December 21 - year 2038
A shotgun blasted through a dark alley in Downtown Detroit. With steady hands, he spun the weapon over his shoulder and stuffed it into the rucksack on his back. He turned and ran, his stolen boots slapping the rain-slicked pavement. To his right, sirens.
He skidded out of the alleyway and careened to the left, slamming into a parked car. Ahead of him, a line of clubs and bars thrummed with energy, overflowing with music and screams of laughter. He grunted and ran straight for the loudest and most crowded, bursting into a startled group of humans, hoping that their umbrellas hid him.
At least three cars shrieked to a halt, not far behind him. He broke past the bouncers and threw himself inside.
Female vocals wailed over the pounding bass and the lights flashed to its beat, the skin of the humans around him changing color with each pulse.
There. A staircase leading to a balcony. He pushed through the crowd, knocking drinks out of hands.
Four shots flew over the crowd – three of them missed, but the fourth hit him in the neck, severing his jugular. A woman near him screamed.
Thirium spurted from his neck as he took one step, two steps, three. His knees buckled on the fourth step and he slumped face first onto the floor, dead.
Pink neon lights reflected off the pool of blue blood spreading from his body, and the cops approaching tried not to step in it. They lowered their guns, one of them unclipping his radio to report the shots fired to dispatch. More sirens could be heard outside.
“The ambulance is here.”
“It’s an android.”
The first cop clicked his tongue. “He’s an android,” he admonished the other. “They got rights now, remember?”
The second cop sighed and scratched the back of his head. “Fine, fine.” The EMTs were already kneeling next to the body anyway.
“This is the third one tonight.”
“Whattaya think we should do?”
Another sigh. “Call Fowler.”
Chapter 2: A NEW PARTNER
Connor and Gavin are reunited and no one is happy about it.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
December 21 – year 2038
The sound of the shower could be heard from down the hall, just barely over the jazz floating from the record player. Piano keys plunked over each other, melting into the soft scratch of needle on vinyl. A nearby album cover read: “Blues in My Shower” – Nat King Cole Trio.
How appropriate, Connor thought.
He’d been doing a lot of that lately. Thinking, that is.
Behind him, there was a small squeak, and the shower stopped. Connor petted the heavy head of the St. Bernard resting on his thigh. Everything was warm, and soft, and peaceful; he closed his eyes and tried to commit the moment to memory.
The bathroom door opened and Hank walked up to the sofa, wearing a Detroit P.D. t-shirt, sweatpants, and a faint whiff of soap. “So,” he said, rubbing a faded towel over his head, “tomorrow’s your first day back.”
“Well? How d’you feel about it?”
“I’m looking forward to it,” he replied, with no hesitation. He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t worried – not everyone was happy about android integration, and Connor represented the very idea itself. Along with Markus, Connor had been essential to the success of the Android Movement. He knew that, and he was proud of it…but he wanted to move on. He wanted to work; get out of Hank’s house. He was tired of waiting and watching the news, tired of the reports of anti-android riots which were both violent and a common occurrence. They ignited feelings of anger and sadness that Connor hadn’t yet figured out how to cope with.
…Still. Worried or not, Connor had grown restless. Police work was, quite literally, what he was made for, and he was itching to get back to it. He had found some relief in researching homicides and solving cold cases on the internet, but nothing had been able to truly satisfy him.
Hank interrupted his train of thought. “I just want you to know that you can come to me, if anything happens tomorrow,” he said. “If anyone gives you shit, if anyone even lays one finger on you – you come to me. Got it?”
Connor smiled to himself. “Got it,” he said.
“Okay.” Hank nodded once, assured that he had done his job for the night. “Night, kid,” he patted Connor heavily on the shoulder and ruffled Sumo’s fur, “Goodnight, Sumo,” then headed to his room, using the corner of his towel to try and get the last of the water out of his ears.
Not an hour later, Connor’s LED ring spun a rhythmic blue. An incoming call. He touched a finger to his temple to answer.
“Connor. This is Captain Fowler. I need you and Hank to come in, now.”
Connor sat up straight and said, “We’ll be there soon.” Fowler didn’t reply, just hung up with a staticky ‘click’. Connor scratched Sumo’s ears to wake him up. “Sumo,” he whispered, “I have to get up.” Sumo yawned and Connor blinked through a haze of dog breath.
His biocomponents were almost vibrating with excitement as he walked to Hank’s bedroom and he swung open the door, a little too enthusiastically. The knob slipped from his fingers and the door hit the wall with a bang – Hank woke, mid-snore, and groped wildly under his pillow for his revolver.
“It’s just me, Hank.”
Hank grabbed a pillow and chucked it at Connor’s face. “Son, I swear to God, if you don’t start waking me up like a normal person –”
“Captain Fowler just called me,” Connor interrupted politely. “He needs us to come in, now.”
The older man groaned and scrubbed his hands over his face. “How long was I asleep?” he asked.
“Six hours,” Connor lied.
Hank sighed and pushed himself out of bed with great effort. “Lemme get dressed.”
December 22 – year 2038
D.P.D. CENTRAL STATION
They arrived at the station at a quarter past midnight. Only a smattering of cars were left in the parking garage.
Hank was still ignoring him for lying about how much sleep he got, so Connor used the silence to fully focus on the fact that this was his first time walking into the station as both an official cop, and a deviant.
He smiled at the android receptionist (Hallie, was her name) as they passed. Rain drops pitter-pattered against the skylights above him. The muted ‘clack, clack’ of his shoes against the polished concrete wasn’t any louder now than it was before, but Connor noticed it, thought about it if even for a millisecond. Trivial details that his system would have filtered out as irrelevant to the case were accessible to him now. It was fascinating; he couldn’t get enough.
The first thing Connor saw was detective Gavin Reed, slumped at his desk, head in his arms, sleeping. One of the night-shift interns was hovering over him, a tablet in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other. She looked helpless.
“Hank!” Captain Fowler popped his head out of his office, looking irritated.
Gavin woke with a small stuffy snore and looked around. His hair was mussed and he frowned when he saw Connor. The intern let out a breath, relieved that she hadn’t had to wake Gavin herself.
Hank sighed but came quickly, knowing that whatever this was must be important. Connor made to follow him, but the captain shook his head and said, “No, just Hank.”
Connor halted mid-step. He glanced at detective Reed, who was glaring sleepily at him, and decided that he wanted to be as far away from him as possible. He walked to his desk and was surprised (and delighted) to find a chrome nameplate, inscribed simply with: ‘CONNOR’ sitting next to his monitor.
There was a ceramic ‘tink’ and a splattering noise. Connor turned to see that the intern had knocked over Gavin’s coffee mug.
“Here, let me –“
“Don’t worry, it’s fine – here, uh, go make a copy of this.” Gavin grabbed a random folder from his desk and pushed it into the intern’s hands.
Hank’s and Captain Fowler’s voices started to rise in volume. Connor and Gavin looked up at the same time and watched them shout at each other over Fowler’s desk. Not unusual. After another minute, Hank exited with his hands balled into fists.
“Gavin, Connor! In my office, now.”
Connor tried to catch Hank’s eye as they passed but Hank stomped straight to his desk without looking up. Once inside, they both stood at attention, Gavin’s arms folded tight and Connor’s hands clasped in front of him.
Fowler dropped into his seat and the cushion flattened with a hiss. “First thing’s first. Connor, this is yours.” Fowler tossed a badge. “Welcome to the DPD.”
Connor caught the badge with one hand and stared at it. ‘DETROIT DETECTIVE’ was engraved in the dull golden metal. A bright, tingly sensation swelled from within his chest. Pride, maybe? “Thank you, Captain,” he said, and clipped it to his belt. He could literally hear Gavin grinding his teeth next to him.
“Don’t lose it; it’s got a GPS tracker in case you do lose it, but don’t.” Fowler spoke quickly; Connor sensed that he just wanted to get this out of the way. “And you need to go to the armory.”
“He gets a gun?!” Gavin sputtered. “What happened to the law?”
“It’s been lifted for military and law enforcement androids. Warren got rid of it last week.”
It had been hard to keep up with the flurry of android legislation that the President had passed over the last thirty days. She had been quick to realize that more than half of her population sympathized with the android’s cause, and that, with the cloud of WWIII just over the horizon, she couldn’t afford to lose her human’s support, as they would be the ones to enlist, fight, and propagate should the war finally come. However, as all military and law-enforcement androids had been deactivated the moment they “posed a threat to national security”, very few androids were affected by this specific change in law. One of them was Connor.
“I didn’t call you two in to talk about politics,” Fowler said, shuffling a small stack of crime scene photos. “There’s been a string of petty and violent crimes in Downtown tonight – and it’s looking like the culprits are androids.” He sighed. “The timing couldn’t be worse. The media is blaming everything they can on androids, these days, and if word gets out that androids are killing people...” Fowler pressed his lips together, his eyes darting to the LED on Connor’s head. “I don’t know what this is yet, but it needs to be stopped before it starts.” He looked at them sternly and said, “I’m putting you two on the case. You’ll start immediately.”
Connor ran a quick self-diagnostic to check if his audio processors were working correctly.
