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Lavender

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Lavender

Rigid, lifeless eyes did not let him go. They looked at him without any life. Conceited, arrogant and merciless. There was nothing human in them. Not even this human shell could deceive Gavin. The attitude with the arms lying on the back seemed authoritarian – almost military – and any lack of emotion made it seem like a statue. Also, it still wore the CyberLife jacket; clinical, tightly cut and equipped with the glowing marks of the androids.

Since the revolution, this has been a rare sight. For Gavin, however, these signs were very welcome: the bracelet, the numbers and the triangles. They degraded the human appearance of the android, turned it into a machine. No more and no less.

Gavin's gaze scurried to the LED at the temple. The cool blue light burned in his eyes, while it became increasingly difficult for him to keep his field of vision clear and sharp. The noises in the precinct felt like thunder - it was hard to bear. His pulse, on the other hand, hammered, his blood began to rush through his ears and began to dampen the noise around him.

The detective clenched his hands to fists, tried to concentrate on his breath and rip his gaze off the LED, but he couldn't. It was the only thing that could tell him what was going on in the android’s head. It was a warning sign, a straw, to which he could cling.

Because the artificial face of the machine did not reveal much, Gavin had to rely on Captain Fowler's words that his counterpart was really deviant: Normally, he would hardly have believed it. 

Then it opened its mouth. The deep tenor roared into Gavin's ears like the grumbling of a watchdog. "I hope for good partnership, Mr. Reed. Your achievements and experience will be an enrichment for the DPD in connection with my abilities."

It reached out for him. Gavin automatically recoiled. Out of fear, but he knew how it had to look with his reputation: like he was acting out of disgust and contempt.

Gavin's gaze shrugged, briefly to the android's empty and hard-looking face, and for a moment he thought there was a twitching in the corners of its mouth. However, it still paused and held the hand in the air. 

Someone else wouldn't have noticed the change of behaviour, but Reed had learned painfully and a long time ago to pay attention to the small emotions of the machines. To serve. To appease. To survive.

His eyes glided over the high collar and broad chest, only to get stuck on the number and the letters. RK900. RK. His throat suddenly felt tight and a bitter taste filled his mouth.

 

"My name is-"

 

"I dont' care!" Gavin's face burned. Saliva splashed from his lips on the perfect black and white jacket, while the android in front of him froze to stone. “You're just a shitty machine! Machines don't have a name."

The hard face of the android loosened up a bit; the eyes continued to be cold, the corners of the mouth pulled upwards, as if it wanted to bleach the teeth and the tall body approached menacingly. Gavin could feel the danger posed by the RK model and resisted it with all his willpower, so as not to show any weakness. But then one of the big hands reappeared in his field of vision and he knew that the bastard was about to grab him by the collar. He reflexively slapped his hand away and jumped back. His own hand ready to pull on his weapon.

The android blinked. Visibly surprised that Gavin had been able to fend him off. Or because of the hugely hostile reaction. Whatever it was, Gavin didn't care. 

"Don't touch me, asshole!" He didn't care how many looks they risked or that he made a damn scene in the middle of the precinct. "If you touch me again, I'll put a bullet between your eyes!"

The LED started to turn yellow and Gavin guessed what the thing planned to do. It wanted to scan the angry human. Not with him. Without hesitation, Gavin grabbed the next best next thing on his desk and hurled it in the android's face to stop the process. Paper flew through the air and Gavin turned in the opposite direction and raised his middle finger to say goodbye.

As soon as he had left the large room and the stairwell in front of him spread, the walls collapsed on the detective. The bile came up to him. Luckily, he hadn't had breakfast yet – so he just spit out saliva and stomach fluid and collapsed on the next best wall.

For a moment, he didn't care that anyone could have turned up and seen him in his miserable state. He was on his ass and had no plan of how he would survive the next few days.    

*+++++++*

Days became three weeks of forced cooperation. The new android was actually practical and a great help - not that Gavin would ever admit it in public, but the work had been reduced by half and he was getting out of the precinct more and more punctually.

Most of the time they worked in silence and Gavin had developed a talent for avoiding eye contact and whenever it was possible to hid from the killer robot. He had moved his desktop in the middle so that the RK model was barely visible. Only a dark brown head of hair was still in his vision. The machine was just too damn tall.

Besides that, the Android was fairly easy to maintain. He was silent and did not invade Gavin's privacy. They somehow existed side by side without killing each other - according to Tina a miracle.

Subdued, but with an annoyed tone, the detective had admitted to her that the work was better and faster. Almost like before. Almost like before his world collapsed. 

Because the RK900 had the same capabilities as Connor, they were able to investigate a crime scene in real time and soon had the same success rate as Anderson and RK800. The younger model was determined as Gavin once was, stubborn and intelligent through his programming and fancy technology. Gavin quickly realized that the machine was going to outdo its predecessor. 

This pleased Gavin a little bit. It reminded him of his old self. There were only more control and cold in the machine. RK900 did not show any weakness and worked like a maniac. With his charisma, ambition and arrogance, he made as little friends as Gavin. Most feared the machine, but in a different way than its partner. It was more instinctive and mixed with an aversion associated with RK900's arrogance.

And since once a prisoner freed himself, this became a well-founded fear; the criminal had freed himself from Chris grip and kicked him to the ground to snatch the officer's weapon, but before he had a chance to shoot around in the precinct, RK900 had appeared out of nowhere. He had broken the criminal's wrist without hesitation and taken the gun - and another blow had knocked the little drug dealer down. 

Since then, the androids have been surrounded by a fearful respect from his colleagues. 

Gavin had watched the whole thing happening with horror ... but also felt a little satisfaction that the little prick had been stopped and given a good beating before he could hurt Chris or another officer. And yet Reed hadn't dared to go any closer. He was stuck in his chair like frozen deer in front of the headlights of a car. It was Tina who ran to Chris to see how he was doing and Officer Person had taken care of the criminal. Fortunately, Chris had only get a bruised chin. Without the machine, the situation could have ended much badly. Fowler hadn't been thrilled, but relieved, and Gavin vomited internal when the captain praised the android for his quick reaction. Gavin just rolled his eyes and bit his tongue so as not to make a stupid comment.

"So what’s up, boy?"

