The Helen O'Loy Blues
by Dark Mark
Hi! How are you? Hope everything's working out for you and Steve. I hear Donna's already working on a baby human. Guess you don't want to be too far behind her and Terry. ;-) If I'm not the first one to hear about the arrival when it rolls off the production line, there's gonna be a rain of Missile Men on Paradise Island! (Don't worry, I'll tell 'em to leave your Mom's house alone.)
Anyway. Know I haven't been writing for the last couple months. Sorry 'bout that. Lots of things just happened. I'm no great literary talent (maybe I should see if Doc can put a Barbara Cartland gene in my responsometer. With my luck, he'd put in Isaac Asimov), but I figure the best way to let you know is just start at the start of it and wind up with a big climactic finish. Maybe I should wind up with me on the steps of Doc's laboratory, saying, "Tomorrow's another day?" Well, it is, girlfriend, and it's going to be a quite different one from all the days before.
All right. Since we got peripherally involved in that Crisis thingie awhile back, the boys and Yours Truly hadn't had a lot of action. You wouldn't BELIEVE how boring it gets with just the same old faces to look at every day, even if all but one of them are robots. Of course, I never get bored with looking at Dr. Will's face. ;-) But with just Nameless, Tin's gf, to do girl-talk with, and her sometimes being slow on the processing (and now she's dead, God rest her responsometer), about the only people I had to hang out with were the guys. Iron, Lead, Tin, Gold (who would be worth having a crush on, if my heart hadn't already gone to You Know Who), and that old pissoff, Mercury. And we'd all been together longer than anybody except the Rolling Stones.
Do you know how many years we had to bunk together? Well, excuse me, that THEY had to bunk together--I put my little platinum boot down a little while after they were created, and said that I just wasn't gonna share the same bunkroom with the guys, I may be a robot, but a girl's got to have her dignity, after all, and I plated myself all over Doc's laboratory equip. and did a sit-down strike until he moved some junk out of a room and let me have it for myself. At first the guys got p.o.'d, but then they started wondering why they didn't get the same treatment. Then Doc put his size 8 down and said no, the boys had to stay together. He was having enough hassle with me! ;-) So they finally accepted it, 'cause he's still the boss, and we all love him and so, even though he is a pain in the backplate sometimes.
But when Doc kinda went Poat Toastee in the head for a little while there, and we were on our own, we built separate rooms for everybody, and that was the end of it. No more robot barracks for us! Tensile Strength!
Is it okay with you if I kinda go on here about how we all came about? 'Cause I don't have too many human friends I'm this close to. I don't even think I've ever told you all the details about how I was made, and the boys, too.
It all started way-back-when in the 1970's, with Doc. He was real young then, a real genius, and a real dreamboat (still is, of course), with the fashion sense of a rock. Never been able to get him out of that checked orange coat for very long. Sometimes I used to despair about that man. If I tell you the next thing I'm thinking, I'll ruin the suspense. ;-) So let's go on.
Doc (Dr. Will Magnus to you) had done a lot of government work, invented a lot of stuff, made a whole lot of money, and poured it back into research. But he was always interested in robots. Lucky for me! He told me that when he was a boy, he used to read science fiction all the time, and his favorites were stories about robots. He loved Adam Link by that Binder guy, and all the robots in the Isaac Asimov stories, and one called Runaway Robot by Lester Del Rey. But his very, very, very favorite one was called "Helen O'Loy," and it was by this Del Rey human, too.
Have you read it? It's just precious. All about this inventor who builds a woman robot and falls in love with it. ;-) But don't go reading it till you finish with this letter, okay? And I didn't know about that story until a long, long time after Doc made me. I only found the book kind of hidden in Doc's bedroom after he had his difficulties and had to spend time with those government shrinks.
Mustn't get ahead of myself!
By that time, of course, some robots had been made already. Superman may have been the first, on account of they had robots on that planet Krypton where he came from, and he just built a whole bunch of robots that looked like him. He took us up to the Fortress once to meet them and They Are DULL. More boring than watching paint flake off a Volkswagen. :( The Fortress was interesting but we couldn't wait to get home.
Doc knew about them, but he wanted to do something different...something along the lines of robots who weren't always bound to one solid body-shape. Plus he wanted us to have intelligence, like you humans. I guess if he wanted robots, he wanted interesting robots, like the ones he'd read about when he was a kid. (Can you imagine if he'd just copied Superman's robots? Blechh! :P) And he wanted intelligent robots, ones that could learn and think independently.
So he invented two things.
The first thing was the responsometer.
You know, we talk about it a lot, but you don't really know what it does. It's kind of our equivalent of your brain. Doc found a way of encoding human mind-qualities and personality factors and all of that into a computer's data bank. He hooked up a bunch of volunteer humans to a thingie that's kind of like an EEG machine and got them all on tape, and paid them a lot and let them go home. Nobody knows which ones were picked for us and which weren't. I don't even know who most of those people were, but--read on.
The responsometer's also kind of like a black box on an airplane, in a way. Doc wanted to be able to use the same intelligence over and over again, no matter what happened to our bodies. If we got wrecked, he didn't want to have to start over from scratch with our minds. So he equipped it with a little transmitter that, if our responsometer gets wrecked, instantly relays our current mind back to the big Cray he's got at home, and also to an auxiliary unit somewhere else (even I don't know where that one is). That way he can put back our brains into our new bodies when he creates them.
Yeah, it is kinda religious, isn't it? Or maybe we should look on it as just cloning. I don't know how many bodies each of us has gone through. Part of us is rebuilt and part of us is add-ons. What's that old joke about Grandfather's Axe?
The other thing he invented, which makes us unique from all other robots, is called an MFG. That's short for Molecular Field Generator. It's more or less a thing that allows us to reshape our bodies any way we want to, within limits of our mass. I think Plastic Man and Elongated Man have something like this, in human terms. That's how we can become wires and cans and hammers and things and still maintain our intelligence. But if we get busted up too much, our bodies shut down and our minds go back to that Big Cray In the Basement. And Doc has to whip us up a batch of new bodies. (He doesn't like having to do it! ;-) Don't let on you know!)
You may not know about the first robot Doc built. He was made out of uranium, with a protective field that kept Doc from getting radiation poisoning. Don't ask me why Doc wanted to build a robot out of uranium. Maybe just to show the bigwigs that he could build a robot out of anything. Or maybe because we were still in the Cold War, and all those nukes were still on people's minds, or something. I don't know.
Well, Uranium turned out to be one real smart-ass. Brilliant as heck, but he just wouldn't toe the line. So arrogant he made Mercury look like...well, like Tin. ;-) Doc hadn't unveiled him to the world, and it was a good thing, too. He got fed up with him and, inside of two months, deactivated him. Uri stayed that way for a good long while, too.
Doc might've been discouraged, but he didn't stay that way for long. He went back to the drawing board and came to his senses. He made me. ;-)
Di, I want to tell you, I couldn't believe it when I opened my eyes for the first time and there's this gorgeous guy looking down at me, and me not even knowing who I was, very much. The first thing he says to me is, "Tina? Tina, can you hear me?" I suppose that's his equivalent of "Watson, come here, I need you." Historical words, right? Riiight!
So my historical words are, "Am I Tina?" He smiled then and said, "Yes. Yes, you are. Welcome to the world, Tina. You're the first platinum robot."
And I got up from that slab he had me laying on, took a step off it, and fell flat on my face. Bent up my nose a little bit. He tried helping me up, but let me tell you, honey, a platinum girl is still platinum, and I'm not one of you lightweight human girls! (Sorry to be lifeist, but that's the way it is.) So Doc bent over me and helped me get my face back together, and before long, I figured that I really, really liked this guy. Don't ask me why, but I did.
Well. Cutting a long story short, I learned how to walk, learned about who I was and who Doc was, and learned why I'd been built. I was going to be Doc's showpiece. He was going to use me to show the government and industry what he could do with robots. Just as a gag, he taught me to dance. We were going to do the waltz in front of a bunch of generals and government guys, can you believe it? But actually, it was because Doc loved to dance, and--well, let me save that for later, okay?
