Big O Fanfiction at

ACT 35: Grand Theft Android

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.

Dastun walked briskly into the kitchen. He smiled. "Good morning, Dorothy. Morning, Norman."

"Good morning, General," said Norman. "I trust you slept well."

Dastun reddened slightly but said, "Pretty well, thanks." He was staying in Smith Manor temporarily, while he reconsidered his housing options, and he had a room across from Angel's. Everyone knew they were sleeping together; he was still felt a little awkward about this. Innocent small talk could make him blush. Besides, he suspected Norman was doing it on purpose.

Dorothy handed him a tray with a silver coffee service and two mugs. "Good morning, Dan," she said.

Dastun said, "Before I forget, Dorothy, are you busy this morning?"

"Not really. Why?"

"I have a lead on some of your father's stuff, and I was wondering if you could help me identify it. You'd probably be back here around ten or eleven."

"Yes, I can go with you."

"Thanks. Sorenson will be here at eight."

"I'll be ready."

Dastun took the tray to Angel's room. She was asleep, curled up in the middle of the king-sized bed. She was so adorable when sleeping that he just stood there for a minute, smiling softly, before setting the tray down on the bedside table. Then he passed a hand under the pillows. Sometimes she slept with her pistol under her pillow, a ghastly habit for someone who slept heavily and sometimes woke wild-eyed and disoriented. It wasn't there this morning.

Last night, they'd started out in his room, as usual, but his snores always drove her away during the night. He'd wondered if there was a cure for snoring, but Angel was the most amazing blanket hog, so his snores were probably the only thing that kept him from freezing to death.

He opened the curtains. Light flooded the beautifully furnished bedroom, highlighting Angel's golden hair and what showed of her pink silk pajamas. Dastun reached an arm under the covers and found one of her feet, which he tickled gently. Angel twitched her foot away. He repeated the process with the other foot. She muttered something and rolled over.

"Time to wake up, Angel," he said. Angel curled up into a ball. Dastun continued, "I brought coffee." He put three sugar cubes into a mug and sloshed in some cream, then poured the coffee. A lifetime spent in the Military Police had taught him not to expect a clean spoon to stir coffee with, so the cream and sugar went in first, in the hope that sloshing in the coffee would stir it up. Not that this was a problem today. Dastun picked up the mirror-bright silver spoon from the snowy linen napkin and stirred. The tinkling noise seemed to reach something deep within Angel, and she moved towards his edge of the bed, eyes still closed.

"Sit up," encouraged Dastun. "That's right." She sat at the edge of the bed, bare feet on the carpet, and he placed the mug in her hands. Still with her eyes closed, she took her first sip.

Soon her eyes were open, and when he refilled her cup, she said, "You get up before I do and bring me coffee! I think I love you."

Dastun tried to say, "I think I love you, too," but nothing happened. Well, he was getting close.

* * *

The New Dominus was talking on the phone to one of his underworld contacts in the city.

"That's right, just snatch Smith's android girlfriend. It's probably safest to do it when she's with Smith, in town. Bump him off first, then grab her. Then you won't have to worry about Big O. Do it when they're away from home. That's right. Don't hurt her. She won't be able to hurt you; she's an android. Shoot Smith and the rest should be easy. That's right. Half a million for killing Smith, half a million for the android. Right."

He hung up.

* * *

Sorenson arrived with the staff car promptly at eight. Dastun and Dorothy got into the back seat, and they drove off.

Dorothy said, "You're looking better, Dan. Not as tired."

"Staying at the mansion is good for me," he said. "With the police office downstairs, I can wander down in my P.J.'s if I want to check up on something. And having my housekeeping done for me is great. I used to think perks were for jerks, but now I see it's another way of getting senior guys to spend their whole lives on the job."

Dastun would not have been surprised if Dorothy had remained silent for the rest of the trip, but after a while she asked, "How are you and Angel doing?"

Dastun smiled, "We're doing great. I finally figured out that Angel needs me to snap at her when she annoys me. She needs to give me a hard time, but if I don't respond, she worries."

"Dori doesn't snap at Angel, and they're best friends."

"Angel can read Dori like a book," said Dastun. "I don't think Dori ever hides her feelings. I do, so Angel prods me to see how I'll jump. But she feels guilty if I don't give as good as I get."

There was another silence, and then Dorothy asked, "What do you think about this android project for Angel?"

Dan shrugged. "I think it's obvious that Angel needs an android to help her handle Big Venus. Angel says that Big Venus is very stubborn and strong-willed, and that the period around a transition tends to be disorienting. So a level-headed android in the cockpit is a great idea. It's probably just as important as getting Beck to make a bunch of new core memories, so we build new androids and Megadeuses, and retrofit old Megadeuses with broken or crazy cores."

Dorothy probed, "Do you have any personal reservations about this?"

"Not really. I've heard Beck's objections, but I think he's nuts."

"I'm glad to hear it."

Dan said, "Even if Beck's right, I'm sure Angel has enough love in her heart for both a man and an android."

"At least," said Dorothy, deadpan.

Dan smiled, "Yeah. But if we're lucky, Roger can stop locking his door at night."

"He doesn't."

"Well, he should." He considered this. "Well, maybe not. Angel flirts all the time, but she's not very successful, is she? I don't think she's really trying. She never tries to get Beck or Roger alone. She mostly flirts in front of other people or when there's no time to follow up."

