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VR Buddies

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Gavin Reed slowly blinked as he re-read the new billboard across his apartment for the third time. He took out his phone, still staring at the ad, and pressed 'call' beside the number that woke him up with a cryptic text.


"Elijah, what the phck."


"Good morning to you too, I'm guessing this means you've seen the surprise?" Gavin can imagine Elijah's shit-eating grin through the phone.


"Yeah no shit. What- you know what? It's too early to deal this. I'm going back to bed."


"No you're not, you're supposed to be up by now. Work, remember?" Elijah said smugly, causing Gavin to stop his shuffle towards his bed. "Besides this was your idea."


He looked at the date on his phone and groaned. Nope, definitely not his day-off. "What are you going on about? And since when was Cyberlife working with Nintendo?"


He heard the sound of shifting cloth. "Quite a while now. You know Cyberlife has been working on the Dream since last year as per my suggestion. And since you so kindly told me, and I quote, 'that's so fucking stupid Eli who would buy a gaming console with no games that's like buying a piñata with no piñata innards', the company has decided to partner up with Nintendo to work on a game that will utilize the features of the Dream to its fullest potential."


"When the phck did I say that?" Gavin started rummaging for decent clothes in his closet.


"Last New Year's Eve. I believe you were at your 5th glass at the time? After that you said you wanted to fistfight Jason Graff for 'giving Connor that stupid hair curl that I have to stare at everyday', remember?"


". . . vaguely. I'm still surprised they accepted your idea considering that those old farts kicked you out because of it in the first place."


Elijah scoffed. “You’d be surprised at what rich ‘old farts’ would agree to when they realize all their assets are about to go up in flames now that their major products have walked out. Remember last year when I told you that they were begging me to come back and save them?”


“Yeah? You didn’t really give any details.”


“Sorry, slipped my mind. Like I said, they were begging me to help them, and it was then that I realized that they were desperate enough to do whatever I wanted. So-“ Elijah cut himself off, cackling madly into the phone.


“So what?? Don’t keep me in suspense you ass!”


Elijah cleared his throat and continued, his voice trembling with suppressed laughter. “-so I told them I would. If they danced to ‘Bboom Bboom’ by Momoland. Full choreography.”


Gavin was silent for a few beats. “No way. They wouldn’t.” He gaped at his phone in disbelief.


“Well I’m officially a consultant to Cyberlife right now aren’t I?”


Gavin started laughing. “Oh my phcking god! Please tell me you got them to wear the same skirts.”


“Of course, who do you think I am? I’ll send you the video later.”


“They let you record it??”


“They didn’t explicitly say I couldn’t, and they did let me bring Chloe to watch their performance,” he said smugly.


Gavin tutted at him. “And you didn’t upload it on Youtube? Shame on you Eli for depriving the world of something wonderful.”


“Hey, I was planning to use it for blackmail, you know, just in case. So don’t go around showing it to people. Anyway, back to the topic, are you interested?”


Gavin paused for a moment, trying to recall what they were talking about before they got sidetracked. Oh right, the console. “In what? Buying your overpriced merchandise?”


“Okay first of all, according to game market statistics the Dream is actually relatively inexpensive all aspects considering, slightly cheaper than its competitors. Second if you’re talking about androids, a regular household model costed around $8000, which was very affordable considering what androids are capable of. You’re just being cheap.”


“Yeah well on a detective’s salary, I have to be.”


Third, no, I didn’t mean buying it. Cyberlife is offering special discounts for its employees, depending on how much they contributed to the project. Since you don't want me to get you the latest self-driving car on the market-"


"-because gossipy bitches at work would say I have a sugar daddy or something-"


"-BECAUSE you're being an unreasonable ass, I figured this could pass as a decent late birthday gift," Elijah interrupted him cheerfully. "I'll just have to put more effort in our Christmas dinner to compensate."


"Like you're the one who's doing the actual cooking," Gavin rolled his eyes at his phone. He'd gotten dressed during their conversation, forgoing the shower (special thanks to Yesterday-Gavin for taking a shower last night) and was now digging into his cereal. Now that Elijah had brought up Christmas dinner though, he can't help remembering Chloe's heavenly cookies, and now his cookie-shaped cereal seemed bland in comparison. Damn.


"I dunno, I mean I don't exactly have time to play video games for a while now, especially with the rise in the number of crimes," he said pointedly. He knew Elijah knew what he was talking about, asshole was definitely behind the whole ‘androids are alive’ thing, no one could just prove it. "What's the promo for you anyway?"


"The new Cyberlife Dream set plus Animal Crossing, all for the low low price of free."


Gavin choked a bit on his cereal. "Wh-seriously?? You literally just released it and you're already giving it away for free?" He wouldn't admit it out loud, but his interest was definitely piqued at the idea of having a brand new gaming system without spending anything.


"Only for a select few, which of course includes me for being a very good consultant. All you have to do is drop by the Cyberlife Tower so they can hand it over, just tell them I sent you. And it's Animal Crossing; you can play it for less than 30 minutes a day with how casual it is, you won't miss out on much sleep." He could sense that Elijah was already sporting his smug victory grin. Or his smug 'I'm better than most people' grin, they were pretty similar.


