The Big O and all of its settings and characters are owned by Bandai Visual, Sunrise, and Cartoon Network.


ACT 39


Chapter Eight: Coup

Down at the harbor, the Wanderer worked as a fisherman. It was honest work, and the old hands were willing to teach him. As long as you had a strong back and a patient mind it didn't matter if you had a past or not. The sea was tranquil, mysterious, and empty, just like his memory. It was when he was on land that things were strange. For example one evening as he and his fellow fishermen returned to the docks with their catch, he swore he could hear some kind of singing. There was no point trying to make out the words, for the few he could make out sounded like they were in some foreign language. All he could do was make out the tune, a strange jingoistic tune that was appropriate for a national anthem or a march.

Robert Drake sauntered through the night, singing a patriotic, nationalistic tune in a foreign language. Others picked up the tune and followed him, converging on an abandoned subway station that no native of Paradigm City dared enter, due to their crippling fear of both the darkness and the underground.

Soon Robert was standing on a podium addressing a large group of shadowy figures. "Is everyone present, Agent Twelve?" he asked a blonde woman in her early forties.

"Jess Agent Two," Vera Ronstadt, alias Agent Twelve replied. "Ve can begin." The innocent childlike appearance that the long Shirley Temple style curls of her blonde hair gave her was spoiled by her angular nose and chin, and her sternly grim manner… and the eyepatch over her left eye.

"My brothers and sisters, events have transpired that will force us to update our time table," Robert announced to the furtive congregation. "Rather than manipulating the criminals that run this decadent city into destroying each other we must find a way to eliminate them all at once, and quickly. We have the power of the megadeus, but if we activate it the heads of the Paradigm Corporation will separate and flee like rats."

"But Robert Sweetie, we haven't infiltrated the Military Police yet," protested a woman who's slender figure and pallid face was hidden in a raincoat and a fedora.

"Jenny, I mean Agent Thirteen, you know we always address each other by our code numbers while on assignment," Robert gently scolded.

"Whoops," the petite and pale woman smirked as she tipped her hat back to get a better look at Robert. "My bad." Her skin was deathly white and her short bobbed hair was jet black. Fine cheekbones framed a sensual mouth that was adorned with blood red lipstick. Her left cheek was decorated with what looked like three beauty marks, but on closer examination were three six pointed stars. Her crooked smile didn't reach her large heavily mascaraed eyes.

Robert Drake rolled his eyes. Deep down he wondered how seriously Jenny Grant, AKA Agent Thirteen really took their glorious purpose of making Paradigm City a society that served all of its citizens, and not just the elite. "I think that my presence in the city might be known. That's why I'm stepping up the timetable."

"Well I do know how to get all of the bosses, I mean all of the Paradigm executives together," Jenny Grant offered.

"How do we get close to them?" Robert asked.

"Well, ever since their chairman died, there's been a power struggle," Jenny offered coquettishly. "If they want to avoid civil war, they're going to need a professional negotiator to mediate for them. I've made you a fake identity as a negotiator that you can use to get yourself invited…"

"Agent Thirteen! You forget yourself!" Vera Ronstadt snapped. "Ve cannot endanger the domineus!"

"No, let's hear her out," Robert interjected as he gestured to Vera. "I think we're both thinking along the same lines. How good is this cover identity Jenny?"

"Oh it's a pip boss!" Jenny gushed as she completely ignored Vera Ronstadt's angry gesturing for her to stop. "Paradigm's top negotiator Roger Smith has a good reputation in this city. He was even the last person to see Enoch Browning alive! Don't worry this cover will pass any background check. Even the head of the Military Police will be convinced that you're Roger Smith!"

Robert couldn't help but notice that the cover identity had the first name from his old life. That was just like Jenny but he chose to ignore her cheekiness. "It's dangerous, but it will definitely grant me an audience with the board. That's taking initiative Agent Thirteen. Well done. I assume that there was already a negotiator named Roger Smith who lived in the city?"

"Don't worry boss, he's been eliminated," Jenny chirped. "And you don't have to worry about how much you look like him. He may have been Paradigm City's top negotiator, but he was a real hermit crab when it came to his private life. Just make sure you don't bump into anybody he knows!"

"Not to worry, I won't have to pass as Roger Smith for long," he decided. "Just long enough for me to get inside to meet with all of them at once."

At the Smith residence Norman opened the door to the street to see Dorothy Wayneright on the doorstep. "Miss Dorothy, where have you been? When the sun went down and you still didn't come back I was tempted to go looking for you."