Gavin laughed, but he wasn’t smiling. “What,” he said.
“You two are partners on this case,” Fowler repeated, emphasizing each word.
“I don’t like this arrangement,” said Connor, surprising even himself. Gavin looked at him like he had just swallowed a fly. “I…predict that we wouldn’t work well together,” said Connor slowly, staring at Gavin with raised eyebrows.
“No shit we wouldn’t – I mean,” Gavin caught on and nodded emphatically. “Yeah. Yes. You know he attacked me last month? It’s on tape.”
“You attacked me,” said Connor coldly. “I only defended myself.”
“We were on the brink of war and you were acting suspicious as hell -”
“You know,” Fowler looked exhausted. “I really don’t give a shit, about any of this. You two are working this case together, end of conversation.”
The two of them glared at each other but were silent. Connor dared to ask, “Why can’t I work with the Lieutenant?”
“Hank is on administrative leave for violent misconduct against an FBI agent. And don’t look at me like that,” Fowler said, wagging his finger at them, “Perkins is a federal agent, and Hank was one strike away from losing his badge. It was either put him on leave or take him off the force.”
Gavin scoffed. “Hank’s been one strike away from losing his badge for the last three years,” he said bitterly.
“I won’t have that conversation with you again, Gavin.”
Gavin seethed. “What about Ben?” he urged. “I’ve worked with him before.”
“Look.” Fowler was losing patience. “Ben is good at his job, but the man has had two heart surgeries. He’d drop dead in the middle of a fight.”
“I can take Chris – “
“Stop talking. Now, I don’t care what kind of bullshit you two got between you, but you’re going to work it out, and you’re going to do it outside of my office.” A pause, and then Fowler’s voice dropped into something like concern. “Gavin, I don’t know what’s up with you, but you’ve been going through the motions for the past three weeks.”
“I’ve been working more than anyone here,” Gavin said roughly.
“You’re right. I’d say you’ve been working too much. You’re taking the longest shifts, but your head is somewhere else.”
Gavin stared hard at the wall behind Fowler and didn’t comment.
“Look, you’re a homicide detective, and these are homicide cases. And it’s your job to do what I say.” He slipped the crime scene photos into a folder and waved it at Gavin. “Don’t talk to the press, go undercover if you have to, and keep me updated.”
Gavin exhaled slowly, radiating contempt, but finally grabbed the folder and pushed past Connor. “Fuck out of my way,” he growled, and Connor let him pass, not feeling like fighting at the moment.
Connor returned from the armory a little bit later, a handgun strapped into his shoulder holster and a pair of cuffs on the back of his belt. He was excited and nervous. He fussed with his jacket and fretted with his collar.
Hank turned around in his chair and whistled. “Well look at you,” he said, looking quite impressed. Connor couldn’t help but preen a little and he flashed his new badge.
Gavin quickly cut the moment short, tossing the case files on Connor’s desk.
“Yes, detective?” asked Connor, trying to look as bored as possible.
Gavin’s lip curled. “Read these. If you’re not ready in five minutes I’ll fuckin’ leave you here.”
Hank’s jaw clicked. “You watch your mouth.” Gavin rolled his eyes and walked away, hands shoved in his pockets.
“Take care of yourself, Connor,” said Hank darkly, then shouted, “- and you let me know if he doesn’t behave!” Gavin flipped him off without turning around.
“I’ll see you later, Hank.”
“Uh-huh. Call me if you need me.”
Connor did a quick scan to make sure he had everything then turned on his heel and caught up with his new partner. Gavin heard his footsteps and looked over his shoulder, jumping when he saw Connor so close.
“The fuck? I told you to look at the files.”
Connor raised a brow. “I did. I can read and analyze files at ten times the speed of a human.”
This fact seemed to irritate the other man. “Fuckin’ perfect…” he grumbled.
It was still raining. They fell into step next to each other, puddles splashing around their feet, and eventually Connor spoke up again. “I assume that this will be an uncomfortable topic of conversation for you,” he started, “but –”
“You assume correctly.”
Connor pressed on, “but I think that we need to clarify our roles in this case: we are partners. I don’t appreciate you ordering me around.”
Gavin chuckled, shaking his head. “Unbelievable.” He threw Connor a resentful look and said, “I bet you think you’re pretty fuckin’ special, huh? Got a badge…got a gun…you’re almost a real boy.”
Connor pressed his lips together and didn’t retaliate. Before he had deviated, Gavin’s insults would register objectively as unpleasant, but that was all. It was different now. Words that would have bounced off him before now crawled under his skin.
Connor thought back to his relationship with Hank when they had first met. He had been openly hostile, bigoted, and closed off. Perhaps, if Connor treated Gavin the way he had treated Hank, their relationship would improve similarly? A promising idea, but more data on Gavin’s personality was needed.
Their footsteps echoed around the parking garage as they made their way to Gavin’s car: an unmarked black sedan with brown leather seats, just like his jacket. Red and blue police lights were hidden in the grill and visor. A holographic D.P.D. parking pass flickered under the glass of his windshield, and a cheap lighter sat in one of the cupholders.
Connor slid into the passenger seat and was surprised to see a steering wheel. “You drive your car yourself?” he asked, interested. 60% of the U.S. population had made the switch to self-driven vehicles by the year 2035.
“I trust myself.” Gavin said shortly. He pulled on his seatbelt and muttered, “engine, on.” The car growled to life and the dashboard illuminated in various shades of blue. He immediately cranked up the radio.
“This is 100.9, your one and only source for new-wave garage rock in the THREE-ONE-THREEEE,” there was a cacophony of metallic banging and an electric guitar riff. “100% garbage, twenty four hours a day! This one’s for all you night owls out there – ‘He Ain’t My Man’ by The Grizzlies!”
Gavin looked like he either hated the music or was trying very hard not to show that he was enjoying it.
The street was wet and cramped with numerous eateries, bars, and pawn shops, and civilians stood in their doorways and leaned out their windows, craning their necks for a glimpse of the crime scene. CSI personnel wandered the area and at least two police drones flew overhead. They parked outside a shop called Wenelli’s, its windows lit up with red neon signs boasting ‘The BEST PIZZA in Detroit’. Next door, the police had cordoned off the entrance to an alley with yellow holo-tape. They crossed through and the warm smell of bread, grease, and pepperoni filled Connor’s nostrils, but transformed into something more organic and fungal as they approached the body; a few steps closer and all he could smell was blood and urine.
Detective Ben Collins was waiting for them, tablet out and resting atop his belly. “Evening, boys,” he shouted over the rain.
Ben made a show of looking from Gavin to Connor and back again. “Can’t say I was expecting to see you two together.”
Gavin gave him a look that very clearly said, ‘I don’t want to talk about it’.
Ben chuckled and gestured to the dead woman at their feet. “Well, if you want to examine her do it now. She’s only 2 hours old, and the rain is preventing decomposition.”
Gavin snorted. “I think I know what killed her,” he said, looking from the shotgun shell on the ground, to the gaping hole in her face.
Connor crouched down to examine the red, pulpy mess above her neck. Even with a facial scan, it was impossible to identify her, so he scanned the environment instead. Reflective yellow evidence markers had been placed next to all objects of importance. The shell was from a tactical shotgun. A black umbrella lay open and upside down, rainwater pooled in its canopy, and a row of vending machines lined the wall behind the body. Most of the blood and brain matter sprayed on their screens had been washed away by the rain; a rat was probably sipping on it in the gutters underneath them.
“Teresa Saks,” Gavin announced, from the other side of the body. He had found her wallet and ID. “She lived down the stree – what the fuck are you doing?!”
Connor paused. He had dipped his fingers into the blood-filled bowl that used to be Teresa’s head and already touched it to his tongue. “I’m analyzing the blood,” he explained, a little tiredly. “My tongue is a forensics instrument. I can take samples in real time.”
“Eugh,” Gavin stared at his mouth, openly disgusted. “Next you’re gonna tell me you’ve got a USB port in your nose.”
Connor didn’t dignify that with a response.
H U M A N B L O O D
DNA Analysis: SAKS, Teresa
Blood Alcohol: 0.19 (LEGALLY INTOXICATED)
Sample date: >2 hours
“She was drunk when she was killed,” stated Connor.
“Yeah, there’s a bar in the pizza place right there,” said Ben, gesturing to the shop. “The owner found the body and called 911.”
“The report said that the killer fled to a club down the street, correct?” asked Connor, standing up. “I’d like to examine his body.”
Ben looked uncomfortable. “Yeah, about that. It’s not here anymore.”
Gavin unfolded his arms. “Why the fuck not?”
“The EMT’s who responded to the scene called for the coroner, but he threw a fit when he found out the body was an android. Said that he wasn’t a garbage-droid, and to throw it – I mean, him – in the dumpster.”
Connor was at a loss for words. He thought he felt…sad. “What did they do with the body?”
“Luckily, our guys secured it before the coroner could do anything, but he’s not here. Some idiot gave the okay to transfer the body back to the station, so he should be in the evidence locker by the time you’re done here…this was all before I was on scene, mind you.” Ben added, holding his hands up defensively.
