The voice called out to her in the darkness. She found it odd, for while the voice was familiar, she had also never heard it before.
She opened her eyes and the darkness was replaced by light. The light shown directly above her and was blinding, but she wasn't bothered and stared at it.
A shadow partially obstructed her view. Turning her head slightly to the right she saw a disheveled old man wearing a lab coat and dark glasses that concealed most of his scarred face. He was smiling and began to gently stroke her hair.
She stared at him. As with his voice his face was oddly familiar. Suddenly a youthful and groomed image of the man appeared in her mind.
She recognized him now.
"Father," she said in an echoed voice.
The old man was overcome with emotion. He stroked her hair with unintentional force as he knelt down and did his best to embrace the naked girl strapped to the laboratory table.
"Yes, Dorothy," the old man wept, his tears falling onto the girl's ivory face. "It's Father. I've brought you back. I've brought you back to me."
The old man couldn't compose himself anymore. He laid his head atop his daughter's shoulder and wept uncontrollably while she resumed staring at the light.
Timothy Wayneright wiped away the last of his tears with his handkerchief as he waited for Dorothy to step out from the screen. He could scarcely believe that after all the years of failure he finally had his daughter back.
"Father, is something wrong?"
Wayneright turned around and smiled at the sight of Dorothy wearing a pink dress with a yellow collar and trimming.
"Nothing is wrong, my child," Wayneright answered as he hobbled towards Dorothy with the assistance of his cane. "In fact, everything is perfect. You've returned to me and I've never been happier."
Dorothy smiled but it vanished as her hand traced the metal strip that ran across her forehead. "I'm pleased that you're happy, Father. But I also feel that...there's something wrong with me."
"Nonsense!" Wayneright scoffed as he took a pink hair band out of his lab coat pocket. "I simply forgot to include this item with your clothes."
Wayneright steadied his hands and locked the hair band onto Dorothy's forehead. "Now do you feel better?"
"No. I still feel strange."
"What you feel is joy!" Wayneright scowled. "Joy for being home. Joy for being with your father!"
"This emotion couldn't be joy," Dorothy said. "It's my memories. I feel...uncertain about them."
Wayneright took Dorothy's hand and smiled. "Is that what troubles you? Oh Dorothy, at times you are such a foolish girl! Once you have settled back into your routine these absurd doubts will fade."
"If you say so, Father," Dorothy said hesitantly.
Wayneright's smile broadened and he embraced the girl. "My daughter is back," he murmured as new tears rolled down his face.
"Where did I go?"
For a moment Wayneright hugged Dorothy tighter, but he pulled away and smiled again. "That's not important right now. All that matters is that we are together."
Dorothy stared at Wayneright as she considered his answer. "Of course, Father."
"Very good. Now, I have a guest whom I'm going to call into this room. He and I have a business deal to settle, so I need you to be quiet. Can you do that, Dorothy?"
Miguel Soldano was still chewing the remains of his casserole dinner as he rushed into the elevator and pushed the top floor button. The stout, old man was anxious to see if Wayneright's sudden phone call meant that he could finally leave this decrepit mansion and return to his beloved factory.
While traveling up, Soldoano recalled some weeks ago when he was visited by a blonde man with a pompadour haircut and wearing a gold business suit who claimed to represent an old colleague who was anxious to make a discreet business deal.
Soldano thought his visitor was mad. He had no memory of any colleague. However it was that Soldano came into possession of a factory, he was convinced that it was the result of his own genius. Soldano slammed his fist onto his desk and ordered the visitor out of his office. The visitor smirked and tossed a business card in front of Soldano. Curiosity got the better of the old man and he picked it up. In gold lettering was the advertisement:
"It looks like I caught you at a bad time," Beck smirked as he combed his hair. "Meet me outside The Nightingale tonight if you want to know the details. I suggest you show up, because opportunities like the one I'm offering drop in just once in a lifetime and you aren't a spring chicken."
The elevator's bell chimed and the doors slid open. Soldano struggled to open the copper plated door to Wayneright's study and ran through it to enter his old colleague's private laboratory.
"Good evening, Miguel," Wayneright said with a wave of his hand. "I'm sorry to have interrupted your meal."
"Forget about that," Soldano said angrily. "Where are the blueprints you promised me?"
"Always the businessman, eh?" Wayneright said as he hobbled towards a desk. "I have them right here."
As Wayneright fumbled with a key, Soldano noticed Dorothy and looked her over with contempt. "Feh. I see you've got that abomination running, Wayneright."
Wayneright spun around. "Shut up, Soldano!"
"I was beginning to think your experiment would never succeed." Soldano continued, ignoring Wayneright's order.
The end of Wayneright's cane struck Soldano on his left temple. The heavier man fell against the laboratory table while Wayneright regained his footing. The two old men stared angrily at each other while Dorothy remained still and quiet.
