(A/N: I know this idea has been bouncing around between a couple people for a little while, but it seems no one has gotten around to writing it yet. I had the same idea while I was watching Astro Boy for the first time and I have some pretty good ideas concerning it that were begging to be written, so I guess I'll write it. So without further a due, Copy.)
Astro landed on top of his father's penthouse with a smile on his face, carelessly wiping off some grit from the slick surface of his robotic skin as his feet reverted from rocket boots back to normal. He had just arrived from stopping the demonic orange alien-thingy from destroying the city, and his spirits were high. Not only from his victory, but also from everything that had just happened to him.
He wasn't dead. He had come very close to it, but he wasn't dead. Twice he had been shut down, and twice he had thought his short life had been over for good. But he had been rescued, first by his father, and then by ZOG, his faithful robot friend. And not only that, his father had come to accept him despite the fact that he was a robot, and an imperfect copy of his dead son. And Cora had been reunited with her parents. Astro couldn't see how his life could get any better.
Unable to wipe the joyful grin off his face, Astro slid off the roof and entered the penthouse the normal way. As he walked down the spacious halls he surveyed its contents, his smile slipping somewhat. It was weird looking at the place and having memories surface about it. Him running through it, a little kid, playing hide-and-seek. Him reading a book on that couch. Him finally mastering a difficult video game on that game system. It was him, his memories. But yet they weren't. They were Toby's memories, downloaded into his head by Tenma so that he could be as much like Toby as possible.
For some reason, it bothered him. He knew he was a robot, and he knew he would never truly be Toby. He might have his memories and look just like him, but he wasn't him. He was his own person, and he liked that. So maybe that's why the memories bothered him so much. He had found out he was a robot and had been kicked out of Metro City. He had met Cora and the other orphans on the surface and found himself while he was there. He had made friends. And then he had returned to Metro City and saved it from destruction, finding his own destiny in the process. His purpose. He might have been created to be a replacement for Toby, but that was no longer his purpose. His purpose, his destiny, was to protect Metro City and use his special abilities to help others…and be as good as a son as he could to his father. That is who he was. Not Toby. So why couldn't he just have his own memories, instead of his own plus Toby's? A constant reminder of who he was created to replace? He'd much rather just be able to remember his time on the surface with Cora and the others, not the fake stuff planted in his robotic brain.
Sighing, Astro made his way through the rest of the house, not quite as happy as he had been a moment ago, but still unable to rid himself of the joyful feeling in his heart—er, Core—altogether. His spirits only lifted as he entered the penthouses main living room to hear the sound of his father's voice. Bill Tenma. His creator. His father. A father that wanted him, and had accepted him for what he was. A father that Astro loved from the deepest depths of whatever that it was in him that allowed him to feel. He wasn't sure what exactly it was that allowed that, but he thought it had something to do with the Core. The Core powered him. It kept him alive and gave him the ability to walk, think and talk. Why wouldn't it be the source of his feelings? It only made sense.
Smiling at the thought, Astro approached his father. He seemed to be on the phone with someone, having an in-depth conversation. Not wanting to interrupt him, Astro sat down on one of the couches and waited patiently for his father to finish.
As he waited, he could not help but listen to the conversation. His enhanced robotic hearing went off on its own, magnifying the words on both sides of the phone for his ears to hear without even trying. Grinning, he released his dad was talking to Doctor Elfun.
"—still not sure how he is capable of such feeling, but it must be something to do with the Blue Core," Tenma was saying, speaking rapidly and excitedly. "I hadn't put much thought into it before because I was so wrapped up in the fact that my little Toby was back and then that whole fiasco came right after it. I never really looked too much into the sheer abilities of the Core. Not only is he a perfect replica of Toby, he feels. And not programmed feelings, real feelings! Love, hatred, sorrow, happiness….everything! It's…it's amazing!"
Astro frowned slightly. Tenma was talking about him, and how he could feel. It was weird that they were talking about the exact same thing Astro had just been thinking about a moment before. Interested, he enhanced his hearing, wanting to hear more.
"I know, Tenma," Elfun said, chuckling at how excited the man was. "I saw. Remember?"
