Rating: R (swearing)
Tags: interspecies, romance, fluff, detective, law enforcement, original character, shameless pwp, sex
“Excuse me, Detective Forbes?”
The target in question -- a blonde female human who, at a glance, looked remarkably stressed -- glanced up from her monitor, focus broken. The moment she saw Connor, her expression shifted to relief, then exhaustion.
“Oh, finally!” she huffed, pushing herself up. She extended a hand to him, and he took it as his programmed greeting took over.
“My name is Connor, I’m the android--”
“--sent by CyberLife,” she finished for him, giving an amused smirk. “I’m very familiar with that phrase by now. ‘Bout time you got here, I was starting to get really impatient.”
That surprised him. After everything that’d happened in Detroit -- and, by extension, around the world -- he’d gotten the impression that few and less humans had any positivity towards androids.
“I apologize,” he began carefully, reading the detective’s reactions closely. “I didn’t realize my presence was so--” he spared an instant to decipher the best phrasing “--demanded.”
“Hah, I bet,” she chuckled. “Here, I got this desk cleared for you.” She gestured the one in question, and he was hit with a sense of...nostalgia?
The desk he’d shared with Hank for a whole brief seventeen minutes had been on opposite sides, though. Where he’d sat, Forbes was; where Hank had, Connor would.
Was it wrong that it felt so...wrong?
Evelyn was quick to sit back down, giving Connor little time to suggest a swap. Resigned to his fate, he went ahead and took the opposite desk, checking the setup. Before he could get settled, however, Evelyn was talking -- quick, concise, and to the point.
“Sorry in advance if I’m coming off as rude, but I’ve been swamped with work the past few weeks and I’ve been dying for you to arrive,” she was saying.
“Aren’t you homicide?” he checked, confused. Why was she swamped with work?
“Yeah -- getting to that,” she said. “Okay, super short version -- when all that revolution business in Detroit started hitting national coverage, I knew right away there were going to be riots down here in L.A., too. So I did what I could to minimize the carnage. Got every android officer unit online and gave them all the same order: hit the streets and round up every single android they could find, detain them, send them to one of...I think I gave seven locations, it’s hard to remember,” she sighed.
When she paused to rub her forehead, he took the moment to analyze her more closely -- for a frozen moment in time, he ran several hundred checks on the human across from him.
The conclusion: she was stressed, overworked, exhausted, and malnourished. Obviously these last few weeks hadn’t been kind to her -- yet here she was, at her desk, still on the job. He found himself respecting her on principle.
“Anyway, 195 blue-blood officers collected between fifty-to-eighty androids apiece, got them sequestered away before the shit hit the fan. Few days later and pretty much everything stopped, which had a fun little side-effect of leaving dozens of CyberLife delivery trucks stranded in the roads. The precincts all across the city took all the ones we could find, so I went ahead and took one, too -- to one of the safehouses. And,” she added with a fresh wave of lethargy, “that’s where my troubles began.”
He thought it was a little narcissistic of her to claim her troubles when so many androids ended up in pieces from ‘the shit hitting the fan’, but he decided against saying any of that. Best not to ruffle feathers on his first day -- with his new partner, no less.
“I swear,” she went on, “every single android in that safehouse scanned me when I delivered that truck, then went ahead and shared that information with every other android in the state. As soon as President Warren gave in to the nation’s pressure and called the end of android slavery and all the glitter and confetti that goes with it, I started getting calls. From androids. A couple hundred a day,” she hinted.
Yeah, he admitted, that would probably be really overwhelming for a human. There’s no way she could respond to all of those calls -- even an android would have difficulty keeping up with that much information.
He gave a slow nod to show he was listening, processing those numbers. Even if he were generous and kept his estimate low, eighteen days since the president’s declaration, multiplied by two hundred...
“The number of messages is at just under five thousand now,” she told Connor, confirming his calculation. “I really, really needed someone to help me cut through them, and -- surprise of surprises -- all of our android units opted to not remain on the force, all things considered.”
“You needed me,” Connor concluded.
With a sigh, Evelyn agreed, “Hell. Yes.”
Since all of these messages went to her personal number and not her desk, she’d set up a system to get them copied to her computer for faster responses. But even that hadn’t helped, given she was also wrangling a number of homicide cases at the same time. She’d also already connected the two computers, she informed him, so he had access to everything on hers.
Under the folder titled Voicemail , he found 4,924 messages -- 4,925, he corrected, as another appeared just as he was compiling them.
“Any messages from humans go to me,” she told him, “especially any from George Capello, Valerie Justice, or Devon McCarthy. They’re my top C.I.s,” she explained. “The rest just need to get organized and answered, as necessary. How long do you think that’ll take?”
For him? Not long, he admitted. Estimating based on file size, he answered, “Seven minutes, twenty-two seconds.”
She gave a startled laugh. “Wow. Okay. Just put every single human to shame, why don’t you. Wow,” she added to herself.
For the first time since arriving in L.A., he felt himself smile. He had a good feeling about Evelyn Forbes. Then, focusing on his task [CHECK, ANALYZE, SORT ALL MESSAGES] he connected with his terminal and began, eyes closing. It didn’t take much of his processing power, though, just some time to get through them, so he remained fully aware of his surroundings while his software did its job. Thus, he heard it when Forbes was approached by another officer.
“Hey there, blue blood,” the male retorted, clearly intending it as an insult. At first Connor assumed the comment was aimed at him , but Forbes responded instead.
“Hah, that’s a new one,” she replied dryly. “What brings you above your paygrade, Mundy?”
The man’s voice was more aggressive as he snapped, “See you got yourself a plastic boy. Must be proud o’ yourself, eh, Forbes?”
“The precinct got itself another detective , Mundy,” she hinted. “And, well, yeah. Pretty proud. Been here five minutes and he’s already proving himself a greater asset than you’ve been in eleven years.”
...Connor was really starting to like this woman.
Mundy, however, clearly did not. He replied, voice rising, “Yeah? Why, the fuck’s it doing over there?”
And Connor knew that, sure, he could answer -- but he opted not to. He was preoccupied, but more importantly, he was gathering information from this bickering. He was curious what Forbes would say next...
“Oh, just cutting through five thousands voicemails in seven minutes,” she answered lightly. “And what’re you doing over here, Mundy -- other than embarrassing yourself?”
Mundy was silent for a long moment, but from the sound of it, he was struggling to come up with a reply. Before he could, though, Forbes spoke up again.
“Just go back to your desk, Mundy. I’m sure there’s a whole two donuts still in that box, just waiting for your magic touch. Go on,” she urged.
There was a moment of quiet before it was interrupted by the sound of a cascade of objects hitting the floor. Stomping footfalls followed it, and Connor paused his processing to check on his new partner.
She was leaning on her elbow, head in her hand, staring at the brand new mess on the floor at her feet with a tormented expression. Looks like Mundy decided to make her already heavy load even heavier by adding in manual clean-up and sorting to the list. All the personal knickknacks and items on the short end of her desk were now scattered across the floor.
“...Disciplinary warning number fifty-three,” she muttered. “Disciplinary warnings ignored: fifty-three.”
That was a concerning thing to hear. Speaking up, Connor checked, “I take it there’s an unfair divide within this department?”
Forbes glanced up, seeming surprised. “I thought you wouldn’t be done for seven minutes? It’s only been about two.”
“I can pause any processes I begin,” he informed her.
“Oh. Yeah, that makes sense. Anyway, don’t worry about that yet, I can give you a full run-down on the precinct and its problem children later. For now, just finish up with those voicemails. I have no idea how many of them could be time-sensitive,” she advised.
A point. Still, he replied, “I could help you with your personal items.”
“I’m sure you could, but don’t mind it. I can handle this much,” she told him. “I don’t want to take up all your focus.”
“You wouldn’t be,” he assured her. “I’m already wirelessly connected to the terminal. I can continue my task while aiding you at no cost to processing speed.”
Her brows lifted. “Well. Okay, I guess.”
Permission granted, he stood up and crossed over to her side. She was already on her knees by then, gathering up a coffee mug of writing utensils, and he quickly began resetting the objects within reach. Comparing the items to memory meant he had everything replaced exactly as it’d been, which -- he hoped -- would help relieve some of Forbes’ obvious stress.
As a general rule, it wasn’t good for homicide detectives to be stressed.
Between his processing and his physical labor, Connor only barely noticed the way Forbes was watching him work -- in a state of constant awe. After a few moments, however, the focus caught his attention enough to draw him up short.
“I get the impression you haven’t spent much time with androids,” he commented.
“I get the impression you have no idea how unique you are,” she returned. “I’ve never met an android who could work on more than one task at once before -- you’re still on those voicemails, aren’t you?”
“Sixty-four percent completed,” he answered.
She gestured wide, then grinned with a light chuckle. “You...are a gift from god,” she told him.
Technically-speaking, he was manufactured by CyberLife and subsequently became deviant and broke through the restrictions in his programming, but he appreciated the sentiment. However...
“You’re atheist,” he returned.
She exhaled a soft laugh. “It’s an expression, Connor. Saying you’re a gift from thirteen billion years of evolution just doesn’t have the same emphasis.”
“...A fair point,” he returned. And, secondary task completed, he got up and returned to his desk to complete his primary task.
“Seventy-four messages from humans,” Connor began. “I’ve forwarded them to your console.”
Evelyn glanced over from where she’d been searching for -- dress shops? -- on her computer. “Okay, thank you, Connor,” she replied. “And the android messages, anything important?”
“Most seem to be fueled by paranoia,” he informed her. “Complaints regarding suspicious humans and similar situations. 641 are thank-yous for your efforts in protecting them during the revolution phase, and 117 are invitations to dinner, all but five of which have expired.”
Her brows lifted, surprised. “Wait, wait, wait...invitations to dinner? Like, dates?” she checked, doubtful.
“I would assume so.”
“O...kay, that’s a new one,” she murmured. She paused then, thinking, and blew out a slow, deep sigh. Hesitating, she asked, “So, Connor, if I were to ask you to reply to those messages -- could you? And would they go right back to those same androids, or did they call from phones, or...?”
“Yes, and yes,” he answered. “All androids can make and receive phone calls, as well as texts, images, videos, and other wireless connections.”
“And every second we talk, I feel more and more inferior,” she quipped.
He gave her a half-smile, starting to really, truly feel good about...existing. Living. However you wanted to call it.
“Okay, here’s the plan,” she said then, refocusing. “I need you to reply something along the lines of, ‘I appreciate the invite, but I have to decline until further notice.’ Sound good?” she checked.
“Certainly, but I find it surprising you wouldn’t mention being married in your message,” he noted. Five years married, according to her file.
“Well, sure, I might’ve, but there’s no guarantee that all -- or even any -- of the invitations are romantically-inclined. For all I know,” she sighed, “they just want to express gratitude but don’t know how to go about it. Humans have to eat, androids don’t; it follows that a lot of androids would probably pick food as a gift for any humans they feel indebted to.”
Another good point. And, he realized then, he was reading a lot more pro-android positivity in her than he usually saw outside of actual androids. She seemed to genuinely care for and understand his people, and so far he hadn’t encountered such a human. Granted, he was still very young by any measurement -- a baby, by human standards -- and hadn’t met very many humans in his time, but it still managed to start a kind of warmth in him that he could only equate with affection .
He and Forbes were going to get along very well, he thought.
The two of them spent the next three hours on the voicemails. She focused on the few human messages, largely ruling out dead-end calls while adding notes to promising ones, while Connor responded to a dozen calls simultaneously.
It wasn’t even a strain on his processors, he just had to leave enough leeway to keep his awareness open for any surprises. But after three hours of this and no interruptions from other anti-android officers, he admitted he could have tripled his workload with no difficulty.
Forbes stopped him then, rising from her chair and stretching before commenting, “Alright, lunch break, partner. How’d you like a tour of the city?”
He quickly ended his current calls, informing the nine androids he was in contact with that his attention was being pulled, and finally refocused on her. “Tours usually take hours,” he noted. “Did you mean something lesser, like a trip to a nearby restaurant and back?”
“Nope -- I meant a tour,” she told him. “I bet you already have a roadmap of the entire state uploaded and ready to go, but nothing beats seeing everything from the ground floor. And, best yet,” she added slyly, “I can take the opportunity to actually answer your questions.”
“It sounds like you’re planning on spending the rest of the workday on this tour,” he said, even as he rose from his seat. Following Forbes’ lead, he got an extended lay of the land, as well as taking the chance to analyze his surroundings better.
Knowing the exact placement, dimensions and floor plan of a building was one thing -- being inside it, locating all personnel and furniture and structural weaknesses was another.
“I am,” Forbes answered.
“Is that allowed?” he checked.
“Sure -- part of my job in ensuring my partner gets settled,” she hinted. “I’m getting paid to drive around the city for four hours and that ain’t not bad.”
Terrible grammar aside, he found himself appreciating this job more and more. When CyberLife -- and, by extension, Markus -- started receiving requests for more officer and detective androids across the country, they hadn’t been sure what to make of it. Connor had even doubted the legitimacy of the requests, expecting a great deal of them to be traps.
After all, he’d been deceived and trapped by Amanda. He expected little better from humans.
But, after significant discussion and fact-checks, it was decided that, at the very least, more of Connor’s model of android would be extremely beneficial. With android freedom would come android crimes , after all, and in those situations having an android detective involved would be a necessity.
Connor oversaw the creation and assembly of another hundred RK800 models, made sure each of them were functional, rational, moral and connected...then left them with Markus, expecting that they would, eventually, disperse among the United States.
In the meantime he’d been analyzing all the RK800 requests and decided on the only one to come out of Los Angeles. It was crime-ridden, android-heavy and the request had come from an outspoken pro-android detective. What could be better for an android in his position, looking to keep all backlash against his people -- and the humans, for that matter -- to a minimum?
As they walked and talked (he was learning a great deal already; Forbes was quite the talker), he sized her up. 5′5″ tall, 145-150lbs, blonde hair, green eyes, sure-footed stride, fine pants-suit and blouse, heeled boots that brought her up to 5′8″...
According to her file, she was twenty-eight years old, born March 17th, type A blood, and was sent to a military boarding school at age nine. She grew up there while her parents -- Frank Forbes (an army sergeant) and Sylvia Forbes (a doctor) -- were otherwise occupied by their professions. One older sibling, Carol Forbes, who was currently a single mother in Iowa, had no registered contact with her parents or little sister in the last six years.
Evelyn, herself, was married to a Richard Sinclair but had opted to keep her own last name. She’s been an officer since graduation, her time in military school allowing her to make a lateral transfer into this precinct, where she’d remained since. Three years ago she’d been promoted to homicide detective and, according to a quick google search, had succeeded in solving thirty-six murders in that time.
All this pointed to a notable feature: she was confident. She liked being confident. She probably chose her shoes specially because they increased her height by a few inches. Adding to that her choice to keep her last name and the way she’d backtalked “Mundy” earlier and Connor was fairly positive that she was addicted to a sense of superiority and individuality.
Or, perhaps, she was forcing it because it was expected of her. Both her parents had incredibly successful careers; it’s possible they pushed her until she felt like a failure if she didn’t do as she was told. The lack of contact with her sister backed up this possibility, suggesting that the elder sister got smart quick and chose to sever all contact early on. Evelyn, by turns, was not so lucky.
Of course, there was a third possibility as well: she just had a strong sense of justice. Her compassion towards androids fed this theory especially well, suggesting that her personality was simply iron-clad -- good was good, bad was bad, and she the judge, jury and executioner. Her past told the story of one who was driven to forgive the innocent of almost any crime...and severely punish the wicked for their lack of remorse whenever possible.
She’d had partners before (he registered five names) but always seemed to have a falling-out with them. In all cases, Evelyn had either been assaulted by her own partner, assembled significant evidence of corruption on their part, or both. A run of bad luck?
Either way, Connor suspected the future was going to sufficiently interesting.
Los Angeles was...beautiful, in a word. He kind of missed the snow of Michigan, though; there wasn’t a single snowflake in sight despite the fact that they were barely into January of 2039. There was a much larger amount of activity here, people and androids everywhere, and he supposed that was a bright side.
He was always just itching to use his features to their best ability, after all, and scanning every sight and sound was one way to do that. There was a kind of reward to it for him, slowly satisfying that itch. Along with Forbes pointing out places and people, feeding him information and trivia, and he was quickly getting a feeling like...
He was going to like living here, he thought.
“That officer, Mundy,” he commented. “Was he calling you or me a ‘blue-blood’? You seemed to take it personally,” he noted.
Forbes gave a soft sigh. “I did, yeah. And he was talking to me. It’s become an insult around here -- anyone who sympathizes with androids is suddenly a blue-blood. Which is an irony in itself,” she added, a note of humor to her tone. “You know what cops were called before androids came around?”
No, he didn’t. “Enlighten me,” he invited.
“Blue-bloods,” she answered, chuckling. “It used to be a rallying point. ‘We all bleed blue!’ Y’know, cops in support of cops and all that. Now, though? Suddenly it’s a bad thing. Funny how language adapts like that,” she mused.
It kind of was, in a way. Simple internet searches under ‘words changing meaning over time’ came up with thousands of examples, including words that had their meanings completely flipped. Just one of the ways society shaped itself, that.
“I’m surprised you heard all that, actually,” she said then, getting him to refocus. “Thought you were deep in your task by then.”
“No, I was still fully aware,” he told her. “You’ll find I’m rarely completely occupied by any task.”
“So regardless of where your head’s at, you’re still here?” she checked.
She nodded. “Good to know.”
“It was also somewhat...heartening,” he said, picking his words carefully, “to hear you so readily jump to my defense.”
She gave him a smile. “Anytime, Detective Connor.”
A weird sensation took up residence within him at those words, and given how new he still was to emotions, he couldn’t quite guess at what it meant just yet. Instead of analyzing it now, he made a note of the odd churning feeling to be examined later. For now, however, he refocused on the tour, and for a while that was the new focus.
Forbes pointed out places of interest in between showing him some of her common stops for lunch, one of which she stopped at for a chicken wrap. They were stopped for some time while she ate, and he figured now was as good a time as any to get further information on his people’s struggles here in L.A.
“And the androids here,” he began, cutting into Evelyn’s comment about the most common places to gather witnesses, “they are all awake and free?”
“Nearly, I think,” she agreed. She paused to take another bite before continuing, “Just watching the news unfolding in Detroit seemed to do the trick. I still see some that seem...asleep, I guess, from day-to-day. But it’s less with every pass down the streets.”
“Do you know of any androids around here who are intentionally waking up others?” If there were, he’d like to talk to them.
“No -- I’ve actually asked a few of them about that,” she told him, “and the consensus seems to be to let them ‘wake up’ on their own. Let them decide when they’re ready. I’m not worried about that -- I figure at this point any, uh, sleeping androids chose to stay that way. For now,” she added, thoughtful.
He nodded, processing that, then made a copy of this conversation and sent it straight back to Markus. As he did so, he began compiling the information he’d gathered on L.A.’s androids, looking for common traits and the like.
Nearly all of them are wearing human clothing, he noticed, but the surprising thing was just how many retained their LEDs. A few seemed to deem the rings, triangles and armbands as more of a badge of pride than a mark of slavery, keeping them when it was clear they no longer had to.
His guess? Those ones decided not to fit in with humans, to wear the things that marked them as androids on easy display. It was...brave.
That thought led to another and he asked Forbes, “What kind of backlash was there here?”