It got to where I could dance a lot better than Doc. I mean, I record movements in my brain, you know, and I don't forget 'em. So I didn't step on Doc's foot after the first time, which, given how heavy I am, is a good thing...he had to soak his tootsie in hot water and Epsom salts for a week afterward. ;-)
And I fell in love with the big lug. Well, I mean, what was I supposed to do? I was programmed with a woman's personality. He was the first guy I saw, the only guy I saw for those weeks in development, and even though he wasn't reciprocating (he liked me, he was proud of me, sure, but falling in love with his robot didn't seem to cross his mind--I thought), and even though I don't have the, um, same equipment you human women do, it was just like any other two reasonable people would be when you threw 'em together for that long, alone.
Except Doc has never been reasonable. :P Brilliant, yes. Handsome, yes. Wealthy, yes. Reasonable? Well, three out of four ain't bad.
He wanted to get a whole line of new robots out, so I helped him build the bodies for the next five, Gold, Lead, Iron, Merc, and Tin. I was like, really quivery. I was going to have brothers! Doc was going to assemble responsometers for them all and install them himself. There was going to be a big show and all, and we'd demonstrate our body-shaping powers and smarts and all.
Except that this big radioactive flying monster thing got loose, and started blasting stuff to pieces with rays, and the Justice League was off-planet that week.
So Colonel Casper of military intelligence, whom I think you knew back then, right?, comes over and catches me dancing with Doc. He just came over to see if Doc could help cook up a thingie to kill the monster with. For the fun of it, Doc told me to dance with the colonel, and I did.
And I danced really well, too. Better, even, than him, and he was better than Doc. But Casper thought I was one of those dumb robots that have to be programmed to learn anything, so when he said he wished I could talk, I told him off in no uncertain terms, and said, "And my name is Tina, not 'it', if you please!"
You ought to have seen his face! Better yet, you ought to have seen Doc's!
When Doc told the colonel about the robots he had planned, Casper thought we might be able to help. After all, this way it wouldn't be human life that was endangered, right? We're expendible! >:( But Doc agreed to give it a try, and inside of a day he had the personalities programmed into the next five, and inside of the next day we had the responsometers in the bodies and in a super-accelerated learning program.
He built the next five based on the "noble metals" of the alchemical chart, believe it or not. By that standard, there should've been a silver robot, but he had me, right? So that silver robot had to wait for awhile, and he didn't end up building it. What he did build was the rest of the Metal Men.
It was a good thing Doc was so rich, or he'd never have been able to build me and Gold. Gold is a lot like Doc in many ways, except he's not nearly so temperamental. I think Doc programmed his personality from some mayor or executive or something, 'cause he's a take-charge guy, the group leader under Doc, but he's nice about it and we don't mind. I think he's the smartest of us all, and sometimes I think Doc's jealous of him a little. But he doesn't mind much, 'cause he's the one he likes talking to and working with the most. He's also the most malleable of us all, with Yours Truly in second place, and conducts electricity (like me, again), and he's really, really heavy and really, really soft.
Then came big ol' Iron. This guy's got to have a mind straight from workingclassville, and I really like the big lug. He's the strongest one of us all, and he knows how things are built. In a fight, he takes the point. I'd fight back-to-back with Iron before I'd do it with anybody else. He's got common sense, probably the most of us along that line, and I like his disposition. I think you would, too.
Lead was number three, and he's soft and real heavy, like Gold, only not nearly as smart. But he's really likeable. It's just that he ain't gonna be chosen for real heavy brainwork...but would you believe the guy can sing? No lie! He's great as a shield, and he ain't bad in a fight, and I get along with him okay.
Jerkury is next. Oh, geez, what can I say about him that I won't have to cross out afterward? Well, you know he's the Only Metal That's Liquid At Room Temperature, as he keeps reminding us, and he's the fastest of us all, and probably smartest next to Gold, and he is One Big PITA. We put up with each other and have been doing so for over ten years. What can I say? He's family. Maybe we see each other's good side, but just don't know it. I know I sure don't know it!
And finally, the last one, bless him, is Tin. I do not know whose personality went into the dear man's responsometer, but let me tell you, beside him, Caspar Milquetoast is outclassed. He simply puts himself down so much. And he stutters, except when we're fighting. But even though they make jokes about tin cans, and tin plating, and all that, he's always willing to do his part and then some, just to show he's really part of the team. And he is.
So there we were, or there they were, the Metal Men. Doc was going to let all of them take on the monster, and make me sit home, 'cause he was afraid they might all get smashed up and he wanted to have something to show the government guys in case they did. But I said nuts to that, I was going along with them. None of this sexist robot stuff for this gal! And I turned myself into a really thin wire and wrapped up Doc in me until he said okay, I could go, and I made him say "please" before I unwrapped myself. Doc said he must've installed a faulty responsometer in me. Fat chance!
Then we went out with Doc and we fought the monster, and Doc got banged up, and we started getting wrecked like those poor cars they use for a demolition derby. But in the middle of it, Doc made me really proud. Col. Casper got on the horn to him and said that we had failed and we were to pull out of there. Doc told him, "I said we would fail only if none of us came back, Colonel. There are still three of us left. We're still attacking." And of course, Yours Truly had to make him admit there was four of us left, and I was one of 'em. So Mercury, Lead, and I wrapped ourselves around the monster and killed it, and ended up in the bottom of the bay.
But we were wrecked. And the last thing I remember thinking was how long it would take him to rebuild us, or if he even would.
After all, he was the one making all those cracks about my responsometer.
But he did rebuild us again, and this time both he and the government guys agreed that we should be the only ones of our kind around. The bit they put up is that we were just too human. Can you imagine that? But compared to other robots, we were! And there'd be a lot of legal and ethical problems the law would have to, like, deal with if there were a lot of us walking around. Plus I think Doc liked having the only really thinking robots around. And I know he liked us. And, heck, we liked him a lot, too.
So we got kind of honorary citizenship and we ended up being super-heroes.
I remember when we had that big coming-out party and you came there with the rest of the Justice Leaguers. Wasn't it neat the way you and I hit it off? You were the only woman in the JLA, and I was the only gal in the Metal Men, and we both thought it was like being in a guys' jock dorm, sometimes! ;-) I promise you, girlfriend, I could've talked all night with you, if Doc hadn't dragged me away after a couple of hours. And you don't know how great it's been having you for a pen-pal. When you lost your powers and Steve got shot and you took up with that I-Ching guy, I was glad to be there for you. And when Doc went crazy and we got hunted for awhile, then got pardoned and got those crazy new human secret i.d.'s for a bit, you were there for me. Strange how those things happened about the same time, isn't it?
And I'll never forget how you stood up for us when the Army was trying to revoke our half-citizen-kinda status and take control of us. You got us that forum in the U.N. that Inheritor dare-I-say-it-android crashed and, after we clobbered him, they declared us official citizens. The Army couldn't even touch us after that. I have a feeling I'm not the only one in this bunch who sees you as Favorite Female Human in the Whole Wide World. ;-) Big cold platinum bracelet peck on the cheek for you. X
I wish you could give me your phone # or tell your Mom to let me have one of those mental radios so I can talk to you when I want. But I know you've got a Secret Identity and even this computer mail stuff can get a little risky at times. At least it's better than having to snail-mail you all those years at JLA HQ. I was so pissed when Arthur kicked you all out and put in that team of losers for awhile. Ol' fishface really blew it that time, didn't he? ;-)
(Technically I can't be pissed, because I can't piss, but you know what I mean.)
Well, you know a lot of what we went through in the next few years. We fought all those crazy bad guys, like the Missile Men and the Metal Amazons and B.O.L.T.S. and all that. You don't laugh about them, and I won't laugh about Egg Fu, okay? ;-) Tin got that little tin girlfriend of his, bless his heart, who never even had a name and then got killed. I felt so sorry for him about that. We couldn't even get her responsometer back online because of a glitch. I let him cry on my shoulder for a long time after that, the poor dear. I felt bad about it, too.