Gavin huffed in defeat. "Fine, I'll think about it. Now bye already, I'm gonna be late."


"Bye little bro, enjoy your new toy tonight!"


Tonight? As if; he wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of being right.




Gavin didn't give in that day. He refused to even think about it the entire day even though all he did was paperwork.


He wasn’t able to eat lunch either because Elijah had sent the video and damn did watching those old pricks at Cyberlife dancing in short skirts ruin one’s appetite (him not being able to stop laughing like a hyena in one of the toilet stalls was also probably a major factor).


He deleted the video afterwards to make sure he doesn’t accidentally show it to someone, then opened the original music video on Youtube and watched it several times. As hilarious(ly disturbing) as Eli’s video was, he’d rather have cute girls in cute outfits come to mind whenever he hears the song, not those assholes.


The next day found him scrolling through his phone as he looked up the Cyberlife Dream during his break. All Gavin knew was that it was a VR gaming console that's been hyped up for months; he had seen enough discussions about it online, and hell even heard its name thrown around in the breakroom enough times to know that it was definitely a big thing. Looking at the description, he can see why: capabilities for a fully immersive virtual reality experience beyond what its competitors have achieved, lightweight equipment, and relatively inexpensive like Elijah said.


He also looked up Animal Crossing while he was at it. He remembered vague things about it back from when he and Elijah would share a jailbroken DSi and play Animal Crossing: Wild World, among other games. Most of what he found were game guides and discussions about the game in forums, which he quickly scrolled past, not wanting to be spoiled.


Eventually he decided to stop searching, figuring that hell, this was probably the only game he’d ever have on the Dream with how expensive the games are and how little free time he actually has, so he might as well go into it blind to enjoy it at his own pace (and fuck he decided he wanted the game already, didn’t he? So much for sticking it to Elijah).


By the third day he could barely talk himself out of running out during work because damn it he had little to no impulse control once he set his mind to something, and right now all his mind is throwing at him are images of him playing with the Cyberlife Dream when he should really be focusing on what the witness in front of him was saying about her kleptomaniac son.


One hour before his shift officially ended, Gavin found himself standing in front of Cyberlife Tower, hoping that no one noticed his absence.


"Well, at least I lasted this long," he thought glumly while making bets with himself on how long Elijah would be rubbing it in his face. And really he had no doubt that his half-brother already knew he was at Cyberlife; hell he was probably notified the moment Gavin's badge was scanned at the gate.


Seeing the interior of the tower made him realize just how long it's been since he last set foot in it. The rose bushes were missing for one; he remembered getting lectured at length by Eli's mentor for plucking a rose petal once (he was very sure it was fake, and she did that just because she hated him). He was also sure the hall looked more minimalist and sterile and spacious back then, the squeaks of his sneakers echoing loudly in the near-empty hall and the sneers of disapproval she shot at him when Elijah wasn’t looking.


Now he could see soft couches and coffee tables that looked like they belong in a cozy cabin in the woods. Or Disneyland hotels. It was like Cyberlife was trying to seem more family-oriented by displaying such furniture, which was laughable considering that the walls and floors were still the same pristine, almost blinding white that yelled ‘stuffy formal people only’.


It reminded him of that time Wilson brought a purple orchid for his desk, to ‘brighten the place up’. Spoiler alert: it died. There was a lesson there, about not trying to break the status quo or treating the workplace as a home or some shit, but honestly in retrospect maybe Wilson shouldn’t have gone for an orchid as his first plant.


Another difference was that there were a lot of people right now. Normally this place was- well not empty per se, but it was never this packed, especially with children. It felt surreal. Last time he saw this many kids in one place was when he was one himself.


Was there a fieldtrip? Or - recalling his earlier assessment - was Cyberlife trying to become the next Disneyland? They’d partnered up with Nintendo, wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine them doing the same with Disney. Plus they’ve already got an entire section of Detroit next to the water if they’re converting to an amusement park.


But Elijah would have told him if that was the case. He can’t imagine the bigwigs at Cyberlife agreeing to it either, since theme parks haven’t exactly been doing too well. The last big thing involving parks was when someone tried to recreate Jurassic World a decade ago. Didn’t really go too well. He was just glad that shitfest happened nowhere near Detroit, and that Eli had gotten over his dinosaur phase a long time ago.


Of course, that dinosaur phase was replaced by his android phase, but to be fair androids haven’t tried eating people yet. The dinosaurs hadn’t been as courteous.


He slowly made his way through the crowd towards the reception desk, glancing occasionally upward at the colorful tarpaulin banners advertising the Dream. Why they went for tarpaulins instead of holographic banners with a ceiling that high was beyond him.


The receptionist smiled at him as he approached the empty counter. "Good evening, sir! Are you here to inquire after the Cyberlife Dream?"