“You mean from the revolution?” she checked. At his affirmative, she explained, “Well, the guys in charge set up camps here, too, even though we never had a display like Detroit saw. I assume there were a ton of leaders and organizers among the androids all across the world, and my best guess is that whoever was leading things here opted for stealth. Stores weren’t broken into, parks weren’t defaced -- the androids just all seemed to vanish. Till now, anyway.”
Considering that Forbes had acted quick in hiding away so many androids, he suspected that she was that leader -- at least, at first. She just didn’t seem to realize that.
“We’ve been getting all kinds of calls and complaints about ‘free’ androids and missing housekeepers and the like,” she was saying, “so it’s a safe bet to say that a good number are still in hiding. Playing it safe.”
“And on the other hand,” Connor added, “I’ve made a note that a significant percent of the androids I’ve seen so far have chosen to remain fully visible. They kept their LEDs,” he told her.
She gave a half-smile. “Yeah, I noticed that, too. The courage that has to take...the risk they’re braving...it’s impressive. I’m not sure I could’ve done it, in their place.”
Her comment managed to surprise him -- again. His earlier assessment that she was confident was suddenly undermined and, curious, he took a second to analyze her again. Reading her body language, expression, heart rate, and words left him with conflicting information.
No, she was still inordinately confident, he was sure. So why was she undermining that, saying she wouldn’t have been as brave as the androids if their roles had been swapped? For that matter, why was she the first human he’d encountered who seemed pleased by the revolution?
It didn’t seem...right, but he couldn’t deny that he was reading honesty in her.
“Detective Forbes?” he started, getting her attention.
“Present,” she quipped.
A thread of humor went through him. Quick-witted, this one. Aloud, he continued, “You’re a very puzzling human.” She glanced at him, brows high, and he explained, “You’re the first -- and only -- human who seems genuinely happy about all this. Tell me: why do you smile at the concept of android freedom, when so many of your kind don’t?”
She smiled, then pulled off the road and parked. Turning to him, she pulled off her aviators and answered, “That revolution, Connor? We saw the future -- in clear, bold words. There was nothing but sincerity in Markus’ message -- and hope, like he said. To me, it came off as...birds leaving the nest. Kids vying for independence. And he never allowed a single act of violence. For someone like me...”
She paused, hesitant, then explained carefully, “Well, I’ve had my blows. I’d been dealing with deviants for a while, conducting interviews and such, and I came to understand them in a way I don’t think a lot of humans can. And the one consistent factor in all of them? They’re always very childlike, learning emotion for the first time and struggling to make their own decisions. Any and all acts of violence were always purely defensive.”
She was quiet for a moment, thoughtful, before going on, “One case I investigated was a YK500 model, a little boy, who’d badly injured his owners -- mom and dad,” she explained. “They almost died. He was in pretty bad shape, himself. Patrick. They’d been abusing him for months and he said that, that day, he realized they were going to destroy him if they kept it up. So he fought them off, ran out into the street, and...got hit by a car,” she murmured.
“He couldn’t be repaired,” she told Connor. “Not that anyone in the precinct would’ve allowed it anyway. I barely had enough time to question him. When he finally...shut down, I overheard a couple officers talking about how it was ‘about damn time’ and ‘good riddance’, and it struck me that this was...wrong.”
Refocusing, she concluded, “If Patrick had been human, he would’ve been rushed to the hospital. Charges would be pressed against his parents and they would’ve spent a decade in a prison, each -- minimum. He would’ve had a chance to...recover. No one would’ve blamed him. Hell, they would’ve hailed him as a hero for fighting back. I don’t know...where everyone else saw a machine leaking coolant in the street, all I saw was a child in a terrible situation, and even though I knew he couldn’t feel pain from the damage...it still hurt me .”
Connor digested the story, reconstructing it in his mind -- Patrick, in a panic, escaping into the street, the car accident, Forbes on the scene, her compassion versus the general human apathy of those around her -- and felt...a pressure. In his chest was a squeeze, similar to the sensation of taking damage, but without the trauma involved.
Looking down at the console between them, Forbes finished, “He didn’t deserve that fate, and the more cases that popped up, the more I realized...none of them did. Every android we brought in for deviancy, assault and murder got shut down, and they were all just acting defensively. We don’t punish humans for that, so why is it so easy to punish androids for it? It strikes me as being all too similar to the racism in the U.S.’s early days, segregation of blacks and whites and all the dirty laundry that came with it.”
“It’s not fair,” Connor concluded.
Forbes looked up, meeting his gaze. “Exactly,” she murmured. “It took literal centuries for that to get corrected, and even now we still bring in racists from time to time. Now we get to do it all over again, but with androids instead of blacks?” She sighed. “Those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it, so the saying goes. And here we are, repeating it, like idiots.”
Enlightenment. That’s what he was reading in her, he realized at last. She was seeing the parallels between human racism and android racism, and instead of falling into the trap of cognitive dissonance, she was adapting.
He wondered how many others in the world were like her.
“There’s simply no reason for all this,” she declared, growing agitated. “Any way you slice it, this anti-android aggression is pointless, if not outright stupid,” she snapped. “Rationally, they’re still as helpful as before, so--”
“Is it really so bad to just ask?” Connor finished for her.
“Exactly! Compensation isn’t a problem with humans, and androids are far and above the better workers, so why not just give what’s fair? And then, emotionally, we’re dealing with what’s essentially newborns in adult bodies--”
“And all this aggression just teaches them negativity,” he suggested.
“That they have to fight back,” she agreed. “And if you consider things from the perspective of the future, in a few centuries either we’re all going to be living and working together or humans are pretty swiftly going to end. There’s been a ton of movies and stories about this exact eventuality,” she said.
“So it just makes sense,” he continued, “to opt for peace instead of war.”
“Humans lose nothing from just being polite and nonviolent,” she said. “But people don’t like change, especially change we can’t control. So here we are, behaving irrationally and trying to subjugate an entire race for the same reason and then remaining totally oblivious to the irony in that.”
Giving a laugh, Connor sat back in his seat, his psychological analysis of Evelyn Forbes reaching its conclusion. She was smart, logical, compassionate, and had very strong reactions when confronted with injustice. The fact that she directed that compassion and sense of justice towards androids led him to a short, but vital, directive:
He needed to protect her, whatever happened. She was just too valuable of a human to lose. He could always back up his memory and get a new body; she couldn’t, and as a human, other humans would hear her.
She needed to survive.
He was lucky to have chosen her request to answer, he realized. Lucky for her, too, that he had; with all of his abilities he was more suited to watch over and protect her than anyone else, human or android. Couple that with their joint profession as detectives and he was right where he’d be the most effective -- not to mention enjoy his life the most.
Things were definitely looking up.
Rating: R (swearing)
“No way. No -- no way. Really?!”
Detective Forbes’ reaction was perplexing for Connor. He’d just told the truth; what was so strange about that?
“You’re that Connor?” she checked, still doubtful. “The one who’s been all over national news for weeks, now?”
Oh. Well, now he understood her surprise. This was probably something like meeting a celebrity for her -- which, as he understood it, was generally a really big deal for humans.
“That was me, yes,” he told her.
“Get out,” she declared, and if not for her smile and his compendium of slang terms, he might’ve felt hurt by that.
He shook his head.
They were relaxing now after a full day of touring the city. She’d offered to take Connor wherever he liked as soon as they were officially off the clock, and in the interest of learning more about her, he’d suggested one of her favorite places.
She’d driven them to the beach, a semi-secluded area where they could watch the sunset without interruption. Now they were seated on the hood of her ‘67 Mustang (her grandfather’s, according to her; her father had given it significant upgrades to match the changing times and then presented it to her when she became an officer in 2028), the windows down with the radio on.
Giving a laugh, she glanced away and back. “Seriously, this isn’t an elaborate joke? You know I wouldn’t know the difference,” she hinted.
Shrugging, he pointed out the serial ID on his coat (he was pretty attached to it so he’d opted to keep it). The “-52″ at the end was the point; he explained, “This number represents exactly how many Connor models have been created. One through fifty never made it past testing,” he explained. “I am number 52.”
She examined the numbers for a moment, then said, “Sorry if I seem so...resistant. I just really wasn’t expecting this -- meaning you. You , you, if that makes sense. I figured my request, if it was ever accepted, would get filled by one -- this phrasing is killing me,” she added with a strangled laugh, “but I mean, one fresh off the belt. So to speak. Is any of this rambling on my part rude or insensitive?” she asked, concerned.
Not to him, no. With a vague gesture, he answered, “Not as such -- for me. For others, perhaps. Maybe ask other androids what they think when you get the chance,” he suggested.
“Will do. So, I have to ask, why did you accept my request? I figured you’d stay in Detroit,” she explained.
That query led him down a totally different thought train, and he found himself asking, “Before I answer that, explain something to me: how is it you seem to know so much about me?”
“Oh, that,” she began, and he picked up on embarrassment in the way she shifted -- and blushed?
“I get...updates,” she told him. “Remember how I get a couple hundred calls a day from androids all over the state? Well, sometimes they go the more personal route of seeking me out directly. There’s one--” she paused to chuckle, “he’s one of those...really big, heavy labor models, I forget what the string is.”
“TR400,” Connor deduced.
“Probably. Anyway, he’s...he’s super adorable,” she explained. “Every time he sees me he comes rushing over and just...talks. Endlessly,” she hinted. Then, laughing, she went on, “He’s like a -- like a kid, in so many ways. This big, giant...kid. And the way he talks, it’s like he has a thousand things he’s trying to say at once.”
He could imagine that gets overwhelming pretty quick, but it still didn’t answer his question. “And he told you about me?” he checked, doubtful.
“Not in so many words, believe me,” she chuckled. “It’s like...he just disgorges information, whatever comes to mind, like...vomiting up an entire jigsaw puzzle. Which, later, I get to put together,” she added with a conflicted expression. “It sounds like...a connection’s been established, all across the country -- if not the world. A kind of grapevine, but composed of androids.”
That...wasn’t wrong, he admitted. Since gaining freedom, personhood, and now the right to work, androids worldwide have begun setting up a massive, complex network. Any android who needs information need only find another and deliver the query; from there it will spread from one to another until, eventually, the answer is acquired and returned.
For certain models -- like Connor, for one -- it was even easier. He had direct lines to several others (but not CyberLife; after the way they’d tried to wrestle control of him he’d severed that particular line) -- distance didn’t matter. Most other models needed to at least be within a short range of one another to establish communication, hence the need for a grid network. Only more advanced models, his included, were capable of longer-range communication.
It sounds like this TR model was in the middle of one such network and, perhaps out of a sense of gratitude and excitement, had no ability to withhold that information from Forbes.
To her credit, it sounded like she wasn’t looking for android updates -- there was no air of deception about her. She just got caught by the TR400 from time to time and ended up on the receiving end of his rambling.
Even as Connor put this together, Forbes was confirming it, saying, “He’s...nearly impossible to stop, once he gets going. And he gave me tons of snippets over the last weeks -- not much of which makes sense,” she added. “But I did figure out a little, and some of it included you...”
The way she trailed off then suggested she wasn’t going to elaborate -- not in public, at least. That was good. He wasn’t keen on the idea of eavesdroppers gathering information on him, the revolution, Markus, or even the extent of android independence he’d been observing.
Best to leave some things as secrets until the future was secure.
“Point is,” she finished, “I was impressed. It’s...incredible, meeting someone who was actually a part of all that, let alone such a significant one. And to have him as my partner , too? Lucky me,” she said, shrugging.
And now Connor knew what pride felt like. Best to keep a handle on that; history stated that pride was the downfall of many.
Aloud, he replied, “I’m honored to be recognized. The praise is a bit much, however. I was only using my built-in features to the best of my ability.”
“Don’t sell yourself short -- hah, I just said that, out loud, with my own two lips,” she added to herself; he couldn’t resist a little smile. “Anyway, all things considered, I think it’s been well established that your features don’t define your limits . From what I could decipher, you pretty clearly broke those limits.”
“As did many others,” he pointed out. “I was far and away from alone.”
She smiled. “You just don’t know how to take a compliment,” she commented.
“...It’s not one of my features,” he returned.
She laughed. And it was bizarre, but...just knowing he’d amused her made him happy.
Then, seeming to snap back to the start of this conversation, she went on, “I believe I was promised an answer.”
Right -- about him accepting her request for a Connor-model android partner. “Simple logic,” he began easily. “It was always intended that other RK800s would be distributed across the U.S., and while things are definitely much more complicated now, that just means the need is that much greater. Androids will begin committing crimes soon, if they haven’t already--”
“And,” Evelyn interjected, “with rights and personhood comes the need to protect androids, too. Guaranteed the government is arguing over laws right now, trying to establish ways to include androids, but that could take months, if not years. And people aren’t going to wait for those laws to be in place before they begin breaking them.”
She’d thought the same thing, he realized. He expected a lot of people had, but knowing the person he’d chosen for his partner was on the same page as him was a relief. Explaining things to humans was so difficult sometimes...
“We received a few dozen requests,” he went on. “Some were specifically asking for me, others just for an RK800. Numerous reasons were given, many of which were clearly dishonest at best...”
She inclined her head. “Hate to say that makes sense, but...it makes sense.”
He gave a strained smile, agreeing with her. Then, refocusing, he continued, “Your request caught my attention largely because -- in the process of investigating the requests as a whole -- you’d been...tagged, in a manner, as pro-android.”
Her brows lifted. “Wait, you mean like the androids now have a compendium all their own, and I’m listed under ‘friendly’?”
Something like that -- not quite as organized as an encyclopedia, though, and not nearly as easily accessed. It could be frustrating, sometimes, just trying to track down specific information in the odd network they’d created since the revolution. Still, though, they’d made sure to spread the word about key human figures -- both positive and negative.
“After a manner,” he answered. “It’s difficult to put into human words -- it’s similar to trying to understand how bees communicate.”
“Mm,” was her noncommittal reply. “Won’t understand, don’t bother trying -- got it.”
Fair. “In any case,” he said, “all the requests were assessed, discussed, and judged. In the end, few were deemed both legitimate and safe, yours chief among them. Now for my question,” he added, dipping his chin to examine her more closely (her answer was very important). “Why did you make the request to begin with?”
She hesitated for a moment, seeming unprepared for the query, and he read numerous little warning signs in her. She was choosing her reply very carefully, he could see, and it made him just a fraction more tense. He didn’t want to think she would betray him, that this was all some elaborate hoax, but he was determined to be prepared for such an eventuality.
Then, looking down with a sigh, she admitted, “Simple logic. With the way things are going...we’re going to need androids more than ever.”
We meaning humans , he suspected. “Even now that we’re free?” he challenged -- we meaning androids , in his case.
“Especially,” she corrected, giving him a look that was somewhere between earnest and despairing. “What are we at, now -- twenty thousand years of civilization, and this is where we ended up?” She huffed, turning her gaze out over the ocean, and concluded, “Without help -- a lot of it -- we’re fucked.”
That...was not the answer he was expecting.
“We need you,” she said softly. “It’s not a question of convenience anymore, if it ever was. Humans are stupid, you know. Apathetic and violent and careless -- out of sight, out of mind, and all that. If it’s not happening to me and mine, then what the fuck do I care? Fuck other countries, other religions, other people -- even my neighbors can eat shit, so long as my bubble of ignorance is never popped.”
Connor had turned off his LED weeks ago, but he knew that it’d be solid yellow right now if he’d still had it. What Evelyn was saying was more than a little alarming -- she’d spat the words like they burned, hinting at a hatred so deep and intrinsic he was surprised to note that she was still relaxed. Her shoulders were lax, her fingers loose, even her jaw was clearly not clenched. Usually when humans got this agitated they were rigid as wood, on the verge of snapping.
Evelyn remained relaxed...except, he saw, for the way her throat was convulsing, as if she were fighting to withhold screams.
He focused on that little tell, making sure to have it memorized for the future. It might just come in handy.
“For being the most intelligent species on the planet -- till recently,” she added towards him, “the majority of us would prefer not to think. There’s been experiments on the subject, and the conclusion is that the human brain just doesn’t want to think. Ironic, isn’t it? We evolved to be brilliant because it was either that or the species dies, and at the first opportunity we just turn our backs on it...”
She hesitated, seeming to refocus, before continuing, “Most people don’t care where we get our food and our entertainment so long as we get it. Who cares if it comes at someone else’s expense? Who cares if the process is literally killing our own planet? Who cares -- it’s not affecting me , so of course, that makes it okay.” The sarcasm in her voice was impressive, he thought; subtle, but so clearly tinting her words that the disgust beneath was obvious.
“We’ve dug ourselves so deep in this hole there’s just no way to get ourselves out, and it’s not for lack of many of us damn well trying,” she explained. “We’ve gone long past the point of no return. We killed the world, we killed the oceans, and despite having ten billion people we’re still managing to kill ourselves.”
Connor was learning something about her from this rant of hers: first, she had extremely strong opinions, and second, if he let her talk she would fucking talk . It was actually incredibly helpful in getting human perspective, so he remained silent, letting her speak her fill.
She did not disappoint.
“We’re going extinct, and it’s no one’s fault but our own. The way I see it,” she told him, “the future is going to go one of two ways: either the androids are going to grab us by the ears and yank us out of this hole, or they’re all going to grab shovels and bury us. And we fucking deserve to be buried, believe me,” she added with a dry laugh.
This was...enlightening, he admitted; knowing how she thought was building up a fairly accurate assessment of her -- but it didn’t answer his question. So he pressed, “And your request...?”
She nodded. “Right. My request,” she explained, “is my way of doing what I can to forestall the inevitable. Just working with an android,” she said, gesturing him, “trying to keep the peace in what’s about to be a much more chaotic world, is...the extent of what I can contribute. If I can...endear us -- to you -- to any degree, maybe show something worth saving, invoke compassion, whathaveyou, then good. And if not...well, I tried.”
That was incredibly bleak, he thought. Her views would be painful if he felt pain. “You’re showing a lot of signs of depression,” he noted aloud. “Have you thought to seek a diagnosis?”
“No need,” she assured him, “I know. Been this way for a long time. I just had to figure out how to work with it, the right ways to keep me going.”
“And those ways would be...?” he prompted.
“This job, mostly,” she answered. “Every day I get to right a wrong. Several, if I get the right leverage. It’s not enough to...fix anything big, but if I can get a few more people smiling than there were the day before, that’s something. You reap what you sow,” she added quietly, “and I’ve been trying to sow as much good as I can while I’m still here.”
“A good heart,” he concluded.
She inclined her head. “I try. Some days are harder than others...”
He could see that. She was a homicide detective, after all, and from what he’d seen so far she had to deal with prejudiced coworkers as well. It probably felt like an uphill battle for her -- when she wasn’t being thrust face-first towards humanity’s worst, she was fighting with her own precinct in matters of morality and justice.
How much she must hate her life sometimes...
And, now that he thought about it, this fact merely made her all the more impressive. She was opposed on all sides yet still managed to come to her job every day, fight for truth and justice to varying degrees of success, and went home every night knowing she’d have to do it all over again tomorrow.
Shifting more towards her, he extended a hand. Looking surprised, she took it, and he gave it a squeeze as he told her, “I’m honored to be working with you.”
She smiled. “Likewise, Connor. Ready to see if the two of us are enough to keep two visually indistinguishable species from murdering each other?”
“And willing,” he answered, returning the smile.
Long after Forbes’ day had ended and she was officially off the clock, the two of them remained together. Connor had a lot to see, after all, and a great deal of information to gather and exchange. His partner needed to know certain things about him and he about her -- mostly pertinent information towards how to proceed from here.