"You bastard," Wayneright wheezed. "You promised to keep quiet!"
"It was staring at me," Soldano argued. "I was startled!"
Wayneright angrily threw the blueprints at Soldano. They struck his face and fell to the floor where they unraveled. Dorothy looked at them and saw they were schematics for a giant robot. The name was penciled in at the bottom:
"Take them!" Wayneright ordered. "And never return to my home!"
Soldano, keeping his eyes on Wayneright, knelt down and picked up his blueprints, embracing them like a child would a broken toy. "You're mad, Wayneright. At least my creation will benefit Paradigm City."
Soldano rushed out of the laboratory. Wayneright watched him go before he turned to face Dorothy.
"Dorothy. I'm sorry that you..."
"I'm not human." Dorothy said plainly.
"Nonsense!" Wayneright laughed nervously. "Soldano is a jealous fool who insults everyone he meets!"
"No, Father. He's right."
"Don't talk like that, Dorothy!"
"But it's true. Why would a human have metal underneath their skin?" Dorothy asked as she traced her pink hair band. "Most especially, why am I pleased to see you after...a long absence, and yet I'm not crying?"
A defeated expression came over Wayneright's face. He lowered his head and turned to the side; ashamed to face the being he had called his daughter. "It's true. You're not human. You're an android that I designed and built. The memories you have belong to my Dorothy, the daughter who left me 40 years ago."
A petite hand gently took hold of Wayneright's empty hand. Looking up, he saw Dorothy standing before him.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I was afraid," Wayneright said carefully, "Of your reaction. I didn't know how you would respond if you discovered you are an android."
"But I am still your daughter," Dorothy reassured. "Whether I am human or an android, you created me. Therefore you are my Father."
A smile appeared on Wayneright's face and he patted Dorothy's hand. "Well spoken, Dorothy! You always were a clever girl! Now come along, it's very late and I want to explain the new household rules before you go to bed."
Wayneright turned and hobbled to the elevator. Dorothy was still for a moment and followed the old man out of the laboratory.
"Father," Dorothy asked. "Will you tell me what happened to the real Dorothy?"
Wayneright's hand froze over the light switch. "Let's be on our way, child," he said before turning off the laboratory's light.
Dorothy's life promised to be exactly as her father assured: routine. Part of that was because of the household rules. Dorothy could not leave the mansion without Wayneright. While they were out in public Wayneright would identify himself as her 'grandfather.' Every Friday they would go to The Nightingale for an evening of fine dining and music. She had to sing to Wayneright every evening. Lastly, and the most important rule of all, Dorothy was forbidden from setting foot on the seventh floor of the mansion.
Dorothy thought the rules were odd but she promised to obey them. After a tour of the decrepit mansion that concluded at her room, Dorothy spent the day cleaning the mansion's dusty rooms while her father withdrew to his main study on the fifth floor. Obedience did not lessen her loneliness or the budding memory of a handsome, dark-haired man whose name and face she couldn't place. She didn't know what this man had meant to the real Dorothy, or why she had the need to be at his side. She was an android, with the memories of a lost girl inside her mind. Even if she were to find this man, wouldn't he easily identify her for the android she was? Dorothy decided it was best to devote her time to father instead of a shadowy figure from a human girl's past.
That evening an electric bell rang in the main study. Dorothy walked inside to find her father seated in a wing chair reading a hardback novel.
"Do you wish to see me, Father?" Dorothy asked.
Wayneright placed a bookmark in his novel and smiled at his android daughter. "Yes, Dorothy. I would like for you to sing."
Dorothy appeared stoic but internally she was apprehensive. Singing for her father every night was one of the household rules, but she had been too occupied with the memory of the shadowy stranger to dwell on it.
"Father," Dorothy said unsteadily. "I don't want to sing."
Wayneright's stooped low in his wing chair as he gave a disappointed sigh. "Dorothy, I was so looking forward to hearing you sing. I remember you having such a lovely singing voice."
"I don't believe that I can sing."
Wayneright smiled. "I know that you can. Sing. Please."
Dorothy closed her eyes and wondered if she should try singing or just run out of the room.
"Dorothy?" Wayneright asked, baffled by his android daughter's behavior.
Dorothy opened her eyes and stared at her father, who looked even frailer and older sitting in his study filled with books.
She began to sing. Her voice traveling like mist across a lake. As Dorothy's song continued she often closed her eyes and smiled, appearing even more like a real girl than a mechanical imitation. When her song had ended, Dorothy was slightly trembling.
"Bravo, Dorothy," Wayneright applauded. "Your singing is as pristine and beautiful as it ever was."
"I didn't know I could sing," Dorothy said with rising fear. "I knew the real Dorothy could, but I didn't know I could sing too."
"It's like riding a bike, my child. Once you've learned how..."
