The Past of Tomorrow|
Angel startled awake, hearing someone making noises. She looked around at the strange, Spartan apartment and the bald man making coffee in the kitchenette.
"Morning," he said, not looking back at her. "How do you like your eggs, Millie?"
"What time is it?"
"Around noon; you needed the sleep. Eggs?"
"Um ... " Angel tried to gather her thoughts together as she sat up on the couch, rubbing her hands over her face. "Just one, boiled. Really, you don't have to - "
"I told you I would make breakfast," Dastun chuckled. "Although I do make a good omelette - not pretty, but hearty enough. Sure you don't want something more?"
Angel smiled briefly. "All right. You're the cook, Daniel." She got up and entered the bathroom to get dressed in her freshly washed clothes, taking care to clean up the bathroom and then tidying the couch.
She still wondered what the Colonel had in mind for her. It was obvious he was not going to turn her in. Logically, one does not allow a prisoner into their home to shower and sleep. She also knew from his records that Colonel Daniel Dastun was a straight-forward officer, so he would not toy with perpetrators. And he also had no intention of taking advantage of her, of which he could have several times during the night. The comments recorded in his files concerning his social life involved the words 'workaholic' and 'eternal bachelor'.
So, what did he want from her? Information about the Union? Her connections to the Megadeuses? No, that could not be it - if that were the case, she would be in a basement room of the Military Police HQ, while interrogators with electrical wires and rubber hoses worked her over.
Did he want anything?
Dastun handed her a cup of coffee as he took his own and stared out of the small window of his apartment.
"Colonel, I - "
"You want to leave, I know." He sipped his coffee and continued to stare out the window. "You can't see any place as being safe, least of all the home of a Military Police Officer - and I don't blame you for that one. You're a wanderer now, hating to have to rely on the kindness of strangers and the pity of former friends."
"Roger told you," Angel said quietly.
"He told me nothing." He turned to look at her. "I have a lot of questions, but since you're a guest in my house, I won't ask them."
Angel looked down into her coffee, seeing her reflection. "I thank you, Daniel." She got up and went to the window, also staring out over the city. "I still wonder why you're being kind to me at all. You haven't arrested me, you don't plan on using me, you won't even interrogate me in relation to the Union."
Dastun sighed, rubbing his forehead. "I don't know either, so don't worry about it." He turned to the kitchenette. "I need to start breakfast, then I have to go to work."
Angel nodded. "I'll wash dishes." She gazed at him as he started making breakfast, feeling an overwhelming sensation of safety for the first time in weeks. Possibly years.
* * *
The sad, decaying notes of Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata' filled the Smith Mansion as Dorothy sat at the piano and played the Romantic Transitional piece.
Her husband had tossed and turned most of the night, left the bedroom for several hours, then returned at daybreak, finally falling into sleep.
Her fingers slid through the second theme, returning to the first theme.
Roger, I am filled with as many questions as you are. For what purpose were the Megadeuses made? What became of that bright world where another Roger Smith and Dorothy Wayneright resided? What does it have to do with us?
What became of Dorothy R. Wayneright after The Event?
Dorothy finished the piece and looked up at the clock to check to see if it matched her internal chronometer. Norman appeared, taking the grandfather clock key from his pocket to fix the time.
"It is off by six seconds, Norman," she stated.
"Thank-you, Mistress Dorothy," he replied as he went to winding the clock. He shut the glass face and pocketed the key again.
Dorothy stared at him. "Norman, did you ever question why you knew how to fix Big O?"
Norman closed his eye wisely. "Only at the beginning when I woke up and found myself underground in the hanger."
Dorothy raised an eyebrow. "You were in the hanger?"
"Beneath here, yes." He went toward the kitchen. "Really, I must start Master Roger's breakfast - "
Dorothy stood and followed him. "I'll help you if you will tell me of when you woke up."
Norman nodded and made his way into the kitchen. "There's really not much to tell, Mistress Dorothy. I awoke like most other people of the city - confused, bewildered, not knowing my name or where I was. Checking my pockets revealed I was Technical Sergeant First Class Norman Burg and I was a member of the Army of the United States of America, which meant absolutely nothing to me." He gave a sad smile. "I also had a card in my pocket from a Miss Mildred Hathaway, with a handwritten note saying 'My place tonight, lover-boy' and a lipstick mark. Sadly, I never found her, although I spent much of the first two years trying to."
