It was his voice that triggered the memories, she was sure of it.
She was sitting in the car, blindfolded and hands bound behind her back, waiting to see what would happen next. She heard the squeal of brakes, and then, in the silence that followed after the engine had been shut down, the opening and closing of the car's door. One step... three... the faint echoes told her they were in a very large room indeed. Six... eight...
"Leave it right there!" Beck commanded, his voice harsh with a mixture of nervousness and suppressed glee. She didn't like the avariciousness that gleamed in his eyes when he looked at her, and he knew entirely too much about how she worked.
She had been in the office that had been set up for her studies, practicing the music she would be expected to know, when he and his thugs had burst in. Before she could react, Beck was at her side, reaching out with a small black box. She had awoken to find herself stripped naked and strapped to an examination table.
Beck had gone over her minutely, becoming frustrated when he couldn't find the switch to shut her off. She didn't feel it was necessary to inform him that she had bypassed it at the factory and filled the place it had been with the same compound that had been used to make her artificial skin. Finally, he had given up and moved on to other things.
He had found her tray and removed the CD, shining a pen light into her head and poking at the connections with an electrical probe. He had made some kind of recording and then spent nearly an hour looking over the contents of her memory, copying the disc before returning the original to the tray. She had relaxed, hoping he was finished, and then had come the final indignity: his fingers roughly prodding her and poking into places they had no business being.
At least his interest was merely clinical--a moment later he had unhooked the straps and left, telling her to get dressed. She'd overheard one of his henchmen making a crude comment that suggested another use for her. "She's not built for it," Beck had hooted at the idea. "You'd get more satisfaction out of a corpse."
The thugs had walked away roaring with laughter. When she appeared at the door, Beck had given her a meaningful look. "As long as you give me no trouble, I won't mention that little program I noticed when I looked at your core memory. Do I make myself clear?"
If she could have, she would have spit on him. Instead, she had simply nodded and done whatever she was told from that moment on.
"I thought the arrangement we made was clear. In a fair deal, all parties lay their cards on the table... Mr. Beck." She gave a start of recognition. She knew that voice!
Beck chuckled. "Okay...Mr. Paradigm City Negotiator." Rough hands pulled her from the car.
There was the faint whistle of a train in the distance, and then the sound of something-a briefcase?-being laid on the floor. The click of the latches confirmed it. "Soldano haggled over the money for his own daughter," Beck snorted. "That's some father."
The case snapped shut. "It's the amount both of you agreed on." She heard the sound of something sliding towards them. "All right. Now send the girl this way!" Her hands were freed, and she brought her arms forward with relief, taking a few awkward steps. "Take your time, miss. Just walk slowly towards my voice." She took a few more steps. "That's it. Keep coming."
She continued forward, clinging to the thread of sound like a lifeline. She could hear footsteps behind her, but with the oddly familiar voice to reassure her, she found them easy to ignore. Whoever was behind her halted--he must have reached the briefcase--but she kept on going until her hands made contact with something warm and solid: the jacket of an expensive suit, and the waist of the man who wore it.
This was ridiculous! She knew nothing about this negotiator other than his name, Roger Smith, yet it was all she could do not to throw herself into his arms. "You can remove the blindfold now... Miss Soldano." His tone was gentle.
She tugged at the knot and pulled the cloth away. The man staring back at her was tall, and, she supposed, was considered handsome. He was impeccably dressed in his black suit, and not a hair was out of place. She couldn't see his eyes behind the dark glasses he was wearing, but he made a soft sound of surprise.
The memories boiled at the edges of her consciousness, threatening to spill over. She had never met him before, she was certain of it. So how did she know that his carefully slicked back hair would transform into an explosion of curls at the slightest provocation?
How could this be? How could this be? She knew everything about him: his smile, his touch, his... his... kiss... she frantically shied away from the disconnected images flooding into her mind, the sight of him below her, his eyes closed, his head thrown back against the pillow, words of love and need and ecstasy tumbling from his lips...
The abrupt screech of a car rounding a corner much brought her back to the present. "Hmm?" he turned to look and sighed dramatically. "Oh, darn. I hate it when clients are so impatient."
The car stopped a short distance away from the bay door. "Dorothy! Dorothy!" It was Miguel Soldano. He ran towards them.
Beck and his thugs beat a hasty retreat, driving their car right through one of the walls of the warehouse. "Well, you're free now, my dear." Smith seemed pleased that the matter had been successfully concluded. "Of course, with a father like that one," he mused, "it's a rather restrictive freedom.
"Dorothy! Dorothy!" Soldano finally reached them, panting and out of breath.
"As you can see, the transaction was successfully completed..." the negotiator began.
The old man looked around the empty warehouse. "What?"
Smith gestured towards her, his hand coming to rest on her back. "Now, about the rest of my fee--"
"This isn't my daughter, fool!" Soldano interrupted. He stabbed his finger towards her for emphasis. "Are you blind? How could you possibly mistake that for my precious Dorothy?"
The negotiator removed his dark glasses to look at her closely. She turned her head, deliberately stressing her stabilizers to make a whirring sound. She met his gaze squarely, determinedly ignoring the new memories surging into her mind.
He seemed as transfixed as she. "It's an android?"
"This thing is a dummy of Dorothy!" Soldano said. "You mean to tell me you handed over the money without realizing that? Paradigm City's top negotiator...what a joke! You're nothing but an incompetent idiot--huh?"