"Father!" Dorothy shouted with her hands clenched together. "What happened to the real Dorothy? Where's Mother? Why can't we remember what happened 40 years ago?"
Wayneright rose out of his chair and hobbled over to one of the floor length windows. "I have regained most of my memories, Dorothy," he said while brushing back the drapery. "But I don't remember what became of my other daughter and her mother. Perhaps some things are best left forgotten."
Dorothy considered Wayneright's answer and placed her arms to her sides, her dour composure returned. "May I retire for the evening, Father?"
The old man was still facing the window as he lowered his head. Dorothy took it as consent to leave so she walked out of the study. Her bedroom was on the next floor. After changing into a white nightgown, Dorothy climbed into her canopy bed and stared at the ceiling. Moments after her systems shut down for the night she dreamt of attending a social gathering in a violet dress, hair band, and opera gloves. She walked on the arm of the dark-haired man, clad in a black suit and silver-striped necktie. They were inseparable, often dancing or whispering to each other. The man escorted Dorothy outside and they walked through a vast garden. They came to an iron-wrought bench and sat there, holding hands while gazing up at the stars in the clear, night sky. Their stillness ended when Dorothy's companion took her hand, and the two went from stargazing to gazing into each other's eyes.
"I've missed you so much," he said sadly.
"I've missed you too," Dorothy confessed. "My Father practically locked me in the music room with my songbooks ever since you were transferred to his latest project."
The man smiled and caressed her cheek. "If only I had known. I would've climbed into that iron giant and rescued my little Nightingale."
Dorothy giggled. "Father designed it. How do you know he doesn't have a kill switch installed?"
"We would've found it already. There's a particularly intelligent engineer overseeing the construction. He ought to be intelligent, he's English."
"I don't care who constructs it, as long as it keeps you safe."
"Again, we concur."
Dorothy angrily moved away from her companion. "You're a louse!"
The man raised an eyebrow in mock alarm. "Hmph. No woman has ever called me that before."
"Then you better get used to it," Dorothy groused, looking up at the stars.
"I intend to," he said gently. "I enjoy having you with me."
Dorothy looked at her companion and smiled. He drew her into his arms and she rested her head against his chest. "Thank you for saying that," she said happily.
"It's the truth," he whispered as he smoothed her auburn hair. "What would I do without you? Who would I be?"
An hour after breakfast Dorothy and Wayneright stepped out of the mansion and into the waiting limousine. Wayneright had promised to take Dorothy to the tailors for a new dress, followed by a walk through the Park Dome. The limousine pulled out of the circular driveway, past the gate, and onto the streets of Paradigm City.
"Paradigm," Dorothy said while gazing out the limousine window. "What an odd name. From where did it originate?"
"The city is named after the Paradigm Corporation," Wayneright answered while checking his pocket watch. "An old associate, Gordon Rosewater, founded the company. Now his pretentious son, Alex, is in charge."
"There are so many domes in this city, Father. What are they for?"
"To separate the haves from the have-nots, my child. The wealthiest families reside in the domes. They are temperature-controlled environments and are routinely patrolled by the military police. We would live in the domes too, if my work did not require the privacy that our mansion provides."
Dorothy placed her hands atop her lap and lowered her head. The man from the real Dorothy's memories sometimes wore a military police uniform. She felt that it was dangerous to ask a straightforward question, so she chose to be deceptive. "Father, were either of the Rosewaters' members of the military police?"
Wayneright shot a startled look at his android daughter. "Of course not. How preposterous! Why would you ask such a question?"
"Because the military police guard the domes' residents," Dorothy explained. "If a Rosewater was once among them, it would explain why they are so loyal."
Wayneright laughed. "The military police are loyal to the Rosewaters' because they are like monkeys! Howling, mindless beasts that do whatever their master commands!"
Dorothy stared ahead and said nothing. Wayneright was likewise silent, but he occasionally cast thoughtful glances at Dorothy as the limousine sped down the street and into one of the domes.
By midday, Dorothy had been measured for a red dress taken from a photograph Wayneright carried in his wallet. Dorothy remembered her human predecessor wearing that dress, and she found it to be lovely. The tailor promised the dress would be ready by the weekend, so Wayneright said they would leave the limousine behind and go for their walk. Visitors to the Park Dome were few at this hour. Most of the people that the Waynerights' saw were the park sanitation crews raking up the red and gold leaves.
"How did things come to be like this?" Dorothy asked, looking at the city skyline. "These domes divide the population, much of the city is in ruins, and we have no contact with the outside world."
"Feh!" Wayneright grumbled. "There is no outside world. I'm sure of that! This wretched city is all that remains to prove that humanity still exists!"
Dorothy stared at her feet and continued to walk alongside her father in silence. Wayneright occasionally stopped to point out a landmark or a bird chirping atop a tree limb, but Dorothy paid no attention. She wished that her father hadn't built her so perfectly, to experience emotions and the pain that accompanied them. Dorothy clasped her hands together, brought them up to her chest, and stared again at the city skyline as she contemplated how lonely she truly was.