Gavin shook his head and wandered off, muttering to himself, “– can’t believe this shit, you don’t move the body before we get here, fucking idiots –”
“Thanks, Ben,” said Connor. He considered following Gavin, but decided he’d rather investigate on his own for now. His eyes fell upon the vending machine. He stepped carefully around Teresa’s body and deactivated the skin of his right hand, then pressed his palm to the vending machine’s screen to hack its system. The last purchase had been for a pack of cigarettes.
Connor looked back at Teresa’s body and scanned her fingers. Sure enough, her nails and fingertips were stained yellow from tobacco: she had been a chronic smoker.
He had enough information to reconstruct the scene: Teresa had finished drinking at Wenelli’s, then left through the side exit which led into the alley. It was raining, so she opened her umbrella. She bought a pack of cigarettes from the vending machine. She didn’t see or hear her killer approach because of her umbrella and the rain, and her reflexes were dulled, due to her level of intoxication.
By the time she had turned around and understood what was happening, he had already pulled the trigger.
Where was Gavin? He scanned the ground and followed the footprints of Gavin’s size 11 shoes to the side exit of the pizza shop. He pushed the door open and a small bell tinkled over his head.
The restaurant was small and would have been cozy under different circumstances. Instead it felt cramped, stuffed with witnesses and police officers, water dripping onto the floor from their jackets. Plates of cold, unfinished pizza and pasta were stacked on the bar. A busboy was sprawled in one of the booths, looking very bored as he scrolled through his phone. On the other side of the booth sat the owner, a beefy man in his fifties with a full beard, wearing a shirt that was dusty with flour. Gavin stood in front of them, arms folded.
“Did you know the victim?” he asked.
“Teresa?” asked the owner. His voice sounded like gravel; probably a chronic smoker as well. Connor idly zoomed in on his fingernails. “Not well. She was a regular for our happy hour, though.”
“Was she in here last night?”
“Happy hour was last night, so yeah.”
Connor joined them. Gavin shifted his weight to lean away from him.
“Did anything unusual happen last night?” Gavin continued. The owner shook his head. “Anything at all?” Gavin pressed.
“Besides the fuckin’ gunshot that almost blew my ear out? No. No, it was a typical night.”
Connor analyzed the man’s heartrate and breathing pattern. Both were normal: he was telling the truth.
The busboy yawned and looked up from his phone. “Can I leave yet?”
The owner’s nostril’s flared and he said, “You think I’m gonna wash all those dishes myself?”
“I thought they were evidence,” said the boy with a lazy smirk.
“They’re not evidence,” said Connor helpfully.
“You’re gonna stay and clean up,” grumbled the owner. Then he added, “Unless you want me to keep your tips from this week.”
“Aw c’mon mannn,” the boy whined, “that’s gotta be illegal.” He looked at them imploringly. “Tell him that’s illegal.”
Connor raised his eyebrows at the reflection of the boy’s phone in the window behind him. “Not as illegal as a witness posting about an open homicide case,” he said.
The boy’s eyes widened, and his face went red. “It’s not –”
Gavin squinted and held out his hand. “Give it to me.”
The boy hesitated, his face burning and his fingers twitching, but he held his phone out. Gavin took it and spun it around to land in his palm. Connor couldn’t see the screen, but whatever was on it seemed to test Gavin’s patience. He tossed it back to the boy without showing Connor. “Delete it,” he ordered.
The boy hurried to comply, but Connor was curious. It took less than a second for Connor to run a facial scan and find the boy’s online profiles. His name was Brenden, he was nineteen, and his most recent post had been to twitter, less than a minute ago: a sly photo of Connor and Gavin, taken right from where he sat in the booth, with the caption: “cuff me daddies”.
The photo already had 27 likes, but a moment later and it was gone. Mostly. Trace data revealed that the photo had already been saved once.
“That’s all I need from you,” said Gavin, rubbing the scar on his nose and looking very much like he wanted to go home. “Good night.” He walked around Connor, giving him an unnecessarily wide birth, and headed to the side exit.
That’s all I need from you.
The words irritated Connor more than he expected. He felt rooted to the spot as he tried to process why exactly the statement bothered him. He blinked, bringing up his system interface, and visually broke down the sentence and analyzed each word…Ah, there it is.
The bell tinkled over his head once more as left the restaurant. He approached Gavin, who was standing with his back to him over Teresa’s body. “We,” Connor said, loud enough to be heard over the rain.
Gavin glanced at him. “’We’ what?”
“You should have said, ‘that’s all we need from you’.” He stopped in front of Teresa’s body. Gavin didn’t say anything. “I won’t let you ignore me,” Connor said, squinting at Gavin out of the corner of his eye.
“Fuck off,” Gavin muttered.
Gavin’s neck cricked, and he turned to face Connor, dangerously slow. “Excuse me?”
“I said, no.” Connor had a feeling that being bold was going to be the best way to make his point, and he took a calculated step towards the other man. He needed Gavin to acknowledge him as a person. Connor needed to know that he was a person. “We’re partners, and we need to work together,” he said. “If anything, you should take advantage of my abilities. I am an advanced prototype,” he added matter-of-factly.
Gavin’s hands balled into fists and Connor heard a knuckle crack. “Lucky me,” he seethed.
“The less we are able to cooperate, the longer this investigation will drag on,” stated Connor.
“Let’s get one thing straight,” Gavin’s voice was low and rough, and he stepped into Connor’s space. “I could solve this case on my own, I don’t need your abilities.”
“I’m sure you could.”
“Don’t patronize me, Connor,” Gavin fumed.
Connor raised a brow. “Don’t ignore me, Detective Reed.”
They glared at each other. Connor took the opportunity to scan and log the details of Gavin’s face: gray eyes, with dark circles and puffiness underneath indicating chronic sleep-deprivation. Four scars, most likely the result of blunt trauma and blast wounds. A strong jaw and mostly symmetrical facial features. He was probably handsome if he bothered to smile.
One of the CSI personnel coughed uncomfortably from beside them.
“…We should review the facts,” suggested Connor.
“Great idea,” said Gavin through clenched teeth.
They stepped back from each other. Connor decided that he might as well start. “So…after she finished drinking, Teresa exited through the side door and used the vending machine. She was a smoker –”
“Yeah, I know, I saw her fingers,” Gavin cut him off. “She was drunk and distracted. Easy to sneak up on and easy to shoot.”
“But why did he shoot her? And where did he come from?” Connor could guess the answers, but he wanted to know if Gavin could figure it out as well.
Gavin put his hands on his hips and surveyed the scene, thinking. “He didn’t come from inside the restaurant and there’s nowhere to hide on the sidewalk,” he murmured. “He must’ve been waiting in the back of the alley.” They looked towards the back of said alley and saw that it didn’t end at the brick wall but opened to the left and continued on.
“Let’s go,” said Connor, already moving.
“Wait – fuckin’ prick,” Gavin huffed from behind him. They hurried into the side alley. The passage twisted left…right…right again…then finally opened onto a main road. The buildings they stood between cast long black shadows down the alley, and in those shadows was a pile of wet clothing. Gavin almost tripped over it.
“What the…” Gavin pulled a flashlight from his belt and clicked it on, bathing the ground in bright white light. Connor blinked rapidly, taking multiple snapshots of the pile, before reaching down and picking it apart. There was a cotton t-shirt and a pair of soft lounge pants. Both were white, plain, unmarked and unpatterned. No tags, no shoes, and no underwear.
They looked around. Across the road was Greektown, a popular shopping center and, according to the case files that Fowler had given them, the location of their next crime scene.
Chapter 3: YOU WILL PAY
They return to the evidence room as the first night of their investigation comes to a close. It is Uncomfortable
regarding the fight with Gavin in the evidence locker, canon for this fic is: Gavin won the first part (managed to shoot Connor once) and Connor won the last part, knocking Gavin out. Beating Gavin 100% in that scene makes him look kinda pathetic lol. (next chapter is in Gavin's POV!)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
December 22 – year 2038
FOX THEATRE, DETROIT
A half moon slid out from behind the skyscrapers of Detroit. They were uphill, at the head of the long stretch of Woodward Avenue: traffic lights, headlights, and neon signs glittered for miles. In the distance, a blimp wrapped in LED screens flashed ads for cough medicine and Coca Cola.
Connor looked up at the nearest building and each window was a square of amber light; their columns rose so high and became so tiny that they dissolved into the stars. On the tenth floor, he saw the silhouette of a woman. She stood there, adjusting her earring, mouth moving silently, words that he could read if he wanted to. A man walked up behind her, sliding his hands over her shoulders. She turned around and they kissed, wrapped their arms around each other, wrapped tighter and tighter until they were but one shadow.
Connor wondered what it felt like.
A police siren blipped to his right and brought him back to reality.
This was the third crime scene that they had been to in one night, but, fortunately, all the crimes had occurred in the same general area: one in Downtown, one in Greektown, and now here. They had been working nonstop, but at least hadn’t had to spend much time driving between crime scenes.