Smith reached into his inner jacket pocket and withdrew a black box with an antenna and a large red button, holding it up for them to see. He pressed the button. There was the sound of a small explosion off in the distance.
"What have you done?" Soldano looked out through the hole made by Beck's car, observing the trail of smoke rising from the general vicinity of the explosion. "I still don't have my daughter back!"
She stared fixedly at the remote, afraid of triggering more memories if she looked at the negotiator's face. "If they don't want to play by the rules," he was winding it as if it were a fishing reel, "then the money comes back."
"What?" Soldano sounded disbelieving.
There was the sound of machine gun fire in the distance, and Smith shook his head. "Negotiations require good faith."
By the time the briefcase reached them, its lid hung open and only a few packages of bills remained. "You useless fool! You've lost my money!" Soldano sputtered.
Smith's mouth set in an angry line, but he simply pocketed the remote and headed towards his car, leaving the briefcase on the floor. "I'm going to see if I can find out anything else about the kidnappers," he said smoothly his tone at odds with the tension in his jaw. "I'll call you if there is any new information. Is there anything else I can do for you, Mr. Soldano?"
"You've done enough already," the old man hissed furiously. The negotiator nodded politely and got into his car. Dorothy watched as he drove away, fighting a strong urge to run after him.
Soldano picked up his money, looking at the small pile mournfully. Suddenly he kicked the briefcase, sending it spinning across the floor. Dorothy remained silent. Finally, he turned towards the exit. "What do you think you're doing?" he demanded when she followed him out to his car.
She stopped with her hand on the passenger side door. "Aren't you going back to the factory?" she asked.
"Yes, but you aren't," he snapped. "I've wasted enough time with you; I never wanted to build you in the first place. Now you've cost me my daughter!"
"Where should I go?" she asked, feeling strangely unbalanced.
"Damned if I know," he got behind the wheel and closed his door. The engine roared to life and there was a click as he triggered the automatic locks. She froze with indecision. Should she try to force the door open and risk enraging him further?
Her hesitation cost her the opportunity. She jumped back to avoid being hit as Soldano slammed the car into reverse and hit the accelerator.
She did not linger at the warehouse, not wanting to take a chance on Beck and his thugs returning. A final check of the abandoned briefcase yielded one of Roger Smith's business cards that had been tucked into a pocket, but nothing more. She took it, and, after a last scan of the area, set off along the same path the case had followed, keeping a sharp eye to the ground.
She was rewarded by several hundred dollars' worth of loose twenties, but the money trail soon dwindled. Unless she cared to wade into the river and cross to the other side, it was unlikely there would be more. She carefully tucked the cash away along with the business card, her feet slowing. Where was she going to go?
It would be logical to seek out Timothy Wayneright-after all, she had been built for him. The problem was that she had no idea where to find him. Although she had his daughter's memories, they were of little use in this situation because she couldn't access them directly.
This was part of the reason, in fact, that she had still been at the factory and had not yet been turned over to him. Although "memories" was as good a word as any for what she had been given, in reality, it wasn't memory at all.
It was more like instinct, an unconscious knowledge that only rose to the surface when certain conditions were met. When she sang a song that the original Dorothy knew, for example, she would match the girl's proficiency after just a few repetitions. Until she had actually sung it, though, it was just as unknown to her as any other new piece of music.
Practicing took time, and it was a point of pride with Soldano that he would not release her until he was satisfied she would perform flawlessly. He had only just begun to speak of doing so when she had been kidnapped.
Should she return to the industrialist? She knew he had a quick temper, she had seen it often enough when he had encountered obstacles in his work. Usually, he was over it fairly quickly, and had even been known to apologize.
No. She would not go where she was not wanted. But if not the factory, where? The money she had found assured her of at least a few nights somewhere, longer if she wasn't choosy about the neighborhood.
She supposed she could look for work, but she had few illusions about the sort of work that a female android with no guardian to protect her would be able to find. There was also the matter of Beck--right now, he believed she was useless to him, but there was little doubt in her mind that her reprieve was only temporary.
Alone, she was vulnerable. She needed to find a safe place, or maybe she could hire someone... She frowned. That would take a lot more money than she had, assuming she could find someone willing to work for an android.
"Hello, Miss. Looking for someone?" She turned, startled. She hadn't even noticed the rough-looking man who had fallen into step with her.
"No, I'm fine, thank you." She quickened her pace, hoping to avoid trouble.
He wouldn't be dissuaded. "A young girl like you shouldn't be walking alone like in a place like this. What happened, did you have a fight with him?"
"You could say that," she said cautiously. The original Dorothy's memories were telling her to tread very, very carefully.
"Damned dome-dwellers!" Was that an actual note of sympathy in his voice? "Do you know what you're going to do?"
"Not really," she admitted. Next would come the proposition, she assumed.
He surprised her. "Look, this is going to sound crazy, but when I saw you... I remembered you."
His inflection made it clear he didn't mean he'd seen her before. "I see," she said.
"I remember seeing you walk down this very street," he continued. "Except... there was a situation, and somebody got hurt." He stopped briefly and shrugged off his coat, draping it over her shoulders. "Leave this on for just a minute," he said, linking his arm with hers.
"A situation?" She was puzzled by his behavior, but somehow she knew that he didn't mean her any harm.
