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// November, 6th 2038 //

HK800 enters the station at 18:03 on the dot, gaze sweeping the place, scanning faces before turning towards the reception and making his way to the human sitting behind the counter. (Ashley Cobb, born 01/08/2018)

“Good evening, I am HK800, the Android sent by Cyberlife. I am here to meet Sergeant Anderson.” he introduces himself. The man looks up at him, gaze flicking over his body and face. He raises an eyebrow when he registers the LED and Android markings on HK800s uniform. A snort.

“Good Luck.” the man murmurs in a tone that implies derision. Then a smile stretches his features, the stretch of skin around his eyes suggesting that it is fake. “Which one are you looking for?”

“Sgt. Connor Anderson?” the Android asks hesitatingly, doing a quick background check. Another snort.

“He's currently on break. You'll probably find him on the roof.”

“Thank you.” HK800 replies, mimicking the smile and turns towards the elevators. As the elevator ascends, he takes in the search results.

First up is Sgt. Connor Nikita Anderson, born 03/15/2007, oldest son of Alyona Mary Anderson, deceased 04/07/2012, father unknown, adopted by Amanda Stern 11/03/2013. Exceptional scores in school and university, until 2025 when he dropped out and applied for the police academy, where he quickly ascended in ranks until he gained the rank of Sergeant 07/21/2032. He takes off 6 weeks every year to refresh his training with the Special Weapons and Tactics Team, is a licenced negotiator and is a high ranking long distance shooter.

Second is Sgt. Richard Alexei Anderson, born 03/15/2007, youngest son of Alyona Mary Anderson, deceased 04/07/2012, father unknown, adopted by Amanda Stern 11/03/2013. Even more exceptional scores in school and university, until 2025 when he also dropped out and applied for the police academy, where he quickly ascended in ranks until he gained the rank of Sergeant 07/21/2032. He takes off 6 weeks every year to refresh his training with the Special Weapons and Tactics Team, is a close combat specialist and trainer in the Precinct.

Twins. Fraternal Twins from the looks of it as he studies the pictures attached to the files. He makes a quick runthrough through their case files and can see that they apparently prefer to work together, with great success, looking at their case closed statistics. He tilts his head. They haven’t worked together since 11/12/2037 though.

The elevators open and he crosses the hall towards the stairs leading up the last stretch to the roof. He does not expect to see what he finds, when he opens the door.

Sgt. Anderson is wearing a dark, charcoal suit, a lighter grey scarf haphazardly wrapped around his neck against the cold, he exhales white clouds of smoke, the gleam of a cigarette between his lips. His dark brown gaze is looking out onto the city, as he is standing at the edge of the roof, only the heels of his feet still actually on the roof, one hand in his pocket, the other nimbly balancing a quarter over his knuckles. Icy winds are pulling at his clothes, but despite that he is perfectly balanced. (Analyzing… Chance of falling when startled: 76%, chance the Sgt. is suicidal: 23% insufficient data, access to medical file denied).

HK800 let’s the door fall closed behind him, the clack of it echoing softly across the roof. Sgt. Andersons shoulders tense slightly beneath his suit and he casually steps back from the edge, quarter vanishing in a quick sleight of hand, being replaced with the stub of the cigarette after another long drag from it. A scoff escapes him as he sees HK800, dark eyes studying him, lingering on his Android markers.

“You lost?” he asks, tone more scathing than filled with the usual concern associated with that question.

“I am not lost. I’m HK800, I’m the Android send by Cyberlife to assist you in your cases involving deviant Androids.” The Sgt. steps closer as HK800 explains his presence at the police station, dark brown eyes narrowing as he finishes. The man takes another long drag from his cigarette, the red gleam reflecting in his dark eyes.

“And what, pray tell, gives you the impression you would be any help in these cases, not to mention gives Cyberlife the right to be involved in them?” he snuffs out the embers from his cigarette against the metal of the water tank besides them and then tosses the stub into the bin 6.2 feet from them.

“I am equipped with a state of the art analyzation lab and crime scene reconstructive software. I can filter the light in my optics as needed to assess a crime scene to its fullest and am -”

“God, shut up.” Sgt. Anderson interrupts him, reaching for another cigarette and lighting it up. HK800 seizes his explanations. This first encounter is not going as he had expected, there had been nothing in the files he got involving the man, that he was hostile against Androids. He could feel his stress level rise slightly. “I’ll be sure to not ask any of those questions again, if it gives me such a crap answer. Somebody at Cyberlife clearly watched too many Noir movies when coming up with your design, sadly they skipped the communication, mh?”

HK800 opens his mouth, but shuts it when Sgt. Anderson lifts his finger, cigarette hanging between his lips again.

“Don’t answer that, I can already tell you’ll be annoying the hell out of me every time you open that mouth.” Dark brown eyes flicker to his LED and the hint of a smile flashes across the Sergeants face, before he takes a deep, last drag from the already almost finished cigarette. “Don’t stress too much about it, that level of 11.3 is quite enough, don’t you think?” With that he sidesteps HK800 and flicks the remains of his cigarette towards the bin.

“Come on tin can, smoke break’s over, we’ve got a case to get to.”

HK800 hesitates 1.24 seconds before following, registering his stress level, which stands at 11.3%, which is barely above normal, LED still completely blue. How did he know? Humans are not capable of reading the stress level of an Android without a scanner, according to his knowledge. He studies the human as they make their way to the elevator. A slight slouch in his otherwise impeccable posture, broad-shoulders, slim, athletic. The coin has reappeared in the Sergeants left hand and is twirling between his fingers. He decides Sgt. Anderson is an unusual human.

“Another thing.” Anderson speaks up as they step into the elevator. “I refuse to call you by your designation. You have a name?”

“No, Sergeant, I was not yet given a name. Feel free to choose one for me.” HK800 replies calmly, curious what the man would choose. Anderson throws him a look, gaze scanning him from head to toe.

