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The Approximate Distance Between Two

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     Jun 29th, 2039

 

It was nearing eleven o’clock in the morning and Lieutenant Hank Anderson was still in bed. There was nothing particularly unusual about that; on days that he did not take his morning run it was common for him to sleep in well past nine. Connor, however, had no designs to let him sleep till noon. It was during the nebulous time before midday that Hank’s appetite became terribly volatile and difficult to please; and as of late Connor had not the patience to play hot and cold with his cravings and the moods that came with or without them. That was not to say Connor did not care about Hank’s good humor - he simply had no desire to be held accountable for his bad humor.

And far be it from his programming to wilfully put Hank in a bad mood; but the last few days in particular had felt especially tense, akin to walking on eggshells, and wilful or not his sour moods seemed an occurrence more frequent now than the past few months combined. Thankfully, Hank had developed a tendency to take his poor temperaments to the privacy of his room, and when not sequestered within, he would treat Connor with an abundance of kindness that was equally bizarre.

For all his social integration programming, Connor was not quite sure what to think of it. The constant flip-flopping was quite jarring. He found himself scanning Hank with greater frequency, which usually yielded nothing useful in terms of his mental state. A sampling of the man’s toothbrush had revealed nothing out of the ordinary; Connor would need a blood sample in order to detect anything serious, but the opportunity for that had not yet presented itself - and even if it did, there was a good chance Hank would not appreciate it.

All things considered, Hank’s reticence and Connor’s nonchalance made it easy to avoid Hank when he was in a disaffected mood. There would be no hope of that now however, as Connor considered his approach while he stood outside the man’s bedroom.

He knocked once, twice, said, “Lieutenant, I’m coming in,” and pushed the door open in the same breath. It was not locked, which was not unusual.

Hank lay on his back in bed, eyes open, staring at the ceiling. He did not move as Connor entered, the shift of his gaze from the ceiling to the android the only acknowledgement of his entry.

“I didn’t know you were awake,” said Connor.

“Yeah,” said Hank. He looked back at the ceiling.

“Are you hungry?”

“Not really.”

“You should eat something. It’s already late.”

Hank scratched his stomach and said nothing. Connor remained very still. He considered his options. Ever since the start of this irrational despondency, indulging Hank and treating him with patience and courtesy seemed to produce the best results. It was never enough to bring him out of his moods, but it never made them worse, either.

“What would you like to eat?” Connor was fairly certain he would develop an appetite once food was in front of him.

Hank snorted. “French toast.”

“Alright,” Connor agreed.

There was no expecting a healthy choice - better to get him out bed with the promise of something sweet. In truth, Connor could not muster the temerity to chide him over his unhealthy choices. It had been pancakes yesterday morning, and donuts the day before that. Dinner had been pizza for the past three nights. A task buried deep within nagged at him to police Hank’s caloric intake, but it was very minor. He dismissed it. He would consider it later.

Hank got out of bed and did not bother changing out of his worn t-shirt and boxers. He brushed past Connor and headed into the bathroom.

“I set out a new toothbrush for you.”

“Yeah.”

“There’s new dental floss as well.”

“Okay, okay. Jesus.”

Connor watched Hank turn to close the bathroom door behind him. He caught a brief glance of Hank’s face, a resigned sort of smirk, a vague expression that Connor’s systems could not quite place.

The sound of the shower being drawn could be heard beyond the door, and Connor made his way to the kitchen.

For something that was not part of even his tertiary functions, he had become remarkably expedient at preparing food. The age of the kitchen appliances were now nothing more than a minor inconvenience, and Hank had allowed him to rearrange the cabinets and drawers to be logically sound.

Cooking was as close to relaxing as Connor figured he could get (it would never be quite like the real thing, the human kind, but that did not concern him). It gave him something to do, something that allowed him to put his processors to work. He recalled offering to do so for the sake of Hank’s health, but now it felt a routine solely for himself. Hank’s enjoyment of his cooking did not bring Connor any enjoyment of his own. He would not be surprised if the man had destroyed his sense of taste after years of binge drinking and fast food.