"The usual," he said. "There's a group of young men standing on the corner just ahead, and I remember them giving you a hard time. One of them made the mistake of trying to force you to go with him. That's when they realized you were an android. They tried to gang up on you, and you had to fight your way free."
They had gotten close enough that she could see the group he was talking about. There were a few catcalls and lewd comments as she approached, but they obviously respected the man who was walking at her side.
He breathed a sigh of relief when they passed without incident. "I see you don't remember, Miss, but the one who got hurt... it was my son, and he died. Honestly, I don't know if it's a Memory or just a bad dream, but he's the only son I've got. His mother is dead."
"I'm sorry," she said sincerely.
"It was a long time ago," he said gruffly. "Thank you for going along with me. I know I don't look like the most trustworthy of characters." She nodded and he released her arm. "Do you know where you're going to go?"
She was surprised at the note of genuine concern in his voice. "I hadn't decided," she said, offering him his jacket. "I was thinking of looking for a hotel."
He waved it away. "No, keep it on, you'll attract less attention," he said. "The only hotels are in the domes. If you don't mind my saying so, Miss, I doubt you could afford it."
"I have a little money," she said, putting the jacket back on. "I don't think it will last very long, though."
"You know, you ought to go and talk to Roger Smith," he said. "He'll make that guardian of yours do right by you."
"He'd represent an android?" she asked, curious.
"Sure he would, he's done it before," came the reply.
This was certainly an interesting piece of information! "Does he live near here?" she asked, coming to a decision. Surely he would protect her from Beck, and maybe he could even help her find Timothy Wayneright.
"Yes, he does. I'll bring you there myself," the man told her. "Even if he can't do anything for you, his butler, Norman, is a friend of mine, and he can help you find someplace decent to stay, maybe even get you a lead on a job. My name is Bill, by the way." He extended a rough hand and she accepted the handshake.
"I'm Dorothy," she said. "You're very kind."
"It's no trouble," he said, taking her arm again. Within ten minutes, they were on a street that looked oddly familiar. Several blocks later, they came to a tall, imposing building on a corner. He led her straight to the double doors and knocked. After a moment, the door opened. "May I help you?" The elderly man who answered was wearing a black uniform and had a patch covering his left eye. "Oh, it's you, Bill. There's no work today," he said.
"I know, but this young lady needed to see Roger Smith, so I brought her," the other said simply.
Norman-she assumed that this was the butler Bill had been speaking of--looked at her with an odd expression. "I see. If you'll come with me, Miss...?"
"Wayneright," she said, without really understanding why. "My name is Dorothy Wayneright."
Norman led her to a tastefully appointed room on the top floor. She went over to one of the floor-to-ceiling windows and looked out over the city, closing her eyes against the memories that were again crowding her mind. She had spent a lot of time in this room. She had played that piano and knew that the D above middle C had a tendency to slip out of key, and that it only required a half-centimeter turn of the wrench on the third string. Roger Smith had kissed her for the first time right over there, and he'd lifted her up and carried her through those doors and laid her down on his bed and...
The sound of someone coming up the staircase was a most welcome interruption. She turned to see the negotiator was straightening his tie and smoothing his hair.
"I have a special house rule that only lovely young women can unconditionally enter this mansion," he said. "Sorry to keep you waiting. I am Roger Smith. How may I be of service, Miss...?"
She turned, making sure to produce a whirring sound. He was clearly not pleased; she hadn't expected him to be. Still, it was at odds with the memories to see him looking at her as if she were a stranger. "What's going on? You're Miss Wayneright...?"
"How do you do?" She took refuge in formality.
"Norman must be senile! How else could he possibly confuse an android for a woman?" His tone held an edge of exasperation.
"You couldn't tell the difference at first either," she couldn't resist sniping at him.
He loosened his tie and walked towards the couch. "It was dark! I couldn't see in that dump! So... what do you want from me?" He sat down heavily. "The kidnap case is already being handled. Military Police are doing a large-scale investigation. I'm positive the real Dorothy will turn up very soon." He looked at her over his shoulder. "However... you are impressively well built. I'm amazed that that greedy old coot could build a technological marvel like you."
She gazed at him steadily, wondering why she had allowed Bill to persuade her that Roger Smith would help her when it was obvious he wanted nothing to do with her. "Soldano merely funded my construction," she said.
He laughed, his hand going to his forehead. "Naturally," he said. "Well? What do you want?"
"I would like you to protect me." There. She had said it.
"You what? Sister, you're confused. You're looking for a private investigator or something." He laughed again. "No. Being a bodyguard for an android isn't a job for a PI, either."
"The job is yours, Roger Smith." She didn't want to tell him that she was afraid to be alone at the factory. She met his stare calmly.
There was a buzzing sound, and the eyes of a small statue on the table lit up. "I'm terribly sorry to interrupt, Master Roger," the butler's voice came over the hidden intercom. "But Major Dastun of the Military Police is here and he's quite insistent on seeing you."
She silently followed him to the head of the stairs as he went to see to his guest.
"You know, you really shouldn't snoop around in other people's belongings," Roger greeted his visitor.
"Assuming these things are actually your own memories, that is." That had to be Dastun.
"You were certainly more than willing to start a war," Roger said. "But the girl's already been rescued, I presume?" The door closed; no barrier to her ears. "Well? You want a drink?"
