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Tetsuwan Penguin
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Postby Tetsuwan Penguin » 2 years ago

Superior Court, Metro City – Tokyo prefecture

Astro nudged Atlas, “Stand up straight and behave yourself!,” he whispered. “You don't want to piss off the judge!”

Atlas gave Astro a shove back and quickly ran his fingers though his long blond hair in an effort remove its unruliness. He looked up at the bench sitting on the raised platform where the judge sat, shuffling though the case paperwork. Atlas glanced to his left where the state representatives sat. Duke Red the council for the government, and Alderman Lampe both glanced in his direction, and then continued to huddle in quiet conversation. “No doubt gloating over my demise,” Atlas shuddered to himself. Professor Ochanomizu glanced between Yuko on his right, who was serving as the defense representative, and the two boy robots on his left.

The judge finished arranging the case paperwork into a neat pile, and then banged his gavel on the desk to call the court to order. “In the matter of Atlas vs Tokyo prefecture”, the judge began, clearing his throat, “The court is prepared to render its decision.”

Astro raised his right hand to get the attention of the magistrate. “Yes, Astro?” the judge questioned.

“If I may, I'd like to address the court before you announce your decision,” Astro asked.

“You may speak up,” the judge replied.

“I don't think it's right to deactivate Atlas,” Astro started. “I know he can be a trouble maker, but there is some good in him. He's never actually hurt anybody, and except for the damage he has done to Tokugawa industries he hasn't actually destroyed any public properties.”

“That's sugar coating it just a bit,” the judge replied picking up part of the large stack of papers on his desk. “I have quite a bit of complaints against Atlas, enough to qualify him as more than just a public nuisance. More than enough to justify his deactivation, actually.”

“Even so,” Astro continued, “Atlas has put his own life on the line on quite a few documented occasions, mostly to assist the fire department. He has saved the life of many firefighters on numerous occasions, you should have the public records for that.”

“Yes, I do,” the judge replied, holding up a thin document. “You've done your legal homework, Astro. However, this court has granted Atlas reprieves on parole many times, so many in fact that I cannot grant him another. My hands are now tied.”

“Then put him into my guardianship, your honor,” Astro begged. “I'll be responsible to keep him in line.”

The judge paused to move the piles of paperwork around, and picked up one of the documents. He sighed and starred at the two robots standing in front of the the defense. Professor Ochanomizu whispered to Astro, “I hop you know what you are doing,”
“Don't worry, Hakase, I do,” Astro voiced back.

Finally the judge glared at Alderman Lampe, and Councilman Duke Red. He opened the document that he'd selected and put his reading glasses on. Without looking up at the court, he spoke.
“Atlas, a pardon is no longer an option for this court. The state has presented enough evidence to warrant my ordering your deactivation and dismantlement. However, there is one other option at my disposal, that is assuming that Astro is willing to go along with it.”
The judge lowered his reading glasses enough to allow him to glance over the tops of them to look at the two boy robots. “I can sentence you to serve six months labor with the Asteroid belt miners. If you can demonstrate that you can peacefully exist in a mixed community of robot and human laborers, you will earn your redemption.”

Atlas balled his hands into fists and contorted the features of his face, as if in defiance. The judge noticed his change in posture, but ignored it as he continued. “This is not a sentence to a prison slave labor camp, Atlas – Kun. All of the members of the Asteroid belt mining community have volunteered for this work, as you will be doing. They are paid quite well, considering the hazardous nature of this work, and you will share in this compensation. If you do not agree to volunteer to join the miners, then this court will have no choice but to order your demise. Again, I stress that I will not make this option available, unless Astro is willing to also volunteer to join the mining crew, to serve as your guardian.”

A dumbfound look crossed Atlas's face. “Wait, your honor,” he stammered, “You mean that I have to work along side of Astro, and he's serving as my jailer?”

“Astro will work as hard as you will,” the judge replied, “But he will not be your jailer, this isn't a chain gang. I'm demanding that Astro be with you since he stated that he was willing to be responsible for you. You should be grateful to him, he's probably the only individual in this courtroom that doesn't want to see you destroyed.”

Atlas looked around the courtroom. “Who's in charge of this mining operation, your honor?” he asked. “Who am I going to be working for?”
“The Asteroid mining consortium is a fully owned part of the Tokugawa corporation,” the judge smiled. “And don't you dare think for a minute that the irony of this is lost on me!”

Several weeks later, Mining Colony on Ceres

Atlas threw his duffel bag onto the upper bunk, while Astro was settling in beneath him. “I still don't understand your sticking up for me,” Atlas grumbled. “We've never gotten along, and I still think you are a human butt licker. I also don't know what was worse, the cramped spaceship that brought us to this rock, or the rotten quarters we're now confined to.”

