Chapter One: The Daily Grind
The city was a sight to behold at night. Anyone who had never visited before would be astounded by all the lights and tall buildings, and a country person would more than likely become hopelessly lost in the sprawling maze of streets and alleyways that made up Metro City. The only downside to this splendour was that the city's lights drowned out the stars almost to the point of invisibility.
Though his eyes could see all of this, his mind didn't register it very well as it was pondering something else. Astro frowned slightly as he flew beneath an arch. He was simply flying around, ready to step into a situation if he spotted one.
Thanks to Dr. O'Shay, robots now had the same rights as humans; they were equals and friends, just as Astro had always dreamed. Still, the young robot couldn't keep his mind from drifting to thoughts of the Blue Knight, Shadow and all of Robotonia. 'Where are they now? Have they found somewhere to live and, if so, are they happy?' His musings were interrupted as a voice hailed him.
"Hey, Astro, what brings you out here?"
Astro turned his head as the owner of the voice drew level with him. It was a green-eyed robot covered in bright red armour. "Oh, hey, Atlas! Not much, I just felt like flying. What about you, how are things going with Tokugawa?"
"A lot better than they used to, but it's slow going. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea of us getting along like we used to," Atlas admitted a touch wistfully.
Astro smiled brightly at his friend. "It'll get easier if you keep at it."
Atlas nodded slightly and the two continued in silence, flying with no destination. The noise of the city reached their sensitive ears, the hum of hover vehicles and voices becoming a familiar background buzz.
Atlas slowed down before coming to a complete halt. "I have a few things to take care of. I'll catch you around some other time," he said, giving a brief wave and flying off.
Sighing softly, Astro watched his friend disappear with a sad look in his deep brown eyes. Atlas was probably the only one that could fully understand Astro due to their creator and early treatment. The only difference was that Astro had learned to forgive and move on while Atlas was still discovering how.
Astro shied away from thinking about Dr. Tenma. The sheer madness the man had shown down in old Laboratory Seven had shaken Astro to the core. He had forgiven Tenma, but he doubted that he could ever forget all that had transpired. Astro had not told Dr. O'Shay all that had happened. He was not sure why, but it felt like a personal issue between Tenma and himself that no others needed to know the full extent of.
'Speaking of Dr. O'Shay, I bet he's wondering where I am,' Astro thought with a slight grimace. He didn't like leaving the doctor with his little sister; Zoran had the ability to twist the old man around her pinkie. 'I wish Zoran didn't throw a tantrum every time someone tells her "no". The doctor gives in to her so often because he says "no" and can't stick to it when Zoran starts crying. I suppose he thought Nora might help control her, but poor Nora can't keep up!'
Shaking his head at the inner workings of his strange family, Astro veered to one side and altered his course until he was heading home. It did not take long until he landed in front of the familiar house and walked up to the front door. It slid open immediately, granting him entry, and Astro stepped inside, his ears being assaulted by Zoran's voice the instant his foot touched the floor.
"Oh, my circuits, I'm surprised they haven't fried yet!" Nora wailed mechanically as she floated into the main room.
"Nora, what's going on?" Astro called, running over to the frazzled robot.
Nora stopped and faced her elder charge, relief almost emanating in palpable waves from her yellow, metal body. "Astro, thank goodness you're here! Zoran has locked herself in the kitchen, making a 'special treat' for Dr. O'Shay. The doctor and I have tried to open the door, but she must have done something to it from her side. Doctor O'Shay is trying to fix the door now," Nora explained quickly, getting behind Astro and chivvying him to the kitchen.
'Oh, no, I hope she hasn't totally wrecked the kitchen!' Astro thought in dismay. Jogging further up the hallway, he saw Dr. O'Shay with his nose stuck in front of a panel, examining it closely.
"Oh, Astro, could you give me a hand?" the old man asked. "I've tried to talk to her and get her to come out, but she's being very stubborn. Do you think you could convince her to come out before the kitchen becomes unrecognisable?"
Astro nodded, but he knew it would be no use. 'Dr. O'Shay created her; you'd think she would listen to him more than she does…' Taking a deep breath, despite the fact that he had no need for oxygen, Astro rapped his knuckles lightly on the door. "Zoran, what are you doing in there?"