"It's bizarre." Dastun sounded weary. "We were told there was a kidnapping, but...we did some digging, and found that Soldano has no daughter." He paused and then continued, "Anyway, he tried to make a deal with the kidnappers instead of notifying law enforcement authorities. He's an industrialist who has a lot of power outside the domes-if we had gotten too close to his factory some of his dark dirty secrets might have slipped out."
"Well, maybe he just didn't want it turned into a media event," Roger said.
"Lieutenant Smith..." Dastun began
"If you're attempting to be sarcastic" Roger suddenly sounded furious, "then I warn you, you're pushing it, Major. I'm not one of your grunts, so don't call me that again!" It sounded like a sensitive topic. Dorothy filed the information away for later use.
"Sorry... old habit, you know... hard to break. At any rate, the reason I stopped by was to give Paradigm City's top negotiator a word of advice." Dastun's voice dropped. "You really blew the job, pal, so keep your big nose out of this." The door opened again. "I'll take you up on that drink another time. See you."
"Norman!" Roger shouted and stormed from the room.
He was revving the engine of the car when she reached the garage. She quickly opened the door and got in. "You're going to Soldano's factory, aren't you?"
"Do I have to make you get out?" he asked pleasantly.
"You may try," she said, "but I'm doubtful that a mere human would have the strength."
He punched the accelerator and the car shot from the garage, leaving a line of burnt rubber behind. The speed seemed to soothe his temper, and he relaxed once they were on the highway. "Why did you come to me instead of going straight to Soldano? I mean, after all, he's... well... he is sort of your parent."
"Parent?" she asked, puzzled.
"Well, that poses an interesting question." His voice was thoughtful. "I'm stumped on this. What would an android call its creator?" It? It? The man was unbearable! She already regretted seeking his help. He looked sidewise and sighed, seeming to realize he had somehow trespassed. "Dorothy?"
She maintained a stony silence until they arrived at the factory, getting out of the car and following him into the badly damaged building.
"What is this?" He looked around. "What happened here? Do you know?" He looked up to the office, spotted the blood on the broken windows and gasped, running for the elevator.
The moment the small elevator stopped he was out of it and opening the office door. "Soldano!" He rushed inside, lifting the injured man from the floor. "Soldano..."
"I never wanted to build it... for people like them," the old man could barely speak.
"What did you build?" Roger asked.
Soldano looked up and saw her standing there. "Oh... my other Dorothy... the second. You came back! You are the one who's my real daughter."
She felt a strange sense of loss at his words, but she was still angry that he had abandoned her. "He assembled me using blueprints, nothing more," she told Roger. "It's just the deranged ranting of a dying man."
"That's enough," he snapped. "You shouldn't talk like that!"
"It's all right... Nightingale..." Soldano's head fell back and his eyes closed for the last time.
"What?" Roger gently laid him back down on the floor and carefully arranged his hands. He folded his own and knelt there, his head bowed.
"What are you doing?" she asked. "Praying?"
"Shhh!" he hushed her, giving her an exasperated look. There was a sudden beeping from his watch and he leapt up and spun around. "Run! Hurry!" They ran out on the catwalk, toward the elevator.
His arm came around her waist protectively as a missile hit the office and the force of the blast sent them flying forward. Fortunately, they were unharmed.
"Aren't you going to return fire?" she questioned.
"With what, pray tell?" he demanded as she picked herself up. "It's not like I pack a lunchbox full of missiles when I go to work!" He looked outside, his face thoughtful. "Huh... Since you're no mere human, would you...?" He stood up.
"You want me to decoy their fire?" she asked. Well, it was a logical request, even if it didn't quite qualify as chivalrous.
"Bingo!" she felt a shove between her shoulder blades propelling her forward and she began to run.
She didn't get very far before they started shooting. She ran faster, managing to stay just barely ahead of them, and then she heard the sound of the missile launcher.
The catwalk disintegrated under her feet and she frantically reached up grasping for something, anything... her hand closed over a cable and she stopped falling, but now she was an easy target. It was too far to the ground to let go, so she hung there, waiting, listening to the laughter of her attackers.
There was a screaming sound as two missiles passed below her feet and then there was an explosion where the thugs had been. Apparently, Roger Smith didn't need a lunchbox when he had the Gryphon. She swung in the air as the shock wave hit her, but the cable held.
When the smoke cleared, Roger helped her down--the grapnel in his watch was quite handy--and they returned to the car. "You're a louse, Roger Smith," she said as she opened the door.
He gave a startled chuckle. "Well that's a first. I'm used to human women saying that to me," he said. "Hmmm?" There was a beeping sound from inside the car and he pressed a button. A panel slid back and he reached in and picked up a microphone. "Yes, Norman?"
The butler's image appeared on a small screen. "Master Roger," he said. "In West Dome Number Five... there's a report of a giant robot."
"Hmmm?" Roger looked at the screen, surprised.
"At the moment, it's attacking the Mint Bureau Building. What do you intend to do, sir?"
"Norman, isn't it obvious?" He replaced the mike on its hook and looked up at her. "Dorothy, I think we just found your big sister!"
Roger sped through the city, skillfully threading the car through the heavy traffic in his rush to get to West Dome Five. "What will you do?" she asked.
"What I'm paid to do," he said. "According to my contract, I have to return your sister."
"But your client is dead," she reminded him. "Why bother?"
His jaw set in a stubborn line. "I have a contract to fulfill. They're living, they're dead; it doesn't matter. That's how I work, and..." his voice trailed off.