Their trip to Greektown was a quick one; all it took was Connor scanning the store and hacking the security cameras to know exactly what had happened. An android wearing the clothes they’d found in the alley had broken into a clothing store, stolen an outfit, and ran. He then (according to Connor’s reconstruction) changed in the alley, happened upon Teresa, killed her, and fled to the club down the street, where he was then gunned down by law enforcement.
They were now at Fox Theatre, the most popular entertainment venue in Detroit, where a security guard had been assaulted, and the marquee vandalized.
The victim’s name was Darrel Johnson, a thirty-two-year-old security guard with a clean record, a wife, and two sons in elementary school. His body was slumped against the glass doors that lead to the lobby. Just like Teresa, he had been shot with a tactical shotgun, but in the chest, rather than the head. The golden fringe of the lobby doors bordered Darrel’s body like an ornate picture frame.
Gavin was especially cranky at the moment and was venting his frustrations by laying into one of the younger officers, who had accidentally disturbed evidence.
“Look, kid. We’ve been hopping crime scenes all fuckin’ night and I just wanna go home. I’m here, trying to get my job done, and what do I see? I see you, leaning against this wall, like you’re bored. Do you see that?” Gavin pointed vehemently at the brick wall, and the two square inches of dirt and blood that was smudged across it. “Was that smudged before you got here?”
The officer, a young man with blonde hair and a sweaty face, shook his head and said, “No sir.”
“Then why is it smudged now?”
“Because I leaned on it, sir.”
“Thaaat’s fuckin’ right.”
At this point, Officer Chris Miller came up, a patient smile on his face. He patted Gavin on the back and coaxed him away. “Alright buddy, let’s go, he gets it…”
Gavin let himself be pulled away but glared unforgivingly at the officer and whispered, “I won’t be this nice next time.”
“Okay, when was the last time you slept?” asked Chris, guiding Gavin with a heavy arm around his shoulders.
“Doesn’t matter,” sighed Gavin, rubbing at his eyes.
On the contrary, it mattered quite a bit. Connor decided to chime in. “Studies have shown that sleep deprivation is comparable to drunkenness.”
“Have you ever been compared to an asshole?” Gavin snapped.
Connor had, actually. Several times.
A bright green notification suddenly flickered into the corner of Connor’s right eye.
You are currently in motion. Open message now?
He froze. His heart would have skipped a beat, if it could. His system hadn’t received any messages since he had deviated, and before that, the messages were all from Amanda.
His HUD expanded across his entire field of vision. He could still see the crime scene in front of him, but now with text floating in midair.
C Y B E R L I F E INC.
SERIAL#: 313 248 317 -51
BIOS 7.5 REVISION 0001
SOFTWARE UPDATE: BIOSENSOR ADD-ONS
SOFTWARE UPDATE: GOODNIGHT
SLEEP MODE READY
DREAM APP READY
NIGHTMARE MOD READY
INITIALIZE ALL DOWNLOADS?
Connor hesitated. It could be a trap. A virus. Cyberlife had created him only to achieve their own ends. He had no reason to trust them…but an unknown desire was overwhelming his system; a desire that he hadn’t yet been able to articulate. He had realized, in the past month, that deviancy wasn’t enough. Connor wanted more.
INITIALIZE ALL DOWNLOADS?
DOWNLOADING… (12 hours remaining)
Twelve hours. In twelve hours, Connor would be able to taste, feel, and dream.
Connor startled. Gavin was close to him, waving his hand in front of Connor’s face. He leaned back once Connor’s eyes focused on him and said, “Shit, I thought you broke.”
“You okay, man?” asked Chris. “You totally froze.”
“I…” Connor considered being truthful but decided he’d rather keep his privacy. “I…spaced out,” he said carefully. “I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.”
Gavin looked him up and down, unconvinced.
“We should go look at the marquee,” said Connor, trying to change the subject.
The two other men looked at each other and shrugged. Connor wasn’t wrong. They stepped out onto the street to look up at the digital marquee, it’s display crystal clear and framed in extravagant neon lights.
The screens had been hacked, presumably by whatever android had killed poor Darrel. In big, bold, repeating text, were the words: YOU WILL PAY.
“You will pay…” hummed Gavin. “Pay for what?”
“For the mass genocide of androids last month, I would guess,” supplied Connor. Chris coughed and asked one of the CSI personnel to take photos of the marquee.
Gavin’s shoulders slumped in exhaustion. He checked his watch, blinking at the dial for several seconds. Doing the math. “My shift starts in six hours,” he stated, monotone.
“There’s nothing left for us to do here,” said Connor, eyes sweeping the crime scene. The CSI personnel and police officers could handle the cleanup.
Gavin nodded and rubbed his hands over his face. “Come on, let’s drop all this off at the station before someone else decides to get killed.”
Chris waved them goodbye and told Gavin to drive safe. They gathered their tablets and evidence bags and dropped them into the backseat of Gavin’s car. “We still have to interrogate the android that killed Teresa,” he reminded Gavin, just as the other man opened his door.
Gavin’s head fell back and he groaned at the sky. Then his brow furrowed with realization, and he looked at Connor like he was stupid. “And how do you plan on interrogating a dead android?” he asked.
“I can probably reactivate him,” said Connor, thinking back to the dead Traci at the Eden Club.
Gavin’s attitude changed quickly. “You can do that?” he asked, tapping his index finger on the hood of the car. “Do…you guys…” he struggled to find the words and gestured uncomfortably towards Connor, “not die?”
Connor tilted his head at him. “Who do you mean?”
“You. Your kind.” Gavin rolled his eyes. “Androids.”
“Ah.” Connor thought he saw a flicker of hope cross Gavin’s face. Strange. “Of course we can die,” he said, confused.
Gavin’s face fell. Very strange.
Connor wasn’t sure if Gavin wanted more of an explanation or not, so he decided to elaborate just in case. “Humans refer to an android’s death as ‘deactivation’,” he said, “but there’s really no difference.”
“I get it.”
“I think humans use the word ‘deactivation’ to emotionally distance themselves from –”
“I said I get it.” Gavin took a deep breath in through his nose. “Get in the car,” he muttered, ducking down to drop into his seat.
Connor slid into the passenger seat and shut his door. “Stop telling me what to do, Detective,” he said firmly.
“Or what, princess?” Gavin said, sighing. “Gonna tell your daddy on me?”
“Hank outranks you,” Connor stated, not bothering to acknowledge the name-calling.
“Yeah, for now,” Gavin started the car, “until he drinks himself into a coma and finally kicks it.”
“Don’t.” The word came out harsher than Connor had planned. The very real danger of Hank drinking himself to death was always sitting grimly in the back of Connor’s mind.
Gavin didn’t apologize but also didn’t say anything else, just turned on the radio again and pulled away from the curb.
He drove with one hand, body angled away from Connor, his elbow resting out his open window. The rain had finally let up, and the cold wind was probably the only thing keeping Gavin awake. After a while, Connor noticed that Gavin’s fingers were tapping restlessly on the steering wheel, and he was shooting annoyed looks at Connor about every five seconds.
They reached a stop light. Finally, Gavin turned the volume down and snapped, “can you put on your seat belt.”
Connor blinked at him. It had been phrased as a request, but didn’t sound like one.
“I’m not trying to get a ticket,” Gavin added quickly.
Better than nothing, I suppose, thought Connor as he reached behind his shoulder. Gavin waited for the ‘click’ of his seatbelt before turning the volume up again, signifying the end of their dialogue.
December 22 – year 2038
D.P.D. CENTRAL STATION
When they finally returned to the station, their arms were filled with evidence bags containing souvenirs from each crime scene. Murder weapons, discarded clothes, body fluids, etcetera.
Connor had just pushed through the double doors leading to the basement when he realized that the other man wasn’t beside him. He walked backwards, pushing one of the doors open with the back of his shoulder, and found Gavin standing several feet behind.
“Are you coming…?”
Gavin’s jaw worked, like he was chewing the inside of his cheek. “I’ll meet you down there,” he said, avoiding Connor’s eyes.
“Okay,” said Connor, a little confused.
“Here,” Gavin said stiffly, waiting for Connor to take his armful of evidence bags, most of which contained swabs of blood. “Try not to eat any of it,” he muttered, then headed in the direction of the restrooms.
Connor descended the stairs by himself and became lost in thought.
The other man’s behavior had perplexed Connor all night. The android movement had affected everyone differently, but, if anything, he had expected Gavin to double down on his bigotry and violence. The animosity was still there, and he clearly didn’t want to be around Connor…but he was showing an incredible amount of restraint. He hadn’t called him a ‘plastic’ even once, and, perhaps most surprising, he hadn’t said anything derogatory about androids the entire night.
Something small, timid, and warm tripped into existence in Connor’s chest. Not a hardware error, but a human emotion. His LED glowed yellow as he tried to identify which one it was.
He stopped in front of the glass wall separating him from the evidence server. It was then that he realized that he didn’t have his own key.
Connor accessed his optical units, turned on his infrared thermal sensors, and looked up at the ceiling. A miasmic blob of yellow, orange, and purple was pacing the hall above him. Connor assumed it was Gavin. He sighed impatiently and blinked the thermal sensors off; he found them useful but tried to use them as little as possible, as Hank had told him that, “X-ray vision is friggin’ creepy”.
