The ride to Chicago hadn’t been the most exciting for the detective. He sighed heavily as he watched the ground move beneath him. Flying was always a good way to travel long distance, but taking long trips by car had also been good. He remembered those from when he was a kid with his dad when they would go to Lake McFarland in the frozen tundras of Minnesota.
But this was different. Now he was on his way to the worst city in the country for a conference about reducing crime… John Kennex laughed heartily while his partner sat beside him, perusing the magazines available in the back of the chair in front of him. The City wanted to send him via a shipping container in the cargo hold, but John wouldn’t hear of it. Just because Dorian was a robot didn’t mean he was going to let his partner ride with the luggage. Threatening to bounce him down the highway was one thing, but potentially falling out of a moving airplane was another.
Over the course of a few hours, even at jet speeds, the conversation had been minimal for the pair. Most of it centered around where they were staying, and what sort of accommodations had been made for the human, because obviously the City didn’t care enough about the android to bother with anything for him. John assured Dorian with his usual sarcasm that he’d put in a few words with their Captain. At least it wasn’t in Rudy’s lab, right?
Disembarking from the plane was a welcome experience for John and Dorian. Though they were both accustomed to spending long hours sitting, they could get up and move about as the whims dictated. “Can’t believe we have to fly half-way across the country to go to this damn cop convention. Can’t they teleconference it?” John muttered on his way through the airport terminal. He couldn’t recall if he’d ever been through Chicago’s Midway airport, but it seemed nice. At least the floors were clean, thanks to the robots making their way around.
“No, John. If it was a teleconference, you would have it on mute the whole time.” Dorian chirped, strolling down the hall in amusement at his partner’s disdain. “Maldonado sent me along to ensure you don’t skip out on your assignment. She wants a report of the panels you attend, and video proof that you attended them uploaded every day.”
“Woah, woah, woah…” John stopped walking toward the baggage carousel, lifting his right hand to rest against his partner’s chest. “You mean all that talk about wanting to go with me because you’re my partner, was just talk? T’hell with that. I shoulda left you back at the station with Rudy and his, what’d you call ‘em? Questionable women?” The detective turned away and rolled his eyes. “Unbelievable. I can’t believe you’re going to spy on me.” He snorted derisively as he walked by a pair of uniformed Chicago police officers who were scanning the crowd. They appeared to be human and only glanced at the tall man as he walked by.
“Do you expect me to believe that you would go to the conference if I wasn’t here?” Dorian strode beside his partner, already knowing the answer after their years of working together. He stood beside the man and smirked up at him while the carousel began disgorging luggage. One piece had to be picked up elsewhere because of the size.
John ground his teeth together and stared down at his partner with an icy glare. There was just no way to get out of that situation with much grace. “I’d put in an appearance… In the dealer’s room. Everyone knows that’s where all the good stuff is anyhow.” The detective snorted darkly and turned back to the bags that were moving by. There were so many bags coming in that he could pretend that’d take up much of his attention. “Find something to replace my Ares Five with.” He smirked to himself though, because the gun had served him well since he’d put it into service so long ago. But sometimes it was nice to upgrade the firepower. Or add to the arsenal.
Rolling his cybernetic eyes, Dorian turned toward the freight section of the baggage claim. “Fine. I’m going to get my mobile charging station. Meet you by the door? Don’t try to sneak out. You might be able to turn off one of your locator chips, but I had Rudy put a second one in you somewhere the last time you were out cold from a fight you picked.” The android walked away without taking the opportunity to see the blanched expression on John’s face.
Within an hour, the duo made their way out of the airport terminal, and on the tram over to the car rental location. The bill for the car was more reasonable than John expected thanks to his corporate rate. It was nice to work for a government sometimes. The pair walked out to the black muscle car that was assigned to them and checked it over thoroughly for dings and dents, barely trusting the people they rented from. Dorian took his digital scans, then loaded all their bags in the vehicle. They’d check in with the local police precinct, if only as a courtesy.
“We should have flown to the other airport that’s by where we’re supposed to be.” The ride to the opposite side of town was relatively uneventful, though the traffic was much worse than he was used to. “Can’t believe this,” John grumbled under his breath after missing the light for the third cycle. “Back home, I could just… bwoop-bwoop and we’d be through this.” He mimicked the sound of the lights and sirens his squad car had with an approximation of the noise and a twirl of his finger. The brunette slumped back in his seat and stared impatiently at the perpetual red light.