“I agreed to become your guardian because the alternative would have been your death,” Astro said, giving Atlas punch in the shoulder. And as far as these accommodations are concerned, we won't be here that long. We'll probably be assigned to one of the smaller asteroids for the duration.” Astro caught the bored look in the blond haired robot's face, and tried to catch his interest. “For your information, Ceres is the headquarters for the mining operation, and serves as the space port for all transportation between the asteroid belt and Earth. It's the largest of the asteroids, and is often considered to be a minor planet. It was discovered in 1801 by the astronomer Guyseooe Piazzi, after astronomer Johaan Bode had suggested that there should have been a planet in the gap between Mars and Jupiter. At first it was considered to be the fifth planet of our solar system, but soon afterward its discovery other bodies were found in the same region, and Ceres was demoted to being just another of the asteroids found in the belt.”

“I didn't ask for a cosmology lesson,” Atlas grumbled.

Astro looked at the clock, and then at Atlas. “We have a few hours before the rest of the new crew arrives. Want to do some exploring?”
“Sure, why not?” Atlas asked.

Being robots, the two boys didn't need to suit up. They exited the crew quarters, then through the mess hall, and found themselves in the main chamber where the crew would gather for their assignments. The next area after that was the large hanger area. Entry into this area was through an airlock, since the room was often open to the airless surface of the planetoid when the hanger was being used for cargo loading and unloading of a space transport ship. Right now the large hanger doors were locked tight, so they had to make use of one of the two smaller airlock doors to gain access to the surface of Ceres.
“This place looks like the moon,” Atlas grumbled as they tread across the powered surface of the airless world. “Look at all the craters in the distance.”

Astro's moon boots kicked up small grains of sand like particles that had been compressed by the treads of a heavy vehicle on tank like running gear. The tracks ran from the large hanger doors out into the distance where one of the many rocket landing pads were located. The boys looked up into the distance where a low mountain range touched the horizon.

“Most airless rocky worlds look the same,” Astro agreed. “Ceres surface has quite a bit of water bound into it chemically though. It's possible to extract enough water from what's dug up from just beneath the surface to supply enough for the needs of the base's population. That saves them the expense of having to ship it in from Earth. They can also break down the water to supply enough Oxygen for their needs as well.”

“ Tokugawa would do anything to save a buck,” Atlas grumbled. “Cheap SOB.”

“Let's head back,” Astro said, tugging on Atlas's hand. He pointed to the landing pad where a large crew transport had just landed. “Looks like the rest of the crew has arrived.”

Howard Ketchup stood with his hands on his hips looking over the crowd that had assembled in the main chamber of the complex. He mentally counted the gathered group, and noted that he had a good mix of robots and human workers. He looked for the name plates that each of the new volunteers wore on their overalls, and checked off each on on list in his clipboard. Satisfied that all were now present, he rapped his knuckles on the clipboard to get their attention.

“Welcome to Ceres, you space rats!” he yelled out loud. “The next transport off this rock won't show up for six months, so you're all stuck here till then. After some training on the way we do stuff out here most of you guys are going to be shipping out to one of the smaller rocks where you will be stuck for weeks at a time. The green horns out there will be going to Vesta. That asteroid is about half the size of Ceres, so the gravity is still strong enough to keep you from drifting off into space if you were to phart too hard. We have a well established dig on Vesta, but there is still a good amount of exploring to do do there. The old hands out there will be working on some of the smaller asteroids. That's where the real valuable minerals are, and the big payout in bonus. You can check the posting on the wall over there for your assignments.”

Ketchup marched out of the main chamber, and the crowd slowly wandered over to the cork board where the assignment sheets had been tacked up. Atlas ran his finger down the columns of text, looking for his name, and Astros. “Well duffus, it looks like both of us are bound for Vesta,” Atlas said.

“That's what I expected,” Astro replied. “They give the first timers the easiest assignments, and the veterans go to the more difficult ones.”

“We're better than all of these flesh bags,” Atlas huffed, “we should demand to get assigned to one of the smallest asteroids. Gravity is no issue for us, not with our rockets built in.”

“Micro gravity is no picnic,” Astro countered. “Besides, Vesta will be challenging enough.”

The next three weeks were a lot tougher than Atlas would admit. Astro had been right, Ceres gravity was only 0.03 times that of Earth, almost non existent actually. Vesta's would be less than half of that figure, and the smaller rocks even less. Operating the 'heavy' equipment required a skillful touch lest a too rough a maneuver send the vehicle on a sub-orbital leap. Astro was surprised at how quickly his former rival had mastered the use of the mining equipment.

