EBONY AND IVORY

John and Dorian banter. Just playing. As usual, way too much dialogue.

-o-

Dorian was perched on a stool, his left hand cupping his head, his elbow firmly set on the counter of The Haiphong Delight. He had not moved for the last five or six minutes, gazing upon the next Spring Festival posters. It will be a Horse year. Fortunately, it won't be a Fire Horse Year, that one won't be back for another thirty eight years, he computed quickly. He didn't want anything to jinx his new assignment. Four years and three months in oblivion was long enough. And he really wanted to be a cop, stay a cop, he corrected. If he was not dead certain before, he knew that much after his brief encounter with his fellow DRN life sentenced to be a mechanic. And a DRN life was long, very long indeed.

The tenant's wife, a small woman whose happy face was webbed with fine wrinkles, appeared in his field of view. He smiled gently. She smiled back, nodded, and skittered away. It was enough to awake him from a comfortable induced drowsiness.

He swivelled on the stool, and turned to face his partner, appraising the size of his bowl of noodles. He checked his partner's vitals. General vitamin deficiency was to be expected. Maybe he could slip some complements into his coffee or his beer? He observed John Kennex intently. The detective had managed to turn slurping into an art form. Dorian stared again at John's bowl of noodles, and bobbed his head slightly. "Do you believe in God, John?"

Kennex choked. "It's the right time, you think?" The detective shifted uneasily on his seat. [Calibration incomplete] his leg protested. He winced, his mind set on ignoring the synthetic leg. "Even if you don't eat, it doesn't take complex programming to realize that I am!" he spluttered. He pointed the chopsticks in Dorian's direction with a warning glare. "For your information, I was perfectly happy with you giving me the silent treatment. You should keep that footnote in your file for later use."

"Must I surmise that God is not compatible with noodles?" asked the android matter-of-factly.

The chopsticks bounced back on the counter. "I think I just lost my appetite," said the detective. He wiped his mouth, stashed a twenty under the bowl and stood up, heading for the exit.

"I simply don't understand why we can't have a serious conversation over breakfast, man."

"Because," Kennex snapped with a side glance. He pushed the door not bothering to hold it for his partner.

"Because?"

"Drop it Dorian," he added pointedly while opening the driver's door.

Dorian went around the cruiser. "You're not the happy type before breakfast, I get that, man. May I suggest you pick me up after your morning noodle routine then?" he added, settling in.

"I said, drop it, I'm not in the mood."

"The idea of a supreme being intrigues me," Dorian insisted calmly. "Has He a purpose? Or should I infer He has none?"

"Unbelievable! And it's not even 9. Can't you give me a f.. break for once! Just… sit and be quiet."

"Obviously, humans would find solace in His existence, with the looming certainty of their deaths, I mean," Dorian added thoughtfully.

"Aren't you the merry one this morning…" The seatbelt buckled with a click.

"Or is it merely a conscience thing?"

"Merely?" Kennex huffed. He pushed the ignition switch on the lock position and engaged in traffic. "A conscience thing? Look who's talking! You're just a bunch of wires and circuits patched together, with some god damn good programming to make it work… What could you possibly understand about conscience or Faith, for God's sake!"

"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Exodus 20:7. I don't have a real brain but I do have a conscience."

"Good for you, Pinocchio."

"Hence I have questions."

"Fantastic. Ask me about police work! I'm not a priest, a minister, an imam, a rabbi…"

"I understand."

"No, you don't. Go find yourself a…"

"I'd rather talk with you." Dorian sat back and watched the road for a moment. "Trimidium circuits to be precise."

Kennex rolled his eyes. "Whatever! That doesn't make it a real brain."

"Compared to a highly protein compound and some hazardous electric activity, I'd favour mine every time. And don't forget I'm carbon-based, just like you."

"I'm nothing like you," Kennex spat.

"Yes, I think we've established that," said Dorian softly with a lopsided grin.

"What is this supposed to mean, now?" Kennex burst out, avoiding a delivery truck at the last second. "To my knowledge, I wasn't manufactured in batches!"

"Oh, I see. Your parents didn't use IVF. I was not aware of that fact. I will update your files," he teased.

"Not every human falls for new technology," Kennex scowled, oblivious of the intended pun. "My parents were satisfied with the good old time-proven method. And look at the result?" he glowered. "Pure perfection."

"On par with your humility and restraint. At least, since I'm not allowed to drive yet…"

"Never!"

"… though I'm much more proficient than you'll ever be, please watch the road. I'm too young to die."

"Too young to die? What is it even supposed to mean? Unbelievable!" he said again.

"Seriously man, you're a menace behind a wheel."

"There's nothing wrong with my driving."

"In a fun park, there's not. It is a police cruiser, not a bumper car." Blue flashes flickered on his face. "I think we're here, John."

Not waiting for another snarky remark, Dorian jumped out of the car as soon as it stopped. He refrained from hurrying to the crime scene, and followed John Kennex through the holographic tape at a steady pace instead. "Okay, what have we got?" he clasped his hands with glee, and turned to his partner.

Kennex' eyebrow twitched. "Excuse me?"

