By 'A Clockwork Tomato'
This is one of the episodes from my thirteen-episode fanfiction season 3 for The Big O, everyone's favorite anime show. It shows a plausible future after Act 26, advances Roger and Dorothy's romance, answers many of the riddles of Paradigm, and has plenty of giant-robot mayhem! The episodes feature R. Dorothy Wayneright, Roger Smith, Angel, Dan Dastun, Jason Beck, and our other favorite characters.
Why did I write a thirteen-episode season in thirteen weeks? Partly because people were so confused when the show ended so abruptly and mysteriously. A lot of folks felt that what happened at the end end of Act 26 made future episodes impossible. These thirteen episodes are my way of proving otherwise.
What happened in Act 26? Why did people lose all their memories? These and other mysteries are answered.
The original episodes and such are all copyrighted or trademarked or whatever by Sunrise, Inc. The rest is mine, all mine, and is Copyright ©2003 and 2004 by A Clockwork Tomato. All rights reserved.
Roger knotted his tie, put on his suit coat, and drew on his black gloves. He checked his appearance in the mirror; he was ready for the new day. He walked out of his bedroom.
Dorothy was waiting for him in the penthouse.
"Hello, Dorothy," he said. "I didn't see you at breakfast."
"I wasn't fit company," said Dorothy. They embraced briefly. She was upset about something. "Good morning, Roger. I have important news."
"Tell me, then."
Dorothy led him to a couch and sat down next to him.
"I have a sister. Another R. Dorothy Wayneright. She called me on the telephone last night."
"I see," said Roger. Dorothy had been leaving no stone unturned in her quest for the content's of Timothy Wayneright's lab, which she believed had contained at least one other R. Dorothy Wayneright, fully assembled and nearly ready to be awakened. "Is she okay?"
"She seemed fine," said Dorothy. "I was relieved. Few people know how to awaken an android properly. Errors can cause terrible damage. But Dori seems to have been very fortunate."
"That's what she's calling herself."
Roger asked, "So where is she? And who is her, what … father? Creator?"
"Lover," said Dorothy.
"What? That's disgusting!"
"Dori says 'boyfriend,' which is sort of sweet, don't you think?" continued Dorothy, ignoring this, "But 'lover' is what she means."
"But," protested Roger, "she's like a child, isn't she?"
"Not in that way. Her body is the same as mine."
"But," said Roger again. He groped for a way of expressing his feeling that what Dorothy was describing was wrong.
Uncharacteristically, Dorothy didn't wait for him to marshal his thoughts, but kept on going. "Roger, there are three basic reasons why someone awakens an android. To be a child, a lover, or a tool. I was awakened to be a child. R. D. was awakened to be a tool. Dori was awakened to be a lover. She may have been dealt a better hand than her sisters."
"Why?" asked Roger.
"An adolescent android is very emotionally dependent on her awakener. Ideally, it should be someone who is supportive, someone who is kind. R. D. fell into the hands of a maniac. With me, father was … father was … I had to … I …" she stopped for a moment, then started again, speaking slowly. "It is very hard for me to … to … criticize … Father," she said.
Roger nodded. "Try to say it indirectly, or hypothetically," he suggested.
Dorothy closed her eyes, paused a moment, and then spoke. "Suppose there was a man named John Doe, whose daughter Jane had died. Mr. Doe could create androids. He wanted an android copy of his daughter. But he didn't the core memory technology; he could only make duplicates of old patterns. Mr. Doe could add some memories, but memory and personality are not the same. He could not alter the personality of an android directly." She looked at Roger.
"Androids will love, trust, and wish to please the person who awakens them. This always happens -- it's part of growing up. Mr. Doe could not alter Jane's personality, but he could make it clear to Jane that he wanted her to act the role of his dead daughter. All the time. That was her purpose. Not to … to be … to be … herself."
She looked up at Roger, who nodded encouragingly.
Dorothy went on, "And this was … it was … Jane … she felt … she …" Dorothy closed her eyes again. There was a long pause. Then, "I think I've said as much as I can."
Roger squeezed her hand. He loved her hands, even though they didn't feel quite human. Or maybe because they didn't. "I understand. Tell me, was Jane happy?"
"She was happy and … and … at the same time," said Dorothy. "Outside his … his …, Mr. Doe was kind. He was a very interesting man. And he loved Jane. His … he … he had a kind of double vision. Craftsmen love their creations. It's very human to want your creations to love you back. He loved android technology and would happily talk shop to Jane, while at the same time … at the same time … insisting …"
Roger said, "You had to pretend that you were his daughter helping out in the lab."
"Jane! We are talking about Jane. I can't discuss this at all if we talk about me."
Dorothy remained silent for a long moment. "Enough about Jane. Dori's boyfriend transferred most of her conditioning from Father to himself, so she would not be crippled with grief when she was awakened. That was my greatest fear. So far, so good. But the next step is also crucial. If Dori's boyfriend wants Dori to be Dori, then she will emerge from the experience unscarred. Though if the two of them are very incompatible, she will eventually leave him."
"She can do that?"
"Oh, yes. The early conditioning fades. But not right away. An adolescent android is very dependent. It will be months, at least, before she could be separated from him."
Roger considered this. "So we're stuck, aren't we?"
"Not entirely. We can talk to her boyfriend. He could do a lot of damage by accident, especially if he follows …" she paused for a moment, then said, very slowly and distinctly, "certain materials that are likely to be found with Father's papers."
"Because your father wrote them himself."
She didn't answer, which was answer enough.
Roger asked, "So what do we know about Dori's boyfriend?"
"Dori wouldn't tell me anything about him. He told her not to reveal anything about himself to anyone."
"That sounds ominous."
"She called me when he was asleep. He doesn't know."
"That sounds ominous, too. I don't suppose it could be your good friend Tony?"
"No, he would have asked for help. He loves androids but doesn't really know much about them."
"Will Dori be calling you again?"
"Tonight, I think. Roger, you must find her! I need to talk to her, and to her boyfriend. The initial stages have gone very well, but she isn't safe yet. Her mind is still at risk."