"And what?" she asked.
He smiled. "You've got a contract with me as my new client."
The entrance to the dome was closed, but they kept going, following several police cars, which were being waved through by a guard. He spotted them and ran in front of the car, waving frantically. "Hold it!" Roger rolled down the window. "This dome is cordoned off, hot shot," the officer told him. "Let me see your ID."
Roger inclined his head. "You're a rookie?" he asked. The guard gave a grunt of surprise. "Be smart and remember my face next time, okay?" he rolled up the window.
"Hey, wait!" the guard protested, running alongside them.
She saw a familiar face in the crowd as they passed. "My father..."
"Hmm?" Roger seemed preoccupied.
"Stop, come back here!" the guard shouted, and then they left him behind.
He stopped the car when they reached a group of tanks blocking the road. Another uniformed officer was keeping the crowd away. "All of it fits," he said as they got out of the car. "That thing is what Soldano was creating on the sly."
"Dorothy One." She suddenly felt lightheaded
"I can understand now why the kidnappers thought you were useless to them," he said. She was dimly aware he was speaking into his watch, but her surroundings seemed to be fading. "Now, Big O! It's show time!" Why didn't he notice something was wrong with her?
"Stop it... father..." She no longer had control of her limbs. What was going on?
The ground trembled as a huge robot emerged from the underground. She wanted to turn and run, but her feet were taking her towards the two titans. "You! Stop there!" Her body halted and her head turned, her controller assessing whether or not the speaker represented a threat, and then she was moving forward again.
She watched helplessly as the giant machines fought, her body involuntarily directing the motions of her much bigger sister. Where was Roger Smith? If he had been paying attention instead of fooling with his stupid gadgets, this never would have happened.
The battle went on with neither seeming to get the upper hand, and then Dorothy One wrapped her cables around her opponent and lifted him off the ground. She would have cried out in protest but her voice refused to obey. If her sister won, what would be next? Would she be released, or would she be compelled to follow?
Dorothy had a very, very good idea of who was behind her sister's escapade, and she would rather be dead than be at Beck's mercy again. Damn Roger Smith! Why had she believed the memories?
The black robot twisted in midair, causing Dorothy One to put him down. A surge of electricity went through the cables, and she released her hold rather than risk shorting out. The titan's arm pulled back, there was a small puff of steam or smoke from the piston, and then he struck, scoring a solid hit over the control center.
The piston slammed his fist right through, and her head was engulfed by a pillar of fire, the backlash causing Dorothy to freeze for a moment with the overload. She reached up, but her sister wasn't responding; she was slowly falling to the ground.
"You crazy little fool, you're going to get yourself killed!" she recognized Dastun's voice. He tried to physically drag her away, but she was heavier than she looked and he could barely budge her. In desperation, he pushed her down to the tarmac, shielding her with his own body.
She was finally in control again. Something big slammed to the ground close by, but she couldn't see what it was through the cloud of dust and smoke. The shock waves from her sister's fall had caused Dastun to lose consciousness, and she slipped out from underneath him and ran as fast as she could. It had been a mistake to go to Roger Smith. She planned to rectify that immediately, now that she knew where to find the man who had commissioned her.
She was in such a hurry that she didn't even realize she had lost her shoe.
Dorothy held Timothy Wayneright's arm as they walked up the stairs to the club. When he heard the news about Soldano's death, he thought she had been lost to him forever, and he was overjoyed that she had found him.
He had been every bit as welcoming as she could have hoped, and treated her as if she really were his own daughter--granddaughter, she reminded herself. He preferred that she refer to him as her grandfather if they were out in public.
Tonight, she was going to sing for him.
She was startled to see a familiar figure as she helped him up the stairs. She handed over her coat to the checker, hoping she hadn't been recognized.
"Dorothy! Where have you been? I was worried about you!" Roger Smith? Worried? She didn't think so. She cowered behind her the elderly man, hoping he would make him go away.
"Young man, who are you and from where do you know my granddaughter?" Wayneright demanded.
Roger looked startled. "Granddaughter?"
"That's correct," he answered firmly. "Which makes me Dorothy's grandfather."
"If she's an android," Roger frowned, "How can she be your granddaughter?"
Wayneright's cane made sharp contact with the other man's arm. "You're a boorish, ill-mannered young man," he announced. "Come, Dorothy." He turned away. She joined him with relief, knowing that the doormen would keep them from being followed.
Thankfully, there was no further discussion about the incident. She focused her attention on making Wayneright--no, Grandfather--happy. He told interesting stories and was very solicitous of her, and she found she truly wanted to please him.
When he asked her to sing, she pretended to be reluctant, giggling as he paid her ever-more lavish compliments. After a few moments, she let herself be persuaded and took her place on the stage, quickly working out the correct key with the piano player. She gave it her best effort, and the smile on the old man's face told her that he was pleased. She gave a small curtsey when she was finished and was surprised by the applause and delighted comments that followed.
"So you were searching for your father," Roger Smith was waiting in the wings as she hurried off the stage. "It was Soldano who raised you, but it was that old man out there along with his memories who breathed life into you." She stared past him at the man who stepped out of the shadows. He sighed. "Flesh or man-made, you're definitely Wayneright's..." he grunted in surprise, his eyes narrowing. "The bouncers at this club are sure some surly characters!"