"I'm sorry but I couldn't come back yet," Dorothy replied as she stepped inside to walk past him. "I saw him Norman. I saw Roger."

"You've found Master Roger?" the old man asked as he followed her inside. "That's wonderful news! Did he say why he still hasn't come home?"

"One moment Norman," Dorothy said when she stopped in the hall to look through an open door at a comfortable sitting room where Colonel Dan Dastun was talking on the telephone. "It might be easier to tell both of you at once."

"This is it," Dan Dastun sighed as he hung up the phone. "I've been handed my walking papers. The board has placed me on administrative leave and I'm to officially transfer command of the Military Police to my successor tomorrow. I knew this was coming; I'm just amazed it took so long. There's no way the gangsters that Nucky left in charge would possibly keep me around."

"Nevertheless we don't know if any of them are holding grudges," Dorothy replied as she sat on a couch placed opposite to his chair. "Until something opens up for you, would you be interested in remaining with us as a security consultant?"

"R Dorothy Wayneright where are your manners?" Norman scolded gently as he handed the ex-commandant of the Military Police a sympathetic hot beverage. "Colonel Dastun is our guest. Besides, I think he would be better suited as an inquiry agent."

Dastun rolled his eyes before taking a sip.

"Colonel Dastun, Norman, I saw Roger," the little android announced quietly.

Dastun suddenly spit out the tea he was sipping before coughing and tapping his collarbone with his fist. "Roger's alive?" he gasped. "That fantastic! Where did you find him?"

"He accosted me in the grocery store," Dorothy replied almost morosely. "He was acting very strangely. He didn't seem to remember that I'm an android and when he did remember he ran away. I think the explosion did something to him. We've got to find him before he hurts himself."

"And how would we do that?" Dastun asked her. "If he's not in his right mind, we've got to find him, and quickly! Let's not forget what happened when Alex Rosewater wasn't in is right mind. What if he tries to pilot his megadues?

"His megadeus might be the way we can locate him," the little android replied.

Nevertheless, the task wasn't as easy as Dorothy had hoped. The next day, Dorothy was in Big O's cockpit sitting in the control seat. The barrette in her hair was extended out almost a foot from her head exposing a disk player style drive to view. Four slender black cables snaked up from underneath the control chair to disappear in the rectangular cavity behind the girl's open barrette.

"Any luck Miss Dorothy?" Norman called from the catwalk that was level with the megadues' collar, allowing access to the cockpit if one was agile.

The slender black cables disconnected themselves from the android's skull and retracted under the floor to disappear. Dorothy allowed her barrette to slide close flush with her hair before answering. "Not really Norman. I'm getting contradictory readings I must be doing this wrong because they don't make sense."

"Perhaps I can be of assistance," the old man grinned in gentle triumph. "I believe I've managed to locate him. I used the diagnostic computer to access Big O's sensors. They may have revealed the location of his watch."

"I did not think of that Norman," the little android admitted. "I was going about it the wrong way. For some reason I kept unconsciously having Big O search for Roger and not his watch. But why wasn't his watch detected when we were checking earlier?"

"Who knows?" the old man shrugged. "Perhaps it was turned off or out of range. At least Big O can detect his watch now. See for yourself. You should be able to bring it up on the monitor."

The android's delicate white fingers pressed some buttons before adjusting a knob below the main screen that was on a podium between her legs. It was where a steering wheel should have been if the megadeus was a car. "Why yes, I can see a blip on the map now. But why is it at the Cranston Building in the central dome? Isn't that the meeting place for the Paradigm board of directors these days?"

In the meantime, in a large boardroom in the Cranston Building, the remaining Paradigm executives were seated. Each one was accompanied by several large burly men who stood behind them or leaned up against the wall. Bulges under their jackets indicated firearms. As a matter of fact, some of the men had taken off their jackets and weren't bothering to conceal the pistols in their shoulder holsters at all. "We've been waiting a long time doll face," a large burly man in a green and purple pinstripe suit snarled at Jenny Grant, who was dressed in a green outfit composed of a boxy jacket with no collar, a cloche hat, and a straight skirt that went down to mid-calf.

"Oh don't worry, sweetie, he'll be here," she assured him.

There was a knock at the door and when it was opened a bald behemoth of a man in a green and black pinstripe suit escorted Robert Drake into the room wearing a business suit composed of a black sports coat, a crisp white shirt, a black tie, black slacks with a matching belt, and black shoes. He carried a black faux leather briefcase. His left wrist was covered by a large black and red wristwatch with an opaque black face. "Gentlemen," the man posing as a negotiator purred. "I believe I'm expected."