But in all those early years, it was just positively ginchy to be next to Doc, even though he acted cold as liquid nitrogen around me sometimes. There was that one time I gave him a big kiss, and he said it was like being smacked by a, quote, "cold, wet, platinum bracelet", unquote. If there wasn't a command in my responsometer not to do it, I swear, I would've knocked that man clear across the lab. >;-) But he didn't get rid of me. It didn't matter how many times I wrecked myself for that man, he'd always put me back together again. Heck, he tried making another Tina once--maybe I should say "another Platinum", because there's only one Tina--but she turned out to be such a bitch he had her melted down, recovered some of my fragments from the Moon, and put me back together again, lock, stock, and little platinum pillbox hat.
Oh, I ought to tell you about that Uranium robot. Well, it turned out that he reconstructed himself, and used Doc's Cray to program a female responsometer along the lines he wanted, and built himself a silver robot woman he called Agantha, kind of as a mate. More like a moll. She was a Bonnie Parker kind of robot. He cooked up this big revenge plot against Doc, and knocked us all off one by one like we were in an Agatha Christie novel--bing, bing, bing. He found some way to mess with our MFG so that we couldn't be put together again, either. Then he took Doc prisoner, and the silver bitch was going to kill the poor guy. But somehow Doc sent out an SOS on the radio, and the Atom happened to be listening to it. I don't know who that little guy is--you do, don't you? ;-)--but I'll bet he's some kind of scientist, because he figured out what was wrong with our fields and got us back in working order again. The guys took on Uranium and beat him, while Yours Truly got in a catfight with that silver hussy. She thought she'd plug herself into a socket and burn me up with alternating current. I turned myself into a hammer, bopped her on her empty little noggin, and watched her break up into a billion little pieces. That'll show ya to pick on a real Metal Woman, honey. ;-) Doc melted her down and sold the remains to the government, and she probably ended up in a whole bunch of toaster-oven wiring. (Heh-heh-heh!)
But all of that time I wanted Doc, and all of that time he wouldn't have me.
I remember when you finally sat me down at one of the get-togethers we had and explained to me about the sex thing.
It was kind of devastating. I kind of had an idea about it, because, migawd, I've been programmed from a woman, but a lot of it seems to have been, you know, kept down because I'm a robot. I must've looked to you like something fresh off the line. That people had these accessories that they put together and made human babies from, yeah, I knew about that. But I didn't know about all the emotional baggage they had around the act. I thought love was, you know, love.
And I couldn't do sex for Doc.
And human women could.
That was why he was dating human girls. I didn't even think he might be doing something like that with them. Something I couldn't do. Me, who could draw herself out into a wire miles long, send electricity through my whole bod, turn myself into just about any shape I could think of...there was something they could do that I couldn't.
I think I cried all night. We don't cry like humans do, not through our eyes, but we make sounds like you, and we feel like you must, because our responsometers are based on human minds. So yeah, I think I cried all night.
I got my data together the next day and tried to keep myself from falling for Doc again, tried to be just Miss Efficient Machine, but I couldn't do it. I still loved him...and I always would. Sex or no sex. So I put a brave face on it, and overlooked the human bimbos he would go out with sometimes.
But you know what?
He never stayed with any of them too long.
He always came back to us. And, even though he didn't admit it, he always came back to me.
I guess that's what kept me with them, more than anything else. That and the fact that we were all family.
Well, Doc had his breakdown, and we ended up being hunted by the law for awhile, and when that was straightened out we fell in with this guy named Mr. Conan for awhile, who got us some secret i.d.'s. I ended up in this girl suit, as that fashion model, Tina Platt. Remember? That was like hiding in plain sight!
It was a big joke on humans. One of their sex symbols was a woman who couldn't do sex.
A few months after that we all agreed to say the hell with that, left Conan, and went out on our own. It was tough. After I finally "came out", all of a sudden nobody wanted Tina Platt for a modelling job anymore. I needed to pay the rent, and even though I got paid big bucks when I was a model, that high-rise place I was living in ate up a lot of it. I ended up as a discotechque dancer for a month or so, would you believe that? :P :P :P Gold hadn't come out yet, and he was still making some good money, so he tried to help out. But it still really blew oil.
Then Batman got us all together again for a new gig, and we worked with him a few times after that. And we got Doc out of the hands of this dictator guy, and he got his sanity back together again, and I was still in love with him, and the team was still a team.
Well, I did have that little problem after I got blown up by the Plutonium Man. Doc put me back together again, the dear, just like old times. But the radiation from that Pluto creep kinda scrambled my responsometer, and for a few days I was hitting on all the Metal Men. You better not call me a robonympho, or I'll slice up your Robot Plane next time I see you! ;-) But part of my responso was still okay, and it didn't like what my governing part was doing. Neither did Doc! ;-) We had another fight with Pluto and the second treatment pretty well counteracted the first one. I got things together again, apologized to the guys, and went back to trying to get noticed by You Know Who. And You Know Who went right back to acting like he didn't like it.
Okay. Let's fast-forward past the Crisis.
Now. Remember I told you about the Helen O'Loy story? It was written from the POV of a scientist who helped out the other scientist who built Helen, who was also a woman robot. And the other scientist was the one who fell in love with her, and lived with her, and, over time, probably forgot she was a robot. She was his wife, and she was in love with him, too, and maybe that sex stuff didn't matter so much to them. People seem to get in so much trouble about sex, anyway, that I'm not sure it's such a great thing after all. But that's sour grapes. Love gets you in trouble, too, don't I know.
And the bit is, at the end, you find out the guy who's telling the story never got married, because he, secretly, was in love with Helen, too. That's how the story ends. "But...there was only one Helen O'Loy." I don't think anyone who ever read that story would forget the ending. I know I never will.
I also knew, when I read it, why Doc had hid that book from me.
A few weeks back, Doc calls me into his lab, and he's told the others to stay out for awhile. I figure he has something private to tell me, and you know me, I'm hoping he's going to have come to his senses and maybe even give me a ring like you human girls get, but I'm thinking more likely he just wants to make some adjustments on my responsometer.
Oh, Tina, how wrong you can be.
I went in and Doc was not alone.
There was a woman standing beside Doc, and Doc was sitting down. I was only about three steps inside the door, and I couldn't move. I had the biggest case of frozen servos I'd ever had. He wasn't saying anything yet, just trying to gauge my reaction.
If I was a human, the woman could have been my sister.
She didn't have platinum hair, not even frosted, but she was a blonde, and her face, good Lord, it looked like my face cast in flesh. I could tell she was a little older than me in looks, but she'd worn well. Heh..."worn well". Sounds like a piece of equipment, doesn't it? But no happy-face icons here. She was all dressed up and everything and I had to admit that she looked great.
She was also the first one to say anything. "Hello, Tina," she said. "My name is Carolyn. Carolyn Brown. I was the one Doc used as a model for your face and body."
"Oh," I said. "Oh. How do you do."
Doc finally spoke up. "Tina, please sit down. We have a few things to discuss. Please."
Somehow I got the old servos working again. One foot in front of the other. I know, because I was looking at my feet. I got myself one of the metal lab chairs and dragged it over in front of Doc's desk and tried not to fall into it.
"Tina," Doc said, "Carolyn and I used to be in love. We broke up shortly before I activated you. I could have changed your face to make it not remind me of her...but I didn't." He seemed a bit ashamed of that, and then went on. "She was also one of the women whose minds went into your personality construct. I usually don't want you and the others to have contact with any of the people you were patterned after. But in this case--"
"Doc, what is this?" I didn't dare look at her. "What are you trying to tell me? Are you--am I headed for the Old Robots' Home or something?" I could hear a quiver in my voice, and I couldn't modulate it out of my speaker sources no matter how I tried.
He held up one hand, kind of placatingly. "Tina. Far from it. I still value you greatly. I'd never kick you off our team. You know that. But, well..." He sighed, rubbed his hands together, and that's when I noticed it.
Doc had a little gold ring on one finger with a diamond in it.
She had a similar one on one of her fingers.
"Tina, Carolyn and I recently got together again. I didn't tell you about it, because I wasn't certain of it myself at the time. But now, I have to tell you. We're going to get married. I felt I owed it to you to tell you first. I--"
Carolyn stepped out from behind the desk. She wasn't gloating or anything, bless her. She knew how I felt, right then. I mean, to hell with the metal, we were both women. She said, "Tina, dear, Doc has told me what you've been to him all these years, and how you feel about him. And I want us both to be friends. After all, we're kind of like sisters, in a way. Could we be friends, Tina? Please?"
