A CLOSE SHAVE
John Kennex and Dorian banter. Again.
John Kennex was checking his pad when he opened the large door to Rudy's lab. Dorian barged outside, fuming. The detective jumped back, avoiding the latch. His leg jerked uncontrollably. He found himself smashed against the irregular wall, and temporarily deprived of oxygen. The pad slipped from his hand, ricocheted on the door, and circled down to the ground with a sharp blipping protest. "Dorian, what's going on?" Kennex yelled. "Are you out of your android mind?!" He regained his balance, and retrieved his destroyed pad, ignoring the loud objections of his synthetic leg. He watched his partner stride off. "What the hell…"
Dorian was standing near the cruiser with his head bent, his hands folded neatly on his regulation jacket.
"What's wrong with you? My pad is ruined, my leg won't stop acting out and you…" Dorian's eyes snapped to Kennex. "Wow, wow, wow! What's with your face?"
"I don't want to talk about it, man. It's bad enough as it is…"
"It's certainly… different," Kennex ventured.
"Different?" Dorian's tone was outraged. "Man, no one can see me like this," he begged, watching intently Kennex with a distraught look on a face which showed various colours in a rapid sequence. "It takes only one MX to see me, and I swear, I'm done!"
"Aren't you a bit overdramatic? It's not that bad, really. You look like a…"
"I was going for something else, like you know… that character from the old classic movie," he frowned. "I can't seem to place the name right now. Let me think…" Kennex opened the door and dropped on his seat. "It's on the tip of my tongue…"
Dorian hissed something under his absent breath. He snuggled up on the opposite seat, mumbling.
"I said the movie you're looking for, it's Shaft."
"Yes, yes that's it! John Shaft!" Kennex hummed a few bars, tapping rhythmically on the wheel. "Really, you look great Dorian…"
"I look pathetic."
"No, the sideburns and the moustache, it's very… becoming."
"I can't go to the precinct. Not before I find a way to get rid of these things. You got to promise me!"
"Okay." Kennex frowned. "Why?"
"Does it need further explaining?"
"No, but who gives a shit anyway? It's not like you're en route for an android pageant."
Dorian stared. "I do care."
"Self-conscious, are you?"
"Man, that's my face," Dorian whined.
"Well, there's an easy fix. Let's go to my place. I'll give you a shave."
"You're going to scrape my skin with a razor? Are you insane, man?"
"Just calm down. You got a bit of explaining to do. How did you… I mean you're a bot, how can you even grow a beard or else..."
"Exactly. I can't."
"Unless I'm Rudy's roommate."
"Yep, Rudy. You remember he said he wanted us to meet women, right?"
Kennex chuckled. "Loud and clear."
Dorian nodded. "Well, he needs a disguise, man. It was like he was going undercover all over again. Except that I have to come along, do the talking, seduce the chicks, his words, not mine, and, eventually…"
"Invite them back to the lab? Oh man, it's grand!"
"Don't make fun of him. Rudy is one of the kindest human being I know. Don't get me wrong, you are too… in a kind of gruff way," he added hastily with his best puppy eyes. He shrugged. "I guess."
"But what's with the fancy hair?"
"He said we needed a style. At this point, you have to understand that it involves mostly me. I'm supposed to be the poster boy. So he wanted me to choose from his video library. He has so many old movies, man, you can't begin to imagine. He asked me to watch them all."
"And that's what you chose?" asked Kennex. He turned around, biting his lip.
"Nooo! I fell asleep…"
Dorian's desperate sob made him turn around hastily. "But you don't need to sleep."
"I don't. But the movie went into a loop and I… kind of shut down. It was so boring."
"Really? I loved it. I saw it with my dad when I was…"
"Not the point."
"And Rudy thought I was set on this… look." Dorian swivelled the sun visor. He took a peek at the vanity mirror and winced. "Et voilà."
"When I woke up, I had… Oh man, it's terrible!"
"I don't get it. That's easy. Let's go back to the lab and ask Rudy to take them off."
"You can't?" Kennex looked him up and down, "Something wrong with you? I mean apart from…" His hand waved in the direction of his new facial attributes.
"Now that you mention it, my arm feels sort of funny. But you don't understand. I can't ask him."
"True, I don't understand. There's nothing wrong with asking Rudy to reverse the process. And we don't have all day. We can't be stuck in this cruiser arguing about your stuble for the entire shift."
"He did it out of love…" whispered Dorian.