"Yes yes, of course you did," Tenma mumbled carelessly, his mind whirling. "But just think! He might not be Toby, but he's still like a real person. He loves me, and he feels like anyone else. We have to find out why this is! Why does the Core allow him to become so human-like?"
"I don't know Tenma," Elfun sighed, the smile clearly heard in his voice. "You know very well I only know as much about the Blue Core as you do. We'll just have to study Toby some more, maybe even conduct a couple of experiments, if he lets us. No dissecting ones though, I will not take part in anything that involves hurting the boy."
"No no of course not, of course not," Tenma agreed. "But we'll have to study it. And try to see if we can find more of the Blue Core. If we can make more robots like Toby, think about what we can do! And how we can enhance Toby's power, make him stronger, less vulnerable. Have enough extra Core left that we can assure that Toby would never be in danger of being turned off for good again."
"I will try my best to find more, but I don't know Tenma. The chances of us finding more is very slim. We were lucky to obtain the bit of the Core that we have."
"I know, I know," Tenma sighed. "But…it's worth a try right?"
"Of course," Elfun said kindly. "I'll keep my eyes peeled. Give my regards to Toby, will you?"
"Sure," Tenma said. "Goodbye."
"Goodbye Tenma," Elfun said before hanging up.
Sighing, Tenma hung up his own phone before slipping it back into his scientist's jacket. Silently, he began to leave the room.
"Hey Dad!" Astro said suddenly, sitting up abruptly.
Tenma jumped, whirling around in surprise.
"Toby!" he exclaimed at the sight of his robot son, eyes wide. "I didn't—where did…when did you get here?"
"A…little while ago," Astro said sheepishly, cringing slightly when his dad called him Toby. For some reason, he found himself not wanting to be called that anymore. But he did not want to tell this to his father. He didn't think he would like it.
"Did you…did you hear my phone conversation?" Tenma spluttered, still marveling how he had missed Astro's entrance.
Sheepishly, Astro nodded, looking down at his hands. He felt bad for eavesdropping, but it wasn't really his fault he had super hearing.
Sighing, Tenma abandoned his destination out the door and instead sat down on the couch next to Astro, carefully taking the small robots head in his hands and pulling it up gently so Astro's light brown eyes met his.
Astro frowned worriedly. "You're not mad, are you?" he asked.
"No, of course not," Tenma said, smiling. "Why would I be mad? I gave you that advanced hearing and stealth skills. Why should I be upset when you use them?"
Astro smiled weakly. He was glad his father understood. "Why were you talking about me?" he asked, recalling the conversation between Tenma and Elfun.
"Oh, we were just marveling at how amazing you are," Tenma said, shrugging it off lightly. He smiled warmly at Astro again, taking his face in hungrily with his eyes. Like he would never get enough of him.
"You were talking about how I can feel," Astro said, cocking his head slightly. He wasn't sure if he was completely comfortable with his father talking about his robot capabilities, but he guessed it was to be expected. He was a robot, and he needed to accept that. No matter how human like he was, he would never truly be human.
Tenma suddenly looked slightly uncomfortable, his smile slipping partly. "Well, yes," he admitted. "But not in a bad way. We just find it fascinating that you can love and feel so…so…"
"Human-like," Astro finished for him, smiling. "It's okay dad. Really. I'm fine with being a robot. I know I'm never going to be truly human."
Tenma smiled sadly, staring into Astro's soft chocolate eyes. "I know you aren't human," he said softly. "But you're still my son, and I love you. No matter how anyone talks about you, and no matter how I talk about you and your capabilities, you're still my son, robot or no. Don't ever think that I love you any less just because you're a robot."
Astro nodded, but he still looked slightly unsure. The painful memory of his father rejecting him shortly after he discovered his powers surfaced in his mind. "You promise?" he asked softly.
"Promise," Tenma said sincerely. He hugged Astro and Astro's smile widened as he hugged him back, his body firm and warm. Living. Full of blood and cells and muscles and bones. Things that Astro didn't have, he reminded himself sadly.
They broke up after a moment, Astro sorry to let him go. Smiling sadly, Tenma got up from the coach. "I'll be back soon," he said. "Why don't you stay here and relax a little while? You deserve it, after you defeated that alien."