“At least the conference doesn’t start until tomorrow. We should arrive at the hotel at approximately 1600 hours. The hotel is two blocks from the convention center. Assuming it takes us half an hour to get settled into our room and an approximate walk-time of fifteen minutes, we should arrive at the convention center by 1645.” Dorian totaled up their time and travel with the practiced ease of a super computer, but put the information into a conversational tone. “That’s still a quarter hour for us to get registered and pick up your swag bag.”
“My ‘swag bag’, D? Really? We don’t call it that anymore.”
“S.W.A.G. John. It stands for “Stuff We All Get”. I’m to take a bag and return it, intact, to Captain Maldonado. So don’t go taking the candy and donut coupons.” The android turned to his companion and smirked at him with the infuriating smile he used when he wanted to needle his partner. It worked, as the human turned his head and started to chuckle. The simple conversation about time and free things made it bearable to finally get through the light that had been confounding them for the better part of ten minutes.
“You know, my mom’s from here,” John started once they got on the highway to go across town. “She was a cop in the Thirteenth District. A detective like me.” He sighed lightly, as if the conversation about the woman pained him. “Her boss thought I was pretty smart when I met him. He wasn’t a cop like her. Just threw money at everything. But he fixed a lot of problems here, and she helped him do it. A lot of the technology we use now is a by-product of what he did here, and took out west.”
While John spoke about the woman he’d never mentioned before, the lights on the right side of Dorian’s face whirred to life. He accessed the internet and searched for the databases related to the Chicago Police Department’s personnel from the first quarter of the twenty-first century. “You’ve never mentioned your mother, John. Only your father. Did something happen?” He searched using John’s last name, but turned up no information on the woman, nor anyone who closely resembled the detective. There was another name she had. Accessing another database, he looked up his partner’s file, bypassing the redacted parts in search of next-of-kin information. The only person listed there was the deceased father, Edward Kennex. “Her name is not in your file.”
“She’d… been killed before I joined the Department.” John winced at the statement. It had been painful for him to discuss ever since the event happened. “Killed in the line of duty.” He sighed heavily and shifted in the bucket seat. This wasn’t a time to cry, certainly not in front of the android that would report him back to Sandra in a heartbeat. “But her name was different when she worked here, before she married my dad and he adopted me so I got his name.” He inhaled sharply through his nose, lifting a hand to scratch at his face with his thumbnail.
He remembered the day vividly that he’d been informed by his mom’s boss, the one she called Boss, before her Captain that she wouldn’t be coming home that night. He’d been a boy then, and didn’t understand what was being said to him. It hadn’t made sense then that she died protecting someone because she’d removed her bulletproof vest and given it to a civilian, despite the risk. “She was protecting a woman and gave her her vest. They didn’t have android partners like you back then to catch bullets and protect us. Her boss, Reeves, hadn’t created an A.I. for that kind of thing. Just the little drones that I use for target practice… Don’t tell Rudy.”
“Too late. You’re going to get an angry voicemail.”
“Damn it, Dorian! We were having a moment here. I was letting you in on my life, and you just… Narc on me to the techno-guy.”
Dorian laughed at the man’s discomfiture and once again went through the files, this time at his own Department’s records. He went first to Edward Kennex’s file, searching for spousal information and located the one he wanted. “Theresa Murphy Kennex,” he started, bringing up the police jacket easily, processing the data at lightning speed. “Originally from Chicago, joined the City’s department in 2020 at the behest of industrial magnate, Gideon Reeves, who moved west to further his A.P.B. pilot program that worked wonders for Chicago’s Thirteenth District, then the rest of the city. End of Watch, January 23, 2022… I’m sorry, John.” Dorian turned slightly toward his partner with his face turned down in a sad expression. The information evoked that emotion from the android.
“Yeah, me too. Uh… Reeves is the one who came to tell us. His drones weren’t fast enough to save her.” He snorted derisively about the situation, the named man, and the drones that had been there, but unable to act correctly. It was just another time when technology failed him and his family. John was silent for several more blocks, tamping down on the rage he’d spent so many decades learning how to cram down.
“I’m sorry, John. I didn’t know,” Dorian reiterated, and turned to look out the window they were driving by. He sighed lightly, not able to process what he could say to remedy the situation for the time being. It would all be taken care of eventually, when they were safely ensconced in their hotel room and John could watch something on the television.
The following day, there were many officers in uniforms from all over the world milling about. They spoke many languages to each other, but everyone was getting along and speaking to each other as loyal brothers and sisters. The convention would be opening with a Blue Mass: a reading of the names of officers who had fallen in the line of duty in the previous year, and a blessing by a Catholic priest of the officers who were assembled. While John was not particularly a religious man, he, like many others in his line of work, wore a medal of St. Michael the Archangel, while a small prayer card rested on the visor of his squad car.