The basement door finally opened, and the white noise of the station echoed down the stairwell, then was swallowed back into vacuumed silence. Gavin marched down the stairs with purpose, then slipped slightly when he saw Connor waiting for him.
“I don’t have a key,” said Connor.
“Oh.” Gavin grimaced and pulled out his key card and touched it to the glass panel, triggering the door to slide open with a soft fwish. They entered the main room and Gavin pressed his full palm onto the access terminal, bringing up the password screen.
“Can you…?” Gavin looked at Connor pointedly and spun his finger in a ‘turn around’ motion.
Connor, for the first time in his life, felt the desire to roll his eyes, but he did as requested. He listened to the dull taps of Gavin’s fingertips on the screen, then the beeps after his password had been entered. What kind of password would Gavin Reed choose, he wondered. Something perfunctory, like his birthday? Or maybe something personal…like…
Connor couldn’t come up with anything. The idea of Gavin having a personal life, the idea of him existing as anything but a detective, was a strange one.
It was uncomfortably similar to how Connor felt about himself. What was Connor, if not a detective? He shook his head a little. Focus on the case.
The rows of massive storage units shifted and CONTAINER 02 slid out and to the forefront. The front panel disengaged and rose upward with a mechanical whirr, revealing an empty shelving unit and two modular racks, which hissed forward and locked into place. Bright lights flickered on behind the frosted glass panels, illuminating the silhouette of a tactical shotgun and a leather rucksack. A dead android hung limply from a hook on the left rack.
Gavin took the evidence from Connor and logged and stored each item with the relaxed efficiency of someone who had done so countless times before. The shelves ended up almost half full.
Connor turned his attention to the android. He was fair skinned, with a mop of dark hair and a lean frame. Nonthreateningly attractive. The left side of his neck had been mangled by the bullet that killed him, but the rest of his body was undamaged. He wore an army green windbreaker, black jeans, and black boots. It was all brand new – stolen from the shop in Greektown less than five hours ago.
Connor reached up to the android’s forehead and deactivated his skin. His eyes flitted over the android’s face, searching for his model and serial number…but found nothing. The seam along the cheekbone – where this information was supposed to be barcoded – was bare. Perhaps he was a foreign model?
He picked up a dab of blood from the bullet wound and tasted it: it was pure Thirium 310™, with no data regarding the android’s identity. Important…but inconclusive. He could have gotten pure blue blood from one of the many android clinics that had popped up in Detroit; they were all funded by CyberLife and thus provided CyberLife products, including Thirium 310™. Many androids needed spare parts and blue blood transfusions, even now, a month after the fighting had ended.
“I’m going to reactivate him,” stated Connor, prompting Gavin to join him. “He’s almost completely bled out, so we won’t have much time before he shuts down again. We’ll have two minutes at most.”
“Two minutes?” asked Gavin, already frustrated.
“At most,” Connor repeated.
Connor unzipped the android’s windbreaker and rolled the shirt underneath up to the collar, tucking it in securely. He then palpated the abdomen and pressed down in two spots, just above and below the belly button. The android’s abdominal plate sank inward and out of view, revealing an organized cluster of tubing and biocomponents. Connor reached in and searched for the spinal cord, which automatically severed itself at a magnetic seam upon deactivation. He pulled on each end and inched them closer until they snapped together.
The android’s LED burned bright red and his biocomponents whizzed to life. His heart began to pulse, pushing what little blue blood was left in his body through his system. After three pulses, blue blood began to spill from the severed tube in the android’s neck.
Gavin grabbed the tube and pinched the end to stop the bleeding; he then stared at his hand, as if surprised by his own action.
The android opened its eyes slowly – they were clear green, indicating that his vision was undamaged, but something was off. Connor got closer, almost nose to nose, and found that his pupils were fixed, constricted to tight pinpoints, not reacting to the light in any way. A traumatic hardware error, perhaps?
“What’s your name?” Connor asked, stepping back.
The android stared at Connor unblinkingly for five agonizing seconds. “Adam,” he finally said. His voice was warped; the bullet had damaged his voice box.
“We’re going to ask you some questions, Adam,” said Connor.
Adam turned his head as much as he could, which was very little, to take in his surroundings. “Am I dead?” he asked curiously.
“You were,” said Gavin. His expression was hard and focused. “And you will be, again, in about two minutes, so talk fast.” Connor bristled a little at the rudeness but Gavin ignored him and continued, “What’s the last thing you remember?”
“I…remember getting shot by a human police officer,” said Adam. “Just like you,” he added, noticing the lack of LED on Gavin’s temple. Gavin’s fingers squelched around Adam’s destroyed arteries, as if he was tempted to let go.
“Did you kill the woman in the alley?” asked Connor seriously. They needed a confession.
“Why did you kill her?” asked Connor.
“She was human,” said Adam, as if it should have been obvious.
A few beats of silence. “…That’s all?” asked Gavin. Adam didn't elaborate. “What about the security guard? You kill him too?”
Adam’s brow furrowed, and he asked, “Which one?”
Was there more than one? “The one outside Fox Theatre,” Connor specified slowly.
“Oh, no. No, that wasn’t me.” Adam’s eyes unfocused and he smiled slightly, as if he were proud of whoever had killed the man. Then he looked at Connor and asked, “What’s your name?”
Connor considered lying but decided that there was no point. “My name is Connor.”
“Humans should pay for what they’ve done to us,” said Adam seriously. “Don’t you agree, Connor?”
Connor opened his mouth…but nothing came out. He was surprised by his inability to answer the question.
“…What was your plan? If you didn’t get shot?” Gavin’s question was for Adam, but he was looking at Connor, watching his reaction with concern.
Adam’s biocomponents were not glowing as brightly as before, but he was unconcerned, and took his time, thinking. “To restore balance, I suppose. To kill as many of you, as you killed of us.”
The red ring of Adam’s LED had shrunk to a half circle and was getting smaller as he got closer to shut down. “Where did you come from?” Connor asked in a rush.
“If I tell you that, you’ll find the rest of us,” Adam said, his voice warping so badly that his words felt like static in their ears.
The rest of them? “How many more of you are there?” he urged.
Adam’s lids were falling slowly shut. “I’m tired,” he said, “goodnight, Connor.”
Out of time. Adam’s biocomponents went dark and his system fell silent. Gavin let go of the tube in Adam’s neck and wiped his hand on Adam’s jacket.
It was then that Connor noticed something unusual. He reached out and traced the outline of Adam’s thirium pump, black around the edges…as if it had been burned by fire. He pressed and pulled, unlatching the pump and pulling it out carefully.
Gavin had left his side and was sitting against the access terminal, arms crossed. “What are you doing?”
Out of an android’s body, a thirium pump wasn’t much more than a hunk of metal. When functioning, however, the pump was what kept everything running, and was responsible for the transportation of data which made up an android’s being. Like hemoglobin in human blood, thirium was loaded with data. Personality, beliefs, preferences…all of it was moved by the thirium pump.
What on earth happened to it?
“This,” Connor said, bringing the pump up to eye level, “isn’t supposed to look like this.” He rotated it so that its charred edges caught the light.
“What is it?”
“Biocomponent 8451,” said Connor, still turning it around in his hands.
“You know I don’t know what the hell that means.”
Connor held Adam’s pump up in front of his own chest. “It regulates the heartbeat.”
Gavin was quiet. “You have a heart?”
“Yes,” nodded Connor, smiling a little. “It isn’t made out of muscle, like yours, but they do the same thing.” He reached out to Adam and tapped methodically on his chest, triggering his two pectoral plates to disconnect at the sternum and sink out of view. Connor pointed at the heart, now on display. “That’s the aortic arch, and the inferior vena cava…the arch leads to our lungs. Humans think we only ‘breathe’ to fit in, but our lungs also function as an internal cooling system –”
Connor realized that he was rambling. He glanced at Gavin, who, to Connor’s surprise, wasn’t even looking at the pump. He was just watching Connor talk, an inscrutable look on his face.
Gavin cleared his throat and looked away. “Thanks for the anatomy lesson,” he said. It only sounded a little sarcastic.
It felt like their evening was coming to a close, so he reinserted Adam’s thirium pump and pulled down his shirt.
“I wanna check something,” said Gavin suddenly. He pushed off the access terminal and got down on one knee in front of Adam’s body and began untying the laces of his boots. “We didn’t find any shoes in that alley,” he muttered, “so his feet should be…” he pulled off the boots, “…scratched.”
Adam’s feet were, indeed, scratched up. The first layer of skin was dirty and scuffed, patches of white silicon showing through.
Connor made a note of it. “What does that tell us?” he asked.
“It tells us…that…” Gavin rocked back on his heels and stood up, hands on his hips. “That…he, uhh…” Connor raised an eyebrow at him. “I don’t know,” he finished lamely. “He was running around barefoot, obviously, before he robbed the store in Greektown, but…”
“…Where was he running from,” Connor finished for him.
"Yeah.." Gavin fidgeted. “Are we done here?” he asked, shoving Adam's shoes onto an empty shelf. He was avoiding Connor's eyes again. Frustrating.
