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Gavin's running late.

 

Flashing his badge at the security scanner and pushing through the turnstiles, he crosses the bullpen straight for Fowler's office. The call woke him at quarter after five, on a day off because that's abso-fuckin'-lutely how he likes to start his morning, with the captain requesting him to be in by six.

 

Yawning heartily as he passes around his desk, dumping his heavy woolen coat for the wintertime into the chair as he goes, Gavin glances at the glowing numbers on his wristwatch. Nineteen minutes past the hour. If his car weren’t in the shop for repairs, maybe he wouldn’t have been so late. He blames staying up for an all-nighter working out the case he's been assigned, a double homicide in the Ferndale area. It's been a tough one to work out, considering the suspect is either fingerless or happens to be an android. Gavin is convinced of the latter, but he knows he's deeply biased.

 

It would be easier if he had a partner to bounce ideas off and help construct a semi-reasonable approach based on the sparse evidence they have. But there's no one to spare, not with people hunting down androids hiding throughout the city, and androids attacking humans in retaliation, involving the authorities as calls come in around the clock. Every available officer is off investigating or handling the devastating outcomes of the revolution.

 

Entering the office, Gavin stalls. There's someone seated in the chair in front of Fowler's desk. Fowler is on the phone facing away, but swings around at the sound of the door closing, and indicates two minutes.

 

“Are you sure? I can give you time off if you need it. You just need to ask,” Fowler is saying into the phone. A pause, and his already-present frown deepens. “Alright, if you think it's for the best… Yeah, I’ve got them both here right now.”

 

Gavin props himself up against the back wall, arms folded across his chest. His eyes keep lingering on the back of their company's head. Brunette, white male judging from the pale line of their jaw. A hint of black collar and a snowy-white jacket sleeve are visible, but little else.

 

“You take care, Hank,” Fowler says resigned tone, ending the call and rubbing his eyes.

 

“Is Hank coming back?” Gavin intervenes. He knows it’s none of his business, but it’s common knowledge Hank left the force because Connor died at Stratford Tower. A replacement had been offered by CyberLife but within a few hours working with the duplicate, he was in Fowler’s office dropping off his badge and service weapon, declaring his resignation and walking out the door. He was off the case, the FBI were taking over, and the attack on Jericho later that evening was all over the news. As far as everyone knew, the production lines immediately ground to a halt and any androids in storage were to be disposed of following the recall center procedures, including the remaining RK800s.

 

Now the Senate was now bickering over whether or not androids could be intelligent life while, on the other hand, they were sending thousands of androids at a time for disassembly in mass batches. Detroit is in shambles because of it; empty holes in the workforce were quickly filling up with able-bodied workers, employment levels peaking at an all-time high since androids replaced most of the available jobs on the market, and people are suddenly having to deal with other humans instead of plastic bots awaiting orders. It’s as if the world has gone back in time to the way it was before the 2020s, and everyone is shell-shocked as they try to figure out the old system.

 

Fowler sighs. “No. I was going to assign him a replacement partner but he outright refused. I have no intention of wasting a perfectly good asset to our department, and you're in need of a partner.”

 

Gavin's jaw drops open the same moment the man in the chair stands in one fluid motion. Taller than Gavin by several inches to his modest five foot nine, the android is not some lumbering giant despite its height advantage over the shorter detective. Instead, it holds itself with a sophisticated dignity seen only in aristocrats and royalty.

 

Worse still, it’s like looking at a ghost. The same star-scatter of moles and freckles dapple its cheeks and forehead, hair groomed tidily back and cropped a touch shorter, and gone away are the subtle grey tones in exchange for clean lines of black and white, very dark blue-grey denim, and polished dress shoes – all CyberLife authorized and detailed. The indicators glow their standard blue at left breast and right upper arm, and the white characters read a simple: RK900. A much smaller serial number, the same as its predecessor’s, hovers just beneath, but it ends with an -87.