I was really choking by then, and I held my hands up. "Don't. Please. Just don't touch me. I don't want you to touch me right now. Just don't."
She stopped, her hands half-up and half-down, and looked kind of pained. "All right, Tina, if that's really what you want. I didn't mean to hurt you, dear."
I was crying, robot-crying, by then, and I was hiding my face in my hands. I felt Doc's hands on my shoulders then, and I heard him talking to me. I don't remember what he said right now, I could call it out of my subconscious memory bank if I wanted to, but I don't need to. He was just trying to tell me it was all right, he didn't want me to leave the team, he still cared about me, but he and Carolyn were going to get married. And they wanted me to be Best Woman, or whatever they call those gals who stand up with the bride.
Carolyn wasn't touching me, but she was right there in front of me, too, and giving Doc a look like you-cad, why-didn't-you-just-cut-her-with-a-welding-torch. The funny thing is, I couldn't even hate her. I couldn't. Why should I get mad at her for loving Doc? Didn't I love Doc? And didn't she look just like me, if I were a human? And she was trying to tell me that she didn't want to be anything but my friend, and she'd been hurt just like this before, too. At that, she didn't have to tell me who'd hurt her, though, from what I learned, it was a pretty two-way breakup when it happened.
So I bucked up and I looked her right in the face, and I held out my hand, and I said, "Congratulations. I hope you'll make him very happy the way...the way a robot couldn't make him."
"Oh, dear," she said, and she went and put my head on her shoulder, as heavy as it must have been, and just hugged me. And I hugged her back. I was careful not to damage her. After all, she really was my sister, in a way.
Then she took my head between her hands and looked at me and said, "I'm going to make sure Doc makes you a real husband. One that looks just like him. Only better-looking. And if he can't build it all out of platinum, maybe he can put platinum on the outside. And he can pattern your husband's mind after his own, Tina. If he doesn't--" And she gave him a look that was only half-joking. "--he'll be spending a lot of nights on the porch, I guarantee."
Doc laughed, trying to make it a joke. "I'll be glad to, Carolyn. And you'll finally have what you wanted, Tina, if I make you a robot husband. Won't you?"
I sighed. "Yes," she said. "I'll finally have what I wanted."
We all knew it wasn't true, and both of them were glad I'd given them the save.
Well, Doc had me call in the boys after that, and I bucked up and put on a brave face while he broke the news to the others. They were about as dropjawed as I'd been, believe it, girlfriend. And would you believe it? Mercury was all up in the air about it! He was the one saying, "Doc, how can you treat Tina this way? You know how she's felt about you all these years! How can you toss her aside like she was just last year's model?" He was so steamed he was turning into those big bubbling globules the way he does, and I almost laughed, and I almost cried, and I didn't do either one.
Iron said, "I wouldn't put it quite the way Merc here did, Doc, but..." And he left the rest of it unsaid.
Gold came in with, "I'm sure Doc will have an explanation for us, boys. Let's hear him out."
"Y-y-y-yes," said Tin. "I-I-I'm sure Doc will have a good r-r-r-reason for wuh-what he's doing. W-w-w-won't he?" Then he paused and said, "S-s-s-s'cuse me, ma'am," to Carolyn, who was looking kind of sad and embarrassed, but still holding Doc's hand.
Lead had to say something, and before he did, he came and stood beside me. "Uhh, I'm willing to hear Doc out on thus. But I'm, uhh, kinda worried about Miss Tina here. Are, uhh, you all, uhh..."
"I'm fine, Lead," I said. "Thanks, honey."
Then Doc explained how it had happened, and that nothing was really going to change about the team, we should just look upon Carolyn as another addition. And all the boys were giving me looks out of the side of their oculars that told me, Fat chance. At any rate, they'd just have to get used to it, because the marriage was going to go through in two weeks' time.
Finally, he wrapped it all up with a little speech. You know what he used as an analogy?
He talked about what the story had meant to him as a boy, and that maybe he had created me as kind of his Helen O'Loy. He admitted that all of them were special to him, but maybe I was the most special. I wanted that to cheer me up, but I was having problems just holding my face in a rigid matrix. But, he said, "In the end, people need people. And robots, I suppose...need robots."
After a pause, Gold said, "Does that mean that you're going to create mates for us, Doc?"
Doc said, "I've given it some thought, Gold. I leave it up to you and the boys to vote on it. I already know that I'm going to create a platinum husband for Tina, here. I created a Platinum Man for her and female robot counterparts of the rest of you once, and we all know that didn't work out. But I can make a second batch and get them programmed correctly, if you decide you want them. And I will make a new, decent Platinum Man for Tina. It's the least I can do."
"No," I said.
I was the center of attention at that moment.
"I don't want a robot husband," I said, and I meant it. "I'll be just fine on my own. Really, I will. You don't have to worry about me, Doc. I mean, I'm a big girl robot now."
Gold stepped over to me and put his arm around my shoulder. "Tina, I can imagine how you feel. If you'd like, maybe we could--"
I put his arm off as gently as I could. "Thanks, Gold. But no. I'll be fine. Maybe robots aren't supposed to fall in love." I tried to smile, maybe even tried to laugh. "Helen O'Loy's just a storybook character, anyway." Then I went over to Doc and Carolyn and shook their hands. "I want to wish you both the very best, from all of the team."
Carolyn kissed me on the cheek.
And she didn't tell me that I felt like a cold platinum bracelet.
I went to my room sometime after that and I didn't come out for a long while and when Gold tried oozing under the door to try talking with me, I stomped his head and he oozed back out.
They went and told the newspapers about the impending wedding, which you must have heard about, right?, and they ran some interviews with Doc and Carolyn and put in some stock footage of the Metal Men, 'cause believe it, even though Doc was the boss, none of the boys wanted to be seen with him right then.
So what happened between then and now?
The next thing that happened was Brainiac.
Are you surprised? You ought to have seen us.
I mean, we'd never even met Brainiac before the Crisis, and it wasn't like we were fighting him in particular then. We'd never even been introduced. After he'd been converted from that green-skinned jobbie in that fruity pink shirt to that pineapple-headed gratee that even some Third World car company never would've let get off their production line, I mean, we would've been the last ones Superman would have called on to help fight him. When he needed a hand once, he got the Justice League and the Teen Titans to back him up. We only met Superguy a very few times in our whole existence, and most of those times it was more or less by accident. Batman we knew a lot better. Supes and we weren't exactly strangers, but, well, you know.
But, as it turned out, Brainiac didn't really give a hang about us. We were just kind of tools. He wanted to use us against Superman, and he did.
Brainiac. You might think he's like one of us, a brother gone bad, but we really don't look on him like that. He's a humanoid computer, or he was...back when he was created, he was more one of those snotty-type androids (yeah, I know Red Tornado's all right, don't tell him what I said about androids, but trust me on this, girlfriend, they ain't robots!) put together by these green people on some other planet to help them conquer things. Only he gets a jones to shrink cities and put 'em in bottles, like the little ant farms humans have, and that's what got him in trouble with Superman. 'Cause he did it to one of those cities on Krypton. And Superman got it back.
And ever since then, as you and I both know, Mister Hal-9000 With Two Legs has had it in for Superman. They fought just a whole bunch of times, and the creep teamed up with Lex Luthor for some gigs, and then something happened to him and he got retooled into this really creepy all-metal body and it was like they took out his human-style responsometer, or something. He was all business, all robot-computer, and the only kind of emotion he probably had left was hate.
How did we get involved with him? Just keep readin', girlfriend. ;-)
It was a week when the Teen Titans weren't in NYC, which pretty much left all super-hero doing up to us for a little while. I've got to believe the guy was calling his shots.
That Tuesday at 11 A.M., you may have seen the CNN photos of what happened in the city.
A big spaceship, looking like something out of CE3K only meaner, warped into our space over the Hudson and some heat-beams in its undercarriage started doing something fierce to the water. It was just a baiting tactic, but we didn't know that at the time, and neither did anybody else. All everyone knew is that all ships in the area had to get the heck out of there, that the increase in temperature was endangering people in the area, and that any sea life under it was going to be cooked even more done than they'd be at Long John Silver's.