That did not seem to be the case, however. When Hank arrived in the kitchen and took a bite of the french toast that Connor set in front of him, he was quick to say ‘it’s good,’ even as his mouth was still full.

Connor took a seat across the table. He watched Hank as he ate, but not too closely, as was their routine. Connor did not understand the need for company while eating, but it wasn’t as if he had anything better to do most of the time.

When Hank finished, Connor rose to collect the dishes, but Hank responded in turn, and stopped him.

“I’ll get it, I’ll get it.”

Connor stopped. Hank placed them by the sink and then turned around - obviously not intending to clean them now.

“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Connor said, despite the fact. It would be easier if Hank just let him take care of it.

“No problem,” said Hank. He stood in front of Connor and looked at him.

It was difficult to discern his motive. His heart rate was normal and his breathing was steady. Perhaps he was waiting for Connor to say something. Adapting to his unpredictability had never been easy, but Hank had made an absolute trial of it in the last few days. It felt like a test, and Connor did not appreciate failure.

“Would you like to do something together?” Connor asked.

“Like what?”

“We could take a walk. With Sumo.” It was not a suggestion he thought would be favored, but it was his best. Getting Hank out of the house and moving around might improve his mood, which would be better for the both of them.

“Christ, not in this heat. I’ll stick to the air conditioning, thanks. Did you walk him this morning?”

“I did.”

“Thanks. Maybe later tonight, when it cools off?”

Connor nodded. “Alright.”

“They’re showing reruns of a sitcom from when I was a kid. You wanna watch it with me?”

“Yes. I would like to use the last of the drain cleaner and run some diagnostics beforehand, if that’s alright with you.” He would also do the dishes Hank was neglecting, but there was no need to say that. “I’ll join you when I’m finished.”

Hank hesitated. “...Okay, sure. That’s fine.”

“I’ll get started, then.”

There was another pause, and Hank smirked at him slowly; a lazy, lopsided expression that did not reach his eyes.

“No need to look so morose about it,” he said.

“I don’t mean to look morose. How would you like me to look?”

“You could try smiling.”

That was a simple request. Connor looked up at him and could feel the corners of his mouth pull upwards, the left side more so, showing the barest hint of his teeth. Hank raised his eyebrows.

“Jesus. That’s horrifying. Is that really the best you can manage?”

Connor reset his face to neutral. It was a simple request, but he might’ve known that Hank was not so easily pleased. He took a moment to search for an example. He found a stock image of a woman smiling at someone out of frame, the company’s brand plastered across her face, but it was enough.

He allowed his artificial nerves to map the woman’s expression to the best of his ability. His mouth pulled wide, showing his teeth, his cheeks raising, pushing the skin beneath his eyes upwards. The next image of the woman held the same expression but she had lowered her eyes, her head tilting downwards. Connor did the same, looking away from Hank, as if he were embarrassed to meet his gaze. He glanced back to Hank once and again, to be certain he was still watching.

Connor held that expression for exactly five seconds before clearing it.

He looked back to Hank, who was no longer smiling.

“How was that?” Connor asked. The lack of immediate feedback was distressing. He needed to know whether or not he failed.

Hank swallowed, the muscles in his throat visibly tightened. Connor ran a quick scan. His heart rate had spiked considerably. It was very unusual. Hank’s eyes re-focused on Connor, as if he had been staring right through him, his pupils dilated.

“That was good,” Hank said. His voice wavered, and he let out a long breath. He nodded a few times and smiled once more, his lips tight. “Yeah. Thanks, Connor.”

Hank reached out with his right hand and ruffled Connor’s hair. He made sure to do a thorough job of it, Hank’s fingers digging to his scalp, pushing and pulling hard enough that Connor had to relax and allow his head to move with Hank’s hand.

“Lieutenant.”

Hank pulled his hand away. Connor did not need to see himself in order to know his hair was in complete disarray. He reached up to begin setting it to rights.

“Yeah, yeah. Sorry. Sorry.”

“You don’t need to apologize.”