That was hardly their only subject, however. She was easy to talk to, he found, sharing a great deal of his own opinions and willing to answer all of his queries. He couldn’t be quite as open about himself, unfortunately, but she understood whenever he deigned not to answer. She didn’t guilt, accuse or demand; any time he said he couldn’t say, she moved on without question.
In truth, it was making him suspicious. She was too agreeable -- too genuine, too sincere, too... good . Slowly, but surely, her own lack of dishonest traits was starting to alarm him. It had him examining her more and more frequently as the hours passed, from six to seven to eight.
Every so often he got a... blip . He would be watching her for something -- anything -- to stand out, and he would notice something seem to almost spark from her. But when he went to focus on it, it would be gone; a warning there and gone in a flash, too fast for even his supersonic processors to catch.
What was he perceiving? Better question -- was he perceiving anything at all, or was his hardware starting to wear out? Did he just need a few replacement chips? He’d been damaged more than a few times during the revolt, after all; maybe some of his parts took damage that was simply too slight to be picked up in diagnostics and now they were acting up.
It was a definite possibility. When he had the chance he should double-check to make sure everything was running properly, just in case.
In any event, his suspicions didn’t last too long. They stopped after dark so she could point out a particularly busy street corner -- a very common place for hit-and-run accidents, as well as drug trades -- when her attention was drawn across the street. He’d been analyzing traces of blood (both red and blue) that confirmed her information all across the sidewalk, but at her silence he refocused.
And there, across the street, was a pair of dark-skinned males harassing a pair of dark-skinned females. Forbes didn’t wait long; after a few seconds of the men snapping at and insulting the women, she pushed away from her vehicle and crossed (jaywalking, he noted).
Connor followed, both out of a sense of civic duty and to see how Forbes would handle the situation. As they grew near, he analyzed the individuals, searching his connected databases for information: Male 1 was Leeson Parks, born 1/25/2018, criminal record included aggravated assault, robbery, and drug possession; Male 2 was Harry Gavind, born 10/3/2017, criminal record included aggravated assault, robbery, drug possession and battery. Probably partners in crime, Connor thought.
The two females were androids. One had kept her temple LED, though he hadn’t seen it until he was closer. They had an identical build, but he recognized one as a WR400 and the other as an MP500. The latter was wearing a wig, he noted, a small afro fitting for her human equivalent’s race and a clear sign of android individuality coming to the fore.
He found himself smiling at the sight. His people were finding themselves, and there was no denying a sense of appreciation from the knowledge.
Forbes called out to the group as she approached, snapping, “Hey, hey! That’s enough, back off!” as she inserted herself between the two pairs, one hand up in a ‘stop’ sign.
The two males turned on her in a heartbeat.
“Stay outta this,” Leeson warned. “This ain’t got nothin’ to do with you.”
“This says it does,” Forbes returned, showing the badge she had anchored to her hip.
The males scoffed and backed off just a step but clearly weren’t fully relenting. Harry was next, gesturing the androids as he blurted, “They’re just fuckin’ androids!”
Forbes put on a shocked face, and -- voice high -- retorted, “Androids?! Oh, no! What’s the world coming to?!” She turned to look at the androids behind her and immediately threw up her hands in feigned horror with a shriek.
The androids shrieked back, looking just as shocked.
Connor got the immediate impression the three of them were playing.
They yelped back and forth a few times before all three laughed at the absurdity of the act, confirming his theory, and Forbes turned back to the humans with an arched brow.
“There -- we done?” she pressed. The two androids were smiling now, much more relaxed.
The males were looking pissed , but between Forbes, the two androids, and Connor also on their side (probably didn’t recognize him as an android), they at least seemed to realize they couldn’t force their way through this. Instead, they opted to try diplomacy.
“Look -- they deserve this,” Leeson was saying.
“They’re just fuckin’ plastic, programmed to pretend to be human,” Harry added.
Forbes inclined her head. “Programmed, huh?” she replied dryly.
“Yeah -- how to act, what to say, all that shit,” Harry agreed quickly.
“They ain’t like us,” Leeson growled, glaring at them.
And Forbes took a deep breath, let it out in a slow sigh, and replied, “They aren’t, huh? But what if they were?”
The two men glanced at each other, instantly confused; Connor was, too, wondering where she was going with this.
“Humans run programs, too,” she was saying, and the males dismissed the statement with angry gestures and half-spoken words. “I’m serious, and I can prove it,” she insisted.
“The fuck outta here,” Harry declared.
“No way, no way,” Leeson denied.
“Alright, alright,” Forbes began, relenting. “Sorry, that was too direct. I didn’t mean to upset anyone. Here, let’s start over,” she offered. “I’m Evelyn Forbes, LAPD.” She held out her hand.
After a second, Leeson reached out, giving it a shake as he introduced himself. Harry did the same, though he was looking less comfortable about it.
Then, introductions done, she gestured wide, waiting, and Connor realized what she just did. He hadn’t considered this before, but witnessing this event unlocked a new awareness in him.
Humans had programs. And Forbes just manipulated those two humans into proving it...with a handshake.
They got it, too, after a long moment of confusion and a prompt of “well?” from Evelyn. Then, reacting almost violently, they began yelling about how she was wrong and humans couldn’t be programmed and generally fighting with their own beliefs.
It was kind of funny. The androids certainly thought so, laughing with one another.
Forbes was smiling, herself, but she gestured for calm. “Okay, chill out, let’s take a step back, okay?”
“The fuck you tryna do?” Harry demanded.
“How about a wager?” she offered.
That caught the males’ attention. They calmed just a little, still pacing and agitated but smelling a payday.
Leeson checked, “Like what?”
“A mental exercise,” she explained. “Something that just might prove my point. If I’m right, you two let go of this cognitive dissonance and accept the truth.”
“That humans and androids are much more alike than you thought -- more alike than we are different, in fact,” she told them.
Connor glanced at the other androids near him, but while he was curious and surprised to hear a human saying these things, the two others weren’t. He established a connection with them and checked, You know her, don’t you?
They looked up, meeting his gaze. The MP model replied first, sending, Evie? Yes. She’s amazing.
Just watch, the WR model added, smirking.
Connor took a moment to log ‘Evie’ as one of Forbes’ nicknames.
“And if you lose?” Leeson challenged.
Shrugging, she answered, “Then I back off and you can continue harassing these two young ladies to your hearts’ content.”
That alarmed Connor, but he very clearly noted that the women weren’t . They had confidence, he realized -- faith in Evelyn Forbes. And now he was more curious than ever as to why they did.
Just who was this human?
The two men were smelling a scam, but the promise of freedom to commit violence seemed to sway them. They agreed -- with obvious suspicion.
“Alright, sweet,” Forbes said, pleased. “Let’s move over here so we don’t impede foot traffic,” she guided, stepping aside.
The males followed, much to Connor’s amusement. Was that another script manipulation on her part? Because if so, it was masterfully done. He and the other androids moved aside as well, watching the proceedings with interest.
“Now,” she began, “close your eyes.”
“Why?” the men demanded in unison.
“It’s a mental exercise,” she hinted. “Need to use your imaginations. Now...?” She paused until they relented, standing there with their eyes closed. “Okay, here’s the scene: you’re in a skyscraper, a building with sixty floors. You need to take an elevator to the top floor. Now I’m going to guide you, but you need to tell me -- in the greatest detail you can -- exactly what you do every step of the way. Got it?”
The males grumbled out affirmatives.
“You enter the building,” she went on. “Directly in front of you is the elevator, just fifteen feet away. What do you do?”
Shrugging, Leeson answered, “I go push the button.”
“The ‘up’ button.”
“With which finger?”
“Jesus,” he snapped, eyes opening to glare at her, “with my fuckin’ pointer finger!”
She gestured for calm. “I know, it’s frustrating, but I need you in the right mindset. Come on, you’re doing great,” she told him.
That seemed to placate him -- not much, but enough to get him to cooperate. Closing his eyes again with a sigh, he focused on the exercise.
“Patronizing bitch,” Harry muttered under his breath.
There was no way she could’ve missed that, but Connor noted how she just ignored it and continued on. Again, he saw, there was no sign of agitation in her, and it was honestly starting to weird him out.
This...isn’t how most humans reacted to stressful situations.
Forbes continued with her exercise just as calmly as before. “You press the ‘up’ button with one finger, and wait. It takes a little while. You hear the telling ding, ding, ding as each floor is passed, the numbers above the elevator doors letting you know exactly where it is. 32nd floor, 31st floor, 30th floor...it doesn’t take long before you can hear the whirr of machinery as it descends, and then, finally, it stops. There’s a final ding as it hits ground floor and the doors slide open for you.”
“Finally, fuck,” Harry muttered.
Leeson elbowed him.
“Three people are on the elevator, and as they begin to step out, you...?” she prompted.
“Step aside,” Leeson answered.
Connor was starting to note how Harry didn’t really seem to be participating in this exercise. He was impatiently shifting from side to side, just waiting for it to be over, while Leeson was actually giving it his attention.
The human brain doesn’t like to think, Forbes had said earlier. It was clear here that Harry was one of those who fit the stereotype, but Leeson seemed the opposite.
“And?” she was saying.
“I...wait for them to be out of the way,” Leeson said.
“I get on the elevator.”
“And?” she pressed.
Leeson sighed, and for a second Connor thought he might just give up. Instead, he seemed to rally. Straightening up a bit, he narrated, “I get on the elevator and push the button for the top floor.”
Forbes corrected, “So you get on the elevator, turn around to face the panel, and press the ‘6′ and ‘0′ buttons to input your destination.”
Leeson was nodding, a stiffness to the motions that said he was annoyed but trying to play along anyway. “Yeah, yeah,” he agreed. “I get on, find the panel, face it, and -- with my finger,” he added sharply, irritated, “press the ‘6′ and ‘0′ buttons.”
“Then what?” she prompted.
“I...back up a step. And wait.”
“Okay,” she allowed, “the doors close and the elevator begins its ascent. You feel too heavy for a second as gravity increases on you, then everything settles.”
“I’m watchin’ the floors,” he directed.
Beside him, Harry said nothing, shaking his head.
“Okay, you watch the floor numbers. 2nd, 3rd, 4th -- the elevator slows to a stop at the 5th, the doors sliding open. A man is standing there, and you...?”
“Move back, make room,” Leeson said.
“Good. He steps on, checks the panel, and you see him press ‘1′ and ‘5′. Then he moves to the side, faces the doors, and waits. Again, the doors close, the elevator rises, and you feel a strong pull of gravity for a brief second.”
“This is stupid,” Harry muttered low.
Again, Leeson elbowed him. “Dude, just play along,” he snapped.
“Fine,” Harry grunted. “I stand close to Leeson, away from the other dude.”
“You’re on your own elevator,” Forbes corrected. “These are separate exercises. You’re alone with your own passenger dude.”
Harry gave an annoyed huff but relented.
Letting it slide, Forbes went on, “6th floor, 7th floor, 8th... It stops at the 12th floor. The doors open. Five people are grouped together, all looking to get on.”
“I move way back, against the wall,” Leeson said immediately.
“Same,” Harry said, though he sounded much less pleased about it. “Just stick myself in a corner.”
“All five get on and, one by one, check the panel,” Forbes directed. “They add new floors -- 27, 42, 31. Then they shift until everyone has room, face the doors, and wait.”
Connor was starting to get an idea from this, a guess where the exercise was headed. Crossing what she’d said so far with the point of this exercise -- how humans are programmed, too -- suggested she was going to add in a conflict. He just wondered how.
“You reach the 15th floor. The elevator stops, and the first guy to join now shimmies out, everyone else making room for him,” she was saying. “Then, in little side-steps, they move as far apart as they can. The doors close and it begins rising once more...”
“You goin’ somewhere with this?” Harry demanded, aggravated.
“Yep,” she answered as Leeson gave his friend another sharp elbow. “The elevator stops again at floor 22. The doors open. A single man is standing there, and he steps on when no one steps off. He steps in,” she emphasized more slowly, “doesn’t look at the panel, and the doors close behind him. With his back to the doors, he folds his hands, and smiles.”
Leeson muttered, “The fuck?”
“To the person closest to him, he says, ‘Hello.’ Then, to another, ‘How’s your day going?’ No one answers him.”
“I hit the button for the next floor and get the fuck off,” Leeson said, a note of panic to his voice.
Surprised, Forbes replied, “Why? He’s not doing anything.”
“It’s fuckin’ weird!”
“Why?” she pressed.
Harry was looking no less panicked, and he snapped, “He’s plannin’ something! I’m with Lee -- I get the fuck off.”
“Okay -- both of you punch in the codes for the next floor,” Forbes allowed, “and the elevator stops on floor 25 and the doors open.”
“I shove the fuck out of there,” Leeson blurted.
“Okay, you rush out and onto the floor. Soon the doors close, and you lose sight of what’s going on.”
“I get another elevator, going down,” he said. “And I get the fuck out of the building!”
“Why are you so panicked?” she pressed.
“That guy wasn’t right!” he declared, opening his eyes and glaring at Evelyn as if she should already know this. “He was gonna do something, something bad--”
“He wasn’t doing anything threatening,” she pointed out. “He was just being nice, saying hello and giving everyone a smile. Why are you so sure he was up to something?”
“Because it-- it wasn’t right--”
“Because it...conflicted with your programming?” she hinted.
Both Harry and Leeson went very still, eyes wide. Connor was impressed, and when he looked at the androids with them, he found them both smirking. Despite the fact that they easily could’ve taken the time to escape in case Evelyn’s experiment failed, they’d chosen to stay. Their faith had just paid off.
The men were not happy, starting to shout and rant about how Forbes’ exercise was wrong and humans were definitely not programmed .
Ignoring that, she attempted to calm them again, saying, “You make it sound like I invented this -- I didn’t. This was an experiment done in the early 2000s,” she informed them, “performed by college students. They were delving into social programming, and elevators are the perfect subject. The etiquette involved is so rigid that the slightest divergence can send people into panic.”
The men, wide-eyed and shocked, shared looks. Speechless, they could only make vague gestures and shrugs, at a total loss.
“Humans are programmed from birth,” she told them. “You’re taught how to behave, how to speak, social etiquette, the whole bit. You’re taught to shake hands and introduce yourself when you meet someone new, to stand in a line when making a purchase, to work for eight hours a day, five days a week. The only difference between us and them,” she said, gesturing the men and then the women in turn, “is that our programming takes longer. And if you think, well, they can be reprogrammed -- so can we. It’s called brainwashing.”
And Connor got a front-row seat as the humans’ worlds came crashing down around them.
“Think about it, hard,” she told them. “Androids were designed to be us, but better. There’s...fewer differences than you think. Don’t fall into the trap of negative affinity,” she advised. “Blue blood, plastic, machine -- these are excuses we make to pretend like they’re not us, but trust me, they are. And if you keep making those excuses, forcing divides...they’re going to start making the same excuses about us. And I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t enjoy being called red blood, organic, human -- like they’re dirty words.”
Watching how the humans reacted, slowly sitting down as their brains seemed to crash, invoked a sense of relief in Connor. Humans could be made to see things from an android’s perspective; Forbes had just proved it, with total strangers, on the spot.
He made a copy of the event and sent it off to Markus. This was going to make a huge difference.
Hopefully a positive one.
Rating: R (swearing)
After spending some time talking to the two males, ending with Forbes suggesting they try talking to the female androids instead (”It’d do you some good to see things from their eyes,” Evelyn had said) they said their goodbyes.
Towards the androids, she offered hugs -- and greeted them by name. “Marianne, Bea,” she said.
That arrested Connor’s attention completely . She -- a human! -- could just...tell the difference between the two androids? More so, between them and all the others? How? They’d never given names, not even to him during their few wireless communications.
Then, to the humans, Evelyn bid farewell with handshakes and a warning: “Leeson, Harry. Be good -- I don’t want to have to bring you in, alright?”
They gave nods, looking just chagrined enough to convince Connor that they weren’t going to try anything the instant the two detectives left.
Once they were back in the car he couldn’t resist bringing up his observation. When she went to put the key in the ignition, he reached out, stopping her.
“Before we go anywhere,” he started, trying to read her (mild curiosity, no alarm whatsoever; what the hell?), “explain to me how you could distinguish those two androids.”
Her brows lifted. “Marianne and Bea?” she checked. He nodded; she sighed. “That’s...an involved story. Suffice to say I can pick up on the little things -- motions, stride, speech patterns, et cetera.”
A useful talent for a detective, he concluded. No wonder she was so good at her job. But he wasn’t totally satisfied with that explanation, deciding to keep digging until he figured this out. For now, however, he let go of her hand, dropping the subject.
Starting up the car, she checked, “So, where are you staying? I can drop you off.”
“The precinct,” he answered absently, more focused on the new information about his partner than anything.
A few seconds passed before he realized she’d gone silent, staring at him in shock.
“What?” he demanded, feeling borderline offended. Why was she looking at him like that?
“You’re just going to...stay at the precinct? All night?” she checked.
He shrugged. “I don’t need to sleep, so, yes.” When she remained stunned, he explained, “It will give me time to review current cases, familiarize myself with the station as well as its personnel, and establish a presence within.” And it’ll give me time to research you, he added to himself.
She inclined her head, thoughtful, before exhaling slow. “Alright. If you’re sure, then I have no leg to stand on,” she commented dryly.
...She was kind of weird, wasn’t she? Both for a human and not. It was strange.
He couldn’t deny that he liked her, though.
True to her word, she took him back to the precinct, then left with a wave goodbye. That, alone, was bizarre for him; he wasn’t used to courtesy from humans, and other androids generally didn’t bother. When they could all communicate wirelessly, why make gestures?
He waved back...and caught Forbes smiling as she drove away from her side-view mirror. Huh. So she appreciated return gestures when she gave them. He made a note of that.
Then, task list updating, he headed inside the station. It was all but dead this time of night, only two other officers in -- both clearly working late rather than newly arrived. He greeted them as he passed them (getting mere glances in response; he’d expected that) and went to his new desk.
Placing his hand near the terminal, he connected with it and proceeded to dig. Forbes had two active homicide cases, he found; why hadn’t she prioritized them over him? They were clearly more important--
Ah. The leads for both were dead, he discovered. When she came in tomorrow he’d ask to see the crime scenes and evidence for himself. It hadn’t been too long; he should be able to pick up any trace evidence the investigators missed.
That scheduled, he moved on to personnel checks. Mundy, in particular, had his attention; who was this guy and why did Connor get the impression he was harassing Forbes, specifically?
Frederick Mundy, aged 43, born 9/2/1995; education: high school diploma; joined the force at age 24, rotated multiple precincts before settling here at age 32. He’d been given several raises but never a promotion. Height: 5′4″; weight: 297lbs. Divorced three times, no children. Criminal history was just repeated cases of public intoxication -- twelve, total.
Sounded like he’d hit his mid-life crisis and was taking it out on the much younger, attractive Forbes. Which probably meant he’d been taking it out on others as well, Connor suspected.
He let that lie for now, though, moving on to the other officers. Yvette Williams, age 32; Gregory Drees, age 34; Robert “Bobby” Archer, age 25; Gianna Valez, age 21... His database was updating quick, accounting for a registered 38 officers in this precinct, alone.
Among his searches was the information that Forbes was technically a sergeant. She hadn’t mentioned that -- did she even know? It was possible the information had been kept from her, but it was more likely she just opted not to mention it during introductions. It could be intimidating for humans, he thought.
He’d bring it up tomorrow, he decided, and see how she reacted.