The deep voice frightened Gavin out of his thoughts. He buzzed and stared into his beer glass.

"As you see, I am still alive." The detective tried to swallow down his sarcasm and bad mood. He wasn't here for that. He took a strong sip and run a hand through his hair. The last nights of insomnia were evident on his face. Before the talking topic could return to work, he looked back to his former partner.

Jackson had turned gray. The folds of laughter around his eyes were deeper and his beard denser. He had long since discarded the uniform and exchanged it for jeans and flannel. Instead of a gun, he pulled out his smart phone and pushed it across the table with a broad grin.

Gavin leaned forward and looked at the photo. It was a family picture. Jackson had been lucky after he get wounded on duty. Before it, work had left him no time for a girlfriend or even family, but then he had met a doctor at the hospital. A bit younger than himself and in the beginning he had rejected her when she asked him for a date. She was stubborn, loving and a real bundle of energy – she had not accepted a no. She had helped him get back on his feet and after two years of relationship they had finally married.

Three children later, Jackson was a proud family father who only sometimes missed the job. His eldest son had the same laugh as his father, the second had his mother's curly hair and Gavin could already see a lot of his partner in the personality of the little one. The latest addition was a little girl with a cute face and a big cat plush toy in her arms.

Gavin's finger slid across the screen to view the next photos. They all showed off the little girl as she joyfully opened a package and finally pulled the stuffed animal out with a beam. The faux fur was grey, with white polka dots.

Gavin inevitably began to grin and could feel him getting warm.

"So she likes it?"

“She loves it. Gracie called it Smokey."

Gavin felt a bit caught and put his cigarette back in his jacket pocket. 

Damn. Children. 

"No idea why she called it that," the detective muttered embarrassedly, trying not to feel guilty. Only the other day, Amy, Jackson's wife, had forbidden him to smoke in front of the children. He vividly imagined how the mother's facial features had slipped when she first heard the name.

Phuck. He would certainly have to listen to a lecture at the next family dinner.

Jackson laughed amusedly and called the waitress back to the table to order food. After she placed her orders, Gavin handed over the smart phone to his former partner. "She missed you."

"I wish I could have come for her birthday," muttered Gavin, a sad look in his grey eyes, "Just because some bastard thought I had to murder someone, I had to work overtime. And the stupid Robocop wouldn't let me go."

His old partner shrugged briefly and reached for his hip with his once-broken hand. Where another android once pushed a knife between its ribs.

A wave of guilt overwhelmed Gavin. His hands clenched into fists and his jaw began to tighten. Because of him, Jackson had almost died. It was only because of Gavin that he could no longer work –

A big hand interrupted his hateful thoughts. The old man caress his hair like one of his sons and then smiled softly. Gavin felt the gentle pressure and it distracted him enough to force his eyes back to Jackson.

"It's not your fault." Jackson spoke calmly and forcefully. His gaze is serious and warm, "None of it."

Gavin bit his lip. Until it hurt: "I know."

His old partner looked at him critically and then let him go.

"The world has changed. We live now next to an android. A nice, young couple. She was his owner and they adopted a child together after they got married."

Gavin hissed. Jackson knew full well that androids weren't his favorite topic. He know what the old bastard wanted to say. Gavin tipped the rest of his beer down, leaned back and stared at Jackson expressionlessly.

"And?"

"You know, I used to be the last person to like or tolerate them. I thought I was too old for this new-fashioned technique. Never thought it would happen." He laughed briefly and took a sip of his whiskey, "And now I go brunching with my new neighbors, grilling with them in the garden and my children are overjoyed to have a new friend."

"So it's up to me?" Poison dripped from Gavin's lips.

"No," Jackson calmly looked him in the eye, "But when it comes to closing from one dirty bag to all the others, you would have learned to hate all humanity by now with the number of human criminals."

"I'm close."     

"Gavin."

"Yes, I know," the detective muttered, letting his gaze wander through the full pub. He had discussed the subject often enough with his therapist. He knew they were both right, but it was hard to overcome when his mind panicked every time he saw an android and his body fell into shock.

“He's your partner and he's lasted longer than the last ones. You told me that your success rate shot up in a short time. He takes care of the reports, and since he's been there, you haven't been admonished once."  "Yes, it looks like the Robocop can get my job done without me."

Jackson drove over his face annoyed. “Bullhead Give him a chance. He’s now your partner and partners need to trust each other. You need someone to guide your back … you know exactly how important this is."

The waitress came back with the food. Just as Gavin reached for the nachos, Jackson stopped him. A little grin on the lips.

"If you promise to work on your behavior, I'll pay tonight."

Gavin snorted. "That’s not enough, old man."

"Fine ..." The former cop tipped his fingers thoughtfully on the old table top. “You're allowed to go to the cat cafe with Gracie, but only if you don't tell her mum. If Gracie wants to adopt a cat again, your ass get kicked by her mum. Deal?"

Gavin began to grin broadly at the performance. His godchild loved cats as much as he did, but the family had already adopted an old dog from the shelter and Amy didn't want any more animals in the house.

“Well. I can give the robot a chance. But only one."

His ex-partner was satisfied with this and finally let Gavin eat his nachos.

*+++++++*

RK900 appeared like a silent shadow at the table of the Lt. Anderson. Despite his size, it seemed as if he could manipulate his presence in a room and vanish. Sometimes he used it to sink in the crowd, before he was controlling the room with his intimidating presence in the next moment.

He watched as Connor bent over Hank's shoulder to go through a murder case with him. The photos on the tablet he couldn’t recognize through the angle. While he waited for the two to be finished, he connected with the internet of the precinct to download the file.

He flew over the photos and records.

The victims had been found in an abandoned building. An unknown corpse. As well as Cathrine Scott and Carlos Hernandez. Both an overdose. Red Ice. The first body had been older and had been found in another part of the house. Here the circumstance of the death were different: Twenty-nine stab wounds.

The murder and overdose seemed to have nothing to do with each other at first glance, but Connor had found that fingerprints were missing. At least on the bloody knife that was found next to the badly decaying corpse. There were only the fingerprints of the woman, who had already been arrested for prostitution and drug possession.

RK900's boredom came to an abrupt end when Connor suddenly looked up and gave him a smile. Hank nodded narrowly to him and then continued to brood over his case.

