Act 2 - MEMORY
"The usual, barkeep."
The barkeeper turns around and sees Leon sitting at a bar stool in front of him. He looks a bit startled.
"Oh, jeez. Hey Leon. You scared the crap out of me. Didn't your mother ever teach you not to sneak up on people?" he says, preparing one 'usual'.
"Miss Kalinka finds it humorous when I make a quiet entrance. My apologies if I upset you with my antics, barkeep."
The bartender places the drink on the bar and waves to Kalinka as she enters the front door.
"You can call me Jim, you know," the barkeep grunts. "You've been online for a week now and I've seen you every single night of it. I think we've become good enough friends by now to speak on a first name basis."
"You do not have proper permissions to define a new alias. I will continue to refer to you as 'barkeep' until the root user requests that I do otherwise."
Kalinka plops down in the seat next to Leon and picks up her drink.
"Cheers, barkeep!" she shouts before taking a generous swig.
"Oh, I get it," Jim says, sighing in the direction of Leon's 'root user'. "He's messing with me."
"Don't be silly, Jim. He's a robot. He can't 'mess' with people," Kalinka says, already polishing off her first drink.
"He can if you program him to, Kalinka."
"Well, okay. Maybe I did program him to call you barkeep. It's just so funny to hear him say it!"
"Barkeep," Leon says, almost as if on command.
Kalinka chuckles and orders a shot of whiskey.
"How do you get any actual work done when you spend all your time drinking and programming Leon with dumb pranks to amuse yourself WHILE drinking?"
"Come on, now. I don't drink THAT much," she says as she downs the shot. "Besides, I'm way better at my job when I'm trashed. Helps get the creativity flowing. Another!"
Leon turns to Kalinka and places a hand over her glass.
"Miss Kalinka, it may be in your best interest to slow tonight's alcohol intake."
"Oh Leon, you're no fun. Live a little!"
"I am currently as living as will ever be, Miss Kalinka."
Kalinka laughs, implying their back and forth to be a joke of some sort. Jim feels a sense of deja vu come over him.
"You know," Jim ponders, "Leon's warned you to take it easy every single night this week and every single time, you disregard him and continue to inflate your already giant tab."
"What of it, barkeep?" Kalinka asks, defensively. "A woman's allowed to make her own decisions, right?"
"Well, what I don't understand is why you haven't just programmed him to NOT question your judgment every night. Kinda seems like it's ultimately just a waste of battery for him to sing if you're never going to listen."
Kalinka looks over at Leon. She hesitates for just a few moments before turning back to Jim and giving him a big smile. "He's my lab assistant! He's supposed to question my judgment!" Jim sighs, not sure if that was the answer he was looking for.
"No offense to Leon, but wouldn't a human be better suited for a job like that? Someone who actually has judgment of their own to compare against yours?"
"Are you serious? What human with 'good' judgment is going to tell their boss that she's wrong? Besides, you know I don't play nice with others, Jim. Remember that time I came into the bar and some guy was sitting in my seat?"
"Oh, you mean the time you completely skipped the 'politely ask man to move' step of normal social interaction and went directly to the 'kick bar stool out from under man and throw a tantrum' step? No, I don't think I remember that at all, actually."
"You don't? I guess that's not surprising...he did give you a pretty good thump on the head after you tried to defend me!"
Kalinka begins laughing hysterically. She nudges Leon with her elbow and he joins her with a sound clip of generic audience laughter. Jim shakes his head at the absurdity of the situation.
"Too bad you didn't have Leon back then. Military robot like him probably has all kinds of special defense training, right?"
Kalinka suddenly stops laughing and gives Jim a solemn stare. "Robots don't get 'training', they just get programmed to do stuff like that. Don't you know anything about robots?"
"Learnin' more every day. So what kind of special defense 'programming' does Leon have?"
"Get me a refill and I'll tell ya."
Jim slides another drink into Kalinka's hand.
"Thanks." Kalinka sips her drink quietly. Jim waits.
"Oh, Leon doesn't have any stuff like that."
"Use your brain, dummy. Do you really think they'd let me take military-grade weaponry out to the local bar?"
"Of course not...I just assumed you snuck him out of the lab each night."
"I do, but that's neither here nor there." Jim smacks his hand against his face.
"I was joking about that 'sneaking out' comment, but thank you letting me know about the questionable legality surrounding the restricted government tech that hangs out in my bar each night."
"Knowledge is power, Jim."
"...I'm walking away now."
"Wait! Come back! I need another drink!"
"Hey, Kalinka...I think you've probably had enough." Jim picks up Kalinka's empty glass and begins cleaning it.
"I think YOU'VE had enough, Jim!" Kalinka pounds her fist on the bar and demands another drink.