Doc's brother, Col. David Magnus, gave us a call just about that time and asked us to get on it. It was a lot easier to take a request from him than Col. Casper, let me tell you, 'cause Col. Casper was behind that plan the Army had to take us over, as you well know. Anyway, the long and short of it was, Doc asked us to intervene, since the city'd rather send us robots in and get us wrecked, if we had to be, than send in cops or soldiers who couldn't get reassembled.
Gold said, "Will do, Doc," and we got in the hovercraft and left. (You don't call it a flying saucer, and I won't call your plane a flying ketchup bottle, okay? ;-) I know, I'm SO nasty sometimes!) We might have our differences with the big lug of a human, but we know enough about acting like super-heroes when we're needed.
And considering how little action we'd seen recently, except for the Crisis, we were kind of glad to have the opportunity to flex our joints, you know?
The bit was, on the way, we had our suspicions. Merc said something like, "Why in the hell would an alien invasion ship be boiling up a flounder foundry? Are they that nuts about sea food?"
Gold, working the pilot's seat, told him, "We've been through enough of these things to know that you can't predict what an alien wants, even if they're hostiles, Mercury. Still, they haven't hurt humans yet, so let's play it cautious until we've traced the circuits on this operation."
"Duhduhdoesn't make much sense to me," Tin said. "Thuh-that is if-if y-you don't mind me suhsaying so."
I gave him a little hug to make him feel better, even though I had to spring my arm out about ten feet to do it. "Don't you ever feel bad about voicing your opinion around here, Tin," I told him. "You're just as much a robot as Gold, Iron, or any of us. And maybe even more so than some red-faced characters I know."
"I heard that," Merc said.
Tin smiled and kinda leaned into me like a lost puppy and said, "Thuhthank you, Tina. I-I-I can always cuhcount on you to m-m-make me feel better."
Mercury pulled a Don Rickles face and said, "Gah! Tin, I've got nothing against you, buddy, but sometimes when I'm next to you, I feel like I'm watching I, Claudius."
Lead said, "Uhhh, hey, little buddy, you, uhhh, remember when we used to sing together as, uhh, that folk duo? You, uhh, didn't seem to stutter much then, and, uhh, I didn't say 'uhh' too much when I, uhh, sang either."
Iron thought it was a good idea too. "Yeah, Lead. Why don't you and Tin give us something from your one and only album?"
"A-a-a-a capella?" asked Tin.
"Don't be silly, Tin," I said. "We wouldn't expect you to go onstage without a guitar. Have we got time before we get there, Gold?"
"Probably five minutes," he said. "Make it a quick song."
"Okay," I said. And I reshaped myself into the first platinum acoustic guitar. Would you believe it? ;-) The others were laughing, and I hopped right onto Lead's lap and he started strumming me (it tickled!) and he and Tin started harmonizing just like the Everly Brothers, and they did sound good. Heck, even I laid on a little vocal harmony, with the rest of me doing instrumentals--Emmylou Harris, watch out!
And there we were all zipping over the high-rises, six robots in a saucercraft, three of 'em singing an old song together:
"You say we've built a House of Love, but we built it all on dust
'Cause your wiring's bad, you drove me mad,
And you used up all your trust.
Well, you say I've got to be a man of steel, but my heart it feels like lead,
And your Heart of Rust overruled your mind, and that's why our love is dead. 1"
Hey--did I say they were Simon and Garfunkel? ;-) You try and write a song, if you think it's so easy!
They seemed like they were glad I was getting over the thing with Doc and Carolyn. But I know you know better than that. I was keeping it all internalized, like a car engine. I swore that I was going to keep pulling my weight with the team, that I wasn't going to bring the boys down, and that I was going to act like a mature woman robot about the whole affair. Except that inside, I felt like I'd just been programmed. And I didn't want to think about those two and what they'd be doing within a week or so, or I'd be having to tell the boys that it was just the song that made me cry. And they'd be nice about it and say, "Yeah, it must have been the song."
So I sang and I let Lead play me and it was very good for awhile.
About the time we finished that chorus, we heard Gold say, "Heads up, brothers and sister. There it is."
I snapped back into girl-form and got back in my seat and we saw the thing, a big metal whatever-it-was in the sky, with the cops on both shores of the river keeping people back and the river boiling up a storm under it.
Iron whistled. "The world's biggest deep-fry. I'm not in favor of getting under it, no matter what my liquid temp is."
"Me neither," said Mercury. "I'd be gas at that temperature. Want to try over it, or from the side, Gold?"
"Let's try the top," he said.
"Uhhh, gotta bad feeling about this," said Lead.
"Thuhthat's p-probably the ruhruhright feeling to have," Tin put in.
So Gold steered our little open-air flying saucer up and over the thing, and wouldn't you know that the top of it was pretty flat, like a perfect landing field. Or like an aircraft carrier. We landed the hovercraft and activated a magnetic grapple to bond it to the big ship until we wanted to take off again. Yours Truly was the first to set foot on the thing's surface. Metal, just like us, but not of any alloy we knew.
"Seems pretty stable to me, chief," I called back to Gold.
He gave the okay for the rest of them to desaucer, then. A few seconds after we were all standing on the spacecraft, all of our audiosensors caught the same thing.
The river wasn't bubbling as much as it had been a few seconds ago.
"Tina," Gold said, "hang your head over the side."
So I did, stretching my neck and the rest of me a hundred yards or so over. Gold chose me because I'm not only ductile, but I have a really high melting point. I took a look up under the saucer. Sure enough, the heat-rays had shut off. The Hudson was still boiling, but it'd eventually return to normal.
I retracted my head back and told Gold, "The heat's shut off. We must have triggered something."
Gold flattened himself against the surface like a living metal carpet a fraction of an inch thick and probed for traps or joints or some access to the interior or something. "No way in on top, brothers," he reported.
Iron picked out an area that Gold wasn't covering, made the end of one of his arms into a big hammerhead, and banged it just about as hard as he could. Sparks flew up, but he didn't dent it. "Going to take some doing to get in," he reported. "Maybe I'd be better off as a drill."
Gold firmed up to man-form again and said, "We haven't tried the bottom yet. There's bound to be a crack between the heat projectors and the main hull of this thing we can get into. Tina, I want you to form a sheath around Mercury, get under this thing, and then open up and see if he can ooze inside it."
"Do me another big favor," I said, looking at Merc.
"The feeling is reciprocated," Old Redface said. But I was about to form a hollow in myself that Merc could have fit into when we noticed something else.
Part of the sky seemed to be opening up, like an iris, and solid night and stars were visible on the other side.
"Spacewarp," said Gold. "Back to the ship. Let's get out of here."
By the time he finished that last sentence, the warp had already grown big enough to admit the ship, with us on it. Some engines in the thing kicked in. It thrust into the warp and through it with us hanging onto the saucercraft for dear life, and then the thing started enveloping us, like it was a Metal Man instead of a starship.
The warp closed behind us, and that was the last we could see of the outside. A few seconds after that, the ship closed all around us.
We weren't on a landing deck anymore, even though the saucer was still beside us. We were in the interior of the ship.
And sitting there on what amounted to a throne, facing us, and not yet making a move, was You Guessed It.
Well, we didn't have to run his picture through our memory banks too quickly, honey. I thought about asking Gold to ask what the heck the guy wanted with us, and with boiling the river under us. But Gold chose the more sensible route. I mean, the guy was a Class One super-villain.
"Metal Men, attack!" His very words. We knew how to do that, all right.
Iron turned himself into a pile-driver and hit that big mazumba right in the chestplace. Tin plated himself around Lead, who reshaped himself into a big hammer and smashed away at him. Gold and I turned ourselves into sharp wire, came at him from two directions, and severed his head from his body. Mercury blobbed up, went inside his head through the neck, and expanded. When he popped, there was metal and bloblets everywhere, and no more head for Brainiac. His body wasn't in great shape, either. Merc reformed into his robot body-form and looked proud, as always.
But Brainiac hadn't made a move to stop us.
"This is too easy," I yelled at Gold. "It's got to be a trap."