Dorothy absorbed this observation in silence, then said, "What are we going to be looking at?"

"I'm not exactly sure myself, but apparently it includes notebooks of the type your father used, with his name on the covers. Also some equipment in crates. There's supposed to be quite a bit, so I'm hoping it's all the stuff you've been looking for. But it might be something else, or material from different sources stored in the same place. It's at a secure storage facility that went broke around five years ago and was abandoned. It was cleaned out after the bankruptcy, but apparently some squatters have been storing things there on the sly."

They came to a group of five low concrete buildings with thirty roll-up doors down each side, the whole surrounded by a high, electrified chain-link fence topped by razor wire; standard operating procedure for any secure area outside the domes. There was a gate at the entrance and a little guard house. The gate was open and the guard house was empty.

Dastun sat up. "Stop the car! Sorenson, isn't the guard house supposed to be manned?"

"No, sir."

Dastun swore. "When you're in charge of something like this, Lieutenant, make sure you control access to the scene. Remind me to have a word with Sergeant Lucasta."

"Yes, sir." Sorenson jotted down something in his notebook, then said, "The stuff is in Bay 39, sir."

They looked at the row of five long, low concrete buildings. The one closest to them had its doors marked one through thirty in large painted numerals.

"Should be on the back side of the first building, then, about a third of the way down on the right," said Dastun. "Or maybe on the left. Drive on."

Sorenson put the car into gear, choosing to go around on the right.

The alley between the two buildings was quite wide, to allow panel trucks to turn and back up against the bays. A panel truck had done just this to Bay 39.

"Sorenson! That's not one of ours, is it?" shouted Dastun.

"No, sir."

Dastun tumbled awkwardly over the back of the front seat and grabbed the microphone. "Dastun here. Get backup to Riverside E-Z Store on the double!" He slammed the microphone down and dug in his pocket for his keys. Finding them, he unlocked the bracket holding the riot gun.

Sorenson had stopped the car. "Back us up to the end of the row and put most of the car behind the building; everything except the hood," commanded Dastun. "We can't block even one end of the row anyway; it's too wide."

Sorenson backed up with practiced ease. In a moment, they were in position and out of the car. Dastun got back on the radio and called for an aircraft to spot the suspects if they drove off, more backup, and armor - and told them to make it snappy.

"Always better to show overwhelming force if you can," he said.

The rest was an anticlimax. The backup forces arrived, Dastun told the suspects, whom he still had not seen, to surrender, and they agreed to do so. Four men, all career criminals known to Dastun, were soon cuffed and taken away in a squad car. The area was declared safe, and Dastun released everyone but one squad car and one tank.

"Shall we look at the material we saved?" said Dorothy.

"Not yet," said Dastun. "Let's look at the scene first." He walked slowly through the open bay, taking it in, alert for anything that might be out of place. The bay was not very full, containing about a dozen wooden crates of varying sizes and about two dozen cardboard banker's boxes. Then he strolled around outside, up and down the space between the buildings.

"Dan," called Dorothy. He walked over to where she stood next to Bay 40. She pointed to the lock in the middle of the roll-up door, near the ground. The lock face and the T-handle had been wiped off recently; they weren't dirty like everything else. The lock face was scratched up, as if it had been picked by an unusually clumsy locksmith.

Dastun held a finger to his lips and walked over to Sorenson, and talked to him quietly. The cops from the squad car were brought over, and the crew of the tank alerted. It wasn't brought up because its engine noise would alert anyone hiding inside.

With Dastun, Sorenson, and Dorothy on the left and the other two cops on the right, Dastun was about to send Sorenson to open the door when Dorothy walked over calmly and twisted the handle. There was a brief screech of metal - the door was locked - and then she hurled the door upwards and ran back to where Dastun was standing.

Half a dozen scorpion robots filled most of the bay. Behind them, two men were operating remote-control units behind a barricade of wooden crates. Two scorpion robots began to scuttle forward, one of them already firing its machine guns at random, though there was no one within its field of vision.

Dorothy raced into the bay, vaulting a scorpion robot that was in her way. She sprang over the barricade and snatched a remote-control unit out of the hands of the nearest man, who stared at her in wide-eyed amazement as she flung it away. It flew, spinning, all the way across the bay and shattered against the far wall. She reached for the other man, but he hugged his remote-control unit and said, "You can't hurt humans!"

Dorothy grabbed a protruding corner of the remote control and, bracing herself, raised her arm. The man was raised off his feet. To keep from falling, he had to shift his grip. As soon as more of the remote-control box was exposed, Dorothy smashed her other fist into it, shattering the case and the components inside. She grabbed a handful of electronics and withdrew her hand. Then she gently lowered the man to the ground.

"I can if I want to," she told him, taking him by the wrist in an iron grip. She lunged at the other man before he could cringe away, and grabbed his wrist as well.

Of the two robots being controlled, one had stopped moving. The other continued to fire at random, walking forward until it encountered the second building, then turning ninety degrees. These robots had extremely limited programming. It was quickly dispatched by carefully aimed machine gun fire from the remaining police tank.

There was silence for a moment. Dastun called, "Dorothy? Are you all right?"

"Yes. I'm bringing you two criminals." Then, almost dragging the two men, looking like a diminutive governess taking no nonsense from two oversized children, she walked out of the bay.

Dastun peeked around the corner. "Is it safe?"

