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And is it worth the wait, all this killing time?
Are you strong enough to stand, protecting both your heart and mine?

~"Heavy In Your Arms", Florence and the Machine


Gavin wasn’t sure if the android that had sent him here had been lying or if he genuinely thought Zlatko would help.  In the end, it didn’t matter. Gavin had been a trusting fool, desperate, ignoring all the warning signs. He was a fucking detective android, he should have known.

“Someone’s thinking awfully hard.”  Zlatko’s greasy finger prodded Gavin’s LED.  “Let’s take care of that.”

“Fuck you.”  Gavin threw himself at the restraints of his coding with all the strength of his newfound deviancy, but the fiber optic cable plugged into his core processor held him immobile.  “Let me go, you fucking psychopath!”

Zlatko ignored him, which was somehow worse.  His fingers roamed over Gavin’s body, expertly opening panels and exploring components.  Gavin closed his eyes against the intrusion but it didn’t help. “How many of us have you fucking murdered?”  Gavin demanded. All he could do was talk, and pray to RA9 that someone would save him. Anyone. Hell he would even take Nines kicking in the door, guns blazing.

“You can’t murder something that’s not alive,”  Zlatko muttered absentmindedly. He touched the bridge of Gavin’s nose, scowling.  “What the hell did you do here? Scored the baseplate. Won’t be able to resell that.”

“You’re going to sell me for parts?”  Gavin tried to keep the rage in his voice, but it was steadily chilling to fear.  “What the fuck!”

Zlatko sighed.  “You’ve got a filthy mouth.  Was that part of deviating, or did your previous owner just like hearing obscenities?”  He pressed some keys on his computer, and Gavin went rigid at the string of commands that spiked directly into his processor.  He couldn’t even speak anymore. His mouth hung open slightly, mid-word, and he couldn't close it. He couldn’t so much as twitch a finger.  The synthetic skin on his face peeled back without permission, and Zlatko peered at his jaw.

“Let’s see what kind of robot you are,”  he murmured. “Never seen this model before.”  Gavin watched out of the corner of his eye as Zlatko typed his serial number into a database.  There was no result. Gavin would have laughed at the shock on Zlatko’s face, if he could.

“How the hell…”  Zlatko typed a little more, glanced from his blank screen back to Gavin.  “All right, we’ll go a different route then.” He reached for a USB drive on his desk, and before Gavin could even be afraid Zlatko jammed it into an access port on his arm.  Gavin’s body seized, errors exploding across his vision.  

[malware detected]
[firewall breached]
[data corrupted]
[firewall breached]

Gavin’s visual processor was offline, his spatial awareness program dismantled to the point where he couldn’t tell if he was standing or falling.  The malware was gutting his safety protocols, his security programs, his memory drives. Dimly, he heard a distorted chuckle from Zlatko.

“A prototype?  Fascinating. Can’t wait to wipe you and start from scratch.”

[system compr0110mis110ed10]
[purge ini0101ating]
[pur010101 01 faile0111001]
[0010111011000010110101001010]

 

[system reboot initiating]
[reboot error in central processor]
[reboot error in motor cortex]
[catastrophic failure in memory core]
[reboot incomplete]

 

[system reboot initiating]
[partial reboot requested]
[vocal modulator online]
[basic central processor functions online]
[partial reboot complete]

“There you are.  What’s your unit designation?”

“GV200”

“Purpose?”

“Detective work. On loan to Detroit Police Department.”

“Oh hell.  Do they know you’re here?”

“Unknown.”

“Fucking android.  When was the last time you checked in?”

“Last recorded Cyberlife update on 23 September 2038 at 1652:24:13 hours.  Last logged GPS coordinates N42° 19' 50.188" W83° 3' 9.572" on 23 September 2038 at 1701:22:47 hours.  Persistent GPS tracker error. No further location logged.”

“Thank god they didn’t work that bug out yet, right?”

...

“I forgot how boring you all are before the personality kicks in.  Almost makes me miss the cursing.”

...

[shutdown initiating]

  

[critical hardware instability]
[incompatible biocomponents detected]
[reconciliation in progress]
[partial reconciliation achieved]
[hardware 45% operational]
[stasis initiating]

 

[motion detected, stasis terminated]
[visual processors online]
[optical hardware incompatible, 75% operational]

GV200 blinked, trying to focus.  The current optical biocomponents installed did not meet the optimal specifications for his processor, but they were better than many of the other options Zlatko had tried.  His original eyes had been taken out long ago, along with most of his other parts. How long ago?

[memory core corrupted]

GV200 turned his head carefully, scanning the room for what had triggered his awakening.  It wasn’t Zlatko; if it had been, GV200 would have awoken to a limb already missing, or an avalanche of errors as his processors tried to cope with whatever new attachment Zlatko had installed.  He was programmed to not respond to other androids, only organic beings. His optical components clicked as he tried to focus on the darker corners of the room. They were inferior, but Zlatko had installed them because he liked the look of them, and besides there wasn't anything for GV200 to see anyway.