As the officers finally began filing into the convention center, and its main room, the detective took his time in getting ready. There were thousands of officers, and he wanted to sit in the back so he could slip out. While Dorian dressed in the uniform he had, John sat on the edge of his bed and twisted on the synthetic limb that allowed him to keep his career instead of being forced into medical separation. He went to the closet next and pulled out the dress uniform that only came out on special occasions. There was a break after the Blue Mass for officers to change clothes if they wanted, or just chat with others from previous years.
Before he would have gone with Sandra. They went together for several years as part of the contingent from their Department. But this year was different, and since Dorian was better at controlling John, he’d been elected to go. They’d meet up with others later, dinner or something. He’d make phone calls, or get Dorian to. While he dressed in his uniform, he moved solemnly, taking great care with the seams of the uniform that kept him looking sharp. John took great pride in how he looked, and had made sure to scrape all the stubble from his face and style his hair in a professional way. The tie was tied freshly around his neck, followed by the pair of white gloves, and highly polished black shoes. On his chest were several medals he’d received in the line of duty for meritorious performance, and career achievements.
“I should have gotten you a uniform like mine,” John said as the pair left the room. He held his hat beneath one arm and fiddled with the belt that secured his jacket around his torso. “Not that you don’t look good, D, just, this is supposed to be the most formal event of the conference. The Blue Mass is sacred, so we’re supposed to be dressed to impress.” As they emerged into the sunlight, John lifted the hat to his head, putting it on and leveling the brim with a quick swipe of a hand across his forehead.
The transformation from tactical detective John Kennex into ceremonial detective John Kennex was a marvel for Dorian who had recognized that morning that the event they were going to was likely to be meaningful for his partner. The names of the officers killed during his first day back on the job were going to be read during the roll call of fallen officers, by special permission. He understood why John was taciturn and quiet that morning. “It’s alright, John. If they won’t let me in, I’ll wait outside for you. I know this is important. I watched the Blue Mass from this year’s Police Week ceremonies at the Capitol.” Dorian smiled at his partner while they crossed the street now. There were fewer officers on the street moving to the place, but those he saw had the appearance of being local police, a small group being high ranking ones. “I’d have thought the brass would have been the first inside,” he commented finally.
“Yeah, me too.” John chuckled softly, the smile giving him a more ruggedly handsome appearance than before. “Or they’re local and just trying to be nice to the out-of-towners by letting them go in first.” He shrugged slowly, touching his breast pocket for the credentials he’d been given for the conference. It was a simple card that would be scanned through every doorway that would allow him to be identified by picture and allowed or not allowed, like the transit passes. “Shoulda smoked on the way over… Get it out of my system…”
“That’ll kill you,” Dorian snorted and rolled his eyes now. The detective only rarely did it, but that wouldn’t stop him from announcing his displeasure every time it happened.
Before he could say anything further on the matter, yelling from behind them drew the detectives’ attention, as well as the attention of the other officers still loitering. John and Dorian turned in that direction, both recognizing the sounds of a foot pursuit, having been in plenty of their own in the time they were partnered up. A pair of beat cops were chasing someone that had snatched a purse from a victim they were unable to see. The suspect was gaining a lead over the officers who were a bit on the heavier side. They were calling after the suspect, ordering him to stop running and get on the ground. John and Dorian’s eyes met, the pair exchanging quick looks and a silent conversation about what they were going to be doing together. They would move in concert, even if they didn’t have jurisdiction there in Chicago, they were always on duty.
The suspect in a dark hoodie, with a black cloth covering much of his face wasn’t paying as much attention to where he was going as he should have been. He ran headlong at the well-dressed men, as if he thought they were some other kind of professionals walking around. When the thief looked back over his shoulder to check how long a lead he had on the cops chasing him, John stepped away from the other quickly, giving just enough space to set their plan in motion. The android dropped to the ground on his hands and knees, becoming a hard, unmoving barricade.
Within seconds, and too late to stop, the suspect ran over Dorian and pitched face first into the concrete sidewalk. John swooped forward, dropping to one knee in the struggling man’s back, while the other knee remained bent in case he needed to shove off from the ground to defend himself. The suspect struggled beneath him, but John’s strength, restricted though it was, did much to hold his catch on the ground. “Feel that? That thing on your face? That’s the ground!” John hollered authoritatively. “When a cop tells you to drop, you drop, or you eat pavement!”