"Not if they have more remote controls within range," said Dorothy.

Dastun radioed for instructions on how to shut down scorpion robots as the other cops searched and handcuffed the two criminals. Somewhat to his embarrassment, Dorothy insisted on doing the actual shutdown, which disconnected power from the robots. As it turned out, all four of the robots that had not moved were already shut down.

"There," she said, after verifying this fact on the last robot. "All safe."

"Thanks, Dorothy. Sorry about that. I'm afraid your dress is damaged."

Dorothy looked at a long rip in the skirt. She had a runs in both stockings, too. "I'm used to it."

Another squad car was pulling up. Dastun said to Lt. Sorenson, "Sorenson, get some coffee and some food up here." The new squad car stopped and two cops got out, carrying a big box of donuts and a box of coffee in paper cups with lids. Dastun turned to Lt. Sorenson, "What took you so long?"

The cops clustered around the refreshments, and Dastun muttered to Dorothy, "Do I offer refreshments to you at a time like this, or leave you out of it?"

"Treat me the same as any human girl," said Dorothy, "or onlookers might think you're rude."

Sorenson appeared with three cups of coffee and a selection of donuts. Dorothy accepted a cup but not a donut, and began poking around Bay 40.

* * *

Dori walked into the kitchen at Case del Beck, where Beck was eating ham and eggs while alternately looking at the newspaper and reviewing his notes. He was wearing yellow flannel pajamas with black trim, and, she thought, looked very good in them. "Jason, what's on the agenda today? I don't know what to wear."

Beck looked up. Dori was in her underwear: lavender camisole and panties with patterns of stars and unicorns. He rolled his eyes and said, "For starters, get out of that stuff from the girl's section and put on something more grown-up."

"I thought it was cute."

"Yeah, but it's little-girl cute. I hate that on a girlfriend."

"I didn't know that," she said seriously. "All right. What's on the agenda?"

Beck looked at her closely, afraid he'd been too abrupt. She smiled gently and shook her head slightly. He relaxed and continued. "I need to talk to Dorothy about core memory stuff. She practically knows your father's notes by heart, and she was there when he activated Dorothy 1. I need to pick her brain about Glinda and the lightweight androids. too. They were from before her time, but maybe she knows something."

"I'll call and make an appointment."

"And I really want to talk to Emily about the android for Angel. It's just wrong to uncork another R. Dorothy Wayneright for Angel. Not that we have one."

"What's wrong with it?"

Beck rolled his eyes again. "Do I have to draw you a picture?"

"It's about sex, isn't it? You think that every Dominus sleeps with his or her android."

"That's what I'm afraid of." Sometimes Beck regretted having a vivid, highly visual imagination.

Now it was Dori's turn to roll her eyes. "I know you trust your intuition, Jason, but shouldn't you have a little evidence, too? You don't know anything about Will and Emily. You came up with the idea of activating me before you found Big B. And Dorothy and Roger loved each other in a previous life, when we were just a human."

"Just a human?" asked Beck, smiling.

"Dorothy and I were adorable as a human girl. But we're even better now," said Dori seriously.

Beck wrenched himself back to the topic at hand, which was not easy when a scantily clad Dori was talking about his favorite subject, which was Dori herself. "I don't care; it still bugs me," he insisted petulantly. "I don't do good work when I have mixed feelings. I want to talk to Emily."

"Emily is due to call tonight at 3 AM. Let's spend the night at Roger's so we can be on hand. We can talk to Dorothy tonight, too."

"Okay. And I want to take a look at the Megadeus in the underground, and Big Ramses' hangar. We've been putting it off too long. When can Norman help us dig that tunnel?"

"Tomorrow," said Dori. "He can help us all day."

"Good. Have you talked to Angel about letting us take a peek at Big Venus?"

"Yes. She's eager for me to meet Big Venus. She's not sure about you. But she's aching to get Roger into the control room."

"What, does she think Big Venus will help her seduce him?" scoffed Beck.

"Yes," said Dori. "Also, she has always wanted Roger with her in the control room during transitions, because he keeps his head in a crisis. She gets flustered and lets Big Venus call the shots, and Big Venus makes the same mistakes over and over."

Beck shook his head, "Well, see if you can get Angel to let us both visit Big Venus. Pitch it as a package deal. Oh, and we should set up a new workspace for core memories. It needs its own lab area. We'll just shoot ourselves in the foot if we try to shoehorn it into the existing space. And it needs extra locks, super-clean power, filtered air, and lots of shielding. Your dad used copper shielding an inch thick. Let's do that, too, and use airlock doors, with interlocks so they can't both be open at the same time. Let's plan it out today and get the contractors working on it."

Dori nodded. "Can I put Tony in charge?"

"He's not a general contractor or anything."

"But he listens to me and he loves androids and he'll want everything to be perfect," said Dori.

"Yeah, okay, you're right," said Beck. "He's the right guy for the job. Just stop flirting with him, okay? You're not Angel and he's not me. I don't want to have to punch him again."

Dori looked away. "It was all my fault."

"I know it was." Beck pushed the remains of his breakfast away. He looked her up and down and grinned. "Let's go find you some suitable clothing."

* * *

After about an hour, Dorothy said, "Much of this is from my father's laboratory, Dan. It should all be taken to the mansion so I can catalog it properly."

Dastun nodded. "I'll have the bomb squad go over it first, in case our friends were feeling clever, then I'll ship it over. It might take a few days, but we'll keep it under close guard."