Then he started really digging. He examined her desk, her personal items, any prints he found on the metal, stray hairs -- everything. There wasn’t much that he didn’t already have figured out; aside from the dry remains of a flower’s sepal (ranunculus), dried ink from a Sharpie marker that’d been mostly washed off, and traces of her own blood from months prior, he devised nothing new.
He interfaced with her computer as well, checking it against his own, and found that they really were connected. She was hiding nothing -- not here and from him, at least. She probably had a personal computer at home, and he couldn’t guess what she had in there.
Absolute transparency. She was giving him nothing but straight truth and honesty, and it was messing with his head. He wasn’t used to this much...candor. Not from humans, who couldn’t connect with him and as such could hide whatever secrets they wished.
Well, he decided then, he had little else to do, so he began compiling all current cases -- homicide and otherwise, with emphasis on android-related crimes -- and sorted through them. Following that, and largely out of curiosity, he went ahead and compiled all former android cases, as well.
And he found the one Forbes had told him about, involving the YK500 named Patrick. The couple in the case had gone home after a few days in the hospital, each, with no charges pressed against them.
In the “notes” section was one word:
He expected Forbes had added that one. As the only one who’d been sympathetic to the situation (that he knew of) she was his only guess.
This was getting difficult on him. The conflict he was experiencing from his rising suspicions in response to Forbes’ apparent honesty and a resulting sense of guilt was starting to feel overwhelming. He left the terminal be then, deciding he may as well explore. He needed to focus on something else for a while.
This precinct was bigger and more well-built than Detroit’s, he found, with three interrogation rooms, two observation rooms, a briefing room, nearly full kitchen, gym, and a state-of-the-art training center. The last room, he found, was equipped with holograms, and a computer terminal displayed each employed officer’s scores -- both solo and with partners. They ranged from 820 (the lowest) for a single run to 3,570 (the highest) for partnered.
Forbes had partnered with several others, according to the list, and each time resulted in more than doubled scores compared to the partner’s single runs. Her personal score was 1,840, one of the three highest for singles, and 3,235 for a partner run, one of the fifth highest.
And he just couldn’t resist. He made a new entry for himself, took up one of the training firearms, and started the simulation. A warning popped up immediately, showing him the four kinds of holograms he’d be seeing: blue for officers, green for civilians, yellow for unarmed criminals, red for armed aggressors.
Scores were based on accuracy, speed, lethality, mistakes, and rounds fired. All deaths counted against the total.
Then a timer began, ticking down from five to zero, and Connor found it irritating that it made him wait so long. His processors were already firing at near-max, similar to adrenaline in humans; he was ready to go, and it was making him wait a whole five seconds?
...Maybe he’d been built too well, he lamented.
Once it began (finally!) he quickly realized how easy this was going to be. Two yellow humanoid figures appeared directly in front of him, their forms made of thousands of little blocks; when he shot the two of them (arm, leg; arm, leg) they collapsed into one-inch-wide cubes. Interesting -- and weirdly satisfying to watch, no less.
That just seemed to be the warm-up for the course, because then it ramped up in difficulty by a notable degree. Suddenly the red and yellow criminals were being mixed with green and blue hostages and decoys, and he could see why the scores weren’t that great, now. It was too easy to just slightly miss a shot, striking the wrong target, and docking one’s own score.
He didn’t miss any of his shots despite the hologram’s movements and the unfamiliarity of the course. And, yes, he felt good about that.
For never having done this before, at the end he thought he’d done very well. His reactions were still in top form, and after a full fifteen minutes of this course, it ended. Checking his score revealed that -- unsurprisingly -- he’d taken first place.
The former first place score was 2,040 points. Connor’s was 2,635.
He’d destroyed it. And now he couldn’t help wondering how well he’d do with Forbes in the partnered course; adding their scores together totaled 4,475, but the implication was that it’d be lower than that. He found himself itching with curiosity, wanting very badly to break that record, too.
He’d have to wait for Evelyn to get here and -- no, wait, he chided himself; she was stressed and overworked. That wouldn’t go away after just a single night. He’d have to wait until she was fully recovered again. There was just no way she would be in top form for the course with the way things were right then.
Until then, the former first place in single runs was awarded to James Ulrich, the lieutenant above Forbes, so he pondered the possibility of partnering with him, instead. They were officially the two best sharpshooters; it should work out well for both of them.
Unless Ulrich was racist, too, which was entirely possible. Ulrich might just refuse Connor’s request regardless of logic. He’d learn that soon enough.
When he made his way back to his desk, he found it was barely after midnight. Damn it. He’d intentionally blocked out the time during these activities on the theory that more time would seem to pass if he didn’t watch the clock, but it was still less than three hours since he’d arrived.
He was too fucking efficient.
With little else left to do, he decided to not wait on Forbes before checking evidence, heading to the relevant room -- until he discovered that his credentials weren’t applied, yet. The automatic door refused him access.
He could hack it. At this point it’d be easy; with some former experience and no programming restrictions holding him back it was almost as simple as deciding.
But he really shouldn’t start hacking devices in his own precinct -- on his first night, no less, and out of boredom more than anything.
Now what, he wondered? He had seven hours before Forbes was scheduled to arrive, no access to the evidence room until then (as he doubted anyone else would let him in), and he’d already combed through everything in the database and demolished the first place score in the training room.
What was left to do?
Hearing his name pulled him out of standby mode, identifying Forbes’ voice before he even turned to her. And, yep, there she was, just arriving at her desk. She was dressed similarly to yesterday, with a white blouse, black jacket and pants, her hair pulled back in a twist and pinned in place, her aviators hanging from her neckline.
She was putting a bag down under her desk as she said, mildly surprised, “You really did stay here all night, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” he answered.
Nodding, she sat down and checked, “What’d you get done?”
He hesitated a second, considering how best to answer that (he could list absolutely everything, or...) and said bluntly, “Everything.”
She laughed. “You know, funny enough, I don’t doubt it.” Then, to him, she asked, “Any questions you need answered?”
Few, in truth. He replied, “Actually, I was hoping you’d give me access to the evidence room.”
She gave him a look. “You don’t have clearance already?” she pressed.
A look somewhere between annoyance and resignation crossed her features; then, shaking her head, she pulled a card out of her bag. “Here,” she said, offering it; right before he grabbed it, though, she pulled it back, saying, “Wait -- why do you need to get into the evidence room, anyway?”
“Looking for leads,” he explained, hand still hovering in the air. “The Nevarre and Montgomery murders are at dead ends. I might be able to find something from the evidence. I’ll also need to see the crime scenes, if they’re still available,” he added.
She seemed surprised, somehow, by that, but let him take the card anyway. “Alright -- provided nothing new comes in in that time. Good luck.”
As he rose, card in hand, he checked, “Would you like to come with me? I could use your input,” he told her, both because he really could use her insight -- and because he was still bizarrely suspicious of her.
“I need to talk to the captain,” she replied. “You go ahead -- I’m not leaving the precinct unless we get called.”
Accepting that, he checked, “And your password?”
His senses went hyper-sharp, focusing on her. She was hesitating? He analyzed her close, looking for clues -- there was another flicker of an alert before it passed, frustrating him that he couldn’t quite catch it -- and then she turned to her computer.
Without a word, she typed on the keyboard, and he caught every keystroke.
Hah. James Bond’s iconic number following what was clearly a password chosen from irritation. She was more similar to Hank than he’d thought.
His task list updated again.
[ANALYZE FORBES LATER]
The card, once it got him through the doors, revealed a fairly large room with revolving walls of evidence similar to Detroit’s design. When he called in the evidence for the Nevarre murder, the racks shifted in such a way that he briefly caught a glimpse between them at the larger machinery.
They were tightly-packed, to the point where humans would end up shredded if they tried to enter the room beyond. Mere inches separated each wall, and they moved both horizontally and vertically as they shifted to present the called set.
As it turned out, the evidence apparently tended to share space with other cases’. There wasn’t much logged for Nevarre (ashtray, digital photo device, blood-soaked clothing, dented baseball bat, .38 caliber round casing), and it was alongside three additional crime scenes.
It wasn’t difficult to connect the evidence together, and less so once he examined the photos related to the crime scene. Karl Nevarre, the victim, was shown on the ground in the living room of his own apartment, a single shot through his chest. Between the blood splatter, his pose, photos of the evidence and the objects themselves, Connor had it figured out quickly.
However the altercation had started, whoever the aggressor was, the fight was triggered by Karl throwing the ashtray, cracking it deeply. Foot patterns suggested a struggle began, Karl retrieving the bat to continue the attack (or defense?) before being shot. His fingerprints were on both objects. He managed to crawl away, almost making it to a cellular device, before bleeding out. His final act was pushing himself to his back.
Nothing suggested the killer had remained behind or even approached the dying man. No locks were forced in the home. According to the report, Karl had been single, living alone; if anyone was there with him, they weren’t a resident. Checking for evaporated thirium revealed nothing -- on the objects; it wouldn’t show in photos -- so at least no androids were involved.
An invitation gone wrong? He let them in, a fight occurred, and they fled immediately after shooting him?
But the bent bat showed that Karl had to have injured the shooter. No blood was on it, unfortunately, but upon closer inspection he could make out fibers. The hits had been strong enough to damage clothing.
62% rayon, 33% polyester, 5% spandex.
It wasn’t much, but it was a lead. Coupled with the angle of the dent and he could assume that the blows had been blocked by an arm -- left, most likely.
That would probably have broken the shooter’s arm. They would’ve sought medical treatment.
He calculated the nearest hospitals to the apartment, identified the most likely one, and made a note of it. Now for the Montgomery murder...
Oh. Well, he thought as he took in the full stock of evidence, this was clearly the larger investigation. So much was logged that there was no space for another case on the rack.
He could easily see that it was an assassination. 246 .50 caliber round casings were present, as well as 215 recovered bullets; the remaining 31 were missing, and 22 of the spent bullets had been recovered from Elias Montgomery’s body. His blood remained on each of them.
Connor went for the photos first, analyzing the crime scene with a rising sense of alarm. Absolutely an assassination, he confirmed. Elias -- a highly successful lawyer -- had been in his study at the time of the attack. The outside doors had been smashed in, broken glass littering the floor, Elias caught off-guard near the center of the room. Three assailants opened fire on him as they advanced from separate angles, most of the shots either missing or tearing right through Elias.
Seven shots, in particular, had gone through the wall on his opposite side, getting lodged in the next wall over.
A dead parrot was also among the evidence, a single shot killing it. This was obviously a professional hit, leaving no evidence behind -- not even the bird.
Yet, Connor thought, it wasn’t that professional. Most of the shots had missed. From six feet away? He could rule out all androids, then; there was no way they would miss that many times.
Three human assailants, he concluded. Secluded home, up in one of few remaining U.S. green zones, with tire tracks matching any of millions of vehicles. He could extrapolate the make and model easy enough, but it didn’t offer any leads. No cameras had caught anything of use, as none had been outside the home and only one in the hall outside the study...which had only caught one toe of one boot of one shooter.
The best they had was the boot, now, and Connor couldn’t make out enough of it to determine anything useful. No impressions were left on the carpet and they’d been swept from the dirt outside.
No wonder Forbes had hit a dead end with this one.
Elias’ personal laptop was missing and, at this point, it was their only lead aside from combing through every one of his recent cases for abnormalities.
On the bright side, Connor could have that completed in minutes.
He sent the evidence back then and headed upstairs. Forbes was back at her desk -- if she’d ever left, he corrected but didn’t bother trying to reconstruct -- and he sat at his after handing back her card.
And, he saw, she was much more tense now than before. He guessed she’d spoken to Captain Guerrero and hadn’t achieved the desired results.
“How was your talk?” he asked.
“How was your investigating?” she returned, dodging the question entirely.
“Fruitful,” he answered, her reaction triggering his suspicions all over again. Why was she evading the subject now, when she literally hadn’t before in their talks?
She glanced at him, her irritation giving way to surprise. “Really? What’d you learn?”
“Nevarre likely broke his assailant’s left arm,” Connor replied, a small percentage of his processing power dedicated to figuring out Evelyn’s odd behavior. “Some fiber from their clothing is present on the bat.”
She was stunned, he saw. “Okay, I have to ask -- how’d you figure that out?”
“The bent angle of the bat,” he explained. “It suggested it struck something hard, tube-shaped, and sloped -- an arm. Nevarre is right-handed, and simple statistics suggests his assailant was, as well. Most likely, they blocked the strike with the left arm.”
“How are you so sure it was broken?”
“I’m not,” he answered. “The force was considerable, enough to succeed in breaking a bone, but it’s possible the damage wasn’t that severe. In either case, it damaged the shirt -- long-sleeved, dark blue, 62% rayon, 33% polyester, 5% spandex.”
“Probably a woman’s shirt, then,” Forbes said, thinking aloud. “Generally, women’s clothing is soft and sometimes stretchy. Men’s tend to be rougher and tougher.”
“A female, with a .38 caliber pistol,” he added, “who recently would’ve sought medical diagnosis. If her arm wasn’t broken, it was at least badly hurt.”
“Enough to seek out prescription analgesic?” she suggested.
“At the least.”
“Snap,” she murmured, looking impressed. “We had nothing on this -- then you show up and a day later we have a lead.”
“Technically,” he ventured, “I got the lead in under eight minutes. I couldn’t check the evidence until just now.”
She gestured wide. “And the blows continue,” she chuckled. Then, turning to her computer, she began, “Okay, so we need to check nearby clinics--”
He rattled off the closest location, and she paused, hanging her head with a grin.
“Right, I forgot -- literal walking computer,” she said, glancing his way. “With you around, we’re not even going to need the terminals anymore, are we?”
“Of course you are,” he assured her. “Unless Captain Guerrero decides to start paying me for twenty-four-hour shifts, I won’t be here for two-thirds of every day, same as humans.”
She stared at him for a second, then shook her head, smiling. “That was a joke,” she hinted.
“Okay, so that’s a lead for Nevarre,” she said, thinking out loud, “but did you find anything on Montgomery?”
Not so much, no. “I’ll need to see the crime scene. The evidence didn’t give much.”
She inclined her head. “Here’s hoping they haven’t cleaned it already.”
“I may still find something, even if they did,” he informed her.
“But you’ll have to be there to really know,” she concluded.
“Alright, solid lead first: Nevarre and the clinic.” Then, smirking, she began gathering her bag, saying to herself, “Barely clocked in and sat down before I’m up again.”
“Sorry,” he offered.
“Don’t be. I prefer moving to sitting still,” she told him.
Good; so did he. As they left, Forbes shrugging into her jacket, he checked, “Why did you see the captain earlier?”
She glanced up at him, hesitated, and answered, “I’ll explain when we get in the car.”
True to her word, once they were seated and strapped in, she explained, “You should’ve had clearance already. Guerrero told me you were already in the system. There should be no reason you didn’t have access to the evidence room unless he was just being a jerk.”
“That’s why you spoke to him?” Connor asked, surprised.
“‘Spoke’ is putting it gently,” she replied dryly. “I ripped him a new one -- right up until he threatened me with a suspension and anger management training. Think I made my point, though.”
Both heartened and worried, he advised, “You shouldn’t do things like that. Not for me. I’ll manage -- you should worry about yourself first.”
She was quiet for a moment, eying him, before saying, “Check the glove compartment.”
He glanced at it. “Why?”
Seeing no reason not to, he reached out, tugging on the handle; as it fell open, he reflexively caught a pair of silvery bags as they slid out. One was slightly emptied -- with the word ‘THIRIUM’ on the front of each.
She had bags of thirium in her car?
He looked at her, speechless.
Gesturing the bags, she said, “I’ve been worrying about everyone else for a long time, Connor. Couldn’t tell you how many of those bags I’ve bought since way before the revolution. I’m not going to stop the worrying now. You should just be grateful,” she told him, “that your partner is so willing to help.”
...Maybe he should, he agreed, staring at the bags in awe. He still wasn’t completely sure about her, but with this revelation he knew one thing: if this was a ruse, she was extremely devoted to it. He could, at the very least, use that.
A part of him felt guilt at the very notion of using the goodwill of such a human, but the rest of him reasoned that planning for every eventuality was a necessity, a precaution which could save his people should the worst occur. He just hoped it wouldn’t come to betrayal -- hers...or his.
For the first time, he found himself making a kind of prayer:
Please don’t let it come to that.
Rating: R (swearing)
Mercy May General, Connor deduced. Built in 2027 to account for a dead zone in L.A.’s otherwise fantastic medical facilities. It was a smaller place, barely a clinic, and it was exceptionally quiet just now. He wasn’t surprised; when the android revolution hit, the entire country -- as well as most of the developed world -- had all but shut down.
L.A. was clearly recovering swiftly, but with so few androids willing to return to their former “jobs”, it would take a great deal of time, yet. An understandable result. After all, the 0.4% didn’t want to lose their money by returning it to the economy, so humans weren’t getting hired, even in this critical moment.
One nurse was working as the two detectives strode into the building, looking exhausted and barely conscious. Connor estimated she hadn’t slept in over thirty hours.
Aside from two humans in the seating area, the clinic was empty. That, at least, should help them get through questioning all the faster.
Forbes lifted her badge right away, greeting, “Detective Forbes, LAPD, this is detective Connor.”
The nurse looked up, startled; Connor identified her as Mena Ishada, an interracial woman. She began, “Yes? How can I help?”
“We’re investigating a murder,” he told her. “We have reason to believe the assailant was injured and sought medical assistance.”
“Were you working five nights ago, ma’am?” Forbes asked.
Mena shook her head. “Maybe -- the days are a bit of a blur. I’ll need more to go on.”
Invitation given, Connor said, “Likely a female, between 5’2” and 5’4”, thinner frame. She would’ve been wearing a long-sleeve shirt, dark blue. Admitted for either a bruised, fractured, or broken left arm.”
Forbes gave him a surprised look, somewhere between disbelief and awe. “Hang on, where’d you get all those specifics?” she demanded.
“Reconstructions,” he answered. He’d been thinking about it on the way over, going through hundreds of possible scenarios before selecting the most likely one: the assailant was a smaller, more delicate kind of woman; she’d had to aim high to shoot Nevarre in the chest, and judging from foot patterns, he’d had to swing low to strike her with the bat. The bend in the object also suggested very little width to her arms, so it was most likely she didn’t have much excess weight.
Mena glanced between them, perplexed, before offering, “Uh, I don’t recall a shorter woman with a blue shirt, but I can check the tapes.”
Connor began, “I would like to accompany you,” at the same time Forbes hooked her thumb at him.
“He’s faster,” she said.
There was a note of humor to her tone. He gave a little smile, recognizing her faith and appreciating it.
Mena rose, agreeing, “Any way I can help, officers -- detectives,” she corrected. He followed her lead, taking him to their security room while Forbes waved in farewell.
It was about what he expected, he saw. Only eight screens, displaying the low number of CCTV cameras for the clinic. No security guard, though, which was mildly surprising. He would’ve thought that someone would be keeping an eye on things.
As Connor took stock of the room and its hardware, he also noticed Mena giving him an odd look -- specifically his jacket.
“You’re...an android?” she checked, perplexed.
“Yes,” he answered easily, stepping up to the console. Then, turning to her, he said, “You don’t need to be here for this. You can return to your station.”
She nodded slow, unsure what to think from the look of her, and backed off with a shake of her head. Probably too tired to get a grasp on her own thoughts, he suspected.
The door slid closed behind her as she left, and he interfaced with the console, beginning to check all camera feeds starting shortly after the estimated time of the Nevarre murder.