Astro smiled, remembering how he had delivered the orange alien to the Ministry of Science and helped safely lock it away. It had felt good, to help. And it felt doubly good to be admired by the workers there, not glared at or trying to avoid getting apprehended.
"Sure," he agreed, happy to have a break. It had been a crazy day. Could it have only been five days since he had been created? Or had it been longer? It certainly felt longer. A lot had happened in that small amount of time. He needed the rest, despite the fact that the Blue Core kept him healthy and constantly charged. He needed…the down time. "But where are you going?"
"Ministry of Science," his father answered, chuckling softly. "Where else? I'm needed there to help try an get the power grids back online so we can get the city back into the air. The sooner the better."
Astro frowned. "Back in the air?" he echoed.
"Of course Toby," Tenma said, looking surprised. "Did you think we'd let the city sit on the surface forever with all these worthless robots?"
Astro's eyes widened at the last sentence, hurt shinning in his brown eyes. Quickly, he turned away.
Tenma seemed to see the damage his careless words had caused. "I…I'm sorry Toby…" he apologized, looking stressed. "I…I didn't mean it that way. I didn't mean you, it…it just kind of…came out that way."
"It's okay dad," Astro said, forcing a smile. "Really. It's fine."
Tenma frowned, but didn't push the subject. Quickly, he tried to change it to something lighter. "I'm going to re-enroll you into school while I'm out to," he said, smiling weakly.
Astro looked up, eyes wide. "School?" he repeated.
"Yeah," Tenma said, grinning now that the awkwardness had left. "A growing robot like you needs a good education."
"But I thought you were going to home school me!" Astro exclaimed, recalling his first home schooling session with his dad. Or really, first day with his dad period.
"I know, I know, but I think public school will be good for you," Tenma said brightly. "Get you socializing, meet some people, make friends. Don't you already have a few?"
"Yeah," Astro said, his mind shifting to Zane, Widget and Sludge. And Cora. With a sudden rush of sadness, Astro realized he hadn't seen Cora since ZOG had brought him back to life. He had been carried away on everyone's shoulders in celebration, and then the alien had attacked. He wondered where she was. With her parents? Probably. But where were they? And more importantly, was she going to be going to public school with him? And all the others too? He would have to find out.
"See?" Tenma said encouragingly. "You already have a couple. Make some more! Go to a movie, have some fun! Do something a real kid would do! This is your chance to be like a real kid, Toby!"
Like a real kid. Astro liked the sound of that. "Alright dad," he said. "I will."
"Good," Tenma said approvingly. "I'll be back soon. Bye."
"Bye Dad," Astro said, and then Tenma was gone.
Sighing, Astro sank into the plush coach, savoring its comfiness, his robotic mind whirling through all that had happened to him for the millionth time that day. He didn't think he'd ever be able to relax, but it was worth a try. Getting up from the couch, he made his way to his room.
Toby's room, he reminded himself as he entered it, taking in the spacious interior. Not his. Despite the memories of being in it that surfaced in his mind when he looked at it, none of the memories were of him, only the one that he had of waking up to find his father, asleep at the foot of the bed. And how Tenma had hugged him, at the point of tears. At the time, Astro couldn't understand why his father had been like this. He had thought he was still Toby, and he didn't see what was wrong. He knew better now. Tenma had just been happy to have his son back, even though it was only a robot version of him.
Sighing sadly, Astro sat down on the bed. Lying down, he closed his eyes. He could feel the energy that powered them powering down, switching from normal, to a light blue, to black. He couldn't believe he hadn't noticed this change before, back when he still believed he was Toby. He guessed he just hadn't been paying attention. But now that he knew he was a robot, he noticed everything. All the changes between how his body acted compared to the memories of how Toby's body worked. How Toby had become tired, and had to lay down to rest. Astro never felt tired, not really. Battered and maybe slightly off-kilter if he was injured, maybe not able to move or fly as fast as normal, but never really tired per se. He was always wired, always awake and ready. Another clue that he was artificial and not human.