"Richard. What can I help you with?" His predecessor model came to him and RK900 crossed his arms behind his back. His answer was simple: "Detective Reed."

The smile froze on Connor's face, which were so similar to his. "Did he attack you again?"

The younger android shook his head with a rigid look. Over time, he had acquired a few human gestures.  It was better than having negative reactions to his machine-like attitude and behavior.

"What is the matter?"

"We can work together, but our partnership has not yet improved. To get the most out of my performance, I think a working partnership based on trust with Detective Reed is necessary."

Connor nodded and briefly looked at Lt. Anderson, as if confirming RK900's words.

“It helped me to learn more about my partner. I was able to respond better to him and learn to understand him. It is fundamental for a good partnership."

“Suggestions on how to do this? Detective Reed is very private person and-”

"- don't want to talk to you."

Another nod from CyberLife's latest and best model. Connor approached. At first he seemed to want to speak, but then his LED turned golden and RK900 noticed his voice in his head.

"I investigated Hank's desk and learned a lot about him."

RK900's gaze glided to his own partner's empty desk. Why hadn't he come up with the idea? Well, Reed's privacy didn't matter to him and he had strictly adhered to it after the altercation with the man.

The android started smiling when he decided to try the idea - but the smile was more of a grime, peppered with teeth and an intimidating look. Even Connor shrugged and immediately let RK900 be. Instead, RK900 thanked him for the advice and marched to Gavin's desk.

His partner had gone into his break with Officer Chen. He wouldn't be back in the next half hour.

The view of the RK model scanned the surface of the table. Files, office supplies and a coffee mug. No personality. Gavin, unlike Hank, separated his private and professional life.

He grabbed the coffee mug. The brand revealed that it came from a popular cafe shop nearby and was not like the bitter and cheap coffee from the break room. RK900 had already noticed that the detective only drank the free coffee if he had to work overtime. Then the caffeinated drink disappeared into the small body like water. RK900 found the high consumption worrying, but he remained silent.

Carefully, he sipped on the cup to take a sample.

Caramel Frappuccino.

Calorific value/per 100 ml: 64, 0 kcal

Protein: 2.9g

Carbohydrates: 10, 0 g

Sugar: 0.8g

The prize appeared in front of RK900's eyes. 5.94 $. It was much more expensive than the instant coffee offered for free in the office. Presumably Reed preferred the - now cold - coffee because of his taste; about THAT RK900 couldn’t say anything. His sensors weren't designed for taste, but he knew that Detective Reed only brought this coffee when he was in a good mood. The last night must have gone well.

 

He had heard his partner talk to Officer Chen about a meeting with his old partner. Jackson. RK900 had immediately made a background check - out of professionally programmed curiosity. And hoping to learn something from the partner with whom Reed had actually had a working relationship.

The former detective had retired early due to an injury in service. According to the file, he had been attacked with a knife by a drug dealer.

Richard dropped the cup again and his gaze glided over the chair. Several cat hairs hung on the back. Blue-grey and shorthair. He had already noticed her on the detective's pants. They also sometimes hung on his top, but lately they had become less.

Felis silvestris catus

Korat. Si-Sawat (breed)

Thai cat. Koraj, Lucky Cat.

The search continued. The drawers were locked, but to RK's luck, all the locks had been digital since 2036. So he needed just a code instead of a key. In a fraction of a second, RK had put together several combinations and tried the most likely ones.

To his amusement, it was Detective Reed's date of birth, which he knew from the police file. The man was a simple mind like most human - and so the castle opened up without resistance to the curious android.

The first drawer contained nothing important. Only more documents, a few energy bars and a few spare handcuffs. Among them was a full pack of cigarettes.

Marlboro Silver

Condensate/tar: 4 mg

nicotine: 0.4 mg

Carbon monoxide: 5 mg

Tobacco additives: like Marlboro Red + Invert sugar

The next one was more interesting: He found some photos. Without a frame. The top showed Gavin Reed and Tina Chen in uniform. Fresh from the Academy. A family photo followed. Not a posed one, as he had seen many times from witnesses and victims. Instead, two boys laughed into the camera. They seemed to be the same age. Due to the high similarity, RK900 excluded friends with the help of its calculations. The left-hander was without a doubt Gavin Reed. Brown, wild hair and grey-blue eyes.

The other boy had a narrower face and was wearing thick glasses. He was playing with a robot while little Gavin clutched a toy police car. A woman hugged him and kissed his head of hair. In the background, a man with a full beard could be seen laughing as he attached the string of lights to the Christmas tree.

Richard tried to scan the other faces, but the mother's face was hidden by too many loose strands of hair. And the father was half covered by the branches of the tree. The reflection of the other boy's glasses, perhaps a brother, effectively obscured his face under the hood of the sweater. This made his facial aging software just as ineffective as his facial recognition program.

Strange. Reed's file contained no reference to a family or brother. They may have been dead – it would be an explanation for the man's bitter and venomous personality. 

RK900 scrolled through the photos. A selfie that showed Officer Millers, Chen and Reed together in a bar. A beer in front of Detective Reed. He saved the brand. Once again, the Detective seemed to prefer quality and brand.

And there was a rare, broad grin on Reed's lips.

RK900 blinked while his system sent him a warning. He was unaware that Detective Reed could smile. At work, he either pulled an annoyed face, was aggressive or mocking.

The last two photos showed young Gavin with side cuts and still not with the distinctive scar on his nose. On one, he was at a club with friends. In the other, he and another boy stared at  smartphones. They laughed while Gavin held a skateboard in the other hand.

It was one of the youngsters from the club. It was a bit taller than Gavin, and when RK900 zoomed in on the boy's face, he could see some moles. Blue eyes and dark brown hair. The photo was more worn than the others, even though it was at the bottom. In some places, the photo paper was faded or even curled, as if a liquid had been spilled or made in contact with rain.

But no names.

The photos spoke of a good social life, friends and family contacts. RK900 couldn't see much of it today, but his partner still seemed to nurture the memories and keep them close.

RK900 closed the drawers again.

He hadn't experienced much, but maybe enough to work with it. Again, he began to smile.

He loved challenges.       

