This is where I keep stories, notes, and various tidbits about Rusty and Rachel, and the world they live in.
Please note that this stuff might be fairly unorganized, and is in a constant state of flux!
Foxglen is a quiet little town in the country of Nell, sandwiched between the Bluetail Woods and the Emerald Sea. It's known mostly for its seaport and abundance of thrift and curiosity shops, which are always kept well-stocked with a steady stream of items coming in from various lands across the sea.
The most famous of these shops is Buzzy's Electronics, a veritable wonderland of electronic doodads, both new and old. Buzzy, the shop's stout little groundhog proprietor, takes great pride in his ability to procure exceedingly rare--and often exceedingly weird--bits of electronic history, which are showcased in a dimly-lit and somewhat musty little room affectionately referred to as the "Closet of Wonders".
It is in this little room that, every Wednesday at exactly 12:00 PM, when the weekly shipment of new items comes in, you will find Rusty the Retro Panda, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the seemingly endless rows of strange and obsolete circuitry from decades past.
Rusty is, to put it lightly, a fan of strange and obsolete circuitry. When they were just a cub, their dad would bring home all sorts of junk from his appliance repair job, mostly parts that were deemed too old or damaged to be worth repairing. These items were like gold to young Rusty, and before long their room was practically overflowing with boxes of mechanical and electronic detritus. Eventually, Rusty became rather good at repairing or repurposing even the most hopelessly damaged parts, and spent much of their teenage years working alongside their dad and bringing home a not-too-shabby paycheck.
The Repair Job
There was one call in particular that sticks out in Rusty's mind to this day. A young sailor living at the edge of the Bluetail Woods was having trouble connecting his television to an old game console he'd picked up for his daughter while stationed overseas, and assumed he had lost an important cable or other component at some point during the long journey home. Rusty's eyes immediately lit up when they heard about the job. A game console! In Foxglen! Strangely enough, these devices were not a common sight in the town's thrift shops, and Rusty often had to travel several miles to a cousin's house just to play some Warriors of Wah for a few glorious hours. Rusty excitedly grabbed their trusty wooden toolbox from under their bed and hopped in their dad's truck.
Upon arriving at the sailor's home, they were greeted by a small, bespectacled fennec fox, holding a yellow-tinged plastic box that was slightly bigger than his head. Rusty's dad knelt down and extended his hand.
"Hey, buddy! Are your parents around?"
"Um...hello. You must be the repairperson I called earlier."
The burly red panda eked out an awkward grimace and turned to Rusty, who was doing their best to stifle a laugh. "Hey! Umm, why don't you take the lead on this particular job? Let's see what you got."
After exchanging some even more awkward handshakes, the three entered the modest little two-story house and descended into the basement den, where the sailor had set up a truly remarkable home entertainment system, complete with two sets of bookshelf speakers that were most definitely several times larger than his head. Between the speakers sat a CRT TV, fancier than any Rusty or their dad had ever seen before. It was showing static, much to the chagrin of the small, tan fuzzball that was curled up on the couch across from it. The fuzzball let out a small huff and looked up at Rusty, who was excitedly glancing around the room and making happy squeaking sounds.
"You! Squeaky! Fix the TV! Now!"
Rusty turned around, only to be greeted by the words "Home Sweet Home" zooming towards their face. The expertly-hurled embroidered pillow smacked Rusty directly on the snout, and they let out a startled "EEP!" and flopped to the floor. The mortified sailor gasped and threw their hands up in exasperation.
"Rachel! What have I told you about throwing pillows at guests?!"
"Ugh...sorry, Dad." Rachel sighed and sat upright, wincing slightly as she threw off the galaxy-print blanket she had been curled up under. "I'm just REALLY REALLY BORED and I REALLY REALLY wanna play Warriors of Wah before I DIE FROM BOREDOM."
Rusty's ears perked up. They retrieved their glasses from underneath the TV stand and turned to Rachel. "Did you say Warriors of Wah?"