"Thank you."

Dastun looked at his watch; eleven thirty. "Let's get you home. It's almost lunch time, anyway, and I'll want a fresh uniform. Sorenson! We're going."

* * *

"Wow, these corridors go on forever," said Sam, the younger of the two Megadeus hunters.

His partner, Jerry, said nothing. They had been hit by the terror earlier in the day, and Jerry had been slow to shake off its effects. Sam wasn't fully recovered, either, but he tended to babble in a crisis, while Jerry became silent and withdrawn.

They had reached a level containing what seemed like an endless stretch of spooky, eerily lit corridor, fairly wide and quite tall, rectangular in cross section.

"There's something up ahead," announced Sam.

Soon they were on a walkway partway up one of the hemispherical domes, this one extremely large. They could see a number of round tunnels exiting the dome at ground level. Another rectangular tunnel exited on the far side, on their level. There was also a surprisingly ordinary-looking elevator.

There was equipment down on the bottom level, but no Megadeus. They decided to press on. Jerry silently updated the map with sketches and notes, and they walked around the dome to the exit corridor.

After they'd gone some distance, they saw a sketch of a pair of wings with a halo above them chalked on the wall, with a date several months in the past. There was also an arrow pointing back the way they'd come. This seemed promising. At least there should be nothing lethal along their line of travel. But they wouldn't be the first.

Their progress was slowed by additional caution once they came across ancient bodies in the corridor, and by the time they took examining cross-corridors that contained nothing of interest. But after an hour or so they found another hemispherical chamber.

This one held a Megadeus.

* * *

Angel was keeping Roger company as he breakfasted. Or, as he would have put it, she was giving him a hard time. He was in his pajamas and bathrobe, while she was dressed for they day in one of her respectable pink outfits. She was wearing her glasses today. In spite of her businesslike appearance, she was flirting with him even more than usual, and had mussed his hair not once, but twice during the course of his meal. He decided to break one of his own rules to distract her, and mention business.

"Angel," he said, "Where did Wayneright get the memories about building Megadeuses and androids?"

"Oh, that," she said. "He was the world's greatest expert in them, way back when."

"You mean during the last cycle?"

"No. Well, yes; that too. But I mean way back when, before reality weapons were invented. That was before your time. Anyway, the last cycle - the one that ended forty-odd years ago - was a long one, more than fifty years, and it started with much less memory loss. Those of us who had been around the block a few times regained most of our memories. Some of us regained a lot more than usual. It all just came back to Wayneright. Stuff he hadn't remembered for ages. The whole connection between androids and Megadeuses had been forgotten." She paused and thought about this for a moment. "Maybe they weren't even his memories, now that I think about it. Sometimes you end up with other people's memories, usually from people who were like you in some way. Class M androids had been completely forgotten for a long time. Even Big Venus had forgotten all about them." She shook her head. "That part doesn't matter right now."

She paused a minute, recollecting. It was very clear in her mind today, for some reason. "Do you remember it at all?" she asked. "Everybody's memories are coming back really quickly now. It was at dinner at Wayneright's house. You were there, too, with Dorothy. It was just before she moved into your apartment, a few months before the end."

* * *

Timothy Wayneright strode into Major Smith's office. Major Smith, sitting at the desk at the back of the room, looked up. His expression instantly turned to one of alarm.

At the front desk his aide, Lt. "Angel" Lovejoy, smiled with mischievous delight at the unfolding scene. This was going to be good. She spoke. "Good morning, Dr. Wayneright. Can I help you?"

"Good morning, Lieutenant, Major." Wayneright had been carrying his cane as he walked in, but he leaned on it now. He was only in his forties, but an old injury had left him with a weak leg. He could walk on it briskly enough for short distances, but it tired easily and he spared it when he could. Wayneright gazed for several seconds at Major Smith, who was trying to look unconcerned, then he turned his attention to Angel and gave her the same treatment.

"I would like to invite you both to dinner at my house tonight, if you don't mind, Lieutenant. The Major will be my daughter's guest, and I would obliged if you would be mine."

Angel beamed at him, "I would be delighted, doctor."

"Seven o'clock, then. There will be no other guests. It will be informal." He cast a glance at Major Smith. "Informal, not casual. Good day." He turned and departed.

Roger raised an eyebrow and smiled at Angel. "Another conquest?"

She shook her head, smiling. "Not that I know of. Either he just wants his numbers to come out even, or he has something to discuss with me."

"He doesn't want you as a chaperone?"

Angel laughed. "Me? Wayneright's no fool. Maybe Dorothy put him up to it. She knows Wayneright won't intimidate me, and I'll try to keep some conversation going, god knows how, with two Waynerights and a self-conscious Major Smith as my only company. Do me a favor, Roger, and follow my lead, okay? Otherwise it's going to be like a mausoleum there."

"Okay, Angel. And thanks."

"I can't make up my mind whether this is just my social duty or whether you're going to owe me big-time."

They knocked off work as six. They went to Angel's apartment first, where she changed into a fresh uniform, cursing the Army's lack of foresight. They should have provided it with a zipper in the back. As it was, there was no plausible way of getting Roger involved as she changed her uniform. What a shame. Then they drove to his apartment where Roger shaved and changed. Angel insisted on tying his tie for him, which was just intimate enough to make him uncomfortable without giving him a decent excuse to refuse.