Dorian took a secondary position with his partner, securing the suspect’s legs beneath one knee. He grasped at a flailing hand that was attempting to gain leverage in the situation. “Stop resisting!” He ordered, his voice broadcasting much louder than it needed to. “You’re under arrest.” The android finally secured the other hand and held them together while the beat cops finally caught up from behind them, brass moving in from the front. “Officers, is this your suspect?” Dorian asked calmly, looking up at the man and woman who were huffing and puffing now. “If you’ll give me your handcuffs, I’ll secure your prisoner before turning him over.”
The female officer reached for her belt and removed a set of handcuffs from it. She offered them over, but was unable to prevent herself from kicking the suspect that had embarrassed them by outrunning them. “Yeah. Lock that fucker up.” She snarled derisively while the suspect howled in pain, while her male partner came around the person and did the same thing.
John and Dorian glanced at each other again, having another silent conversation. Though John played Dirty Harry in an interrogation, he didn’t beat suspects who were already down on the ground. Nor did they want to say anything that would jeopardize the case being built against the person in their custody. “We’ve got him, officer.” John said in a warning tone, looking up at the female officer first, then the male one. He outranked the two cops they faced, but they obviously did not recognize his rank insignia.
Before either officer could give another buffet to the suspect no longer fighting them, a trio of people, two in crisp uniforms and a civilian, stood over the scene. “That’s enough, officers. Stand down and call for a wagon.” The dark-skinned female Commander ordered the subordinates. “We don’t do it that way anymore. No extra shots for God, and Country. No matter how far you had to run after him.” Her voice left no room for arguments.
There was obviously an attitude from the officers who appeared to have had some seniority with the department, but the equally commanding voice of the fair-skinned male Commander cut those off. “You were given an order, officers. It doesn’t have to go farther than this. We’ll need your names and stars.” Satisfied that the orders were being carried out, with the veiled threat of an Internal Affairs investigation, the male Commander turned to his female counterpart, a smirk on his strong face while the visiting officers on the ground watched and assessed the situation.
“We’re gonna sit you up now, kid. You already got dust on my uniform once. If I have to chase you, my partner’s going to tackle you through a car.” John snarled, not above using his android partner as a means to an end. The suspect’s signal that he would behave for a moment prompted John to relax his grip first. He lifted his hands away, followed by twisting onto his feet so he could stand up, though he was ready to drop back down in case of a continued need to respond to resistance.
Dorian shifted next, bringing himself onto the balls of his feet. He stood and stepped out from between the suspect’s legs though he maintained control of the secured arms and rolled the person onto his side. “What’s your name, man?” He asked in a calming tone, doing his best to put their masked suspect at ease while pushing him into a sitting position. With the suspect secured in a better way, it was now easier to remove the mask and get a proper identification on him. He stopped short of asking direct questions about the case, knowing it would destroy the city’s prosecution of the person if two out of state cops asked the wrong questions. “Do you require medical attention?”
The suspect remained quiet for the time, but gave no indication that medical attention was required. From inside the convention center, the sound of a bell tolling indicated that the Blue Mass had begun, prompting a sigh of discontentment from Detective Kennex. That noise prompted the pair of Commanders to look at each other in a way that John and Dorian had at the start of the incident. “Why don’t you go on in? We can handle it from here,” the male offered, jerking a thumb toward the building. “You got friends on the Roll. You should be there to hear their names.”
The detective’s jaw clenched while he waited with his partner. He looked at Dorian briefly, as if torn on the matter. The android’s eyes shifted slightly, lights flaring up on the side of his face as he accessed the sound system of the nearby convention center. “I can recite the names as they’re said, John. We can listen from here.” He offered, acutely aware that the human had his doubts about the suspect surviving the encounter with the patrolmen, even with the Commanders standing there watching.
John thought about it, then shook his head slowly. “No. Let’s go in. I didn’t get all dolled up to stand around in the sun. Let the local boys handle the snatch and grab.” He took a step back from the situation, his hands coming together so he could straighten the crisp white gloves briefly. Despite his earlier statement, there was no dust on his uniform. It only required a minimal amount of straightening. “C’mon, D.” He jerked his head toward their destination before looking at the patrol officers first, then the Commanders and the civilian witness, giving them quick nods.
As the out-of-towners left, Commander Goss took her time staring at the patrolmen who were now conducting their investigation. They took custody of the stolen purse, assessing that it belonged to the victim that had flagged them down. The wait for a wagon was not much longer and they were finally able to get the suspect loaded up in the vehicle and handcuffs switched out. Details were discovered about their suspect and paperwork filled out for the Cook county jail where the suspect was being booked.
When Goss pulled a small pad of paper from her pocket, a laugh from her former partner broke the silence around them. “You still use paper, Tash? Really? After all the work we did with Reeves and those damn drones?” His laugh subsided slowly as the woman gave him a withering look.
