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A silent figure stands atop a building, watching the long lines of people making their way from wherever they were towards the meeting point. Satisfied that the hypnotic trigger has been effective and all is proceeding as it is supposed to, she returns underground to the labs.

"I love you, Dorothy Wayneright." He has said that every time since the beginning. His hair is mussed and his voice is blurred under the influence of the drugs that will keep him safely in suspended animation until the stage is once again prepared.

"I love you too, Roger Smith," she says just like she always has. His sleepy eyes look up to her trustingly and now something is new because he reaches for her and pulls her mouth down to his in tender passion, as though he could tell her something with the pressure of his lips and the teasing flickers of his tongue as it entwines with hers.

It has been a long time, but she feels her entire body responding--after all, what better way to construct a pleasure-bot than to make her enjoy fulfilling her function?--and then the drug fully takes effect and his arms go slack and he sleeps.

"I think you just about have it, Dorothy," Gordon Rosewater's quiet voice breaks into her thoughts.

"Now he only need win," she agrees.

He has removed the makeup and prosthetics that made him look like a man in his 70's. "Background radiation is dropping nicely," he tells her. "We're almost there."

"Another thousand years or so and we'll be free," a second man joins them.

"It's worth it, Dad," Rosewater says positively. "I can't believe how much of his personality Dorothy has managed to restore."

"Norman, how long for rebuilding this time?" Dorothy turns to the second man.

"I'll be done before the decontamination process is finished," he promises. He looks strange without his eye patch. Dorothy will have to become re-accustomed to his prosthetic eye, which works perfectly but is decidedly mechanical looking. Perhaps Gordon can tinker with the aesthetics of it now that they have the device working as it should.

"I think we need to make a small adjustment to Alex. I thought he came down a bit too far on the megalomaniac side this time," the younger man suggests.

"And yet, this was the most successful run so far," she reminds him. "Besides, Alex's memories are safely encoded and he'll return to his old self when we restore them."

Gordon nods. "Odd how that long-ago battle is the key to both of them. I'll never forget how much losing the fight with his brother changed Alex for the better and gave Roger the confidence he needed."

Dorothy looks down at Roger's peaceful face. "I miss him. I had almost dared allow myself to hope this time."

"He always remembers he loves you." Norman pats her shoulder comfortingly. "Even when he was at his most damaged, he remembered that. It's almost enough to make a man believe in fate."

"I didn't believe even this much was possible," Rosewater chimes in. "Next time, he'll win. I'm sure of it." The two men nod to Dorothy and exit to pursue their own tasks, Norman to the repair and reconstruction of Paradigm City and Rosewater to the medical machines that will put its residents back to sleep and repair any radiation-caused genetic damage. They have done this more times than they can count while they waited for the world to be safe again.

Dorothy strokes Roger's hair, remembering the mob that almost killed him when the crowds rioted against the machines that they feared, how he had defended her from being torn apart. They had all of them realized that disaster was a real possibility, but even their most pessimistic projections hadn't measured up to the reality of it.

She had been one of the first of the humanoid androids to become self-aware, originally just one of the many toys owned by the Rosewater family. Roger had been the one to notice the change in her, and it had delighted him. They had quickly become inseparable, until that terrible, frightening day. One of the rioters got off a lucky shot and a bullet had ripped through his brain and taken him away from all of them. His body had lived, but he was not the man he had been, even with his injuries healed.

She remembers the agony in his father's and grandfather's eyes, knowing that pain was reflected in her own. "Never leave me," he had whispered as he fell into unconsciousness. She has kept her promise.

It had been her idea to awaken the sleepers and try to restore his personality. She couldn't replace all his missing memories, but she could orchestrate experiences similar to the ones that had made him into the person he was. Neither Rosewater had seen any harm in trying--it would be close to ten thousand years before the residual radiation from the nuclear bombs fell low enough that people could safely remain outside for any length of time.

Originally, they had planned to keep everyone suspended until it was safe again, but as it turned out, alternating times of sleep and waking produced the best health results, and the process itself took care of any damage incurred while living outside of the radiation-proof dormitories.

Ironically, the treatment effectively stopped the aging process, resetting the cellular clock from that day forward. Gordon Rosewater had hoped to announce this breakthrough and make it available to the public, but instead found himself fleeing for his life.

We have saved 50,000 people, she reminds herself. We have kept them alive and safe and their memories intact. They will wake up and think that only a day or two has passed since the world burned. Surely they will not mind our borrowing their bodies for such a short while?

The key had been the Big O. After over a hundred cycles, Roger was restored enough that the Megadeus recognized him as dominus again. Progress had been rapid after that, especially during this last attempt. It had taken a long time for them to make Big O understand what they were trying to do, but once he did, he had contributed an incredible number of memories to the process.

Dorothy often talks to Big O now, especially when the Rosewaters are taking their repair sleep and she is alone for months at a time. She believes the Black Megadeus loves Roger as much as she does. She leans down and places a light kiss on her beloved's forehead and leaves, closing the door behind her.

She walks alone through the empty streets of Paradigm City, her only companions a few random repair bots and the wind, replaying every nuance of Roger's kiss. One day soon, he will be walking beside her and she will be able to tell him everything.
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