The first time they asked him to pilot the spare Labor lying unused in the hanger at Special Vehicle Section 2's headquarters, Dexter Morgan was busy at work compiling an official report on a civilian Labor dipute from two days ago; typical wonk work. Two day workers with civilian-issued Labors get into a fight over one thing or another, seconds later one knocks the other's mecha into the nearby water, which drowns him in the cockpit. No blood, no oil, nothing that would normally set Dexter's nerves on end. Which was odd for two reasons. One being that those who work in Section 2, even the analysts like him, were supposed to be used to such things in the line of duty. The second being that after dark Dexter's one thing to do was to take his best friend the Dark Passenger out for a spin as he exacted some unofficial justice on the people of Miami who deserved it. As if any suspected little quiet Dexter. Of course.
When they had asked him, he had simply frowned and said he was just a mech analyst, with only the basic training in Labors required to join the division, all to follow in his sister Deborah's footsteps. Dexter went home that day, still clueless as to why Section Captain LaGuerta would be interested in him as a pilot. If he was a pilot, he would become an official officer of the law, more than just someone who did lab reports and minor inspections every day. Not to mention LaGuerta would have complete control over what he investigated. Why would LaGuerta want to keep him closer? Did she suspect? Had Section 1's own Captain Doakes tipped her off to his own suspicions? (Both Sections, due to budget restraints enforced by the city, were cloistered together in the same building; it would be hard to go even a day without passing by Captain Doakes' office, his eyes set upon Dexter's retreating back like a laser.) The more he thought about it, the more Dexter wanted to escape into the open air of the Miami night, to get away from those thoughts and lose himself in the precision and drive that was the Dark Passenger. So he did, taking care in executing in his own style a local slum lord who had been using his young poor female tenants to his advantage before dumping their bodies from a Crabman Labor into the glades; said slum lord was now sleeping in pieces with his victims, his limbs all mixed up in the muck-filled waters.
Dexter cleaned up the scene and went home to sleep the sleep of the dead.
The next day proved a little more eventful. An hour after coming into headquarters --- bearing a sweet bounty of a dozen jelly-filled donuts, which Vince and his other mechanic cohorts grabbed with oil-stained fingers --- Dexter received a call at his desk from Deborah. As usual, her voice was aggravated and curt, as if she was more pissed at the phone itself. He often wondered if there was something about working with the detectives and pilots of Miami Patlabor Special Vehicle Division 2 (try saying that three times fast) that turned everyone into insufferable grouches over the phone.
"Lemon City Park, Northeast 58th Street. Be here in ten minutes or I'm killing you."
"And a good morning to you, Debs."
"Fuck you, Dexter. Just get here. Either you help me with this or ---- I'll let you imagine what."
He held the dead receiver in his hand, wondering idly what Deborah could want to bring to his attention before grabbing his jacket and keys, making his way out of the building while skillfully avoiding Doakes' glance. Which was odd, as it seemed the man wasn't at his desk that morning. Huh. But Deborah's doting Dexter paid it no mind as he drove to Lemon City Park in his civilian vehicle.
Lemon City Park in Little Haiti was innocent looking enough. Bright green grass and colorful playground equipment mixed with benches under plastic roofs for shade. A local construction and landscaping company had been hired by the city to do some terraforming on a large patch of land to make it into a kind of sunken garden. Only now, the shallow wide hole in the ground that they had carved out for peonies and daisies was now taken up by the broken up mangled pieces of a Labor and its pilot, a middle-aged man whose surprised-looking head sat on the open palm of a disconnected mechanical hand, almost humorous in its grotesqueness.
By the time Dexter arrived at the scene, his fellow crime techs were already covering the area, intent on finding and keeping track of every bit and piece of both robot and human. When he got close enough, he noticed something in the air --- the combined smells of oil and human blood, mingling together in the open breeze. His stomach did a flip-flop at the scent. It wasn't clean or careful, not like when devious Dexter did his deadly duty during the night. It was practically an insult to his technique.
So when he finally found Deb amid a group of Division 2 fuzz, arguing about something or other, he was put on the case. Not right away, of course --- he didn't want to seem too eager to do his police duties.
Somehow, he found himself half an hour later hunkered in the cockpit of a Labor behind a man who he had thought would never willingly work with him in a thousand years, not without special coercion --- Section 1's Captain Doakes, looking pissed as can be for having to work with darling little Dexter Morgan on such an open-and-shut case. In fact, Doakes had no problem airing his grievances straight to Dexter's face, as he did when Captain LaGuerta told Dexter he'd be working with Doakes, much to the surprise of both of them as well as his sister, who had been hoping to nab the Chopper (the killer's new shoddy nickname) with his help. Ever since Dexter had started working at Section 2, his occasional insight into their most difficult cases had made him the go-to guy for all such cases --- although he imagined the only reason he had been called to this scene was a good lot of officers were overseas in Japan for the annual Labor show. Well, Dexter was always happy to help his fellow officer in the blue uniform and white mecha ---- just not so much with Captain Doakes.
Still, there he was, in a cramped little space inside the chest of a metal robot, feeling the hatred rolling off Captain Doakes in waves. Here he was, the mech analyst, studier of battle patterns and the occasional crime scene, coming in the pursuit of a suspect (they had been able to scan a careless set of fingerprints at the crime scene, and got a match a moment later --- oh, the wonders of technology).
"He'll be good for you," LaGuerta had said, practically pushing Dexter in the path of a very irritated Doakes, the big vein on his forehead throbbing like it was about to burst. Dexter imagined it was still throbbing away at a good pace, judging by how hard the man was gripping the controls with his prosthetic hands (long story), as if he was restraining himself from flat-out decking the other man.
Still, it could be worse, Dexter thought. They could have someone shooting at them. After all, for a police-issuer Labor, the thing didn't move turbo-fast like the latest models: once again, a very tight budget made for few products of technological innovations to actually fall into the police's hands. Thank god their guns were mandatory issued and up to date, or Section 1 and 2 would both be lying in ruins.
And then, of course, from behind, a Labor rose from a nearby bank of trees and began firing. What wonderful luck.
Doakes cursed and hunched forward in his seat, grabbing the controls and pulling them towards him. The cockpit shook with the vibrations of laser fire striking the Labor's armor.
"What's going on?" Dexter asked innocently, then began choking on smoke. Doakes just cursed some more and began maneuvering the Labor out of harm's path. Dexter couldn't see what was going on anymore, as thin smoke began to build and cloud his vision, He pulled his shirt collar over his nose and mouth and started to move lower to get below the smoke. From a small bit of the control panel that was visible, he could see the opposing Labor standing stationary only ten or so meters away. Must be a newbie, he thought, just getting his bearings in the Labor's controls, couldn't even move without tripping over its own feet. Yet --- why was it attacking them, now?
"Move into the water," he shouted over the sound of laser fire hitting metal panels.
"The hell I will," Doakes screamed back. He punched a button on the console, which opened up another panel of buttons. "Now shut the fuck up and sit back down already."
Dexter had to admit, the sound of Doakes screaming obscenities, his eyes red from smoke exposure, was enough to force a quick retreat to the back of the cockpit, strapping himself into the back seat to keep his body a little bit safer. He heard the sound of a lever being pulled violently, then lazily noticed how clear and blue the sky was that morning as his seat rocketed up through the now-open space above his head, a bright orange bundle of fabric shooting out and mushrooming into a parachute.
And then Dexter bumped his head against the back of his detached seat and the blue clear sky became black and thick, the fingertips of the Dark Passenger reaching out in his mind seconds before unconsciousness overtook the man's body.