The Big O and all of its settings and characters are owned by Cartoon Network, Sunrise, and Bandai Visual. Additional plot, settings and characters are © by Chaosium.
THE BIG O:
DREAMS DARK AND DEADLY
Big-O! Big-O! Big-O!
Big-O! Big-O! Big-O!
Cast in the name of God!
Ye not the guilty!
We have come to terms!
Big-O! Big-O! Big-O!
Big-O! Big-O! -O! -O! Big-O!
Chapter One: Welcome to the Electric City
Over forty years ago, the world changed. One day everybody in Paradigm City woke up with total amnesia. The world outside seemed to be a desolate wasteland. But humans are adaptable creatures. If they can find out how to repair things and harness electricity, they can make some kind of civilization. If they don't trust that civilization they found their own settlements up north along the Hudson River.
"Why did you take this case, Roger?" the alabaster skinned girl asked from the passenger front seat of the long black Cadillac. The petite teenager was dressed in a reddish black dress that had a white ruffled collar and formal white cuffs. A set of black stockings and shiny black shoes completed her ensemble. Her red pageboy cut hair was immaculate, her bangs broken by a black barrette. "It seems unlikely that the client's fee will cover the cost."
"This case is interesting Dorothy," replied the young man in the driver's seat. Unlike the girl he wasn't a teenager, but appeared to be in his mid-twenties. His broad shoulders and trim waist indicated both strength and agility. His jet-black hair, strong jaw and high cheekbones on his boyish face made him the definition of 'tall, dark, and handsome'. He was clad in a black suit consisting of black double-breasted jacket, matching trousers, shoes and gloves. His shirt was crisp and white and his black tie was bisected by a gray stripe. Opaque black sunglasses hid his eyes from few.
"How so?" the girl asked as her expressionless face looked at the barren scenery along the road. Roger had assured her that further up the river was mountains and forest, but so far everything looked like desert and scrub.
"The Winthrop Institute for Dream Research is one of the few research laboratories out by Electric City," Roger explained. "After the Union attacked and Big Fau devastated Paradigm City, Lawrence Winthrop allowed Walter Dandridge to create a special psychiatric facility at Dinosaur Lodge."
"What kind of psychiatric facility?" the redhead prompted in a neutral tone.
"Apparently, he created a machine that allows people to monitor and record someone's dreams."
"Record their dreams?" Dorothy repeated without the slightest hint of surprise.
"That's right," Roger nodded. "If dreams can be recorded, this could be how a person's Memories could be recovered. For all I know, this kind of technology might have removed our Memories over forty years ago!"
"Do you think that technology was used to drive Nora Pope insane?" the girl asked.
"Hard to say," Roger shrugged as the car drove up into the hills. "The Electric City sheriff found an assortment of psychogenic drugs in her room. She wasn't a patient. She was part of the staff; she worked there as a maid. Her parents insist that she was a teetotaler, didn't smoke, and even refused cola because of the caffeine in it. They can't believe that she'd mess around with narcotics."
"People lie all the time," Dorothy stated in her cold emotionless voice, "Especially to their parents. It's possible that Nora's parents didn't know everything about her."
"Did you ever lie to your father?" Roger asked slyly.
"Only at first, when I didn't know what I really meant," Dorothy replied without looking at him. "To be honest, he did all the lying for me."
"I think I understand," Roger decided to drop the subject. "I agree with you Dorothy. It's quite possible that everything in Electric City is on the up and up. But I'm still curious. I wonder if people in Paradigm City are dreaming of a sky replaced by a ceiling with giant stage lights…"
"I see," Dorothy said calmly. "You want to know if the Winthrop Institute is legitimate. You're hoping they can help you understand your own dreams."
"If Nora Pope really did overdose herself it would be nice to benefit from what the facility has to offer," Roger admitted. "But I doubt everything's so straightforward."
"Why do you say that?" Dorothy asked him.
"Call it a hunch," Roger sighed. "The promise of the Winthrop Institute is probably too good to be true."
They drove on for miles taking up most of the day. The further away from Paradigm City they got the greener the countryside became. By the time they got to Electric City the sun had set and the land was covered by trees. Apparently the proximity to the river and lake had allowed the ecosystem to recover from whatever devastated the world over forty years before, unlike the barren and blasted countryside outside Paradigm City.
Electric City wasn't as large as Paradigm City, but its buildings were modern. The skyscrapers looked out of place next to the rural surroundings. A huge dam dominated the lake by the town. Now that the denizens weren't afraid of a lake monster that fed on electricity anymore, there was talk of rebuilding the power plant that Roger has dismantled last year. It was strange seeing the modern buildings lit by gaslights and lanterns, but then Electric City had always been a backwater, at least until a few months ago.