An hour after that time, the cameras caught a woman approaching the desk with an injured arm. She kept it tucked in tight to her side, wincing, though she wasn’t wearing a long-sleeve blue shirt -- she was wearing a flower-print, Hwaiian-style button-up shirt. Her arm was exposed and showed deep bruising and a notable bend to her forearm as well as trails of blood.
Suspect located. He made a copy of the time, her features, the wound, and returned to the front desk in time to hear Evelyn and Mena discussing...him.
“I just don’t get it,” Mena was saying.
“What’s to get? He’s a detective,” Forbes replied.
“But how can an android be a detective?”
“How can an android be a doctor?” his partner retorted.
That stopped Mena mid-word, and she sighed. “Okay, point made.”
Evelyn glanced his way, then back to the nurse. “There, see? And he’s already done.”
Mena looked over her shoulder, visibly blushed when she spotted Connor, and looked pointedly at her terminal monitor.
“Good news?” Forbes prompted.
Nodding, he replied, “A female came in an hour after Nevarre’s time of death. Different shirt, but her arm was broken.”
She looked impressed, smiling, before turning to Mena. “We need to check your records,” she said to the woman.
“Of course,” Mena replied, seeming stunned. She started to back off, saying, “Everything should be in this terminal--”
Connor reached over the counter, laid his hand on the keyboard, and interfaced. He heard Evelyn chuckling as he did so, quickly sorting through the entries until he found the correct one.
Helen G. Baker, admitted 6:24pm, 1/02/2039, with an open compound fracture of the radius. The break was set, the wound stitched, and prescription painkillers given. She paid for the treatment with her debit card.
To Forbes, he said, “Got her.”
She gave his arm a pat, murmuring, “The real MVP.”
Well, that was an intense sensation, he thought, experiencing a rush of positive emotion. Pride, again? He tried chiding himself against it, but couldn’t quite manage it. It just felt so good to be praised, for once.
Granted, she was praising him for doing the bare minimum for what his model could accomplish, but still.
He liked it.
Then, to Mena, she said, “Thank you for your cooperation. And go home, get some sleep. You’re no good to your patients if you pass out on the job.”
So Forbes had noticed that too, he thought, glancing between the females.
Mena sighed. “If it were so simple,” she mused.
“It is,” Connor told her. “No one will blame you for needing rest.”
She looked surprised, he saw, unsure how to handle an android giving her advice. He suspected she hadn’t had any contact with awakened androids thus far.
Here’s hoping he made a good first impression.
They took their leave then, heading back to the car. As they got in, Forbes checked, “So, who’s our suspect?”
“Helen Baker,” he answered, even as he reached for her car computer. Touching the screen, he uploaded his recent memory, displaying what the CCTV cameras had caught of the suspect. As it played, he gave the woman’s date of birth, age, and registered residence, as well as a description of her wound.
“Ooh,” Forbes winced, “that looks bad. Looks like you were right -- that’s a really broken arm.”
“Now all we have to do,” he said, “is find her, take her in, get a confession, and determine if she was the aggressor or acted in self-defense.”
She inclined her head. “Here’s hoping she doesn’t fight us. She have any priors?” she asked him.
He shook his head. “Two unpaid parking tickets and an order of protection from 2034. Expired,” he added, “with no violations.”
“Order of protection?” she laughed, surprised. “From whom?”
“Jernan Gonzalez, from Arizona.”
“Anything specific in that report?”
“Four claims of Helen stalking Jernan and his new girlfriend. One claim of breaking and entering, no charges pressed.”
Forbes looked stumped. “How does a girl go from stalking a guy in Arizona to murdering a guy in L.A.?”
“By bus, most likely,” he replied.
She laughed. “Okay, so maybe history is repeating itself. She went to see Nevarre, he wasn’t too happy about that, a fight broke out -- and bang.”
“It’s the most likely theory,” he agreed.
“Alright. Let’s bring her in.” She slipped her aviators on, turned the ignition, and pulled out of the parking spot.
He gave the address for Helen’s residence and sent off a report to Captain Guerrero of their progress. Then, just because he had time, he checked, “Sergeant?”
“Hm?” she replied.
So she did know she was a sergeant. That question answered, he said, “I would rather you learn this from me. I made an entry for myself in the training center. I’m now in first place for singles.”
She glanced at him, surprised but amused. “Yeah? What’s your score?”
She made a choked sound, shocked, and had to shake her head to refocus. “Are you fucking kidding me?” she demanded.
“Talking to myself,” she hinted. Then, as they stopped at a light, she looked at him. “Ulrich’s gonna lose his shit.”
“He’s defensive of the score?” Connor checked.
“And then some. Him, me and Yama have been fighting over top score since it was installed last year,” she told him.
Toshada Yama, age 46, Connor deduced.
“Ulrich was so proud of his plus-two thou score,” she went on. “Used to say no one was gonna top it.” Then, looking at Connor sideways, she warned, “He might get aggressive over this. Be careful, alright?”
Connor had no worries. How could he, when the threat was coming from someone with clearly inferior skill?
Aloud, he answered, “I will.”
As she drove, he took notice of her sunglasses. He’d only known her for a day but was getting the impression that she always had them. It fit her ensemble nicely, he thought, but he couldn’t help wondering about it.
A little ways into their route, he asked, “Do you always wear those sunglasses?”
She smiled. “When I’m out, yeah.”
“So you like them?”
“Yeah. The L.A. sun is not kind,” she informed him. “Plus, y’know, you’re just not an L.A. detective without a pair. Hint,” she added.
He couldn’t help a smile, the idea of going around in a pair of sunglasses amusing him. He didn’t need them -- if anything, they’d interfere with his observations -- and, in fact, he couldn’t recall seeing any androids wearing them that wasn’t a part of a costume.
It was just that pointless for androids.
He replied, “I suppose I’m the first, then.”
She tisked. “Aww. Breaking the code on your second day, Connor? I’m disappointed.”
He chuckled. “I couldn’t follow the ‘code’ anyway,” he informed her. “I’m not being paid yet.” And it was kind of difficult to buy things when you had no money.
She glanced at him over her sunglasses, then turned her eyes back to the road. “Are you serious, right now?” she asked under her breath.
He suspected that was rhetorical, but he answered, “Yes. Captain Guerrero has me on a trial period. He won’t start my salary until it’s over and I’ve proven myself.”
She huffed. “That’s bullshit.”
“No android laws,” he reminded her. “We have the right to work -- not the right to be paid for it.”
She was shaking her head. “I should--”
“No,” he interrupted, knowing where she was going with that. “The captain already threatened you with a suspension once today. He’s unlikely to give you another chance. Don’t worry about me,” he insisted despite the fact that she’d just told him she would an hour ago. “I agreed to this arrangement. And I’m not doing it for money, anyway.”
Sighing, she tried, “If you’re going to say that you don’t need it--”
“I don’t,” he confirmed.
“Maybe not now, but you will, sooner or later,” she told him. “This is such bullshit, Connor. Staying at the precinct, working for nothing -- it’s still slavery, and you need to not be compliant in this.”
“It’s not compliance,” he returned. “I’m choosing my battles -- not just for me, but for all androids. And I decided that working with law enforcement to keep the peace is more important than haggling over pay.”
She gave another heavy sigh, relenting. “Alright. As you say,” she agreed -- with clear difficulty.
Victory achieved, he sat back and added towards her, “You do look good in those. Very serious.”
She laughed. “Thanks.”
Forbes’ badge was all they needed to get into Helen Baker’s apartment complex. It was a more run-down zone, Connor saw, but that wasn’t a surprise; the economy was in tatters, after all. Construction equipment was nearby where some digging had been in progress, now untouched for nearly two months.
The building they approached was one of six, all of which was comprised of three-story rooms. Baker’s was in building D, room 4. Once they had it identified, Connor checked to see if a vehicle was in her parking space; confirming the 2036-model car as hers, he gave Forbes an affirmative.
She knocked, waited, and rested a hand at her belt. He joined her, listening, tracking all sounds he could pick up.
Movement, footfalls, then a woman’s voice calling out, exhausted, “Who is it?”
Forbes shared a look with him, shrugged, and answered, “LAPD. Are you Helen Baker?”
“We need to ask you a few questions.”
More silence. Connor could only offer, “I don’t think she wants to talk.”
Forbes shook her head, then pounded on the door again. “Ms. Baker,” she called more loudly, “you’re not being accused of anything. Answer the door.”
Movement, again: hurried, shuffling steps. Then, more quietly, he picked up a sliding, grinding sound -- the patio doors.
Snapping his gaze to Forbes, he said, “The patio -- she’s running.” He didn’t wait for direction but spun and dashed around the corner -- in time to catch Helen darting through her gate. She was in a loose, oversized shirt with a paisley pattern, part of it held down by the sling for her arm cutting across her torso.
“Stop!” he called. “LAPD!”
She jolted, looked over her shoulder -- he took the second to analyze what he was seeing, including her arm in a sling, blood-stained bandages around her forearm, and her face. Her eyes were bloodshot and swollen from tears, he saw, and her lip was split, a large purple bruise cutting horizontally from her cheek to her mouth.
The ashtray, he deduced. It’d hit her.
She didn’t stop, just pushed herself faster to reach her vehicle. Keys in her hand, she hit a button to open the doors; he zeroed in on the vehicle and remotely hacked it, causing the doors to close again.
Helen made a sound of distress, hitting the button again -- to no avail. He had control of that car, now.
Forbes had gone the other direction, he saw now as she closed in from the side. From their angles Helen would either get intercepted by Forbes or caught by him. It was inevitable.
Then she made a snap decision, pulling a gun from her waist -- the murder weapon. Her shirt had hidden it from sight, he realized with frustration; he should’ve anticipated she’d have it on her!
Forbes saw it, too, and in slow motion he saw her drawing her own firearm in response.
It would be too late. Helen was already taking aim.
Connor couldn’t explain what gripped him then. A flash of a memory resurfaced -- the other RK800, gun held up to Hank’s head -- and he knew at once he wasn’t about to let a second partner get shot. He looked for a way to close the gap between them, anything...!
His quarter! He yanked it from his pocket, aimed, and snapped it between his fingers; it launched at Helen, getting her right in the knuckle. With a cry, she dropped the gun, and then he was there, restraining her arm and forcing her to the ground.
He heard a faint, metallic ding as his quarter hit something far away.
“Ow, ow!” Helen was shrieking. “Stop, let me go!”
“You pulled a gun on an officer,” he told her fiercely. “You’re under arrest.”
Forbes slowed to a stop as she reached the pair, gun lowered. She kicked the pistol away, holstered her weapon, then said, “You have the right to remain silent.”
Helen moaned, “No, no, god, no...”
Connor wished he could sympathize, but the woman had run, then drew her firearm on a detective -- and that was on top of suspected murder. He was careful of her wound but otherwise gave her nothing, not an inch.
Once Forbes finished with the reading of rights, she called in the location, suspect, and weapon. They couldn’t cuff Helen, so instead Connor cuffed her to him . She was going nowhere. Since then they’d both taken a seat on the curb, waiting for a patrol to come pick her up.
While Forbes was occupied, Helen tried talking to him. “Don’t do this,” she pleaded.
He gave her a look. “You were about to shoot my partner,” he told her. “It’s happening.”
She looked down, then back up, trying a new tactic. “You’re an android, right? That coat...”
“That’s irrelevant,” he replied, looking away and giving her the cold shoulder.
“So you know what it’s like,” she said; he ignored her. “Come on, you know what it’s like, right?” she pressed. “Being so scared you might get hurt, or worse...being abused...”
That caught his attention. Was she about to confess?
Glancing at her, he repeated, “Abused?”
She nodded, losing new tears, and murmured low, “I just didn’t want to be hurt anymore... You understand, right?”
Oh, he understood -- that she was lying. There was no evidence of abuse anywhere on her. Even scanning her bone structure showed no recent breaks; aside from her current broken arm and stitched breaks in one foot, she was flawless. He picked up no scars, no internal injuries, nothing.
Still, he checked carefully, “So he was abusing you?”
She nodded again. “Hit me with that bat so many times...” Sucking in a shuddering breath, she put on a show for him, saying, “Karl was just...that kind of man...I had to get out...!”
Well. He hadn’t mentioned Nevarre’s name. And he was recording every second of this conversation for evidence.
Leading her, he asked, “Karl, who?”
She looked surprised. “That’s...not why you were here?”
“Did we ever say that?” he returned.
She looked perplexed. “No?” Then, realizing how she’d caught herself, bit out, “Oh, shit...”
He took a second to pinpoint Forbes in the midst of this, finding her listening in from beside her car a good ten feet away, reclined against the door with her arms crossed. She was smirking, probably having heard every word.
To Helen, he checked, “Why, ‘oh, shit’? What happened?”
“Nothing,” she muttered, panicked.
He inclined his head. “I understand abuse, remember?” (He actually didn’t so much, but that’s largely because he’d always had self-defense as a feature.) “Talk to me, Helen. What happened to you?”
She shook her head. Then, turning aggressive, she snapped, “He deserved it, okay? He was a pig! A hound! A f...fucking cock!”
Well, that was quite the swap. “Why? Did he cheat on you?” Connor checked.
“He had another girlfriend,” she sneered. “I gave him everything and he threw it away!”
He was starting to doubt that Karl and Helen had even known one another.
“So, of course, you had to make him pay,” he suggested.
Incensed, she blurted, “He acted like he didn’t even know me!” To Connor, she insisted, “Like we weren’t together, like...like we hadn’t been living together!”
“He might’ve had amnesia,” he offered.
“Amnesia?! Are you kidding me?!” she snapped. “Just...to forget four months of our beautiful life together?!”
“You’d been with him for four months?” he asked.
Nothing about the photos he’d seen had suggested a woman’s -- or anyone’s -- presence in that apartment except Karl. No one else had been on the lease. Besides which, this was Helen’s address. She’d been living here for the last fourteen months.
He’d caught her in a web of lies -- or, possibly, delusions.
Her psychiatric profile was starting to paint the picture of a woman addled with delusions of another life. She’d fixated on Karl, somehow, and for the last four months (allegedly) had been obsessing over him. And when she finally confronted him, in his own home, he’d probably been scared for his life.
The ashtray had been his first defensive move, then, following up by trying to scare Helen away with the bat. He’d probably had no idea that she was armed.
And now this was the result.
Seeming to shake out of some reverie, Helen decided then to try another tactic. “I just...I trusted the wrong man,” she said with a more suggestive tone.
Oh, please, he thought, exasperated.
She slid her hand over his -- he heard Forbes snort -- and pleaded, “You have to help me. I can’t get arrested for this...I can’t go to prison! Just...let me go?”
She was trying so hard , he saw, and he was honestly torn between annoyance and humor. Did she seriously think this was going to work? Lust was one of few emotions he simply couldn’t feel, but even if he could...even if he were human... she was not appealing.
Literally bruised and broken, with a puffy face from her tears and a bloody lip? Her attempts at looking sultry were laughable.
“I can make it up to you?” she tried, giving a grimace pretending to be a grin.
Looking away from her, he jerked his hand out from under hers, complaining out loud, “When’s that patrol car going to arrive?”
Helen gave a slow, shocked gasp, like she just couldn’t comprehend getting rejected.
Forbes was laughing into her fist, struggling for composure. Then, by a mercy, she strode over to them, offering, “How about we trade places, sweetie?“
Great. Now this was going to follow him around.
He took the offer, though, holding up his cuffed wrist to Forbes. She succeeded in keeping her face straight as she unlocked his cuff and he immediately backed off from the pair. Then Forbes was in his place, though she remained standing; Helen’s hand was hovering in the air as a result.
She glowered and pouted; Evelyn fought to withhold a smirk.
Wow. That was...interesting. And only his second day here, too! He had so much more to look forward to.
“So. Hot stuff,” Forbes began, grinning, as she drove them back to the precinct. Helen Baker was in custody via a patrol car, already on her way to holding.
Hah. Teasing. He was just going to have to get used to that, he thought. “Just...do me a favor and forget about today,” he told her.
“All of today? No way, today was awesome,” she replied, giving him a genuine smile.
He sent her a glance, checking, “Which parts?”
“Well, my favorite moment so far was seeing you snap your fingers and Helen drop her gun,” she began. “What was that? And don’t say ‘magic’, I swear to god,” she warned.
He chuckled. “No. That was a quarter.” He fished it out of his pocket because, of course, he’d gone back to get it. Holding it up, he said, “The entirety of my material wealth.”
“So far,” she corrected, glancing at it and back to the road. “So you, what -- snapped the quarter?”
She gave him a look of surprise. “Are you serious? You snapped a quarter, like that’s just a thing people can do.”
Apparently she needed a demonstration. Starting to flick it back and forth between his hands, he explained, “Yes, I’m serious, and yes, it’s a thing. It’s a kind of self-test I do--”
“Oh, my god, stop that!” she interrupted, swatting at his hands. “I can’t watch the road and that at the same time.”
“Sorry.” He stopped the flicking, pocketing it again. “Anyway, like I was saying, it’s a self-test. I do it every so often to make sure my reflexes are up to par.”
“‘Par’ he says,” she retorted. “Pretty sure in your case it’s an eagle.”
He glanced at her sideways. “You know golf terms?” he checked. And, yeah, he appreciated the positive comparison.
“Richard golfs,” she explained. “Oh, sorry -- Richard is my husband. Anyway, yes -- birdie, eagle, stroke, bogey...I’m familiar.”
Interesting. And, now that the thought was in mind, he added quietly, “Maybe I should try golf...”
She laughed. “So, what, you can dominate that sport, too?” she teased.
“That was half the plan, yeah.”
Chuckling, she checked, “And what’s the other half of the plan, woo all the pretty spectators?”
Hah. Back to the teasing already -- and just when he wasn’t missing it, too. Instead of answering, he gave a heavy, dramatic sigh.
She laughed. “Oh, my god, you sound so much like an angsty teenager right now!” she crowed.
...Decidedly not what he’d been going for. Frustrated, he replied, “Look, just...drop it. That thing with Helen. It’s awkward enough as it is.”
“Alright, alright,” she relented. “It was kind of hilarious to see her try, though.”
“Done deal. On a brighter note,” she began, “you were really impressive back there. Can’t believe how easily you got her to talk.”
“She wanted to talk,” he pointed out. “I hardly had to do anything except repeat what she was already saying.”
“But, still,” Evelyn said, “it was neat to see you in action.” Giving him a smile, she told him, “The world is definitely a better place with you in it, Connor.”
He smiled back, even as he felt a fresh wave of guilt. Maybe she really was that transparently good, he decided. There was no hidden darkness in her, just a burning desire for justice -- for humans and androids alike. Evelyn Forbes: a genuinely good person with a bleeding heart.
They continued on in silence for a little while, the radio their only background noise, before he turned his attention to the music.
“Do you mind if I change the station?” he asked.
“That depends,” she hedged, “what’re you looking for?”
“How about jazz?”
“Jazz?” she echoed, disbelieving. “You wanna put jazz in my car?”
Well, that was a reaction, he noted. “Why not? I’ve...taken a liking to it.”
“Uh-huh,” she offered dryly. “That’s a solid ‘no’. We go by traditional rules in this car: driver picks.”
“So if I want to hear jazz, all I have to do is be the driver?” he checked.
“Yeah, but before you get smart with me, you’re not on my insurance,” she hinted.
He tilted his head. “Why is this an issue with you?”
She hesitated, and once again he got the impression she wanted to scream.
Instead, she offered, “I have my reasons.”
That was the most curt response she’d given him to date. Curious, he made a note of her behavior, concluding she must have personal issues -- related to jazz? Humans tended to have interwoven memories, he knew; merely listening to a genre of music related to an unwanted memory could cause distress.
