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Belonging

Part 2

"This is for me?" Dorothy looked around, surprised and pleased. "My own rooms? Mine?"

Roger grinned. "All yours." He was relieved that she seemed to be pleased. "We didn't put in much furniture because we thought you might want to choose how to decorate it. There's quite a bit of furniture in storage, you might find some things there, and Mrs. Tanner will take you shopping for the rest." The head housekeeper enjoyed spending time with Dorothy and had been enthusiastic at the idea of having a "girls' day out", as she put it.

"Whatever I want?" she asked, flitting from one window to the next as she examined the room from every possible angle.

"Within reason," he said. "Mrs. Tanner will help you work out your budget, she's really looking forward to it." 

"It will be fun!" She suddenly froze as a thought struck her. "Roger? Does this mean I can't come into your room any more?"

"No, of course not," he said quickly, remembering what his grandfather had said. "You can sleep where you like. I just thought it was about time you had a place of your own. Remember that night I had a cold and I was snoring so loudly that you couldn't even concentrate on a book? Now you can just let me snore and go off to read in peace."

"That will be nice," she agreed. "Or I can go there if I want to do something noisy that might wake you up."

"Exactly," he said, trying to emphasize the positive aspects. "You might just want someplace quiet to think where no one will bother you."

"Will you have to knock before you come in?" she asked, enchanted by the idea.

"Of course," he told her. "This is your private space. Everyone will have to knock."

"Thank you, Roger," she threw her arms around him in a delighted hug.

"You're welcome," he hugged her back, glad that she was taking it well.

"It's almost time for you to leave," she informed him after re-examining the rooms thoroughly. "The car will be ready to take you to the airport in a half an hour."

"I guess I better make sure I have everything, then," he said. 

"You do, I checked," she said a little sadly. "I still wish I could come with you."

"I know," he said. "But you can't, and by the looks of it, you'll have plenty to keep you busy while I am gone."

"It's going to be fun," her expression brightened a little as she thought of all the planned activities. 

"Of course it will," he reassured her. "I'll come back and your date book will be so full that I'll have to make an appointment to see you." She laughed at that and returned to his rooms with him, checking the suitcases one last time at his insistence.

Everything was in order, so they proceeded to the door. "Don't let Grandfather get into too much trouble," he admonished.

"I won't," she promised. She raised her face to his for a kiss, seeming a bit disappointed when he solemnly gave her a light peck on the cheek. The warmth of his hug left nothing to be desired, though. The car pulled up to the door and honked, and he left without further delay. 

She stood staring out the window long after the car had disappeared from sight, trying to analyze what she was feeling. "Has he left?" she started as she heard Alex's voice behind her.

"Yes, a little while ago," she answered politely. Although he had apologized to her the day after he had lost his temper and damaged her so badly, she knew he had done so at Gordon's insistence, not because he really had any regret for what he had done. She thoroughly disliked him now and avoided him whenever possible. Although she hadn't mentioned it to anyone, she knew that Alex watched her when no one was looking. She would be going about her business, and suddenly she would feel his eyes on her. Mrs. Tanner had told her that the uncomfortable feeling it gave her was called "the creeps" but mercifully hadn't asked many questions.

"So, they gave you rooms of your own, did they?" Alex said conversationally. "Roger must be getting tired of you."

Her eyes narrowed. "Roger said that I deserved to have a place of my own," she told him. "I can choose who comes in. I don't think I will let you come in, even if you knock."

"Of course he would say that," he said, ignoring the attempt at an insult. "He doesn't want to hurt your feelings or go through another one of your little tantrums."

"Roger wouldn't lie to me," she said firmly. "He loves me and I make him happy."

"If you made him that happy, he would want you to stay with him," he said. "He's just trying to be nice about it." When he saw the shadow of doubt cross her face, he pushed a little further. "He wouldn't even give you a proper kiss goodbye. If he really wanted you, he would have brought you with him."

"He has to go to meetings and I would have to wait alone in the hotel room. He and Grandfather both said that wasn't very fair to me." She didn't sound as sure of herself this time.

"You can believe what you like," he said airily. "I bet he couldn't wait to get away and find himself a real woman." He left the room and headed upstairs, keeping his back to her so she wouldn't see his self-satisfied smirk. He had come up with a plan, and it seemed as though it was going to work. All he need to do was unbalance her a bit more, and her behavior would become so erratic that Roger would get frustrated and lose interest. A chuckle escaped him as the door closed safely behind him.