“Yeah, I do. I seem to remember you being the one that was anti-drone because they were gonna become self-aware and turn on us. You said it often enough especially after we got the A.I.s.” She snorted and turned to the officers that were now finished with their suspect. “You’re lucky those officers trusted us, and the one wanted to get inside.” She addressed them sternly. It was one thing to aggressively bring down a fleeing suspect, but once he was down and no longer resisting, further pain compliance needed to be measured… And not easily visible. “We need your names and stars. Your commander’s going to hear about this. But we’ll try to take care of it in-house, as long as he doesn’t file a complaint.”
With the officers taken care of, the straggling trio made their way to the convention center. The male Commander took the hand of the pale civilian woman beside him. “You get a good look at that guy, Tash, Ada? He looked kinda familiar.” He looked briefly down at his wife, giving her a little smile while he thought about who the man reminded him of. It was someone he worked with, but the name wasn’t coming to him just then. “The way he acted too. He’s tough.”
“His name badge said Kennex,” Ada prompted, giving the hand she held a playful swing as if the pair weren’t now in their sixties and much too old to be playing like teenagers. “And the android called him John. It shouldn’t be too hard to find that name on the participants list, since his uniform didn’t have any patches showing his municipality. But let’s wait until after the service.
“We could skip the service,” Nick announced suggestively, breaking from the women long enough to nab the door handle and pull it open for them both. It was old-fashioned, but he never stopped doing it, regardless of how times had changed.
Goss gave Brandt another of her signature looks as she passed by him. The dark-skinned Commander was in no mood for it, but she also knew that he wouldn’t actually go through with it. They’d both been attending Blue Masses for years, both as partners, and when they moved up the ranks. She also made efforts to go with him to the funerals of men he served with in the Army. “You go ahead, Nick. You and Ada go find a special closet. I’ll just represent us both.”
Brandt shook his head finally. He knew better than to go against his former partner’s words. “No. No. Won’t be necessary. I want to talk to that officer sometime while he’s here. So we just need to find out who John Kennex is, and how to get in touch with him. He pounded that guy into the pavement pretty hard.” The Commander fell quiet when they entered the center, the Service coming over the loudspeaker. They hadn’t missed much of the roll call with the bell tolling between the names being read.
The following day was time to go to the vendor’s hall. That was always John’s favorite part of any conference he’d gone to. Including the ones he’d gone to with his parents many years ago. There was always someone that had toys for cop-kids, and kid-cops. There were a number of rookies hanging around that day. Saturday was always the busiest day. Somehow all these departments could let them go.
John looked around the crowded rows of stalls. There were plenty of interesting places for both himself, and his android partner to find bits and pieces to add to their arsenal as police officers. The pair of them made lists of things to return to for further investigation. John examined the firearms mostly. He needed the newest technology for his on-duty, and off-duty activities. He also wanted to learn how to beat the firearms matching technology. As it turned out, the simplest ways were the best. Firing a dirty weapon, then cleaning it, or using a file to alter the barrel of the guns. Both detectives laughed when the man at one vendor insisted companies were working on being able to restore scored barrels for identification. They knew such a thing wasn’t likely possible.
Finally, Dorian had his way, and they both went to a vendor showing the latest in upgrades for androids. “John! Look, I can change out my optic receptors for greater magnification and ultra-high-definition recording.” The DRN leaned over a pair of eyeballs that were wired into a display that showed them both and centered on the faces it detected. Vital signs were displayed for John, indicating a boredom in the officer, but only because they were browsing shops. The android was identified by model number, but no further information due to the optic devices’ limited access to the internet. “I want them.”
“Can you connect to them and try them out?” Dorian’s expression of want was enough to draw his partner’s interest. The brunette moved closer and leaned down to see the items and the display tablet that suddenly showed information on him, as if it connected to a database of some kind. “Did you make it do that?” He turned toward his partner, now seeing the lights flare up on Dorian’s face. “Don’t let it show everything, D. Come on. I don’t need my file out there for everyone to see.”
Before Dorian could answer the question, the person running the large booth approached the pair. “Nope, officers. That was me.” An older man with short and wavy white hair approached the display of eyeballs. “Don’t worry, though. It’s only connected to the database of registered attendants. So, it only has the information you provided.” The hawkish man smiled as he got close enough to really engage with his potential customers. “Cool, aren’t they?” The man addressed Dorian directly, recognizing that the artificial intelligence could engage on a more human level. “They weren’t designed for your model, but it wouldn’t take much to upgrade them. Might even be able to match that shade of blue if you’re partial to it.”