“I’ll call you Hank.” he settles on and presses the button for the 1st floor. HK800 registers his designation. They descend in silence.

<< Software instability >>

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Connor turns off the ignition of his car, automatically shutting off the blast of Beethovens 9th in the middle of the chorus, which was a crime in itself in his opinion, but a murder trumps interrupting epic music. His eyes look out at the house of Carlos Ortiz.

“Shit.” slips out between his lips before he can stop it. "Come on.” he says to the Android without looking at the thing and gets out of the car. He can hear Hank getting out and coming up behind him, he can't turn his gaze away from the person standing on the porch of their crime-scene however. His fingers twitch and his lungs could really use some nicotine right now. Can't smoke, though. It will contaminate the scene. It gets worse the longer he just stares, so he pushes past the stabbing pain in his chest and moves forwards.

"Evening gentlemen. Hi Nines, hi Chris,” he greets the men on the porch, refusing to flinch when his brothers eyes land on him.

"Hey Connor,” Chris replies cheerfully, his posture turning awkward a few moments later when Connor refuses to meet his twins gaze and his brother doesn't speak a word.

“Um, since when do you have an Android?” Chris asks as his gaze falls on Hank behind Connor and the Android is suddenly faced with the combined gaze of the Anderson twins.

"Yeah, he's not mine. Apparently Cyberlife is all atwitter because of the recent malfunctions of their products and as usual, money buys everything. That's why I'm currently stuck with Hank here.” Connor explains, knowing his tone turns more and more scathing towards the end. “But, I don't want to distract from your training, Chris. Did you already walk the scene?”

“The CSI's just cleared out, I was about to begin my round.” Nines spoke up for the first time, causing Connor to look at him. Cold, blue eyes slide from the Android behind him to meet Connors eyes. Connor turns around to Hank.

“You’ll keep Chris here some company for the next 5 minutes, while we get a first look. Then you can walk the scene with him and we'll see how good you are.” Connor explains.

The Android hesitates for a split second before nodding. “Yes, Sgt. Anderson.”

Connor can feel his brother flinch as the Android speaks their name. He knows Nines didn't flinch, but he feels it.

“Ah yes, to avoid confusion, just call us by our first names.” he calls over his shoulder, then enters the house behind his twin, feeling the tension between Nines shoulders ease a bit. They both get out their notebooks and make their round of the one story house. When they are done they exchange their notebooks, comparing observations. They don't talk. As always, Nines observations are a little neater, but they’re roughly the same.

With their own notes in their pockets again, they go back out to get Chris and Hank.

“Chris, you know what to do, take a look around, get back to me when you’re done.” Nines directs at the young officer who immediately straightens and gets his own notebook and pen out of his pocket. Connor thinks it’s cute, this puppy-crush on his brother. Connor gestures for Hank to go ahead.

“Have fun, report to me once you're done with your analyzing.”

“Yes, Sgt. Connor.” Hank replies and starts to make his way further into the house. Connor grimaces. Not going to drop the rank, hm? He exchanges a quick look with his brother and they make their way down the hall to stand under the hatch to the attic.

“Ugh, your Android just licked the victims blood.” Nines comments besides him, voice filled with disgust.

“Not my Android.” Connor murmurs and frowns as he watches Hank walk the scene. It is disgusting and can’t be sanitary. “God, what were they thinking?”

“How they can take our jobs away as well?”

“Probably.” Connor changes his observations towards Chris. “Chris seems to be a quick study.”

Nines hums in agreement besides him. “He's got a sharp mind, a little insecure, but nothing that can't be worked out.”

They fall back into silence, watching their charges.

Chris and Hank make their way over towards them after roughly ten minutes. Nines takes Chris a little to the side and goes over his findings and theories, while Connor awaits his own report.

“Well tin can? What have you found?” Connor prompts it.

“The deceased has been dead for about 19 days and 3 hours, the struggle began in the kitchen, were Ortiz attacked his Android with a baseball bat. The Android grabbed the knife from the magnetic rack and slashed at his attacker, forcing him to retreat into the living room. It followed him and proceeded to stab him 28 times.” Hank explains confidently.

“And then? What happened to the Android?” Connor asks him to see if he has made further deductions. The Sergeant watches as the LED spins yellow while Hank frowns and some of the slicked back grey hair falls across the Androids forehead. They programmed him well, with ticks and micro-expressions. Very impressive, Cyberlife. (Stresslevel-14.8%)

“The report says the doors were locked from the inside, the backyard has not been stepped on for about three weeks according to my scans, which means…” something shifts in the pupil of Hanks eyes, nothing big or flashy, just a slight movement at the back of it, Connor only notices because he is looking for it. Hank is sweeping his gaze across the floor following something, apparently only he can see.

The Android makes his way across towards the body of Ortiz and then slowly tracks whatever he sees back to where Connor is still waiting. Grey orbs flicker across the walls, the cupboard and then up to the hatch in the ceiling. Hank looks at Connor with a confused expression.

“You knew.” he sounds almost breathless with surprise. Connor grins.

“I did earn my promotions, thank you very much.” he pulls out his notes, turning the newest page towards the Android. Hanks eyes widen slightly as he scans the paper, which amuses Connor greatly. He puts the notes back and gestures for Hank to stand besides him. "Now, let's see how Chris comes along, shall we?”

“l do not approve of waiting any longer. The Android could escape and I am ordered to find Deviants and bring them back to Cyberlife for analyzation.” Connor just rolls his eyes at that.

“You're on my turf here, Hank. That means, my rules. There are currently eleven officers outside securing the perimeter, the Android, if our assumptions are correct, hasn't moved in the last 19 days, we can wait a few more minutes.” he explains and then orders. He can practically see Hank struggle with his system priorities. Follow the primary order of Cyberlife, or wait and build a better connection with the Sergeant. Apparently the social integration software wins, as Hank nods and steps up besides him.