Dorothy stood there for a long time after, trying to understand the cause of the pure rage that had filled her at the thought of Roger with someone else.

***

"Grandfather, Big O says there is something wrong with the new piston on the left side," Dorothy told him after communicating at length with the giant Megadeus. 

Norman had no idea if she was actually talking to the Big O or simply personifying the information she was getting, but he did know that if she said there was something wrong, there was. "Oh dear. Does he know what it is?"

She spoke and was answered in a brief burst. "There is a bad connection in the main wires, one of the bolts on the upper elbow holder plate was too small and fell out inside. He says if we try to test the piston, the bolt will cause a problem and since there is only one bolt on the plate, the wires are getting stretched too much and its interrupting the signals." There was another sudden set of sounds and she nodded. "I'm going to move the left arm, please stand clear"

Norman moved to a safe distance as she climbed to the control room, still chattering away at the Megadeus. She started the upper left engines, moving the arm slowly and carefully until it was lifted parallel to the ground and the elbow was bent so that the hand was almost touching the right arm. "I see it now," he shouted to her when the area she was speaking of became visible. "Let's secure it."

She powered the engines back down and climbed out and onto the arm. Norman found the guide ropes to two of the slings that dangled from a complex slider system suspended from the ceiling. He dragged them to within Dorothy's reach and she grabbed them, maneuvering one of the slings to just below Big O's elbow and placing another around his wrist. She hauled on the chains until they were taut and flipped the locking mechanisms closed so that there was no danger of the arm accidentally being released and crashing down unexpectedly. 

"Dorothy, don't," Norman began, but she was already sliding down the free end of one of the guide ropes. "Don't do that," he said sternly when she touched ground. "It might break on you."

"If it's strong enough to drag all those chains and pulleys around, it's strong enough to hold me," she observed. "It's much faster than trying to get down to the stairs."

"I mean it" he said, refusing to be swayed. "How would I explain your lengthy stay at the service center to Roger? He'd have my head."

"Why would he blame you?" Dorothy asked curiously.

"Because I am supposed to be keeping an eye on you," he answered. She picked up the heavy toolbox and put it on the lift. "Thank you, dear."

"Why do you need to keep an eye on me?" she wondered aloud, climbing on to the lift with him as he moved it into position underneath Big O's elbow.

"Because you are still developing good judgment," Norman said patiently, chuckling a little to himself as her manner brought him back to the days when Gordon and then Alex and Roger were quite small and full of endless questions. He pressed a button and the lift began to rise.

"How long will that take?" she inquired over the whine of the machinery.

"I don't know," he said truthfully. He locked the lift into place and shut down the power. "If you were a human child, I would say at least another 15 years to develop the rudiments of it and another 20 after that to learn the finer points by trial and error.  You are unique, though, so it's impossible to say." 

They immediately went to work on the guide plate, Dorothy holding it steady while Norman took out the remaining bolt and compared it to the ones in his tool box until he found one that seemed to be the proper size. "That's perfect," she said when he held it up for her inspection. "Do we have any more wire in there? It seems to me that we should add some slack here, about a foot's worth. Look, it was too tight there," she showed him the marks on the insulation where it had been rubbing against the plate.

"Not in the box, but we can get some," he told her. He gave a piercing whistle to get the attention of one of the maintenance people in the bays. Within a moment they had the necessary supplies. Dorothy cut the wires and clipped off the damaged sections, carefully rethreading them through the hole on the guide plate while Norman set to work on the splicing.

"Will you teach me to whistle like that?" she asked as she screwed the guide back into place.

"Certainly," Norman chuckled. "Not here, though, you heard how loud it was. We can practice that one at home." He passed a completed wire to her to be covered with a layer of heat-resistant tape. "I can teach you a quieter way of whistling for now, if you want."

"Okay," she agreed. Much laughter followed as she tried to get the knack of properly pursing her lips and sending out a stream of air at the right rate to produce a sound. They were nearly finished when she finally succeeded. "Let me see if I can find that other bolt," she said as Norman picked up the last wire. She peered down into the piston chamber. "There it is, I think I can get it!" She partially undid several of the adjusting screws that determined the amount of space between piston and chamber and reached in, standing on her tiptoes to permit her a bit more distance. 

"Do you need the pliers?" Norman asked her as he made the final splice. "What the...?" the wire suddenly sparked in his hands.

"Got it...Grandfather, help me!" she suddenly cried out. The unexpected surge of power had caused the piston to move ever so slightly and her wrist was pinned between it and the chamber.