"Big brother, I'm glad you're back! I'm making something really special and now you can try some too!" an enthusiastic, feminine voice replied, muffled slightly by the door.
'How can I try some if I don't eat?' was Astro's wry thought. "You haven't made another mega-mess in there, have you?" he asked, putting on his 'big brother' voice of authority.
"No," she answered. "There's a bit of flour on me and the counter, but the rest is clean!"
Astro sighed inaudibly. "No matter what we do or say, you're not gonna come out until you're done, are you?"
"That's right!" she cheerfully replied.
Dr. O'Shay shook his head and turned to Astro. "I can force the door open, but it will short out the power to the rest of the house. I guess we'll just have to let her be and hope that there won't be too much cleaning to do tomorrow," he said in a resigned tone. Sliding the cover back over the panel, the scientist retreated to have a shower, hoping the hot water would help him to relax.
The young robot watched his foster father go with a strange expression. 'And Zoran barrels over him again,' he thought, shaking his head and walking to his room. Slipping into his bedroom, Astro went over to the window and sat on the sill, staring out at the sky. He could hear Nora complaining downstairs, telling Zoran that she would have to clean up any mess she made as it would be her fault and Nora was tired of cleaning up after her. Astro didn't blame Nora. If Zoran got into trouble, it was always him that had to get her out of it. He loved his sister, but sometimes she was simply too much.
Feeling drained in a way that had nothing to do with his power cells, Astro crawled into bed and threw the covers over himself, not saying goodnight for once.
Birds were twittering away, chirping to each other before flying off to search for food. Someone was gently shaking his shoulder, softly calling his name. Astro had no desire to get out of bed today, he still felt drained. He groggily opened his eyes, Dr. O'Shay coming into focus in front of him. He blinked a couple of times to dispel the last lingering bits of blurriness from his optical sensors.
"Astro, thank goodness you're awake!" the doctor said with a sigh of relief. "Is something wrong, are you feeling unwell?"
At that question, Astro began to wonder if something was indeed wrong with him. He was unable to really check as he was not equipped to scan his own body. "I don't feel any different than usual," he answered, sitting up and pushing back the covers. He stood up and moved his body, checking that his arms and legs responded properly.
Dr. O'Shay observed Astro's movements closely, watching for any kind of malfunction. "Hmm, I can't see anything wrong. If you do begin to feel strange, come to me right away and I'll check your circuits, okay?" he offered, still looking a touch worried.
"Sure thing," promised Astro.
"Well, as long as you're okay. I came up here when you didn't come down. If you hurry, you can still make it to school on time," he said, nodding to himself while keeping his eyes on Astro.
Astro's eyes widened as his mind processed the doctor's words. "What? You mean I actually slept in and it's almost time for school?! I don't wanna be late!" Astro cried, dashing to his closet and pulling out his school clothes. He grabbed his shirt and pulled it over his head.
"Slow down, Astro, you're trying to put your shirt on backwards. You'll have enough time if you fly, I don't think anybody will mind if you fly all the way to class," O'Shay said with a chuckle as he watched his robot foster son rush around in the panic that only being late to school could induce in children.
Untangling himself from the confines of his shirt, Astro gave the doctor a sheepish grin and put it on the right way before digging around for his shorts.
"I'll leave you to it then," the scientist said, waving a hand briefly in Astro's direction and walking out of the bedroom.
'I've never slept in before,' Astro thought as he pulled on his shorts. Lifting up his shirt, he opened his chest panel and stared at the readouts. Everything was perfectly normal. His internal temperature was fine and he could find no fault with any of his circuits. Frowning, he closed the panel with a sigh, grabbed his school bag and hurried downstairs. He threw a quick "Bye!" over his shoulder to O'Shay, Zoran and Nora and activated the rockets in his feet, jetting off in the direction his school was.
Flying past a clock, he noticed that, at his current speed, he would arrive at school with a few minutes to spare. Astro grinned in relief, hoping that the day would progress normally from this point on. Touching down in front of the school, Astro jogged up the stairs to his classroom, hailing Kennedy and Alejo once he was close enough for them to comfortably hear him. Both greeted him happily.