The golden haired robots new skills were noticed by Howard Ketchup, the base foreman. “Hey Atlas!,” he chirped up, catching the two boys suiting up for another days activity. “I'm thinking of putting you in charge of one of my teams. You handle that excavator like a pro.”
Atlas was taken back by a complement from the human. “Thanks!” he managed to get out. “You still sending me and my sidekick to Vesta?”

“Yes, you're needed there badly,” Ketchup replied. “We can't really use the larger excavator on the smaller rocks, and I need your skill to dig out one of the last large digs on Vesta. There's still a good few mega kilos of mineral left there, and the profit on it will be a good haul for the company. Nice bonus for you too.”

“OK.” Atlas nodded. “When do we leave?”

“In about 36 hours,” Ketchup answered. “That's when the next available shuttle will be ready to depart. You two better get packing!”

:tenma: I'm on as Tetsuwan Penguin. Please check out some of the other stories I've written! ;)

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Tetsuwan Penguin
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Postby Tetsuwan Penguin » 2 years ago

Mining camp on Vesta

The trip from Ceres to Vesta wasn't a long one, so the cramped confines of the shuttle rocket were bearable enough. Takeoff gee forces and acceleration were mild as it didn't require very much rocket power to escape the small planetoids feeble gravity. The ship circled the small body for several hours before finally settling down to the surface. During their many orbits slowly spiraling down Astro and Atlas familiarized themselves with the geography of the small world that would be their home and workplace for then next few months. Not quite circular, Vesta was more of a potato shaped body, with lots of craters and a few small mountain ranges. They could see several large bore holes in the side of one of the larger outcroppings of rock. “I think that looks like where we'll be working,” Astro said pointing.

"Yeah, it does,” Atlas answered, noting that he could see the tracks left by the excavator machines.
Eventually the shuttle had carefully bleed off the last of its orbital velocity and slowly worked its way down to the surface to land next to a half dozen domed buildings. “Take a good look, space rats,” Rockpit, their robotic squad leader told them, “we get to work in 12 hours!”

“You two will be working with the crew digging the ore out of this small mountain,” Rockpit said, placing on hand on Astro's right shoulder and his other on Atlas's left. “Let me familiarize the two of you with the terrain. Follow me.”
Rockpit lifted off the ground using the small rocket pack attached to his back. Astro and Atlas followed using their own built in rockets. Astro quickly adjusted his use of thrust to match the micro gravity, but Atlas over thrusted for a few moments before he was able to easily fly along side of Astro.

“We are digging into the east side of the mountain because the terrain makes it too difficult to approach from the west, which is a shame as you will see,” Rockpit explained as he flew over the south side of the rise towards the west. “The east side is quite rocky and requires a lot of work to break through to reach the ore that we are extracting. The west slope of the mountain is a lot softer. If you look closely you can see the remains of a small crater that was created by the impact of an incoming object, probably a small asteroid whose orbit intersected with that of Vesta. We hope to eventually break though to a hollow chamber inside of the mountains west side and recover the impactor. The smaller rocky bodies in the belt are usually quite rich in valuable ore.”

“It looks like whatever it was came in at a low angle and might have rolled into the side of the mountain,” Astro observed. “Its impact speed would have been low enough that the object could have survived intact. I think the soft material of the west side of the mountain would have simply buried it.”

“That's what the egg heads say,” Rockpit agreed. “Maybe you and the crew you will be working with will uncover the answer to that question.'

Astro unloaded the excavator shovel into the ore transport tractor, and signaled for Atlas to plow ahead for yet another load. Deep inside of the mine other workers were using boring machines to break up the sides of the mountain and remove the ore bearing rock. Atlas then scooped up the valuable minerals with the machine and backed out of the long mine tunnel that sloped downwards into the center of the asteroid. It was tough work maneuvering the machine inside of the tight quarters, but Atlas made it look easy. Astro was doing the grunt work, manual labor moving the ore bearing rock from the huge piles that Atlas was making just outside of the mine entrance, but he didn't mind. The work made Atlas feel important, and valued. The human workers made him feel part of the team, and the other robots also worked well beside him. This was something the golden haired boy robot hadn't felt on Earth. Astro was hopeful that the experience might just change the troublesome robot for the better.

Atlas was already in his bunk when Astro emerged from his turn in the oil bath, and entered the bunk room still dripping wet. “Boy did I need that!” he moaned.
“Stop complaining,” Atlas voiced, “just shut up and get to bed, I need my rest!”