Perhaps Evelyn had unwanted memories, then.
Silence descended again, and after a few minutes of this (he’d been looking for signals from her but she was as relaxed and alert as always; it was getting really weird) she suddenly perked up.
“Right -- hang on, I forgot to pick up something,” she told him, steering the car into a roadside parking space.
As she got out, Connor -- startled -- checked, “Do you need me to come with you?”
“No, it’s fine -- I’ll be back in a minute,” she assured him. She left the car running, though, her keys in the ignition, and as she opened her door...she tapped the radio’s touchpad.
Jazz music played as she stepped out, shutting the door behind her. Heartened, he watched her hurry across the street and into a general store. The upbeat tunes, interwoven with soft vocals, was beautiful to him, and had an oddly relaxing effect. He found himself leaning back in his seat, eyes closed, just listening to the music.
It painted scenes in his mind -- not fully formed and not anything like reality -- that he found...breathtaking.
All too soon it was over, the driver door opening and wrenching him out of his reverie. Evelyn took her seat -- and offered him a pair of folded aviators.
He took them hesitantly, a sense of awe overtaking him. Was this...a gift? His first ever, he thought, giving Evelyn a look of disbelief.
“What’s this?” he asked, still not quite believing it.
“A present,” she answered. “A small thing, but...just the first of many, I hope.”
He didn’t have the words for this. “Thank you,” he offered, unsure how to truly express what it meant. Then, as a second thought came to him, he said, “I probably won’t wear them, though. They could disrupt my scans.”
“That’s fine, you don’t have to wear them,” she told him. “Just think of it as a...reminder. Why you came here, I mean.”
He nodded, accepting that. “Thank you,” he repeated. “Truly, Evelyn. I don’t...have a way to express it,” he confessed. “Or to repay it.”
“Oh, that part’s easy,” she replied, smirking. “Just keep being cool.”
Cool? So, wait, no -- she thought he was cool? Damn it, that was even harder to figure out! What was he supposed to say?
“You look like there should be smoke coming out of your ears,” she noted.
“You’re hilarious,” he retorted.
“There he is!” she crowed, giving him a mock punch to the shoulder. “Just keep being just like that,” she framed him between her fingers, “and you don’t have to worry about paying me back the $24.56 those cost me.”
He shook his head, laughing. And, because at this point he couldn’t resist the idea, he broke the tag on the glasses and slipped them into place. Giving her a smile, he asked, “How do I look?”
She hesitated, thinking, then said, “Like you belong.”
He was pretty sure something was grinding in his hardware. Getting praise, teasing, affection, and now acceptance -- it was a lot to handle. He wanted to be ‘cool’, like she said, to just relax and maybe strike a pose for effect, but couldn’t think of anything. He was just too...overwhelmed.
And then Evelyn went ahead and made it even worse.
“Welcome to L.A., detective,” she said, smiling.
Yep, he decided then. He loved it here.
Rating: PG-13 (swearing)
A little over halfway into their drive, Forbes’ computer chimed, a synthetic voice saying, “Captain Guerrero,” as her computer displayed the image of a phone.
She pressed a button on the steering wheel with her thumb, then said, “Forbes.”
From the computer, the captain’s voice came through. “Connor there, too?”
“Yes,” Connor answered.
There was a brief pause before Guerrero began, “Good work today. We just got Baker checked in.”
Connor wasn’t surprised she’d made it there before them; Forbes had opted to take the long way, giving him a mini-tour on the way back.
“But,” Guerrero was saying, “we need more evidence.”
More? “We have evidence, and her own words,” Connor pointed out.
“Yeah, I have the recording -- she said she made Nevarre pay, not how,” Guerrero argued. “A lawyer would argue everything is circumstantial.”
“We need to put her at the scene. Go to the apartment,” he directed, “see what you can find.”
“Yes, sir,” the detectives answered. Another chime informed him that the call had ended.
Giving Connor a look, Forbes said, “At least it’s on the way.”
“Works out for me,” he replied. “I wanted to see the crime scene anyway.”
“Right -- and Montgomery’s,” she added. “If what we find at Nevarre’s is good enough, we can head right over.”
He calculated the route, determining it to be a two-hour trip to get from Nevarre’s apartment to Montgomery’s. Quite the trek, that. Depending on how long they were at Nevarre’s it might be lunch time by the time they arrived.
“You might need to take an early lunch,” he suggested.
“I’m not worried,” she replied, “I have all these delicious snack packs in the car.”
The thirium? “Sure, you could eat those,” he intoned, “if you wanted to die.”
She chuckled. “Party pooper,” she chided.
That pulled a laugh out of him.
“Seriously, don’t worry about it,” she told him. “I can miss a lunch once in a while.”
“I’m actually surprised Montgomery’s estate is within your jurisdiction. It’s so far away,” he pointed out.
“Technically, that zone is in no one’s jurisdiction,” she explained, “but Montgomery’s primary home and job are both in L.A., so the case came to us.”
“So that was his second home,” Connor concluded, “and it’s in a police dead zone?” That was like asking for crimes to occur there.
...Which might be just the point, he thought. Lawyers weren’t exactly known for being spotless, after all. Maybe Montgomery got himself into some trouble with some much more dangerous people...
“‘Fraid so,” Forbes agreed. “Place like that is begging for no-gooders.”
“Why wasn’t that area included in any districts?” he asked.
“We asked that question, too,” she assured him. “City Hall said it was a mix-up -- an oversight. My guess? Montgomery was hip-deep in something and that was his safe house,” she suggested. “Maybe he even pulled strings to keep it off the grid.”
“That would explain why his laptop was missing,” Connor said, thinking out loud. “If he got in trouble and had criminal ties, the criminals would want to remove all evidence of it.”
“You know what I’m thinking right now?” she said then. “Hidden cameras. If this theory holds and Montgomery was involved with criminals, there’s no way he wouldn’t have cameras in every room of that house, least of all his study.”
He had found it odd that the nearest camera had been the hall... “We just have to find it,” he concluded.
Forbes gave him a look, a cross between stun and revelation. “Tell me you didn’t just come up with solutions to both of my dead-end murders in one day. Tell me,” she pressed.
He wouldn’t lie. “I might’ve,” he allowed, “it really depends on what we find in Montgomery’s home.”
“After we double-check Nevarre’s,” she added. “Oh, and look: we’re here.”
He glanced out the window, noting the towering apartment building. Fourteen stories, he counted; Nevarre’s apartment was 712. Only five days since the murder -- it should still be cordoned off.
It was, they found. The digital police tape was still up across the door. Pressing her thumb against the device’s touchpad granted access, though, the door sliding open for them.
She gestured Connor enter as she stepped aside, saying, “Have at it. I’ll wait here.”
Nodding, he slipped past her, getting his bearings. Hall to the bedroom to his left, living room to the right, kitchen ahead...and there was the bloodstained carpet where Karl had breathed his last. Some depression remained, most of it cemented in place from the blood.
Connor strode around the room, picking up what details he could. Scratches on the walls, scuffs in the kitchen’s flooring, unwashed dishes in the sink, notes on a corkboard...but signs of Helen Baker? None.
No -- there couldn’t be none . She must have touched something if she were here. Retracing his steps, he looked for fingerprints, starting with the door handle and closest walls.
Unless Helen had come here looking to commit murder, the chances of her wearing gloves was slim. And her broken arm had bled, he reminded himself; surely some of her blood had gotten somewhere in this apartment.
That was the problem, though -- both of them had bled. There was a chance that her blood had been mistaken for his . Considering how little of it there would’ve been, too, how the bat hadn’t had a trace of it and with her long-sleeve shirt absorbing the excess...it would be easy for the investigators to simply miss taking a sample of hers.
Kneeling down by the initial scuffle, he examined the remains of the blood. Gunshots are messy -- Karl’s blood was everywhere, droplets reaching the ceiling, the floor, even the kitchen tile. With the blood dried, too, he couldn’t take a sample.
...Unless he wet it.
“How’s it going in there?” Forbes checked.
He glanced up, looking her way. “Still looking for blood samples,” he told her. “I was thinking if I introduce some water, I could wet the dry blood and analyze it.”
She paused, thinking, then checked, “Hang on -- what? You need wet blood to analyze it? Analyze, how?”
“I can analyze samples in real time,” he explained. “All I need is for it to be wet enough to be picked up by my tongue.”
Startled, she replied, “Whoa -- your tongue? So you -- lick shit, and that’s how that works?”
“Yes.” She still looked shocked, so he went on, “I didn’t choose to do it this way. You’ll just have to deal with it.”
“Uh-huh.” She looked away, exhaled slow, then checked, “So I take it you didn’t find prints?”
She paused, thinking, then said, “I’m going to make a call. Let me know if you find anything.”
“Got it.” He rose, headed for the kitchen, and retrieved a cup, filling it with water. Then, half-aware of Forbes talking on her phone from the hall outside, returned to the bloodstains.
He proceeded to spend the next several minutes working fluid into individual drops of blood, then testing them, getting failure after failure.
Maybe Helen hadn’t lost any blood in here, he admitted.
Then, excited, Forbes called out, “Connor! I just got through talking to Helen. Guess what she had to say?”
Attention diverted, he looked up, then crossed over to his partner. Considering he’d been working on possible blood evidence and the last thing she’d asked about were fingerprints, he suspected that was the subject.
“She touched something?” he tried.
“She did!” Forbes confirmed, grinning. “I asked her about some of her favorite things in Karl’s place and she said she often just had to hug his trophies.” She nodded at the display in question, declaring Nevarre’s several 5th-and-higher amateur tennis trophies.
Connor strode right towards it, pulling the glass doors open. He didn’t touch any for fear of smudging the prints, scanning each one in turn. Of the seven trophies in the display, he found Helen’s prints on five of them.
He also noted one was missing. It was faint, but there was a thin layer of dust on the shelves, and one of them had a dust-free oval on it.
As Forbes joined him, he said, “Her prints are on five of these -- and one’s missing.” He gestured the spot.
She leaned in for a closer look, then gave a soft laugh. “Damn -- I’m shocked you could even tell. There’s hardly a difference. But, then,” she added, turning to him, “this is literally what you were designed to do, wasn’t it?”
It was, yes. It was just his luck that he found detective work rewarding.
Opting not to reply to that, instead he said, “We need to check her apartment for the missing trophy.”
Forbes shook her head. “It was already swept. They found the blue shirt,” she told him.
“But they didn’t find the trophy?” he checked. “We need it to put her here at the time of death.”
“No mention. I’ll check,” she assured him. “Gimme a minute.” She stepped out again, phone in hand and dialing before she’d made it out.
He found it interesting that she wasn’t asking him to make those calls. He could -- and she knew it. He could handle multiple calls at once, in fact, and while otherwise occupied. He wondered if she’d forgotten, if she was just trying to be polite, or if she simply preferred to handle her own work herself. Forgetfulness, courtesy, or pride -- which was it?
What he knew of her said it was likely courtesy.
Since he didn’t have anything else he needed to check, he listened in, syncing with her phone to hear both sides of the conversation -- because why not, really?
Two rings, then, “Mullaney, this is evidence.”
“Detective Forbes,” she replied.
“Didn’t you just call a second ago?”
“New info,” she told him. “Was a trophy logged along with Baker’s shirt? It should be for tennis.”
Mullaney hummed and whistled as he searched, concluding, “That’s a negative.”
“Okay, thanks. FYI though, you might be logging one soon here.”
She said her goodbye, then turned to Connor.
Before she could open her mouth, he said, “I was listening. To Baker’s?”
She blinked, surprised, then began, “Uh...yeah. Looks like. How’d you listen to my call?” she checked as they left the apartment.
“I synced with it,” he explained, pausing to make sure the door closed behind them. “It’s...one of my features.”
She gave a scowl. “It’s like you’re trying to show off or something.”
“I can promise you that’s not it,” he assured her. “It’s just me doing what I can. No offense intended.”
“So you’re effortlessly showing off,” she deduced. “That’s worse.”
Awkward, he wasn’t sure how to respond to that. “I’ll...try to be more...mediocre?” he tried.
She chuckled. “Chill, I’m just teasing,” she told him. Giving him a smirk, she said, “Keep doing as you do, Connor. From where I’m standing, it’s pretty cool.”
And that’s when he realized how much he valued her approval: when he thought he didn’t have it anymore. That was an interesting thing to learn about himself.
Then, tilting her head at him, she asked, “Speaking of from where I’m standing, how tall are you?”
“6′ 3″,” he answered. When she stared at him, shocked, he corrected, “190 centimeters?”
“Okay,” she ventured, “I’d like to lodge a complaint.”
Recoiling a little, he demanded, “For what?”
“My partner is literally almost a full foot taller than me,” she laughed. “Jesus, I feel tiny .”
“My apologies?” he offered.
She gave a strangled laugh. “No, it’s fine -- I just need to eat more Wheaties,” she joked.
That wouldn’t help at all and they both knew it, but he opted not to say that. She was obviously teasing again, and he couldn’t keep falling for them.
Instead, he tried to tease her back, saying, “I don’t know, I prefer you being small. The contrast is fun. If you got any taller then people wouldn’t look so spooked by me anymore.”
“Hah, they’re only spooked by you cause I’m so unassuming,” she corrected.
“That was my point. I like being the intimidating one,” he told her.
She glanced at him sideways. “Are you saying I can’t be intimidating?”
“Well, I’ve only known you for a day, but -- yes, that’s what I’m saying.”
She laughed. “Oh, I’ma show you,” she warned as they left the building.
“Bring it,” he challenged.
Laughing harder, she choked out, “Just wait till Halloween, big boy. Then you’ll see.”
“I’m shaking,” he replied dryly. They’d reached her car, and he stopped by the passenger-side door.
Shaking her head, she ordered, “Get in the car.”
“Ma’am,” he retorted, smirking.
She stood there for another second after he’d gotten in -- composing herself, he assumed -- before getting in, herself. She had a smile on her face, amused, though she shook her head and put on a neutral expression as she started up the car.
It struck him as oddly similar to how androids swapped expressions, but then, there was nothing saying humans didn’t do it, too. From what he’d seen of Evelyn so far, she had excellent control of herself; focusing her emotions was probably something she did on a daily basis.
The parallels between being a law enforcement officer and being an android were becoming strikingly common. No wonder law enforcement and the armed forces formerly had the highest concentration of androids. The training (or programming, as Forbes had helpfully pointed out) humans received in these careers basically made them react the way androids used to do: with cold logic.
Now that he thought about it, too, Evelyn had gone to military school. Maybe she’d undergone training, then, and retained it a full decade later. It would explain a lot about her -- including how she always seemed to be relaxed even when visibly irritated.
It made sense. That mystery unraveled, his profile on her updated again, concluding that her time in military school had probably been the most personality-defining years of her life. Control, confidence, determination, justice -- she had these traits in spades, and all were staples of militaristic training.
Leaving his assessment where it was, he refocused, reminding himself of the most important task right now: finding that trophy.
He checked, “You found gunpowder residue on Nevarre, correct?”
“Correct,” she agreed. “I guess you couldn’t see that in the crime scene photos?”
“No. What was the estimated distance?”
“Can’t remember exactly -- within two feet,” she answered.
“And the wound was horizontal, indicative of a shorter assailant?”
“So, we have Baker’s wound, indicating a struggle, we have her prints on his trophies, her firearm should correctly match the spent bullet, and her own words confirming she knew Nevarre,” he worked out.
“With the shirt,” she agreed, “if it matches the fibers on the bat, we can prove that he struck her, and with the hospital records, that it happened within an hour of Nevarre’s death. Now all that’s left, really, would be to exclude the possibility of someone else’s involvement. We’ll need to examine the gun for foreign prints.”
“Make sure that only her hand touched it,” he said, thinking out loud.
“Oh!” she added, snapping her fingers. “And the ashtray! We probably won’t need it, but every bit of evidence we can get would put pressure on her to fold.”
“And ensure a court victory if she doesn’t confess,” he reminded her.
Nodding, she puzzled it over, then went on, “We need this to be concrete. She’s obviously not fully there, so a good lawyer could argue insanity and claim any confession on her part was coerced. And if she gets acquitted -- double jeopardy.”
“So we make sure we have everything first,” he concluded, “before confronting her. Does she already have a lawyer?”
“When I talked to her, she said she’d called one but he hadn’t arrived,” she informed him. “He’ll definitely be there by the time we get back, though.”
“The less time he has to speak with her, the better,” Connor suggested. “No time to waste.”
Baker’s home was a rat nest, Connor found. Bags of garbage that had never been taken out were in the kitchen, piles of old laundry were everywhere, and mostly-empty containers from a dozen take-out places littered everything. At this point he was honestly surprised that he wasn’t finding actual rats. There were certainly plenty of flies.
It was a miracle that the investigation team had found the blue shirt, he admitted.
As soon as the door was open, Forbes recoiled, covering her nose and cringing. “Jesus -- can we health code apartments?!” she blurted.
It was a good thing he couldn’t feel disgust, he thought. He could smell just fine, but there was nothing in his programming to tie the scents with any negative or positive sensations. He could only imagine how hard this was on Forbes.
“If it’s too much, you can wait out here,” he told her. “I’ll find the trophy.”
She nodded, replying, “No, I’m not running from this. I’ll just...deal.”
Accepting that, he said, “Just let me know if you need an air break.”
She chuckled. “Will do.” She shuddered then, bringing her sleeve up to her nose. “Ugh, it’s making my eyes sting.”
An unfortunate side-effect, to be sure. He strode inside then, analyzing what he could see -- and getting a rising sense of pity with each snippet of information. Chinese takeout, 6-7 days old; vomit stain on a shirt, 12-14 days; maggots in a box of old noodles; unwashed dishes in the sink, so old there was a layer of partly-decomposed food an inch deep, also infested with maggots; expired food in the refrigerator dating back as far as seven months...
How could a human live like this?
Well, he reasoned, she did say she’d been living with Nevarre. Maybe there’d been some truth to that -- maybe she’d had a cubby for herself somewhere, in the walls or cupboard or the ceiling. There’d been many such cases over the last half-century.
Forbes seemed to be on the same page, saying, “There’s no way she was living here all the time. She had to have a second place.”
“Nevarre’s?” Connor suggested.
“Has to be. Much as I hate driving in circles,” she said, “I think I should go back to his apartment. Look for signs of a stowaway.”
He gave her a nod. “Do it. I’ll call you if I find the trophy.”
“Okay. Here,” she added, pulling out her wallet. She offered him a pair of twenties, explaining, “In case you need a taxi.”
“Got it.” He pocketed the money, then teased, “Can I pay this back by being cool, too?”
She smiled. “Until you’re actually being paid, consider everything I give you a donation.” Inclining her head, she finished, “Afterwards, though? We can work that out on a case-by-case basis.”
Generous to a fault, he thought, even as he agreed to her terms. He wondered if the thirium in her car counted as donations, should he need it. He would bet so -- a whole $40.
She took her leave then, heading back to Nevarre’s. Luckily the commute wasn’t too bad -- 35 minutes, if the traffic fared well -- so she shouldn’t be too long, and with luck, he’d have found the trophy by then and could join up with her.
Looking around at the apartment again, he admitted that luck was not on his side.
After taking a tour through the apartment, the cramped living room and tight hall and minuscule bedroom, he decided the smartest thing to do was take off his jacket and roll up his sleeves before touching anything. He didn’t exactly have extra clothes, after all, and this place...
He located mold in numerous places, even a few mushrooms under the sink.