An explosion roared from across the river. Dorothy turned and saw a giant, crimson robot with a skull face and a golden eagle perched atop its head, rising out of the ground and marching towards Paradigm City. Sirens blared across the city and the few citizens inside the Park Dome started to run for safety.
Dorothy was grabbed by the shoulders and was spun to her right to see Wayneright screaming. "Dorothy! We must get out of here quickly!"
"Father! What is happening?"
Wayneright didn't answer and began hobbling towards one of the park exits, dragging Dorothy behind him. The android girl looked behind her to see the crimson robot wading across the river, its dead eyes glowing red while artillery shells fired from military police tanks exploded harmlessly upon it's massive frame. Dorothy suddenly felt a tug on her arm that pitched her downwards, but the weight slackened and she regained her balance. Looking down at her feet, she saw that Wayneright had tripped and lay sprawled and unconscious on the concrete path.
Laser beams from the crimson robot's eyes struck the Park Dome, shattering the glass and tearing across the grounds. Dorothy threw herself on top of Wayneright as shards of glass and pieces of iron beams fell around them. She looked up when then the last of the debris landed, and saw that a fire was spreading across the trees. Looking again for the crimson robot, Dorothy was horrified to see that it had now stepped on land, its jaw opened wide and black smoke billowed out, floating below and spreading through the city streets. Through her amplified hearing, Dorothy heard hundreds of people gagging and screaming for help - the cloud was poisonous.
"Father!" Dorothy cried as she shook Wayneright. "Wake up!"
A loud, crushing sound filled the shattered Park Dome. Dorothy sat up and held Wayneright close as she watched the crimson robot tear a path through the iron framework as it stepped inside. The robot looked down at the two figures lying in the center of the park and began walking towards them, with an extended hand. Dorothy closed her eyes and hugged her father as she braced for the robot's grasp.
Her eyes shot open when the ground began to rumble.
An explosion roared several yards behind her. Dorothy turned around and saw a dark shadow rising into the sky. When the smoke cleared it revealed the shadow to be a giant, black robot with cylindrical arms. Dorothy's eyes widened as she recognized the new robot, but couldn't understand why.
The crimson robot meanwhile, took a few steps backwards and regarded its opponent. Deciding to attack, it fired its laser beams. The black robot easily deflected the beams with its forearms. Then the black robot stepped forward, its right arm poised to strike. A piston rose from its elbow in a puff of steam and when its fist connected with the crimson robot's face, shot back into the arm, doubling the impact of the blow. The crimson robot was lifted off its feet and flew across the Park Dome, landing in front of the entrance it had torn from the iron framework.
The black robot walked past the Waynerights as Dorothy stood up, still cradling her unconscious father and her eyes on their savior.
>From atop the rubble rose the crimson robot, its skull face marked with cracks and missing teeth. Compartments on its legs opened and it produced two poles, one of which ended with a cylinder. When the robot connected the poles, segments sprouted from the cylinder and took the form of a scythe.
The crimson robot charged and swung its weapon while the black robot raised its left arm to block the strike. Sparks flew as the scythe made a deep cut along the black robot's forearm. The crimson robot swung the scythe a second time, but the black robot grabbed the weapon. Both robots struggled for the scythe until the black one threw the invader back and out of the Park Dome. The black robot stepped outside, while Dorothy followed in its shadow.
The crimson robot angrily leaped to its feet, its dead eyes burning red again. Laser beams shot out of them, but they were blocked this time by the black robots own laser beams, which proved to be more powerful. The crimson robot was struck in the eyes and the back of its head exploded and the golden eagle atop it fell to the ground. The crimson robot blindly swung its scythe as it stumbled towards its victorious opponent, whose own forehead began to glow. A powerful laser beam shot from it and hit the invader's chest, boring a destructive path through it that ended with the explosion of the crimson robot.
Dorothy silently watched the burning remnants of the crimson robot until she heard her father coughing. She gently laid him on the ground and took hold of his hand. "Father, are you all right?"
"I'm...fine, child." Wayneright coughed. "Where is the megadeus?"
"Megadeus? Is that what giant robots are called?" Dorothy asked. "It tried to capture us, but a black megadeus burst out of the ground and saved us."
Wayneright suddenly gripped Dorothy's hand. "Did you say a black megadeus?"
"Yes, Father. It's standing in front of us."
Wayneright sat up and looked at the black megadeus who still had its back to the Waynerights. The old man's expression slowly changed from shock to anger.
"I know that megadeus, Father," Dorothy said. "It's never appeared in the real Dorothy's memories but somehow I know it."
Wayneright struggled to his feet, pulling Dorothy up along with him. "Come, Dorothy," he ordered. "We're going home this instant."
