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.
The well-dressed executives stood up from the conference table and prepared to leave. Roger Smith crossed over to General Dastun and smiled. Angel followed.
"Well, General, I think that went pretty well," he said, looking sharp, if smug, in his flawless black suit.
"It could have been worse," said Dastun, trying to sound as grouchy as usual and failing. "You found a lot more middle ground than I would have thought."
His brand-new general's stars had been pinned hastily to his collar, and they were not on the same level. Angel walked up to him and unpinned one of the stars, then put it back, level with the other. She smoothed down his collar and said. "Congratulations, Dan. God knows you've earned this."
Dastun actually blushed under her ministrations. "Thanks."
Roger asked, "And what are you going to do now that you're the head of the Military Police?"
Dan picked up his papers and motioned for the others to follow them to the funicular trains that served as elevators here. "Look for my replacement, for one thing," he said. "The number one guy has to spend all his time working with the politicians. I don't like that kind of work and, frankly, I'm not that good at it. It's the number two guy who actually runs the force.
"But right now, Roger, I'm trying to straighten out the mess Alex Rosewater left behind. What a snake pit! He had all sorts of secret research projects and I don't know how many secret factories. You know those scorpion robots, the ones that kidnapped Dorothy? He had a factory running around the clock making those things. Top secret - we didn't have a clue. We're not sure what to do with them - we've got about two hundred in inventory and about another fifty that are unaccounted for, probably stolen by parties unknown. And that's not the worst of it."
"Oh?" said Roger. The shuttle train arrived and they stepped aboard.
"Rosewater's office was ransacked before we got there. Most of the records are missing. We don't know what we're looking for, we don't know where it is, and half the time, when we find it, we won't know what we're looking at."
"What do you think about this, Angel?"
Angel laughed bitterly, "Oh, no. Keep me out of this. I've told the military police everything I know three times over. But Dan's right. Things are a mess. Alex had a lot of irons in the fire, and he was incredibly secretive. He let me in on some things and tried to give the impression that that's all there was, but that was just puppet-master stuff to keep the Union happy. He had plenty more where that came from."
They reached the garage level and stepped off the train.
Roger asked, "Can you make it over for dinner tonight, Dan?"
"Sorry. I've got a meeting with the police commission. Say hello to Dorothy for me."
Angel and Roger drove off. After driving in silence for some time, Roger said, "I don't think I ever saw Dastun blush before."
"He must not get out much. Does he have any social life at all? Any family?"
"He ought to find a nice girl and settle down."
"He likes you," said Roger.
Angel glared at him. "I'm not a nice girl. And don't try to palm me off on him, Roger Smith."
Roger said, "But you'd be…," but Angel interrupted.
"He's a great guy but he's awkward around women, and if I let you shove me into his arms he just might fall for me, for a while."
"Angel!" said Roger in exasperation. "You're way too hard on yourself, you know!"
"Oh, I know you think so," she said, still bitter. "You like strays. The less anybody else wants them, the more you like them. It's just my bad luck that I'm only the second-least-plausible woman to come your way. I'm a spy and a traitor and maybe not even human, but she's a machine."
"Damn it, Angel!" he roared. "You can't talk like that!"
"She's not even very realistic. She never smiles, she weighs a ton, and half the time you can hear her whirring when she moves."
"That's not true!"
Fortunately, they reached home at this point, and the argument devolved into door-slamming followed by ignoring each other in the elevator.
Angel got off on the eighth floor, where her room was, while Roger went up to the penthouse. He was still fuming.
Norman met him with a tray of drinks. "Welcome home, Master Roger," he said. Gauging Roger's mood, he omitted the usual, "I trust that all went well?"
"Dastun's been put in charge of the military police. He's a general now."
"Excellent news, sir. Dinner will be ready in twenty minutes."
"In the kitchen. She will join you in a moment."
Roger grabbed a bottle of beer and stalked out onto the balcony. The weather was dreary and overcast, but at least it wasn't raining. He paced.