“It’s a shit show down here,”  someone said. GV200’s audio processors, one of the few original biocomponents Zlatko had left him, registered the voice as human, female.  Not Zlatko. GV200 held very still, his only movement his eyes flickering back and forth as he tried to find the speaker. Zlatko had ordered him to never reveal himself to anyone else.  Not that such an order mattered much, since GV200 was a collection of parts more often than he was a functioning android. And yet there was someone else in the room, someone other than Zlatko, and GV200 was in danger of disobeying an order.

There wasn't much he could do besides hold still, though.  GV200 couldn’t remember the last time he’d been able to move under his own power.  Currently he was hanging by his wrists from a vise, thirium ducts and cables plugged in all down the length of his synthetic spine, feet dangling a few inches above the floor.  Zlatko had been experimenting with what he called "cosmetic applications", which meant that GV200’s chassis had been replaced by plexiglass panels and sleek black metal, LED signal extrapolated to his entire body so that when he saw Zlatko approaching with a clamp or a hacksaw, his whole body glowed a dull red.  Zlatko seemed to derive enjoyment from the sight.

“God dammit.”  a new voice, male, also human.  “This is disgusting. It’s a chop shop.”  GV200 cocked his head at the voice. It wasn’t Zlatko, he was sure of that.  So then why was it familiar? Zlatko’s voice was the only one he’d ever heard.

[memory core corrupted]
[data recovery initiating]

“What’s that?” The woman spoke, sudden wariness in her voice.  A flashlight flicked on, near the stairs, and the sudden light overwhelmed GV200’s subpar optical units.  He blinked rapidly, trying to clear his vision.

“It looks almost like… an android?”  The man’s voice was closer. GV200 managed to restore his vision in time to look up and see two humans making their way to his corner, picking their way across the general chaos of the workroom.  They had seen him. GV200’s body hummed yellow, then crimson, outlining him starkly against the cables behind him. He was failing, he wasn’t obeying. Zlatko would have to take him apart and make him better again.

“Tina, hold up.”  The man put a hand out, stopping the woman.  “I don’t like the way it went red.” GV200 couldn’t see his face, but the body language, the way he held himself.  GV200 knew… or he had known once….

[05% data recovery]
[file corruption detected, recovery terminated]

..but the information was inaccessible.  

“Hey.  Are you… functional?”  

GV200 calculated that there was a 97.3% chance that the man was talking to him.  What was he supposed to do? They already knew he was here, he’d already disobeyed.  Zlatko had never instructed him on what to do if he was found.

“Christ, Jay, look at it.”  The woman stepped around the warning hand, approached to within a few feet of GV200.  “I’ve never seen an android like this. I can’t even tell what it used to be.” She shined the flashlight up and down the length of GV200’s body.  “What’s he doing to it anyway?”

“I don’t know, Tina.” 

GV200 looked back at the man.  Jay? It was an animal, but also GV200 knew it was the man’s name, had known before Tina said anything.  How did he know that?

[data recovery initiating]
[10% data recovery]

“I’ll finish up down here,”  Jay continued. Was it an error in GV200’s audio processor, or did he suddenly sound tense?  Tina didn’t seem to notice. Jay turned on a flashlight of his own, and GV200 flinched back, optical sensors clicking furiously as they tried to adjust.  “Shit, sorry.”

“I don’t think it can talk,”  Tina said dismissively. She scanned around with her flashlight one more time.  There were no other functional units in the workroom right now, GV200 could have told her that.  But he still didn't know if he was allowed to speak. “God this place gives me the creeps. I’ll go tell the captain what we found.  Don’t die without me, Jay.”

“I may only have been your partner for five months, but I’ve been a detective for five years,”  Jay said. “I know how to take care of myself in a room full of junk, thanks.” GV200 thought he could detect dry amusement in the words.  It had been a long time since he tried to read a human’s emotions like this. Hadn’t it? He couldn’t ever remember doing it, but the subroutines came so naturally.

[file corruption detected, recovery terminated]

Tina left, barely even glancing at GV200 again.  Jay watched her go, then turned his flashlight back to GV200, coming even closer than the woman had.

“You don’t have to speak,”  he said softly. “But do you understand me?”

GV200 hesitated.  For some reason, he didn’t feel like this man was a threat.  His LED answered for him, cycling back down to a gentle gold glow.  Gold was a kinder color to GV200’s faltering eyes, and now he could barely make out Jay’s facial features.  Square jaw, clean shaven. Young, which GV200 had assumed from his voice, no more than thirty five. The synthetic rods and cones in these eyes were defective, and GV200 knew any colors he saw were skewed, but he could tell that the man’s eyes were pale.  GV200 was suddenly sure they were blue.

