't careful. You would spend the rest of your life feeding me mashed apricots through a funnel! And I don't think either of us would enjoy that."
She patted Jenny's hand, and plopped the icepack back on her face. "But, fortunately, the experiment was concluded successfully, and the virtual reality helmet is sitting downstairs in the laboratory, safe and sound."
Jenny gulped hard, very glad that her mom couldn't see the look on her face. "Yeah … heh-heh … safe and sound." Oh, no, what have the boys gotten themselves into?
Continued in Chapter Two