Dorothy appeared, looking the way she always did. He held out his arms and they embraced. She kissed him briefly and then pulled away.
"You're angry," she said.
He sighed. "I had a fight with Angel."
"Just an argument, I hope. Not a real fight," she said.
"Is she angry, too?"
"She sure is."
"Angry enough to move out?"
"I don't know. Maybe. Do you want her to?"
They looked out at the city. The sun was setting somewhere behind the overcast. Lights were coming on. The city always looked better at night, at least from here.
After several minutes of silence, Dorothy said, "Roger."
"Hmmm?" he said, still looking out at the city.
"I have a feeling about Angel."
"I think that there's a tie that has not yet been cut, to her other role. Like me, before Beck removed my programming."
"Oh?" He turned to face her.
"My programming compelled me to do things."
"Sometimes I could master the compulsion if I wanted to badly enough."
Roger considered this. "So, what you're saying is, we really don't want Angel to be alone and depressed."
"And she's a good friend. We should cheer her up."
"I've been trying."
"Yes, you've been very understanding. She is tired of that."
"So what should I be doing?" he asked, stung.
"Visit some gun shops. Take her to a nightclub with horrible music and bad dancing. Help her find a little pink car that can deal death in all directions. Find a camera that can be concealed in an earring that copies pages without making a light. Set her to work spying out information. Tease her about her taste in clothes."
"You've really been thinking about this."
"Be a louse. She likes that."
"Yes, ma'am," said Roger, doubtfully. "But what about you?"
"I like you, too."
"That's not what I…" Roger stopped, confused. One reason he and Dorothy didn't talk much about their relationship was that if she went on for more than a sentence or two, his brain stopped working. It took a while for her ideas to sink in. Sure, right now she was teasing him, but there was always an underlying message, too.
Dorothy saw his confusion. "Take her a drink. Tell her dinner is in ten minutes. Ask her to find the remnants of my father's workshop and notes."
"Do you need any of that stuff?" asked Roger, alarmed.
"Not at the moment. Later, perhaps. But soon the trail will be too cold to follow."
"That's true," said Roger. "I'll get right to work."
* * *
Dorothy opened the front door. It was morning, two days later. "Hello, General Dastun."
"Hi, Dorothy. I have some stuff for you." He waved to a policeman who was loading three cardboard boxes onto a hand truck.
"I'll unlock the service elevator. This way. What is it?" She walked down the front steps and turned to the right. She opened an access box set into the wall and typed a code on the keypad. The service elevator emerged from the sidewalk.
"It's papers that we think are related to Timothy Wayneright's work, though we also think there's miscellaneous material mixed up by accident," said Dastun. "Some of the boxes had been spilled onto the floor and we've had to make some guesses. Angel told us where to look and said you were interested and, frankly, we want to keep a tight lid on the…" he looked around and changed his mind. "Ahem."
The hand truck was rolled onto the elevator floor. Dastun told the policeman to wait outside. They took the elevator down to the first basement.
Dastun waited until they were some distance from the elevator before continuing. "We don't want anyone to learn the link between androids and Megadeuses, or to learn anything at all about the core memory technology. I break out in a cold sweat every time I think about what would have happened if the Union had captured an android like you."
"They would have destroyed Paradigm," said Dorothy calmly.
"Yes, and it's not too late for that, even now," said Dastun.
"I will go through this material for you, and let you know what I find."
"That's great, Dorothy. By the way, your father's lab has been completely cleaned out. Not a scrap left. Amadeus' lab, too. The job was done some time ago, probably on Alex's orders. He went on a housecleaning kick sometime after he fell out with the Union. He didn't want anything to fall into their hands." He sighed. "It's all probably sitting in a warehouse somewhere. We've got a lot of people knocking on doors and doing inventories. We'll find it."
"Thank you, General."
"It's still Dan, Dorothy."
"Dan, is there any news about that last Megadeus?"