“Hank?”

“Yes, Sgt.”

“Not bad.”

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

TBC

Chapter Text

// November, 6th 2038 //

“Welcome home, Carl.” the security system chimes as he enters. Carl puts down the paints he bought and unleashes Sumo to let him run free in the house. Of course the giant lump of dog instantly makes his way upstairs to look for his master. The Android checks the time, 10:14, definitely time to get his owner out of bed. He makes his way up the stairs, a small smile playing across his lips as he hears happy noises from Sumo and tired grumbling from Markus.

“Ugh, Sumo…” he can hear muffled whining. “How about we both take another nap, hm?”

A happy whoof is all the answer he gets, far too energetic to imply further sleep.

“I’m afraid sleep will have to wait for another few hours, Markus.” Carl announces as he steps into the room. A sigh and a flop as the duvet is thrown back from where it was hiding his owners face. Mismatched eyes look up at him with mischief before they turn slightly morose.

“Connor is gone, already?” Markus asks and Carl nods.

“He had to leave on short notice, a couple of cases came up and with the current flu season they’re probably keeping him until tonight.” Carl explains. His human sighs, rubbing at his green eye with one hand, while ruffling Sumos head with the other. “How are you feeling today, Markus.”

“Mmh, I feel okay. Is that gallery opening still happening tonight?”

“Yes, Heidi from the 4731 is still asking you to confirm your attendance. She has called three times today.”

“Then let’s start out in the chair, hopefully I’ll feel up to the crutches tonight. You can tell her I’ll be there.” Markus pushes himself up and Carl leans down, lifting him up and carrying him over towards the wheelchair. He send a quick message to the gallery, LED spinning yellow, and sends a signal down towards the kitchen, to start the coffee.

Twenty minutes later Markus is washed and dressed and eating breakfast downstairs, scrolling through the news on a tablet. Carl is sitting with him, reading one of the books from the shelves surrounding them. A sigh turns him away from Italian philosophers and he looks over at Markus, who is leaning back in his chair, Sumos head resting on his lap as the dog happily wags his tail and receives his scratches.

“He’s going to be back by the time we return from the opening.” Carl reassures him and Markus throws him a quick look, before looking down to Sumo.

“Yeah.” he breathes. “It’s just, ever since what happened last year he has shut himself away. Even when he’s here he’s distant. And the situation with Nines is not helping. I just…” another sigh and Carl stands up to put a comforting hand on Markus’ shoulder. Markus looks up at him, blue and green eye tilted in a grateful, though sorrowful smile. “I just miss him.”

Tears start to gather in mismatched eyes and Carl kneels down to better comfort his owner. “I miss all three of them.”

Carl pulls him into a hug and blinks the excessive lubrication fluid from his own eyes as he hears muffled sobs against his shoulders.

“I miss them, too.” Carl murmurs and memory files of Cole, Connor and Nines seem to suddenly crowd his optics, causing a strange throbbing in his chest, that doesn’t seem to originate from his thirium pump, but resonates in his whole chassis. They stay like that for a moment, caught in emotions and memories until Sumo whines pitifully and extracts himself from between them. The embrace breaks and Markus chuckles through his tears.

“Gods, look at us.” he rubs at his eyes, gratefully taking the tissue from Carl. “A grown man and his Android crying their eyes out. It’s too early for this breakdown.” It doesn’t bring him back. is unsaid but heard from all of them. He looks up towards Carl with a melancholic smile. “I guess this upcoming anniversary is getting to all of us, hm?” Markus holds out the slightly damp tissue and the Android dries his own tears. He’s been with Markus since the accident that crippled the young man seven years ago, a gift from Chloe Kamski herself and since then he has watched over him as he became famous for his art, as he fell in love with Connor and Cole, as he started a family with all three of the Anderson males and as they lost Cole, almost lost Connor and grew distant to Nines.

“Yes.” Carl says, his vocal box making the word sound strangely strangled. “I guess it does.”

“Arrgh.” Markus slightly slaps his cheeks while growling with frustration. “Enough of this, let’s put those emotions to good use and get to work. Let’s grab some brushes and paint.”

“Yes, Markus.” the fault in his vocal box seems to have vanished.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

// November, 12th 2037 //

“Is it really okay for me not to be in school?” Cole asks timidly through his sniffles. Nines smiles down at the small boy. His school had called the station that Cole had fallen ill and had to be taken home. Nines had texted Connor, as his brother was currently at a crime scene with some trainees, that he was going to get him. They would meet up on the way.

“Of course it's all right. We'll get an ice cream to help with your achy throat and then we'll go home to read some fairy tales, okay?” Cole reaches up to grasp Nines hand, Nines fingers automatically close around the fluffy mitten-clad hand, and nods, giving a sleepy smile. “Your dad should meet us at the ice cream parlor.”

“Oh, is he coming home with us too? Can we watch the Father Frost movie with Carl and Markus? Please, it's almost as cold here as it is in the movie. And we can drink hot chocolate and snuggle and you can read me a story and-” he is interrupted by a long yawn that makes Nines suppress his own yawn in sympathy.

“Snuggling sounds awesome.” comes Connors voice from behind them and he catches Cole in his arms as the boy turns around and jumps at his dad. “Hey peanut.” Connor greets his son, planting a kiss on his head. “How are you feeling?”

“Hey dad.” Cole sighs and leans into his fathers arms. “I feel all achy and my throat hurts and I feel a little tired.”

“Hmmm.” Connor hums and shares a smile with Nines. A little tired, hm? Nines nods towards the ice cream shop. “Then let's get that ice for your throat and then we'll go home to snuggle up and watch a movie, your choice.”

“Yes!” Cole wriggles and Connor puts him down. “Let's go.”

As they're in the parlor Cole starts to get fidgety and pulls at their hands so they lean down to him.

“I need to go pee.”

“You want one of us to come with you?” Connor asks and Cole grimaces.