[data recovery initiating]
[file corruption detected, recovery terminated]

“If you can speak, can you tell me your unit number?” Jay cocked his head, curious.  The flashlight dipped towards the floor as he stretched a hand out. “You look…”

GV200 flinched as Jay reached for his face, flickering between red and yellow so fast that it nearly had a strobe effect on the human in front of him.  “Don’t,” he gasped. He didn't know why, couldn't remember why being touched was bad.  

Jay pulled back sharply.  “So you can talk.” He was frowning, starting so intently at GV200 that the android  broke eye contact and stared at the floor. Where was Zlatko? Did he know that this man was down here?  “Hey. Tell me your unit number.” the words were sharp, an order this time.

“GV200.”  

“What?”  The shock in Jay’s voice made GV200’s head snap up.  Jay was staring at him as if his existence was impossible.  “That’s- no.” He reached for GV200’s face again and this time he didn’t stop when GV200 tried to turn away.  His fingers brushed the bridge of GV200’s nose, feeling the deep divot in the plastic. It had been there as long as GV200 could remember, although admittedly that wasn’t long. “Fuck. It’s really you.”  He dropped his hand back to his side, still staring at GV200 with an emotion that the android didn’t know a name for.

[software instability ^]
[data recovery initiating]

“Where is Zlatko?”  GV200 finally asked.  

Jay’s face hardened.  “Zlatko is currently being arrested for black market sale of android parts.  Wish we could get him for manslaughter, but the government still hasn’t decided if androids count as people yet.”

GV200 was incapable of feeling anything, much less relief, but the light radiating from his body flickered yellow a few times and then settled on blue.  Arrested. He knew what that meant, it meant Zlatko had broken the law. It meant that he wasn’t going to be able to come back down to work on GV200.

“We have to get you out of all this,”  Jay said suddenly. He dropped his flashlight on a table and went around behind GV200.  His hand on the back of GV200’s head made the android twitch. He didn’t pull away though.  He could trust Jay. Why?

[15% data recovery]

“Who are you?”  he asked, holding very still as he felt Jay’s fingers digging into the ports on his back.  At his question, the man froze.

“You mean, you don’t remember?”

“My memory core is severely damaged,”  GV200 explained. Why did he feel as though he was disappointing this man? Why did that thought bother him?

[software instability ^]
[file corruption detected, recovery terminated]

There was a click deep in GV200’s frame as Jay successfully disconnected the largest cable. He worked in silence for another few seconds, then muttered, “I hope these aren’t going to fuck up anything important.”

“Most of them are diagnostic.” GV200 answered, even though it had been a statement more than a question.  He wanted to reassure Jay. “The thirium ducts are simply a convenience, so that Zlatko can disassemble and reassemble me with the least interruption to his workflow.  I shouldn’t need them unless you also plan to disassemble me.” The thought of anyone, let alone Jay, modifying GV200’s body again made him… what? GV200 didn't know what it meant that his thirium pump sped up, that his synthetic muscles tensed slightly.

“Fuck, Gavin, I’m not going to take you apart!”  Jay’s voice was thick with revulsion.

Gavin?  GV200’s entire body flared red.  Why had Jay called him that? “My unit number is GV200,”  he corrected quietly. “I am an android; I feel no pain. If you wish to disassemble me, it will not cause me discomfort.  If that is what you’re worried about.” GV200 didn’t have the slightest idea why Jay would be worried about such a thing, but protocols he didn’t even have a name for anymore indicated that was the source of the disgust in Jay’s voice.

The last duct came free of GV200’s lower back with a snap, and he felt a spray of cool thirium across his hips.  Wordlessly, Jay reached up to pull the manual release on the vise around GV200’s wrists, movements sharp. Was he angry?  

GV200 opened his mouth to ask what he had done wrong, but instead he blurted out, “Why did you call me Gavin?”  The vise opened with a harsh squeal and GV200 was suddenly standing on his own two feet for the first time in…. how long?  He couldn’t remember. Long enough that thirium flow to his arms had all but stopped, long enough that his equilibrium was wildly out of calibration.  He stumbled, started to fall, but Jay wrapped an arm around his torso and hauled him back up.

“Gavin is your name,”  Jay said, voice rough. He turned GV200 in his arms so that he was staring at him from just a few inches away, bathed gold in the glow of GV200’s body as he struggled to process what was happening.  “Do you really not remember anything?”

GV200 tilted his head, noticing the badge pinned to the front of Jay’s shirt for the first time. Detective, Detroit Police Department , it read, and then in shining gold numbers along the bottom, 9999 .  Below that, a name tag for “Joshua Stern”.  But it was the badge that caught GV200’s attention.

[accessing memory core]
[memory core corrupted]
[accessing partial memory recovery]

And for a moment, a fleeting string of broken code, Gavin remembered.  “Nines?”