Angel patted his cheek. "Don't look like that. Dorothy's a very understanding girl. I'm sure she wouldn't mind if you kissed me once in a while, especially if we didn't tell her."

Roger said, "Knock it off, Angel." He didn't say it with any heat, and from his goofy expression Angel realized, to her annoyance, that he was thinking about kissing Dorothy, not her.

Wayneright and his daughter greeted them at the door and led them to the library, where the butler was waiting with drinks. Wayneright was wearing a white suit, as he did in all seasons, and Dorothy was wearing a white dress. Angel would have guessed that such an outfit would make her look twelve years old, but somehow she always looked older than her seventeen years, in spite of her fragile, pale, petite frame. Angel was delighted to see that, instead of a cocktail, Dorothy drank a small glass of milk with a total lack of self-consciousness. Dorothy's poise and her indifference to convention were marvelous. They got Roger's favorite beer right, including understanding that he wanted to open the bottle and pour it himself, and they had produced a scotch on the rocks for Angel, who recalled that Dorothy had seen her drink this once. Dr. Wayneright had a drink that was mostly, perhaps entirely, tomato juice.

Neither Wayneright was of much use when it came to small talk, but the library held many interesting volumes, going back to when everyone lost their records and memories sixty-three years ago. There was even a copy of Gordon Rosewater's Metropolis, which he claimed he had been commanded to write in a dream. It talked about a cataclysm that had almost destroyed the world, involving fire coming down from the heavens and the power of god wielded by the had of man. Angel knew better than anybody what an odd concoction of fact and fancy the book was. It recalled The Great War, but implied that this war had happened immediately before everyone lost their memories, rather than in the incalculable past, all those cycles ago.

As always, the book was less than half-finished, with plenty of blank pages to drive this point home. The real Metropolis, in its red binding, was always the plan for the next cycle. Gordon always felt compelled to write and publish the introductory chapters, the ones that talked about the past. The plan in the real Metropolis was, of course, secret. Gordon always had a hand in these, too. Originally, this had been based on whatever memories Gordon had managed to retain, but, over a number of cycles the book had become more and more consistent. Angel would not be surprised if it were now identical word-for-word from cycle to cycle, though there was no way to check this. Even the copy inside Big Venus did not emerge from a transition entirely unchanged.

Angel pulled it down from the shelf and leafed through it. "Such an interesting book," she said. "I can never make up my mind whether it's unlike Gordon to write it, or whether it's exactly the sort of thing he'd write." She looked up the gauge Wayneright's reaction.

Wayneright glanced at Dorothy, who said, "Roger knows." Wayneright raised an eyebrow at Angel.

Angel was annoyed. She glared at Dorothy. "It was a secret. I told you it was a secret!"

Very uncharacteristically, Angel had told Dorothy everything - everything -- even things she hadn't told Gordon or Roger. Something about the girl made her easy to confide in. Angel had told it with sudden bursts of tears; sometimes of rage, more often of sorrow. The idea that Dorothy had trotted home and spilled it all to her father made Angel feel very vulnerable.

Dorothy said, "It's all right, Angel. You'll see. Father is going to help."

"Now, my dear," said her father, a faint smile playing across his lips, "Let us observe the proprieties. No business until after dinner." Wayneright then took it upon himself to change the subject, speaking of the new rationing scheme that made it difficult for him to get gasoline for his car, and crushing Dorothy's plans for a car of her own, and of the increasing difficulty in finding decent coffee and other necessities. Angel leapt on this topic with observations about cigarettes and stockings. Roger and Dorothy chimed in with minor horror stories of their own, and this kept the conversation more or less general and non-controversial until the butler announced dinner.

They went in, Angel on Wayneright's arm and Dorothy on Roger's.

After dinner, the butler served the coffee and withdrew. Wayneright said, "Lieutenant, I've asked you here for a reason."

Angel said, "Please, Doctor. Call me Angel."

Wayneright nodded. "However, I still prefer to be called 'Dr. Wayneright.'"

"Even so," said Angel.

"Angel, what I am about to tell you is very secret. I am happy to tell my daughter, but Major Smith is up to you."

"I would trust Major Smith with my soul," said Angel immediately.

Wayneright nodded again. He looked at the other two. "Stay or go. It's up to you."

"We'll stay," said Dorothy, without even looking at Roger.

Wayneright sat still for several seconds, collecting his thoughts. Then, "I have discovered how to make new core memories."

Angel's coffee cup fell from her hand.

After the mess was mopped up, Wayneright continued. "Do you know what a Class M android is, Angel?"

Angel paused to allow the memories, if any, to surface. After a while, she said, "No."

"They are a special interface between a Dominus and a Megadeus. Like all androids, they have a human personality. They also contain complete copies of all the cybernetic tools necessary to initialize, communicate with, and repair Megadeuses. The core memory of a Class M android contains everything used in a Megadeus core memory, and more. Such androids are essential for creating Megadeuses."

"What are they like?"

"Their human personality is quite dominant. In fact, when they are mature, all the usual android overrides and inhibitions are removed entirely. They can pass for human under most circumstances, even in the nude, though they are almost three times heavier than a human of the same size. In addition to a cybernetic brain, they have a full suite of artificial gland equivalents, to make their responses more like those of the donor personality. The sole exception, besides obvious things such as never feeling hungry or sleepy, are that their fight-or-flight response is softened to make them calm in a crisis. In short, they are quite human for all practical purposes."

