SCREW YOU, ABSENT BREAKLINES!

Ah, sorry. It's just that the breaklines that I originally had in the first two oneshots never appeared when published. I do not understand this, so if someone would please explain, I will love you forever and give you a gold star.

Anyway, Thanks guys. I like that you are giving me more detail in your reviews. Now I know what to write to make you all happy. : ) That makes me feel good when you like my stories.

This one will be a little experimental. "Not to Pry" and "Empathy" were both hurt/comfort fics. I am going to attempt a humor fic here, so I apologize if it's not very funny. I'm not used to writing comedy. But also, this is my first multi-chapter fic. So wish me luck, guys!

Disclaimer: I would say I owned Astro boy, but then Osamu Tezuka would come up, b****-slap me and say "Yeah, you wish you owned it, FOOL!" but it would probably sound more like, "ええ、あなたがそれを所有したい、ばか!" Anyway, enjoy the show!

Artifact

Chapter one: Discovery

"Darn you and your internal fans, Astro!'

"Well, darn you and your sweat, Zane. I'm still hot on the outside."

"Then just take your clothes off and quit being a baby about it. You have that black underwear or whatever bolted to your waist. Cora might like a little "Magic Mike" action, anyway."

"I'm not taking my clothes off, sick-o!"

"Then quit whining about being hot!"

"Will you two just shut up already? You sound worse than Widget and Sludge!"

It was one of summer's hottest days and the gang had to spend it looking for parts Hamegg could use to repair and build his robots with. Any other day would have been fine, preferably an afternoon with a few clouds and a breeze. But today? The heat was horrendously uncomfortable, putting everyone, even Astro, at risk for heat stroke. It seemed to ooze everywhere and cover everything, turning the junkyard into an open-air oven. Humidity stricken air suffocated the "treasure hunters". Each dressed lightly in tank tops and shorts, but it didn't do much good. Their water supply was already half gone and the sun hung high and proud in a clear sky, bereft of clouds and, therefore, life-giving shade. Each would have much rather been in Salvador Dali's famous watch painting than here: It least it might've been cooler.

"Can't we just go back," whined Widget. "I'm gonna die and it's going to be your guys' faults."

"Not until we find that those converters Hamegg wants," replied Cora.

"We can't find anything," moaned Sludge. He plopped down on a pile or trash and dull scraps. "I give up."

Cora bent down to the boy's level. She frowned, understanding the child's discomfort. "We have to keep moving, Sludge. The sooner we can get the job done, the sooner we can go home."

"Kid has the right idea though," Piped up Zane. "Hamegg didn't say we couldn't take a break. That a good idea?"

"I'm in."

"Second it."

"That's the smartest thing I've ever herd you say, Zane."

"Whatever, Cora."

"I can dig under the trash for shade," suggested Astro. "Besides, those converters are older models, so we'd be more likely to find them the deeper we go."

"So long as we get cooled off and not buried, it's fine with me." Zane wiped the sweat off his forehead and turned to the robot. "Do your thing, man."

Astro grinned, though exhausted like the others. "With pleasure."

Like you shake an IPod shuffle to change the song, Astro only had to give his arm a little jolt from his shoulder to activate the arm cannon. The robot's arm, from the elbow to the hand, seemed to turn inside out as synthetic skin was replaced by a strong, silvery alloy. The cannon itself was simple in exterior design, but the intricate network of wires and miniature pistons made up for it in its awe-inspiring firepower. Astro aimed at a spot far away from the group and fired. Not only did the blasts make a perfect cylindrical tunnel, but made it a stable one. The heat had melted the junk metal, thus forming a well-supported wall. By the time they got there, the walls had cooled, eliminating the chance of burns on contact with the skin. The group entered and took their spots in the shade. The interior was still a little toasty, but was much better than the weather outside.

"Thank you, Jesus," exclaimed Sludge. He slid down the wall, tugging at the collar of his tank top.

"You're welcome," replied Astro. He switched his eye lights on to get a better look of the inside of the tunnel. The blast had dug pretty deep, but it was no trouble. Astro could easily peel back the melted floor and start digging there.

"Why didn't one of us think of that earlier," asked Cora, taking a long swig of her water.