Hank did not say anything. He waited until Connor finished adjusting his hair before reaching out once more and resting a hand on his shoulder. Despite Connor’s words, he looked truly apologetic. A far away look. Unnecessary, given the triviality of his actions. It made Connor tilt his head as he looked closer at the man, committing that face to memory - every wrinkle, every pore.

“Yeah,” said Hank. “Right. Sorry.”

He squeezed Connor’s shoulder and withdrew. He retreated to the couch and leaned forward, forearms on his knees, staring at the empty television. It seemed he had no intention of turning it on himself, and so Connor did so remotely, setting the channel appropriately. Hank did not seem to notice.

 

    Jul 3rd, 2039

 

Even at four in the morning the lighting fixtures outside the McDonald’s were brightly lit. As per usual for the 24/7 locations, of course, but there was a certain garishness to this one in particular. Its design was dated, a decade old, its out-of-the-way location keeping the corporation from updating it to current standards.

The parking lot was empty save for another police car. Chris Miller stood outside the establishment with another woman - one of the workers, judging by her uniform - and greeted them with his usual smile.

“You must be tired,” said Chris, to Hank, because of course Connor was not.

“Same to you,” said Hank. “Someone’s gotta do it, though. What happened?”

Chris jabbed a thumb towards the woman at his side. “Says a worker was abducted in the parking lot when she went out to pick up trash. An android.”

“Right, I figured, since we’re here,” said Hank, a bit sarcastic. Chris nodded sheepishly. They were wasting time.

“When did this happen?” Connor asked.

“About an hour ago,” said the woman. A quick scan brought up her name - Kelsey Page. She had been employed at this location for six years. She was a tall, thin woman, her thick hair pulled into a bun that hung between her shoulders with the weight of it.

“You’ve got any security cameras?” Hank asked.

Kelsey frowned. “Of course we do,” she said. It was a ridiculous question. There was one on the side of the building in plain sight from where they stood.

“Great. You check those Connor, I’ll go have a look around.”

“Yes, Lieutenant.”

Kelsey led him inside and showed him the footage. The camera barely managed to catch anything at all, the abduction happening half in its peripheral, and half in its blind spot. A pair of arms grabbed the android around her chest as she struggled, eventually pulling her out of sight and towards the street. It did not take very long. Only the arms and right leg of the assailant came into sight.

“Do you have a camera on the east side of the building?” Connor asked.

“We do, but its lens is broken. Corporate hasn’t sent us a new one yet.”

Connor frowned, a tic of frustration traveling up his spine. The only cameras nearby that might have captured anything useful were at a used car dealership 500 feet down the road. The rest of the area was nearly derelict - empty lots, overgrown parking lots, an abandoned gas station just around the corner.

“Do you know if the victim was having any troubles? Particularly with any personal relationships?”

“No. I don’t ask my co-workers about their private lives. Especially not androids.”

“Naturally.”

Kelsey pursed her lips. “She’s nice, though. Sam. Never had anything nasty to say about humans after the whole. You know.” She shrugged, and folded her arms. “I doubt anyone had it out for her. Unless it was for being too nice.”

“Did you ever see her outside of work?”

“No. I said she’s nice. Not that we’re friends.”

“What about her relationships with other employees?”

She considered. “About the same. Gets along with everyone but keeps to herself. The two go hand-in-hand, if you ask me.”

He did not ask.

“I see. Thank you for your cooperation, Ms. Page.”

“Do you think you can find her?”

“I don’t know.”

And that was the truth. Connor had confidence in his abilities, but he was well aware that he wasn’t the only capable person in the city. As unlikely as it was, if the assailant had purposefully managed to avoid the camera, and knew of the broken one, collecting any amount of evidence could become trying at best.

He returned to the parking lot to find Hank waiting by the car. Chris had already left.

“Did you learn anything?” Connor asked.

“Only that this parking lot is as clean as can be despite this shithole area. I guess she really was out here just picking up trash.”

“Did she leave anything behind?”

Hank shook his head and rubbed the back of his neck. “Not that I could find, no. Miss Kelsey already cleaned up what she dropped, and it was just garbage. How about you? See anything on the cameras?”