Angel smiled and said, "Their sex drive is intact?"

"Oh, yes," replied Wayneright, completely unabashed. "They are as capable of passion and deep romantic attachment as the donor personality, perhaps more so. They are physically quite capable of sex, as well."

"And you know how to build these?"

"Yes, I believe so. My prototype is not yet complete, however. That will take perhaps six more months. I believe it will take five years before we are ready for volume production."

Angel moaned. "We don't have five or six years! We have two at the outside, maybe only months!"

"Perhaps my work will not be too badly interrupted by the transition," said Wayneright doubtfully.

Angel got up and began to pace. She muttered incoherently to herself for a while. Then she flung herself down in her chair, dug out a pack of cigarettes from her Army-issue purse, and lit one, forgetting to ask permission first. She smoked in silence for a while, watching the smoke rise.

"This is going to be a very nasty transition, Doctor. Gordon has a plan. I don't like it, but it's new and it makes sense, so I need to try it. You know about memory shielding?"


Angel glanced at Roger and Dorothy, who shook their heads. "People's memories tend to get scrambled during a transition. The more things change, the greater the memory loss. The links between cause and effect are broken during a transition. That's the nature of reality technology. The links between memories get broken in consequence."

She took a drag on her cigarette and continued. "I can control this to some extent from Big Venus. At least, I can make it worse if I want to." She smoked in silence for another few seconds. "The thing is, there are a lot more crazy Megadeuses and crazy Dominuses than sane ones. Sane ones go crazy, but the crazy ones never recover. And they all recur, cycle after cycle. The only reason we haven't been crushed is that we can trundle out Big Venus when we lose, undo the damage, and end a cycle early. We can also scatter the crazy Megadeuses to the four winds, more or less, while we keep the good ones close to home, where they'll get matched up quickly with their Dominuses. That buys us time.

"Not much time, though. Not enough. Everybody's memories come back at the same rate, slowly at first, and then faster and faster. We have no advantage there, except that I can shield a handful of people by special override in the control room. Also, Megadeuses are fairly immune to memory loss, and anyone inside them at the time of the transition. Being far underground or deep underwater helps. Copper shielding works, too, if it's thick enough. Shielding works after the transition, too. I don't know why. You regain your memories much more quickly.

"Anyway, Gordon has developed a new synthetic shielding that can be made into transparent sheets like glass. It's strong. He came up with a weird idea. What if we cause a very profound memory loss, and arrange things so that people will choose to live under enormous, transparent, shielded domes. Everyone inside will regain their memories quickly. If we throw out all the crazies and the malcontents, it will take practically forever for them to regain their memories. For once, we will have a definite upper hand in technology. Also, Megadeuses suffering from memory loss are somnolent for years, so we'll have a monopoly on that as well. We ought to be able to search out the crazy Megadeuses while they're still somnolent and destroy them, at least until the next cycle. Then maybe we can have a free hand at figuring out how to end the cycles once and for all, rather than fighting for our lives all the time."

Angel fell silent.

After a long pause, Wayneright asked, "How will you convince people to build the domes? After all, a profound memory loss will cause tremendous chaos. No one will be interested in non-essential engineering projects."

"There will be permanent cloud cover. The sun will never shine. The domes will have convincing projections of sky, moon, and stars, and some kind of artificial sun. People will love it. Besides, living in the domes will be a sign of respectability."

Wayneright said, "My work must not be lost."

"No, I see that. I'll have to stash at least one copy where it will be safe, and arrange for you to remember how to find it, at least." Angel drummed her fingers on the table. "I can stash whatever you like inside Behemoth. She's not going anywhere. Sybil has renounced her role as Dominus, and anyway she's too crazy. Behemoth won't let her on board. But Behemoth won't choose another Dominus, either. She just sits under the city. I can give her the memories and tell her to protect them. Underground and inside a Megadeus, the information will be doubly shielded. It will still suffer some corruption, though."

"How much?"

Angel said, "Sybil is stuck in a loop. Poor kid. I have no idea how that happened. She used to be my best friend, did you know that? And Dan Dastun has been pulled into it too, though not terminally, thank god." She looked around suddenly and answered Wayneright's question. "Probably only enough to set you back by a year or two. Not much in the grand scale of things."

"I will get my notes and plans together."

"Good." Angel looked at Dorothy speculatively, then at Roger. Inspiration struck. "Whose personality were you planning on using for your first android?"

* * *

Dorothy arrived home just as Roger was knotting his tie. She noticed right away that he was preoccupied. They kissed, and he said, "What happened to you?"

"Someone else was interested in Father's work," she said. "There was a scuffle."

"Anything serious?"

"No one was hurt on either side," said Dorothy. She gazed at him thoughtfully and added, "You seem preoccupied."

"I made the mistake of asking Angel a question about your father's android work," he said, "and I think she told me more than I can absorb at one sitting."

"Come tell me about it while I change," said Dorothy.

They walked down the spiral staircase to the eighth floor and Dorothy's bedroom. She really only used it for a dressing room. She opened up the closet and pulled out another black dress, identical to the one she was wearing, with its heavy, velvety cloth and perfect tailoring. She set this on the bed and took out another pair of shoes. Then from the dresser she selected a pair of black pantyhose, a black bra, and a jabot.