Roger hugged her. "I'll get right to work."
* * *
Roger drove up to the nondescript seaside bungalow, one of a long row of identical, weather-beaten summer rental houses. Big Ear had given him the address, identifying it as a place where some of Wayneright's materials might be stashed, though only briefly. Big Ear had been even more cryptic than usual, but Dorothy was anxious, so Roger was following up every lead. He expected to find a boxful of papers if he was lucky. But if he could find out where they came from, he might really be onto something.
He stepped out of the car. The weather was blustery, with a salt smell in the air. The sound of seagulls came faintly to his ears. No one was in the street.
He went up the front door and knocked. Almost immediately it was answered by a slim young blonde woman in jeans. She opened the door and looked at him gravely. Except for her hair color, she looked exactly like Dorothy.
A faint smile came to her lips. "Roger Smith," she said.
"R. Dorothy Wayneright, I presume," he said, smiling back.
"Call me Dori. Please, come in. I had no idea you'd find us so soon."
The bungalow was nearly empty. A couple of suitcases stood near the door, and there was a cardboard box on the kitchen table. Dori had been packing.
"There's still some coffee. Would you like some?"
"Cream and sugar?"
She returned a moment later with two cups. He was interested to see that she added cream and sugar with hers. She noticed his gaze, and the faint smile returned to her lips. She said, "I've decided that I prefer cream and sugar, but I'm prepared to rough it if necessary."
Roger grinned. Dorothy was just the same, though she almost never volunteered this sort of information.
Dori took a sip of coffee, made a face - a fleeting expression; he almost missed it -- and added another spoonful of sugar. Roger laughed, delighted.
Dori asked, "How did you find us? We were being so careful."
"I have my methods."
"And I'll be here alone for almost an hour," she continued. "That's wonderful timing. How is Dorothy?"
"She's worried about you."
Dori nodded, serious. "There were so many things I couldn't tell her."
Roger waited, with a look of polite inquiry on his face.
After a moment she added, "I can't tell you, either."
"Sorry. What would you like to talk about?"
"I have an enormous number of questions. Do you mind?"
The faint smile returned. It gave him a little jolt every time he saw it, because Dorothy almost never smiled, even when she was deeply happy.
"Did you ever meet my father?"
"Timothy Wayneright? Just once, the night he died. We were never properly introduced or anything like that. He wasn't even an acquaintance, I'm afraid."
"And you saw Dorothy with him that night?"
"What was she like?"
Roger considered. "I almost thought she was a different person. She laughed and smiled and had any number of, I don't know, girlish mannerisms."
As he spoke, her smile had flickered out again. "I thought so," she said.
"What do you mean?"
"Would it be okay if I visited you sometime?"
"Dori, we'd like nothing better. Visit us anytime; stay as long as you like. Forever, if that suits you. You're family."
"Thank you." She seemed pleased.
She thought for a moment - she was just like Dorothy in this; she could stop and think without becoming self-conscious, and silences didn't bother her - and asked, "Roger, what does Dorothy do all night?"
"You mean, when I'm asleep? I keep very late hours and am up most of the night."
"Well, she does what she likes. She's careful not to wake me, so she doesn't play the piano near my bedroom or anything like that, but otherwise, it's up to her. She visits friends sometimes, or works around the house, or reads. She spends a lot of time on the rooftop, gazing out over the city and thinking."
"She's not afraid of being mugged when she goes out at night?"
"Well, mostly she goes out in the morning, and it's much safer during daylight. But she goes out at night sometimes, too."
"And you don't object?"
"I pointed out the dangers once or twice, and she listened politely and said she'd keep my advice in mind. Dorothy makes her own decisions."
Dori absorbed this for a moment, then changed the subject. "Roger, do you think Dorothy is prettier than Angel?"
Roger smiled. "I'm not an unbiased witness, but yes, I do. But they're both very attractive women. It boils down to whether you like big bold blondes or quiet petite redheads."
"Hair color is important, then?"
Roger smiled again, "Not really. Well, some people have narrow tastes. But I don't really have a preference for redheads. I have a preference for Dorothy. Where did you hear about Angel?"
"Jason told me about her when I asked about his old girlfriends."
Roger froze. "Jason? Jason Beck?"
She was startled. "I thought you knew. How did you find me if you didn't know?"
"Jason Beck is your boyfriend?"
"I wasn't supposed to tell you. I'm sorry … are you all right?"
Roger was beside himself with rage, but he couldn't very well take it out on Dori. Beck! Of all the … He mastered himself with a tremendous effort.
"I'm sorry, Dori," he said. He didn't try to smile; he know his limitations. "Beck and I and I don't get along. I suppose you know that."
She nodded. "Yes. He's tried to kill you or Dorothy on several occasions. You've put him in jail three times. He was responsible for my father's death."
"He ought to be in prison! He's not a suitable boyfriend!"
"He said you'd feel that way," she said calmly.
"Anyone would feel that way!" shouted Roger.
"I don't feel that way. Don't I get a vote?" asked Dori, still quite calm.
Roger suddenly noticed that her hairband was more than it seemed. It looked metallic and decorative, but it was also concealing circuitry.
"What's that in your hairband?" he asked, trying to keep his voice level.
"This?" she touched it, "It's …"
"Beck's using it to control you, isn't he?" demanded Roger, his voice rising again. He was so angry he could barely speak.
"No, it's for …"
"I swear," growled Roger, "The next time I see Beck, I'm going to kill him."
"You're not listening to me," complained Dori. "And I probably wouldn't survive if … if ... if Jason … if … I wouldn't …" she stopped and looked up at him beseechingly.
Roger's anger had turned to shame and misery. "I'm sorry, Dori. I didn't mean to yell," he said. "And I won't kill Beck, either."
She placed a hand on his arm. "It's all right. This must be hard for you. It's my fault, really. I shouldn't have told you."
Roger tried again. "Dori, I really think you ought to talk to Dorothy. And Dorothy's beside herself with worry. Can't you come home with me and spent a little time with her?"