Dorothy remained expressionless ... Second-Lieutenant Hathaway had been quite vocal in her accusations of perversity toward Norman Burg when she appeared on disk. Perhaps she had changed her mind? Or Norman had grown up a bit. If so, whatever happened to her affair with Timothy Wayneright?
He pulled eggs and milk out of the refrigerator then opened a cabinet to get a pan.
"How did your knowledge of Big O fit into this?" she asked.
Norman looked up at her as he put the pan on the stove. "I don't know. The Big O was in the hanger when I awoke, and one of my first actions was to check to see if everything was in working order. It was battle-damaged, but repairable." He started mixing up a batch of eggs. "Mistress Dorothy, what I am about to tell you, I ask you not to repeat to Master Roger."
"I will not repeat this conversation. Go on, Norman."
He set the bowl of eggs down and reached across the table to squeeze her hand. "I found a photograph in the cockpit during my repairs, and I had a feeling to keep ahold of it in case I should ever find these people again." He released her hand, reaching into his coat pocket and pulling out an old photograph. He slid it across the table toward her.
The picture was Roger and Dorothy, he in a military dress uniform and she in a white gown. On Roger's side was Norman Burg, also in dress uniform, and on Dorothy's side was her father Timothy Wayneright. On the back of the photograph were handwritten words: 'Major Roger Smith, AUS, and Dorothy Wayneright, joined in marriage on 25 December'.
Dorothy looked up at Norman. "This is why - "
"I invited you into the house even though Master Roger forbade it, because I knew you had returned to your home."
"Even though I am an android."
"Even though." He took the picture back and slipped it into his pocket, going back to pouring the eggs into the pan. "When I had heard of Lieutenant Roger Smith of the Military Police by accident, I had to check to make sure it was the Roger Smith in the picture. Indeed he was, so I set about bringing him here to the mansion, which was quite easy because he had immediately set out a shingle as a Negotiator. I invited him in, called him 'Master', and essentially gave him the keys to the Megadeus. He handled Big O expertly, and I knew I had found my former commanding officer once again. The missing part of the equation was Dorothy Wayneright." He lowered his head, stirring the eggs. "I had given up hope, though, when I found your name among the dead listed several years after The Event. Then ... you showed up at the door several months ago and you know the rest. It's been quite an adventure ever since."
Dorothy gazed at him, then asked, "Are you happy here?"
Norman turned to look at her, then smiled. "Actually, yes I am, Mistress Dorothy. I enjoy my work here. I can't imagine doing anything else but being part of this household and working with you and Master Roger." He chuckled. "I suppose I was always meant to be support."
The doorbell rang and Dorothy got up. "I'll get it, Norman."
She left the kitchen and stepped down the spiral staircase to the foyer, where Colonel Dastun stood in the elevator.
"Good afternoon, Colonel," Dorothy greeted him.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Smith," he replied as he stepped off the elevator. "Is Roger around?"
"He is in the process of waking up. If you will please wait in the parlor, I will get him for you."
Dorothy climbed back up the stairs and Dastun absently noted how the silky black robe gave her an actual figure. Or maybe it was the stairclimbing that made it look that way.
* * *
A few minutes later, Roger was yawning as his breakfast was set before him and Dorothy was pouring coffee for Dastun.
"What's going on?" Roger asked. "You look like you saw a ghost."
"Probably have, Roger," Dastun answered. He removed his cap and set it on the table as he went to drink his coffee. "I spotted one of the Union members. Friend of yours."
"The woman known as Angel?" Dorothy asked. "How is she?"
Roger uneasily began to chew his eggs.
"Surviving, from what I can tell. Only got a glimpse of her; lost her in the tunnels." He peered across the table. "Has she been by here within the past few days?"
The Smiths looked at each other.
"No," Dorothy answered. "We had not seen her since the incident at the abandoned train station."
Roger shoved a forkful of egg in his mouth.
"Just wondering." Dastun sipped more coffee as he watched Roger's reaction.
Roger swallowed. "Dora-girl, Dan and I need to talk about something - "
"I understand," she said, getting up. "I will get your suit ready."