Rockpit let out a loud engine sound to get the attention of the crew that were now crowded into the area serving as a combination mess hall, gymnasium, entertainment center, and meeting room. Just adjacent to the bunk and shower area, and the exit to the airlocks, it was the largest room in the interconnected set of building assemblies that served as living areas for the mining crews. The complement of workers presently included some sixty men and women, and forty two humanoid to nearly humanoid robots.
“You guys are getting sloppy!” the foreman boss growled. “If Atlas here hadn't been alert we'd have lost a few of you rats when that new tunnel caved in!”

Atlas tried to ignore Rockpits acknowledgement of his effort earlier. “I was only doing my job,” he voiced. “I couldn't let any of my fleshbag coworkers get hurt.”

“Really?” Astro asked.

“Shut up, duffus,” Atlas barked back at Astro. “I never said I hated humans, or that I couldn't work with them. I just can't hack stupidity.”

“Well said!” Rockpit replied. “We're overworked and understaffed as it it. Can't afford to lose any able bodies due to incompetence!”

“Thanks, Atlas!” Keil Rumpford cried out. The ugly drill operator hosted a large stein of beer high to offer up a toast.

“You're welcome!” Atlas responded doffing a quart container of light robot oil. “But I'd rather you examined the rock structures a bit more carefully the next time before starting to drill. I'd rather not have to pull your ugly butt out from under a ton of rocks again!”

The crew admired the relic that Pinhead had unearthed. The geo-robot had located the cavity in one of the side walls where the ancient probe had been buried. “Looks like an early Soviet exploration space craft,” Astro said.

“Yes, that's my thinking,” Pinhead agreed. “When I get back to Earth, I'm going to add it to my collection of twentieth century space artifacts.”
Atlas jeered at the egg-head robot. “I'm going to find myself a better souvenir to take back home,” laughed.

“Like what?” Astro asked.

“Must be something on this rock worth having,” Atlas replied. “So far we've uncovered lots of junk lost from Earth. I can't believe all of the space debris that has managed to collect in the asteroid belt. Seems every time some space probe got shot from Earth into the outer solar system, bits and pieces of the launch boosters ended up smashing into the rocks out here.”

“Yeah,” Astro laughed. “Ochanomizu Hakase might find it interesting enough to send a mission out to the belt to look for space history artifacts.”

The months passed quickly. Atlas looked at the calendar that he had tacked onto the wall above his bunk, and noticed that almost all of the dates had been marked over with “X”s. “Looks like your prison sentence is almost over,” Astro told him.

“I volunteered for this, remember!” Atlas curtly answered.

“I know,” Astro answered. “I'm actually amazed you know. You've behaved better than most of the humans on this base. You've been helpful, and never started any fights, even broke up quite a few of them between the human workers.”

“Yeah, I can't imagine what came over me,” Atlas laughed. “So you're going to give me a passing grade when we get back?”

“Of course,” Astro smiled. “I'm sure the judge will allow you to re-enter society on Earth, even if Alderman Lampe screams over the top of his lungs.”

Foreman Rockpit entered the bunk room with his clipboard. “OK guys, today will be the last shift for many of you. Tomorrow will be a day off so you can pack, the shuttle with the new crew will arrive in two days, and you will be returning to Ceres on it, along with the last shipment of ore. I hope you have a productive day today so that ore bunker on the ship will be full!”
The human miners quickly suited up and made their way to the air locks. Atlas and Astro hooked up the crew barge to the large excavator. The miners took their seats and Atlas drove them the few klicks from the complex towards the mountain work site. Astro unhooked the barge, and Atlas drove his machine into the mine tunnel to begin the last days work.

Astro helped man the drilling machine, but the going soon slowed down. “What seems to be the problem here?” Rockpit asked as he inspected the work.

“The rock face has become soft,” Astro explained. “We have to go slow to avoid the danger of a cave in. Looks like we've finally reached the far side and might be close to breaking though to the cavern that the geologists predicted is on the west side of the mountain.”

“You're probably right,” the foreman sighed. “Well, I think I'm going to call a stop to the work then. It will be up to the next crew rotation to break through and evaluate if this site is worked out or not. Not something we can do in the time remaining on this rotation.”

“You can't short shift us!,” Rumpford yelled, “we need the pay!”

“Don't worry about that!”, the foreman laughed. “I'm not docking anyones hours for my decision. Get back to the bunkhouse and take a well earned break!”

The crew all cheered and slapped their boss on his rear chassis. Atlas drove the transport back to the complex with the crew. Once the gang had settled in, and started to relax, the blond haired robot pulled Astro aside.