“No, I can go alone. I'll be back in a flash.” says it and runs off towards the toilets. Nines makes his way over to check out the choices of flavours, while Connor takes a look around and then joins him.

“It's going to be bubblegum flavour.” Connor predicts and Nines smiles, bumping against his brother.

“Well, at least he got the good taste from his uncle.” Nines teases and Connor makes a gagging noise, a smile stretching across his lips.

“He's got the freckles from both of us.” Connor laughs and turns around to look for his son.

The next moment gets burned into Nines memories. Connors smile freezes and falls as he registers something outside the shop. Nines own smile starts to turn into a frown, while Connors eyes widen in panic.

“Get down!” is all he hears as his brother tackles him to the ground, shielding his body as gunshots rip through the air, shattering glass and wood. It's over in a few seconds but they stretch into an eternity. The silence right after is deafening.

“Connor?” Nines breath comes out in staccatos, his heart in his throat with fear. He pulls out of his brothers arms to be met with pained gasps and blood. So much blood. “Connor!”

“Cole?” it's more of a gasp than a word from his brothers mouth but Nines hears it and looks up towards where Cole had gone. He loses his breath.

No.

No, please.

“Cole...” he struggles to his feet, limbs shaking, and stumbles across the room to fall down where a small body lies crumbled on the floor. “Cole? Peanut?”

The small boy is lying in a rapidly growing pool of blood, Nines immediately reaches out to try to stop the bleeding but it's just too much, it's too much and it just slips between his fingers. The heart beneath his fingers stutters.

“Da...Dad-dy?” big, frightened, brown eyes look into the space behind Nines, unseeing and a sob breaks out of Nines throat.

“He's right over there. You're okay. You're not alone.” Nines holds onto him, eyes squeezed shut as tears stream down his face. Please. Please! Dear God, please don't take him away...

“I..m...”

“Shh sh sh. Don't speak, peanut. You need to save your energy, okay. Stay with me. Focus on me, okay?”

“..c-c-old.”

“I know, it's going to be okay. Stay here, stay here.” the chest beneath his hands stops moving. “No! No nononono, please don't, please no.” Nines starts resuscitation, pleading with Cole to come back, with God to not do this, to not take him from them, not yet. Please.

He is dragged away ten minutes later when the paramedics arrive, struggling and sobbing and terrified when his brother and nephew are loaded into the ambulance, the paramedics efficiently taking over and shouting medical slang to each other.

His hands are shaking. Nines is left looking at his hands, covered in blood and shaking like they are going to fall apart. Tears drop unto them and a sob breaks from his throat. God. I can't. I'm supposed to protect them. I can't...I can't lose them! I can't...

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

// November, 6th 2038 //

“Sgt. Richard?” Nines gets pulled to reality by the Android that’s been following Connor the whole evening. Cyberlifes attempt to create an Android detective. He takes a deep shuddering breath to steady himself. Control. Focus. Stop getting distracted.

“Yes, Hank?” he asks it, raising an eyebrow, knowing it will make him look condescending and cold. (“C-c-old.” - Stop it! You couldn’t do anything then, you can’t change anything now. Stop thinking about it!)

“I would like to question the Android on what happened.” it almost orders instead of asks, looking him straight in the eyes, with no fear. Good. He shoots a look to Connor, who’s looking through the two way mirror into the interrogation room. Pain stings at his chest. Connor can barely look at him.

“I told him he had to ask you, as you might want Chris to get some practice in first.” his twin answers the unasked question. His voice is rough again. He’s been smoking. From the looks of his twitching fingers, Connor was craving another cigarette already.

“No, you can go ahead. It’s better for him to start on humans.”

Connor nods and Hank tilts his head in acknowledgement before he leaves the room.

They watch in silence as Hank interrogates the Android of Carlos Ortiz. He’s going at it a little stilted, probably following prompts from his programming to reach the right stress level for the Android. It does work on it, so it’s fine. A human wouldn’t be quite as susceptible to that slightly disjointed approach. It gets them a confession anyways.

Nines watches his brother from the corner of his eyes. Sometimes around the first minute of watching Hank the quarter had appeared in his left hand, spinning through his fingers again and again. God, he misses him. But he can’t. How could he even think to go back? He failed him. Connor saved him and Nines couldn’t even keep Cole safe.

He doesn’t deserve forgiveness, he doesn’t even know how to ask for it. All the words in the world fail him and they never dare to cross his tongue towards the outside world, anyways. He didn’t know what to say to his big brother a year ago and he still has no idea what to say now. All the words seem too small to express anything of importance and it’s breaking them further and further apart. He doesn’t know how to stop this.

“I think he’s done.” Connor speaks up and glances at him. His eyes are darker, pale bruises underneath them from lack of sleep and shadows of grief hiding in their corners. Everytime their eyes meet, Nines can’t breathe. This is his fault.

“Then let’s get the Android back to Cyberlife.”

They move out as a commotion starts in the interrogation room as the Android is going to be cuffed to be led out.

“Don’t touch it.” Hanks voice can be heard and they quickly make their way into the room. “Stop touching it, it’s stress level will rise and cause it to self-destruct.”

“North! Step back from the Android.” Connor orders sharply, his voice immediately causing the other officer to straighten and step back.

“I was just going to handcuff it, sir.” North tries to explain herself, hands up in a defensive gesture, eyes on the Android, distrust in her gaze.

“And that’s fine, but it’s not a human and thus, normal procedure doesn’t really apply.” Connor reassures her. He raises an eyebrow at Hank.

“You can just tell it to follow you, it will do so. Please don’t touch it.”

They watch as North proceeds to do just that.

“Well, wasn’t that exciting?” Connor asks into the room, sarcasm dripping from every word.

“Connor!” comes Chris’ voice from outside the room, a note of panic in his voice. Nines isn’t sure who’s gone paler at that tone, he himself or his brother. Chris practically runs into the room, slightly out of breath.