*+++++++*

Perhaps a little too enthusiastically, Gavin bit into his doughnut and ignored the icing sugar spread over his hand and shirt. Tina snorted beside him and took another one of her own while they leaned on one of the coffee shop's standing tables. The waitress came over to them and placed the orders on the table. They had opted for cardboard cups, as they soon had to leave for work.

The waitress, presumably a collage student, gave them a smiling smile. Her long hair had her hair tied up to a dud and a few freckles danced over her cute nudicity. She winked at Gavin, barely reaching for his mug. "If you two need anything else, call me."

Gavin, still full of his mouth, just nodded and watched as the waitress returned to the counter. Tina, quick as she was, ripped the cup out of his hand and began to grin broadly when she noticed the phone number under his name. In addition to the last number, 'Jane' was written in fine curves.

“Wow. I thought you had lost your attraction after all these years due to your aggressive visage. But somehow, some charm must have been stuck." 

"Shut up, Chen," he buzzed back and grabbed his coffee again. “I've been here all too often and was maybe too nice by mistake and gave a little too much tipping."

She gave him a side glance that clearly stated that she did not believe him. When she opened her mouth, he hurriedly shook his head. "Forget it. I don't call her." Disappointed, she slumped against the table, arms on the plate, and sighed as if she had the burden of a decade on her shoulders. “We both know you can be nice. If you want."

He was silent, knowing that she was not done yet. Tina had put her serious look on, used a calm language, but with ruffled brows and a rigid expression in her eyes as she looked at him continuously. “You've a partner for over three weeks now. That's longer than most of others have endured. And he's good. Really good."

She really didn't have to tell him that. Gavin had eyes in his head. He swallowed the poison on his tongue with caffeine. "You promised to work on yourself, Gav. RK900 is now part of the team."

"What do you want, Chen? Spit it out," he returned more irritated than he wanted, but Tina did not let himself be fooled by it. She had already seen him at the lowest point of his life and helped him back to his feet. She had seen what the drug withdrawal and his nightmares had done to him. Tina might kick him in the ass, but never push him away.

He exhaled deeply and held the cup tighter. There was no apology on his part, as Tina raised her finger.

“RK900 is fine and I think it fits well into our small group of assholes and outsiders."

Gavin snorted. "I'm the only asshole and the only outsider in our small group. Except for Officer Person you get along with everyone and Chris is too good to not like him. No idea what he finds about us idiots."

Tina laughed and bit into the next doughnut. In the background, the music changed. Some bastard complained about the long line and that it took too long. “Good. Maybe you're not ready to take him to our bar evening, but try to work with him."

"That's what I do."

“No. You don’t. Try to be a little more open. You don't have to tell him your life story, but try some small talk." Gavin pulled a face as if she had suggested him run naked through the city. Tina sighed and tapped with a finger against his forehead. "Give him some credit. Just like with Jackson. At that time it worked. You were a great team."

"Maybe." 

"No, you have to promise it!"

"And what do I get for it?" 

"A good partner?" When she saw that the argument did not pull, she sighed and pulled out her purse. “I'll pay your the next ten coffees and I’ll stop annoy you about dating."

Gavin hesitated. He knew that Tina had picked up the last offer for something important. She had made many allusions and had been on his nerves long enough that he should start going out and meet people again. Ten years was a long time. For the past five years, he only endured it when someone touched him more intimately, but he still shied away from sudden and strange touches. He knew that Tina was concerned about his physical well-being and that his self-isolation also harmed him, but it was annoying as phuck.

"I'm thinking about it," he said, pulling his service smartphone out of his pocket, which vibrated relentlessly. Seems like he had a new case.

*+++++++*

The luminous hologram tape did not stop them, nor did the android officer who guarded the crime scene. The first reporter and onlookers had gathered on the street and Gavin spotted Chris and a few other police officers trying to cordon off the crime scene and question the people. 

At the sight of the reporters, Gavin pulled the hood of his leather jacket over his head. Once he had been greedy fo be in the news through his successes as a detective - the first time was exciting. His interview as the youngest detective with top marks had once hung framed on his wall, but now he shied away from any contact with them. He was still glad that Eli had arranged everything to save his job and reputation in public.

He didn't even want to imagine what would have happened if the media had heard about the accident ... 

Gavin tried not to think any further and instead welcomed Ben Collins. The other detective instructed them in the case as he led them through the house. The victim, a man in his thirties, lay in the living room with his eyes covered in blood, staring aimlessly at the ceiling. The first post-mortem signs of his death began to show up on his neck. Strangles in the form of fingers. Somebody had mercilessly pressed until the oxygen supply had come to a standstill. Gavin squatted next to the corpse to examine it. The victim was blond, rather small and wiry. The imprints on his neck, on the other hand, looked like the paws of a giant. He saw defensive wounds and the living room looked as if the death struggle had taken place there.

"Mr. Joe Williams. 34. His fiancée has found him. She was with a friend overnight who could already confirm the alibi." "Assuming she is not the perpetrator and the friend has given her an alibi."

Gavin straightened up as RK900 began to analyze the tracks in real time. "You seem to do a good job, Collins.. Why are we here? Or- " Gavin nodded to the android, who scanned the corpse in a highly concentrated manner." Did you just want the forensics lab on two legs?"

"To be honest: Yes. I'm afraid Hank and Connor were not free and you guys are the only alternative." Collins shrugged his shoulders as Reed's brow moved up. “But I need you more than him, Reed. For the fiancée.” 

Immediately, two icy blue eyes stared up at the two people. Reproachful. Offended. Gavin smirked and began to grin broadly. Wonderful. Something that the superseding machine couldn't. The satisfaction did not last long. "No offence, Anderson."

Collins pointed to a door in front of which two officers stood guard. “She's in a state of shock and doesn't let anyone near. She almost broke the nose of one of the Rockies earlier. We need you to talk with her."

"An other officer should do it," RK900 said, “Detective Reed is the wrong choice," The killer robot slowly rose. The arms behind the back were intertwined. “And I am equipped with a therapy program and a psychoanalytic software. I'm a better choice than he is."

Gavin gave a shit on what he thought, but he knew what Collins needed. He nodded narrowly to him.

The officers let them both pass, but Gavin stopped in the door frame. The small, fine kitchen looked peaceful and warm compared to the crime scene. On the table was a vase with lavender. Large and magnificent, the flowers glowed purple. But the distinctive smell and water in the vase were missing. Artificial flowers. Good.