"Uh, yeah? Did I scramble your brains or something?" The still-mortified sailor shot a nasty glance at Rachel, and she folded her arms and huffed again. "I mean...yeah. It's sorta fun, I guess."
Rusty spent the next hour studying the yellowed plastic box and its cables, trying to figure out a way to connect the ancient terminals to the decidedly more modern input jacks on the TV, as Rachel squirmed and made a variety of impatient noises from underneath her blanket. Meanwhile, the two dads sat in the small but cozy kitchen, laughing off the prior incidents of the day and bonding over blueberry tea.
"So, uh, she's kind of a firecracker, isn't she?" Rusty's dad leaned back a little as the sweet scent of the tea danced around in his nostrils. "Rusty was like that for a few years, but I'm not sure they ever chucked pillows at anyone."
Rachel's dad sighed and took a little sip from his bright green mug. "Rachel is...a handful. Always getting into trouble, sneaking off into the woods and going places she shouldn't. Getting herself hurt..." He glanced at a folded-up wheelchair leaning against the wall next to the basement door.
"Oh. Uh...yeah, I noticed that she's..."
"Missing a leg. Yes." The sailor put down his mug and folded his hands in his lap. "She was out in the woods a few weeks ago, and apparently went inside an old, dilapidated barn. The roof had caved in, and there were broken wooden planks everywhere. She says she must have stepped on a nail or something."
"What's more awful is that she decided not to say anything, to either me or her mother. She tried to treat it herself, but she developed an infection, and..." The sailor trailed off. "Well, I'm just thankful she's alive. We brought her home from the hospital not too long ago, and she's been a screaming terror ever since." The sailor picked up his mug again and took a long, frustrated sip.
"Can't stand being cooped up in the house, I suppose?"
"That's...putting it mildly."
Rusty's dad scratched his nose and smiled. "Well, hopefully Rusty can get that old console working and give her something to pass the time. They've got a real knack for this kind of stuff. Some of the repairs I've seen them do are nothing short of miraculous."
"Their efforts are greatly appreciated either way." The sailor sighed again. "I had intended to take care of it weeks ago, but with everything that's been going on--"
Suddenly, the distinctive sound of square waves erupted like a cannon blast from the basement, causing the poor fennec to shriek and fall backwards off his chair. "Sorry!" Rusty shouted up the stairwell. "I didn't realize the volume was turned up so high!"
Rusty & Rachel
Back in the basement, Rusty sat down on the couch and adjusted their glasses. On the other side of the room, the Warriors of Wah logo scrolled across the TV screen, accompanied by a (now much quieter) chorus of heroic bleeps and bloops from the slightly-rattled bookshelf speakers.
Rachel's frown quickly morphed into a wide grin as she shot upright. "Hey, Squeaky! You fixed it!"
Rusty blushed and scratched their head. "Ah, it was nothing. I just had to wire up an adapter to connect the spade terminals to the coax input, and then figure out which frequency the console uses, since it's not directly compatible with the TV system we use here in Foxglen..." Rusty turned to face Rachel, and was immediately met with the business end of another pillow.
"Who cares? Hurry up and get the controllers so we can beat up General Wowzer!"
"EEP! Alright! Just stop smacking me with pillows!" Rusty picked up their glasses from underneath the end table and pulled the console closer to the couch. "You wanna be Red Wah or Blue Wah?"
"Blue Wah!" Rachel's eyes grew wide as Rusty handed the controller marked "PLAYER 1" to the small, tan fuzzball. "Blue Wah's better 'cause they got those cyber-fists."
"Yeah, but Red Wah's got that cool gun--"
"I don't like guns."
"Ah, fair enough..." Rusty squirmed a bit, expecting another pillow to the face, but thankfully Rachel was too busy tweaking character stats to launch another assault.
As Rachel assembled her cybernetic warrior, Rusty glanced at the rows of photos adorning the walls, a good three-quarters of which depicted Rachel in various states of not sitting still. The rest seemed to show Rachel's dad and a red panda nearly three times his size, holding hands and smiling happily.
"Is that your mom in those pictures?"
