SECOND CHANCE

Kennex and Dorian are injured in a blast.

-o-

"Fall back, fall back!" Kennex yelled in his com. He could barely make out the silhouettes of his squad and a few MX under fire, a hundred meters away. "The whole thing is gonna blow!" But his com just spat some static. "Dorian, where are you? Dorian!"

His mind wrapped around a very likely scenario where nobody was going to make it out alive, Kennex began to run, protecting his eyes with his arm. It was the ambush all over again except that he'd lost any kind of weapon during the first strike. He was totally exposed, cut from reinforcement. Where the hell was Dorian? Another explosion propelled him against a wall. He felt his leg giving up under him just before a compact form collided with him. "I'm here, trust me man. Hang tight." Before he knew it, two strong arms picked him up and Dorian was running, his speed increasing to keep them ahead of the galloping inferno. He felt the blaze on his exposed skin, forgot to hold his breath, and everything went white. Dorian missed one step, two, stumbled, tripped. His face was bright with flickered strains of red. "Sorry, man," a generic metallic voice whispered in his ear before Dorian fell on him like a stone. The blaze passed over their bodies with a whoosh. Kennex closed his eyes and hugged his partner.

-o-

Was he dreaming? John half-woke, the smell of smoke still lingering in his throat. His head was throbbing.

"How do you feel, you okay?"

That voice again. He tried to pry his eyes open, eventually closed them again, seeking the comfort of darkness. He clenched his fists, his nails biting into his palms, using the pain to gain some focus. The voice… Valerie? He barely could tell who or what he was looking at. He squinted but the light coming from the large windows facing his bed was too painful for his sore eyes. He sighed in frustration. "Yes, I'm alright," he finally said, his voice barely audible.

The emergency thyrocricotomy had badly damaged his vocal cords but saved his life. Still, his lungs made him feel like he was drowning with each wheeze. He paused, experiencing a chest tightness he had not anticipated before answering her question. Valerie's cool hand pressed his and he blinked again. "Where… Dorian?" he finally asked. Against the bright light, he watched Valerie shake her head. He choked and heaved as the bile burnt his raw throat. He coughed and jerked helplessly, arms flailing. Pain burst through his chest when he gulped air. The monitors went alive, a high pitch madness. He passed out.

-o-

Rudy Lom had his back turned to the stairs, his head bobbing in concentration. Kennex walked across the lab. He gently patted his shoulder. The technician looked up with a jolt of surprise, letting go of an artificial leg. "John! John Kennex! I must apologize for not…"

"Don't. I hate hospitals. I don't really see why anyone in his right mind would visit me when I'm stranded there," he said. His voice was still hoarse and raspy. "How's Dorian?"

Rudy batted one eyelid, eyes distorted by the goggles. He took a deep breath. "Could be worse."

"Define worse."

"Er..." Rudy took off the goggles and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I couldn't salvage his body, obviously. 95% of his synthetic skin was scorched. They never found his right arm and leg, except for his hand that was fused to your jacket. His head and torso had been smashed by the debris. As for his primary programming, I'm afraid it had been completely obliterated by the electromagnetic pulse. I was hoping to retrieve partial memories but the transient disturbance erased everything. Well, almost everything."

"How could it be any worse?'

"He saved you," Rudy fumbled in a low voice, avoiding Kennex' stare. He fiddled on his desk with a pile of parts and pieces broken down for disposal. "Eventually, I could salvage this," he said, holding out a tiny translucent piece of circuitry. "You'll need your phone optical scanning device."

Kennex grasped the scrap of plastic. His mouth twitched downward. He turned it upside down before glaring back at Rudy. "You're telling me that this, this is what's left of Dorian?"

Rudy nodded. "I'm sorry mate. He was a mess. Nothing more I could do. It was a moving ceremony though."

"A ceremony?"

Rudy didn't elaborate, apparently lost in his thoughts. Kennex wasn't sure he really wanted to know anyway. Rudy finally came back to his senses and stood up, indecision written on his face. "John, if I may?" he said tentatively.

"What?"

"If you would follow me please…"

"Oh, yeah, I'm guessing I'll get that new MX-44 then?"

Rudy didn't bother to answer. He scuttled to the back of the lab with Kennex still clinging on to Dorian's remains. "I've been working as fast as I could. Bear in mind that I am not quite finished. Think of him as a prototype, not even a prototype, mind you. I had to work on him practically from scratch. I understand you're not back to active duty yet. I urge you to wait. If you take your MX today, that decision would be a massive impediment to…"

"What is it Rudy?"

"I better show you my friend."

It took every bit of restraint to keep Kennex from shoving Rudy out of the way to get wherever they were going first. They eventually reached a small lab, stocked from top to bottom with every discarded piece of android ever conceived during the last decade. Kennex frowned and turned back to Rudy. "I don't see anything."

"Patience, grasshopper, you'll thank me later. I hope."

"I'm not a patient man Rudy."

"No wonder you've been confused all your life. He that can have patience can have what he will."

"Benjamin Franklin?!"

Rudy nodded enthusiastically. "Stay here, I'll be right back. I devised a way to hide him."

"Him?"

"You are aware since DNRs have been decommissioned from the force, they have been sold to private companies. There are still a few of them working menial tasks downtown and in New D.C. but I couldn't possibly be that obvious and simply snatch one from a hospital or a school. So I asked my cousin. He works with Global Space Electronics. They specialize in recycling androids."

"Rudy?"

"Yes, yes. Long story short, he owed me one and I called it in. Funny fact, actually. We happened to…"

"Get to the point, Rudy."

"Sorry. Again, I guess. But you have to understand this is really really exciting! It's a seminal point. We're on the verge of a…"

"RUDY!"

Rudy cleared his throat. "He saved me all DRN's discarded parts coming back from the Space Station. I'm still missing a leg, but as you will see, I'm almost done." Rudy pressed a panel and an android in a protective cover started to glide on a guide rail. "Meet the new and improved Dorian," he said, unzipping the naked human form that was tossing about before them. "Would you like to awake him? He shouldn't mind being incomplete. But first thing first." He held out his hand. Kennex was petrified. "Please?" Rudy insisted before snatching the plastic circuit from Kennex. He uncovered a slot behind the android's ear. "That should do it," he beamed. "You ready?"

Kennex nodded. He helped Rudy lay down the lifeless android. "I must advise you. Don't keep your hopes up. I may have failed," said Rudy, handing him the remote. Kennex gently tapped it against Dorian ear. The android hissed, sat down, his ridiculous blue eyes passing lightly over his surrounding without stopping. He blinked and focused on Kennex.

"Detective John Kennex," he held his hand out, expressionless. "Hello, I'm Adrian."

Kennex's face fell. WTF, he mouthed to Rudy with a distressed glance. "Dorian?"

The android's mouth twitched. He pursed his lips quizzically before dodging John's punch. "Fuck you Dorian!"

"Got you, man!"

"Didn't fool me."

"Did!"

"Didn't."

"You look like shit, man."

"Okay guys, enough bickering. Give me some love," Rudy grinned. "Who wants to paint the town red? I do!" he poked them in the chest. "Let me go get a temporary leg for our friend here… and probably clothes. We would want to start a riot..." He scurried away, mumbling to himself. "Or we can order in at the lab and play rummy?" he yelled.