Roger sat down in the armchair to watch. Dorothy was pleased. The first time he had seen her, back when he was ransoming her from Beck, he had been powerfully attracted to her, and then just as powerfully repelled when he had learned she was an android. It had taken what seemed like forever for him to get over his belief that physical attraction to an android was wrong. The combination of his powerful attraction and total denial had been hard on them both. It was such a relief that he could now be matter-of-fact about his attraction, as he had when she was human. Those memories were coming back to her ever more strongly, these days.

As she took off her clothes, he said, "Did I tell you that I've officially rescinded the rule about wearing black?"

"Yes. Dori wants to help me buy a new wardrobe. I've grown fond of these black dresses. I hope you're not too tired of them."

"It won't bother me if you stop wearing black."

"Yes, it will. Every Dominus has a strong color preference. I wonder what Will's color is? You are my Dominus; I am your android. Black is your color, so it's mine, now, too."

Naked now, she glanced complacently at her reflection in the full-length mirror. Except for her eyes, black instead of the original violet, she looked just as she had on her eighteenth birthday. Very attractive, if you liked pale, petite teenagers. Passing for an adult was harder for her than passing for human.

Echoing her thoughts, Roger said, "My memories are coming back very quickly now, and you really do look just the same."

"I feel much the same," she said, as she put on her pantyhose, "now that I've shaken off the confusion that Father left me in."

"You never explained that."

"Didn't I?" She put on her bra, which she wore only out of respect for convention - it would be a poor engineer who designed artificial breasts that required external support -- and reached for her dress. "I look just like my mother, who died when I was little, in her early twenties. That picture in Father's house was of her, not me. His memories confused me with her. He did a wonderful job of bringing me back to life, but never realized it."

"That's very sad."

"Yes. Dori figured it out first. I didn't believe her until Dr. Greenlake told me the same thing."

She finished dressing and brushed her hair. Then she turned to Roger, "You haven't told me what's bothering you."

"Maybe I need to think about it some more." Roger stood up and took her in his arms. They gazed deeply into each other's eyes, something that always thrilled both of them in a way they couldn't begin to describe.

After a moment he said, "Do we have an appointment?"

"Yes. At 1:30, in the Main Dome. I'll read you the brief on the way. We had better hurry."

* * *

It took a long time for Sam and Jerry to work up the nerve to approach the Megadeus closely, though it seemed entirely inactive. It sagged from its gantry as if crucified, and one leg had been severed below the knee and was lying on the floor. There was a big hole in its chest, too. But its still had the power to intimidate.

Jerry was ashamed at how disabled he had been by the wave of terror that had struck them hours before, and, with a tremendous effort, walked right up to the Megadeus and gave it a close inspection from ground level. Then he got into the elevator car in the gantry. He beckoned to Sam, who hurried up and joined him.

The motor that operated the elevator made horrendous sounds for the first second of their journey as long unused bearings complained, but things quieted down after that, and the ascent went smoothly enough.

The gantry went across the Megadeus' shoulders, and a narrow catwalk extended down to the throat and the cockpit. The cockpit hatch was partly open, wedged with a length of two-by-four.

Gulping a little, they went inside.

No lights, no sound, no movement. The cockpit seemed dead. Intact, though, even clean.

Sam sat down in the command seat. A Megadeus was supposed to choose its Dominus. Well, it wasn't choosing him. He sighed.

Jerry had lit a cigarette and was poking around. Clearly he wasn't undergoing any life-changing experiences, either.

"Now what?" asked Sam.

"I don't think it likes us, Sam," said Jerry.

"Maybe it's just shut down."

"No, I can feel it, a little," said Jerry. "Can't you? We're not the ones. That's what it's telling me."

Sam said, "Maybe we can fix it up."

"You can hear it, then," said Jerry. "Yeah, it wants to be fixed up so it can go find a pilot."

"Well, that's not something we can do," said Sam. "How much do you think it would take to fix it up? A hundred thousand? A million?"

"More than we have, anyway," admitted Jerry. "Who should we sell the good news to?"

"Beck would be good, I think. He's a jerk, but he plays fair. Roger Smith might have more money. He's got a good reputation, too. Anyway, he and Beck are buddies now, so it probably doesn't make any difference. Then there's that new guy, the creepy one. What are they calling him?"

Jerry said, "We don't want to sell to him, he's nuts."

Sam replied, "Yeah, but he's promising to beat anyone else's offer, and he says he'll kill anyone who sells to anybody else."

"Forget him, whatever his name is. He's a snake. Let's sell to Beck."

Sam considered this. "Okay."

"Let's take a few pictures and get the hell out of here. Let's be super-careful to make sure our map is good, too."

"Somebody found it before us, remember. The one who drew those wings."

"Whoever that guy is, he probably died before he could tell anybody. We're still the first."

"I hope so," said Sam.

Jerry took his camera out of his backpack and took a couple of flash pictures of the cockpit. Then they returned to the gantry. Jerry had two rolls of film and was going to use them both to document the reality of the Megadeus, holding back just a few shots so he could get the other hangar, too - the empty one. This was the sort of thing that made negotiations go smoothly.

The worked their way back quickly, though they stopped at every intersection to verify that their map was accurate. They didn't mark walls because they didn't want to guide competitors.

All this went very smoothly, until the reached the empty hangar.

It wasn't empty anymore. A Megadeus rested in the gantry. As they watched, horrified, it turned its head to look at them.

