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And They Lie Very Still

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Helena was programmed so that a sound or significant movement would wake her. After the fifth night  in four weeks of being woken when Gesicht jolted awake and shifted the bed backward, maybe she should have adjusted the settings. But she thought it was better to be aware. 

The sixth time it happened, she rested a hand on his back and asked, “What's wrong?”

The smile he gave appeared strained. “It's nothing.” She had expected that. It conformed to the established pattern.

It was nothing. Helena knew that. The dreams- the memories- did not impede Gesicht's ability to function. His work wasn't suffering. Doctor Hoffman was unconcerned. It was worrying in that it was an irregularity, but it was ultimately irrelevant.

But nights had all been peaceful before the war.

*
 

Gesicht was the first on his shift into the office, unless another detective had a particularly demanding case. He was the last out of the office as well, with the same exception. Under the robot law it was required that he be given breaks, and be compensated for overtime, but there was nothing to keep him from being assigned longer hours than human detectives as long as it remained under the legal limit. It helped the office run more smoothly; the humans frequently left paperwork that Gesicht was able to process with greater efficiency.

Gesicht looked up when Detective Jan Becker came in. The man was early. “Good morning.”

“Morning,” Jan yawned.

“Did you sleep well?” Gesicht had noted the unironed clothes and groggy eyes that accompanied the yawn.

“Nah. The Eisler case is giving me a headache.” Jan glanced around. “Any coffee left?”

“I'll get you a cup,” Gesicht said, standing up from his desk as Jan slumped into his.

“Thanks,” Jan mumbled, picking up a folder from the spread on his desk. How he could always pick the right one, given the mess and the fallibility of human memory, was a small point of fascination to Gesicht.

The pot was almost finished. Gesicht poured the end out and started another. The end would be stronger anyway, more beneficial for Jan at the moment.

Jan took the mug offered to him without a word, glaring at the open file. “You know,” he said abruptly, causing Gesicht to turn back to him, “if we could just find the damn robot, this case would be closed.” He took a swig of the coffee, winced. “Hell, all we need is the memory chip.”

“You've searched the trash cans in the vicinity?” Gesicht didn't need to state what Jan surely knew- the killer had likely dismantled the robot as soon as he had realized that it (Model MSR 46029, designation “Flora”) was a witness. The question was whether the memory chip had been destroyed, taken with the killer, or dumped with the rest of the corpse.

“Some, but they didn't give me enough uniforms- I wasn't able to go as far afield as I'd like.” Jan blinked, then swiveled his chair around. “Could you go down there sometime today? You find shit faster than any of us. Hell, you may even get a print.” He shrugged. “They'll probably assign it to you in a few days anyway, you might as well get a start.”

There was a photo of Flora in the open file, alongside those of the crime scene. She was a fairly recent maid robot, but not one of the models designed to look human. With thick, round lines to her frame and a casing made of bright colors, she almost looked like a toy. It made some humans comfortable.

“I'll put in a request,” Gesicht said.

*

Michael was pale and gaunt, the dark circles beneath his eyes occupying more space than the eyes themselves. He would not have looked out of place lying still on the burnt ground. Instead, he was kneeling next to his fallen comrade. His face remained flat, but his voice shook as much as the buildings around them had moments before. “He's dead.”

It was the wrong word, Gesicht thought, looking at the scattered components of Model HAS 00827, designation “Gerhardt”. When robots were casualties, the correct words were “broken” or “damaged beyond repair.” “Dead” was only applied to human soldiers. Michael was the first soldier Gesicht had heard use the word like this.

A few of the men exchanged glances, but they said nothing. “I know,” Lieutenant Werner said, breaking the silence. “But we have to secure the area. We can come back for the...body,” he found the word distasteful, “later.” Michael remained immobile. “Get up, soldier,” Werner barked, and the words seemed to yank Michael onto his feet, unstable but upright. Gesicht noted tears growing in Michael's eyes, but the man didn't cry. Maybe he had done enough of that the week before.

Gesicht leaned down to examine the remaining parts of Michael. “Gesicht, what the hell are you doing?” the lieutenant shouted in disgust. “Move!”

Gerhardt. Broken beyond repair. Over 50% likely never to be retrieved for a burial. But remembered, as long as Gesicht was functional. Or as long as Gerhardt's memory chip existed, Gesicht refelected, placing the chip in a safe pocket. It could be returned to anyone Gerhardt had left at home, if there was anyone. Maybe Michael would know.

Ahead of Gesicht, Michael's shoulders shook. Humans had memories as well.

*

“Helena, do you know where the paint chips for the Hartmanns' home are?” Emma leaned over Helena's desk, peering at the neatly stacked folders and papers.