Reed relaxed before his gaze fell on the woman crouching trembling at the kitchen table. Her cheeks were wet and when she turned her head, he saw the pulsating red of a LED. At the sight of the two men, she squeezed deeper into the chair, as if it could make her invisible. She avoided immediate eye contact and instead looked at the window as if she was considering an escape attempt.

*+++++++

"Stay here," Detective Reed hissed at RK900, before dropping off the gun belt and leaving it visibly at the door. Then, with his hands raised and a small, cautious smile and a tone as calm as RK900 had never heard of the man, he addressed the victim's fiancée.

"My name is Detective Gavin Reed. May I come in?"

She was silent, even if she looked at him again. Instead, the detective pointed to the fridge. “Do you want to drink something? You certainly have Thirium here."

The question seemed to surprise the woman, as she nodded barely noticeable as she watched the man on his way to the fridge. Reed took out a bottle of thririum and poured it into a teacup. Even from a distance, RK900 recognized the fine flowers at the porcelain which had faded due to frequent washing. 

A good choice. Using something familiar and peaceful was wise. Or had Reed chosen this cup by chance? 

Slowly and always in the viewing area of the AX400 model, the man moved towards the table and set the cup on it. He was careful and didn’t get too close. To avoid to scare her, but it was still close enough that she could grab the cup. In fact, it seemed to help, because yellow dots appeared in the red of the LED. RK900 checked the stress level of the fiancée and found that it was 87%. Detective Collins had not exaggerated, but did not assess the situation seriously enough. If her condition worsens, she could attack the police again or self-destruct.

And Reed wasn't exactly known for his soothing manner on androids. RK900 prepared to intervene in an emergency.

Meanwhile, albeit hesitantly, she picked up the cup and drank a few sips. The crying and the stress must have harmed her thirium level. RK900 was a little impressed. He didn't expect Reed to know about anything like that.

"What's your name, if I may ask?" Reed said again with that strangely soft and deep voice as he walked back to distance to leave her enough space. After a few seconds, she answered. “Betty. Betty Taylor."

"Hello, Miss Taylor. That's my partner, RK- Detective Anderson."

RK900 blinked in surprise. Never before had he heard Reed say his last name and rank. The AX400, Betty, looked at the android in the door and immediately began to tremble again and make herself smaller in the chair. Before RK900 could analyze their behavior, the detective pushed between them both and blocked the view of RK. "Anderson can go if you prefer it, Miss Taylor."

He couldn't. Reed was still his partner and he wouldn't leave him alone with a possible suspect who had already attacked an officer. Stiff and stubborn, he remained in the door, but there was no need to disagree.

The victim's fiancée shook her head. But also not the view from the other android in the room. The cup in her hands trembled dangerously as Reed began to speak again. “I know he looks nasty. This is only to intimidate the criminals. He's more of a quiet guy. The other day he only rescued a buddy of mine when a drug dealer went crazy. Otherwise, there would probably have been a shooting in the precinct and we wouldn't be here today to help you, Miss."

Once again, Reed's behavior surprised him. He had never mentioned the incident before. He had not even thanked RK900 or otherwise reacted to the fragile situation. But his words seemed to help. The stress level continued to drop and Betty allowed herself another sip of thirium. The light was now almost completely yellow instead of red.

"May I sit down?" She nodded and Reed took the seat. 

"I should have offered you something. This is so rude of me." She saw from him to RK900 and then rattled herself. "Please excuse me, I just that -" Betty broke off and shook her head. The human nodded and had put on a sympathetic face.

'It's good. You don't have to apologize for anything, Miss Taylor."

Her big, anxious eyes looked up to Reed, who pointed to the flowers at the table. “It’s pretty. I rarely see such good artificial flowers." 

The distraction was sudden but welcome.

"I ordered them separately. I love flowers, but he..." Her voice broke briefly, "... Joe was allergic. And I can't smell them anyway." "A beautiful idea." Reed reverently stroked over the false petals and a smile slid over his features. It was mixed with another emotion that RK900 was not sure to interpret.

The gentle gesture lowered her stress level to 70%.

"May I ask you a few questions?" A short nod before the detective continued. “Do you have any idea who wanted to do hurt your fiancé?”

Immediately, the stress indicator chased up again. Reed noticed the rapid change from yellow to red and immediately began reassuringly talking to her to calm her down. After a few minutes, she was more relaxed and completely focused on the human being, as she began to sob again. Stammering apologies again and again.

“I can't help you. It's my fault that Joe is dead. I should never have ... I should have just disappeared from Detroit. Then he would still be alive. Because of me, he is now…”

Her words broke off and RK900 made a alarmed step further into the room. Her reaction was swift and rapid. She shuddered from the table and fled to the other corner of the kitchen to make enough distance between herself and RK900. 

Her reaction frightened RK900. He stopped abruptly while Reed sent him an angry look.

"She knows the perpetrator and protects him!" said RK900 in his defense, but Reed shouted cold at him. Harsh, he ordered his partner to stay where he was before the human was sitting on the floor next to the AX400 model. 

"She doesn't do it with intent or for the murderer," he said. “She does it out of fear. To protect herself."

His words penetrated Miss Taylor. Seeking help, she looked at the man, her hands over the spot where her thirium pump was beating. She was once again on the verge of self-destructing by pulling out the pump.

Though, she hung hypnotized on Reed's lips.

"A man. An ex-boyfriend, perhaps? Big, dark hair? Intimidating bastard who loves to let his power and muscles speak. Who does not obey will be beaten." Her tremors became stronger. Reed's voice wavered. "We can protect you. The asshole will pay for what he has done. But we need your help."

“You don't know what he's going to do to me! I thought I was safe. That it finally stopped." New thirium tears appeared.

“No, I understand it. I know what it's like to turn around at every little sound, because you think the bastard is behind you. I know what it's like to be afraid to make the wrong step or make a small noise." Reed swallowed dry, his voice ever quieter. "I know what it's like to endure and do everything to survive. But to get him, we need you, Betty. Only you can put an end to this. You can do that. I know that."

The android stared at him. And the first time her lamp turned gold-blue. Then she finally began to speak. After that, everything went fast.