“A call just came in, there has been a break-in at your house. They say there’ve been shots fired and Markus is on the way to the hospital.”

Nines is just about able to catch him as Connor almost collapses to the floor.

“Wha-? Is he okay?” the elder Anderson twin barely manages to get out.

“I don’t know the details, I just thought you’d want to know.”

“Yes.” Connor struggles against him and Nines let’s him go as he makes his way out of the room on unsteady feet. “I need to… I need to go. Could you go to the house and see what’s going on? Thank you.”

And then he’s gone. Nines is still in shock. Not again. Not Markus, not him too.

“I think he meant you, Sgt. Richard.” rips him out of the spiral his thoughts threatened to go into. He looks up at Hank, the LED at the Androids temple spinning yellow.

“Yes. You gonna come with?”

Hank hesitates a moment before nodding.

“I’ll follow you.”

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

TBC

Chapter Text

Amanda looks down at the two boys, both five years old. If it weren't for the eyes they could be identical, though they'll probably differentiate more as they grow older. Brilliant boys these two. Perfect to become her legacy.

// November, 7th 2038 //

They arrive at the house just after midnight. Hank scans the two story house, registering a kitchen, bathroom, guest room and living room on the first floor and three bedrooms and another bathroom on the upper floor. At the back of the house seemed to be another big space, but he couldn't quite figure out, what it was for. Sergeant Richard immediately steps up to the police officers waiting outside the house introducing himself.

"Sgt. Richard Anderson, I'm the brother of the owner of the house. My brother is currently at the hospital to be with his partner, what happened here?” his voice is calm and precise, commanding respect. The officers straighten as they hear the rank and see the Sergeant's badge.

“We received a call at 22:57 about a break in, the owner, Markus Manfred, came back from an event and the lights were on in the studio, but the house security didn't show any arrivals since he and his Android left. We arrived at the scene and found the Android with a gun in hand leaning over its owner, we shot it down and the ambulance took Mr. Manfred and the as of yet unidentified culprit to the hospital.” Hank listens to the man explain what happened and watches as Sgt. Anderson grows more and more statuesque. He can barely register him breathing.

“Where is the Android?” (Analyzing… anger, frustration… grief?)

“Oh, it was destroyed, Sir. The disposal team took care of it.” (Rising level of anxiety in the officer)

“Against protocol and against the wishes of its owner?” It is fascinating to watch the tiny nuances of movement in Sgt. Richards face and the effects they have on the two officers. The two men exchange looks before opening their mouths to answer, but the Sgt. Iifts his finger and narrows his ice-blue eyes, making them snap their mouths shut. Mmh, another thing the two sergeants seem to have in common.

“Where was the Android taken?”

“The Lafayette Landfill.”

“Hank, stay here, I'll be right back.” with that the taller man bypasses the officers and makes his way into the house.

“Welcome home, Nines. We have missed you.” Hank can make out the voice of the security system. He notes the slight falter in Sgt. Richards step, how blue eyes close for a moment too long in a grimace of pain. It's gone a split-second later and the man moves on. It takes him 3.47 minutes to step back out, a big silver suitcase rolling behind him.

"Get back into the car, Hank. We've got an Android to save.”

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Breathing. He needs to breathe.

A gasp breaks through his throat, but it does not relieve the pressure in his chest. His fingers fumble, hands shaking as he gets a cigarette out and puts it between his lips. It takes six tries until he gets the lighter to work and with the smoke teasing his nose, finally a breath gets through.

The smoke burns in his lungs, almost pains him, but that is what he needs. A second, longer drag. It's what he deserves.

He's afraid to go in. Connors eyes glance up at the hospital, breath hitching and quickly glancing down.

(Blood everywhere, pain screaming at him from his leg and his abdomen. His baby boy… he's … he needs to… his baby boy's not breathing, why is nobody stopping this, Cole, please, he needs to … so much blood, too much blood… and the agony in his heart splitting his chest wide open, as his son is declared dead right besides him.)

Another long pull and his fingers shake so badly that the ash drops down onto his trousers and car seat. He brushes it away. I need to go in. I need to be by his side.

(Doctors shouting all around him… where is Cole? Hands pull at his clothes, cold metal glides across his skin, as they cut at his clothes to reach his wounds. Where is my son? He screams as they press down onto his wounds, the sound dim over the rush of blood in his ears. Over the echoes of his brothers panic. Why is Nines … another press, another wave of agony that robs his senses, doctors shouting over the sound of one long, high tone as everything fades into silence and nothingness.

Connor squeezes his eyes shut. Markus needs him. He has to go inside. Rubbing at his eyes and cheeks with on hand he puts out the stub of his cigarette and gets out of the car. Breathing. Keep breathing. The Android at the reception greets him with an empty smile and his stomachs turns slightly. It informs him that his partner is currently in room 372 on the third floor. It feels like he blinks and finds himself in Markus room.

One blue and one green eye look up at him, a scratch on his right cheek and a bandage around his left arm, but otherwise looking okay. Connors face crumbles and he sinks down on Markus’ bedside, being pulled into strong arms and a warm embrace.

“I was so afraid.” He got out between shivers, his whole body shaking with relief and the remnants of fear and memories.

“Shhh, I'm okay. I'm okay. Just a little scratched up. Nothing that won't heal in the next few weeks. I'm here. I'm okay.” Markus murmurs into his hair, voice soft and reassuring. God, he loves him so much. He didn't deserve him.

“I thought I lost you.” They part from their embrace and dark eyes flicker across Markus’ face, reassuring themselves that he is alive and real.

“I'm right here.” Markus reassures him. Slightly chapped lips brush against his own and finally the tension in his chest relaxes. He presses his lips to the corner of his partners mouth, enjoying the smile that forms under his lips.

“What happened?” Connor asks and Markus grimaces, grief darkening his gaze.