Norman hurried over. "What is it? You're stuck?" He tried to reach around her to further loosen some of the other clamps but the angle made it impossible for him to grasp the one that would have freed her. "Are you in any pain, Dorothy?"

"It's just uncomfortable. I am undamaged thus far," she answered, her voice trembling a little. "It scared me. Please get me out!"

He started to tug at her arm in the hopes of pulling her free, then had a sudden thought. "The pressure is mostly on your wrist, right? How many psi?"

"Close to 200, over the entire wrist and part of the forearm." she answered him tearfully. "Are you going to have to cut off my arm?"

"Certainly not," he said. He gave another piercing whistle, but this time no one appeared. "Oh dear, it looks like the crew has gone to lunch." He turned back to Dorothy. "If we have to, when they get back we can force the piston off with the air jack."

"That would ruin it, though," she protested. 

"Better a ruined piston than a ruined arm--the piston is a lot easier to replace," he pointed out. A series of flashes caught his eye. "What the...?" he looked up. "Dorothy, I know you can't see it from where you are, but Big O's eyes are blinking on and off."

"He does that when he wants to get my attention," she said. "Can you get to the control center? Big O understands how he works and he might know what to do."

"I can try," he answered. He made sure Dorothy was prepared for it and raised the lift another foot, making it easier for him to climb on to the gigantic arm. He carefully crawled along it and climbed into the cockpit. There was a single word with a question mark on the display screen. "Yes, there is a problem. Dorothy's wrist and forearm are caught between the piston and the firing chamber," he said, feeling a bit foolish.

The screen came to life, showing several schematics of different parts of the piston. After puzzling over it for a moment, Norman realized that the Megadeus was asking exactly where she was stuck. "The fourth diagram is the closest," he said, and was rewarded with another set, all focused on the area he had indicated.

Once he had chosen the schematic, he was shown pictures of a stick figure in varying positions, clearly intended to represent Dorothy. "Right arm," Norman supplied. "Her shoulder is against the end of the chamber." More diagrams flashed. "That's it!" 

There was a humming sound and the hard disk access light flashed on and off repeatedly for several minutes. Finally three images appeared on the screen. "Yes, I can do that, it just might work!" Norman said. He ran down the stairs and grabbed a few supplies, then brought one of the smaller slings all the way to the floor.  He unhooked it from the chain and climbed onto one of the other lifts, guiding it even with the one Dorothy was crouched on. He crossed the rail carefully and went over to her.

"We have an idea," he told her. He grabbed the riveting gun and brought out a large eye hook from his pocket. He secured it to the edge of Big O's arm, just above Dorothy's head and clipped the sling to it. He then guided the sling under the back of Dorothy's legs, adjusting the straps until she was able to sit down on it. 

"That's a lot more comfortable, thank you," she told him. "What did Big O think?"

"He thinks that we need to turn the arm the other way and get gravity working to our advantage," he said. "Dorothy, I'm going to want to talk to you about this once we get you loose."

"That's fine," she said. "I am very tired of being stuck."

"Let's go, then. Are you ready?" At her assent, he slowly lowered the lift, angling it so that he could reach the controls on the other lift to lower it as well. The sling kept her safely in position as the platform dropped away. 

Once both lifts were moved out of the way, he climbed back to the control panel. "I'm ready," he told the Megadeus, then frowned at the diagrams he was shown. "I don't have that kind of control," he said. "I can follow, but not as precisely as you want me to." Well, there was nothing to do but try and hope for the best. He flipped on the motors to the arm.

Taking a deep breath, he grasped the control firmly and began moving through the indicated pattern as slowly and carefully as possible. He heard a sudden shriek from Dorothy and he froze. To his astonishment, the lever moved a scant half inch backwards under his hand, and then, when there was no more noise, proceeded forward again, much more slowly than he had been able to manage on his own. He let go of the control and waited until it stopped moving.

"I'm free!" he heard her sudden shout of delight.

Norman sighed with relief. "Sit still, I'll bring the arm back to the previous position," he said over the PA. "Anytime you're ready, go ahead," he told Big O. "If I try to do it you know perfectly well I'll probably dump her onto the ground." There was a sudden flickering of lights in the control room--amusement? he wondered, and then the lever began to move on its own, returning the arm to its former position.

He left the control room and quickly brought the lift up to Dorothy. "Thank you, Grandfather," she said, permitting him to inspect her forearm and wrist. "I wasn't damaged at all. I only cried out because I started to slip out of the sling when Big O's arm was moving."

"You were very lucky," his expression was stern. "Haven't we talked before about safety?"