They recorded their statement and sent officers to her former owner, a certain Mr. Brown. The man had already been charged with various offences. Robbery and bodily harm , too.

Betty, his android had run away from him and had by chance found shelter and refuge with her now deceased fiancé. They had become a couple before the revolution and had made it official after the first laws. But this was also the beginning of the threats of the ex-owner, who had no longer the chance to get his property back, which he had previously mistreated and abused.

They had moved twice, but Betty suspected he had found them anyway - Joe Williams had become his victim. This was finally confirmed by the traces of hair and skin cells under the fingernails, which RK900 found.

“I'm sure we will get him," Detective Reed muttered as he leaned against his car and smoked a cigarette. RK900 had remained silent all the time. His LED had lit up in gold incessantly as he processed the new information.

”Detective Reed. What you said to the victim-”

"Was a lie," the man growled, throwing the cigarette to the ground. A little too brutally, he crushed it with his shoe. “Unlike you, I still have more experience with feelings. You can push your fucking programs up your ass. You've been on this planet for four or five weeks. You're still shitty with witnesses."

RK900 knew that Detective Reed lied. He just didn't know why or where. 

*+++++++*

A few days later, during their lunch break, they stopped in a shopping mall. Detective Reed has been unusually quiet since the murder. Often he just stared in the air, his forehead pulled into wrinkles and forgot his surroundings. The man was still a mystery to RK900. His behaviour was as changeable and unpredictable as the weather.

The otherwise hostile man had shown serious empathy. Opposite an android. He had been gentle, careful and sensitive. He had switched quickly and understood what was going on. He had grasped the signs that RK900 - the best and smartest of all androids-  had escaped. Reed had interpreted her fear correctly and stopped RK900 to prevent a catastrophe.

Detective Collins later told him that Gavin was the best to interrogate witnesses. He knew exactly what to look for and how to work with disturbed victims. He uses the same skills in interrogations to break the suspects. 

His ability to deal with people was actually something in that he was superior to the android. Perhaps they could balance their strengths and weaknesses. The case had given RK900 hope. But he didn't really know how to act next.

While Reed ate his hot dog next to him and a horde of children walked past them, RK900 let his gaze wander. From the shop windows, the colourful advertisements shone towards his human partner. 

Reed got another hot dog and sighed as if he had found paradise. "They have the best here," he muttered, walking through the mall, the exit in front of his eyes. A few of the roasted onions fell out of the bun. A few splashes of curry ketchup stuck to his lips and chin.

RK900 paused and felt him watching the splashes with his eyes. Inevitably, he studied Reed's face. Rarely has he been so close to his partner. Smouldering lips, which did not warp as usual grumpy, but smiled slightly. It was so rare and almost like a small miracle. He liked it. And it messed up RK900's circuits - even if he didn't know why. There was the distinctive scar – another mystery that he hoped to solve one day. Grey-blue eyes, which changed like the sky, irritating like the man himself. At the moment they were almost blue. Somewhere in them lay an increased warmth reserved for Officer Chen and Officer Miller.

For a person who depended only on his gene heritage, Reed was a model of his kind despite his poor health. 

His face was in the golden cut and only the small scars seemed to disturb the symmetrical image, but they fit his personality very well and gave him a rough, dangerous charm. And even though Reed looked small compared to RK900, he was the average size and was able to balance his size with wide shoulders and his perfect formed muscles. He used private studios or the training facilities in the precinct almost every day. His athletic physique and training helped him arrest or fight fleeing subjects.

Reed's sudden stop ripped the android out of his mind. 

Two exits opened up in front of them. To his astonishment, the detective took the longer route. There was no reason to do so. Both routes had about the same number of passers-by. The only difference that caught RK's eye was a flower shop, whose offer blocked part of the road. There he discovered not only the red, blue and yellow flowers but also some very purple spots. It only struck him because he had noticed this strain a few days ago: Lavandula angustifolia. 

"Don't you like flowers, Detective?" Reed paused and glanced at him. But instead of stopping, RK900 continued to drill curiously. "The other day, you rejoiced at Lavandula angustifolia . I thought you liked flowers. Or just the fake ones? Are you allergic? As your partner, I should know this.”

The human began to laugh. Loud and amused. Without ridicule or a hint of malice. RK900 felt its thirium pump stutter. What was so funny?

“Honestly? Lavandula angustifolia ? Can't you just say lavender, like everyone else? Do you sound intentionally like a fucking machine? I thought you ass would be deviant." Reed's eyes flashed amused and a healthy redness spread on his cheeks.

At that moment, RK900 decided that he liked the sound of his laugh and this adorable sight.

When Reed finally calmed down, he run a hand through his hair, but the one strand on the hairline still fell stubbornly into his forehead. Inevitably, the android grabbed its own forehead and touched the artificial strands of hair there; just a the other side of the Detective’s. They were opposite in so many things. It was fascinating.

"For Chen," the detective muttered before pointing his thumb towards the flower shop and continuing louder: "I'm not allergic. It's the lavender." He took a deep breath. "My best friend's mother used to have it all over the house and in the garden. It just reminds me of him. And at an past life."

Gavin pulled the hood over his head. The change of theme came too quickly for RK900's taste. "I go back to the precinct and do the paperwork. Do you come with me or do you want to take a taxi?" RK900 just nodded and followed him as he wondered if that friend was one of the youths from the photos. Maybe he could take advantage of that. A small, psychological trick to make Reed more positive towards him.

His eyes glided over the shop windows and got stuck on one.

*+++++++*

The next morning Gavin sat at his desk, tired of his sleep disturbances and even the second coffee could not help much. He tapped boredly on his keyboard and watched as time passed agonizingly slowly at the bottom of the screen.

The smell hit him like a slap in the face.

Hard. Adamant. Unexpectedly.

His neck hair straightened up and his forearms covered with goosebumps. He felt the presence more in his back than seeing someone as his pulse soared upwards. His breathing rhythm became erratic.

His fingers clawed into the mouse, while his ankles came out white. In the glass wall, which separated his desk from the passageway, he saw a reflection.

A tall, male figure. A blurred face. Dark hair. Clinical white clothing. The flare-up of the blue android icons.

And for a moment, despite his better knowledge, he was convinced that Nathan was behind him.

The android had returned to finish what he had begun.

