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CHAPTER 4

Dr. Tezuka was rather plump for a Japanese person, round-faced, and only slightly less tall Meta, who certainly wasn't short. As he rose from his desk to meet Meta, she noticed he was wearing a red beret -  not really expected from a doctor... but then, when did she last see one in THIS sort of hospital?

The place was not really the kind of hospital Meta was used to. There were no stretchers or trolleys, no busy nurses running around, no smell of medicine and disinfectant. Instead, there were bars on some windows, and the place felt quiet - perhaps too quiet. There was also a door sign, which Pero translated as soon as Meta pointed its camera. Tokiwa was a private psychiatric institution, providing long term care.

At other times she might feel intimidated in such a place. But now she just wanted to find out whatever there was to know.

The doctor bowed and greeted her in Japanese. As expected, she heard a translation from the box on her shoulder:

"Hello, and welcome to Japan! I was waiting for you, Meta". (She could definitely hear "Meta-san" in his original words).

"Glad to meet you, Tezuka-sensei", she bowed back, remembering from some book that it's what they do in Japan, "Dr. Black Jack sent me here, and said it's for a patient? Could I perhaps... see this patient? I'm still not sure what it's all about." Of course, she really knew it was about Astro, but jumping at the doctor and asking "WHERE IS HE?" did not sound like a good idea. Even though a part of her wanted to do just that.

"Well, yes, you can see him, but I'd appreciate if you don't introduce yourself. We don't want to raise his hopes at the moment. Please, follow me".

He led Meta out of his room and two doors down the corridor. There, the doctor knocked. Hearing a muffled Japanese answer, he touched a button and opened the white door, revealing a room not unlike Meta's home. In fact, the first thing Meta noticed was the very same newspaper photo of Astro hanging right across from the door - just like at her own place.

Of course, there were differences. The walls here were not rough wood, but some white plastic that seemed soft. And next to the newspaper photo, where Meta's wall was empty, this one had a smaller photo of a boy. A usual human boy - whose face seemed to resemble that of Astro.

A slim tall man was sitting behind a terminal in the corner. He turned to look at his guests with a disinterested expression. He was very much unlike Dr.Tezuka in every way; his face, like his body, was narrow, and a Lincoln-style black beard made it seem even longer. The man did not smile or talk.

Then Meta glanced at his monitor - and could hardly conceal a gasp. The "wallpaper" behind the windows was very familiar to her. In fact, it was one of her own works, depicting a winged Astro headed towards the Sun. th02.deviantart.net/fs70/150/i…

As they returned to the doctor's room, Meta giggled.

"So I've got a fan - in a psychiatric ward. A fine artist I am". And people think of me as a psycho too, she thought.

"He did download some of your pictures and, in fact, commented in detail on 'Cyberchrist'", the doctor answered.

Meta instantly remembered the picture - in fact, little more than a doodle - she uploaded a couple of years ago. metamolecola.deviantart.com/ar… At a religion lesson in school, the French priest talked (in imperfect English) about Christ dying for the world. The analogy was obvious, and before she knew it the doodle was half finished. She improved it, added a bit of colour, and uploaded - only to get an anonymous rant a week later. The commenter guessed her analogy and threw in a couple of his own. He seemed to know more than she did about Astro's history, but never came back to reply to her questions.

"But, you see, your work is based on his," - Dr.Tezuka went on. "The real name of the patient is Umataro Tenma, but you might know him from my book as Dr.Boyton".

"So you wrote that book?!"

Now she remembered, of course, where she heard the doctor's name before. "The life and times of Astro Boy" by Osamu Tezuka, in a rather broken translation, reached her online three years ago. She read right through it in a week, missing school and hardly ever eating or sleeping.

"Yes. I did."

"And - is it all true?" Some of the stories in the book were hard to believe even for Meta, who would readily agree Astro had every power in the world.

"No. It is not all true. But before you get angry, lady" - a very wise and well timed notion - "I hope you can let me explain the whole situation."

"Um... go ahead, I guess".

"You see, I don't even know most of the real life and times of Atom.
It is highly classified information, as one expects with a powerful weapon".


"Weapon?!"

"Of course. You see, building a robot, especially a super high powered compact one made in early days of robotics, is much harder than, say, animating a cartoon about one. It can't be done by a single genius or a small dedicated team.

"Umataro really wanted a new son to replace Tobio - ah, wait, in the book the boy's name is Aster. That much is true. But, if it was about that alone, the Institute would never work on this robot. Doctor Tenma was a director, not a dictator; he would have no power to squander loads of government money on his own dreams.