Refugees had been pouring into Electric City after Big Fau and the Union almost took Paradigm City apart. Electric City didn't have any domes but the buildings filled up and a few people actually started converting buildings into hotels.
"I doubt they'll be receiving visitors at Dinosaur Lodge this late," Roger said as he turned into a parking lot in front of a building with a sign lit by a lantern. The sign had the word crudely painted 'HOTEL' on it.
When he entered the lobby, a bearded man in a flannel shirt was talking to the motel clerk. "Are you sure he didn't come back?" he asked. "He wouldn't just disappear like that!"
"I'm sorry sir, I can't explain it," the clerk apologized as he relit one of the candles on the counter before him. "He didn't come in."
"I thought that when we left Paradigm City, we'd get away from all this!" the bearded man moaned. "I expect people to disappear in the big city, but not out here! Are you sure the locals don't have it out for us?"
"I admit the people here are kind of insular," the clerk agreed, "but I come from Paradigm City too. You know what it's like. I can hardly blame them."
"Dammit, it's not just Bill, people have been disappearing all over the place!" the man in the flannel shirt exclaimed. "Bill and I were campin' out with our buddy Joe the night he disappeared!"
"Another disappearance?" Roger asked as he walked over to the desk.
"Who the hell are you?" The bearded man gave the negotiator a suspicious glare.
"Who am I? Why nobody at all," Roger assured him. "I'm a Paradigm City boy myself and this is my first night in town. If something is happening to strangers around here it's in my best interests to learn all about it. Don't want to disappear too. Forewarned is forearmed you know."
The man grunted as he looked suspiciously at Roger's expensive black suit. Compared to the clothes of the town's denizens and the refugees from Paradigm City, Roger was overdressed.
"You were talking about another friend who disappeared?" Roger prodded.
"Damn right!" the man growled. "A few nights back we was sittin' by the fire, sharin' a can of beans when all of a sudden, Joe puts down his spoon, gets up and shuffles off. I asked him where he's goin'. He says for a walk. How'd ya figure? Leaves Bill an' me and goes for a damn walk. Well, it was the unluckiest walk he ever took. He ain't come back yet! That's why Bill an' me decided to spend some of our savings stayin' here! And now Bill's gone too!"
"Have the locals reported any disappearances?" Roger asked as Dorothy entered carrying large and heavy suitcases.
"If they have, they haven't told me!" the man growled as he pushed past him and marched to the stairs. "I should have stayed in Paradigm!"
"What was that about Roger?" Dorothy asked him.
"I don't know Dorothy," he replied. "It sounds like things aren't as quiet as they seem. While we're out here we better keep our eyes open."
"Ah… would you and your lady friend like a room sir?" the clerk asked them.
"Yes," Roger said breezily. "Two adjoining rooms if you've got them, otherwise I'd like them across the hall from each other."
"I could put you in a suite so you could be together," the night clerk offered.
Roger gulped and looked over at the petite redhead nervously. "Uh, that won't be necessary! Two rooms will be fine! Honestly!"
"There's no need to be embarrassed sir, I'm from Paradigm City," the clerk blushed. "Back home lots of couples needed a room if you catch my meaning."
"Stop making these ridiculous insinuations!" Roger snarled. "Our relationship is not that way! You don't understand! This girl is an android!"
The sound of an electronic servo was heard as girl swiveled her head to face Roger.
"There seems to be something on your face, Roger Smith," she said coldly.
Roger instinctively darted away from the slender android, despite the fact that she still held the heavy suitcases and stood perfectly still without making any threatening gestures. He coughed in embarrassment and went back to the clerk. "So I'd like two rooms please, if it's not too much trouble," he mumbled.
After Roger procured two rooms for the night, they climbed the stairs to the second floor. Roger carried a flashlight but Dorothy's barrette slid forward to reveal a rectangular halogen light in a cavity above her bangs. "Why aren't there any lights on?" she asked as they walked down the darkened hall. "Is there a power outage?"
"When I was here last time I dismantled the power plant," Roger shrugged. "Didn't want that electricity monster to regenerate itself. I figured it would be safer this way and in any case the residents of Electric City don't seem to like electricity."
"That makes it a very strange name for a town," Dorothy observed.