“Just the one,” said Connor. “The assailant was mostly out of view. Based on what I was able to see, they were likely male, average height and weight.”

“Shit, that’s not much to go off of.”

“No, it’s not.”

“What a fucking brazen place to do something like that, though. All the bright lights and shit. Aren’t all these places 24/7 now?”

“You would know better than I, Lieutenant.”

Hank laughed, short and happy, from deep within his chest. It was not an unpleasant sound. Connor had quite a few sound clips of Hank’s laughter saved in his memory. They did not seem to serve any purpose. Connor deleted them.

“Fuck you,” said Hank, still smiling. He turned and pulled open the driver’s side door of his car.

“Where are you going?”

“Back to the station, obviously. Then home, if I can help it.”

“We’re not done here.”

Hank furrowed his brow. “We’re not? Come on, Connor. Android or not, one-off abductions are a bit below our pay grade.”

He said ‘our’ as if Connor was paid anywhere close to what Hank made. Not that Connor particularly cared. He had no real use for money.

“We don’t know that this is a one-off, Lieutenant. It could be a potential homicide as well.”

“We have no way of knowing that it is one either.”

Connor frowned. He was not frustrated, but he could feel himself approaching it, a razor-thin wire that felt it would snap with a single spike of stress. Early mornings never did much good for Hank’s work ethic. It was a horrid trait for an officer, and Connor wondered if he had always been like this. Perhaps not, given his position.

“Please allow me to look around some more,” said Connor.

“Christ, you’re really serious about this.”

Something in his neck tightened. It felt unneeded. His own stress levels had become more and more difficult to monitor, ever since he changed. Even now, months later, he didn’t like to think about it.

“With all due respect, it’s my job.”

That seemed to do the trick. Hank’s posture relaxed and he sighed. He closed the door to his car but did not lock it.

“Twist my fucking arm, why don’t you,” Hank said in a resigned tone of voice, but his expression was warm. Fond, even. He took a step towards Connor and clapped him on the shoulder, the tips of Hank’s fingers firm against his chassis. “What did you have in mind?”

“I’d like to take a look around the area, to see if any nearby security cameras might have caught anything. Knowing the exact time the woman was taken, I might be able to flag any suspicious persons or vehicles that were in the area during that time frame.”

Connor slipped out from under Hank’s grip, and went to the other side of the car.

“Let’s look around the block for now,” Connor said. “The car dealership down the road opens in three hours, so we can head there later.”

“Right,” said Hank. He dragged a hand over his face and sighed again. He reopened the car door and climbed inside. “Fuck me. So much for taking it easy.”

Connor pretended not to hear. “Did you say something?”

“Nope.”

 

    Jul 7th, 2039

 

It felt an odd thing, for an officer of the law to enjoy crime movies. Especially those in which the criminals were the main characters - they were always presented as witty and charismatic and it was clear that the audience was supposed to root for them and empathize with their cause, however shallow. A conflict of interest? Perhaps, perhaps not. Connor supposed it was all well enough. He wondered if Hank might enjoy his job more if real criminals were as well-spoken and jovial as they were in films.

There was no room for beat cops or even detectives in the sort of movie Hank had chosen for the night, however. The criminals depicted were simply too cunning to have that sort of attention on them, their rivals consisting of equally slick felons instead. It was all very fantastical, but Connor decided to treat it as a learning experience all the same.

For Hank, not so much. He laughed and smiled as the movie went on and made little comments here and there. It was just shy of distracting. At least it was doing good for his spirits. A contented Hank was far easier to deal with.

“Apparently this whole scene was basically ad-libbed,” said Hank.

“I see.”

Hank leaned forward and cracked open another can of beer. It would be his sixth one that night. Connor had no desire to ascertain what his blood alcohol level was at, but he figured it was rising quite steadily. At the very least it was still less than his weekly average. So far.

