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Echo of a Broken Memory

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"John."

"Yeah…"

"Can I ask you something?"

"I'm so done with all these shi-"

"Are you even listening?" Dorian said with a glare, patience or tired was always difficult to say, making both of them stop next to John's car.

"Yes. I'm…" John sighed, putting the phone away, "No. What were you saying?"

"Can I ask you something?"

"Since when you need my permission?" he said hopping into the driver's seat.

Dorian stared at the Police Station behind them for a moment before entering the car, sitting next to him.

John blinked, "Well?"

"I'm not sure how to make it possible for you to understand my question…"

"Ok... Well, you're the android. I am sure you'll figure something out." John said, passing a hand over his eyes before start the engine, but when there was still silence, he looked at Dorian again: he saw that woman- that sex-bot being deactivated just a few minutes ago and apparently, he was still shaken from what happened. If a robot can be shaken by something. That something, this time, was an investigation about people using human’s skin on androids, on sex-bot, the same thing happened a year before. Women had been kidnapped, some of them didn’t make it and, in the end, one of the last androids found in that hell of a place had to be deactivated.

Dorian asked to attend, and again John didn't fully understand his decision. Bots bond? Maybe was just pity? DRNs were made to feel after all… and that's why they weren't around anymore. Irony.

"I wasn't expecting something like this to happen again, but we did a good job. Again. All considered." John said.

"If we'd made a good job the first time, there wouldn't be a second time."

"No one is perfect, and we can't stop all the crazy people in this city."

"I know. You're still around."

"Ah- Ah. Very funny. Shut up and drive, would you?" Snorted John, trying to slide a bit down on the seat while Dorian silently took control of the car that moved along with the rest of the evening traffic. "So, you're going to ask your question or not?"

"I was just thinking…"

"Yes?"

"What's the point of human's memory?"

John open his mouth to say something, closed it, frowned and looked at him, "What's the point of it? It's not some kind of bonus you can choose to add or remove, you know?"

"I know, but… there’s something I can’t fully understand…"

"You can't understand why we have memories?"

"I know humans need memory to remember things, that's also how you learn about pain or danger, how you can fell joy and sadness... but you can't keep all the memories somewhere. Not humanly speaking." Dorian saw the deep frown on the detective's face still there, "I was comparing my memory and yours: I can keep everything in my mind until a reset. Your brain can’t do that, so you'll forget something, no matter what."

Again, John managed to speak only at the second attempt, "Well, we can't remember the beginning of our lives or other little things, but we can live without them anyway."

"What if something important happened in the first year of your life? What if you wanted to keep those memories but you couldn't?"

"What if I don't want to?"

Dorian stopped for two seconds, "You don't?"

"My- probably the first years of everyone's life were just screams, food and poop everywhere, so yeah, I think I'll pass."

"Ok, not the first years. What about later on?"

"Dorian, we just deal with forgetting things. There’s nothing we can do about it… aside from some methods that can help you get back memories from the past- I tested them myself, but I know there's a limit, so the first years of a life are probably lost forever."

"And that's fine to you?"

"Like I said, we don’t need-" John looked at him, "So you’re saying that it's fine for you to remember everything?"

"Of course is-"

"Liar."

"What?"

"You were thinking about our old case just now, the human’s skin traffic of the last year - about that woman, that last android that had to be deactivated."

Dorian thought for a moment, then said with a low voice, "It's just… it was weird."

"What?"

"That I remembered about her."

"That’s weird?"

"Yes."

"You can probably remember the entire humankind’s history in that skull of yours, and you're telling me that it's a problem for you to remember a girl? Another bot, from an old case we solved?"

"I just… I remembered her so suddenly…" Dorian looked at the detective that just shrugged, blinking a mute So? and Dorian sighed, "Android's memory is about files, John. I shouldn't just suddenly think about something from my own past."

"Why not?"