Rachel crinkled her nose and snorted. "Yeah, that's mom. She's over in Kate City doing government stuff now that dad's back in town. Something about a trade route, I dunno."
"Aha...so you must be a fennec panda. That's pretty cool!"
Rachel grabbed another pillow and held it over her head, her eyes filled with righteous fury. "EXCUSE YOU, I'm a rox! Fennec pandas are DUMB and BORING!"
"Ack! Okay! Nice to meet you, Miss Rox!" Rusty was curled up in the corner of the couch, their quivering hands covering their poor, abused glasses. Rachel realized she'd unleashed enough punishment on the red panda for one day and dropped the pillow in the middle of the couch.
"Miss Rox, huh. I guess that's kinda cool. I won't beat you up for now."
Rusty uncurled and sat back up, relieved. "Uh, thanks. And for the record, my name is Rusty, not Squeaky."
"Whatever you say, Squeaky."
Halfway through the game, long after Rusty had lost all their lives to a series of cheap pitfalls, Rachel was still going strong, punching monsters and gracefully dodging attacks like a pro. Rusty yawned and pulled their long, bushy tail into their lap.
"You're pretty good at this game. How do you know so much about it if your dad just brought it home?"
At that exact moment, Blue Wah landed on a bed of spikes, exploding into a shower of pixelated sparks. Rachel frowned a little and slumped backwards. "I used to play it a bunch with my friend back in Foreston until Mom and Dad decided to pack up and move here. I guess Dad felt pretty bad about it, and spent a long time trying to find a copy while he was stationed overseas. He got lucky and found it packaged with the console in a little junk shop the day before he sailed back home. I guess it cost him a bunch of money, too."
"That was really nice of him. It sounds like he cares about you a lot."
Rachel smiled. "Yeah, I guess so."
A New Friendship
Half an hour of furious button-mashing later, Rachel had defeated General Wowzer, once again sending him and his minions back into their dark netherworld and cementing Blue Wah's status as a legendary hero. As the staff roll slowly crept up the screen, Rusty's dad poked his head through the basement door and knocked softly on the wall.
"Hey, Rusty! It's getting kind of late. We should probably pack it up and head back home if you're all done down there."
"Alright, Dad. Gimme just a few minutes." As Rusty stood up, something grabbed onto their tail and pulled, sending them tumbling backwards onto the couch again. They looked over to see Rachel, her little fuzzy arms wrapped around their tail, tears forming in her soft, brown eyes.
"Rusty, I...I had a really good time today. Please tell me you'll come back again...soon..."
Rusty leaned over and booped Rachel on the nose, then pulled her in for a proper red panda hug. "Hey, of course! I gotta come back and do a video mod on that console anyway. The RF output is real fuzzy, and that adapter I made is basically held together with--"
Before Rusty could finish, another embroidered pillow smacked into the side of their head with a loud thump. "Ugh, whatever!" Rachel sniffled, wiping a tear from her cheek. "Just hurry up and get your sorry butt back over here so I can give it a proper kicking!"
Rusty smiled. "You got it, buddy."
"UGH! Hurry UP!" Rachel groaned, her tail thwacking angrily against the back of the molded plastic chair she had been so unceremoniously dumped in, her left leg swinging wildly through the air as though she were trying to kick away ghosts. "This stuff smells funny! YOU smell funny! I wanna go home!"
"Miss Rachel, please, if you don't sit still..." her prosthetist pleaded, as he peeled off and readjusted a strip of plaster-soaked gauze from below her right knee. "Aren't you tired of being stuck indoors? Wouldn't you love to run around in the sunshine again?"
"I'd rather be stuck at home than sitting here!" Rachel kicked the air again, narrowly missing the side of the poor, balding squirrel's head. "Prossy-tests are DUMB!"
Across the room, Rachel's dad sighed and rubbed his forehead. He was holding a cup of coffee, almost pitch black, the cheap and unpleasant kind that only a soulless vending machine could provide. He took a sip and scrunched up his face as the taste of coffee-tinged charcoal hit his tongue.