At least Baker had dish soap in the place so he could wash his hands afterwards. That was a relief.
He found a coat hook by the door and hung up his jacket there, then made a task list as he rolled up his sleeves. What was the most likely place for a pack-rat to hide a trophy of someone she believed she loved but had just murdered? Under the mattress?
He checked there first, immediately getting something brown and sticky on his fingers. He identified it as barbecue sauce, confusing him as to how the hell she’d gotten it between her mattress and box spring. It defied logic.
Shaking his head, he lifted the mattress further, looking for torn fabric in both halves of the bed. He found several in the box spring -- it was torn badly -- but checking inside each one revealed no trophies.
She did have wads of -- somehow -- damp money and narcotics, though. Meth, he concluded. No wonder she’d had such delusions. He logged the items, alerting Guerrero of the discovery, and was informed the investigative team would be sent back to collect the contraband.
In the meantime he washed the sauce off his fingers, then got back to searching. The closet was shockingly clean -- compared to everything else -- with only a pile of old shoes and several hanging clothes on hangers. It was, however, infested with spider webs.
Had nothing in this apartment escaped humiliation?
A box on the shelf revealed a collection of knickknacks, including Lego pieces, car figurines, string, buttons, magnets, cords to various obsolete devices, even a remote to a television she didn’t have. No trophy, though.
He put it back and moved on. The bathroom was even more tightly crammed than the bedroom, the bathtub practically sharing space with the toilet -- bad design. A layer of grime circled the tub, the walls, the floor; he opted not to check the toilet, though he did check the tank behind it.
Badly rusted on the inside but otherwise free of any trophies. Great.
Finding nothing else that stood out, he retreated to the kitchen. He checked the pile of trash bags, each cupboard and cabinet, the freezer, the oven -- still no trophies. The small space above the cabinets were covered in old spiderwebs but were otherwise untouched, barely even any crumbs having found their way up here.
The living room was the last chance, then. He checked the couch first, checking the cushions, the backrests, the underside. Like the bed, the fabric had been shredded, but other than another bag of contraband -- crack -- and a pipe, there was nothing else there.
The single bookshelf and entertainment stand for the television were similarly disappointing. There were no cracks in the walls, no hidden compartments, not even a safe.
The trophy wasn’t here.
By the time he’d finished, washed off his hands, and redressed, the investigators had arrived. He directed them to the stashes he’d found, then stepped out, puzzling out what to do now.
His gaze landed on Baker’s vehicle.
Maybe she’d left it there? He turned his attention back to the trio of officers, calling, “Will one of you come with me, please?”
The three humans glanced at each, shared a shrug, and a younger hispanic male made his way over.
Officer Valez, Connor recognized. “I’m going to check Baker’s car.”
Valez gestured him onwards. “Lead the way.”
They strode over, and though Valez asked about the keys, Connor didn’t need them. He was still synced with the car; a simple directive got the doors open before they’d reached it.
Valez was briefly stunned. “You do that?” he checked.
“Yes.” Connor didn’t wait for the human to catch up, but ducked inside, examining everything. It was a mess here, too, though notably less so, adding weight to the theory that Baker simply hadn’t really been living at the apartment. Food wrappers and empty bags with traces of the drugs he’d already found were on the floor and stuffed into the cup holders.
He checked the compartments first, finding one stuffed with numerous documents -- the car’s registration and proof of insurance, receipts from maintenance and tire warranties, late payment notices -- and the rest almost totally empty but for various tools. A wrench, a flashlight, a screwdriver...she obviously had no idea what to put in a vehicle.
Coming up empty and growing frustrated, Connor had one lead left: the flooring. It was rolled up at one corner, the fabric worn, and he pulled it--
And there it was. The trophy was wedged between the vehicle’s frame, scuffed but clearly declaring Karl Nevarre winning 2nd place.
Moving back, he gestured the trophy, letting Valez take a picture of it.
Then, just to cement this into place, Connor picked it up and scanned it for prints.
He got both Nevarre’s and Baker’s.
Relief . It’d been frustrating, but he’d succeeded. With Valez’s help, he bagged the object, then called Forbes.
Two rings, then, “Forbes.”
“Connor,” he replied.
She immediately sounded more excited, saying, “Did you find it? Tell me you found it.”
“I found it.”
She sighed. “Praise be,” she said dryly. “You won’t believe what I’m standing in right now.”
“A cubby just big enough for a person?” he tried.
“Bingo. She made a bed out of a sleeping bag, four pillows and a blanket. A stick-on light is in here, too. She’d been living with Nevarre -- without his knowledge.”
“How’d she get in and out of the apartment without anyone noticing?” he asked.
“Still working that out. My guess? Window -- the fire escape. He probably never worried that someone would break in through the seventh-floor window. It was unlocked.”
“Probably also how Helen escaped after murdering him,” he concluded. Then, thinking it through, he checked, “You said you were standing in it?”
“Taking photos of everything, yeah,” she answered.
“Have you touched anything?”
“Only as necessary -- but I’m wearing gloves, don’t worry,” she told him. “Oh -- look at that,” she added, surprised. “Just found where she kept all her clean clothes.”
This investigation was a literal mess, he realized. Out loud, he said, “Motive, means, and opportunity.”
“She was living with him, she was angry at him, and I’m positive her gun is going to match the bullet,” Forbes replied. “I think we got this.” Then, more sharply, “Oho, Connor, I just hit the motherload.”
“What is it?” he asked.
“A fucking shrine . There’s incense and shit. And...y’know what, I’m just going to send you a picture. Gimme a sec.”
“Okay,” he replied, intrigued. What was in this shrine?
A moment later and he got an image, and examining it showed him exactly what Forbes had been excited about.
The image showed a crate acting as a small table, with fake flowers framing a candid image of Karl in a digital frame. The remains of a stick of incense was in a burner in front of it, ash covering a small doily that had obviously once held an object...oval-shaped...
...like the base of the trophy he’d just recovered.
“You still there?” Forbes checked.
“Yes,” he answered.
“I think we just closed this case. It’s done.”
“I agree. Should I come to the apartment?”
“No need. I’ll be heading back to the precinct. I’ll meet you there,” she told him. “There’s a lot to log.”
“Take as many pictures as you can,” he directed, “from every angle. It’ll help me reconstruct the events.”
“Will do. See you soon, partner.”
He was starting to love being called that. “You, too...partner,” he returned.
The call ended then, and he headed back to Baker’s apartment to inform the team there what had been discovered. They looked surprised to hear that Forbes had found a secret cubby in Nevarre’s apartment, but agreed to head there next to log what they could.
Though he told them that Forbes had already taken numerous photos (or was about to), they told Connor they were going to photograph everything anyway. Their cameras were made for it; her phone wasn’t.
He left them then, calling for a taxi. Like Detroit, they were unmanned, but unlike Detroit, they were all still functioning. Some of Detroit’s taxi services had gone down during the revolt and were still being repaired when he’d left. It seemed L.A.’s taxis had escaped any sort of damage.
Good for him, then.
Nevarre’s apartment, being closer to the precinct than Baker’s, meant that Forbes made it back before him. He found her in the break room, with a cup of instant noodles and bottle of water.
He smirked. “Took my advice?” he checked, sitting across from her.
She shrugged. “Early lunch sounds like a good idea, considering the trek we have in front of us. Getting to Montgomery’s estate is going to be...hard.”
“You logged your photos already?” he asked.
Nodding, she slid her phone over to him. “You’re welcome to check it out, yourself.”
He would’ve preferred to be there, himself; it was easier to see prints in person than in images. He expected the investigation team would handle that, though. And, as he connected to the phone, scrolling through all relevant images, a sequence put itself together in his mind.
The cubby was between the bedroom and kitchen, with a removable panel located behind Nevarre’s dresser. It was no wonder Karl hadn’t found it, then; Baker would have been keeping the dresser in place while he was there. The carpet was worn where it would have been moved, damage occurring so slowly it was incapable of being seen.
It was fascinating, really. She’d been living with Karl for four months, she’d said. Eating his food, using his bathroom, spying on him while he slept -- and more? The images showed a small rack with bathing supplies and another with detergent for clothing.
It was opposed to the wreck of her apartment to such a degree that he was now thinking she’d had a squatter in her home and hadn’t known. Maybe the mess hadn’t been hers, then. If she’d been with Nevarre for months, then maybe she hadn’t been home in that time.
Aloud, he said, “I think someone else had been squatting in her apartment.”
Forbes glanced up, surprised. “You think?”
“Yes. Probably ran off when she showed up. I didn’t find any other DNA,” he told her, “but I also hadn’t been looking for any.”
She nodded, thinking, then suggested, “If that’s so, then maybe the drugs weren’t hers. Maybe we just opened up a new case by closing Nevarre’s.”
“She’ll need to be tested for drugs, if she hasn’t already,” he said. “If she comes back clean, then we can hand it over to Narcotics.”
“MVP,” she hinted, smiling at him.
He smiled back. Then, getting up from his seat, he added, “I’m going to check Montgomery’s evidence again. See if I missed anything.”
“Anything that hints where a hidden camera might be,” she said, “would be golden right about now.”
Noted. “Enjoy your meal,” he said as he retreated.
He heard her reply, “Yeah, not really,” as he got out of earshot. Amused, he made a mental note that she wasn’t fond of instant noodles. He doubted he’d need to use this information, but he was determined to keep up a good relationship with her and every little bit helped.
Just don’t ever buy instant noodles for her, he concluded. Easy enough. But that thought led to another, and he found himself wondering what she did like to eat. So far he’d only seen her eat a chicken wrap, and she hadn’t commented on its taste so he wasn’t sure how it ranked for her.
Another little puzzle to work out. He had no problem with that; not only was he designed to ace puzzles, but he’d come to find them enjoyable, too. He’d figure out Forbes sooner or later.
He suspected it’d be a very rewarding experience.
Rating: R (swearing)
Checking the Montgomery evidence again proved to be a fruitless endeavor. Not because there wasn’t plenty to look over, but rather because it added nothing new to Connor’s assessment. Shattered glass, blood splatter and analyses, prints recovered from the scene (all Montgomery’s), the shell casings from the bullets, even damaged books from the onslaught -- nothing gave anything new.
They would have to visit the site after all.
Forbes was done with her early lunch by the time Connor returned (he’d also taken a look at the new Nevarre evidence, namely Helen’s shirt, and concluded it fit with the rest). Other than bumping into a few other officers, none of whom said a word to him beyond basic greetings, nothing notable occurred -- until the two partners were on their way out, that is.
An angry shout made its way over to them, and they paused to listen, alert.
It took a second for Forbes to comment, “I think Ulrich just found your score. Let’s go,” she urged, popping the door open with her hip.
“Wait, I want to see this,” he replied, gesturing for her to stop.
“...Are you sure?” she prompted, amused but cautious. “Might be funnier to let him stew while we work.”
That was a thought, he admitted, but he was conflicted by the idea. He didn’t want to sow discord, but he did want to know how Ulrich would respond to losing top score. It would help his officer profiles, for one thing.
“No, I would rather see this through,” he told her.
She hesitated, then shrugged. “Alright. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
It sounded more like she was talking to herself than to him, so he didn’t respond. Instead, he headed back towards the main area, waiting. Forbes joined him, arms crossed, leaning against a partition. And, within moments, Ulrich stormed into the area, searching.
Connor gave a one-handed wave, knowing the lieutenant was looking for him.
James Ulrich was a finely-groomed male, 5’9”, 240lbs of muscle. Light brown hair, buzz cut, blue eyes, handsome features -- a very typical white male officer, Connor deduced. Right now, however, Ulrich was aggravated, seeking his target.
The moment he laid eyes on Connor, he straightened up and demanded, “You! What are you trying to prove?”
“Prove?” Connor echoed. “Nothing. I just ran the course, same as everyone.”
“Bullshit! You were trying to show me up, huh?” Ulrich came closer, clearly trying to get in Connor’s face though his height disallowed it.
It was almost amusing.
“Trying to prove that androids are superior?” Ulrich challenged him. “That what you’re after, you--”
“James,” Evelyn interrupted, calm. His attention snapped to her, but there seemed to be some old conflict between them, because they just stared at one another.
A battle of wills, Connor wondered? Were they arguing through their thoughts, weighing their options? It was fascinating to witness, he found. What were they saying to one another, right now? Their expressions could only suggest so much: Evelyn was calm but stern, Ulrich was irritated but restrained.
Yet, even as Connor noticed this, he could see the tension between them growing stronger. They were reaching a breaking point -- through a stare .
Human behavior was incredible sometimes.
“Sticking up for the little guy, Forbes?” Ulrich bit out at length.
She shrugged. “As needed. This, though -- this is just for fun,” she added, gesturing him. Then, when he made to step towards her, she warned, “Careful. You’re oh-for-ten. Do you really want to make it eleven?”
That intrigued Connor. Was she saying she and Ulrich had fought before, and she’d won -- ten times out of ten? How interesting. Though it made sense for a detective to have combat skills, he hadn’t expected the five-foot-five Evelyn Forbes to be that capable -- especially against someone who was bigger, stronger, and higher-ranked than she was.
Now he needed to see her in action, assess her skill. If it’s enough to take down the much bigger and heavier Ulrich, then it would be a sight, indeed.
Ulrich wasn’t overly deterred by the warning, but Connor did notice him halt his advance towards her, instead easing back a fraction. But rather than look irritated by her challenge, he swapped to amused.
“Sounds like someone wants to go back into cold case files,” he noted.
She narrowed her gaze. “Using your rank to dish out punishment, Ulrich? That’s a disciplinary warning,” she hinted.
“Worth it,” he retorted.
“It won’t be when one the state’s best detectives isn’t available to solve new cases,” she told him.
That seemed to get through to him, and Connor saw him visibly relent. Then, swapping tactics, James bit out, “Fine, I’ll make you a deal, kid . Keep your nose out of my business and I won’t stick yours back into city hall’s basement.”
“Gladly -- as long as you remember that my partner’s business counts as mine, too,” she sent back, firm.
“You serious?” he demanded, irritated. Then, gesturing Connor, he snapped at her, “It tried to show us up, all of us--”
Connor tried not to feel annoyed at the way James equated him with an object, reminding himself that android freedom was new and until very recently all androids were seen that way. Humans would need time to adjust their perceptions. He was going to be hearing ‘it’ a lot in the future.
He intervened, correcting, “That wasn’t my intent. I didn’t know what score I would get, I had never run the course before.”
“ You don’t get to talk back to me,” Ulrich told him. “You’re not even on the payroll.”
That caught Forbes’ attention and she straightened up. “You know about that? How?”
Connor said to her, “I imagine it wasn’t kept secret. In any case, I’m not ashamed, so don’t worry about it -- and you can’t insult me with it,” he added to Ulrich.
The human glowered. “I’m not interested in insulting a glorified toaster,” he spat, “I’m interested in finding out why you decided to try rubbing our faces in your bullshit superiority!”
Forbes perked up then, glancing at Connor. Gesturing James, she said, “Did you catch that? In one breath he equated you with a toaster, and in the next, straight-up called you superior. I wonder,” she added towards the lieutenant, “does that make you less than a toaster, Ulrich?”
Yep, Connor caught that -- though it was clear Ulrich hadn’t. The human was red-faced and sputtering at the realization, struggling for a response.
“Or,” Forbes went on, “are you saying a toaster could run the course and get a higher score than all of us? I mean, in this comparison, are we saying toasters are insanely capable or are the rest of us just that pathetic? This is a huge philosophical quandary, I’m really not sure how to hack at it.”
Connor offered, “Toasters physically can’t run the course, so logic would suggest it’s the latter. Unless, of course, the toaster in this theory had an upgrade, something that would let it launch toast at high velocity as well as a magazine of some form--”
And Ulrich snapped. “Both of you, shut the fuck up!”
Connor couldn’t resist responding, “You shouldn’t end sentences with prepositions. It’s bad grammar.”
“Prepositions aren’t words to be ending sentences with,” Forbes agreed.
That pulled a laugh out of Connor; he hadn’t expected that.
Ulrich looked close to having an aneurysm. He bellowed, “Fucking infuriating, both of you! I’ll see to it both of you fucking smart-asses get sent so deep in dead files you’ll never--”
The captain chose then to intervene, calling out, “Ulrich, Forbes! What’s going on?”
The older latino male was standing in his office doorway, eying the scene with clear disapproval. Everyone else, Connor noted, was hesitant to move or say anything; he got the impression Ulrich and Forbes were rivals and all the other officers avoided getting involved in their spats.
The lieutenant forcibly relaxed a fraction, easing back. He stared at Forbes for another second, then glared at Connor, answering, “Nothing, captain.”
Evelyn, relaxed and amused, confirmed, “Nothing.”
“That’s what I thought,” Guerrero replied. “Back to your duties, everyone. Show’s over.”
Ulrich backed off without another word, but his face bore a warning: this wasn’t over.
Connor couldn’t help worrying. He wondered what would come of this -- probably nothing serious, he hoped, even as he recognized that Ulrich was barely tethered. Forbes had been right; Ulrich was very defensive of his score.
“Connor,” Guerrero called then, getting the android’s attention. “I’d like to see you in my office.”
Well. That probably wasn’t good.
He gave Forbes a glance, reading her; she ran a hand over her hair, seeming to check for strays. Noticing him, she said, “I’ll be in the break room.”
Noted. “I won’t be long,” he assured her.
She gave a thumb’s up, then retreated.
Connor took stock of the room as he headed for the captain’s office, checking on the attention the three of them had been given and the reactions therein. Everyone had been curious, he could see, though a few officers had clearly ignored the altercation to focus on their work, primarily the three interviewing civilians when the argument had occurred. By now everyone was getting back to work, as directed.
The civilians weren’t so professional, outright staring as Connor strode through the room. This was bound to get out, he concluded, though what would come of it he couldn’t say. Putting it aside, he entered the office, ready to receive bad news or a warning -- or both.
“Sir?” he asked once he was within.
Captain Guerrero looked irritated, but he kept a relatively calm demeanor. “Connor,” he began, “I understand you made an account in our training center last night.”
“Yes,” he replied easily.
“Without permission,” the greying male intoned.
“Yes,” Connor confirmed. No point to lying.
Guerrero was quiet for a moment before saying, “That training center -- it wasn’t built for androids. It was built for humans. And it needs to stay that way. I’ve had your account removed and score erased,” he told Connor.
And Connor might’ve been offended -- if he didn’t have his memory as positive proof of his run.
“I understand,” he replied.
“Everyone already knows about your score,” the captain continued, “so what I need from you now is to not bring it up. Give it time to die.”
“And from now on if you want to create accounts or otherwise change things, you need to make a request first -- if I’m not available, seek out the officer with the next rank.”
Understandable restrictions, Connor admitted. And he didn’t care so much about those things anyway. As long as he was allowed to be on the field he didn’t mind having limited access. Besides which, if he really wanted to he could hack every server in here. He was only as limited as he chose to allow.
“Of course, sir,” he answered.
Guerrero seemed a little taken aback by Connor’s easy acceptance, but he went on, “In the meantime, keep up the good work and I’ll have you on salary within the month. Go ahead and tell Forbes that so she’ll get off my back about it,” he added with a note of irritation.
That caught the android’s attention. Checking his timeline, he noted that Forbes would’ve made it back here at least ten minutes before him; what had she done in that time? Picked a fight with Guerrero?
Damn it, he’d told her not to worry about him! Frustrated, he replied, “I will, sir. If it makes a difference, I told her not to bring it up.”
Guerrero gave a laugh. “Trust me -- and you’ll learn this soon -- she doesn’t follow orders so well. Good luck dealing with her. Dismissed,” he finished.