"Did something hold you up at home? You're always here earlier than this," Kennedy asked once they had entered the classroom. Astro was sitting at his desk and his two friends were standing beside it.
"No, there was no hold-up, I just left later than usual," he admitted. He wasn't lying; he just didn't want to tell them the whole truth in case they started to worry about him. "I hope there's nothing wrong with the kitchen when I get home, though…"
"The kitchen?" Alejo repeated inquiringly. "Why, what's wrong with your kitchen?"
"Nothing, I hope." Catching their stares, he elaborated. "Zoran locked herself in the kitchen last night to make something for Dr. O'Shay. I went to bed before Zoran finally came out and I left as soon as I got down the stairs, so I don't know what shape Zoran left the kitchen in."
"I remember the last time your little sister made something," Alejo said with a slight shiver running down his spine.
Kennedy nodded and said, "Yeah, it took nearly the whole day to clean up!"
Astro was about to form some sort of reply when he was interrupted by a loud voice. It did not take long for the owner of the voice to reach Astro's desk. "Hey, Abercrombie," Astro greeted, the other two quickly following with greetings of their own.
The school day passed with no mishaps, even though Abercrombie fell asleep at around two during a math lesson. Astro began to think that the incident that morning was a small, one-off occurrence. The boys didn't hang out after school, Ken and Alejo were busy. Abercrombie waved farewell and headed off, leaving Astro with nothing to do.
Astro started to walk home, dreading to find a mess that had yet to be cleaned up. 'Sometimes I don't feel like Zoran's brother, more like a parent. I have a new level of respect for parents, that's for sure.'
Metro City was a hive of hustle and bustle. No matter where one looked, there was always something going on; people going about their business or robots working. Metro City was a place where both humans and robots co-existed. Things between them had not always gone smoothly, but everyone was living more peacefully since the declaration that robots were equals. Of course there would always be people who hated robots, but those few could not find much support among the rest of the city anymore.
Nearly everyone that Astro walked past smiled or waved at him or greeted him. Astro didn't know who they were, but he deeply appreciated even the smallest happy smile aimed his way. The people of Metro City regarded him as a hero, but he didn't see himself that way. It was nice to get thanks for something good that you did, but Astro would do something good even if he was hated for it, it's just who he was.
Dr. Tenma had tried to turn Astro into something he wasn't and had failed; now spending time in prison for all of his crimes. Astro had yet to visit him and wasn't sure if he could. He knew that if he saw Tenma again, all of his old and new memories would clash inside him. He may have forgiven the mad scientist, but he had yet to deal with everything properly.
A new looking sports model zip-car went zooming past over the speed limit. It didn't hit anything, though its slipstream knocked many things over. A woman cried out as her hat was sent flying in the car's wake, well out of her reach.
Quickly spinning in place, Astro locked his eyes onto the zip-car, committing it to memory for Detective Tawashi. Even though no-one was hurt, it was still a crime to speed. Frowning at the inconsiderate and dangerous driver, Astro flew after the hat, easily catching up with it. He grabbed it and flew back to the lady, touching down on the sidewalk and offering her the retrieved hat. "Here you go," he said cheerily.
"Oh, thank you," she said with a smile, taking the hat and putting it back on after fixing up her windswept hair a little.
"No problem," Astro replied.
The lady gave him another grateful look before walking off. Astro, too, continued on his way, thankfully with no more interruptions. Reaching his house, he went inside and headed straight for the kitchen. The kitchen door slid up easily, so Zoran hadn't broken it. Peeking inside, Astro was relieved to see the room clean, completely free of flour or any other cooking ingredients.
The house was quiet, so Astro figured that Zoran had dragged Nora somewhere. He went over to the vid-phone and called the police. It did not take long for someone to pick up.
"Hello, Metro City police, how may I help you?" asked a bored-looking man. Glancing at the screen, the man caught sight of who was calling. "Oh, Astro, what can I do for you? Are you after Detective Tawashi?"
"Hello. Yes, I am. Can I talk to him?"
"Sure, I'll put you right through," the man said, looking quite enthusiastic now.
A moment of static was what the entire screen showed before the face of Detective Tawashi came into view. "Astro, is something wrong?"