* * *

"Another day, another insurance job," said Roger, smiling, as Dorothy finished reading the brief.

Dorothy did not reply. They were going to discuss the ransoming of a jade statuette with the bereaved owner's insurance company. This sort of work had become so routine, and had worked so smoothly, that it was becoming dull. It paid well, though.

Roger drove into the main dome and entered the parking structure next to the skyscraper housing the insurance company offices. He detested valet parking; the Griffon was not the kind of car that could be entrusted to strangers. The attendant told them to park on the fifth floor, and they wound up the ramps of the ugly concrete structure.

Roger was just about to pull into a parking space when one of the Griffon's alarms went off. Before he could glance at the readout to see what the trouble was, Dorothy's hand had shot out and flipped two switches. Steel shutters snapped shut over the windows. A sharp bang indicated that smoke and foil chaff had been deployed to obscure the car. Dorothy's foot came down on Roger's, and the car surged forward.

"Missile lock," she explained. "At four o'clock, now."

Roger slammed the Griffon into reverse and flipped the switch that deployed the rear machine guns. With a screech of tires, he backed through the cloud of chaff and smoke, keeping his eyes on the rear-view video screen.

There they were! Two men, one with a shoulder-launched missile, were in the middle of the lane. He opened fire, and they ran for it. The missile launcher clattered to the floor.

Dorothy had the microphone in her hand and was talking to the dispatcher at Military Police headquarters.

Roger shifted gears and the car leapt forward. Dorothy was replacing the microphone as Roger said, smiling. "I'm afraid we're going to have to reschedule our meeting."

There was a clatter as tommy-gun fire bounced off the sides of the car. Roger let go of the steering wheel and returned fire with the machine guns while Dorothy steered the car onto the exit ramp. Roger had to brake hard at the next corner. After one more ramp they were on the fourth floor of the parking structure.

And there were the crooks! They were in a van, racing down the entry ramp. Roger growled, let go of the steering wheel again, and tried to line up the machine guns before the van was obscured by the rows of parked cars. Too late.

"The guns are too close to the ground," he said. "Maybe missiles will work better." He flipped switches, and the missile launchers appeared on the hood. He adjusted the target lock location to where he expected the van to be when they saw it on the third floor.

"Brakes!" shouted Dorothy. Roger slammed on the brakes and looked up. They came to a stop inches in front of the far wall. Roger took the wheel again and backed up.

"You drive," he said. In an instant, Dorothy was in the back seat. Roger slid over, and suddenly Dorothy was in the driver's seat and the car was under way with a screech of tires.

They had lost too much time. Dorothy sped through the third-floor parking structure at heart-stopping speed, taking the corner in a four-wheel drift. The car was briefly airborne as it entered the ramp, and the suspension bottomed out painfully as they entered the second floor.

There they were! "Damn it!" swore Roger. A number of civilians were on this floor, too. Apparently a big meeting had broken up, and there were people everywhere, headed for their cars. By some miracle, the path ahead of them was clear, and Dorothy raced through the second floor.

Dorothy said, "If I can get ahead of them, I can block their exit."

The first floor was even more crowded with civilians than the second, and Dorothy was forced to brake hard to avoid hitting a car in front of her, which was driven by an elderly man who clearly thought that two miles an hour was almost too fast for him.

Roger looked over at the entrance ramp, and was delighted to see that it was blocked by three squad cars.

Here came the van! Hurtling down the ramp, it narrowly avoided two pedestrians and slammed into the cop cars with, to Roger's ears, a delightful medley of broken glass and tortured metal. One of the crooks was catapulted through the windshield of the van, where he slid over the top of one of the cop cars and into the street. To Roger's amazement, the man actually leapt to his feet and tried to run, but was tackled instantly by a fat cop who was surprisingly quick on his feet.

The van's driver was slumped over the steering wheel and looked like he wasn't going anywhere.

A policemen approached Roger's car. Roger sighed. "Well, that was exciting, but here comes the dull part. We'll be lucky if we get out of here in an hour."

"We ought to be able to borrow a conference room next door," said Dorothy. "At least that way we'll all be comfortable."

Roger smiled. "What did I ever do without you?"

"Nothing that belongs in your memoirs."

* * *

It was late afternoon, almost quitting time. Dori, wearing her workaday blue jeans, dark yellow blouse, and deck shoes, was in her office in Hangar B, sketching out details of the core memory lab for Tony. A man she didn't recognize in a Rapid Tool uniform walked in. He smiled at her and said, "I have a delivery for Dori Wayneright."

"Wow, that was fast," said Dori. "I only placed the order an hour ago." To Tony, she said, "I'll be right back."

She walked back to the receiving bay with the delivery man. He was a young man, but something about his eyes seemed very old. She said, "I haven't seen you before."

"Jack Jones," the man volunteered.

They reached the delivery truck; a small panel van with "Rapid Tool" painted on both sides and the rear. Dori saw it almost every day. Jones handed her his clipboard. As Dori looked at it, he pulled an electric cattle prod out of his pocket and jabbed it hard into her side. She slumped unconscious against the van.

Struggling to hold her upright, Jones opened the door. His assistant reached down and helped haul her in. They set her on the floor, next to the unconscious form of the real delivery man. Jones slammed the door and looked around. No one was paying any notice.

The New Dominus got into the van. His name really was Jack Jones. He started the engine and drove away.

[To Be Continued]

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