Dorothy left the table and Roger exhaled loudly. "I need to ask you something."
Roger picked up his coffee, swirling the liquid around. "Dorothy and I went to Dr. Wayneright's mansion and found a camera with video in it."
Dastun blinked. "Does it still work?"
"Works too well. It's a video diary of the human Dorothy Wayneright, made by her just before The Event."
"Are you going to turn it over to the Memory Collections?"
Roger shrugged. "That's the difficult part. It has a mix of a teenage girl's diary and information on the Megadei - "
"Sorry. Apparently, that's the plural form of 'Megadeus' which isn't even pronounced -"
Dastun dropped his cup, making the coffee slosh around. "The Megadeus is in it??"
"Dorothy's father designed the Megadeuses," Roger confirmed. "Or at least Big O and Big Duo. And maybe some others. His daughter would have had access to bits of information. It's ... strange watching it. The domes aren't built and Alex Rosewater is a teenager and it's chock full of historical and cultural references, most of which are meaningless to me ... "
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Because the most bizarre thing of all is the appearance of someone by the name of Major Roger Smith with my face."
Dastun's eyes popped open. "What??"
"That's what I said, only with more vulgar words."
"Maybe he's your father."
Roger shook his head. "No, we're exactly the same. Besides, I was an orphan assigned the name of Roger Smith. Evidently, this Major Smith is also a Megadeus pilot - the original pilot of Big O, to be precise. Frankly, I want to get rid of this disk, but morbid fascination makes me keep it. As well as public safety. Dan, Paradigm City isn't ready for these memories to be shared - not with the way the Megadeus battles have been going."
"So, what do you want me to do?"
"I just needed a way to get this off my chest to someone I can trust. The rest of us here are too far involved in it, including Norman. I also need some things to be looked up, mostly in relation to Wayneright's work."
Dastun shook his head. "No can do, Roger, and you know it. Once Paradigm Corp sucks memories out of a place, they're never seen again. Whatever was in the Wayneright Mansion at the time of the old man's death is there no more. I'm surprised you were able to find that camera."
"They missed a spot," Roger replied. "Well, guess it's another dead end."
"Don't worry about it, happens all the time. Call it a cold case and get on with your life." He put his cap on. "Gotta get going. I'll come by for a drink sometime."
Roger chuckled. "Running gag, Dastun, we never get to it. See you around."
* * *
Angel sat in the darkness of Dastun's apartment, her coat and boots on, convincing herself to get up and leave.
And where would she go? To be caught by the Military Police? To be punished by Vera? To be mocked by Alan Gabriel? To be pitied by Dorothy Smith?
Or stay here by the kindness of a stranger who demands nothing from her?
It still did not sit right - Daniel being kind to her. She had learned at an early age that everyone has an ulterior motive. Even her own mother, the woman who caressed the scars on her back and said she was an angel of God yet to grow her wings, held secrets.
"Mother ... what was Father to make me have these things? At what price did you pay to bear me late in your life??"
Silence answered as it always had.
* * *
At precisely five o'clock that night, the Military Police raided the Smith Mansion.
Roger Smith, negotiator, was arrested on conspiracy to conceal memories. His butler Norman Burg was released after questioning and his wife R. Dorothy Smith was released due to the Accomplice Statutes, which held androids and small children not guilty if humans/adults forced them to commit crimes.
Roger had insisted that he had been behind the discovery of the disk and had told his wife not to tell anyone.
Warrants were not necessary to search the building, since it was in the Illegal Residential Zone and should not have been legally occupied in the first place. The disk was not found on the premises.
Roger Smith was going to spend the night in jail.
* * *
Colonel Dastun stormed into the current meeting room of the Military Police Commission. Little was known about these four men, just that they were In Charge. It had been decided in the early days after the founding of the Paradigm Group that a secretive group like this - one not prone to external manipulation nor to terrorism, since no one knew who they were - would best serve as the controllers of the Military Police Organization. This shadowy existence made them the object of rumor and dread, of superstition and fear.
"HOW IN HELL DID YOU FIND THIS OUT?!" Dastun demanded.
"What particular this, Colonel?" one of the Commissioners asked. "You usually have a new one every week or so."