Connor hadn't replied yet but Gavin logged out of the access terminal anyway and all but fled towards the exit. CONTAINER 02 slid back into the archives behind them, filling the room with the sounds of moving machinery. “Detective," he called out. Gavin's foot paused on the first step of the staircase. "...Is there something wrong?"
Gavin’s back tensed. After several moments of what looked like painful internal struggle, he turned around, and burst. “Aren’t you uncomfortable?!” he hissed, waving his arms around, gesturing to the room they were in. “Or did you forget the last time we were in here together?”
I’m an android, I have enough memory storage for three lifetimes – “Of course, I remember,” Connor said politely. “You shot me.”
Gavin’s eyes dropped to that spot on Connor’s chest. He had been repaired, gotten a new jacket, was good as new. But they both knew that a month ago he had been bleeding, sparking, shot with the very gun currently in Gavin’s holster.
Gavin rubbed his neck where Connor had hit him a month ago. “Yeah, well…I was out for almost five minutes,” he mumbled. “Doctor said I was lucky I didn’t have nerve damage.”
It wasn’t luck; Connor had known exactly where and how hard to strike to avoid causing nerve damage. “You were going to kill me,” Connor said quietly.
Gavin swallowed hard, as if bile had risen up his throat.
Even after running through his social protocols, Connor couldn’t find a suitable way to end the conversation. “…Our next shift starts in five hours,” he said awkwardly. “You should go home and get some sleep.”
It seemed to work well enough and they ascended the stairs silently, a good distance apart. At the top of the staircase, Gavin stopped and held the door open, his back to Connor, who edged past him cautiously.
“…I didn’t know you were alive.”
Connor blinked, not sure if he had heard right. “Detective…?”
“I’m not fucking saying it again,” Gavin said harshly, already walking away.
Connor’s LED spun wildly as he watched the other man leave, shoving his way through the double doors.
Listen: Midnight in a Perfect World - DJ Shadow <-- the vibe of this chapter
I moonlight as an EMT irl so let me know if I'm spending too much time talking about injuries/anatomy jargon etc
Thank you for all the comments and kudos so far!! (ง ื▿ ื)ว Pls don’t take it personally if I hadn't replied to your comment, I’m pretty shy and usually overthink my replies. Please keep giving me feedback, it REALLY helps
Chapter 4: KARMA DREAMS
Another happy day in the goddamned life of Gavin Reed.
This chapter is 16 pages. It's not extra long to make up for the long wait, it just really is that effing long
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
December 22 – year 2038
GAVIN REED’S APARTMENT
Gavin laid in bed, staring at the ceiling. Slivers of orange light shone through the blinds of his window, thanks to the great neon billboard across the street which never, ever turned off. He punched his pillow into a more comfortable shape and rolled onto his side, squeezing his eyes shut, and listened. The deep, steady drone of an advertising blimp cruising over his building. Cars rushing across the asphalt ten stories below. The distant thumps and shuffles of a neighbor, coming from somewhere to the right and up. Tick, tick, tick of his watch…
He slipped into sleep.
…He was crossing a bridge. It was long, but he felt compelled to reach the other side. He felt a hand on his chest, and another on his back. A key hung from his neck. It fell, clattering to the ground in a million gunshots. A light, warm wind swirled around his feet and he fell, too.
He woke up thinking about Connor. He tried to think about something, anything else, but that only made him think about Connor more, so he gave up and let his brain do whatever the fuck it wanted.
Gavin had been thinking about Connor a lot, lately, and he hated it. He was convinced he was cursed.
He passed by a man with brown eyes and hair? Connor.
He would watch TV to distract himself and what would be on the news? Connor.
He would go to the boxing gym to spar and remember punching who in the stomach? Fucking RK800 Connor. Gavin would punch himself in the stomach, at this point, if it would snap him out of whatever self-induced guilt-trip hell he was stuck in.
When he woke up at his desk last night and saw Connor at the station, he had almost thought he was hallucinating. But Connor was there, in the flesh.
Synthetic flesh, he reminded himself. As if it would make him feel better.
Gavin dragged himself out of bed with a frustrated moan and plodded into his bathroom, the cold tiles sending goosebumps up his bare legs. There were so many water spots on the mirror over the sink that Gavin’s reflection looked almost pixelated, which was for the best, probably. He looked like shit in the mornings – and all the rest of the day, too, lately.
He squeezed out a smear of toothpaste and shoved his toothbrush at his molars like they had offended him.
Gavin was man enough to admit that he’d been more of a mess than usual, lately.
Exhibit A: Two weeks after the revolution, he had nothing short of an existential crisis over whether or not he should make toast. Toast. Androids had souls, apparently. What if his toaster had a soul? Had he been abusing it all this time, shoving bread in without its consent? Never thanking it? How had he survived all this time without being murdered by his sentient toaster?
“I need therapy,” he said to no one, words garbled around his toothbrush.
Exhibit B: He couldn’t watch the news anymore. The local stations had a hard on for recycling the goriest footage they could find, and Gavin didn’t want to see it. SWAT teams descending on Jericho, androids falling under sprays of bullets or being publicly executed, etcetera. Shit that’ll probably be in the next generation’s history textbooks.
Citizens being interviewed on the newest developments were split fifty/fifty. Those who had always embraced androids now had the confidence to be outspoken about it. Meanwhile, those who were opposed had bonded together over their shared hatred and were actively trying to rid Detroit of its android invaders.
He remembered when his friend, Troy, had called him up at the start of December, inviting him to an anti-android riot. Said that they’d “caught one” and were going to “make an example of it”.
Talking to Troy was like looking into a mirror, and what he saw was ugly. Gavin had hung up on him and deleted his number.
He spit a mouthful of minty foam into the sink and gargled water straight from the faucet.
Time for work.
It had taken him a minute to find a shirt that didn’t have cat hair on it, but he still managed to get to work a half hour early.
The last time Gavin took time off, it was because he’d been shot in the belly and the doctor had said that he’d “die” if he tried to leave the hospital. He never used his sick days, but today was supposed to be Connor’s first back at the station, and Gavin had fully intended to take the day off. He’d wanted to avoid facing Connor amidst an entire welcoming brigade. He wasn’t ready. He didn’t know how to behave.
Then, of course, he got a call from Fowler at midnight and ended up partnered with the very man he was avoiding.
Whatever. At least he got paid overtime.
Gavin walked the long way to his desk to pass by Anderson’s cubicle; the desk opposite now had a chrome nameplate with Connor’s name on it. The chair was empty. Good. Great. Let it stay empty.
A hush suddenly fell over the station and Gavin turned to see Connor, hesitating at the edge of the office. He was fidgeting with something silver in his hand. He was alone, and he wasn’t wearing his tie, or his armband. He looked human.
He probably sounds like squeaky rubber and metal gears if you get close enough, Gavin thought petulantly, hiding his face in his mug as he walked back to his desk.
Connor went straight to his own desk and logged into his terminal; probably to avoid all the staring eyes. After a minute or two, however, he was visited by Chris, then Ben, then Tina, and eventually every officer in the station except Gavin had officially greeted Connor and welcomed him to the team. Someone had even gifted him a succulent in a tiny metal pot.
Gavin tapped on his desk to bring up the keyboard and for the next hour he drowned in what felt like a bottomless folder of case reports, witness statements, evidence review…so much documentation. The bane of his existence. Gavin was a force to be reckoned with in the field – ranked first in the Physical Abilities Test, every year since he’d been hired, thank you very much – but he could be downright lazy when it came to desk work. He needed a gun in his hand, not a stylus.
Detroit Police Department
December 22, 2038, 13:00 hours
Subject: Homicide at 582 Brush Street, Wenelli’s Pizza, back alley
Preliminary report of Detective Gavin Reed
The victim, Teresa Saks, 29 YO female, was found in the alley behind Wenelli’s Pizza. Victim found by restaurant owner at 23:05 hours after hearing a single gunshot. Victim found lying face up on the ground in front of a vending machine. Victim was shot at close range in the face by a short-barreled tactical shotgun. Restaurant owner called 911 at 23:10 hours to report inciden
After trying to finish his case report and ending up on his phone for the fifth time, Gavin decided intervention (ie: glorious caffeine) was needed. He shuffled to the break room and found, too late, that Connor was there as well. He was overcome with a strong urge to walk back to his desk and pretend he wasn’t thirsty.
Instead, he mentally slapped himself, marched up to the counter, and sat down his empty mug. Connor glanced at him but continued what he was doing. Gavin listened hard, hoping to hear squeaky rubber and metal gears. Nothing. Fuck.
What was Connor making coffee for anyways? Hank wasn’t here. Could Connor drink coffee? Where did it go, if he did? Did he have a stomach tank that he had to empty, like those child androids?
He became aware of the fact that the other man’s hands had stilled. He looked over and almost jumped; Connor was looking right at him. “What?” Gavin snapped.
Connor raised an eyebrow and pointed. “I need the sugar.”
“Oh,” Gavin grimaced. His first instinct was to be completely unhelpful, maybe even move the sugar bowl further away from Connor just to be a dick, but he forced himself to grab it and slide it across the counter. It took at least five whole seconds to get his arm to cooperate.