"No. The guards turned around just in time to see the door closing behind some guy, then it walked off. We lost it when it went underwater. We really ought to do something about that. Sensors or something. At least we're getting a few patrol aircraft. It's funny; I don't know why we didn't do that sooner."
Dastun turned to leave via the regular elevator. Then he turned back. "Dorothy, I may be out of line here, but can I ask you a question?"
"Ummm . . . I don't know how to ask this right, but . . . why aren't you dead?" He looked embarrassed.
"It's all right, Dan," she said, and paused. Then she said, "It's difficult to explain. What does a machine do on its day off?'"
"Nothing, I suppose," said Dastun.
"That's right. What does a person do on his day off?"
"Whatever he likes."
Dorothy nodded. "The memories that Beck removed from my head were not the parts of me that allowed me to walk, or talk, or feel, or think, or remember. They were my orders. Instructions. Compulsions."
"Programming?" suggested Dastun. "No offense," he added hastily.
"It's all right. That part of me was programming. It told me what to do, what not to do, and sometimes how to think. And some of it was so basic, I didn't know how to be me without it."
"So what happened?" asked Dastun.
"I forgot I was me," said Dorothy. "I was not unconscious; the information came in through my senses, but I wasn't there to act upon it. So when Beck abandoned me, I was as rigid as a statue, and when Roger came to rescue me, I, I … , I didn't … I wasn't … he must have thought … " she stopped, bewildered.
After a moment she said, "I am not telling this very well."
Dastun made a gesture that might have meant anything.
Dorothy continued, "I was like that for a long time. I was aware, but I wasn't me. I wasn't anybody. Roger … I … he …" she closed her eyes for a moment. She opened them and said, very carefully, "I knew he was in danger, but I didn't … I didn't … I …," she stopped again. After a moment she said, "I can't say that part."
After a very long pause she went on, her words coming more fluently, "And then I knew that I could be R. Dorothy Wayneright if I chose to. I could! I had no programming. It was my decision. And that tiny part of me that was, that was still me said, `I love Roger Smith.' And … I woke up."
She paused. "Does that make any sense?"
Dastun, who was wiping his eyes with a handkerchief, nodded.
He left a minute later, but paused with his hand on the front door. He turned. "By the way, Dorothy, does the name 'Project Lazarus' mean anything to you?"
Dorothy froze. "Yes. I heard my father speak of it."
"What was it about?"
"I'm not sure. But it frightened him very badly. It was a Paradigm Corporation research project. It had something to do with activating damaged Megadeuses without the assistance of an android. They didn't know about the android connection. Paradigm Corporation wanted his assistance, but he would not participate."
"What was so scary about it? Was it just that it would increase the Megadeus population?"
"Oh, no. Father had faith in Megadeuses. It was something else. I don't know what."
* * *
Roger and Angel got out of the car. They were in the industrial district on the northern outskirts of the city. Buildings were only one or two stories high and a lot of trucks and heavy equipment were in evidence.
The one-story concrete building in front of them had a sign that announced "AMMO WORLD" in huge letters, and "Gun Shop * Pistol Range * Accessories" beneath. The plate-glass windows gleamed behind stout steel bars. A variety of guns, ammo, and shooting gear were on display.
"Dastun told me about this place," said Roger. "A lot of cops like it better than the police ranges, and it's supposed to have a lot of interesting stuff you can rent and try out on the range." He was carrying a briefcase.
Angel was carrying a purse which had clanked when she had set it down on the car seat. She was wearing one of her miniskirt outfits for the first time in a long time. She was smiling. "I think this is a great idea, Roger. I haven't been to a range in ages. Back when I was in training, I used to shoot 250 rounds a day."
"I'm out of practice, too."
They walked through the front door. There were four employees and about a dozen customers, all men. Conversation stopped and all eyes slid over Roger Smith and came to rest on Angel. All four employees converged on Angel, two of them abandoning customers to do so.
Angel glowed under all the attention. In no time at all she and Roger had been assigned target lanes in the range, down in the basement, and had their ammunition purchases rung up. Roger, though not a center of attention, was given a number of envious glances.