"Go get yourself a magazine doll," the man in the green and purple pinstripe suit purred. "It's time for some man talk."

"You got it, honey," Jenny winked as she left the room. Outside the board room, she went straight to the elevator and pushed the 'down' button.

"Is this everyone Mister Bronson?" Robert Drake asked. "I only agreed to be here if all interested parties are involved. Otherwise it's a waste of time."

"O' course we're all here," 'Machinegun' Bronson growled. "Sully why don't you introduce Mister Smith t' th' boys. Once he's met all o' th' players in person we kin get down t' business…"

"O' course, Mac," an old man in a beige suit purred as he rose shakily to his feet. "C'mon Mister Smith, they're a great bunch o' fellas. Why I served a stretch with each o' these guys myself…"

In the meantime, Jenny Grant got off on the ground floor and left the building trotting at as fast as her green stiletto heels could carry her. "Taxi!" she cried as headed straight to a taxi stand. A man in a brown suit and matching hat managed to reach it before her. "Hey Mister! That's my cab!" she protested as she seized his arm with her green gloved hands to keep him from entering the taxi.

"Sorry Miss, but I was here first," he smirked.

"No, I don't think you fully understand," she frowned as extracted a switchblade from her jacket and held it at his throat. "I said 'that's my cab," she repeated through clenched teeth.

"Uh… I really think I should wait for another one…" the pedestrian mumbled.

"Yeah, me too," she said as squeezed past him and got into the back seat. "Good boy," she added as she shut the door. "Driver, take me to the corner of Bleeker Street and Houston, let's go."

"Are you sure?" the driver asked. "That'll take us clear outta th' dome lady."

"Yes!" Jenny hissed as she nervously glanced at the building she had just left. "Out of the dome, I don't care where you take me, let's just get as far away as possible, and step on it! What are you, both deaf and stupid? Just go! Why don't you step on all of pedals! Maybe one of them means 'go'!" she shrieked.

"Okay lady, you don't gotta bite my head off," the driver protested as he started the car. "Geeze," he grunted as the cab pulled away from the curb.

Back in the boardroom Robert Drake finally had the floor.

"Gentlemen, in all of my years as a negotiator I don't think I've ever been introduced to a more interesting cast of characters," the black clad young man smiled. "We all have such interesting nicknames: 'Machinegun' Bronson, 'Thumbs' Meeker, Roger the Negotiator. We seem to be defined by what the city calls us, but that's not who we are. It's easy to let misconceptions divide, but let's get to know each other and see what unites us. Now when I look around this room I don't see rivals, I don't see enemies; I don't see people with differences. Every one of you is the same."

His voice became a lot less friendly. "The entire bunch of you are nothing but criminals, united by your greed and utter lack of morals. The thing that unites you is that each of you lacks the business acumen or administrative skills necessary to replace your predecessors, who were equally greedy and morally bankrupt but at least had a higher education. After what you've done to his city, my only regret is that your deaths won't be more drawn out and painful."

"You're a dead man, Smith!" 'Machinegun' Bronson snarled as he pulled a pistol out of his coat.

As the assembled men protested and rose angrily from their chairs, Robert Drake put his watch to his lips. "Now, Big O, it's Showtime."

Outside the motorists and pedestrians of the central dome were alarmed when the ground began shaking. They were terrified and running for cover as the Cranston Building peeled like a banana to crumble away and reveal an ungainly metal giant towering over fifty feet tall. The head of Big O was an impassive face topped by a red crystalline crown that was dwarfed by the megadeus' barrel shaped body. The top of its chest was covered by a red collar. Two vaguely humanoid legs supported its bulk. The enormous arms of the megadeus were in reality massive piledrivers with huge mechanical hands instead of chisels. One of its hands was raised high above it and clenched in a fist as if celebrating or defying the very heavens.

After a dramatic pause, the black metal colossus opened its fist to reveal Robert Drake standing triumphantly in its palm. "Flattened like insects. A fitting end for their kind," he smirked. "Now the real work begins." He pressed a stud on his wristwatch and Big O moved its palm so that it was held up to where its neck would be. The red collar rose to obscure the face and Robert was shocked to see R Dorothy Wayneright sitting in the control chair as if she owned it.

On a desk filled with hourglasses a phone rings. Roger's hand picks up the receiver and a sinister voice says:

Next: A Gentleman Doesn't Use Guns