"The sun fried our brains," answered Widget. She mimicked Cora's action, but found that her bottle was empty. She reached for her brother's bottle. Sludge didn't like that.

"Get your own," he grunted, shoving his sister back.

"I'm out," she whined, making another grab for the container. "Besides, you're the older one. You gotta look out for me."

"By 90 seconds, butt-face."

"You still gotta share, face-butt!"

The argument went ignored, being the commonplace thing it was. Cora spoke up again. "If the sun fried our brains, then how did Zane come up with the idea?"

Zane punched Cora in the shoulder. "Are you saying I'm stupid?"

"You don't learn much by being raised by wild dogs." There was a bit of elvish sarcasm in her words. Cora playfully squirted water in Zane's direction. The boy made no effort to move and accepted the splash gratefully.

"She's not even kidding," Astro called. He had his arm back and was already digging for Hamegg's parts in the cave's floor. "Trashcan is smarter than you."

"Is not! Prove it!" Zane wiped off the excess water.

"The day I found Zog, remember? Trashcan wrote in the dirt that I was a robot and you couldn't even read it. The dog is more literate than you are."

"Ooooh," chuckled Widget, still battling her brother for the water. "Buuurrn!"

"What, you guys agree?" Zane looked as hurt as his voice sounded.

"No," said Cora. She put her arm around Zane. "You still got street smarts."

Astro had already dug in the trash a fair ways down. Sadly, he didn't find the converters. Every now and then he would come across a dead battery. The boy would look around to see if someone was watching and, when the coast was clear, he would toss it in his bag(for obvious reasons).

"Astro, if I find you digging around for batteries, I have no problem giving them to Trashcan as chew toys," Cora called out.

The robot gave a disappointed moan and dropped the object. Someone above imitated the snap of a whip's crack, the sound of "one hand clapping" followed closely after, and then a pained, "Owww…"

Astro was fine. He got antsy if he was just sitting still, so it was good that he was still digging around for the converters, listening to the antics of his friends and occasionally commenting. Sadly, Astro did not find Hamegg's requested items. But he did find something equally valuable.

In his search for the converters, his wrist got tangled up in a long black cord. Astro cocked his head to the side. "What is this," he muttered out loud. For being this deep, even if it was just a cord, it was in surprisingly good condition. Astro tugged on the cord from both ends. One didn't give so well, but the other came up just fine. The robot was even more confused at the device with the black tail.

It was a small rectangle, equipped with five buttons. Four were labeled: A, B, start, and select. The fifth one made a black plus sign. Astro sat on his knees and dug more to find what was on the other end of the cord. Eventually he found it, but was even more baffled. The object on the other end of the black cord was…a box?

Yes, a box. An off white covered the entire device, save a black stripe on the right side that didn't even stretch all the way around and a grey base. The chord was plugged into an outlet on the box and looked like it could be easily removed. A strange opening sat at the top. The device also had a faded red lettering, but Astro couldn't make out a single word. The boy turned the device over and over. A few words slipped out of his mouth.

"What are you…?"

"Hey, did you find anything yet," Cora called. "'Cause we can help if you want."

The robot shook his head, though no one could see. "I think I found something," he said.

"The converters?"

"No." Astro looked up at his friends as they peered down the hole he dug. "And why am I the only one digging anyway?"

"Because you're the only one who wants to," answered Sludge. "What did'ja find?"

Astro climbed up with the box. "I wish I knew. There's writing, but I can't make it out."

"Have a peek inside then," suggested Zane. "See if you can find out what it is that way."

Astro shrugged and activated his X-ray vision. The irises of his eyes went from brow to blue and his pupils from black to white. It creeped out his friends to some extent, but he didn't care at the moment. Astro got his look, turning the device over, but furrowed his brows in confusion. It was a network of wires and data chips, but there weren't a lot of parts in the entire machine.

"What is it," asked Widget. "What is it? What is it?"

"I still don't know," replied Astro. "But it's primitive. I can't see how it stayed in such good condition this whole time." Astro switched off his eye tool, the optic color palette returning to normal. He handed it to his friends so they could get a look. He gave them the rectangle, too. "I found this attached to it."

The objects were passed around. Sludge and Widget, as usual, were fighting over who got to see what. Everyone was as bewildered as Astro was. The buttons on the rectangle were tested. The fossil didn't seem like it would do much, and it probably couldn't if the functions were little more than the basics.