"I'm not supposed to."
"Do it anyway."
"Yes, you can. Just let me drive you to see Dorothy. We can drop you off afterwards wherever you like."
"Do you think I should?"
"Yes. Yes! I think it's very important."
She stood up. "I really want to meet Dorothy. And Angel, too. Are you really living with two women?"
"Angel's just a friend." Roger was surprised to realize that he was blushing.
"I need to pack some things." She looked around, found an empty box, and handed it to him. "Could you pack the things in the bathroom? The medicine cabinet and the things of mine under the sink; parts and instruments. I'll pack some clothes." She opened the door of the tiny bathroom and shooed him in.
He had barely opened the medicine cabinet and realized that it was empty before the bathroom door slammed. This was followed instantly by a low scraping sound.
Roger tried to open the door, but it opened out, and something was blocking it. After getting down on the floor and peering through the crack, he realized that Dori had shoved the full-sized refrigerator across the kitchen and against the bathroom door in one swift movement.
He tried forcing the door, but it was hopeless. He tried calling to Dori, but there was no response. The window was too small for him to squeeze through.
He sighed and called Norman on his wrist communicator.
* * *
Angel finally got the refrigerator out of the way. "That thing is heavy," she said as Roger opened the door. She added, "I should have brought Dorothy along. There's never an android around when you need one."
"I'm not in the mood, Angel," growled Roger.
She gave him a good look. "Wow, even I never make you this angry."
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Suit yourself. Where'd you park your car?"
"It's right out front."
"No, it isn't."
Roger used his watch to get a fix on the car. It was only three blocks away. As he and Angel walked, Roger brought her up to date. She had a distressing tendency to snigger at the strangest moments.
He rounded on her, angry. "Angel, what's the matter with you?"
She tried to keep a straight face but failed. "I'm sorry, Roger. I really am. But I'm thinking of this from Beck's point of view."
"And that's funny, is it?" he asked sourly.
"What you don't know is, Beck has this terrible letch on strong-willed women. If a woman's impressed by him or does what he asks, he loses interest in her. But if she looks down on him or makes fun of him or treats him like he doesn't exist, he's all over her."
"Oh, no," moaned Roger.
"Oh, yes," said Angel happily. "Guess who's the strongest-willed woman Beck has ever met?"
"I don't believe it."
"After he killed her, she came back to life right in front of him, and she didn't even spare him a glance."
"You're just making this up."
"With Beck, that's true love. Lucky for you there was another R. Dorothy Wayneright waiting in the wings."
"Lucky for him, you mean."
"You're right about that. Of course, he's not out of the woods yet. I'm sure he's avoiding you and me, but I'll bet you anything that the one he's really afraid of is Dorothy."
They reached the car. It was locked and undamaged. Hadn't he locked it himself? Yes, but the car recognized Dorothy and would unlock automatically if she touched the door handle. Nobody had told the car there were two Dorothies.
On the driver's seat was a note. He unlocked the door and picked it up. It read:
I am very sorry. Can you forgive me? The error was mine, but you're taking all the consequences. That isn't right, and I am ashamed.
There's so much I can't tell you. I know that you think that I'm naïve (and I am), but things are not as bad as they seem. Everything is going to be all right; you'll see. Try not to worry about me. I'll call or visit as soon as I can.
P.S. I've left you the hairband (I'm now wearing a plain one). It doesn't do anything bad; it just makes me invisible to Megadeuses. Test it; you'll see. D.W."
The hairband (which of course was not really a hairband at all, but a cover for the memory access slot in Dori's skull) was on the dashboard. Roger passed the note over to Angel, who read it and said, "Wow."
Roger nodded in agreement.
"She seems more, I don't know, girlish than Dorothy."
"Yes, I think so, too."
Angel's eyes gleamed. "So exactly how adorable is she?"
"On a scale of one to ten? An eleven? A twelve?"
"You know what they say about little sisters."
"Angel, I've had a really bad day so far, and it's probably going to get worse. You're not helping."
"All right, I'll tell you something useful. Beck doesn't involve his girlfriends in his crimes and he never hits them."
"I guess that's something."
"Of course, if he hit Dori he'd probably break every bone in his hand, so maybe that's not a good thing."
Roger managed a smile. "Thanks for getting me out of that bathroom, Angel."
* * *
Angel drove her pink sports car to the rendezvous, which was scheduled for 3:00 PM. She needed to get there by 2:45, or she wouldn't have time to bend Beck to her will before Roger showed up.
She was in a foul temper. Roger and Dorothy had gone off the deep end. It had been a week since Roger had met Dori. Beck had not called. Dori had not called. No one could find any leads on them. What was the matter with Beck? Had he dropped Dori on Roger's doorstep for a visit shortly after their first encounter, Roger and Dorothy would have been forced to accept the fait accompli. The inexplicable silence was driving them out of their minds with worry. Dorothy had stopped talking and was spending all her time standing on the parapet, gazing out over the city, as if she expected to find Dori through an act of pure will. Roger was pacing the house like a restless lion. The enormous building seemed suddenly cramped.
Angel had thought that Dorothy's serenity would stretch even as far as accepting Beck as Dori's boyfriend, but she had been wrong. Dorothy knew Beck only through his crimes. And she hadn't listened when Angel, who had once been Beck's girlfriend, had tried to explain. Dorothy looked as calm as ever, but was deeply distressed. Although Dorothy wasn't talking, Angel knew that she must have dreamed of giving her sister a perfect childhood (or whatever androids called it). And now, for Dori to have been scooped up by Beck, of all people! Dorothy's dreams had gone up in smoke. If she learned where Beck was, she would probably be upon him like an avenging … demon.
Beck had quite a nerve. Today he was ransoming a famous oil painting. Roger had been hired to handle the owner's interests. He didn't know Beck was involved, but to Angel, Beck's style was unmistakable. Beck was using a front man to deliver scripted instructions over the phone, but Angel knew that Beck would handle the exchange personally. She had managed to sneak a copy of the rendezvous instructions off Roger's desk. That was another thing - Roger was usually very neat with his paperwork and didn't leave it lying around. He was frazzled.
