John Kennex wants to know more about the DRNs. He goes to his only source, Rudy.


Rudy Lom wasn't keeping his hopes up, but he was totally ready for his next mission on the field. He knew the probability was next to nil, but that didn't stop him from fantasizing about the exciting prospect in the privacy of his lab. In the unlikely event, he would be fully prepared. He was aware the current disarray of the lab filled with spare parts and the general paraphernalia of his trade didn't do him justice. Thus, he had decided on the next best thing: get a closet. He liked to call it the Wardrobe.

He stood up leisurely, already enjoying the sight of his new props, in the form of every possible attires, shoes and headgears. Everything he had managed to acquire during the past weeks, -in selected second-hand clothing stores. Shivering in anticipation, he walked across the lab, and stopped in front of the Wardrobe. He wiggled his fingers, loosened up his neck by gently turning his head from side to side, and took a deep breath. He lifted his arms like a woman about to embrace her lover, barely acknowledging that he had stopped breathing.

"Rudy! You there my friend?"

Rudy's eyes snapped open. He looked around wildly. "John," he exhaled. "Do you ever knock?" he protested feebly.

Kennex ambled smoothly to the technician. He shrugged his shoulders. "Rudy, it's a lab, not your bedroom." He frowned. "Well maybe it is. Well, anyway. I…"

"Is Dorian all right? What did you do to him this time? I swear that if you…"

"Not to worry, Dorian's fine. No nipper, no Q-tip, no gum, no nothing, not a scratch in the paint."

"DRN's skin is state of the art. It's a silicon bas…"

"Don't get your boxer shorts in a twist, I'm telling you he's okay. He doesn't even know I'm here," he smiled reassuringly. "If he doesn't track me down here, that is."

Rudy's shoulders slumped forward in obvious relief. "What can I do for you then, John?" he asked puzzled. "Ohh… do you need my… anonymous expert help, again?" he winked eagerly.

"Er… yeah, something like that."

The furrows on his forehead made him look nothing like the gruff detective Rudy was used to. He seemed even embarrassed. Rudy glanced at his left leg with a knowing nod. "I see, it's the leg again, huh? I asked Dorian to monitor it for me but he didn't report anything not within normal parameters, except for your obvious lack of maintenance. Let me check my messages, he's usually very thorough."

"You asked Dorian to… !? Never mind. My leg is perfectly fine," the detective groaned.

"Oh? All right. What is it then? I doubt you're down here to ask me to the pub. I know I didn't hold my liquor the first time but I'm working on it," he added. "I do think I finally identify a promising molecule which…"

Kennex shook his head. "We can go to the pub anytime you want. Dorian made me promise I'll do it, anyway. He volunteered to take you safely home in the event… well, you know, you would pass out. Again."

Rudy gasped for breath. "Really?"

"Really." Kennex sighed warily. "Well I guess sometime you better go with your gut, right?" he finally said, more for himself than for his colleague. "I mean to ask you something but you got to promise me not to tell anyone, okay?"


"Er… DRNs all look alike, right?"




"Is there an echo in here?"

"Right. Sorry. I wouldn't know, John. It was Nigel Vaughn's project to begin with. I guess I could fetch his notes for you."

"His notes? You joking right?"

"Oh, yes, probably not. Sorry about that. Let me think."

"Yes, you do that," Kennex checked his watch. "Better think fast or Dorian will barge in here before we know it. Any second now."

"Nigel developed a matrix so to speak. He wanted the DRNs to reflect a perfect mix of human physical traits, either dominant or recessive. He posited that phenotypic variation is a prerequisite for evolution by…."

"Wow, wow, wow! English please?"

"Yes, sorry. The DRN was meant to be medium height, medium built…"

"I get it. Medium. What about their face?"

"Their face?" Rudy shook his head. "What about their face?"

"Echo again…"

"How can I…. For example, blue eyes are rare in mammals. However, it has been shown that most men don't feel threatened by male individuals with blue eyes."

"No threat. I see."

"Ah, ah, funny. Anyway. Maybe Nigel liked blue, I wouldn't know."

"Rudy, I'm not a patient man."

"Right. Well, what's next? Skin colour, that one is a given. Skin pigmentation emerged with bipedalism and loss of body hair. Eventually, the colour of the human skin, with the exception of mutations such as albinism, and despite geographic locations, will be… uniform. All the more so since the extent of global warming."

"It makes sense."

Rudy smiled uneasily, fidgeting with a pen he had hastily picked up from a desk.



"Rudy…. Come on!"

"Huh. Paedomorphic features then, I guess."

"Excuse me?"

"DRNs have juvenile characteristics, fine and delicate hair, a rounded forehead, big eyes, a pulpy mouth, etc. because it triggers cooperation and altruistic behaviour from their humans."

"Hey, wait, shouldn't it be the other way round?"

Rudy shrugged. "Don't shoot the messenger. I remember Nigel added a special trait, a particular muscle contraction that increases the size of their eyes so they appear vulnerable."

"Are you making this up?"

"No, no, he knew how to manipulate human sensory preferences so that humans considered DRNs harmless while they are very powerful, and practically indestructible, actually. I remember…"

"And gentle," Kennex said quietly.

"And gentle."

"Thank you Rudy. I guess there's nothing new then."

"You don't want to know why they're different from the new MX-43…" Rudy wriggled his brows, waving his hand before his crotch, "… down there?"

"Oh really, they are," said Kennex nonchalantly. "I had no idea." He added a pout for good measure. "What for? They're not sexbots."

"Oh my god, of course not!" Rudy protested. "Their Synthetic Soul program operates on free will so they can eventually choose the right partner."

Kennex swallowed painfully.

"They are fully functional and well versed in the art of tantric sex for example." Rudy continued, enthused. "They can even ejaculate, let's say on demand, and feel real pleasure as well as give pleasure to their partner. Nigel was working on a female version of the DRNs when he realized it would be superfluous."

"Superfluous? No DRN love then?"

"Not at all, you don't understand. From the first batch, he discovered that the subjects where attracted to their awakener. Think a duckling and his mother, see. Funny fact, it appeared to be reciprocated in most occurrences. So there was no use to create a female DRN. Not right away. "

"Of course, not." Kennex' face went blank. "I… gotta go. Thanks Rudy. I have things…. important things… to do. Now."

"No problem. So… see you at the pub, then, mate."