The old man, pulling Dorothy behind him, hobbled away from the battlefield. Dorothy wanted to ask her father why he was acting so strangely, but she couldn't speak. An explosion roared behind her and she turned around to see the black megadeus sinking into the ground. When the smoke cleared, the black megadeus was gone.
"First I must retrieve my cane," Wayneright grumbled as he tried not to put so much weight on his frail leg. "Then we'll walk back to the limousine. That driver better not of fled after the tip I gave him to wait."
The limousine in fact, had remained where the Waynerights had left it. The driver was pacing beside the car, nervously smoking what had to be his fourth cigarette judging by the discarded ones lying at his feet. When he saw the Waynerights he tossed his smoke to the ground and opened the limousine door.
"Oh wow, you folks are alive!" the driver said with relief. "I didn't know if I should get a cop or call my company or just leave! Hey, did you see the black megadeus destroy that thing? Man, this town's lucky that he always shows up..."
Wayneright shoved the driver out of the way. "Shut up and drive us home!"
The drive back to the mansion was indeed quiet. Dorothy helped her exhausted father up the front steps and into the drawing room, where he collapsed into a chair.
"Father, you know something about that black megadeus," Dorothy stated. "I want to know what it is."
"I know nothing about that damned robot," Wayneright panted.
"You clearly recognized it. Either you have regained another fragment of your lost memory or your memory isn't entirely lost."
Wayneright's fist slammed onto the chair's armrest. "I said I don't know anything about it!" he shouted. "Don't ever question me again, Dorothy! Now leave me alone!"
Dorothy stood silent and impassive as Wayneright slumped in his chair and fell asleep. She walked out of the drawing room and into the lobby. As she walked to the elevator she noticed a portrait of the real Dorothy Wayneright hanging by the front door. Dorothy studied it for several minutes. She was almost a perfect reflection of her human predecessor: the only differences were that she had a pale complexion and violet eyes.
"What happened to you, Dorothy?" the android girl asked as she walked towards the portrait. "Are you somewhere in Paradigm City or did you escape to the outside world?"
Silence was the reply.
"Do you remember what this city was like before the domes were built?" Dorothy continued. "What is your connection to the black megadeus?"
Dorothy now stood before the portrait and gently traced the figure's shoulder with her fingertips. "And what about the man in your memories, Dorothy? You both loved each other dearly, but what became of you two?"
Dorothy closed her eyes and lowered her head in shame. When she looked up again, she leaned in closer, as if she was whispering a dark secret to a best friend. "I dreamt, Dorothy, that I replaced you in your last memory. Your mysterious friend and I attended the ball and we danced and gazed up at the stars. At the end he held me close and confessed how badly he needed me. It was a sweet, beautiful dream.
It's true that your memories inspired my dream, but it was my own emotions that made it soar. Ever since your memories of this man came to light I have experienced many emotions: curiosity, need, comfort, faith, and the most splendid one of all, love."
Dorothy stopped tracing her fingertips along the portrait's shoulder and placed her palm upon it. "Please don't hate me, Dorothy," the android girl begged. "But I'm in love with him. I want my dream to become reality.
There may be clues to his identity on the seventh floor of the mansion Father forbade me from entering. Tomorrow while Father is working in his laboratory I'll check the rooms, but first I'll sneak out and speak with Soldano. He must know something. Not everyone in Paradigm City could possibly have lost their memories.
I have just one worry: can a human return the love of an android? I don't want to continue this masquerade, and he would discover the truth about me eventually. I may resemble you, and retain your memories, but I am an individual, and I deserve to be loved for my own merits."
The android girl shook her head sadly. "I must sound cruel, don't I, Dorothy? I'm sorry. I only want to know how it feels to love and be loved, to be held and listen to endearments, to be content and be the reason for another's contentment."
The minutes slipped by as Dorothy continued staring at the portrait, awaiting a reply that would never come. "Whatever you may think of me, Dorothy," the android girl whispered, "I hope that you understand."
As Dorothy took her hand away from the portrait, it suddenly crashed to the floor. The android girl looked down at the portrait surrounded by its shattered glass and wooden frame before she walked to the elevator.
The next morning found Wayneright in his laboratory as Dorothy anticipated, so she prepared to sneak out and meet Soldano. First she telephoned information and got the address for Soldano's factory. Then she telephoned a taxi service. Lasty she crept into Wayneright's bedroom and took from his wallet enough money to cover her expedition. Before closing the wallet, Dorothy noticed the photograph of her human predecessor that Wayneright showed to the tailor. After a moment's reflection, she slipped the photograph out of its plastic covering. Dorothy, clad in a light green dress with a gray collar and hair band, walked outside to await the taxi.