She hoped Roger hadn't started carrying a gun. He might use it.
She reached the warehouse - Paradigm city had an endless supply of abandoned warehouses - and drove in.
Beck was there already, as she expected, resplendent in one of his horrible yellow suits. He was carefully dirtying up his car's license plate with a tub of mud and a sponge. Beck was not the sort of man who would risk being pulled over for an unreadable license plate or a broken taillight. He'd arrive early instead and anonymize his vehicle while he waited. When he saw her car, Beck put down the tub and the sponge, pulled a damp towel out of a toolbox, and meticulously wiped his hands.
Angel stopped the car and got out. She was wearing her leather jumpsuit, an outfit that Beck had always found irresistible.
"Angel!" he cried, genuinely delighted. "Long time no see. So are you running errands for Crowboy these days?"
Angel marched right up to him. He held out his arms for a hug. She slapped him hard across the face.
"Don't talk to me!" she snarled. "Just shut up and listen. Beck, you jackass, do you have any idea what a living hell my life has become? What's the matter with you? You used to be a professional!"
"Angel," he complained, but she cut him off.
"What do you think you're doing? You arranged a truce with Roger and Dorothy. I encouraged them to sign up for it, did you know that? So you were already halfway home with Dori. Once we learned about her, you had us over a barrel, because we couldn't get rid of you without hurting her. You win. Game over. But you've waited a whole week now, and for nothing!"
She stopped abruptly and looked at him. He had folded his arms and was smiling at her in a smug, knowing way.
She had always been good at reading Beck. This was not his usual cackling delight at pulling off a clever bank job. It was a deeper satisfaction, as if he had conned the whole world. Realization dawned. "Oh my god," she said. "You've got something big going. No, wait. Don't tell me … You've made so much money you're going to retire from crime."
His smile broadened.
"There's more, isn't there? Let's see … Oh! I know! You're going to betray the Union in exchange for a pardon. Can't retire properly without a pardon."
He nodded. He was grinning now. She studied him again, "That's not the end of it, is it? And to sweeten it, there's some kind of, what, a con? Yes, a con. Hmmm … probably to make the Union look scarier than they really are."
He spoke at last, "Same old Angel. What number am I thinking of?"
"Yellow," she said absently. "What is it, broken-down robot parts made to look like the real thing?"
"Something like that." He held out his arms again.
Angel stood uncertainly, unable to make up her mind whether to hug him or slap him again. Beck wisely took a step forward and enfolded her in his arms.
She rested her cheek against his shoulder and sighed. "I don't know why I like you," she said. "It's not like you ever say anything nice or do anything sensible."
"Look who's talking," he murmured.
"Where was I? So you betray the Union in a dramatic way. They get extra prison time and you get a pardon. And then …" she shoved him away, suddenly angry again. "You jackass! You've decided that you don't want to show up on Roger's doorstep until you've got a pardon, a medal, and the keys to the city, so you can look him square in the eye and say, 'I'm as respectable as you are, pal, so don't tell me Dori's too good for me.'" She stamped her foot in vexation, "I'm right, aren't I?"
"What's wrong with that?" asked Beck, failing to sound cool.
"What's wrong with it?" screeched Angel, furious. "Dori screwed up your schedule, that's what's wrong with it! That bit only works if you keep her a secret until the last instant! Not if you play an idiot shell game for a week instead of coming to terms! Damn you, Beck!" She stabbed a shaking finger at him. "Roger is so angry that I wouldn't be surprised if he tried to kill you!"
Beck was shocked. "He wouldn't do that!"
"I've never seen him like this before. Honest to god, I'm afraid for all of us. And Dorothy … she scares me. If I were you, I wouldn't be able to sleep nights. I'm afraid to meet her gaze, and she's not angry with me at all."
Beck, taken aback, asked, "So what do you think I should do?"
"Make peace. Start by getting Dori over to Roger's house just as fast as you can. Tell Roger and Dorothy your plan to go straight. I'll keep your secret about the con, though I'm going to have to spill it to Dastun before the trial, so those poor fools don't get prison time they don't deserve. So bargain fast with the government. Put up with Roger and Dorothy's disapproval. From what Roger says, Dori is a total charmer. You stay in the background. Keep her in the foreground. Let them see you through her eyes. I'll do what I can. I like you, Beck. You know I do. And they listen to me if you aren't driving them out of their minds with worry. And stop being such a smartass around Roger. He hates that."
"I really had him wound up last time, did he tell you?"
She stamped her foot again. "Is that the point? I thought you were in it for the money."
"Naw, it's the babes." He held out his arms again.
"Look, are you going to do what I ask or not?" asked Angel, her anger draining away. "Roger will be here in a few minutes, and I need to know whether I'm protecting you or abandoning you to your fate. I'll send some nice yellow flowers to your funeral."
Beck sighed. "I'll do it your way, Angel."
A wave of relief went through her. She hadn't realized until now how afraid she had been, these last few days. He took her in his arms. She put her cheek against his shoulder and began to cry softly. He stroked her hair. After a couple of minutes she murmured, "Roger will be here any minute. We ought to arrange Dori's visit right away. Where is she?"
"I'm right here," said Dori.
Both Angel and Beck jumped, and Angel shrieked.
"Dori!" cried Beck. "What are you doing here?"
"I wanted see if Roger was all right. I hid behind the seat."
Dori turned to her, "You must be Angel. I'm Dori." Angel blushed. They shook hands.
Dori asked, "Did you really hit Jason with a length of pipe?"
"It was only a little one," said Angel, dabbing at her face with her handkerchief. "And everyone wants to hit him with a length of pipe.'
"That's true," said Dori.
"Dori, how long can you comfortably be away from Beck?" asked Angel.
"Ten or twelve hours. Twenty-four hours makes me anxious."
Angel consulted her watch. "Beck, how's midnight for a handoff?"