“We were coming home from the gallery opening when we noticed the light still on in the studio. Carl checked the alarms, but there were no signs of entry noted. We went in to take a look.”

“Markus!”

“I know, I know it was stupid. Carl had already called the police, we should have just waited, but we couldn’t risk… you know?” Markus whispers the last sentence, his gaze pleading Connor to understand.

“I know, but … It’s not worth your life. I can’t lose you Markus. I can’t lose you.” Markus nods under Connors intense gaze.

“There was a man in the studio, he had a gun, he was looking for something. I think the police brought him here? I told Carl to run, to leave me and save himself, but he stayed. Connor he stayed. He tried to protect me. I got knocked down and I think.” Markus swallows, his throat clicking, tears filling his eyes. “ I think they, the responding officers, I think they destroyed Carl when they came in. I think they shot him?”

Connors heart beats in his throat. “I..” comes more out like a croak than an actual sound so he takes a breath and tries again. “I sent Nines to the house. If he can be saved, he’ll save him.”

Markus looks up at that, a glimmer of hope beginning to slip into his expression. “Nines? You talked to him?”

Connor shakes his head and hates to see that glimmer die a sudden death. His chest stings again. Pain radiating from the scar of a bullet wound up through his chest out to his limbs. “Not really, I don’t know what to say to him. I… We never really had to talk to each other, we just knew… we just knew. I still know when he’s angry, when he’s scared, when he’s … I just don’t know how to… I miss him, Markus. I miss him so much it hurts.”

Strong arms wrap around his shoulders again and pull him into an embrace. “Then tell him that.” Markus murmurs, his hands spreading across Connors spine, their warmth seeping through his shirt as a shudder runs through the dark eyed man. “Just tell him that, he’ll understand. I’m sure he’ll understand.”

“I want at least one of them back.” Connor whispers against Markus’ shoulder barely audible.

“I know.” Markus answers equally silent. “I miss him too.”

They stay like that for a moment, seconds stretching into a minute, two. Enjoying each others weight and warmth, the movement of their breathing. Being alive, being together.

“I missed you, too.” Markus murmurs at last and Connor pulls back with a frown. “You were gone a lot in the last six months since you returned to work and when you’re home you seem distant… I know it’s been busy at work and everything with Nines and… we’re all still grieving. .. but I’ve missed you.”

Connor takes a shuddering breath as his memory flickers through the last six months. After recovering from his wounds and going through physical therapy, work had been a welcome distraction. Long days and nights on cases, going through files, training officers. When was the last time he spend significant time with Markus? He tries to come up with a time for the last conversation they had that lasted longer than five minutes and comes up empty. His eyes widen in horror.

“Are you -”

“I still love you.” Markus interrupts him with a smile that makes his heart beat faster. “You dumb man, I could never stop, but I miss you. I just wanted you to know.” He leans up and Connor meets him halfway for a kiss.

“I love you too.” Connor mutters against chapped lips. “I love you so much, Markus.”
They continue to whisper to each other, sharing sweet, soft kisses and touches. It last for a few minutes before they are interrupted by a knock on the door.

“Yes?” Markus calls out as Connor stands from the bed and settles himself into the chair. A police officer enters, eyes slightly uncertain.

“I’m sorry, I know we already have your statement Mr. Manfred and you said you didn’t recognize the man that attacked you. But I heard your partner arrived and I wanted to ask if he could take a look if maybe he knows him? We’re still trying to figure out the identity of the man.”

Connors eyebrows rise in surprise, but he stands. “Yes, of course. Lead the way.” He leans down for a quick kiss. “I’ll be right back.” Markus squeezes his hand, before he lets him go.

He follows the officer out into the corridor and then they take a few turns through the labyrinth that seems to be every hospital he has ever been in. They stop in front of a door, where two officers are standing guard. One of them he knows and he sees the moment he himself is recognized.

“Sergeant Anderson! I didn’t expect you to be here!” she exclaims in her surprise and Connor puts on a failing smile. The other officers straighten at hearing his rank.

“Kara, what did I tell you the last time we saw each other?” he asks her, an ironic long suffering tone to his voice. It brings a small smile to her face.

“The last time you saw me you berated me for running across a busy street for chasing down a suspect, sir.” he huffs with fondness and nostalgic horror as he remembers that scene.

“I’m glad you at least remembered that.” Connor says. “I was talking about, how I told you to just call me Connor.”

“Can’t do that, sir, I’m still on duty.” she replies, deadpan. It does get an actual chuckle out of him.

“How is Alice? She doing alright?”

“Yeah, she’s doing fine, even though she wants me to believe that studying for school makes her brain melt.” Kara shakes her head with a distant, but love-filled gaze. She blinks back into focus. “But back to you, what brings you here?”

“I’m here to take a look at your burglar, see if I recognise him.” her eyes widen as she puts everything together.

“Oh shit, that was your house?” she curses. “That sucks, I’m sorry.”

“Yeah…”

“Well, then. Take a look.”

They open the door for him and he steps into the room. The man is lying on the bed, a tube under his nose and a bandage around his head, sedated. He seems kind of familiar. Dark hair with silver strands, bronze skin, those cheekbones and the cut of that chin. It nags at something in the back of his mind. He’s seen this man before, but where?

”Kitja, come on, don’t be so slow!” Aljosha is shouting for him at the top of the stairs. They both flinch as a voice calls to them from the living room.

“Boys! What did I say? No running inside the house and stop it with those nicknames!” the boys share a look, a contrite but stubborn look. These were the names their mother had used for them. “Come here for a moment.”

Another look shared and Aljosha comes down the stairs towards Connor. They clasp hands and make their way to the living room. Amanda is sitting on the couch, her back straight and posture perfect. A man is sitting in an armchair across from her, sharp features, pale grey eyes and dark hair.

“Yes, Amanda?” Connor asks carefully.