Kennex chuckled. "He turned you into a pimp out of love? You kidding right?"
"You said I didn't look like a pimp!"
"I know what I said. I lied. Sue me. Let me think."
"Do I look like a pimp John?"
"I said quiet, okay?" Kennex stared thoughtfully at his partner for a good two minutes, still humming the musical theme of the movie. Dorian remained motionless. "Okay. You trust me right?"
"Of course, John, with my life."
"Well, technically, you're not alive but that will do. Let me handle Rudy."
"I'm not sure."
"You want it gone?"
"Trust me," said Kennex with a predatory smile. "I'll take care of it. You stay in the car."
"Yes John, of course, I understand." Rudy sat his goggles on his desk and rubbed his eyes. "I had no idea that the MXs and their partners bullied Dorian. I have to apologize to him. Oh my. That's terrible."
"It's okay Rudy, Dorian isn't mad at you. But it can't wait until tonight. I can't hide him all day, you know."
"I understand John, but it's a tricky procedure. It's going to take me at least one hour and a half to reverse him to his previous state."
"Let me do it, I can assure you it will take me two minutes tops."
"Oh… No, no, no. You can't use the traditional method. Dorian's skin is…"
"Blah blah blah. If you don't, I'll do it now, in the car if I have to."
"Well, in that case, maybe there's something more drastic but easier."
"Easier than a blade? I don't think so."
"Neanderthal," Rudy breathed, typing on a pad. "I called him. He'll be here in a minute. You may stay."
"I may?" Kennex giggled. "Really?" His face suddenly darkened. "Wait. What do you plan to do to Dorian?"
"You want it done quickly, but it can't be done quickly, John. I have to change his entire skin, don't you see?"
"Wow! You really need to get laid."
"I'm not the only one," Rudy mumbled, scampering away to the stairs. "Here you are, Dorian! You should have told me, I had no idea the MX were giving you such a hard time! Come here my friend, sit, make yourself comfortable. I'll be a minute."
Dorian gave John a puzzled glance. John shook his head, and shrugged.
"Obviously, I cannot reverse the process on such short notice but I may have a solution. If you don't mind swapping bodies with a used DRN, I may be able to implant all your memories from the DRNV."
"The DRNV?" asked Kennex who was now standing close to the technician.
"The Dorian Vault," Rudy snapped. "But I can't guarantee that the body is 100% functional yet. I've been working on it on my spare time and…"
"Are you thinking with your feet, god dammit!" the detective interrupted. "We're talking removing a few hair from his face and you're going for a full body swap? What's wrong with you?"
Rudy's shoulders sagged. "Over the top you think," he asked apologetically. "Well, I can think of another solution, but I guess you won't like it."
Valerie Stahl was talking with the captain Maldonado when Kennex and Dorian walked into the bullpen. She stopped talking, and just stood there gaping. Maldonado frowned and turned around. Her eyes went wide.
Richard Paul's laughter made everyone look around. "Great, first the clowns and now the masquerade? Kennex, you never cease to amaze me! What's with the swinging sixties look? Getting ready for time travel with the tin man?"
"Stop it Richard," snapped Stahl. "You're not funny."
"I sure can't beat that," Paul roared.
Maldonado pointed a finger to the detective. "Kennex, my office, now." Dorian sat quietly at his partner desk with an angelic smile.
A few minutes later, Kennex was back to the bullpen followed by his colleagues jibes and whistles. Dorian stood to attention. "Case closed. You're off the hook, though I'm not," Kennex winced. He sat at his desk, opening one drawer after another. "Maldonado wants you off the lab. She wants you to clear Rudy's lab. She thinks this experiment reflects on me the wrong way."
"But man, I can't go back to the basement, I swear…"
"I'm not finished." Kennex yanked back the drawers. "She's actually thinking it would be worthwhile to complete the experiment."
"She came up with this theory, you know."
"She did? I'm not aware she has a theory about us."
"I'm pretty sure you aren't. Well, the theory is you're good for me…" Kennex glanced up and tilted his head.
"And you're good for me?" said Dorian tentatively. "Oh..."
"Yeah," Kennex snapped, avoiding his partner intent gaze. "So back to square one."
"What is square one?"
"You're usually smarter Dorian. Maldonado wants you to move in with me asap. She said it'll do us good."
"Is she punishing you?"
"Well, we'll see, right? But let me get one thing straight. You're not getting my trophy room, Dorian. Are we clear?"