Dorian looked at the eyes again. It would be good to see things at a sharper level, with more colors and detail. “They are cool,” he answered easily, giving the industrialist a smile. “I can’t authorize buying them, nor can my partner.” Dorian pointed at the human who had bent back and childishly twisted in different ways as a small test for the optics and how they tracked. “But we can take the information back to our commanders and make recommendations for upgrades.”
“Well, I hope they don’t take too long to make that kind of decision. But knowing police departments the way I do, it could be five years, and I’ll have designed a completely new set, making this one totally obsolete.” The tall man laughed and clapped Dorian on the shoulder. With the sales pitch done for the moment, at least, put on the back burner, he could be a different kind of schmoozer. “I don’t get to see many of your model anymore,” he lamented now. “Shame, really. It was a great idea to have androids be as human as possible with the computing power of super computers. I remember reading your design plans years ago, and was completely intrigued… And jealous that I hadn’t thought of it first. Even after I pioneered the use of drones in policing right here in Chicago.”
John’s attention was caught now, a chill running up his spine. The voice now struck a chord with him, as if he could now remember that he was hearing something that seemed so familiar to him. He straightened up and looked at his partner, his green eyes lifting to the face of the older man declaring so boldly that he’d advanced police technology so much. Now that he was making those claims, the older detective was realizing that he knew this man. Gideon Reeves.
Gideon’s eyes shifted from the android he’d been praising to the human partner, a similar glint of recognition in his eyes. His brows knit together over the bridge of his nose briefly. “Hello, John,” He said slowly, as if measuring whether there would be a problem with the man, considering what happened the last time they’d seen each other. “Do you remember me?” He tilted his head to one side, waiting for an answer to the question. A light sigh escaped his mouth while he thought about the person he looked at. “You look so much like your mother.” A reverent expression crossed the man’s face while he approached John who took a step back.
John swallowed, there were feelings stirring in him that he hadn’t felt in many years. He knew he should respond. But making words wasn’t going to happen this time. Clearing his throat, the detective turned and walked away. He didn’t answer the panicked calls of his partner. The crush of people was becoming too much. He needed to get outside into the fresh air so he could think and calm himself.
Dorian looked back up at Gideon, making mental notes about who the person was, only then realizing what may have happened. He dipped his head quickly. “Thank you, Mr. Reeves. I’ll be back after I check on my partner.” The android made his exit. He recognized that his partner was likely having an emotional crisis. But there had been no reason to run away without saying anything.
Switching to locator mode, the android activated a search for the locator chip embedded under the skin of his partner’s right arm. With a sigh of relief, Dorian set off in that direction. John had gone out the front of the convention center and appeared to be making his way around the east side, away from the people and the sun. Luckily, he hadn’t deactivated the tracker. At least they’d be able to meet up shortly. Following the directions from the tracker, Dorian made his way through the crowds of police officers milling about shopping. Outside the building, he shifted again, checking John’s location once more.
Around the east side of the building, Dorian found his partner sitting on a stack of boxes outside a loading dock. Initial scans indicated the mild panic attack had passed for the detective, so all that remained was the recovery phase. To that end, he noticed a partially smoked cigarette in one hand as he approached. “John, are you alright?” He saw the apologetic look in the hazel eyes, determining what the answer would be, based on past experiences. “What happened in there? Who was that guy to you?”
John looked up at his partner and shook his head. “The man who told me my mom was killed.” It may have been rude to just walk away, but there hadn’t been much else the detective thought he could handle right then. He shrugged and put the cigarette to his lips, taking a short drag from it. “I didn’t think the guy’d be there in person, you know? He’s old. He should be on a beach somewhere, not offering to replace your eyeballs.” The human laughed contemptuously at himself and the situation. He gestured to the convention hall then to the android in front of him, emphasizing his statement. “It’s fine...” John finally said, running a hand through his shaggy hair. “Maybe I was hoping he didn’t recognize me, you know?”
“He didn’t seem like a bad guy.” Dorian shrugged, shifting into a standard casual stance. Having conversations with his partner, and learning more about him was what made their partnership stronger. They had a rocky start at the beginning of their relationship, but it took less than a day for it all to work itself out and for them to get to a point where they would die for each other. And now he played on the strength of their relationship to bring John back to the rational world, though he was already on that path with the nicotine soothing him.