"The Mighty Atom was a military project. Doctor Tenma did decide to make this robot look like a boy - and manage to persuade the bosses. But the special powers are not of his choice. You think he wanted a son with guns in his butt?"

"Well, he WAS crazy..." Meta chimed in.

"Huh! Don't use that word around psychiatrists, some have less sense of humour than I do! He was, of course, becoming unstable, but he never was an aggressive maniac or something. Anyway, he'd never have the money and resources for his work on artificial intelligence if not for the military. He had no choice.

"So, to him, Atom was a son. To most everyone else, he was a new brilliant weapon, ready to fly unnoticed behind enemy lines and do great damage. In fact, an early draft included a nuclear bomb mode for his reactor - Umataro used all his influence to scrap that. He managed to convince the defence people that, with his unique brain power, Atom could do more damage as a recon and local attack machine, with cheaper bomb robots following if necessary.

"In fact, the explicit energy requirement was to reach the Kremlin from Japan, if necessary. That's why he had so much reserve power".

Meta was stunned.

"The Kremlin... I'd never see Astro like that".

"Well, you're not alone. Nor did Umataro Tenma. But beware - we're entering the really secret part now. The weapon thing was a formal secret, but quite obvious, any spy with half a brain could see it from my book. But a person's medical history is different. I am telling you things you should not know. Please, keep silent, okay?"

"I will... except if - WHEN I find Astro, don't expect me to keep a secret from him".

"Well, guess we can't help that, but any other humans or robots are off limits. Is that clear?"

"Yeah. Sure." - get to it already, she thought.

"So, as I said, Doctor Tenma was not really happy with his robot son being a weapon. And, as the director of a large institute, he was a shrewd diplomat - in spite of any nervous issues. He managed to convince them again - this time, that some years of human-like treatment would increase the robot's cognitive capacity.

"Unfortunately, his issues started to show. While he had teachers for Atom, when it came to the robot's social and emotional development, he went in alone. Even though it was the most tricky task! In this part, the book is true enough. He wanted to compensate for his perceived bad parenting by becoming some sort of ideal father. Umataro, used to being competent in everything he touched, marched into a field where he knew next to nothing - and, in fact, did remarkably well.

"If only a proper medical doctor was involved at that point! The pressure from the fathering and the need to dodge the military added to the pain of losing his only son. He named the robot Tobio, but Atom was never to be like the real Tobio, hard as both father and son tried...

"And you know that part well - Umataro snapped, lashing out at silly things. First it was about Atom behaving like a small boy and becoming interested in everything in sight. Then, he really got angry the robot was not growing. Anyway, before losing control completely, he did what he could to save Atom from his doom".

"SAVE? Did he not sell the poor boy to a circus?"

"He did, completely overstepping his authority and assuring his disgraceful removal. However, by that time Umataro grew paranoid. He thought that if the military got their hands on the boy, they would send him into a war zone immediately - to nearly certain destruction. The circus seemed like a much better idea. And to make sure the boy stays a circus odity and is not resold to some criminals, Dr. Tenma deceived the circus owner. He did not tell him of the weapons - which he never taught Atom to use, anyway - and even of the nuclear reactor inside the robot!" [1]

Silence fell for a couple of minutes. Then, Meta remembered what she was asking about.

"So this is all about military secrets, medical secrets, and what not. But then, why did you write the book at all? You're a doctor, not a writer or journalist?"

"Well, I am indeed a doctor, and I was eventually contacted about treating Dr. Umataro Tenma. His condition was a very hard case, and for some years defied all medicine. In simple terms, he would see shadows at every corner, becoming very aggressive at the slightest hint. He had to be kept under strict watch and often restrained - of course, one could always sedate instead, but strong psychiatric medicines could hurt his brain. No one wanted to risk that with a major scientist.

"I was working with a company called Mushi Productions, developing medicines derived from natural sources. I was involved in clinical trials of a new drug derived from a rare mushroom, the Hyotan Tsugi."

Dr.Tezuka pointed to a photo on the wall. The enlarged picture of the intimidating mushroom, dull yellow with brown patches, looked strangely like a pig.

"We included him in the trials and he did remarkably well. There was some improvement within weeks. And after a year, Umataro was nearly healthy. Dr. O'Shea was preparing to let him meet Atom for the first time in many years.

"But the meeting never happened. Instead, everyone had to evacuate."