The taxi pulled up at a vast complex with a tall building labeled "13" in the center. Dorothy entered the main building and froze at the sight of a nearly completed megadeus set onto a large frame, with half a dozen spider androids crawling across it, welding the metal plates and connecting the circuitry.
An elevator descended from the catwalk. The gate opened and Soldano stepped out, anger emblazoned across his face.
"You!" Soldano shouted as he stormed towards Dorothy. "How dare you interrupt my work?"
"I'm sorry for disturbing you," Dorothy said plainly. "But I have a few questions that I hope you might answer."
Soldano froze in his tracks and smirked at the android girl. "Questions, eh?
Fine then. I could use a few minutes of levity. Ask your questions."
"What do you remember of Paradigm City?"
Soldano shrugged with indifference. "Nothing from 40 years ago, the same as everyone else."
"What about your friendship with my Father?"
Soldano chuckled and shook his head. "Wayneright is no friend of mine! He claimed that he and I were colleagues 40 years ago, but the man is clearly deranged. How else can I explain why he'd want to create you? I only accepted to fund your construction because he offered me the megadeus blueprints."
Dorothy looked again at the megadeus. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Soldano gazing at it with reverence.
"I almost pity Wayneright, wasting his genius on a monstrosity when he could have built this example of engineering perfection. No matter. I have built Dorothy and in due time she will be at the forefront of Paradigm City's expansion into the wilderness!"
Dorothy ignored Soldano's insults and got to her real question. "Mr. Soldano, do you have any memory of a man in black?"
The old man spun around, a baffled look on his face. "What? A man in black?"
Dorothy's audio sensors rose and a small smile formed on her lips. "Yes. This man often appears in the memories my Father gave me. I don't know who he is, but he's definitely a man of importance. I was hoping you had a clue to his identity."
Soldano blinked a few times and began to laugh. "Oh this is amusing! An android rambling about memories!"
Dorothy's smile faded and her stoic visage returned.
"You aren't supposed to worry about memories!" Soldano continued. "An android should know that better than a human! Whatever memories Wayneright gave you were merely to help your assimilation into society!"
"Please answer my question," Dorothy said, her tone higher than usual.
"No, I don't remember a man in black," Soldano answered bitterly. "Just as I don't remember what happened 40 years ago, or your mad creator! My only concern is Dorothy's construction, which you have kept me from long enough! Good day!"
"All work and no play makes Soldano a dull boy," a voice said.
Soldano and Dorothy looked in the voice's direction to see Jason Beck leaning against his car, his arms folded behind his head.
"Of all the intolerable..." Soldano grumbled.
"Smaller words please, Mr. Soldano," Beck chided, "There's a lady present."
"I have a factory to run!"
"I'm quite aware of that," Beck grinned as he walked towards Soldano and Dorothy. "This is just a courtesy call. I always like to see how the persons involved in my negotiations are doing after they've reached an agreement."
"I'm doing well," Soldano said curtly. "Now pardon me, I have a megadeus to build."
Beck brought a hand level to his eyes and whistled in awe at the megadeus. "That's a big toy. Are you planning on sharing it with the rest of the kids, Mr. Soldano?"
Soldano grumbled angrily. "You are wasting my time, Beck!"
"That's what you said the last time we met, and look at the result."
"If I said my thanks, will you leave me to my work?"
Beck waved his hands in alarm. "No thanks are necessary, Soldano. You could however, introduce me to this young lady."
Beck turned to Dorothy and grinned. Dorothy remained silent but looked unimpressed.
Soldano blinked in shock. "Young lady? That certainly isn't a lady!"
Dorothy looked at Soldano for a moment and again at Beck. "I'm his daughter," she said.
"What?" Soldano cried in shock. "That's not true! You're nothing to me!"
"Father, you are so cruel. What have I done to earn your hatred?"
"Madness!" Soldano cried. "All madness!"
Beck bit his lower lip as he watched Soldano from the corner of his eye. "He's not playing with a full deck," he muttered. "I hope I never end up like that."
"Are you pests going to leave or do I have to call the military police?"
"I was just on my way out," Beck said before turning again to Dorothy. "Can I drive you home?" he said with a grin.
"I have a taxi waiting," Dorothy said as she walked away.
"Fine then," Beck said with a wave. "A pleasure to meet you...Ms. Soldano."
When Dorothy returned to the mansion, she found that Wayneright was still inside his laboratory. Deciding that now was as good a time as any, she returned to the elevator and pressed the button for the seventh floor.
The elevator doors opened and Dorothy stepped into darkness. She pressed her temple and her hair band slid out along with the CD tray that it covered. The light generated by her artificial mind now illuminated her surroundings. She silently looked at the dusty tile floor, the scraps of debris along the hallway, and the windows covered by metal plates. It was likely that no one had set foot on this floor of the mansion for several years.