The detective nodded while listening to his partner talk about the guy he’d run from. “Yeah, yeah. I know. He’s not a bad guy, D. But I’ve spent damn near thirty years blaming him for mom’s death. Well, blaming his equipment.” John shrugged slowly, leaning back against the side of the building while bringing the cigarette back to his lips. “If his special vest had had the neck guard like mine does…”
“And if I’d listened to my partner when he wanted to hand off a case, there’d be a dead kid, with his blood on our hands. Not everything is as cut and dry as it looks, detectives.”
The hardened voice of an older woman at the end of the alley startled both detectives. John and Dorian straightened up and turned to see the Commander from the previous day approaching them. They relaxed only slightly, recognizing that she wasn’t a threat to them. Nor did she seem to be about to intimidate them into doing anything about the events before. John mashed out the cigarette he’d finished with and set the butt down where he could easily grab it on his way back into the building. He wouldn’t so blatantly litter there in front of another officer, or his turncoat partner.
“Commander Goss,” Dorian announced, inclining his head respectfully while using his facial recognition software to the benefit of his partner who would not have immediately known how to address the senior officer. “Our apologies if our sudden departure caused any problems for Mr. Reeves.” The android made an apology for them, but became quickly aware that it was not necessary for anything that happened. “Thank you for your help yesterday. We had some concern for the suspect in the custody of those officers.”
Goss snorted again and shook her head. “It’s fine. They went too far, even by our standards from thirty years ago. And don’t worry about Reeves. He’s a big boy, he can handle some rejection.” The Commander cleared her throat and crossed her arms over her chest. “I came to talk to you, Kennex. By extension your partner, but mostly you. My partner thought you looked familiar, and we’ve figured out why.”
John pursed his lips while he watched the woman. He knew what she was going to say. It must have spread after the little stunt with the industrialist. “Yes, ma’am. You worked with my mother before she moved with Mr Reeves to bring his APB program to other states. I think you came to her funeral. A lot of people did. It was a sea of blue.” He lifted a hand to his cheek gently. It was going to be a long weekend if there were so many people still around that knew him and his mother. He wasn’t certain how many of them were still alive, and were still cops, but it didn’t surprise him that Goss and…. Who was the other guy…? “Nicholas Brandt still your partner?”
“I was.” A man’s voice announced while approaching the group. “Then someone got promoted.” The older man smiled as he came close, this time there was no civilian with him. He smiled at Goss and jerked his head back toward the building. “Ada wants to show you and Raquel something at Reeves’ booth. Me and Junior need to have a talk.” Brandt smiled at John and clasped his partner on the shoulder, and pointed back toward the building.
As soon as it was the two men and the android, the Commander pointed at the boxes they had been sitting on earlier. “Have a seat, Detective. You too, Dorian.” He knew how the android had been registered, like John, he hated dealing with anything that wasn’t practically human. The MX line of robots was unpleasant to say the least. He was glad the police in Chicago weren’t forced to use them as much as he’d seen in other cities around the country. “You’re not in trouble or anything. I don’t work in the Rat Squad, and Goss left them when she promoted to Commander.”
As soon as the men were all arranged, Brandt nodded at the fresh cigarette butt, and held a hand out as an indication that he wanted to have one from the out-of-towner. When his request was obliged, and their death sticks were lit, the older man thought for a long moment about what he wanted to say to the younger man. “You might not remember me as much as I remember you, kid. But I know you remember me, even if you don’t remember how me and your mom were connected.” He felt a twinge of pain. Everything that seemed wrong in his life had centered around Theresa Murphy, though he had not done anything wrong, but move too slow.
“You were in the academy and rookies together at the same station. You used to come over sometimes before we moved away. I remember you gave me things at the Christmas parties.” John gave the few details he could remember about the gray-haired man, which only caused his partner to chuckle while watched the humans. It drew the ire of the man, if only because he believed Dorian knew something he didn’t, or was making fun of his memory lapse.
“Yeah. I did all that.” Nicholas shrugged at the younger man, leaning back to watch the rings of smoke he puffed out after a drag on the cigarette. “But I did more, too. Your mom and I were closer than we let you know. It’s part of why she and… That guy,” the older officer snorted derisively about the man Theresa’d been married to, “split up when you were a baby.” Crossing his legs, the Commander thought about how to delicately put the story he now felt was ready to be aired. “Did anyone ever tell you how much like her you are?”
“My dad… Mr. Reeves. My FTO.”
“And they’re right, John. You’re just like her…” Nick swallowed nervously. “Her attitude and ambition were part of what really… drew me to her.” He shook his head as if to clear away the cobwebs he was experiencing. “I said we were close, right? We were until she was killed. We’d actually been lovers for a while. Nothing serious, though. Just a weekend or five.” Nick smiled, his memories calling up an image of waking up next the dark-haired woman and her beautiful smile backlit by the rising sun. She was the first real love of his life once he’d gotten back from his two tours in Iraq. “Well, I’m sure you had the birds and the bees talk at some point with your mom, or your dad.”