Meta groaned. She knew why, of course. The doctor went on:

"Umataro was a great help in the evacuation. Doctors and patients had to load into a spaceship real quick, and he was the most technical person around. Despite the hurry, he even managed to pack our store of the mushrooms! [2]

"But that was his last good moment. Soon, he learned of Atom's fate. And you see what he is like since then. Not aggressive anymore - just depressed, ignoring most everything around him.

"The book was the first thing I tried. I thought he might become interested in telling people how Atom lived and what he achieved. This only worked briefly. Then, I provoked him into discussion by inventing tall stories, mixing them with the part of real events that the Institute could tell me. And for some time he played along, discusing what could have been. It made for fine writing, but after a while, he lost interest again.

"The book gained its own life. I did not want to leave it unfinished, and Dr. O'Shea helped me a lot. I put some more truth there and some more not-so-truth, including an actual dream of mine. And I hear that some robots at the Institute translated it enthusiastically. Perhaps I could retire from medicine to write! But I would never do that and leave my long-term patient wihout help. And I was feeling I could not help him."

"So I called Black Jack, who you have met. He is a doctor of rather strange views, but people who call him are usually desperate - as I was.

"And he came, on payment of a sizeable charge from the Institute. He only spent ten minutes with Umataro. Then he stepped out and said that I terated the patient right. He was not sick any longer, he just needed Atom, and it was, he said, the most healthy thing in the world. Only he believed Atom to be gone forever, which was probably wrong".

Meta nearly jumped. "Wrong? Why did he think so?"

"He never explained. But you know, a doctor has sa feeling sometimes... So, he checked the Supernet, found you, told me to expect a guest and to help you in any way I can, and went off. And that's about all I know".

Meta sighed.

"So, you need to find Astro, well, Atom. And you are in the country he was born and lived in, on the phone to the institute that made him. Yet you don't have anyone to do it except a girl across the globe?"

"Of course, the Institute got a well known detective on the case! It's just that he has not found Atom. You want to talk to him?"

"Sure." - Well, she had to start somewhere.

"Here's his card. I'll email him, and you can drop into him tomorrow".

The card was in English. "Higeoyaji Detective Agency". The address told Meta nothing, but it was in Tokyo and that was enough.

After a polite goodbye, Meta went out, only to find it was pitch dark. Pero ordered a taxi, which was there within ten minutes.

"Hello", said Meta to the driver and named the hotel. Pero started translating, but the driver ignored it and answered - "Hello". His accent sounded quite familiar, and Meta tried - "Ciao?"

That worked. And for the next twenty minutes, the tired Meta heard yet another story. This time of Alberto, who was a senior salesman with the well known Italian car making company. Its cars were quite popular in Japan, and he was working to finalize a big distribution agreement when the evacuation alarm sounded. After some days in space, he had no reason and no means to go back to what remained of home. Luckily, he was used to showing the best in a car - and got the job as a taxi driver.

It was much better than some other Westerners who got stuck in Japan - or who landed in it, sometimes illegally, after the Shock, fleeing the gloom of the ruined home countries and the cold and hungry evacuation camps. He even drove one of those Italian cars, but never really got used to it.

Meta was quite sleepy and missed most of his rant about the beauty of his lost Rome (which she never liked all too much). When they finally arrived, she just staggered out of the car, into the hotel, and collapsed into bed. Tomorrow was to be another day.

==

NOTES

1. "No electricity for you!" says Hamegg to Astro in episode 1. After that, Astro recharges other robots, probably rescues some people off-screen, and does some brilliant rescue work for Hamegg on-screen - and only THEN collapses. Probably thanks to that little reactor...

BIG thanks to Grigory Ramendik, who is to be 7 in May, for pointing these words of Hamegg out to me! I think he'll be getting to his own fan fiction soon. He already thinks - his very own idea - that in Astro'09, ZOG was made by Tenma's father. My comment: Astro's maker in that movie is Bill Tenma, perhaps his father was Japanese, named Umataro? I'm looking forward to co-authoring that one!

2. You can see Dr. Tezuka in the spaceship, noting the Mushi building on the ground below, and his Hyotan Tsugi mushrooms in Episode 193. www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7RpXK… 06:45.
Finally, Chapter 4!

Most characters in the story belong to Osamu Tezuka. This includes Osamu Tezuka, a doctor character in Black Jack (he also appears in the last episode of Astro Boy 1960s). :iconmetamolecola: belongs to herself. Pero and Alberto are original characters.

The text is somewhat of a draft - I'm open to suggestions, might change something.

Chapter 1: [link]
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