 

Gavin stands glaring at RK900 for all about four seconds solid, each heartbeat a ringing bell inside the shell of his skull, his vision morphing slowly red as he switches his gaze to Captain Fowler seated at his desk and says, low and precise, “Is this a fuckin' joke? Cause I might've missed the punchline.”

 

Fowler heaves a sigh and hoists to his feet, coming around his report-littered desk to join the detective. “It's not a joke, Gavin. A partner will do you some good.”

 

Irritation and frustration quickly bubbling to the surface, he marches across the office to slam his hands down on the desk. “There's no fuckin' way I’m working with a tin can!” he refuses viscerally, heeding the machine beside him no mind.

 

“Reed, you’ll do as I say. I know you’ve got your reasons but I don’t want to hear them,” Fowler pinches the bridge of his nose. “Just take it out to Ferndale with you. It's designed for investigating crime scenes among a load of other crap CyberLife didn’t bother to detail. It could help you get up to date on that case you're stuck on.”

 

“I don’t need help, especially not from a robot!” Gavin insists. “I work better alone.”

 

“Just yesterday you were complaining about wanting a partner,” Fowler gestures to the android. “I got you one.”

 

“No, you took Hank's partner and gave it to me.”

 

Fowler shakes his head. “It doesn’t have a designation. Most State Department models aren’t given one due to the nature of their work, but this one was modified for police work,” he explains, even though Gavin isn’t really listening. The throbbing headache is making him tune out as he puts all of his willpower into ignoring the giant behind him, patiently resting its silvery eyes on the back of his head. Likely envisioning crushing his skull into a bloody pulp, or ripping out his spinal cord. Gavin shifts uncomfortably as Fowler drones on about how the RK-who-gives-a-fuck is far more advanced than Connor was, is equipped for combat as well as investigations, and whatever other babble CyberLife is proudly jacking off to.

 

But Gavin’s still at page one, trying to work out his worst fears being confirmed and how it leaves a churning queasiness swirling in his stomach. He clenches his hands into fists so tightly the knuckles strain white, physically trying to abate his nausea. He is beyond lost by this profound and frankly disturbing information, and dares to glance at the machine.

 

The android's eyes have closed, spine rigid and hands lax at its monotonously-dressed sides, the small blue ring on its right temple ebbing in and out as it resides in standby mode. It is distinctly handsome – in an untouchable, secret agent, MI6 sort of way – eyes slanted a little differently and nose straighter, a chiseled edge to its profile unlike Connor’s gentler demeanor.

 

It’s everything wrong with the world. It’s perfect, and it makes Gavin want to vomit. He doesn’t want to be in the office for one second longer with it.

 

He wants to wake up from this nightmare. He doesn’t want this. He doesn’t need this to be happening.

 

“Captain,” he begins firmly, using the title like he never does, in the hopes it might make a difference. “There are other candidates qualified to work with the android.”

 

“I want you to work with the android, Detective Reed,” Fowler crosses his arms and leans into his desk, leveling Gavin with a stern eye. “I will expect you to treat it with the same respect you would show a fellow officer, and for you to maintain an acceptable relationship with it. The RK900 is CyberLife's final project and the pinnacle of their tech,” he gives him a tight-lipped smile. “I know you have unresolved personal matters pertaining to androids, but there is no other officer available to work with it.”

 

“Collins-”

 

“Is on holidays for two weeks, and the other senior officers aren’t detectives. Or lieutenants,” Fowler adds, a little remorsefully.

 

“Second-best, as always,” Gavin mutters, digging his hands into the pockets of his jeans.

 

“Which is why if you work with this android as I expect from an officer with your status, then you might very well make the rank you’ve been aiming for in the past few years,” the captain says. Gavin feels a jolt in his chest, immediately accompanied by black fury. How dare Fowler dangle that in front of him?

 

“If that’s everything, sir?” Gavin grits out between his teeth.

 

“Dismissed.” Fowler resumes work on his terminal, and he’s only too happy to exit the office before he launches into a shouting match with the bastard.