"Fine," said Beck. "Name the place."
Angel dug a business card out of her purse. "That's my number at Roger's house, and this other one is at my apartment. Why don't you call me at Roger's and give the usual switcheroo address, and I'll meet you there. Try my apartment as a last resort. The line is probably bugged. You know the drill."
Beck nodded and turned to Dori, "You ready for this, Dori?" He looked concerned, protective.
Dori was wearing her faint smile. "It's what I want, Jason. Thank you." She turned to Angel. "Can you stay with me the whole time, Angel?"
"Sure, if you want me to."
"You will be my interpreter." Dori turned back to Beck. He took her hands in his and they gazed into each other's eyes for a long time. Angel turned away. They weren't even kissing, but there was an intimacy there that she couldn't bear to watch.
Roger's car could be heard in the distance. Angel turned back to Beck and Dori. She was amazed to see tears in Beck's eyes. Angel had never put tears there except by slapping him. She sighed. Another sexy man lost to android love.
She coughed. "Roger's almost here. Dori, come with me and we'll perch decoratively on the hood of my car. Beck, get into your car and don't show yourself until I wave to you, okay?"
Roger pulled up next to Angel's car and got out. His face was aglow. "Dori!' he called. He gave her an enormous hug.
"Give Angel a hug, too," said Dori. "She deserves it."
Roger complied, grinning. "I take it we have you to thank for this, Angel?"
"And Beck. He felt like listening to reason for once."
"You should have seen Angel," Dori told Roger with a perfectly straight face. "I'll bet you never negotiate like that."
"Is Beck here?" asked Roger, ignoring the needling. Angel was pleased to note that his smile didn't vanish completely at the thought of Beck.
Angel said, "He's going to go straight, Roger. The idiot wanted to go straight before confronting you and Dorothy, so he'd feel like a respectable suitor instead of a criminal. Dori blew his schedule, but he didn't want to change his plan, so that's where the delay came from."
Roger said, "Wait a minute. I'm about to close a $350,000 ransom deal, and he's going to go straight in the near future?"
"He's in the car over there," said Angel. "If you want to convince him to go straight right now and save your client a lot of money, I'm not stopping you." She waved to Beck, who got out of the car. He was managing to look reasonably cool under the circumstances. The beard really helped, she decided. It balanced the idiotic curls. He'd looked like a sissy clean-shaven.
The two men started walking towards each other. As they got closer, Beck's annoying smile began flashing on and off like a semaphore. Angel smiled. Good: he was nervous. She'd really gotten through to him.
Her watch beeped. Roger's must have, too, because he jumped a little and raised it to look at the face.
"Master Roger," reported Norman. "General Dastun reports that a group of giant robots has been spotted several miles outside the city."
"No!" wailed Beck. "Not today! Tomorrow! I haven't installed the overrides yet!"
Roger, ignoring Beck, called into the watch, "Big O! It's showtime!"
A moment later, Roger drove off to his rendezvous point.
Dori had dashed over to Beck's car and gotten in on the passenger side.
Beck objected, "Dori, you go with Angel."
"I'm going with you."
"Do I have to make you get out?" asked Beck in exasperation.
"You can try," Dori replied calmly, "But I doubt if you have the strength."
Beck, smiling his crooked smile, put the car in gear and drove off with Dori.
* * *
Angel let them get a good head start, then tailed them. Beck drove to a tall abandoned factory. Beck drove in through an opening; Angel parked outside.
A couple of minutes later, a Megadeus strode out of the open front bay.
Angel chuckled. "I guess you can keep secrets from me after all, Beck," she said to herself. "For a little while, anyway."
* * *
The console lit up.
CAST IN THE NAME OF GOD . . . YE NOT GUILTY
"Big B! Action!" called Beck. Big B strode out of the factory. Beck guided him towards the wastelands.
Behind him, Dori had opened the memory access tray in her forehead and removed the false hairband. She replaced it with a bulkier device, gold in color. She closed the tray. The new device stuck out a couple of inches from the front of her head like an oddly shaped tiara. It contained eight round golden sockets.
"I will be using the probe cables, Jason," she said calmly.
Beck turned around in his seat, "Dori! No!"
"Big B and I have discussed it. It's perfectly safe. You know it is."
"Not for certain! I don't want to risk it!"
"This is my decision, Jason."
He sighed. "Just wait a minute, will ya?" He stopped Big B and walked around to where she was standing. He took her hands in his. "All right," he said, looking woebegone. "Go ahead."
They looked into each other's eyes as Big B slotted the eight cables home into their sockets.
Across the control room, readouts and control panels lit up. There was the sound of distant machinery being engaged. The hum in the control panel changed its tone and became distinctly louder.
Dori smiled her faint smile. "It's working, Jason, and I'm fine." She patted his cheek. "Let's get to work."
Beck went back to the command seat. Big B lumbered back into motion.
"Jason?" asked Dori.
"We need to let Roger know what to expect."
Beck said, "I don't want to reveal our identity yet."
There was a pause, then Dori said, "Big B can exchange information about the targets with Big O. I'm getting him up to speed on the targets now."
"That's great, Dori."
* * *
Inside Big O, Dorothy said, "Big B reports four targets, three of them remotely piloted robots, and one damaged Megadeus converted to manual piloting."
"That's his name. The three robots are of the type that was used to attack the amusement park dome. All three are armed with laser cannon. In addition, two have racks of missiles and one is apparently a walking bomb." She rattled off some additional specifications.
"That doesn't sound too bad if we can blow the walking bomb before we get too close. The other armament is pretty light."
"Yes. The Megadeus has no core memory at all, but is fully armed with eye lasers, a chromebuster, machine guns, a reality cannon, and an unidentified system which is probably not a weapon at all."
"What in the world is a reality cannon?" asked Roger.
"I have no idea. Apparently the device is non-functional in any event."
"Tell Big B that we ought to gang up on the other Megadeus first, if we can, and try to disable it before the bomb-bot gets close. Then we take out the bomb-bot, and finally the small fry."