Dorothy then realized she was walking up the hallway as if she was drawn to a particular location. She stopped at a door and with a trembling hand, opened the door, turned on the lights and stepped inside. Her eyes widened at the sight of the familiar furniture and linens now threadbare and covered with dust. She was in the bedroom of the real Dorothy Wayneright.
With cautious steps the android girl walked towards the closet room and slowly opened the doors. Hanging from the racks on either side were numerous moth-eaten dresses. Dorothy ran her fingers along the decayed fabrics, bits of them falling to the floor where they landed onto a small collection of dress shoes. Dorothy stepped back when she touched the violet dress from her dream and after a moment's hesitation, brought it into the bedroom where she held it in front of the dressing mirror in the corner. Flashes of the real Dorothy modeling the dress, twirling and giggling in anticipation for her date with the mysterious man in black, ran through her mind. Dorothy suddenly dropped the dress and fell to her knees. Her hands covered her mouth as she looked back at the mirror and her frightened reflection.
The reflection of an azure box caught her eye and she spun around. The box was at the foot of the canopy bed and it was decorated with navy fringe. Dorothy crawled towards the box and held it in her arms. Inside was a matching azure pillow and several gray hairs. Memories of a gray kitten playing with a ball of string or sleeping on the real Dorothy's lap came to mind just as the ones of the violet dress. The android girl plucked a few gray hairs from the kitten's bed and held them in the palm of her hand. "Pero," she whispered sadly.
After a few moments of mourning, Dorothy looked at the bookcase beside one of the draped windows. She walked over to it and studied the titles on the bindings. They were mostly songbooks, piano notebooks, instructional books for both skills, and romance novels. Without knowing why, Dorothy grabbed one songbook and opened it to the middle. When the dust cloud settled she saw a folded piece of paper. Dorothy sat down on the canopy bed and unfolded the paper, and found it was a letter written in a flowing hand.
Another day of piloting the black megadeus is done and though I ought to be resting I can't because I can't stop thinking of you.
You pester my mind, Dorothy. I can clearly see your beautiful face, hear your melodious voice, and feel your light frame in my arms. I suppose others would call you a distraction, but you remind me of what I'm striving to protect, and of what I have waiting for me when this war is over. I regret that we didn't have more time together before I returned to base, but I especially regret upsetting you because of my argument with your father. You've repeatedly told me to be patient with his temper and insults, but I couldn't let his last tirade go unchallenged. I would never cast you aside, Dorothy. I love you with all my heart and spirit.
Your father has been on the base quite often. I doubt if he's told you but I refuse to see him. I don't mean to insult him; I'm only trying to avoid another argument. I've been told that your father and the engineer argue frequently, especially when he's shown any modification blueprints that the engineer personally designed.
As for the black megadeus itself, the test runs have exceeded the brass' expectations. I'm not permitted to describe its offensive capabilities, but they are extraordinary! My one complaint is that it's too slow, but I'd rather pilot it than drive a squad car any day! I'm confident that the black megadeus can defeat whatever threat the Union throws at our country.
I suppose it's all this preparation for battle that has me thinking about you, Dorothy, because it's made me reflect on my life and my decisions. Perhaps it was foolish of me to reject my family's fortune and pursue a military career. Perhaps still, I was foolish to accept this mission of piloting the black megadeus, but I made a pledge long ago to protect those who can't protect themselves and I will not shirk from that no matter what the challenge.
I'm making a new pledge, Dorothy. I pledge myself to your eternal happiness. When this war is over I'll return to you and we'll never be separated again. If you want I'll resign my commission and lead the life of an ordinary financier. I believe that I can tolerate the mundane business of my Father and his pompous contemporaries if the reward is evenings spent listening to your melodious voice while you stand upon a concert stage, and nights spent holding you in my arms while you sleep.
Until that beautiful dream becomes a reality, keep safe, my Nightingale.
All my love,
A smile graced the android girl's face as she traced the signature with her fingertips. "Roger," she said happily.
"What are you doing in here?" a voice roared.
Dorothy leapt to her feet and spun around. Standing at the door was an enraged Timothy Wayneright.
"Nothing," Dorothy answered as she hid the letter behind her back.
"The alarm rang downstairs," Wayneright said as he hobbled towards Dorothy, "At first I thought it was burglars, but I never thought it was my loyal daughter!"
Dorothy stared at Wayneright in silence.
"I told you never to set foot on this floor!" Wayneright shouted as he grabbed Dorothy's arm. "You've disobeyed me!"
"I'm sorry, Father," Dorothy whimpered while Wayneright shook her.
"Shut up! You were reading something. I want to see what it was!"
"I wasn't reading anything, Father!" Dorothy cried.
Wayneright slapped Dorothy across her face.
"Liar!" Wayneright screamed as his hand bled. "Give me that letter!"
Dorothy reluctantly gave the letter to Wayneright, who skimmed through it and crushed it in his fist.
Dorothy stared at Wayneright in disbelief.