"Yes it is," Roger smiled. "Humans are much stranger than androids Dorothy. It's strange. The people back home all have a phobia when it comes to the dark but in this town, everyone is afraid of electricity. This looks like our rooms," he said as he shined his flashlight on a number on the door before he turned to her. "Here's your key. I'll take my bag now, Dorothy."
"Roger, why did you bring me with you?" The android's voice sounded shy as she handed him his suitcase and took the key to her room out of his gloved hand.
"Well Dorothy, if things work out, those Dream Research people will be analyzing my dreams," Roger replied as airily as he could.
"So?" Dorothy asked with childish impertinence. "Why did you bring me along? As I recall you're usually a fanatic when it comes to your privacy, Roger Smith."
"The police used a machine to view your visual memories a few months back during that 'android crusher' case didn't they?" the young man asked.
"Yes," the mechanical girl replied.
"So I can't think of a better person to bring along than someone who's already endured that kind of humiliation," Roger shrugged. "I can count on you to be understanding. Why else would I bring you along?"
"I thought it was because you were uneasy about leaving me in Paradigm City while you're gone," Dorothy replied. "Since you restored my Memories you've been very attentive. It's as if you're afraid to leave me alone for too long."
"Guess I should know better than to try to pull one over on you," Roger grin ed as he put his hands in his pockets and leaned against the wall. "Sorry if I dragged you away from anything, Dorothy. It's not fair for me to obsess on you like this. You don't mind do you?"
"Not at all," the android girl replied. "Usually you're an uncaring louse. Now you're actually concerned about me. I find it a refreshing change."
"I've always cared about you," Roger smiled, refusing to be troubled by her playful barb. Playful for her at least. "You're not the only one who can hide what they're feeling. There's a lot about me you don't know, Dorothy."
"Hopefully the Winthrop Institute for Dream Research is what it appears to be and you can find out what that is," Dorothy sparred. "Goodnight, Roger."
"Goodnight, Dorothy," he smiled as he carried his suitcase into his room and removed his tie. He opened the curtain to look out at the darkened streets of Electric City to see a man walking down the street with his hands outstretched in front of him. The moon shone down on the street illuminating it so Roger could see it was the bearded man in the flannel shirt. He was walking drunkenly, almost like a sleepwalker.
Roger opened the window and shouted at him. "Hey! Are you alright?"
The man ignored him and continued to walk down the street with his arms out in front of him. Roger had seen things like that in old movies but never in real life. Making a decision, the blackclad young man dashed back down the hall and down the stairs. When he got down to the street he looked both ways, but couldn't see the man anywhere.
It didn't make any sense. The man said that he was staying at the same hotel. Roger and Dorothy saw him go upstairs. So what was he doing on the street with his arms outstretched in front of him as if he couldn't see? Why would he leave his room after two of his friends had disappeared? Roger didn't like it, and suspected that yet another refugee from Paradigm City had gone missing in this town.
Roger shone his flashlight on the sidewalk, hoping to find some kind of clue that might reveal where the man had gone. He was startled when he heard Dorothy's voice calling to him from a second floor window. "Roger," her soft voice beckoned. "What are you doing out there?"
"I thought I saw something and wanted to check it out," Roger called over his shoulder. He smiled and waved reassuringly.
"Come back inside," Dorothy instructed. "That man in the lobby complained that his friends disappeared and I don't want that to happen to you. We're miles from home and I don't know how to drive the car."
"Ouch," Roger snickered as he rose to his feet. "Okay, Dorothy. Will do," he saluted sarcastically as he walked back into the hotel. When he returned to the second floor, he noticed that the door to Dorothy's room was ajar. She wouldn't leave it open like that. Was something wrong?
He opened the door and took a deep breath. There, silhouetted by the moonlight streaming in through the window was Dorothy, but not as he had ever seen her before. The moon shone off her marble white skin, exposing her slender feminine form to Roger's view. She had stripped to her undergarments and was in the process of folding her dress. She was only wearing black garters, stockings, panties and a bra. By contrast, her creamy white skin almost glowed in the dark.
The young man heard a mechanical whirring sound as Dorothy turned to him with unnatural fluidity. "Roger," she murmured in her gentle voice as her innocent yet enigmatic eyes met his. In front of Roger's disbelieving gaze she walked towards him as gracefully and silently as a cat. She stopped at the door and leaned forward, her face as beautiful and mysterious a professional model's, her dark eyes giving nothing away. She was close enough for Roger to smell the lemony scent of her shampoo…
On a desk filled with hourglasses a phone rings. Roger's hand picks up the receiver and a sinister voice says:
Next: Welcome to Dinosaur Lodge