"Big B agrees."
Roger called Dastun on the radio to get an idea of what was going on. The robots had walked through the outskirts of the city, causing some damage, and then retreated into the wastelands. Dastun had thrown out a screen of tanks to maintain contact, but was not attacking. He was waiting for the Megadeuses.
"I'm using two of my aircraft to keep track of them," he said proudly. "The enemy has taken a few pot shots at them, but so far they've missed. Visibility is good, so we can maintain visual contact from a long way off."
Dastun recommended a line of march that allowed his forces to provide covering fire for the Megadeuses, and vice versa. The Megadeuses would be a quarter of a mile apart; close enough to provide mutual assistance, far enough apart that they couldn't both be blasted by the same weapon. Big O was on the right; Big B on the left. They were in a region of sand dunes with broken skyscrapers sticking through here and there.
Roger told Dorothy, "I could get used to these combined operations. Teamwork is a wonderful thing."
"Roger," said Dorothy. "Are we walking into a trap?"
"What should I be looking for?"
"Hidden things. Camouflaged gun emplacements. Anomalous sources of heat. Large pieces of metal. Hollow spaces in the ground. Electrical activity."
"Vehicles emerging from tunnels."
"Things like that, yes."
"Three vehicles emerging at two o'clock."
"Notify Dastun and Big B," said Roger as he slewed Big O around to face the menace. Three flat-bed trucks had pulled out of a tunnel. Each carried a single missile about forty feet long on a launcher that angled up over the cab. Roger hurriedly engaged the eye lasers. Even if he missed, the operators of the missile launchers would probably hit the dirt and stay there, and their eyes would be dazzled. The lasers hit one of the trucks, shearing the cab off but leaving the missile launcher unharmed. Big O missed the other two trucks completely.
The missile launched quite slowly. Since it was headed directly towards Big O, it made an easy target. Roger held Big O still so he could get a better aim, and fired the eye lasers. The missile exploded a hundred yards ahead of Big O. Fragments of missile slammed into Big O, but caused no damage.
Roger didn't have time to line up the lasers on this missile, so he tried dodging to the side. There was an explosion as the truck that launched the missile blew up. The missile swerved and buried itself in a sand dune.
"Big B destroyed the missile launcher. Missile launched."
The third missile was in the air, this one aimed at Big B. Roger didn't have a good shot at the missile itself, so he used the eye lasers to destroy the missile launcher. The missile passed within a few feet of Big B's head and kept going for several miles before exploding somewhere out of sight.
"Robots approaching at ten o'clock."
"Ha! They got their timing wrong. They should have shown up at the same time as the missile launchers. Lock missiles on whatever's nearest. Be prepared to use the chromebuster on my signal."
The robots appeared on the sensor screen first, and then hove into view over a low hill. The three identical-looking robots were well in front; the Megadeus was hanging back.
"Which robot has the bomb?" asked Roger.
"I can't tell."
The robots were only a quarter of a mile away. The Megadeus was over a mile away. Big B fired his left-hand cannon at the Megadeus, which dodged the projectile easily. Big B switched to eye lasers, which didn't have a hope of damaging the Megadeus.
"Chromebuster!" called Roger.
Big O adopted a firing stance. Roger aimed carefully at the other Megadeus. "Fire!" he called.
There was a delay of several seconds as the chromebuster charged up. Then it fired at the enemy Megadeus. Aiming the chromebuster was tricky. The glare from the beam made it impossible to see the target, and the beam itself interfered with radar and sensors. Roger switched off the beam after several seconds. A streak of lava showed that the beam had struck thirty feet to the left of the enemy Megadeus.
"Any idea which robot has the bomb?"
"Four missiles, fire!"
A brace of missiles snapped out of Big O's torso and sped towards the nearest robot. The missiles, with plenty of time to get up to speed, slammed into the robot with full force. The warheads exploded and tore huge rents in its torso. One of its arms flew end over end in the air.
Still the robot came on. It was firing its laser cannon at Big B, to no effect that Roger could see.
"Well, at least that one's not the bomb," said Roger.
A few shells started exploding near the robots. Some of Dastun's tanks were coming into range.
Big B was closer to the robots. He had extended the plasma lance in his right hand and advanced on the damaged robot. Big B made a big show of brandishing the plasma lance as he advanced, then, from a distance of about fifty feet, fired his left-hand cannon into the robot's head. The head was torn from its body and the robot fell over, to lie inert and smoking on the ground.
The second robot paused and fired its missiles at Big O, who raised his forearms protectively just in time. After a series of explosions, the forearm armor was glowing in places and had pits up to three feet deep, but nowhere had the armor been breached.
"Lock missiles on the Megadeus," said Roger. Then, "Chromebuster!"
He fired the chromebuster at the other Megadeus again, but missed. The Megadeus was still hanging back, though the range was now only half a mile. It had not fired so far.
Big B seemed to have decided to take out both of the remaining robots at close range. That didn't make any sense!
Roger decided that Big B was making a demonstration to distract the robots until someone else finished them off. "Targeting chromebuster on the nearest robot," he said.
As the chromebuster charged, Dorothy said, "Missiles locked."
"Four missiles, fire!"
The missiles shot out towards the enemy Megadeus just before big O's chromebuster fired at the second robot. There was a terrific flash as the robot, its torso packed with ten tons of high explosives, blew up. Big B was blown a hundred feet backwards, but through some miracle managed to land on his feet. The third robot was blown onto its back and was half buried by debris.
Roger looked around for the enemy Megadeus. "Where is it?" he asked.
Before Dorothy could answer, Big B fired his left-hand cannon at the prostrate robot. There was another enormous flash. Big B was knocked off his feet this time, and Big O, much further away, was blown back three paces.
"These guys are full of surprises, Dorothy," said Roger with a grim smile. "Find me that Megadeus."
"I can't pick it up," said Dorothy. Could we have destroyed it with our missiles?
"Don't get your hopes up."
Big B was back on his feet, apparently undamaged.