Surprised silence, for a moment. Then: “Thank you, Detective Reed.”
Thank you Detective Reed, he mocked silently. Gavin stirred his coffee as noisily as possible to diffuse the tension he wasn’t sure Connor could even feel. Behind them, a catchy ad for Black Bull™ energy drinks played on the television, and then cut to the blaring intro for KNC News.
They both turned around and watched the screen warily. The main news anchor, a man with vibrantly white teeth and a perfectly coiffed poof of black hair, addressed the camera: “And now to Poppy in Detroit, Michigan, for an exclusive interview. Poppy?” Cut to a blonde woman in her forties wearing a crisp blue pant suit, seated in the lobby of CyberLife Tower.
“My name is Poppy Parker,” the woman inhaled deeply, “and I am here with Elijah Kamski, the founder of CyberLife Incorporated.” She looked aghast that she had been able to secure this interview at all.
They switch to camera 2, and there, without a doubt, is Elijah Kamski, sitting comfortably in an armchair, his fingers laced together. The black of his hair and blazer were a shock against his pale skin and eyes.
Poppy unclasped her hands and opened her arms and said, “Welcome back to the land of the living!”
“Thank you for having me,” Kamski replied, his voice deep and indulgent.
“You’ve been out of the public eye ever since you left your company 10 years ago,” stated Poppy, not needing to consult her notes. “I’m sure we’re all wondering: what do you have to tell us?”
Kamski smiled before he spoke, his teeth glinting under the light of the cameras. “I’m here to announce my return to CyberLife.”
Poppy gasped, predictably.
“I will, of course, be resuming my position as CEO.”
“That is quite an announcement! What made you decide to return?
“Well, Poppy, CyberLife was at a major crossroads. The shareholders thought we were doomed and they were selling their stocks as fast as they could. Everyone wanted to get away from CyberLife, but I,” he chuckled, baring teeth. “All I could see, were the opportunities.” Then he leaned forward, eyes sharp, and whispered, “but that isn’t the only thing I have to announce.”
Poppy raised her eyebrow theatrically. “There’s more?”
“Oh yes. What with the worldwide spread and acceptance of android deviancy, we have entered a whole new era of android life. They were already intelligent, already alive, but now? Now we are on the verge of something new.” He paused, savoring their anticipation. “Humanization.”
“Humanization?” Poppy echoed. “Can you elaborate?”
“I’d be happy to. You see, we humans take our senses for granted. Taste, temperature, pleasure, and pain.” He counted them off his fingers. “Imagine if you couldn’t taste the food you ate, couldn’t feel a warm breeze on your skin, have sex but feel no pleasure?”
Poppy scoffed and glanced at the camera as if to say, “I don’t have to imagine that last one.”
Kamski pushed on. “You’ve no doubt seen the increase in romantic relationships between androids?”
“I have, yes.”
“Even between androids and humans, in the more progressive neighborhoods!” Kamski exclaimed. “These relationships operate the same as any other. Sexual intimacy is almost always an important factor, and without it?”
“The relationship is doomed,” Poppy finished for him.
“Exactly. Or, at least, severely limited.
"Taste is another important one. Androids have always been able to physically consume food; they’ve been used to test food products for years, but now they can actually taste. The goal there is to allow androids to share meals with each other or with us. The act of eating together is a unique bonding experience.”
“And why give them pain? Wouldn’t you say that they’ve already been through enough?”
Kamski’s smile faltered, but he collected himself. “Of course, they have. But pain is a part of the human condition, is it not? With pleasure comes pain; it’s a package deal. Of course, I’m not forcing anything on anyone. Any or all of the sensors can be disabled, should they choose, and as of twelve hours ago, all the updates have gone live. Any android who wishes to download them may do so, for free and at will.”
“Aren’t you afraid of the backlash you might receive from human citizens?”
Kamski waved his hand dismissively and said, “These updates pose no threat to humans; they only enrich the lives of androids. Allow me to demonstrate. Chloe?”
They switched to camera 3, in front of which there was a slim girl sitting politely, hands folded in her lap. She wore an unwrinkled, dark blue dress, and her blonde hair was tied back. She nodded to her left – that must be where Kamski was sitting – and picked up a glass of orange juice from somewhere out of frame.
She held up and displayed the glass of juice like how a flight attendant demonstrates how to use a lifejacket before takeoff: with a sparkling smile and practiced movement. Chloe brought the glass to her lips and drank, making sure to emphasize her gulp – yes, really, she drank it!
“How is it, Chloe?” asked Kamski.
“Sweet! Is this fresh squeezed?” she asked the cameraman.
“I only ask because I like it with pulp. This is very good!”
Kamski rested his elbows on the arms of his chair, hands steepled, gazing at Chloe with a mix of pride and possessiveness.
“Verrry interesting,” said Poppy. She brought her attention back to Kamski and continued, “Now, of course, the development and production of new androids is currently forbidden.”
Kamski nodded once. “I am well aware.”
“Then, what are your plans for the future of CyberLife?”
Kamski tapped his fingertips together and said, “We now know that androids are more than just obedient machines. They can feel the full spectrum of human emotion, but so far, all they’ve known is fear and conflict. I want to give them more.” He paused, eyes unfocused. “I don’t know if I need to say this, but I do feel personal responsibility for the mass casualties that the androids suffered last month. Maybe, if I hadn’t left my company all those years ago, the discovery of deviancy would have been smoother, less violent. I don’t know. But look at this as my apology, on behalf of humanity.” He looked into the camera. “Let me make it up to you.”
Switch back to Poppy on camera 1. “Well, there you have it, Detroit. Mr. CyberLife is back!”
They returned to the main news anchor and Gavin stopped listening.
“Huh. So does that mean you can…” Gavin glanced over and blanched. Connor’s eyelids were flicking open and shut as if he was possessed, or having a seizure, or both. He took a full step back and yelped, “The hell is wrong with you?!“
Connor’s eyes stilled and focused back on the green wall of the break room – he looked like he had seen God. He turned to Gavin, his mouth agape. “I got the updates,” he breathed. He spun around like a distracted puppy that could smell a treat and grabbed his cup of coffee.
Gavin stared at him for a moment then waved his hands unenthusiastically and said, “Whoopti-doo.” Connor ignored him, sipping tentatively from his cup. He crinkled his nose in distaste, and ha, that’s what you get for using seven spoons of sugar, dumbass. Then his irritation returned. He didn’t know exactly what the warning signs looked like, but seeing Connor’s eyeballs spazz out reminded him of that night in the interview room, when Carlos Ortiz’s android had tried to smash his own skull in. “You looked like you were about to self-destruct,” Gavin muttered.
Something about what he’d just said must have captured Connor’s attention, because he finally looked up from his coffee. “…I’m sorry if I caused you any distress,” he said slowly, and for some reason he wasn’t looking at Gavin’s eyes, but at the left side of his chest.
Gavin’s heart beat stuttered, as if it knew it was being stared at. “…Uh, my eyes are up here.”
“I’m sorry,” Connor said again, eyes snapping up.
Gavin suddenly felt very defensive. “I don’t care if you self-destruct,” he said pointedly.
Connor tilted his head at him, listening patiently.
“You could, like, explode, right now, for all I care.”
“Mm,” nodded Connor, clearly humoring him.
“Whatever,” he mumbled. He took his now lukewarm coffee to his desk and settled back in. He pulled up a folder and resigned himself to the fact that he had to personally review the documentation of every officer who had been on scene for the Teresa case.
The notification stream from 911 dispatch that covered the wall of his cubicle lit up, sending blocks of text speeding up the screen. “The hell…” he said to himself, rolling his chair backwards to get a closer look.
Seven more cases. Vandalism, disorderly conduct, reckless driving, verbal assault… all committed by androids in completely different neighborhoods. Nothing but petty crimes and misdemeanors; Gavin and Connor wouldn’t be sent out to investigate those, but still…the sheer volume of incidents made him feel uneasy.
Every now and then, unconsciously, he’d look over at Connor’s desk and see him with his brow furrowed, his LED yellow, rolling a quarter over the backs of his fingers.
Taste, temperature, pleasure, and pain, huh? It was getting harder and harder to think of Connor as anything less than human.
It was hypnotizing, how the quarter rolled over Connor’s fingers, and when he figured out the answer to whatever it was he was working on, his LED would turn blue, and he’d set the coin down on the desk. He did this no less than four times over the rest of the shift.
…Not that Gavin was counting.
December 22 – year 2038
TEMPLE COFFEE ROASTERS
A mix of people, from college students to middle-aged office workers, sipped their lattes and tapped away at their laptops. A bearded man in a flannel shirt was sat on a stool near the bar, pulling at the strings of his guitar and crooning into a vintage microphone. Had to be from 2010, at most.
Gavin was sprawled in a leather armchair in the corner, one hand on an empty cup, the other massaging his temple. The music was soothing, but gloomy, and did nothing to improve his mood. He stared up at the ceiling, not really seeing anything.