“Yes,” Helena smiled. “One moment.” She turned to the file cabinet behind her and pulled the folder out. “Here you are.”

Emma frowned as she flipped through it. “Are you sure this is right?”

“Of course,” Helena said, surprised by the question. There were no flaws in her memory.

Emma squinted up at Helena. “Right. Of course. I just thought I'd picked out something different.” She plastered on a grin that Helena had seen enough times to recognize as false. “I don't know what we'd do without you, Helena.”

Helena mirrored the woman's expression. “I'm happy to help.”

*

Trash cans took more time to scan than a room. The elements were small, packed in tight, but still had to be considered both individually and as a whole. Still, it took Gesicht far less time to search than it would a human policeman. He searched the area again for anything that might have been missed, then moved outwards, making wider and wider circles around the home that had been the scene of the crime. Two kilometers out, he stopped. Nothing. The criminal had either murdered Flora as well as the Eislers and simply been more careful about disposing of that body, or he had abducted her, to kill in a location of his choosing. No one smart enough to remove a robot witness from the crime scene would be stupid enough to leave her alive.

Gesicht returned to his car. There was more work to be done at headquarters.

The case file hadn't had much on Flora. She wasn't a victim, officially, only a missing witness. She was young, built less than two years ago, and was, unsurprisingly, unmarried. If anyone other than Europol was interested in her memory chip, it had not been considered worth noting.

The criminal had cleaned the house well; while there were marks, there was nothing that could lead to a particular individual. Without Flora, the case would go cold. That would be reasonable grounds for Gesicht to request that he continue to work on the case when time was available.

Time would not be available for Gesicht to find if Flora had friends or someone else close. He would have to use his own for that.

*
 

“Michael?” Gesicht asked, quietly. Silence, he had found, was best in situations like this, but failing that others spoke softly.

“What?” Michael looked up, face and voice flat.

“Did Gerhardt have family back home?”

“Does it matter?” Michael asked, bitterly.

“Yes.” 

The answer surprised Michael. His look sharpened as he looked more closely at Gesicht. “Why?”

Gesicht paused, tilting his head to the side. “Because I would want Helena to be able to remember.”

“Helena?” Michael frowned.

“My wife.”

“You have a-” Michael shook his head, and started to laugh.

Gesicht peered at him. “What's funny?” It wasn't a time for laughter, he was sure.

“It's just- of course, I didn't think.” He stopped laughing and looked down at his feet. “I don't know if he did. I didn't ask.” He sighed. “We just worked together.”

It seemed odd to Gesicht, to have reacted so strongly to the destruction of a robot that Michael hadn't even known. But Michael was difficult to understand even for a human. And Gesicht knew how rare it was for humans to make an effort to know robots. “Would anyone else know?”

“Not here. Everyone else just met him last week. Like you.”

Gesicht nodded, and stood up. “I'm sorry for your loss,” he said. The shape of the words seemed awkward. Michael shrugged, and Gesicht turned to go.

“It's easy for you,” Michael mumbled, stopping Gesicht a step away from the door. “Robots are programmed to keep going in all this.”

It was true. Robots didn't have the emotions that broke humans down, they instead had the ability to focus only on the task at hand.

“I just want to see Helena again,” Gesicht said as he left.

*

Helena had first found the importance of coffee through her human co-workers- many of them fervently claimed they could not function without it. She had been intrigued by this human version of energy, and began making it every morning herself. She had come to enjoy the process of turning elements into something new in a short time. Drinking it was irrelevant to her and Gesicht, but it did provide something else to do in the mornings. 

She poured the coffee precisely into two mugs and set them down on the kitchen table as Gesicht emerged from the bedroom, straightening his suit jacket. She smiled at him, and he returned it as he sat down across from her and picked up his coffee.

“You didn't wake up last night,” Helena commented. “I'm glad you got more rest.”

“I'm sorry to keep waking you up,” Gesicht said, apologetic but affectionate.

“I don't mind.” It was important to know. “But I do want to know...” Helena hesitated.

“What?” Gesicht asked, concerned.

“Why you wake up when you dream about the war.”

“I've told you about the war,” he said, slightly puzzled.

“That's not what I asked about,” she pointed out, levelly.

Gesicht looked down, into his mug. In the silence, Helena watched his face, his hands. They were still. “I think,” he finally said, slowly, “that when I dream about the war, I dream about...death.” He looked back up at her. “I don't want to leave you alone.”

She reached out and covered his hands with her own. “You won't leave anyone alone.” She believed it. Robots couldn't lie.

***

We'll keep you with us, 'til the end of the world.”