"You didn’t even ask Rudy how my brain works, isn't it? You just run along with everything in your life?"

"Hey, I like that. It could be my new personal quote."

Dorian's face was stone cold, "That was supposed to sound funny or…?"

"It was funny."

"I'm not laughing."

"You should," John said with a grin that became a bad- hidden laugh when the android kept his stone cold expression. "Come on, it was already a success when I didn't throw you on the highway the first day. Rudy told me you were fine and ready to work and that was enough for me. I know that DRNs are special but-"

"Did you just said that I am special?"

"-but as long as you won't be the death of me, we'll be fine."

"Weird hearing that from a hater of the synthetics."

"I'm not a hater, I just… I just have trust issues, like my therapist, you and the Captain used to say." He sighed, too late to take that back.

“Admitting it is the first step, John. I’m proud of you.”

“Shut up.”

"But,” Dorian continued with a grin, “you also trusted me more than any other officer would have.”

"And you should be grateful about that, instead of insulting my funny jokes- because they are funny. You should be thankful about my run along with everything."

Dorian sighed again, but smiled patiently, "I am." He stared at the profile of the detective for a moment, and then looked at the road. They moved just some meters before the car stopped again. "I'll need Rudy to check me up."

"Uh? Why?"

"I think something's wrong with me."

"Because you thought about something happened a year ago?"

"No, because I feel sad about a file without even checking it."

“You probably just open the case’s file in automatic or something-“

“I didn’t.”

John looked better at him, now a bit worried, "You're the one always trying to be more human, now you're scared because you felt something? DRN weren't built to feel? Empathy and stuff?"

"Not something like this…" Dorian stopped and looked down, "I don't think I like this."

John laughed openly now, "You just answer your first question by yourself."

"I did?"

"Remember everything means to remember everything, good and bad. Humans tend to forget bad things and is not easy, I can assure you that."

Dorian was looking at him seriously now, "Like a filter."

"A filter, yeah. We usually lose more than we want, but sometimes is for the better… not when you forget where you put the TV's remote. I hate when that happens." John looked curiously at him, "You can't add a filter to your files?"

"Not for good or bad. Rudy usually deletes the ones I don't need anymore."

John nodded, thinking about all the discussion they just had, and then said, "I guess you're right too, though. I've lost my mom when I was a kid, so it would be nice to have more memories with her." He saw Dorian staring, so he quickly cleared his throat and closing his eyes.

Dorian saw him turning a bit to the other side, with the intention to end the discussion for now. He took a deep breath and kept driving.

-.-.-.-

"You- sorry, you what?" Rudy sat down with his first cup of coffee of the day, still half asleep, looking confused at the DRN in front of him.

"I think I had a dream," Dorian said.

Rudy blinked few times, trying to wake up completely, "O-ok…" he placed the cup down on the desk thoughtfully, then looked back at him, "Wait, that is not really ok…"

"I know it's not."

"How… when? When it happened?"

"Some days ago, after we closed the skin’s traffic case."

"Oh… uh… alright. W-what did you dream about?" Rudy saw him look down, "It will stay between us, don't worry."

Dorian sat down in front on him, "It was something that I shouldn't be able to see again." He saw him waiting for him to continue, “I thought it was a dream, but I can’t dream, so…” Dorian sighed, “I showed it to you a year ago… you call it a glitch in my system.”

"A glitch…? Oh, you- you mean that child? With the toy?" Rudy said, then frowned, "But that’s impossible, I deleted it. You saw me when I fixed that…" the worried look on the android's face only grow more worried. "Did you keep a copy of it somewhere else?"

"No."

"Then how is it possible that-"

"It’s still there. I don't know how."

Rudy studied him with an unsure glare, then stood up, "I'll delete it again. I need… I will check your system, maybe some other glitch happened and-"

"Rudy, maybe… Should we try to know more about this? Why I have these imagines or how a got them..."