"About Roger Smith and the disk!"
"Really, Colonel, you have no right to complain about this as you were told directly about the memories and you did not report this right away."
He stared at them. "You bugged me."
Several nodded. "Standard issue audio surveillance mics; they're inside your caps. A neat little piece of equipment, wouldn't you say, Colonel? We decided to implement them after the incident involving Officer Fraiser's 'resurrection' to keep an ear on situations - "
"And to spy on your officers," Dastun grumbled.
"There's no law against it. Anyway, Colonel, we thank you for your part in arresting the perpetrator Roger Smith - "
"I ordered his release. And I ordered only a level six search of his residence."
"Colonel," one of the Commissioners said, an icy tone in his voice. "That is not advisable. This individual is a menace to society - "
"With a Megadeus. And don't tell me you didn't know that."
Dastun looked at the shocked and startled faces as comprehension set in. "Oh my God ... you genuinely didn't know." He seemed puzzled for a moment. "But I've talked with him about it before. If I've been bugged, you should have known."
The Commissioners looked at each other, seeming confused and uncertain. "We ... we didn't. Which means ... " His voice trailed off fearfully.
"Which means," Dastun finished for him. "That someone has been editing the information you've been getting from my bug. Someone who wanted Smith's identity as the pilot of the Black Megadeus to be kept from you - and who wanted that disk." He smirked. "Someone who knew that Smith was too moral and too honest to use his Megadeus to smash the Military Police and destroy the city in retaliation. And who knew that getting the disk into your hands was the same as getting it themselves."
One of the Commissioners finally found the voice to sputter, "What - who - "
Dastun turned away. "If you'll excuse me, gentlemen, I have work to do. Work that involves people far more important than impotent shadow-puppets such as yourselves."
As Dastun walked away, the sense of satisfaction he got from making the Commission look foolish was replaced by dread.
Someone did want that disk. Someone who used the Military Police Commission as pawns. Someone with unknown but vast capabilities and unknown motives and goals.
Rosewater? No ... he would not hide like this. He would have openly ordered the seizure and have directed it himself. He had nothing to hide.
* * *
Dorothy Smith parked the Griffon in front of the Speakeasy, getting out of the car and pressing the keychain remote to activate the security system.
A tough attempted to accost her, but he ended up with his head in the side of another car.
Dorothy entered the bar, nodding her head a quarter of an inch to Dale the bartender. He grunted in greeting and handed her a bottle of beer as she continued on to the back of the bar.
She sat in a chair against one of the walls, the beer set on the table to remain untouched, while the short man next to her flipped the newspaper he was reading.
"Good evening, Mrs. Negotiator," Big Ear remarked. "Heard about your husband. Too bad."
"He insisted he was alone in the crime, that he had coerced me into helping him."
Big Ear chuckled, his cigarette smoke swirling about his head. "I know, you poor dear. Just covered with bruises, aren't you? The savage brute."
"Sarcasm seems to suit you, Big Ear." Dorothy crossed her legs, the short black skirt of her dress riding up, causing a man at the end of the bar to choke on his drink. "Colonel Dastun said he was bugged by the Commission, and yet they did not know Roger piloted the black Megadeus even though he and Colonel Dastun had discussed it before."
"That would imply someone else is doing the bugging."
"Agreed." Dorothy leaned back in the chair, staring at the ceiling. "The question would be who. It would not be Alex Rosewater, for he would outright seize the disk himself. It would not be Beck, for he would prefer to face us himself rather than work through a front. Besides which, he would not have had access to the recordings from the bug."
"Nor would it be anyone else you two would have had contact with."
"So that means it would be someone from the disk."
Big Ear's eyes shifted to gaze at her while her eyes shifted to gaze back at him.
"Only you can answer that, Mrs. Negotiator."
Dorothy continued her side-stare. "Tell me. Were you created in someone's image like I was?"
Big Ear coolly turned the page of his paper, going back to reading. "No. Just a vehicle to do a mission, just the same as Senator Roscoe Fitzgerald."
"And what is your mission?"
Big Ear's eyes followed the print of the paper. "They say the spirit of the nightingale is the one who saved the Emperor from death. That she was the one who guided him back to the world of the living, making him into a new man."