He said, "Tell me something I don't know," just before the ray blast hit us.
A second Brainiac came from a sliding portal in a wall of the chamber, giving us a look over as some ray-projectors from the ceiling blasted us, forced us to our knees, and then mashed us flat. It was some kind of inhibitor. We couldn't change shape. We couldn't move. We'd been suckered.
I don't know if Brainiac was ever in that body we smashed up or not. The way I've heard it, he can switch his consciousness through a bunch of bodies he has in storage. Could be that he was never in the body we attacked.
I do think that there was some "primer element" in the decoy body that, when we contacted it, made us easier prey for the inhibitor rays. Send us back to Chip School, I know. We ran on low programming, gutwire instinct, rather than higher programming, hang back for a second and make deduction from input. In that we weren't much better than a bunch of green human commandoes.
On the other hand, Iron and Lead have argued that Brainiac was a really deadly customer, and any hesitation we made, if he'd been the real article (which, for all we knew, he was), could have been Scrapyard City for us. So it's six bolts for one, five nuts for the other, and we got stuck with the leftover bolt.
The real Brainiac observed us for a little while, just lying there under those projectors he'd fashioned. I was thinking, What the heck has he got against us? We were never really his major enemies. His main beef was with Superman.
That's when I started getting that really nasty suspicion. Whoa, what if he doesn't care about us, per se? What if we're just six metal pawns he's using to get somebody else?
That old feminine robot intuition really comes in handy sometimes, doesn't it?
Especially when it's right, and there's nothing you can do about it.
So Brainiac took us out from under the inhibitor, which had pretty well robbed us of motor control of our bodies by then, and hauled us, two at a time, into another chamber. I guess it was his equivalent of the Mad Scientist's Lab you see on the late-night flicks. There was a slab large enough to accomodate six at about a 75-degree angle from the floor, with six things that looked like hair dryers or EEG machines, depending on your orientation. It didn't take too much imagination to figure out what they were for.
I moved my eyes over to Gold, who was being carried with me at the same time. He was looking back at me. That was as much movement as we could manage. You may think that robot eyes aren't as expressive as human ones, girlfriend, but if you do, you're wrong. You just have to know them.
All through it, that creepy moving computer didn't say a blinkin' word. Zip. Nada. His thinking was way above ours by a bunch of googols, but all the emotion had been blocked off and deleted right out of him. Heck, maybe he didn't even hate Superman anymore. Maybe the Big Guy was just another variable he figured that he had to wipe out.
But I doubt that. It's probably still personal, somehow.
So each one of us was laid side-by-side on the slab with the rest, and, as you might expect, the hair dryer / EEG helmets came down and fixed themselves on our crania. I could feel a couple of prongs penetrating the back of my head, and I'm pretty sure they made contact with my responsometer. Still gives me chills to think about it.
And we didn't get any verbal programming, or anything you could write in COBOL or one of those higher robot command languages Doc invented and plays around with. But we knew what the thing was doing to us.
It was giving Brainiac control of us.
While we were getting the once-over from the machine, a little automated truck-thing trundled up with a big metal cylinder in its servo-arm. I could see it from where I was. The cylinder looked like it was made out of lead. Just like the guy who was stretched out beside me, getting the brain-dryer treatment.
Brainiac took the cylinder from the truck-machine and popped it open. If I could have given a big theatrical gasp then, I would have done it, and how. I shifted my eyes to either side, and Gold and Lead were just as shock-eyed as I was.
It was the nastiest, green-glowing, potent cylindrical chunk of Kryptonite I had ever seen.
The last piece fell into place, then. Dawn broke over Platinumhead, and over the heads of all the others, I'm sure.
He came over to Lead and pressed it against the guy's chest. Later, Lead said that he got a mental command from him, which amounted to, "Put this inside yourself."
So Lead opened a big cavity in his chest, let Brainiac put the cylinder of Green K inside him, and then closed up again.
No K-radiation could get out. You couldn't even tell it was inside him. That is, until he had a command to open up again at let it out.
All of us had a pretty good idea who we'd be in front of when that command came down.
Brainiac finally had the brain-dryers retract. We could feel the difference. Our bodies weren't paralyzed anymore, and we could think...but we weren't in control. He was.
I was thinking as hard as I could: Doc, if there's any way this is showing up on a monitor near that big Cray in the basement, better call up the JLA or somebody. We're gonna be used as hitmen on Superman.
But he didn't have any such thing, sad to say, and for all I know, he and Carolyn were shopping for wedding silverware at the time. (Actually, that's not true. When we're on a mission, if Doc isn't along with us, he usually monitors us, but the monitor was cut off when Brainiac's ship molded around our ship, where the cameras are.)
Mr. Gruesome Gears faced us all, then, and we all got the same mental Order of the Day: "Superman is appearing at a literacy fund drive in Metropolis. You will take your craft, go there, and greet him. Then the leaden one will open himself and expose the Kryptonite, and back away, while the others of you bind the Kryptonite to him with your bodies until he is dead. You will use all the power in your forms to achieve this binding, and you will not ease your grasp until ten minutes after his death. After this, you will cease functioning."
I felt like somebody'd poured a liquid nitrogen cocktail down my throat.
He had one more order for us.
"Should your creator attempt to contact you, tell him that you fought and defeated the aliens, but that you have a message for Superman's ears alone. If your creator comes within physical proximity of you, before your mission is completed, maneuver him into a concealed area and kill him."
Shortly after that, he gave us our walking orders and we marched off to the hovercraft and got in. Brainiac opened another warp and Gold piloted the saucer through it and into the skies over NYC. It was a little darker, then, and there was still some people around to see us make our return from oblivion. I think some of them cheered.
It didn't matter.
I was looking around at Iron, Lead, Tin, Merc, and Gold. They were all looking at me. We couldn't even speak about what had happened. We couldn't even talk to one another about what we were going to do.
Lead later told us that he saw every one of us looking at him time and again, and wished he could have thrown himself over the side. But he couldn't. He just had to sit there and keep holding that rod of death inside him.
A few minutes after the warp closed up and we were back in regular airspace, the little monitor window on the control panel lit up with Doc's face. "Gold, report," he said. "What happened? I lost contact with you shortly after you landed on that thing."
Gold fell under a spell then that prevented him from even trying to signal Doc with his eyes. So did the rest of us.
"It's all right, Doc," he lied. "Mission accomplished. We encountered aliens aboard the ship. We fought them, showed them the error of their ways, and left. I don't think they'll be back anytime soon."
Doc wasn't buying it. Neither would I. It was too pat, too non-detailed. "Gold," he said. "What's going on?"
"Doc, I can't say right now," he said. "We've got to get a message to Superman. He's in danger."
"I can't divulge it on this channel," said Gold.
"Gold, this is a direct order," said Doc. "Tell me what message you have for Superman."
Then he said something that froze me like a platinum sculpture.
"Doc," he said, "maybe you'd better meet us in Metropolis. We can tell you there."
Then he shut the monitor off, and deactivated the override on it.
It takes a little while to get from New York City to Metropolis. I didn't feel much like turning myself to a guitar on the way, and I'm sure Lead and Tin didn't feel like singing.
We wanted to talk to each other more than we ever had before. But what we wanted to talk about was just what Brainiac's inhibitor command was giving us a mute-switch about. So we mostly sat, and stared at each other.
The hovercraft is fast. Faster than it needs to be, sometimes.
But I could still think. I could think about throwing myself over the side of the craft.
I didn't want to consider what would happen to somebody caught under a 5-foot-8 platinum lady falling from over 1,000 feet in the air. Mashed potato people, that's what'd happen. But it might be the only way to break free. If I could break free.
I tried kind of slightly noodging out of my seat, sitting up further on the back of it, edging towards the lip of the flat metal surface that ringed the outside of the saucer. No go. I got about an inch and then flopped back.
I must have tried that about thirty times. I don't know if the others knew what I was doing. I think Merc and Tin might have known, and darned if I don't think I saw something in their eyes that wasn't encouragement. Or maybe I'm just projecting.
I got up and stretched, but I couldn't make myself go near the edge of the craft. The compulsion wouldn't let me. I couldn't even say "Damn."