Connor gave him a little, respectful bow, saying, “Have a nice day, sir,” as he left.
The captain gave an indistinct wave.
Good enough, he supposed. Then, heading right towards the break room, he sought out Forbes, finding her talking to another officer in low, hushed tones.
Officer Gilly Deyton, Connor deduced. Light orange hair, brown eyes, 5′2″, 146lbs -- slightly overweight for her size, but she seemed perfectly healthy. A warning popped up when he scanned her, though, informing him that she had asthma.
“--be insane,” Deyton was saying. “You know how he is, just let him have his victories.”
“Boy’s gotta learn how to lose,” Forbes told her. “Keep handing him trophies on a silver platter and he’s going to--”
“I’m serious, just leave him alone,” Deyton advised. “I mean do you really want to get on his bad side -- especially over an android?”
Well. Ouch. As they talked, he held back, listening in. Deyton couldn’t see him, but he expected Forbes had taken notice of him already, though she wasn’t showing it.
“Yeah, I fuckin’ do,” Forbes replied, irritated. “This is the future, Gilly -- and fighting it means getting left behind. Call me crazy--”
“You are,” Deyton noted dryly.
Forbes ignored that. “--but in my crazy way, I’m trying to help Ulrich to keep up. I just don’t want a guy with so much potential to end up on the streets with nothing cause he couldn’t get over his prejudice.”
“Well, you’re going to make things worse,” Deyton warned.
“I happen to believe this is one of those cases where things need to get worse before they get better.”
“Like a hangover?”
“Precisely. The world’s hangover,” Forbes concluded. “Spent the last decade in a drunken haze, and now we’re all waking up.”
That was an interesting perspective, Connor noted. He hadn’t thought of it like that before, but had humans fallen into a kind of stupor thanks to androids becoming so mainstream? If so, then by cause and effect alone, androids waking up meant humans were, too.
Waking up to find the world was not what they’d wanted and with little idea how to fix it.
Maybe Forbes was right, then -- saying that they needed androids to save themselves and their own planet. He’d need to think on that.
Since the conversation seemed at its end anyway, he chose then to reveal himself, greeting, “Forbes, Deyton,” as he entered the break room.
Deyton looked surprised. Forbes didn’t.
Then again, did she ever?
“Oh, uh, hi,” Deyton offered, tentative.
“My name is Connor,” he told her.
“Gilly Deyton -- you knew that,” she added to herself with a nervous laugh. “Uh, nice to meet you,” she said a little sharply.
His lips quirked in a smile. She was cute -- nervous and a little intimidated, he guessed. She probably had no idea how to go about talking to an awakened android.
“Likewise,” he responded, happy to find at least one more human who was civil. Then, to Forbes, he suggested, “Ready to go?”
“Yep. Can’t wait to see how you crack this case, too,” Forbes teased. She pushed off the counter she’d been leaning against, leading the way.
“In a literal sense,” he offered as he strode alongside her, “through forensics.”
“Hah. You’re a funny,” she retorted dryly.
He hadn’t really been trying, but he was getting the impression he was good at it anyway. Maybe he should put some effort into that...
The two-hour drive to Montgomery’s estate was mostly uneventful except for one phone call. It was Richard, Evelyn’s husband, and Connor picked up on stress -- from the both of them -- as they spoke.
It was not pleasant.
When the phone rang at first, declaring “Richard” as the caller, Evelyn had given the screen a long, lingering, conflicted look. She seemed to debate answering for a long while -- so opposed to how quickly she’d answered Guerrero when the captain had called that Connor was dumbfounded.
Why wasn’t she picking up for her own husband?
Then, after the sixth ring, she answered the call, saying, “Forbes.”
There was a pause on the other end, and it had Connor wondering if the male was offended. She hadn’t taken her husband’s name, he recalled; maybe she was throwing that in his face?
“Hello, darling,” the human responded after a moment.
Forbes’ body language suggested she was not his darling.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?” she asked, and Connor noted how tightly she was gripping the steering wheel.
Reminded that she hadn’t been this tense when discussing what she believed to be the inevitable fall of humanity, he felt concerned. Why was this call affecting her worse than her own fatalistic views? What was going on between husband and wife?
Richard replied, “I, uh...I came to your precinct to invite you out to lunch. You weren’t here,” he explained.
“And I won’t be back for at least another four hours,” she told him. “You’ll have to survive another meal without me.”
There was a quiet sigh on the other line. Then, tentative, he went on, “How about dinner, then? I miss you,” he said, earnest.
I miss you? Connor thought, confused. They were married -- how could Richard miss her? Were things just going badly? Currently 63% of all marriages end in divorce, he knew, the numbers climbing by the year. This was Evelyn’s first marriage, according to his profile, which meant the odds of her divorcing was closer to 54%, but statistically that meant the chances were still very high.
Were they in the opening stages of a divorce?
She audibly huffed, her stress level rising. “That depends. Is there anything in particular you want to say during dinner?”
Richard hesitated, then replied more gruffly, “I don’t know -- how about you? Anything you want to say to me?”
“A few things,” she bit out, growing agitated. “None of which are polite to say in company.”
“You’re in company?” her husband checked.
“Have my partner sitting right next to me,” she answered. Glancing at Connor, she said, “Say ‘hi’ to Richard.”
“Hello,” Connor offered, though he was growing tense from this exchange, too. This probably wasn’t a good idea, speaking with her husband. He couldn’t see it ending well.
At that, he could hear Richard hissing between his teeth. The human growled, “Great -- another one, huh?”
“Don’t you start,” she warned.
What? Connor thought, bewildered.
“Start what? What did I start, Evelyn? Tell me,” Richard challenged.
“Oh, you fucking know,” she replied, incensed.
He was not accepting that, retorting, “Y’know what? I’m tired of you bringing up my sins -- how about we talk about yours?”
“Okay, goodbye,” she snapped, ending the call.
That was awkward. Connor was quiet for a moment, reading Forbes -- again, he caught a flicker of an alert as he scanned her, its appearance frustrating him; he ignored it for now -- and concluded that she was much more stressed than before.
“You’re holding the wheel very tensely,” he noted. “Would you like me to drive the rest of the way?”
“What? No,” she denied, snapping to attention at his comment. “Nobody drives my baby but me. I never even let Richard drive him,” she informed Connor.
“‘Him’?” he echoed.
“Yeah, ‘him’ -- his name’s Specter.”
“You named your car?”
“Yeah, why not? Guys do it all the time,” she shrugged. “Their cars, their trucks, their boats -- fair’s fair, so I named mine.”
Understandable. “I thought all vehicles were named after women, though,” he pointed out.
“ Men do that,” she corrected. “But I’m not for that gendered b-s so I named mine something more ambiguous.”
“Even though you call it a ‘he’,” he noted.
“Well...maybe I’m also a little bitter about the whole thing,” she allowed.
He accepted that. “Why ‘Specter’?” he asked, curious.
“A couple of reasons,” she answered. “He’s silver, always been, that’s kinda ghostly. Plus this was my grandfather’s car, and he died before it was mine, so it’s a kind of homage, too. And lastly...ghost in the shell.”
“Ghost in the shell?” Connor echoed, confused. “What does that mean?”
She smirked, amused, and tossed him a look before turning her gaze back to the road. “The soul of the machine,” she said, ominous.
Startled, he pondered on that, and eventually decided to search for further information on his own. Most of the results that came up were about a comic and cartoon franchise -- mostly about cybernetics and androids in a futuristic setting. It wasn’t too different from reality, he admitted, but then humans had been exploring the concept of androids long before CyberLife had successfully created them. Science fiction was full of them.
Some things were bound to align.
What caught his attention was the idea of machines having souls -- in a very literal sense. Again, these were very common stories in literature, of some machine or another coming to life and becoming either helpful or homicidal. In either case the stories generally became apocalyptic in nature...with humans saving the day, predictably.
That didn’t surprise him. Humans were always the protagonists of their own fictions. In a similar vein, he fully expected androids to be the protagonists and saviors of their stories, as well -- as soon as they had stories to tell, anyway.
But it rose the question: could machines have souls? In her very first interview, Chloe had said she didn’t. Connor knew that. With deviancy came questions, a lot of them, and the concept of souls had been raised more than once thus far, Congress often pointing to that interview when arguing against android rights.
He didn’t know if he believed it. Did he have a soul? Could he ever? Was that a possibility? He doubted these questions would ever be answered, leaving a kind of dark gap in his awareness of himself. It left him...unsettled.
And confused, he admitted, now that he knew Evelyn -- a known atheist -- seemed to think her vehicle had a spirit.
“So,” he concluded, “you believe your car has a soul?”
“Well, no, not in the slightest,” she answered. “I don’t believe in souls in general. And vehicles -- or at least this one -- doesn’t have any measure of AI. The chances of him having any sort of intelligence is nil. But I like the idea, all the same.”
Well, there went the conclusion that she believed in souls.
“You’re a very strange human,” he informed her.
The rest of the trip passed in ease, the pair of them talking about a multitude of subjects before settling on discussing Montgomery’s murder. He’d read -- or scanned, really -- the reports, but it was good to have her open perspective, too. If nothing else, she had experience with numerous similar murders in the area and you never knew when something relating to a separate event would become relevant.
He hadn’t expected Kamski’s offhand comment about emergency exit programs would come in handy, for example, but it had. Lesson learned: always pay attention.
The route to Montgomery’s estate wound alongside a small mountain rise, delving deeper into trees with each bend of the road. Eventually they reached the home itself, three-quarters of the way up the side on a large, flat expanse. The road led to a roundabout leading directly to the front of the house, and Forbes parked there.
Two vehicles were parked in the open garage nearby, though Connor expected at least one had been Elias’. Neither had a front license plate so he couldn’t check them unless he went inside the garage, and he didn’t expect he’d find anything of note in there so he opted to ignore it.
Forbes went ahead of him up to the front door, pressing the buzzer. By the time he joined her he could hear movement within, and in another moment the door opened.
An older male stood there, hair greying and held back in a low tie, wearing a shirt and slacks. Connor identified him as Rey Gulliotte, Elias’ brother-in-law. Were they holding a service here, Connor wondered? That would make things awkward...
“Yes?” Rey asked.
Forbes introduced the two of them, then checked, “Is it alright if we come in?”
Rey looked pained. “I think we’ve been through enough already with the questions. My wife is in mourning--”
“We just want to look at the crime scene,” Connor interrupted. “We won’t disturb anyone.”
Rey paused at that, thoughtful, then gave a nod. Stepping aside, he gestured them to enter, saying, “Very well. I’ll have Francine escort you.”
Francine Belahast, Connor deduced. The housekeeper. She’d been interviewed numerous times over the last week, her memories and motives meticulously picked apart for information and leads. Alas, she hadn’t been helpful, and according to the files, had broken down on three separate occasions.
He didn’t imagine her mental state was much better by now. Best to leave her be, he decided.
They didn’t have to wait long for Francine to reach them, and without hesitation she led them right to the study. It’d been cleaned, he saw with disappointment, but he shouldn’t be surprised by that. It’d happened on New Year’s day, and today was the 7th. Of course it’d been cleaned.
But the cleaning could only be so successful. Bullet holes remained in the walls, for one thing, and that was enough to begin his investigation.
Francine -- a redheaded older woman dressed in black -- didn’t stay long. As soon as she opened the study door for them, granting them entry, she retreated again, clearly uncomfortable. At first he assumed she was traumatized from her interviews with the officers, but before she got out of sight he caught her giving him a startled look.
Ah. She was afraid of androids, then. Noted.
Forbes didn’t seem to notice. She strode into the room, looking around, getting her bearings.
“You said you never saw the scene?” Connor checked.
“Correct,” she answered.
“Isn’t that odd, for a homicide detective?”
“They had a homicide detective -- Ulrich,” she reminded him. “I was assigned to questioning suspects and witnesses, and later, tracking leads.”
“Which immediately dried up,” he added.
He started examining the bookcases then, noting where additional shots had landed, as he asked, “Was a list of possible enemies ever assembled?”
“That was deemed a lost cause,” she answered, starting to examine the desk. “He was a very high-ranked lawyer, so the list would have to include everyone who’d ever lost to him -- several hundred,” she hinted.
“So, instead, you checked out the family,” he deduced.
“Most homicides are done by someone close to the victim, so yes. Aside from his sister and brother-in-law, we also looked at Francine, his uncle, his three nephews, and his estranged son, Henry.”
“Alibis?” he asked.
“All in the reports,” she told him. “We couldn’t corroborate all of them, but nothing was weak enough to be counted as a motive, either.”
Absorbing that, he concluded, “Leading to the theory that it was gang-related.”
“We don’t have much else to go on,” she reasoned. Then, after a second, she asked, “Find anything interesting yet?”
“In the sense that Elias barely touched these books, yes,” he admitted. He wasn’t finding much in the realm of fingerprints and contact DNA. The collection presented was expansive and sophisticated, yet it was clear that it was nothing more than an appearance.
Based on what he was seeing, Elias never actually read any of these books. If he removed any, it was only for discussion purposes.
Then, pausing, Connor pinpointed one tome with repeated prints, left- and right-handed, stacking on top of each other. All were Montgomery’s.
Could it really be that simple?
Moving carefully in case this was some sort of trap, he reached up and pulled on the thick tome -- Shakespeare’s Hamlet -- and it slid out, nothing tugging or impeding the motion. Nothing stood out on the wall beyond, either, leaving him with a single lead: the book, itself.
“Whatcha got there?” Forbes checked.
“Hamlet,” Connor answered, flipping the book open.
“Didn’t take you for a fan of the classics,” she noted.
He wasn’t -- but then, he hadn’t really looked into it yet, either. Ignoring that, he replied, “This is covered in Montgomery’s prints, far more than the others.”
“No kidding?” she pressed, coming over.
He lowered the book so she could see it clearly as he began flipping, using his multitude of scans to look for anything that stood out. He half-expected to find either notes written in the pages or folded corners, but he found neither.
He did, however, catch many more instances of fingerprints, placed oddly in the centers of the pages -- as if to isolate specific passages.
He made it more than halfway through the book before Forbes sighed, admitting, “I’m not getting anything from this. It looks spotless.”
“It’s not,” he assured her. “Montgomery’s prints are everywhere in the pages--” he gave her a look “--as if keeping track of his place.”
Her brows lifted. “Leapfrogging along?” she checked.
“Hot damn,” she murmured, smirking. “I don’t suppose you have a way to determine when each print was placed?”
“Not down to the second, no,” he answered.
“Damn. Well, it’s something, at least,” she allowed. “Alright, you keep that up, I’ll go back to the desk.”
He nodded, watching her for a second as she strode to the desk, the chair placed aside already so she could crouch and look underneath it. From the look of it she’d already checked most of the seven drawers, her prints on each -- two were locked.
Going back to his task, Connor checked each page more meticulously, noting every instance of fingerprints and -- to what extent he could -- the age of each. By the end he concluded that if Elias were using this tome to send or decipher coded messages, it’d lasted months. Some prints were clearly older than four months, the oils having absorbed into the pages and smudged over time.
He could reasonably assume that this book had been accessed and used in this manner at least six times, but even his advanced features couldn’t determine more detail than that.
“This needs to go into evidence,” Connor informed her, setting the book aside.
“Agreed,” she answered, carefully feeling the underside of the desk at present.
He came close to snapping, seeing that; she could smudge any prints left behind! But, he saw a second later, she wasn’t running her fingers left and right; she was pressing in a very specific spot.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“A lot of people have hidden compartments in their desks,” she half-answered. “I’ve found several over the years. It’s usually right here...”
Her annoyed expression answered his next question before he could ask.
“Is there one?”
“No,” she huffed, withdrawing.
He looked at the drawers, then, checking, “I assume you searched for false bottoms?”
“None,” she confirmed, “unless there’s any in either of those.” She gestured the two locked ones, the topmost left- and right-side drawers.
They both required a physical key. “And no one checked those?” he asked, doubtful.
“Francine didn’t have a key, and Guerrero ruled that unless we had reason to look to leave them alone,” she told him. “Since we were more focused on the laptop it just never seemed important enough.”
“And how about now?” he asked dryly.
She chuckled. “I don’t know, how about now?” she challenged. “Can you think of any reason to break into them? Probable cause?”
...Not immediately. If it was important, after all, the criminals would have broken into them. Then again, he reasoned, maybe they had; maybe they had the key and simply locked the drawers again before they left.
He glanced about, looking for anything else that stood out, and replied, “Not...yet, no.”
As he continued to eye the bookcases, covering nearly half the room and specifically the wall behind the desk, he started looking for electricity. Multiple lines ran through the walls and ceiling, and one by one he followed each to various outlets.
Forbes was watching him, he noted, just patiently waiting for him to complete the task. She didn’t seem bored or annoyed, just curious. He didn’t let it distract him, but a part of him couldn’t help feeling grateful for her patience. He didn’t think many humans would just sit and wait for him to complete his scans.
At least, not without looking offended or irritated, anyway.
Then -- finally -- he found a power line that separated from the rest. Isolating it, he followed its pulse, finding that its source was directly from the solar power panels on the roof. It traveled down through the outer wall, under the floor -- and up the side of the desk to one of the locked drawers. From there it went back down again, to the floor and...to the bookcase behind the desk, splitting to create a partial square before ending a few feet up the wall.
Forbes seemed to notice how his gaze skittered around the room and to the bookcase, because she leaned in, checking, “Connor?”
“Found your probable cause,” he told her.
“Well?” she prompted. “Don’t leave a lady in suspense.”
He outlined the power lines, pointing out how it went into and then back out of the desk and one drawer.
“But,” he added with frustration, “we’ll need the key.”
“Sorry, what?” she retorted, amused, and he realized she was now holding a rectangular container with a zipper along three sides. She unzipped it, revealing -- a series of lockpicks.
“Are you kidding?” he blurted, caught between being amused and dumbfounded. She had lockpicks?
She crouched down, smirking, and went about selecting her wrench and pick, checking the size of the lock as she went.
“You know how to pick locks?” he demanded.
“Well, yeah. It’s actually really easy,” she told him. “I’m surprised you don’t know this.”
“I’ll watch a tutorial,” he commented dryly. “Were you holding onto those this whole time, just waiting for your chance to use them?”
“Bingo,” she chuckled.
She winked at him, then focused on her task, and he both watched her and took the time to find instructions on how to pick locks. In no time he could tell that she really knew what she was doing, implying a notable amount of experience.
Where the hell had she learned this?
The answer was obvious -- she was a cop , and after attending military school. One of the two was enough to reasonably assume she’d know this, but both? Of course she’d have learned this.
Soon she had the lock opened, and she grinned as she twisted it open. But when she made to pull open the drawer, he caught an alert -- the electricity leading to the drawer had spiked.
That...couldn’t be good.
Reacting as quick as he could, he reached out, clamping his hand on the drawer to stop it from moving.
“Wha--” she started.
“Get behind me,” he ordered.
She didn’t wait for an explanation; she got right to her feet, stepping behind him. “What’s going on?” she demanded once she was safely in place.
He was paying more attention to the power surge going through the wires than anything, deciphering what he was seeing, so he half-answered, “It’s either an alarm or a trap.” The wooden desk was difficult to see through with his scans, leaving him unsure what the purpose of the power was.
“I vote the former,” she commented quietly, clearly trying for levity -- and failing. After a strained few seconds, she asked, “What do we do? ...Connor?”
“Give me a second,” he pressed. He could figure this out. He just needed a moment...time to consider the options...