They were about to head down the stairs when Angel saw a display of targets which, instead of showing the traditional bull's eyes or silhouettes, showed a full-size, full-length photo of Alex Rosewater, wearing an expression of insufferable smugness.
"Look at these!" she almost squealed. "Let's get half a dozen!"
With their new prizes, they went down to the range, followed by many of the men in the store.
At the door to the range, Angel pulled a pair of shooting glasses and a pair of earplugs out of her purse. She opened the door and stepped inside. Roger followed, donning his own protective gear.
Angel was still smiling as she pinned the target to the overhead frame and pushed the button to send it whizzing down the ceiling track to a range of fifteen yards. She opened her purse and pulled out a neat nickel-plated, pearl-handled automatic and slapped in a clip.
Beaming to her onlookers, she asked, "Where should we shoot him, boys?"
There was a chorus of suggestions. Angel chose to act on one that had no one had dared voice, and fired eleven rounds very quickly into an area that would guarantee the end of the Rosewaters as a lineage. A chorus of moans and cheers rose from the crowd.
One man nudged Roger and said, "You're a brave man."
Angel ejected the clip and inserted another. Now she allowed the crowd to call each shot, deftly shooting Alex's image anywhere they named. She never missed. If someone called for her to shoot the second button off Alex's coat, that's what she hit.
With the third clip, she sent out a new target and repeated her performance left-handed. Her left-handed shooting was not up to the standard of her right, but it was adequately deadly.
Some joker called for her to shoot backwards using a mirror, and, laughing, she obliged, using the compact from her purse. She had clearly done this before, since she managed to put every shot onto the paper, though some of them missed Alex entirely.
After this she thanked her onlookers and turned to Roger. "That was fun! But let's get down to some serious shooting."
Roger smiled and opened his briefcase. Inside was a variety of pistols. He pulled out a slightly battered and worn-looking service automatic. A large, heavy pistol with a ferocious recoil, it looked very crude. In fact, it was supremely accurate in the hands of an expert, and was about as powerful as an ordinary handgun could be. It also wasn't really service issue, but was custom built. It was a mate to the one carried by Dan Dastun.
Roger, disdaining photo targets and even silhouettes, sent a bulls-eye target out to 25 yards - the maximum provided by the range -- and fired off a full clip of seven rounds in a couple of seconds. Roger pressed the button on the wall and the target returned. Four rounds were in the bulls-eye, two were in the surrounding rings, and one was barely on the paper.
"I must be getting senile," he said.
He tried three clips of slow, careful fire, sending the target to fifteen yards, close enough to see the bullet holes as they appeared. Then he tried another fast clip at 25 yards. Much better. He stepped back to watch Angel.
It was a pleasure to watch Angel shoot. She was a deft, accurate, scientific, and supremely well-trained shot. Besides, there was something about women with guns ...
She finished off a target and beamed at him. "What do you think?"
"I think I'm really glad I'm not Alex Rosewater."
"You've got that right. Okay, let's see you shoot." She stepped back and watched him fire.
Eventually he ran out of ammunition. He watched her shoot for a while, until she ran out, too. He suggested, "We could buy some more and try the pop-up targets in the next room."
"I'm starving. Why does shooting always make people so hungry? Let's go find some lunch. We'll do the pop-ups next time. And we hardly looked at all the guns they rent here."
They packed up and prepared to leave. One of the employees pointed to the wall. There, above a display of gun magazines, they had pinned up her first Alex target. Alex was not the man he had been. At their request, Angel stood on a chair and signed it 'Patricia "Angel" Lovejoy' with a flourish, using a fat marker. Then, waving to the customers and staff as they called good-bye, they left. Both of them were smiling as they went through the door.
Angel said, "You sure know how to show a girl a good time, Roger Smith. But can you show her a good lunch?"
"Dan says there's a good bar and grill around the corner."