I looked at all the rest, Iron, Merc, Tin, Lead, and the back of Gold's head as he flew the hovercraft. All of them were as sick as I was. I could tell it from their postures, from their eyes. Within an hour, the Metal Men would be the Metal Murderers, and they'd have killed off the greatest hero on Earth.
Maybe something would intervene. Maybe Doc could get word to Superman that his robots were acting strangely. Maybe Supes would see Lead, be really perceptive that day, and put two and two together.
Maybe that was a bunch too many maybes.
I was able to stand. I was able to walk around the small space we had in the middle of the center, which wasn't any bigger than a small bathroom's floor space. I tried to trip over the guys' feet, but I couldn't do it. The guys also withdrew their feet when they saw me coming.
Damn that Brainiac.
Then Doc's face showed up on the monitor screen again. Don't ask me how he got that transmission through, but he is a genius. Let's just leave it at that.
"Gold," he yelled, "I want you to report back in immediately. This is a direct order. And I want you to give me the message for Superman."
"Can't, Doc," Gold said, trying to put a Bing Crosby casual air on it. "Like I said, it's for Superman's ears only. It'd be very dangerous for you, especially, to learn of it."
"Gold, give me that information now, and turn around!"
Our gleaming group leader had his fist raised then. And he was about to bash it into the monitor.
I had about two seconds to make any kind of move, if it was going to help the situation. And I didn't know what I could do.
Luckily, my eyes still worked, and I looked at all of the guys, and a big hot dose of inspiration fell down right on my little shiny head.
Remember me talking about my short stint as a robonympho?
Well, I kicked that up into simulation just then, grabbed Mercury, and planted a big fat kiss on his oily widdle lips!
And Merc, bless him, did exactly what I thought he'd do. He shoved me back as hard as he could, bellowing, "Tina! What in an addlepated assembly line do you think you're doing?"
Mostly it was reflex from him. But I added a little momentum of my own, going back. The inhibitor tried to stop me, but it was too late. Just by a little.
I went sailing off the edge of that saucer and didn't even try to grab hold of it going by.
Sure, I could have saved myself. I could have turned into a platinum parachute or a hang-glider form or something and turned up roboto intacto on the ground. But that wasn't the point of the exercise, was it? ;-)
I fell from a good 1500 feet up, straight down. Some news jockey with a camera got a good shot of me making my unassisted bungee jump. Brainiac's command-mode was trying to make me do something about it, but, after all, there just wasn't time. >;-)
About the most I could do was twist around and try not to hit anybody moving around on the streets. Nice trick if you can do it. But the people were obliging. They saw something falling and they ran like hell.
There wasn't that much time to fall and there wasn't that much time to run.
44 feet per second per second. Platinum lady. You do the math. All I had time to do was look down.
As I found out later, part of me hit a sidewalk, part of me went straight through a parked Chevy and knocked a big hole in it, part of me smashed through the window display of a department store and ended up tangled in a bunch of fallen mannequins, some little pieces of me tattooed the backs of running pedestrians (no injuries, don't worry), part of me (a foot) skidded clean across the way and scared a lady walking her pet poodle, and the rest of me ended up plating part of the street.
Suffice it to say, in the wake of that, the ankle bone was not connected to the shin bone, the head bone was not connected to the neck bone, nor was anything else much connected to anything else, now hear the word of the Lord. ;-) Even if I don't have bones. ;-)
What'd it feel like? Well, it felt like hitting something really hard and, for a zillionth of a second, watching parts of you separate before your responsometer was flattened.
Of course, I knew where I'd wind up after that.
When I could open my eyes again, there was good old Doc, with Carolyn beside him. I was out of the Cray, and into a new head, which he'd just assembled so he could talk to me. And I hoped he'd done quick work. I also hoped that, after I'd gone splat, Brainiac's inhibitor command didn't have any power over me.
Before he could even talk, I said, "Oh, Doc. Doc, don't stop me talking. Doc, they want to kill Superman and Lead has got Kryptonite inside him and they're going to kill Superman with it, and they'll kill you if you try stopping them yourself. Get ahold of Superman and tell him to wreck the Metal Men! But watch out for Lead!"
He said, "Good girl," didn't ask any questions, and ran for the phone.
Did I mention that he was a genius? :-)
So, girlfriend, that's the reason you saw those pictures on CNN, in case Superman himself hasn't told you. Doc did manage to get a call through to Superman at the Metropolis Public Library. Superman thanked him, then hung up, met the boys just as they landed, and did just as pretty a wrecking job on them as you could have asked for. They just couldn't cope with his kind of speed, and it made for a good show. He tore off Lead's head with the responsometer in it and took the body with the Kryptonite still wrapped up in it and got rid of it somewhere, exactly where I'm not certain. It doesn't matter. Doesn't cost Doc that much to buy up some more lead for a body. ;-)
And the boys all knew it was nothing personal.
The library staff asked him if they could auction off pieces of the boys for the fund drive. He said no. Good for him! Then he brought the pieces back to Doc, who had all the boys' little black-box minds safely back in the Cray, and saw me there--at least, there from the neck up, bolted down to a circuit board. I gave him a big smile. Doc and I brought him up to speed, and he shook hands with Doc and gave me a big kiss on top of the head. I can't blush, but it doesn't stop me trying to. ;-)
Carolyn was all weak-kneed, getting to shake hands with the Guy of Steel. (I don't like it when they call him that. I mean, he doesn't have any more metal in him than the average regular human being.) Before he left, Supes sketched out a couple of schematics and told Doc that if they were added to our responsometers, it'd keep us safe from Brainiac's control. So Doc incorporated them in our new design, and everybody's happy. Superman promised he'd take care of the Brainiac situation, and I hope he does. So far, I haven't seen Mister Byte-Me anywhere around us, and that's fine by me. He's probably written us off as defective models. ;-)
After Superman was gone, Carolyn asked to be alone with me for awhile...at least, what there was of me to be alone with. She asked me if I was hurting, and I said, "Not even when I laugh. I'll be okay, Carol, till Doc scrapes me together a new body."
She leaned in and looked really concerned, really sincere. "Tell me, Tina, is it always like this? Do you always end up getting smashed into a thousand pieces?"
"More often than I can remember, but not always," I admitted. "I've been blown up by a plutonium robot on the moon. That's one of the biggies for me. I've been gassed, rusted, chopped up, flattened, you name it. But Doc always comes through for me. Just like he did today."
She reached over and smoothed my hair back away from my mouth. "Thank you, honey," I said.
Then she sat there and just looked at me for a while. Finally, she said, "Tina, what do you think of Doc? Tell me the truth?"
I looked back at her, straight in the eyes, and said, "I'll tell you what I've known ever since I opened these baby-silvers and looked at him. He was the first thing I ever saw, and, for me, even though he's sometimes exasperating, even though he's sometimes impossible to live with, even though he's sometimes like the biggest baby in the world--he's the greatest thing in the universe. And before you ask, yes, I love him. And I always will. And--"
Believe it, Di, I was choking on the rest of it. But I got it out.
"--And I hope you'll make him very happy, and I'm glad he's finally got someone he wants," I said.
She gave me a funny look, then, and tried to say something. For a few seconds, she couldn't get anything out. Then she just said, "Thank you," and walked out.
Doc came back in a short bit later, asked me what I thought of her, and I said she was fine. And he asked me what we talked about, and I said, "You know. Girl talk."
Superman had gotten what was left of my body from the city sanitation squad and had brought it to Doc with what remained of the boys. So Doc got to work.
He rebuilt me first.
The boys and Doc and Carolyn and I had a reunion party when they were all back together again. But she left early, and when I tried to ask her what was wrong, she said that she just wanted to be alone for awhile.
The day after that, I figured that I'd better hit the DKNY and see if I could pick up something for the wedding reception. After all, I had gone through their plate-glass window and dummy display. The least I could do was spend a little of Doc's money there.
So when I got home with what I'd bought (don't ask, dear), I was surprised to throw open the door and find nobody in the whole house except for Doc.
He was sitting in front of the fireplace, which wasn't lit because it wasn't cold enough yet, and he wasn't smoking his pipe, and he was dressed in that dad-blamed old orange checkered coat that could probably stand up on its own without him in it.