“Listen, we've got the rest of the afternoon to ourselves,” he said. “I'm going back to the mine site and I'm going to dig my way into that cavern to see what's hiding inside. Could be something real valuable.”

“You think the egg-heads are right about whatever crashed into the mountain years ago?” Astro asked.

“That's what we're going to find out,” Atlas said. “If the two of us carefully dig our way in there by hand we won't cause a cave in. Shouldn't take us more than a few hours to do it.”

“OK,” Astro nodded. “Let's go.”

The two boy robots quietly left the complex and flew towards the work site. They made their way by foot down the long entrance tunnel, and reached the abandoned work face. Alternating between digging with their bare hands, and using their arm jets to blow loose dirt aside they were making quick progress. Atlas's estimate was pretty good, three hours later they broke into a large hollow.

“Give me some light,” Atlas asked. Astro turned his eye searchlights up full blast and slowly aimed the light around the expanse they now found themselves in. The chamber was large enough to house a small football stadium. The ceiling above them was at least 40 meters high. In the center of the area, the rear of an unidentified object was sticking out of a pile of dirt the size of a huge haystack.

“Let me,” Astro said as he morphed his arms into the jet configuration. Astro used the exhaust from his arms reaction engines to slowly blow aside the pile of dirt and gravel that buried whatever it was that had rolled into the side of the mountain several decades ago.

“What the hell is this thing!” Atlas gasped as the object was slowing uncovered.
“What idiot sent this into space, and why?” he added.

Sitting in the middle of the cavernous space under the small mountain on the planetoid Vesta was a midnight cherry red sports car. Sitting in the drivers seat was a humanoid figure wearing a space suit. His right hand grasped the steering wheel, his left arm rested on the drivers door frame with the windows rolled down. Sitting on the top of the dashboard of the car was a small scale model of the vehicle, with a miniature space suited driver. There was a placard in the car that read “Don't Panic!” A California state license tag on the rear of the car read “FH – 1”. There was a bumper sticker that read, “My other car is also a Tesla”.

Astro laughed. “I've accessed the stored history files in my computer brains repository,” Astro said. “I think I know where this came from. The car was the test payload for a new heavy lift rocket developed several decades ago.”

Atlas carefully wiped the dust off of the car. “You're going to help me get this thing out of the mountain, I'm taking it home with me!”

“It's an electric car,” Astro said. “If the batteries can still hold a charge we could try to power it up.”

Atlas opened the trunk of the car and found a charge cable. “How much spare kw do you have?”
“Enough to test it anyway,” Astro said as he opened his chest panel. Atlas connected the charge cable to the car and Astro plugged the other end into his power socket. After several minutes an indicator started to blink on the dashboard.

An hour later, the two boys were driving back to the base complex. The space suited dummy had been stuffed into the trunk, with Atlas now sitting in the drivers seat. They got one of the base large hangar doors open to the cargo loading dock, and Atlas drove his new toy inside. As the vacuum inside the large room was pumped down, they started to hear music coming from the automobiles sound system. The MP3 player seemed to be stuck in a loop, playing David Bowies “Space Oddity”, followed by “Life on Mars”.

Metro City, a several months later

Astro entered room in the rear of the old firehouse to find Atlas sitting there. It had been a few months since the two of them had returned to Earth. Astro was somewhat amazed at how well his former enemy had adjusted. After volunteering to work for the fire department, he'd been given his own place to live in an old fire station that now sat across the street from a new one. The old building had been preserved as a landmark, and Atlas loved it. Sitting in the small garage where the old tanker engine had once reposed was the red sports car that had been brought back from Vesta. Atlas was slowly restoring it. Standing in the corner of his bedroom, stood the spacesuit that had been in the front seat of the vehicle.

“I've been offered a princely sum for that car,” Atlas said. “Think I should take it?”

“Probably,” Astro replied. “It's a piece of history, and belongs in a museum.”

“You sound like a human, saying that,” the blond robot replied. “But I think that's what I will do. However, I'm keeping Starman here,” he said, pointing the the spacesuit.

:tenma: I'm on as Tetsuwan Penguin. Please check out some of the other stories I've written! ;)

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Re: Starman

Postby AprilSeven » 2 years ago

This was great, Tetsuwan Penguin - you are one great AB fan-fic writer!
Image Sig artwork by Alittleacorn!

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Tetsuwan Penguin
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Re: Starman

Postby Tetsuwan Penguin » 2 years ago


:tenma: I'm on as Tetsuwan Penguin. Please check out some of the other stories I've written! ;)

I can also be found on Deviant Art

My home page

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