"I'd say this piece of junk is about as old as Hamegg," commented Zane. "He'd know what it is."

"We still gotta find the converters, though," answered Cora.

"Screw the converters," protested Sludge.

"Yeah," Widget added. "We gotta find out what this is!"

Astro spoke up. "Well, if they actually agree on something…"

"Yeah," said Zane. "It's a sign…"

"Is not," snorted Cora. "But if you lug-bugs want to see what it is THAT BAD, then I guess we can take it to Hamegg."

"So let's GO!" Sludge pulled on Cora's arm and dragged her out the tunnel. The others followed suit. Astro couldn't help but grin. He knew Cora was interested in the enigma, just like the others. He followed the group, equally eager to get answers.

"Hey, Astro."

"Yeah, Zane?"

"You're a robot, right?"

"…Yeah."

"With jet boots?"

"What are you getting at?"

"Why didn't you fly? To look for the parts, I mean."

"…"

"Hamegg, we're back."

"Ah, welcome home, misfits." Hamegg tipped up his mask and turned to the scavengers. "Did you find the parts I asked for?"

The children slipped into the room. The password wasn't a problem, since Cora was still pretty scary to the younger orphans. After dodging the dangers of rambunctious playtime, the group was safely inside Hamegg's workshop. The lights were dim, but the area was still visible enough to see what was what. Hamegg had been working on a particularly complex robot that could function on solar energy, hence the need for the converters. He lowered his lifting platform and walked to his work table to see the goodies the treasure hunters had brought him.

"We found a couple of things," said Widget. She emptied her rucksack on the table. "All Astro wanted to do was dig around for dead batteries."

"He still found that old box-thing," Zane countered, also presenting his treasures on Hamegg's work bench. "We figured you would know what it was since it's so old."

"Gee, nice to know I'm needed," joked the man as he dug around the "treasure" pile. "So it's a box?"

"It's stone-age stuff," explained Sludge. "You know all about that."

"Minus five points. Now let's have a look."

Astro dug in his own bag and pulled out the ancient artifact. "None of us know what it is but the overall design is pretty simple. Maybe it was the unsellable junk of an antique store or something. Nothing on the inside but a- Hey…Hamegg, are you ok? "

Said man didn't respond. He just stared at the box with wide eyes as though it were solid gold. Hamegg too the device up in his hands and walked away a few steps, immersed in the box's supposed glory. Zane leaned over to Astro.

"The last time I saw that face he was checking out some fat chick," he whispered. Astro could only stare as though the boy had a third eye and second nose. Zane chuckled. "You think I'm joking?"

"Shut up, Zane." Cora nudged said bot in the shoulder.

"You're abusive today." Zane stuck out his lower lip.

Cora ignored Zane's comment. "So what is it?"

The man turned to face the kids. "Do you have a controller," Hamegg asked bluntly.

The only one who could reply was Widget, who gave a simple "Huh".

"A controller," the foster dad repeated. "With buttons, you know?" He imitated a texting motion with his thumbs.

Astro remembered the black cord and the rectangle with its buttons. Did he still have it? The robot rummaged in his bag again. Yup, it was still there. The cord was wrapped around the rectangle to keep it from getting tangled in anything else that was in the bag at the time. He pulled the item out and handed it to Hamegg. "Is this what you're talking about?"

Hamegg took the "controller", unraveling the long cord and inspecting the buttons. His face lit up, like a child on Christmas morning. A giddy grin appeared on his face that could have wrapped around his head twice. He shoved the item back in Astro's possession. Hamegg started to leave, skipping out the door.

"You kids stay here a minute," he beamed. "I'm going to see if I still got 'em." With that, the man left the room, leaving the children even more bewildered that before.

"Well, if it gets him that excited," stated Cora, "then it must be important."

Zane leaned over to Astro again. "Last time I saw that face-"

Astro threw his hand up to Zane. "Don't even."

Zane turned the other way. "Today's not my day…"

Soon enough, Hamegg came back, practically prancing, with a cardboard box in his arms. He shoved the parts the children got out of the way so he could set his own treasure down. This box had writing on it too, but Hamegg tore off the tape and opened it up before anyone could read what it said. The gang peered inside the box.

