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The Blossoming Rose

PROLOGUE

Paradigm City.
A City of Amnesia.
Forty years ago The Event happened, wiping out the rest of the world and our memories and leaving us to rebuild.
Bits and pieces of memories blossom here and there, like flowers in the snow, their reasons a mystery. If every person in this city got together and described the touch of memory they had, we'd probably paint an interesting picture of our world forty years ago. Of course, it would be a world designed by committee ...


Roger Smith, negotiator, stood on the rooftop balcony of his mansion, inhaling the chill mid-day air. The coffee was a welcomed oasis of warmth as he held the cup in his hand and took a sip.

Whoever figured out how to brew coffee again was a genius, and Roger was surprised temples were not erected in the genius' honor.

He glanced out the corner of his eye, seeing Dorothy standing on one of the balcony's railings, the cold breeze rustling her black skirt around her knees and white linen jabot at her neck. R. Dorothy Wayneright, to be precise; always so prim and proper and everything in its place. Roger often wondered if she ever slept (maybe in the broom closet when Norman was not looking), and if she did sleep, did she wake up the same way as regular humans did?

He looked down into his coffee, his messy black hair and morning regrowth staring back at him, reminding him he was all too human. He glanced up at Dorothy and tried to imagine her waking up with messy red hair sticking up all over the place and being bleary-eyed, muttering obscenities at whomever created mornings. The image caused a chuckle to escape.

Dorothy turned her head in his direction, her expressionless black eyes gazing at him. "What is funny, Roger?"

His small smile turned into a smirk. "The idea of applying human standards to you. The idea is rather alien."

She turned her head back to staring at the city horizon. "So, Roger, you are bringing me down to your level?"

He shrugged, gulping the coffee. "Just trying to imagine you waking up in the morning is all."

She said nothing for a moment. "Do you want me to, Roger?"

That was one of the things that annoyed him about her. Being pliant like that, offering to do anything he wanted, even if he did not want it.

"Don't bother."

"I can sleep next to you so you can see me wake up - "

Or baiting him into a bickering match ...

"Dorothy!" He stared at her, even though she did not turn to look back at him. Finally, he said, "You did that on purpose."

She did turn her head to stare at him this time. "Did what on purpose, Roger?"

He opened his mouth, then rolled his eyes. "Nevermind."

A small sound like a throat clearing came from behind him. "Master Roger?"

Grateful for the interruption, Roger looked back at his butler. "Yes, Norman?"

"Phone, sir."

He went back into the house, passing by the one-eyed butler, while Dorothy continued to stand on the railing.

Roger picked up the phone. "Smith speaking ... Yes ... Good to hear from you, too, Clark! How many years has it been? ... Too long ... Your what? ... That little girl?? You can't be serious, she was knee-high the last time I saw you two ... Sure, I'd love to see a performance ... Tonight, no problem ... At the Oracle Theatre ... Listen, mind if I bring a guest along? ... No, I'm still not married, she's a friend ... Then I'll see you tonight."

He hung up the phone and discovered Dorothy standing just inside the doorway, staring at him expectantly.

Roger shoved his hands in the pockets of his robe. "One of my teachers from college. Brilliant man, Clark Neuwirth, 'professor of human studies' as he called himself. One of the first men to remember how to read the old books."

Dorothy's face remained expressionless. "Then Professor Neuwirth has memories?"

Roger shrugged. "Unknown. However, he invited me out tonight to attend an opera performance. His daughter Cassandra is performing in it ... I haven't seen her since she was correcting her father's students' pronunciations; she must be almost twenty now."

"Then I must clean your tuxedo," she stated, turning to go to his room.

"You're invited, too," Roger added.

She paused.

"As my guest."

She slowly blinked, not even looking at him. "Your date."

He smirked. "If that's what they want to think. Dorothy, I've come to learn to not care what other people think."

"Perhaps that is for the best," she concluded, continuing on into his bedroom.

He looked up to the ceiling, rolled his eyes, and snorted. "Norman?"

Norman Burg appeared, not too concerned about his master staring up at the ceiling. "Yes, Master Roger?"

"Take Dorothy out shopping today and get her an evening dress."

"Any special plans for tonight, sir?"

"Going to the Oracle Theatre to seen an old friend."

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