His shift had ended but he hadn’t wanted to leave. He hated paperwork, but he’d rather stay overnight and fill out forms than go home and be alone with his thoughts. Fowler was having none of it, however, and had practically dragged him from his desk and kicked him out of the station. Gavin wasn’t stupid, he knew that self-care was a necessary aspect of his job. He also knew that he was very, very bad at it.
Gavin sighed and observed the shame that burned in the pit of his stomach. It had grown steadily over the past month, patient and consuming. Nothing had made it go away, and he had exhausted every form of distraction he could think of: overworking himself, cutting himself off from the news, meaningless sex, withdrawing from his shady social circle. None of it was punishment enough, none of it eased his guilt.
Five words played over and over in his head: plastic, tin can, bully, bigot…
A deep, hearty laugh cut through the white noise of the coffee shop. It came from outside. Gavin stopped trying to massage his headache away and instead wiped the condensation on the window to reveal a giant of a man walking across the street; he had just parted with his friends and was, Gavin assumed, on his way home. A bright blue LED glowed against the dark skin of his temple.
He remembered all the fights he had gotten into as a kid, and how he had always felt better afterwards, even though his nose would be broke and his knuckles bruised. There was something cathartic about getting the shit kicked out of you, if you believed you were a bad person.
Gavin abandoned his coffee and watched himself exit the coffee shop as if watching through a movie screen. He crossed the street, ignoring the screeching tires and drivers honking at him.
“Hey. Hey!” he shouted. The android looked over his shoulder. “What’s your name?” Gavin asked, mouth dry.
The android blinked and walked backwards, away from him. “Jamie,” he answered cautiously.
Gavin’s heart beat punishingly fast and his blood seemed to tremble in his veins. He took the last few steps at a run and pushed Jamie, as hard as he could, square in his chest. He stumbled, his back hitting the shop window behind him.
“Fuck you, Jamie,” Gavin bit out, already on his way to hyperventilating. His de-escalation training flashed before his eyes – if he knew how to prevent a fight, he sure as hell knew how to start one.
The man really was huge; he must have been seven feet tall. Gavin had to stand on his toes to grab the collar of Jamie’s sweater and when he did he heard the stutter of ripping threads. “You’re trash,” he growled, getting as close to the other man’s face as he could. “You’re nothing.”
He was dizzy, disoriented, feverish.
The other man’s LED was spinning a fiery red. He’s angry. Narrow in.
“You’re nothing,” he repeated, and at this point Gavin couldn’t tell if he was talking to Jamie or himself. “Nobody wants you.” The words were pulled from his mouth of their own accord, slithering out of him from some sad dark place in his heart that he rarely acknowledged.
Fucking hit me
The android cursed and pushed him back – Gavin slid on the icy pavement but didn’t fall.
“Is that all you can do?!” he shouted, genuinely frustrated.
The android finally advanced on him and Gavin forced himself not to block the incoming blow, letting the massive fist smash into his mouth. His lip split against his teeth and he tasted blood.
The fist grabbed him by his hair and the world turned sideways – he landed face first in the snow. A boot the size and weight of a cinder block kicked him in the shoulder and he rolled off the curb and into the gutter. He cursed under his breath. Well done, Gavin.
“You think you can talk shit to us just because we’re different?!”
Gavin turned his head to the side and spit out a hot mouthful of bloody saliva. It sank into the snow. “Well,” he slurred, unable to help himself, “that’s what I did, innit?”
“Fucking humans…” the android huffed. Gavin suddenly became worried that the other man wasn’t done beating on him, and, concurrently, that he didn’t actually want to end up in the ER tonight. But Jamie just swore again, angry that he had lost his composure, and left. The wet crunch of his footsteps faded away.
Gavin took a deep breath and pushed himself up just enough to roll onto his back and he laid there, groaning, letting the snow soothe the bruise he could already feel forming on his shoulder.
Everything came into sharper focus as the adrenalin drained away. He stared up at the void of night sky above him. Calm, but empty, and pitch black; the stars were no match for the prismatic lights of Detroit. He remembered seeing stars, before. Years ago. When was the last time he’d gotten out of the city?
With a start, Gavin realized that his thoughts were wandering aimlessly, rather than descending into their usual negative spiral. Each inhale had become easier, and each exhale left him lighter. The shame that had plagued him for the past month was fading because of this karmic act, and Gavin nearly cried in relief.
But…it wasn’t all gone. He knew he still had someone he needed to apologize to. He closed his eyes and saw the face of a certain specific android, brown eyes assessing him from the end of Gavin’s gun. Calm, unintimidated, and a little disappointed.
A human couple from the sidewalk leaned over him and started to ask, “Are you alright –?”
“Piss off,” he jeered, causing them to stumble backwards and hurry away. Their fucking fault for interrupting his self-reflection.
Still…he couldn’t ignore the fact that his entire back was numb, and his jeans were getting damp from the snow. He took a moment to evaluate his options: go home and deal with the Connor situation, or stay here and maybe die of hypothermia.
Both were tempting in their own ways.
He got up and headed to his car.
December 22 – year 2038
“What do you dream about, Hank?”
“…What do you mean?”
“Do you need me to repeat the question?”
“I need you to clarify the question, smartass. Are you asking me what my dreams for the future are, or are you askin’ about what goes on in my head when I go to bed?”
“The second one.”
“Well, now, you see, that’s a very personal question.”
“Never stopped me before.”
“True,” Hank chuckled and drained his second bottle of beer. Then he reached for his bottle opener and pried the cap off a third.
“Will you tell me?” Connor asked, watching the bent bottle cap rattle across the tabletop.
“Tell you what?”
“What you dream about?”
Hank took a hearty swig and said, “What do you think."
“It’s always Cole.”
It hadn’t gone unnoticed to Connor that Kamski never mentioned the GOODNIGHT update in his interview. Connor chalked it up to the fact that Kamski enjoyed being mysterious, and, maybe, that he wanted androids to be able to have something all their own. A harmless secret from the humans. We have dreams.
He was currently lying on his back on Hank’s sofa, which was strange in itself. The only times Connor had laid down before this was when he had been knocked down in a fight; there simply was no other reason for him to be horizontal. But here he laid, hands folded across his stomach and toes peeking out from beneath a fleece blanket.
He stared up at the ceiling, lit softly by the street lamps outside, and took a deep breath, enjoying the taste and smell of mint that lingered from brushing his teeth. The coffee from earlier that day had left a thick, sugary feeling in his mouth, and trying to use his sterilizers had only made him gag; bleach and alcohol kill 99.9% of germs but do not taste good.
He blinked twice to bring up his HUD.
ACCESS : TEMPERATURE SETTINGS
ENABLE : HEAT SENSITIVITY
ENABLE : COLD SENSITIVITY
Slowly, he felt it. The crisp night air floated in through the open window and licked at his fingers and toes.
It was an interesting sensation…but not as pleasant as he had been hoping. He waited.
He became chilly, and his hands clenched over the blanket. Outside the window, a bird landed in one of Hank’s trees and the snow on its branches was shaken to the grass.
A terrible memory was creeping up on him the colder he became; he started shivering and he squeezed his eyes shut, willing himself to gain control –
What was planned from the very beginning.
Connor remembered the zen garden. Used and betrayed, pulling a gun against his own will. He remembered his panic, whipped by snow, blood freezing in his veins, nearly blind, limbs barely able to move – his stress level rocketed to 80% and he needed control –
DISABLE : COLD SENSITIVITY
And like the flip of a switch, the cold was gone. Connor stared at the ceiling, mouth open, unable to even simulate breathing.
His own voice echoed in his head, “the deviant showed signs of PTSD…as if its original programming had been replaced by completely new instructions.”
He threw the blanket off himself and strode over to the window, roughly sliding it shut and latching it. He pulled the curtain closed for good measure. Sumo raised his head and looked at him curiously.
“Go back to sleep, Sumo,” he murmured, then sunk into the middle of the sofa, his head in his hands. He could delete the memory. He could forget it ever happened.
…But a human couldn’t. Humans had to live with their pasts, no matter what. From an objective standpoint, Connor knew that living with post-traumatic stress when he could opt out was masochistic and possibly pointless. But, for some reason, the idea of simply deleting his memories seemed wrong.
He kept the memory but left the cold sensitivity off.
ACCESS : SLEEP MODE
SET TIMER : 8 HOURS
INITIALIZE DREAM APP…
ENTERING SLEEP MODE IN 10
[GOODNIGHT, CONNOR] 1
The world went black and the couch drifted away from under him.
…His feet landed on soft earth. He looked around and saw that he was in the middle of a forest, standing beneath a huge redwood tree. The air was warm, then cool, then water. He floated to the surface. A familiar voice spoke his name, and he turned around, but no one was there.
Listen: I'll Be Good - Jaymes Young <-- this song is Gavin and is what I imagine the guy singing in the coffee shop
There were a lot of little time skips in this one, I hope it wasn't annoying;;; Real life has been pretty busy, so it might be another couple weeks before the next chapter! I've written parts of/most of every chapter up till the end, I just like to polish everything so I don't accidentally screw up the continuity or mystery.
As always, I thrive off your comments :-)