And then there was his skin. Reluctantly, Toby opened his eyes, the blackness reverting to electric blue, his surroundings hazily coming into focus. Then he blinked and his eyes switched from glowing blue to his normal brown. Toby's normal brown, he reminded himself sadly.
He sat up and inspected his skin. Smooth. No bumps, no pimples, no pores or little hairs. Metallic. Fake. In vain, he tried to wrench off his red boots and black underwear-type thing with the green waistband but to no avail. They were molded into him, part of him. He could never take them off.
Frowning, he got up from the bed and went to his dresser. Toby's dresser. He looked in the mirror sadly. There he was, the perfect image of Toby. The black hair with the two spikes, the big brown eyes, everything. But yet he wasn't Toby, and never would be. He didn't think he liked looking in the mirror much. Averting his gaze down, Astro noticed a comb and a bottle of hair gel on the dresser. He picked them up, reading the label on the gel. He realized it must have been Toby's. He must have styled his hair here, every morning. No, not must have. Astro knew he did, he could remember it. Toby—not him, he told himself firmly—standing in front of the mirror, happily applying lots and lots of gel into his black hair and deftly forming the two spikes out of it.
In vain, Astro tried running the little black comb through his hair. It didn't work of course, simply screeching across the metal surface. He didn't have hair. It was all artificial, fake. Even though he knew what the results were going to be, Astro applied some gel into his hair. Like he knew it would, the substance simply slid off in globules, dripping onto the polished wood surface of the dresser. Sighing, Astro cleaned it up and put the gel and comb back, purposely avoiding looking at his reflection. He didn't want to look at himself anymore.
Instead, he went to his closet. Toby's closet. He surveyed the clothes slowly, memories of wearing them surfacing, although he knew he never had. Silently, he picked out a white T-shirt, a black sweatshirt and jeans and slipped them on. He hadn't been wearing anything except the underwear and the red boots that were part of him, the Peacemaker having burned them all off when it was destroyed. The only clothes he had ever really worn, he reminded himself sadly. It didn't really bother him much, not wearing anything, being a robot and all, but he thought it was best to wear some normal clothes. It made him feel at least a little bit more normal. More human.
He was about to pick out a pair of shoes too when he realized he couldn't. There was no way he could take off the red boots molded into him, and there was no way he'd be able to fit a pair of Toby's shoes over them. Sadly, he closed the closet and trudged back over to his bed and sat down. Trying to shake off the depressing thoughts of him not being human, Astro reverted his brain to his and Tenma's earlier conversation.
Despite how Tenma had told him to relax, and despite how good it would feel to just mope around the house doing whatever for a little while, Astro couldn't bring himself to do it. He was too wired—literally—to sit still. He wanted to fly. He wanted to go find Cora and talk to her about everything that had happened since they had last talked properly. About him being a robot, and how sorry he was for not telling her. About how he had almost died. About how ZOG had saved him, and about him being a hero now, and about his dad accepting him, and about her finding her parents, and…well, everything.
With this realization, Astro knew there was no way he was going to relax. So without further a due, he got up from the bed and left the room, exiting the penthouse and activating his rocket boots. On cue, his feet contracted to be replaced with jets of fire as he rose into the air at lightening speed. He would never get over how good it felt to fly. How free it made him feel. How wonderful. Smiling to himself, he took off into the heart of the city.
Time to find Cora.
Meanwhile, off in the middle of the city, the Metro City police were busy roping off sections of the road where bits of the destroyed Peacekeeper and rubble from the battle had blocked it. Some heavy-lifting robots were already being built to help clear the rubble, and Astro had already enlisted ZOG to help, but there was still plenty of debris to be cleared. So, in the meantime, those places were off limits.
So that was why no one noticed a little boy digging himself out of the rubble with a grunt, his black hair with two carefully-styled spikes disheveled and filled with dust from the debris. His brown eyes were wide with fear and confusion. He didn't know what had happened, and he didn't know why he was here. Only that he needed to get away. He needed to find his father.
Silently, Toby Tenma made his way through the rubble, careful not to be seen, and disappeared into a nearby alley. He knew Metro City like the back of his hand. He'd find his home.
And then his father could explain what was going on.