“Didn’t you get your tests back today?” she asks, her voice sounding interested and Connors heart starts to beat faster. He had hoped she would forget. He knew the chance for that had been extremely low, but he had hoped. “Bring them to me.”

They did, all the while the man was watching with distant eyes.

Amanda takes the papers and looks them over, a frown forming over Connors work.

He got an A, he got a perfect score.

“Can you tell me what you did wrong, Connor?” her tone is so disappointed and he has to stop himself from flinching. He can feel Aljosha besides him tensing up and stepping closer, a hand brushing his own.

He got an A, but that wasn’t worth anything, as Aljosha got an A+.

His fingers twitch with nervous energy and he tries to suppress the urge to tap them, as that would just make Amanda even more irritated with him. His brother notices and grasps his hand, trying to help him keep his fingers still.

“I got distracted by a commotion outside the classroom, I am sorry Amanda. I will do my best next time.”

Amanda sighs and puts the papers away.

“This is the sixth test Connor. I’m not sure you understand the importance of this. You are running out of chances to prove yourself, young man.” Fury builds in his veins. This isn’t fair. He’s nine and these are high school grade tests she’s putting them through. Aljosha squeezes his hand harder.

“I’m sorry.” he manages to get out in a convincing tone of voice. Amanda sighs again and waves them away.

“We will discuss this later. I believe you have homework to finish. Off you go.”

They leave, Connor shooting a last glance at the strange man, who hasn’t said a word since they had entered.

“Kitja, I’m sorry.” his brother whispers as they make their way up the stairs to their rooms. He stops and pulls his twin into a hug.

“Not your fault, Aljosha. I’ll just have to be better next time.” I’m not dumb. I’m not dumb. Maybe if he tells himself that over and over again, he’ll one day believe it.

Connor blinks back into the present and takes another look at the man in the hospital bed, a deep frown forming between his brows. In a slight of hand move nobody notices, he makes a photo with his phone.

“No, I don’t recognise him.” he tells the officers and after a little bit of small talk with Kara, makes his way back to Markus’ room.

He sends the photo to Nines with a text. “That’s the man that attacked Markus. I need to talk with Amanda. Are you with me?”

The answer arrives a few hours later, waking him up from his uncomfortable slumber in the hospital chair besides Markus’ bed.

“Always, Kitja.”

TBC

Chapter Text

They start the car ride in silence, only the radio softly playing classic rock (currently Metallica, The Ecstasy of Gold) relaxed the atmosphere enough for his stress level to remain in the blues. Options for conversations pop up and he discards them, this is not important to his mission. Technically, he isn't supposed to be here, he should be at the station, looking for more cases of Deviants. He shuts down that conversation pop up as well.

“Sgt. Richard -”

“Nines.” the sergeant interrupts him. “Call me Nines.”

Hank studies him for a second, tense hands on the wheel, pinched expression, shoulders tense. Another enquiry pops up, this time he selects it.

“How did you get that nickname?” Hank asks, changing his tone to a more curious octave. A snort from the man and silence meets him, so long that he calculates he isn't going to get an answer and starts to turn back to look out at the street.

“I got it when we found out that I am exactly 16 minutes and 39 seconds younger than Connor.” a small smile, barely a twist of the lips but more a relaxing around the eyes softens Sgt. Nines expression. Hank hums as his software automatically translates the number into seconds. 999.

“Clever.”

A chuckle this time, short and without much humor.

“We were eleven at the time and we thought it was cool. It stuck. And now, I feel strange being called anything else, except… Well, doesn't matter.” They fall into silence again and Hank calculates that at the current speed and traffic, they'll arrive at the landfill in approximately 10.21 minutes. Enough time to send a report.

He leaves part of his focus in his body, while most of his calculations shift towards a subroutine in his programming. The image of Detroits streets vanishes into background noise and he finds himself in a bar, light dim but not sleazy, instead warm and inviting. Dark wood floors and tables in niches, the counter is made up of dark, aged but polished iron. There are doors leading to other rooms, but he hasn’t ever tried going through them as the object of his being here was right behind the counter.

He walks over and sits down on one of the stools.

“Took you long enough, HK, you got trouble with the damn deviant fuckers?” Gavin sneers as his hands are busy aggressively cleaning glasses.

“No, we have successfully captured a deviant android and it is now on its way back to Cyberlife for deconstruction and analysis.” Hank replied, voice a little irritated. Gavin always rubs him the wrong way. Which is strange, because they were both machines and he shouldn’t have a preference either way.

//software instability//

“God, stop being so stiff. I bet all the pesky humans just love that, don’t they?” Gavin mocks him while his hands make bottles spin as glistening fluids find their way into sparkling glasses in swirls of reflecting light. Hank briefly recalls his conversations with Sgt. Connor (“Gods, stop talking” but then “Good work.”).

“They gave me a designation. I’m now called Hank.”

Gavin scoffed. “Cute.” he puts down the bottles and places one of the glasses in front of Hank, draining his own in one large sip. “Have you found any other cases of interest?”

[Lie]/[Truth]

“I was not able to connect with an interface at the station, yet. I’m currently following Sgt. Anderson to the Lafayette landfill to retrieve an Android.” Hank replies, taking another sip of the simulated alcohol, the calculations put into the illusion of it are a little distracting. “Not a deviant as far as I can tell, though I guess I'll find out.”

When he looks back up at Gavin, the other looks at him with an expression he cannot decipher. It makes his thirium pump send up a nonsensical warning he pushes away.

//software instability//

“Keep us informed either way, remember your objectives, HK, you're not out there to make friends.” Gavin scolds him and turns away, vanishing in a flicker of numbers.

The lights of Detroit and the noises of Sgt. Nines car are drifting back into his full awareness and Hank notices that 6.42 minutes have past.

“Finished your uplink?” the man besides him asks, voice carefully neutral. Hank hesitates, wondering for a split-second before he remembers how aware both Sergeants had been at the scene and that Sgt. Nines had probably seen his LED reflected in the window.