"Rach--gack!--Rachel, please, could you stop squirming, just for the next hour or so?" He peered into his cup of liquid agony and saw several bits of blackened grounds bob to the surface. "I'd like to get back home myself before this coffee comes to life and strangles us all."
"Oh, Ben, quit overreacting," said a stocky, bronze-colored red panda as she walked towards the diminutive fennec fox, cans of blackberry soda in each hand. "You're almost as bad as she is sometimes."
"Am not!" Ben playfully stuck his tongue out as he grabbed one of the cans and cracked it open. "That stuff is thicker than the plaster ol' Forrest is using over there."
The prosthetist huffed softly and cut another strip of gauze. "Ben, it's a good thing you're my friend, or I'd dump this stuff right on your peanut-shaped head." He picked a bit of dried plaster off his nose as Rachel blew a raspberry in his general direction. "I honestly don't know what Kass sees in you sometimes."
The red panda bellowed out a hearty laugh, loud enough to create ripples in the now-abandoned coffee. "Maybe I'm not so sure, myself!" she cackled, then leaned over to give the frowning fennec a kiss on the forehead. He mumbled some vague words of affection and took a deep swig of soda.
"Anyway," Forrest said, swiftly dodging another kick, "the vending machine's been on the fritz for probably a week now. I've got a repairman coming out to look at it today."
Rachel's eyes lit up. "Repairman? Is he a big wah, like my mom?!" A strip of gauze hit the floor with a wet plop as Rachel bounced in her seat. "Does that mean--"
Suddenly, the intercom system beeped and crackled. "Forrest, there's a man named Red asking for you at the front desk," said a slightly-tired female voice. "Says he's here to work on the coffee machine."
Rachel squirmed impatiently in the molded plastic seat as the cast on her right leg slowly dried. She could hear faint voices through the slightly-ajar door, talking about heating units and wires and other boring stuff. Her parents were at the reception desk, busily sifting through and signing a stack of papers nearly half an inch thick. She turned to examine the window to her right, hoping to find an easily-accessible latch, or perhaps a stray rock with which to shatter the glass so she could make a daring escape. Just as the gears in her head started to turn, there was a knock at the door, followed by a familiar voice.
"Hey, short stack, you in there?"
"RUSTY!!" Rachel excitedly grabbed the sides of the chair and started bouncing up and down, hoping to scoot herself over towards the door. She'd moved maybe two inches before she lost her grip, flinging herself sideways off the chair and landing face-first on the hard linoleum floor.
"Whoa, you alright?" Rusty shrieked as they flung the door open and rushed over to the small, tan fuzzball. They gently lifted her back into the seat, careful not to disturb the cast, and gave her a thorough dusting. "You gotta be more careful, buddy."
"Rusty, it is SO BORING here and I am going to DIE if you don't get me out of here NOW," she whined, clutching the sleeves of Rusty's purple T-shirt. "That prossy-test is a big WEIRDO and he smells like POO."
"Aw, he doesn't seem that bad." Rusty pulled a spare plastic chair over next to Rachel and sat down. "He's gonna make you a shiny new mechanical leg! Isn't that just the coolest?"
"I mean...I GUESS," Rachel sighed, slumping in her chair a little. "It's just...why does it take so long? Why do I gotta wait for this gross stuff to dry? I just wanna run around and kick people's stupid butts again!"
"Well, you see, first he's gotta make a cast of your leg, so the--" Before Rusty could finish, a tightly-wound roll of gauze bonked into the side of their head. They turned to look at Rachel, whose face was stretched into a frown very nearly wider than her head.
"I. AM. BORED," she sneered, each word like a flaming dagger aimed at Rusty's heart. The red panda nervously cleared their throat, certain that their life would end at the hands of the small, tan fuzzball right then and there if they didn't think of something fun to do ASAP.
"I'll, uh, I'll be right back," Rusty squeaked as they quickly stood up and exited the room. Rachel groaned loudly and kicked the air, nearly knocking over an empty cup on the counter across from her.