"I wanted to say that ever since you've awaken me," Dorian beamed.

"Probably too much watching classic detective series growing up."

"Not funny."

"That's my case, you don't have any say," Kennex turned his back to the android. "Especially today."

"So I guess you're still mad at me?"

"Ya bet," he snapped with a curt nod. "And you won't distract me with some idiotic theological quest or something."

"Maybe we should discuss what I did."

"There's nothing to discuss. That was plain wrong!"

"It was a practical joke, man. It wasn't meant to hurt your feelings."

"Really, a practical joke? That's an interesting notion. And just when I thought we'd been through that already after that online dating profile debacle. You just can't play around with my… character. I'm a real person, not your personal toy or one of your MX friends." Kennex knelt beside the body and lifted the tarp with two fingers.

"I am certain that detective Stahl was well aware…"

"And don't start again. Detective Stahl is just a colleague," Kennex emphasized. The tarp flapped back into place. "As far as I'm concerned, one person aware of what you put me through is one too many."

"A colleague who happens to enjoy soccer and bourbon, just like you," Dorian continued, not easily derailed. "Don't you find it odd?"

"What the f… Are you spying on me now?"

"His larynx was smashed with a fist," Dorian said abruptly. "I will send Rudy a DNA sample and a digital handprint." He nodded. "Done." His face went back to normal. "As you must know by now, I merely observe, John. I can assure you it was just a coincidence. I took advantage of the situation and got the best out of it."

"The best out of… That's enough!"

"I was on my way to the basement when…"

Kennex waved his hand dismissively. "I don't want to know. Don't. Ever. Speak of that awful place again."

"I wouldn't if you'd put a word in for me with Captain Maldonado. She listens to you. I think she likes you too."

"Yeah. John Kennex, the babe magnet."

"I doubt Captain Maldonado falls into that category. Seriously man, I need a place of my own. You've seen where I live. You know. This over-closeness with the MXs, it's driving me crazy." His skin flickered rapidly. "They give me the creeps."

"I don't care. Getting Valerie mixed up in your childish scheme was a mistake. You are going to suffer, my friend."

"So, it's Valerie now…"

"Don't push it Dorian. Last warning." Kennex moved around and gathered some additional information from the uniformed cops and their MXs. "How could you come up with that prank if you weren't spying in the first place?" he finally said. He pocketed his pad and shrugged. "Frankly, right now, you sound like a broken clock. Ask Rudy for a software update or something, because there's definitively something wrong with you!"

Dorian paused, his skin flashing a bright colour sequence. "No," he said, "I don't think so, but thank you for your concern."

Kennex sighed. "I told you I'll have a conversation with Sand... Maldonado, eventually," he gave up. "But on second thought, after what you did, I'm not so sure to let you have extra free time on your hands is such a good idea. I suggest you backpedal if you don't want to be sent to the moon, or the Space Station, or worse. That's what real people do when they need to be in anyone's good graces. They behave."

"Are you suggesting that my housing problem is a matter of politics?"

"I wouldn't put it that way, but yes. Apart from the obvious fact." John stared. Dorian stared back, obviously puzzled. "You're a bot! You don't need to get a flat. You're our dollars at work, not the other way round. You don't have a government allowance."

"I see. I don't get paid to do the same job you do and more."

"Exactly!" John said. "No, your job is completely different. In fact…"

"I don't think so but for the sake of this conversation…"

"For Christ's sake, it's time you tone down the rhetoric, Dorian. Back off now, and let me do my job. I said I'll think about it."

"Thank you John."

Kennex rolled his eyes and went back to the cruiser. "I'll tell you something. I'll talk to her today. But don't get your hopes up because she'll never agree to that."

"I appreciate it, man. Really."

Kennex clasped the wheel and relaxed. "After all, you're right. It was a prank. I'm probably overreacting."

"Detective Stahl is computer savvy. She's also very fond of her MX. She realized it was me that was messing with your leg. And you. I can't imagine a single circumstance that would make you kneel before her."

"Yeah, right. I said that's enough."

"She offered me to share her apartment downtown."

"Valerie?" Kennex blinked.

"I'm not comfortable with this arrangement."

"You're not? Why not? You're a bot, that's not your place to be picky."

"I don't want to jeopardise our friendship."

"Your friendship? Great!"

"You know people would talk."

Kennex stayed silent for a good thirty seconds. "Yeah, you're probably right. I can't possibly drop at her place every morning to get you without starting a rumour, especially if the three of us carpool to the precinct."

"Yes. Carpooling. My thought exactly," Dorian said, a mischievous smile tugging at his lips. "There's got to be a better arrangement."

"No! No, no, no," Kennex shook his head. "24/7? Don't even think about it. One charger in my apartment is more than enough and… I lost my spare keys. And that's final."

"I have no idea what you're talking about man." Dorian grinned. "Ebony and ivory, Live together in perfect harmony…"

"And enough with the singing, okay?"

"… Side by side on my piano keyboard…"

"I said enough!"

"… Oh, lord, why don't we-ee-ee?" Ebony-y-y…. Ivory-y… Oh oooh oooooohh."