"Dastun, where the hell is that other Megadeus?" said Roger into his radio.
"What? It's right on top of you!" shouted Dastun.
Roger looked around wildly, then noticed a shimmering in the air. When he looked at it directly, the Megadeus become perfectly visible.
"Nice trick, pal," said Roger, "but I see you now!"
The other Megadeus, only a hundred yards away, began to charge its chromebuster.
"Hip anchors!" called Roger, grabbing the appropriate controls. He fired the hip chains into the stub of a skyscraper sticking out of the dunes, and reeled them in at full speed. Big O was jerked sideways just as the enemy's chromebuster went off. Roger released the chains and Big O strode forward, fists raised. The instant the enemy's chromebuster winked out, Big O punched the Megadeus in the head with his left. Then he hit it in the throat with his right, hoping to stun the pilot.
The missile launcher ports opened on the other Megadeus' torso. Roger had a good view of rack upon rack of missiles pointed right at him, then suddenly the enemy Megadeus staggered backwards, having been hit by a shell from Big B's left-hand cannon. The missiles sprayed across the sky and vanished.
"Thanks, Big B!" shouted Roger. Big O leapt forward and pounded the Megadeus over and over with his piledrivers, never letting it regain its balance. Pieces of armor flew off the Megadeus. A blow to the head started a dazzling fire; the chromebuster had been damaged. The blows drove it backwards step by step, first walking, then staggering. After a dozen paces, it lost its balance completely and toppled onto its back.
"Self-destruct sequence engaged," reported Dorothy. "Five seconds."
"Warn Big B," said Roger. Big O raised his forearms protectively and walked backwards as fast as he could.
It was more than an explosion. The flash and the noise and the half-molten debris smashing into Big O were only to be expected, but there was also a wave of memories and emotions, too fleeting to grasp, that made Roger feel weak and ill.
When the spots receded from Roger's eyes, he looked for the crater where the Megadeus had been. There was none. The hillside, barren everywhere else, was covered with a carpet of wildflowers. There was no sign of the Megadeus or of the explosion.
"Dorothy, what just happened?" asked Roger.
"I'm not sure," said Dorothy. "It doesn't make sense."
Roger sighed. "Well, what else is new?" He looked around. No enemies in sight. Big B, who had been further back in any event, seemed unharmed.
"Check with Big B to see if there are any other enemies," he told Dorothy. He spoke into the radio. "Dastun? Do you have any other targets for me?"
"Not at the moment, Roger. I think we may have gotten them all. And we've rounded up quite a few Union operatives as well. Big B radioed the locations of their command bunkers."
Roger slumped in the command chair. "Just another day in the City of Amnesia," he said to no one in particular.
* * *
Beck said, "Well, that's all of them. Get Roger on the horn."
Dori asked, "Do you want video?"
"Yeah, but just me, not you. They get weird about you."
The camera at the front of the cockpit panned down, excluding Dori from the shot. "On screen."
The front screen lit up, showing Roger and Dorothy.
"Beck!" cried Roger in amazement.
"Hiya, Roger old pal," said Beck with his crooked grin. "That was some fancy shooting."
Roger was angry. "What are you trying to pull, Beck?"
"I'm doing my bit as a responsible citizen, Roger old buddy, just like you." Beck kept his grin in place, but he was annoyed. This was not the reception he was looking for.
"But you were on their side!"
"Was I?" snapped Beck. "Well, I suppose you'd know. After all, you weren't there."
"Jason," said Dori. "Angel warned you not to needle him like this."
Roger looked startled. "Dori? Is that you?"
Dori panned the camera upwards so she was included in the shot. "Yes, I'm here."
Dorothy gasped. "Dori! Take out the probe cables!"
The probe cables withdrew from the adapter on Dori's forehead and hovered in the air.
Dori opened her mouth to speak, but Dorothy went on, "You're not old enough to use them! They could damage your mind."
Beck was furious. "Back off, Dorothy! Nobody asked you! Since when are you the damned expert, anyway?"
Roger was enraged. "I knew Dori wasn't safe with a swine like you!"
"That does it!" shouted Beck. He grabbed the controls and urged Big B forward. Roger did the same with Big O.
Neither Megadeus moved.
"Dorothy!" shouted Roger in exasperation.
"Dori!" shouted Beck.
"They will not fight," said Dori and Dorothy together. "This is between the two of you."
"All right, then," said Beck, standing up. The front console withdrew to let him step forward. He grinned. "I've always wanted to do this, Roger."
Roger also stood up and made his way to the front of Big O's cockpit.
Dori hurried around. She threw her arms around Beck and kissed him. When she withdrew, she was holding his pistol.
"You won't be needing this, Jason," she said. "You can beat Roger to a pulp if you like, but no killing and no maiming." She placed the pistol on the command seat. "Do you hear me, Jason?"
"Whatever you say, Dori. One pulp coming up."
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have spoken. You told me not to."
He grinned and said, "Yeah, but look how well it's all working out! I've wanted to punch out old Crowboy for ages."
The two men met on the sand between the two Megadeuses. Dori and Dorothy had accompanied them to the ground, but held back.
"You want to set any rules, Roger old pal?" asked Beck, smiling.
"You wouldn't follow them," snarled Roger.
Beck didn't reply, but his smile vanished.
There was some preliminary circling. The two men were well matched. Beck was taller but Roger was more heavily muscled.
They closed. Roger landed a heavy blow to Beck's eye. Beck made a show of staggering back, and when Roger followed, he landed a ferocious jab to Roger's stomach and then a blow to his ear. Then they rained blows on each other almost too fast to follow.
A particularly heavy blow to Beck's temple sent him to one knee, where he picked up a handful of sand and threw it in Roger's eyes. Roger kicked him in the stomach and fell back.
Beck, unable to rise, lunged forward when Roger returned and grabbed his ankle, tripping him. Then the two men were rolling on the ground, alternately punching and trying to choke one another. One of Roger's eyes was swollen shut and he was bleeding from a cut on his forehead. He had pretty much lost the use of his right hand. Beck was bleeding freely from nose and mouth. He, too, had the use of only one eye.