"Uh, yeah. I was told that I could get a free . . . set . . . here?" Gavin grimaced at himself internally. Smooth. Luckily for him the receptionist, 'Lucy' according to her nametag, didn't acknowledge his awkwardness in any way.


"Yes, this is where we distribute the special Cyberlife packages for its loyal employees. Do you have a redemption code?"


Gavin stared at her. "Uh, no? Do I need one? Elijah didn't mention anything."


"Elijah? As in Mr. Elijah Kamski?" Lucy looked at her monitor and typed something. "May I see your ID?"


Gavin passed his badge to Lucy, who glanced at it briefly before handing it back. "Detective Gavin Reed, yes? Don't worry, Mr. Kamski informed us that you would be receiving his package. Please stay here while I go retrieve and process it."


"Sure." He sighed in relief as he watched Lucy retreat through a door behind her. At least she didn't question his relation to Elijah. Then again, this WAS Cyberlife, and Elijah WAS the former CEO slash current consultant; if everyone here was already privy to that information, he honestly wouldn't be surprised. Fucking pissed maybe, but not surprised, considering Cyberlife’s rep.


He knew very well that Cyberlife had been spying on everyone through their products. Elijah showed him how once while he was still working on the first Chloe, how she could understand what a person wants or lacks through observation, and how that information can be sent to a database and translate to personalized ads. Gavin vowed to never get anything related to Eli's company after that, especially androids.


Logically he knew that any product, Cyberlife or not, could be used for spying. Hell, he sometimes talks to his coffee maker, pretending that some FBI guy is listening in (‘NSA not FBI,’ the cop part of his brain yelled. Shut up brain). Or at least Elijah is, with his borderline creepy knowledge of Gavin's habits and work schedule.


But androids made him uneasy. There was just something unsettling about looking at a machine that seems so human and asks seemingly innocuous questions, pretending to care in an effort to fish for personal information it would send to some greedy company. At least his coffee maker never questions him, and always stays on his kitchen counter. It was mainly why he refused to work with the police androids at the station, resentment at the unemployment rate aside.


(But as for where he stood now, after the robo-demonstration and rise of free androids? Well, that was an introspection for Future-Gavin to deal with.)


Gavin shook his head. Look at him now, willing to let a Cyberlife product into his home. Ah well, at least it's free.


He cast his eyes around the hall absentmindedly as he waited.


And then he locked eyes with Connor.


Oh fuck no.


Gavin saw Connor's blue LED stutter a split second before he swiftly turned back to the counter and mentally urged the processing to go faster. Fuck, he was not prepared for this. He had been trying his best to avoid the android at work - hell he'd even conditioned himself to turn right back around whenever he heard his voice, usually to the confusion of whoever he happened to walk in with at the time. He knew Connor wanted to talk to him about the incident a few months ago, the one Gavin most definitely did not want to recall in anyway nor discuss, the thought of doing either making his stomach clench with cold . . . something.


(He did NOT want to name it dread, because then his shitty brain would latch on to it, and the last thing he wanted to do was admit that he was scared of confronting Connor.)


Mentally praying that Connor would be the type of coworker who avoids mixing his personal life with work (oh who was he kidding, this was fucking Connor), he almost didn't notice the receptionist calling his name. Gavin recoiled as a box suddenly appeared in his face.


Lucy smiled sheepishly. "Sorry about that. Here's your Cyberlife Dream set! Your promo comes with a free copy of Animal Crossing which you'll find inside. If you have any inquiries, you can visit our website, or come here and ask me or the other receptionists."


Gavin picked up the box. Damn, they weren't kidding when they said it was light. "Hey, Lucy right? I was wondering: why are there so many people here?” he stalled, hoping that Connor wasn’t right behind him.


“Well, today is a Friday, so a lot of our employees and their relatives are choosing to avail their promos now,” Lucy explained.


“You mean all these people are connected to someone at Cyberlife?”


He risked a glance backwards to eye the crowd, and to see if Connor had come closer, then quickly looked around the hall.


Nothing. Connor had disappeared.


Huh. Maybe the android finally took the hint. Or maybe he was called off somewhere, for android relations stuff or whatever the fuck he and his buddy robo-Jesus did at Cyberlife. Gavin didn't care, he was just grateful that his stomach had stopped twisting into knots.


He turned back to the counter, continuing his earlier train of thought. “Isn’t that too many to be giving away? I mean, shit, that’s a huge crowd.”


“Each employee can only avail of one Cyberlife Dream, and most of them only get minor discounts on the console. Few get a free copy of Animal Crossing, and even fewer get the entire set for free,” she explained.


That cleared some things up, but now he had more questions. He was about to voice them out, until he realized that he really didn’t care all that much for the answers, and he wasn’t exactly burning with curiosity. Besides, he can always ask Elijah later. “Thanks, for answering my questions.”


She cheerfully bid him goodbye as he turned to make his way outside the tower to call a taxi.


Right before the automated doors closed behind him, he got a sudden urge to look back. When he did, he saw Connor standing where he had been, talking with Lucy.


Gavin wasn’t sure why, but something about the sight made him uneasy.