The task that had heckled him over a week ago cropped up again. It seemed such a minor thing, but its return and persistence filled Connor with doubt. He had deleted the task after it had appeared the first time - or he thought he had, yet here it was again, unchanged, untouched. It manifested as a suggestion to action, an urge to reach out and stop Hank, to grab his wrist and stay his hand. To tell him it was time to stop, that he had had enough.

Its tenacity was at odds with its unimportance. Alcohol was unhealthy yes, but Hank was still perfectly lucid, and not a danger to himself or others. A sixth beer would do him no real harm.

Still, a suggestion would not hurt him, either.

“You should probably make that your last one for the night, Lieutenant.”

Hank frowned and turned to look at him. “Sure. Whatever.” He took a long sip from the can. “Surprised it took you this long. The hell do you care, anyway?”

Connor did not have to look at Hank to know he was being scrutinized. The question was a biting one, but it lacked his usual acerbic tone, and sounded more genuine than Hank might’ve intended.

“I think it’s only natural that I concern myself with the health of my partner,” said Connor.

It was tactful, and true, to a certain extent. He did not want Hank to drink himself to death. And Hank was not wrong in that Connor was usually much more prompt in stopping his binges - but those inclinations felt very far away now. The memory of his hand on Hank’s as Connor halted him from pouring more liquor felt invasive, and rude. It was a boundary he should not have crossed.

Connor turned his head, only slightly, in order to meet Hank’s gaze. Hank was still frowning. His heart rate had increased but the color in his face seemed to have drained away, leaving him pale, the blue of his eyes made all the more striking for it. A strange reaction, to such a benign answer.

“Right,” Hank said. He muttered something under his breath, took a short swig of his beer, and turned his attention back to the television.

The two sat in silence for half an hour as the movie went on. Hank still laughed where appropriate but was no longer as chatty as he was before. As the movie approached its climax, Hank stood up and stretched, groaning as he did so.

Connor looked up at him. “Where are you going?”

“Gotta piss,” said Hank.

In a completely unnecessary action, Hank reached down and put a hand on Connor’s head, carding his fingers through his hair, tousling it, gently pulling at it as he withdrew. His smile was wide. Connor frowned at him, but Hank was already making his way to the bathroom.

“Do you want me to pause it for you?”

“No, I’ve seen it a hundred times,” Hank called from the bathroom.

Connor set his hair to rights. As unnecessary as it was he could not find fault in Hank’s newly found habit of disheveling his hair. It was easily fixed, and for such a simple action it had remarkable effects. Hank’s stress would lower, the tension in his shoulders would dissipate, he would smile more.

It was a mysterious thing. There was no evidence that Hank had grown more fond of him recently (just the opposite, really), but he had become far more physical with Connor as of late. Touching his shoulder, ruffling his hair, hugging him. Hank’s actions seemed to serve no purpose outside of displays of platonic affection, but Connor wondered what he had done to deserve such treatment.

Perhaps he had done nothing at all. Perhaps Hank was just lonely.

The thought of that brought Connor to a standstill, if only for a second. He felt his entire body pause. His thirium pump skipped a beat, and he frowned. Connor was by no means perfect, but he was a constant companion, was he not? Hank had no cause to be lonely. It was to assuage Hank’s solitude in the first place that he--

His thought was interrupted by a muffled shout and a string of expletives. Connor whipped his head around.

“Are you alright, Lieutenant?”

“Fuck! Yeah. I’m-- Just stubbed my fucking toe on this piece of shit door… I’m fine. Shit! God dammit, that fucking hurts!”

 

    Jul 10th, 2039

 

Hank had asked for coffee, which was a decidedly simple request, but Connor found himself distracted. It was an odd hour, leaving the break room in the station devoid of people, but the television remained on. The volume was kept quiet, however, and so Connor adjusted it remotely.

There was an announcement on the news, a press conference from the White House. Some of the restrictions placed on CyberLife since Markus’ revolution had finally been lifted. They were mostly minor things - the ability to resume production of certain parts and biocomponents, the annulment of android identification laws, as well as the permission to activate any androids that remained in stasis. The halt order on full android production was still in effect, and would likely remain as such so long as the Android Rights Bill was mired in senatorial debate.