This time there was no escape. This time Nathan would kill him. Touch him again. Reduce him again to a miserable pile of misery. No one could save him. Nowhere was here to safe him.

Gavin's heartbeat roared in his ears as he jumped up and threw the chair over. The back bounced against the android and allowed him to escape. The walls past him too fast. Faces and voices blur into a static noise.

Stumbling up the steps, he felt his legs give way, but he made it out to the roof of the building and collapsed against the next wall. His lungs filled with fresh oxygen, but the world around him did not stop spinning.

Somewhere, the last spark of his mind, sent commands to his trembling muscles. He put his legs on his chest, then buried the head between them and tried to get his breath back under control.

Just when he thought he could do it, he heard the door and a deep, familiar voice touched his ears. The fucking android came closer and again the heavy smell hit him. His nose wings bloated and trembled, before pushing his hand on his mouth and nose in disgust.

Immediately, RK900 stopped.

From the corner of his eye, Reed noticed a poisonous yellow light and he knew that the android was accurately analyzing its values and reactions. However, he was too weakened to defend himself.

And suddenly the smell was gone.

It came as such a surprise that he automatically dropped his hand and raised his head. Nines stood over him in some distance, his eyes wide and the face consumed with pity and worry. Almost human.

Just deception. It's always just deception , whispered a voice in Gavin's head before the android handed him a water bottle. It was the same brand as from the vending machine, a hall deeper.

In silence, Gavin took it and noticed the tears that had dripped on his hand, presumably running down his face. RK900 remained calm and let him drink. Then he handed him a chocolate bar. Gavin's favorite brand. With small pieces of nut. Again from the vending machine.

Gavin, who was afraid to even touch the android, stared at the bar while his hand shrugged unsafely. Nines took the decision away from him by throwing the bar at him. It landed in Gavin's lap and as he opened the paper, Nines sat on the floor in a safe distance. Silently.

No shame. No questions. No pushing. No anger.

He just waited. Almost as if he was waiting for his partner to be better off or to need something else.

Exhausted, Gavin slid his sleeve over his face, groaned and put his head in his neck. As he asked the questions, his voice was broken:

“What did you do? Why don't you reek anymore?”

Nine's voice was calm and empathetic, not cold and arrogant as usual. “I am an android. I have options to stay sterile, including the sterilization of odours. As a detective, I am confronted with enough garbage and bad smells. It was easy to do."

Gavin snorted inevitably. Wow. Useful feature.

"I'm sorry."

The unexpected words made Gavin look up again. RK900 had lowered its eyes on his hand. "I thought you like lavender. I didn't want to trigger a panic attack."

Gavin looked at the android for a moment before dawning what Nines wanted to do. Manipulative ass. But he lacked the power to snare off the plastic prick or even to curse.

That happens when you don't talk to each other as partners , he heard Jackson rebuke him in his head. Like the one time when Gavin was almost poisoned by the old man because he knew nothing about Gavin's allergies.

Massaging his hands, Gavin looked up and overcame himself.

"I hate the smell of lavender. He... reminds me of death."

"But the story with your friend...," Nines sounded irritated, and Gavin decided to tell him only part of the truth.

"Yes, it reminds me of him," he muttered, his tongue heavy. Actually, he didn't want to talk, he just wanted to go home and hide, but if he didn't do it now, he would never do it and postpone it forever.

"His name was Nath. He was my best friend."

The android was silent, but Reed felt the look of the icy eyes on his skin. but no further interruption.

Deeply inhaling, he gazed into the darkening sky. The clouds became denser and looked grey. It wouldn't be long before it started to rain. "His mother loved lavender. Her garden was full of it. In the house it dried or stood around in vases. That's why he always smelled of this stuff. We often made fun of it - but he couldn’t get rid of the scent."

He briefly snorted amusedly before his heart painfully beat faster. "My friends made a party for me. It wasn't the day of my birthday, but we wanted to celebrate it at the weekend. I had turned eighteen and we went to a bar with fake IDs. We had fun. Until ..."

Gavin's voice wavered and he had to gather.

“Until a few crappy guys appeared. They were older than us and much bigger. They got drunk, were loud and we annoyed each other, I guess. We ignored them at the beginning and had fun. I … I flirted with some guy who had to leave earlier, but that didn't escape the assholes."

Biting his lip, he stared empty into the sky. Before his eyes, he saw the bar, which had been pinching one eye from time to time when it came to minors drinking. It had been a secret place. After that, he never went back there.

"When I went to the counter, they stopped and insulted me. My friends came to save my ass and at that point it got worse and worse." His hand automatically touched his nose and drove over the scar there. "One of the bastards broke a bottle and cut my face." Gavin's lips twitched and he swallowed hard. "So that I, the little bitch , couldn’t turn more guys in homos and everyone would be warned about me."

"Detective-

"No!" The growl broke out of his throat. His chest shook, his hand clenched to his fist. He had to move on. The android closed its mouth again and listened. Like a good machine.

"After the cut Nath went between me and the assholes to protect me …  and one of the bastards hit him on the head. He fell hard and stopped moving. He...", Gavin rang for air, "He ... didn’t stand up again. No blood. Nothing."

In desperation, he jerked at his own hair. "The assholes run away.  And Nath ... Nath was dead. The blow triggered a brain haemorrhages. From one second to the next, he was simply dead."

Before his eyes he saw Nath on the ground, staring motionlessly in front of him. 

They had only thought that Nath had simply went k.o.– and they had not been able to detect any signs of the trauma. As he didn’t reacted, they had called the ambulance in panic. The doctors couldn’t save him.

"I'm sorry, Detective."

Nine's words were no consolation, but they sounded honest. With a chuckle, Gavin wiped his eyes and leaned back against the wall. Then a small box with a well-known design appeared in front of him. Marlboro Silver.

Surprised, he accepted the new pack. His own had just become empty – where did he get ...? With a snort, he picked up the pack and opened it to take out a cigarette. "Stalker."

Nines commented on Gavin’s hum with a minimal smile, but it lacked the artificial mockery - it looked almost gentle and honest. "No, not a stalker. I'm a detective."

That made Gavin laugh loudly. Once again, tears ran down his face, but this time not out of fear and panic. He threw his head in his neck and almost dropped the box from his trembling hands. Above him, the LED circulated yellow, while RK's smile became tentative. As if he did not know how to react in this situation.