Inside lay several strange cartridges, jumbled up in a disorganized mess. Though the box was only half full, the numbers appeared to be countless. So did the colors, for that matter. Each had a very distinct picture in the front. Widget picked up a cartridge with a periwinkle background, men with guns, and the word "Contra" in big silvery letters, save an orange and yellow "C". Sludge found one with a pink blob wearing red shoes sucking in the cloudy sky. This one was titled, "Kirby's adventure".

"Hey," the boy poked Astro. "He's got your shoes."

"He's gotta get some hair," Astro replied.

"So…what are these," Cora asked.

Hamegg grinned at the kids. All was quiet, save the banter outside the man's work shop. The air started to grow heavy with suspense. He didn't answer right away, as if the truth was too awesome to handle. It was starting to get ridiculous. Finally, the man spoke.

"Video games."

There was a pause with a long enough timeframe for the scratch of a record before the youth group gave a big, simultaneous, "Huh". It was crazy. Video games came in discs, not in chunky grey slabs.

Hamegg ignored the response and continued with his explanation. "What you found, Astro," he began, as though he were telling an epic story, "is a genuine Nintendo Entertainment System. This baby had a great library of side-scrollers, shoot-'em-ups and platforming games. This is where a lot of the Nintendo legends began. The legend of Zelda, Mario, even little pinkie over there." The man gestured to the Kirby cartridge. "The last time I saw one was in an antique shop. It was mine and we had to sell it since funds were low. The games, too, but I kept the best for myself, just in case."

Astro picked up a cartridge and inspected it: Mega man. The blue suit was both ridiculous and amusing. "Sounds like you really like video games. When was the console made?"

"If memory serves me right, sometime in the 1980s-the beginning of the Nintendo era. It was an antique when even I was a kid. Brings back a lot of good memories for me."

"Wow…"

"Well," Hamegg stood up, "Let's fire her up! If you found it in such good condition, then it has to work. I can't wait to show you misfits the beauties of the NES library."

Not much later, the NES machine was connected to one of the many televisions in the building and ready to be played. The games were organized in a drawer. If they could have, each cartridge would have been quaking with anticipation, impatient to be played again. The group, especially Hamegg, was excited to see the precedent of what was known as one of the greatest names in video game history. A cartridge titled "Rygar" was locked and loaded, ready for play. There was only one problem, though…

"Blasted thing doesn't want to work," grumbled Hamegg.

"But I thought you said it was in good condition," whined Widget.

"It is," replied the man. "But this thing's dead. Every time I try to start it up, a white screen comes up." He turned to Astro. "Hey Astro, you got Cora's phone to work, right?"

"Yeah."

"Think you can juice this baby up?"

"I'm not using the blue core to fix an old game console. Besides, it's probably some glitch or whatever. Try a different game."

"Well, you're helpful." Hamegg dug into the box and pulled out a random game. He blew in the slot and replaced Rygar. The white screen returned. The man tried another game, but got a green screen this time. Hamegg sighed. "It's not working."

"Still not using the core."

"Astro, quit being a sour-puss," Cora crawled over to the robot and threw an arm around his shoulder. "I bet you're afraid to lose. There are multiplayer games in there, right."

"I got a couple," replied Hamegg.

"I'm not afraid to lose," shot the robot.

Cora giggled. "Not to a giant robot or alien. But it's just a game. I don't see why you gotta get upset over it."

"I'm not scared to lose a video game."

"Are too."

"Am not."

"Are too."

"Am not!"

"Then fix the Nintendo."

"Fine." Astro walked to the console, sat down, and pointed his finger at it. A second later, a vein-like trail of blue core energy traveled from his chest, down his arm, and out the finger to the machine. It was a little bigger than a cellphone, so it took a little more juice. As the machine got its fill, Astro broke the synapse before it could recoil and zap him back. "There. Happy?"

"I promise I'll let you win," Cora flirted.

"Shut up."

"Don't be so cranky, buddy," cheered Hamegg. "You got it working again!"

An opening screen flashed on the TV. Pixelated music chimed. Astro's pride-hurt mood faded at the sight of how happy everyone was that the console. With that, the group dove head-first into the world of 8-bit, square-structured, side-scrolling action and adventure.

Zane took the first round. He pressed the start button.