 

The glass door delays briefly and, glancing over his shoulder, he is horrified to see RK900 right there keeping pace with him. The android catches his eye and…

 

The corners of its mouth pull, very slightly, into what should be a smile but looks more along the lines of an upside-down frown, or a bland grimace. Gavin can’t even be sure, but the mere sight of a smiling robot is enough to make his guts curdle, and he looks away as he rushes to his desk. The android seems a little confused, but joins him in a few long-legged steps, calculating optics sweeping over the surface of Gavin’s desk. Only now is he aware what remains on the slightly cluttered surface, and his face flames in frustrated indignation as those hateful pale eyes catch sight of the photograph of Tina Chen and himself tucked beside the terminal monitor. Gavin slams it facedown.

 

“Forgive me for intruding in your personal space, Detective Reed,” RK900 apologizes. “It will not happen again.”

 

It’s the first words the robot has said aloud, and Gavin balks a little. It sounds like Connor, vastly similar, but there’s an edge to its tone. Deeper, a little harder, less of a people-person and far more reserved. Everything about it is reserved, from its benign profile to the god-awful jacket and weird-collared turtleneck. It looks ridiculous and, furthermore, like everything Gavin despises.

 

Folding his coat over his arm and slinging his bag over his shoulder, Gavin wheels around on his heel and walks away from the android, intent on leaving the station. He’s made it to the turnstiles and is about to escape out onto the sidewalk when the tap-tap of CyberLife-issued footwear indicates his most undesirable company.

 

You’ve gotta be fuckin’ kidding.

 

“Detective Reed, may I inquire as to where you are going?” RK900 asks politely.

 

“Don’t follow me,” Gavin snarls. He doesn’t care if the lobby is full of folks waiting for a chance to come in and confirm the body of a recently deceased, or to report the most devastating event in their life, or are simply there because why the fuck not? He just… doesn’t care.

 

“I’m afraid your request intervenes with my directives, and I must obey my prime directives.”

 

“Oh, yeah? Well, stay the fuck away from me, asshole, or you’re going to the scrap heap,” Gavin growls, jerking away and through the door. He makes it a yard before a hand snatches the back of his shirt and tugs him to a halt.

 

His gun is shoved into its holster beneath his arm; he can feel the hard plastic and leather digging just below his armpit. He could reach it and have it pressed against RK900’s forehead in a second. He could shoot this motherfucker away to an oblivion of string code and static. He should, but he doesn’t.

 

Automatonophobia is the fear of automatons. Robots, mannequins, wax figures, anything resembling a human but is not. Gavin distinctly remembers the first time his half-brother introduced him to Chloe, and for a second, he believed she was alive after all. But then her pretty blonde head turned and he saw the LED on her temple, and the memory of the girl dying from leukemia in a hospital bed was erased by this picture-perfect illusion of absolute cruelty.

 

Elijah had loved her, more than anyone, and then her face was plastered to a robot who moved and sounded just like her. It was disgustingly immoral. Yet Elijah believed he had done something great, and was only proven of his greatness as the millions became billions and, eventually, trillions. The father Gavin had never known was oh-so-proud of his little genius, but all Gavin saw was Frankenstein reincarnated, with a face containing too much resemblance to his own. Sometimes, for a few years, it was difficult to look in the mirror. More often, it plagued his sleepless nights, with horrific nightmares of machines hunting him down or worse things he wishes he’d never have ever dreamed.

 

But nothing compares to RK900 touching him.

 

The light press of knuckles barely brushes the middle of his back through polyester-cotton shirt, rooting him to the spot, and he manages to choke out hoarsely: “Don’t touch me.”

 

RK900 lets go.

 

 

 

 

 

Gavin and Elijah were born three months apart. Elijah was the beloved, meant to be, while Gavin was the product of an affair. It's no wonder he decided to take his mother's maiden name as his own; at least she loved him and didn’t view him as a mistake, or a failure compared to his half-brother. Everything Gavin did, from scoring top levels in college to graduating from the police academy, never came close to the blinding beacon that was Elijah.