A couple of excruciatingly long minutes later, Rusty returned, carrying a little wooden toolbox with the letter "R" and some stars carved into one side. A couple of frayed wires dangled through a crack in the bottom.
Rachel gazed intently at the wooden toolbox, a toothy grin slowly spreading across her face. "Ooooh! Are you gonna fix my leg with that big nerd brain of yours?"
"Ahaha...if only," chuckled Rusty. They unlatched the box and pulled out a little plastic rectangle, about the size of a bar of soap. A shiny greenish-yellow screen and two buttons adorned one face of the mysterious device. "You ever seen one of these?"
"Nuh-uh. What's it do?"
Rusty smiled and flicked a tiny switch on the side of the device. A moment later, there was an electronic "ping!" followed by a tinny rendition of the Warriors of Wah theme.
Rachel's ears shot straight up. "WHOA! How'd you fit Warriors of Wah into that little tiny box?!"
"Well, it's not the real game, unfortunately. It's more like a minigame sort of thing." Rusty gently grasped Rachel's hand and placed it on the right side of the device, which was painted a sparkly shade of blue. "It's Red Wah versus Blue Wah! You gotta mash the button with just the right timing to build up attacks and knock the other player out."
"Ohhhhh..." Rachel gasped, her eyes as big as saucers. "Super cool..."
"Yeah! I found it at Buzzy's in a big box of junk he was gonna toss out. It had some problems, but I managed to get it working again." Rusty grabbed the left side of the device, painted a fiery red, and pushed the button labeled RED WAH ACTION. "You ready to get creamed, fuzzbutt?"
"Bring it on, Squeaky!" Rachel shrieked as she mashed the button labeled BLUE WAH ACTION. A short beepy fanfare played, and soon the two friends were furiously mashing their respective buttons, trying to pummel each other's digital avatars into virtual paste.
Several rounds of wah-on-wah violence later, Forrest returned, a pouch full of measuring tools and various other important doodads slung over his shoulder. Behind him was Ben, who was carrying a cup of freshly-brewed coffee and looking slightly less harried than before.
"Alright, Miss Rachel, let's get that cast off and send you on your way, shall we?" Forrest chirped as he sat down in his fancy plush chair. "The sooner we get the mold made, the sooner we can start putting together your new leg. Aren't you excited?"
At that moment, the screen on the handheld game went blank, and the tiny speaker squeaked out a long, sour note before going silent. Rusty cocked an eyebrow and scratched their chin, perplexed. "Huh, that's new. Guess I've got more work to do on this poor little thing."
"That's alright, Rusty," Rachel said in an uncharacteristically calm voice. She patted Rusty on the hand and gave them a little smile. "You fixed my boredom, so I bet you can fix this, too!"
Rusty picked up their toolbox and smiled back. "I'll do my best, Miss Rachel." As they turned and walked towards the door, another roll of gauze whizzed by their head and smacked into the wall.
As Rusty's dad's truck bounced along the dusty roads leading back to their house, Rusty stared out the passenger window and sighed. They pulled the broken handheld out of their toolbox and idly poked the buttons, hoping to see some signs of life.
Red glanced over at Rusty and softly cleared his throat. "You all right over there, Russ?"
"I dunno," said Rusty, in a slightly somber tone. "Rachel's gone through so much the past few weeks. I was hoping to give this to her, but it stopped working..." They poked the BLUE WAH ACTION button, and a smattering of pixels briefly appeared on the screen, then faded away. Rusty sighed again.
"Hey, you gave it your best shot." Red reached over and patted Rusty on the shoulder. "Besides, it lasted long enough to keep her from causing some massive property damage. That's no small feat, you know."
"I guess you're right." Rusty put the handheld back in their little toolbox and closed the lid. "I just wish there was some way I could...fix her, you know? She seems so miserable..."
"On the contrary," said Red, a warm, fatherly smile spread across his face. "I think you're doing a pretty great job of that, too." He reached behind his seat and procured a can of blackberry soda, then handed it to Rusty. "Some repairs just take a little longer than others."
As Rusty popped open the can, the Warriors of Wah theme faintly played from within their wooden toolbox.