She stopped for a moment to put her shooting glasses into her purse. "Too bad I smell like powder smoke now."
He leaned close and sniffed. "Mmmmmm."
She pushed him away, laughing. "Don't tell me you like that smell! You're weird."
"Didn't you know? Smells like that will have cops following you around like puppies. Even ex-cops like me."
"No way!" she said, still laughing.
In the grill, they both ordered meals that involved large slabs of meat. While they waited for their food, they continued talking shop.
Angel asked, "So why don't you carry a gun these days?"
"I need to be clear in my mind. Am I at a negotiation, or am I at a shootout? I can't do my job if I'm in doubt. It's easiest just to leave the gun at home."
"Hmmm," she said. "It was different in the spy business. And what about Big O?"
"Well, that's what I mean. Usually, if I'm with Big O, I'm at a shootout. But sometimes I need to think like a negotiator, too. This isn't so bad when the situation is clear-cut, but I have to be able to decide how to play things right away. Any hesitation could be fatal."
Their food arrived, and conversation ceased for a time.
When they'd finished, Roger reached into his pocket and pulled out a little case. "I've got something for you." He flipped it to Angel.
"My god, Roger, that's the tackiest watch I've ever seen!" she said.
"And they say men can't accessorize," said Roger smugly. "I've got two more on order, one business and one formal. They're similar to this one," he said, indicating his own watch. "Hold it to your mouth and say 'Norman' or 'Dorothy' or 'Roger,' and you'll be connected automatically. Or press the crystal hard, so it flashes, and we'll all be switched in."
There was a beep.
"I didn't do anything," said Angel.
Roger raised a hand. "What is it, Norman?"
"Master Roger, the police have just reported that a Megadeus is approaching the outskirts of the city from the north," said Norman.
"Well, it sounds like we're well-positioned for once. Big O, it's showtime!"
Roger tossed his car keys to Angel. "See you later, Angel. Duty calls." The watch guided him to the point where Big O would emerge, three blocks from the grill. A vacant lot. "Hey, no property damage this time," said Roger. "That's a switch."
Big O burst through the ground, picking up Roger Smith on the way up. Roger stepped from Big O's palm into the open hatchway at the front of the cockpit. Dorothy was there, standing behind the seat, the eight probe cables radiating from her skull. Their eyes met briefly, then Roger sat in the command seat. He crossed his forearms as the screen in front of him displayed
CAST IN THE NAME OF GOD…
YE NOT GUILTY
The hand controls appeared. As he grasped them he called, "Big O! Action!"
A dust plume was visible about a mile to the north.
Dorothy spoke in a perfectly calm voice. "The military police are rushing tanks to support Big O. They will be here in ten minutes. The Megadeus appears to be fully functional, but I can't tell for sure at this range. It is not one we have seen before. It is heading towards the city. It has done only incidental damage so far."
"What's between us and the Megadeus?" asked Roger.
"You will want to avoid the oil refinery on our left. There is a chemical plant on our right that should also be avoided. The direct line of the Megadeus' march is relatively free of hazards. Move five blocks east."
Big O strode to the east, then turned to face the approaching Megadeus.
"See if you can raise it."
"Do you want video?" she asked.
"If I can get it."
Dorothy moved to one side to get out of the shot. "On screen," she said.
Below a blinking red light, one of the forward screens showed the inside of the other Megadeus' cockpit. There was a young man in the control chair, slumped half sideways, sweat pouring down his face. Eight probe cables had been stabbed into his back.
The man spoke. "See me, Roger Smith," he said hoarsely. "I am a true Dominus. You must let me pass. My task is urgent."
The two Megadeuses were closing rapidly and were now only a few hundred yards away. In spite of the man's appalling condition, Roger kept his face impassive. "Not until you state your business, pal."
The man closed his eyes and seemed to summon up strength. Suddenly, he snarled and flipped open a panel beside him, then jabbed a button with his forefinger.
"Hang up, Dorothy," said Roger, "We've got work to do." The red light above the screen went out, but the image remained.