"Dorian, you are my friend, there are very few things I wouldn't do for you, but this… I don't think it would be safe for you to dig in there. In those - pictures."

"I know, but maybe they are there for a reason? I never dreamed anything, or had this kind of glitch before... why me? Why now?"

"I don't know, but…" Rudy sat down again, "It's probably nothing."

"You think so?"

"If not, that would mean that your system is malfunctioning." Rudy said, looking into his eyes, "Or something worse."

Dorian stayed silent but more than one scary thoughts came to his mind.

"I'm not saying that you'll go crazy, of course,” Rudy added as if he could read his mind, “but- we'll fix it. I'll fix it, don't worry."

Dorian watched him moving here and there, preparing for the checkup, and slowly looked down.

 

"I'm worried, John."

The detective looked up from his coffee, finding Rudy standing in front of the little table outside the cafeteria of the Police Station, "Good morning to you too."

"I need to talk to you." Rudy said, looking around before lower his voice, "Privately."

John nodded slowly, "Ok… can I take the coffee with me or…?"

"S-sure. Of course, we- we can talk just outside."

After some minutes, they were in the little square outside the station; the air was still pretty cold for being March, but a bit of sun was appearing through the clouds.

"Where's Dorian?" John asked, sitting on one of the benches under the trees.

"He's in the lab. We talked this morning. I'm running some checkups on him right now." Rudy said, arms crossed, looking everywhere.

"Rudy, you're making me nervous." He saw him look back at him, "Sit down, breath and tell me what's wrong."

He looked almost in pain, but sat down next to him, "I don't know. I usually understand everything, but this… this is… I don't know."

"I need you to be a bit more specific…"

Rudy took a deep breath, "Dorian told me that you two had a little chat about human’s and android’s memory…"

"Yeah… that was kind of unexpected."

Rudy stared at him, "You don't… you haven't talked to him about the memory we saw last year, right?"

John’s expression became more serious, lowering the coffee, "No. You told me was better don’t talk about it with him."

"Yes. So you two don’t- Dorian haven’t said something about it before?"

"No. After you deleted those images he never brings the thing up anymore.” John took a breath, "But he was a bit weird after the sex-bot was deactivated, the other day..."

"Why? Weird how?"

"Well, that he said that he remembered of the first human’s skin case we solved, of that woman- that sex-bot being deactivated. He said that it was weird that he could remember about her… that he just- thought about her and feel sad." John looked at him with a serious expression, "That's why he wanted to talk to you and do some checkups… and that's why he waited two days before come to you: look at your face… Rudy, are you going to faint?" he sighed at the pale and terrified expression of the doctor.

Rudy stood up, starting to walk back and forth, eyes on the ground, mind probably spinning in a storm of thoughts.

John followed him with his eyes, "Look, maybe it's not that terrible…"

"Not terrib-" Rudy took a breath to calm himself, "Androids don't have a memory of their own, John. DRN, MX, none of them have the… they can't recall what happened in the past like we do. For how I would dread to see that happen one day, they still have data to store, they- they have files to check, that's their memory."

"I know. Maybe he just looked into the old files without realizing it."

"He wasn't."

"How you know?"

"Because he sure would remember if he had. Same goes for that memory- or that dream, the glitch. I don't even know how to call it anymore."

John stared at him for a moment, “So he saw that memory again?”

“Some nights ago, while he was charging. He… he didn’t tell you?” Rudy saw him shake his head in no, and he sighed. "But I removed it the same day we found it. When I showed it to you, a year ago, Dorian’s system was already clean. It shouldn't be there anymore."

They stared at each other for a moment, then John said, "Ok… how can we fix this? What do you want me to do?"

Rudy shrugged and sat down next to him, looking down at the floor, "I don't know."

"It's that bad?"

"Maybe not. Maybe it's something that won't change anything about him… or maybe this is what led the DRN series to be decommissioned." Rudy took a deep breath, "Maybe this is how it started, with-" he blinked, surprised.