"Please don't create a fuss, Mr. Smith." It was Beck. Had they come for her again? "A very simple, straightforward deal, Negotiator. He walked towards them, smirking. "Just keep your trap shut and hand over the girl."
"That's underhanded," Roger sounded calm.
"Hah! Not true at all. You see?" Beck inclined his head towards the front of the room, where another of his thugs had her grandfather by the arm, the outline of a gun clearly visible through his coat pocket. "I no longer need that crusty codger's memories," he said with satisfaction. "But I'm a fair man--otherwise I'd've crushed him by now."
"I'm a professional negotiator, Beck!" Roger was angry now. "A blind man could see that this is an unfair trade and a bad deal."
"You'd better reconsider," Beck said. He laughed again. "You don't want to see that old mummy die. Negotiations are closed... be a good boy and stay put."
The man behind Roger came over and tried to drag her away. She was still frozen in place, unsure of the proper course of action. "Man, this chick is heavy!" he complained.
"Dorothy!" the fear in the old man's voice decided her.
"Yes, father," she lifted the thug trying to move her and flipped him over her head. He landed on the ground with a satisfying thud and Wayneright took a step towards her.
"Dorothy!" She ignored Roger and began advancing on the other thug.
"B..B..Beck!" he sounded panicky.
"Dorothy, don't!" Roger said frantically. She took a few more steps forward and a gunshot rang out, causing an immediate panic. She stared in horror as her grandfather staggered and fell forward, his cane clattering to the floor and his life's blood pouring out of him onto the carpet.
She began to run to his side. She felt the cool touch of metal, a sudden jolt of electricity, and then she was falling and everything went black.
She was strapped down on the table again, although this time she was fully clothed. It occurred to her that she might be able to break the straps, but she was sure Beck had his stun gun handy and she remembered his previous threat. She didn't want to be used that way.
It didn't matter, anyway. Where would she run? Roger Smith saw her as a thing, an inconvenience. Soldano was dead. So was Wayneright, and she only had herself to blame. If she hadn't tried to save him... she looked up at Beck, who was opening her drive tray and hooking some kind of device into it.
It was worse, much worse than when she had been linked to her sister. Now, she not only couldn't control her body, but she also found it almost impossible to think clearly. She had just enough awareness to realize that Beck was somehow controlling her through the device.
He marched her out to the corpse of Dorothy One, which was lying in the middle of an enormous warehouse. The metal plate that had covered her face leaned against the wall nearby, revealing a tangle of cables.
Her body awkwardly climbed the ladder that was placed against the head and she then she was tumbling over the edge, landing in a heap in the center. Beck followed, pulling her limbs this way and that until he had her arranged to his satisfaction, chortling all the while over how easy it had been.
She drifted for an indeterminate time, semi-conscious, as Beck attached her securely to the giant robot. Only a small part of her was aware when the faceplate had been replaced and they started to move.
There was a sudden shock as if Dorothy One had run into something very solid, and then, a very short while later, a sense of enormous effort as if she was dragging something very large. She felt the world tilt and stop again. "Dorothy! Dorothy, hold on!" The voice was vaguely familiar, but she was too drained to make the effort to identify it.
"Dorothy! Come on... snap out of it." She could feel the bonds being ripped away. "You're Dorothy Wayneright! Just be who you are!"
With some of the connections severed, she found the will to open her eyes. "Ro-ger," she managed. He had come for her after all.
He pulled her free, lifting her up as Dorothy One, deprived of her guidance, began to tremble and sway. She had never felt so safe and so confused at the same time. This was not the first time he had held her like this--she had a sudden image of him holding her in exactly the same way, his arms protective and his eyes warm.
As she began to recover from the effects of being controlled, she realized with a start that they were facing the open cockpit of the enormous robot that had fought with Dorothy One. So that was why Roger Smith had disappeared the way he did!
He held her even more tightly and leaped to the safety of his giant companion just as Dorothy One collapsed to the ground. "Man...," he gasped, "you must weigh a ton!" There was no sting in his words. He gently eased her down and reached for the device that had enslaved her. "Let's get rid of this."
She stared at him, uncomprehending, as he helped her to her feet. "Rog-er...I don't... un..." It was still difficult to speak.
He smiled at her, embarrassed. "I'm doing what you asked," he said. "You wanted my protection."
They stood in silence, looking at each other. A sudden tone and Norman's voice broke in. "Master Roger, your dinner will be ready soon, sir."
"Thanks, but I'll be late," he said. "I need to take care of something first." Dorothy followed him into the cockpit and the heavy door closed.
He punched some buttons and a blinking light appeared on the screen. The view zoomed in several times, providing them with map and an exact location. Within seconds, they were moving again.
They reached their destination, a van painted a bilious combination of yellow and blue that was on one of the upper tiers of a parking garage. She took a deep satisfaction in the expression on the faces of the two thugs that opened the rear doors when they realized what was waiting for them.
Roger skillfully manipulated the robot's controls and grabbed the van as Beck and his henchman tried to drive away, pulling it out of the garage. She could hear sirens as the police arrived. They turned to face them.
"Let go of us! Put the van down!" Beck shouted out of the window, shaking his fist.
"If you won't negotiate with me on professional terms," Roger said, "you pay the price." He flipped open the top of the right handgrip and pressed the button that was revealed. There was a loud bang and the hiss of escaping steam, then the robot's hand opened and the van fell to the ground.