"Transmission ended," said Dorothy. "He has changed the view on his screen, but has forgotten to turn off the camera."
"Well, that's handy," said Roger, smiling.
Two missile launchers swiveled up from the other Megadeuses' chest.
"Counter-measures!" called Roger. There was a bang and suddenly they were surrounded by a glittering cloud of tiny foil squares.
"Enemy missiles launched," said Dorothy.
Big O raised his arms protectively, but the missiles, their radars confused by the cloud of reflective foil, missed.
"Lock missiles," said Roger.
Big O strode out of the settling cloud of foil. The two Megadeuses were now only a block apart. The other Megadeus lowered its missile launchers. Its right hand withdrew and was replaced by a cylinder about six feet long and four in diameter.
"Shaped charge," said Dorothy. "Range, zero. Potential damage, total."
The other Megadeus raised its arm to punch Big O with the shaped charge. Roger fired the chromebusters at the moving target. The beams from Big O's head skittered up and down the arm, causing only superficial damage. He could not hold it on the charge for more than an instant. He'd have to do a lot better than that to make it explode prematurely.
Now they were too close to fire. Big O grabbed the other Megadeus' forearm with his left hand, raising the arm so the shaped charge could not be slammed against his body. This caused it to wave in the air perilously close to Big O's head. With his right, Big O punched the other Megadeus repeatedly in the throat, where the cockpit was.
On the screen, the pilot of the other Megadeus was thrown about in his seat like a rag doll. He seemed to have no strength. His face was contorted with agony. But he fought on. His Megadeus punched Big O in the face with its left, then transformed its right forearm, breaking Big O's grip. It took a step back.
Roger, not wanting to face the shaped charge again, eased Big O back as well.
The transformed forearm now bristled with gun barrels.
"Autocannon," reported Dorothy. "Threat: moderate. Missiles locked."
"Big O! Fire!"
All of Big O's missiles fired at the other Megadeus. They hit it in the chest and exploded. A cloud of dust and smoke obscured the result. One of the other Megadeus' missile launchers pinwheeled out of the smoke, landing a hundred yards away.
Still visible on the screen, the pilot of the other Megadeus lolled in his seat, almost unconscious. Yet he was still trying. He stabbed a button and the smoke intensified.
"Its core memory is badly damaged," reported Dorothy. "Its robotic portions are intact, but its personality has been dead for many years. Enemy withdrawing. Enemy engaging counter-measures," said Dorothy.
The video screen showing the interior of the other Megadeus flickered and then showed nothing but snow.
"Well, let's pursue."
"The Dominus is dying," said Dorothy.
"We didn't hit him that hard!"
"He has been dying for hours."
They plunged through the smokescreen and found that the other Megadeus had turned around after only three blocks. The damage to its chest was less than Roger had hoped. It had ejected the shaped charge off to one side, where there was now a deep crater where a machine shop had been. The Megadeus was transforming. Its right arm was pointing straight towards Big O, an enormous muzzle gaping where its hand and shaped charge had been. Its left shoulder was creeping across its back, until the two arms made a single long tube like a bazooka.
When the transformation was nearly complete, Dorothy suddenly said, "Fusion beam."
"What?" shouted Roger, horrified. "We can't stand up to…"
"Raise force screen," prompted Dorothy.
"Raise force screen!" repeated Roger.
A compartment opened in Big O's chest and he withdrew a silvery sphere, eight feet in diameter, in his right hand. There was something odd about it that made it hard to look at, as if in some fundamental sense it wasn't really there at all. As Big O raised it above his head, darkness enveloped them. There was a low, throbbing hum, almost below the range of hearing. From the outside, the force screen was a hemisphere of pure, flat black, without a hint of reflection.
"No sensors will function while the screen is up," said Dorothy. "It is impervious to everything but gravity."
A dull red glow appeared on the force screen in front of Big O. Roger realized this was where the fusion beam was striking the force screen. Soon it became a bright cherry red. The rest of the screen took a dull red hue. Where the force screen touched the ground, the ground began to smoke, then to glow.