 

Detroit's newfound vigor, a billionaire and a self-taught chemist and AI genius. The breakthrough of his RT600, the first domestic android to ace the Turing test with flying colours and launch his success as a businessman and entrepreneur, changed the world.

 

How could Gavin, a police detective, ever compare to that?

 

So, he worked his ass off, poured literal blood, sweat, and tears into the job, suffered through self-imposed overtime and fell into the easy addictions of cheap cigarettes and extra-strong black coffee. Anything to cut down the stress, anything to keep him going for as long as possible before crashing.

 

Once, it had been in the hope he would come close to touching the brilliance of his half-brother. Now, he has nowhere to turn except forward and up the ranks, grovelling year after year for the hardest cases and shittiest jobs no one will take willingly, knowing one day Fowler will award him with what he's earned. His record dictates he's a good detective but a hazardous officer, daring but reckless, with strong potential but bull-headed. He isn’t a team player, he hasn’t kept a partner for more than two months at a time with the exception of Antony Deckart, and while fiercely dedicated to his job, Gavin has questioned again and again how much longer he can do this.

 

As a man in his mid-thirties, he feels twice his age most days. He doesn’t remember what it means to decompress and detach. It’s just work, work, work.

 

He's begun to question how Hank does it, but everyone in the station saw how the lieutenant's spark was reignited by Connor. An android, of all things, brought back the once-famed leader of the Red Ice Taskforce – even if for a little while. For a long time, Gavin hadn’t really understood all the talk about the washed-up alcoholic who constantly arrived at work sometime after noon utterly sloshed and spent his time retching up cheap hard alcohol in the toilets, or bitched to Fowler about not giving a damn about working.

 

Gavin supposes that’s what losing a son does to a literal, honest-to-God hero. It breaks him.

 

He doesn’t want to see the day he finally breaks, but knows it’s coming.

 

As he takes the bus out to Ferndale, he studies RK900 from the corner of his eye, being very careful to avoid letting on he’s watching the android like a hawk. More like a mouse in the reach of a hungry cat, but he doesn’t have the nerve to admit his fear aloud.

 

It would look weak, and Gavin is anything but.

 

Instead, he turns his gaze out the window to the blur of Detroit's lights and colours flashing by, blinking neon and ultra-modern towers fading into wooden and brick constructs from the earlier 2000s and late 1900s. The buildings he grew up with, pot-hole dotted streets framed by old hydro poles, thick black cables dangling between. Broken fences guarding overgrown yards, decorated with a forgotten lawnmower or rusted children's swing set. Half a lifetime ago, he looked out on a yard not so different, before he left and returned to a small flat downtown. There wasn’t a home to come back to, not after his mom got sick.

 

He catches himself wandering down memory lane, as he always does when he takes the bus out this way, and dismisses the thought from his mind as he looks up.

 

RK900 is standing in the center aisle, holding onto one of the overhead rungs, its gaze lingering casually on Gavin. He frowns when it doesn’t look away and, realizes nervously, it's scanning him.

 

“Could you not?” he snaps.

 

“Detective…?”

 

“Don’t fuckin' pretend you don't know what you were doing. Scanning me and shit,” Gavin shifts uncomfortably under those molten silver eyes.

 

Instead, the android seems perturbed. “How did you know I was scanning you?”

 

“Connor did the same damn thing, so I-" He abruptly catches himself. He's talking to it. Why the fuck is he talking to it?

 

RK900 cocks its head to the side in a distinctly inquisitive way. “Detective Reed, are you alright?”

 

Gavin doesn’t bother answering. It doesn’t deserve validation. Why can’t the stupid thing just leave him alone-

 

It proceeds to sit on the open seat beside him, patiently focusing on his scowl. “I’m not going to hurt you,” it says softly, convincingly. A mimic of empathy.

 

A ripple of sheer disgust chases the fear up his spine, and he glares into those pale eyes, mustering up all the clear dislike he humanly can.

 

“Leave me alone, okay?” he growls.

 

RK900 falls silent, but doesn’t move away. It also doesn’t make eye contact again.

 

Gavin takes it for what it is and resumes watching out the window.