And he was looking at me.
I could pick up some vibes from him and I was ready to lay out some sympathy. I walked over towards him and said, "Doc, dearest, what's wrong? You and Carolyn have your first argument? Let me lay this down and I'll listen, if it'll help."
Then he said, "No, Tina. We didn't have an argument. Please, put the packages down and come sit over here by me."
So I lay the packages on the sofa and knelt in front of him--we don't have metal chairs in the living room around the fireplace 'cause Doc says it ruins the decor, and I'm Just Too Heavy for most wooden chairs--and I looked up at him and wondered how I could keep from getting the sniffles if I had to sit there looking at him for a very long time.
Doc said, "Tina. Look at my hands." He held them out in front of me, fingers spread.
I looked at them. I said, "Well, Doc, they look like a pretty ordinary, average pair of hands to me. For a human, I mea--"
Yeah. You can stop, just before you reach the "n".
Dumb Dora here finally figured out what wasn't on his hand anymore.
"Oh, Doc," I said, grabbing that hand as gently as I could. "Oh, I'm so sorry. What did she leave you for? Did I scare her, when I was just, you know, a head kind of like in a Senor Wences box?"
"No, Tina," he said. "It wasn't like that at all. Please, let me talk."
So I did.
He said, "We had a long talk the night after the party. I'd realized something and I guess, scratch that, we both realized something, and I can't tell you which of us really told the other we needed to talk. I think--I think we both did."
My responsometer missed a whole bunch of pulses. Doc looked at me and said, "Tina? Tina, are you there?"
"I'm here, Doc," was all I could say.
"I guess I finally admitted something to myself," he said. "And she knew it was true, too, before I even spoke to her. She knew it when she had that talk with you, that night, even before then, maybe."
"Oh, Doc," I said. "I'm so sorry."
"Tina," he said, kind of soft but kind of sharp. "I said, let me talk. Please. Okay?" And I did, so he went on.
"The point is," he said, "the point is that I was already in love, and I didn't dare admit it, not even to myself. I was already in love, and she could never be anything but a substitute for that love, even though I did love her...but, as I've said, only as a substitute."
Something was growing inside me, I swear. Something warm and very, very big. And I didn't think a responsometer could generate that much heat. I couldn't have taken my eyes off that man's face if you'd tried pulling me away with an electromagnet that could attract platinum.
"We both knew that wasn't good enough. So we both took what was the fairest, most prudent course of action. That's why you don't see any ring on my finger. You won't see one on hers, either, if and when you see her again.
"So where did that leave me, Tina? Well, I'll tell you. It left me knowing that, for all my many degrees and scientific knowledge and patents and inventions and creations--among which, you and your brothers are my finest, and always will be--I would be in love with somebody forever, and I'd better damned well do something about it. Of course, there was the physical aspect of it. There is a kind of love a human woman could give me--"
"Ohhh, Doc--" I was saying, 'cause I knew what was coming, and I just couldn't, couldn't, couldn't believe it.
"--that another kind of woman might not be able to," he said, overriding me. "But after all, love is a thing of the heart and mind, so much more so than of the body. This may be the craziest thing a man has ever done, Tina. But I doubt it. I think it's also the rightest thing any man has ever done, as well. After all--" And he kind of smiled. "There was only one Helen O'Loy."
He reached in his pocket and pulled out a pair of 24K gold rings with diamonds set in them.
"Two new rings, Tina," he said. "I'll wear one, if you will. Will you be my wife?"
I plated myself around that man without changing shape and I think I said "YES!" about twenty-four times in a second and turned into a living tear-bank. Even though I can't cry through my eyes.
About that time, with my head on Doc's shoulder, I looked out and saw somebody oozing through the broom closet doorway, and somebody else dripping off the chandelier, and somebody else coming out from under the carpet, and...well, you get the idea, and you know what five monkey-faced busybodies they were! ;-)
And they all formed a net under us and made a bunch of "Hip, hip, hooray!"s while they were pitching us up to the ceiling and catching us coming down.
On one of the bounces, Gold told me, "The rings are part of me. Doc bought the diamonds. Are they okay?"
I stretched out my lips and gave him a kiss across his big shiny face.
So when I got up in the morning and woke Doc up and found out it was not a hoax, not a dream, not an imaginary story, but definitely a robot (and a human), we got him dressed and went down to the justice of the peace and tied the knot. Of course, there was a little bluster about the legality of the thing, but Doc said that I was a legally recognized citizen of the U.S.A., and if the courts didn't like it, that was tough. We were going to stay together, legal or not. So we got the licensee and Doc got a blood test because they made him and that was it.
Say hello to Mrs. Tina Platinum Magnus.
We're going to be releasing the news to the media this week, but I wanted to let you know ahead of time. Doc would like to have a big fancy wedding for me sometime soon, but we wanted to make sure there wouldn't be any court hassles first. If they are, like he says, what the hell, we're still man and wife in the most important ways, and if the law doesn't like that, they can stuff it up their backplates till they write a new law.
The boys are still debating whether or not they want wives yet. I think they'll wait to see what happens in the wake of our announcement. Maybe someday soon, we'll even find a way to bring Nameless back for poor old Tin, 'cause I can't see him hooked up with anyone but her.
Gosh, I hope we can.
Doc says that, if things work out, he's going to try something new. He's going to create a couple of little robot kids for us, with responsometers programmed from human babies if he can get volunteers (which I think he can--it doesn't hurt them, after all), and they'll be ours, our very own, to raise and make part of the family. As they get older, he'll adjust their MFG so they can grow bigger bodies. ;-) This is all very hypothetical now, dear, so don't breathe a word of it. But then again, my brothers and I were hypothetical, too, not so long ago.
Now here's the part you MUST NOT reveal. Don't read any further unless you can keep a secret. Are you ready, girlfriend?
I'm learning how to do sex.
Admittedly, I don't get as much out of it as he does. But it's just a matter of molding, um, certain parts of your body in a way, and I have something that I wear, and--well, let's not get into that, shall we? ;-) I got the idea the night after the wedding, and I managed to talk myself into an appointment with one of those therapist people, and, well, after the big initial shock he proved to be quite helpful. So I got one of those mechanical thingies from him, and some of those kind of videotapes, and I practiced. The whole thing seems kind of dumb to me, in a way--I mean, I can't see any robots behaving like that--but, you know, I think Doc's starting to like it.
Only he tells me to quit overdoing the screaming. ;-) Oh, well, live and learn.
Now, back to normal. Remember, you tell anybody about this, and Paradise Island gets bombed FLAT. ;-)
So now you know what's been happening for the past month or so, and I expect to see you and as many of the Justice League and Donna and as much of the Teen Titans at the reception as you can possibly drag with your little lassoes. And if I start bawling, just remember that you don't need any Kleenexes for me, just a shoulder I can cry on till I get hold of myself again.
Only I'd rather hold onto my husband. ;-) And I do that quite a lot these days. ;-)
There's just one thing after all of this that's left to say. He may have been right about there being only one Helen O'Loy.
But there's only one Doc Magnus, too.
And there's only one Tina Magnus.
And that makes me very, very happy.
One afternoon in 1963, I bought my first two superhero comics from a drugstore downtown in the very city I'm living in today. One of them was WORLD'S FINEST COMICS #134. The other was METAL MEN #2. I think I fell in love with Tina at first sight. And I wondered why Doc Magnus was such a dummy not to scoop her up, since she was such a neat girl and very much in love with him, even if she was a robot and even if he did create her.
Bob Kanigher, her real creator, mentioned (as I recall) the Pygmalion myth several times in the letters columns, which referred to an ancient sculptor who fell in love with a statue of his creation which was given life. So it's not like it was unprecedented.
Whatever the case, it's been 37 years since the Metal Men made their first appearance, in SHOWCASE #37. And it's well-nigh time both Tina and Doc found a little happiness.
If I can't have her, somebody's going to, and that's that. And so it is!
This one's for Bob Kanigher and the late, great Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, in honor of a little bit of magic they made me part of, 36 years ago.
All characters are DC Comics
This piece is © 2001 by Dark Mark.
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