Roger didn't wait around to see what happened. They began sinking into the ground, jumping from the cockpit as it became level with the street, and they made their escape under the cover of the dust that was raised by the giant robot's exit.
The Gryphon was parked only a few blocks away.
"Absolutely not! I won't hear of it!" Norman's reaction to her request for directions to an employment agency and inexpensive lodgings surprised her. "You will stay here with us, where you belong."
He led her to a large bedroom on one of the upper floors. "I don't think Roger Smith will approve," she said. "Besides, I have to find work. I still owe him payment for his services."
"Leave it to me. I'll handle Master Roger," he told her. "You'll have to wear black, of course, but I expect there's something in your size." He gestured towards one of the doors. "I'll see you in the morning, Miss Dorothy." He left without another word.
Where she belonged? What was he talking about? Did he have memories, too? She looked around the room. She felt safe here, although she couldn't say why. The room had a large bed that was covered by a thick white comforter. She pulled it back and discovered the bed had already been made up with crisp white linen sheets.
There was an oak bureau with three drawers, a matching dressing table with a mirror, and an easy chair. Heavy blue drapes covered the tall windows. When she pulled one of them aside, she found a window seat complete with throw pillows.
The rug was also blue, and the room was decorated with a couple of small abstract sculptures, a clock, and a large, impressionistic painting that covered more than half of the wall above the bureau.
She spent several moments studying the painting. It was a sunset landscape done in a riot of soft pastel colors that somehow pleased her immensely. When she was done examining it, she walked over to the door Norman had pointed to, turning the key she found waiting in the lock.
When she pulled the chain and the light came on, she stood in open-mouthed shock. The enormous closet was full of dresses of every style and cut and material, all of them black. Without even inspecting one, she knew of a certainty that they were all her size.
On the back wall was a set of built-in drawers that she somehow knew contained every possible undergarment and accessory she might need to go with the dresses. There was a section with nothing but slips, and row after row of shoes. She turned the light off and closed and locked the door, her hands shaking. What did it mean?
She took the key and hid it in the easy chair, sinking into it when she had replaced the cushion. When she had composed herself again, she finished her inspection of the room.
There were four doors; she already knew where two of them led. The first unknown opened on to a bathroom containing an enormous claw-footed tub. There were blue towels hanging on the rack, and a silver tray that held soap and a glass container full of blue crystals was on the vanity.
She left the bathroom and opened the last door, which led to a much smaller closet that contained five identical tailored dresses and several pairs of simple black shoes. She took one dress out and looked it over. It would do nicely.
She hung it back on the rod and went over to the bureau. There was a pretty jewelry box on top of it that stored what had to be a fortune in gemstones. She shook her head. She had no need of these things. Where was she going to go? She removed her black pearl necklace, put it inside and closed the box.
There was a hairbrush and hand mirror, several headbands that were clearly made to cover her drive, and a hairpiece, obviously intended for the same purpose, that matched her own hair perfectly. There was also a small container holding a single large polished stone that was such a deep green color it was almost black. She picked it up and discovered it was a pin.
She put it back down and opened the drawers. The top drawer held starched white collars and cuffs, each set neatly pinned together. The drawer below it contained underclothing and sturdy black stockings, and the third had several long white nightgowns.
She took what she needed and went into the bathroom, removing the soiled red dress as the tub filled. She shook it out and hung it on the hook she found on the back of the bathroom door. Perhaps it could be salvaged by a professional cleaning.
When she emerged from her bath, she felt much steadier. She waited until her hair was dry to release the seal on her drive door--although Soldano had assured her that a few drops of water would do no harm, she preferred not to take chances.
After laying out her clothes for the next day, she got into the bed and lay quietly. Although she didn't really sleep, she wanted to review the events of the day. Tonight, though, her thoughts were restless. What did this mean, these memories and the room full of things that were all to her taste and the clothes that looked as though they had been made for her?
She had no idea. If it were only in her head, she could have dismissed it as a glitch in the transfer that had given her the original Dorothy Wayneright's memories. Perhaps the girl had been in love with a man who happened to resemble Roger Smith. That didn't explain the room or the closet full of clothes, though.
These feelings couldn't be hers. She was an android. Feelings interfered with her efficiency in performing her function. With Timothy Wayneright dead, though, she no longer had a function. "Be who you are!" Roger's words echoed through her mind.
Who was she? Her thoughts went around and around in an endless loop from which she couldn't seem to break free. All it once it was as though she had hit a wall. She gave a cry of surprise when she realized that she was no longer in her room. When had she gotten out of bed, and where was she now?
"Come," the single word reverberated through her head.
Far above her, a pair of eyes lit up, glowing in the darkness. They gave just enough illumination that she was able to locate the elevator door without needing to activate her own lighting. She got in and pressed the single button.
The door opened out onto a catwalk. There was a whirring, grinding noise, loud in the silence of the sleeping mansion. "Come," the command impelled her feet forward towards the now-open cockpit.
She settled herself in the command chair just in time. A torrent of data flooded her consciousness, the sheer volume of it enough to send her reeling.
When the transfer finally ended, her face was wet with tears that she hadn't thought herself capable of shedding. She hadn't remembered, but the megadeus had, and he had kept her memories safe. It was all there-everything that had happened, why she was here, what she needed to do.
She felt a vast sense of amusement surrounding her. "Yes, this part is always the same," she agreed, after allowing herself a few moments to recover. "What have I missed?"