Roger asked, "Dorothy, since when do we have a force screen?"
"Since yesterday. Norman just finished installing it."
Roger smiled. "Remind me to give him a raise."
The central dot grew. The red glow turned to orange, then to yellow. It was becoming brighter and brighter. The hum grew louder and rose steadily in pitch. Soon it was an almost unbearable scream.
"When the entire screen glows white, it will collapse!" shouted Dorothy over the din. "And then we will have very little time to act!"
The central dot was too bright to look at directly, but from the corner of his eye Roger could see that is was no longer holding steady. It wavered more and more. Suddenly, after a couple of brief flickers, it went out.
The screen was a brilliant yellow. The screaming sound began to fade.
"Lower force screen," said Roger.
Suddenly, the screen were gone. They were back in the daylight, surrounded by a perfectly circular moat of lava where the screen had touched the ground. The sphere in Big O's hand was silver no longer; it was black, pitted, and cracked. He tossed it aside, where it shattered into black gravel. In front of them was the other Megadeus, its arms and shoulder glowing white-hot from its own weapon. The armor on the right side of its head had molten and run like wax.
"Big O! Let's finish him!" shouted Roger. Big O stepped across the lava moat and strode forward.
The other Megadeus turned to flee. Roger fired the hip anchors and ensnared the left arm, the one at the back of the fusion weapon. Big O grabbed the chains in both hands and gave a tremendous pull. The other Megadeus' arm, already damaged, was wrenched out of its body. Big O, not expecting this, stumbled back two paces, then fell heavily.
By the time Big O was back on its feet, the other Megadeus had reached the river. An explosion of steam greeted it when it plunged in. For the first hundred yards, its path underwater was marked by eruptions of bubbles and steam, but soon they trailed off and were gone.
Roger stopped Big O at the shore and looked out across the river. There was now absolutely nothing to see. "What was that all about?"
Dorothy said nothing. Roger continued, "And why do they always attack the city?"
Dorothy suddenly spoke in a slow robotic monotone. "Memories of Big Venus echo through time and drive them mad. They believe they must destroy the world and rebuild it in their own image. But the dying man attacked too soon. Next time, he will be DEAD. Next time, he will be READY. You must be ready, too, Dominus."
Roger stared at her, aghast. "How do you know all this?"
"How do I know all what?" asked Dorothy in her normal voice.
Roger hesitated, then said, "Never mind." He contemplated the river in silence, then turned Big O towards home.
* * *
Later that afternoon, Roger stepped into the kitchen. "Norman, have you seen Dorothy?"
"She stepped out a few minutes ago, Master Roger," replied Norman. "She said she would be gone for about an hour."
"Did she say where she was going?"
"No, but when I looked out the window I noticed that she stopped at the flower stall on the corner. The last time I saw her do that was on the anniversary of the death of the cat Pero."
"Has it really been a whole year?"
"Yes, sir. And today is the anniversary of the arrival of the three Megadeuses from the sea."
"R. D.," breathed Roger.
"But they never met. And R. D. was insane."
"Yes, sir. But in a sense, Miss Dorothy and R. D. were sisters."
* * *
The subway tunnel echoed faintly to Dorothy's footsteps. Clutching her bunch of flowers, she reached the point where Big O had emerged and killed R. D. She remembered that the only remains of R. D. that had not been buried beneath the rubble had been a part of her skull, including the broken disk and some of her permanent memories. She and Roger had abandoned it and had never returned.
It was not there now.
She walked the short distance to where R. D.'s coffin had been propped up against the wall, its lid removed. There it was. But not against the wall. The coffin lay on the floor, its lid in place. Someone had dusted it off; the sides and lid gleamed.
Upon the lid lay a bunch of fresh flowers.
Dorothy placed her own flowers beside the others and took a step back. She stood there, gazing at the coffin, for a very long time.
NEXT: ACT 29. The Master Criminal