"With what?"

"Evolution. Androids starting to evolve on their own, changing themselves into something more… human."

John huffed a laugh, "Are we really talking about this?"

"Think about it- John…" he saw him stood, shaking his head, "Just think about it. They- they were made to feel like us, and- and the synthetic soul helped on that… After all, the DRN were decommissioned because they started to feel too much."

John throw the empty cup in the trash can and turned to look at him, "So you're saying that the Synthetic soul is the cause of this?"

"Maybe."

"How can that thing be related to that? To Dorian’s memory? It's not- it's not an actual human soul, Doctor Vaughn couldn't do such a thing."

"We don't know that."

John looked at him almost in disbelief, but that kind of look on Rudy's face was never a good sign. The doctor could be awkward, clumsy and nervous almost all the time, but he was a scientist too, he knew many things about his work... Things not as innocent as robotic butterflies. "Rudy, what's your point? Because so far we have a damn lot of questions, creepy conspiracies and not a clue about how to fix Dorian."

Rudy kept staring down for a moment then said, "I'll delete the memory again and we'll see what happen."

"That's it?"

"If you want to do a report about it and let Dorian be retired for the next couple of years, go ahead."

"He wouldn't be retired, come on, he didn’t do anything."

"In the best case, he will be. In the worst case, they would take him away to study his system, to see what's going on inside of him." Rudy said, voice nervous, but his eyes were stone cold, "If there will be a way to fix the glitch permanently, Dorian will probably be given back to you like one of the other DRN working in the city. If there won’t be any guarantee that he will be alright, then I doubt we'll ever see him again at all." And there his face became sad and again he was the skinny, jumpy doctor, "And I don't want to come at any of these conclusions." He finished, slowly shaking his head.

John took a deep breath and sat next to him again. "You know, that's something I never understood…"

"What?"

"The DRNs going crazy. If they were becoming more human, why they couldn't manage to bare the feelings? If they were designed to be better than us, then how can we stand all the shit that happens to us but they couldn't?"

"You're asking for a theory?"

"Need to start somewhere."

"Well, personally, I always thought that the Synthetic souls were more… pure than human's."

"Pure?"

Rudy nodded, "Androids are created with a standard vision of the world. They know the rules, they know what to do and what not… They don’t actually try to understand the difference between good and evil. Rules help to live in peace, so they don't need anything else, but feelings are more complicated, and when they saw all the wrong that was happening…" he took a breath, "I think that's what slowly overwhelmed them. It was too much of everything, and not being able to control it- to fix it." He sighed, "Humans grow up, at some point we know how the world goes, but the DRNs feel it way more than that, and… they just couldn't accept it. I think."

John thought for a moment, "I guess that’s what you can call a horrible first impression on someone."

Rudy took a deep breath, "I wonder if Doctor Vaughn's plan was to actually show us this. What humans are able to do to an innocent soul just showing the world we live in."

John couldn't stop himself from wondering what Dorian could've thought about that.

"Maybe it would be different if the DRNs could’ve been able to feel love as well." Rudy laughed nervously.

The detective almost fell from the bench, "For God's sake, Rudy…"

"Well, is not everything bad in the world… I was just trying to lighten the mood, sorry." He said looking down, then back at him, "I told you once, and I'll tell you again: keep an eye on Dorian. I don't want him to be deactivated, but… we know what could happen."

"Dorian said something about all this?"

"That he would like to understand the anomaly," Rudy said, standing up, "and I think that he suspect that that’s not just a glitch… but I think that he also knows that is better not to investigate any further. For now, at least."

"You want me to… I have to talk to him about it?"

"No. I mean, it's probably better to wait… but that is up to you. Maybe he will ask you himself… just be careful and don't push him to the limit, ok?"

"I'll try."

"If anything happens, call me." That said, Rudy nodded and walked back inside the building.