Dorothy stared at the ceiling again. "Do you know of our connection then?"
"That Dorothy Wayneright and Major Roger Smith were once married?" He hummed. "Do you know why they had married at all?"
"I assume they loved each other."
"Part of the reason. The other reason is that she was carrying his child."
Dorothy remained silent for a moment. Finally, she asked, "What happened?"
"Died in childbirth after The Event. Medical technology was nonexistent immediately after the Event and Dorothy Wayneright-Smith had complications. The child died not long after."
She absorbed this. "So Father and Mr. Solderno created me as I am - "
Big Ear turned to look directly at her. "Mrs. Smith, there was a reason the equipment was even put there in the first place. There would be no reason for a father to do such a thing unless he knew his daughter was going to grow up and live as any other human, complete with making a family." He smirked. "Of course, it was planned a long time ago. Long before The Event."
Dorothy's head jerked around to face him, her brows knotting low over concentric black eyes. "What do you mean?"
"According to your blueprints found in the possession of Miguel Solderno, you have a baby-making factory in you." He paused, smiling. "Granted, the human Dorothy's genetic material isn't available, but you do have access to your husband's genetic material, which can be ... cloned."
"I am not familiar with that term."
"A clone is created by taking a tissue sample from a donor - " Big Ear explained. "In this case your husband - and using the blueprint present in all life to create an exact replica of the donor." His smile broadened. "So, any Little Roger Smiths you may have in there are actually little 'Roger Smiths' - an exact duplicate of him. Physically anyway. Hopefully he won't have too much of his father's obnoxious manner and unpleasant personality - "
Dorothy looked down at her torso. "That explains the program that has been running for several days now. And why I was compelled to devour an entire roast from the refrigerator, including the bones."
Big Ear's smile turned to a grin. "I take it it's been activated?"
A surprised expression crossed her face. "Yes! But why?"
He cleared his throat. "That, I'm afraid, I do not know. Logical conclusion would be as a safeguard in case the human race should not survive another Event. One android such as yourself and a few hundred tissue samples - whether from living or deceased donors - would be all that was necessary to revive the species."
Dorothy settled back down in her seat. "I will have to think on this. I need to investigate the people on the disk first."
"Good luck, Mrs. Negotiator, and congratulations." He glanced up. "Give the husband my regards."
"I will." Dorothy stood and deposited a folded stack of twenties on the table. Big Ear's paper landed on top of the money.
* * *
Dastun entered his apartment, rubbing his forehead as he took his cap off. Angel turned from the kitchenette.
"Good evening, Daniel," she greeted him.
Dastun pressed his fingers to her lips and she immediately closed her mouth. He put the cap on the table and dug through the junk drawer in the kitchenette to locate the hammer. Finding it, he turned back to the table and began whacking the cap with it.
Angel silently watched him as he systematically slammed the hammer down over every centimeter of his cap.
Finally, a crunching sound was heard, and Dastun smiled grimly as he slid into a chair and placed the hammer down.
"What was that about?" she asked.
"The Commission had me bugged."
"Don't worry, they don't have anything on you," he said as he rubbed his forehead. "I had my cap put away the times we were talking. Unfortunately, Roger got arrested due to the bugging. I just fought tooth and nail to have him released, so he should be going home soon."
"Arrested for what - being the Dominus of the black Megadeus?"
"Domi-what?" Dastun asked. "Whatever that is, it had nothing to do with his arrest. In fact, the Commission didn't know about him and the Megadeus."
Angel sat down across from him. "It's sort of an open secret, Daniel. There's even graffiti on the alleyway walls - 'Paradigm Group can kiss Smith's shiny black Megadeus.'"
Dastun snorted, then composed himself. "Anyway, it has to do with him and Dorothy finding some memories on a videodisk - "
"Memories?" Angel leaned across the table. "What memories??"
Dastun leaned away from her. "Don't worry about it."
She crawled across the table, her hands gripping his shoulders. "DANIEL, I HAVE TO KNOW!"
Dastun raised his arms and slammed her hands away, his own hands twisting around and gripping her by the shoulders.
"What's so damn important to you about the memories?!"
Angel hanged her head down, feeling tears well up. "Answers. Answers about what happened. My - our - purpose."