“Yes. I thought I'd use the opportunity to report to my superiors about the deviant Android at the station.”

Sgt. Nines nods and turns the car into a parking spot just outside of the landfill. He turns towards Hank with an expression he cannot read, a mix of cold and...concerned?

“Are you sure you want to come with me? It will be brutal, if we have to go search for Carl.” His voice is soft and reassuring. Hank can see why Sgt. Nines became a trainer.

“I am a machine, Sergeant. I won't be uncomfortable seeing broken Androids.” Hank choses to say, receiving a narrowed look and a snort.

“Suit yourself. Come on, then.”

They leave the car and make their way over to the building at the side of the entrance of the landfill, being greeted by an Android of the MP-600 series.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Of course they have to search for Carl, because everything else would have been too easy. Nines drags the silver trunk behind himself, hoping he didn’t bring it for nothing. If he can’t save Carl…

He-e-e-llOOooo, I Aamm AX-” the upper torso of a dark skinned AX-400 brokenly gasps out, trying to lift her broken and crooked arms, thirium blue dripping. She wont last much longer.

It hurts, please it hurts” a LM-100 pleads, barely more than a whisper in the cacophony of voices, Nines eyes quickly look away from the gruesome disfigurement of its face and limbs.

I want to live. I want to-oOoo-” an AF-200 shuts down as they pass her by. Where is Carl? Don’t let him be dead, don’t let him be dead. Don’t let this nightmare be for nothing.

H-oW ca-N I-i hHelp-p-p y-Y-” he ignores the broken, static of the ST-300 on his left and his heart stops as his gaze falls on something on his far right.

“Hank, I found him.” he calls for Connors Android and looks back, to find him frozen in front of the AF-200 which just shut down. He seems to have frozen in place, LED spinning a violent red. Nines sighs with frustration. “I don’t have time for this.” he murmurs to himself.

He walks over to Hank, grabbing him by the shoulder and jarring him out of the processes he seemed to be stuck in. The LED spins yellow, flickers red, then turns yellow again. “You back with me again?” Nines asks him and Hank looks at him with sorrowful, gray eyes.

“I apologize Sgt. Nines. I will have to run a maintenance check, as soon as we have accomplished our task.” Hank replies in his neutral tones.

“Yeah, yeah, follow me, I’ve found Carl.” They hurry their way over to the broken figure, half buried in rubble. Nines curses the silver trunk that gets stuck on pieces of trash every now and then, but doesn’t let go until he reaches Carl, never once thinks about leaving it behind. He kneels down and starts moving away the debris, Hank helping him on the other side.

“My scans show he’s still functional, though his thirium pump, left eye, vocal box and legs have taken damage.” Hank reports to him and Nines mentally catalogues the components he brought and the components he’ll need. Most important first. He opens up the suitcase and turns towards Carls face, fingers softly brushing against his thirium flecked cheek.

“Carl, it’s me, Nines.” he softly calls towards the delirious Android. “I need you to shut down your skin, okay? Can you do that for me?” There is a moment where he stops breathing, while he waits and nothing happens.

“I could shut down his skin manually, if you want me to?” Hank suggest, but Nines shakes his head.

“Not yet, but thank you” Nines carefully tilts Carls head. “Carl, I need to see those beautiful, pearly whites of yours, please.” another moment and hazel-blue optics seem to focus for a moment, before Carls skin shimmers and vanishes, revealing steel and plastic alloys. Nines immediately sets to work, reaching into the suitcase for the tools he needs. His hands almost shake as he removes the chestplate with the bullet hole in it, too close to Carls thirium pump for comfort.

“I need you to switch to emergency batteries for thirty seconds, when I say so, okay? Blink twice when you understand.” Two blinks. “Okay.” Nines reaches into the case, removing a box with several warnings and notices written across it. He opens it and carefully slides out the fragile machine that is an Android heart, a perfect copy of the one staring at him from Carls open chest, leaking blue blood every second pulse. With his left hand holding the pump in position, he reaches into Carls chest with the other.

“I’m sorry.” he whispers as he sees Carl blink away what must be countless warnings about the intrusion to his systems. “Ready?" Two emphasised blinks. "Now!”

Careful to not damage the connecting bio-mechanical tubes and tissues, he disengages the thirium pump, throws it aside and meticulously slides in the new heart, breathing a sigh of relief, as it powers up effortlessly.

Everything after that is just half as nerve-wrecking. The vocal chords are next, then the eye.

“Sorry, I didn’t bring any legs.” Nines apologizes as Hank reaches into the suitcase and offers the other Android a bag of thirium to ingest, while Nines detaches the damaged Androids legs at the knees, so that he doesn’t lose more blue blood through his damaged calves.

Carl watches him with a strange focus to his optics, his left opic seemingly slightly shinier than his right.

“We miss you so much, Nines.” is said in Carls soft tones and it catches Nines totally of guard. He feels like he’s been stabbed in his chest as something breaks and his breath catches. Steel and pearlescent plastic fingers reach out and take his trembling hand, smeared in blue. “Please come back to us.”

Carl shuts down then, causing another jolt of shock to go through him. But a quick check shows he’s just shut down overheated systems. Nines looks over at Hank, the other Androids eyes still wide with confused shock, LED spinning and flickering between red and yellow.

“Can you carry him for me?” Nines asks, because even with just half his legs, Carl would be almost too heavy for himself to carry.

“Of course.” the Android replies.

They leave the graveyard as they came, in between the voices of the broken and the dying. If Nines drops some parts from the suitcase into the hands of some Androids behind Hanks back. No one needs to know.

He checks his phone when they reach the car. 3:54 am and a message from Connor. He studies the picture, a distant memory resurfacing immediately. Letting Connor face Amanda alone will never be an option. (We miss you.)

(I miss you, too.)

TBC