Another transmission began, this one much shorter and less dense. She was suddenly impatient, remembering the ease of sharing when she and Big O were directly connected.
There was a rumble of agreement along with the regretful reminder that a full connection was impossible until the CD unit was removed. Still, there was a temporary measure... a door within the megadeus slid open and a cable with a connector that looked suspiciously like the one on Beck's mind control device snaked its way over to the command chair. She looked at it distastefully, reluctantly opening her drive door and hooking up the cable.
To her relief, it simply provided a solid, two-way link. While it wasn't as satisfying as the full link, it was better than the wireless method. When the connection was solidly established, Big O immediately began transmitting two programs, ones that were too important to risk corrupting by broadcasting. She installed the first and activated it, carefully covering the traces until only someone who knew of its existence would realize it was running.
The second, she left for later. It would bury her memories, which would slowly be returned by means of the first program as they were needed to guide her. "Don't," she gently rebuked her companion. "A promise is a promise."
She felt a wave of loneliness and frustration. He wanted his body back. He loved the power of the giant megadeus he inhabited, and believed in what they were doing but he was also a man, with very human needs. She reminded him of that, when she came to him.
"Soon," she whispered, pouring herself into him until she could no longer clearly sense that they were separate beings. She offered him her memories, activating the ones he chose until they were both lost in them.
It wasn't nearly enough. It never was. Still, it was better than nothing. She slowly withdrew from him until they were only connected by a tenuous thread. "What are you going to choose?" the question formed in her mind.
Despite the sadness, he laughed when she showed him. As had become their custom, she had chosen one memory to keep. They both hated the necessity, but the forgetting was the only way to insure that things happened differently each time.
"I'm going to cut it off right before I tell you yes and get into the car," she told him, and he laughed even harder as he pictured her unknowing self's reaction. It was a good place to end.
"Roger... we'll find it," she said. "We'll find the answer." She imagined them standing together, holding each other, before the cables disconnected and withdrew.
"I love you," she could feel it surrounding her as she rose from the chair and left him, heading straight to her room and what she knew would be waiting.
She was not disappointed. Roger Smith the man was standing there, looking around blankly. She walked over to him and put an arm around his waist.
"You're home!" his words were half-mumbled.
"Yes," she kept her voice soft, not wanting to jar him from the trance he was in. He never remembered consciously, but a part of him somehow always did, and she would find him waiting for her on the first night of her return, no matter what the circumstance. Sometimes she wondered if the man inside the megadeus purposely implanted the command into his human clone's subconscious at the same time he transferred the personality matrix and pertinent memories.
"I'm glad," Roger wrapped his arms around her and leaned down to kiss her.
She melted into his arms, knowing that this, too, she would have to forget. After a long moment she pulled away. "Why don't you go back to bed?" she suggested. "I'll come up soon."
"All right," he permitted her to guide him into the hallway, where Norman was waiting.
"Welcome home, Miss Dorothy," he said quietly, and led Roger away.
She lay back down and ran the second program.
"Miss Dorothy?" the butler was knocking at her door. "It's time."
"Thank you, Norman," she called. She quickly dressed in the clothing she had laid over the back of her easy chair and joined him in the hallway. "You are very kind," she told him, still wondering why he was so determined to take her in.
"Not at all. I'm sure you will be a great help to me," he smiled.
"What do we do first?" she asked, wanting to show her gratitude.
"It's about time to prepare the coffee," he said.
"He's just getting up?" She was somehow not surprised.
"He prefers to sleep in," came the reply.
She nodded and followed Norman to the kitchen. They made the coffee and took the elevator to the penthouse.
"Good morning, Master Roger," the butler spoke loudly enough to be heard out on the balcony.
"Huh?" It was cold enough that she could see his exhalation of surprise at seeing the two of them standing there. She proceeded forward, carefully balancing the cup on the tray she was holding.
She reached him and stopped, staring at him as a sudden memory came sneaking into her consciousness. "You're cute, baby. Want to come home with me?" He grinned at her from the open window of the Gryphon, which he had pulled up to the curb. She felt her mouth curving into a smile and then...
She blinked rapidly, and returned to the present. The memory had to be the result of some kind of glitch, perhaps a combination of the original Dorothy Wayneright's memories and her own. Still, it was just the kind of thing he would do, the louse!
"Norman?" He extended an index finger. "What's this? Why is the android wearing that outfit?"
"I'm overjoyed to have her here," the other man beamed. "She can help me look after you!"
"Wait a minute!" Roger protested, looking astonished. "You mean Dorothy is going to be living with us?"
"It's not because I want to," she informed him coldly. "There's nowhere for me to go. Besides, I owe a debt to you. I have no other means of paying the negotiator service you rendered."
He sighed heavily, knowing he was beaten. "Well, I do have some household rules, Dorothy" he said, taking his coffee. "And while living here, you're obligated to observe every one of them."
"What kind of rules?" she asked.
"The first one is a rule that even I follow," he said. "If you stay here, then you wear black."
She looked around. Her own clothing was black, as was Norman's uniform. He had a severe expression, but she could see his eyes were twinkling. She looked back at Roger. Sure enough, his slipper, pajamas and even his robe were varying shades of black.
She met his eyes. It was high time someone shook Roger Smith out of his complacency, and she was just the woman for the job. "Your sense of fashion, Roger," she said, "really reeks."