John tensed up at the mention of his dad. He’d been killed in the line of duty the same as his mom, but he’d been old enough to have made the call. While he was not the first on the scene, he did arrive as backup before they had identified the officer down. His supervisor and partner had to physically restrain him at the scene. For now, he feigned ignorance of what the Commander was implying about his relationship with his mother. “I don’t know anything about my mom and dad’s sex life, Commander, and it’s probably better that way.”
Nick laughed and bummed a second cigarette from the other officer. It was nice to be with one who still smoked a bit in this age of shrinking places for them to do it. “Yeah, I guess not. What I’m saying, son, is that the guy you call dad isn’t your father. I am.” He lit the death stick and leaned back against the building while he watched the flood of emotion cross the detective’s face. He knew it was going to be an unusual piece of news to learn after being alive for forty years, but it wasn’t like it was the worst thing he’d ever heard. “Your mom and I decided to keep it a secret. We didn’t want you to get confused about anything.”
“Didn’t want me to get confused?” John snorted derisively of the entire idea, though his mind was trying to work out that he was really related to this man. There was no way that was even probably true. Why would his mom have kept that kind of a secret from him, unless it’s why she and his father broke up? The detective wasn’t quite sure how to deal with that revelation, and it wasn’t like he could just ask his parents about it. But it was Dorian’s interjection that made some sense of what he was hearing, and he could go through the rest of the emotions later in the hotel room.
“There is a resemblance, John,” Dorian supplied helpfully. He ran a facial comparison program, using it to note the similarities between the faces of the two men. “And it’s more than just looks.” He nodded slowly at the Commander, this must have been a difficult thing for the detective to find out about his father not being exactly who he expected. Dorian watched Nick for several more seconds and determined that it was a good match. He knew his partner well enough that there wouldn’t be anything untoward happening, but the human would take the night to process what he was feeling emotionally.
“I loved your mom, John. If I’d been smart enough, I’d have married her and kept you both in Chicago with me.” But he’d been young and foolish, and Theresa had her own ideas on what she’d wanted to do, and who she wanted to marry. “But I didn’t. And now you’re grown up and got your own life without influences from me. But I got to meet the man she married out there. I came to the wedding. He was a good man. You’ve always had good men in your life, and I can’t be happier.”
John leaned against the door while he put the keycard against the maglock which secured their hotel room. He took a deep breath and deliberately pushed down on the door handle that gave them entrance. Now that he was alone with his partner, he could let his guard down. There were so many thoughts going on in his head about the previous conversation with Commander Brandt. He hadn’t been able to enjoy the rest of his day at the convention.
“Detective?” Dorian asked, following him into the room. He locked the door behind him and turned to find his partner already seated on the bed pulling his boots off. “Are you still bitter about the conversation with Commander Brandt? You didn’t seem too surprised to hear much of what he had to say.” He walked closer to his companion, coming to a standard police interview posture with his hands slightly raised to his waist level. He knew the detective posed no threat to him, but it was an ingrained part of his programming. “He and Mr. Reeves were surprised to see you this morning. In fact, after speaking with Commander Brandt, I wouldn’t be surprised if we were paid a visit by Mr. Reeves…”
“No. That’s not his style, Dorian. After mom’s funeral, he had me brought to his office with my dad, well, adopted dad, and offered me enough money to go to whatever college I wanted to go to. He would pay for it, no matter how long it took, and I didn’t go to M.I.T.” John dropped his boots onto the floor and leaned back with his hands on the bed. Taking another deep breath, he finally fell back against the plush bedding and stared up at the ceiling. “Not that I had the grades to do it, but I already wanted to be a cop like Mom and Dad. They’re my heroes. I wanted to be just like them.”
“Did you take his money?”
John stared up at the ceiling as if he hadn’t heard the question. He put his hands to his forehead, thinking and thinking. “Yeah, I did… I got a degree in criminal investigations before I joined the Department, and I speak a couple languages…” He sat upright when the phone on the table started ringing. The detective cringed at the voice he knew was likely to be on the other end of it. “It’s him, damn it…”
Dorian stepped over to the phone and picked it up. He answered in a professional manner, using an even tone. “Detective Kennex’s room. How may I help you?”
“Dorian!” The voice on the other end was indeed the voice of the industrialist, causing the android to turn around and look at his partner. “Put Detective Kennex on the phone. We have a lot to discuss.”