"I may have acted harsh, child," Wayneright said. "But it was for..."
"Shut up!" Dorothy screamed.
Wayneright, surprised by Dorothy's anger, stepped back.
"How could you hit me?" Dorothy asked as she trembled. "Is it because I'm not your real daughter and just her artificial replacement?"
"I didn't want to strike you," Wayneright said defensively. "If you had just listened..."
"I have listened to you! But have you ever listened to what I have to say? I must know the truth behind these memories you've given me! I won't remain your doll!"
"I've never seen you as my doll!"
"Is that so, Father?" Dorothy asked; her hands clenched in grief. "Then I suppose it's true that you were concerned with my reaction to being an android?"
Wayneright reached out to console Dorothy, but his arm dropped to his side.
"I knew it," Dorothy said. "You're no different from Soldano. I hate you!"
Dorothy walked past Wayneright, entered the elevator, and returned to her own room, where she locked the door and fell onto her bed. Holding a pillow in her arms, she stared into space. If the android girl could cry she would be doing just that.
The morning sunlight poured into the main study where Wayneright sat in his wing chair with the newspaper. He chuckled as he read the headline:
EXPLOSIONS ROCK FACTORY
INDUSTRIALIST MIGUEL SOLDANO, REFUSES TO COOPERATE
Dorothy, still wearing her light green dress, entered the study unnoticed. "She died, didn't she?" the android girl asked.
Wayneright slowly looked up from the newspaper. "What did you say?" he asked meekly.
"The real Dorothy died 40 years ago," the android girl reasoned. "But your daughter was your world so you've spent all these years trying to bring her back through technology and I'm the result."
Tears began to run down Wayneright's scarred face. "Yes. My Dorothy died. I hated that I could create things humanity can only imagine, but I couldn't save my own daughter, so I spent years and my fortune designing artificial duplicates of her and improving robotics even as my memory began to fail. There were many failures but somehow, when I created you, everything was perfect."
"You were devoted to her."
"My daughter was beautiful and talented," Wayneright muttered as he wiped the tears away with a handkerchief. "She would've been a singer or a pianist. I would've seen that her dreams came true."
"Tell me about Roger," Dorothy asked after a moment's silence.
Wayneright threw the newspaper to the floor. "He wasn't worthy of my daughter! He was just a playboy out to make her his latest conquest!"
Dorothy walked over to the fireplace and gazed into the small fire. "Father, the real Dorothy purposely hid that letter in her songbook. What did you do with it?"
"I burned it!" Wayneright answered. "Just as I did with all the other letters he wrote to her!"
"I expected that you did," Dorothy said as she searched inside her dress pocket. She produced an old photograph and held it up for Wayneright to see.
"What...what is that?" Wayneright asked, leaning forward for a better look.
"It's the picture of the real Dorothy that you keep in your wallet," Dorothy answered. "I took it along with some money. I'm not sure why I took it. Perhaps I wanted her spirit to guide me on my search for answers."
Dorothy looked at the photograph of her human predecessor and held it out to Wayneright. "This photograph is dear to you, isn't it Father?"
Wayneright nodded and reached for the photograph. "Yes, it is."
"Just as those letters were dear to the real Dorothy,"
And with that, the android girl crushed the photograph in her fist and tossed it into the fire.
"No!" Wayneright screamed, leaping to his feet. "What have you done?"
The old man hobbled towards the fireplace and reached for the burning sphere of paper. Dorothy placed her hands against his shoulders and effortlessly held him back.
"Let me go!" Wayneright screamed as he frantically tried to break free. "It's burning! I've got to save it! I can still save it!"
Dorothy watched impassively as the sphere crumbled into ash. Only then did she let Wayneright go. The old man grabbed the shovel from the fire stand and dug out the smoldering remnants and stamped it out with his foot. Wayneright knelt down and scoured through the ashes, desperately searching for scraps of the photograph.
"It's gone," Wayneright wept as the ashes slipped through his fingers. "It's gone." He slowly turned and looked up at Dorothy.
"You," Wayneright said with rising anger. "You rotten collection of metal..." Wayneright couldn't continue and looked down at the ashes on the floor.
"Goodbye, Father," Dorothy said as she walked towards the doorway.
"Where...where are you going?" Wayneright stammered.
"I'm going outside. There's a man that I must find. The man from the real Dorothy's memories, the man that I love."
Wayneright didn't react and continued staring into the ashes. Dorothy couldn't be certain if he had heard her, but decided to leave him alone. Dorothy stepped out of the mansion and started walking towards the nearest dome. It was as good a place as any to begin her search for Roger.
Across the street from the Wayneright mansion a gold painted car growled to life and slowly followed Dorothy.
"We'll grab her once the coast is clear," Jason Beck told his gang. "Remember don't hurt her. This babe is our ticket to the big time."