Summary: Set just after Dr. Tenma's abandonment of Atom, this is mostly angst with bits of fluff and mystery.
Rating: K+ for mild thematic mentions
Possible triggers: suicidal mention, abandonment
The boy scooted away from the narrow walkway of the skyscraper roof. The howling wind was bitter cold, tugging at the boy’s short black hair, and he shivered, sheltered only by the short wall on the roof. His clothes had long since succumbed to the elements, leaving him dressed in a pair of black shorts barely covered in the tatters of a shirt and jeans, and a pair of red metal boots.
It’s ironic, he thought. I’m less than five blocks away from the place I was born, but no one there will take me.
It was getting colder, and cloudy. He looked at the sky as the first drops began to fall, gauging how much of the cold rain he could take, then stepping out to the edge of the rooftop.
To anyone observing, this would seem suicidal. But as he teetered on the edge, one foot on the slippery metal roof and one extended into thin air, the boy’s red boot changed. The metal ankle and toe folded in, turning the boot into nothing less than a rocket’s exhaust cone.
Bluish flames sparked to life, roaring out of the cone, and as the boy’s other foot followed with the same transformation, he left the roof entirely.
I couldn’t have stayed in the act any longer. Dad… Dr. Tenma… didn’t want me. He tried to bring his son back to life, but I’m not Toby. I only have his memories and his looks.
The robot boy, weaving between highways and skyscrapers, thought back over his life-- even the misplaced and scattered memories of the boy he was a copy of. Blue sparks crackled off his hands and feet as the fat raindrops wormed into them, reminding him he had to hide somewhere for the night.
Better find somewhere at least a little dry, he thought. I’m cold and wet as it is.
Landing in a semi-dry, dark alley, the boy found a piece of scrap that could serve as an umbrella or blanket, then tried to curl up beneath it. As the sun set, his blue heart glowed faintly in the darkness. Soon, he was asleep, or as close as a robot could ever be.
The boy blinked, his sight changing from a pixelly blur to normal. A man stood over him, probably a garbage collector.
“No one’s supposed to be back here. You’d better leave, unless you want the cops after you.”
“All right…” Still tired, somewhat unwilling to leave, but knowing he had to, the boy shrugged off his ‘blanket’ and walked into the street.
No one took a second look at him once he was there, despite his mostly-bare chest. Although the upper classes of the city lived in comfort, there were less fortunate people on the streets, and he blended in well with them.
He wandered the streets for a while, heedless of hunger or thirst.
At least that’s a few things I won’t need to worry about. Not that I can’t eat if I want to, he thought. It’s kind of weird, but I bet there’s a reason why I can eat. After all, my boots ended up being bulky so that they can have rockets in them!
But something tugged at him as he watched the children walking from their houses or riding the hover-buses to school. The parents would bid the kids goodbye, and the kids would leave happy.
I wish I had that. A family that would love me and not care that I’m a robot…
He felt a tear fall. Just for fun, he listened to it, tracking its quiet path along his cheek and the slight noise as it slipped off his face.
When the tear hit the ground, though, the plop noise it made was almost deafening. It sounded as if a flood had hit; or as if the floodgates had opened.
He could hear every footstep, every mouth movement, every rumble for nearly a mile around. Covering his ears did no good; the whirring and clicking of the delicate motors in his fingers sounded like a drill in his ears.
What did I do? Why do these things happen?
He ran. Feet pounding, eyes wide, ears still hearing every sound, until he found a dark, quiet corner to hide in. The darkness closed around him, wrapping him with a blanket of sight-deprivation, until slowly, the stabbing of sound into his ears stopped.
I need someone. Someone out there can help me. Dad...Dr. Tenma.. He’d know what’s going on, but he doesn’t want to see me. Who can help me?
He uncurled his body, standing up and cautiously leaving the corner. I’m going to find someone. Someone cares. Someone will help me.
Checking if anyone was looking at him (nope, no one), he took off, rockets ablaze, and flew off towards the residential district.
Apartments dotted the area, along with a few streets of small houses. He landed near the houses, knowing it would take some money to keep a house this close to the city center.
A few people gave him sideways glances here: who would be out in this weather wearing nothing but shorts and boots? But no one gave him enough attention to ask where he lived.
Not even the kids, who were coming home from school now.
He walked the streets toward the nicer houses, curious now. Where can I go?
Eventually, the day grew colder. Traffic grew busier as the commuters traveled back home. He sat down in front of a sidewalk bench, curled into a sitting position. People passed by, not noticing the tears falling and dripping down his body, or the way his back slumped.
Then, a friendly voice. “Are you okay?” A short, somewhat plump man with a large nose and balding head looked down at the boy.
He looked up. “Not really…”
At the sound of his voice, the man stopped short. “Toby?!”
The boy jumped up. “You know… you know me?”
“Toby… I hoped you were all right! I’m Dr. Ochanomizu, remember?”
Now that he said it, the name seemed to fit, to piece together a few of the fragmented Toby-memories.
“I think I remember now.”
“Why are you out here?”
“It’s a long story…” The boy looked down. “Dad sold me to the robot circus when I figured out I was a robot.”
The friendly doctor gasped. “No! He didn’t… he wouldn’t… he would. I’m so sorry.” He ran his hand over his head. “Do you have anywhere to stay?”
“No. I’ve been on the streets ever since I ran from the circus.” The boy looked straight ahead, almost unblinking.
“Come home with me, Toby. I’ll take care of you, even if Umataro won’t,” the doctor said, seeming to be talking to himself.
“Yes sir!” the boy said gratefully. “But… I’m not Toby, not really. I don’t want to be called that anymore…”
“Of course,” the doctor said, troubled. “What shall we call you?”
They thought hard, as the doctor led the boy to his new home.
“Let me examine you,” Dr. Ochanomizu said, as the now-nameless boy sat on a low table.
The doctor mumbled scientific terms under his breath as he looked over the boy’s construction with the help of a few x-ray like machines.
“Your battery is amazing, forgive me for commenting,” he said, as he opened the chest hatch on the boy. “It’s sustainable nuclear energy, enough to power the city practically forever… and it’s completely safe, no radioactivity at all. It’s atomic energy at its finest.”
“Hmm…” the boy said, somewhat uninterested.
“Nuclear energy… atomic energy… atom…” the doctor said. “Atom! What do you think?”
“Oh! For a name?” the boy asked. “I like it! Call me Atom!”
The doctor nodded.
Tetsuwan Atomu belongs to Osamu Tezuka/Tezuka Entertainment.