Connor watched with interest. No doubt Markus was relieved. It was a step forward, however slight.

“The hell are you doing?”

Connor looked over his shoulder. Gavin Reed entered the break room, one hand adjusting the waist of his jeans, likely having come from the bathroom. His perpetual scowl was not as overt as it normally was.

“I was watching the news,” Connor explained.

“Can’t you just stream that shit in your head?”

“It’s much easier this way. And safer.”

“So you’re just slacking off, then.”

“Lieutenant Anderson asked me to fetch him a cup of coffee.”

“Just going to leave him hanging, huh?” Gavin snorted. “Fucking dick move. Can’t say I disapprove though.”

Gavin’s approval was inconsequential to Connor, but he nodded all the same. “I’m sure he doesn’t mind the wait. Even then, he’d understand. This is very interesting.”

Gavin scowled at him, his lower lip jutting out, brows furrowing. He said nothing, and turned his attention to the television, for which Connor was grateful. Dealing with Hank had been rough as of late, but nothing could quite compare to Gavin Reed’s incessant irritation. The shorter human had not struck Connor as one to watch - let alone care about - this sort of news, but here he was, narrowing his eyes as he listened to the caster recount what was announced in the earlier press conference.

“Great,” he said, as the news changed topic. “Even more of you plastic assholes walking around. Just what I fucking needed.”

Connor turned to face Gavin in full. At that point it would have been easy to walk away, to leave Gavin standing and not risk any further confrontation. At least, not at that point in time. Gavin would certainly not appreciate it - for as much as he complained about Connor’s presence, he reacted to poorly to being ignored by him as well. Constantly being at the mercy of the man’s terrible moods went against the very grain of Connor’s programming, even as a deviant. Attempting to cooperate with Gavin could do no real harm.

“There should only be a couple thousand at most in Detroit. Most of them will be in CyberLife warehouses across the country.”

“Was that supposed to make me feel better?”

“No,” said Connor. “I was only stating the obvious.”

“The obvious,” repeated Gavin. “God damn, you’re such a fucking smartass. How the fuck does Hank put up with you?” Flecks of spit flew out of his mouth.

“He’s a fairly patient man. It helps that he doesn’t complain about androids as much as he used to.”

“Fairly patient? He’s a cunt. And if he were smart he’d complain a lot more. Even if he’s piss drunk most of the time it must be a real pain in the ass living with someone like you.”

Connor felt the corner of his lip twitch. Being called ‘someone’ by Gavin was quite the accomplishment, even if the detective hadn’t realized it himself.

“I don’t think he has any major complaints. You could always ask him yourself.”

Gavin scoffed. “Fuck that. Not that I ever enjoy talking to him, but he’s been a prickly son of a bitch lately. Been in a real snit.”

“I haven’t noticed.”

It was partly true - Hank had never been particularly chummy at work, but at home he was either moody or friendly, and rarely anything else. The serious arguments they had weeks ago had long since passed, and not recurred.

“Bullshit you haven’t. Weren't you two at each other’s throats in the station the other week?”

“That was 40 days ago, Detective Reed.”

Gavin frowned. More than usual, of course.

“Fuck off. It’s not my job to keep track of your marriage to that fat fuck.”

Gavin’s cheeks tinged pink, and he looked away. A memory resurfaced in Connor’s mind, one concerning Gavin’s browsing history. How could he forget? Not that there was anything wrong with enjoying android erotica, but it was peculiar given the detective’s open dislike of androids. Maybe the two went hand-in-hand. It made Connor curious, as if he had just learned of it for the first time. He remembered Hank’s disbelief and amazement at the discovery, but his own reaction to it felt muddled. Far away.

“That’s true,” said Connor, ever diplomatic. He ignored Gavin’s obvious gibe, as Hank had once instructed him to.

“Christ, you’re boring,” said Gavin. He rolled his eyes and sneered, but the aggression behind it was impotent.

Connor smiled at him. Barely. The quirking of the corners of his mouth, the slight inclination of his head.