"Miss Kalinka," Leon interjects. "I have analyzed your blood alcohol level and it seems to be well past the point at which impaired judgment begins to occur. I must agree with barkeep's assessment. For the sake of your health, it may be wise to conclude today's drinking session."
Just as Leon finishes his warning, a man stumbles past and glances back at Kalinka. "Hey liddle lady," he slurrs. "you should prob'ly lissen to yer boyfriend!"
Kalinka and Jim both stare daggers at the man as he leaves the bar, giggling to himself. Leon ignores the man's comment.
"Are you ready to leave, Miss-"
"Leon," Kalinka scowls. "enter standby mode."
"But, Miss Kalinka..."
"Leon. Standby mode."
Leon reluctantly ceases his warnings. Kalinka stares at him for a moment before sliding her head down to the bar. Jim is paralyzed with fear. Suddenly, Kalinka shoots her head up.
"Man, really wish real men worked like that!" she shouts. "Two words and he shut right up!"
She laughs at an uncomfortably loud level. A few other bar goers turn their heads to see what the commotion is about. Jim is even more afraid to move than before. "Why so quiet all of the sudden, Jimmy? You love it when I embarrass you in your own bar."
Jim tries to find words. "Oh, sorry. There was...uh...a stubborn spot I was trying to get out of this glass."
Kalinka stares intently into his eyes, as if she's trying to decide if that's a valid excuse or not.
"...yeah, okay." She slouches forward in her seat, resting her head on the bar once more.
"Seriously, though. You should really head home for the-"
"Shut up," Kalinka interrupts.
Jim stares at the top of her head, her long hair fanning out over the bar's surface. Before he has a chance to say anything in response, Kalinka addresses the elephant in the room. "You have questions, right? About Leon?"
Jim's muscles tense up. He stares at her robot companion. "What about him?"
"No, not that Leon," she says, acknowledging the direction of his stare without even picking her head up to look. Jim tries to rush her out of the bar once more.
"Kalinka. You really don't need to talk about this. You should go home and-"
She flings her head up once more and stares him down.
"Don't feed me that shit, Jim. I know you're curious. When I came in here a week ago and introduced you to Leon, I could tell you were uncomfortable. You were trying to hide it, but you did a terrible job. I knew right away."
Jim tries to break eye contact, but he's held in place by the intensity of her gaze. "...Kalinka. You don't need to justify-"
"I miss him, Jim. I really and truly do. Did you know? When he kissed me goodbye for the last time, we had just finished having a big fight. I was really pissed about it. Still am. I thought we'd get a chance to talk about it and work out our differences, but he never came back."
"He died, Jim. He fucking died and left me alone. Left me to feel guilty about that fight. I don't even remember what the fight was about, but I know it was my fault. I was always getting on his case about one thing or another. I can't believe I let him leave like that."
"You remember him, right? This was his favorite bar. You better fucking remember him."
"Of course I do. He was one of my favorite regulars."
"You were his favorite barkeeper. Always listened to him, right? Listened to him complain about me, I bet."
"Of course not-"
"Shut up. It's my turn to be listened to."
"This robot...I named him Leon. I named him after my stupid, loser, asshole, wonderful, loving boyfriend. My DEAD boyfriend. It's pretty fucked, isn't it? You think it's fucked, right? Right, Jim?"
"I'm not judging you, Kalinka. I wasn't judging you the first day you brought him in here and I'm not judging you now. You loved him. He loved you. I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to keep him beside you."
Kalinka's face twitches and softens for a moment before she finally breaks eye contact. Her head slams against the bar. Jim takes a deep breath, glad that she had finally calmed down.
"You don't get it."
Jim looks down at the top of her head once more. He notices her trembling as she speaks.
"I DON'T want him beside me."
"Do you have any idea what it's like to lose someone, Jim? Do you have any idea what it's like to hear their name after they're gone? To be reminded that they were alive once, but no more? Everytime I hear his name... every time I SAY his name...it feels like a knife being thrust right through my chest. It's an unbearable pain."
"Kalinka...if that's how it feels...why did you pick that name?"
Kalinka slams her hands down on the bar and pulls herself up.
"Why did I pick that name?! Why did I name him Leon?! Because I NEVER want to forget that pain, Jim. I NEVER want to forget what it feels like to lose somebody to this FUCKING war. I NEVER want to forget what I'm working toward. I NEVER want anyone else to have to feel this knife cut them so deep." She looks up and Jim sees the tears flowing down her face.
"I'm going to stop the killing with my research, Jim. I'm going to spend every waking moment with Leon's ghost haunting me as a reminder that he DIED to protect me. I will NOT let his sacrifice go to waste. I will NOT let his memory go to waste. I will NOT let my life go to waste. I will NOT!"