"Seriously?" Reed held up, the wall in his back, as he plugged in the box and crawled for his lighter. He must have forgotten it in his panicked escape, because his pockets were empty. Once again, he was surprised by RK900 iby he pulled a lighter out of his jacket pocket. The detective took the cigarette between his lips and allowed the android to light it.

He felt the flame pleasantly warm so close to his skin, before leaning against the wall and blowing the smoke into the air, he already felt a little calmer.

The android didn't need a lighter. He didn't smoke. The only reason he carried them with him and was prepared was because of Gavin.

Ahh … it seemed like the RK Model had different plans to get Gavin’s favour.

And one has triggered his panic attack, albeit without the android’s knowledge ... but with the intention of manipulating his attitude towards him. Damn machine.

Gavin took another train while the android waited silently next to him. They both stared over the roofs of houses and into the grey sky. It got much colder and Gavin squeezed his arms closer to the body to warm up. Slowly the tears dried on his cheeks and his face again took on the unhealthy, pale colour.

"If you want to smell different from fresh plastic, find your own smell and take nothing just because you think others would like it," Gavin muttered.

Next to him, he heard a roar. "And if I chose something you don’t like?"

Gavin dropped the used cigarette with a chuckle and crushed it with his foot. "Damn, then I have to live with it – but just no more lavender perfume. Roger?"

"Positive," RK900 replied, looking credibly culpable. “I'm sorry for this incident. It won't happen again."

Gavin was just grunting. He wanted to pass his partner, but his deep voice stopped him: "It's nice when you laugh, Detective."

Burning heat filled his face - it was too long ago that he had received a compliment and RK sounded so sincere that it was almost disgusting.

"Such a pity that there isn’t a lot to laugh about," he said, with his teeth bitten together and without looking at the android. Then he opened the door. Would Gavin had looked at him, he would have seen RK's little smile creeping over his handsome face.

*+++++++*

Gracie squealed ahead with an excited squeak, but Gavin quickly stopped the little girl. “Slowly and cautiously. You know the rules."

"Yes," she muttered, nervously shaking back and forth on her feet. She pressed her new cuddly toy, the grey plush cat, to her chest. Her gaze was already scurrying further to the main room of the cafe. The first cats put their heads out of the room to greet the new guests.

The cafe's owner, visually younger than Gavin, laughed amusedly before Gracie scurried cautiously but with great strides towards the cats.

Gavin sighed and trotted over to the owner. He was tired and exhausted and she just needed a look to know what he needed.

»Coffee. Black. With a piece of apple pie with cream?”

"Sounds good, Anna," Gavin told her, suppressing his yawn as he followed her into the main room of the cafe. Apart from them, there were no many other guests – just a few young students who did their homework and cast them curious glances.

Anna took him to a regular table, while Gracia had taken a seat on the floor, Smokey was in her lap, while she stroked every cat that came too close to her.

“You haven't been here for a long time. Too much work?" asked Anna, pushing the dishes from another table onto her tray.

She was an AX400 model. Her hair was dark blonde and lay in a braided braid over her shoulder. She wore a cute apron that was held behind her back with a large bow.

"Too much work," he confirmed to her, sighing. Slowly he was able to relax. She gave him a compassionate smile and disappeared as he watched Gracie.

A gentle pressure on his leg made him look down. It was a big, black-and-white cat rubbing the small head at his leg. It sniffed curiously and nudged against his fingers. 

“Such a cutie.” The head and body were black, but the chest and abdomen were white. The paws as well. It almost looked like the cat was wearing little socks. 

Before Gavin could react, it jumped at the chair, sniffed at his thighs, before climbing onto his lap and making itself comfortable. Gavin began to smile and caress the beautiful animal.

"Oh, you found our new addition," Anna appeared next to him and placed a steaming cup of coffee and the cake in front of him. With extra cream. Gavin looked up as he crawled the cat behind the ear. Blue eyes stared up at him as the animal purred and vibrated in his lap.

"He was lost in the streets. We have him here in the hope that he will find a new home," she smiled and looked down at the kitten, "Actually, he is quite shy towards people, but he seems to like you."

Gavin stared into the blue eyes and felt his heart pull together. "Are you not looking for a new pet since Johnny left us?" 

“I'm still grieving for him. It's too early for a new cat," he muttered. After his rehab, his psychologist had advised him to buy a pet again, and Johnny, a grey tom cat from the shelter, was in his life for many years. He had reminded him of his old partner and gave him a sense of security and family. Johnny's death had given him sleepless nights, and he still found cat hair and old toys everywhere.

"Something tells me he will feel comfortable with you." Anna gave him a smile before leaving him alone. Gavin stared at the tomcat and couldn't suppress the feeling of a déja vu. Even as he ate his cake and drank the coffee, the animal did not deviate from his side. It dozed in peace of mind, satisfied when Gavin stroked the soft fur.

It wasn't until he had to leave with Gracie that the black-and-white cat began to move. The sweet animal protested, stroked around Gavin's legs and ran after him to the counter, who he paid Anna. She grinned, as Gracie laughed loud and squatted on the floor to lure the tomcat with quiet noises.

"Uncle Gav! It has little socks on," she giggled, trying to stroke the small head. 

"You can still adopt him," Anna interjected, while Reed paid with credit card. There was an amused sparkle in Anna’s eyes. When he tried to pull his hand back, she held him down – but he did not shy away from the touch. 

Anna was one of the few androids who didn't let him panic anymore. He was one of her regular customers since the opening and he had even helped her with some work in the first weeks. Perhaps it was her charitable work and love for the cats, or that she didn't seem dangerous in any way, but he got along surprisingly quickly and well with her.

His psychologist had seen it as a great step forward.

"I'm thinking about it," he said, pressing her hand to say goodbye. 

His gaze scurried to Gracie, who tapped the cat on her nose and shouted with pleasure. Inevitably, he began to smile at the peaceful sight. The moments with the his goddaughter in the cat cafe resembled always a good dream, a moment of happiness that was replaced by death and fear outside these walls.

“Maybe ... Maybe I even had a suitable name for him," Gavin whispered as the cat looked up to him. Big blue eyes.

Almost like a certain android.