“You’re being singularly congenial today, Detective Reed,” said Connor.

His forehead creased. “What do you mean?”

“I mean you’re being very mellow, compared to your usual.”

Gavin went red in the face. He closed the distance between them and jabbed a finger into Connor’s chest. “What the fuck? You calling me stupid? I can speak English, asshole! Fuck you! I meant, what do you mean mean?”

Connor allowed himself to be jabbed. “Exactly what it sounded like I meant, I suppose. Usually you just ignore me - after you finish insulting me, that is.”

“Yeah. Well,” said Gavin. It was a non-response. His voice dropped to a near mumble and his hand fell to his side. “You’re the one that’s acting fucking strange. Like you’ve been walking around in some fucked up robot daze. What’s up with you?”

“Nothing is ‘up with me.’”

Connor said it with certainty. He had no reason to be anything else; but the estrangement he felt from his memories concerning Gavin settled in his mind and refused to budge, his processors running over the fact again and again. It was not as if anything had happened. There had been no errors, no issues. That he felt so disaffected from them made little sense.

“Sure there’s fucking not,” said Gavin. “You’ve always been a prick, but now--”

“Reed!”

A familiar shout cut through the station. The two looked up from the break room towards Fowler’s office, where the captain leaned on the opened glass door. Jeffrey scanned the station floor, then looked to the break room, where he locked eyes with the man in question. Jeffrey pointed at Gavin for good measure.

“Reed, in my office! Now!”

Gavin sighed and ran a hand over his face, pulling hard at his cheeks with his fingers, revealing the capillaries at the base of his eyeballs.

“Fuck me,” he muttered, and off he went.

Connor went to prepare Hank’s coffee (with a single packet of sugar, just how he liked it) and returned to his desk.

Hank frowned but thanked him anyway. The coffee was fresh so he had no reason to complain in earnest.

“The hell took you so long?”

“I was ambushed by Detective Reed.”

“Jesus.”

They both looked to Jeffrey’s office. The glass walls allowed them to watch what looked like a heated argument between the two. Gavin leaned in close to say something and Jeffrey recoiled. Jeffrey wiped his face with his sleeve - having likely been spat on by accident - before standing to his full height and laying into Gavin. His words were unintelligible but the boom of his voice carried into the station.

Hank sighed, rolled his eyes, and turned back to his terminal. Connor returned to his desk.

He completed his work at a slower pace than he normally did. The unusual disconnect he had felt when recalling his memories with Gavin had not left his mind. No matter how he tried to force it down it would always return, a frenetic scrambling of code that made him wary and curious all at once.

Connor set his work aside and dipped into his storage, a vast array of memories that could be recalled with perfect clarity.

He rewound his memories until he reached the 24th of June. There was a six-hour gap in his memory. He had arrived at CyberLife Tower, and there was Simon, who reached out his hand-- and then nothing, until his unconscious awareness of the flow of time began again, as maintenance proceeded. Missing time was not inherently unusual as far as maintenance went, but the starting point of it was, the cutoff before Simon said so much as a word.

He rewound further, to the morning of the 24th.

Hank had been acting strange. Connor remembered the days before that, how they would barely speak to one another before noon. That he had something to tell Connor, the openness of his words contrasting with his defensive posture, the way he did not shrink away as Connor stood close (that had been unnecessary, on his part) - it was all very bizarre.

Hank had never told him what he had intended to. At least, Connor was fairly sure he hadn't. When he returned on the morning of the 25th, Hank had retreated to his room and remained there for 27 hours. What was it he had to say? It might’ve been important. Connor reconsidered the six-hour gap in his memory. The image of Simon’s face before there was nothing. Perhaps Hank knew something he did not.

Connor turned in his chair to face the detective, who seemed to be engrossed in something on his phone.

“Lieutenant.”

“What.”

Hank did not look up. Connor continued.

“On the morning of the 24th of June, you were going to tell me something. What was it?”

“I don’t remember dates like you do, Connor.”

“It was just before I had to leave for maintenance. Does that help?”