The two rolled apart and got to their feet, where they stood, panting. Then they closed again, into a clinch, pounding each other feebly.
There was a pistol shot.
Angel was standing on top of the dune, her nickel-plated automatic pointed straight up in the air.
She shouted, "What is this, a dance marathon? Break it up. End of round one. Back to your corners." She indicated Dori and Dorothy with her free hand. "Move it."
Dori and Dorothy retrieved their respective champions and sat them down on the sand some distance apart.
Angel put her gun away. She strolled over to Roger and looked down at him. "You're looking well," she said, smiling sweetly.
"You should have seen the other guy," said Roger, trying to smile and wincing at the pain.
"He's no oil painting, either. Hey, speaking of oil paintings, guess what Beck abandoned back at his car! So just go one more round and then quit, okay? We don't want anyone to say that we're irresponsible."
Dorothy asked, "Why one more round?"
Angel said, "I missed most of round one."
Dorothy considered this for a moment, then said, "Let's call it a draw."
Roger hesitated and peered with swollen eyes in Beck's direction. "I can't make him out very clearly."
"He looks terrible," Angel assured him.
Roger sighed, then smiled very carefully. "All right, Angel. Negotiate a draw with Beck if you can."
Angel sauntered over to the other side and spoke briefly with Beck, then returned smiling.
"A draw it is," she said.
The two Dorothies crossed the blood-spattered sand. They stopped a couple of feet apart and their eyes met. Then suddenly they met in a fierce hug.
After a long moment of silence, Dori said, "Don't cry, Dorothy."
"I am not crying. I can't cry."
"Don't cry. It's going to be all right. You'll see."
They clung together for a long time. Finally, Dorothy let go and said, a little brokenly, "We'd better tend to our men."
Roger and Beck were back on their feet. They were looking at the two women with half-wistful, half-embarrassed expressions. Dorothy walked up to Roger and took him by the hand. Wordlessly, she led him towards Big O. Dori took Beck to Big B.
* * *
Roger surveyed the scene at the mansion. His swelling had gone down and he could see a little out of the other eye. Beck was slumped back in one of the penthouse couches, a vodka martini in his hand. His face was so swollen he could barely talk, so he had hired Angel to do his negotiating for him.
Initially, Dastun had represented the Military Police and, by extension, Paradigm City, but he was so susceptible to Angel's flirting that she could make him lose his train of thought just by winking. Roger had taken pity on Dastun after a few minutes and offered his negotiator's services. Dastun was now barricaded behind a table to keep Angel at arm's length.
Roger was not indifferent to Angel's charms, but he found her less attractive, not more, when she was flirting. She knew this, and had changed into one of her most respectable business outfits, which was exquisitely tailored and showed her off to excellent advantage. With Angel, there was never a moment's truce in the war between the sexes.
They got through the terms with only a reasonable amount of bickering, considering that Angel was showing off for Beck, who was encouraging her with mumbles of approval.
Norman was hovering around solicitously, and no doubt it was purely by accident that he always seemed to be in the right place to hear the juiciest gossip. Roger noticed that Norman was plying Beck and Angel with alcohol and Roger and Dastun with coffee. Angel was not the only one who knew a trick or two.
Dori and Dorothy were over at one of the tables. Dori was talking slowly and drawing rapidly on large sheets of drafting paper. At the moment she was describing the various bits of hairband circuitry that Beck had come up with. Roger had already gotten a brief description of the probe cable adapter, which blocked some signals and attenuated others to prevent any overloading of the developing android mind. It was also the only way to use the probe cables without first removing the memory circuitry from an android's forehead. The implications of this still baffled Roger, but tonight was not the time to ask. Beck had come up with the adapter idea, but Big B had also been aware of a previous design and had provided a wealth of detail. Dori could extract technical details from Big B even without the probes, though she reported that the process was slow and uncertain, "like reading illegible handwriting." Dori claimed that humans could do this too, but not so well.
Unlike Dorothy's slow, precise, elegant drawings in ink, Dori used an ordinary pencil at great speed, with a bold, decisive style. And while Dorothy never made mistakes, Dori drew a little faster than she thought and used the eraser frequently. Sometimes she wadded up a drawing and threw it across the room at the wastebasket. She always missed. Was this impatience Beck's influence? Or was it just that she and Dorothy were two different people?
Angel mussed his hair, which for some reason she did whenever she could.
"Sorry," said Roger. "I was thinking."
"Bad habit in a negotiator," said Angel. "Anyway, we're done, aren't we?" She looked at her shorthand notes. "Beck gives up his life of crime and becomes a model citizen. Beck to be pardoned immediately, city to compensate his more recent victims, Beck to get first pickings of the Union techno-spoils, Big B to remain a secret, the pardon to be explained by his turning his coat on the Union guys (even though they double-crossed him before he could double-cross them), and everything from Wayneright's lab, including all the stuff in Beck's possession (except Dori) to be handed over to Dorothy. Beck to maintain his Megadeus at his own expense, though we all know he'll plead poverty almost instantly and demand secret funds from the city, which we all know will be paid. Roger and I get a negotiator's fee. Dan gets his handsome salary from the city, plus a hot date with the negotiator of his choice."
Dastun looked from Angel to Roger. "Tough choice," he said.
"Oh, I almost forgot," said Angel. "Dan Dastun, you will promise that, if it turns out there's another R. Dorothy Wayneright out there, you'll keep your greedy mitts off her, because I'll be damned if every sexy man in the city is going to be lost to an R. Dorothy Wayneright. It's just not fair!"
"Well, I don't know," said Dastun. He turned to Roger. "What do you think, Negotiator?"
Roger smiled. "You're looking at this all wrong, Angel. Never mind Dan. What you need is an android boyfriend."
Dori looked up from her drawing. To no one in particular, she said, "Four hundred pounds of pure masculinity."
Beck laughed so hard he almost choked.
[We Have Come to Terms]