"When I was walking home, a zip-car sped by going well over the speed limit. I thought you'd like to know," said Astro.
Tawashi gained a thoughtful expression. "A speeder, huh? None of the patrols have sighted him. Do have a picture of the car in question?"
Astro nodded and opened his chest panel. Pulling a wire out from the side of the vid-phone, he plugged it into his 'heart', searched through his memory bank for the recorded file and played it for the inspector. Once the playback finished, Astro unplugged the cord and closed his chest, waiting for the man to say something.
"Thanks for that, Astro, I'll get my men to find this guy right away before he hurts someone," Tawashi said, giving Astro a small nod of thanks and farewell before the signal was cut.
As he was now left with nothing to do, Astro sat on the couch and turned on the TV, flicking through the channels until he found one that looked mildly interesting. It was the least boring programme on, but it was not enough to hold Astro's attention. The young robot's eyes slowly closed as he dozed off.
This was how Zoran and Nora found him when they came home from wherever they had been.
Zoran, being naturally curious, sat beside her brother and poked him in the arm. Frowning at the lack of response, Zoran poked him harder a couple more times. Receiving no reaction, Zoran turned to Nora and shrugged while shaking her head. "It's like he's out of energy, but I can tell he isn't," she said, giving her brother a quizzical glance.
"We better get the doctor to examine him as soon as he comes home," Nora said, floating into the kitchen to prepare a meal for the doctor.
Zoran absently agreed with the caretaker robot, her eyes drawn to the abandoned remote control. Seeing as Astro wasn't watching anything, Zoran snatched the remote and took control of the TV. Zoran liked more shows than Astro did, so finding something she wanted to watch wasn't hard. She grinned like a cat that caught a canary. 'With my brother out like this, I can watch whatever I want!'
It was a little over a half-hour before O'Shay arrived. He hung his jacket and hat on the hat stand and gave a weary sigh, glad to be able to put his feet up and relax. Yuko had been nagging him worse than ever to keep to his schedule for the entire day. The poor man had barely gotten a chance to eat lunch. Since he had rushed about following his schedule today, he was hoping that Yuko would ease off tomorrow.
Looking at the man in front of the door, Zoran hopped off the couch, bounced over to him and tugged on his sleeve.
"Oh, hello, is there something you want Zoran?" he said, glancing down and smiling fondly at the little robotic girl.
She shook her head and pointed at her brother's still form. "I think there's something wrong with Astro. He was like this when I got here and Nora said you should take a look at him. I poked him a few times, but nothing happened. I know he's not low on energy, so why is he like that?" Zoran explained while her sad and bewildered brown gaze locked firmly on O'Shay's face.
"Maybe he's simply been more tired than usual lately? I don't think he's been doing anything strenuous since his confrontation with Dr. Tenma," O'Shay said. 'Did Tenma do something to him down in Lab Seven? I arrived there only to see Astro hugging Tenma, so I have no idea if Tenma hit him with something that might be affecting him like a slow-acting disease; the symptoms showing one by one.'
Worried, O'Shay took Zoran's place next to Astro on the couch. His hand was hovering over Astro's chest, about to open the panel, when Astro's eyes flickered open.
"Doctor?" Astro said softly, confusion clear in his voice.
Disclaimer: I do not own Astro Boy. That honour belongs to Osamu Tezuka. May his memory live on!
NOTE: If you want to know when the next chapter is coming out, head to my profile and scroll down until you find the section 'Story Updates'. I'll have my current progress posted there and I update it regularly.
A/N: My first Astro Boy fic. This is based just post-2003 series, so Robotonia's in space and robots have equal rights to humans. This first chapter is not really exciting, but it will pick up - I promise. The next chapter will also probably be longer as 3000 words is rather short for me. I'm also looking for a beta for my Astro Boy fics as I plan to write as many as I can. PM me if you're interested.
I aim to add as many fics as I can to the Astro Boy section. This fandom is sadly unloved for being such an awesome show! To anyone reading this, I beg you to help! I will co-write with you if you don't wanna write one on your own.
Please review, I really appreciate feedback. Constructive criticism is welcome, but flames are not. They are not helpful to any author. Much love, fellow AB fans!