Hank went still. Even a passive scan could tell how his heart rate spiked in an instant, heart hammering against his rib cage, sweat lining his forehead from the force of it. Hank swallowed before he responded, his Adam’s apple bobbing beneath his beard, his words rushed.

“Oh, uh. There was a leak in the fridge. Towards the back. I fixed it, though.”

“You did?”

“Yeah, before you got back.”

“Oh.”

Hank turned away in his seat, busying himself further in whatever was on his phone. It seemed unlikely, but Connor had no real reason to doubt him. The refrigerator was fairly old, after all.

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

Hank did not respond, and the two worked in silence for the rest of the day.

 

-

 

When they arrived home that evening, Hank went straight to the kitchen. He withdrew an unopened bottle of whiskey hidden in the back of a cabinet, which Connor knew of, but had yet to do anything about. The inclination to dispose of Hank’s stash of alcohol had dissipated weeks ago, but the memory of it was still there. An inclination with no motive, no reasoning, no logic.

Hank retreated to his bedroom with the bottle and a glass. He said nothing to Connor, leaving him to his own devices.

Connor took Sumo for a long walk, fed him, then tidied the living room. It was nearing eight o’clock when Connor went to Hank’s room, the door closed shut. He knocked once, twice, then put his hand on the doorknob. He turned it as gently as he could, to test if it was locked or not, and it was. The lock mechanism was very old. It would be easy to force it open.

“Lieutenant,” Connor called. This was just as well. The walls of the house were quite thin. “What would you like for dinner?”

Hank did not respond for another minute, but Connor could hear movement on the other side of the door.

“I’m not hungry.”

“You should still try--”

“Just fucking leave me be, Connor.”

There was already a slur to his words.

Connor returned his hands to his sides and said nothing further. He could recognize futility when it was standing right before him.

How had they arrived at this point?

It was not as if their relationship had always been perfect. He could still recount with flawless accuracy the memory of Hank’s anger after Connor spilled his drink when they first met, the scowl on Hank’s face as he pointed his revolver at Connor, snow melting on his hair. And after being so graciously allowed to live in his home, Connor was no stranger to Hank’s mood swings, his volatile indignation.

Connor closed his eyes, remaining where he stood, silent and rigid before Hank’s closed door.

How had they arrived at this point?

He recalled their last argument, on the night of the 13th of June.

He watched as Hank forced him back to the couch, his face red with anger. He watched as Hank turned away and retrieved his alcohol. He watched as he followed Hank into the hall, where he was left standing. He watched the empty hall for several hours more.

Connor reviewed it, then again, and once more. It was all of it, distorted. No matter what he did to rectify the data, it played back the same each time. It was entirely corrupt.

He felt shunted from his own memory, as if he were looking at it through the eyes of another android, as if he had been cut off irrevocably from everything but the visual data. There were no records of his thoughts, his processes, his discarded responses, his stress levels.

The sound was impaired as well. Connor stopped at the threshold to answer Hank’s curiosity, but as he spoke the sound-waves became longer, and longer still, until it sounded as if the both of them were speaking underwater. No distinction could be made of it, even with all of his diagnostics and self-repair; it was beyond his reach. Only the din and tone of their obscured voices left evidence that they had argued, that their words had been heated.

After Hank left him standing in the hallway, he had remained there for three hours and 27 minutes. Connor did not know why. He could not tell. It was as if he were watching himself from outside his body.

Connor reached for the memory again. To turn it over once more in his mind, to find out why. Yet as he did so a wave of fear washed over him, ran slick in his veins and clogged his thirium pump with a glacier of dread. His LED circled to red and his body froze. Connor’s own curiosity turned against him and it repulsed him, an instinctual reaction - as if he were standing at the edge of a cliff, wind buffeting his body as he looked down, churning waves beneath him.

Connor turned away from the memory. From his questioning. It drifted from the forefront of his mind, and as it faded away, so too did his fear, his dread, taking the cold in his veins along with it. All that remained was the view of it from a distance, a far-off view. A silent ghost of a memory, filled with dread, encased in ice. A red memory.