"I'm supposed to use a block or a jack if something could fall down," she said, looking at the ground.

"And you just had a first-hand demonstration as to why," he pointed out. "No, there's nothing to cry over," he said as a tear splashed down her cheek. "All's well that ends well. I don't need to scold you because you know better now, don't you?"

"Yes," she said solemnly. She held out her other hand and Norman shook his head when he saw the original bolt that had caused all the problems. "You are very stubborn, young lady." He smiled to take any sting out of the words.

"I wasn't going to drop it and take a chance on going through all that again," she told him. She wrapped the final remaining wire as Norman tightened down the piston clamps. Once they were back on the ground, he busied himself with putting away the last few tools while she went back to the control room to bring the arm back to a resting position. He heard several more bursts of" conversation" that were probably her thanking the Megadeus for his assistance. 

When they were in the car on the way home, he questioned her. "Is Big O awake like you are?"

"That's a hard question, Grandfather. It has two answers, yes and no," she said seriously.

"What do you mean?" he said, thoroughly confused.

"Big O is awake to an extent. He knows himself as separate. He knows how he works," she attempted to explain. "He likes to fight. He likes to make the victory laps. He likes it best when he and Roger are together and working as a team. He likes you because you give him new things and take good care of him. He likes me because I am like Roger but I am also like him."

"Did he tell you this?" he encouraged her to go on.

"No, not in words," she said. "He has.. patterns of thought... I wish I had a better word! He has patterns for happy and patterns for not happy. He knows some words but is only interested in the ones he needs. He likes me to tell him stories of what Roger does while he is away from him, although I am not sure he understands most of them." She paused for a long moment. "His world is much smaller than yours or mine," she said finally. "He doesn't want to make it bigger unless he needs to." She sighed. "I'm sorry. I don't know the right way to explain."

"I think I understand," he told her. "You are saying that yes, he is awake, but his consciousness is limited to the things that affect him directly. How long has he been that way?"

"Yes, that's exactly it," she said, pleased by her unexpected success. "He likes tactics and will talk about them forever, but he doesn't care about the Megadeus rankings except insofar as they make Roger happy. " She considered Norman's other question for a moment. "It's hard to say exactly when he woke up. From what I have seen, maybe a couple of years? Sometime shortly after you upgraded to the Mark 2 interface. One of the earliest things he showed me was him not liking one of the crew and he wouldn't move on purpose. You finally had the man get out and you got in, and Big O was happy again and didn't give any more trouble."

"I remember that!" Norman said with surprise. "That man was fired a few weeks later for stealing some of the Megadeus' tech. He would take just a couple of things at a time, analyze them so that he could duplicate them at a later date, then return them with no one the wiser. In fact, we caught him when he tried to return the second set of items--he somehow managed to trigger the control room alarm...or..." he added at Dorothy's knowing smile, "Big O set off the alarm himself.  But that was nearly three years ago! How could it have been kept hidden for so long?"

"He didn't really hide it, Grandfather. He wasn't very awake at first. Enough to be upset by that crewman coming in at odd hours and taking parts of him away, enough to make him stop, but it was very, very slow. The more time that Roger spent with him and talked to him, the more he learned.  Now, he understands most of the words Roger uses when he pilots him. He understands "help" and heard me call out to you when I first got stuck. Since I am his pilot too, it was a matter of concern to him to hear me use the word and that's why he started blinking his eyes."

"He took over when I couldn't move his arm smoothly enough, did you know that?" Norman said.

"Yes, he told me that you let him," she said. "He said that my danger outweighed your commands. He could tell by the way my weight shifted that I was slipping out of the sling. Normally, though, he would not do anything on his own other than listen because his job is to obey his pilot. He said you asked him directly to move his arm back to the original position, too."

"I did, he was much smoother than I would have been," he admitted. "I'm glad he will only do it in an emergency, though. He would frighten everyone if he decided to take a midnight stroll."

"He won't," Dorothy assured him. "He knows his function and he is happy with it. He is somewhat like I was before everything happened."

"Do you miss it?" Norman asked gently, catching the wistful tone in her voice.

"Sometimes," she admitted. "I always knew what to do and everything was simple. Now I have feelings I don't understand and want things I cannot have. It is most frustrating."

"Would you change it if you could?" he asked.

"No, I wouldn't," she told him. "There is plenty of glad to go with the sad and the mad."

"As long as that's the case, you are doing just fine, my dear," he patted her hand. 

She sighed. "I hope so, Grandfather. I really hope so." 

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