Dastun already knew she was not behind the bugging. She was in the dark as much as everyone else. He released her shoulders and she tucked her legs under herself as she sat up on the table.
"I don't think there would be any answers to interest you, Millie. It's only the human Dorothy Wayneright's video diary when she was a teenager."
"But didn't her father work on the Megadeuses? He would be in there, wouldn't he?" Angel leaned forward. "My mother ... my mother had once said that she had a hand in the creation of the Megadeuses. She remembers parts of her youth when she worked with a man named Timothy Wayneright ..." She lay her hands on his shoulders, her head dropping as she tried to remember. "She used the word 'domina' ... Damn, that's all I can remember her saying." She looked up at him. "Can you convince Roger to let me see the disk?"
Dastun could smell her, could see the differing shades of black between the pupil and iris of her eyes, could feel her warm breath on his cheek. God, it had been too long.
He cleared his throat. "I don't think it's possible."
"Please?" she begged, her voice almost a whisper.
She pulled away. "I can't now. The bridge was burned."
"I can't help you, then." He brushed a wild strand of blonde hair away from her mouth. He sniffed. "Something's burning."
Angel looked down at him, then nodded and turned to go back to the stove. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have ... God, no wonder Roger called me a tramp ... I can't do anything without looking like a whore ... " She burst into tears, feeling her face redden as a wave of shame washed over her.
She was startled to find Dastun's arms around her, hugging her tightly from behind.
"I'm not sure I'm doing this right," he said hesitantly. "I've little experience in giving comfort."
Angel turned in his arms and wrapped her own around him, sobbing into his shoulder. Alan betraying her by becoming part machine ... Alex's harassment during her time at Paradigm Corp ... Roger's disgust every time they met ... And almost every man she ran into - all she had to do was bat her lashes and exaggerate her hip rolls and she got anything she wanted ... except love and respect ...
She found herself laying on the couch, Dastun brushing hair out of her face as he sat beside her.
"Why are you so nice to me?" she hiccuped.
"Because that's the way I am, Millie." He smiled slightly. "I'll take care of dinner. You ... do whatever women do to compose yourself."
He was wonderful, she decided. Angel wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, then suddenly sprang up and wrapped her arms around his neck, her mouth meeting his in a moist kiss.
He was startled, for sure, as his lips froze against hers and his whole body tensed. She released him and added quickly, "I know that looks completely slutty, but I felt it was appropriate, please know that I only did it because I like you, Daniel, and not because of anything else - "
Dastun blinked. "Just rest, Millie."
Angel slid her arms down around his chest, hugging him tightly. "Please, stay with me a little longer. You feel ... safe."
Dastun uncertainly put his arms around her again, this time holding her gently.
A single thought went through both their heads ...
God, what have I gotten myself into?
* * *
Roger collapsed on the bed, unknotting his tie and sighing loudly.
"I've got to talk to Dastun about the conditions of those prison cells. I've seen sections of the sewer system that were cleaner and more hospitable."
Dorothy was immediately beside him, handing him a tumbler of scotch. "I would think that such conditions would be a deterrent on crime, since no one would want to be in prison."
He put the scotch down and sat back up, his lips kissing and nibbling along her neck as he pulled her down on the bed. "God, I missed this," he murmured into her throat.
"Roger," Dorothy stated.
He ignored her quiet protest, his hands caressing down her body.
"Roger," she stated more firmly.
"Hmm?" he asked against her ear.
"We need to figure out who is trying to get the disk."
"Yes," he agreed, kissing down her shoulder. "What have you got, Dora-girl?"
"It is not anyone we personally know. It has to be someone on the disk."
"Sounds reasonable," he said, one hand rounding her body to unzip the back of her dress. "Who do we have on disk that wants it back?"
"I've eliminated us, my father, Alex Rosewater, and Miguel Solderno." Dorothy allowed Roger to pull her clothing off.
"So that leaves Norman, Mildred Hathaway, and the cast of thousands." Roger kissed back up to her face. After a long moment he pulled his face away from hers and added, "I haven't seen anything suspicious as of yet."
Dorothy squealed as his hands became busy. "Perhaps there is something in the latter parts of the disk?"
"There might be ... Oh, God, I missed THIS!"
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